MOSCOW: Moscow on Wednesday expelled 24 Italian and 27 Spanish diplomats, according to the Russian foreign ministry, in tit-for-tat responses to the expulsion of Russian diplomats over the Ukraine conflict.
The ministry said in a statement that 27 employees of the Spanish embassy in Moscow and the Spanish Consulate General in Saint Petersburg “have been declared persona non grata,” while ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told Russian news agencies that 24 Italian diplomats had also been expelled.
Italy has slammed Russia’s expulsion of the diplomats as a ‘hostile act’.
France earlier “strongly condemned” the expulsion of 34 of its diplomats by Russia, a tit-for-tat move by Moscow after Paris ordered some Russian staff to leave.
Saying the step had “no legitimate basis,” the ministry said in a statement that “the work of the diplomats and staff at (France’s) embassy in Russia… takes place fully within the framework of the Vienna Convention on diplomatic and consular relations” — whereas Paris expelled the Russian staff in April on suspicion of being spies.
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