The Russian Foreign Ministry said it summoned Estonian Ambassador Margus Laidre on Monday and has given him until February 7 to leave the country.
The Russian MFA said that the leaders of Estonia have purposefully destroyed relations with Russia in recent years and described as the last straw Estonia's recent decision to expel 13 Russian diplomats and eight technical workers.
As its reaction, Russia decided to downgrade the level of mutual diplomatic representation to that of charge d'affaires ad interim. Russia places all responsibility for the development squarely with Estonia.
Downgrading diplomatic ties to the level of an charge d'affaires ad interim means that Russia will be recalling its ambassador from Estonia.
Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Reinsalu, attending the EU Foreign Affairs Council in Brussels, told ERR that he urges EU Member States to observe the principle of parity in diplomatic relations with Russia to keep the number of diplomats even.
"Estonia will not renounce its principle of parity, which we have communicated to the Russian Foreign Ministry."
"We will continue to support Ukraine as Russia is planning large-scale attacks, and we call on other like-minded countries to increase their assistance to Ukraine," the foreign minister said.
The Estonian Embassy in Moscow currently has six employees. In addition to Ambassador Margus Laidre, deputy head of the embassy Jana Vanamölder, press diplomat Kirsti Viljamaa, consular affairs director Tarmo Punnik, consul Laura Lilleväli and assistant Marina Grigorjeva.
Whether the charge d'affaires ad interim will be one of the embassy's current staff or whether a new person will be appointed should become clear in the near future.
Margus Laidre has been serving as Estonian ambassador to Moscow since 2018. Vladimir Lipayev became ambassador to Estonia last February, immediately before the Ukraine war.
He told ERR that he and deputy head of mission (Jana Vanamölder – ed.) were summoned to the Russian MFA on Monday.
Laidre said that Russian colleagues presented them with a diplomatic note according to which Estonia has started to pursue hostile policy towards the Russian Federation one manifestation of which is the Estonian side's wish to drastically reduce Russian embassy staff in Tallinn. In this light, Russia has decided to downgrade the level of diplomatic communication between the two countries and asks the Estonian ambassador to leave. The Russian ambassador will also be leaving Tallinn," he explained, adding that he has not been officially expelled from Russia.
Last Thursday, the Estonian government decided to make €113 million worth of military aid available to Ukraine for the largest single aid package to date. The package includes indirect fire and anti-tank weapons and munitions. Total military aid from Estonia to Ukraine grew to €370 million or a little over 1 percent of the Estonian GDP.
Estonian ambassadors to Moscow:
1992–1995 Jüri Kahn
1995–1999 Mart Helme
1999–2001 Tiit Matsulevitš
2001–2005 Karin Jaani
2005–2008 Marina Kaljurand
2008–2012 Simmu Tiik
2012–2015 Jüri Luik
2015–2018 Arti Hilpus
2018– Margus Laidre
Russian ambassadors to Tallinn:
1992–1997 Aleksandr Trofimov
1997–2000 Aleksei Glukhov
2001–2006 Konstantin Provalov
2006–2010 Nikolai Uspenski
2010–2015 Yuri Merzlyakov
2015–2022 Aleksandr Petrov
2022– Vladimir Lipayev
Editor: Urmet Kook, Marcus Turovski