The Russian Foreign Ministry announced on Wednesday, May 18, that Russia decided to expel the employees of the diplomatic missions of France, Spain and Italy in response to the expulsion of Russian diplomats from these countries. "As a response, 34 employees of French diplomatic institutions in Russia have been declared persona non grata. They must to leave the territory of Russia within two weeks from the moment of serving the ambassadors with the relevant notices," the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
It is noted that French Ambassador Pierre Levy was given a "letter protest in connection with the provocative and unfounded decision of the French authorities to declare 41 employees of Russian diplomatic institutions in France persona non grata."
Reports about expulsion of Russian diplomats from France appeared in early April. According to Le Figaro and BFM TV, their activities "contradicted the security interests" of the country. According to media reports, 30-35 Russians were expelled. The French authorities also announced the exposure of the "secret operation" of the Russian special services under diplomatic cover. As a result of the investigation, six employees of the Russian diplomatic mission were expelled.
Spanish Foreign Minister José Manuel Albares said on May 18 that the Spanish ambassador to Russia had been summoned to the Foreign Ministry. "We expect that Russia will expel Spanish diplomats, as it has already done with employees of other European embassies in Moscow," Albares was quoted as saying by the dpa news agency.
Later, the Russian Foreign Ministry informed that it had expressed a "strong protest" to the Spanish Ambassador in Moscow, Marcos Gomez Martinez, in connection of Madrid declaring 27 employees of Russian foreign missions in Spain persona non grata. "As a response, 27 employees of the Embassy of Spain in Moscow and the Consulate General of Spain in St. Petersburg were also declared persona non grata. They must leave the territory of the country within 7 days from the date of delivery of the relevant note to the Ambassador," the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
In early April, Spanish authorities expelled 25 diplomats and employees of the Russian Embassy in Madrid stating that their actions posed a threat to the country's security.
In addition, on Wednesday, the Russian Foreign Ministry announced that it would expel 24 Italian diplomats as a retaliatory measure, RIA Novosti reported. Italy declared 30 Russian diplomats persona non grata in April. On the same day, Denmark expelled 15 Russian diplomats. According to the Danish Foreign Minister Jeppe Sebastian Kofod, they were the officers of the Russian special services who worked in the Russian Embassy. Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde simultaneously announced the expulsion of three Russian diplomats.
The mass expulsion of Russian diplomats from European countries began after the media reports of Russian war crimes in Bucha and other Ukrainian towns. "The images from Bucha testify to the incredible brutality on the part of the Russian leadership and those who follow its propaganda. The Federal Government has decided to declare undesirable a significant number of employees of the Russian Embassy who worked every day here in Germany against our freedom, against the cohesion of our society," the German Foreign Ministry said.