Provocative behavior: Russia detains Estonian diplomat – Yahoo News
Russian security officials detained an Estonian diplomat in St. Petersburg on espionage suspicions, drawing a sharp complaint from the NATO member-state.
“Such charges are completely ungrounded. It cannot be regarded anything else than a provocation by Russian authorities,” Estonian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Aari Lemmik told the Washington Examiner. “This is yet another example that Russia is not interested in constructive relations with its neighbors and the European Union.”
Diplomats have immunity under international law, but they can be expelled at the discretion of the host country. The detention of the Estonian diplomat, Mart Latte, coincides with military exercises by NATO allies and Russian forces in the Black Sea, not far from Crimea, the peninsula that Russian forces annexed from Ukraine.
“The Federal Security Service in St. Petersburg detained an Estonian diplomat, consul of the Estonian consulate general in St. Petersburg Mart Latte while receiving classified documents from a Russian national,” the Russian security agency told state media. “Such activities are incompatible with the status of a diplomatic worker and are openly hostile in respect of Russia.”
The dispute about the diplomat is unfolding as Russian officials talk openly of conflict in the Black Sea. Russian forces claimed to have dropped bombs near a British warship last month, although the United Kingdom denied that this incident took place, and then Russian President Vladimir Putin suggested that Russia could have sunk the destroyer without provoking a “world war” — a remark that caught the attention of Western officials.
That bellicose motif continued Tuesday. “They would be better off leaving their provocations aside next time and staying away from that area because they will get clocked in the nose,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said. “The risks of conflicts may further mount. The Black Sea is not a place where such games are permissible.“
Latte’s detention lasted roughly 90 minutes, according to the Estonian Foreign Ministry. The FSB, the successor agency to the Soviet Union’s KGB, has a reputation for lodging false accusations of espionage. The imprisonment of Paul Whelan, a U.S. citizen and former Marine who reportedly was seized after a putative friend who owed him money planted a flash drive on him, is one high-profile case.
“The consul was attending a working meeting at St. Petersburg Polytechnic University,” Lemmik said. “Estonia is looking for the good-neighbourly and constructive relations with Russia, but first and foremost, we expect Russia to follow the principles of international law. The provocative behavior by Russian authorities that we were witnessing today in St. Petersburg is an unfortunate example of the opposite.”