Washington, Mar 30 (PTI) The United States today decried Russia’s move to expel 60 American diplomats and close the US consulate in St Petersburg, saying there is “no justification” for Moscow’s retaliatory action.

The US reaction comes after Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Moscow would expel 60 US diplomats and close its consulate in Saint Petersburg in a tit-for-tat expulsion over the alleged poisoning of ex-double agent Sergei Skripal.

The Trump administration earlier ordered the expulsion of 60 Russian diplomats and shutter the country’s consulate general in Seattle.

There is no justification for the Russian response. Our actions were motivated purely by the attack on the United Kingdom, the attack on a British citizen and his daughter. Remember, this is the first time that a weapons-grade nerve agent, Novichok, has been used outside of war on allied soil,” US State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert told reporters at a news conference.

She said Russia’s decision to expel the US diplomats shows that the latter was not interested in dialogue about important matters.

“This evening, (the US) Ambassador (to Russia) Jon Huntsman was convoked to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation. The Russian Federation dubbed 60 of our staff persona non-grata, and they now must depart within seven days. They also ordered the closure of our consulate in St Petersburg within 48 hours. Its clear from the list provided to us that the Russian Federation is not interested in a dialogue on issues that matter to our two countries,” Nauert said.

She said many countries have joined the US in its decision to expel Russian spies.

“We have not taken these steps lightly. We have taken these steps in concert with our allies across the world. Twenty-eight countries now join the United States…153 Russian spies have been kicked out from various countries,” Nauert said.

She said it appears that Russia has chosen to take the “regrettable, unwarranted action to respond to America’s “entirely justified action”.

“Russia plans to take the same unjustified actions against 28 other countries, countries that stood in solidarity with the UK. Russia is further isolating itself following the brazen chemical attack,” the US State Department Spokesperson said.

The Trump administration, she said, was still reviewing the details of the Russian action.

“We reserve the right to respond to any Russian retaliation against the United States. So we are reading this, we are reviewing it and we will respond accordingly,” Nauert said.

“We don’t see this as a diplomatic tit-for-tat. Russia is responsible for the horrific attack on the British citizen and his daughter. Once again, they have broken the Chemical Weapons Convention. It was a banned substance that they have used, Novichok. We take this matter very seriously,” she asserted.

Responding to a question, Nauert said Russia was choosing, through its actions, to further diplomatically and also economically isolate itself, not just from the US but from the world.

They have indicated that they would kick out diplomats of other countries, serving in Russia. Moscow clearly is not interested in having good relations with other countries, and that is evident by the actions that they have taken, she charged.

The Trump administration, she asserted, has taken very tough actions against Russia.

“You have seen that through numerous rounds of sanctions. Youve seen that through our actions that we took earlier this week. You’ve seen that through our actions that we’ve taken at the United Nations, standing together against Russia and its activities, in which it still continues to kill and be responsible for killing, tens of thousands of innocent civilians who are living in Syria,” she said.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.