Lavrov: Russia to expel 60 US diplomats, close consulate in St. Petersburg

Russia Materials 29 March 2018 22:04 (UTC +04:00)

American diplomats declared personae non gratae have to leave Russia by April 5, the step Moscow made in response to the greatest ever expulsion of Russian diplomats from the US over Skripal's poisoning, groundlessly blamed on Russia, Sputnik reports.

On Reciprocal Diplomats' Expulsion

Moscow will expel the same number of American diplomats as Washington and will shut down the US General Consulate in Saint Petersburg, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov announced.

"The measures would be reciprocal… They include expulsion of the equivalent number of diplomats and they include our decision to withdraw our agreement to allow the United States' general consulate to operate in St. Petersburg," Lavrov told a briefing.

The minster specified that 58 diplomatic employers will be removed from the US embassy in Moscow and two staff will have to leave the General Consulate in Ekaterinburg by April 5. As for St. Petersburg's consulate, Americans have to vacate the premises in two days.

The top diplomat went on saying that Russia will not only provide a mirror response to West's steps in the wake of Skripal's poisoning, which was blamed on Moscow, but even "more than that." As he explained, Russia's counter-measures will affect all countries that made a decision to expel diplomats.

The minister noted that Russia will convene an emergency meeting of the Organisation for Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in a bid to start a dialogue and establish the truth.

On Threats to Seize Russian Assets in US

US Ambassador Jon Huntsman has been summoned to the Russian Foreign Ministry to hear a report on a batch of counter-measures Russia is going to take. Leaving the ministry, the envoy refused to answer any reporters' questions.

Moscow demanded clarifications of Huntsman's earlier remarks about a possible seizure of Russian state assets in the US. According to Lavrov, in case Washington continues its hostile actions towards the Russian diplomatic mission, additional measures from the Russian side will follow.

Earlier the US ambassador admitted that the seizure of Russian assets was possible.

"I don’t know what the future holds, I hope that we will be able to stabilize the relationship… But of course it’s possible," Huntsman told the RBC broadcaster.