Austria expels four Russian envoys for breaching international agreements

VIENNA (Reuters) - Austria is expelling four Russian diplomats for behaving in a manner inconsistent with international agreements, a reason often invoked in spying cases, the Austrian Foreign Ministry said on Thursday without giving specifics.

Two of the four diplomats declared personae non gratae and ordered to leave the country by Feb. 8 at the latest are stationed at the Russian Embassy to Austria while, the other two work at the Russian mission to the United Nations in Vienna, the ministry said in a statement.

"Two diplomats at the Russian embassy have acted in a manner inconsistent with their diplomatic status. They were therefore declared unwelcome persons (personae non gratae) in accordance with Article 9 of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations," the ministry said.

The two working at the Russian mission to the U.N. acted in a way that was inconsistent with the host country agreement between the United Nations and Austria, it added.

The ministry did not say specifically what any of the diplomats had done, and a spokeswoman declined to comment.

Vienna is a major diplomatic centre hosting both the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and United Nations organisations such as the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Larger countries like Russia and the United States often have separate ambassadors to Austria, the OSCE and the U.N. organisations, each running an embassy or permanent mission.

The city, which was divided into Allied sectors after World War Two, also has a long-standing reputation as a den of spies. The large diplomatic presence offers the opportunity to station intelligence agents there under a diplomatic cover granting them diplomatic immunity.

(Reporting by Francois Murphy; Editing by Alison Williams and Hugh Lawson)

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