TBILISI, March 29. /TASS/. Georgia has decided to expel one Russian diplomat, a staff member of the Russian Interests Section at Switzerland’s Embassy in Tbilisi, the country’s Foreign Ministry said on Thursday.
"The Foreign Ministry expresses solidarity with the United Kingdom, and shares the stance of the UK and international community on this issue and therefore declares undesirable the presence in Georgia of one staff member of the Russian Interests Section at Switzerland’s Embassy in Tbilisi," it said in a statement.
The Georgian Foreign Ministry has ordered the Russian diplomat to leave the country within seven days.
On March 26, the United States announced its decision to expel 60 Russian diplomats and close the Russian Consulate General in Seattle. Twenty-four European countries, Canada and Australia also decided to expel a total of 62 Russian diplomats. NATO reduced the number of staff members of the Russian mission from 30 to 20. The EU recalled its ambassador for consultations, and Bulgaria, Luxembourg, Malta, Portugal and Slovakia followed suit.
The UK earlier expelled 23 Russian diplomats and Moscow announced a tit-for-tat move.
This concerted action came amid the poisoning of former Russian military intelligence officer Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, in Salisbury, the UK, on March 4. London immediately accused Russia of being involved, but failed to provide any evidence. Moscow has rejected the allegations and vowed to respond to the unfriendly steps against it.
On September 2, 2008 Tbilisi announced severing diplomatic relations with Moscow after Russia had recognized the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. The Georgian Foreign Ministry said it would keep consular relations with Russia. The Russian Interests Section employing Russian diplomats has been operating at the Swiss Embassy in Tbilisi since March 2009, and a similar Georgian section was established at the Swiss Embassy in Moscow with Georgian staff members.
In November 2012, Georgia’s then Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili established an office of prime minister’s special envoy for relations with Russia and appointed diplomat Zurab Abarshidze, Georgia’s former ambassador to Russia in 2000-2004, to that post.
In December 2012, Abashidze held his first meeting with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin in a Geneva suburb. Further meetings were held in Prague, and the latest one took place on January 31, 2018. Such meetings focus on issues of cooperation in the areas of trade, economy, transport and culture.