The terrible images of the atrocities committed in the Ukrainian city of Bucha have had a first consequence in Europe: the expulsion of dozens of Russian diplomats from many capitals amid accusations of espionage and working against the interests of the countries that host them. Berlin was the first to announce the departure of 40 of them on Monday. “They work against our freedom and our social cohesion,” said Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock. France, Italy, Denmark and Sweden have made the same decision in recent hours.
Several European countries had already expelled alleged representatives of Russia in recent days, accusing them of being spies posing as diplomats. Poland did so on the 23rd. “In a consistent and determined manner, we dismantled the network of Russian special services in our country,” Interior Minister Mariusz Kaminski announced. Belgium, the Netherlands, Ireland and the Czech Republic made the decision last week, citing national security.
Russia promised on Tuesday to respond to the wave of expulsions of its diplomats, according to the Tass agency, which quotes the Kremlin’s foreign spokeswoman, Maria Zajarova. The Foreign Minister, Alexandr Grushkó, assured that it is “a planned campaign” and warned that its consequences will be felt for a long time.
After learning of the images of civilians apparently executed by Russian troops, the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, and the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Policy, Josep Borrell, will travel to kyiv this week to meet with the president. of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky. European Commission spokesman Eric Mamer announced on Twitter that the meeting will take place before an event in support of Ukraine scheduled for Saturday in the Polish capital. The EU is speeding up a new sanctions package against Moscow amid mounting pressure for the measures to include some form of energy embargo.
Germany, which has repeatedly expelled Russian diplomats in response to serious actions, such as the killing of a Chechen rebel in broad daylight in central Berlin, is virtually the only country to make explicit reference to the Bucha massacre. . Baerbock assured that the images, of “incredible brutality”, could not go unanswered. “We fear that similar acts have occurred in other locations occupied by Russian troops,” he added.
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The French Executive announced on Monday the expulsion from the country of “numerous” – some sources speak of around thirty people – Russian diplomats whose activities are “contrary to the security interests” of the country. In a statement of just three sentences, Paris assures that the decision “is part of a European initiative” and stresses that it has been taken to “guarantee the security of the French and Europeans.”
Both the German chancellor, Olaf Scholz, and the French president, Emmanuel Macron, have described what happened in Bucha as “war crimes” and have demanded new sanctions against Russia. Macron has spoken explicitly of an embargo on Russian oil and coal, for which he, he said, hopes to reach an agreement with his European partners in the coming days. Berlin for now remains firm in not prohibiting imports of Russian hydrocarbons, but the pressure is increasing, even from within the Executive. Defense Minister Christine Lambert said now is the time to discuss a possible Russian energy embargo.
Diplomats working at the Berlin Embassy have five days to leave the country after being classified as “persona non grata”. “Your work poses a threat to those who seek refuge with us. We are not going to tolerate it,” said the German minister, who blamed not only “Russian leaders” for the atrocities that are being committed, but also “those who follow their propaganda.” On Sunday, a caravan of some 400 cars displaying Russian flags and even the Z symbol in support of the invasion of Ukraine paraded through the German capital to the surprise and outrage of many passers-by. Ukraine’s ambassador to Germany, Andriy Melnyk, called it a “caravan of shame.”
Italian Foreign Minister Luigi di Maio announced Tuesday in Berlin, where he is participating in a conference to support Moldova, that his government will expel 30 diplomats from the Russian embassy for being “a risk to national security.” The decision comes “in the context of the current crisis situation resulting from the unjustified aggression against Ukraine by the Russian Federation.”
“We do not want espionage on Danish soil, so they will be expelled immediately,” Danish Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod announced on Tuesday. Copenhagen considers 15 alleged Russian diplomats a risk to national security. His expulsion is a “historic” step, Kofod said, but necessary to protect the country’s security. Sweden considers the work of three Russian diplomats “not in accordance with the Vienna convention,” Foreign Minister Ann Linde said Tuesday, a veiled reference to her also considering them to be spies.
The Danish government has accused Moscow of committing crimes against humanity and, like Germany, has expressly mentioned the massacre of civilians in Bucha. Intelligence officers must leave the country within 14 days. Berlin has given workers with diplomatic passports five days to leave Germany.