Russia to expel 60 US diplomats and close St Petersburg consulate

Russian Foreign Minister says his country will "respond in kind" to countries that expel its diplomatic staff

Sergei Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, says Russia will close down the US consulate in St Petersburg.

The move is a retaliation to the expulsion of Russian diplomats across the world by more than two dozen countries - including Ireland - following the poisoning of former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia.

Mr Lavrov said that the US ambassador had been informed of "retaliatory measures".

"They include the expulsion of the equivalent number of diplomats and our decision to withdraw permission for the functioning of the US consulate general in Saint Petersburg," he added.

Russia will expel 60 US diplomats, the same amount as the number of their diplomats ejected from Washington earlier this week.

The Russian consulate general in Seattle has been shut down.

Mr Lavrov added that Russia would also issue tit-for-tat responses to the other countries that have expelled diplomats in a mass show of solidarity with Britain, which has blamed Moscow for the nerve agent attack.

Russia's top diplomat explained: "As for the other countries it's also all symmetrical measures as to the number of people who will be leaving Russia from diplomatic missions, and that's all so far."

Ireland has withdrawn the diplomatic status of one Russian here, and the individual will have to leave the country.

Sergei Skirpal (66) and his daughter Yulia (33) were found unresponsive and taken to Salisbury District Hospital after being attacked with a nerve agent on March 4.

Doctors in the UK today said Yulia's condition is 'improving rapidly', and she is no longer in a critical condition.

Her father remains critical but stable.