Russia retaliates with mass expulsion
RUSSIAN Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Moscow would expel 150 diplomats from western countries, including 60 US diplomats and close the US consulate in Saint Petersburg in a tit-for-tat expulsion over the poisoning of ex-double agent Sergei Skripal.
Mr Lavrov said that the US ambassador Jon Huntsman had been informed of "retaliatory measures", saying that "they include the expulsion of the equivalent number of diplomats and our decision to withdraw permission for the functioning of the US consulate general in Saint Petersburg".
Washington earlier ordered the expulsion of 60 diplomats and shut down the Russian consulate general in Seattle.
Mr Lavrov said the same approach will be applied to other nations that expelled Russian diplomats this week.
Two dozen countries, including the US, Australia, many EU nations and NATO, have ordered more than 150 Russian diplomats out this week in a show of solidarity with Britain.
Russia's Embassy in Canberra has accused Australia of blindly following Britain by deciding to expel two Russian diplomats.
"It is astonishing how easily the allies of Great Britain follow it blindly contrary to the norms of civilised bilateral dialogue and international relations, and against ... common sense," it said in a statement.
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop had earlier said she expected that Russia would retaliate.
"Russia hasn't announced it but the Russian ambassador has indicated that they are considering what options they will take," Ms Bishop told the Today show. "There are now 26 countries that have expelled about 150 Russian diplomats.
"We are always ready to defend our country, our people, against any kind of attack, including a cyber-attack … as we do in all our embassies across the world, we are looking out for our diplomats," she said.
The mass expulsions were a show of solidarity with Britain, which blames Russia for the poisoning of former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia.
Russia has denied involvement.