Moscow, 23 March 2001 (RFE/RL) -- The Russian Foreign Ministry has announced it will expel four U.S. diplomats after the United States yesterday accused Russians of spying and expelled four Russians. Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said yesterday the expulsion move was reminiscent of the Cold War. Russia's national security adviser, Sergei Ivanov, said Russia will "easily find" U.S. diplomats to be expelled "in a more painful form to the U.S. than it was in our case."
Ivanov says Russia has "time to think, to carefully pick from those who are most precious to the Americans." He made the remarks last night in an interview with Polish state television during a visit to Warsaw. Secretary of State Colin Powell said yesterday that Washington is expelling four Russian diplomats that the U.S. believes are spies. He said the expulsions are linked to the recent arrest in Washington of an alleged FBI spy for Moscow.
"I have had a long conversation this (Thursday) morning with my Russian colleague, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, and we discussed this in detail. And I said to him that with this action that we took yesterday, that I took with the Russian ambassador, we consider this matter closed."
Earlier, President George W. Bush defended the expulsions as appropriate. And Bush's spokesman, Ari Fleischer, said the move reflects a realistic approach to relations with Russia.