WASHINGTON, April 16. /TASS/. US President Donald Trump seems to have been misled by his aides on the number of Russian diplomats planned to be expelled in the wake of the Skripal incident, The Washington Post wrote citing a senior US administration official.
According to the administration source, on March 24, Trump’s aides explained to him that the US "would be ousting roughly the same number of Russians as its European allies part of a coordinated move to punish Moscow for the poisoning of a former Russian spy and his daughter on British soil," The Washington Post wrote.
The aides meant the total number of Russian diplomats expelled by London and planned to be declared personae non grata by other EU members. However, Trump "seemed to believe that other individual countries would largely equal the United States, was furious that his administration was being portrayed in the media as taking by far the toughest stance on Russia," while he had said that Washington would not take the lead and would only match the number of expulsions.
On March 16, Washington expelled 60 Russian diplomats, including 48 embassy staff and 12 members of Russia’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations. In addition, the US authorities decided to close Russia’s consulate in Seattle. Meanwhile, France and Germany expelled four Russian diplomatic workers each.
According to London, former Russian military intelligence officer 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 on March 4. 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.
In the wake of the Salisbury incident, 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, closed the British consulate general in the city of St. Petersburg, while the British Council had to shut down its operations in Russia. The United Kingdom was later requested to reduce the number of its diplomatic staff in Russia so that it would match the number of Russian diplomats in Great Britain.
A number of EU member countries, Canada and Australia also announced the expulsion of Russian diplomats.