Russia Expels US Deputy Chief of Mission Bart Gorman in Tit-for-Tat Move
13:40 GMT 17.02.2022 (Updated: 18:34 GMT 17.02.2022)
© AP Photo / Alexander Zemlianichenko JrBarriers and police car are seen in front of the U.S. embassy in Moscow, Russia, on Tuesday, May 2, 2011
© AP Photo / Alexander Zemlianichenko Jr
The news comes amid ongoing tensions between the West and Russia over Ukraine, which has seen the United States and its allies accuse Moscow of planning an invasion of Ukraine, a claim the Kremlin has rejected as absurd and false. The two sides also have disagreements over a number of issues, including security demands Russia issued late last year.
Russia has expelled US deputy chief of diplomatic mission Bart Gorman from the country, the US Embassy has said. Washington considers the move unjustified as the official had a three-year visa and his stay in Russia hadn’t exceeded three years, the embassy said, emphasising that the United States would respond to Gorman’s expulsion.
The Russian Foreign Ministry has explained that it has order Gorman to leave the country in response to the expulsion of a Russian diplomat from Washington.
"The US diplomat was indeed ordered to leave Russia, but strictly in response to the unjustified expulsion of the minister-counselor of our embassy in Washington, despite his status as a senior official," Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in a statement.
She noted that the US State Department had defiantly ignored Moscow's request to extend his stay at least until the "replacement" arrived.
"As a result, he was forced to leave without a replacement, which aggravated the already critical personnel shortage in the Russian diplomatic mission, which was formed as a result of the visa war unleashed by the Americans," Zakharova stressed.
It was the US side that initiated the next expulsion exchange in September 2021, demanding the departure of 55 Russian diplomats and administrative and technical employees in two stages — until January 30 and June 30 of this year, she recalled.
"All attempts on our part to resolve the issue by 'freezing' expulsions on a mutual basis were rejected. Moreover, the Russian minister-counselor was also brought under this essentially sanction measure in the State Department, although they were well aware that a reciprocal response would follow in relation to Bart Gorman," the spokeswoman said.
The ouster of Bart Gorman comes a month after Washington told Russian diplomats at the embassy in the United States to leave the country. The US State Department explained the decision by saying that more than 50 diplomats and their families had to leave due to expiring visas. Moscow, in turn, called the move an expulsion.
Diplomatic relations between the two sides have become increasingly strained in recent years, with Washington closing two Russian diplomatic compounds in New York and Maryland as well as expelling Russian diplomats. Moscow responded with a reduction of US diplomatic staff in Russia.
The latest round of tensions comes amid an ongoing standoff over Ukraine and security demands issued by Russia to the US and its allies in December.
The demands include a formal veto on Ukraine joining NATO, a limit on the deployment of weapons and troops on the alliance's eastern flank, a refusal to deploy strike weapons systems near Russia's borders, as well as a return of NATO forces to where they were stationed before the so-called eastern expansion in 1997.
Washington and its allies have accused the Kremlin of planning an invasion of Ukraine, citing pictures of Russian troops amassed near the border with the country. The White House has claimed that Russia is planning a false flag attack that it would be used to justify a military campaign against its neighbour. Washington did not provide evidence for its claim.
Moscow has dismissed the allegations against it as false and absurd and stressed that it doesn’t plan any attacks. It also underscored that its troops are participating in drills, stating that as sovereign nation it has a right to move them on its own soil.
The sides are now in the process of hammering out their differences and are exchanging proposals on the security guarantees.