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Vienna won’t back down on its decision to refrain from expelling Russian diplomats

March 29, 1:22 UTC+3 VIENNA

Austria was not going to expel Russian diplomats because in critical situation it is vitally important to maintain channels for dialogue, added Austrian Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl

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Austrian Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl

Austrian Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl

© AP Photo/Valentina Petrova

VIENNA, March 29. /TASS/. Austria excluded any possibility of any national measures against Russia over the so-called Skripal case and will not abandon its decision not to expel Russian diplomats, Austrian Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl said on Wednesday.

"If evidence indicates that this case [Sergei Skripal’s poisoning] can be attributed to Russia or it issued such order, then a mechanism for multilateral actions [against Russia] could be developed on the basis of the Chemical Weapons Convention. This said, bilateral actions on our part are outside the agenda, we exclude them [expulsion of diplomats]," she told the ORF-2 television channel.

"We said on Monday that Austria was not going to expel Russian diplomats because in critical situation it is vitally important to maintain channels for dialogue. We are acting with due account of the previous experience and have always been delicate about expulsion of diplomats," she added.

Skripal poisoning case

On March 4, former Russian military intelligence officer Sergei Skripal, who was earlier sentenced in Russia for spying for the UK, and his daughter Yulia were found unconscious on a bench near the Maltings shopping center in Salisbury, UK. Police said they had been exposed to a nerve agent.

Later, London claimed that the toxin had been allegedly developed in Russia. With that, the UK rushed to accuse Russia of being involved, while failing to produce any evidence. Moscow refuted the accusations that it had participated in the incident and points out that neither the Soviet Union nor Russia have ever done research into that toxic chemical.

Without providing any proof, London expelled 23 Russian diplomats and suspended all planned high-level bilateral contacts. In response, 23 British diplomats were expelled from Russia. In addition, Britain’s consulate in St. Petersburg was ordered to be closed and the British Council’s operations in Russia were terminated.

On March 26, the United States declared 60 Russian diplomats personae non gratae. Among them are 46 diplomats from the embassy in Washington, two from the consulate general in New York and 12 more from Russia’s mission to the United Nations.

Germany, Canada, Poland and France followed suit by expelling four Russian diplomats each. Lithuania, Moldova and the Czech Republic expelled three diplomats, while Australia, Albania, Denmark, Spain, Italy and the Netherlands - two. Belgium, Hungary, Ireland, Latvia, Macedonia, Norway, Romania, Finland, Croatia, Sweden and Estonia each ordered the expulsion of one Russian envoy. While, Ukraine made the decision to expel 13 Russian diplomats.

NATO slashed the Russian mission from 30 to 20 staff. Bulgaria and Luxembourg recalled their envoys for consultations.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry promised that those countries’ hostile steps would not be left unanswered.

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