Russia strikes back against European Union countries in espionage poisoning row

Last Updated: Mar 31 2018 17:41

On Friday, Russia expelled Dutch diplomats and told Britain it had one month to reduce its diplomatic presence in the country, striking back at European Union countries after a coordinated campaign by the United Kingdom and its allies over a nerve agent attack on a former spy.

Earlier in the day, Russia had summoned the ambassadors of a number of nations including Britain, France, Germany and Canada to inform them of retaliatory measures.

Dutch ambassador Renee Jones-Bos said she had been told two diplomats would be expelled.

“Two of my colleagues are leaving Moscow. But we (the embassy) are staying here,” state news agency TASS quoted her as saying.

“The ambassadors will be handed protest notes and told about the Russian side’s retaliatory measures,” the foreign ministry said in a terse statement.

The ministry did not say what those steps would be, but Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Thursday that Moscow would respond with “tit-for-tat” measures, but they might “not only” be symmetrical.

On Friday, the Kremlin said that it was not Russia that had unleashed a diplomatic war with the West.

“Russia did not unleash any diplomatic war,” President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said. “Russia never initiated any exchange of sanctions.”

“Russia has been forced to take retaliatory steps in response to hostile, illegal actions” by Washington, he said, adding that Moscow wanted “good relations” and remained open for dialogue.