Russia to expel hundreds of German workers by start of June

Several hundred German civil servants and local employees of German institutions working and living in Russia will have to leave the country or lose their jobs in the next few days on orders from the Kremlin, which is drastically reducing Germany’s presence in the country.

The decision from the Russian Foreign Ministry means that from 1 June, there will be a tougher limit on the number of people Germany can send to Russia or employ there, whether in its Russian embassy or in institutions active in the fields of culture and education.

The information was revealed on Saturday by the German daily Süddeutsche Zeitung, which described the move as a “diplomatic declaration of war by Moscow” on Berlin.

The move will affect several hundred people. Among them are not just embassy and consulate officials, but employees of the Goethe cultural institute in the country, the German school, kindergartens and teachers working in Russian schools.

Both Germans and local Russian employees are affected, the ministry told AFP, without giving precise figures. While Germans will have to leave the country by 1 June, the Russians affected should not have to do so, but they will lose their jobs nonetheless.

The German Foreign Ministry described the Russian sanction as “a unilateral, unjustified and incomprehensible decision”.

Friends no more

Following a recent reduction in the presence of the Russian secret services in Germany, under pressure from Berlin, the Russian Foreign Ministry set “in April a ceiling for the number of German diplomatic personnel and public organisations” authorised to remain in Russia, the German Ministry explained.

The new sanctions come at a time when bilateral relations between Moscow and Berlin, once close, are at an all-time low.

In April, Moscow announced the expulsion of around 20 German diplomats in retaliation for a similar measure taken by Berlin. According to Süddeutsche Zeitung, Berlin has tried in recent weeks to persuade the Russian ministry to back away from the new decision, but to no avail.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has forced Germany into a painful and spectacular diplomatic and economic U-turn, after decades of relying on closer ties with Russia in both areas.

Before the invasion of Ukraine, Moscow was Germany’s main supplier of gas and a major supplier of oil. In a major Germany stopped its supplies and became one of Kyiv’s main arms suppliers, as well as one of its biggest financial supporters.

The economic damage of Russian energy sanctions and a global economy shocked by the war’s impact have together sent Germany into a recession for the first time since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.

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