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Germany orders closure of 4 out of 5 Russian consulates

May 31, 2023

Germany says it has told Russia to close four out of five consulates in Germany. The retaliatory move comes after Moscow set a limit to the number of German embassy staff and related bodies.

The front of the Russian Consulate in Munich, Germany, which was the target of a paint attack last year
The German move means all but one Russian consulate will closeImage: Sachelle Babbar/ZUMA Press/picture alliance

The German Foreign Ministry on Wednesday announced that Berlin was revoking the licenses of four of the five Russian consulates in a retaliatory measure against Moscow.

The move comes after the Russian government set an upper limit of 350 for the number of German government officials, including those working in cultural institutions and schools, who can stay in Russia.

Moscow decried Germany's decision as an "ill-thought out" move and vowed a response. "There should be no doubt in Berlin that these ill-thought out provocative actions will not remain without our proper reaction," the Russian Foreign Ministry said.

What's behind the decision?

A German Foreign Ministry spokesman told reporters that the measure was intended to create a "parity of personnel and structures" between the two countries.

The spokesman said Russia had "taken a step of escalation" in limiting the German presence. "This unjustified decision is forcing the German government to make a very significant cut in all areas of its presence in Russia," he said.

After the end of the year, Russia will only be allowed to continue operating the embassy in Berlin and one further consulate.

 "This was communicated to the Russian Foreign Ministry today," the official added. He said, that while the move was regrettable, the Ukraine war meant there was "simply no basis" for many bilateral activities between the two countries.  

Gay activist flees Russia for Germany

On Saturday, Germany's Foreign Ministry said hundreds of civil servants and local employees working for German institutions in Russia would need to leave the country or lose their jobs. 

Several hundred people were affected. While the order applied to consulate and embassy officials, most of those impacted are employees of the Goethe cultural institute, plus German schools and nurseries.

Moscow's decree means that the German consulates in Kaliningrad, Yekaterinburg and Novosibirsk will be closed, leaving only the German embassy in Moscow and the consulate in St Petersburg in operation.

The move reflects the further souring of relations between Moscow and Berlin since Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

rc/kb (Reuters, AP)