MOSCOW, March 30. /TASS/. The United States forced Russia into taking retaliatory measures following the expulsion of its diplomats, but Moscow remains open to building good-natured relations with other countries, including the United States.
"Russia did not start any diplomatic wars," Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov told the media on Friday. "Russia was never the initiator of exchanges of sanctions, expulsions of diplomats and so on," he said. "Russia was forced to take retaliatory measures in response to unfriendly, unconstructive and unlawful actions - in this particular case, the expulsion of our diplomats and the closure of the consulate by Washington. Russia remains open to building good-natured relations. We wish to have such relations."
Peskov disagreed with US Department of State spokesperson Heather Nauert, who described Moscow’s reaction to the expulsion of Russian diplomats as unmotivated.
"We disagree with this opinion, of course," Peskov said.
In a gesture of support for London’s stance over the reported poisoning of former GRU Colonel Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury Washington on March 26 declared the expulsion of 60 Russian diplomats within a seven-day deadline and the closure of the consulate general in Seattle as of April 2. Alongside the United States 24 European countries and also Canada and Australia expelled a total of 63 Russian diplomats. NATO reduced the staff of the Russian mission by a third. Earlier, London expelled 23 Russian diplomats. Moscow responded by asking as many British diplomats to leave for home and closing down the British consulate in St. Petersburg.
Russia later declared personae non gratae 58 US embassy staffers and two staffers of the consulate-general in Yekaterinburg. They are to leave Russia by April 5. Consent to the operation of the US consulate-general in St. Petersburg has been revoked.