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Estonia expels 2 Russian diplomats, Moscow slams ‘hostile act’

Estonia has expelled two senior Russian diplomats in a move slammed by Moscow as “yet another unfriendly and absolutely groundless act.”

The Friday expulsion of Russian consul general in the eastern city of Narva, Dmitry Kazyonnov, as well as consul Andrey Surgaev were confirmed by the Russian embassy in the Baltic nation and the Estonian Foreign Ministry, without further elaboration, RT reported.

The move is expected to further deteriorate relations between Russia and Estonia, a NATO member state.

Moscow-Tallinn ties first sourced in 1991, when Estonia separated from the ex-Soviet Union and later joined both the EU and NATO in 2004.

Reacting to the move, the Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement said Tallinn’s “unfriendly” measure would “ultimately further worsen bilateral relations” between Russia and Estonia, vowing retaliation.

The statement further underlined that Estonian authorities “bear responsibility” for the consequences of the “provocative and unfounded” measure.

It added that the expulsion only confirms Estonia’s ”destructive policy” towards its neighboring countries, noting that “it looks like someone has decided to further escalate the situation on Russia’s border and support myths of a Russian threat.”

Relations between Russia and the NATO military alliance started to deteriorate in 2014 over the crisis in eastern Ukraine, where Kiev’s army is engaged in deadly fighting with pro-Moscow forces.

NATO is currently deploying four battalions to the three Baltic states — Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Russia sees NATO’s military expansion near its borders as a security threat.

This is not the first time that a NATO member state expels Russian diplomats.

The former US administration of Barack Obama ordered 35 Russian diplomats to return home in late December 2016 over the alleged Russian hacking of email communications of the Democratic Party during the 2016 presidential race.

Washington accused the Russian diplomats of being “intelligence operatives” as Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov described the move as “something that was never seen in the diplomatic affairs of the world for decades.”

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