A Russian plane landed at Washingtonâ€™s international airport Saturday to pick up about a dozen diplomats from Moscowâ€™s UN mission who are accused by Washington of espionage, authorities said. The United States closed its airspace to all Russian aircraft after Moscow invaded Ukraine. The Ilyushin Il-96 aircraft was allowed, however, to land at Dulles International Airport. The landing was confirmed by the FlightAware website, which tracks all air movement. â€œThe US government approved a flight chartered by the Russian government to facilitate the departure of Russian UN Mission personnel who were expelled for abuse of their privileges of residence,â€ a State Department spokesman told AFP. â€œThis special exception was doneâ€¦ to ensure Russian mission personnel and their families departed by the date we had instructed,â€ the spokesman added, speaking on background. The United States had called on Monday for the expulsion of 12 members of Russiaâ€™s UN mission by March 7. A day later, again citing alleged espionage, the US ordered the expulsion of a Russian national working for the UN secretariat. â€œThis is a hostile move against our country,â€ Russian ambassador to the United States Anatoli Antonov said in a Facebook message, adding that Moscow â€œtotally rejectedâ€ the US claims. The Russian mission employs about 100 people, according to a Russian diplomatic source.
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