"The European Union regrets the unjustified and unfounded decision of the Russian Federation to expel 18 members of its delegation," said a spokesman for the Union's High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy, Josep Borrell, in a statement.

The expulsion of the officials follows a similar measure taken by Brussels following the military invasion of Ukraine, although, he notes, the diplomats in question carry out their duties “with full respect” for the Vienna Convention, which governs diplomatic relations.

“The decision of the Russian authorities has no foundation, other than that it is a pure measure of reprisal”, pointed out the spokesman, stressing that the path chosen by Russia “will deepen its international isolation even further”.

He also recalled that the EU continues to appeal to Russia to put an end to its aggression against Ukraine and “to return to respecting international standards, adopting a cooperative approach in its international relations”.

The 18 employees of the EU representation in Russia were declared 'persona non grata' in response to "the unfriendly actions of the European Union, and they will have to leave Russia soon", according to the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.