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Russia vows retaliation after US, Europe’s expulsion of its diplomats | World


The Russian state flag flies in front of a monument to Soviet state founder Vladimir Lenin in Bakhchysarai, Crimea, September 27, 2017. — Reuters

Russia has vowed to retaliate in kind for the decisions by the United States and 14 of its European allies to expel scores of Moscow’s diplomats in the wake of the nerve-agent attack on a former spy in the UK, according to international media.

“This unfriendly step by this group of countries won’t pass without impact and we will respond,” Russia’s Foreign Ministry said in a website statement, accusing the UK’s allies of “blindly following the principle of Euro-Atlantic unity.”

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov called the moves “mistaken” and said Russia’s response “will be guided by the principle of reciprocity”, the Bloomberg reported.

President Vladimir Putin will make the final decision on retaliation, he said.

The US and its allies announced the expulsions earlier Monday, accusing Russia of responsibility for the poisoning of former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter with a military-grade nerve agent in the southern English city of Salisbury. The US gave 60 Russian envoys a week to leave and ordered the consulate in Seattle closed, while allies including France, Germany, Poland and Italy expelled dozens of Russian diplomats as well.

The moves were the most sweeping coordinated diplomatic action by the US and its allies against Russia in years. Russia denies any role in the Skripal attack.

“Relations are crashing worse than they did in the Cold War,” said Fyodor Lukyanov, head of Russia’s Council on Foreign and Defense Policy, a research group that advises the Kremlin. “This kind of multilateral expulsion is unprecedented.”

‘Gave hope’

The US expulsions are contrary to the mood of President Donald Trump’s phone call with Putin last week, which “gave hope” for better relations, said Anatoly Antonov, the Russian ambassador in Washington, the state-run Tass news service reported. “It was constructive and we very much hoped that those thoughts expressed by the two leaders would be carried out in concrete ways,” he said.

The Russian embassy in Washington later posted a tweet asking followers to vote on which US consulate in Russia should be shut down in retaliation for the order to close its premises in Seattle.

The MOEX Russia index of stocks fell as much as 0.9 percent after the news. The ruble pared its gain against the dollar. The 10-year ruble bond dropped, lifting the yield five basis points to 7.06 percent. Russian credit-default swaps climbed to the highest this year.

Among those given a week to leave the US were 12 diplomats from Russia’s mission to the United Nations in New York.

‘An escalation’

“This is more serious than predicted. Everything now depends on Russia’s will to escalate,” said Vladimir Frolov, a former diplomat and foreign-affairs analyst in Moscow. “The US measures included Russia’s UN mission, and this is an escalation,” he said, noting that such large numbers had been expelled last at the height of Cold War tensions in the 1980s.

He said that Russia would likely retaliate for the closing of the consulate by ordering the US to leave a diplomatic facility as well.

“Increasingly, diplomacy is becoming irrelevant in Russia-US relations,” Dmitri Trenin, head of the Carnegie Moscow Center, wrote on Twitter.

Senior members of Russia’s parliament said they expected Moscow to respond with tit-for-tat expulsions of diplomats from each country that ousted its envoys.

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