Together with the United Kingdom and other allies and partners, Australia is taking action in response to the recent nerve agent attack in Salisbury, UK.
Two Russian diplomats identified as undeclared intelligence officers will be expelled by the Australian Government for actions inconsistent with their status, pursuant to the Vienna Conventions.
The two officials will be directed to depart Australia within seven days.
This decision reflects the shocking nature of the attack – the first offensive use of chemical weapons in Europe since World War II, involving a highly lethal substance in a populated area, endangering countless other members of the community.
It takes into account advice from the UK Government that the substance used on 4 March was a military-grade nerve agent of a type developed by Russia. Such an attack cannot be tolerated by any sovereign nation. We strongly support the call on Russia to disclose the full extent of its chemical weapons program in accordance with international law.
This attack is part of a pattern of reckless and deliberate conduct by the Russian state that constitutes a growing threat to international security, global non-proliferation rules against the use of chemical weapons, the rights of other sovereign nations and the international rules-based order that underpins them.
Australia has had strong sanctions in place since 2014 in response to Russia’s threat to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine. We also continue to support international efforts to bring to justice those responsible for the downing of MH17, and we have called out unacceptable Russian action in cyberspace. In the same way, we will vigorously back the UK’s full investigation of the nerve agent attack.
Australia remains committed to acting with its allies and partners to deter Russia’s actions where they are a threat to international security.
This is why the Government is overhauling offences for espionage, secrecy and treason, and for the first time establishing powerful new foreign interference offences in legislation currently before the Parliament.