German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday condemned as “unjustified” Russia’s expulsion of European diplomats for participating in unauthorised demonstrations in support of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny.
“We consider these expulsions to be unjustified. We believe it is yet another aspect that can be observed right now of Russia being quite far from the rule of law,” she said.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said earlier that the move would “not go unanswered”.
Merkel said however that Berlin’s stance on the controversial Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline with Russia remained “unaffected”.
Nord Stream 2 is a 10-billion-euro ($11-billion) pipeline that will run beneath the Baltic Sea and is set to double Russian natural-gas shipments to Germany, Europe’s largest economy.
The United States and several European countries such as Poland have criticised the project, saying it will increase German and EU dependence on Russia for critical gas supplies.
France recently joined in a call for Berlin to abandon the project in protest over Navalny’s detention in Moscow.
At a joint video news conference after talks with French President Emmanuel Macron, Merkel acknowledged that the pipeline was a “controversial project” but “solutions can be found together” on the issue.
The German leader also stressed that it was important to keep a channel open for discussions with Russia, given that it was a key player on many geopolitical issues.
“Despite deep-reaching differences, it is nevertheless strategically advisable to stay in talks with Russia,” said the German leader, noting that cooperation was required on many issues including Libya, Syria and Belarus.