Russia Expels One Belgian Diplomat in Response Over Skripal Case
15:48 04.04.2018(updated 16:34 04.04.2018)
Moscow's reciprocal move comes after a number of European countries, as well as the US, Canada and Australia decided to remove Russian diplomatic staff in solidarity with the UK, which groundlessly blamed the poisoning of ex-Russian intelligence officer Skripal on Russia.
Belgian Foreign Ministry reported that the country's ambassador to Russia was informed about Moscow's decision to expel one Belgian diplomat in response to the country's move to expel an employee from Russsia's embassy amid the international row over the Skripals' poisoning.
"Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Didier Reynders was notified about the decision of the Russian authorities to expel one Belgian diplomat … The minister regrets such reaction," the ministry said in a statement seen by Sputnik.
Belgium's diplomat was given 14 days to leave Russia, the same deadline was defined by Brussels for a Russian diplomat.
Earlier in the day, Hungary's diplomat was declared persona non grata as a part of Moscow's tit-for-tat measures over Skripal case. Belgium, Hungary, Montenegro and Georgia were the last countries to announce their actions in solidarity with the UK, that is why Russia reserved the right to response separately from the expulsion of other Western states' diplomats.
On March 27, Belgium made a decision to remove one Russian diplomat in the wake of London's unsubstantiated claims that Moscow was behind the poisoning of ex-Russian intelligence officer Sergei Skripal, who later worked for MI6, and his daughter Yulia.
The Skripals were found unconscious on a bench in Salisbury, Britain, allegedly falling victim to a chemical attack by the A-234 nerve agent. While Sergei Skripal still remains in a critical condition, his daughter has reportedly regained consciousness. The British side claimed that the toxin used for the poisoning was produced in the Soviet Union, however, on April 3, scientists at the Porton Down chemical weapons laboratory concluded that the toxin used in the Skripal poisoning was a military-grade nerve agent, but they could not precisely determine its source.
Following the incident, the UK initiated the expulsion of 23 Russian diplomats. The US followed suit, deporting 60 Russian diplomats, whereas more than two dozen other countries also demonstrated "solidarity" with London, despite the fact that the investigation into the Skripal case is far from over. Russia responded in a similar manner, removing the same number of Western countries' diplomats.
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