Dozens of Russian diplomats thrown out of European countries due to alleged espionage


More than 40 Russian diplomats, some accused of espionage, have been deported from several European countries, including Belgium, the Netherlands and Ireland.

Belgium kicked out 21 Russian diplomats from embassies in Brussels and Antwerp for alleged espionage and security threats, said Foreign Minister Sophie Wilmes.

Seventeen Russian intelligence agents accredited as diplomats were also deported from the Netherlands, and the country’s foreign minister said the decision was based on information from its security services.

In Ireland, four senior officials at the Russian embassy were forced to leave the country, and the Czech Republic also expelled a member of the diplomatic staff at the Russian embassy in Prague.

Dan Lomas, a lecturer in intelligence and security studies at Brunel University, said I that these agents may have been under the supervision of internal security organizations for some time.

“In normal times, it would be best to keep these people in place,” he said. “Too often, if you are worried that the Russians or a foreign state is doing something in your countrynot doing anything and just monitoring gives you insight into technique, craftsmanship, information sources and other important contacts.

“We may see a coordinated response due to the political pressure to act.”

Irish Prime Minister Micheal Martin said the measures were being taken “in cooperation with other countries” but that it had not been possible to achieve EU-wide coordination.

“It has not been possible to get the full 27 [EU members] working on the same kind of agenda, “he said.

Russia reacted angrily to the reports by promising to retaliate against “unfriendly” countries, with the Irish embassy describing the Irish government’s decision as “arbitrary and unfounded”.

The total number of Russian officials thrown out of Europe has exceeded well over 100 after Poland last week said it had expelled 45 Russian diplomats for participating in espionage.

The Bulgarian Foreign Ministry said it had declared 10 Russian diplomats “persona non grata” – meaning a person who is not welcome and thus loses diplomatic immunity – on March 18 because of what it said were activities that were considered too incompatible with their diplomatic status. They were given 72 hours to leave the country.

It was the second wave of deportations of Russian diplomats from Bulgaria after two officials were deported on March 2 over allegations that they had been involved in espionage.

Russian President Vladimir Putin photographed in Moscow on March 30 (Photo: Mikhail Klimentyev / AP)

Also on March 18, Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania expelled a total of 10 Russian diplomats, while the Slovak Foreign Ministry said it decided to expel three Russian diplomats after their assessment of information from the country’s intelligence services about possible espionage and bribery.

On Wednesday, Slovakia ordered the Russian embassy to cut staff by 35, reducing it to half its previous size.

Dr. Lomas said Russian intelligence could potentially center diplomats in smaller NATO member states to spy on larger neighbors.

He said after the poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal in 2018 in Salisbury, Wiltshire, that a large number of Russian diplomats who were intelligence officers were thrown out of the country. “As a result, it has been alleged that the embassy in Dublin is being used as a means of spying on the British mainland.

“What you see is that they (the Russians) might be increasing the espionage activity in the smaller NATO member states, which could then potentially spy on the larger members. For example, if you were spying on France or Germany, it would make more sense to invest time and effort of diplomats in Belgium. “

Earlier this month, the Slovak news website Dennik N reported that police arrested at least three Slovaks – a colonel from the Ministry of Defense, a member of the Slovak counter-intelligence service SIS and a person related to a news site that the government shut down this month for spreading misinformation – on suspicion of spying for Russia.

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Dennik N published a surveillance video on March 15, allegedly showing Sergey Solomasov, the former military attaché at the Russian embassy in Bratislava, discussing how to obtain contacts and information with Bohus Garbar, an alleged intelligence contact for agents of the Russian intelligence service GRU and author of the disinformation website Hlavne Spravy .

“I need political information, communication between countries, from within NATO, within the EU, Bratislava and other countries,” Mr Solomasov told Mr Garbar in the video.

Dr. Lomas said: “These are low-level officials being sent out to meet contacts, it’s kind of amateurish.

“It’s not these guys who’s dangerous, it’s just the tip of the iceberg.”

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