Yesterday Russia expelled diplomats from three EU member states. The accusation is that he participated in illegal protests in support of Alexei Navalny, an opponent of the Kremlin in prison since January. The Russian government has also explicitly ignored a public call from the EU’s top diplomat to free the opposition politician.
Josep Borrell’s attempt therefore failed and resulted in the expulsion of Germany, Sweden and Poland. The head of EU foreign policy made a special trip to Russia to resume dialogue with Moscow.
The reactions: German Chancellor Angela Merkel defined this reaction as unjustified and qualifying this choice as a further step forward with respect to the rule of law in Russia. Poland summoned the Russian ambassador on the decision.
Sentencing Navalny to three years in prison for parole violations was a move the West strongly condemned.
Borrell had asked Russia to immediately release Navalny, qualifying it as a case of human rights violations. No response has been received from Russia on the specific case, other than the affirmation that the 27-nation bloc are now considered an unreliable partner.
The Navalny case is considered a critical point for ties between Russia and the EU. Borrell specified that the EU will discuss relations with Moscow next month.
On the poisoning and detention of Navalny, the EU has ordered an investigation aimed at sanctions. Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, compared Brussels’ reaction to Washington regarding the use of unilateral sanctions. For Moscow, the EU’s actions have been described as “unacceptable”. The EU and Russia are closely linked by trade agreements and interdependent from an energy point of view, but their relations have begun to sour after Crimea was annexed by the Russian Federation.
The Navalny case is now postponed to February 12 when the next hearing is scheduled.