Donald Trump is reportedly on the cusp of expelling dozens of Russian diplomats from the US, following the poisoning of Sergei Skripal, and his daughter Yulia, in Britain, says Bloomberg.
According to the report, the president was recommended to make the move by a group of advisers, and agreed with their recommendations on Wednesday. Trump refined the proposals on how it would be carried out with his inner circle, including US Ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and Defense Secretary James Mattis, on Friday.
Bloomberg says the official announcement on expulsions will likely be made on Monday but warned that Trump’s decision may not be final. Deputy White House Press Secretary Raj Shah told Bloomberg: “The United States stands firmly with the United Kingdom in condemning Russia’s outrageous action. The president is always considering options to hold Russia accountable in response to its malign activities. We have no announcements at this time.”
On March 4, former Russian agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, were found slumped on a bench in the center of the British city of Salisbury. A week later, UK prime minister Theresa May confirmed that the poison used in the attack was the military-grade nerve agent Novichok, developed by Russia—and it was delivered in an area where hundreds of people could have been affected (pdf).
The Russian Ambassador to the UK Alexander Vladimirovich Yakovenko responded by saying that the UK government’s words and actions towards the poisoning of the Skripals has been “absolutely unacceptable” and is being considered a “provocation.”
Last week, May gave 23 Russian diplomats a week to leave the UK. All of them, she says, are undercover spies. The move constitutes the UK’s biggest expulsion of Russian diplomats since the Cold War. In response, the Russian Foreign Ministry said it would also expel 23 British diplomats and close the British Consulate in St. Petersburg.