Estonian-Russian relations are far from what they could be, the outgoing Russian ambassador to Estonia Alexander Petrov said on Wednesday.
Speaking at a press conference, as a negative development, Petrov recalled the expulsion of diplomats of the Russian Federation from Estonia.
According to the ambassador, he was informed that the decision concerning the diplomats was taken by the previous Estonian government the day before the new government took office, so that the new government could start relations with Russia with a clean slate.
"Nevertheless, out of solidarity with the Czech Republic, the new government decided to declare one more diplomat of the Russian Federation a persona non grata," Petrov said, adding that at the same time, Estonia had the opportunity to follow the example of Austria, which did not expel Russian diplomats.
According to Petrov, such steps leave a deep imprint on bilateral relations.
"Of course life will neither stop nor cease because of this, but we can see that our relations are far from optimal and do not correspond to our vision of what cooperation between two neighboring countries could be," he said.
Petrov noted that during his six years as ambassador to Estonia, he tried to follow the instructions given by President Vladimir Putin in 2015 -- to develop good-neighborly and mutually beneficial relations.
Petrov added that there have also been positive moments -- in politics, economics and culture alike.
Russia's new ambassador to Estonia will be Vladimir Lipayev, who is currently deputy director of the human resources department of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Russia-Estonia diplomat expulsions
Both Russia and Estonia have expelled diplomats from each country this year. Usually, such acts are reciprocal.
In February, both countries expelled a diplomat. Former foreign minister Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa) said the decision to expel the Russian diplomat for "improper activities" was made during his term of office, which ended mid-January
In August, in response to the expulsion of an Estonian diplomat from the Russian Federation in July, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs decided to not issue a visa to a Russian diplomat.
In May, Prime Minister Kaja Kallas said diplomatic expulsions are a rather new development in Russian-Estonian relations.
Editor: Helen Wright