Canberra, March 27 (IANS) Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on Tuesday announced that the country will expel two Russian diplomats as part of a global action against Moscow over an alleged nerve agent attack on a former Russian spy living in the UK.
Turnbull and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, issued a joint statement saying that two Russian “diplomats” had been identified as undeclared intelligence officers and would be ordered to leave Australia within seven days, reports the Guardian.
Australia joins more than 20 western countries including the UK and the US in expelling more than 100 Russian diplomats alleged to be spies in the wake of the use of a chemical weapon in the attempted murder of a former Russian intelligence official, Sergei Skripal, and his daughter, Yulia, in Salisbury on March 4.
It is the largest coordinated diplomatic blow to Russian intelligence networks in the west since the Cold War.
“This decision reflects the shocking nature of the attack – the first offensive use of chemical weapons in Europe since World War II, involving a highly lethal substance in a populated area, endangering countless other members of the community,” the joint statement said.
“It takes into account advice from the UK government that the substance used on 4 March was a military-grade nerve agent of a type developed by Russia. Such an attack cannot be tolerated by any sovereign nation.
“We strongly support the call on Russia to disclose the full extent of its chemical weapons program in accordance with international law.”
Opposition Labor party leader, Bill Shorten, said he supported the decision, the Guardian reported.
Australia’s move comes a day after US President Donald Trump’s administration expelled 60 Russian diplomats accusing them of being “intelligence agents” and also shut down the consulate in Seattle.
British Prime Minister Theresa May has already expelled 23 Russian diplomats, among other measures, after saying the Russian state was to blame for the poison attack which left Skripal and his daughter in a critical condition.
The Kremlin has denied any involvement.