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Antonov calls Skripal case pretext for US provocations against Russian diplomats

"As of today, we haven’t received any reasonable explanations for the expulsion of our diplomats," Russian ambassador to the US said

WASHINGTON, March 31. /TASS/. The alleged involvement of Russia in poisoning of an ex-GRU official Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Great Britain serves as an excuse for tough, inadequate steps by the United States towards Russian diplomats, Russian ambassador to the US Anatoly Antonov told reporters.

"As of today, we haven’t received any reasonable explanations for the expulsion of our diplomats," he said. "As you know, the official explanation for closing our consulate in Seattle is that our allegedly diplomats might receive information about the activities of the US naval base. I have a simple question - how is Skripal case connected to this? The answer arises naturally - the case, in fact, is just an excuse for a Russophobia outburst in order for the Americans to take tough, inadequate, provocative steps against Russian diplomats and Russian diplomatic property," the diplomat added.

"As for the Skripal case, to date we have not received any information from our American partners - what was the basis for them coming to the conclusion that Russia or its representatives were involved in illegal activities on the territory of the United Kingdom," Antonov said. "When I ask - can you give me a single fact, a specific fact proving that Russia is responsible for the tragedy in London, there is no answer," he added.

On March 26, US authorities have decided to expel 60 Russian diplomats and close the Russian consulate in Seattle. The diplomats being expelled from the US include 48 embassy staff and 12 members of Russia’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations. In turn, Germany, Canada, Poland and France have decided to expel four diplomats each, Lithuania and the Czech Republic - three each, Australia, Albania, Denmark, Spain, Italy and the Netherlands - two each, Hungary, Latvia, Macedonia, Norway, Romania, Finland, Croatia , Sweden and Estonia - one each, while Ukraine decided to send away 13 Russian diplomats.

This measures were taken against the alleged involvement if Russia in poisoning of an ex-GRU official in Great Britain. On March 4, former Russian military intelligence (GRU) Colonel Sergei Skripal, who had been convicted in Russia of spying for Great Britain and exchanged for Russian intelligence officers, and his daughter Yulia suffered the effects of a nerve agent in the British city of Salisbury.

British Prime Minister Theresa May said the substance used in the attack had been a Novichok-class nerve agent developed in the Soviet Union. London expelled 23 Russian diplomats and announced other restrictive measures against Moscow.

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 retaliation to the UK’s steps, 23 British diplomats were expelled, the British consulate general in the city of St. Petersburg was closed and the British Council had to shut down its operations in Russia. At the same time, Moscow pointed out that further measures could be taken "should there be any more hostile actions against Russia.".