BERLIN (Reuters) – Germany said on Wednesday it would close four out of five Russian consulates by revoking their licences, in a reciprocal move after Moscow’s decision to limit the number of German officials in Russia to 350.
The move marks a sharp drop in bilateral ties amid a broader breakdown in ties since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine early last year.
Russia has denounced the proposed closures as ill-considered and provocative and said it would retaliate.
The German Foreign Ministry accused Moscow of escalating tensions by imposing limits on the numbers of German officials. “This unjustified decision forces the federal government to make very significant cuts in all areas of its presence in Russia,” a spokesperson said.
The Russian government will still be allowed to operate its embassy in Berlin and one consulate general, the ministry said, but Germany expects the rest to be out of business by the end of the year.
Germany will close its own consulates in Kaliningrad, Yekaterinburg and Novosibirsk, leaving only the German embassy in Moscow and the consulate in St Petersburg in operation.
In Moscow, the Russian Foreign Ministry denounced what it described as “another unfriendly step aimed at further destruction” of bilateral relations. In a statement, she said, without elaborating, that Berlin’s actions “will not go unanswered on our part.”
Relations between Russia and Germany, once the largest buyer of Russian oil and gas, have collapsed since the invasion in February 2022 and the West responded with sanctions and arms supplies.
Germany plans to remove dozens of staff working at its missions in Russia after Moscow imposed restrictions on the numbers allowed to work in the country.
Additional reporting by Caleb Davis and David Ljungren; Writing by Frederick Heine and Mathias Williams; Editing by Madeline Chambers, Allison Williams, and John Stonestreet
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