Estonia's diplomatic presence in Russia has significantly fallen this year
Tit-for-tat diplomatic expulsions have more than halved the number of Estonian diplomats in Moscow, the Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs says, as well as the closure of consulates in St. Petersburg and Pskov.
Whereas prior to the current conflict, Estonia had around a dozen diplomatic positions in place in Moscow, according to the embassy's website, there are now only five officials who have diplomatic status and who have been sent there from Tallinn, joined by a greater number of locally-hired embassy staff.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Anna Tisler-Lavrentjev told ERR that: "Currently, there are a total of 20 staff both posted and hired from the host country, working at the Moscow embassy,"
"However, this year's rotation is not over yet," Tisler-Lavrentjev added, and noted that many staff hired from the host country, for instance in tech support, are not listed on the website.
Outside of Moscow, Estonia had already closed its consulates in St. Petersburg and Pskov, the latter less than 40km from the border with Estonia, as a result of an order by the Russian Federation made in late April, to do so.
The St. Petersburg Consulate General had employed six diplomats; the Pskov Consulate, which in fact was an office of the St. Petersburg Consulate General, had half that number, Tisler-Lavrentjev said.
The Pskov Consulate was housed in a property whose lease has now expired and the premises vacated and returned to the owner; the 49-year lease on the St. Petersburg office, signed in 1994, is still valid, though the building remains empty, Tisler-Lavrentjev added. "Since the location and rent of this building are very favorable, and it would be difficult to find a new equivalent building in St. Petersburg, we have not yet terminated the current lease agreement, but we are ready to do so if necessary."
As for the reciprocal situation, the Russian Embassy website in Tallinn lists 16 staff with diplomatic status as employees, fewer people than are employed by, for instance, the Estonian Embassy in Washington.
Deteriorating relations between the Russian Federation and the West, including Estonia, began in 2021, when several diplomats were declared persona non grata by both countries.
Following the February 24 invasion of Ukraine, Estonia expelled several Russian diplomats in March and April, as did Latvia and Lithuania, to which Russia responded reciprocally, subsequently ordering the closure of the St. Petersburg and Pskov consulates, on April 21.
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Editor: Andrew Whyte