The UN declined to comment on the legality of Washington’s move to expel 12 Russian staff working there, saying only that it had been “notified.” The US envoy to Russia hinted they hadn’t even sent notification in advance.
Speaking to reporters, the UN spokesman declined to comment on the US move to expel 12 Russian diplomats from the permanent mission to the UN, citing the “sensitivity” of the issue.
“Given the sensitivity of the matter, which is ongoing, we will not comment further at this stage other than to confirm that the Secretary-General will closely follow this matter and engage as appropriate with the Governments concerned,” Farhan Haq, Deputy Spokesman for the Secretary-General, explained.
The official stated that Washington had notified the UN of its decision, made under Section 13b of the Treaty between the United Nations and the United States as the host country.
“Laws and regulations in force in the United States regarding the residence of aliens shall not be applied in such manner as to interfere with the … and, specifically, shall not be applied in such manner as to require any such person to leave the United States on account of any activities performed by him in his official capacity,” the section reads, adding that “activities in the United States outside his official capacity” render the UN privileges void.
Earlier on Monday, the US Ambassador to Russia, Jon Huntsman, told TASS that the US apparently did not notify the UN of its move beforehand. The diplomat said, however, that Washington was expected to do so. Such a decision requires some “very serious evidence,” Huntsman added. It has remained unclear whether the evidence in question was provided.
The expulsion of diplomats is linked somehow both to the Skripal case and to the “concerns” of the American people, over the numbers of intelligence officers operating on US soil, the US envoy stated. Huntsman described the diplomats’ ouster as the “largest expulsion of Russian intelligence officers in the United States’ history.”
“The United States takes this action in conjunction with our NATO allies and partners around the world in response to a military-grade chemical weapon attack on the soil of the United Kingdom by Russia,” Huntsman said, in a recorded statement. “Today's actions make the United States a safer place by limiting the ability of Russia to spy on Americans and conduct covert activities that threaten America's national security.”
The US expelled the 12 Russian diplomats with the UN, as well as 48 other diplomats working in the US, on Monday. The move came on the pretext of alleged Russian involvement with the poisoning of former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter in the British town of Salisbury on March 4. Several NATO and European countries have also expelled Russian diplomats, citing their “solidarity” with the UK as a reason. While the UK pinned the blame on Moscow shortly after the incident, no evidence has been provided so far.