Russian embassy says Belgium’s expulsion of its diplomats ‘won’t go unanswered’
Belgium expelled 21 people from the Russian embassy on Tuesday, accusing them of involvement in espionage and representing a threat to national security.
“As just announced, Belgium has decided to expel 21 people from the embassy and consulate of Russia,” Belgian deputy prime minister and minister of foreign affairs Sophie Wilmès said on Twitter.
“They have been identified for involvement in espionage and influence activities, which pose a threat to national security.”
Similar expulsions of Russian diplomats took place in Ireland, the Netherlands, the United States, Slovakia and Poland. The diplomats concerned must leave the country within 15 days.
“This decision is not a sanction, it is only related to our national security. Diplomatic channels remain open with Russia, the Russian embassy can continue to function and we continue to advocate dialogue,” Sophie Wilmès told Le Soir.
But the Russian Embassy reacted strongly to the decision, releasing a statement saying “these unfriendly measures will not go unanswered”.
The names of the 21 individuals expelled from Belgium were not released, but the Russian embassy in its statement referred to “21 diplomatic, administrative and technical staff members of the Embassy and Trade Mission in Brussels and the Consulate General in Antwerp persona non grata”.
“These persons are accused of activities that are incompatible with their status,” the embassy said.
“The ambassador dismissed these accusations as absolutely unfounded and stressed that this decision is a serious blow to Russian-Belgian relations and goes against the traditions of cooperation between the two countries. These unfriendly measures will not go unanswered.”
Photo: Foreign affairs minister Sophie Wilmès © Belga/Hatim Kaghat