State Department: Expelled diplomats can be replaced

State Department: Expelled diplomats can be replaced
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The State Department says that a number of Russian diplomats expelled from a Russian consulate in Washington state could be replaced by other Russian officials, noting that the same is true for a number of American officials recently expelled from a consulate in St. Petersberg.

In a statement to CNN, the State Department said it was common practice for a country to replace expelled officials if the total number of allowed personnel under a bilateral agreement isn't reduced.

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As such, the agency informed CNN, the U.S. will likely replace a similar number of expelled diplomats who were ordered to leave by the Russian government last week.

"The Russian Federation has not informed us that it intends to reduce the total number of personnel allowed in our bilateral Mission," a State Department spokesman said in a statement. "We therefore understand that the United States may request new diplomatic personnel to fill the positions of diplomats who have been expelled."

"As always/As with similar incidents in the past, the Russian government remains free to request accreditation for vacant positions in its bilateral mission," the spokesman added.

The White House announced the expulsion of 60 Russian officials from the country last week in response to the alleged Russian poisoning of Sergei Skripal, an ex-Russian spy living in Britain. Russia retaliated by expelling an equal number of U.S. diplomats.

The Trump administration's decision followed the expulsion of 23 Russian diplomats from the U.K. Russia responded to those expulsions by kicking an equal number of British officials out of Russia.

Russia has denied responsibility for the poisoning, and condemned the U.S. and U.K.'s responses to the attack.

“It’s another vivid example of the absurd situation when questions are asked and an unwillingness to hear even any answers is demonstrated,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.