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U.S. Expels 60 Russian Officials, Closes Consulate In Seattle

President Trump walks across the South Lawn of the White House on Sunday after returning from his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Fla. Photo: Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

Updated 9:35 a.m.

President Trump ordered the expulsion of 60 Russian officials from the United States and ordered the closure of the Russian consulate in the Seattle, the White House announced Monday.

The move follows the poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, in the English city of Salisbury on March 4.

The officials and their families have been given seven days to leave the U.S. Of the 60 officers being expelled, 48 are members of the Russian embassy and 12 are officers from Russia’s mission to the United Nations in New York.

The consulate in Seattle is being shuttered due to its proximity to a U.S. submarine base and Boeing’s operations there, a senior administration official said. Russia has been given the deadline of April 2 for its closure.

“The United States takes this action in conjunction with our NATO allies, and partners around the world in response with 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,” the official said.

“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 official continued. “With these steps, the United States and our allies and partners make clear to Russia that its actions have consequences.”

Reuters reports that Russia’s ambassador to Washington, Anatoly Antonov, called the U.S. decision to expel Russian diplomats “wrongful” and said it was harming already weak U.S.-Russian ties, according to the RIA news agency.

The Russian news agency also quoted a member of the upper house of the Russian parliament as saying that Russia would expel at least 60 staff from U.S. diplomatic missions in the country, Reuters reports.

The expulsions come amid internal conflict at the White House and State Department on how to handle Russia. Last week, Trump congratulated Vladimir Putin on his re-election as president, and did not bring up Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign nor Russia’s hacking of the U.S. power grid. But Trump is also bringing in John Bolton as his national security adviser, a Russia hawk. The U.S. has also instituted more sanctions against Russia.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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