The Irish government is refusing to allow Moscow to replace its diplomatic staff in Dublin amidst heightened espionage concerns, as reported by The Irish Times.
The considerable size of Russian diplomatic presence has long been a concern for Irish security services, which has been suspecting Moscow to have utilized its diplomatic presence as a cover for espionage operations.
Before Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, it maintained one of the largest diplomatic missions in Dublin despite limited diplomatic ties with the Irish government and a relatively small diaspora in the country.
Following Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the number of accredited diplomats and administrative staff at the Russian embassy in Dublin decreased from 30 to 14.
In March 2022, four diplomats were expelled from Ireland after Dublin claimed their activities were “not in accordance with the international standards of diplomatic behavior.”
Additionally, two defense attachés from Russia – who typically collaborate closely with or directly report to Russian intelligence agencies – departed the country.
A Russian embassy spokesman has blasted Dublin’s “unacceptable visa and accreditation policy.”
“As a result, many employees have had to significantly exceed their terms of service in Ireland and subsequently return to Russia without replacements for personal reasons,” said the spokesperson.
While the Irish Ministry of Foreign Affairs acknowledged the substantial reduction in the number of accredited Russian embassy employees in Dublin, it refrained from commenting on visa-related matters.
However, diplomatic sources indicate that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs halted the issuance of new visas to Russian Embassy staff since last year due to strained relations between the two countries.
Edward Burke, a security expert at University College Dublin, said the decrease of Russian diplomatic staff in Ireland mirrored that of other EU nations due to closer scrutiny from local security services after its invasion of Ukraine.
“They know the embassies are under much more intense surveillance, so they have shifted to other means of operating,” said Dr. Burke, adding that both Russian and foreign nationals were being increasingly utilized by Moscow in its intelligence operations, citing the arrest of five Bulgarian nationals who spied for Russia in the UK as an example.
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