LONDON (AP) — Australia and Ireland on Tuesday joined more than 20 other nations in expelling Russian diplomats in response to the nerve agent attack on a former Russian military intelligence officer and his daughter in Britain.
The mass expulsions were a show of solidarity for Britain, which blames Russia for the poisoning of former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia. Moscow vehemently denies responsibility, and has vowed a “tough response” to the expulsions.
More than 20 countries on Monday announced that they were expelling a total of more than 130 Russian diplomats, including 60 kicked out by the United States.
On Tuesday Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said his country was expelling two Russian diplomats whom he described as undeclared intelligence officers. They have been given seven days to leave Australia. Turnbull slammed Russia for “reckless and deliberate” conduct that harms global security and violates rules against the use of chemical weapons.
The Russian Embassy in Canberra said the decision was regrettable and jeopardized bilateral relationships.
“It is astonishing how easily the allies of Great Britain follow it blindly contrary to the norms of civilized bilateral dialogue and international relations, and against … common sense,” it said.
Ireland also announced it was ordering one Russian diplomat to leave. Foreign Minister Simon Coveney called the nerve-agent attack on Skripal and his daughter a “shocking and abhorrent” use of chemical weapons.
The Skripals remain hospitalized in critical condition after they were found unconscious on March 4 in the English city of Salisbury, where the former spy lived. Britain says they were poisoned with a Soviet-made military-grade nerve agent known as Novichok.
Official in Moscow on Tuesday condemned the expulsions but have not yet announced steps of retaliation yet.
Speaking at a conference in Uzbekistan, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told reporters that a reaction will follow because Russia “will not tolerate such rude behavior.” Lavrov also speculated that the United States might have coerced some of the European countries into expelling Russian diplomats.
Earlier on Tuesday, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said Moscow was working on a “tough response” to the expulsions.