The United States and more than a dozen European nations kicked out Russian diplomats on Monday and the Trump administration ordered Russia’s consulate in Seattle to close, as the West sought joint punishment for Moscow’s alleged poisoning of an ex-spy in Britain.
Warning of an ‘‘unacceptably high’’ number of Russian spies in the U.S., the Trump administration said 60 diplomats would be expelled — all Russian intelligence agents working under diplomatic cover, the U.S. said. The group includes a dozen posted to Russia’s mission to the United Nations who the officials said were engaged in ‘‘aggressive collection’’ of intelligence on American soil. The move was one of the most significant actions President Donald Trump’s administration has taken to date to punish Moscow and Russian President Vladimir Putin, especially over its intelligence activities. The last time they spoke, less than a week ago, Trump congratulated Putin for his re-election but didn’t raise the March 4 spy poisoning, Russia’s alleged election-meddling in the U.S. or its own tainted voting process, prompting dismayed critiques even from Trump’s fellow Republicans.
‘‘This is the largest expulsion of Russian intelligence officers in United States history,’’ said U.S. Ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman.
The American penalties were echoed by announcements in European capitals across the continent, including those in Russia’s backyard. All told, 18 countries were ousting more than 100 Russian spies, British Prime Minister Theresa May said, in addition to 23 already kicked out by the U.K. The list included at least 16 European Union nations, with more likely to follow. Germany, Poland and France each planned to boot four, the Czech Republic three and Italy two. Ukraine, a non-EU country with its own conflicts with Moscow, was expelling 13 Russians, President Petro Poroshenko said. All three Baltic states said they would kick diplomats out. Canada, too, said it was taking action, kicking out four and denying three who have applied to enter the country. Almost all of the countries said publicly that the Russian diplomats they were expelling were actually spies.