Russia on Friday expelled diplomats from 23 countries in a wave of retaliatory measures against the West in a spy row, the biggest wave of tit-for-tat expulsions in recent memory.
The Russian foreign ministry said in a statement that it had summoned the heads of missions from 23 countries earlier to tell them that some of their diplomats had to leave the country.
The countries include Germany and Poland. Others also told to pull their envoys were the Netherlands, Sweden, the Czech Republic, Finland and Lithuania.
The moves are in retaliation to a coordinated expulsion of Russian diplomats by Britain and its allies over a nerve agent attack against former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia Skripal in the English city of Salisbury on March 4.
Dutch foreign Minister, Stef Blok, said on Friday, “This is certainly not a surprise,” referring to Moscow ’s expulsion of two of the country’s diplomats.
The Russian foreign ministry also gave Britain a month to cut its number of diplomatic staff in Russia to the same number as Russia has in Britain.
More than 150 Russian diplomats have been ordered out of the US, EU members, NATO countries and other nations which are accusing Russia of being involved in the Skripal poisoning.
The ministry had said in a terse statement that they would be “handed protest notes and told about the Russian side’s retaliatory measures.”
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov had said Moscow would respond with “tit-for-tat ” measures, but they might “not only” be symmetrical.