U.S. consulate in Russia’s second-biggest city to be closed
‘There is no justification for this response,’ U.S. counters
Russia said it’s expelling 60 U.S. diplomats and closing the American consulate in St. Petersburg and will retaliate in kind to other countries that ousted its envoys after the poisoning of a former Russian double agent in England.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the measures against the U.S. “include the expulsion of the same number of diplomats” as the Russian envoys ordered out by President Donald Trump.
The measures came in a crisis over a nerve-agent attack on Sergei Skripal and his daughter that the U.K. government is blaming on Russia. While the Kremlin’s action underscores the tense relations between Washington and Moscow, the use of a customary tit-for-tat response suggested that President Vladimir Putin isn’t looking to escalate the situation.
But the U.S. quickly dismissed the notion that Russia was entitled to take mirror-image action.
The Kremlin announced on Thursday that it would expel 60 American diplomats, and probably dozens from other nations, intensifying Russia’s clash with Europe and the United States.
The action, which also includes closing the American consulate in St. Petersburg, was in retaliation for the expulsion of more than 150 Russian officials from other countries — itself a reaction to a nerve-agent attack on British soil that Britain and its allies have blamed on Moscow.
The United States ambassador to Russia, Jon M. Huntsman Jr., was summoned to the Foreign Ministry, the foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, announced. Sixty American diplomats will be expelled from Russia — the same as the number of Russian diplomats whom Washington is expelling. The Americans were given until April 5 to leave the country.
In addition, Russia plans to expel an unspecified number of diplomats from the more than 20 other countries and NATO that joined Britain and the United States in expelling Russians. Mr. Lavrov said the number would “mirror” the number of expelled Russians, which suggested that the ultimate total might rise above 150. (Britain and Russia have already each expelled 23 of the other country’s representatives.)
The crisis over the poisoning of a former Russian double agent and his daughter has driven tensions between the Kremlin and the West to their highest pitch in decades. The tit-for-tat responses raise the prospect of further, more serious escalations, either public or clandestine.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres says the world is approaching a situation “similar” to the Cold War as tensions rise between the United States and Russia.