The mass expulsion of Russian officials from embassies across Europe accelerated on Tuesday amid anger over Moscow’s aggression in Ukraine and growing concerns about spies posing as diplomats.

Italy, Spain, Denmark, Sweden and Estonia announced the expulsion of a total of 80 Russian diplomats, and Germany, Poland and Slovakia have taken similar actions in recent days.

The moves bring the number of Russian diplomats expelled from the European Union since the invasion of Ukraine to at least 300, according to calculations by the Financial Times. Lithuania expelled Russia’s ambassador to the country on Monday in protest of the apparent deaths of Ukrainian civilians at the hands of Russian troops.

The massive, coordinated expulsion represents an effort to further isolate Russia internationally and will close more lines of communication between Moscow and the EU.

They also marked the largest expulsion of Russian diplomats since the poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Britain in 2018, after the West expelled more than 100 Russian diplomats at the urging of London. official.

Cumulatively, the number of Russian diplomats repatriated from Western countries in recent days far exceeds even the largest tit-for-tat expulsions that often occurred at the height of the Cold War.

The latest action against Russian diplomats comes after EU finance ministers met in Luxembourg to discuss tougher sanctions on Moscow, whose troops apparently killed Ukrainian civilians on the outskirts of Kyiv.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky began speaking to the UN Security Council on Tuesday about the alleged atrocity.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmitro Kuleba said he had spoken to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and urged him to use the mechanism “to gather evidence and hold Russian war criminals accountable.”

Rome has marked 30 Russian diplomats as undesirable, Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio said during an official visit to Berlin.

“This decision . . . is necessary for reasons related to our national security,” Di Maio was quoted as saying by Italy’s official news agency ANSA. He added that the expulsion was triggered by “the current crisis situation caused by the unjustified attack on Ukraine by the Russian Federation”.

Denmark separately announced the expulsion of 15 Russian diplomats, whom Foreign Minister Jepe Corford called “a threat to our national security”.

“It is in our mutual interest to maintain diplomatic relations, but we will not accept Russian espionage on Danish soil,” Coford tweeted.

Sweden also announced the expulsion of three Russian diplomats. “We know that every third of Russian diplomats working under what we call ‘diplomatic cover’ are actually working for one of Russia’s intelligence services,” a senior Swedish security official said last year.

Estonia said it would close two Russian consulates and expel 14 staff, seven of whom have diplomatic status, as of April 30.

In recent days, Russian diplomats have turned down their posts, including 40 from Germany, 45 from Poland and 35 from Slovakia on Monday.

The Kremlin said on Tuesday that the expulsion of Russian diplomats narrowed the scope of diplomatic exchanges during already unprecedented times, Russian news agencies quoted spokesman Dmitry Peskov as saying. He described the decisions as “short-sighted moves”.