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Russia To Retaliate By Closing US Consulate In St. Petersburg, Foreign Minister Says

REUTERS/Jorge Silva

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Ryan Pickrell China/Asia Pacific Reporter

Russia is retaliating against the U.S. decision to expel Russian diplomats and shutter the Russian consulate in Seattle by closing the U.S. consulate in St. Petersburg and expelling 60 American diplomats, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov revealed Thursday.

Russia is giving consular staff two days to suspend operations, and 58 diplomats from the U.S. mission in Moscow and two from Yekaterinburg are being kicked out of the country.

The U.S. and dozens of other countries decided this week to expel Russian diplomats in the wake of a nerve agent attack on an ex-spy and his daughter earlier this month in the U.K.

As the substance that left two people in critical condition was Novichok, a Cold War-era chemical weapon developed by the Soviet Union, and one of the victims was a former Russian intelligence officer who became a double agent for the British, the U.K. and other countries have blamed the Russian government for the attack.

The U.K. and Russia have engaged in tit-for-tat expulsions of diplomats in recent weeks as London slams Russia for using chemical weapons in an attack on British soil and Moscow denies any involvement.

The U.S., standing in support of America’s long-time ally, expelled 60 Russian diplomats and closed a consulate earlier this week. As other countries took similar punitive steps, Moscow criticized the Trump administration’s pressure campaign against it, warning that Russia would retaliate against the U.S. In addition to closing the U.S. consulate in St. Petersburg and expelling U.S. diplomats, Moscow has also reportedly summoned the U.S. Ambassador to Russia John Huntsman.

The decision to close the consulate in St. Petersburg follows a Twitter poll released by the Russian Embassy in the U.S. asking Twitter users to choose which U.S. consulate Russia should close in response. The consulate in St. Petersburg won with 47 percent of the vote.

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