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Russia kicks out more foreign diplomats

The Russian Foreign Ministry has expelled 45 Polish embassy staff, on Friday, in the latest removal of diplomats since Moscow launched its military offensive in Ukraine, six weeks ago.

Officials also issued a “strong protest” to Polish ambassador Krzysztof Krajewski over Poland’s expulsion of 45 Russian envoys last month, and condemned what was described as “Warsaw’s conscious desire to completely destroy bilateral relations.” 

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“As a response to Poland’s unfriendly actions to expel Russian diplomats, based on the principle of reciprocity, 45 employees of the Embassy of the Republic of Poland and the consulates general of the Republic of Poland in Irkutsk, Kaliningrad, and St. Petersburg have been declared ‘persona non grata’,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.

“The responsibility for this lies entirely with the Polish side,” the ministry continued, adding that the expelled employees have been ordered to leave Russia before the end of the day on April 13.

In a similar move, Russian authorities earlier on Friday declared kicked out two Bulgarian diplomats. 

“This measure is a response to the Bulgarian side’s unmotivated March decision to declare ‘persona non grata’ two diplomats of the Russian Embassy in Sofia,” the foreign ministry said.

Out of the EU’s 27 member states, Poland has perhaps responded most aggressively to Russia’s military assault on Ukraine. Poland has attempted to transfer fighter jets to Kiev, called for more NATO troops in Eastern Europe, and has declared its willingness to host American nuclear weapons. The latter proposal has been met with “deep concern” by Moscow, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Wednesday.

In addition, Polish President Andrzej Duda has declared diplomacy with Russia to be a waste of time, while Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki has compared Russian President Vladimir Putin to Adolf Hitler. They are both associated with the ultra-nationalist “Law and Justice” party. 

Nevertheless, diplomatic expulsions have become the norm in Western states, even in those whose leaders have not made statements as incendiary as the Polish. According to a list compiled by RT, 24 states had expelled Russian diplomats as of Wednesday. These include the US, Germany, France, the Netherlands, and Italy. Finland joined their ranks on Friday, ordering the expulsion of two staffers at Moscow’s embassy in Helsinki.

Moscow has responded to these expulsions in a tit-for-tat manner. Dmitry Medvedev, the former Russian president and current deputy chair of the Russian National Security Council, commented on the expulsion spree on Monday, saying the gestures could not change Russian foreign policy.

“If things keep going that way,” he said, “then the better option would be to put padlocks on Western embassies. That would be cheaper for everyone. And then we’ll definitely look at each other only through weapon scopes.”

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