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Russian diplomats get cold shoulder across Europe amid anger over war

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By Euronews
Russian Ambassador to Poland, Ambassador Sergey Andreev is covered with red paint in Warsaw, Poland, Monday, May 9, 2022.
Russian Ambassador to Poland, Ambassador Sergey Andreev is covered with red paint in Warsaw, Poland, Monday, May 9, 2022.   -   Copyright  Maciek Luczniewski/AP

Across Europe's capitals, Russian diplomats are getting a distinctively cold shoulder, ranging from diplomatic expulsions by governments, to protests by individual citizens and service denials by companies.

On Monday, Russia’s ambassador to Poland, Sergey Andreev, was doused with red liquid thrown in his face by a protestor while visiting a Warsaw cemetery to mark Victory Day, the day Russia celebrates its victory over Nazi Germany in World War II.

It was the latest setback for Andreev, who had already seen his embassy's bank accounts frozen, and any attempt to meet with Polish officials for diplomatic discussions turned down.

His regular barber also refused to cut his hair, while insurance companies denied coverage for embassy cars.

"We are practically isolated," he told Reuters.

Since the start of the conflict in Ukraine in February, European Union governments have expelled at least 400 Russian diplomats and support staff. Warsaw also seized a building linked to the Russian embassy, and Oslo renamed a street in front of the Russian mission "Ukraine Square".

The diplomats' tribulations are not comparable to the destruction of the war or the broader Western response, but they are a conspicuous example of the depth of feeling against the invasion and have hit home in Moscow.

Public protests have prompted Russia's foreign ministry to warn diplomats to think twice when they venture out after embassies were defaced by red paint in Rome, Sofia and Prague.

In London, protesters piled cookware and appliances in front of Russia's mission in April, in reference to reports of Russian looting in Ukraine.

"There are attacks, practically terrorist acts against our institutions and against the physical security of diplomats," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told Rossiya 24 television.

As in Warsaw, the Russian embassy in Paris has also been running low on cash, with Moscow instructing diplomats there to cut spending to a minimum, according to a diplomatic source from a country that has not imposed sanctions on Russia and continues to engage with the embassy.

In Lithuania, two main banks have or will cut money transfers to and from Russia and Belarus, and, like in Poland, insurance firms have refused to insure embassy cars.

The Russian embassy in the Lithuanian capital, Vilnius, confirmed its troubles.

"The embassy has recently been facing a number of problems in the banking and insurance sector, as well as with the fulfilment by certain companies of their obligations under existing contracts," said press secretary Alexander Kudryavtsev.

The measures have led to some retaliation from an increasingly isolated Russia, which has kicked out an unspecified number of European diplomats.

The Polish Foreign Ministry said streets have been dug up around its embassy in Moscow, and the work of the embassy and its consulates was "restricted in every way by the Russian side."

After the red paint incident on Monday, Russia's foreign ministry said it had lodged a strong protest with Polish authorities, which it accused of "practically conniving" with the protesters.

The Polish foreign ministry described the incident as regrettable, saying in a statement that "diplomats enjoy special protection, regardless of the policies pursued by the governments that they represent".

On Wednesday evening, the Polish embassy in Moscow was also sprayed with red paint in an apparent act of revenge.

Deputy Foreign Minister Marcin Przydacz told reporters that Poland expects Russia to arrest those responsible.

Additional sources • Reuters, AFP