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European Countries Expel Diplomats Over Russia's Alleged War Crimes

By RFE/RL April 04, 2022

Germany, France, Latvia, and Lithuania have announced the expulsion of dozens of Russian diplomats as part of a joint European reaction to the killing of civilians in the Ukrainian town of Bucha, allegedly by Russian forces before they retreated.

The German government declared 40 Russian diplomats "undesirable," and France said it would expel 35 Russian diplomats, saying their activities were "against our security interests."

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock called the move a response to the "unbelievable brutality" the Kremlin had unleashed in Ukraine.

The diplomats expelled from Germany have worked "against our freedom, against the cohesion of our society," Baerbock said. "We will not tolerate this any longer."

Berlin's decision was communicated to Russian Ambassador Sergei Nethayev after he was summoned to the Foreign Ministry, Baerbock said. The affected envoys have five days to leave Germany.

The French Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the expulsions from France were part of a European approach to the killings in Bucha, where dozens of bodies were found in mass graves or littering the streets over the weekend.

The Kremlin has rejected Western accusations that Russian forces were responsible.

Lithuania said earlier it had expelled Russia's ambassador to Vilnius and was recalling its top diplomat in Moscow in response to reports that Russian forces killed dozens of civilians in Bucha.

"Lithuania stands in full solidarity with Ukraine and the Ukrainian people, who are victims of Russia's unprecedented aggression. We are therefore lowering the level of Russia's diplomatic representation," Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis said in a statement on April 4.

"Unfortunately, what the world saw in Bucha can be only the beginning. We will be able to discover even more evidences of cruel war crimes in other towns upon their liberation. The war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by the Russian armed forces in Ukraine will not be forgotten," he added.

Photographs showing the bodies of some of the dead civilians in Bucha, which lies on the northwest edge of Kyiv, with their hands bound have shocked many and prompted calls for stepped-up sanctions against Russia and the criminal prosecution of the perpetrators.

After Lithuania announced its move, Baltic neighbor Latvia said it was "reducing its diplomatic relations with the Russian Federation" in connection with Russia's unprovoked invasion of Ukraine and the German government declared 40 Russian diplomats "undesirable persons."

The details of Latvia's move will be announced "once internal procedures are complete," Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics said.

With reporting by AFP, Reuters, and dpa

Source: https://www.rferl.org/a/lithuania-latvia- germany-diplomats-bucha/31785565.html

Copyright (c) 2022. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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