WASHINGTON, D.C. — President Donald Trump on Monday ordered the expulsion of 60 Russian officials from the U.S. and the closure of a Seattle based Russian consulate in retaliation for Moscow’s March 4 poisoning of Sergei Skripal, a former Russian spy, through use of chemical weapons.
In a released statement, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee- Sanders said the Seattle consulate is being closed due to its proximity to American submarine bases and a Washington State-based Boeing facility.
“Today President Donald J. Trump ordered the expulsion of dozens of Russian intelligence officers from the United States and the closure of the Russian consulate in Seattle due to its proximity to one of our submarine bases and Boeing,” the statement reads.
“The United States takes this action in conjunction with our NATO allies and partners around the world in response to Russia’s use of a military-grade chemical weapon on the soil of the United Kingdom, the latest in its ongoing pattern of destabilizing activities around the world. 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 continues.
“With these steps, the United States and our allies and partners make clear to Russia that its actions have consequences. 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,” the press release concludes.
Shortly after Huckabee’s announcement, State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert said via released statement that “The United States calls on Russia to accept responsibility for its actions and to demonstrate to the world that it is capable of living up to its international commitments and responsibilities as a member of the UN Security Council to uphold international peace and security.”
The expelled Russians will have seven days to leave the U.S, say officials.
Britain has already expelled 23 Russian diplomats, accusing them of being undeclared intelligence agents. The move by Trump represents the president’s most significant action thus far toward retaliating against Moscow and Russian President Vladimir Putin, who recently won re-election.
Russia, who has denied any involvement in the attack on Skripal, responded to threats of the expected expulsion through the use of social media. Russia’s Embassy in the United States tweeted late Sunday night, “Strategic stability of the entire world depends on Russia-US relations. They should not be taken hostage by clearly staged stories.”
The embassy then issued a follow-up tweet after Trump’s declaration, suggesting that a retaliatory closure of a U.S. consulate in Russia may soon occur.