January 22, 2020

Trump reportedly mulling expulsions of Russian diplomats after EU backed UK

US President Donald Trump may expel dozens of Russian diplomats tomorrow in response to the chemical weapons attack on a former Russian spy living in Britain, according to US media reports.

The White House’s National Security Council recommended the expulsions after 10 European nations swung behind the UK in condemning the apparent attempted murder in strong terms, according to CNN.

“The United States stands firmly with the United Kingdom in condemning Russia’s outrageous action,” White House deputy press secretary Raj Shah said in a statement on Saturday, according to Bloomberg. “The president is always considering options to hold Russia accountable in response to its malign activities.”

Read more: EU leaders agree it is "highly likely" Russia was behind Salisbury attack

If carried through, the expulsions would align Trump on the side of the UK and Europe against Russia at a time when the US President still faces a long investigation into links between Russia and his campaign for the presidency.

Trump also attracted criticism last week for congratulating Russian President Vladimir Putin on winning a general election which many Western observers judge to have been rigged.

Yet expulsions of Russian diplomats would represent another victory for the British government, after it secured the support of major EU nations at the end of last week.

Read more: Five allies mulling Russian expulsions as EU recalls Moscow ambassador

The poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia at the start of the month has pushed the British-Russian relationship to its lowest point since a similar attack on fellow ex-spy Alexander Litvinenko in 2006, and tested the UK’s most important alliances.

The Russian government denies it was behind the attack, which was the first confirmed use of a nerve agent on European soil since the end of the Second World War. However, the British government has firmly accused the Russian government of carrying out the attack, and has already expelled 23 diplomats in response.

Putin’s press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, today said the UK’s accusations “border on banditry”, according to the Russian state-backed RIA news agency.

Read more: Ambassador tells Salisbury nerve agent attack cop it "wasn't Russia"

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