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Latvia to Expel Russian Envoy

Latvia will expel a Russian diplomat it accused of trying to spy on NATO infrastructure, a Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said Friday.

In Moscow, the Foreign Ministry criticized the expulsion.

"The act of provocation by officials in Riga, which fits in with the anti-Russian course of the current Latvian leadership, was not unexpected: the Russian Foreign Ministry had warned on April 12 of such plans by Russophobic Latvian politicians," it said in a statement.

It said Russia will consider retaliating adequately, but did not say how.

Russia's ambassador to Latvia, Igor Stoudennikov, was summoned to the Latvian Foreign Ministry on Friday and told that the accused Russian diplomat must leave Latvia within 72 hours, Stukena said.

This is the first time Latvia has expelled a diplomat from any country since it regained independence in 1991. It is the third time in recent months that a Russian diplomat has been expelled from a Baltic country.

Lithuania, another new NATO member, ordered out three Russian diplomats on suspicion of espionage in late February. Estonia, also in NATO, expelled two lower-level Russian diplomats in March.

(The St. Petersburg Times 30.iv.04)

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