Estonia and Latvia told Russian envoys to leave after Moscow announced it was downgrading diplomatic relations with Estonia.
Latvia will reduce the level of diplomatic relations with Russia due to solidarity with neighboring Estonia and Moscow’s war with Ukraine, Latvia’s top diplomat has said.
Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics tweeted on Monday that “Due to Russia’s continued brutal attack on Ukraine and solidarity with Estonia, Latvia will lower its diplomatic relations with Russia from February 24 and Russia will act accordingly.” I will ask for it,” he said.
Earlier, Russia announced that it had downgraded diplomatic relations with Estonia and ordered the departure of its ambassador from South Korea, citing “complete Russophobia” in the Baltic states following the recent decision to drastically cut Russian embassy staff in Tallinn.
Moscow’s action on Monday marks the first time it has expelled an EU country’s ambassador since the February 24 invasion of Ukraine began.
“The Russian side has decided to downgrade the diplomatic representatives of the two countries in order to prosecute the chief ambassador temporarily,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement. “The Ambassador of the Republic of Estonia must leave the Russian Federation on February 7.”
For Russia’s decision, Estonia said Monday it would expel the Russian ambassador from Tallinn in retaliation.
“We support the principle of equality in relations with Russia,” the Estonian Foreign Ministry said on Twitter.
#Estonia I pay attention to Russia’s decision today to reduce its diplomatic presence to the level of a substitute ambassador.
We support the principle of equality in relations with Russia. Will leave at the same time as the Estonian Amb. to Russia.
— Estonia MFA 🇪🇪 | 🌻 #StandWithUkraine (@MFAestonia) January 23, 2023
Estonia’s foreign minister, Urmas Reinsalou, outlined plans to ease relations with Russia “at a minimum” in a statement on Jan. 11.
“Now we are limiting the number of Russian diplomats working in Estonia to achieve equality. Today’s action is usually associated with a low point in our relationship,” he said, referring to the damage suffered by Moscow’s aggression.
The foreign ministry said it had notified the Estonian ambassador Margus Laidre of the decision after being summoned to Moscow’s foreign ministry, accusing Estonia of “deliberately destroying” relations with Moscow.
Russia has slammed Estonia’s “complete Russophobia” and Tallinn’s “cultivation of hostility” as a “rating of state policy.”
Commenting on the downgrade in relations, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said the Estonian government “got what it deserved”.
Estonia is a staunch ally of Ukraine and has urged Western countries to send tanks to Kyiv to counter Moscow’s offensive. In October, Congress adopted a statement declaring Russia a “terrorist regime.”
The Baltic states were once part of the Soviet Union and have had difficult relations with Russia for many years.
Russia ordered the closure of the Tallinn consulate in St. Petersburg in April.