On Friday, Russia declared a diplomat at the Estonian Embassy in Moscow persona non grata. The move comes in response to Estonia's decision last week to expel a staff member at the Russian Embassy in Tallinn for improper conduct. Vladimir Putin also dismissed Russia's ambassador to Estonia, who had already left Tallinn following the downgrading of diplomatic relations between the two countries.
On Friday, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Foreign Affairs summoned Estonia's interim deputy in Moscow, Jana Vanamölder, and expressed its "firm protest" against the "unjustified" declaration of a Russian diplomat as persona non grata on March 24.
"On the basis of the principle of reciprocity, it was noted that a diplomat of a similar level must also leave the Estonian Embassy in Moscow, with the Estonian diplomat being given the same amount of time to leave the country as the Russian deputy was," the Russian foreign ministry said in a press statement.
In practice, this means the Estonian diplomat, whose name has not been disclosed, will be required to leave Russia by April 5 .
The Russian foreign ministry also added, that it would be also be forced to take additional steps in response to "provocative actions by the Estonian side".
Estonia expelled Russian diplomat a week ago
Last Friday, March 24, The Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs declared one Russian diplomat based in Tallinn, persona non grata, and demanded he leave the country within five days.
According to Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa), the decision was taken to expel Aleksandr Savinov, who had been working at the Russian embassy in Tallinn as a consul.
"The activities of the person in question have violated the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and they have to leave Estonia by March 29," the ministry said in a statement made last week.
According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Russian diplomat had been directly and actively involved in undermining Estonia's security and constitutional order by spreading propaganda, which justifies Russia's military actions in Ukraine and dividing Estonian society.
In early January, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs ordered Russia to cut the size of its embassy staff in Tallinn by more than half, to achieve parity with the number of people working at the Estonian Embassy in Moscow. A total of 13 Russian diplomats and eight technical staff were made to leave Estonia at that time.
Russia responded by summoning its ambassador from Tallinn and advising the Estonian Ambassador to Russia to leave Moscow. Both ambassadors left the countries there were serving in on February 7.
Following Russia's move on Friday, both countries will retain seven staff members with diplomatic status at their respective embassies in Tallinn and Moscow.
Putin relieves ambassador to Estonia of his post
Russian President Vladimir Putin has dismissed Russia's ambassadors to Latvia and Estonia, who had earlier left the countries they were serving in due to a reduction in the level of diplomatic relations, the Interfax news agency reported.
The Russian president's decrees on the dismissal of Russian Ambassador to Estonia Vladimir Lipayev and Ambassador to Latvia Mikhail Vanin were published on Friday on Russia's official legal information portal.
Estonia has not yet appointed a new ambassador to Moscow, following the departure of Ambassador Margus Laidre, whose term would have ended this summer regardless.
Reinsalu: Russian claims are ludicrous
Estonian Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa) said, that Russia's move was unsurprising and its claims that Estonia is responsible for the breakdown in diplomatic relations were "ludicrous."
"The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Estonia was notified today of Russia's decision to expel an Estonian diplomat in response to Estonia's decision of March 24. The diplomat must leave the country by April 5. A note was presented to our chargé d'affaires in Moscow," said Reinsalu in a press statement.
"It is not a surprising step by Russia. Russia's claim that Estonia is responsible for the collapse of diplomatic relations is ludicrous. The Estonian Embassy in Moscow will continue to operate and the staff will continue their work," Reinsalu said.
Editor: Michael Cole