Al Jazeera – Russia has announced the expulsion of diplomats from Sweden, Germany and Poland, accusing them of taking part in illegal protests last month against the jailing of Kremlin critic Alexey Navalny.
The foreign ministry said in a statement on Friday that Moscow considered the actions of the diplomats unacceptable and that it expects diplomats from the countries to “strictly follow the norms of international law” in the future, as tensions between the Kremlin and the West ratchet up.
The ministry said the unspecified number of individuals who “took part in illegal protests were declared persona non grata” and “ordered to leave Russia in the near future”.
The move came hours after the European Union’s top diplomat, Josep Borrell, met with Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov in Moscow.
Borrell “strongly condemned” the action, a spokesman said, while Sweden branded it “completely unfounded”.
Navalny’s jailing has prompted mass nationwide demonstrations and condemnation from the EU and several Western nations, with calls for sanctions on Russia growing in Europe. Moscow has so far brushed off the foreign criticism as external interference, accusing the West of hysteria and double standards.
Borrell, the EU’s high representative for foreign affairs and security policy, said on Friday that the bloc’s ties with Russia had plunged to a new low point following Navalny’s sentencing earlier this week.
“Our relationship is indeed in a difficult moment,” he told Lavrov, adding that EU-Russia ties are “under severe strain and the Navalny case is a low point.”
Al Jazeera’s Aleksandra Godfroid, reporting from Moscow, said Russia was “raising the stakes” with its move to expel the diplomats.
“It wants to send a very clear message that they [Russian authorities] are not going to listen to the messages and requests coming from the EU regarding Navalny, his court hearings or regarding demonstrations and rallies here in Russia,” she said.
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