Russia retaliates against Europe with mass expulsions

Russia said on Tuesday it was expelling diplomats from three European countries in retaliation for similar measures taken against envoys from Moscow over the Kremlin’s military operation in Ukraine.

The Russian Foreign Ministry has declared 15 Dutch diplomats “persona non grata”, giving them two weeks to leave.

Moscow gave Belgian embassy staff the same deadline for its decision to expel 21 Russian envoys last month.

Although Russia warned at the time that it would retaliate by following the “principle of reciprocity”, the Russian statement did not specify how many Belgian personnel had been sent.

Moscow has also given four Austrian diplomats until Sunday to leave Russia, underlining a breakdown in relations with a country that has enjoyed relative neutrality since the Cold War.

Moscow’s announcement came a week after Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer became the first European leader to visit Russian President Vladimir Putin since the Kremlin launched its military operation in Ukraine on February 24.

These expulsions are the latest in a series of measures taken between Moscow and Western countries following the Russian military campaign.

The offensive threw Russia into international isolation and severed many of its economic ties with the West.

But Russia has still not responded to decisions by Germany and France to return 40 of Moscow’s envoys each, meaning more deportations are likely to happen soon.

Moscow also summoned Luxembourg’s envoy on Tuesday, warning him that Russia may decide to take reciprocal action following the small European state’s expulsion of Moscow’s ambassador.

The Russian Foreign Ministry called the Dutch decision to expel the envoys from Moscow “unfounded” and the step taken by Belgium “provocative”.

The ministry said Austria’s deportation of four Russians “has seriously damaged both bilateral relations and Austria’s international prestige”.

Russia news

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