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Italy expels 30 Russian diplomats over security fears

 

Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio speaks during a news conference following talks with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in Moscow, Russia February 17, 2022. [Reuters]

 

Italy has expelled 30 Russian diplomats because of security concerns, Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio has said.

A number of other Western governments have taken similar steps following Russia's invasion of Ukraine even as Russia plans to retaliate, according to TASS.

Italy summoned Russia's ambassador to the foreign ministry on Tuesday to tell him that the diplomats were being expelled.

"The measure is in agreement with other European and Atlantic partners and is necessary for reasons linked to our national security and in the context of the current crisis caused by the unjustified aggression against Ukraine on the part of the Russian Federation," Di Maio said in a statement.

Russia will give an appropriate response, TASS news agency quoted Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova as saying.

 Earlier on, Denmark said it would expel 15 Russian diplomats, in line with steps taken by other European Union countries, after reports of mass graves being found and of civilian killings in the Ukrainian town of Bucha.

"This is another example of brutality, cruelty and war crimes, which apparently have taken place in Bucha," Danish Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod told a press briefing.

The move comes after several other European Union countries including France and Germany on Monday said they would expel Russian diplomats. read more

Moscow, which claims images of executed civilians in Bucha were fake products of Ukrainian and Western propaganda aimed at discrediting Russia, said it would retaliate for the expulsion, RIA Novosti reported. read more

The Danish foreign ministry said that it did not want to cut diplomatic ties to Moscow and that the Russian ambassador and the rest of the embassy were not part of the expulsion.

The Danish Security and Intelligence Service said in a report earlier this year that the Russian embassy employed several intelligence officers involved in espionage.

"We want to send a clear signal to Russia that espionage on Danish soil is unacceptable," Kofod said.