The US State Department said the expelled diplomats had been “acting in a manner inconsistent with their diplomatic or consular status”.
It also said the US actions were a response to increased harassment of US diplomats in Moscow over the last year. In 2001 the US expelled 50 Russian diplomats from the country over accusations of spying. Russia responded in kind, ordering 50 US diplomats to leave its own country.
The Russian Embassy in London called the US action “Cold War deja vu”. It added: “Everybody, including the American people, will be glad to see the last of this hapless administration.” Its post on social media was accompanied by a picture of a duck and the word “Lame”.
According to one US official there are a total of about 100 Russian spies in the US, so about one third of them are being ejected.