MOSCOW — Russia has vowed on Monday to expel dozens of western diplomats, in a tit-for-tat diplomatic response by the UK, the US and other countries over the Salisbury nerve gas attack on the former Russian spy Sergei Skripal.
The Russian foreign ministry, in an official communique, issued a ‘determined 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.
Britain, The United States, European Union member states, Ukraine, Canada and Australia have ordered the expulsion of dozens of Russian diplomats in response to the poisoning of a former Russian double agent in England.
On Monday, the Russian embassy to the US launched a Twitter poll asking users to vote on which American consulate should be closed in Russia.
The US has an embassy in Moscow and consulates in St. Petersburg, Yekaterinburg and Vladivostok, The Guardian reported.
Konstantin Kosachev, the chair of the upper house of the Russian parliament’s foreign affairs council, said on Facebook on Monday that the expulsions of its diplomats 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. We should not expect any apologies, that’s not what this unprecedentedly dirty and low game was made for,” he wrote on the social media site.
Germany, France and Poland have expelled four diplomats each, their respective foreign ministries confirmed on Monday, while The Netherlands, Denmark and Italy will expel two diplomats each, their foreign ministries said,according to RT news.
For the unversed, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on Tuesday announced that he would be expelling two Russian diplomats.
Australia became the latest country to join in the unprecedented international response to the poisoning of Skripal earlier this month.
On Monday, the United States led the charge with President Donald Trump, expelling 60 Russian diplomats and flagging that it will close a Russian consulate in Seattle, located near America’s sensitive aerospace hub and a submarine base.
Subsequently, 14 European Union (EU) countries followed suit, ousting dozens of Russian officials from their respective soils.
Likewise, Lithuania has expelled three, their foreign minister said. The Czech Republic will expel the same number of diplomats.
Meanwhile, Latvia is expelling one diplomat and an Aeroflot employee, and Estonia’s foreign minister has confirmed the country is expelling a military attache at the Russian embassy. Finland and Sweden are expelling one each.
Last week, UK suspended 21 Russian diplomats back to Moscow after the former said that Russia was “highly responsible” for the poisoning attack.
China conduct live fire drill along southeast coastline
BEIJING — China’s military has conducted live-fire drills along the southeast coastline, state television reported, but it was unclear if these were the same exercises that had been flagged as taking place in the sensitive Taiwan Strait.
The government had said the drills would happen on Wednesday off the city of Quanzhou, in between two groups of islands close to China’s coast but that Taiwan has controlled since 1949 when defeated Nationalist forces fled to the island at the end of the Chinese civil war.
Chinese state media has said the drills were a direct response to “provocations” by Taiwan leaders related to what China fears are moves to push for the self-ruled island’s formal independence. China claims Taiwan as its sacred territory.
Late on Wednesday, Chinese state television showed footage of helicopters firing missiles during an exercise it said was happening on China’s southeast coast.
State television only showed pictures of helicopters, with no mention of ships or other military equipment such as tanks or amphibious assault vehicles.
The exercises took place from 8 a.m. (0000GMT) until midnight, the report said, giving the same time frame for the previously announced drills in the Taiwan Strait.
The Defence Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the exercise, and whether it was the same ones previously reported to be happening in the Taiwan Strait.
Taiwan on Wednesday denounced the exercises, saying Beijing was using “cheap verbal intimidation and saber rattling” to threaten the island.
Taiwan is one of China’s most sensitive issues and a potential military flashpoint. China has ramped up military exercises around Taiwan in the past year, including flying bombers around the island.
Taiwan’s Defence Ministry said on Wednesday afternoon two Chinese H-6K bombers had flown around the island, passing first through the Miyako Strait to Taiwan’s northeast and then back to base via the Bashi Channel between Taiwan and the Philippines.
The latest Chinese military movements come during a time of heightened tension between Beijing and the island and follows strong warnings by Chinese President Xi Jinping against Taiwan separatism last month.
China claims Taiwan as its own and considers it a breakaway province.Follow @gorkhapost