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Russia-West standoff unravels as Moscow retaliates by expelling 60 US diplomats
Published in Ahram Online on 29 - 03 - 2018

10:25 p.m.
The United States says there's "no justification" for Russia's retaliatory moves to expel 60 U.S. diplomats and shutter the American Consulate in St. Petersburg.
U.S. Ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman says in a statement that it shows Moscow isn't interested in dialogue with the United States about important matters. The comments come after Huntsman was summoned late Thursday by Russia's government and given a list of diplomats who must leave within 48 hours.
U.S. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert says that "Russia should not be acting like a victim." She calls Russia's actions "regrettable" and "unwarranted."
She says the U.S. reserves the right to respond to Russia's response.
Russia kicked out the diplomats after the U.S. and other nations kicked out Russian diplomats to punish Moscow for alleged involvement in an ex-spy's poisoning in the U.K.
9:45 p.m.
A top Russian lawmaker says Moscow's decision to expel 60 U.S. diplomats and close the American Consulate in St. Petersburg should make Washington examine its own mistakes.
Russia's expulsion order on Thursday was in response to the U.S. decision to send home 60 Russian diplomats and close the Russian Consulate in Seattle. The U.S. move was in response to the poisoning of a Russian ex-spy and his daughter in an English city, which British authorities blame on Russia. Moscow vehemently denies any involvement.
Konstantin Kosachev, chairman of the foreign relations committee in the upper house of the Russian parliament, was quoted as saying by the news agency Interfax, that "our opponents should have the opportunity to look themselves in the mirror in order to be horrified by the actions taken by their own side."
9 p.m.
Russia's foreign minister says Moscow is renewing its demand for access to Yulia Skripal, a Russian citizen who along with her ex-spy father was poisoned in Britain this month and reportedly is recovering.
British health authorities said Thursday that Yulia Skripal, 33, was out of critical condition and is improving rapidly. It was not immediately clear if her condition would allow her to talk with British or Russian officials about the March 4 poisoning in Salisbury, England.
Foreign Minister Sergey Llavrov said at a news conference in Moscow that "we have again demanded to be guaranteed access to Yulia as she is a Russian citizen. I hope the British side can fulfill its obligations under the Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations."
U.S. and other Western nations have expelled more than 150 Russian diplomats over the poisoning. On Thursday, Russia announced it would expel the same number of Western diplomats.
8:45 p.m.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres says the world is approaching a situation "similar" to the Cold War as tensions rise between the United States and Russia.
But Guterres said Thursday it's different in two important ways: There are more players in conflicts than during the two-superpower era and fewer communication channels set up to keep problems from escalating. He told reporters Thursday he is "very concerned."
The U.S. other Western nations and NATO are expelling more than 150 Russian diplomats whom they consider spies, including a dozen posted to Russia's U.N. mission, over the poisoning of a former Russian spy in England.
Russia said Thursday it will expel an equal number of diplomats from those nations.
8:10 p.m.
Russia's foreign minister says Moscow will expel the same number of diplomats from the nations that have expelled Russian diplomats over the poisoning of an ex-Russian spy in Britain.
Sergey Lavrov said U.S. Ambassador Jon Huntsman has been summoned to the Foreign Ministry on Thursday, where he was given notice that Russia is responding quid pro quo to the U.S. decision to order 60 Russian diplomats out.
Lavrov said Moscow will also retaliate to the U.S. decision to shut the Russian consulate in Seattle by closing the U.S. consulate in St. Petersburg.
Lavrov said the same approach will be applied to other nations that expelled Russian diplomats this week.
Two dozen countries, including the U.S., many EU nations and NATO, have ordered more than 150 Russian diplomats out this week in a show of solidarity with Britain.
7:15 p.m.
Russia's Foreign Ministry says Britain, the U.S., the Czech Republic and Sweden all have researched a nerve agent that London said was used to poison an ex-Russian spy in Britain.
The ministry's spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, said Thursday that the Western research into the class of nerve agent called Novichok was reflected in numerous open source documents of NATO members.
Britain has accused Russia of involvement in the March 4 poisoning of former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia, saying they were poisoned with the Soviet-designed agent called Novichok, the accusations Russia has fiercely denied. Britain and its allies have dismissed previous Moscow claims that they possessed that type of nerve agent.
Zakharova accused London of failing to provide evidence and stonewalling Russian demands for access to materials in the probe.
6:35 p.m.
The Russian Foreign Ministry says Moscow will retaliate shortly to the Russian diplomats' expulsions over the poisoning of an ex-Russian spy in Britain.
The ministry's spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, said Thursday the Russian response will come "in the nearest time."
Two dozen countries, including the U.S. and many EU nations, have ordered more than 150 Russian diplomats out this week in a show of solidarity with Britain. Zakharova said the expulsions came after "colossal" pressure from Washington and London, adding that the nations that succumbed to it "made a grave mistake."
She denounced Britain's assertion that Russia was behind the nerve agent attack on ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter as a "swindle" and an "international provocation."
Zakharova insisted that Moscow is demanding access to materials of the investigation.
5:20 p.m.
British health officials say the daughter of a Russian ex-spy has responded well to treatment and is no longer in critical condition after a nerve-agent attack.
Yulia Skripal's father Sergei remains in critical condition.
Salisbury NHS Trust, which oversees the hospital where the pair are being treated, says 33-year-old Yulia is "improving rapidly and is no longer in a critical condition. Her condition is now stable."
Medical director Dr. Christine Blanshard says "she has responded well to treatment but continues to receive expert clinical care 24 hours a day."
Yulia Skripal and her father, an ex-spy, were found unconscious in the English city of Salisbury on March 4.
British authorities say they were poisoned with a military-grade nerve agent and have blamed Russia. Moscow denies involvement in the attack, which has sparked a diplomatic crisis between Russia and the West.
4:25 p.m.
The former Soviet republic of Georgia says it will expel a Russia diplomat in solidarity with Britain over the nerve agent poisoning of a former Russian spy.
Thursday's announcement follows the expulsion of more than 150 Russian diplomats by European Union nations, the United States, NATO and other countries in response to the March 4 poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter.
Georgia severed diplomatic ties with Russia following a brief war in the breakaway republic of South Ossetia. Russian diplomats have been operating out of the special interests section of the Swiss embassy in the Georgian capital, Tbilisi, since 2009.
Georgia's Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Thursday that the diplomat has been declared persona non grata and must leave within a week. The ministry condemned the poisoning, calling it a "serious challenge to common security."

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