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Russian President Vladimir Putin meeting with his Security Council AP/PA Images
Ukraine

Germany expels Russian envoys and Lithuania expels Russian ambassador over Bucha 'brutality'

The Lithuanian Foreign Affairs Minister said it was due to the “horrific massacre” in Bucha.

LAST UPDATE | 4 Apr 2022

GERMANY HAS EXPELLED a “significant number” of Russian diplomats in what Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock called a response to the “unbelievable brutality” the Kremlin had unleashed in Ukraine.

The move, AFP has learned, involves 40 envoys and follows similar moves by European partners in recent days as a reaction to Russia’s war on its neighbour.

“The images from Bucha speak to unbelievable brutality by the Russian leadership and by those who follow its propaganda with a boundless will to exterminate,” Baerbock said, referring to the town near Kyiv where dozens of bodies were found in mass graves or littering the streets.

The Kremlin has rejected Western accusations that Russian forces were responsible.

However, Baerbock said “similar images” were to be feared “in other places that Russian troops have occupied”.

She said it was essential to “stand up for our freedom and be prepared to defend it”.

That is why the German government has decided to declare a significant number of staff of the Russian embassy, who have worked every day here in Germany against our freedom, against the cohesion of our society, as persona non grata.

Baerbock described the diplomats’ presence “as a threat” to the more than 300,000 Ukrainians “who have sought protection here” since the invasion began.

“We will no longer tolerate that – we communicated that to the Russian ambassador this afternoon,” she said.

Baerbock said Germany would take further steps “with our partners” including “imposing harsher sanctions on Russia, decisively expanding support for Ukraine’s fighting forces and bolstering NATO’s eastern flank”.

 It comes after Lithuania became the first EU member state to expel a Russian ambassador from the country since Russia invaded Ukraine in late February.

Lithuania’s Minister for Foreign Affairs announced the expulsion of the Russian ambassador on Twitter this afternoon.

“Russian ambassador was asked to leave Lithuania,” said Gabrielius Landsbergis in a tweet.

Speaking to reporters, Landbergis said that the move was due to the “horrific massacre” in Bucha.

“In response to Russia’s military aggression against sovereign Ukraine and the atrocities committed by the Russian armed forces in various occupied Ukrainian cities, including the horrific massacre in Bucha, the Lithuanian government has decided to downgrade the diplomatic representation,” said Landsbergis.

Landsbergis also confirmed that the Lithuanian ambassador to Ukraine would be returning to Kyiv after they were withdrawn due to the Russian invasion.

It comes as Russia faces increased levels of outrage due to evidence emerging of what appears to be deliberate killings of civilians in Ukraine.

Following Ukrainian forces recapturing towns and villages around the capital Kyiv, officials said that bodies of 410 civilians were found.

Associated Press journalists saw 21 bodies of civilians in Bucha, northwest of Kyiv.

One group of nine, all in civilian clothes, were scattered around a site that residents said Russian troops used as a base. They appeared to have been shot at close range. At least two had their hands tied behind their backs.

Following this, western leaders have pushed for further sanctions against Russia, with some leaders calling for a ban on Russian gas imports.

Germany’s Defence Minister, Christine Lambrecht, said that the EU needed to discuss a ban on Russian gas, however more senior German officials played down the call and indicated that an immediate ban would not be possible.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin, speaking to reporters this morning, condemned the “appalling and barbaric crimes” carried out by Russian soldiers in Ukraine.

He said that the Government would be calling for further sanctions against Russia for the killing of civilians in Bucha and Kyiv.

“We’re now looking and we would support further sanctions, which in themselves has an impact on the economy, given the appalling and barbaric crimes committed by Russian Federation troops in Ukraine, particularly in the environs of Kyiv and Bucha and other towns, where we see innocent civilians murdered, hands tied behind their backs,” Martin said.

“We cannot be blind in the first instance, to the appalling human trauma and death that is being visited upon the people of Ukraine.

“Every conceivable pressure that we can now has to be put on Russia to stop this war and stop this attack on humanity.”

Additional reporting by Press Association and AFP

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