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Moldova expels five Russian diplomats

AFP , Monday 29 May 2017
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Moldova's foreign ministry on Monday expelled five Russian diplomats, ordering Moscow to remove them in a move that outraged the country's pro-Russian president.

The foreign ministry declared the diplomats "personae non grata," giving the relevant note to the Russian ambassador to Moldova Farit Mukhametshin Monday, a foreign ministry aide, Artur Sarbu, told AFP, without explaining why they were being expelled.

Mukhametshin confirmed that he received the note, but declined to comment further.

The move comes amid tensions between the country's pro-Russian president and his West-leaning government, and follows allegations that a Moldovan diplomat passed state secrets to an attache of the Russian embassy.

The foreign ministry's note gives the five Russian diplomats 72 hours to leave the country, Moldova's President Igor Dodon said, condemning the move by the country's EU-leaning government.

"The government has taken an outrageous act toward the Russian Embassy," he wrote on Facebook.

"I am deeply outraged of this unfriendly step by the representatives of the Moldovan diplomatic corps and I categorically condemn it."

"This was done most likely on orders from the West," he added.

"This crude step will not be left without negative consequences."

The Kremlin has yet to formally respond to the expulsions, but Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin said there would "of course be a response" from the government and that "it will be very hard".

Karasin added the move was a "gross provocation".

The names of the five diplomats have not been made public.

The news follows allegations in March that an aide to the military attache of the Russian embassy, Alexander Grudin, received secret information from former Moldovan lawmaker Yury Bolbochan.

Bolbochan was arrested in March and charged with treason after a video was published of him meeting Grudin.

Moldova, a small country wedged between Ukraine and Romania has an East-West cultural, linguistic and political split, with Dodon, elected in November, calling for closer relations with Moscow.

Dodon this year declared that he would like to cancel Moldova's EU association agreement and re-establish a relationship with Moscow, a move condemned by the country's pro-Western politicians.

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