Australia has expelled two Russian diplomats it believes are undeclared spies, joining other world powers in taking action over the poisoning of a former spy in the UK.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop made the announcement during a media conference at Parliament House in Canberra on Tuesday.
The UK, United States and European allies of Britain have expelled 100 Russian diplomats over the nerve agent attack on former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury in the United Kingdom, marking the biggest expulsion since the Cold War.
‘Today Australia is expelling two Russian diplomats,’ Mr Turnbull told reporters.
Australia has expelled two Russian diplomats it believes are undeclared spies, joining other world powers in taking action over the poisoning of a former spy in the UK
The UK, United States and European allies of Britain have expelled 100 Russian diplomats over the nerve agent attack on former spy Sergei Skripal and daughter Yulia in Salisbury in the UK
‘We’re acting together with 23 other nations around the world in response to the shocking chemical warfare attack at Salisbury in the United Kingdom on the fourth of March.
‘This was the first act of chemical warfare in Europe since the second World War.
‘Russia is threatening the democratic world right around the world.’
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop also suggested Australia would boycott the FIFA soccer World Cup in Russia, due to be held in June, making this Australia’s highest-profile sporting boycott since 1980, when then prime minister Malcolm Fraser boycotted the Moscow Olympics over Russia’s invasion of Afghanistan.
Mr Turnbull and Ms Bishop said the UK government advised Australia the substance used in the attack was a military-grade nerve agent of a type developed by Russia.
‘The criminal attack in the United Kingdom in Salisbury on the fourth of March was an attack on all of us,’ the prime minister told reporters.
‘It was an attack on the sovereignty of every nation that respects the rule of law.’
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop also suggested Australia would boycott the FIFA soccer World Cup in Russia, due to be held in June, making the highest-profile sporting boycott since 1980
‘This attack is part of a pattern of reckless and deliberate conduct by the Russian state that constitutes a growing threat to international security, global non-proliferation rules against the use of chemical weapons, the rights of other sovereign nations and the international rules-based order that underpins them.’
Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who threatened to ‘shirt front’ Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2014 over missing flight MH370, said it was absolutely right for Australia to take strong action against Moscow.
‘Right around the world there is just this horror and revulsion at the idea that Putin’s death squads are stalking the streets of England,’ he told reporters in Canberra.
‘The idea that the leader of a serious country would be sending his death squads into the quiet provincial cities of England to stalk people who he regards as his enemies is absolutely and utterly abhorrent.’
Menna Rawlings, the British High Commissioner to Australia, also welcomed the announcement.
‘Thank you Malcolm Turnbull and Julie Bishop for your unwavering support,’ Ms Rawlings posted to Twitter.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop made the announcement during a media conference at Parliament House in Canberra on Tuesday
‘Nerve agent use on British soil demands concerted diplomatic action to avoid culture of impunity and to support our collective security. Great to have Australia and others with us.’
Australia has also joined calls for Russia to disclose the full extent of its chemical weapons program.
The government noted it also still had sanctions in place against Russia over its involvement in the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over Ukraine in 2014.
Mr Turnbull and security agencies briefed Opposition Leader Bill Shorten on the expulsion ahead of the announcement.
The Labor leader supported the measure.
‘There is no doubt that the actions Russians had taken in England has caused international outrage and that Australia along with many of its allies is taking commensurate responses to it,’ Mr Shorten told reporters in Canberra.
‘These are undeclared agents and so therefore it is inappropriate that they be in Australia.’
Leading national security analyst Peter Jennings, from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, says Russia will almost certainly respond by expelling some Australian diplomats.