Russia expels EU diplomats in retaliation
After the EU expelled several Russian diplomats, Moscow strikes back in a retaliatory move and expels several diplomats from different European countries.
Moscow expelled 87 diplomats in a retaliatory move against the expulsion of Russian diplomats from across Europe, the Russian Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday.
In Paris, a decision was made to declare 41 employees of Russian diplomatic missions in France personae non-gratae. In response to these actions, the Ministry summoned the French Ambassador to Russia Pierre Levy and protested the French decision. "As a response, 34 employees of French diplomatic missions in Russia have been declared personae non-gratae. They are ordered to leave the territory of Russia within two weeks from the date of delivery of the relevant note to the ambassador," the Ministry said.
Paris condemned the expulsion of its diplomats stating there is no legal basis for such actions. However, Russia’s expulsion declaration responds to the initial actions taken by France against the Russian embassy employees.
Earlier in the day, the Russian Foreign Ministry also announced the expulsion of 27 employees of the Spanish diplomatic missions and 24 Italian diplomats. The Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova told Sputnik that the Spanish employees from the Spanish embassy in Moscow and the Spanish Consulate General in Saint Petersburg “have been declared persona non grata."
Zakharova also stated that 24 Italian Diplomats and 2 Finnish Diplomats have also been expelled as part of a retaliatory move Russia is carrying out against European countries that have expelled its diplomats. Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi called Moscow's decision "a hostile act" toward both Italy and Europe without commenting on his country’s initial decision to expel Russian Diplomats. Despite these decisions, the Italian PM seeks to maintain diplomatic relations with Russia and hopes that this will not result in a complete severance of those relations. Draghi said that "the main reasoning is that this should absolutely not result in a severance of diplomatic channels, because through them, the way will be paved for peace, if possible."
Furthermore, Finland’s decision to join NATO has been followed by the expulsion of 2 Russian diplomats. As a response to this action, "the Russian side made a decision on the unacceptability of the further stay in the Russian Federation of two staff members of Finland's embassy in Moscow," the Russian Foreign Ministry said.
Read more: Russian Foreign Ministry summons Finnish ambassador
Earlier this year, several European countries and the EU decided to expel Russian diplomats over Russia's operation in Ukraine. Russia called this decision a staged provocation. Several hundreds of Russian diplomats have already been expelled from across Europe. As a result, Russia has retaliated by expelling diplomats of various missions, including the European Union delegation in Moscow, the diplomatic missions of Austria, the Baltic States, Belgium, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Germany, the Netherlands, Poland, and others.