BERLIN — The German and French governments announced on Monday they would expel a number of Russian embassy staff following reports of atrocities in the Ukrainian town of Bucha.
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock cited Bucha’s reports directly as the reason for the expulsions, saying they highlighted the “incredible brutality” of the Kremlin and that “we must counter this inhumanity with the force of our freedom and our humanity”.
“The government has therefore decided today to declare undesirable a significant number of members of the Russian embassy who worked here in Germany every day against our freedom, against the cohesion of our society,” Baerbock said, adding that she had informed the Russian ambassador. that “we will not tolerate this any longer”.
A French foreign ministry spokesperson did not mention Bucha in an official statement, but said France would expel “many” Russian diplomatic personnel “whose activities are contrary to our security interests.”
After Ukrainians reclaimed towns like Bucha around kyiv from Russian troops, officials and NGOs reported over the weekend that Russian forces massacred and raped civilians, spreading graphic images that have been internationally condemned .
Baerbock promised that sanctions against Moscow would be tightened in response.
“We will continue to strengthen the existing sanctions against Russia, we will decisively increase our support for the Ukrainian armed forces and we will also strengthen NATO’s eastern flank,” she said.
Bucha’s reports have intensified the debate in Germany over whether the country should completely and immediately end Russian energy imports to financially harm the Kremlin and send a clear sign of support for Ukraine – a decision demanded both through kyiv and neighboring Poland.
However, Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Economy Minister Robert Habeck have so far warned that a rash decision could trigger a massive recession in Europe and could do more harm than good to all parties, although that many economists and other politicians disagree.
Earlier on Monday, Habeck announced that the German subsidiary of Russian gas company Gazprom would be temporarily placed under state control amid a further escalation in the energy conflict surrounding the war in Ukraine.
“The government is doing what is necessary to ensure security of supply in Germany – this includes not exposing energy infrastructure in Germany to arbitrary decisions by the Kremlin,” Habeck said.
Also on Monday, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said publicly for the first time that Berlin had made a mistake in sticking with the controversial Russian gas pipeline project Nord Stream 2 for so long. Scholz reversed course on the pipeline in February just days before Russia invaded Ukraine, and the project is now dead.
“We clung to bridges that Russia no longer believed in and that our partners had warned us against,” Steinmeier said.
Giorgio Leali contributed reporting.
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