Irish diplomat being expelled from Russia over Skripal row

Spokesman for Simon Coveney says there is no justification for expulsion of envoy

Irish Ambassador to Russia Adrian McDaid arriving on Friday at  the Russian Foreign Ministry in Moscow, to be informed that an Irish diplomat is to be expelled. Photograph: Sergei Karpukhin/Reuters

Irish Ambassador to Russia Adrian McDaid arriving on Friday at the Russian Foreign Ministry in Moscow, to be informed that an Irish diplomat is to be expelled. Photograph: Sergei Karpukhin/Reuters

 

An Irish diplomat is being expelled from Russia in response to the expulsion of a Russian envoy from Ireland, the Department of Foreign Affairs has confirmed.

A spokesman for Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney said on Friday afternoon there is no justification for this expulsion.

“Irish staff do not engage in activities that are incompatible with their diplomatic status. This decision to expel an Irish diplomat is regrettable,” the spokesman said.

The Russian embassy in Dublin has said the expulsion of the Irish diplomat from Moscow “should not come as a surprise” as it had warned that “provocative and unwarranted actions against the Russian embassy in Dublin will not go unanswered”.

The embassy’s spokesman, Vasily Velichkin, said Russia’s foreign ministry had summoned the heads of diplomatic missions, including that of Ireland.

“They were handed notes of protest and told that the Russian Federation declares persona non grata the relevant number of diplomats from these countries working in diplomatic missions in Russia,” he said.

‘Unjustified expulsions’

“In response to their unjustified expulsions of Russian diplomats based on Britain’s proof-free accusations of Russia related to the [Sergei] Skripal case, it should not come as a surprise. We indicated from the very beginning that provocative and unwarranted actions against the Russian embassy in Dublin will not go unanswered.”

Mr Velichkin added: “We completely reject the underlying notion of the Irish action that Russia is somehow involved in the Salisbury incident.”

He was unable to identify the name of the Irish diplomat who had been expelled. “We should respect the privacy of the diplomat,” he said.

Russia expelled 59 diplomats from 23 countries on Friday and said it reserved the right to take action against four other nations, in a worsening stand-off with the West over the poisoning of a former Russian spy and his daughter in Britain.

‘Baseless demands’

Russia said it was responding to what it called the baseless demands for scores of its own diplomats to leave a slew of mostly western countries that have joined London and Washington in censuring Moscow over the poisoning of Mr Skripal (66) and his daughter Yulia.

The Russian foreign ministry ordered Britain to reduce the number of diplomats in Moscow down to the same amount that Russia has in London as the row over the attempted assassination of the former spy in Salisbury continues.

The UK expelled 23 Russian diplomats in the wake of the poisoning.

Russia on Friday also expelled four German diplomats, foreign minister Heiko Maas said. Russia is also reported to have expelled two Spanish envoys, and one from Norway.

“The news from Moscow comes as no surprise,” Mr Maas said in a statement. “Even in the current climate we remain ready for dialogue with Russia and we will work on both European security and constructive future relations between our countries.”

Germany this week had expelled four Russian diplomats over Moscow’s suspected involvement in the poisoning of former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal in England.

Additional reporting: Reuters/Press Association