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Russia Expels North Macedonian Diplomat in Tit-For-Tat Response

By Vusala Abbasova October 6, 2021

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North Macedonian chargé d’Affaires Olivera Chaushevska-Dimovska has been declared persona non grata in Russia.

Russia’s foreign ministry announced Monday its decision to expel a North Macedonian diplomat.

The ministry said in a statement that it had summoned North Macedonian chargé d’Affaires Olivera Chaushevska-Dimovska to inform that she had been declared persona non grata.

“The measure is a response to the unsubstantiated decision taken by the North Macedonian side in August of this year to declare a diplomat of the Russian Embassy in Skopje persona non grata,” the statement reads.

On August 17, North Macedonia’s foreign ministry expelled the Russian diplomat - second this year - for “inappropriate” diplomatic activities, which the Kremlin dismissed as absolutely groundless claims. Officials in Skopje explained the expulsion of the unnamed Russian deputy military attaché as a measure aimed “to protect the national security of the Republic of North Macedonia as well as to protect the role and responsibility of the country as a member of the NATO alliance.”

However, Russia’s relationship with North Macedonia was frosty even before this episode. In June, Moscow took a tit-for-tat move after North Macedonia expelled a Russian diplomat a month earlier.

Skopje did not explain its decision, saying only that it was taken under Article 9 of the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, which allows any state to declare another state’s diplomat “persona non grata” without explaining.

The expulsions of Russian diplomats from North Macedonia were reportedly triggered mainly by Czech Republic’s accusations against Russia. Officials in Prague have claimed that two alleged Russian spies accused of poisoning former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal in 2018 were behind a deadly explosion at a Czech ammunition depot. The Kremlin denied the accusations and added the Czech Republic to its list of “unfriendly countries.”

In April, the Czech Republic expelled 18 Russian diplomats. When Moscow expelled 20 people from the Czech embassy in a tit-for-tat response, Prague expelled 63 more Russians, demanding that the number of diplomats in both countries was equal, and called on EU and NATO allies to follow its lead.

In solidarity with the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and three Baltic nations of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania expelled seven Russian diplomats and embassy employees, which led to a prompt tit-for-tat response from Moscow.

The expulsions came at a time when Moscow’s relations with the EU and the United States deteriorated to their lowest level since the end of the Cold War. Accusations of Russia’s alleged meddling in the 2020 US election and cyberattacks, supposed involvement in deadly blasts on Czech territory in 2014, and large amassing of Russian troops at the border with Ukraine have harmed already strained relations between Russia and the West.

Tensions between Moscow and Washington escalated in mid-April when the White House hit Russia with fresh sanctions, a move that included the expulsion of 10 Russian diplomats from the US, which further led to a prompt tit-for-tat response from Moscow.