Merkel blasts Moscow’s expulsion of German diplomats over Navalny as ‘unjustified’

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Chancellor Angela Merkel condemned Russia’s expulsion of German diplomats as a further step by Moscow away from the rule of law.

Russia on Friday announced the expulsion of diplomats from Sweden, Germany, and Poland, accusing them of taking part in illegal protests last month against the jailing of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny.

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“We consider this expulsion to be unjustified,” Merkel told reporters after a video conference on defense and security issues with French President Emmanuel Macron, adding that the two had received news of the expulsions during the meeting.

Yes to sanctions, no to cutting ties

Chancellor Merkel said Germany was prepared to continue sanctions on Russia, including against individuals, but said it was a “diplomatic duty” to keep open channels of communication with Europe’s giant eastern neighbor.

She told a joint news conference with French President Emmanuel Macron that Germany was, “for the time being,” sticking to its position in favor of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, which is opposed by the United States and much of Europe.

“In connection with the events in Russia, we have already said that we reserve the right to continue sanctions, especially against individuals. The position on Nord Stream 2 is not affected by this for the time being; this is a project on which you know the position of the federal government,” Merkel said.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said Russia’s decision to the expel diplomats is in no way justified and further damages relations to Europe,

There will be a response if Russia does not reconsider this step, Maas said in a statement.

“Russia’s decision to expel several EU diplomats, including an employee of the embassy in Moscow, is in no way justified and is further damaging relations with Europe,” Maas said.

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