Moscow summons ambassadors over diplomat expulsions

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President Donald Trump (Mark Wilson/Getty Images) and Vladimir Putin (Alexey Nikolsky/AFP/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON — Russia’s Foreign Ministry on Friday summoned the ambassadors of countries it described as taking “unfriendly actions” against Russia in solidarity with the U.K. after the poisoning of former spy Sergei Skripal.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry said the ambassadors would be “handed notes of protest and informed of Russia’s reciprocal measures.”

Video footage showed the ambassadors of various countries arriving at and leaving the Foreign Ministry building in Moscow on Friday.

Earlier this week, more than 20 countries, including the United States, announced they would expel Russian diplomats in support of Britain, who accused Russia of poisoning Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, in the English city of Salisbury.

President Donald Trump followed through with the promise, officially closing the Russian consulate in Seattle on Monday.

“The message that is being sent is you cannot use a military grade nerve agent without a response,” said Jon Huntsman.

Several days later, Russia did the same thing.

In all, 60 Americans were ordered out of the country – the exact same number of Russian diplomats the U.S. kicked out.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov warned earlier this week that Russia would retaliate over the mass expulsion of its diplomats by other countries, including many E.U. states, which he blamed on “colossal pressure and colossal blackmail” by the United States.

But Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Friday during a regular call with reporters that Russia had been “forced” to expel the U.S. diplomats and was “never the initiator” of tit-for-tat sanctions.

“Russia did not unleash any diplomatic wars. President (Vladimir) Putin was and remains a supporter of establishing and developing good relations with all countries from the very beginning, including the United States,” Peskov said.

“You know that Russia was forced to take retaliatory steps in response to those unfriendly, nonconstructive and unlawful actions, in this case, related to the expulsion of our diplomats and the closure of the consular post,” he said, in reference to the U.S. moves.

“Russia remains open to establishing good relations, we want these relations,” Peskov said.

US: Russia shouldn’t act like victim

After the Russian government announced the expulsion of U.S. diplomats, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said that Moscow “should not be acting like a victim” and that the only victims in this matter were the Skripals and other people affected in Salisbury.

She added that it was clear the Russian government was “not interested in a dialogue on issues that matter to our two countries.”

The U.K. hospital treating the Skripals said Thursday that Yulia Skripal, 33, was “improving rapidly” and that she was no longer in a critical condition.

“I’m pleased to be able to report an improvement in the condition of Yulia Skripal. She has responded well to treatment but continues to receive expert clinical care 24 hours a day,” Dr. Christine Blanshard, medical director for Salisbury District Hospital, said in a statement.

Sergei Skripal, 66, remains in a critical but stable condition, the hospital said.

U.K. police said this week they believed the Skripals first came into contact with the nerve agent at Sergei Skripal’s home in Salisbury.

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