Estonian flag now flies over former Russian ambassador Tallinn residence

The Estonian blue-black-white now flies over the former official residence of Russian ambassadors in Estonia, following the departure of the last incumbent, last month.

While official ambassadorial residences, like embassy buildings themselves, will have the official coat of arms of that country prominently displayed by the main entrance, the Russian crest has also been removed from the gate at the well-appointed villa property on Kose 27 (see gallery), in the Pirita district of Tallinn.

Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa) explained to ERR what has become of the ambassador's residence, since the last Russian ambassador to Estonia departed, in early February.

"So far as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is aware, the Russian embassy had terminated its lease agreement on this space as of March 1, so consequently this property has been returned to the lessor," Reinsalu said.

"This means it no longer falls under the category of an ambassador's residence. Since there is no ambassador present, the Russian embassy did not consider it necessary to retain the property in its hands," he went on.

As to how many Russian diplomats remain in country, Reinsalu said: "Based on the principle of parity, we have eight diplomats and 15 non-diplomatic persons, who have been dispatched from Russia, to the Russian embassy here. In addition, the Russian embassy has informed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that they also have four locally hired contract workers on payroll."

The Foreign Minister also referred to the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, on whose basis Estonia switched, from February 1 this year, to the principle of parity in the size of representations, for an indefinite period of time.

Given the ongoing Russian war of aggression on Ukraine, now in its second year, there seems no likelihood of this decision being reversed any time soon, Reinsalu added.

Last month, Russia downsized its embassy staff numbers to the level required by Estonia in order to gain parity, after an announcement to that effect in January. This meant a virtual halving of staff numbers.

Since the Kremlin expelled Estonia's ambassador to Russia, Margus Laidre, in late January, Estonia was left with no alternative but to respond in kind, and former Russian ambassador Vladimir Lipaev duly left Estonia on February 7.

The embassy itself, located between Pikk and Lai streets in Tallinn's Old Town, remains functioning, as does a former border guard cordon in Pirita, which hosts Russian technical staff, while the embassy also rents rents premises on Jõe street for departmental use, plus several apartments as residences for embassy staffers.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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