MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia has ordered 60 US diplomats to leave by 5 April, the Foreign Ministry said Thursday in retaliation against Washington, which unleashed a similar number of Russian diplomats for poisoning a Russian spy in England ,
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said there were 58 honorary diplomats in Moscow and two consulate general in Yekaterinburg in the series about poisoning of the former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal on March 4.
Shortly before the ministry's announcement, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Russia would respond equally to the mass expulsion of diplomats from Western governments, which include most of the member states of NATO and the European Union alongside the United States and Britain.
"The measures would be mutually exclusive … They involve the expulsion of the appropriate number of diplomats and they include our decision to lift our agreement to allow the Consulate General of the United States to operate in St. Petersburg," Lavrov said.
The attack on the 66-year-old Skripal and his daughter, which Britain has accused of Russian President Vladimir Putin, is caused by a Soviet nerve cell agent Novichok The door of her home in England has brought relations between Russia and the West to a new low after the end of the Cold War.
Russia has denied involvement in the attack on the Skripals claiming that British intelligence agencies are trying to prepare Russia for anti-Russian hysteria.
Skripal, a former Russian military intelligence service that had betrayed Russian agents to Britain and then swapped in a spy exchange, is still in critical condition of the attack.
His 33-year-old daughter was also in critical condition, although the English hospital she was treated on Thursday said her condition had improved.
reporting by Vladimir Soldatkin; Letter from Richard Balmforth