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Expelled Russian diplomats not US enemies — Russian ambassador

"The U.S. authorities have expelled American friends," he added
Russia's US ambassador, Anatoly Antonov AP Photo/Hans Punz
Russia's US ambassador, Anatoly Antonov
© AP Photo/Hans Punz

WASHINGTON, March 31. /TASS/. Russian diplomats, who are leaving the United States following orders from the US authorities, are not enemies and the two countries should be in close cooperation to maintain global stability, Russia’s Ambassador to the US Anatoly Antonov said in a video address uploaded on the Twitter page of the Russian Embassy to Washington, DC on Saturday.

"They are not US enemies. The US authorities have expelled American friends. Our diplomats were developing cooperation between Russia and the United States in different areas, among which are business, science, culture, space exploration and joint search for prisoners of war and missing in action," Antonov said.

"This choice is unfortunate," he added. "We are still confident that only close interaction between our countries can help maintain international strategic stability and find mutually beneficial solutions to global and regional challenges," Antonov said.

The Russian ambassador’s address was uploaded on Twitter when the first group of expelled Russian diplomats was heading on buses for Washington Dulles International Airport. A special flight will carry them to Moscow after making a stopover in New York for the diplomats expelled from the consulate general and Russia’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations.


Expulsion of diplomats

In a show of solidarity with London’s stance over the reported poisoning of former GRU Colonel Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury, the United States declared 60 Russian diplomats personae non gratae on March 26. 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.

On Thursday, US Ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman was summoned to Russia’s Foreign Ministry to be notified that Russia declared 58 diplomats of the US Embassy in Moscow and two staff members of the Consulate General in Yekaterinburg personae non gratae, they were ordered to leave the country by April 5. Besides, Russia revoked the consent to the operation of the US consulate-general in St. Petersburg.


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 of Novichok-class 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, Moscow expelled the equal number of UK diplomats. In addition, Britain’s consulate in St. Petersburg was ordered to be closed and the British Council’s operations in Russia were terminated.