Senior Russian official faces expulsion


THE RUSSIAN diplomat ordered to leave Ireland after an investigation concluded Russian intelligence had stolen the identities of Irish citizens to produce fake passports, is a senior official in the embassy’s consular section.

Alexander Smirnov is the diplomat identified by the Garda investigation into the production of six fake passports for use by a US-based spy ring.

Mr Smirnov’s position at the embassy is first secretary in the consular section, according to the Department of Foreign Affairs’ list of diplomatic missions in Ireland.

Mr Smirnov, who is understood to have been stationed in Dublin for many years, has been given two weeks to leave after Russian ambassador Mikhail Timoshkin was informed of the Government’s decision to expel him on Tuesday.

Mr Smirnov is still believed to be in Ireland.

The Russian embassy says it has received no information from Moscow regarding remarks made by deputy foreign minister Vladimir Titov warning the Kremlin would retaliate.

Several Russian media outlets reported Mr Titov as saying the move was “clearly an unfriendly step that will not go unanswered”.

The official news agency ITAR-TASS noted that “Russia reacts traditionally – the expulsion of its representatives shall result in a similar response”.

It compared the Irish situation to a spat between Spain and Russia last year. After Madrid expelled two Russian diplomats on suspicion of spying, Moscow expelled two Spanish diplomats. Russia also responded in kind when Britain expelled a diplomat in December.

The usual choreography is that the Russian foreign ministry waits until its expelled diplomat returns to Moscow before announcing the details of its response.