Earlier this month, Sergei Skripal, a former Russian spy — who had sold secrets to Britain, before going into exile in the United Kingdom — was poisoned with a toxic nerve agent that was invented by the Soviet Union, and never deployed by any other state.
The year that Skripal received asylum in the U.K., Vladimir Putin expressed the following opinion about traitors, and what is bound to befall them, in the end: “Traitors will kick the bucket. Trust me. These people betrayed their friends, their brothers in arms. Whatever they got in exchange for it, those thirty pieces of silver they were given, they will choke on them.”
Given these facts — and other pieces of evidence not currently available to the public — British intelligence has concluded that Russia was behind the poisoning of Skripal. And the U.K. is very mad about it. Which is understandable: Not only did Russia (ostensibly) try to kill Skripal and his daughter, it opted to do so with a toxic gas that sickened at least 38 bystanders, and may have adversely impacted the health of hundreds more. In response, Western governments — including the United States — expelled Russian diplomats (and/or spies) from their countries.
On Thursday, the Russian government expressed outrage over Britain’s ludicrous suggestion that Russia, of all countries, was involved in the poisoning of a traitor to the Russian government (whom Vladimir Putin had said deserved to die) with a weapon that only the Russian government has been known to possess. The Kremlin has argued that “Britain, the United States, Ukraine, [and] the Czech Republic” are all far more likely suspects for such a crime. And so, Vladimir Putin expelled more than 150 Western diplomats — including 60 American ones — from his country on Thursday.
“Our opponents should have the opportunity to look themselves in the mirror, in order to be horrified by the actions taken by their own side,” Konstantin Kosachev, chairman of the foreign-relations committee in the Russian parliament, reportedly said on Thursday.
Meanwhile, Russia’s foreign minister Sergey Lavrov called on Britain to give the Russian government Skripal’s daughter, who is currently recovering in a hospital (her father remains in critical condition).
“We have again demanded to be guaranteed access to Yulia as she is a Russian citizen,” Lavrov said at a news conference in Moscow. “I hope the British side can fulfill its obligations under the Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations.”
Lavrov reiterated Russia’s commitment to finding the real poisoner, calling for a meeting of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons to “establish the truth” in the Skripal matter.
As of this writing, Donald Trump has not personally weighed in on whether the Russian government is the victim of a “witch hunt.” But on Monday, he did sign off on the expulsion of 60 Russian diplomats and the closing of the Russian consulate in Seattle.