Australia to expel 2 Russian diplomats over spy nerve attack

ANI | Updated: Mar 27, 2018 05:16 IST

Canberra [Australia], Mar 27 (ANI): Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on Tuesday announced that he would be expelling two Russian diplomats, in response to the poisoning of ex-Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in the United Kingdom.

Australia became the latest country to join in the unprecedented international response to the poisoning of Skripal earlier this month.

The country will shortly be expelling two intelligence officials based at the Russian Embassy in Canberra, according to 9NEWS.

On Monday, the United States led the charge with President Donald Trump, expelling 60 Russian diplomats and flagging that it will close a Russian consulate in Seattle, located near America's sensitive aerospace hub and a submarine base.

Subsequently, 14 European Union (EU) countries followed suit, ousting dozens of Russian officials from their respective soils.

According to RT news, Germany, France and Poland have expelled four diplomats each, their respective foreign ministries confirmed on Monday, while The Netherlands, Denmark and Italy will expel two diplomats each, their foreign ministries said.

Lithuania has expelled three, their foreign minister said. The Czech Republic will expel the same number of diplomats.

Meanwhile, Latvia is expelling one diplomat and an Aeroflot employee, and Estonia's foreign minister has confirmed the country is expelling a military attache at the Russian embassy. Finland and Sweden are expelling one each.

Ukraine is set to send 13 Russian officials home.

The US has given the expelled Russians seven days to leave, and the Australian government is expected to give the intelligence officials a similar amount of time.

Last week, UK suspended 21 Russian diplomats back to Moscow after the former said that Russia was "highly responsible" for the poisoning attack.

British Prime Minister Theresa May called the incident "a brazen attempt to murder innocent civilians on our soil." and has accused Russia of carrying out the attack.

However, Moscow has denied any wrongdoing and has vowed to retaliate. President Vladimir Putin described the accusations as "delirium" after he won another six-year term as president.

The EU on last Monday strongly condemned the poisonous attack on Skripal, while stating that it takes the UK assessment of Moscow's possible involvement in it "extremely seriously."

Retired military intelligence officer Skripal, 66, and his daughter, Yulia, 33, were found slumped on a bench in Salisbury city centre on March 4. However, they remain in a critical but stable condition in hospital.

According to media reports, Skripal was convicted by the Russian government of passing secrets to UK's Secret Intelligence Service MI6 in 2004, but was given refuge in the UK in 2010 as part of a "spy swap." (ANI)