MOSCOW, April 2. /TASS/. The question of how far further mutual expulsions of diplomats go does not depend on Russia, rather it is up to the West to put a stop to this course of events, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stressed on Monday.
“How far we might go doesn’t depend on us," Lavrov emphasized. "In diplomacy, the principle of reciprocity exists and is still in force. This principle will be consistently employed."
“We don’t want to follow suit by playing such childish games, but right now our partners are engaging specifically in this,” the top Russian diplomat added.
According to the Russian foreign minister, a lot is being said today about the Cold War and that "the situation is worse compared to the classical Cold War since some sort of rules were in force at that time and some decency was in place."
"Today, our Western partners, and I first of all refer to the Great Britain, the United States and some other countries, which are blindly guided by them, put all of their decency aside and resort to bold lies and fake news," Lavrov stated.
"Our responses to all of this are calm and weighted as we keep insisting that all accusations and allegations must be backed with the facts," the minister said.
"With the obvious lack of facts, they begin taking it out on diplomats, whose primarily tasks are to maintain relations, to ease complicated situations and to search for the ways to settle difficulties," according to Lavrov. "They are reducing opportunities for such dialogue by expelling diplomats under false pretexts."
Relations between Moscow and London have deteriorated sharply over the poisoning of former Russian military intelligence officer Sergei Skripal, who was earlier sentenced in Russia for spying for the UK, and his daughter Yulia, who on March 4 were found unconscious on a bench near the Maltings shopping center in Salisbury. 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 been involved in the incident and points out that neither the Soviet Union nor Russia has 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.
On March 26, the United States ordered 60 Russian diplomats, including 48 embassy staff and 12 members of Russia’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations, to leave the United States within a week. In addition, Russia’s consulate in Seattle was announced to be closed.
On top of this, 24 European countries along with Australia, Georgia and Canada also announced their decisions to expel Russian diplomats, while NATO reduced the delegation of the Russian mission with the organization from 30 to 20.