The expulsion of Estonian diplomats from the Russian Federation in the wake of the February 24 invasion of Ukraine has made obtaining consular assistance much more complicated for any Estonian citizens in Russia who may need it, the foreign ministry says.
At present, Estonia only has a single diplomatic representation in Russia, namely the embassy in Moscow, meaning getting consular assistance is much more involved than before, when the Estonian Consulate General in St. Petersburg, and its office in Pihkva were in operation," Anna Tisler-Lavrentjev, spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told ERR.
Pihkva is the Estonian name for the Russian town of Pskov, close to the border with Estonia; Russian expelled Estonian diplomats both from there and from St. Petersburg prior to the current conflict's latest phase, which began in late February.
The foreign ministry says that falling numbers of employees at diplomatic missions has affected all EU member states and other countries.
"It must be taken into account that getting help will take more time than before," Tisler-Lavrentjev went on, citing as an example when such help is required as passport loss or theft, which would necessitate obtaining a temporary document from the foreign embassies of Estonia or of other EU countries, in order to return to Estonia.
In any case, the Estonian embassy in Moscow may be the only real option, Tisler-Lavrentjev added. Two diplomatic staff members are currently working there, she said.
Finland, Sweden, Italy and Germany all currently have consul generals in St. Petersburg, Tisler-Lavrentjev said.
The expulsion of Estonian diplomats by Russia was reciprocated; many Estonian citizens currently in the Russian Federation will be Russian-speaking Estonians. Estonia does not permit dual citizenship, meaning in theory such persons do not have Russian citizenship or that of another state.
Editor: Andrew Whyte