Moscow has vowed a proportionate response to the move
Vienna has revoked the diplomatic status of four Russian representatives and ordered them to leave Austria within one week, the country's foreign ministry announced in a statement on Thursday.
Two of the diplomats being expelled are members of Moscow's permanent mission to the UN in Vienna, while the other two are employees of the Russian embassy. According to the Austrian MFA, the embassy staff were found guilty of committing actions "inconsistent with their diplomatic status" and declared persona non grata. Members of the mission allegedly violated the "headquarters agreement," it claimed.
Russia's ambassador in Vienna, Dmitry Lyubinskiy, has stated that the Austrian authorities have yet to explain what exactly the diplomats did to earn the expulsion and have not presented any specific charges other than "vague references to the opinion of special services."
Meanwhile, Russia's Foreign Ministry has told the media that it intends to have an "appropriate response," which likely means it plans to expel an equal number of diplomats from Vienna's embassy in Moscow.
Back in April, Austria made a similar move and expelled four Russian diplomats, again accusing them of committing actions "incompatible with their diplomatic status." In response, Russia also declared four employees of the Austrian embassy in Moscow persona non grata.
Lyubinskiy says that last year's exchange happened just 24 hours after he met with Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg, who assured him that Vienna would not unreasonably expel Russian diplomats.
The latest expulsion of Russian diplomats from an EU state comes just one day after Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis suggested that all European countries should kick out their Russian ambassadors as there is "little point left in keeping" them. He claimed that Russian embassies were no longer diplomatic institutions, but "institutions of propaganda" that "promote genocide." Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia have already expelled their Russian ambassadors and lowered the level of diplomatic relations with Moscow.
The West and Russia have been in a sort of "diplomatic war" and have mutually expelled a number of diplomats since February last year, when Moscow launched a military operation in Ukraine.