Berlin is ordering four of the five Russian consulates in Germany to close after Moscow limited the number of German diplomatic staff allowed in Russia, the latest in an escalating tit-for-tat diplomatic dispute between the two countries.
The Russian Foreign Ministry had been told to start shutting down its consulates in Germany immediately and must finish by the end of the year, Christofer Burger, a spokesman for Germany’s Foreign Ministry, said at a news conference on Wednesday.
One Russian consulate and the Russian Embassy in Berlin will be allowed to remain open. Russia currently operates consulates in Bonn, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Leipzig and Munich. It is not clear which of the five will remain open.
The move comes after a series of reciprocal expulsions that have whittled diplomatic staff in both countries to the bone — a far cry from the close diplomatic relations they shared before Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine last year.
In April, Germany expelled a number of Russian diplomats it suspected of being spies, a move that came after a Russian mole was found in Germany’s Federal Intelligence Service.
Russia’s Foreign Ministry retaliated by expelling 20 German diplomats.
Berlin said Wednesday that it was forced to close German consulates in Kaliningrad, Novosibirsk and Yekaterinburg after Russia announced last weekend that it would allow only 350 German citizens to work at diplomatic posts in Russia. Besides diplomats and embassy staff, Russia also considers Germans working at German cultural institutions — like the Goethe Institute — to be part of that number.
“With this, the Russian government has taken a step of escalation, and this unjustified decision forces the federal government to make a very significant cut in all areas of its presence in Russia,” Mr. Burger said.
He added that with the latest move, the German government considered the affair closed because “personnel and structural parity” in the two countries’ diplomatic presence had been reached.
The German Embassy in Moscow and a consulate in St. Petersburg will remain staffed.
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