Dozens Of Russian Diplomats Expelled Across Europe Over Putin’s War

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Dozens of Russian diplomats have been ordered to leave countries across the European Union in connection to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s recent invasion of Ukraine. The expulsions took place in Belgium, the Netherlands, Ireland, and the Czech Republic and came after Poland expelled 45 Russian diplomats who were believed to harbor ties to Russian intelligence operations. As for the latest expulsions, Belgium demanded the exit of 21 Russian diplomats, the Netherlands told 17 to leave, Ireland went after four, and the Czech Republic expelled just one. Belgian Foreign Minister Sophie Wilmes identified the expulsions in her country as connected to suspected Russian spying in which those affected were apparently involved. A Belgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson said the 21 expelled Russian diplomats “were all accredited as diplomats but were working on spying and influencing operations,” as Reuters summarizes.

Predictably, Russian leaders reacted harshly to the decisions. Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said that “[countermeasures] will be taken in relation to all unfriendly measures against Russian foreign institutions.” Meanwhile, Dutch authorities also identified their country’s expulsions of Russian diplomatic personnel as connected to security concerns. The country’s “decision was based on information from its own security services, its foreign affairs ministry said,” as summarized in Reuters’s reporting. Irish Prime Minister Micheal Martin said that the expulsions were rolled out in collaboration with involved European Union nations, although he noted that it “hasn’t been possible to get the full 27 (EU members) working on the same sort of agenda” regarding at least this issue. The European Union has, however, put strict sanctions in place targeting various interests inside Russia over Putin’s devastating violence against Ukraine.

The breakdown in relations between Putin’s regime and many other countries is likely to continue. The United Kingdom, which is no longer part of the European Union, has also been among the overwhelming number of countries taking a fittingly firm stance on Ukraine’s side. Although Russian authorities recently claimed to be withdrawing some forces from around the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, and there’s been talk of reaching some kind of peace agreement, U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Western nations must stand firm, even after a hypothetical cease-fire deal is enacted — members of the G7 group of nations should “intensify sanctions with a rolling program until every single one of (President Vladimir Putin’s) troops is out of Ukraine,” Johnson insisted. Johnson has previously stated that the West must not re-establish prior connections with the Putin government once the war draws to an end. “To try to re-normalize relations with Putin after this, as we did in 2014, would be to make exactly the same mistake again,” as the British leader put it.

To be clear, the aforementioned claimed Russian withdrawal of some forces from around Kyiv isn’t simply something they’re doing of their own accord — Ukrainian defenders have dealt the Russian army significant battlefield defeats. And fighting across Ukraine is continuing — Chernihiv was another area where Russian leadership claimed they’d draw down aggression, but the city’s mayor later said that Russians “actually have increased the intensity of strikes,” including an attack that injured over two dozen civilians.