February 05, 2021
Russia’s foreign ministry says it has expelled three EU diplomats for taking part in “unauthorized rallies” in support of Alexei Navalny. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has condemned the move.
Alexei Navanly returned home last month after receiving medical treatment in Germany
Russia expelled three European diplomats on Friday, accusing them of taking part in “unauthorized” rallies supporting jailed Kremlin critic Alexi Navalny.
The country’s foreign ministry said that “such actions on their part are unacceptable and do not correspond to their diplomatic status.”
The trio come from Germany, Sweden and Poland. It was unclear which rank they hold in their respective diplomatic missions.
The announcement was made after EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell met Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow.
EU hits out at Moscow’s move
A spokesman for Borrell said that he learned of their expulsion during the talks.
The EU’s top diplomat “strongly condemned this decision and rejected the allegations that they conducted activities incompatible with their status as foreign diplomats.”
“The decision should be reconsidered,” the spokesman said.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said: “We condemn Navalny’s sentence and also the expelling of diplomats from Germany, Sweden and Poland.”
It was “another facet” of “what can be observed quite far from the rule of law in Russia,” Merkel added at a joint press conference with French President Emmanuel Macron in Berlin.
She said that the Nordstrom 2 pipeline will remain unaffected, but that Germany would continue to pursue sanctions against individuals in Russia.
It was “strategic” and a “diplomatic task” to remain in conversation with Russia despite “deep differences” because “we are neighbors,” Merkel added.
Macron meanwhile condemned the expulsion and Russia’s treatment of Navalny and his supporters “with the utmost firmness.”
Sweden rejected Russia’s claims as “completely unfounded”, saying its foreign ministry “reserves the right to an appropriate response.”
Poland summoned the Russian ambassador after one of its diplomats was told to leave St. Petersburg.
The government said “it expects the Russian authorities to reverse this erroneous decision.”
Ties strained between Brussels and Moscow
Ties between the bloc and Russia have become strained over Navalny’s jailing.
The 44-year-old opposition figure was arrested after returning home from Germany.
Navalny had been receiving treatment from a poisoning attack that he blames on the Kremlin and the Russian secret service.
Officials in Moscow have angrily denied any involvement.
Russian police arrested more than 10,000 people at demonstrations across the country last week in support of Navalny.
US President Joe Biden on Thursday called on Russia to release him, hinting of possible sanctions if Moscow fails to do.