Updated: 27/03/18 : 12:21:51
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World :: Russia to respond to expulsion of 100 diplomats by over 20 nations

Russia has accused Washington of pressuring nations to carry out a mass expulsion of its diplomats in response to a nerve agent attack in the UK.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov accused the US of "colossal blackmail" and said there were "few independent countries" left in modern Europe.

The expulsion of around 100 Russians by more than 20 nations is thought to be the largest in history.

Russian ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter were poisoned on 4 March.

Investigators believe a military-grade nerve agent was used.

EU leaders agreed with the UK last week that it was highly likely Russia was behind the nerve-agent poisoning.

Mr Lavrov said it was inevitable that there would be a response to the mass expulsion.

"Certainly, we will not tolerate such impudence," he said.

He singled out the US for blame.

"When one or two diplomats are being expelled from this or that country, all the while whispering apologies in our ear, we know for sure that this is a result of colossal pressure, colossal blackmail, which unfortunately is Washington's main tool now on the international area," he said.

"It is hard to escape a conclusion that we were right when we stressed several times that there remain few independent countries in the modern world, modern Europe."

Russia's foreign ministry is said to be drawing up a number of possible retaliatory measures for President Vladimir Putin to consider.

One Russian senator, Vladimir Dzhabarov, was quoted as saying there would be a "tit-for-tat" response to the US decision to expel 48 envoys at the Russian embassy in Washington and 12 more at the UN in New York.

Russia's embassy in the US tweeted its response to the closure of the Russian consulate in Seattle.

Mr Lavrov's deputy, Sergei Ryabkov, earlier said a tough response was needed but stressed Moscow would not abandon strategic stability talks with Washington.