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Russian spies ‘abused their privileges’ at UN, State Department says

090717 gehrke nauert RT pic


A dozen Russian spies “have abused their privilege of residence” at the United Nations in New York City, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said Monday to explain their expulsion from the country.

“We have begun the process of expelling 12 intelligence operatives from the Russian Mission to the United Nations who have abused their privilege of residence in the United States,” Nauert said.

The spy crackdown coincides with the removal of 48 other officials and the closure of a Russian consulate in Seattle, chosen for its proximity to a submarine base. The expulsions are part of a broader Western response to the poisoning of a former Russian spy living in the United Kingdom, an incident that British Prime Minister Theresa May’s government has blamed directly on Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“We take these actions to demonstrate our unbreakable solidarity with the United Kingdom, and to impose serious consequences on Russia for its continued violations of international norms,” Nauert said.

The assassination attempt took place in early March, when former Russian military intelligence officer Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, were found unconscious and “frothing at the mouth” on a bench in Salisbury, England.

“[I]t has now used a chemical weapon within the borders of one of our closest allies,” Nikki Haley, the U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., said Monday. “Here in New York, Russia uses the United Nations as a safe haven for dangerous activities within our own borders. Today, the United States and many of our friends are sending a clear message that we will not stand for Russia’s misconduct.”

The focus on expelling spies from the U.N. in New York is consistent with a warning Haley issued during a recent Security Council meeting convened to discuss the Skripal incident. “If we don't take immediate concrete measures to address this now, Salisbury will not be the last place we see chemical weapons used,” Haley said. “They could be used here in New York, or in cities of any country that sits on this council. This is a defining moment.”

Russian officials deny responsibility, claiming instead that the U.K. staged the crime in order to sabotage Kremlin efforts to mend ties with Western Europe, which have been strained since the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

“[T]he most probable source origin for this chemical are the countries which have since the end of the '90s been carrying out intensive research on these kinds of weapons, including the U.K.,” Vasily Nebenzia, the Russian ambassador to the U.N., told the Security Council.



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