Trump and Putin
Trump and Putin REUTERS/Jorge Silva

US President Donald Trump on Monday ordered the expulsion of dozens of Russian diplomats posted to the United States and the closing of the Russian consulate in Seattle, Washington in response to the poisoning of a former spy and his daughter with a powerful nerve agent in Britain.

According to the White House, 48 of the expelled diplomats were assigned to the Russian embassy in Washington DC, while the remaining 12 diplomats were assigned to the Russian mission in New York City. The diplomats and their families were given seven days to leave the country.

The US described the 60 diplomats as "intelligence officers" who used their positions to spy on the US.

The Russian consulate in Seattle was closed due to “its proximity to one of our submarine bases” as well as to a Boeing manufacturing plant.

US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said:

“The President’s decision today shows that Russia’s actions have consequences. Beyond Russia’s destabilizing behavior across the world, such as its participation in the atrocities in Syria and its illegal actions in Ukraine, it has now used a chemical weapon within the borders of one of our closest allies. Here in New York, Russia uses the United Nations as a safe haven for dangerous activities within our own borders. Today, the United States and many of our friends are sending a clear message that we will not stand for Russia’s misconduct.”

The move follows the expulsion of 23 Russian diplomats by Great Britain following the poisoning of Sergei Skripal, 66, and his daughter Yulia, 33. According to British Prime Minister Theresa May, the pair were poisoned with a Soviet-era nerve gas called Novichok. Skripal and his daughter remain in critical condition.

The US State Department said in a statement that the expulsions “demonstrate our unbreakable solidarity with the United Kingdom.”

“The United States calls on Russia to accept responsibility for its actions and to demonstrate to the world that it is capable of living up to its international commitments and responsibilities as a member of the UN Security Council - to uphold international peace and security,” the State Department added.

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