The United States is booting 60 Russian diplomats, some of whom senior Trump administration officials say aggressively gathered information for the Kremlin.
More than a dozen European nations also kicked out Russian diplomats over accusations Moscow tried to kill an ex-spy living in England.
Senior officials wanted the actions to tell the Kremlin “when you attack our friends, you will face serious consequences.”
A dozen staffers at Russia’s mission to the United Nations in New York acted as spies, officials said, and abused their privileges.
Those 12 Russians and another 48 embassy employees now have a week to leave the U.S.
Russia’s consulate in Seattle will also be closed because it’s close to a submarine base and a Boeing plant, the White House said.
“Today’s actions make the United States safer by reducing Russia’s ability to spy on Americans and to conduct covert operations that threaten America’s national security,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement.
There was an “unacceptably” high number of Russian spies operating in the U.S. and it was a broader problem beyond the attack in England, one official said.
Closing the Seattle consulate is expected to severely weaken Moscow’s ability to collect intel on the West Coast, administration officials said.
The move was expected after Great Britain expelled 23 diplomats earlier this month for the attack on Sergei Skripal.
The Russian national and his daughter Yulia were found clinging to life on a park bench in Salisbury, England, three weeks ago from a nerve agent attack. The incident also severely wounded a police officer who came to their aid.
The UK — along with several allies — placed the blame squarely on Russia, which previously jailed Skripal for feeding information to the British intelligence services.
The administration said it held off on tossing the diplomats until Russia had an opportunity to respond to the charges.
Ultimately, however, the U.S. found Moscow’s response wasn’t credible.
Nor did 14 European Union member nations, who also sent Russian emissaries packing Monday.
That included four Russian diplomats in Germany, three in the Czech Republic and two in Italy.
European Union boss Donald Tusk indicated more expulsions and other measures were in the works.
“The United States takes this action in conjunction with our NATO allies and partners around the world in response to Russia’s use of a military-grade chemical weapon on the soil of the United Kingdom, the latest in its ongoing pattern of destabilizing activities around the world,” Sanders said in a statement Monday.
With News Wire Services
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