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Estonia expelled the Russian ambassador in Tallinn on Monday in reaction to Russia’s announcement telling the Estonian ambassador to leave.

Estonia’s Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu said after the Russian announcement: “Estonia will not abandon the principle of parity,” he told Estonian radio. He said this meant that the Russian ambassador in Tallinn would also have to leave Estonia by February 7.

Russia had said earlier that it was downgrading relations with its western neighbour.

“The ambassador of the Republic of Estonia must leave the Russian Federation on February 7,” the Foreign Ministry in Moscow said. The two countries are in disagreement over the number of embassy and consular officials posted. Estonia, a member of the European Union and of NATO, and a strong supporter of Ukraine in its conflict with Russia, has called for a reduction in the number of Russian staff posted to Tallinn to the same level as the number of Estonian staff in Moscow.

Russia has termed this a “new and unfriendly step” aimed at breaking off relations from a country that was once part of the Soviet Union.

Estonia’s interests will in future be looked after by a representative in Moscow.

Minister Reinsalu also said that at the EU foreign ministers’ meeting in Brussels he would call on other European countries to follow Estonia’s step and limit the number of Russian embassy staff.

Latvia’s foreign minister, Edgars Rinkevics, announced on Twitter that it would be scaling back its diplomatic relations with Russia in solidarity with neighbouring Estonia.

The move is to take effect on February 24 - the first anniversary of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

This means that the Latvian ambassador will be recalled from Moscow - and conversely, the Russian ambassador will also have to leave Latvia.

The Russian ambassador, who has been summoned to the Foreign Ministry in Riga, has been informed of this, an adviser to Rinkevics told the Latvian news agency Leta.

Relations between Russia and the three Baltic States of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have been strained for years as a result of differing views on their mutual Soviet past. Tensions rose sharply following the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February last year.

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