İrem UZUN -TDO- Russia said on Friday it is expelling diplomats from Sweden, Poland and Germany, alleging they participated in recent illegal protests. The Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the diplomats were declared "personae non grata" because of their participation in a January 23 demonstration "incompatible with their diplomatic status." The statement did not identify the protests, but demonstrations were held that day demanding the release of jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

The expulsions were announced just a few hours after EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell met Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow. Hundreds of thousands of people took part in protests in support of Navalny across Russia on 23 and 31 January. Thousands were arrested, including Navaly’s wife.

The diplomats' home countries have condemned the expulsions. Sweden said it "strongly rejects Russian claims that the diplomat took part in protests in Russia". "The Foreign Ministry considers this to be completely unfounded and we have conveyed this to Russia," Swedish Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Linn Duvhammar said. Germany denounced the expulsion as being "in no way justified" and said it would not "go unanswered" if Russia did not reconsider. Poland said the expulsion could lead to the "further deepening of the crisis in bilateral relations".

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