Lithuania prepares to expel Russian diplomats
Lithuanian authorities are currently discussing with NATO allies the possibility of expelling Russian diplomats from the embassy in Vilnius in solidarity with the Czech Republic, Political Director of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Lithuania Asta Skaisgiryte said on LRT radio.
"We are currently discussing this with our allies," she said.
According to her, the Lithuanian authorities support this idea. "Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda fully supports the Czech Republic's efforts to reduce the presence of foreign military intelligence on NATO territory, and expresses solidarity with the Czech government," Skaisgiryte said.
She explained that Lithuania is now discussing through diplomatic channels with the Czech side how Vilnius will support Prague.
On April 21, the Czech Republic issued an ultimatum to Russia, according to which Prague will bring the the number of employees of the Russian Embassy to parity with the number of Czech diplomats in Moscow, if by 12:00 on April 22 Moscow does not allow the expelled employees to return to the Czech Embassy. The Czech Senate proposed to allow only one Russian diplomat in the country.
The Russian Foreign Ministry called Prague's demands "illogical." Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova also said the that the Russian Foreign Ministry would summon the Czech ambassador to and suggested that the Czech leadership use such ultimatums to communicate with NATO allies.
The diplomatic scandal broke out after the Czech Republic expelled 18 Russian diplomats last week. They were accused of working for Russian special services and involvement in an explosion at an ammunition depot in Vrbetice in 2014. In addition, two alleged employees of the Russian Military Intelligence Directorate, Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, were put on an international wanted list. According to the police, they arrived in the country shortly before the explosion and visited the area where the warehouse was located.
Since then, Moscow announced the expulsion of 20 employees of the Czech Embassy. The Czech Foreign Ministry called this measure disproportionate.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova called the accusations against Russian special services a "marasmatic parade." Dmitry Peskov, a spokesman for the Russian president, agreed with this wording. He said that Prague's actions are "baseless and destructive" for relations between the countries.