Russia expressed “surprise and regret” yesterday in connection with a decision by Swiss authorities to expel a Russian diplomat for alleged espionage activities. The unidentified diplomat was reported by Swiss media to have been a staff member of the Russian mission to Geneva-based United Nations and other international bodies. The same sources said that the diplomat–said by some to have been connected to Russian military intelligence–had been accused of receiving information from a Slovak diplomat about NATO enlargement plans. He was reportedly declared persona non grata and barred from reentering Switzerland for fifteen years. The events in question–including the diplomat’s departure from Switzerland–took place more than a month ago.
The dissatisfaction expressed yesterday by Russia’s Foreign Ministry was apparently related not so much to the diplomat’s expulsion as to information about it winding up in the hands of the Swiss media and now being made public. The ministry claimed to have received earlier assurances from the Swiss that the incident would remain under wraps. This was apparently related, at least in part, to the imminent arrival of Russian Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov in Geneva for a June 3 meeting of the five established nuclear powers. Discussion at that meeting was to focus on developments in South Asia.
Russian diplomatic sources indicated yesterday that Moscow was undecided over whether to take retaliatory action against Switzerland because of the incident. They also indicated that Moscow believes an unidentified “third country” may have asked the Swiss to expel the Russian diplomat. More darkly, Russian diplomatic sources intimated that the incident may reflect an inability by the Swiss to ensure proper working conditions for diplomats attached to international bodies in Switzerland. The expulsion, they said, also raises questions about Switzerland’s neutral status. (Itar-Tass, June 21; Russian agencies, Xinhua, June 22)
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