March 27, 2018 / 11:41 AM / 23 days ago

Ireland says to expel Russian diplomat, Moscow's envoy blasts move

DUBLIN (Reuters) - Ireland will expel one Russian diplomat in response to a nerve agent attack in England that the British government has blamed on Russia, a move that Moscow’s ambassador to Dublin said would not go unanswered.

Governments across Europe, the United States and elsewhere have announced plans to expel a total of more than 100 Russian diplomats in retaliation for the attack on a former Russian spy and his daughter on March 4. Moscow has denied being behind it.

Ireland cherishes its neutrality and is not part of the U.S.-led NATO alliance, but Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said it was not neutral when it came to such an attack and that it was important to show solidarity with its nearest neighbour.

“Ireland is a neutral country, we do not join military alliances. However when it comes to terrorism, assassinations, the use of chemical weapons and cyber terrorism, we are not neutral one bit,” Varadkar told parliament.

“We are joined of course in expelling diplomats with other countries that are neutral, including Finland and Sweden, who have taken the same course of action as us.”

Varadkar said the decision on whose diplomatic status was to be terminated was based on intelligence from police and defence forces. Ireland has expelled Russian diplomats before, most recently in 2011 in a row over the use of forged Irish passports.

Russia’s ambassador to Ireland, Yury Filatov, said its expelled diplomat had done nothing wrong or illegal and that the decision on appropriate, reciprocal action was now up to the Russian government.

“This kind of decision is unwarranted, uncalled for, senseless and regrettable. Clearly all responsibility for any effect of this move, on the otherwise positive state of Irish-Russian relations rests on the Irish government,” Filatov told a news conference at the Russian embassy in Dublin.

“You might safely assume that this kind of arbitrary decision and action will not go unanswered, that’s for certain.”

Reporting by Padraic Halpin and Graham Fahy; Editing by Gareth Jones

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