MOSCOW, April 13. /TASS/. According to a survey published on Friday by the Russian Public Opinion Research Center, nearly 90% of Russians support Moscow’s tit-for-tat steps in response to Western countries expelling Russian diplomats in wake of the alleged poisoning of ex-GRU Colonel Sergei Skripal.
"The situation concerning expelling Russian and foreign diplomats has generated a great deal of interest among Russian citizens: 88% of those polled are aware of the retaliatory measures taken by the Russian government, 89% consider them completely reasonable in the context of the current situation," the survey materials indicated.
The majority of Russians (87%) consider the diplomatic conflict blown out of proportion by the West with the aim of weakening Russia’s positions on the global stage. Only 3% of Russians agree that Russian diplomats were expelled in connection to the Skripal case. Twenty-nine percent of those polled believe that the relationship between Russia and the West will continue to deteriorate, 33% think that they will not change, while 20% hope for a positive outcome.
"During this crucial period of confrontation between our country and the West, we see wide-scale public support for the Russian government when it comes to the protection of the country’s national interest in spite of Western provocations and other dangerous activities," said Valery Fyodorov, Director General of the Russian Public Opinion Research Center, commenting on the poll results.
On March 26, the United States announced its decision to expel 60 Russian diplomats (46 employees of the embassy in Washington, two from the consulate in New York, and 12 employees of the Russian Mission to the UN), and closed the Russian consulate in Seattle. Germany, Canada, Poland and France expelled four diplomats, Lithuania, Moldova and the Czech Republic - three each, Australia, Albania, Denmark, Spain, Italy and the Netherlands - two each, Belgium, Hungary, Georgia, Ireland, Latvia, Macedonia, Norway, Romania, Finland, Croatia, Montenegro, Sweden and Estonia - one each. Ukraine decided to expel 13 Russian diplomats, and NATO reduced Russia’s diplomatic mission from 30 to 20 staff members. The EU recalled its ambassador to Moscow for consultations, with Bulgaria, Luxembourg, Malta, Portugal and Slovakia following suit. These coordinated measures were taken in response to the alleged poisoning of ex-GRU colonel Sergei Skripal in Salisbury, UK. A number of Western countries accused Russia of being involved in the incident. The Russian Foreign Ministry has stated that it will provide an adequate response to these unfriendly measures.
On March 4, 66-year-old Sergei Skripal, who had been convicted in Russia of spying for Great Britain and later swapped for Russian intelligence officers, and his 33-year-old daughter Yulia suffered the effects of an alleged nerve agent in the British city of Salisbury. Claiming that the substance used in the incident had been a nerve agent allegedly developed in Russia, London rushed to accuse Moscow of being involved in the episode. The Russian side flatly 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. Then tensions escalated when London expelled 23 Russian diplomats without providing any evidence and said other measures against Moscow would be taken. In response, Moscow took tit-for-tat steps by expelling the same number of British diplomats from Russia and ordering the closure of the British Consulate-General in St. Petersburg, in addition to shutting down the British Council’s offices in Russia.