MOSCOW ( Associated Press) — Russia and Estonia retaliated Monday by expelling the other country’s ambassadors and announcing their diplomatic delegations would be left in charge d’affaires.
In a show of solidarity with its Baltic neighbour, Latvia announced it would also downgrade diplomatic ties with Moscow from 24 February.
The Russian Foreign Ministry summoned the Estonian ambassador, Margus Lidre, and ordered him to leave the country by 7 February.
In its statement, the Russian Foreign Ministry indicated that Estonia’s diplomatic representation would be reduced to only one chargeable affairs.
The decision was taken in retaliation for “new hostile measures to drastically reduce the Russian embassy in Tallinn,” the ministry said.
In response, Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Rinsaalu said that the Russian ambassador would also leave by 7 February in accordance with the “principle of equality”.
Latvia followed suit later on Monday. Latvian Foreign Minister Edgar Rinkevics said on Twitter that “in solidarity with Estonia, Latvia will downgrade the level of diplomatic relations with Russia from 24 February, demanding that Russia act accordingly.”
Estonia’s foreign ministry earlier this month ordered Russia to reduce the number of its embassy to eight diplomats and 15 administrative, technical and service staff by February 1 to “achieve parity with embassy staff”.
EU member Estonia has reduced its bilateral ties with Moscow to an “absolute minimum” since the Kremlin sent troops to Ukraine, Rinsalu said in a statement on January 11. “Now we set a limit on the number of Russian diplomats working in Estonia in order to achieve parity. Today’s measure corresponds to a generally low level of our relations,” he said.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said on Monday that “the Estonian government has deliberately destroyed the entire chain of relations with Russia.”
“Total Russophobia, blatant hostility towards our country has been raised by Tallinn to the level of state policy,” the statement said.