A leaked list has identified 89 European officials barred by the Kremlin from entering Russia.
It is seen by the EU as an attempt to single out Europeans regarded as being hostile towards Moscow.
Russia has not officially confirmed the reason - or the names, but the release happened as EU members are due to review sanctions against Russia for its role in the crisis in Ukraine.
The EU says the measures are "unjustified and arbitrary".
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said the release risked inflaming tensions over Ukraine, adding: "At a time when we are trying to defuse a bitter and dangerous conflict in the heart of Europe, this does not help."
Grandstanding and public relations - or a serious deterioration in already strained relations?
Presenter - Folly Bah Thibault


Remi Piet, assistant professor of public policy at Qatar Univeristy, and author of the book 'Shifting priorities in Russia's Foreign and Security Policy'.
Sergey Strokan, political commentator for the paper Kommersant and host of a weekly show called 'Red Line'.
Vladimir Pastukhov, visiting fellow at St Anthony's college at Oxford University, and chairman of the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation.

Source: Al Jazeera