The Biden administration revoked diplomatic immunity for 12 Russian agents accused of eavesdropping while on official business on Monday.
Amb. Olivia Dalton said, “The US has notified the Russian Mission that we are started the process of removing 12 Russian intelligence agents who have misused their residence privileges and jeopardised our national security.”
Dalton said the decision to remove the agents from their diplomatic posts had been made months ago.
When questioned about the Russian ambassador’s accusation that the move was hostile, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said it was.
“The unfriendly act is performed on our land,” she said.
Earlier this month, Russia removed Deputy Chief of Mission Bart Gorman’s diplomatic immunity.
“We see this as a step up,” the State Department said at the time.
Diplomatic privileges have long been a point of contention between the US and Russia.
After the US withdrew diplomatic credentials for 27 Russian diplomats and their families in December, Russia ordered all US Embassy workers stationed in Russia to leave for more than three years.
Diplomatic credentials have also been revoked for those the US believes are abusing diplomatic connections to eavesdrop.
In 2018, a former Soviet spy was poisoned on British soil, forcing the US to expel 60 Russian spies. After the 2016 presidential election, the Obama administration removed 35 Russian operatives.