US Embassy in Moscow staff buses leaves on expulsion deadline day

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Russia last week ordered 60 US diplomats to leave the country in tit-for-tat retaliation over the alleged nerve-agent poisoning of an ex-Russian spy and his daughter in Britain. Meanwhile, Russian foreign minister has called the poisoning “staged”.

US diplomats expelled by Russia over the poisoning of a former spy in Britain were seen leaving the US embassy in Moscow on Thursday morning to make their way to the airport, the TASS news agency reported.

Before the morning departure, journalists outside the embassy compound saw people leaving the residences, placing luggage on trucks. Some toted pet carriers.

Russia last week ordered 60 American diplomats to leave the country by Thursday in retaliation for the US expelling the same number of Russians.

The moves were part of a deepening dispute over the nerve-agent poisoning of a Russian former double agent and his daughter in the UK city of Salisbury on March 4..

The alleged attempted murder of Sergei and Yulia Skripal happened in Salisbury, England on March 4. Skripal, 66, is in critical but stable condition. Yulia, 33, has shown signs of improvement.

More than 150 diplomats have been expelled by Britain and allies since the incident and Russia has ordered reciprocal moves.

Diplomat expulsions “mockery” of law: Lavrov

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov meanwhile dismissed the recent expulsions of Russian diplomats as a mockery of international law.

Lavrov said the nerve agent poisoning of Sergei Skripal was “staged” to justify the expulsions from many countries “whose arms were twisted.”

TRT World spoke to Julia Lyubova in Moscow.

He said London cannot ignore Moscow’s “legitimate questions”, as he called for a “substantial and responsible” probe into the poisoning case.

“It will not be possible to ignore the legitimate questions we are asking,” he said hours before a meeting of the UN Security Council, which is due to discuss the spiralling diplomatic crisis between Russia and the West.

Moscow is insisting on a “substantial and responsible investigation” in accordance with the Chemical Weapons Convention, Lavrov added.

Russia called a meeting of the global chemical watchdog on Wednesday over the Salisbury incident, but failed in its bid to join the probe by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).

Moscow then requested a UN Security Council meeting on Thursday at 1900 GMT in New York.

Britain is carrying out its own probe, with independent technical assistance from OPCW experts.

Lavrov said Russian President Vladimir Putin had stressed the country was ready for “joint work” and was calling for the situation to be examined in a “fair way, with the presentation of evidence”.

Moscow wanted to “establish the truth”, Lavrov said.

He linked the poisoning to other allegations against Russia – from meddling in the US elections to chemical weapons attacks by the Syrian regime it supports militarily – complaining that Moscow faces “baseless accusations.”

Source: AP