Russia closes consulates in tit-for-at measure against Baltic states

Russia closes consulates in tit-for-at measure against Baltic states

Moscow responded to the Baltic states in a tit-for tat measure as diplomatic relations deteriorate further as Ukraine offensive intensifies its ties with the Baltic states.

Russian Foreign Ministry responded to the unfriendly actions of three Baltic states on Thursday by closing their consulates and declaring their staff personae non grata Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania had previously announced their decision to close their Russian consulates.

The ministry summoned top diplomats from the diplomatic missions of these countries to express a strong protest over such measures. During the meeting Russia announced that it would forbid the operations of all three countries Consulates General in Saint Petersburg, as well as of Latvia's consulate and Estonia's consulate in Pskov. The foreign ministry said that the decision was made on the basis of the principle of reciprocity, as well as taking into account the military assistance provided by these countries to Kiev, and the cover up of the crimes of Ukrainian nationalists against the civilian population of Donbass and Ukraine. The heads of the Estonian and Latvian consular missions have been declared non-grata while consular employees, administrative, and technical staff who are not citizens of the Russian Federation have been designated as unacceptable.

The Lithuanian Minister of Defense Arvydas Anusauskas admitted that his country had provided Ukraine with many heavy mortars. The minister said on Thursday that a multi-million euro package of military support for Kiev also included the Stinger missile system, various anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons, ammunition, grenades, and machine guns.

The diplomatic spat between the Western countries and Russia has intensified after Russia launched a military attack on Ukraine on February 24. The last few weeks have seen hundreds of Russian diplomats expelled, with the Baltic countries adopting the toughest position on Moscow. In early April, Lithuania became the first EU country to expel the ambassador. Along with Latvia, it also announced the downgrading of diplomatic relations with Russia.

The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs made it clear that it reserved the right to respond to the unfriendly measures of the West.

Russia attacked the neighboring state in late February, after Ukraine failed to implement the terms of the Minsk agreements, first signed in 2014, and Moscow s eventual recognition of the Donbass republics of Donetsk and Lugansk. The German and French Minsk Protocol was designed to give the breakaway regions special status within the Ukrainian state.

The Kremlin has demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join the US-led NATO military bloc. Kiev insists that the Russian offensive was unprovoked and has denied that it intends to retake the two republics by force.