British diplomats expelled from Russian Federation, came to London

USA and European officials said Saturday that President Donald Trump is close to expelling 20 or more Russian diplomats in response to the poisoning of a former Russian spy in Britain.

Moscow has denied responsibility for the attack and has retaliated against Britain's move to expel 23 Russians by ordering out the same number of Britons.

Germany, France, Denmark, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Czech Republic, Netherlands, Bulgaria, Ireland and other nations are expected to announce diplomat expulsions on Monday.

Prior to Wednesday's meeting, one State Department source told CNN the move would be considered a "very serious step", especially given the last round of tit-for-tat expulsions that have left both Russian Federation and the U.S. with significantly smaller diplomatic forces in each other's countries.

Last week, European Union leaders promised an "unprecedented" diplomatic response to the attack. In choosing to congratulate the Russian leader, Trump reportedly ignored the recommendations of national security advisers.

All of the people who discussed the president's deliberations asked not to be identified.

The Russian Embassy in the United Kingdom tweeted on its official account denying the letter saying: "There was no letter from Sergei Skripal to President Putin to allow him to come back to Russia". There is no Russian ambassador in Ukraine for a long time, we did not accept agreement for a new ambassador, as there is no Ukrainian ambassador to Russia.

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The move, all but certain to provoke retaliation by President Vladimir Putin's government, comes as Trump has tried to maintain at least the semblance of a constructive relationship with the Russian leader.

The president has recently replaced National Security Adviser McMaster with former ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton and Secretary of State Tillerson with CIA Director Mike Pompeo, changes that could impact his administration's stance towards Russian Federation.

Congress has pressured Trump to get tougher on Putin and passed legislation in August giving lawmakers the power to block the president from lifting punitive US measures imposed after Russia's incursion into Ukraine.

But the president places a priority on maintaining a personal relationship with the Russian president, would not publicly attack him, and does not see any benefit to the United States in confronting Mr Putin in one-on-one encounters, an administration official said last Thursday.

"We stand in solidarity with our allies in the United Kingdom, and we fully supported the UK's decision to expel diplomats and take other actions to respond", a senior State Department official was quoted by CNN as saying.

The U.K. made the decision after concluding Russia was responsible for the poisonings of Sergei Skripal, 66, a former Russian double agent, and his daughter, 33-year-old Yulia Skripal. The president chose to congratulate Putin and did not raise the poisoning incident, USA officials confirmed.


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