Politicians believe expelling Russian diplomats the right call

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Urmas Reinsalu and Marko Mihkelson. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

Estonian politicians say that expelling Russian diplomats from the Baltic countries to demonstrate solidarity with the Czech Republic's reaction to Russia's involvement in a munitions warehouse explosion is the right call. They hope other countries will join the initiative for it to be effective.

Former Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa) said that Estonia's decision to expel Russian diplomats was the only conceivable move.

"The Baltics are basically a NATO peninsula and on the front line of potential hostile moves by Russia – acts of terror and other aggressive steps. This means we need to maintain 101 percent solidarity with other NATO members that come under attack," Reinsalu said.

Contrary to foreign policy expert Kadri Liik's Friday comment that the Baltics could have taken these steps in tandem with allies, Reinsalu hopes Estonia's swift action will motivate others to take similar steps.

Chairman of the Riigikogu Foreign Affairs Committee Marko Mihkelson (Reform) said that the situation is similar to the poisoning of the Skripals in Salisbury, UK in 2018. If back then, the Brits asked for shows of support and were accommodated, it is the Czech Republic asking for support today. The EU and NATO have issued joint statements, while only the Baltics and Slovakia have expelled diplomats.

"We hope that similar steps will be taken by the UK and other countries. But what the Baltics did on Friday was the only possible move," Mihkelson concluded.

MEP Marina Kaljurand (SDE) said that the Baltics and Slovakia would find themselves in a somewhat foolish situation were other countries not to join them. "It would also show that concerns by the UK merited one reaction, while those of Czechia another," she said.

Kaljurand added that European unity is important regarding this particular case and when answering Russia's aggressive behavior in general and precisely what Russia is trying to dismantle.

The Russian Embassy in Estonia said on Friday that the decision will have disastrous consequences on relations.

"These are well-worn terms by now, and the only thing left to say is that if Russia wants to avoid making such statements in the future, all they need to do is stop breaking international law," Mihkelson said regarding the embassy's words.

"A game of diplomatic table tennis will follow – we expel a diplomat and Russia will do the same. It might be the end of it or there might be other steps that will then merit another reaction," Kaljurand said.

The Czech Republic a week ago announced sending home 18 Russia diplomats following the suspected involvement of Russian military intelligence agents in a munitions warehouse explosion in 2014. Russia reacted by expelling 20 Czech diplomats that was followed by the country telling Russia to dial back the number of employees in its embassy in Prague, meaning that dozens more Russian diplomats will have to return home.

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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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