Estonian MEP calls on EU to expel Russian diplomats

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Estonian MEP Riho Terras is campaigning for the European Union to show solidarity with the Czech Republic and to expel EU accredited diplomats. The MEP has written to EU's High Representative for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell and the letter has been signed by more than 70 people.

Terras (Isamaa) said the European Union must show solidarity with the Czech Republic. Currently, there are more than 60 accredited diplomats in Russia's permanent mission to the EU.

Terras said this step would be an important step towards improving European unity. 

"Many member states quickly backed the Czech Republic. This was a clear message to Putin's regime that he cannot wage a covert war without any consequences - European states stand together," he said. "Now the European Union as a whole, too, must stand with the Czech Republic."

Terras' letter was signed by more than 70 MEPs from six political groups and sixteen countries. The expulsion of Russian diplomats can be initiated by the Borrell and the final decision will be made by the Council of the European Union.

The letter said: "We believe that the EU cannot stand idle in the face of such aggression towards one of its Member States, and that mere verbal condemnation is not sufficient in this case. Russia's aggressive behavior, which has caused the death of two EU citizens and endangered the lives of many others, cannot remain unaddressed."

So far, Slovakia, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Romania have expelled Russian diplomats. Yesterday, Russia announced it was expelling a total of seven diplomats from Slovakia, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia in retaliation.

The full letter can be read here.

Background

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

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