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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 September 2018

Putin hits back over Skripal expulsions by closing US consulate in St Petersburg

Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said the US ambassador had been informed of “retaliatory measures”

Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov informs journalists about Russia's mirror response sanctions against USA and other countries that expelled Russian diplomats. EPA/SERGEI CHIRIKOV
Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov informs journalists about Russia's mirror response sanctions against USA and other countries that expelled Russian diplomats. EPA/SERGEI CHIRIKOV

Russia hit back at the US’s earlier expulsion of 60 diplomats and shut down the Russian consulate general in Seattle.

Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said the US ambassador had been informed of “retaliatory measures”, saying that “they include the expulsion of the equivalent number of diplomats and our decision to withdraw permission for the functioning of the US consulate general in Saint Petersburg”.

Mr Lavrov added that Russia would also issue tit-for-tat responses to the other countries that have expelled diplomats in a mass show of support for Britain.

Russia was reacting to “absolutely unacceptable actions that are taken against us under very harsh pressure from the United States and Britain under the pretext of the so-called Skripal case”, he said.

Washington earlier ordered the expulsion of 60 diplomats and shut down the Russian consulate general in Seattle.

The attack on the Skripals has been met with a major response that has seen more than 150 Russian diplomats expelled from countries around the world.

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Britain’s earlier expulsion of Russian diplomats has been backed by the NATO defence alliance, the United States, 18 European Union nations and other countries.

British authorities have accused Russia of being behind the attack, which Moscow denies, and said a Soviet-designed nerve agent dubbed Novichok was used in the poisoning – the first use of chemical weapons in Europe since World War II.

Moscow is facing a “global wave of revulsion” in response to the nerve agent attack on a former Russian spy, Britain’s foreign secretary Boris Johnson said. “The Kremlin underestimated the strength of global feeling,” Mr Johnson said at a speech late Wednesday in London.

Meanwhile more than £880 million ($1.25 billion) of British property claimed to have been bought by Russians with suspect money is to be investigated by a parliamentary inquiry.

The Treasury Select Committee said it will probe the scale of economic crime in Britain following claims the country – in particular the London property market – has become the “destination of choice” to launder money.

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