Maria Zakharova: 'Russophobia' official Estonian doctrine

Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs press secretary Maria Zakharova.
Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs press secretary Maria Zakharova. Source: SCANPIX / AP

Estonia is one of the most hostile countries towards Russia, that country's foreign ministry says, following an announcement that the Russian embassy in Tallinn must cut its staff numbers, in order to reach parity with the number of Estonian diplomats and staff working in Moscow.

Russian foreign ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said Wednesday (link in Russian) that: "It has long been no secret to us that Estonia is one of the most hostile states towards Russia."

"Russophobia is elevated here [in Estonia] to the level of official doctrine. At the same time, they want, apparently, once again to please their overseas curators," Zakharova continued, presumably referring to the U.S. and/or U.K.

"The Estonian authorities must be aware that none of their hostile actions will go unanswered," she added.

An Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs representative told ERR Thursday morning that as of that point in time, no information had been received on potential Russian responses to Wednesday's announcement.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa) said Wednesday, under the terms of the Vienna Convention, parity should be reached between the Russian embassy in Tallinn and its Estonian counterpart in Moscow, in terms of staffing.

The ministry has formally notified the Russian embassy of this requirement, he said, which will see 13 diplomats plus eight other staff being sent home, with any further expulsions from the Estonian embassy in Moscow to be met in exact proportion, ie. to maintain parity.

This would leave eight diplomats and 15 other staff left working at the Russian embassy on Pikk tänav, compared with over 40 in total reportedly working there as of Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Brussels-based, but independent, online newspaper EUobserver reported Thursday that reaching parity in terms of embassy staffing numbers has already been undertaken by Lithuania and the Czech Republic, while Czech Foreign Minister Jan Lipavsky said: "We support the decision of Estonian diplomacy," adding that: "Given the common Schengen area and the threat Russia and its intelligence officers working under diplomatic cover pose, it [a second round of expulsions] is already long overdue."

This latter sentiment had been echoed by two of Estonia's own MEPs.

This view is not universally held in diplomatic circles, however, according to Euobserver, who quoted an anonymous source at the Dutch foreign ministry who called the move "symbolic," adding that: "We do want to keep our eyes open and our ears to the ground in Russia, especially in these times," ahead of any potential, further tit-for-tat round of diplomatic expulsions.

The Russian Federation generally has far more diplomats, pseudo-diplomats and other personnel based at its embassies in the EU, than is reciprocally the case, Euobserver reported, even after the joint expulsion of around 300 Russian officials from several EU countries in the wake of the Bucha massacre.

The same is the case for the Russian EU mission in Brussels, which has 35 diplomats on payroll, compared with nine for the EU's External Action Service (EEAS) office in Moscow.

The Russian mission in Brussels is also now headed up by chargé d'affaires Kirill Loginov, who has connections with Russian intelligence agencies, Euobserver says.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Mait Ots

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