Russia expels 27 Spanish diplomats in response to Madrid measure

by Lorraine Williamson
Spanish diplomat

On Wednesday morning, the Spanish Ambassador to Russia, Marcos Gómez Martínez heard at the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs that the 27 Spanish diplomats must leave Russia within a week. 

This official announcement was to be expected; Moscow is thus reacting to the expulsion of 27 employees of the Russian embassy in Spain. They were declared persona non grata on April 5. Spain, together with the rest of the European Union, the US, Canada, Australia, Japan and other countries, adopted a package of sanctions against Russia. This was a consequence for the invasion of Ukraine and the Bucha massacre, which included the expulsion of Russian diplomats.  

Russia has already gradually expelled diplomats from several countries. On Tuesday, two Finns were expelled, and on Wednesday 34 French diplomats were told to leave. The Russian Foreign Ministry’s list includes more countries that could face the same reaction. 

A matter of time 

On 5 April, Maria Zakharova, spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, warned that after the expulsion of 27 Russian diplomats from Spanish territory, ‘all decisions of this nature will be met with a corresponding reaction’. The Spanish Embassy staff in Moscow knew that this Russian response would most likely come.  And, moreover, that the announcement would only be a matter of time. 

The result of the mutual expulsions puts Spain at a disadvantage vis-à-vis Russia. Russia saw the number of diplomats in Spain go from 49 to 22. For Spain the diplomatic representation, with up to now about 25 members, becomes minimal. However, an additional problem is that the technical staff of the Spanish embassy and consulate is mostly made up of local Russian employees. Furthermore, they are sometimes given priority over Spanish nationals when it comes to assigning a post. 

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Both the Spanish Ambassador to Russia, Marcos Gómez Martínez and his counterpart, the Russian Ambassador to Madrid, Yuri Korchaguin, will remain in their posts. However, the former will have very limited diplomatic activity, while Korchaguin will have much more leeway.  

Other countries  

More than 300 Russian diplomats were expelled from the United States and the European Union. In response, Moscow has expelled members of the representations of Germany, Denmark, the Netherlands, Bulgaria and Russia from its territory. 

The impact of the expulsions on countries such as Germany, France and Italy will be much smaller. Because their number of diplomats in Russia is around 100, this means they will lose less than half. France’s ambassador to Russia, Pierre Levy, was also summoned to the Russian Foreign Ministry on Wednesday to be informed of the expulsion of 34 French diplomats. They must also leave the country within two weeks. Paris expelled 41 Russian diplomats last month. The Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on its website that ‘France’s decision has seriously damaged French-Russian relations and bilateral cooperation’. The Italian ambassador, Giorgio Starace, was told that 27 diplomats would be expelled. On 5 April, Italy announced the expulsion of 30 Russian diplomats. 

Also read: Spain expells Russian diplomats

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