The Russian Embassy in the US has posted a Twitter poll asking users which American outpost it should close as retaliation for President Donald Trump’s expulsion of 60 diplomats and the closing of the Russian consulate in Seattle.
The UK, Germany, France, and now the US have jointly called on Russia to explain the 4 March military-grade novichok nerve toxin attack on Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury. The pair remains in critical condition as the UK and US have expelled Russian diplomats from their posts. “With these steps, the US and our allies and partners make clear to Russia that its actions have consequences,” said White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders in a statement.
The poll provided three options - US consulates in Valdivostok, St Petersburg, and Yekaterinburg. With 21 hours left in the 24-hour poll, there have been 12,260 votes. Forty-five per cent of those who answered the survey favoured closing the St Petersburg consulate and 35 per cent think Russia should close the Yekaterinburg outpost.
A request for comment to the Russian embassy has not yet been answered. The official Twitter account did not mention if the poll results would be taken into account in the final decision making in Moscow. Russia has denied being involved in Mr Skripal’s poisoning.
UK Prime Minister Theresa May was quick to blame the Russians for the incident which has left the town of Salisbury a "ghost town" as The Independent previously reported over concerns about exposure to remains of the nerve agent continue.She called it a "brazen" act, expelled 23 Russian diplomats, and cut high-level contact with Moscow for the attack on UK soil.
“We consider this hostile action as totally unacceptable, unjustified and shortsighted,” the Russian Embassy to the UK said in a statement, adding that “all the responsibility for the deterioration of the Russia-UK relationship lies with the current political leadership of Britain.”
Russia has, in turn, expelled British diplomats from posts in Russia.
Mr Trump's initial comments were more cautious. He said on 13 March that "as soon as we get the facts straight, if we agree with them, we will condemn Russia or whoever it may be".
It was not until after US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said during a Security Council meeting that the US "stands in absolute solidarity" with the UK, that the White House issued a statement echoing the sentiment.
She said Russia must "account for its actions" in line with her strong comments against Russia in the past. Russian Ambassador to the UN Vassily Nebenzia, suggested the UK might have been responsible for the attack in an attempt to smear Russia. He told the Security Council that "no scientific research or development work under the title Novichok were carried out" in his country.
“The US stands ready to cooperate to build a better relationship with Russia, but this can only happen with a change in the Russian government’s behaviour,” Ms Sanders said.
Mr Trump’s move to expel diplomats comes on the heels of US sanctions placed on 19 Russian nationals, including President Vladimir Putin’s personal chef, for allegedly meddling in the 2016 US election.
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