WASHINGTON, March 26. /TASS/. US authorities have decided to expel 60 Russian diplomats and close the Russian consulate in Seattle, a senior administration official said at a special briefing on Monday.
The diplomats being expelled from the US include 48 embassy staff and 12 members of Russia’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations.
While speaking about the members of Russia’s Permanent Mission to the UN, the US administration official alleged that they were involved in "aggressive collection here in the US" thus abusing their residence privileges under the UN headquarters agreement.
The Russian diplomats are supposed to leave the United States within a week.
According to a White House statement, the Russian consulate in Seattle is being closed "due to its proximity" to one of the US "submarine bases and Boeing."
"The United States takes this action in conjunction with our NATO allies and partners around the world in response to Russia’s use of a military-grade chemical weapon on the soil of the United Kingdom," the statement reads. "Today’s actions make the United States safer by reducing Russia’s ability to spy on Americans and to conduct covert operations that threaten America’s national security," the document added.
At the same time, "the United States stands ready to cooperate to build a better relationship with Russia, but this can only happen with a change in the Russian government’s behavior," the White House said.
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.".