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US Downplays Set of Diplomatic Expulsions with Russia


The U.S. State Department said Thursday the United States and Russia have had a tit-for-tat exchange of five diplomatic expulsions since last November. However U.S. officials say it does not reflect a broader rift in relations with Moscow. VOA's David Gollust reports from the State Department.

Officials here are confirming that the two governments have engaged in a Cold War-style set of diplomatic expulsions.

But, they say they now consider the matter closed, and insist there is no crisis in the overall relationship.

The State Department said two U.S. military attaches in Moscow were asked to leave Russia on April 28 and that while the United States complied, it believes the action was unjustified.

State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack said the action followed a U.S. decision to expel a Washington-based Russian attaché on April 22, which in turn came a week after an American diplomat in Moscow was expelled.

McCormack said the exchange began last November when a Russian official based in New York was told to depart.

McCormack declined to elaborate on the reasons behind the expulsions, which commonly occur over spying allegations or other unacceptable conduct.

He said while the United States reserves the right to respond to the latest expulsion, of the two Americans, he doesn't anticipate further action.

At a Congressional hearing, Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Daniel Fried framed the expulsions as ordinary and reflecting no broad political rupture.

"We look at these incidents as something which happens from time-to-time in U.S.-Russia relations. It is not in our view the sign of some larger diplomatic struggle. It is not a sign of some downturn. It happens, and we would like to see this process end," he said.

There has been tension in the bilateral relationship over various issues including Russian curbs on political expression and Kosovo independence.

However the two governments have been constructively engaged on other issues, including international efforts to deal with the nuclear programs of North Korea and Iran.

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