| 4 February 2023, Saturday |

NATO’s Baltic States, Russia remove ambassadors as diplomatic relations downgraded

In response to Moscow’s announcement that it was downgrading diplomatic ties with Estonia and charging it with “complete Russophobia,” NATO and EU allies Estonia and Latvia instructed their Russian ambassadors to depart.

A handful of NATO countries, including Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, have been vociferously advocating for Germany to send its Leopard combat tanks to help Ukraine fend off Russia’s invasion.

The Estonian ambassador must go next month, according to the Russian Foreign Ministry, and an interim charge d’affaires will serve in place of an ambassador in each nation’s capital.

Estonia responded in kind, telling the Russian envoy to leave by Feb. 7, Foreign Affairs Minister Urmas Reinsalu said.

“We will continue to support Ukraine as Russia is planning large-scale attacks, and we call on other like-minded countries to increase their assistance to Ukraine,” Reinsalu said in a statement.

Latvia, in solidarity with Estonia, told its Moscow envoy to leave by Feb. 27, according to a tweet by Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics. Both countries said they are downgrading their diplomatic ties with Russia to charge d’affairs level.

Lithuania threw out its Russian envoy in April and downgraded diplomatic representation, after Ukraine accused Russian forces of killing civilians in the town of Bucha.

Moscow said Monday’s move was in response to an Estonian decision to reduce the size of the Russian embassy in Tallinn.

“In recent years, the Estonian leadership has purposefully destroyed the entire range of relations with Russia. Total Russophobia, the cultivation of hostility towards our country have been elevated by Tallinn to the rank of state policy,” it said.

The Estonian dictatorship “got what it deserved,” said Maria Zakharova, a spokesperson for the Russian Foreign Ministry, in response to the deterioration of relations.

On January 11, Estonia requested that Russia cut the number of ambassadors at its embassy in Tallinn to eight, which would be the same as the number of Estonian diplomats in Moscow.

Last week, all three Baltic nations sent additional weapons to Ukraine alongside other Western allies.

  • Reuters