Germany expelled and classified a Russian diplomat as “persona non grata” on Monday in response to Moscow’s expulsion of EU diplomats on Friday, which the German foreign office said was “in no way justified”.
Poland, and Sweden also expelled Russian diplomats the same day, which Tagesschau reports was a closely coordinated move between the three governments and the European External Action Service, citing sources in the German foreign ministry.
This is the latest escalation in the row over the poisoning and now imprisoning of opposition politician Alexei Navalny.
For its part, Moscow stated that the German, Polish, and Swedish diplomats that it expelled on Friday had taken part in what it called “illegal protests” in support of Navalny, an assertion that the three governments have denied.
“The German diplomat concerned was solely fulfilling his duty, as provided for in the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, to inform himself by lawful means about developments on the ground,” Foreign Minister Heiko Maas (SPD) said on Friday.
The expulsions occurred during High Representative Josep Borrell’s trip to Moscow.
As reported by EURACTIV, Borrell lamented the failed trip in a blog post. An “aggressively-staged press conference and the expulsion of three EU diplomats during my visit indicate that the Russian authorities did not want to seize this opportunity to have a more constructive dialogue with the EU,” he wrote.
The EU’s top diplomat added that the EU and its member states will have to determine further consequences towards Russia, adding “these could include sanctions.”
Regarding the expulsion of its diplomats, Moscow claimed it was “unfounded, unfriendly and a continuation of that series of actions, actions that the West undertakes against our country and that we classify as interference in internal affairs.”
Meanwhile, Poland has expelled a Russian diplomat from the Consulate General of the Russian Federation in Poznań, Poland’s foreign affairs ministry announced Monday.
Soon after the expulsion of the Russian diplomat, Poland’s foreign ministry released a statement, stating that “the Polish side expects the Russian authorities to reverse this wrong decision. Otherwise, Poland leaves the opportunity to take appropriate steps”. The decision was submitted to the Ambassador of the Russian Federation in Warsaw and was taken in coordination with German and Swedish authorities, the ministry informed.
Polish diplomacy “would like to ensure that, regardless of pressure from the Russian authorities, Polish diplomats will continue in the Russian Federation to carry out their official task under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations,” the press release stated.
(Sarah Lawton | EURACTIV.de, Joanna Jakubowska | EURACTIV.pl)