Russia has decided to expel 34 employees of the French diplomatic missions in Moscow in retaliation to a similar move by Paris, according to the country's foreign ministry on Wednesday.
Earlier in the day, the ministry summoned French Ambassador to Russia Pierre Levy to express protest in connection with the decision of Paris to declare 41 employees of Russian diplomatic missions in France personae non gratae.
"As a response, 34 employees of French diplomatic missions in Russia have been declared personae non gratae. They are ordered to leave the territory of Russia within two weeks from the date of delivery of the relevant note to the ambassador," the ministry said as quoted by Sputnik News Agency.
In April, France has expelled six Russians suspected of working as spies under diplomatic cover after the French intelligence services uncovered a clandestine operation on its territory.
"Six Russian agents operating under diplomatic cover whose activities were found to be contrary to our national interests have been declared persona non grata," the foreign ministry said in a statement, as per France 24.
It said the DGSI domestic intelligence service had revealed on April 10 after a long investigation "a clandestine operation carried out by the Russian intelligence services on our territory".
The statement did not give details on the nature of the operation.
Meanwhile, Russia will also expel 24 employees of the Italian diplomatic missions in Russia in retaliation to a similar move by Rome, Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told Sputnik today.
The ministry told Sputnik in the day that it had summoned Italian Ambassador to Russia Giorgio Starace to announce Moscow's response to the expulsion of Russian diplomats.
Russia launched its "special military operation" in Ukraine in the last week of February.
Since then, several western countries have backed Kyiv in the ongoing war and imposed several sanctions on Russia.