The Navalny case interacts: Russia expels European diplomats and the EU countries respond

On Thursday, Moscow expressed its unwillingness to diplomats from Germany, Poland and Sweden, after they participated in demonstrations in support of the opposition Alexei Navalny.

Russia has informed the missions of Germany, Poland and Sweden that a diplomat has been deported from each country in contact with the opposition demonstrations.

The Russian Foreign Ministry’s statement read: “The Ambassador of the Kingdom of Sweden, the Chargé d’Affairs of the Republic of Poland and the Envoy of the German Embassy have been summoned. 

A protest was lodged by the diplomats against the background of the participation of diplomatic personnel at the Consulate General of the Queen of Sweden, the Republic of Poland in Saint Petersburg, and the German Embassy in Moscow in unauthorized events on January 23, 2021.

The Russian Foreign Ministry indicated that “diplomats who participated in illegal actions were considered persona non grata,” stressing that “they had received orders to leave the territory of the Russian Federation in the near future”.

As a result, European reactions continued, as the Commissioner for Foreign Affairs of the European Union, Josep Borrell, “strongly condemned Russia’s decision to expel European diplomats”.

For its part, the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that “the expulsion of our diplomats by Moscow is totally unfounded and we reserve the right to respond proportionately”.

From Germany, German Chancellor Angela Merkel considered Russia’s decision “unjustified,” while French President Emmanuel Macron “condemned in the strongest terms Russia’s expulsion of European diplomats”.

And Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov warned that “further deterioration of relations between Russia and the European Union is fraught with negative and unexpected consequences”.

At a press conference after his talks with the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell, Lavrov said, “Bilateral relations are not going through at their best times because of the illegal federal restrictions imposed by the Union on Russia”.

For his part, Borrell said that he conveyed his deep concern about the events linked to the demonstrations and his call for the release of the opposition Alexei Navalny and for a full investigation.

Russia had announced the expansion of the sanctions lists of representatives of the European Union countries, in response to the European Union sanctions on the case of Russian dissident Alexei Navalny.

This came after the European Union imposed sanctions on 6 people from Russia and one entity after they were charged with “involvement in the assassination attempt on the Russian opposition Alexei Navalny”.

Last Tuesday, a Russian court issued a prison sentence of 3 and a half years against Navalny, who is accused of violating the terms of judicial oversight imposed on him in a case dating back to 2014.

This was followed by protests in Russian cities due to the continued detention of Navalny, and the Moscow authorities prevented movement in the center of the capital, closed metro stations there, and warned against unauthorized demonstrations.

It is noteworthy that Moscow accused the US embassy last month of providing coverage for the protests in support of Navalny, and said that if this was proven, it would consider it a “blatant interference” in Russian internal affairs.

The Kremlin condemned US President Joe Biden’s speech yesterday after attacking Russia and calling for the release of the opposition Alexei Navalny.

Spokesman for the Russian Presidency, Dmitry Peskov, regretted the “hostile and unconstructive” speech, and expressed his hope that a basis for cooperation would remain despite the huge number of disagreements on fundamental issues.

Biden said yesterday that he “assured President Vladimir Putin – unlike my predecessor – that the past days are over,” pointing out that “the imprisonment of Russian dissident Alexei Navalny and the suppression of gatherings are a matter of concern to us, and Navalny should be released immediately and unconditionally”.