A file picture shows a protest demonstration in front of the Russian embassy with pictures of President Vladimir Putin and Russian opposition activist Alexei Navalny and a Russian teapot samovar with a note reading 'Novichok tea', 'Kremlin tea' and 'from Russia with love', in Berlin, Germany, 16 September 2020. EFE-EPA/FILE/CLEMENS BILAN

Germany retaliates, orders closure of 4 Russian consulates

Berlin, May 31 (EFE).- Germany Wednesday ordered the closure of four of the five Russian consulates in the country in a tit-for-tat response to a decision by Moscow to slash German diplomatic staff and presence at public institutions in Russia to 350.

Foreign Office spokesperson Christofer Burger told reporters that his government has decided to shut down its three consulates in Russia’s Kaliningrad, Yekaterinburg, and Novosibirsk.

To begin with, he said, Germany would reduce the services at the three consulates significantly before a complete shutdown in November.

The move leaves Germany with two missions in Russia – the embassy in Moscow and the consulate general in St. Petersburg.

Burger said the decision reciprocally applied to the Russian presence in Germany to create a “parity of personnel and structures” of diplomatic ties between the two countries.

“We have decided to withdraw our authorization for the operation of four of the five Russian consulates general in Germany,” he said, leaving it for Moscow to decide which four consulates it wants to close.

Russia has consulates in Bonn, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Leipzig, and Munich and an embassy in Berlin.

The spokesperson said the German government communicated the decision to the Russian foreign ministry on Wednesday.

He said Berlin urged Moscow to begin reducing the number of its officials to conclude the process no later than Dec.31.

The spokesperson said the German government wanted to ensure “minimum presence” in Russia and also maintain its diplomatic presence there.

Asked about the prospects of reopening the consulates, Burger said, “Currently, unfortunately, events are going in exactly the opposite direction.”

He said the move to reduce the diplomatic and consular presence was regrettable, “but it is the behavior of the Russian side that has brought us into this situation.” EFE

Diplomatic ties between Russia and Germany have deteriorated after the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February last year.

The war significantly reduced diplomatic activities between Moscow and Berlin.

In April this year, Germany expelled some Russian diplomats ostentatiously to reduce the presence of intelligence services.

The move prompted Moscow to force some 20 German embassy staff out of the country.

Russia then set a limit for the number of German diplomats and representatives allowed to stay in the country.