Sweden’s foreign minister, Ann Linde, said at a press conference that it was “clear that war crimes had been committed” in Bucha and other cities in Ukraine, and said that the pictures of dead bodies that had been circulated in recent days were “deeply shocking”.
She said the three diplomats had been chosen because “it is absolutely clear that they are involved in illegal espionage activities in Sweden”. As a result, she said they were not working in accordance with the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.
As well as expelling the diplomats, Sweden has also summoned Russia’s ambassador to the foreign ministry.
The decision makes Sweden the tenth country in the European Union to expel Russian diplomats in protest at alleged war crimes committed by Russian troops in towns and cities they have occupied in Ukraine.
Denmark announced on Tuesday that it would expel 15 diplomats involved in espionage. Germany and France have declared 40 and 35 diplomats “persona non grata”. The Netherlands, Belgium, Ireland, Estonia, Lithuania, Bulgaria, Slovakia, and Poland have all expelled Russian diplomats.
When Linde was asked why Sweden had not expelled more diplomats, when Sweden’s Säpo security police believe that a much higher number of Russian embassy staff are engaged in spying, she said that Sweden wanted to minimise retaliatory measures.
“It’s not always easy to expel diplomats, and there are always consequences for our own embassy and our own general consulate,” she said.
“We always have to balance our own interests against our judgement that it is necessary to make some expulsions. But it does not rule out expelling more in future, who also do not follow the Vienna Convention.”
At the press conference, Linde said that Sweden was working closely with its EU partners on a fifth package of sanctions against Russia, which will be be announced shortly.
“It’s a sanctions package which goes further in [limiting] Russian exports of fossil fuels,” she said. “We hope to agree to stop all coal and oil from Russia. It’s very much necessary now.”