Nato has expelled seven Russian diplomats over the Salisbury nerve agent attack, the organisation’s secretary general has announced.
Accreditation requests from Moscow for three other officials have also been rejected to “send a clear message”, said Jens Stoltenberg, in the latest wave of global condemnation over the poisoning of Sergei Skripal.
He said the move was intended the show Vladimir Putin’s regime “that there are costs and consequences for its unacceptable and dangerous pattern of behaviour”.
It follows the “unprecedented” expulsions of more than 140 Russian diplomats from dozens of countries around in the world in a coordinated response to the 4 March assassination attempt that the British government says was planned by the Kremlin.
Nato’s decision reduces the maximum size of the Russian mission on the North Atlantic Council, its main decision-making body, from 30 to 20.
The move comes in light of “Russia’s lack of constructive response to what happened in Salisbury”, Mr Stoltenberg added.
Speaking in Brussels, he said: “The attack in Salisbury was the first use of a nerve agent on Nato territory. On 14 March, Nato allies made clear their deep concern, and condemnation of this reckless breach of international norms.
“Since then, intensive consultations have taken place among allies, including here at Nato and in capitals. Those consultations have resulted so far in the expulsion of over 140 Russian officials by over 25 Nato Allies and partners.
“This is a broad, strong and coordinated international response. And as part of that response, Nato is unified in taking further steps.
“I have today withdrawn the accreditation of seven staff at the Russian Mission to Nato. I will also deny the pending accreditation request for three others.”
He added: “This sends a clear message to Russia that there are costs and consequences for its unacceptable and dangerous pattern of behaviour. And it follows Russia’s lack of constructive response to what happened in Salisbury.
“Our actions reflect the serious security concerns expressed by all Allies, and are part of the coordinated international effort to respond to Russia’s behaviour.”
Although Mr Stoltenberg said the expulsions had been “triggered by the Salisbury attack”, he was clear that Nato’s member nations had already grown frustrated with Russian foreign policy.
“We have seen the illegal annexation of Crimea, we have seen the destabilisation of eastern Ukraine, we have seen cyber attacks, we have seen hybrid tactics, we have seen Russia investing heavily in modern military equipment and the willingness to use military force against neighbours,” he said.
Theresa May on Tuesday hailed the “unprecedented series of expulsions” of Russian diplomats across the globe in the wake of the Salisbury attack.
The British prime minister said the international reaction “has demonstrated to the Kremlin that we will not tolerate their attempts to flout international law, undermine our values or threaten our security”.
She added: “It is also important to note that our partners are not only taking these measures out of solidarity with the UK, but also because they recognise the threat that these Russian networks pose to the security of their own countries and the pattern of Russian aggression which has affected us all.”
Her comments came as Ireland became the latest country to expel a Russian diplomat, a move the Irish prime minister, Leo Varadkar, said was a show of solidarity with the UK.
“Ireland is a neutral country, we do not join military alliances, we will not be joining Nato, we will not be part of a European army,” he said. “However, when it comes to terrorism, assassinations and the use of chemical weapons and cyber terrorism we are not neutral, one bit.”
Former Russian intelligence officer Mr Skripal and his daughter Yulia remain critically ill in hospital following poisoning.