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AFP
April 20, 2021

Ukraine expels Russian diplomat in tit-for-tat move

World

AFP
April 20, 2021

Ukraine’s foreign ministry on Monday said it had expelled a Russian diplomat after Moscow ordered a Ukrainian consul in Saint Petersburg to leave Russia, accusing him of trying to obtain sensitive information.

The expulsions come as tensions have soared between Russia and Ukraine in recent weeks, with Kiev accusing Moscow of massing troops on its border. "Today the Ukrainian foreign ministry sent a note declaring persona non grata one of the advisers of the Russian embassy in Kiev," foreign ministry spokesman Oleg Nikolenko told AFP.

"He must leave the territory of our state within 72 hours." On Saturday, Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) said it had a day earlier detained a consul of Ukraine’s Consulate General in Saint Petersburg, Alexander Sosonyuk. The domestic intelligence agency said Sosonyuk had been caught "red-handed" during a meeting with a Russian national as he sought to receive "classified" information. Sosonyuk was ordered to leave Russia within 72 hours.

Ukraine on Saturday made "strong protest regarding the unlawful detention" of Sosonyuk. It "completely denies the charges" brought against him, said Nikolenko. EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said Monday Russia has massed more than 150,000 troops along the Ukrainian border and in the annexed Crimea peninsula.

"It is the highest Russian military deployment at the Ukrainian borders ever," Borrell told journalists after talks involving Ukraine’s foreign minister. He refused to disclose the source of the figure.

"The risk of further escalation, it’s evident," he warned. In a statement Monday, the Ukrainian army said one Ukrainian soldier had been killed and another wounded after their positions were attacked with automatic grenade launchers.

Kiev has been battling pro-Russia separatists in eastern Ukraine since 2014. The clashes intensified early this year, shredding a ceasefire agreed last July. The conflict, which has claimed more than 13,000 lives since breaking out after Russia annexed Crimea in 2014, has seen 30 Ukrainian soldiers killed since the start of the year compared to 50 in all of 2020. The latest clash comes ahead of talks in Kiev between advisers to the heads of state of Ukraine, Russia, Germany and France set to take place Monday evening.