VILNIUS – Lithuania is expelling Sergey Ryabokon, Russia's chargé d'affaires ad interim, for actions and statements incompatible with his status as a diplomat, the Foreign Ministry said on Monday.
Ryabokon has been declared a persona non grata and given five days to leave Lithuania.
"Lithuania made the decision taking into account the information provided by competent authorities that recent actions and statements by Ryabokon were incompatible with his diplomatic status, regarded as an interference in the host state's internal affairs, and, therefore, violated the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations," the Foreign ministry's statement reads.
Deputy Foreign Minister Mantas Adomenas told reporters the decision was made in response to the diplomat's statements diminishing the January 13t, 1991 events.
"The decision was made in response to Sergey Riabokon's public statements and his statements diminishing the January 13, 1991 events in Lithuania, his cynical distortion of historical events, as well as his active communication with persons actively acting against the national interests of Lithuania, whose association is under investigation," the vice minister said, referring to the ongoing law enforcement investigation into activities of the International Forum of Good Neighborhood, an organization established by Algirdas Paleckis, a controversial figure in Lithuania, sentenced for spying for Russia.
Lithuania's Foreign Ministry also strongly protested against the Russian President's decision of 30 September to illegally annex the Ukrainian regions of Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson, and Zaporizhzhia, parts of which were temporarily occupied by Russia.
The decision to expel Ryabokon means that Russia will have to appoint a new head of its embassy in Lithuania.
Adomenas underlined that the level of diplomatic representation between Lithuania and Russia "remains unchanged".
He also added that the recent diplomatic note to Russia and the chargé d'affaires' expulsion were unrelated, adding that "the coincidence in time is accidental".
The decision to expel Riabokon personally was made upon receipt of information the Lithuanian law enforcement and national security authorities, as well as "total action of the Russian representative", Adomenas said,
Representatives of the Russian Foreign Ministry said Moscow would take tit-for-tat action in response to the Vilnius decision, the Russian news agency RIA reports.
The charge d'affaires ad interim has been in charge of the Russian diplomatic mission in Lithuania since April when Lithuania downgraded its diplomatic relations with Russia by expelling Russian Ambassador Alexei Isakov and recalled its Ambassador Eitvydas Bajarunas from Moscow in response to the massacre in Bucha, a suburb of Kyiv.
Lithuania's law enforcement is now investigating the activities of the International Forum of Good Neighborhood and has already asked a court to dissolve the organization as it was allegedly established illegally.
The probe is being carried out under a Criminal Code article on liability for assisting another state to act against Lithuania.
The organization is led by Erika Svencioniene.
Prosecutors say the association's activities run counter to the Lithuanian Constitution and are detrimental to the state.