Russia expels European diplomats over Navalny protests
Russia has expelled three diplomats from Germany, Sweden and Poland for joining protests in support of opposition activist Alexei Navalny, who was jailed earlier this week.
The Russian foreign ministry said the three took part in “illegal demonstrations” on 23 January.
Sweden called the expulsion “totally unfounded” and denied its diplomat had participated in any demonstration.
Mr Navalny is a vociferous critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The expulsion of the diplomats was announced on Friday, hours after EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell met Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow.
Hundreds of thousands of people took part in protests in support of Mr Navalny across Russia on 23 and 31 January. Thousands of participants were arrested.
The German foreign ministry denounced the expulsion as being “in no way justified” and said it would retaliate if Russia did not reconsider.
Who is Alexei Navalny?
Mr Navalny, 44, is a political activist who has campaigned against corruption and Mr Putin since 2011.
Last August he was poisoned with a nerve agent in eastern Russia and taken to Germany for treatment. He returned home at the end of January, despite warnings from the Russian government that he would be arrested.
He was then jailed for three-and-a-half years for what prosecutors said was a violation of the terms of a suspended sentence for fraud in 2014.
Mr Navalny accuses Mr Putin of running an administration riddled with corruption.
Shortly after his return to Russia, he released a YouTube video featuring an opulent Black Sea palace which, he alleged, was a Russian billionaires’ gift to the president. More than 100 million people have watched the video.
Mr Putin has denied ownership. Last week Arkady Rotenberg, a billionaire businessman close to Mr Putin, came forward to say he bought the palace two years ago.