US President Donald Trump on Monday ordered the expulsion of 60 Russians from the United States and closed the Russian consulate in Seattle over a nerve agent attack earlier this month in Britain, senior US officials said.
The order includes 12 Russian intelligence officers from Russia's mission to the United Nations headquarters in New York and reflects concerns that Russian intelligence activities have been increasingly aggressive, senior US administration officials told reporters, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Moscow has denied responsibility for the March 4 attack on former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter in England, the first known offensive use of a nerve toxin in Europe since World War II.
"Today’s actions make the United States safer by reducing Russia’s ability to spy on Americans"
"Today President Donald J. Trump ordered the expulsion of dozens of Russian intelligence officers from the United States and the closure of the Russian consulate in Seattle due to its proximity to one of our submarine bases and Boeing," the White House said in a statement.
"The United States takes this action in conjunction with our Nato allies and partners around the world in response to Russia’s use of a military-grade chemical weapon on the soil of the United Kingdom, the latest in its ongoing pattern of destabilising activities around the world.
"Today’s actions make the United States safer by reducing Russia’s ability to spy on Americans and to conduct covert operations that threaten America’s national security. With these steps, the United States and our allies and partners make clear to Russia that its actions have consequences."
The U.S. officials said Russian diplomats have been abusing their diplomatic privileges in the United States and around the world.
“They hide behind the veneer of diplomatic immunity while actively engaging in intelligence operations that undermine the country in which they are hosted in a democracy they seek to minimize,” an official said.
“With today’s action, we are removing a large number of the unacceptably numerous Russian intelligence officers who abide in the United States,” the official said.
Meanwhile, Germany will expel four Russian diplomats over Moscow's suspected involvement in the poisoning of Skripal, Germany's Sueddeutsche Zeitung reported on Monday.
Britain expelled 23 Russians as a result and Moscow retaliated by expelling the same number of Britons.