Russia expels Baltic diplomats
Four Baltic diplomats, two from Lithuania and one each from Estonia and Latvia, have been expelled from Russia in retaliation for the expulsion of Russian diplomats last week.
Latvian Ambassador Maris Riekstins, Lithuanian Ambassador Eitvydas Bajarunas, and Estonian charge d'affaires ad interim Piret Reintamm Benno were summoned to the Russian Foreign Ministry on Wednesday, the Russian foreign ministry said.
"Based on the principle of reciprocity, we demanded that two employees of the Lithuanian embassy and one employee of the embassies of Latvia and Estonia each leave the territory of the Russian Federation within a seven-day period," a statement published on the ministry website said.
"Strong protest was expressed to the heads of diplomatic missions in connection with the provocative, unfounded actions to expel the employees of the Russian embassies in the Baltic states. It is indicated that Vilnius, Riga and Tallinn continue to pursue an openly hostile course towards our country, hiding in this case behind pseudo-solidarity with the indiscriminate actions of the Czech Republic towards Russia," it said.
Three diplomats from Slovakia were also expelled.
On Friday (April 23), Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania jointly expelled four Russian diplomats from their countries in solidarity with the Czech Republic. Two diplomats were expelled from Lithuania and one each from Estonia and Latvia.
The Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said at the time: "Russia's action violates international law, undermines European security & stability and is unacceptable."
Today Estonia expelled a #Russian diplomat in solidarity with the #Czech Republic following the 2014 explosion in #Vrbetice. Such Russia's action violates international law, undermines European security & stability and is unacceptable.— Estonian MFA (@MFAestonia) April 23, 2021
Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said Russia will retaliate. She told journalists: "The authorities of these countries can have no doubts about our response. Their diplomats can already start planning who among them will have to pack their things."
On Saturday (April 17), Czech authorities expelled 18 Russian diplomats accusing them of being secret agents with ties to a 2014 explosion at a munitions depot that killed two people. They also alleged that two Russian spies wanted over the 2018 poisoning of former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal in England were involved in the blast.
Moscow denied the allegations and responded by expelling 20 Czech diplomatic staff of a total of 32. The Czech government on Thursday ordered Russia to remove 63 diplomatic staff from Prague by the end of May, to create an equal number of staff in both embassies.
The Czech counterintelligence service has repeatedly warned that the Russian Embassy is being used as a base for undercover spies.
Slovakia has also expelled three diplomats in solidarity with the Czech Republic, which has called on NATO and EU allies to act in solidarity.
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Editor: Helen Wright