Russian diplomats expelled by EU member states

Josep Borrell, the EU high representative for foreign affairs (left) and Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov (right) at a press conference in Moscow last Friday (Photo: REUTERS)

Germany, Poland and Sweden have expelled Russian diplomats in reaction to the expulsion of three EU diplomats from Russia last week. 

Russia expelled three EU officials while Josep Borrell, the EU’s  foreign policy chief, visited the country last week. The three EU-member states took an eye for an eye and expelled Russian diplomats simultaneously in a coordination action. It underscores the “volatility in east-west relations and an erosion of trust among former Cold War foes”, the Guardian noted. 

Josep Borrell recalled that he learned about the expulsion of the EU diplomats, while he was in a meeting with the Russian foreign minister,  Sergei Lavrov, last Friday. He had to find out about this coordinated humiliation via social media. According to the Kremlin, the EU diplomats were removed from Moscow after they joined protests last month against the imprisonment of Alexei Navaly, who recently returned to Moscow after a medical rehabilitation in Berlin. This diplomatic embarrassment will probably receive a crossfire of question and critique during the plenary debate in the European Parliament, later today. 

While the Russian foreign ministry judged the EU member states actions as “unjustified and unfriendly”, Germany, Poland and Sweden stood side by side. The German foreign office said the German official booted out by Moscow was only “carrying out his task of reporting on developments on the spot in a legal fashion”. Its Polish equivalent stated that the expulsion of the Russian diplomat from Poznan was “in accordance with the principle of reciprocity and in coordination with Germany and Sweden”. Ann Linde, the Swedish foreign minister, said her governments decision was a “clear response to the unacceptable decision to expel a Swedish diplomat who was only performing his duties”.