Latvia expels Russian diplomat despite warming relations
( dpa )- Despite warming relations between Latvia and Russia, the Baltic country on Monday expelled an unnamed Russian diplomat for "activities incompatible with the status of diplomat," the Latvian Foreign Ministry said.
"The Foreign Ministry believed that his presence in Latvia is a threat to national security," ministry spokesman Ivars Lasis told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa .
The ministry made the decision based on information obtained from the security services, and summoned outgoing Russian Ambassador Viktor Kalyuzhny on Monday, handing him a note requiring the diplomat to leave in the coming days, Lasis said.
The Russian embassy in Riga refused to comment when contacted by dpa , but the deputy head of Russia's International Affairs Committee Andrei Klimov said the move came as "a bit of a surprise."
Klimov said the expulsion would surely do nothing to improve relations, but did not read anything deeper into the situation.
"I regret that this has occurred when difficult Russian-Latvian relations were just beginning to improve," Russian news agency Interfax quoted Klimov as saying.
"But everyone understands that from time to time states suspect this or that foreign diplomat of activities not relating to his work," he added.
Bilateral relations between the small Baltic nation and its former overlord have been warming up in recent months. Latvia and Russia signed a border agreement in 2007, establishing the border between the two countries for the first time since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991.
Russia toned down its criticism of Latvia's policies toward the Russian-speaking population, while Latvia had been slow to criticize Russia's record on human rights and democracy.
Latvian Constitution Protection Service spokeswoman Iveta Maura told the Baltic News Service (BNS) that it had obtained sufficient evidence to find the diplomat's activities incompatible with his diplomatic duties, in violation of the Vienna Convention and threatening Latvia's national security.
Maura said the expelled diplomat was not Anatoly Kogalov , first secretary of the Russian embassy in Riga, whose imminent departure from the Baltic nation has been widely speculated by the media at the end of December.
However, she declined to name the diplomat and to say how long the diplomat had been working in Latvia and in what kind of activities he had been involved.
The last time Latvia expelled a Russian diplomat was in spring 2004 for attempts to spy on NATO's military infrastructure, BNS reported.
At that time, Russia responded by expelling the first secretary of the Latvian embassy in Moscow.