Kaya Kallas, Prime Minister of Estonia

Estonia and its neighbor Latvia have evacuated Russian ambassadors after the European Union ordered the ambassador of Estonia to leave Moscow. Top diplomats have announced a downgrading of diplomatic ties with Russia over Moscow’s ongoing war against Ukraine, with the two countries expressing solidarity with each other. Al-Jazeera news.

Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics said on Twitter on Monday, “Due to the ongoing brutal Russian aggression against Ukraine and in solidarity with Estonia, Latvia will downgrade effective diplomatic relations with Russia on February 24 and demand that Russia act accordingly.”

Earlier, Russia announced that it had cut diplomatic ties with Estonia. The Baltic nation has ordered its ambassador to leave, calling the Baltic nation ‘absolutely Russophobic’ following Tallinn’s recent decision to drastically reduce staffing levels at the Russian embassy.

Moscow’s move on Monday marked the first time an EU country’s ambassador has been expelled since the invasion of Ukraine began on February 24, 2022.

“The Russian side has decided to downgrade the diplomatic representatives of both countries to charge d’affaires ad interim,” the foreign ministry said in a statement. The Ambassador of the Republic of Estonia is to leave the Russian Federation on February 7.’

In response to Russia’s decision, Estonia said on Monday it would also expel the Russian ambassador from Tallinn in retaliation. “We are on a principle of equality in relations with Russia,” the Estonian Foreign Ministry said in a tweet.

In a statement on 11 January, Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu outlined plans to reduce relations with Russia to the ‘bare minimum’.

“Now we are setting a limit on the number of Russian diplomats working in Estonia to achieve parity,” he said, referring to relations damaged by Moscow’s attack. Today’s move has to do with the low level of our relationship in general.’

Estonian Ambassador Margas Lydre was informed of the decision after being summoned to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Moscow. That’s because it accused Estonia of “deliberately destroying” relations with Moscow, the ministry said.

Russia has condemned Estonia’s ‘total Russophobia’ and Tallinn’s ‘cultivation of hostility’ as ‘part of state policy’. Commenting on the downgrading of relations, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said the Estonian government ‘got what it deserved’.

Estonia is a staunch ally of Ukraine and has called on Western countries to send tanks to Kiev to counter Moscow’s offensive. In October, the country’s parliament adopted a statement declaring Russia a ‘terrorist government’.

The Baltic country was once part of the Soviet Union and has had strained relations with Russia for years. Russia ordered the closure of Tallinn’s consulate in St. Petersburg in April.

(January 23)