The UK Ambassador to Austria has repeatedly voiced discontent over Vienna’s refusal to expel Russian diplomats amid the ex-spy’s poisoning case, Austrian Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl said, according to the Austria Press Agency.
The Austrian top diplomat confirmed that the British ambassador had started expressing displeasure ahead of the European Union’s summit last Wednesday “to force us to take certain measures,” and he reiterated his call on Saturday.
On Monday, the Austrian foreign minister and the Chancellor announced that Vienna would not kick out Russian diplomats.
According to the minister, Vienna’s refusal to expel Russian diplomats is not linked to possible Moscow’s countermeasures. Austria’s decision showed a principled position, which very rarely uses the tool of expelling diplomats, she said. “Especially during critical moments the channels should remain open,” Kneissl stressed, noting that the US move to sever ties with Iran in 1980 did not yield any good result. “It hurts both sides,” she said.
Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz announced on March 23 that Vienna would not expel Russian diplomats over the Skripal case as Austria sought to keep the channels for dialogue with Russia.
On March 26, the United States announced its decision to expel 60 Russian diplomats and close the Russian Consulate General in Seattle. Twenty-three European countries, Canada and Australia also decided to expel a total of 61 Russian diplomats. NATO reduced the number of staff members of the Russian mission from 30 to 20.
The Austrian foreign minister said the UK and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) had not provided 100% of evidence of Russia’s complicity in the Skripal case. Therefore, Austria would refuse to expel Russian diplomats.