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UKRAINE

Italy expels 30 Russian diplomats over security concerns

Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio said on Tuesday that Rome has expelled 30 Russian diplomats as part of a joint European action after Moscow's invasion of Ukraine.

Italy expels 30 Russian diplomats over security concerns
Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio has announced the expulsion of Russian diplomats. (Photo by SHAMIL ZHUMATOV / POOL / AFP)

“We have expelled 30 Russian diplomats for national security reasons,” Di Miao told Italy’s Rai television in Berlin, in news confirmed by the ministry in Rome.

Di Maio said Russia’s ambassador to Italy, Sergey Razov, had been summoned earlier Tuesday “to notify him of the Italian government’s decision to expel” the diplomats “as ‘personae non grata'”.

The move follows the decision of France and Germany on Monday to expel a significant number of Russian diplomats in response to the aggression.

There has been outrage across Europe over killings in the town of Bucha near Ukraine’s capital Kyiv, where dozens of bodies were found in mass graves or littering the streets over the weekend.

READ ALSO: Italy slams ‘odious’ threats by Russia over sanctions

The Kremlin has rejected Western accusations that Russian forces were responsible.

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ENERGY

How long will it take Italy to wean itself off Russian gas?

Italy's government has repeatedly said it plans to end its dependence on Russia for gas supplies following the invasion of Ukraine. But as the timeline keeps changing, when and how could this happen?

How long will it take Italy to wean itself off Russian gas?

Italy is heavily dependent on Russian gas, but has been seeking new sources since Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine as part of an effort to end this reliance in the coming years.

But it remains unclear whether Italy can really end its dependence on Russia for its gas supply – or when this might be feasible.

READ ALSO: What does Italy’s Algerian gas deal mean for energy supplies?

The government has been seeking new sources since Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, including with a recent deal to boost supplies from Algeria.

Prime Minister Mario Draghi said last week the country could be independent of Russian gas by the second half of 2024 – the latest in a series of changing estimates.

“Government estimates indicate that we can make ourselves independent from Russian gas in the second half of 2024,” Draghi told the Senate, while adding that the “first effects” of this plan would be felt by the end of this year.

He said his government was also seeking to boost its production of renewable energy, including by “destroying bureaucratic barriers” to investment, saying it was the “only way” to free Italy from having to import fossil fuels.

Explained: Why and how Italy will pay for Russian gas in rubles

In April, Italy‘s Ecological Transition Minister Roberto Cingolani estimated the country would no longer need Russian gas within 18 months, following an earlier prediction that it could take until 2025.

Italy is one of Europe’s biggest users and importers of natural gas, importing 90 percent of its gas supply with 45 percent of that coming from Russia – up from 27 percent ten years ago.

Italy now imports 29 billion cubic metres of Russian gas a year, which Cingolani said in March “must be replaced” – but he didn’t specify with what.

Analysts have said there are “a lot of questions” about how helpful Italy’s gas deal with Algeria will be.

Despite its vast natural gas reserves, Algeria is already exporting at close to full capacity.

Draghi repeated his strong support for EU sanctions on Moscow last week, including a proposed ban on imports of Russian oil, although this is currently being blocked by Hungary.

“We must continue to keep up the pressure on Russia through sanctions, because we must bring Moscow to the negotiating table,” he said.

But for now, Italian energy giant Eni says it plans to pay for Russian gas supplies in rubles, meeting a demand from Vladimir Putin.

It was not immediately clear whether the plan would fall foul of European Union sanctions, although Eni said it was “not incompatible”.

The company said its decision to open the accounts was “taken in compliance with the current international sanctions framework” and that Italian authorities had been informed.

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