In view of restrictions on German diplomats and language teachers in Russia, several Russian consulates general in Germany have to close.
Berlin – In response to the expulsion of hundreds of German employees from Russia, the German government has ordered the closure of four consulates general in Germany. From the end of this year, Moscow will only be allowed to operate the embassy in Berlin and one of the five consulates general. This was stated by a spokesman for the Federal Foreign Office on Wednesday (31 May) in Berlin. The Russian consulates general are located in Bonn, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Leipzig and Munich. The spokesman stressed that it is up to Russia itself to decide which of these consulates will be preserved. This measure means that Russian nationals will have fewer contact points in Germany to apply for new passports, for example.
The Russian Embassy in Berlin. © Karl-Heinz Spremberg/Imago
Moscow threatens "appropriate response"
The Russian Foreign Ministry immediately announced countermeasures. Berlin should not believe "that these ill-conceived provocations will remain without our appropriate response," the ministry said in Moscow on Wednesday.
Earlier, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova repeatedly accused the German government of an anti-Russian policy. Not Moscow, but Berlin had begun with the "hostile actions," she told the German Press Agency.
On Saturday, it became known that numerous German civil servants will have to leave Russia, as Moscow has introduced an "upper limit" for personnel. Berlin defended the further escalation of the situation. The Russian government had "taken a step of escalation" by limiting the total German presence in Russia to 350 people. "And this unjustified decision is forcing the German government to make a very significant cut in all areas of its presence in Russia," the ministry spokesman said. The German government has decided to close the German consulates general in Kaliningrad, Yekaterinburg and Novosibirsk.
Maria Zakharova, spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry. © IMAGO/Peter Kovalev
Closure of Russian consulates in response to Moscow's behavior
"With regard to the Russian presence in Germany, our decision is reciprocal in order to ensure a balance between the two presences, both in terms of personnel and structure. That is why we have decided to withdraw the consent to operate four of the five Russian consulates general operated in Germany," the spokesman said. "This was communicated to the Russian Foreign Ministry today and Russia was requested to immediately initiate the liquidation of the four consulates general in the Federal Republic of Germany and to complete them by 31.12.2023 at the latest."
The reaction to the Russian actions had been closely coordinated in the federal government, said government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit. The German government had previously criticized Moscow's decision to introduce an upper limit for German civil servants in Russia.
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However, the federal government also indicates that an even more far-reaching escalation is not to be promoted. "From the point of view of the Federal Government, this issue has been concluded with the personnel and structural parity of the presences that has now been established," said the Federal Foreign Office spokesperson. He described the events as "regrettable" and at the same time stressed: "It is the behavior of the Russian side that has brought us into this situation."
Russia, on the other hand, sees relations strained to the breaking point. "The German government made a conscious decision to destroy bilateral relations by destroying or completely paralyzing within a few months a unique set of institutions and mechanisms for dialogue and mutually beneficial cooperation, built up by several generations of politicians, citizens and diplomats of both countries," Zakharova said. However, she failed to mention that Russia itself has declared numerous German non-governmental organizations to be "undesirable" and thus practically banned them.
Approval also from the opposition
The German decision met with approval from representatives of the coalition and opposition. FDP foreign policy expert Ulrich Lechte called this "only consistent" in the newspapers of the Mediengruppe Bayern (Thursday editions). The chairman of the European Affairs Committee of the Bundestag, Anton Hofreiter (Greens), described it as "overdue". Union foreign affairs expert Jürgen Hardt (CDU) also called the ordered closure of consulates after the expulsion of German diplomats by Russia "logical".
In the course of their severe tensions in the past, Germany and Russia had repeatedly expelled diplomats from each other. Already, the representations have been greatly thinned out, the services for German citizens are reduced or associated with longer waiting times, for example when issuing documents. The situation has worsened significantly with the start of the Ukraine war. (SKR/AFP/DPA)