Yesterday Russian Federation Foreign Minister Lavrov announced the ministry would be focusing on increased diplomatic relations with Africa and Central Asia, after what he called troubling relations with the rest of Europe. Today he seems to have made good on that promise by ordering the expulsion of several dozen Spanish, Italian, and French diplomats.
With regard to the Spanish diplomats, the Russian Foreign Ministry made this statement:
”On May 18, the Spanish Ambassador to Moscow M. Gomez Martinez was summoned to the Russian Foreign Ministry. On the Russian side, he strongly protested in connection with the provocative announcement by the official Madrid of 27 employees of Russian foreign missions in Spain “persona non grata”. It was emphasized that this unfriendly step would have a negative impact on Russian-Spanish relations.
As a response, 27 employees of the Spanish Embassy in Moscow and the Spanish Consulate General in St. Petersburg have been declared “persona non grata”. They must leave the territory of the country within 7 days from the date of delivery of the corresponding note to the Ambassador.”
With regards to the expulsion of French diplomats, Russian state media reported:
“The diplomatic department summoned French Ambassador Pierre Levy to him and declared to him a strong protest because of the provocative and unjustified decision of the French authorities, who in April expelled 41 employees of Russian diplomatic institutions.
In response, Moscow expels 34 employees of the French embassy. They were ordered to leave the territory of Russia within two weeks.”
However, the French Foreign Ministry strongly condemned this expulsion as frameless in that their diplomats were operating well within the Vienna Accords on Diplomatic Operations. The original expulsion of Russian diplomats from France, they say, was justified due to their violent rhetoric and unprofessional behavior.
While the Russian Foreign Ministry did not release an official statement on the expulsion of Italian diplomats, the Italian Ambassador to Russia was summoned and given a list of the diplomats to leave Russia. The Italian Prime Minister Draghi responded with by saying the expulsion was a “violent act”, but diplomacy should continue. 24 diplomats were kicked out.
All in all, 92 diplomats were ordered out of Russia today, the largest single expulsion since the invasion of Ukraine began on February 24th.