(UPI) — Sixty Russian agents will be expelled from diplomatic missions in the United States in response to the poisoning of a former Kremlin spy this month, the White House said Monday.
Senior administration officials announced the action in a conference call with reporters Monday morning.
Twelve of the agents are employed at Russia’s United Nations mission. Additionally, the White House said Russia’s consulate in Seattle will be closed. All personnel involved will have seven days to leave the United States.
Officials said the action comes in response to the March 4 poisoning of former Russian intelligence officer and double agent Sergei Skripal and his adult daughter in a British shopping district.
In solidarity with Britain, which expelled 23 Russian diplomats, Germany has expelled four and Poland, Latvia and Lithuania summoned Russian ambassadors in anticipation of additional expulsions.
One official called the incident “a reckless attempt to murder,” and a “malicious contempt” for Western governments.
The U.S. officials said at least 100 Russian intelligence officers are in the United States, “cloaked by diplomatic offices.” They stressed that the expulsions answered the nerve agent attack, as well as “other recent actions” by Russia.
One official said Russia is guilty of “destabilizing activities around the world” and that Monday’s announcement “makes clear to Russia that actions have consequences.”
A White House press statement on Monday noted the Seattle consulate’s proximity to a submarine base in Washington State, as well as to the headquarters and manufacturing facilities of the Boeing Co.
“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 statement read.
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