Sweden's Foreign Ministry says two of its diplomats have been expelled from Russia following a move by Stockholm to deny visas to two of Moscow’s envoys.
The expulsion, announced on May 8, was another blow to relations following an earlier diplomatic dispute over alleged Russian spying in the Nordic nation.
"Two Swedish diplomats have been asked to leave Russia," Swedish Foreign Ministry spokesman Rasmus Eljanskog said. “We regret the Russian Foreign Ministry’s decision.”
Eljanskog said the move followed a decision by Stockholm not to extend one Russian diplomat's visa and to deny an application for a diplomatic visa for another Russian citizen. The timing of that action was not disclosed.
Maria Zakharova, the spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, told reporters in Moscow that the expulsion was in retaliation for Stockholm’s earlier decision on its envoys.
Sweden has long expressed concerns about the threat of Russian espionage. The country's head of counterintelligence last year warned that Moscow posed “the biggest intelligence threat to Sweden."
In late February, Swedish authorities arrested a technology worker, alleging the person had been "recruited as an agent by a Russian intelligence officer posing as a diplomat in Sweden."
The 45-year-old Swedish suspect denied the allegations and was released from custody in late March. Local media described the man as a naturalized Swedish citizen who previously held a Russian passport.
The Russian diplomat, identified by the media as Yevgeny Umerenko, left Sweden several weeks after the incident, Swedish authorities said.