More than 20 countries have ordered the expulsion of Russian diplomats in response to the attack against retired agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury on March 4, where the use of chemical weapons was registered.

During a statement in the House of Commons, Prime Minister Theresa May have welcomed these acts of solidarity which she said represented “the largest collective expulsion of Russian intelligence officers” in the entire history. According to her, they have sent a powerful message to Moscow because the western countries won’t tolerate Russia’s attempts to break international law.

May: Russia’s efforts have ‘spectacularly’ backfired

About 100 Russian diplomats in different western countries are being told to return to their nation, as they are believed to be spies, and following the coordinated response to the Skripal case that took place in the United Kingdom.

Russia has seen these collective expulsions as a “provocative gesture” and said there would be retaliation, raising the prospect of further tit-for-tat expulsions. Vladimir Putin will make the final decision, according to the Kremlin. The Russian embassy in the U.S created a poll on twitter to determine which of its consulates Russia should close in the United States.

The United States ordered the expulsion of 60 Russian diplomats who, according to Washington, are spies. A dozen of these officials are representatives of the United Nations. Washington has asked Moscow to shut down its consulate in Seattle, meaning that there will be no Russian consulate on the west coast.

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About 100 Russian diplomats have been expelled from about 20 countries. Image credit: VOA News

Germany, France, and Poland – all of them are members of the European Union – are expelling 4 Russians with intelligence background from each of their countries. Lithuania and the Czech Republic are each to expel three Russian diplomats.

Denmark, Italy and the Netherlands, two diplomats each. As well, Estonia, Latvia, Croatia, Finland, Hungary, Sweden, and Romania said they would expel one Russian diplomat.

On the other hand, Iceland announced that it wouldn’t sent officials to the World Cup which is about to be celebrated in Russia.

Albania, a country that looks forward to becoming an EU member, ordered the expulsion of two officials from the Russian embassy in Tirana. Macedonia, another candidate to enter the EU, said it was to expel one Russian representative.  Ukraine decided it will expel 13 Russian diplomats, though it is not a member of the EU, it has a rivalry with Russia.

Canada, another western ally, has announced the expelling of four diplomat officials in Montreal and Ottawa, who are considered to be spies by the Canadian government. As well, Canada denied a pending application from Moscow to add three more diplomat posts in Canada.

May has thanked the solidarity of UK’s allies by saying: “I have found great solidarity from our friends and partners in the EU, North America, Nato and beyond over the past three weeks as we have confronted the aftermath of the Salisbury incident. And together we have sent a message that we will not tolerate Russia’s continued attempts to flout international law and undermine our values.” May added: “If the Kremlin’s goal is to divide and intimidate the western alliance, then their efforts have spectacularly backfired.”

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Expelled Russian diplomats leaving the United Kingdom. image credit: New York Times

Russia said the coordinated actions are based on alliance rather than evidence

The United Kingdom has expelled 23 Russian diplomats from the country after the poisoning of the retired agent. Russia has responding discharging the same amount of British diplomats. The Kremlin made a statement saying that these coordinated actions by the western world against Russia are being considered as “an unfriendly step” that is not based on actual evidence. Russia said that it is blind support and that all they are trying to do is to escalate the situation.

“The provocative gesture of the so-called solidarity of these countries with London, which blindly followed the British authorities in the so-called Skripal case and which never got around to sort out the circumstances of the incident, is a continuation of the confrontational policy to escalate the situation,” the statement said.

The United States has openly admitted pressuring other states to expel Russian officials. Raj Shah said it all was part of “a coordinated effort” to send an important message to Russia and to significantly degrade their intelligence capabilities.

Raj said that Donald Trump “spoke with many foreign leaders, European allies, and others and encouraged them to join with the United States in this announcement”.

The UK hasn’t provided a sample of the nerve agent to Russia but it gave all the information to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), so it could conduct its investigation.

Source: The Guardian