Moscow has announced the expulsion of 60 US diplomats, as many as the members of the Russian diplomatic corps ordered to leave the United States. Russia has also decided to close the US consular representation of St. Petersburg.
Speaking at a joint press conference in Moscow on March 29 with Staffan de Mistura, UN special envoy for Syria, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov announced the expulsion of 60 US diplomats from Russia . The number is the same as that of the Russian diplomats that the United States decided to expel in the context of the Skripal case .
The head of the Russian diplomacy said that members of the US diplomatic corps had two days to cease their activity.
On the evening of March 29, the US State Department added, announcing that Washington reserved the right to retaliate against the Russian decision.
After the announcement by some 20 states of the expulsion of more than 100 Russian diplomats on March 26, Moscow, regretting an unfriendly signal sent by the West, immediately reported that Russian retaliatory measures would be taken . The United States for its part had announced the expulsion of 60 diplomats, requalified at the passage of Russian “spies”, as part of a coordinated action between Western countries to respond to the poisoning of the former double agent Russian Sergei Skripal and his daughter in the United Kingdom.
Moscow calls for a meeting of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons
Sergey Lavrov also called for a meeting of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and proposed the date of 2 April 2018, in order to have “a frank conversation” about the Skripal case. The Russian minister said a rejection of the “European partners” would be the “proof” that the poisoning of the former Russian double agent in Salisbury was a “provocation”.
On 14 March, Russian representative to the United Nations Vasily Nebenzia stressed that the United Kingdom had chosen to bring the Skripal case before the UN and not before The Hague , the Organization for the Prohibition of Arms. Chemicals (OPCW). A choice that he believes reveals London’s fear of having to face a “professional inquiry”.
Who benefits from the crime?
The Russian diplomat also estimated that the most likely source of the innervating agent used at Salisbury earlier this month is in countries where, from the late 1990s to the present, Intensive work on these substances, including the United Kingdom, has been conducted. He further assured that Russia was ready to carry out a “joint investigation” with the United Kingdom on this incident, recalling that Moscow had “nothing to hide” and that Russia had asked that the meeting of the Council Security Council is held in public and not in camera, as London wanted. “Who benefits from the crime?” He asked his counterparts.
That same 14th of March, London had designated Moscow as responsible for the poisoning of Sergei Skripal. The United Kingdom had therefore decided to expel 23 Russian diplomats and announced the freezing of bilateral relations. Russia, which claims its innocence and accuses London of “not wanting to hear the answers,” responded by ordering the expulsion of British diplomats and the end of British Council activities on its territory.