SYDNEY, April 2. /TASS/. Two Russian diplomats who worked in Australia have left the country, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop confirmed on Monday morning.
"The staff of the Russian Embassy in Australia who were given seven days to leave, following expulsion, have complied with the deadline and have already left the country," the minister noted in a written statement to SBS News.
TASS earlier reported citing some diplomatic sources that two Russian diplomats had left Canberra late on Sunday.
On March 27, the Australian government announced its decision to expel two Russian diplomats over the poisoning of former Russian military intelligence Colonel Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia. They were ordered to leave the country within seven days.
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, along with the US, Canada and Australia, decided to expel more than 100 Russian diplomats over the Skripal episode. On Friday, the heads of the diplomatic missions of those countries, which made such a decision, were summoned to the Russian Foreign Ministry. They were handed over notes of protest and informed about Moscow’s tit-for-tat steps. On Saturday, Australia’s Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said two staff members of Australia’s Embassy in Moscow would return home. He described that move as "a disappointing, although not unexpected, reaction by the Russian government to the decision of the Australian government to expel two Russian diplomats."