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In tit-for-tat move, Russia expels 34 French diplomats; France strongly condemns

In tit-for-tat move, Russia expels 34 French diplomats; France strongly condemns

Moscow: In a tit-for-tat move following the expulsion of Russian diplomats from France, Moscow on Wednesday said it was expelling 34 "employees of French diplomatic missions".

In a statement issued, Russia's foreign ministry said, "Thirty four employees of French diplomatic missions in Russia have been declared persona non grata," adding that they have two weeks to leave the country weeks from the date of delivery of the relevant note to the ambassador.

Moscow made the announcement after summoning France's ambassador to Russia, Pierre Levy to express protest in connection with the decision of Paris to declare the employees of Russian diplomatic missions in France personae non gratae.

The statement noted that the expulsion was a "provocative and unfounded decision."

France in April had kicked out 34 Russians with diplomatic status as part of a broader wave of expulsions that saw more than 300 Russians sent home from European capitals.

Later that month France's Foreign Ministry declared six Russian agents posing as diplomats as "persona non grata" after an investigation by the domestic intelligence services concluded they were working against French national interests.

"It has been stressed that this step causes serious damage to Russian-French relations and constructive bilateral cooperation," the foreign ministry said.

France "strongly condemns" the expulsion of 34 of its diplomats by Russia, the foreign ministry in Paris said for its part.

Saying the step had "no legitimate basis", the ministry said in a statement that "the work of the diplomats and staff at (France's) embassy in Russia... takes place fully within the framework of the Vienna Convention on diplomatic and consular relations".

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