Mar 29, 2022 - World

Four EU countries expel Russian diplomats over spying allegations

Wopke Hoekstra talks to the press in The Hague on March 29, 2022, following the decision to expel 17 Russian diplomats

Dutch Foreign Minister Wopke Hoekstra talks to the press in The Hague on March 29 following the Netherlands' decision to expel 17 Russian diplomats. Photo: Bart Maat/ANP/AFP via Getty Images

Four EU countries announced Tuesday that they were expelling some Russian diplomats from their countries in an effort to tackle Russian espionage.

Why it matters: Russia's unprovoked invasion of Ukraine has invoked widespread condemnation and consequences, with the U.S. and its Western allies imposing harsh sanctions on the country.

  • Late last month, the U.S. announced that it was expelling 12 Russian envoys engaged in "espionage activities that are adverse to our national security."

State of play: Belgian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Sophie Wilmès announced via Twitter on Tuesday that Belgium is expelling 21 Russians involved in "espionage and influence operations threatening national security."

  • Dutch Foreign Minister Wopke Hoekstra tweeted on Tuesday that the Netherlands was expelling 17 Russian intelligence officers who were in the country "under diplomatic cover."
  • "This step was taken in coordination with other like-minded countries. This is a measure taken in the context of national security," Hoekstra added.
  • Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney issued a statement via Twitter on Tuesday stating that Ireland had told four senior Russian officials to leave the country because their "activities have not been in accordance with international standards of diplomatic behaviour.”
  • The Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs tweeted that it had given one Russian diplomat 72 hours to leave the country. "Together with our Allies, we are reducing the Russian intelligence presence in the EU," it added.

State of play: Other European countries have made similar moves recently.

  • On Monday, North Macedonia announced that it is expelling five Russian diplomats for “activities contrary to the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations," AP reported.
  • Poland announced last week that it would expel 45 Russian intelligence officers using their diplomatic status as cover, per AP.

Worth noting: Earlier Tuesday, Russia said that it was expelling 10 diplomats from the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania in retaliation for those countries coordinating earlier this month to expel 10 Russian diplomats, Reuters reported.

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