Latvia tells Russia to downsize its embassy

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Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs (New Unity) announced on Monday, January 23 that from February 24, Latvia will lower the level of its diplomatic representation in Russia, demanding that Russia do the same.

"Due to the ongoing brutal Russian aggression against Ukraine and in solidarity with Estonia, Latvia will lower [its] level of diplomatic relations with Russia effective February 24, demanding Russia to act accordingly," Rinkēvičs wrote on Twitter.

This means that the Russian ambassador Mikhail Vanin will have to leave Latvia, and the Latvian ambassador in Moscow, Māris Riekstiņš, will be recalled to Rīga.

February 24 is a significant date, because it will be the anniversary of Russia's unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.

Estonia was mentioned as a result of Russia ordering the Estonian ambassador in Moscow to leave the country. Estonian Ambassador Margus Laidre was summoned to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia in Moscow on Monday, and informed about the lowering of the level of mutual diplomatic representation and that he must leave Russia by February 7. 

Laidre explained to Estonian media that Russia's decision does not technically mean the expulsion of the Estonian ambassador, but the lowering of the status of diplomatic relations: both Estonia and Russia will be represented in each others' countries in the future not by ambassadors, but by temporary plenipotentiaries or chargés d’affaires.

Therefore Latvia has responded by making exactly the same demand of Russia with regard to their representation. 

Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu called on other European countries to ensure diplomatic parity in relations with Russia by having the same number of employees in the embassies of both sides.

Russian embassies in various European countries usually have many more employees than the embassies of those countries in Russia, giving acertain amount of credence to the notion that a lot of Russian embassies are nests of spies.

Mikhail Vanin was appointed the Russian ambassador to Latvia in September 2021, while former Foreign Minister Māris Riekstiņš became the Latvian ambassador to Russia in August 2017.

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