Russia expels Estonian diplomat

Photo: EPA The General Consulate of Estonia in St. Petersburg.

Russia expelled on Wednesday an Estonian diplomat after accusing him of spying, dealing a fresh setback to Moscow's already strained relations with the EU, news wires reported. Mart Latte was given 48 hours to leave the country.

Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) said a day earlier it had detained Latte after he was "caught red handed" receiving confidential information from a Russian citizen. Estonia on Tuesday accused Russia of briefly detaining Latte, one of its St Petersburg-based consuls, after a "set-up" it said was designed to falsely make him look like a spy.

But Russia's foreign ministry said in a statement on Wednesday that it did not believe the denials and summoned an Estonian diplomat in Moscow to protest over activity it said was incompatible with diplomacy. "We stressed that we consider Tallinn's official position to be extremely cynical since there is incontrovertible evidence of the illegal activities of this Estonian 'diplomat'," the foreign ministry said in a statement.

Russia's relations with several European countries have been strained in recent months by a number of spying accusations against Russian diplomats in Europe. Italy, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic and Romania are among the EU countries with which Moscow has exchanged tit-for-tat expulsions.

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