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UKRAINE

Spain to take in Ukrainian refugees and send troops to Latvia

The Spanish government confirmed Tuesday it will allow in Ukrainians fleeing the Russian invasion, allowing them to access employment in Spain, as well as send another 150 troops to Latvia as part of a Nato buildup in the region.

Spain to take in Ukrainian refugees and send troops to Latvia
An elderly woman hugs a girl as refugees from Ukraine wait for a transport at the Moldova-Ukrainian border's checkpoint near the town of Palanca on March 1, 2022. (Photo by Nikolay DOYCHINOV / AFP)

Government spokeswoman Isabel Rodríguez said Ukrainian refugees would be “full citizens” from the moment they arrived in Spain, notably “in terms of access to employment”.

The European Union is mulling giving Ukrainians special status under an as yet unused 2001 Temporary Protection Directive that would allow them to live and work in the bloc for up to three years.

The directive was originally drawn up for refugees from the conflicts gripping the former Yugoslavia, with provisions for handling a massive inflow of people and measures to distribute them across the EU’s member states.

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For the tool to be used, though, a qualified majority of EU states — 15 of the 27, representing at least 65 percent of the bloc’s population — need to back it.

Rodríguez also said the right to “live and work” in Spain for those Ukrainians already here was “guaranteed”.

There are around 112,000 Ukrainians currently living in Spain, according to the INE national statistics office.

Separately, the defence ministry said Spain will send 150 additional troops to Latvia, who will join the 350 Spanish troops already there.

READ ALSO: How is Spain helping Ukraine (and is it enough?)

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UKRAINE

Russia expels dozens of Spanish and other European diplomats

Moscow on Wednesday kicked out 27 diplomats from Spain, as well as dozens more from France and Italy in retaliation for the expulsion of Russian diplomats from European countries as part of a joint action against Russia's campaign in Ukraine.

Russia expels dozens of Spanish and other European diplomats

Spain has lashed out at Russia for expelling 27 Spanish diplomats in what appeared to be a tit-for-tat response over a similar move by Madrid against Russian diplomats over the Ukraine conflict.

The employees of the Spanish embassy in Moscow and the Spanish Consulate General in Saint Petersburg “have been declared persona non grata” and will have seven days to leave Russia.

 “Russian authorities justify this decision on grounds of reciprocity for the expulsion of 27 Russian embassy officials in April. But that expulsion was based on justified security reasons, which are not present in this case,” a foreign ministry statement said.

The Spanish decision was taken in early April just days after dozens of bodies in civilian clothing were found on the streets of Bucha just outside Kyiv following the withdrawal of Russian troops, raising allegations of Russian war crimes.

At the time, the foreign ministry said it would expel the Russian diplomats on grounds they were “a threat to (Spain’s) interests and security”.

The Russian ambassador was not among those asked to leave.

The ministry told Spanish ambassador Marcos Gómez Martínez that the expulsion of Russian diplomats from Madrid “would have a negative impact on Russian-Spanish relations”.

Spain’s decision was part of a coordinated move across Europe that saw more than 200 Russian envoys sent home in 48 hours on grounds of alleged spying or “national security reasons” as outrage grew over the atrocities in Ukraine.

More European diplomats expelled

Russia’s foreign ministry said in a statement it was expelling 34 “employees of French diplomatic missions” in Russia and gave them two weeks to leave the country.

Moscow made the announcement after summoning France’s ambassador to Russia, Pierre Levy, and telling him that the expulsion of 41 employees of Russian diplomatic missions was a “provocative and unfounded decision”, the statement said.

While there was no official statement, the foreign ministry’s spokeswoman Maria Zakharova confirmed to Russian news agencies that 24 Italian diplomats had also been expelled.

The foreign ministry in Paris said France “strongly condemns” the expulsion of its diplomats by Russia, adding that this step from Moscow had “no legitimate basis”.

It said the work of French diplomats in Russia “takes place fully within the framework of the Vienna Convention on diplomatic and consular relations” — whereas Paris expelled Russian staff in April on suspicion of being spies.

‘Hostile act’

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi condemned the expulsions as a “hostile act” but said diplomatic channels must remain open “because it’s through those channels that, if possible, peace (in Ukraine) will be achieved”.

Separately, municipal lawmakers in Moscow on Wednesday backed a decision to name a previously unnamed area in front of the US embassy in Moscow “Donbas Defenders Square”.

The name refers to a majority Russian-speaking region in eastern Ukraine that Russia says it is liberating as part of its military campaign.

In February 2018, a street outside the Russian embassy in Washington was named after Boris Nemtsov, an opposition politician who was shot dead outside the Kremlin in 2015.

President Vladimir Putin in late February sent troops into Ukraine, saying the campaign aimed to stop the “genocide” of Russian speakers in the pro-Western country.

In response Moscow has faced a barrage of international sanctions and growing isolation from the global community as relations with the West deteriorate to Cold War levels.

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