RIGA - The expulsion of several diplomats should not be seen as something out of the ordinary or unseen, Latvian Ambassador to Russia Maris Riekstins told Latvian Television this morning, commenting the decision by Russia to expel diplomats from the Baltics and Slovakia in a tit-for-tat move.
The ambassador explained that by choosing to take a symmetrical response, it can be concluded that Russia has chosen not to escalate the situation, unlike "in some other cases", when Russia expelled a larger number of diplomats in response to other countries' decisions.
However, Riekstins emphasized that this exchange of expulsions should not be assessed as something out of the ordinary or unseen, because each country has the right to expel diplomats from another country. "Of course, this is nothing pleasant, but it is also nothing unseen or out of the ordinary," the diplomat said.
He also emphasized that it is too early to assess what Russia's decision to include Latvia on its so-called list of ''unfriendly countries'', as the content of such a possible document is not yet known.
As reported, Russia's Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday that seven diplomats from the Baltic states and Slovakia would have to leave the country within a week.
Three embassy workers from the Slovak embassy, two from the Lithuanian and one each from the Latvian and Estonian embassies must leave the country within a week.
Moscow also expressed its protest to representatives of these countries against the expulsion of Russian diplomats in solidarity with the Czech Republic.
Janis Bekeris, the press secretary of the Latvian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, confirmed to LETA that one Latvian diplomat had been expelled from Russia. It is not yet clear which Latvian representative will have to leave Russia.
Bekeris pointed out that Russia had responded symmetrically to the decision to designate one Russian diplomat as a persona non-grata in Latvia, and had expelled one Latvian diplomat from Russia.
"As we have already informed, our actions are related to showing solidarity with the Czech Republic and evaluating the actions of a particular Russian diplomat, and the violations this persons committed while in Latvia," the representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs emphasized.
LETA also reported, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, in solidarity with the Czech Republic and in consultation with allies in the European Union (EU) and NATO, announced last week that they would expel Russian diplomats from their countries.
Thus, all three Baltic states have confirmed their support for the Czech Republic, which on April 17 expelled 18 Russian diplomats, who, according to the Czech intelligence service, are secret agents of Russian intelligence services. In response, Russia expelled 20 Czech embassy staff.
Russian diplomats have also been expelled by Slovakia and Romania.
The decision to expel Russian diplomats was taken by the Czech authorities, which concluded that Russian intelligence services were involved in an explosion in an ammunition depot in the country.