Russia said on Thursday (February 18) it will expel an Estonian diplomat after Estonia asked a Russian embassy official to leave the country. The Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has not commented on the situation.
Moscow will expel an Estonian diplomat, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Thursday. She said that one Estonian diplomat was declared persona non grata in response to the expulsion of the Russian diplomat from Estonia.
"Maybe the Estonian government that took office recently wanted to demonstrate its loyalty to Washington and Brussels by declaring, absolutely groundlessly, a diplomat working at the Russian embassy a persona non grata. The Russian reaction did not have to be waited for long. The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs summoned the ambassador of Estonia, a protest was expressed to him over the behavior of the Estonian government, and he was notified of the expulsion of a diplomat of the Estonian embassy," Zakharova said.
She said the expulsion of the Estonian diplomat was not an initiative of Russia but a response to the decision of the Estonian authorities to expel a Russian diplomat.
The Russian embassy employee was engaged in cultural and educational issues, RIA Novosti news portal reported (link in Russian).
The Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs told ERR it could not comment on the expulsion of either diplomat.
Former foreign minister Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa) said the decision to expel the Russian diplomat was made during his term of office, which ended mid-January, ERR's Estonian language portal reported.
"The diplomat was expelled for improper activities in the host country and unfortunately this is not a precedent in recent history. International practice is that the sending country of the diplomat responds with a symmetrical step. Estonia is an independent country and must defend its sovereignty comprehensively," Reinsalu said.
Earlier this month, Russia expelled a diplomat each from Germany, Poland and Sweden.
Editor's note: This article was updated to add additional quotes from Maria Zakharova.
Editor: Helen Wright