US expels 60 Russian diplomats in response to attack on ex-spy in Britain

WASHINGTON — The United States on Monday announced the expulsion of sixty Russian diplomats and intelligence officers, as well as the closure of Russia's Seattle consulate, in response to the poisoning of ex-Russian spy Sergei Skripal on British soil allegedly orchestrated by the Kremlin.

These steps, a senior administration official told reporters on condition of anonymity Monday morning, let the Russian government know "when you attack our friends, you will face serious consequences."

Removing these Russians, the official said, also lessens the "unacceptably numerous" Russian intelligence officers who reside in the United States and spy on Americans.

The Russian individuals and their families will have seven days to leave the U.S.

"As we've stressed to Moscow, the door to dialogue is open," the official told reporters on a call announcing the latest U.S. moves. "But if Russia wants to improve relations, it first needs to acknowledge responsibility for this attack and cease its reckless behavior."

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Russia prepares to re-elect Vladimir Putin
Veronika Baikova, 41, Russian citizen who plans to boycott the upcoming presidential election, poses for a picture as she visits her relatives in the village of Yukhovichi, Belarus, February 7, 2018. "Me and my friends will not go to the polling station - we don't believe in this election," said Baikova. "But if I go to the polls, I will vote against everyone and especially against Putin. His policies have not given us anything good over the years". REUTERS/Vasily Fedosenko 
Vasily Slonov, 48, artist and supporter of presidential candidate Pavel Grudinin, poses for a picture inside his workshop in Krasnoyarsk, Russia, February 8, 2018. "I don't think that this will be Putin's final term in office. In fact I see a sort of messianic energy in Putin," said Slonov. "He?s not just any other person, but something of an instrument in God's hands. He's not simply a politician." REUTERS/Ilya Naymushin 
Natalia Dementieva, 44, an accountant who is currently unemployed and supporter of presidential candidate Ksenia Sobchak, poses for a picture in Moscow, Russia, January 14, 2018. "She speaks the truth, openly. She doesn't lie. She raises issues which are taboo under our government. For example, Crimea. Which means she's not afraid," said Dementieva. "The idea that things have improved, I'm not seeing it. Things have gotten worse. They have started to control what people think even more than during the Communist era. People are afraid again... Ksenia is a politician of the future." REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov 
Yulia Dyuzheva, 22, student and supervisor of the "SUPERPUTIN" exhibition and supporter of presidential candidate Vladimir Putin, poses for a picture in Moscow, Russia, January 14, 2018. "I'd draw your attention to the colossal support of young people for the current government. As a representative of the younger generation, I can say that for us, young Russians, all the doors are open. Everyone is able to grab the opportunities presented and make the most of themselves, in whatever town or region," said Dyuzheva. "For me, Russia's current leader is taking the country down a very rational path, a path based on justice, openness, one which places a stress on values and traditions, and takes a very clear position on the global stage." REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov 
Andrei Vorontsov, 42, ataman of a local Cossack society and supporter of presidential candidate Vladimir Putin, poses for a picture in Mikhaylovsk town in Stavropol Region, Russia, February 21, 2018. "It's hard to say what the future will look like," said Vorontsov. "The way I see it, people can make assumptions, but it's God that decides. The way He rules it, that's how things will be." REUTERS/Eduard Korniyenko 
Alexander Reshetnyak, 42, Cossack ataman and supporter of presidential candidate Vladimir Putin, poses for a picture in Stavropol, Russia, February 16, 2018. "Of course, among the candidates right now, in my opinion no one can compete with our current president," said Reshetnyak. "There's no alternative. So yes, maybe these are elections without a genuine choice." REUTERS/Eduard Korniyenko 
Tanzurun Darisyu, 51, supporter of presidential candidate Vladimir Putin and head of a private farm located in Kara-Charyaa area in the south of Kyzyl town, the administrative centre of the Republic of Tyva (Tuva region), poses for a picture inside her yurt in Southern Siberia, Russia, February 14, 2018. "We, the Arat people, farmers, need to be able to be confident about what tomorrow will look like. We need this in order to expand and develop our farmsteads." said Darisyu. REUTERS/Ilya Naymushin 
