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Russia Expels 40 German Diplomatic Staff in Tit-for-Tat Move

FILE - An exterior view of the German embassy in Moscow, Nov. 16, 2014.
FILE - An exterior view of the German embassy in Moscow, Nov. 16, 2014.

Russia's foreign ministry said on Monday that it had declared 40 German diplomatic staff "personae non gratae" in a retaliatory move after Berlin expelled the same number of Russian diplomats.

In a statement, Russia's foreign ministry said it had taken the decision after Germany on April 4 declared a "significant number" of officials at the Russian embassy in Berlin "undesirable."

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said the expelled Russians had never actually done any diplomacy during their time in Germany, but rather "systematically worked against our freedom and the cohesion of our society."

The expelled German diplomats by contrast had worked hard on bilateral relations despite difficult circumstances, she said in a statement, adding that the news had been expected.

"Russia is therefore harming itself with today's expulsions," she said.

Germany was one of several European countries to expel Russian diplomats after reports of mass graves being found and of civilian killings in the Ukrainian town of Bucha during Russian occupation.

Russia sent tens of thousands of troops into Ukraine on February 24 in what it called a "special operation" to degrade its military capabilities and root out what it calls dangerous nationalists.

Ukrainian forces have mounted stiff resistance and the West has imposed sweeping sanctions on Russia in an effort to force it to withdraw its forces.