Iceland Condemns Russian Treatment of Alexei Navalny

Ministry for Foreign Affairs

Iceland’s Foreign Ministry called the director of the Russian embassy in Iceland to a meeting yesterday due to the death of Alexei Navalny. He was told that Iceland condemns Russian authorities’ treatment of Navalny. Russia’s ambassador to Iceland was asked to leave last year following the invasion of Ukraine.

Foreign Minister blames Russian government

“It was made clear to the director that the Icelandic government condemns the Russian government’s treatment of Navalny, which led to his death last week,” reads a written response from the ministry to RÚV. Russian diplomats have been called to similar meetings in Iceland’s neighbouring countries. “The Icelandic government also condemns the Russian government’s attacks on human rights and people’s freedom, as a large number of people have been imprisoned in Russia recently following Navalny’s death,” the response continues.

Iceland’s Foreign Minister Bjarni Benediktsson tweeted about Navalny’s death last week, stating “Saddened to learn of the passing of Alexei Navalny and I offer my sincerest condolences to his family and supporters. Putin and the Russian government bear ultimate responsibility for his death.”

Cooling relations

Iceland shut down its embassy in Moscow in August 2023 and requested the Russian embassy in Iceland scale down its operations and send home its ambassador. The last time there was no Russian ambassador in Iceland was between 1948-1954. While Iceland’s Foreign Minister at the time stated that the closure did not entail a complete severing of diplomatic relations between the countries, the Russian Foreign Ministry stated it “destroys” the countries’ bilateral relations.

Russian Foreign Ministry Responds to Iceland’s Embassy Closure

Jakobsdóttir and Lavrov

Iceland’s decision to suspend operations in its Moscow embassy “destroys” the countries’ bilateral operations, Russia’s Foreign Ministry has stated according to Reuters. Iceland’s Ministry for Foreign Affairs announced last week that it would shut down the embassy of Iceland in Moscow on August 1 and had requested the Russian embassy in Iceland to scale down its operations and send home its ambassador. Icelandic authorities will lay off the embassy’s locally hired staff and terminate rental contracts in Moscow.

“The decision taken by the Icelandic authorities to lower the level of diplomatic relations with Russia destroys the entire range of Russian-Icelandic cooperation,” the Russian Foreign Ministry stated. “We will take this unfriendly decision into account when building our ties with Iceland in the future. All anti-Russian actions of Reykjavik will inevitably be followed by a corresponding reaction.”

The Icelandic embassy in Moscow has had seven staff members: two sent out from Iceland and five who were hired locally. Iceland’s Ministry for Foreign Affairs told Vísir that the five locally hired staff members will be laid off according to their current employment contracts. Iceland’s Ambassador to Russia Árni Þór Sigurðsson will be relocated to the Icelandic embassy in Copenhagen. The ministry also expects to terminate its rental contracts both for the embassy offices and the ambassador’s residence.

A press release from Iceland’s Ministry for Foreign Affairs stated that “[t]he decision to close down the embassy’s activities does not imply the termination of the diplomatic relationship between the countries. As soon as conditions permit, emphasis will be placed on resuming the activities of the Icelandic embassy in Moscow.”