Kremlin has expelled three diplomats from Poland, Germany, and Sweden over joining protests in support of Alexi Navalny, who was arrested earlier this week. Russia’s Foreign Ministry maintained that the three took part in what it called “illegal” protests. In response, the home countries of the diplomats have condemned the expulsions, as have France, United Kingdom, and the European Union.
The decision was announced following the meeting between Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s and EU’s Foreign Policy Chief Joseph Borrell in Moscow. On January 31, hundreds of thousands of people took part in rallies in support of Russian opposition leader Navalny and reports were suggesting that thousands have been detained by police officials.
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Berlin dismissed the expulsion, arguing that it was not “justified”. On the other hand, the Swedish foreign ministry maintained that its diplomat who took part in January 23 demonstration was unfounded and stated that it deserved the right to an appropriate response. Meanwhile, the Polish officials said that the recent expulsions could escalate the diplomatic tensions between the two nations.
On behalf of the European bloc, its foreign policy chief Borrell condemned Kremlin’s decision and rejected the allegations that the diplomats participated in activities that are incompatible with their status as foreign diplomats. But the Russian foreign minister maintained that any sanctions from the bloc would be illegitimate.
Besides, both Poland and Germany said that they have summoned Russian diplomats to express concerns over the latest expulsions. Experts suggest that the situation could escalate, resulting in tit-for-tat and expulsion of more diplomatic missions.
Since 2011, Navalny has complained against Putin’s alleged corruption. Late August, the prominent opposition leader was poisoned in Russia and flew to Berlin for treatment. At the end of last month, he returned to Moscow, despite the warnings from Kremlin that he would be arrested.
Later, Alexei Navalny was jailed for three-and-half-years for what the government maintained was a violation of rules of a suspended sentence for fraud in 2014. Meanwhile, Navalny has accused the incumbent government of poisoning. Separately, he is expected to come back to court over charges of insulting a World War Two veteran.
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