On May 18, the Russian Foreign Ministry said it had expelled a total of 85 diplomatic staff from France, Spain and Italy in response to similar moves made by these three countries before with Russia.
According to the news agency TASS Russia, 27 employees of the Spanish Embassy in Moscow and the Spanish Consulate General in Saint Petersburg have one week to leave Russia. This decision was given to Spanish Ambassador Marcos Gomez Martinez when he was summoned to the Russian Foreign Ministry on May 18.
On the same day, Russia announced that 24 people from the Italian Embassy in Moscow would have to leave their country. This is a measure of proportionate retaliation against Italy’s expulsion of Russian diplomats, the Russian Foreign Ministry said.
Thirty-four French diplomats were also placed on Russia’s “unwelcome” list – they must leave Russia within the time period specified by Moscow.
TASS Reportedly, these people must leave Russian territory within two weeks from May 18 – the time the deportation notice was given to French Ambassador to Russia Pierre Levy.
France, Spain and Italy are all among European countries that have expelled a total of more than 300 Russian diplomats since Moscow launched a military operation in Ukraine on February 24. These people are accused of being spies, but Moscow denies it.
Last month, Russia also forced 45 Polish diplomats and 40 Germans to return home. At the same time, the Kremlin announced that it would take action in response to Finland, Romania, Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Japan.
Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi called Russia’s move a “hostile act” and said the diplomatic channel between the countries should not be interrupted.
France considers Russia’s action an irrational response. Paris added that the expulsion of dozens of Russian diplomats suspected of being spies was to ensure the country’s security.
In April, France’s DGSI intelligence agency announced the discovery of “an espionage operation carried out by Russian intelligence forces on French soil” after a long investigation.
“Russian spies operating under diplomatic cover have had actions that were found to be contrary to the national interests of France.“, the French Foreign Ministry announced.
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