Russia has told Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania to close their consulates in the country, a retaliatory measure after earlier moves made by the Baltic states.
Russia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs summoned the Baltic states' ambassadors on Thursday and said consulates in St. Petersburg and Pskov must close. Their non-Russian staff have been labeled persona non-grata and must leave the country.
Moscow said its decision is a response to the closure of Russian consulates, providing military aid for the "Kyiv regime" and support for "Ukrainian nationalist crimes against the civilian populations of Donbas and Ukraine", Latvian broadcaster LSM reported.
Earlier this month, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania told Russia it must shut consulates in Tartu, Narva, Klaipeda, Liepaja and Daugavpils in response to the country's invasion of Ukraine.
Minister: Not unexpected
Minister of Foreign Affairs Eva-Maria Liimets (Center) said the action was "regrettable" but "not completely unexpected" highlighting the decision Estonia made on April 5 to close Russian consulates and expel 14 members of staff.
"Estonia's decision to reduce its diplomatic contacts with Russia is the result of Russia's war against Ukraine and the horrendous crimes that have been uncovered in the areas of Ukraine occupied by Russia. It has also been established that Russian diplomats were directly and actively undermining Estonia's security in Estonia and spreading propaganda justifying Russia's war," she said in a statement.
"Our position is unequivocal – by continuing its extensive war against Ukraine, Russia is violating in the gravest possible way both international law as well as the international commitments it has voluntarily taken upon itself."
According to public data, NATO and European Union member states have expelled 480 Russian embassy staff since February 24, and additionally, Japan has expelled 8 employees of the Russian embassy.
Tit-for-tat Russian and western diplomatic expulsions have reached a 20-year high so far in 2022, the Moscow Times website reported.
Editor: Helen Wright