Russia Expels Detained Consul As Estonia Calls Spy Charges A “Setup”
Estonia’s St. Petersburg consul has now been given 48 hours to leave Russia following his Tuesday detention by Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) over allegations he was “caught red-handed” receiving classified files from a Russian national.
“On 7 July, Charge d’Affaires of the Estonian Embassy in Russia Ulla Uibo was summoned to the Russian Foreign Ministry. The Russian side expressed a strong protest in connection with the intelligence gathering activities by Estonian Consul to St. Petersburg Mart Lätte, which are incompatible with the diplomatic status of the Consul,” an official statement from the ministry read, with Russian media reporting that the top diplomat earlier identified as Mart Lätte has been ordered to leave the country.
The FSB apprehended him Tuesday on charges of “receiving classified information from a Russian citizen.”
The agency’s full statement had been forceful and insistent on his guilt:
“The Russian Federal Security Service in St. Petersburg have detained Estonian diplomat — consul of the Consulate General of the Republic of Estonia in St. Petersburg Mart Lätte — caught red-handed while receiving classified materials from a Russian citizen,” the FSB’s Center for Public Relations (CPR) was cited in Russian news agency Interfax as saying.
The incident appears a tit-for-tat style “answer” to recent allegations which have seen Russian diplomats and military attaches get kicked out of Europe for mirror image charges, and particularly from NATO member Estonia.
Estonia is rejecting the allegations, instead slamming the ordeal as a “set-up” and “provocation” by Russian intelligence:
Estonia’s Foreign Ministry said the detention was another example of Russia choosing confrontation with the European Union.
…The Kremlin has expelled Estonian diplomats two times this year, both in retaliation for Estonia’s expulsion of Russian diplomats.
— Ville Kostian (@Kostian_V) July 6, 2021
Additionally it comes after the FSB in April arrested Ukrainian consul Alexander Sosonyuk in St. Petersburg on very similar allegations of spying. Sosonyuk had been held and interviewed for hours at an FSB office before release. Upon his presence being declared by Russian authorities as “unwanted” he left the country.