Baltic states join NATO allies and spy out Russians

PRAGUE / VILNIUS / MOSCOW-Friday, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia rage NATO and EU member states demanding the dismissal of Russian diplomats on suspicion of spying in actions that are likely to infuriate Moscow and cause further retaliation Joined the list inside.

With a series of tit-for-tat expulsions, relations between Russia and former Soviet nations have fallen to their lowest level since the collapse of communism, and Moscow has begun to accuse at least two of them of deliberately destroying their relations.

Lithuania said it had sent two diplomats home, one for Latvia and one for Estonia. Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis told reporters that “the EU should not cover up Russian spies.”

Thirty years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Moscow continues to have imposing embassies in Central and Eastern Europe, stating that the host country provides a convenient cover for espionage.

The Baltic nations, along with Slovakia, which ordered three Russians on Thursday, seemed to be responding this week to a request from the Czech Republic to show solidarity with the elimination of Russian spies against the European Union and NATO allies.

In addition, Bulgaria and Poland expelled two and three Russians, respectively, and urged Moscow to show the door to two Bulgarians and five Poles.

Czechs are caught in the largest line of all, which appears to involve the departure of dozens of Czech and Russian diplomats, deadly by Russian intelligence in the 2014 ammunition depot. Prompted by the Czech claim that it was behind a huge explosion.

Daniel Milo, senior adviser to Bratislava-based policymaker GLOBSEC, said the combination of moves suggests increased confidence among Central Europeans, including energy cooperation, which the region has relied heavily on. He said it could affect the field. Russia.

“Russia probably needs to make sure that this is not an isolated act of a small country of 10 million people (Czech Republic), but a true sense of solidarity throughout the EU or NATO,” he said.

“If that happens, it can serve as a powerful deterrent to future attempts to carry out such (espionage) activities, as we did in the previous sense of impunity.”

“Massive mental illness”

The line of spies came during times of intense tension between Russia and the West, including the fate of Ukrainian and opposition Russian leader Alexei Navalny. He announced on Friday that he would finish a three-week hunger strike in jail.

This week’s Kremlin complained of “massive anti-Russian mental illness,” and President Vladimir Putin threatened foreign forces with an “asymmetric, swift, harsh” response if Russia exceeded what it considered to be the red line. ..

Such rhetoric seems unlikely to allow Russia, which has not yet announced a response to the Slovak and Baltic movements, to quietly quell the conflict.

A statement by the Foreign Ministry on Friday after Moscow summoned the Polish ambassador to dress down reflected the depth of Russia’s suffering over its treatment by its former allies.

“Recent efforts by Polish authorities have effectively frozen contact with Russia, launched a shameful war with the Soviet monument, and attempted to strengthen Russia’s energy projects. The Russian intelligence campaign has been carried out, history has been tampered with, and Western anti-Russian sanctions have been extended endlessly. “

By Jason Hovet, Andrius Sytas, Mark Trevelyan