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Estonia to expel 2 Russian diplomats; Moscow blasts move

Associated Press logo Associated Press 26/05/2017

COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Estonia has informed Russia that two of its diplomats in the country will be expelled, the Baltic country's foreign ministry said Friday.

Estonian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Sandra Kamilova told The Associated Press that the Russian Embassy in Tallinn had been informed of the decision, but the ministry declined to provide further details. It wasn't clear when the diplomats would be deported.

A statement from the Russian Foreign Ministry called the move "provocative and baseless" and "of course, it will not remain without appropriate response," suggesting that Russian would expel two Estonians.

News agency Baltic News Service reported that the diplomats were Russian Consul General Dmitry Kazennov and consul Andrey Surgaev, both in Narva, Estonia's third-largest city, which sits on the border with Russia.

Estonia's relations with Russia have remained uneasy since the former Soviet republic gained independence in 1991. Estonia has caught several spies working for Moscow, mostly Estonian citizens but also Russians.

"The openly hostile action taken by the Estonian authorities (Friday) will certainly further complicate bilateral relations already basically deadlocked by Tallinn," the Russian Foreign Ministry was quoted as saying by Russian news agency TASS.

The Estonian Internal Security Service, or security police, told local media outlets that it was aware of Friday's case, but wouldn't comment further. It has repeatedly said Russia's intelligence services have strong interest in the Baltic NATO member - a former Soviet republic.

Ties also have been uneasy because of Moscow's support for separatist rebels fighting in Ukraine, and Russia's annexation of Crimea.

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