U.S. to expel 60 Russians, close Seattle consulate over ex-spy poisoning


President Donald Trump has ordered the expulsion of 60 Russians from the United States and closed the Russian consulate in Seattle in response to a nerve agent attack earlier this month in Britain.

Canada joined the Western campaign against Russian Federation by expelling four diplomats from that Eurasian country, in response to the alleged poisoning in United Kingdom of ex officer Sergei Skripal.

"When you attack our allies, you face consequences", the official told reporters while explaining the U.S. actions in a conference call.

The steps on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean add to a serious escalation of tensions between Russia and the West that has been building since the March 4 poisoning of Sergei Skripal, a former Russian military intelligence officer convicted of spying for the United Kingdom, and his daughter, Yulia.

The official estimated that there were about "100 Russian spies" in the US. It says that all 60 expelled Russian diplomats were cloaked spies. Washington also ordered the Russian Consulate in Seattle to be shut down by April 2, believing it to be an intelligence outpost that kept an eye on key facilities such as the United States naval base and Boeing plant nearby.

"This is the largest expulsion of Russian intelligence officers in United States history", said USA ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman.

The US is expelling 48 envoys at the Russian embassy in Washington and 12 more at the United Nations in NY.

European Union leaders said last week that evidence of Russian involvement in the Salisbury attack presented by British Prime Minister Theresa May was a solid basis for further action.

"To the Russian government we say: when you attack our friends, you will face serious consequences", a senior U.S. administration official told reporters on Monday (local time), speaking on condition of anonymity.

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The expulsion still leaves dozens of Russian intelligence officers working under diplomatic cover in the US.

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said last week that it was "overwhelmingly likely" that Russian President Vladimir Putin himself ordered the attack.

Germany, Poland, France, and Canada are expelling four diplomats each, the Czech Republic and Lithuania - three diplomats each.

The UK already expelled 23 Russian diplomats in response to the attack on Sergei Skripal and his daughter, which Prime Minister Theresa May's government determined was perpetrated by Russia. Less than a week ago, Mr. Trump congratulated Putin by phone for his re-election but didn't raise the spy case, renewing questions about whether the USA president is too soft on the Kremlin.

"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", Sanders said in her statement.

President Trump, left, and Russian President Vladimir Putin attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation leaders' summit in Vietnam on November 11, 2017.

Four Russian diplomats, serving at the Russian Embassy in Ottawa and the Consulate General in Montreal, will be removed.

"The conclusion is obvious: it is another informational and political campaign based on a provocation", Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova was quoted by Sputnik news agency as saying.

The move is also a stark contrast from President Donald Trump's actions last week. Fourteen European Union member states, Canada and Ukraine also moved on Monday to expel Russian diplomats.