Defense

Expelled Russian Diplomats Leave US

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Will Racke Immigration and Foreign Policy Reporter
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Dozens of Russian diplomats who were ordered to leave the U.S. last week have returned home, according to Russian news agencies.

The diplomats and their families flew to Russia on two flights that landed Sunday at Moscow’s Vnukovo Airport, reports TASS, a state-run news service. One of the planes carried diplomats from the Russian embassy in Washington, D.C., and the other brought personnel from the New York consulate and Russia’s mission to the United Nations.

President Donald Trump’s administration on Monday expelled 60 Russian officials — some of whom were intelligence officers posing as diplomats — in response to Moscow’s alleged involvement in the poisoning of a former Russian double agent and his daughter. Trump also ordered the closure of Russia’s consulate in Seattle due to its proximity to a U.S. naval base and Boeing, a major defense contractor.

The moves came in support of Britain, which had already expelled 23 Russian diplomats over the March 4 nerve agent poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in the English city of Salisbury. More than a dozen NATO allies responded in similar fashion, resulting in the expulsion of more than 100 Russian officials from diplomatic posts in Europe and Canada.

Moscow, which has denied involvement in the Skripal incident, responded in kind Thursday, ordering the departure of 60 American diplomats and the closure of the U.S. consulate in St. Petersburg. The decision followed a Twitter poll released by the Russian Embassy in Washington, which asked 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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