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    Belgium Decides to Expel One Russian Diplomat - Prime Minister

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    Expulsion of Russian Diplomats Over Skripal Case (109)
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    Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel has confirmed the expulsion of one Russian diplomat over the Skripal case.

    Previously, a Sputnik source familiar with the matter told Sputnik that the Belgian Cabinet of Ministers had decided to manifest its solidarity with the UK over the Skripal case, planning to expel one Russian diplomat

    "We have recently become aware of the decision to expel one [Russian] diplomat," the source said.

    READ MORE: Lavrov: Skripal Case Shows That There Are Not Many Independent Players Left

    The Government of Belgium held an emergency meeting in a private session - with the participation of the Prime Minister, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the heads of the security agencies.

    The country's Prime Minister Charles Michel stated before the meeting that possible response measures from the European Union and NATO in connection with the incident in Salisbury should be understood as a decision taken by the Government of Belgium.

    According to him, "there should not be a merge of the bilateral framework and the decision that we will take, with the fact that we [Belgium] are the headquarters of the European Union and NATO headquarters."

    READ MORE: Trump, Merkel Praise NATO's Sanctions Against Russia - White House

    The Belgian government will officially inform the Russian ambassador in the country within 48 hours, the RTBF broadcaster reported.

    The diplomat will then have 14 days to leave Belgium, the RTBF broadcaster reported.

    Russia's Reaction

    Commenting on Belgium's decision, Russian Ambassador to the country Alexander Tokovinin expressed regret over the move, the RTBF broadcaster reported.

    "If that is the decision of the Belgian government, then we can only regret it. Of course, Russia will react to this move," Tokovinin told the broadcaster.

    The ambassador stressed that Moscow would be guided by the principle of reciprocity in its reaction and might expel diplomats in return.

    Tokovinin added that dialogue was still possible.

    Mass Expulsion of Russian Diplomats

    Belgium followed the move, proclaimed by 16 EU countries on March 26 and followed by the United States, Canada, Norway, Ukraine and several other countries, to expel Russian diplomats in connection with the poisoning of former Russian intelligence employee Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury, which has been blamed on Moscow.

    Reacting to the move, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova repeated Moscow's position on the issue, saying that Russia would give an adequate response to the expulsion of Russian diplomats and the closure of the Russian consulate general in the United States.

    Sergei Skripal, who left Russia as a result of a Russia-US spy exchange, worked for the British MI6 and has spent the last several years in the UK. He and his daughter Julia were exposed to a harmful substance, which UK authorities claim to be a Novichok-class nerve agent, on March 4. 

    British Prime Minister Theresa May stated that Russia was "highly likely" involved in the case, as the substance A-234 was allegedly developed in the Soviet Union. The same stance was repeated by the British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson with an even greater level of certainty: according to him, Moscow was "overwhelmingly likely" to blame.

    READ MORE: Johnson Claims it Was Likely Putin's Decision to Direct Alleged Skripal Attack

    Russia has repeatedly denied all these claims, calling them unfounded and manifesting a desire to participate in the investigation into the case.

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    Expulsion of Russian Diplomats Over Skripal Case (109)

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    Russian diplomats, expulsion, Sergei Skripal, Russia, Belgium
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