Since last year, Ireland has refused to issue visas to Russian diplomats, preventing Russia from replacing its embassy staff, The Irish Times reported on Feb. 10.
The newspaper also noted that Irish security services have been monitoring Russian embassy staff out of concern that they may be linked to the FSB, Russia’s intelligence agency.
Since the onset of Russia’s full-scale war with Ukraine in February 2022, the number of accredited diplomats and administrative staff at the embassy has decreased from 30 to 14. Four were expelled in March 2022 on suspicion of espionage, and two military attaches left Ireland.
“Such officers usually work closely with or report directly to Russian intelligence agencies when they are abroad,” The Irish Times said.
The newspaper added that Irish intelligence agencies suspect that the big complex on the Orwell Road in Rathgar, south of Dublin, is used as a cover for various espionage activities, including communications interception.
Before the war, Russia had one of the largest diplomatic missions in Dublin, despite minimal official contacts with the Irish government and a small diaspora in the country.
A representative of the Russian embassy confirmed to The Irish Times the reduction in the number of embassy staff and blamed it on the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs and its “unacceptable visa and accreditation policy.”
According to him, since last year, Ireland has stopped issuing new visas to embassy staff who were supposed to arrive and refused to extend accreditation for staff already in the country.
“As a result, many staff members were forced to stay in the service for a much longer period of time and then leave to Russia because of personal reasons without replacement,” the Russian embassy spokesman said.
According to him, this allegedly “has a very significant and negative impact on the work of the embassy, which includes consular assistance to thousands of Russian citizens in Ireland, as well as Irish citizens.”
The Irish Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed the reduction in accredited staff but declined to comment on the visa issue.
Diplomatic sources confirmed to The Irish Times that the department ceased issuing new visas last year due to strained relations between Ireland and Russia.
Currently, there are six Russian diplomats and eight administrative staff in Dublin, including Ambassador Yuri Filatov.
In 2020, the Irish government used national security legislation to block a building permit for the embassy’s expansion, citing fears of increased espionage threats.
According to UCD security expert Edward Burke, the downsizing of the embassy reflects a trend observed in other EU capitals. Burke explains that since the outbreak of war, Russian embassies face closer scrutiny, leading them to rely less on traditional espionage activities under diplomatic cover.
“They know that embassies are under much more intense surveillance, so they have switched to other methods,” the expert explained.
He notes that Moscow is increasingly using citizens of other countries for espionage, citing last year’s arrests in the UK of five Bulgarian citizens accused of spying for Russia.
Read the original article on The New Voice of Ukraine