U.S. expels 60 Russians, closes consulate

A cable car takes tourists to the top of the Rock of Gibraltar

A cable car takes tourists to the top of the Rock of Gibraltar

In an official communique, the Russian foreign ministry issued a "determined protest" to the expulsions and said it would respond to the "unfriendly act".

The expulsions are the most aggressive USA move against Russian Federation under Trump, who has sought a closer personal relationship with President Vladimir Putin while at the same time introducing new sanctions against people and entities with ties to the Kremlin. "From the outset, we have considered the nerve agent attack in Salisbury to be an extremely serious development that represents a significant threat to our collective security and to worldwide law", the ministry said on Twitter.

Malta was not among 14 European Union states who expelled Russian diplomats because, in the words of the government's spokesman Malta's diplomatic mission in Moscow "is too small" and the move would "effectively terminate diplomatic relations" between the two countries.

"We expect Russian Federation to respond to the questions raised from the British side and cooperate fully with the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW)", Löfven concluded. He also says he "wouldn't be surprised if they chose to close maybe [the consulate] in Vladivostok", a city in Russia's far east - a sort of coastal diplomatic tit for tat. Canada also said it would expel four. Canada, too, said it was taking action, kicking out four and denying three who have applied to enter the country. The two diplomats must leave Australia within seven days, according to the statement.

"The decision sends a very clear signal, particularly since on the west coast the Russians will now have a degraded capability with regards to spying on our citizens", the official said, adding that the USA is prepared to take additional steps if necessary.

"Russia will not allow itself to be beaten up, the harder they try to intimidate us, the tougher our response will be", he said.

"It another challenge to worldwide protocol from the Russian side, so we must therefore act", Löfven said in a statement on Monday.

"Today we expelled four Russian diplomats", the foreign ministry said.

The actions included the closing of a Russian consulate in Seattle. A Russian consulate in Seattle has also been ordered to close.

The US actions appeared to signal an increased level of concern about the extent of Russian spying in the United States.

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"We take these actions to demonstrate our unbreakable solidarity with the United Kingdom, and to impose serious consequences on Russian Federation for its continued violations of global norms", Nauert added.

"The United States and many of our friends are sending a clear message that we will not stand for Russia's misconduct", said US Ambassador Nikki Haley, Trump's envoy to the UN.

Britain blames the Kremlin for the attack, and has been seeking support from North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies since expelling 23 Russian diplomats itself on March 14.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel called for coordinated measures by European Union members and the group's ambassadors were meeting in Brussels to discuss action against Russian Federation.

After having determined that Russia may have been responsible for the poisoning of a former Russian spy and his daughter in Salisbury, southern England, the United Kingdom had made a decision to kick out all of the Russian diplomats from the country.

Skripal and his daughter remain in hospital care and are feared to never wake-up after the were found collapsed on a bench in Salisbury.

Britain has accused Moscow of perpetrating the attack using a Soviet-developed nerve agent known as Novichok.

The Skripal assassination - and especially its weapon, a risky Soviet-era nerve agent - appears to have been the last straw.

It was not immediately clear how many Russians are assigned to its various USA missions, but in 2016 Putin ordered the United States to reduce its Moscow personnel to 455 to achieve parity.

Earlier this month, Trump imposed sanctions on several Russian individuals and an organisation for their "malicious cyberattacks" and interference in the U.S. elections.

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