Russia to expel same number of diplomats as West

Moscow will expel the same number of diplomats from the nations that have expelled Russian diplomats over the poisoning of an ex-Russian spy in Britain, Russia's foreign minister said.

Sergei Lavrov said US ambassador Jon Huntsman was summoned to the foreign ministry where he was given notice that Russia is responding quid pro quo to the US decision to order 60 Russian diplomats out.

Mr Lavrov said Moscow will also retaliate over the US decision to shut the Russian consulate in Seattle by closing the US consulate in St Petersburg.

He said the same approach will be applied to other nations that expelled Russian diplomats this week.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. Pic: Getty/AFP

Two dozen countries, including the US and many EU nations, and Nato have ordered more than 150 Russian diplomats out this week in a show of solidarity with Britain.

Mr Lavrov renewed Russia’s demand for access to Yulia Skripal, a Russian citizen who along with her ex-spy father Sergei Skripal was poisoned in Britain this month and is reportedly recovering.

British health authorities said Ms Skripal, 33, was out of critical condition and is improving rapidly.

It was not immediately clear if her condition would allow her to talk with British or Russian officials about the March 4 poisoning in Salisbury.

The US embassy building in Moscow. Pic: Getty/AFP

Mr Lavrov said at a news conference in Moscow that “we have again demanded to be guaranteed access to Yulia as she is a Russian citizen. I hope the British side can fulfil its obligations under the Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations”.

Elsewhere, UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres said the world is approaching a situation “similar” to the Cold War as tensions rise between the United States and Russia.

But Mr Guterres said it is different in two important ways: There are more players in conflicts than during the two-superpower era and fewer communication channels set up to keep problems from escalating.

He told reporters he is “very concerned”.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. Pic: Getty/AFP

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In full: The 25 countries that have expelled Russian diplomats
The US embassy building in Moscow. Pic: Getty/AFP