Russia expels 40 German diplomats in tit-for-tat move

Moscow has said it is expelling 40 German diplomats in response to the “unfriendly decision” by Berlin to kick out Russian diplomats over the conflict in Ukraine.

Russia’s foreign ministry said in a statement on Monday that it summoned Germany’s ambassador in Moscow and handed him a note “declaring persona non grata 40 employees of German diplomatic institutions in Russia as part of a symmetrical response”.

“A strong protest was made to the head of the German diplomatic mission in Moscow in connection with the openly unfriendly decision of the German government” to expel Russian diplomats, the ministry said.

A total of more than 100 Germans are likely to be affected by the ministry’s decision, with the diplomats’ relatives also forced to leave the country.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said in a statement that the move was “expected” but was “in no way justified”.

She said the 40 Russian diplomats previously expelled by Berlin “did not serve diplomacy for a single day” while those expelled by Russia had “not done anything wrong”.

Earlier in April, Germany said it was expelling a “significant number” of Russian diplomats, amid similar moves by other European states, over Ukraine.

Baerbock at the time said the decision was in response to the “unbelievable brutality” of forces from Russia as it invaded its pro-Western neighbour, Ukraine.

She had also described the Russian expellees as spies who had “worked every day here in Germany against our freedom, against the cohesion of our society”, and added that their work was “a threat to those who seek protection in our country”.

The Russian foreign ministry called Baerbock’s words “unacceptable”.

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