Nearly 200 Russian diplomats expelled from Europe in 48 hours

AFP / Rome, Italy

France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Denmark, Sweden and Slovenia expelled dozens of Russian diplomats in two days, a move that marks a further deterioration in relations with Moscow after the massacres were revealed. of which Russia is accused.

The head of European diplomacy, Josep Borrell, announced on Tuesday that several members of the Russian representation to the EU had been declared “persona non grata” because of “activities contrary” to their status as diplomats, without specifying the number or date of your expulsion.

Italy has decided to expel 30 Russian diplomats for “national security” reasons, Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio said on Tuesday.

“This measure, taken by mutual agreement with our European and Atlantic partners, was necessary for reasons related to our national security and in the context of the current crisis situation linked to the unjustified aggression of Ukraine by Russia. “, declared the Italian head of state. diplomacy.

For his part, Mario Draghi, head of the Italian government, confirmed that “the decision was taken in agreement with the other European and Atlantic partners”, and specified that his country supported “with conviction” the new sanctions presented on Tuesday by the European Commission. .

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Slovenia also decided to expel 33 Russian diplomats to express its “strong protest” and “shock” after the discovery of the dead civilians.

Western countries voiced their rejection over the weekend after dozens of bodies dressed in civilian clothes were discovered in Bucha, northwest of the Ukrainian capital, after Russian forces withdrew. Russia denies its involvement in the events and denounces a “set up” in kyiv to denigrate the image of Russian soldiers.

After Bucha’s information came to light, Lithuania on Monday announced the expulsion of the Russian ambassador “in response to Russia’s military aggression against sovereign Ukraine and the atrocities committed by the Russian armed forces.”

On the same day, Germany announced that it was expelling “a large number” of Russian diplomats stationed in Berlin, according to Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock. According to information from AFP, there would be 40.

These Russian Embassy employees are a “threat to those who seek protection among us”, he said. Germany is hosting more than 300,000 Ukrainian refugees who have fled fighting in their country since February 24.

About 300 expelled in total

Shortly after, France announced the expulsion of 35 Russian diplomats “whose activities are contrary to the interests” of the country, according to a source close to the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Denmark has also decided to expel 15 Russian diplomats accusing them of being “intelligence agents” who carried out “espionage activities on Danish soil”, said the head of Danish diplomacy, Jeppe Kofod. Another Scandinavian country, Sweden, joined the average with the expulsion of three Russian diplomats.

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And Spain has decided to expel “about 25” Russian diplomats who represent “a threat to the security interests” of the country, announced the Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs, José Manuel Albares.

On March 29, Belgium announced the expulsion within 15 days of 21 people working for the Russian embassy and consulate, suspected of being involved in “operations of espionage and influence threatening national security”. .

The Netherlands and Poland followed suit and also expelled dozens of diplomats.

According to a count made by AFP, about 300 Russian diplomats have been expelled in total from different countries of the European Union since the beginning of the Russian offensive.

The Kremlin denounced, for its part, the “lack of vision” of Europe in the expulsion of many diplomats, since the movement implies “the reduction of the possibilities of communicating in the diplomatic sphere in these difficult circumstances”, according to a spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov. “And that will inevitably lead to retaliatory measures,” he added.

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