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    How Russian Diplomats Were Expelled From Countries in 2007-2016

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    On Thursday, US President Barack Obama announced the expulsion of 35 Russian diplomats, the closing of two Russian diplomatic compounds and new sanctions against six Russian individuals and five entities over Russia's alleged interference in most recent US presidential election.

    MOSCOW (Sputnik) — The expulsion of diplomats, envisaged by the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, is an extreme measure and is usually associated with espionage, though it could also be symbolic.

    The Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961 is an international treaty, providing the host country an opportunity to declare any of the diplomatic personnel persona non grata at any time and without stating reasons. The accrediting state should recall a diplomatic representative or suspend his activities, otherwise, the receiving state may refuse to recognize that person as a diplomat.

    Diplomatic personnel are protected from criminal, civil and administrative liability, with exception of some particular cases set in the Convention, have diplomatic immunity. While the diplomats are obliged to obey the laws of the host country, they could not be arrested in case of committing an offense.

    The persona non grata status, provided for incompatibility of activities with diplomatic status and leading to automatic expulsion from the country, is the only mechanism to protect the host state from foreign diplomats.

    On July 8, US State Department spokesman John Kirby said that two Russian diplomats were expelled from the country in mid-June for activities incompatible with their diplomatic status, in particular for alleged attack on one of the employees of the US Embassy in Moscow. The Russian side confirmed the expulsion of diplomats, though stressed that the embassy’s employee was CIA agent and that he attacked a Russian patrol officer policeman guarding the embassy.

    On July 13, 2015, Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry informed of declaring persona non grata the acting consul general of Russia in Odessa. The Russian diplomat left the country, while the Russian Foreign Ministry said that the move was aimed at rising tension in bilateral relations.

    In October 2014, a Polish army colonel was arrested in Warsaw on the suspicion of espionage in favor of Russia, followed by the expulsion of several Russian diplomats from Poland. On November 17, Russia took the same measures regarding Polish diplomats.

    On April 8, 2014, Canadian media reported that the authorities declared a Russian diplomat in Ottawa persona non grata, giving him two weeks to leave Canada. The Canadian Foreign Ministry gave no explanation of the reasons behind such a decision, though it was taken amid the deterioration in relations between Ottawa and Moscow over events in Ukraine. On April 22, 2014, Moscow announced the expulsion of the first secretary of the Canadian Embassy from Russia in 14 days.

    In early December 2013, the US government accused a number of Russian diplomats and their relatives in health insurance fraud. According to the US law enforcement agencies, a number of Russian diplomats and their relatives understated their profit to receive assistance through Medicaid program, while buying luxury items. There were 49 Russian diplomats and their wives in the list of suspects, allegedly illegally receiving $1.5 million as insurance compensation. All the involved diplomats returned to Russia, though Moscow said that the United States violated the Vienna Convention as the accusations were built on data obtained as a result of the bank transfers interception.

    In January 2012, the Canadian media reported that four employees of the Russian Embassy in Ottawa were sent out of the country after the arrest of Canadian naval officer Jeffrey Paul Delisle, suspected of espionage in favor of Russia. The Russian Foreign Ministry denied the reports, saying that Russian diplomats left the country in 2011 when their mission ended.

    On February 1, 2011, the government of Ireland announced an upcoming expulsion of the Russian diplomat due to the reports about Russian agents forging and using false passports.

    In late November 2010, Spain’s Foreign Minister Trinidad Jimenez Garcia-Herrera agreed with the requirement of the State-Director of the National Intelligence Centre Felix Sanz Roldan on expulsion of two Russian diplomats. In late December, the El Pais newspaper reported that the Russian Foreign Ministry urged political adviser at the Spanish embassy in Moscow Ignacio Cartagena and first secretary of the embassy Borja Cortes-Breton to leave the country.

