Russia said on Thursday that it would expel the same number of diplomats from the United States and other nations that removed Russian officials from diplomatic postings this month in response to the poisoning of a former Russian spy and his daughter in Britain.
“Based on the reciprocity principle, as a retaliatory measure, 58 employees of the US Embassy in Moscow and two staff members of the Consulate General in Yekaterinburg have been declared personae non gratae for the activities incompatible with their diplomatic status,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said, according to the Russian state-run TASS news agency.
The U.S. consulate in St. Petersburg will also be closing its doors — a decision made by Twitter users who voted in a poll shared by the Russian embassy.
US administration?? ordered the closure of the Russian Consulate in Seattle @GK_Seattle??. What US Consulate General would you close in @Russia, if it was up to you to decide
— Russia in USA ?? (@RusEmbUSA) March 26, 2018
According to TASS, U.S. diplomats will have until April 5 to leave the country.
State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told the Associated Press that Russia’s response was “regrettable” and “unwarranted,” and said the U.S. reserves the right to retaliate in kind.
“Russia should not be acting like a victim,” Nauert said.
Jon Huntsman, the U.S. Ambassador to Russia, told the AP that the move revealed the Kremlin’s disinterest to communicate with the United States about important matters.
President Donald Trump on Monday expelled 60 Russian officials from the United States and closed the Russian consulate in Seattle.
British Prime Minister Theresa May also expelled 23 Russian diplomats earlier in the month after a nerve agent attack on former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, which British officials said was carried out by the Russian government.
Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov denied that the Kremlin played any part in the poisonings and accused Britain of “acting out a political drama” for accusing a nation which “could not have had any motives.”