Russia Orders Expulsion of US Diplomats in Tit-for-Tat Move

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov says Moscow will expel 60 U.S. diplomats after Washington announced it was ordering the expulsion of dozens of Russian diplomats over the poisoning of a former Russian spy in Britain.

Lavrov said Thursday Russia will also close the U.S. consulate in the city of St. Petersburg.

The U.S., along with more than 20 other nations, ordered the expulsion of Russian diplomats after Moscow was blamed for the nerve agent attack on former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter earlier this month in the British town of Salisbury.

Russia denies it was responsible for the nerve agent attack and has alleged the it was carried out by British intelligence services in order to make Russia look bad. Britain dismisses that allegation.

In a phone call this week with U.S. President Donald Trump, British Prime Minister Theresa May praised the “very strong response” by the United States in the wake of the poisoning.

The White House said “both leaders agreed on the importance of dismantling Russia’s spy networks in the United Kingdom and the United States to curtail Russian clandestine activities and prevent future chemical weapons attacks on either country’s soil.”

Meanwhile, Skripal’s daughter Yulia is “improving rapidly” after a nerve agent attack earlier this month and is no longer in critical condition, Christine Blanshard, Salisbury District hospital medical director, said.

Sergei Skripal  remains in critical condition, Blanshard added.

British police gave an update on the investigation Wednesday, saying that after forensic examinations detectives believe the Skripals first made contact with the toxin at the front door of their home. They cautioned that those living in the neighborhood will see continued searches taking place but that the risk to the public remains low.

So far, police say they have looked through 5,000 hours of security camera footage, examined more than 1,350 other exhibits and interviewed hundreds of witnesses.

National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin and White House correspondent Steve Herman contributed to this article.

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