Belgium expels 21 Russians amid similar moves elsewhere

REUTERS

Belgium has expelled 21 Russian diplomats for alleged spying and posing threats to security, the foreign affairs minister told lawmakers, amid similar moves by the Netherlands, Ireland and the Czech Republic.

The 21 Russians worked at Moscow’s embassy in Brussels and consulate in Antwerp. They were all accredited as diplomats but were working on spying and influencing operations, a ministry spokesperson said.

Wilmes said the Belgian decision was coordinated with the Netherlands which on Tuesday expelled 17 Russian intelligence agents who were accredited as diplomats, based on information from its own security services, its foreign affairs ministry said.

Ireland has 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.

This decision is not a sanction, it is only related to our national security,” Belgian Foreign Minister Sophie Wilmes said in parliament.

“Diplomatic channels remain open with Russia, the Russian Embassy can continue to operate and we continue to advocate dialogue,” she said. The 21 have two weeks to leave the country.

Reporting by Marine Strauss @StraussMarine Editing by Catherine Evans and Nick Macfie

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