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14 European Countries Expelling Russian Diplomats In Response To Use Of Nerve Agent


Together the U.S. and its allies are expelling more than a hundred Russian diplomats. It's their coordinated response to Russia's alleged use of a nerve agent in the U.K. earlier this month. The British government says Russia was behind the attempted murder of a former double agent, Sergei Skripal, and his daughter. In a moment we'll hear about Russia's reaction to today's decisions. First, for more on what the Europeans are doing, here's NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson in Berlin.

SORAYA SARHADDI NELSON, BYLINE: The American response was by far the biggest with the Trump administration saying it would expel 60 Russian diplomats as well as close the Russian consulate in Seattle. Ukraine also sought to make a strong statement, ousting 13 Russians. But at least 16 other European countries offered a more symbolic gesture, kicking out a handful of Moscow's diplomats each. Even so, British Prime Minister Theresa May sounded jubilant as she told the House of Commons that more than 100 Russian spies, as she called them, were being expelled.


PRIME MINISTER THERESA MAY: This is the largest collective expulsion of Russian intelligence officers in history. And together we have sent a message that we will not tolerate Russia's continued attempts to flaunt international law and undermine our values.

NELSON: The U.K. had already expelled 23 Russian diplomats over the poisoning with what London claimed was a Soviet-developed nerve agent. Last week, the EU recalled its ambassador to Russia over the attack. EU President Donald Tusk, who was in Bulgaria, said today's coordinated expulsions, which were announced during the same hour, may not be the last.


DONALD TUSK: Additional measures, including further expulsions within the common EU framework, are not to be excluded in the coming days and weeks.


JACEK CZAPUTOWICZ: (Speaking Polish).

NELSON: In Warsaw, Polish Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz called his country's decision to expel four Russian diplomats the right response. But Germany's foreign minister, Heiko Maas, tweeted it was not an easy decision to expel four Russian diplomats from Berlin. Many Germans would like to improve their country's relations with Russia, which is their biggest supplier of natural gas. They are also weary of sanctions which have gone too far, says Wolfgang Buechele, who chairs the German Committee on Eastern European Economic Relations.

WOLFGANG BUECHELE: The Russian economy has suffered by something like 50 billion U.S. dollars, euros - take whatever you want. And Europe has suffered by something like a hundred billion U.S. dollars, euros. So we are talking substantial amounts.

NELSON: The Germans are now waiting to see what Moscow's response will be. Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, NPR News, Berlin. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Special correspondent Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson is based in Berlin. Her reports can be heard on NPR's award-winning programs, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered, and read at From 2012 until 2018 Nelson was NPR's bureau chief in Berlin. She won the ICFJ 2017 Excellence in International Reporting Award for her work in Central and Eastern Europe, North Africa, the Middle East and Afghanistan.