MOSCOW - The Russian government, by order of President Vladimir Putin, is preparing an official list of so-called ''unfriendly countries'', which could include ten countries, including all three Baltic states, as well as the United States, Britain, Canada, Australia, Poland, the Czech Republic and Ukraine, the Izvestia newspaper reports.
According to the newspaper, citing two sources, the list is currently incomplete and still being put together.
The list is based on Putin's April 23 order "On the application of sanctions against foreign unfriendly activities". It is believed that these countries will initially be restricted in hiring Russian staff to work in their embassies and consulates.
A source in the Russian government told Izvestia that other measures currently being developed could be applied to these countries.
The Russian Diplomatic Association told the newspaper that the move should be considered "forced and temporary". Members of the Russian parliament and senators told the newspaper that the list of unfriendly countries could be revised if they gave up their "anti-Russian rhetoric".
As Izvestia points out, this is the first time that Russia has officially compiled a list of "unfriendly countries".
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 expelled 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.
The Czech government has also asked EU and NATO partners to show solidarity with it and expel some Russian embassy staff.