Russia to retaliate over Irish diplomat expulsion

2nd February 2011, Comments 0 comments

Russia will take retaliatory measures after Ireland's "unfriendly" expulsion of a Russian diplomat in a fake passports scam linked to last year's US spy scandal, a top official said on Wednesday.

"This is an unfounded and unfriendly act, which of course will not go without a corresponding reaction," Deputy Foreign Minister Vladimir Titov told the Interfax news agency.

The foreign ministry official did not give further details but it is common in such situations for Russia to demand that a diplomat of similar rank from the country concerned leaves Moscow.

Such tit-for-tat explusions are normally only announced once the person has left the country.

Ireland expelled a Russian diplomat Tuesday after an investigation found Moscow had stolen the identities of six of its citizens to use for spies' passports, the Irish foreign ministry said.

Irish police launched the investigation last year following the discovery of a Russian spy ring in the United States, after US authorities alleged that at least one of the spies had travelled on an Irish passport.

Among the Russians was Anna Chapman, a seductive redhead who became a star due to the scandal, posing on the cover of Maxim magazine and engaging in publicity stunts such as sending off cosmonauts from the Baikonur cosmodrome.

Quoting police sources, The Irish Times said Ireland had concluded that a Russian agent based in Dublin had gathered details from Irish passports that were then effectively cloned in Russia for the US-based spies.

Passports belonging to a married couple from Donegal and a female volunteer with the Irish charity To Russia With Love were among the six implicated, it said.

In a statement, the Irish foreign ministry said it had told the Russian ambassador that Moscow's actions were "not the behaviour the government would expect from a country with which we have friendly relations".

But it also said the expulsion was "regrettable" and expressed the hope that the incident would not damage Ireland's ties with Russia, which it described as "fundamentally strong" and having "significant potential".

© 2011 AFP

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