At least four European allies have said they are expelling dozens of Russian diplomats in what appears to be a concerted effort to combat Russian espionage.
The Hague, Netherlands – At least four European allies on Tuesday expelled a total of dozens of Russian diplomats in what appears to be a concerted effort to combat Russian espionage.
The Netherlands has said it is expelling 17 Russians whom it described as diplomats and disguised intelligence officials. Belgium says it is expelling 21 Russians. The Czech Republic has given a Russian diplomat 72 hours to leave the country. Ireland has asked four senior Russian officials to leave the country for “acting in accordance with international standards of diplomatic conduct”.
“Together with our allies, we are reducing the presence of Russian spies in the EU,” the Czech Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
Poland last week expelled 45 Russians whom the government has identified as intelligence officers for working in the country using their diplomatic status.
Citing similar expulsions from the United States, Poland, Bulgaria, Slovakia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Montenegro, the Netherlands said it had “decided in consultation with many like-minded countries”.
The Dutch ministry said in a statement that the cabinet had decided to do so because of threats to the group’s national security. “Intelligence threats against the Netherlands remain high. Russia’s current attitude in the broadest sense makes the presence of these intelligence officers undesirable. Deportation is a measure of national security. “
Dutch Foreign Minister Wopke Hoekstra says he is ready to take revenge on Moscow.
“Experience shows that Russia does not respond to such moves,” he said. “We cannot speculate about this, but the State Department is prepared for the various situations that may arise in the near future.”
It appeared early on Tuesday, when Russia said it had expelled a total of 10 diplomats from the three Baltic EU states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania in retaliation for the expulsion of Russian diplomats earlier this month.
Russia’s foreign ministry says it is revoking the recognition of four Lithuanian diplomats, three Latvians and three Estonians and forcing them to leave the country. This is in line with the number of Russian diplomats previously expelled from each country.
On March 18, the three Baltic states, in a concerted effort to show solidarity with Ukraine, ordered the expulsion of 10 Russian embassy staff.
Moscow has called the move “provocative and completely baseless” and has summoned the Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian ambassadors to Moscow for a formal protest.
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