Germany, Poland and Sweden expelled three Russian diplomats in a coordinated retaliation on Monday for the expulsion of three European Union diplomats by Russia while the EU's foreign policy chief was visiting Moscow last week.
The tit-for-tat expulsions underscore the volatility in East-West relations and an erosion of trust among former Cold War foes, as the West accuses Moscow of trying to destabilize it and the Kremlin rejects what it sees as foreign interference.
The EU executive defended Josep Borrell over his trip to Russia where has said he had learned of the expulsions via social media while speaking with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow on Friday.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Monday the removal of diplomats from Germany, Poland and Sweden, accused by Moscow of taking part in protests last month against jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, took place a day before Borrell's trip.
Germany's Foreign Office, in a statement regarding its ejection of a Russian diplomat, said the German diplomat booted out by Moscow was only "carrying out his task of reporting on developments on the spot in a legal fashion." Sweden echoed the German stance, calling the expulsions by Moscow "unacceptable."
Poland's Foreign Ministry said it ordered a member of Russia's consulate in the city of Poznan to leave "in accordance with the principle of reciprocity and in coordination with Germany and Sweden."