Russia Sees at Least 40 Citizens Expelled From 4 Nations in Matter of Hours

Four European countries announced on Tuesday they were expelling a total of 40 Russian intelligence officers and diplomats from their countries, citing national security threats or problems with behavior.

The Czech Republic said it is giving one Russian diplomat 72 hours to leave the country, while Belgium said it was expelling 21 Russian diplomats from the embassy and consulate. A Belgian Foreign Ministry spokesperson said they were working on spying and influencing operations, according to Reuters.

"Together with our allies, we are reducing the Russian intelligence presence in the EU," the Czech Foreign Ministry said, according to the Associated Press.

The latest expulsion by European nations follows similar actions by the United States and Poland. The U.S. ordered 12 Russian diplomats to leave the country by the beginning of March after Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24. Poland expelled 45 Russian diplomats last week after Interior Minister Mariusz Kamiński called them "spies pretending to be diplomats."

Three Nations Expelled Russian Citizens
Above, a brass plaque with words in English and Cyrillic at the front gate of the Russian Embassy in Washington, D.C., on March 26, 2018. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Belgian Foreign Minister Sophie Wilmès said the decision to expel the diplomats was made in coordination with the Dutch government. She told her parliament that the move was not a sanction against Russia and that diplomatic channels will remain open, but the 21 Russians have two weeks to leave the country, Reuters reported.

The Netherlands decided to expel 17 Russian intelligence officers who were accredited as diplomats, saying their presence was a "threat to national security," the AP reported.

"The intelligence threat against the Netherlands remains high," the Dutch Foreign Ministry said in a statement, according to the AP. "The current attitude of Russia in a broader sense makes the presence of these intelligence officers undesirable. The deportation is a measure taken in the context of national security."

After the Dutch announcement, the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs responded on Twitter, saying that "the responsibility for the implications of this arbitrary behaviour lies in full with the Dutch authorities."

Meanwhile, Ireland said four Russian diplomats will be expelled from the country because their activities "have not been in accordance with international standards of diplomatic behavior," Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney said, according to the Irish Examiner.

"We've done it with some countries today, in terms of these measures with officials, working with other countries on this initiative. It hasn't been possible to get the full 27 [EU members] working on the same sort of agenda," Irish Prime Minister Micheál Martin told his parliament, according to Reuters.

Martin added that diplomatic channels between Ireland and the Russian Federation should remain open to protect their citizens in Russia, the Irish Examiner said.

The Russian Embassy in Ireland said the country's decision to expel the diplomatic staff will "not go unanswered," according to a press release posted on Twitter.

"The Embassy rejects such qualifications of the work of our diplomats. This is arbitrary, groundless decision, which can only deteriorate further Russian-Irish relations already damaged by the Irish participation in illegitimate EU sanctions against Russia," the statement read. "The Embassy proceeds from the assumption that such a step by the Irish side will not go unanswered."

It's uncertain how Russia will respond to these recent expulsions. However, its government announced on Tuesday it is expelling a total of 10 diplomats from the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania after they expelled a total of 10 Russian diplomats in a coordinated move earlier this month, according to Reuters.

Update 03/29/22, 1:15 p.m. ET: This story was updated with additional information and background.

Update 03/30/22, 3:47 ET: This story was updated with statements from the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Russian Embassy in Ireland.