Russia identifies four U.S. embassy workers to be expelled

Tuesday, March 27th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

(MOSCOW) - Russia on Tuesday identified the four U.S. diplomats it wants expelled and ordered them to leave within 10 days, following a similar move by Washington against Russian diplomats last week.

A statement from the Foreign Ministry said the names were given to U.S. Deputy Chief of Mission John Ordway. Spokesmen for the ministry and the U.S. embassy declined to give the employees' names or other details.

The statement said the employees were ordered to leave for ``activities incompatible with their diplomatic status,'' a phrase usually used for allegations of spying.

The United States last Thursday declared four Russian diplomats persona non grata and gave them 10 days to leave. It also told 46 others to leave by July 1. The expulsions were rooted in the arrest of a veteran FBI agent on charges of spying for Russia.

The Kremlin angrily responded that the expulsions would be matched on the Russian side.

The arrest this month of FBI agent Robert Hanssen, who is alleged to have spied for Moscow for 15 years, aggravated tension between the two countries.

Russian-American relations began the 1990s with a burst of optimism after the fall of the Soviet Union and communism but have been troubled for two years, beginning with Moscow's deep resentment of the NATO-led bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999.

Russia also vehemently opposes possible membership in NATO of the former Soviet Baltic republics of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania and has argued intensely against the United States' proposed national missile-defense system, which the Kremlin says would ruin the global security balance.

The United States in turn has criticized Russia's war against separatist rebels in Chechnya and has objected to Russian plans for weapons sales to Iran.