Source Pravda.Ru

Russia declares Lithuanian military attache persona non grata

Lithuanian Foreign Minister Antanas Valionis confirmed in an interview on the National Radio the report that came from Moscow on Friday that a Lithuanian diplomat would be expelled from Moscow. Mr. Valionis said the move was Moscow's retaliation to the expulsion of three Russian embassy workers from Vilnius in July 2004. They were accused of activities inconsistent with the diplomatic status, which meant they were suspected of espionage.

However, Mr. Valionis emphasized that Vilnius had not announced the Russian diplomats' expulsion officially.

Lieutenant Colonel Sigitas Butkus worked in Moscow for 3 years. Lithuania's foreign ministry noted the Russian authorities had not been critical of him until recently.

The Russian foreign ministry's press and information department spelled the news on Friday.

"The charge d'affaires ad interim of Lithuania was summoned to the Russian Foreign Ministry today and informed that Lieutenant Colonel Sigitas Butkus, Lithuanian military attache to the Russian Federation, had been declared persona non grata for activities damaging Russia's interests and ordered to leave the country within two days," the ministry said in a statement.

"The charge d'affaires a.i. was also informed that Russia had decided not to issue accreditation to Colonel R. Zibas, Lithuania's new charge d'affaires," said the ministry.

In late February 2004, two Russian embassy officials and a trade delegation member were expelled from Lithuania for what the foreign minister described as "attempts to influence state property privatization processes and illegal ways to get information related to President Rolandas Paksas' impeachment."

Russia said the accusations were unsubstantiated and reserved the right to take retaliatory steps, according to Alexander Yakovenko, official spokesman of the Russian foreign ministry.

On March 30, three Lithuanian were declared personas non grata for "activities inconsistent with the diplomatic status and damaging Russia's interests."