Russia expels 85 diplomats from France, Spain and Italy

Russia said on Wednesday it had decided to expel a total of 85 embassy staff from France, Spain and Italy in response to similar moves by those countries, highlighting the damage done to relations with key European Union members since it launched its war on Ukraine.

The Foreign Ministry said it had ordered the departure of 34 diplomatic staff from the French embassy, ​​27 from the Spanish embassy and 24 from the Italian embassy.

The three countries are among European nations that have collectively expelled more than 300 Russians since the invasion that began on February 24.

In many cases, they accused Russian diplomats of espionage, which Moscow denied.

Russia's response to that included the expulsion of 45 Polish and 40 German employees last month.

It also announced steps to reciprocate Finland, Romania, Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Japan, among others.

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi called Moscow's decision on Wednesday a "hostile act" and said diplomatic channels should not be cut.

France expressed its regret at the Russian move, describing it as an unjustified response to what it said was its decision in April to expel "dozens of Russian agents who work on our territory under the cover of their diplomatic status and work to harm our security interests."

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