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Ireland to expel four Russian diplomats for ‘security’ reasons, in what embassy calls an ‘arbitrary, groundless decision’

*Officials to be ejected over espionage fears.

*Russian Embassy says move “will not go unanswered”. 

*Belgium, the Netherlands and Czech Republic also expel diplomats

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Taoiseach Micheál Martin. Photo: James Manning/PA Wire

Taoiseach Micheál Martin. Photo: James Manning/PA Wire

Taoiseach Micheál Martin. Photo: James Manning/PA Wire

Four Russian diplomats are being expelled from Ireland for “security” reasons.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin made the announcement in the Dáil today after Russian Ambassador Yuriy Filatov was summoned to a meeting with Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney in Iveagh House.

Mr Martin took TDs by surprise when he declared: “Under the 1961 Vienna Convention, four senior officials of the Russian Embassy have been asked to leave the State — because their activities are not in accordance with international standards of diplomatic behaviour.”

Such phraseology is normally recognised as code for engaging in espionage activity.

The Taoiseach explained: “I would have received security advice yesterday, and the minister foreign affairs would also have received security advice.

“I met yesterday in relation to this with our national security team. And under Article 9 of 1961 Vienna Convention we have taken these actions.

“We nonetheless still believe that diplomatic channels between the Russian Federation and the State should stay open in the interest of us conveying our abhorrence of the war and maintaining diplomatic channels as a principle — but also to protect our citizens in Russia.”

In a statement the Minister of Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney said: “This afternoon the Department of Foreign Affairs summoned the Russian Ambassador to Iveagh House to advise him that four senior officials have been asked to leave the State.

“This is because their activities have not been in accordance with international standards of diplomatic behaviour. This action is being taken under Article 9 of the 1961 Vienna Convention."

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However, responding this afternoon, the Russian Embassy in Dublin said it “rejects such qualifications of the work of our diplomats. This is arbitrary, groundless decision which can only deteriorate further Russian-Irish relations, already damaged by Irish participation in illegitimate EU sanctions against Russia”.

“The embassy proceeds from the assumption that such a step by the Irish side will not go unanswered," it said in a statement.

There are currently 31 diplomatic staff known to be working in the embassy on Orwell Road in south Dublin.

Three other EU countries also expelled diplomats today. Belgium expelled 21 for alleged spying and posing threats to security. The Netherlands is kicking out 17 Russians while the Czech Republic gave one Russian diplomat 72 hours to leave. 

In the Dáil, Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald asked for the full facts to be set out around the Irish expulsions, and for the officials to be named.

She said her party had called not only for the expulsion of the Ambassador but all of his staff.

“Russia should not be left with the cloak of respectability of any diplomatic footprint in Europe.”

She asked “who these senior officials are, and what behaviour marks them out for expulsion.”

Mr Martin said the action was taking place under Article 9 of the Vienna Convention and he did not wish to divulge the content of the security briefings the Government had received.

He did not name the individuals concerned.

Ms McDonald said: “We all dearly hope that there will be positive progress at the (Russia-Ukraine) talks in Istanbul today.

“We know that the war must end and the peace and diplomacy must prevail. But we have said to you for quite some time, that as this war illegal war continues, and as Russia breaches international laws so viciously and with such brazenness, that that Ireland needs to exert all pressure.

“So the call had been for the expulsion of the Ambassador and all of the staff. Russia should not be left with the cloak of respectability of any diplomatic footprint in Europe.”

She asked Mr Martin to “set out for us the facts around the expulsion of these four people.”

Ms Bacik meanwhile commended the Taoiseach and Mr Coveney for their actions, and said she hoped the Government would see fit to expel Ambassador Filatov too.

She said: “I really welcome that (move). I do want to ask you, does this mean the position of the Russian Ambassador himself is now under threat? I very much hope that you'll see fit to move to expel him.”

Mr Martin said the expulsion of four senior officials in the Russian Federation Embassy was because their behaviour “was not in accordance with international standards of diplomatic behaviour.

“We do this under Article 9 of 1961 Vienna Convention and I don't want to divulge the terms of security briefing we would have received in respect of these individuals,.

“But it in my view was the correct decision, the right decision in terms of overall national security — but also in terms of sending a very clear message also in respect to the war on Ukraine.”

Mr Martin seemed to lay stress on the espionage alternative to any mark of abhorrence at the Ukraine invasion, saying: “The decision has been primarily informed by the briefings we've received from security officials in respect of the behaviour of these individuals.

“That's why the Department of Foreign Affairs summoned the Ambassador today.”

He said some of the Baltic states in the EU had taken steps already “in terms of sending officials back to the Russian Federation.”

But he added: “No EU member state has yet expelled an Ambassador.”

Mr Martin suggested the activities in Ireland were also linked to other countries.

“We've done it (taken action) with some countries today, in terms of these measures and officials. We've worked with other countries on this initiative,” Mr Martin told the Dáil.

But he said it hadn’t been possible to get the full EU 27 states working on the same sort of agenda.

“In terms of the Ambassador, we're anxious to keep channels open. We believe that's important in terms of the protection of citizens and also in terms of maintaining the channel to communicate our abhorrence of the war directly to the Russian Federation government.”

It would also enable humanitarian assistance and any aid that may be required for our citizens in Russia, or indeed in certain areas of Ukraine, he said.

“It's important that diplomatic channels are are maintained and kept an open and that's the motivation behind that decision not to expel the Russian Ambassador at this stage.”

Ms Bacik said the Labour Party had consistently stood with the people of Ukraine and Syria as they endured “horrific bombardment and attack from Putin.”

She added: “We’ve stood with the people of Yemen and with Palestine, and we can see daily now the sort of horrendous suffering that people are enduring in in Ukraine, people in Mariupol, just as the people of Aleppo did under siege before.”

She praised the Government for having “moved so swiftly and in such a welcome fashion to expel four senior diplomats” from the Russian Federation.


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