MOSCOW, March 29. /TASS/. Russia will expel 60 US diplomats, close the US Consulate General in St. Petersburg and come up with a tit-for-tat response to all countries, which have taken anti-Russian steps, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Thursday.
"US Ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman was summoned to our ministry, where my deputy Sergei Ryabkov is briefing him on the tit-for-tat steps against the US," he said. "They include the the expulsion of the same number of diplomats and our decision to revoke consent to the operations of the Consulate General in St. Petersburg."
"As for the rest of the countries, we will come up with a tit-for-tat response as well. That concerns the number of people who will leave Russia from among the diplomatic missions’ staff," he said.
"To achieve a normal conversation and establish the truth, we have formally suggested convening an emergency session of the OPCW Executive Council on April 4, where we will submit specific questions, which were asked more than once, but we will do that in a generalized form," Lavrov said. "I hope our Western partners will not shun an honest conversation. Otherwise, that will be another confirmation that everything that is going on is a gross provocation."
On March 4, former Russian military intelligence Colonel Sergei Skripal, who had been convicted in Russia of spying for Great Britain and was later swapped for Russian intelligence officers, and his daughter Yulia were found unconscious on a bench near the Maltings shopping center in Salisbury, UK. Police said they had allegedly been exposed to a nerve agent.
London immediately accused Russia of being involved, but failed to produce any evidence. UK Prime Minister Theresa May rushed to blame Russia for "unlawful use of force" against her country. She identified the alleged substance used in the attack as the so-called Novichok nerve agent, allegedly developed in the former Soviet Union. Subsequently, the UK expelled 23 Russian diplomats and announced other restrictive measures against Moscow. Russia has flatly rejected these allegations pointing out that neither the Soviet Union nor Russia had any programs to develop that substance.
Some European countries, including France, Germany and Poland, the Baltic states, Ukraine, Moldova, along with the US, Canada and Australia, decided to expel more than 100 Russian diplomats over the Skripal episode. The Russian Foreign Ministry warned that this unfriendly move would not go unanswered.