Russia warns of retaliation if EU curbs diplomat movements

The statement by Yevgeny Ivanov, Deputy Russian foreign minister, came after reports that some EU countries were considering limiting travel by Russian diplomatic personnel.

Russia issued a stern warning to the European Union, saying it would respond if the 27-nation bloc imposed restrictions on the movement of Russian diplomats within its territories.

The statement by Yevgeny Ivanov, Deputy Russian foreign minister, came after reports that some EU countries were considering limiting travel by Russian diplomatic personnel as part of a future round of sanctions over Moscow’s war in Ukraine.

Ivanov said that after the Soviet Union’s collapse in 1991, Russia had lifted restrictions allowing U.S. diplomats to move freely across its territory. But he said the U.S. had maintained travel limits on Russian diplomats, even as relations between the two countries improved in the 1990s.

The EU has joined the U.S. and other Western allies in imposing numerous sanctions on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. Measures have targeted Russia’s economy, its financial system, trade, companies, and individuals.

Diplomats typically retain some privileges and immunities enabling them to carry out their work, even under sanctions. But restrictions on their movements within host countries sometimes have been used in tit-for-tat retaliatory measures between nations during periods of tension or conflict.

Russia has increasingly chafed at sanctions and other punitive steps taken against it by the EU, U.S., and allies over the past 16 months. Moscow has responded by expelling scores of diplomats from European countries and curtailing their operations.

The threat of further retaliation suggests an additional flare-up in tensions over the deteriorating relationship between Russia and the West amid the war in Ukraine.

Ivanov’s comments came two days after the EU’s foreign policy chief proposed putting Russia’s Wagner mercenary group on the EU’s terror list following its short-lived mutiny inside Russia last weekend. That would have the effect of banning travel to EU countries.