Russia Monitor is a review of the most important events related to Russian internal and external security, as well as its foreign policies.
Date: 25 August 2020
European Countries Expel Russian Diplomats
In just a few days in August, Norway and Slovakia –– two NATO countries –– expelled Russian diplomats linked to espionage activities or those who had served as intelligence officers themselves. The latter country asked the Russian diplomatic staff to leave amidst the high-profile murder of a Georgian man of Chechen descent in Berlin back in August 2019.
Norway has expelled a Russian diplomat linked to the case of a Norwegian national recently arrested on espionage charges. The Norwegian Foreign Ministry summoned the Russian ambassador to notify him that the diplomat had been asked to leave the country because of his actions being not compatible with his role and status as a diplomat. The diplomat in question was in fact an intelligence officer. Just a few days before, Norway’s PST intelligence agency had arrested an Indian-born Norwegian national while he was meeting a Russian intelligence officer at an Oslo restaurant. The Norwegian broadcaster NRK identified him as 50-year-old Harsharn Singh Tathgar. During interrogation, the suspect reportedly admitted to handing over information to and receiving money from the Russian diplomat. Though Oslo has not named the diplomat, he is said to have worked in the trade section of the Russian Embassy. Tathgar used to work as a project manager in the oil and gas department of DNV GL, the Norway-based world’s largest classification society that advises the maritime, oil and gas, and renewable energy industries. A few days before, Slovak authorities confirmed that three Russian diplomats were to be expelled from the country as their activities had been in contradiction with the Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations. The reason for the expulsions remains obscure. Many signs are that this was about any activities that allowed a Russian spy involved in the killing of Zelimkhan Khangoshvili, a Georgian citizen of Chechen descent, in Berlin in August 2019, with an abuse of Slovak visas cited as possible reason. Russia has 75 diplomatic and consular staff in Slovakia, which is more than the United States and China. Back in 2018, Slovakia expelled Alexander Vinogradov, Russia’s military attaché and an alleged GRU officer.
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