Two Rossiya Airlines planes — both Ilyushin Il-96-300s — were captured on video being loaded up, presumably with the diplomats' belongings, alongside a U-Haul truck. Rossiya Airlines is a subsidiary of Aeroflot, a semi-private Russian airline company, but these two planes specifically are part of a Special Flight Squadron of the Russian government.
— Sam Sweeney (@SweeneyABC) March 30, 2018
The exodus of 60 Russian diplomats from the US was set in motion four days ago over accusations that the Russian government is responsible for the March 4 poisoning of a double agent who had retired to the UK. As Sputnik previously reported, the Trump administration's move marks the biggest-ever expulsion of Russian diplomats from the United States.
The move also comes 15 months after former US President Barack Obama expelled 35 Russian diplomats over allegations of election hacking, which, like the accusations prompting Trump's booting of Russian staff, have yet to be supported by concrete evidence given to the public.
— Capital Zoo (@capitalzoo) March 30, 2018
The White House said in a statement Monday that the closure of the Russian consulate in Seattle, Washington, was due to a national security threat posed by its physical location, although it also accused a number of the diplomats of being "intelligence agents." The move comes as a torrent of more than 20 countries have pledged to expel Russian officials or have booted them already.
— newsbellglobal (@newsbellglobal) March 30, 2018
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in a briefing after the White House's statement that there would be reciprocal measures. "They include expulsion of the equivalent number of diplomats and they include our decision to withdraw our agreement to allow the United States' general consulate to operate in St. Petersburg," Lavrov said.
Moscow has so far expelled a small number of diplomats from 20 countries, Sputnik has reported.
"Tomorrow, on March 31, our diplomats and their families will fly back to Moscow," Russian Ambassador to the US Anatoly Antonov told reporters on Friday.