NP-UN National Affairs Desk.
Canada on March 26 joined the United States, Ukraine, the European Union and several other countries to expel Russian diplomats to show solidarity with the United Kingdom in response to Russia’s use of a nerve agent to poison a former spy living in that country.
As of 4 pm (EDT) on March 26, a total of 20 countries had joined the collective expulsion.
The UK on March 14 announced the expulsion of 23 Russian diplomats after evidence showed Russia’s involvement in the poisoning of Sergei and his daughter Yulia Skripal with Novichok, a deadly chemical developed during the Cold War.
And, on March 26, over 100 Russian diplomates were expelled world-wide, making this the largest expulsion of Russian diplomats in history.
“The nerve agent attack in Salisbury, on the soil of Canada’s close partner and ally, is a despicable, heinous and reckless act, potentially endangering the lives of hundreds,” said Freeland said in a statement.
“Canada is today taking action against seven Russian personnel. We are expelling four members of Russia’s diplomatic staff, serving either at the Embassy of the Russian Federation in Canada or the Consulate General of the Russian Federation in Montréal. The four have been identified as intelligence officers or individuals who have used their diplomatic status to undermine Canada’s security or interfere in our democracy. For similar reasons, three applications by the Russian government for additional diplomatic staff in Canada will now be denied. All of these steps have been taken pursuant to the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and to the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations.
“We are taking these measures in solidarity with the United Kingdom. These measures are not aimed at the Russian people, with whom Canadians have long and fruitful ties. Canada remains committed to dialogue and cooperation with Russia on issues where we face common challenges.
“The nerve agent attack represents a clear threat to the rules-based international order and to the rules that were established by the international community to ensure chemical weapons would never again destroy human lives.
“This is part of a wider pattern of unacceptable behaviour by Russia, including complicity with the Assad regime, the annexation of Crimea, Russian-led fighting in eastern Ukraine, support for civil strife in Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova and other neighbouring countries, interference in elections, and disinformation campaigns.
“Canada fervently supports the measures that the United Kingdom has taken so far and remains resolutely committed to acting in concert with its allies,” added Freeland.
In the US, President Donald Trump ordered the expulsion of 60 Russian diplomats identified as intelligence agents and the closure of the Russian consulate in Seattle. Of those being expelled, 48 of the alleged intelligence agents work at the Russian embassy in Washington and 12 are posted at the United Nations in New York, reported CNN.
“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,” White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement.
“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. With these steps, the United States and our allies and partners make clear to Russia that its actions have consequences,” she said. “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.”
In addition to Canada, UK and the US, other countries participating in the collection action included: Ukraine, which expelled 13 Russian diplomats over the incident; Germany, France and Poland which each expelled four Russian diplomats; the Czech Republic and Lithuania, three each; Spain, Netherlands, Denmark, Italy, and Albania, two each; Hungary, Sweden, Croatia, Romania, Finland, and Estonia, one each with Latvia expelling one Russian diplomat while also blacklisting a representative of a Russian company.
“Additional measures, including further expulsions … are not to be excluded in the coming days and weeks,” European Council President Donald Tusk said Monday, speaking in Bulgaria.
He said the European Council agreed with the UK “that it is highly likely the Russian Federation is responsible” for the poisoning.