Brussels (Brussels Morning) Governments of three EU member-states have retaliated after Russia expelled three EU diplomats from Russia last Friday. In a coordinated tit-for-tat response, Germany, Poland and Sweden expelled three Russian diplomats on Monday, Reuters reported.
Russia chose to expel the three EU diplomats during the official visit of EU High Representative Josep Borrell to Moscow, a decision Borrell only found out about through social media shortly after his official meeting that day with Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
Moscow accused the three diplomats of taking part in the mass protests held all across Russia last month, in which tens of thousands of Russian citizens demanded the release of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny. The EU had condemned the jailing, and the subsequent violent crackdown of the protests ahead of the Borrell visit.
The expelled German diplomat, Germany’s Foreign Ministry stated, had been “carrying out his task of reporting on developments on the spot in a legal fashion”. Sweden’s Foreign Ministry issued a similar claim, and called the Russian expulsion of its diplomat “unacceptable”.
The Polish Foreign Ministry announced on Monday that it had ordered a member of the Russian consulate in Poznan to leave the country, “in accordance with the principle of reciprocity and in coordination with Germany and Sweden.” The Swedish and German foreign ministries expelled Russian diplomats from their respective countries the same day.
EC defends Borrell
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova condemned the decision, describing the EU member state actions as “unjustified and unfriendly”. Zakharova claimed their decision was a “continuation of the same series of actions the West is taking against our country, which we qualify as interference in internal affairs”.
Despite Borrell suffering backlash in the European Parliament over his perceived humiliation in Moscow, the European Commission stood by its chief diplomat on Monday. “The trip was necessary. One doesn’t give up on a trip because it looks difficult,” Commission spokesman Eric Mamer declared.