Russia has accused a number of diplomats from Germany, Poland and Sweden of taking part in demonstrations in support of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, calling them “undesirable elements.”
The Russian Foreign Ministry said Friday that the unspecified number of diplomats from European countries were accused of taking part in “illegal rallies on January 23” in St. Petersburg and Moscow.
This was announced by the Russian Foreign Ministry in Moscow on Friday. The three representatives had been declared “undesirables.” Moscow had repeatedly accused the EU of interfering in its internal affairs.
They would now have to leave the country as soon as possible under the guidelines of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of April 18, 1961.
Three European countries, Sweden, Poland and Germany, reacted to the expulsion of their diplomats from Russia, reserving the right to take countermeasures.
The Swedish Foreign Ministry confirmed the expulsion of its diplomat and considered this measure totally unjustified and reserved the right to take appropriate measures.
The Polish Foreign Ministry also announced that it would expel a Russian diplomat in response to Moscow’s action.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel condemned Moscow’s decision as unjustified and a step beyond the rule of law.
The German chancellor did not rule out the possibility of sanctions in response to the expulsion of diplomats.
The German Foreign Ministry in Berlin announced Friday that Sergei Nethayev, Russia’s ambassador to Berlin, had been summoned to the German Foreign Ministry following Moscow’s decision to expel a German diplomat.
The U.S. State Department responded to the expulsion from three allied European countries. U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken wrote in a Twitter message, “The United States has condemned the expulsion of three European diplomats from Russia for observing the protests.”
“This is an arbitrary and unjustified move by Russia to withdraw from its international obligations,” Blinken wrote. We stand in solidarity with Germany, Poland and Sweden.
Moscow’s decision follows talks between Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and EU foreign affairs envoy Joseph Borrell, who is visiting Moscow for the first time.
Joseph Borrell called for the release of Nawalny at a joint press conference with Sergei Lavrov on Friday. Lavrov reacted harshly. The EU is increasingly behaving like the U.S. and imposing unilateral sanctions on other countries, Lavrov said.
A Moscow court on Tuesday sentenced Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny to 3.5 years in prison for violating probation and security rules.
by Xavier Cuesta – European Correspondent – EuroNews