Slovakia has expelled three Russian diplomats who have violated the Vienna Convention on diplomacy with their actions, the Denník N daily reported on Monday.
The Foreign Affairs Ministry did not specify the names of the people who have to leave the country by Sunday, August 16, the ministry's spokesperson Juraj Tomaga confirmed for the press.
"Moreover, there has been an abuse of the visa issued by the Slovak General Consulate in St. Petersburg, and in this connection, a serious crime has been committed on the territory of another NATO and EU member state," Tomaga told Denník N.
St Petersburg scandal
The Foreign Affairs Ministry has recently been dealing with a scandal involving Slovakia's general consulate in St. Petersburg.
Last summer, the staff of the consulate allowed a Russian citizen into the European Union, suspected of involvement in the murder of a Georgian citizen in Berlin, the media reported in early July this year.
The Russian was awarded a one-year visa even though it was under a fake identity. Foreign Affairs Minister Ivan Korčok (SaS nominee) is now sending investigators to St. Petersburg to find out whether it was a failure of the Slovak diplomats or if they directly cooperated with Russian authorities.
"I consider this a grave issue. Not just our security, but that of all Europe is at stake," Korčok said.
The minister has sent investigators to St. Petersburg to find out about the work of the consulate.
Russia to reciprocate, US applauds
Denník N reported that there are currently 45 diplomats officially working for the Russian Embassy. In addition, the embassy employs 30 more staff members who are not on the list of diplomats. At least one-third of them are supposed to be engaging in espionage, the daily wrote.
"I want to stress that we are interested in developing bilateral relations with Russia, but the activities and work of Russian diplomats in Slovakia must be in accordance with the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and with usual principles," Tomaga of the Foreign Affairs Ministry told Denník N.
Prime Minister Igor Matovič reacted with a Facebook post, saying that even though Russians are "our Slavic brothers" and Russia is a trade partner of Slovakia, sometimes a line needs to be drawn.
"Slovakia is a sovereign state, not a banana republic where we can laugh into the face of the rules of diplomacy," Matovič wrote.
When he received information about the activities of some of the Russian Embassy staff, and the confirmation that a Slovak visa has been abused to commit a murder in Germany, he said "I knew without hesitation that such actions cannot be left without consequences".
After the news about the expulsion of the three Russian diplomats from Slovakia, the Russian Foreign Ministry announced that Moscow would reciprocate, the Sme daily wrote, citing the Russian news agency TASS.
The U.S. Department of State has applauded Slovakia's action against the Russian diplomats.
"Slovakia's Foreign Ministry has sent a clear signal that it will not tolerate Russia’s politically-motivated criminal acts on Slovak soil or in Europe," the spokesperson of the Department of State, Morgan Ortagus, wrote on Twitter.