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Trump orders expulsion of 60 Russians over poison attack in Britain
[WASHINGTON] President Donald Trump ordered the expulsion of 60 Russians from the United States on Monday, including 12 people identified as Russian intelligence officers who have been stationed at the United Nations in New York, in response to Russia's alleged poisoning of a former Russian spy in Britain.
The expulsion order, announced by administration officials, also closes the Russian consulate in Seattle. The Russians and their families have seven days to leave the United States, according to officials.
The expulsions are the toughest action taken against the Kremlin by Mr Trump, who has been criticized for not being firm enough with President Vladimir Putin of Russia.
In a call with reporters, senior White House officials said that the move was to root out Russians actively engaging in intelligence operations against the country, and to show that the United States would stand with Nato allies. The officials said that the closure of the consulate in Seattle was ordered because of its proximity to a US naval base.
Britain previously expelled 23 Russian diplomats over the poisoning, raising tensions between the two countries to a level not seen since the heights of the Cold War. The government vowed to crack down on Russian spies, corrupt elites and ill-gotten wealth in Britain.
On March 15, the Trump administration imposed sanctions on a series of Russian organizations and individuals for interference in the 2016 presidential election and other "malicious cyberattacks," its most significant action against Moscow until Monday.
Those sanctions came as the United States joined Britain, France and Germany in denouncing Russia for its apparent role in a nerve-gas attack on a former Russian spy and his daughter on British soil, calling it a "clear violation" of international law.
Trump has been slower to act than leaders in Britain, France and Germany over the attack, in which Sergei V. Skripal, 66, a former spy, and his daughter, Yulia Skripal, 33, were attacked with a nerve agent.
White House officials called the nerve agent used against the Skripals "military grade," but declined to elaborate on the substance used.