Understand everything – why did France expel 35 Russian diplomats?

This approach, in concert with other European countries, targets members of the Russian diplomatic corps suspected of espionage activity.

On Monday, the French Foreign Ministry revealed the expulsion of “several Russian employees with diplomatic status assigned to France.” As the Russian invasion of Ukraine continues more than a month after it was launched by Moscow, and while this weekend the Western Chancellery unanimously condemned the violations committed in Bucha, the Quai d’Orsay justifies the move with activities “contrary to our security interests”. by the persons concerned.

According to information from BFMTV, 35 members of the Russian Embassy in France will have to leave France. This is the most important expulsion of Russian diplomats since the farewell affair, which allowed in 1983, thanks to the Soviet double agent Vladimir Vetrov, to appoint 40 members of the Soviet embassy in Paris as spies.

However, the French initiative is not isolated. Before Paris, many European countries carried out similar expulsions. On March 23, Poland expelled 45 “Russian spies disguised as diplomats”. Germany on Monday also designated 40 “persona non grata” members of the Russian embassy in Berlin, according to AFP information.

• On what basis were these 35 diplomats expelled?

In a press release, Quai d’Orsay remains ambiguous as to the reasons that justify the expulsion of the 35 Russian diplomats. The list of those affected has not been disclosed.

“We remain very diplomatic in the press release, to make it clear that these 35 diplomats were ‘contrary to security interests.’ Which means they are spies, quite simply. There are different ways to do espionage. We can do illegal wiretapping things, but also disinformation,” he said. Patrick Seuss, BFMTV’s international political columnist explains.

The statements sent by the German Foreign Minister support this assertion. Annalina Barbuk said the diplomats expelled from the Russian embassy in Berlin on Monday posed a “threat to those who seek protection with us”, that is, the Ukrainian refugees.

Since the beginning of the Russian attack on Ukraine, Twitter account of the Russian Embassy in France It publishes many false or inaccurate statements regarding the conflict in Ukraine. And recently, the embassy distinguished itself by publishing a cartoon showing Europe licking Uncle Sam’s buttocks, which Emmanuel Macron called “unacceptable.”

The spying charges did not surprise Sylvie Berman, diplomatic advisor at BFMTV and French Ambassador to Russia from 2017 to 2019.

“We fire spies in general, because it’s a great KGB tradition. Russian embassies have a lot more staff than our own. Many of them are in the GRU (Russian Military Intelligence, editor’s note), or in some other service,” she announced on BFMTV.

• Why were these diplomats suspected of espionage not expelled sooner?

The expulsions come after a weekend marked by revelations about abuses against civilians in Bucce. Joe Biden, like Emmanuel Macron, has indicated that President Vladimir Putin will have to respond before international justice to these accusations.

However, the expulsion of the 35 Russian diplomats stationed in Paris is not a direct response to the atrocities committed in this town on the outskirts of Kyiv. This ad “was really the last step, but you should know that this list has been made for several days,” confirms Patrick Sous.

“It is one of the things that cannot be achieved. This is also the case for the embassies of the United States and Germany. We know that there are a certain number of people who are either members of foreign services, or have such a porosity that they are involved in intelligence missions,” he notes. Florent Vadillo, President of the think tank L’Hétairie. “The game is more or less observing the realities of these agents.”

However, he said he was “extremely surprised by the very late nature” of the expulsions carried out by certain European countries.

• On what legal text is this approach based?

Legally speaking, diplomatic personnel located in Paris enjoy internationally recognized legal immunity. In addition to their diplomatic passport, they have a three-year special residence permit renewable for two years.

However, the Directorate of State Protocol and Diplomatic Events notes that “in the event of a serious or repeated failure, the protocol will have to take various measures, from a simple warning to declaring a” persona non grata “.

Therefore, the 35 Russian diplomats were expelled on the grounds of “serious and repeated failures”.

• How will the departure of diplomats from French territory?

As revealed by BFMTV, the Russian ambassador to France Alexei Michkov will be summoned this Tuesday by the Quai d’Orsay, in order to be notified by a member of the ministry of the list of expelled.

On BFMTV, former ambassador Sylvie Berman was back when she was summoned by the Russian Foreign Ministry, when she was stationed in Moscow, to notify her of the dismissal of four French diplomats. Giving an inside look at this codified diplomatic procedure.

“I was called by the Director General of European Affairs, who said to me ‘Here, such and such a person in such a position has activities incompatible with his diplomatic status. (…) You have eight days to pack your bags I summoned them in the car to warn them, because there are accounts’ Banks that have to be closed, kids going to school…”.

The “undesirable” diplomat has a week to leave France. He retains his diplomatic status, but it is impossible for him to seek asylum on French soil. Russia must summon the person concerned to its territory, making sure that his departure is effective. If the latter did not happen, France could then expel the diplomat like any other individual.

• Is this a step isolated from France?

As the European Union announces new sanctions against Moscow this week, the expulsion of 35 Russian diplomats is part of a coordinated approach at the European level. On Monday, the day of the French announcement, Berlin also announced that it would expel a large number of diplomats.

Italy and Denmark announced, respectively, on Tuesday, the expulsion of 30 and 15 Russian diplomats. On March 29, Belgium announced the expulsion of 21 members of the Russian embassy and consulate within 15 days, on suspicion of involvement in “espionage and influence operations that threaten national security.”

Ireland, for its part, expelled four Russian diplomats, Bulgaria 11, and the three Baltic states 10.

• What is the expected reaction from Moscow?

Until now, when Russia expelled its diplomats, it applied the “mirror” theory. For example, if Berlin announced the expulsion of 15 Russian diplomats, then Moscow expelled 15 German diplomats.

“What they’ve been doing so far is firing the same number of people with the same jobs. This time we can wonder if they’d be involved in the escalation, if they were going to strike more,” asked BFMTV Sylvie Berman.

Recent statements on Telegram from Dmitry Medvedev, the former president of the Russian Federation, are not the most reassuring. He said, “If this continues, it will be appropriate, as I wrote on February 26, to close the door of Western embassies. It will be cheaper for everyone. And then we will end up looking at each other, without further ado, through the lens of the camera.”

After Berlin announced Monday the expulsion of Russian diplomats, Moscow lamented an “unfriendly” approach that would “deteriorate” relations. This Tuesday, the European Kremlin denounced a “lack of foresight”.

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