Russia has expelled 21 Belgian diplomats from Moscow on 19 April, according to the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The Russian state has declared the Belgian diplomats “personae non gratae” and have been told to leave the country by 3 May. The Belgian Government is yet to respond.
This move comes as retaliation for the expulsion of Russian diplomats from the EU Member States. This included Belgium, where 21 Russian diplomats were asked to leave the country on 29 March over allegations of espionage and spreading Russian influence.
Belgian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sophie Wilmès had previously stated that the expulsion of Russian diplomats was “not a sanction”, but instead a matter of “national security.”
Alongside the 21 Belgian diplomats expelled from Russia, 15 from the Netherlands have been told to leave the country. The Netherlands had previously expelled 17 Russian diplomats from the Hague.
Dutch Foreign Minister Wopke Hoekstra has said that he “regrets” Moscow’s decision. “We will now see what the consequences are of having so many colleagues leave Moscow and St. Petersburg.”
Both Belgium and the Netherlands are included in a list of “unfriendly countries” published by Russia. These nations face trade restrictions, entry bans, and other economic counter-sanctions. Belgians are currently banned from entering Russia.