Australia expels 2 Russian diplomats amid nerve agent attack row

Sixteen EU countries said they would also be expelling Russian agents, with at least two more - Ireland and Belgium - expected to follow in the coming days.

Australia joined the United States and other British allies in expelling two Russian diplomats Tuesday in response to a nerve agent attack on a double agent in England.

Lavrov has accused the USA, who booted out 60 Russian diplomats, of blackmailing other countries into taking action.

Russia has already ordered 23 British diplomats to leave in response to the expulsion of a similar number of undeclared Russian intelligence officers from the UK.

The White House said, all Russian diplomats, connected to the country's intelligence agencies, and their families have been given seven days' time to leave the country.

Some 60 Russians are to be expelled from the USA, while suspected intelligence officers in Canada, Ukraine, Australia, Albania, Macedonia and a number of European Union states will also be ejected.

Australia has joined a long list of countries to kick out Russian diplomats in support of the United Kingdom over the nerve agent attack.

Sergei and Yulia Skripal remain in a critical but stable condition in hospital following the Salisbury attack on March 4th.

The American moves illustrated an increased willingness by Trump's administration to push back on the Kremlin, even as the president himself steadfastly avoids challenging Russian President Vladimir Putin personally or directly. If we did, we would expel them, ' the prime minister said.

Lithuania, in turn, decided on the expulsion of three Russian diplomats. Antonov was later quoted by Russian news wire Tass as saying he "expressed resolute protest" about the "illegal actions" and emphasized there's no proof of Russian involvement in the poisoning.

"We are open to constructive work, we will continue it, but without a tough response to yesterday's decision by the USA authorities against our diplomatic missions, the current situation will not persist", Ryabkov said.

However, national broadcaster Rossiya 24 TV reported an electrical fault was the most likely cause, as in previous deadly fires in Russian Federation.

The decision to expel a diplomat here was made at Cabinet this morning.

Photo taken on March 26, 2018 shows empty seats for the Russian delegation in the United Nations Security Council chamber after an UN Security Council meeting on the situation in the Middle East at the UN headquarters in NY. Then France and Germany and the United States issued a statement blaming Russian Federation. Foreign Minister Karl Erjavec said on Monday that it was too soon to decide on action because it must be first determined what exactly had happened.

The Kremlin has accused Britain of whipping up an anti-Russia campaign and has sought to cast doubt on the British analysis that Moscow was responsible.

Theresa May convinced US President Donald Trump, EU leaders and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation that Russian Federation is "highly likely" to be responsible for the Novichok attack in Salisbury.

"It reflects a pattern of recklessness and aggression by the Russian government".

Foreign Affairs Minister and Tánaiste Simon Coveney will today make a recommendation to Cabinet after considering a detailed intelligence assessment overnight.

Other non-EU countries to also have expelled diplomats include the United States, Canada, Ukraine, Albania and Australia.

  • Joanne Flowers