North Atlantic Treaty Organisation joins 25 nations in Russian expulsions over spy attack

Technology       by Mahmood Idrees | Published

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.

"This will send a clear message to Russian Federation that there are costs and consequences for their unacceptable pattern of behavior", the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation chief said in Brussels.

Last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin denied that Russia ever even manufactured the poison that was used in the attack on Skripal, a claim since disputed by several former Soviet scientists.

Still, the former Norwegian prime minister said this "does not change NATO's policy towards Russia" and reiterated his commitment to a "dual-track approach of strong defense and openness to dialogue".

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Poland and the three Baltic states seem poised to expel Russian diplomats over the poisoning of an ex-Russian spy in Britain earlier this month, based on Russian news reports and diplomatic sources on Monday.

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

Lavrov said the coordinated response was the result of "colossal pressure, colossal blackmail" from the United States.

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Moscow has denied any involvement in the incident.

"The attack in Salisbury was not just an attack against the United Kingdom but an affront to the global rules-based system on which we all depend for our security and wellbeing", Ireland's Foreign Ministry said.

Downing Street saying that more than 115 Russian diplomats had been ordered home by friends and allies, Dublin added one more to the list.

The White House said that President Donald Trump spoke Tuesday with French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and the leaders "expressed support" for the expulsions and "praised" the announcement by others who have followed suit.

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In Moscow, President Vladimir Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, hinted the Kremlin would respond with tit-for-tat expulsions, saying Russian Federation would proceed from the "principle of reciprocity".

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