Austria has ordered the expulsion of four Russian diplomats for behaviour incompatible with their diplomatic status, according to a spokeswoman for Minister of Foreign Affairs Alexander Schallenberg.
The three diplomats working at Russia’s embassy in Vienna and a Russian consulate based in Salzburg must leave Austria by Tuesday, the foreign minister’s spokeswoman said on Thursday.
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The move came after a group of European Union countries took similar action this week, but unlike most of them, Austria did not say the expulsions were because of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“The (four) people have acted in a way that is inconsistent with their diplomatic status,” the spokeswoman said in a short statement, using a phrase that usually refers to spying.
Sweden, Denmark, Greece and Romania are among the EU countries that have announced this week they are expelling Russian diplomats over the war in Ukraine.
The moves came shortly after images of what appeared to be civilian bodies strewn in the streets of the Ukrainian town of Bucha caused international outrage.
While some EU countries have expelled dozens of Russian diplomats, Austria is declaring “personae non gratae” only a tiny fraction of the Russian diplomats based on its soil.
Austria hosts an unusually large contingent of Russian diplomats because Vienna is home to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and to a United Nations centre that includes UN agencies such as the International Atomic Energy Agency and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime.
Larger countries, including Russia, have three ambassadors in Vienna – one to Austria and one each to the UN organisations and the OSCE.
Austria’s foreign ministry lists 65 diplomats as working at the Russian embassy. That does not include dozens of others working at the missions to the UN in Vienna and to the OSCE.
Overall, about 160 Russian diplomats and technical staff are accredited in Austria.