    In mid-December 2010, Russia and the United Kingdom exchanged mutual expulsion of diplomat. London accused Russian intelligence services of activities against British interests and called for diplomat’s expulsion. Moscow in its turn demanded to recall a British diplomat. The request was satisfied, though the UK authorities said there were no grounds for such actions.

    In August 2010, the first secretary of the Russian Embassy in Bucharest Anatoly Akopov was declared by the Romanian authorities persona non grata as a response to Moscow actions against the Romanian diplomat Gabriel Grecu, accused of working for NATO and trying to obtain secret information of a military nature from a Russian citizen. According to FSB public relations center, the detained diplomat had espionage equipment, proving his "hostile activity against the Russian Federation."

    The star atop the Vodovzvodnaya Tower of the Moscow Kremlin. Right: the Grand Kremlin Palace, and the Church of St. John Climacus the Ivan the Great Bell Tower
    © Sputnik / Alexey Druzginin/Anton Denisov/Russian Presidential Press Office
    On August 17,2009, the Czech media reported that two Russian diplomats were called persona non grata due to alleged cooperation with intelligence services. According to iDnes news portal, the Czech authorities offered one of the diplomats not to return from vacation, while the other diplomat asked to leave the country was deputy military attache.

    In late July, 2009, Kiev announced the expulsion of two Russian diplomats – embassy’s adviser Vladimir Lysenko and Consul General in Odessa Alexander Grachev. Moscow suggested Ukraine’s Consul General in Saint Petersburg Natalia Prokopovich and head of the political section of Embassy of Ukraine in Moscow Igor Berezkin to accomplish their missions ahead of schedule. Later Kiev and Moscow suspended decisions to expel Grachev and Prokopovich, while Berezkin left Moscow, as it was reported on August 10.

    In late April 2009, NATO withdrew accreditation from two diplomats at Russia’s permanent mission to NATO — political section chief Viktor Kochukov and attache Vasily Chizhov – due to accusations of espionage. The Russian Foreign Ministry described NATO’s act as "a provocation", withdrew accreditation from Director of the NATO Information Center in Moscow Isabel Francois and Canadian Embassy attache Mark Opgenorth.

    On April 2, 2009, Latvian TV5 channel reported that Russian diplomat Alexander Khapilov, earlier accused of plotting murder of Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, was expelled from Latvia. Press attache of the Russian Embassy in Latvia Sergei Abramkin confirmed that Khapilov left the country, stressing that it was due to another job but not expulsion.

    In September 2008, a Finnish diplomat was expelled from Moscow in response to the expulsion of Russian diplomat by the Finnish authorities in spring. According to the press service of Finland’s Foreign Ministry, the expelled Russian diplomat was involved in bribery scandal.

    On January 21, 2008, Latvia expelled the second secretary of the Russian Embassy in Riga, vice consul Alexander Rogozhin on charges of espionage. The Russian Foreign Ministry called the decision of the Latvian authorities "an unfriendly step," threatening countermeasures. On January 25, Russia declared one of the Latvian Embassy’s employees the persona non grata for the activities hurting Russian security interests.

    On November 7, 2007, the Georgian Foreign Ministry sent a note of protest to the Embassy of Russia, declaring three representatives of the Russian diplomatic mission, namely Ambassador Ivan Volynkin, adviser Petr Solomatin and third secretary Alexander Kurenkov, persona non grata. Diplomats were expelled on the basis of the data received by the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia, via discreet surveillance and tapping of their phone conversations with representatives of the Georgian opposition. The Georgian leadership made a conclusion that some of the opposition leaders coordinated their actions with the representatives of the Russian Embassy on plotting a coup. The following day, three employees of the Georgian Embassy in Moscow were sent out of the country.

    In July 2007, four Russian diplomats were expelled from the United Kingdom in response to Moscow refusal to extradite businessman Andrei Lugovoi, accused by the UK authorities of implication in murder of former FSB officer Alexander Litvinenko. Russia in its turn expelled four British diplomats.

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