The Federal Government of Belgium has made an announcement that it will remove 21 Russian diplomats from the Russian Embassy in Brussels & the Consulate General in Antwerp for their role in espionage as well as spreading Russian influence in Belgium, according to the Minister of Foreign Affairs Sophie Wilmès.
During a debate in the Belgian Senate Committee on Foreign Relations & Defence, it was announced that the diplomats would have 15 days to leave the territory of Belgium.
Belgium is acting in coordination with allies the Netherlands and Ireland. Seventeen diplomats were expelled from The Hague, and four were expelled from the Russian embassy in Dublin.
Wilmes mentioned, “This decision is not a sanction. It is only related to our national security. Diplomatic channels remain open with Russia, the Russian Embassy can continue to operate, and we continue to advocate for a dialogue.”
On March 7, Belgium was added to a Russian list of “unfriendly countries” due to sanctions imposed on the nation. Russia has now limited entry for members of “unfriendly states,” which includes Belgians. Belgian citizens are no longer able to enter Russia.
The European Union has previously called on Belgian authorities to step up its counter-espionage measures in response to malign foreign activities.
An EU report published on March 9 stated that espionage was becoming more intricate, using artificial intelligence (AI) to penetrate European institutions.
The report calls on Belgium to bolster its anti-espionage framework to “enable effective detection, prosecution, and sanctioning of offenders.”