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Russia expels Estonian consul for spying

A bird flies past the Russian Foreign Ministry headquarters in Moscow on April 19, 2021. (Photo by AFP)

Russia has expelled Estonia's consul in Saint Petersburg, a day after he was arrested for “embezzling” classified documents.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in a statement on Wednesday that Mart Latte had been declared "persona non grata" and has 48 hours to leave Russia.

The statement came a day after the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) detained Latte while he was receiving classified documents from a Russian citizen.

Zakharova said Moscow had "lodged a strong protest" with the Estonian embassy in Russia against Latte's "intelligence gathering activities."

Estonian foreign ministry spokeswoman Aari Lemmik told AFP on Tuesday that the FSB had charged the consul with "embezzling sensitive materials," criticizing the charges as "completely ungrounded."

Lemmik also described Latte's arrest as "a provocation by Russian authorities."

The expulsion comes amid tensions between Russia and US-aligned western countries.

It was the latest in a series of mutual diplomatic expulsions between Russia and Western countries over espionage claims in the past months.

Russia in April ordered a Ukrainian consul it accused of receiving classified information from a Russian to leave the country after the FSB arrested him "red handed."

Also in April, Moscow expelled four diplomats from the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania in a tit-for-tat move.

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