MOSCOW, February 12. /TASS/. Russia’s expulsion of German, Polish and Swedish embassy workers over their participation in unsanctioned rallies was not timed to the visit of EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell to Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in an interview with the Soloviev LIVE Youtube channel.
"Of course, it wasn’t timed to his visit. It was decided as soon as those people were identified as participants of unlawful rallies," he said, answering a corresponding question.
Lavrov added that the EU foreign policy chief had expressed concern over the expulsion of European diplomats, and then Brussels stated that the diplomats were doing their professional duty and were accused of something they did not do.
"We immediately reminded them that this rally was not approved, it was unsanctioned. These citizens did not even plan to request permission or approval. [Navalny’s associate] Leonid Volkov repeatedly stated that they would not address the government, they would simply take to the streets," the minister said, adding that he considers the diplomats’ actions provocative.
The Russian top diplomat pointed out that all international conventions, including the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, stipulate that all diplomats have certain privileges and immunity, however, they must respect the laws of the country they are in. "The law was initially violated when they [the organizers] didn’t even ask the government’s permission to hold a demonstration," he concluded.
Borrell was on a visit to Moscow on February 4-6. During his visit, the Russian Foreign Ministry announced the decision to expel three diplomats from Germany, Poland and Sweden over their participation in unsanctioned rallies. On February 8, the aforementioned states expelled Russian diplomats as a tit-for-tat measure.