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European Countries Expel Dozens More Russian Diplomats After Ukraine Reports

By RFE/RL April 05, 2022

Several European countries have announced the expulsions of dozens of Russian diplomats amid reports of alleged atrocities being committed in Ukraine by Russian troops, including in the town of Bucha, where many civilians appear to have been executed.

Denmark, Sweden, Italy, Romania, and Spain all said on April 5 that they had given notice to Moscow that diplomats at their embassies were now personae non grata. Latvia and Estonia went a step further, each ordering the closure of two Russian consulates in their countries.

The moves come days after Russian troops retreated from some areas around the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, revealing the extent of how intense the fighting was as mass graves pockmarked some towns, while corpses, some civilians with their hands bound behind their backs, were strewn haphazardly in the street.

Danish Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod said on April 5 that the Russian ambassador to Copenhagen had been informed that 15 embassy staff members were being expelled and that the Danish government "strongly condemned" the actions of Russian soldiers in Bucha.

Soon afterward, Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio said on RAI-news-24 TV that Rome had informed Moscow that 30 Russian diplomats had been told to leave the country "for national security reasons."

Spain and Sweden then followed, announcing they were expelling 25 and three Russian diplomats, respectively, in response to the reports from Ukraine, while also accusing them of being threats to national security.

"It is because they are not following the Vienna Convention and they are undertaking illegal intelligence-gathering operations," Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde told reporters, adding that it was "obvious that war crimes have been committed" by Russian troops in Ukraine.

Romania later said it would expel 10 Russian diplomats, also citing actions that "contravene the Vienna Convention."

In Riga and Tallinn, the closure of Russian consulates was a "decision taken in solidarity with Ukraine in its fight against the unprovoked and unjustified military aggression and war started by Russia."

The Latvian Foreign Ministry said the Russian consulates in the cities of Daugavpils and Liepaja would be shuttered, while Estonia's Foreign Ministry said the move would affect consulates in Tartu and Narva. The closures must be completed by the end of April, they said, with all staff having to leave by that deadline.

Reacting to the moves, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told the state news agency TASS that "appropriate measures" will be taken by Moscow.

Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares said he expected a tit-for-tat retaliation from Russia, though Spain was not going to expel the Russian ambassador to Madrid, as he hoped to keep open channels of communication in case there's a chance of talks to end the conflict.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov criticized the mass expulsions.

"Restricting the possibilities for diplomatic communication and diplomatic work under such unprecedentedly difficult and crisis-ridden conditions is a short-sighted step," Peskov said, according to Interfax.

France, Belgium, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Germany, the Netherlands, and other countries have also recently expelled Russian diplomats over alleged spying activity.

With reporting by Reuters

Source: https://www.rferl.org/a/russia-diplomat- expulsions-italy-denmark/31786690.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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