Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 175

A diplomatic scandal between Russia and Finland appeared to be brewing yesterday following reports that two Russian diplomats had been expelled from Finland–one this summer and one sometime last year–for alleged espionage activities. Finnish newspapers reportedly said that the two Russian diplomats had been declared “persona non grata” for acquiring classified information concerning the European Union from a Finnish Foreign Ministry official. Finnish security officials were quoted as saying that the incident was a serious one.

A Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman, meanwhile, expressed surprise yesterday that the incident had come to the public’s attention now. Russian sources also suggested that Moscow had objected to the diplomatic expulsions when they originally occurred, but had chosen to take no retaliatory measures against Finnish diplomats in Russia. Authorities in Helsinki have reportedly launched criminal proceedings against the unnamed Finnish diplomat accused of passing the secret information to Russia (Russian agencies, NTV, September 23).

The spy wrangle between Russia and Finland is not the first for Moscow this year. In March, Norway announced that it had expelled five Russian diplomats for spying, and Moscow retaliated by ordering two Norwegian diplomats out of Russia. The incident briefly roiled relations between the two countries (see the Monitor, March 19). Then, in early July, Russia and South Korea became involved in an acrimonious spy row that is yet to be fully resolved. It began when Russian authorities arrested a South Korean diplomat for allegedly procuring classified information from a Russian Foreign Ministry official. The ensuing diplomatic brouhaha, which eventually cost South Korean Foreign Minister Park Chung-soo his job, was expected to be the subject of talks this week in New York between Foreign Ministry officials from Russia and South Korea (Kyodo, September 17; see also the Monitor, July 30, August 5).