Russia on Monday defended the expulsion of three diplomats from Germany, Poland, and Sweden for allegedly participating in protests in support of the jailed dissident Alexei Navalny.
“The Russian side has made it clear that it does not intend to tolerate such a thing,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told the Interfax agency.
The Russian Foreign Ministry declared the three diplomats “undesirable persons” on Friday, claiming they participated in unauthorised protests in Moscow and St. Petersburg on Jan. 23.
Reports on Russian state TV portrayed the diplomats as criminals, broadcasting footage from surveillance cameras of the protests with the diplomats’ faces encircled, together with their full names and functions.
The governments of Germany, Sweden, and Poland have rejected this, saying their envoys were present at the protests as observers, not participants.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said that the concerned German diplomat had fulfilled his task, as stipulated in the Vienna Agreement on Diplomatic Relations, to obtain information about developments on the ground by lawful means.
Chancellor Angela Merkel has also described the expulsion of the diplomats as “unjustified.”
Criticism also came from the U.S. State Department and French President Emmanuel Macron, among others.
On Jan. 23, tens of thousands of people demonstrated across Russia for the release of the imprisoned dissident, Alexei Navalny, and against President Vladimir Putin.
Thousands were arrested during the protests.