- Russia indicated it made the decision after diplomats attended the anti-government protest held on January 23.
- Germany called the expulsion "unjustified," and stated that it “distances” Moscow from the principles of the rule of law.
- Josep Borrell ejected the accusations by Russia that the diplomats carried out “activities incompatible with their status as foreign diplomats.”
The government of Russia expelled three diplomats from Germany, Poland, and Sweden on Friday, owing to their alleged participation in one of the demonstrations held in recent weeks in favor of the Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny. Russia’s Foreign Ministry has claimed that diplomats participated in “illegal meetings” held on January 23.
The announcement comes hours after the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs, Josep Borrell, met with the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov.
Mr. Borrell called for the immediate release of Mr. Navalny and an impartial investigation into his poisoning in summer.
“I have conveyed to Minister Lavrov our deep concern and reiterated our appeal for his release and the launch of an impartial investigation of his poisoning,” he said.
These protests were held in the country’s capital, Moscow, and Saint Petersburg.
Some “Inadmissible” Actions
The Russian Foreign Ministry has reported in a statement that it has declared diplomats persona non grata “in correspondence with the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations,” and has asked that they leave Russian territory “as soon as possible.”
Russia has indicated that it has made the decision after diplomats attended the anti-government protest held on January 23 in support of the Russian opposition leader, actions that it considers “inadmissible” and that “do not correspond to their diplomatic status.”
Germany: Expulsion “Unjustified”
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, in reaction to the news, has described Russia’s decision to expel the three diplomats as “unjustified,” and has stated that it “distances” Moscow from the principles of the rule of law.
Chancellor Merkel’s statements came during a joint virtual press conference with the French President, Emmanuel Macron, after a bilateral defense council between France and Germany.
Along the same lines, the German Foreign Minister, Heiko Maas, has warned that there will be a response if Russia does not change it’s actions in regard to the opposition leader Alexei Navalny. The Minister tweeted:
“Russia’s decision to expel multiple EU diplomats, including a member of the diplomatic staff of the German Embassy in Moscow, is in no way justified and further damages relations with Europe.”
The Polish Foreign Ministry has confirmed that it has summoned the Russian ambassador for the expulsion of a Polish diplomat in Saint Petersburg and has indicated that it hopes that Russia will reverse its decision. The Swedish Foreign Ministry considers the action “completely unfounded.”
Borrell Condemns the Decision
In a statement, Mr. Borrell rejected the accusations by Russia that the diplomats carried out “activities incompatible with their status as foreign diplomats,” and has “strongly” condemned the decision of the Russian Government. “The decision must be reconsidered,” he asserted.
For his part, the French president, Emmanuel Macron has also “very strongly” condemned Russia’s behavior towards Alexei Navalny from his poisoning to his arrest, as well as the expulsion of diplomats.