About 150 Russian diplomats expelled from Europe in 48 hours

After France and Germany on Monday, Italy, Denmark, Sweden and Spain in turn expelled dozens of Russian diplomats on Tuesday, marking a further deterioration in relations with Moscow after the discovery of massacres attributed to the forces Russians near kyiv.

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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 made necessary for reasons linked to our national security and in the context of the current crisis situation linked to the unjustified aggression of Ukraine by the Russian Federation,” said the head of Italian diplomacy.

Westerners expressed outrage over the weekend after the discovery of dozens of bodies wearing civilian clothes in Boutcha, northwest of kyiv, following the withdrawal of the Russians.

For its part, Russia firmly rejected its involvement, denouncing a Ukrainian “staging” aimed, according to Moscow, at denigrating the image of Russian soldiers.

In the wake of reports of Boutcha’s deaths, Lithuania 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” .

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

These employees of the Russian Embassy constituted “a threat to those who seek protection with us”, she justified. Germany is hosting more than 300,000 Ukrainian refugees who have fled the fighting in their country since February 24.

A few minutes later, France announced the expulsion of 35 Russian diplomats “whose activities are contrary to (its) interests”, according to a source close to the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

And on Tuesday morning, Denmark also decided to expel 15 Russian diplomats who “carried out espionage activities on Danish soil”, said Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod.

Sweden also announced in the middle of the day the expulsion of three Russian diplomats, followed in the process by Spain which decided to expel “immediately” around 25 Russian diplomats who represented a “threat to the interests” of the country.

Several European states had already taken similar measures.

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

The same day, the Netherlands had decided to expel 17 people “accredited as diplomats to Russian representations in the Netherlands” but “secretly active as an intelligence officer”.

On March 23, Poland announced, through its Interior Minister Mariusz Kaminski, the expulsion of 45 “Russian spies posing as diplomats”.

According to a tally by AFP, a total of some 260 Russian diplomats have been expelled from various EU countries since the start of the Russian invasion.

The Kremlin for its part denounced on Tuesday the European “lack of foresight”.

“We regret that. The reduction in the possibilities of communicating at the diplomatic level in these difficult conditions” denotes a “lack of foresight which will further complicate” relations between Russia and the EU, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told the press.

“And that will inevitably lead to retaliatory measures,” he added.

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