In August 2020, the diplomatic relations between the EU and Russia appear to be deteriorating.
Early on in the month, Slovakia expelled three Russian diplomats for “a serious crime”, with local media reporting a possible link to the murder of a former Chechen rebel in a Berlin in 2019.
“I can confirm that a decision has been taken to expel three employees of the Russian Federation embassy in Slovakia,” Juraj Tomaga, head of the foreign ministry’s press service, told AFP. “According to information from the Slovak intelligence services, their activities were in conflict with the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations,” he said.
Tomaga also said that a visa issued by the Slovak consulate in St. Petersburg, Russia had been misappropriated, claiming that “a serious crime” had been committed on the territory of another NATO and EU member state.
In response, the Russian Foreign Ministry, according to local media, said Moscow would react to the expulsions “in a similar way.”
According to Slovak media, the Slovak consulate in St. Petersburg issued visas last year allowing entry into the European Union of a Russian citizen later suspected of having killed Zelimkhan Khangoshvili, a Georgian of Chechen origin, in Berlin’s Kleiner Tiergarten park.
German police arrested a suspect shortly after the shooting, and in June this year prosecutors accused Russia of ordering the murder.
Moscow denied having any relation to the murder. Regardless, even before that in December 2019, Germany expelled two Russian diplomats, and Russia expelled two German diplomats in response.
On August 17th, 2020, the Charge d’Affaires of the Netherlands in Russia D.Bakker-Kühling was summoned to the Russian Foreign Ministry.
A strong protest was expressed to the Dutch side in connection with the discovery of tracking equipment in the service car of the assistant to the Russian military attaché in the Netherlands.
The Dutch diplomat was told that it is necessary to immediately take comprehensive measures to prevent such incidents, which run counter to the provisions of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.
Earlier, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said that the Dutch authorities are using Russia to create an image of an enemy instead of fighting common problems.
The diplomat spoke about the anti-espionage memo issued by the Dutch intelligence and security service. Zakharova noted that the document contains information about the Russian and Chinese special services, allegedly operating in the country.
“Spy hysteria is entering a new round,” she said.
Finally, on August 24th, Austria has for the first time declared a Russian diplomat to be a “persona non grata”. He has to leave Austria by September 1st.
This is the first result of a new spy hysteria, which the local authorities consider to be particularly serious.
The Russian diplomat has allegedly carried out industrial espionage in a high-tech company for years with the support of an Austrian citizen.
Austria already had controversial affairs with Russia in 2020.
Moscow was accused of being behind an alleged massive cyber attack on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which “skimmed off” its IT systems.
Then there was Salzburg trial of an army officer accused of spying.
Finally, the death of Mamichan U. alias Martin B., who was was shot dead on company premises on the B7 in Gerasdorf not far from the Vienna city limits in July.
He was a very voiced critic of Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov online.
Although the 43-year-old expressly refused personal protection, his apartment in Vienna-Donaustadt was observed. His consent was not needed for him to be under surveillance, and it still didn’t lead to anything since he died and it is unclear who killed him.
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