Russia announced on Wednesday that it was expelling a total of 85 staff from the embassies of France, Spain and Italy, in retaliation for similar measures taken by those countries.
The Foreign Office said it was expelling 34 diplomatic staff from France, 27 from Spain and 24 from Italy.
These three countries are among European nations that have collectively expelled more than 300 Russian diplomats since the start of Russia’s military operation in Ukraine on February 24. In many cases, they accused Russian diplomats of spying, which Moscow denied.
Russia notably sent back 45 Poles and 40 Germans last month. She also announced retaliatory measures against Finland, Romania, Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Japan, among others.
Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi called Moscow’s announcement on Wednesday a “hostile act” and said diplomatic channels must not be cut off.
Italy also said its staff always acted in accordance with the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.
France said it deplored the Russian decision, which it saw as an unjustified response to Paris’ decision in April to expel “several dozen Russian agents acting on our territory under diplomatic status and working against our interests of security “.
Spain rejected the Russian decision, saying it was not based on the principle of reciprocity, citing “duly justified security reasons” for the expulsion of Russian embassy staff from Madrid last month.