Four European countries – the Netherlands, Belgium, Ireland and the Czech Republic – have announced on March 29 the mass expulsion of Russian diplomats suspected of espionage.
The Netherlands said it was expelling 17 Russians who it described as intelligence officers masquerading as diplomats.
Belgium said it was ejecting 21 diplomats from the Russian embassy.
The Dutch Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the Russian ambassador had been informed of the deportation.
“The reason is that there is information that shows these people, accredited as diplomats, have been secretly being officials of the law,” it said.
The diplomats must leave the Netherlands within two weeks, said Dutch Foreign Minister Wopke Hoekstra.
He did not show what espionage activities these officials were involved in.
A total of 75 Russian diplomats are accredited in the Netherlands, and now make 58 remain there.
The Irish Foreign Ministry said the deportations took place because the diplomats’ activities “did not meet the latest standards for diplomatic policy”.
In this case, the Government of Ireland has said “diplomatic channels between Ireland and the Russian Federation may continue to be open”.
The Czech Foreign Ministry has announced that it has given the Russian diplomat – who has decided to deport him – 72 hours to leave.
“Together with the allies, we are seeing the presence of Russian intelligence in the European Union,” said the Czech Ministry.