U.S. President Donald Trump Monday ordered the expulsion of 60 Russians from the United States and closed the Russian consulate in Seattle over a nerve agent attack earlier this month in Britain, senior U.S. officials said.
The order includes 12 Russian intelligence officers from Russia's mission to the United Nations headquarters in New York and reflects concerns that Russian intelligence activities have been increasingly aggressive, senior U.S. administration officials told reporters, speaking on condition of anonymity.
It was the toughest action that Trump has taken against Russia, and followed what one of the officials called a "reckless attempt" by the Russian government on March 4 to attack former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia with a military-grade nerve agent.
The pair were found slumped on a bench in the southern English city of Salisbury and remain critically ill in hospital.
"To the Russian government we say: when you attack our friends, you will face serious consequences," a senior U.S. administration official told reporters, speaking on condition of anonymity, according to Reuters.
Moscow has denied responsibility for the attack and has retaliated against Britain’s expulsion of 23 Russians by ordering out the same number of Britons. The Kremlin said ahead of the U.S. announcement that it would respond in kind.