The Russian Ambassador to Ireland has warned that any expulsion of diplomatic staff from the country would be seen as an ‘unfriendly action.’
Yury Filatov was speaking after the Taoiseach said a security assessment would be carried out in the coming days to ascertain whether there are any Russian agents masquerading as diplomats in Ireland.
Leo Varadkar said a decision on whether to expel any Russian Personnel would be taken “in the early part of next week.”
The Taoiseach is at the Spring Summit of EU leaders in Brussels, where leaders last night decided to recall the bloc’s ambassador to Moscow for what it describes as "consultations” as the fallout from the Salisbury attack continues.
Member states also announced their shared belief that it is "highly likely" that the Russia state was responsible for the Salisbury attack.
Former double agent Sergei Skipral and his daughter Yulia remain under heavy sedation in hospital nearly three weeks after being found unconscious on a bench in the south England town earlier this month.
Their condition is described as critical but stable.
Meanwhile the British police officer who was injured in the attack has been discharged from hospital - and says his life "will never be the same again."
The British Prime Minister Theresa May has said there is “no alternative conclusion other than that the Russian state was culpable” for the attack – a position that has now been backed by the EU.
This afternoon, Russian Ambassador Yury Filatov refused to say if Russia would respond in kind if its diplomats or personnel were expelled from Ireland.
He said the Irish Government was within its rights to investigate Russian embassy staff, but warned it to use common sense.
The Ambassador also insisted there was no evidence connecting Russia with the nerve agent attack in Salisbury.
He was then asked how Russia would respond to any Irish expulsion:
“Every time that kind of thing happens, certainly you would think of it at least as an unfriendly action,” he said.
“That is certain.”
Russian Ambassador hopes Irish Govt will use common sense re investigation into staff. Admits expulsion of diplomats would be ‘unfriendly’ pic.twitter.com/19qHH3Fn12
— Juliette Gash (@JulietteGash) March 23, 2018
Speaking from the summit in Brussels this morning, Leo Varadkar said he and the French President Emanuel Macron had put forward the proposal to express full solidarity with the UK and back their assessment on Russian responsibility.
He denied the statement marked a shift in position for the Irish Government - which had been reluctant to officially point the finger of blame at Russia.
He said the British Prime Minister Theresa May shared British intelligence on the incident with other EU leaders over dinner last night.
“The right and proper thing to do in these things is to actually have a discussion and to see the assessment – or at least hear the assessment – before you make a decision,” he said.
He said the decision to recall the ambassador to Moscow was “one that we supported and supported very strongly.”
He said a security assessment will be carried on Russian personnel in Ireland over the coming days, adding that he will consult with the Tánaiste before making a decision.
“What we will now consider in the coming days is whether we want to take individual action relating to Russian diplomats in Ireland,” he said.
“Bear in mind what the UK did was to expel 23 diplomats who they believed were not actually diplomats [but] were agents.
“So we would have to do a security assessment just like they did before that.
“We are not going to randomly expel people who are genuine diplomats perhaps.”
The British Prime Minister has welcomed the fact that the European Council is "standing together" over the incident adding that "the threat that Russia poses respects no borders and it is a threat to our values."
With reporting from Juliette Gash