Moscow said it was expelling diplomats from three European Union members saying they participated in protests to support opposition politician Aleksei Navalny, a topic that the bloc’s top diplomat said earlier in the day had brought bilateral relations to a “low point.”, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty report.
Russia’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the Swedish ambassador, the charge d’affaires of Poland, and the German envoy were summoned to the ministry where a protest was lodged with the diplomats in connection with the “recorded participation of diplomatic employees of the Consulates General of the Kingdom of Sweden and the Republic of Poland in St. Petersburg and the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany in Moscow in illegal actions on January 23.”
The announcement came hours after EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell met his counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, in Moscow, amid a deterioration of relations that has worsened in recent weeks over Navalny’s detention and a crackdown on anti-government protesters.
Many of the EU’s 27 members, along with the United States, have demanded the release of the 44-year-old Kremlin critic, who survived nerve-agent poisoning in August 2020 that he accuses Putin of ordering.
Borrell “strongly condemned” Moscow’s decision on the expulsions when he was informed of them during a meeting with Lavrov and “rejected the allegations that they conducted activities incompatible with their status as foreign diplomats,” the EU official’s spokesman said.
“The decision should be reconsidered,” said the spokesman, Peter Stano.
Chancellor Angela Merkel told reporters that the “unjustified” expulsion of German diplomats was “yet another aspect that can be observed right now of Russia being quite far from the rule of law.”
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said in a statement that the Russian decision is “further damaging relations with Europe” and will “not go unanswered.”
The Polish Foreign Ministry summoned the Russian envoy to Warsaw to protest against Moscow’s move and said it “expects the Russian authorities to reverse this erroneous decision.”
“Otherwise, Poland leaves itself the option to take appropriate steps,” the ministry said in a statement.
A spokeswoman for Sweden’s Foreign Ministry said that one of its diplomats was being expelled from the country and rejected “Russia’s claim that the diplomat participated in the demonstration.”
Source – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty