File photo Photograph:( AFP )
The announcement of the expulsions came hours after the European Union's top diplomat Josep Borrell met Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow and described the bloc's ties with Russia as at a 'low point' over Navalny's jailing
Germany, Poland and Sweden have condemned Russia's expulsion of diplomats from the three European countries for allegedly taking part in protests in support of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny.
Navalny, President Vladimir Putin's most prominent critic, was jailed this week for almost three years for parole violations he calls trumped-up, a move the West condemned.
He was arrested on January 17 on his return from treatment in Germany, where he was flown in August after falling ill from what German officials concluded was poisoning with a military-grade nerve agent. The Kremlin has questioned whether Navalny was poisoned and denied blame for his illness.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Friday "We consider these expulsions to be unjustified. We believe it is yet another aspect that can be observed right now of Russia being quite far from the rule of law."
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said earlier that the decision by Moscow to declare the diplomats from Poland, Germany and Sweden persona non grata would "not go unanswered".
Maas added that the German diplomat concerned was "solely fulfilling his duty... of informing himself about developments on the ground by lawful means".
France's Macron also took Germany's stance, saying he was "completely in line and in solidarity" with his EU counterpart on the issue.
He similarly condemned "most firmly" Russia's decision to expel the European diplomats.
The Polish foreign ministry said in a statement that it had summoned Russia's ambassador to Warsaw after Russia earlier Friday said it was expelling diplomats from Poland, Germany and Sweden.
The foreign ministry said the decision "will contribute to the further deepening of the crisis in the bilateral relations between our countries".
The ministry said the diplomat in question was working at the Polish consulate in Saint Petersburg and expressed "regret" and "concern" over the move.
Russia's ambassador was informed "that the Polish diplomat in question performed her duties resulting from the diplomatic status in accordance with the Vienna Convention," the ministry added.
The announcement of the expulsions came hours after the European Union's top diplomat Josep Borrell met Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow and described the bloc's ties with Russia as at a "low point" over Navalny's jailing.
Despite close trade ties and energy interdependence, Russia's political relations with the European Union soured after Moscow annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.