The Trump administration will expel 60 Russian intelligence officers posted to the U.S. as diplomats in response to a nerve-gas attack against a former Russian spy living in the United Kingdom, officials announced Monday.
President Trump also ordered the closure of the Russian consulate in Seattle in what amounts to a strong signal of continued American support for the U.K. and a forceful repudiation of Russian aggression.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the Seattle consulate was selected for closure due to its “proximity to one of our submarine bases and Boeing.”
“The Russian government has shown malicious contempt for the sovereignty and security of countries worldwide,” an administration official said during a conference call with reporters. “It has repeatedly sought to subvert and discredit western institutions. These efforts are ongoing. Today, we stand in solidarity with America’s closest ally, the United Kingdom. To the Russian government, we say, ‘When you attack our friends, you will face serious consequences.’”
The move was coordinated with 14 European allies, all of whom will expel some number of Russian diplomats in response to the gas attack.
Former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter remain in critical condition after being exposed to a rare nerve agent on March 4. Skripal was indicted in Russia for sharing information with British intelligence services and was subsequently turned over to the British in a prisoner swap.
British authorities determined Russia was responsible for the assassination attempt and U.S. intelligence officials confirmed their assessment.
The U.K. expelled 23 Russian intelligence officers last week in response to the attack.
The Kremlin referred to the sweeping expulsions as a “provocative gesture” and vowed to retaliate.