Guerre en Ukraine : les questions qui se posent après l'expulsion des diplomates français de Russie

Guerre en Ukraine : les questions qui se posent après l’expulsion des diplomates français de Russie

FOCUS – In retaliation for the dismissal of its own agents in April, Moscow on Wednesday ordered 34 French diplomats to leave Russian territory within a fortnight.

For the staff of the French Embassy in Moscow, the Kremlin’s decision came as no surprise. Following an audience with the French ambassador on May 18, Russia announced the expulsion of 34 French diplomats, ordered to leave the territory within two weeks. A response to the mid-April dismissal of 41 Russian agents in Paris, and announced together with the dismissal of 24 Italian and 27 Spanish diplomats.

Since the start of the invasion in Ukraine, diplomat against diplomat expulsions between Europe and Russia have followed one another in waves, a traditional process in the habits and customs of international diplomacy.

What is a diplomatic expulsion?

In the diplomatic rules established by the Vienna Convention in 1961, a foreign diplomat may at any time be declared persona non grata by the State to which he is accredited. Expulsion, on the other hand, falls outside the scope of international law. Concretely, the ambassador, summoned, is given a list of names accompanied by a deadline in days or weeks to leave the territory. The decision is generally followed by a measure of reciprocity.

Why is Russia responding late to the expulsion of its own agents?

This response from Moscow comes more than two months after the dismissal of 41 Russian diplomats, who had been accused of espionage by Paris. She had responded much earlier to Germany (40 German diplomats expelled on April 25) and Great Britain (23 British diplomats expelled on March 17). “Difficult to know if this delay is due to a reflection in high places in the Kremlin or to a simple bureaucratic temporalityexplains Jean de Gliniasty, research director at Iris and former ambassador to Moscow. “We can also assume, possibly, a desire to safeguard a political exchange with France, as well as Italy and Spain.“. A delay that almost began to “become inconvenient for the three countries concerned“, points out the former diplomat.

Why only 37 against 41? This difference is proportional, according to Jean de Gliniasty, to the lower the workforce of the French Embassy in Moscow. “The Russian embassy in Paris has many more diplomats than ours in Moscow, which only has around 80.“.

Who are the diplomats involved?

On the French side, the dismissals mainly affect the agents of the regional economic services, but also the chancellery (staff of the ambassador) and the military mission. The defense attaché is not concerned, nor the consulate. “It is almost certain that the list was drawn up internally, by the French embassy itself, before the Russians reworked it to their liking.», entrusts to the Figaro a diplomatic source in Moscow. For example, the attaché in charge of aeronautics, a sector subject to European sanctions, appears on the list according to The worldbut not its counterpart in charge of space cooperation.

SEE ALSO – Sweden announces the expulsion of three Russian diplomats

Why does the Élysée consider the decision illegitimate?

The decision of the Russian authorities has no legitimate basis“, reacted Wednesday the Quai d’Orsay. Yet didn’t France itself send back some 41 agents working under diplomatic cover in mid-April? Certainly, but these had a spy activity, it was then assured at the Elysée. Their identification was, it was said, the result of a long investigation by the General Directorate of Internal Security (DGSI), responsible for counterintelligence.

Regarding its own agents, Paris maintains that “Conversely, the work of diplomats and the staff of our embassy in Russia falls fully within the framework of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic and Consular Relations“.

Can an eviction be refused?

Reacting to Moscow’s decision on May 18, Spain said in a statement “to rejectthis expulsion. “Technically, I don’t see how to challenge such a decision.commented Jean de Gliniasty, recalling that a diplomat can only fulfill his functions from the moment he receives the approval of the local authorities, via the famous letter of credence. On this subject, the Vienna Convention explains in its article 9 that “if the sending State refuses to execute or does not execute within a reasonable time» the declaration of a persona non gratathe receiving State will simply refuse “to recognize the person in question as a member of the mission“.

Is this gesture new?

Diplomatic expulsions between the Franks and Russia are not new. The latest date back to the Skripal affair in 2018, this former Russian agent who took refuge in London and mysteriously poisoned with Novichok. At the time, four Russian diplomats had been expelled. “Expulsion orders are much more common than you might think in diplomatic life. Nevertheless, most of them are done discreetly, to preserve political ties. The decision takes on a completely different nature when it is accompanied by strong public repercussions», explains Jean de Gliniasty.

Reciprocal expulsions in the context of the war in Ukraine are, however, unprecedented in their scale, never seen since the Farewell affair in 1983. A double agent in Russia then provided France with a list of around fifty Russian agents, all expelled with a loud noise. “President François Mitterrand gave the affair the necessary echo to give a pledge to the Americans, worried about the strong presence of communists in his government“, emphasizes the researcher at Iris.

SEE ALSO – Ukraine: several Russian diplomats declared “persona non grata” with the EU

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