New Zealand said it would like to expel Russian spies in retaliation for allegedly poisoning an ex-agent in Britain – but it can’t find any.
Scores of Russian diplomats have been ordered from the United States, Canada, Australia and various European countries in the wake of the nerve agent attack on Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury.
New Zealand is a member of the ‘Five Eyes’ intelligence-sharing network, which also includes the United States, Britain, Canada and Australia. But while it offered in-principle support the country admitted a lack of Russian spy activity meant there was little action it could take.
It comes as Ireland became the latest country to order out a Russian diplomat, describing the Salisbury chemical attack as an affront to international law
New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has said there are no Russian spies in her country to kick out
Ms Ardern said New Zealand wanted show solidarity with the UK over the poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia (pictured)
A swathe of European states have expelled Russian diplomats alongside Canada and the US
Austrian chancellor Sebastian Kurz said his country wanted to keep channels of negotiation open with Russia
New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told state radio it had ‘done a check’, but ‘we don’t have Russian undeclared intelligence officers here. If we did, we would expel them.’
‘When there’s a range of international interests does it surprise me New Zealand is not top of their list? No, actually.’
Ardern said New Zealand ‘will keep under review what further actions it can take to support the international community over the Salisbury attack’.
Russia has denied it was behind the attempted assassination, which left Skripal and his daughter gravely ill in perhaps the first nerve agent attack in Europe since World War II.
Which countries are expelling Russian diplomats over Salisbury?
In an unprecedented move, countries across the west have banished Russian diplomats in response to the Salisbury poison outrage.
Here is a list of the countries who have expelled diplomats.
EU – Recalled its ambassador
Britain – Expelled 23 Russians alleged to have worked as spies under diplomatic cover. Promised to freeze any Russian state assets that “may be used to threaten the life or property of UK nationals or residents”.
United States – Expelling 60 Russians, including 12 intelligence officers from Russia’s mission to U.N. headquarters in New York. Closing Russian consulate in Seattle.
Canada – Expelling four Russians alleged to have worked as spies or interfered in Canadian affairs under diplomatic cover. Denying three applications for Russian diplomatic staff.
Ukraine – Expelling 13 Russian diplomats
France – Expelling four diplomats
Germany – Expelling four diplomats
Poland – Expelling four diplomats
Lithuania – Expelling three diplomats
Czech Republic – Expelling three diplomats
Italy – Expelling two diplomats
Netherlands – Expelling two diplomats
Denmark – Expelling two diplomats
Sweden – Expelling one diplomat
Ireland – Expelling one diplomat
Latvia – Expelling one diplomat
Estonia – Expelling one diplomat
Finland – Expelling one diplomat
Romania – Expelling one diplomat
Croatia – Expelling one diplomat
Spain – Expelling two diplomats
Norway – Expelling one diplomat
Hungary – Expelling one diplomat
Macedonia – Expelling one diplomat
Albania – Expelling two diplomats
Australia – Expelling two diplomats
Austria, however, said it would not follow a number of other EU countries in expelling Russian diplomats, thelocal.at reported.
‘We stand behind the decision to recall the EU ambassador, but we will not take any national measures,’ Chancellor Sebastian Kurz and Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl said in a joint statement.
‘Indeed, we want to keep the channels of communication to Russia open. Austria is a neutral country and sees itself as a bridge-builder between East and West.’
The Kremlin has promised to ‘respond harshly’ after Britain’s allies threw out diplomats from 23 countries in response to the Salisbury nerve agent poisoning.
The US has expelled 60 officials and shut the Russian consulate in Seattle following the attempted assassination of the Skripals.
And this afternoon, Ireland’s deputy premier Simon Coveney expressed solidarity with the UK saying: ‘The use of chemical weapons, including the use of any toxic chemicals as weapons, by anyone, anywhere, is particularly shocking and abhorrent.
‘The attack in Salisbury was not just an attack against the United Kingdom, but an affront to the international rules-based system on which we all depend for our security and well-being.
‘In light of the European Council conclusions, and following an assessment conducted by the security services and relevant departments, I have briefed the Government on my intended course of action.
‘The Secretary General of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has subsequently met with the Ambassador of the Russian Federation and informed him that the accreditation of a member of his staff with diplomatic status is to be terminated, in line with the provisions of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.
‘The individual in question is required to leave the jurisdiction.’
Russia has 17 accredited diplomats working out of the Russian embassy in Rathgar in south Dublin.
Ahead of an anticipated expulsion announcement, Russia’s ambassador to Ireland, Yury Filatov, had warned against any action that might ‘ruin’ the relationship between the two countries.
‘We should be concerned about the best interest of the Irish public and best interest of the Russian public – the Irish/Russian relations,’ he told RTE on Monday night.
‘We have a huge amount of good will, we have a very nice relationship – positive, constructive, stable relations, open dialogue and good business. I don’t see anything which would really point to the necessity to ruin it.’
The extraordinary Western response is a coup for Theresa May, who has spent days warning allies that they could face similar Russian aggression if they stand by.
The Prime Minister told MPs: ‘This is the largest collective expulsion of Russian intelligence officers in history. If the Kremlin’s goal is to intimidate and divide the Western alliance then their efforts have spectacularly backfired.
Sixteen EU countries said they would also be expelling Russian agents, with at least two more expected to follow in the coming days.
The Prime Minister revealed that more than 130 people in Salisbury may have been exposed to the Novichok nerve agent.
The Kremlin warned the world was entering a new Cold War as it hit out at those trying to ‘contain Russia’.
Meanwhile, NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg will on Tuesday unveil ‘measures’ in response to the poisoning as international pressure mounts on Moscow.
NATO has warned that the nerve agent attack on Skripal and his daughter must have ‘consequences’ and Stoltenberg will hold a news conference in Brussels at 3.30pm to make an announcement on ‘further decisions’, the alliance said in a brief statement.
Relations between NATO and Russia were already at a low ebb over Moscow’s annexation of Crimea and its role in the Ukraine and Syria conflicts.