Australian ambassador to Russia Peter Tesch arrives at the Russian Foreign Ministry headquarters in Moscow on Friday. Picture: AFP Photo/Vasily Maximov
Australian ambassador to Russia Peter Tesch arrives at the Russian Foreign Ministry headquarters in Moscow on Friday. Picture: AFP Photo/Vasily Maximov

Aussie diplomat’s Russia face-off

AUSTRALIA'S Ambassador to Russia has appeared at the country's foreign ministry as Moscow summons envoys of states that have taken "unfriendly steps" against it.

Peter Tesch, who headed up the Moscow embassy for three years, was called to the government building on Friday along with diplomats from several European and Western nations.

The University of Queensland graduate will be told what retaliatory measures Australia will face after Malcolm Turnbull expelled two Russian diplomats.

Two dozen countries, including the United States, Australia, many EU nations and NATO, ordered more than 150 Russian diplomats out this week in a show of solidarity with Britain after the poisoning of former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in England.

Russia has denied involvement in the nerve agent attack.

"The envoys will be handed protest notes and told about the Russian side's retaliatory measures," the foreign ministry said.

Australian ambassador to Russia Peter Tesch arrives at the Russian Foreign Ministry headquarters in Moscow on Friday. Picture: AFP Photo/Vasily Maximov
Australian ambassador to Russia Peter Tesch arrives at the Russian Foreign Ministry headquarters in Moscow on Friday. Picture: AFP Photo/Vasily Maximov

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Moscow would expel 150 diplomats from western countries, including 60 US diplomats, and close the US consulate in Saint Petersburg in a tit-for-tat expulsion over the poisoning of the ex-double agent.

Russia's Embassy in Canberra has accused Australia of blindly following Britain by deciding to expel its diplomats. "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 ... common sense," it said in a statement.

US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert says that "Russia should not be acting like a victim."

She called Russia's actions "regrettable" and "unwarranted."

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop had earlier said she expected that Russia would retaliate. "Russia hasn't announced it but the Russian ambassador has indicated that they are considering what options they will take," Ms Bishop told the Today show. "There are now 26 countries that have expelled about 150 Russian diplomats.

"We are always ready to defend our country, our people, against any kind of attack, including a cyber-attack … as we do in all our embassies across the world, we are looking out for our diplomats," she said.

- With wires



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