Swift response promised to expulsion of dozens of Russians in EU and North America over Skripal attack

Russia has vowed to expel dozens of western envoys in the growing diplomatic disagreement over the Salisbury nerve gas attack.

Officials promised a swift and most likely tit-for-tat response after the expulsion of Russian diplomats across Europe and North America on Monday in a show of solidarity from British allies that represents the biggest concerted blow to Russian intelligence networks since the cold war.

In an official communique, the Russian foreign ministry issued a” ascertained protest” to the expulsions and said it would respond to the” unfriendly act “.

” The provocative gesture of proverbial solidarity with London by these countries, having being led along by the British authorities in the so-called Skripal case and not having bothered to sort out the circumstances of what happened, are the continuation of a confrontational line toward escalating the situation ,” the ministry wrote in its statement.

The Russian ambassador in Vilnius, Lithuania, one of the EU countries that announced expulsions on Monday, said ” we will act on the basis of reciprocity … and do the same thing as the Lithuanian side did “.

Alexei Chepa, the deputy head of the foreign affairs committee for the Russian State Duma, told reporters on Monday that Russia” must expel the envoys of those countries “.

” Russia will not allow itself to be beaten up, the harder they try to intimidate us, the tougher our response will be ,” he said.

Russian diplomats were expelled from at least 17 countries in Europe and North America on Monday. The US expelled 60 diplomats and closed Moscow's consulate in Seattle, despite Donald Trump's administration having previously built moves to build the relationship with Russia.

Germany, France, Poland, Lithuania, Czech Republic, Denmark, Italy and the Netherlands said they would expel Russian diplomats, along with Ukraine and Canada.

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Russia has largely tried “reciprocity” in its responses to western expulsions of its envoys. But it has also set new twistings on diplomatic punishments: by reducing the total number of US staff in Russia by 755 last year rather than expelling specific envoys; and by closing the British Council, a government culture initiative, after Theresa May expelled 23 Russian diplomats this month.

The Russian embassy to the US launched a Twitter poll on Monday asking users to vote on which American consulate should be closed in Russia. The US has an embassy in Moscow and consulates in Saint petersburg, Yekaterinburg and Vladivostok.

Konstantin Kosachev, the chair of the upper home of the Russian parliament's foreign affairs council, said on Facebook on Monday that the expulsions were” unprecedentedly dirty” and accused western countries of following a” herd instinct “.

” It will happen everywhere until they wake up and come to their senses ,” he wrote of the expulsions.” We should not expect any apologies, that's not what this unprecedentedly dirty and low game was made for .”

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