EU orders 19 Russian diplomats to leave Belgium

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European Union flags flutter outside the EU Commission headquarters in Brussels, Belgium May 5, 2021. REUTERS/Yves Herman/File Photo

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BRUSSELS, April 5 (Reuters) - The European Union has declared 19 Russian diplomats personae non gratae for "engaging in activities contrary to their diplomatic status" and ordered them to leave host nation Belgium, the bloc said, joining EU members in expelling envoys.

"Based on the decision by High Representative Josep Borrell, 19 members of the Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the EU in Brussels have been declared personae non gratae for engaging in activities contrary to their diplomatic status," the bloc said in a statement.

The decision to revoke the immunity of the diplomats at Russia's mission to the EU follows similar decisions by a host of EU countries, including France, the Netherlands, Sweden, Belgium and Spain, accusing envoys of spying. read more

The EU said its decision was also in protest at reports of civilian killings in Ukrainian towns that were under Russian control since Moscow's Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine. The EU said they were "atrocities." Moscow says they were staged by Kyiv.

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Reporting by Robin Emmott, editing by Marine Strauss

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