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US expels 12 suspected Russian spies from UN

US President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin (Adam Schultz/White House) | Russian President Vladimir Putin during virtual meetings on March 18, 2021. (Kremlin/Released)
March 01, 2022

President Joe Biden’s administration ordered the expulsion of 12 members of Russia’s mission to the United Nations on Monday, alleging those Russian officials had engaged in espionage. Russia has since responded to the expulsion, calling it a hostile act.

In a statement released on Monday, the U.S. Mission to the U.N. announced, “The United States has informed the United Nations and the Russian Permanent Mission to the United Nations that we are beginning the process of expelling twelve intelligence operatives from the Russian Mission who have abused their privileges of residency in the United States by engaging in espionage activities that are adverse to our national security. We are taking this action in accordance with the U.N. Headquarters Agreement. This action has been in development for several months.”

The statement of the U.S. Mission to the U.N. did not specify what espionage actions the U.S. side suspected the 12 Russians of carrying out.

Reacting to the expulsion announcement, Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Anatoly Antonov told reporters, “These acts of the administration stir up feelings of deep disappointment and complete rejection.”

“The US government again violated its commitments to provide normal work conditions for representative offices of foreign states under the global organization,” Antonov added. “Russian diplomats were hit again. This is a hostile move against our country.”

First Deputy Permanent Representative of Russia to the U.N. Dmitry Polyanskiy also tweeted, “This is utmost disrespect by [U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield of Host Country agreement which will not remain without consequences. Appealing to diplomacy and in parallel expelling diplomats is a weird US logic. Enacting of Arbitration by [U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres] is a logical and long overdue step.”

The expulsion comes just days after Russian President Vladimir Putin signed documents signifying Russia’s recognition of the sovereignty of two separatist areas of eastern Ukraine. Shortly after recognizing the sovereignty of the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR or DPR) and the Luhansk People’s Republic (LNR or LPR), Putin ordered Russian troops to cross into Ukraine under the pretense of protecting those separatist areas from a Ukrainian attack. Just two days later, Putin ordered a full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

The expulsion came on the same day that the U.N. General Assembly held a special session to discuss the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine. During the session, Assembly President Abdulla Shahid, of the Republic of Maldives, said Russia’s invasion is inconsistent with the U.N. charter’s call for nation’s to resolve disputes by peaceful means.

“It is an affront to the founders of this Organization and everything it stands for,” Shahid said. “The violence must stop. Humanitarian law and international humanitarian law must be respected. And diplomacy and dialogue must prevail.”