Colombia Expels Russian Diplomats for Alleged Espionage

Russia expelled two Colombian diplomats Wednesday after the Latin American state made a similar move against two Russian officials at the embassy in Bogotá, Reuters reported. The Colombian government ordered the departure of two Russian diplomatic officials this month over their alleged involvement in espionage activities.

The Colombian Foreign Ministry announced that “[t]he national government made the decision to request the withdrawal of two Russian diplomatic officials accredited in Colombia, after verifying that they were developing activities in the country incompatible with the provisions of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations,” according to Runrunes, Venezuelan online news portal.

Alexanders Paristov and Belousov were at the Bogotá embassy for roughly two years and reportedly involved in recruiting sources for Russian intelligence while gathering military, economic, and mineral information in Colombia. The director of Migration Colombia, Juan Francisco Espinosa, confirmed Paristov and Belousov “left the country on December 8.”

The Kremlin decried the expulsions as “groundless” and targeted two Colombian diplomats in “reciprocity,” Russian state media outlet Tass reported Wednesday.

“The Russian Foreign Ministry summoned Colombian Ambassador Alfonso Lopez Caballero on December 22 to protest against Colombia’s groundless decision to expel two diplomats from the Russian embassy in Bogota. The move runs counter to the traditionally friendly and mutually respectful relations between Russia and Colombia,” a statement from the Foreign Ministry read.

“The ambassador was informed that given the reciprocity principle, the Russian side declares personae non gratae two staff members of the Colombian diplomatic mission in Moscow,” it continued.

Earlier, the head of Colombia’s migration service, Juan Francisco Espinosa Palacios, said two staff members of the Russian embassy left the country on December 8. According to the Foreign Ministry of Colombia, their actions violated the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.

It remains unclear if Russia has selected two specific Colombian officials to dub “personae non gratae” or if the move is symbolic, with perhaps a door guard and janitor being ousted to satisfy an equal exchange of bodies, rather than senior diplomats.

Colombia has tense relations with its neighbor Venezuela, a socialist dictatorship under Nicolás Maduro, which has suppressed democratic freedoms and driven its people into poverty and starvation. Russia has previously sought to use the Venezuelan regime as a springboard to expand its influence in the Caribbean, to the consternation of the U.S. and other nations in Latin America.