Yet another major diplomatic blow-up involving Russia and Baltic NATO states is developing Tuesday, after Russian intelligence announced the detention of Estonia's St. Petersburg consul, according to Deutsche Welle. The Estonian diplomat, identified in reports as Mart Lätte, is being accused by the Kremlin of "receiving classified information from a Russian citizen." The FSB made the arrest and is reportedly interrogating Lätte in what will earn swift condemnations from Western allies.
"The Russian Federal Security Service in St. Petersburg have detained Estonian diplomat — consul of the Consulate General of the Republic of Estonia in St. Petersburg Mart Lätte — caught red-handed while receiving classified materials from a Russian citizen," the FSB's Center for Public Relations (CPR) was cited in Russian news agency Interfax as saying.
"This activity is not compatible with the status of a diplomatic employee and has a clear hostile nature towards the Russian Federation," the FSB statement said further. "Measures will be taken against the foreign diplomat in accordance with the norms of international law" - meaning he'll likely eventually be expelled from Russian soil.
The whole emerging incident appears a tit-for-tat style "answer" to recent allegations which have seen Russian diplomats and military attaches get kicked out of Europe for mirror image charges. Even the FSB statement's language echoes that of prior cases centered on allegations against the Kremlin.
Consider the big diplomatic row in Italy in early April, for example, where the Russian consulate and a military officer were said to be caught "red-handed" - and then expelled:
Italy expelled two Russian officials on Wednesday after an Italian navy captain was caught red-handed by police selling secret documents to the Russians.
The Italian frigate captain was arrested on spying charges after officers tailing him saw him late Tuesday in Rome in a "clandestine meeting" with a Russian military officer, according to a police statement.
The ensuing months witnessed a period of multiple instances of Russian diplomats and officials being expelled from Eastern European capitals, also as accusations over the Navalny affair raged.
This also comes after the European Union rejected a push by Germany's Merkel and France's Macron to re-enter formal dialogue with Putin's government in hopes of repaired relations, also as Berlin and Moscow are actively coordinating on completion of the Nord Stream 2 Russian-to-Germany natural gas pipeline.