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Putin's spies kicked out of Europe in blow for Russia – huge expulsion of suspected agents

The news comes after another humiliating blow yesterday when Ukraine published a list of over 600 names of Russian spies, many believed to have links with European nations. With the war on Ukraine now seeing western nations focus heavily on Russia, the expulsion of Russians is yet another layer of pain Putin must accept over his decision to invade his southern neighbour.

Countries including Belgium, Ireland and the Netherlands have all taken action against Russian agents declaring them persona-non-grata.

Belgium expelled 21 Russian diplomats for alleged spying and posing threats to security, Foreign Minister Sophie Wilmes told lawmakers.

The move was exclusively related to national security, and diplomatic channels will remain open, Ms Wilmes said.

The 21 Russians worked at Moscow’s embassy in Brussels and the consulate in Antwerp.

They were all accredited as diplomats but were working on spying and influencing operations, a ministry spokesperson said.

Such operations are standard practice amongst intelligence agencies across the world.

For its part, the Netherlands in a coordinated move with its fellow EU members expelled 17 Russian intelligence agents, also accredited diplomats.

The decision was based on information from its own security services, the Dutch foreign affairs ministry said.

Ireland asked four senior officials at the Russian Embassy to leave the country, and the Czech Republic also expelled one member of the diplomatic staff at Russia’s embassy in Prague.

The expelled Russian agents will have between 72 hours and 14 days to leave their respective posts, and leave the country.

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Russia has responded by saying it will repay the gesture in kind as per norms of diplomatic protocol.

Russia’s RIA news agency quoted Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova as saying: “Countermeasures will be taken in relation to all unfriendly measures against Russian foreign institutions.”

Russian ambassadors in several of the countries issued angry statements, with the embassy in Ireland describing the Irish Government’s decision as “arbitrary and groundless.”

The Belgian expulsions were “completely unfounded” and are set to deal a serious blow to Russian-Belgian relations, the ambassador said in a statement.

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Separately, the Russian foreign ministry denounced the expulsion of Russian diplomats from the Netherlands, calling it an “unfriendly step” and proving the Hague had no interest “in maintaining normal diplomatic channels of communication.”

“The Dutch have outdone themselves in their desire to ‘hit’ the Russian embassy in a more painful way,” the ministry added.

Irish Prime Minister Micheal Martin said the moves were made “working with other countries” but it had not been possible to achieve coordination among the entire EU.

“It hasn’t been possible to get the full 27 EU members working on the same sort of agenda.”

Does this spell a deterioration in ties between Russia and the EU? Should Britain down-grade diplomatic ties with Moscow? Has Putin lost a grip on his iron-fist rule? Let us know what you think by CLICKING HERE and joining the conversation in our comments section below – Every Voice Matters!

Poland, an EU country neighbouring Ukraine, last week expelled 45 Russian diplomats over alleged espionage, prompting Moscow to accuse Warsaw of embarking on “a dangerous escalation”.

In April last year, the Czech Republic expelled dozens of Russian diplomats and Russia retaliated in a tit-for-tat move.

Previously, Prague had accused Russian secret services of orchestrating blasts at an ammunition depot in the east of the Czech Republic which killed two people in 2014.

NATO also expelled a host of Russian diplomats working as liaison officers at its headquarters in Brussels.

The move sparked the worst relations between Moscow and NATO since the Cold War.



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