Moscow expels Baltic country ambassador
Latvia’s ambassador to Moscow, Maris Riekstins, has been ordered by Russia's Foreign Ministry to leave the country within two weeks. The Latvian charge d’affaires in Moscow, Dacija Rutka, was summoned to the Foreign Ministry on Friday, where she was served with a “strong protest” and informed of the decision.
Riga said on Monday it was downgrading the level of diplomatic ties, citing Russia’s military operation in Ukraine and “solidarity” with neighboring Estonia. Moscow and Tallinn are also mutually expelling ambassadors.
“We have stressed that the justification of this move by some kind of ‘solidarity’ with other Baltic countries is unacceptable,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
“They have ‘solidarity’ only in one thing: total Russophobia and the willingness to initiate hostile steps towards Russia that are being encouraged by the US and other unfriendly countries.”
The ministry added that the relations between Moscow and Riga have already been “largely destroyed” by Latvia’s crackdown on Russian-language media and “criminal prosecution of our compatriots.”
This month, Latvian police arrested Marat Kasem, Editor-in-Chief of Spuntik Lithuania and a Latvian national, on suspicion of violating sanctions against Moscow. Russian officials dismissed the accusations against Kasem as “far-fetched” and “absurd.”
The Russian Foreign Ministry also slammed Riga for taking down Soviet-era monuments. Despite the protests by the local Russian community, the Latvian authorities demolished several World War II memorials, including a tall obelisk in the capital erected to commemorate the liberation of the country from the Nazis.
Estonia demanded this month that Russia drastically cut personnel working at its embassy in Tallinn. Moscow responded on Monday by scaling down bilateral ties to the level of charges d’affaires, and ordering the Estonian ambassador to return home by February 7. Tallinn, meanwhile, has told the Russian ambassador to do the same.