Russia's Foreign Ministry said Wednesday it will expel eight Japanese diplomats, likely in retaliation against an earlier decision by Tokyo to expel Russian diplomats.

The ministry demanded that the eight diplomats leave the country by May 10, saying the administration of Prime Minister Fumio Kishida is spreading slander regarding Russia's military operation in Ukraine and taking overtly hostile policy measures which hurt the two countries' cooperative relationship built over the years.

Japan decided earlier this month to expel eight Russians, including diplomats at the Russian Embassy, amid international condemnation over the scores of civilians killed in Ukraine.

The Japanese government has declined to identify those expelled, but they did not include Russian Ambassador to Japan Mikhail Galuzin.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said when the decision was made that countermeasures by Moscow would be expected but his government will take all possible measures to protect the activities of Japanese nationals and businesses in Russia.

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