Western Morning News (Saturday)
Russia expels diplomats for supporting Navalny protests
RUSSIA’S Foreign Ministry says it is expelling diplomats from Sweden, Poland and Germany for attending a rally in support of opposition leader Alexei Navalny. The diplomats were being declared “persona non grata” after they allegedly took part in “unlawful” rallies supporting Mr Navalny on January 23, the ministry said.
Mass protests in support of Mr Navalny took place that day all across Russia. Diplomats from Sweden and Poland in St Petersburg and from
Germany in Moscow took part in the rallies, it said, and their actions were “unacceptable and inappropriate for their diplomatic status”.
They are required to leave Russia “in the nearest future”, a ministry statement said. The expulsions came as the European Union’s top diplomat told Russia’s foreign minister the treatment of Mr Navalny represents “a low point” in the relations between Brussels and Moscow
Navalny appeared in a Moscow court this week on a charge of insulting a Second World War veteran. The politician, who on Tuesday was ordered to two years and eight months in prison, attacked the new hearing as a “disgusting PR trial” intended by the Kremlin to discredit him. Last June, Russia’s Investigative Committee launched an investigation into Mr Navalny on charges of defamation after the politician criticised people featured in a video promoting the constitutional reform that allowed an extension to President Vladimir Putin’s rule. The authorities said Mr Navalny’s comments “denigrate (the) honour and dignity” of a veteran featured in the video.
Last month, the 44-year-old anticorruption investigator and Mr Putin’s most prominent critic was arrested upon return from Germany, where he spent five months recovering from a nerve-agent poisoning that he blames on the Kremlin. Russian authorities rejected the accusations.