Russia's expulsion of three European diplomats it accuses of taking part in protests against jailed opposition politician and Kremlin critic Alexi Navalny is of "grave concern", Italy's foreign ministry tweeted Friday.
"Italy expresses grave concern at the expulsions of European diplomats in Moscow and its solidarity with those European countries affected by this serious measure," read the tweet.
The tweet came after Russia’s foreign ministry confirmed the move in a statement, saying the diplomats’ alleged participation in the rallies was “unacceptable and inappropriate for their diplomatic status”.
Russia accuses the diplomats from the German, Polish and Swedish delegations to Russia, of taking part in protests in Moscow and St Petersburg on 23 January in support of Navalny.
European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrel rejected the Russian government's action, saying diplomatic convention permitted diplomats to observe events such as protest rallies.
The Italian foreign ministry tweet also took aim at comments made Friday by Russia's foreign minister Sergei Lavrov accusing security forces in Italy of "violence" against protesters and journalists
"We await a denial of the accusation against Italy of violence against demonstrators and police," the tweet added.
Russia's foreign ministry later issued a statement saying Lavrov had made a slip of the tongue and meant to refer to recent protests in the Netherlands (over the government's lockdown measures) not Italy.
Lavrov made the remarks to journalists at a joint press conference in Moscow after talks with Borrel.
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