Russia announces expulsion of dozens of European diplomats

Russia announces expulsion of dozens of European diplomats

The Russian offensive in Ukraine, which began on February 24, has sparked a wave of international condemnation and a flurry of sanctions.

THE Russia announced this Wednesday (18) that it will expel dozens of European diplomatsin response to similar measures adopted by Western countries, in a context of tension since the beginning of their invasion of Ukraine.

In total, 34 French diplomats are due to leave Russia within two weeks, while 27 Spanish diplomats – “employees of the Spanish Embassy in Moscow and the Spanish Consulate General in Saint Petersburg” (northwest) – have seven days to leave the country, informed Russian diplomacy.

Moscow also decided to expel 24 Italian diplomats as a retaliatory measure, Russian diplomacy spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told the press, even before the Italian ambassador arrived at the foreign ministry for his summons.

France had announced in April the expulsion of 41 Russian diplomats who it said were involved in espionage activities, explaining that the sanction was part of “a European approach”.

Russia “protested strongly” on Wednesday against “the provocative and baseless decision of the French authorities” to expel Russian diplomats, according to a Russian diplomacy statement, stressing that this measure “seriously harms Russian-French relations, as well as constructive bilateral cooperation”.

For its part, Paris “strongly condemned” Russia’s announcement of retaliation, considering that this decision was not based on “no legitimate grounds”.

“This decision is presented by the Russian side as a response to France’s decisions” in April, when “several dozen Russian agents” suspected of being spies were expelled, says a statement from the French foreign ministry.

On the contrary, “the work of the diplomats and employees of our embassy in Russia is fully within the scope of the Vienna Convention on diplomatic and consular relations”, he adds.

“The decision of the Russian authorities is not based on any legitimate grounds. We can only regret it”, continues the statement from French diplomacy.

For its part, Italy described the expulsion of its officials as a “hostile act”, but the head of the Italian government, Mario Draghi, stressed that “breaking diplomatic relations” should be avoided.

“Diplomatic channels must not be broken, because if we get peace, we will get it through these diplomatic channels,” Draghi told a news conference in Rome.

According to Russian media, the Swedish ambassador was also summoned on Wednesday to the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The Russian offensive in Ukraine, which began on February 24, has sparked a wave of international condemnation and a flurry of sanctions, accompanied by the expulsion of hundreds of Russian diplomats by Western countries.

Germany, Italy, Spain, Slovenia, Austria, Poland, Greece and Croatia have massively expelled Russian diplomats since the start of the offensive. In some cases, these expulsions were accompanied by accusations of espionage.

Moscow has promised to respond to each of these measures and dozens of Western diplomats have already been expelled from its territory.

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