Foreign minister: We will not be closing Russia's embassy in Estonia

Urmas Reinsalu.
Urmas Reinsalu. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

Estonia has no intention of closing the Russian Embassy in Tallinn, Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa) says. Russia has made no announcements of doing so either, he added.

Appearing on ETV politics show "Esimene stuudio" Tuesday evening and in the wake of Russia's announcement earlier this week that it would be expelling Estonia's ambassador, Reinsalu said: "Our embassy [in Moscow] will remain in place. We have not set as an intention closing down the Russian embassy on the territory of the Republic of Estonia, while Russia has not announced such an intention either."

"When taking into account Estonian citizens and consular interests, it is rational to have diplomatic representation in Russia. As for Russia's countermeasures /.../ our response to diplomatic measures is clear – we base things on the principle of parity, and Russia must take that into account, and that is all," Reinsalu continued.

This means there is no intention to expel, or to recall, all diplomats on the part of either state, as things stand, and serving all diplomatic ties with Russia even now would not be the most rational thing to do, Reinsalu noted, nor does the skinned-down diplomatic corps spell a reduction in information flows Estonia will have access to, with regard to its eastern neighbor.

"We have the same number of diplomats in Moscow [as there are Russian diplomats in Tallinn], while the charges d'affaires [of each country] also communicate with one other, and are certainly included in the discussions. /.../ Different states gather information in very ways; intelligence organizations exchange information, while we rely on the Russian opposition, which is located on this side of the border," he continued.

The fact the countries border each other, and share a common body of water (primarily Peipsi järv-ed.) which also brings with it technical aspects, makes communication on some level "inevitable", Reinsalu added, noting that none of this means that Estonia is somehow ambiguous on the issue of Russian aggression in Ukraine.

Establishing diplomatic parity with Russia is due to be completed next month, and is not a new idea at Ministry of Foreign Affairs-level, but rather has been discussed for a long period of time, given the number of times Estonia has had to expel Russian diplomats from its soil due to inappropriate activity, moves which have invariably been met with a reciprocal Russian response.

The Russian Foreign Ministry announced on Monday that it summoned the Estonian ambassador in Moscow, Margus Laidre, and gave him until February 7 to leave Russia. Russia is also recalling its ambassador from Tallinn.

Russia says Estonia has purposefully acted to dismantle bilateral relations in recent years and directly referenced the instructions Estonia gave last week to the Russian Embassy in Tallinn, to roughly halve its staff numbers.

This would bring parity between the two countries in terms of numbers of diplomats and would see just over a dozen Russian diplomats plus a further eight non-diplomatic staff leaving Tallinn.

Latvia will also be following suit in establishing diplomatic parity, Politico reports.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Marko Tooming

Source: 'Esimene stuudio', interviewer Andres Kuusk.

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