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EU nations mull expulsions, other measures against Russia

British Prime Minister Theresa May speaks with the media as she arrives for an EU summit at the Europa building in Brussels on Friday, March 23, 2018. (Virginia Mayo / Associated Press)
British Prime Minister Theresa May speaks with the media as she arrives for an EU summit at the Europa building in Brussels on Friday, March 23, 2018. (Virginia Mayo / Associated Press)
By Jill Lawless and Lorne Cook Associated Press

BRUSSELS – Several European Union countries said Friday they plan to take measures against Russia over the poisoning of a former spy, and some may follow the U.K.’s lead in expelling Moscow’s diplomats.

At a summit in Brussels, the 28 EU leaders agreed with Britain that it is “highly likely Russia is responsible” for the nerve-agent attack on Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia. They remain unconscious in critical condition.

The bloc has recalled its ambassador from Moscow for consultations over an incident it called “a grave challenge to our shared security.”

The president of Lithuania said Friday that individual EU countries plan to take their own actions against Russia within days. Dalia Grybauskaite said that “from the beginning of next week, a lot of countries, we will go for our national measures.”

Grybauskaite has said Lithuania may expel Russian diplomats over the attack on the former double agent and his daughter in the English city of Salisbury earlier this month.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Artyom Kozhin said Friday Russia had not been approached by other countries about potential expulsions.

Britain and Russia have expelled 23 of each other’s diplomats since the attack, which has sparked an east-west diplomatic crisis reminiscent of the Cold War. Britain says the 23 expelled Russians, who left London earlier this week, were undeclared intelligence agents.

Several minibuses left the British embassy in Moscow on Friday, reportedly carrying the expelled U.K. diplomats.

Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said his country would conduct a security assessment of Russian diplomats with a view to possibly expelling those who are not legitimate.

“We will make that decision, I would say, in the early part of next week,” he said.

Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen said his country would also consider “whether we should take unilateral steps.”

The EU leaders’ statements came after a summit dinner where May shared information about why Britain is convinced Moscow was behind the attack, including the type of poison used – a Soviet-developed nerve agent known as Novichok – and intelligence that Russia has produced it within the past decade.

“We got more detailed information from the prime minister May and it was very good information,” Grybauskaite said.

May said that since the incident Britain had been “sharing on intelligence channels what intelligence we can share with our colleagues.”

“What is crucial is that there was recognition around the table last night about the threat that Russia poses,” May said.

“I think it is clear that Russia is challenging the values we share as Europeans, and it is right that we are standing together in defense of those values.”

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