Russia has expelled five diplomats from Moldova and two from Estonia in retaliation for analogous measures by the fellow former Soviet countries in recent days, the Russian Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday.
Moldova and Estonia have not disclosed official reasons for their earlier expulsions of equal numbers of Russian diplomats.
Relations between Russia and neighbouring Estonia, a Baltic EU and NATO member state in which a large Russian minority lives, have been strained in recent years as the countries support opposing sides in the Ukraine conflict.
The Russian Foreign Ministry condemned Estonia for initiating the tit-for-tat expulsions, saying “all responsibility for the consequences of this policy lies on the Estonian side.”
However, a separate statement directed at Moldova was not as damning, as the ministry expressed “hope that Chisinau recognizes that its unfriendly actions are counterproductive.”
Moldova, one of the poorest countries in Europe, has been torn between integration with the European Union and loyalties to its former Soviet ruler, Moscow.
Speculation has swirled that Moldova expelled the Russian diplomats amid a spat between pro-EU officials and Moldova’s pro-Russian president, Igor Dodon, who was inaugurated in December.
Mr. Dodon has condemned the expulsions and said he would discuss them during a visit to the Russian city of St Petersburg this week.
“I found out about this decision from the Moldovan ambassador to the Russian Federation,” Mr. Dodon said earlier this week in comments carried by Moldovan state news agency Moldpres.