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Russia and NATO member Estonia expel envoys and sour relations

(Reuters) – Russia said on Monday it was downgrading diplomatic ties with NATO member Estonia, accusing it of “total Russophobia”, and Tallinn responded by telling Moscow’s envoy in the Baltic nation to leave.

Estonia and its Baltic neighbors Latvia and Lithuania are part of a group of NATO allies who are making a strong case for Germany to provide its Leopard battle tanks to help Ukraine fight the Russian invasion.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said it had told the Estonian envoy he was to leave next month, and that the two countries would be represented in each other’s capital by an interim charge d’affaires instead. of an ambassador.

Estonia responded in kind, telling the Russian envoy to leave by Feb. 7, Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu said.

“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,” Reinsalu said in a statement.

Estonia joined other Western countries last week in sending more weapons to Ukraine.

Moscow said Monday’s move was a response to an Estonian decision to downsize the Russian embassy in Tallinn.

“In recent years, the Estonian leadership has deliberately destroyed the whole gamut of relations with Russia. Total Russophobia, the culture of hostility towards our country has been elevated by Tallinn to the rank of state policy,” he said. -he declares.

Commenting on the deterioration of ties, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said: “The Estonian regime got what it deserved.”

Estonia asked Russia on January 11 to reduce the number of diplomats in its embassy in Tallinn to eight, equivalent to the number of Estonian diplomats in Moscow.

Last April, Lithuania sacked its Russian envoy and downgraded its diplomatic representation to the level of chargé d’affaires, after Ukraine accused Russian forces of killing civilians in the town of Bucha.

(Reporting by Andrius SytasEditing by Gareth Jones)

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