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washington | Russian plane picks up diplomats accused of spying



(Washington) A Russian plane landed in the United States on Saturday to pick up a dozen diplomats expelled from Russia’s mission to the UN and accused by Washington of “espionage”, according to authorities.

The United States closed its airspace to all Russian aircraft after Moscow invaded Ukraine last week.

An Ilyushin IL-96, however, landed at Washington International Airport on Saturday, according to the Flight aware site, which tracks all air movements.

“The US government has given the green light to this aircraft chartered by the Russian government to facilitate the departure of diplomats from the Russian mission” to the United Nations, a spokeswoman for the State Department told AFP.

This “exception” aims to ensure their departure and that of their families “on the imposed date”, she added.

The United States announced on Monday the expulsion of “12 intelligence agents from the Russian mission who abused” their diplomatic status in the United States “by engaging in espionage activities”.

The next day, on the same basis, they ordered the departure before March 7 of a Russian national working at the UN secretariat.

The Russian ambassador to the United States, Anatoly Antonov, had denounced “a hostile approach” against his country.

The Russian mission to the UN has around 100 people, according to a Russian diplomatic source.

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