Russia announced on Friday (5) the expulsion of diplomats from Germany, Sweden and Poland, accused of participating in illegal protests last month against the arrest of opposition leader Alexei Navalni.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement that it considered their actions “unacceptable and incompatible with diplomatic status”. The total number of people who will have to leave the country has not been reported.
Germany reacted and said there would be consequences if Russia did not reconsider the deportation.
“Russia’s decision to expel several European diplomats, including an official from the embassy in Moscow, is by no means justified and harms relations with Europe,” said Heiko Maas, German foreign minister .
A wave of protests began in Russia on January 23, against the arrest of Alexei Navalni, an opposition leader who criticizes the government of Vladimir Putin. Even in the midst of a harsh winter, there were acts in a hundred cities at that time. Thousands of people have been arrested for participating in the protests, which were not authorized by the government.
Navalni was poisoned in August 2020 and directly accused Putin of the assassination attempt. He was treated in Berlin, where doctors claimed to have found the famous Russian secret service poison Novichok (novice) in his body.
Subsequently, Navalni released the recording of a joke he made to one of the FSB (Federal Security Service) agents identified as the perpetrators of the attack – in him, the spy believed that ‘he speaks to a superior and admits to putting poison in the activist’s underwear in the hotel room.
The Kremlin denies any involvement, and Putin joked at the end of the year that if Russia had wanted to kill Navalni, it would have done so.
Navalni was arrested upon his return to Russia on January 17. He is officially accused of violating the terms of his probation – he was sentenced to jail for commuted fraud in 2014, what he calls judicial harassment. Although theoretically independent, Russian justice is generally aligned with the Kremlin.
Tuesday (2), the activist was sentenced to another two years and eight months in prison in a penal colony.
Several European leaders have made Navalni’s arrest illegal. “Political disagreement is never a crime,” French President Emmanuel Macron wrote in Twiiter. The US State Department has demanded a review of the case.
Blogger and lawyer, Navalni appeared in the public arena during protests against Putin in 2012. The following year, he ran for mayor in Moscow and amassed 27%.
But it was in 2017 that he appeared to the world, commanding via the Internet the call for a day of protests that united thousands of people in the streets of Russia. Due to legal charges, he was barred from running against Putin in 2018. He then switched to a political tactic: favoring any candidacy at the regional level contrary to United Russia, the regime’s party.
He achieved significant symbolic successes in the local elections of 2019 and 2020, and his return to Russia was seen as preparation for the shock of the parliamentary elections in September. Now, with him in prison, his wife, Iulia Navalnaia, is expected to gain prominence against Putin.