Anastasia Shevchenko, 38, head of the election campaign team for presidential candidate Ksenia Sobchak, poses for a picture in Rostov-on-Don, Russia, February 13, 2018. "I want change, of course. First of all, in how this country is run. I hope that something will change. That's why I completely support my candidate's programme," said Shevchenko. "But at the same time, I completely understand that these elections don't decide anything. I just want new people in our politics." REUTERS/Sergey Pivovarov 
Andrei Lukinykh, 46, engineer and supporter of presidential candidate Vladimir Putin, poses for a picture in Yevpatoriya, Crimea, February 20, 2018. "I am going to vote, because I want stability. As the saying goes, you don't change your horses when crossing a river (at a turning point, during a difficult time)," said Lukinykh. "Unlike the others, my candidate can provide the stability that's needed." REUTERS/Pavel Rebrov 
Vitaly Bespalov, 26, journalist and supporter of presidential candidate Ksenia Sobchak, poses for a picture, showing a tattoo depicting Sobchak on his arm, in St. Petersburg, Russia, February 14, 2018. "I am 26. Eighteen of those years, all of my conscious life, I have lived under a single president," said Bespalov. "I have been waiting too long for change." REUTERS/Anton Vaganov
Alexei Gruk, 45, mechanic and supporter of presidential candidate Pavel Grudinin, poses for a picture in St. Petersburg, Russia, January 31, 2018. "The most important thing for me is that our foreign policy stays the same," said Gruk. "To hell with the sanctions? So what if they don?t bring foreign stuff here anymore? As if that means we have to give up. I don't care." REUTERS/Anton Vaganov
Marina Kalinichenko, 54, a maths teacher and supporter of presidential candidate Vladimir Putin, poses for a picture in Yevpatoriya, Crimea, February 21, 2018. "As Mark Twain said, 'if voting made a difference, they wouldn't let us do it'. I really do support my candidate, but I also realise that it's the oligarchs that truly decide, who becomes president." said Kalinichenko. REUTERS/Pavel Rebrov 
Maxim Gubsky, 21, student and supporter of presidential candidate Vladimir Zhirinovsky, poses for a picture in Stavropol, Russia, February 20, 2018. "I don't expect Putin to change things, and history proves this to be true," said Gubsky. "Little has changed over the past twenty years... to see progress in my life, we need a new president, new ambitions and new decisions." REUTERS/Eduard Korniyenko 
Svyatoslav Lomakin, 19, student and supporter of presidential candidate Vladimir Zhirinovsky, poses for a picture in Tula, Russia, January 26, 2018. "There's something of a shift, but I want real changes, which will improve our lives," said Lomakin. "I want there to be more opportunities for the young, so they can really make the most of their lives." REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov 
Vitaly Zubenko, 45, lawyer and supporter of presidential candidate Grigory Yavlinsky, poses for a picture in Stavropol, Russia, February 19, 2018. "When the people in power don't change, it's the foundation for corruption, it's what corruption needs to remain undefeated," said Zubenko. "We see that for the past four years, real incomes have been falling. A few people might have seen things improve, but overall, the population, the country, business, entrepreneurs, all economic structures, they're just about surviving. Things are getting worse and worse, unfortunately... We have to change the constitution, so that power never again finds itself in the hands of a single person." REUTERS/Eduard Korniyenko 
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The action comes after the United Kingdom kicked 23 Russian diplomats out of the country last week following the nerve agent attack earlier this month.

The U.S., in tandem with the U.K., France, and Germany, previously issued a joint statement blaming Russia for the attack, and the Trump administration slapped new sanctions on Russia — citing the recent chemical weapons attack in the U.K., as well as cyber interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

At the time the sanctions were announced, a senior national security official said the sanctions were "just one of a series of ongoing actions we're taking to counter Russian aggression" and that "there will be more to come."

Those Treasury sanctions against five entities and 19 individuals overlapped with previous measures taken by the United States, including naming all 13 Russians previously indicted by Robert Mueller for 2016 election meddling. The president has previously sought to delegitimize Mueller's investigation as a "witch hunt" and called claims that his campaign colluded with Russia "phony."

Trump has said it "certainly looks like the Russians were behind" the Skripal attack, but he's also alluded to a coming meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who he congratulated on his recent re-election victory without mention of voter irregularities and allegations of voter fraud.

An NSC spokesman wouldn't answer if Trump had spoken directly with Putin about the chemical agent attack, simply reiterating that the last time the two men spoke was Tuesday.

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