Estonia tells Russia to reduce embassy staff by half
Estonia has told Russia to reduce the number of staff at its embassy in Tallinn by more than half, said Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa) on Wednesday. Thirteen diplomats and eight posted administrative, technical and service staff members will return to Moscow.
Estonia notified the Russian ambassador on Wednesday that the embassy in Tallinn must reduce the size of its staff by February 1, Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa) said at a press conference.
The aim of the decision is to reach parity in embassy staff, meaning the number of positions in the Moscow and Tallinn representations will reciprocally be made equal.
"Estonia considers the principle of parity very important in our relations with Russia," the minister said.
"Considering that, in light of this war of aggression, the Russian Embassy is not engaged in promoting Estonian-Russian relations, we believe that its (current) size is not justified," he added.
"Since the start of the war, Estonia has reduced its bilateral relations with the Russian Federation to the absolute minimum. In the spring, we closed Russia's consulates in Narva and Tartu and we have expelled three members of the Russian embassy's diplomatic staff, who were actively undermining Estonia's security and spreading propaganda justifying Russia's military actions," said Reinsalu.
"Now we are setting a limit on the number of Russian diplomats working in Estonia in order to achieve parity," the minister said, adding that the move was consistent with the general state of relations between the countries, which are currently at a low point.
Reinsalu explained that Estonia currently has eight diplomatic staff and 15 other officials in Moscow.
The Russian embassy in Tallinn has 21 diplomatic staff and 23 seconded officials, who are not diplomats. The ministry's said it must be reduced to eight diplomatic positions and 15 posted administrative, technical and service staff members.
As Russia has launched a war of aggression against Ukraine and is not making any efforts to end it, the size of the Russian Embassy in Tallinn is not justified.— Urmas Reinsalu (@UrmasReinsalu) January 11, 2023
We want to achieve parity and thus have asked Russia to reduce its embassy size in #Tallinn. https://t.co/iCkkHVSNh4
Reinsalu added that, if Russia responds to the move by expelling Estonian diplomats from Moscow, Estonia will continue to adhere to the principle of parity.
The number of diplomats at the Estonian embassy in Moscow was also reduced last year.
Prior to the start of Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Estonia had around a dozen diplomats at the embassy in Moscow. There are now only five as well as locally hired staff.
Estonia closed its consulates in St. Petersburg and Pskov last spring.
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Editor: Michael Cole, Helen Wright