Russia has expelled diplomats from three European Union (EU) countries for taking part in unauthorised protests in support of Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Friday that three diplomats from Poland, Germany, and Sweden had taken part in unauthorized rallies in Moscow and St. Petersburg on January 23 and had been declared persona non grata.
They were ordered to leave Russia at the earliest, the statement said.
The ministry said it had also filed formal protests with the embassies of Germany, Poland, and Sweden on Friday and added that Moscow expected diplomats from the three EU countries to “strictly follow the norms of international law” in the future.
The Russian move came hours after EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell met Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow to discuss ties between the bloc and Russia.
Borrell referred to the developments around the Navalny case as a “a low point” in the relations between the EU and Russia, which he said were “indeed in a difficult moment.”
EU spokesman Peter Stano also said that Borrell had learned of Moscow’s decision to expel the diplomats from the three countries in his meeting with Lavrov and had “strongly condemned this decision and rejected the allegations that they conducted activities incompatible with their status as foreign diplomats.”
Earlier, some 20 diplomats attended a court hearing for Navalny, where he was sentenced to prison for having violated the terms of a suspended prison term. The diplomats included those from the United States, Bulgaria, Poland, Latvia, Austria, and Switzerland.