Russia has blacklisted eight officials from different European Union countries, including the head director of the Estonian Language Inspectorate (Keeleinspektsioon) Ilmar Tomusk.
The involvement of Russian diplomats in a 2014 explosion in the Czech Republic eventually led the Baltic states to expel Russian diplomats, an action to which Russia responded by expelling four diplomats from the Baltics.
The Russian foreign ministry announced on Friday that banning another eight EU officials comes in retaliation for sanctions imposed on Russian citizens in the EU in March. The Kremlin also recently placed Estonia, the U.S, the U.K, Latvia, Lithuania, Georgia, Poland, Ukraine and the Czech Republic on its "unfriendly" list.
Altogether, Russia banned three officials from the Baltic states: Ivars Abolins, chairman of Latvia's National Electronic Media Council; Maris Baltins, director of the Latvian State Language Center; and Ilmar Tomusk, head of Estonia's Language Inspectorate, Reuters reported.
The foreign ministry of Russia also banned Vera Jourova, vice president for values and transparency at the executive European Commission, David Sassoli, the president of the European parliament, Jacques Maire, a member of the French delegation at the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly, Jorg Raupach, Berlin's public prosecutor, and Asa Scott of the Swedish Defence Research Agency.
On 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 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.
Editor: Kristjan Kallaste