MOSCOW: Moscow on Friday (Mar 30) issued tit-for-tat measures against countries that have expelled Russian diplomats in a mass show of support for Britain over the poisoning of a former double agent in England.
Russia announced the expulsion of diplomats from 23 countries, almost all of them European Union members, and told Britain to make unspecified "reductions" to its diplomatic staff.
Most of the ambassadors driven up to the front door of the Russian foreign ministry in flagged official cars on Friday came from EU countries.
Eighteen of the 28 EU countries have now expelled Russian diplomats and Moscow issued tit-for-tat measures against a majority of them.
The Netherlands was the first to announce that Russia was expelling two diplomats.
According to their officials and state broadcasters, Germany and Poland would be sending home four diplomats each, the Czech Republic and Lithuania three each, and Italy, Spain, Albania and Denmark would all have two expelled.
Latvia, Estonia, Croatia, Sweden, Romania, Ireland, Norway and Finland must each withdraw one diplomat. France was told it would have to send home four diplomats.
Ukraine was told 13 diplomats will have to leave, while Moldova had three expulsions confirmed.
Expulsions are expected for Canada, Australia and Macedonia after they were summoned to Russia's foreign ministry, but have not yet been confirmed.
Russia on Thursday separately announced it would expel 60 US diplomats and close the US consulate in Saint Petersburg.
Washington had earlier ordered 60 Russia diplomats to leave the country and shut down the Russian consulate general in Seattle.
FURTHER ACTION AGAINST BRITAIN
Moscow has already expelled British diplomats but issued an additional punishment on Friday, saying London must cut its diplomatic presence within a month to the same as Russia has in the UK - without giving a number.
London has said that Moscow is "highly likely" behind the poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia with a Soviet-developed nerve agent in the English city of Salisbury on Mar 4.
Britain has expelled 23 Russian diplomats, suspended high-level diplomatic contacts and vowed not send royal family members to the football World Cup hosted by Russia this summer.
Russia had already retaliated by expelling 23 British diplomats, closing a UK consulate in Saint Petersburg and shutting down the British Council educational and cultural organisation.
RECALLS OF AMBASSADORS
Slovakia, Malta, Bulgaria, Portugal and Luxembourg recalled their ambassadors to Russia for consultations this week, in a temporary measure to show disapproval.
NO EXPULSIONS YET
Russia said it reserves the right to respond to countries that have recently announced expulsions of Russian diplomats: Belgium, Hungary, Georgia and Montenegro.