Russia has expelled two Irish diplomats from the embassy in Moscow in response to Ireland’s expulsion of four Russian diplomats in Dublin last week.
The Irish ambassador to Russia, Brian McElduff, was summoned to the Russian foreign ministry in Moscow on Thursday afternoon and told two diplomats had been asked to leave.
The Department of Foreign Affairs said there was “no justification” for the move.
“The staff at the Embassy of Ireland in Moscow do not have, nor are engaged in, any duties or functions which are incompatible with their diplomatic status,” the department said.
“This decision to reduce the size of our relatively small embassy in Moscow will significantly reduce our ability to provide services to our citizens in Russia and to maintain diplomatic channels of communication with the Russian Federation.”
The expulsions will reduce the number of Irish diplomats in Moscow to four, including the ambassador.
Russia said the Irish diplomats were being asked to leave in response to “unfriendly and groundless steps taken by the Irish authorities” with the expulsion of four staff last month.
The Kremlin’s foreign ministry said if Ireland continued its “destructive line” towards Russia, the Government “should not have the slighted doubt about Moscow’s determination to respond proportionately to any hostile steps”.
The foreign ministry also demanded the Government “immediately remove the obstacles to the work of the Russian embassy in Dublin and ensure normal conditions for the functioning of our diplomatic mission”, without specifying what this referred to.
Speaking on a visit to Romania with members of the EU affairs committee, Fine Gael TD Joe McHugh, the committee’s chairman, said the expulsion of Irish diplomats “will not prevent the Irish people from continuing to support the Ukrainian people in their fight for survival and continue to support sanctions against the Russian aggressors”.
Last week Taoiseach Micheál Martin said the four Russian officials were asked to leave because “their activities are not in accordance with the international standards of diplomatic behaviour”.
Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney summoned Russia’s ambassador to Ireland Yuriy Filatov to advise him the four officials had been told by the Government to leave.
The move against Ireland’s embassy in Moscow comes amid a series of expulsions of Russian officials from Moscow’s embassies across the European Union and retaliatory actions by the Kremlin as tensions between the West and Russia mount over its invasion of Ukraine.
Earlier this week, EU countries expelled more than 200 Russian diplomats and staff for alleged spying or “national security reasons” in a coordinated move earlier that followed international condemnation of the killing of civilians by Russian soldiers in Bucha near Kyiv.
Last week, Russia expelled 10 diplomats from Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania after the three Baltic states expelled 10 Russian diplomats in a coordinated move earlier in the month.
This is the second time in a month Mr McElduff has been summoned to the foreign ministry.
He was called in last month after a truck rammed into the gates of its embassy in Rathgar, south Dublin. On that occasion, the foreign ministry demanded an official apology and compensation for the damage caused.