Russia expels four Austrian diplomats

Russia has expelled four Austria diplomats alongside dozens from countries across Europe.

Four Austria diplomats serving in Russia have been expelled. Photo: Kirill KUDRYAVTSEV / AFP
Four Austria diplomats serving in Russia have been expelled. Photo: Kirill KUDRYAVTSEV / AFP

Russia on Tuesday said the diplomats were being expelled as they had suddenly been declared undesirable. 

The expulsions were in direct retaliation to the expulsion of several Russian diplomats from European countries as a result of the Ukraine invasion. 

In addition to the four Austria diplomats expelled on Tuesday, 21 from Belgium and 15 from Russia have also been expelled. 

Those expelled have been given two weeks to leave Russia. 

Under Article 9 of the Vienna Convention, countries can expel diplomats without explaining their decision.

In early April, Austria backtracked on a recent promise not to exclude Russian diplomats on the basis of neutrality, declaring four Russian representatives as “personae non gratae”. 

READ MORE: Why did Austria change policy to expel Russian diplomats?

A statement by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that the reason for the move was “the fact that their activities have not been in accordance with their diplomatic status”.

According to the Ministry, those expelled had taken actions in contravention with the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, the primary legal instrument which governs diplomatic relations between countries.  

In addition to Austria, Germany, France, Bulgaria, Montenegro, Slovakia, Poland, Netherlands, Italy and several other countries have expelled Russian diplomats since the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Austria has already stated that its “perpetually neutral” status was only regarding military activities. However, it would not stay neutral when it comes to human rights, as reported.

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REVEALED: What is Austria’s emergency plan if Russia cuts gas supply?

Amid fears about what would happen if gas supplies to Austria were disrupted, the Federal Government has put together a package of measures to create a strategic gas reserve.

REVEALED: What is Austria's emergency plan if Russia cuts gas supply?

It has been well reported that Austria is heavily reliant on Russian natural gas – but what would happen if supplies were suspended or stopped altogether?

Austria sources 80 percent of its gas from Russia, so the country would be seriously impacted if supplies were disrupted due to the war in Ukraine, a breakdown of diplomatic relations or any other unforeseen event. 

This is why the Federal Government has now unveiled a package of measures to protect Austria’s gas reserves in the event of an energy emergency.

READ MORE: ‘An unprecedented situation’: How would a gas embargo impact Austria?

What is in the package?

Energy Minister Leonore Gewessler and Finance Minister Magnus Brunner presented the plans following a meeting in the Council of Ministers on Wednesday, May 18th.

The most important points include an increase of the strategic gas reserve by 7.4 terawatt hours (TWh) to 20 TWh. This would cover Austria’s gas consumption for two winter months but the additional gas would not be sourced from Russia, according to the Kronen Zeitung

Gewessler said: “This measure will significantly reduce dependence on Russian gas.”

Increasing the strategic reserve with non-Russian supplies will reduce Austria’s dependence on Russian gas to 70 percent, Gewessler added.

Additionally, gas storage facilities located in Austria – such as the Haidach facility in Salzburg – must be connected to the Austrian gas grid. Haidach, which is supplied by Gasprom, is currently only connected to Germany’s pipeline network and has not been refilled for some time.

Finally, any unused gas in company storage facilities should be surrendered to the government if needed. Companies will be financially compensated for this.

READ ALSO: Austrian Economy Minister says gas embargo would be ‘red line’

What about next winter?

Federal Chancellor Karl Nehammer has already said that gas storage facilities in Austria have to be 80 percent full before the next autumn and winter season.

The storage level is currently at 26 percent, reports Der Standard.

Gewessler also appealed to the Austrian public to make changes to help reduce the dependence on gas for energy, calling for more gas boilers to be replaced with other heating systems.

She said: “Together we are strong and together we can achieve this feat.”

READ MORE: What would an embargo on Russian oil mean for Austria?