Estonia and Latvia remove Russian ambassadors as tensions rise – POLITICO

Tensions between Russia and Baltic EU members Estonia and Latvia escalated Monday after Moscow ordered Estonia’s ambassador to leave.

Russia’s foreign ministry said it had asked Estonia’s ambassador to leave on February 7, citing “Russophobia” and Tallinn’s staff reductions at the Russian embassy in the country.

“The Estonian leadership has deliberately destroyed the entire relationship with Russia in recent years. Total Russophobia and the cultivation of hostility towards our country have been elevated by Tallinn to the rank of state policy,” the Russian ministry said in a statement.

Earlier this month, Estonia told Russia to reduce the number of diplomats in Tallinn to eight to match the number of Estonian diplomats in Moscow. That is why Russia’s foreign ministry said on Monday it would worsen diplomatic relations with Tallinn and that each country would be represented by a temporary chargé d’affaires instead of an ambassador.

Estonia responded in kind by saying that the Russian ambassador in Tallinn must also leave the country on February 7.

“Russia’s steps will not prevent us from continuing to support Ukraine, which has been fighting for almost a year for its sovereignty and the security of all of us,” Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu said. “We will continue to support Ukraine as Russia plans large-scale attacks, and we call on other like-minded countries to increase their aid to Ukraine.”

Neighboring Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs later said his country would follow Estonia and also lower the level of diplomatic relations with Russia, effective February 24, “to demand Russia to act accordingly”.

Lithuania’s Foreign Ministry expressed “full solidarity” with Estonia, saying Russia’s “baseless and unjustified” move was “a sign of sheer desperation”. Vilnius expelled its Russian ambassador in April after reports of atrocities by Russian soldiers in the Ukrainian city of Bucha.

The diplomatic spat arose when EU foreign ministers met in Brussels to discuss, among other things, Russia’s aggression against Ukraine. The three Baltic countries, along with the trio, have spoken out about demanding tougher sanctions against Russia and better aid to Ukraine insist Germany will deliver Leopard tanks to Kiev this weekend.

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