The European Union has condemned Russia’s “baseless decision” to expel 18 EU diplomats from the country, according to EU spokesperson Peter Stano in a statement issued on Friday.

“The European Union deplores the unjustified, baseless decision of the Russian Federation to expel 18 members of the Delegation of the European Union to the Russian Federation,” Stano said. “The EU diplomats in question exercise their functions in the framework of and in full respect for the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.”

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Russia’s decision, according to Stano, is a “pure retaliatory step” that will “further deepen its international isolation.”

“The European Union continues to strongly call on Russia to stop its aggression against Ukraine and to return to respect of international rules and to a cooperative approach in its international relations,” he said. 

The Russian Foreign Ministry stated in a statement that Moscow has expelled 18 members of the European Union’s delegation to Russia in response for the expulsion of 19 Russians from Brussels earlier this month.

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“Eighteen employees of the EU Delegation to Russia have been declared ‘personae non gratae’ and will have to leave the territory of the Russian Federation in the near future,” on April 15, the ministry issued a statement.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry stated that it had called EU Ambassador to Russia Markus Ederer and notified him of the retaliatory actions.

“The Russian side declared that the EU is responsible for the consistent destruction of the architecture of bilateral dialogue and cooperation that had taken decades to form,” the ministry said.

The EU diplomats must leave Russia as quickly as possible, according to the ministry.

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The EU designated the 19 Russian diplomats personae non gratae on April 5 for “engaging in activities contrary to their diplomatic status” and ordered them to leave Belgium, their host country.

Hundreds of Russian diplomats have been expelled by Western countries in response to Moscow’s unjustified invasion of Ukraine, and Russia has stated that it will reply to any such expulsions.