North Atlantic Treaty Organisation expels seven Russian diplomats over ex-spy poisoning

Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, in a conference here, announced the organisation was cutting the size of its Russian mission by a third, removing accreditation of seven Russian staff members and rejecting three other pending applications.

"It sends a very clear message to Russian Federation that it has costs", Nato Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said.

In coordinated announcements of expulsions on Monday, fourteen European Union states including Germany, France, the Netharlands, Italy and Poland are expelling Russian diplomats in a response to the nerve agent attack on a former spy in the English city of Salisbury.

On March 27, Ireland and Moldova followed suit, becoming the latest countries to order out Russian diplomats.

British officials say Russian Federation has sought to divert attention by putting out more than a dozen explanations for the attack, the first using a nerve agent in Europe since World War II.

On March 4, British intelligence agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Julia were exposed to a poisonous substance.

Moscow has denied any involvement in the incident.

Amid the coordinated effort of the West, the U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday ordered the expulsion of 60 Russian diplomats and intelligence officials, and the closure of the Russian Consulate in Seattle.

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It added that "the Secretary of Homeland Security concurs with these policies with respect to the U.S. The Pentagon said on Friday it would continue to comply with current federal law.

This has been done so far by several other European countries that are not members of the EU: Ukraine (13), Norway (one), Albania (two) and Macedonia (one).

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov accused Washington of applying "colossal" pressure on allies to expel its diplomats, and vowed to respond to the move.

"Yesterday was a significant moment in our response to this reckless act of aggression, but there is still more to be done as we work with global partners on a long-term response to the challenge posed by Russian Federation", her spokesman reported May as saying.

Earlier this month, Britain announced to expel 23 Russian diplomats and freeze Russian state assets in Britain.

"I welcome the worldwide support that we have garnered", she said.

As for non-European countries, Russian diplomats will also be expelled from the United States (60), Canada (four) and Australia (two).

But Western officials made it clear in announcing the expulsions that they share Britain's assessment that only the Kremlin could have been responsible.

The US-led military alliance expelled seven Russian staff and denied accreditation to three more, bringing the total number of suspected Russian spies expelled to nearly 150, including the 23 initially dispatched by Britain.

  • Megan Austin