Moscow has given two Australian diplomats a week to leave Russia in retaliation for Canberra booting out two of its spies.
In a joint statement on Saturday morning, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said there is no justification for the expulsions by Russia.
“This is a disappointing, although not unexpected, reaction by the Russian Government to the decision of the Australian Government to expel two Russian diplomats working as undeclared intelligence officers,” the statement said.
“Australia’s action was in concert with 28 other nations expelling a total of 153 Russian diplomats in an unprecedented demonstration of global solidarity with the United Kingdom.”
On Wednesday Ms Bishop announced two Russian spies had been given six days to leave Australia, in a show of solidarity with the UK over the poisoning of former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury.
Labor leader Bill Shorten supported the government’s decision, calling it an appropriate and proportionate response.
“The Russian Government must understand there are real consequences for engaging in attacks on foreign soil and refusing to tell the truth about them,” he said in a joint statement with Labor senator Penny Wong on Saturday.
“We have to act in the way that we believe is in Australia’s national interest, and on this occasion that was sending a strong signal that we reject Russia’s action and we stand with our friends and allies.”
Australia’s ambassador to Russia Peter Tesch was among the diplomats summoned to the Russian foreign ministry on Friday to be told of the expulsions.
The diplomatic mission in Moscow has 10 staff.
In total, Russia will expel 59 diplomats from 23 countries following on the expulsion of 23 British and 60 American diplomats earlier in the week.