State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said Thursday that Moscow “should not be acting like a victim” and rejected the Russian government’s suggestion that it is taking reciprocal action by expelling 60 US diplomats and closing the American consulate in St. Petersburg – a move that followed Washington’s decision to expel 60 alleged intelligence officers from the United States earlier this week.
“We don’t see this as a diplomatic tit for tat,” Nauert told reporters at the State Department shortly after Moscow announced the move.
The Trump administration announced Monday it would be expelling 60 Russians as a result of the nerve-agent poisoning of former spy Sergey Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Great Britain last month, which the US and its allies see as a violation of the international chemical weapons convention by Russia. Russia has denied any involvement in the attack, which the British government has attributed to them.
“Russia should not be acting like a victim,” Nauert said Thursday. “The only victims in this situation are the two victims in the hospital in the UK right now and the people who cannot go into the park, the medical workers, the first responders who are now having to be treated and watched carefully because they may have come into contact with that substance.”
Relaying a message from US Ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman, Nauert said it was clear the Russian government was “not interested in a dialogue on issues that matter to our two countries.”
She added that the US is reserving the right to respond with additional actions and bemoaned the impact the consulate’s closure will have on locally employed Russian staffers.
“If Russia is concerned about its economy, it wouldn’t be taking these actions, because those people will be hurt,” she said.
Nauert said of Russia’s denial of involvement in the nerve agent attack, “Russia is known for its disinformation campaigns, and I think this is another one.”
“They are masters of propaganda,” she said later, adding that Russia is moving to “diplomatically isolate itself.”