(Reuters) – Estonia and Latvia have demanded the departure of Russian ambassadors from their territory after Russia announced the expulsion of the Estonian ambassador on Monday, accusing Tallinn of “total Russophobia”.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said it informed the Estonian ambassador that he was to leave on February 7 and that the two countries would be represented in their respective capitals by a temporary charge d’affaires instead of an ambassador.
Estonia responded by asking the Russian ambassador to leave on the same date, said Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu.
“We will continue to support Ukraine, as Russia plans large-scale attacks, and we call on other like-minded countries to increase their assistance to Ukraine,” Urmas Reinsalu said in a statement.
Latvia, in solidarity with Estonia, told the Russian ambassador to leave by February 27, according to a tweet from Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics.
The two countries said they were lowering the level of diplomatic relations with Russia to the level of charges d’affaires.
Moscow said it acted in response to the significant downsizing of its embassy in Tallinn earlier in January.
“In recent years, the Estonian leadership has deliberately destroyed the whole set of relations with Russia. Total Russophobia, the culture of hostility towards our country has been elevated by Tallinn to the status of state policy,” the official said. Russian Foreign Ministry in a statement.
Lithuania fired the Russian ambassador in April and downgraded diplomatic ties after Ukraine accused Russian forces of killing civilians in the town of Bucha.
Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are among a group of NATO allies who are making a strong case for Germany to provide its Leopard tanks to help Ukraine fight off the Russian invasion.
The three Baltic countries joined other Western allies last week in sending more weapons to Ukraine.
(Report Andrius Sytas; French version Lina Golovnya, editing by Kate Entringer)