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Russia expels second Estonian diplomat amid espionage dispute

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
A man walks in front of the Russian Foreign Ministry headquarters in Moscow, Russia, on December 22, 2020. (Photo by AFP)

Russia has expelled a second Estonian diplomat in a tit-for-tat move following the expulsion of a Russian diplomat from the Western-aligned country on spying allegations last month.

In a statement on Tuesday, Russia’s Foreign Ministry said it was expelling a Moscow-based Estonian diplomat “based on the reciprocity principle.”

Estonian Ambassador to Russia Margus Laidre was summoned to the ministry and was informed that the staffer must leave the country within a week, it added.

“We ask our Estonian colleagues to stop, and not to further complicate the situation that has already aggravated,” the statement said.

The decision was made in response to the expulsion of a Russian diplomat from Estonia on July 15 on alleged espionage charges.

Russia also last month expelled Estonia’s consul in St. Petersburg after he was “caught red-handed while receiving classified documents from a Russian citizen.”

Russia and Western countries have engaged in a series of diplomatic expulsions and mutual espionage claims over the past few months.

In April, Moscow expelled four diplomats from the Baltic states in response to a wave of expulsions of Russian diplomats in central and eastern Europe.

Those expulsions were made in solidarity with the Czech Republic, which expelled 18 Russian diplomats and several other embassy staff after accusing Russian agents of involvement in a 2014 blast at an ammunition depot in the country’s east.

The Kremlin dismisses the accusation.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova back then reiterated that Prague had no proof for its allegation of Russian involvement in the Vrbetice explosion.

Russia in April also ordered 10 American diplomats to leave the country after the United States expelled Russian diplomats. It also explained that US Ambassador to Moscow John Sullivan was advised to leave the country for Washington for consultations.

Recent months have also seen German police arrest a Russian scientist working at a local university for alleged spying on behalf of Moscow.

The US and the European Union (EU) earlier this year also slapped a new round of sanctions against a number of Russian officials and companies over jailed opposition figure Alexey Navalny.

In response, Moscow denounced the sanctions as the “triumph of absurdity over reason” and “an excuse to continue open interference in our internal affairs.”


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