Russia expels foreign diplomats in tit-for-tat measure

Russia is expelling two Italian diplomats as a tit-for-tat response to Rome’s expulsion of Russian diplomats, the Italian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Friday.

According to the statement, the Russian Foreign Ministry summoned the Italian embassy’s charge d'affaires earlier on Friday to announce the expulsion of two diplomatic workers who will have to leave Russia within a week.

Three Czech diplomats will also be expelled from Russia as a tit-for-tat response to Prague’s expulsion of Russian diplomatic workers, the Czech Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Friday.

According to the statement, the diplomats will have to leave Russia no later than on April 5.

Dutch ambassador in Moscow Renee Jones-Bos said after a visit to the Russian Foreign Ministry on Friday she had been told two diplomats were expelled from Russia in retaliation for steps taken by The Hague.

"I’ve just been told that two diplomats are to leave the country," she said. "This is a serious blow but the embassy will keep functioning."

Jones-Bos did not rule out, though, the embassy might experience "some problems."

Russia has also notified Finland of its decision to expel one diplomat from the Finnish embassy in Moscow, the Finnish Foreign Ministry said.

"Mikko Hautala, Ambassador of Finland to Russia, was notified of the matter by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation on 30 March in Moscow," the ministry said, adding that the diplomat must leave Russia in two weeks.

In addition to this, four German diplomats will have to leave Russia in retaliation to Berlin’s decision to expel four Russian diplomatic workers, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said.

"This news comes as no surprise," Maas said, adding that Germany "is ready for dialogue with Russia even in the current situation."

At the same time, the German top diplomat pointed out that Berlin "did not make a hasty decision to expel Russian diplomats."

"Our response to the Skripal case was necessary and appropriate," he said.

According to Maas, the step was taken "in solidarity with Great Britain and also because Russia refuses to clarify the circumstances of the incident."

One Norwegian diplomat will have to leave Russia following Oslo’s decision to declare one Russian diplomatic worker persona non grata, Norway’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

According to the statement, Russia is expelling one member of the Norwegian embassy staff.

Lithuanian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Rasa Jakilaitene told the media that three Lithuanian diplomats will be expelled from Russia in Moscow’s retaliatory move.

"Russia has declared the expulsion of three diplomats from the embassy in Moscow," she said. The decision was handed to the ambassador in Russia, Remigijus Motuzas.

Earlier this week, Lithuanian presidential foreign policy adviser Nerijus Aleksiejunas said Vilnius hoped that should some of its diplomats be expelled, substitutes would be able to take their place.

"We are prepared for this and will be prepared to identify a solution and find new people who will be appointed to do jobs at the embassy," he said. Aleksiejunas expressed the hope the overall number of Lithuanian diplomats in Russia would not be reduced.

"Expulsion does not mean abolition of this or that position, but merely the undesirability of the presence of a certain person in the country," he explained.

Moscow is also expelling four Polish diplomats as a tit-for-tat response to Warsaw’s expulsion of Russian diplomats, Poland’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

According to the statement, earlier on Friday, Russian Foreign Ministry summoned Polish Ambassador to Moscow Wlodzimierz Marciniak to notify him that four Polish diplomas had been declared personae non grata and must leave Russia before April 7, 2018.

One Latvian diplomat will also be expelled from Russia in response to the decision to eject Russian diplomats, Latvian news agency LETA reported, quoting Press Secretary of the Latvian Ministry of Foreign Affairs Gints Jegermanis.

"Our temporary authorized secretary was summoned to the Russian Foreign Ministry on Friday, where he was informed that one Latvian diplomat will have to leave Russia before the evening of April 6," he said. He did not specify the diplomat’s name and position, saying that he has worked in Russia for less than a year.

"The Russian side believes that this move [Latvia’s decision to expel the diplomat - TASS] was provocative and that there was no other way to respond to it," Jegermanis added.

Russia has also expelled Estonia’s military attache as a tit-for-tat measure to the expulsion of Russian diplomats, according to the Estonian Foreign Ministry.

A spokesman for the Estonian Foreign Ministry told the ERR online portal that Estonian Ambassador to Moscow Arti Hilpus had been summoned to the Russian Foreign Ministry earlier on Friday to be given a note of protest and informed about the expulsion of Estonia’s Military Attache Col. Toomas Peda.

According to the Delfi news portal, the Estonian colonel has been given a week to leave Russia. 

Ukraine has also confirmed on Friday that Russia is expelling thirteen Ukrainian diplomats.

"On March 30, the Russian Foreign Ministry said thirteen Ukrainian diplomats must leave the country," the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry’s press-service confirmed. 

At least two Spanish diplomats were expelled from Russia, according to El Mundo.

The Spanish ambassador to Russia was summoned to the Russian foreign ministry to inform about the Russian side’s decision to declare personae non grata two officers of the Spanish embassy in Moscow. The Spanish Foreign Ministry, however, has given no comment so far.

In late March, a number of countries announced a coordinated decision to expel Russian diplomats expressing solidarity with Great Britain in connection with the poisoning of former Russian military intelligence (GRU) Colonel Sergei Skripal.

The Russian Foreign Ministry earlier on Friday summoned the ambassadors of the countries, which expelled Russian diplomats to express solidarity with the United Kingdom in connection with the poisoning of former Russian military intelligence officer Sergei Skripal in Salisbury.

On Thursday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that tit-for-tat measures would be taken against all the countries that had expelled Russian diplomats.

According to TASS

DONi News Agency