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Russia to expel US diplomats in retaliatory move

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Russian and US state flags fly near a factory of Ford Sollers, a joint venture of US carmaker Ford with Russian partners, in Vsevolozhsk, Leningrad Region, Russia. (File photo by Reuters)

Russia says it is expelling several American diplomats from the US Embassy in Moscow and declared them "persona non grata" in response to an earlier move by Washington ousting Russian representatives to the United Nations.

“We can confirm that the US Embassy received a list of diplomats declared "persona non grata" from the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs on March 23,” a State Department spokesperson said on Wednesday.

“This is Russia's latest unhelpful and unproductive step in our bilateral relationship. Now more than ever, it is critical that our countries have the necessary diplomatic personnel in place to facilitate communication between our governments,” the spokesperson said.

Last month, the US expelled 12 diplomats from Russia's New York-based mission to the UN, accusing the staff of engaging in espionage activities. Moscow condemned the move as hostile and a gross violation of the commitments by the US.

The latest tit-for-tat expulsion of diplomats is the latest blow to the fast-deteriorating ties between Washington and Moscow, which have become increasingly strained since Russia launched a military operation in Ukraine on February 24.

The US and its European allies have escalated sanctions on Russia over the offensive in Ukraine. 

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