MOSCOW, April 3. /TASS/. The expulsion of Russian diplomats from a number of Western countries is a huge geopolitical provocation, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko told the Rossiya 24 TV channel on the sidelines of the Valdai International Discussion Club’s session on Tuesday.
"The UK’s diplomatic activities that we have seen recently are beyond the pale," he said. "The so-called Euro-Atlantic solidarity only makes things worse as far as security goes. It is also harmful for the system of communications between Russia and the West, while we particularly need it at the moment," Grushko stressed. "It is a huge geopolitical provocation and Euro-Atlantic solidarity has become a direct threat to European security," he added.
On March 4, former Russian military intelligence (GRU) Colonel Sergei Skripal, who had been convicted in Russia of spying for Great Britain and later swapped for Russian intelligence officers, and his daughter Yulia suffered the effects of an alleged nerve agent in the British city of Salisbury. Claiming that the substance used in the attack had been a Novichok-class nerve agent developed in the Soviet Union, London rushed to accuse Russia of being involved in the incident. Moscow rejected all of the United Kingdom’s accusations, saying that a program aimed at developing such a substance had existed neither in the Soviet Union nor in Russia.
However, the UK expelled 23 Russian diplomats and announced other restrictive measures against Moscow without presenting any evidence of its involvement in the incident. In retaliation to the UK’s steps, Russia expelled 23 British diplomats and closed the British consulate general in the city of St. Petersburg, while the British Council had to shut down its operations in Russia.
On March 26, in the wake of the Skripal incident, a number of EU member countries, the United States, Canada and Australia announced the expulsion of Russian diplomats. In particular, Washington expelled 60 diplomatic workers and closed the Russian consulate in Seattle.
Last week, the Russian Foreign Ministry announced retaliatory measures against counties that had expelled Russian diplomats. In particular, Moscow expelled 60 US diplomats and closed the US consulate general in the city of St. Petersburg. The United Kingdom was requested to reduce the number of its diplomatic staff in Russia so that it would match the number of Russian diplomats in Great Britain.