WASHINGTON: Russia's expulsion of 60 US diplomats and shuttering of one of its consulates marks a "further deterioration" in relations between Washington and Moscow, the White House said Thursday.
The US had ordered a similar number of diplomats from Russia to leave and the shuttering of one of its consulates as part of an international effort to isolate the country after an ex-spy and his daughter were poisoned in England in a nerve agent attack blamed on Moscow.
"Russia's action today to expel American diplomats marks a further deterioration in the United States-Russia relationship," White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement. "Russia's response was not unanticipated, and the United States will deal with it," she said.
In all, more than 150 Russian diplomats have been ordered out of the US, EU members, NATO countries and other nations in coordinated action against Moscow, which they accuse of poisoning ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in a nerve agent attack in the English city of Salisbury on March 4.
While Sanders criticized the Russian expulsions, she said similar moves by the US and its allies were justified.
"The expulsion of undeclared Russian intelligence officers by the United States and more than two dozen partner nations and NATO allies earlier this week was an appropriate response to the Russian attack on the soil of the United Kingdom," Sanders said.
US President Donald Trump has emphasized the need to keep trying to work with Russian President Vladimir Putin despite increasingly tense relations between the two countries, as officials from the intelligence community and the State Department engage in harsher criticism of Moscow.