First Russians ordered to leave US depart embassy

First Russians ordered to leave US depart embassy

The first group of Russian officials ordered out of the United States boarded a bus and departed the Russian embassy in Washington on Saturday, according to The Associated Press

The Russian state-run news agency TASS reported the officials would leave the U.S. on Saturday, and the Russian government would provide two planes for the evacuation. 

One of those jets would be in the U.S. for only a few hours before flying directly back to Moscow, TASS reported, citing Anatoly Antonov, the Russian ambassador to the U.S. That plane would take 14 families back to Russia, Antonov said.

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President TrumpDonald John TrumpDC board rejects Trump Hotel effort to dismiss complaint seeking removal of liquor license on basis of Trump's 'character' DC board rejects Trump Hotel effort to dismiss complaint seeking removal of liquor license on basis of Trump's 'character' Mexico's immigration chief resigns amid US pressure over migrants MORE moved on Monday to expel from the U.S. 60 Russian officials deemed to be intelligence agents. Those officials and their families were given seven days to leave the country.

He also announced that the U.S. would shutter the Russian consulate in Seattle.

The diplomatic expulsions were part of a coordinated effort by more than two dozen countries to punish Moscow for its alleged role in the nerve-agent poisoning of a former Russian spy and his daughter on British soil earlier this month.

Moscow has denied any role in the poisonings. The Russian government announced on Thursday that it would respond quid pro quo to Washington's decision to expel its diplomats.

Jon Huntsman, the U.S. ambassador to Russia, was summoned on Thursday to the Russian Foreign Ministry, where he was notified that Moscow would expel 60 U.S. diplomats and would close the American consulate in St. Petersburg, an outpost much more significant in U.S.-Russia relations than the Seattle consulate.

The poisoning of the ex-spy, Sergei Skripal, and his daughter, Yulia Skripal, and the subsequent diplomatic tit for tat has exacerbated tensions between Russia and the West, and has prompted back-and-forth threats of further retaliation.