Moscow expels five Swedish diplomats, orders closure of Consulate General

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs main building is one of seven Stalinist skyscrapers in Moscow. (Thomas Nilsen/The Independent Barents Observer)

Russia’s Foreign Ministry says Stockholm has pursued a “confrontational course” and orders the closure of Sweden’s Consulate General in St. Petersburg. The Ministry also shows the door to five Swedish diplomats in Russia.

The announcement comes as a tit-for-tat after Sweden a month ago expelled five persons employed at Russia’s embassy in Stockholm. The Swedish foreign minister, Tobias Billström, said they had to leave “because their activities are incompatible with the Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations.”

In a retaliation move, Sweden’s Ambassador was summoned to the Foreign Ministry building on Smolenskiy Prospekt Thursday morning.

The Ambassador was informed about the decision to declare five diplomates “persona non grata”, including three from the Embassy’s Defense Attaché Office.

The Russian Foreign Ministry puts all the blame on Sweden. “These actions by the Swedish authorities further aggravated the situation in bilateral relations, which reached an unprecedented low level as a result of the ongoing Russophobic campaign in Sweden,” the statement reads.

Moscow, however, escalates the diplomatic turmoil. Additional to the expelled diplomats, Sweden was told to shut down its Consulate General in St. Petersburg by September 1.

Tobias Billström is Swedish Foreign Minister. (Thomas Nilsen/The Independent Barents Observer)

As Russia withdraws from the agreement on Consulate Generals, it will terminate its own Consulate General in Gothenburg by the same date.

“We deeply regret the message from Russia about closing the Consulate General in St. Petersburg,” says Foreign Minister Tobias Billström in a comment. The consulate has a staff of three Swedes.

“The Consulate was an engine in bilateral people-to-people cooperation between Russia and Sweden in the broadest sense. Today’s decision is therefore a further confirmation of the negative political development in Russia and the country’s international isolation,” Billström notes.

Related stories from around the North: 

Canada: Norway committed to keeping Arctic Council as leading forum on North says ambassador, CBC News 

Denmark: Danish policy prioritizes low-conflict Arctic amidst Russian tensions, Eye on the Arctic

FinlandRussian cyber attacks, espionage pose growing threat to Finnish national security, Yle news

Greenland: Growing focus on Arctic puts Greenland at higher risk of cyber attacks: assessment, Eye on the Arctic

IcelandNATO anti-submarine warfare exercise underway in North Atlantic, Eye on the Arctic

Norway: And in Between, There Are Doors’—Europe, the Arctic, and shared spaces, Blog by Marc Lanteigne

RussiaRussia’s growing dependence on China altering dynamics in Arctic, UK committee hears, Eye on the Arctic

SwedenRussian spy ships surveying Nordic energy infrastructure, Radio Sweden

United StatesU.S. nominates Alaskan as first Arctic ambassador, Eye on the Arctic

Thomas Nilsen, The Independent Barents Observer

For more news from the Barents region visit The Independent Barents Observer.

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