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Germany shuts Russian consulates

By CHEN WEIHUA in Brussels | China Daily Global | Updated: 2023-06-02 09:39

Relations between Russia and Germany hit a new low on Wednesday when Berlin ordered the closure of four Russian consulates in the country to retaliate against Moscow's move to limit the number of German officials working in Russia.

Russia slammed Germany's decision as "ill-thought-out provocative actions" and vowed to respond.

"There should be no doubt in Berlin that these ill-thought-out provocative actions will not remain without our proper reaction," the Russian Foreign Ministry said.

The tit-for-tat move came after Russia set a limit for the number of staff at the German embassy and related bodies in Russia at 350. Those include Germans working in cultural and educational entities such as the Goethe Institute.

German Foreign Ministry spokesman Christofer Burger said the measure was intended to create a "parity of personnel and structures" between the two countries.

He said Russia would be allowed to continue operating the embassy in Berlin and one consulate in another city after the end of the year. Russia has five consulates in Bonn, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Leipzig and Munich.

Burger said the Russian decision earlier means that Germany would have to close its consulates in Yekaterinburg, Novosibirsk and Kaliningrad by November. Only the German embassy in Moscow and the consulate in St. Petersburg would remain open.

Regrettable move

He said that Germany's counterstroke move was regrettable but the Russia-Ukraine conflict meant there was "simply no basis "for numerous bilateral activities anymore.

He added that Germany's decision to concentrate its remaining staff in the embassy and a key consulate would "preserve the diplomatic presence in Russia".

In April, Moscow expelled 40 German diplomats to retaliate Berlin's decision to expel 40 Russian diplomats. The two countries had deep economic and cultural links before the Russia-Ukraine conflict started in February 2022.

In the United States, President Joe Biden approved a new package of military aid for Ukraine that totals up to $300 million and includes additional munitions for drones and an array of other weapons. It comes as Russia has continued to strike Ukraine's capital and unmanned aircraft have targeted Moscow.

US officials have said there is no suggestion that US-made drones or munitions were used in the Moscow strikes, which the Kremlin blamed on Ukraine but Kyiv has not acknowledged.

The new aid package provides munitions to boost Ukraine's air defense capabilities to fend off Russia's airstrikes on Kyiv. It provides munitions for Patriot missile batteries and High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, or HIMARS, as well as Avenger and Stinger air defense systems.

In another development, the governor of Russia's Belgorod region said on Thursday that Ukrainian forces had shelled the border town of Shebekino, setting one residential building in the town ablaze. Vyacheslav Gladkov said the attacks had also damaged the local administration building and injured a resident.

Agencies contributed to this story.

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