- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Top Russians officials have accused Washington of bullying allies to join a mass expulsion of Russian diplomats in response to the nerve-agent attack on a former Kremlin intelligence officer and his daughter in Britain.

On Monday, in one of his most dramatic confrontations with Russia for its covert actions, President Trump expelled 60 Russian intelligence officers and closed Russia’s consulate in Seattle.

By Tuesday morning, reports noted that roughly 25 countries have expelled 140 Russians in what considered the largest expulsion in modern diplomatic history.

Later in the day, NATO announced it is expelling seven Russian diplomats to send a message to the Kremlin that there were “costs and consequences” for its behavior. Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg added that the organization was also denying accreditation for incoming Russian diplomats.

Responding to the White House’s announcement, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov accused Washington of engaging in a “colossal blackmail” to coax countries to join the expulsions.

“When one or two diplomats are being expelled from this or that country,” Mr. Lavrov said, “all the while whispering apologies in our ear, we know for sure that this is a result of colossal pressure, colossal blackmail, which unfortunately is Washington’s main tool now on the international area.”

Mr. Lavrov also warned that Moscow would soon respond.

“Certainly, we will not tolerate such impudence,” he added.

Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Rybakov on Tuesday told the RIA Novosti news agency that Russian officials are currently drawing up possible retaliatory measures for President Vladimir Putin to consider.

On March 4 in Salisbury, southern England, Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were exposed to what British authorities say was a Soviet-made military-grade nerve agent. They remain in critical condition in the hospital. Last week, EU leaders agreed with the U.K. that it was highly likely Russia was behind the poisoning.

On Tuesday, Ireland and Australia became the latest countries to announce they are expelling Russian diplomats.

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