Russia's Foreign Ministry said on February 18 that it has expelled an Estonian diplomat in retaliation for a move by Tallinn to declare a Russian diplomat persona non grata.
"Recently, Estonia groundlessly declared an employee of the Russian Embassy in Tallinn persona non grata," ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said. "The Estonian Ambassador to Moscow has been summoned, handed our decisive protest, and was informed about the expulsion of an Estonian diplomat," she added. Tensions between Russia and the Baltic states -- Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, have risen since Russian troops seized Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula in 2014 and Moscow illegally annexed the territory. They were heightened further last month when Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia -- all former Soviet republics -- issued a call for the "imposition of restrictive measures" against Moscow over the detention of Russian opposition politician Aleksei Navalny. Navalny arrived in Moscow on January 17 from Germany, where he was being treated after being poisoned in Siberia in August and was promptly detained by law enforcement authorities at the airport. A Russian court on February 2 ruled that Navalny was guilty of violating the terms of his suspended sentence relating to an embezzlement case that he -- and the European Court of Human Rights -- called unlawful and arbitrary.
The judge ruled that he violated parole conditions while recovering from the near-fatal poisoning in Germany.