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Russia, Estonia boot ambassadors in diplomatic squabble over Ukraine

The historic Senate building and current office for Russian President Vladimir Putin behind the Kremlin wall in Moscow on March 16, 2018. The Kremlin announced Monday it reducing its diplomatic relations with Estonia over its support for Ukraine. File Photo by Yuri Gripas/UPI
The historic Senate building and current office for Russian President Vladimir Putin behind the Kremlin wall in Moscow on March 16, 2018. The Kremlin announced Monday it reducing its diplomatic relations with Estonia over its support for Ukraine. File Photo by Yuri Gripas/UPI | License Photo

Jan. 23 (UPI) -- Russia and the former Soviet Union satellite Estonia have booted each other's ambassadors over aid to Ukraine in that ongoing conflict as Moscow's ties with several Baltic states continue to deteriorate.

The Kremlin announced its diplomatic move against Estonia on Monday, accusing the government of "total Russophobia" that reached the "rank of state policy" after the "unfriendly step to radically reduce the size of the Russian embassy in Tallinn, confirming the line on the collapse of relations between our countries."

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"As a response, the Russian side decided to lower the level of the diplomatic representative in both countries to the Charge d'affaires. On Jan. 23, Estonian Ambassador M. Laidre was summoned to the Russian Foreign Ministry," the foreign ministry wrote.

Estonia followed suit by asking the Russian ambassador to leave its country as well.

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"Estonia takes note of today's decision by Russia to reduce diplomatic presence to the level of charge d'affaires," Estonia said in a Twitter message. "We stand by the principle of parity in relations with Russia, which means that the Russian ambassador will leave at the same time as the Estonian ambassador to Russia."

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Latvia, another former Soviet Union member, announced it would also reduce Russia's diplomatic presence there in support of Estonia.

"Due to the ongoing brutal Russian aggression against Ukraine and in solidarity with Estonia, Latvia will lower the level of diplomatic relations with Russia effective Feb. 24, demanding Russia to act accordingly," Latvia Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics said on Twitter.

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Over the weekend, Estonia's Foreign Affairs Minister Urmas Reinsalu said he and two others called for Germany to provide Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine so it can defend itself in the ongoing Russian invasion that will reach the one-year mark next month.

Late last week, 54 nations that have supported Ukraine in its defense failed to reach a deal that would deliver German tanks or U.S.-made M1 Abram tanks to Ukraine, despite calls by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky for them.

Zelensky said the tanks are desperately needed to fend off an expected Russian assault anticipated as soon as the weather warms in the region.

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On Monday, Poland said it was moving toward sending some of its Leopard 2 tanks it had purchased from Germany to Ukraine because of Berlin's indecision on the matter. Germany's foreign minister Anna Baerbock said Monday she would not stand in the way of that transfer, even though it would be against German rules unless approved.

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