Moscow said Thursday, Feb. 16, it was expelling four Austrian diplomats after Vienna expelled four employees of Russia's foreign missions in Austria, with tensions soaring over the Ukraine conflict.

The foreign ministry said the expulsion of its diplomats had been an "unfriendly and unjustified step" that "causes serious damage to bilateral relations, which are already in crisis due to the actions of the Austrian side".

Austria and other EU nations have expelled dozens of Russian diplomats since Moscow launched a military campaign in Ukraine, with Russia reciprocating the measures.

The ministry said it summoned Austria's ambassador to Moscow and informed him that four employees of Austria's embassy in Russia were "declared persona non grata".


They are given until Feb. 23 to leave the country.

"The ambassador's attention was also drawn to the emerging difficulties with obtaining visas for official Russian delegations travelling to Vienna," the ministry added in its statement.

Earlier in February, Vienna said it was expelling four Russian diplomats, including two accredited with the United Nations in Vienna, saying they acted "in a manner incompatible with their diplomatic status".

Austria said in response the decision "comes as no surprise."

"We regret this unjustified decision by Russia, which has no factual basis whatsoever," the foreign ministry said in a statement.

Diplomatic expulsions are rare in neutral Austria, which enjoyed close relations with Russia before Moscow's offensive in Ukraine.

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