France to expel four Russian diplomats over UK spy poisoning

France to expel four Russian diplomats over UK spy poisoning
Photo: AFP
France will expel four Russian diplomats in response to the nerve agent poisoning of a former spy in the UK, the foreign ministry in Paris announced on Monday. It follows a similar move by Berlin.

France has told four Russian diplomats to leave the country within one week in response to the poisoning of a former Russian double agent in Britain, the foreign ministry said Monday, following a similar move by Berlin and the US.

“In solidarity with our British partners, we have notified today the Russian authorities of our decision to expel from French territory four Russian employees with diplomatic status,” Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said in a statement.

The foreign minister said the decision was taken following this months European Council meeting in which it was considered that the Salisbury spy poisoning “posed a serious threat to our collective security and international law.”

Le Drian said there was no other plausible explanation for the attack other than it was ordered by Moscow.

France were not the only ones to take action on Monday. The US announced it would expel 60 Russian “officials”, which Washington described as “spies” including 12 based at the United Nations. The Russian consulate in Seattle would also be closed.

“Poland, Ukraine and Lithuania also announced it would expel a small number of diplomats.

Following the spy attack in London Macron had given France's full support to London, which has already taken the step of expelling 23 diplomats. Moscow responded by sending home 23 British diplomats.

Macron said earlier this month he would announce unspecified “measures” over the poisoning of a Russian former double agent in Britain.

“I will announce the measures that we are going to take in the coming days,” Macron told reporters during a visit to central France. 

Following the attack a rare joint statement from France, Germany, the US and the UK was issued in London.

It read: “We, the leaders of France, Germany, the United States and the United Kingdom, abhor the attack that took place against Sergei and Yulia Skripal” in the English city of Salisbury on March 4.

“We share the UK assessment that there is no plausible alternative explanation, and note that Russia's failure to address the legitimate request by the UK government further underlines its responsibility.”

A statement from the Elysée Palace on March 15th read: “Since the start of the week, Britain has kept France closely informed of the evidence gathered by British investigators and of elements demonstrating Russian responsibility in the attack.

“France shares Britain's assessment that there is no other plausible explanation and reiterates its solidarity with his ally,” Macron's office said