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Australia Is Kicking Out ... Two ... Russian Diplomats

Meanwhile, close to 100 diplomats are being expelled from the US and Europe in response to the nerve agent attack in the United Kingdom.

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Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull meeting with Russian president Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the Group of 20 (G20) summit.
Office Of The Prime Minister / PR IMAGE

Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull meeting with Russian president Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the Group of 20 (G20) summit.

Australia will join the United States and Europe, and expel two Russian diplomats in response to the nerve agent attack on a former Russian spy and his daughter in the United Kingdom.

Prime minister Malcolm Turnbull and foreign minister Julie Bishop issued a joint press release on Tuesday stating that the two diplomats identified as undeclared intelligence officers will be expelled by the government "for actions inconsistent with their status, pursuant to the Vienna conventions".

The two diplomats will be required to leave Australia within seven days.

"This decision reflects the shocking nature of the attack – the first offensive use of chemical weapons in Europe since World War II, involving a highly lethal substance in a populated area, endangering countless other members of the community," Turnbull and Bishop said in the release.

Sergei Skripal, 66, and his daughter, Yulia Skripal, 33, were found poisoned with what British authorities state is a nerve agent known as Novichok on a bench in Salisbury on March 4. They remain in a critical condition.

They are not the first suspected to have been attacked in the US and the UK. BuzzFeed News last year revealed evidence of suspected Kremlin assassination plots in the UK and the US.

Turnbull and Bishop said the Australian response to the Salisbury attack is based on the advice from UK authorities about the nerve agent used.

"Such an attack cannot be tolerated by any sovereign nation," they said. "We strongly support the call on Russia to disclose the full extent of its chemical weapons program in accordance with international law."

In response, the Russian Embassy in Australia said it was "regrettable" that "the notorious Anglo-Saxon and Euro-Atlantic solidarity" between Australia, the US and Europe had jeopardised the Russian-Australian relationship.

"It is astonishing how easily the allies of Great Britain follow it blindly contrary to the norms of civilised bilateral dialogue and international relations, and against the common sense," the embassy said in a statement. "The modern world is not in a stage when it is possible to dictate anything to anybody, regardless of the nostalgia for past grandeur in certain capitals."

In a press conference on Tuesday, Turnbull said he expected Russia to retaliate by expelling Australian diplomats from Russia.

"Well, we expect that they will expel a number of our diplomats as well, that is what they do," he said. "Well, that is the response that they will make."

But the prime minister stressed that the action was not against the Russian people, but the Russian government.

"The foreign minister and I want to stress that Australia has no dispute with the Russian people ... This is about the actions of the Russian government."

The Australian government may also consider withdrawing from the FIFA World Cup, to be held in Russia next year, Bishop said.

"There are a whole range of further options of action that could be taken, the boycott of the World Cup is one of the further actions that could be taken in relation to this matter," she said.

The United States government announced on Monday that 60 Russian intelligence officers will be expelled from the country, while 30 officers will be expelled from EU member states.

Josh Taylor is a Senior Reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Sydney.

Contact Josh Taylor at josh.taylor@buzzfeed.com.

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