The United States has demanded that 12 Russian United Nations diplomats immediately leave this nation after accusing them of espionage activities. This comes while Russian President Putin continues his attack on the nation of Ukraine.
The diplomats in question from Russia were told to leave because of their alleged engagement in “activities that were not in accordance with their responsibilities and obligations as diplomats.” This is according to Ambassador Richard Mills who is deputy representative of the United States to the United Nations. He made this announcement during a U.N. Security Council meeting earlier this week.
The Russian Ambassador to the United Nations, Vassily Nebenzia, responded to this by saying that the explanation of the expulsions was “not satisfactory.”
The decision to make these diplomatic expulsions came less than a week after Russia began its invasion of Ukraine. But the United States indicated that the action had been in the works for several months. The United States expelled the second-most senior diplomat at the Russian embassy. Some believe that this is also in response to Moscow’s expulsion of the second-ranking U.S. diplomat in Moscow earlier this year.
The delegation from the United States to the United Nations gave a statement that indicated the 12 Russian diplomats were “intelligence operatives…who have abused their privileges of residency in the US by engaging in espionage activities that are adverse to our national security.”
Olivia Alair Dalton, the U.S. Mission Spokesperson, said in the statement that they were taking action in accordance with what is in the headquarters agreement. She also said that the move they made had been in the works for months.
The Russian ambassador said that he did not know exactly who the 12 diplomats were, but he said that the United State officials had delivered a letter demanding that they leave the country by March 7th.
Nebenzia said that he received information that authorities from the United States took hostile action against the Russian Mission to the United Nations. It “grossly violated” their commitments to the host country agreement they agreed to, he said.
Jen Psaki, the White House Press Secretary, focused on the move during a press conference earlier this week. She reiterated that the plan to expel the diplomats from Russia had been discussed for months.
“The United States informed the United Nations and the Russian Mission to the United Nations that we were beginning the process of expelling 12 intelligence operatives from the Russian Mission who had abused their privileges of residency in the United States by engaging in espionage activities that are adverse to our national security,” Psaki said.
She also noted that it had taken time to make the conclusions they came to, but finally were able to decide for expulsion as the correct course of action.
One reporter asked what her response was to the Russian Ambassador calling this a hostile act toward Russia. She responded that the “hostile act” was committing espionage activities on our own soil.
This is the most recent move in the ongoing brawl between the United States and Russia regarding diplomatic privileges. In December of last year, Russia ordered all U.S. Embassy staff that had been in the country for more than three years to leave. This came right after the United States took away privileges for 27 Russian diplomats and their families. They began imposing a three-year timeline for diplomats.
There was also another blow to Russia from the United States this week. Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced that the Department of State had suspended its operations in Minsk, Belarus. Their president, Alexander Lukashenko is a close ally of Putin. His country served as a staging ground for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Blinken said that they took steps because of safety and security issues.
Time will tell if these “better late than never” steps by the present administration will impact Russia’s resolve.