MADRID, March 28. /TASS/. The Portuguese authorities have decided to recall the country’s ambassador for consultations, Foreign Minister Augusto Santos Silva told Radio e Televisao de Portugal.
According to the top diplomat, Lisbon decided "to recall the Portuguese ambassador in Moscow for consultations." Portugal initially stated that it just took note of its allies’ decisions and will not expel the embassy’s staff members.
On March 26, Washington announced its decision to expel 60 Russian diplomats, including 48 embassy staff and 12 members of Russia’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations. Apart from that, it said Russia’s Consulate General in Seattle would be closed. Another 24 European countries, along with Canada and Australia, likewise decided to expel Russian diplomats (a total of 62 people). NATO has reduced the staff of Russia’s mission from 30 to 20 people, while the European Union recalled its ambassador to Russia for consultations. Bulgaria, Luxembourg, Malta, Slovakia and now Portugal have followed suit. London earlier expelled 23 Russian diplomats (Moscow responded by expelling the same number of British diplomats).
The move was prompted by the incident involving the alleged poisoning of former Russian military intelligence officer Sergei Skripal who had been convicted in Russia of spying for Great Britain and was later swapped for Russian intelligence officers. On March 4, Skripal and his daughter Yulia were found unconscious on a bench near the Maltings shopping center in Salisbury, the UK. Police said they had allegedly been exposed to a nerve agent. Both are in the hospital in critical condition.
London immediately accused Russia of being involved, but failed to produce any evidence. UK Prime Minister Theresa May rushed to blame Russia for "unlawful use of force" against her country. She identified the alleged substance used in the attack as the so-called Novichok nerve agent, allegedly developed in the former Soviet Union. Russia has flatly rejected these allegations pointing out that neither the Soviet Union nor Russia had any programs to develop that substance.