Germany, France expel Russian envoys after reports of atrocities in Ukraine – POLITICO

BERLIN — The German and French governments announced on Monday that they will expel a number of Russian embassy employees following reports of atrocities in the Ukrainian city of Bucha.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock directly cited the reports from Bucha as the reason for the expulsions, saying they underscored the Kremlin’s “incredible brutality” and “we must counter this inhumanity with the strength of our freedom and our humanity.”

“The government has therefore decided today to declare a significant number of members of the Russian embassy who have worked every day against our freedom, against the cohesion of our society here in Germany, as undesirable,” said Baerbock, adding that she had the Russian ambassador informs that “we will not tolerate this any longer”.

A spokesman for France’s foreign ministry did not mention Bucha in an official statement, but said France will expel “many” Russian diplomats “whose activities are contrary to our security interests.”

After Ukrainians retook towns like Bucha, near Kyiv, from Russian troops, officials and NGOs reported over the weekend that Russian troops had been massacring and raping civilians, releasing graphic images that drew international condemnation.

In response, Baerbock announced tightening sanctions against Moscow.

“We will further tighten the existing sanctions against Russia, we will significantly increase our support for the Ukrainian armed forces and we will also strengthen NATO’s eastern flank,” she said.

The reports from Bucha have sparked debate in Germany over whether the country should completely and immediately stop Russian energy imports in order to financially damage the Kremlin and send a clear signal of support for Ukraine – a move supported by both Kyiv and Ukraine also demanded by neighboring Poland.

However, Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Economics Minister Robert Habeck have so far warned that a hasty decision could trigger a massive recession in Europe and do more harm than good to all sides, although many economists and other politicians disagree.

Habeck announced on Monday that the German subsidiary of the Russian gas company Gazprom would be temporarily placed under state control if the energy conflict over the war in Ukraine escalated further.

“The government is doing what is necessary to ensure security of supply in Germany – this also includes not exposing the energy infrastructure in Germany to arbitrary decisions by the Kremlin,” said Habeck.

Also on Monday, Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier publicly said for the first time that Berlin had made a mistake by sticking with Russia’s controversial Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project for so long. Scholz changed the pipeline’s course in February, just days before Russia invaded Ukraine, and the project is now dead.

“We have held on to bridges that Russia no longer believes in and that our partners warned us about,” said Steinmeier.

Giorgio Leali contributed to the coverage. Germany, France expel Russian envoys after reports of atrocities in Ukraine - POLITICO

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