World Bulletin / News Desk
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop issued a joint statement on the move to expel the diplomats.
Turnbull said the decision was taken to show solidarity with Australia’s allies and condemned the attack on Sergei and Yulia Skripal, saying it “cannot be tolerated by any sovereign nation”.
“This decision reflects the shocking nature of the attack – the first offensive use of chemical weapons in Europe since World War II, involving a highly lethal substance in a populated area, endangering countless other members of the community,” Turnbull and Bishop said, adding the move targets the Russian government and not the people of Russia.
On Monday, 14 EU member states announced the expulsion of dozens of Russian diplomats in reaction to the poisoning. At least 45 Russian diplomats have been expelled across Europe so far.
The U.S. also expelled 60 diplomats and ordered the closure of Moscow’s consulate in Seattle.
On March 4, Skripal, 66, and his daughter Yulia, 33, were admitted to a hospital after being found unconscious in the southern English city of Salisbury. British officials have placed the blame squarely on Russia, a charge President Vladimir Putin adamantly denies.
London has said the attack was carried out using a Soviet-era Cold War nerve agent from a family called Novichok.
Skripal was granted refuge in the UK following a 2010 spy exchange between the U.S. and Russia. Before the exchange, he was serving 13 years in prison for leaking information to British intelligence.