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Austria expels 2 diplomats from Russia's Embassy in Vienna. An official says it's related to spying

VIENNA (AP) — Austria said Wednesday it has ordered two diplomats from the Russian Embassy in Vienna to leave the country. An Austrian official said the expulsions were related to spying activities.

The Foreign Ministry said in a brief statement that the two Russian diplomats “engaged in acts incompatible with their diplomatic status” and were declared “personae non gratae.”

It provided no further details about the diplomats or their alleged actions. They were given until March 19 to leave Austria.

An Austrian official with knowledge of the matter said the expulsions were related to spying. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the expulsions.

Russian state news agency RIA Novosti quoted the Russian Foreign Ministry as saying that “Russia will give an appropriate response to Vienna’s groundless decision.”

The Russian Embassy in Austria issued a statement on its Telegram channel saying that it is “outraged by the decision of the Austrian Foreign Ministry to declare two employees of the Russian Embassy personae non gratae.”

“As in previous episodes of expulsions, this time we were not presented with any evidence of any kind, much less evidence of a violation of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. This is a purely political decision of the Austrian authorities, which we categorically do not accept,” the statement read. “Moscow’s decisive response cannot raise any doubts. The responsibility for the further degradation of bilateral relations falls entirely on Vienna.”

Western European nations and Russia have expelled each others’ diplomats on several occasions since Moscow’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

Austria, a European Union member that has a policy of military neutrality and hosts several U.N. agencies in its capital of Vienna, was initially hesitant to take such action but has recently expelled more Russian diplomats.

It expelled four Russian diplomats in April 2022 after pressure from the public and the EU, and another four in February 2023. Before the Russian invasion of Ukraine, it expelled one Russian diplomat in August 2020.