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Russian ambassador to Ireland says expulsion of diplomats would be 'unfriendly action'

The 28 EU leaders have offered British Prime Minister Theresa May their full support in blaming Russia for the attack.

Image: Sean Gallup via Getty Images

Updated at 3.30pm

THE RUSSIAN AMBASSADOR to Ireland has told reporters that any expulsion of Russian diplomats from Ireland would be an “unfriendly action”.

Speaking at a press conference earlier today, Yury Filatov told RTÉ News that he hopes Ireland would “use its common sense” in making any decisions in the wake of the nerve agent attack in England.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Minister for European Affairs Helen McEntee have said that Ireland is considering expelling Russian diplomats following the attack.

Varadkar has said that he has spoken to Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney on the matter and that a decision will be made next week.

Coveney today described the UK as “Ireland’s closest neighbour and friend”.

“We are in complete solidarity with the British government as they deal with the circumstances and consequences of this appalling attack,” Coveney said.

Ireland shares the UK and European Council assessment that it is highly likely that the Russian Federation is responsible and that there is no plausible alternative explanation. The use of chemical weapons in any circumstances is completely unacceptable.

“As the Taoiseach has said this morning, we will be considering next week whether it is appropriate for the government to take additional measures in relation to the Russian Embassy in Dublin, in light of security considerations and in solidarity with the actions taken by the UK.”

European Union leaders today have joined together to blame Russia for the attack in the English town of Salisbury, in which former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were poisoned on 4 March.

At a summit in Brussels, the 28 EU leaders offered British Prime Minister Theresa May their full support, agreeing “that it is highly likely that the Russian Federation is responsible and that there is no plausible alternative explanation”.

Speaking at press briefing alongside German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron described the nerve agent attack as ”an attack on European sovereignty”.

“We see this attack as a serious challenge to our security and as an attack on European sovereignty,” Macron said.

It calls for a coordinated, determined response from the European Union and its member states.

May briefed other EU leaders on the probe into the Salisbury attack at a dinner yesterday evening.

She managed to overcome resistance from countries like Greece and Italy who were reluctant to put their close Kremlin ties in jeopardy to persuade them to back Britain’s conclusion that Moscow was to blame.

Merlkel said May had shared “certain findings” which left little doubt Moscow was behind the first offensive use of a nerve agent in Europe since World War 2.

“We believe that the analyses are already very well-founded and this has not been questioned by anyone,” Merkel said.

Diplomats

The UK has expelled 23 Russian diplomats they said were spies and has been pressing EU allies to follow suit.

McEntee confirmed that the Irish government is going to review Russian diplomats in Ireland currently and evaluate whether they are genuine and doing their work.

In terms of making a definitive decision on expulsions, McEntee said: “We have to have discussions when we get home. The Taoiseach will be discussing this with the Tánaiste.”

McEntee also confirmed that the EU has agreed that the EU Russian ambassador will be recalled.

“We are saying that we trust in the UK assessment in this and we trust what they are saying,” she said.

We are very clear that any kind of attack, particularly a chemical attack of this kind, cannot be accepted. We need to be able to stand united and strong.

Moscow strongly denies any involvement but London has identified the chemical used as the Soviet-designed Novichok and says Russia had the means and the motive to carry out the attack.

The Skripals are both in a coma after they were found collapsed on a park bench, although a policeman who was also contaminated was released from hospital yesterday.

With reporting by AFP and Rónán Duffy 

Read: EU leaders agree Russia ‘highly likely’ to blame for nerve agent attack

More: Boris Johnson says Russia’s poisoning denials ‘grow increasingly absurd’

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