Germany, Poland and Sweden expelled three Russian diplomats in a coordinated retaliation on Monday for the expulsion of three European Union diplomats by Russia while the EU’s foreign policy chief was visiting Moscow last week.
Spokesperson for High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Peter Stano expressed that High Representative Josep Borrell over his trip to Russia where has said he had learned of the expulsions via social media while speaking with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow on Friday.
Germany’s Foreign Office, in a statement regarding its ejection of a Russian diplomat, said the German diplomat booted out by Moscow was only “carrying out his task of reporting on developments on the spot in a legal way”. Sweden echoed the German stance, calling the expulsions by Moscow “unacceptable”.
Poland’s Foreign Ministry said it ordered a member of Russia’s consulate in the city of Poznan to leave “in accordance with the principle of reciprocity and in coordination with Germany and Sweden.”
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on state TV the three EU countries’ actions were “unjustified, unfriendly and a continuation of the same series of actions the West is taking against our country, which we qualify as interference in internal affairs”, according to Russian news agencies.
Russia said that it had expelled diplomats from Germany, Poland and Sweden amid claims they took part in pro-Alexei Navalny protests.
Russian opposition leader Navalny was jailed on his return to Russia after recovering from an attempt to kill him with a nerve agent. He blames the Russian security services for the attack but the Kremlin denies this.
He has denounced his detention as "blatantly illegal", saying the authorities had allowed him to travel to Berlin for treatment for the Novichok poisoning, which happened in Russia last August.
Tens of thousands took to the streets across Russia to protest. Some 11,000 people were detained by security forces during the demonstrations declared "unauthorised" by Russia.
EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy / Vice-President of the Commission (HR/VP) Josep Borrell condemned the move and called the Russian side to reconsider the decision.