Cyprus Mail
EuropeRussiaWorld

Russia expels four Austrian diplomats in tit-for-tat move

russian foreign minister lavrov meets heads of foreign media outlets in moscow
File photo: Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov

Russia said on Thursday it was expelling four Austrian diplomats in a tit-for-tat move after Vienna expelled four Russian diplomats in a case which appeared to be related to spying.

Austria said on Feb. 2 it was expelling four Russian diplomats for behaving in a manner inconsistent with international agreements, a reason often invoked in spying cases, without giving specifics. It gave them a week to leave.

In a statement on Thursday, Russia’s Foreign Ministry said Vienna had taken an “unfriendly and unjustified step” and was ruining Austria’s previous position as a respected, unbiased and neutral state.

Austria still has not elaborated on its reasons for expelling the diplomats, who worked at Russia’s Mission to the United Nations in Vienna and Russia’s Embassy to Austria.

“The expulsion of Austrian embassy staff from Russia does not come as a surprise. We regret this unjustified decision by Russia, which lacks any basis in fact,” Austria’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement in response to Russia’s move.

“The Austrian embassy employees concerned perform their duties exclusively in accordance with the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations,” the statement added.

Vienna is a major diplomatic centre hosting the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and United Nations organisations such as the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Larger countries like Russia and the United States often have separate ambassadors to Austria, the OSCE and the U.N. organisations, each running an embassy or permanent mission.

The city, which was divided into Allied sectors after World War Two, also has a reputation as a den of spies. The large diplomatic presence offers the opportunity to station intelligence agents there under a diplomatic cover granting them diplomatic immunity.

While Austria only has about a dozen diplomats based in Moscow, more than 140 Russian diplomats are listed as working in Vienna.

Follow the Cyprus Mail on Google News

Related Posts

Ukraine allows some convicts to join armed forces

Vatican urges caution over weeping Madonnas and other supposed apparitions

Turkey opposition chief cool to constitution talks with Erdogan

Tree planted in UK for peace in Cyprus ‘vandalised’

Tom Cleaver

Russia says US ‘playing with fire’ in ‘indirect war’ with Moscow

Reuters News Service

Fierce fighting in northern Gaza as Israel defends itself at World Court

Reuters News Service