Putin poised to decide on how to retaliate to diplomats’ expulsions

Kremlin criticises move by US and allies over nerve agent attack and insists on innocence

Russian president Vladimir Putin:  Moscow  regrets that the US and many EU countries have decided to punish Russia over the Skripal nerve gas attack. Photograph: Georges Gobet/AFP/Getty

Russian president Vladimir Putin: Moscow regrets that the US and many EU countries have decided to punish Russia over the Skripal nerve gas attack. Photograph: Georges Gobet/AFP/Getty

 

The Kremlin pledged to retaliate on Monday after the US and its European allies expelled scores of Russian diplomats over the nerve agent attack in the UK this month.

Vladimir Putin would make a final decision about Russia’s response to the US and European move, Dmitry Peskov, a Kremlin spokesman said. “It’s likely that, as before, we will be led by principles of mutuality.”

Mr Putin, Russia’s president, has dismissed as “nonsense” UK accusations that the Kremlin had a hand in the attempted murder of Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia, who collapsed in Salisbury on March 4th after being poisoned with a military grade nerve agent. Appeals by Russia for samples of the poison used in the attack have been flatly rejected by the UK.

The Russian foreign ministry issued a sharply worded rebuke to the US and its European allies on Monday, saying the expulsion of its envoys over the Skripal case was “unfriendly” and a “provocative gesture”.

‘Unfriendly step’

The UK’s allies had “followed the principle of Euro-Atlantic unity at the expense of common sense, the rules of civilised inter-state dialogue and principles of international law”, the ministry said in a statement published on its website. “You can figure out yourselves, that the above unfriendly step by this group of countries will not disappear without trace and we will react to it.”

“A multi-faceted diplomatic war has begun between Russia and the West,” Fyodor Lukyanov, the editor-in-chief of the respected Russia in Global Affairs journal , wrote on his Telegram account on Monday. Diplomacy was supposed to preserve lines of communication at times of crisis, he said. “But what is happening today seems like a negation of that function.”

Mr Peskov said the Kremlin regretted that the US together with European Union countries had decided punish Russia over the Skripal case. “I repeat what we have already said: Russia had nothing to do with the affair.”