Russia on Wednesday ordered a Ukrainian diplomat Igor Berezkinto leave the country in what it said was retaliation for Kiev's expulsion last week of a Russian diplomat responsible for the Black Sea Fleet.
Russia's Foreign Ministry said in a statement that it summoned Ukraine's Moscow ambassador on Wednesday to complain of "openly anti-Russian actions." It ordered an adviser in the Ukrainian embassy in Moscow to "immediately end his mission."
Moscow leases a base for the Black Sea Fleet in Sevastopol, a port in the Crimea peninsula which is populated by mainly ethnic Russians. The base has been a thorn in relations between Moscow and Kiev since Ukraine's independence in 1991.
Amid rising tension over the future of the fleet, whose lease is due to expire in 2017, a Russian official based in Ukraine said last week that he was preparing to leave.
Ukrainian police then halted convoys of Russian military vehicles in the town hosting the fleet, in what they said was a violation of a bilateral agreement.
Berezkin, who recently took up his post in the political section of the Ukrainian embassy in Moscow, coordinated all issues on Ukraine-Russian relations, in particular Russia's Black Sea Fleet in Ukraine's Crimea.
The expulsions follows a similar move by Kiev, who requested that Russia's consul general in Odessa, Alexander Grachev and a senior counselor at the Russian embassy, Vladimir Lysenko, leave Ukraine over accusations that they had been involved in work in violation of their diplomatic status.
Ukraine earlier demanded Lysenko quit the country by July 29, despite the fact that the Russian diplomat had already left Ukraine after his job came to an end on July 28.
Russia's Foreign Minister responded angrily to the expulsions, "The Ukrainian authorities have not presented us with any facts of espionage," Sergei Lavrov told reporters in the Tajik capital of Dushanbe on Thursday. "They simply do not exist. We know this for sure."
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