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Moscow expelled 27 Spanish diplomats on Wednesday, as well as dozens more from France and Italy, in retaliation for the expulsion of Russian diplomats from Madrid and other European countries following the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
The employees of the Spanish Embassy in Moscow and the Spanish Consulate General in Saint Petersburg ‘have been declared persona non grata’ and have seven days to leave Russia.
‘Russian authorities justify this decision on grounds of reciprocity for the expulsion of 27 Russian embassy officials in April. But that expulsion was based on justified security reasons, which are not present in this case,’ a foreign ministry statement said. ALSO READ: Spain to expel 25 Russian diplomats.
The Spanish decision to expel Russian diplomats was taken back in early April, just days after dozens of bodies in civilian clothing were found on the streets of Bucha outside Kyiv, following the withdrawal of Russian troops, raising allegations of Russian war crimes.
In April, the foreign ministry said it was expelling the Russian diplomats on grounds they were ‘a threat to [Spain’s] interests and security’. The Russian ambassador was not among those asked to leave.
Spain’s decision was part of a coordinated move across Europe that saw more than 200 Russian envoys sent home in 48 hours on grounds of alleged spying or ‘national security reasons’ as outrage grew over the atrocities in Ukraine.
Russia’s foreign ministry said in a statement it was also expelling 34 ’employees of French diplomatic missions’ in Russia’ and gave them two weeks to leave the country.
Moscow made the announcement after summoning France’s ambassador to Russia, Pierre Levy, and telling him that the expulsion of 41 employees of Russian diplomatic missions was a ‘provocative and unfounded decision’, the statement said.
While there was no official statement, it was reported that 24 Italian diplomats had also been expelled.
Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi condemned the expulsions as a ‘hostile act’ but said diplomatic channels must remain open ‘because it’s through those channels that, if possible, peace [in Ukraine] will be achieved’.
España rechaza la decisión adoptada por la Federación Rusa de expulsar a 27 miembros del personal de la @EmbEspRusia, cuyo trabajo siempre ha respetado las obligaciones previstas en las Convenciones de Viena sobre Relaciones Diplomáticas y Consulares.https://t.co/DjwCu3yCKb pic.twitter.com/6CWJJlLdyS— Ministerio de Asuntos Exteriores, UE y Cooperación (@MAECgob) May 18, 2022