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Why did Russia expel US diplomats?

Thursday saw America's second most senior diplomat in Russia ordered out of the country, with the US mulling how to hit back.

Update:
Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting with members of the Security Council via teleconference call at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow, on February 18, 2022.
Mikhail KlimentyevAFP

Bart Gorman, the No.2 US diplomat in Russia, was expelled from Moscow on Thursday, as American-Russo relations continue to plumb new depths.

Washington said the move was 'unprovoked' and would be responded to in turn, while Russia argued that it was justified by the US expelling a senior Russian official.

The State Department spokesperson said Gorman had a valid visa and had been in Russia for less than three years, as Russia had said diplomats who had been in Russia more than three years would be expelled at the end of January 2022.

The diplomatic spat is another flashpoint in a bubbling diplomatic crisis in Eastern Europe. The US has said it fully expects Russia to invade Ukraine in the next few days, despite saying an invasion had been 'imminent' for more than a week. Russia denies plans to invade and says the US is making itself look foolish.

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What developments happened on Friday?

US officials have claimed that there are now 190,000 Russian troops on the border with Ukraine, which Russia denies. Moscow says they have been moving troops and weaponry away from Ukraine, which the US and Ukraine says there is no evidence for.

In the east of Ukraine in an area known as the Donbass, two pro-Russian separatists states have said they will be evacuating civilians into Russia proper to protect them from Ukrainian shelling, a claim that has not been proven. 'I do not know what is happening over there,' Russian spokesperson Dmitry Peskov was quoted as saying by Russia's Interfax news agency, suggesting Moscow was unaware of the plans.

The Ukrainian side of the ceasefire was reported to have been attacked by the same separatists on Wednesday, damaging a school. There have been further reports of other breaks of the ceasefire over Friday.

Russia also announced they would be conducting new missile testing programs on Saturday, in a move that will draw the ire of the US.

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