The mass expulsion of Russian officials from embassies across Europe accelerated on Tuesday amid outrage over Moscow’s aggression in Ukraine and growing concerns about spies posing as diplomats.
Italy, Spain, Denmark and Sweden announced the expulsion of a total of 73 Russian diplomats after Germany, Poland and Slovakia took similar steps in recent days.
According to calculations by the Financial Times, the number of Russian diplomats who have been expelled from the EU since the invasion of Ukraine rose to at least 289.
The actions represent another attempt to isolate Russia internationally and will close further channels of communication between Moscow and the EU.
The latest expulsions came as EU finance ministers met in Luxembourg to discuss imposing even tougher sanctions on Moscow following the apparent killing of Ukrainian civilians by its forces in the Kyiv suburbs.
Italy’s Foreign Minister Luigi di Maio said on a business trip to Berlin that Rome had branded 30 Russian diplomats as undesirables.
“This decision . . . became necessary for reasons related to our national security,” Italian official ANSA news agency quoted Di Maio as saying Ukraine was caused”.
Denmark separately announced it would expel 15 Russian diplomats, with Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod calling them “a threat to our national security”.
“It is in our mutual interest to maintain diplomatic relations, but we will not accept Russian espionage on Danish soil,” Kofod wrote on Twitter.
Sweden also announced the expulsion of three Russian diplomats from the country. A senior Swedish security official said last year: “We know that every third Russian diplomat works under what we call ‘diplomatic cover’ and actually works for one of the Russian secret services.”
Russian diplomats who have been turned away from their posts in recent days include 40 from Germany, 45 from Poland and 35 from Slovakia as of Monday.
After the announcement of Italy’s expulsion of diplomats, an official at Russia’s foreign ministry said Moscow “will provide a response to that effect,” Russia’s Tass news agency reported.
https://www.ft.com/content/a41a1c75-2705-400e-872d-9b1d4ea8e67c Italy, Denmark and Sweden are contributing to the expulsion of Russian diplomats in Europe