Denmark, Sweden and Italy to expel Russian diplomats after war crimes allegations

Speaking by video at a meeting of the UN Security Council on Tuesday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky demanded that Russian leaders and soldiers to be brought before a special tribunal to be tried “immediately” over the atrocities committed in Bucha.

“They killed entire families, adults and children, and they tried to burn their bodies,” Zelensky said. “This undermines the whole architecture of global security. They are destroying everything.”

Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, more than 100 Russian diplomats in nearly a dozen countries have been asked to leave their postings — Estonia, Latvia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Italy and Denmark were the latest to announce expulsions Tuesday. In recent years, Russian diplomats have also been expelled from several Western nations in response to the Kremlin’s actions, including hacking related to the 2016 US presidential election and after Russian ex-spy Sergei Skripal was targeted with a nerve agent in England.

Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics said his country would expel 13 Russian diplomats and staff and shut two Russian consulates. Estonia said it notified Russia’s ambassador that it would shut two Russian consular outposts and expel 14 diplomats and consular staff.

Also Tuesday, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said he had decided “to designate persona non grata a number of officials of the Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the EU for engaging in activities contrary to their diplomatic status.”

And Denmark’s Foreign Ministry said 15 Russian diplomats he accused of spying would have 14 days to leave the country. Danish Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod said the move sent “a clear signal to Moscow” that Denmark would not accept “Russian intelligence officers spying on Danish soil.”

Also on Tuesday, France’s counterterrorism prosecutor’s office said it had opened three war crimes probes concerning “acts likely to have been committed to the detriment of French nationals in Ukraine in recent weeks,” giving French courts jurisdiction.

French authorities said the incidents were believed to have occurred in Mariupol, Hostomel and Chernihiv between Feb. 24 and March 16. The presumed crimes include “deliberate attacks against civilians not taking part in hostilities,” “voluntary attacks causing psychological harm,” deliberate damage or destruction of civilian objects and property, and depriving civilians of items essential for survival.

French prosecutors had already opened an investigation last month into the death of Pierre Zakrzewski, a French-Irish cameraman with Fox News, who was killed in Ukraine on March 14.

After images from Bucha emerged over the weekend, France and other European countries agreed that stronger measures were needed to target Russia but disagreed about whether those measures should include a total ban on Russian oil and gas.

Still, Berlin moved Monday to take control of a subsidiary of Russian energy giant Gazprom, three days after the St. Petersburg-based company said it was abandoning business in the country.

The ministry said its decision to place Gazprom’s German subsidiary under the trusteeship of the government came “against a background of unclear legal relationships and follows the violation of the reporting obligation under the Foreign Trade and Payments Ordinance.” It said it was not clear who owns the two Russian firms moving to acquire and liquidate Gazprom Germania, calling that a national security risk.

The ministry said the company “operates critical infrastructure in Germany and is therefore of outstanding importance for the gas supply.”

Sammy Westfall, Emily Rauhala, Isaac Stanley-Becker and Ellen Francis contributed to this report.

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