Russia’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations Vassily Nebenzia said the United States has abused its power as the host of the UN headquarters when it moved to expel 12 staffers from Russia’s mission at the UN.
“The expulsion of Russian diplomats as well as other recent unfriendly steps, such as restriction of access to Russian diplomatic property, visa denials to mission staff and other [meaures], can be viewed as the US abusing its rights and privileges as the hosting country,” Nebenzia said.
The Russian diplomat pointed out that the status of the staff at the permanent representations of the countries at the United Nations are regulated by UN conventions, namely the Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the United Nations of 1946 and the Agreement Between the United Nations and the US Regarding the Headquarters of the United Nations, signed in 1947.
The US announced earlier on Monday that it was expelling 48 Russian diplomats from the US and declaring 12 Russian diplomats at the UN seat in New York ‘persona non grata’.
Washington followed the lead of the UK in their retaliation over the Sergei Skripal poisoning in Salisbury, which London blames on Russia. Moscow firmly denies involvement in the poisoning as the UK refuses to grant Russia access into the investigation.
In a statement on the expulsion of the 12 UN staffers, US ambassador at the UN Nikki Haley accused them of having “engaged in espionage activities that are adverse to our national security.”
These allegations were dismissed by Nebenzia, who said that the US had no right to interfere with the work of the UN.
“The employees of Russia’s mission at the UN present their credentials to the UN and perform their functions exclusively within the UN,” he stressed, noting that, as the host country, the US has a special obligation to preserve the privileges and immunity of the staff of the UN member countries, as well as the employees at the UN administrative bodies.
“This is an extremely inappropriate and unfriendly step,” Nebenzia said, adding that he “doesn’t think” that kicking out Russian UN diplomats from US territory is in line with the agreements the US has with the UN.
The US, Canada and 16 EU countries have agreed to expel Russian diplomats, in what appears to be a coordinated manner. While the punitive measure is being linked to the Skripal case, Nebenzia suggested the anti-Russia campaign could have been premeditated, even before the increasingly murky incident in Salisbury on March, 4.