Sunday, October 24

Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania expel Russian diplomats in support of the Czech Republic

Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have expelled Russian diplomats in a show of solidarity with the Czech Republic against Moscow.

Prague has accused Russian secret agents of involvement in a deadly explosion in the country in 2014.

Czech Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Interior, Jan Hamacek had asked the member states of the European Union and NATO to also expel the Russian diplomats.

On Friday, the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry confirmed that it had summoned the country’s ambassador to Moscow and declared two members of the embassy “personae non-gratae.”

in a statement, the ministry said the decision was made because the two officials “had carried out activities incompatible with their diplomatic status.”

“The decision shows our solidarity with the ally after an unprecedented and dangerous incident in the Czech Republic,” said Chancellor Gabrielius Landsbergis.

“Lithuania fully supports the country and its actions in response to the 2014 explosions, as well as the inappropriate measures taken by Russia.”

The two diplomats have been given seven days to leave Lithuania, a move that could bring Russian retaliation.

Vilnius said the move was made “in close coordination” with its Baltic neighbors Estonia and Latvia.

The Estonian Foreign Ministry said it had also summoned the Russian ambassador on Friday to “launch a strong protest” against information related to the 2014 explosion.

“Russia has committed a serious violation of international law on the territory of a European Union and a NATO member state, undermining the sovereignty of the Czech Republic,” the ministry said in a statement.

“Actions of this type are detrimental to the security and stability of Europe and are unacceptable,” he added.

Tallinn confirmed that a Russian diplomat had been expelled “in a show of solidarity” with Prague.

Meanwhile, Latvia said they had also declared a Russian diplomat “persona non grata” after “illegal activities” carried out by Russia’s intelligence services in the Czech Republic.

“Latvia is interested in building a relationship with Russia on the basis of mutual respect, international law and the principles set out in the Vienna Convention,” Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs said in a statement.

“Russia’s actions have provided evidence over a prolonged period of systemic violations of these principles and of undermining and destabilizing the security situation.”

Neighboring Slovakia became the first NATO ally to show support for the Czech Republic, expelling three Russian diplomats on Thursday.

What has caused the diplomatic dispute?

The Czech Republic has accused agents of the Russian Federal Intelligence Agency (GRU) of being behind an explosion at a munitions depot near the town of Vrbetice in 2014, which killed two people.

Last week, Czech police said they were looking for two men carrying Russian passports with the same names as the suspects in Sergei Skripal’s attempted poisoning by Novichok in Salisbury in 2018. Moscow has denied the allegations.

The Czech government expelled 18 Russian diplomats before Moscow retaliated with the expulsion of 20 Czech diplomats on Monday.

Prague condemned Russia’s move as an “inappropriate reaction” and said the move had paralyzed the country’s embassy.

On Thursday, the Czech Foreign Ministry confirmed that they would order more Russian diplomats to leave the country, further aggravating the dispute.

Foreign Minister Jakub Kulhanek said that Russia will not be allowed to have more diplomats in Prague than the Czechs currently have in their embassy in Moscow.

An estimated 60 more officials would have to leave the Czech Republic by the end of May, Kulhanek said.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said the country would immediately respond again, accusing the Czech Republic of “destroying relations.”

“They have been caught up in rampant Russophobia,” Zakharova told reporters.

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