United Against Russia: Escalation in Tit-For-Tat Expulsions of EU and Russian Diplomats

Written by | Friday, April 30th, 2021
@Eubulletin

Even the European Union’s most Russia-friendly leader, Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán, has voiced solidarity with the Czechs, as fallout continues over a Russian bomb attack in the Central European country. With his track record of vetoing or watering down EU statements critical of his friends in Russia, China and Israel, Orbán still joined the prime ministers of the Czech Republic, Poland, and Slovakia in issuing the rebuke to Moscow on Monday (26 April). “We condemn … yet another deplorable act of aggression and breach of international law committed by Russia on European soil,” they said in a statement, after Warsaw had convened their emergency video-summit. They corroborated Czech findings that “Russian military intelligence operatives” were behind “the explosion at the Vrb?tice ammunition depot in 2014”, which killed two people, stressing that “we will not allow these [Russian intelligence] activities to divide Europe.”
Meanwhile, talks are ongoing among EU capitals on further expulsions of Russian diplomats in solidarity with the Czech Republic. The Czech government initially expelled 18 Russian diplomats, accusing them of being secret agents, but after the Kremlin retaliated by expelling 20 Czech diplomats from Moscow, Prague subsequently ordered Russia to remove most of its diplomatic staff from the Czech capital. “We are ready to take action, also at EU level as appropriate, and discussions on this continue among member states,” an EU official said on Sunday (25 April). Thus on Monday (26 April) Romania expelled a Russian embassy’s deputy military attaché in solidarity with Prague. Bulgaria and Poland are expected to follow suit this week, diplomatic sources said, after the Baltic states and Slovakia already took steps last week. And other EU countries could get drawn into the events, after Russia, also on the same day, expelled an Italian diplomat in an unrelated spy row.
Russia has now ordered the diplomats from Slovakia, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia to leave their respective embassies in a tit-for-tat move amid a growing row over Czech spying accusations. It is a retaliatory move from Russia after the four countries expelled a total of seven Russian diplomats last week. All three countries earlier ordered several Russian diplomats to leave in solidarity with the Czech Republic. In a statement released on Wednesday, the Russian Foreign Ministry condemned Slovakia’s move to eject diplomats as “false solidarity,” saying that these actions “damage the traditionally friendly Russian-Slovak relations and constructive bilateral cooperation.” Russia said that Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia “continue to conduct an openly hostile course towards our country, in this case hiding behind pseudo-solidarity with the indiscriminate actions of the Czech Republic towards Russia.”

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EUROPE'S NEIGHBORHOOD

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