May 31, 2017 / 1:49 PM / 2 years ago

Russia says expels five Moldovan diplomats in tit-for-tat move

MOSCOW/CHISINAU (Reuters) - Russia has ordered five Moldovan diplomats to leave the country within three days, in retaliation for the expulsion of five members of its embassy in Moldova earlier this week, the Russian Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday.

On Monday, Moldova’s pro-European Union government expelled five Russian diplomats, a move the ex-Soviet country’s Moscow-backed president Igor Dodon says has led to the worst crisis in bilateral relations in 25 years.

Russia hopes “Chisinau becomes aware of the counter-productive nature of its unfriendly actions,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement announcing the tit-for-tat expulsions from Moscow.

Moldova has been ruled by a succession of pro-EU administrations but Dodon’s election in late 2016 reflected a loss of trust in its leaders as well as Russia’s increasingly assertive influence over former Soviet states.

The Moldovan authorities have not explained their decision to expel the Russians, but earlier on Wednesday Prime Minister Pavel Filip said there were “good reasons”.

“It was a matter of the country’s national interests and the state security of Moldova,” he said in a statement.

“We are in favour of good relations with Russia, but this relationship should be built of mutual respect.”

Reporting by Alexander Winning and Alexander Tanas; Writing by Dmitry Solovyov and Alessandra Prentice; Editing by Catherine Evans

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