Russia Prepared to Sever Ties with EU If Bloc Takes Hostile Actions
Russia is ready to cut ties with the EU if Brussels initiates it, but for its part, Moscow is calling for cooperation, the Russian Foreign Ministry told TASS on Friday.
"We are ready to cut ties if it happens on the initiative of the EU. For our part, we strongly call on the EU to establish equal and mutually respectful cooperation, which is what [Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov] said," the ministry noted.
Earlier, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in an interview with the Soloviev LIVE Youtube channel that Moscow does not rule out the possibility of cutting ties with the EU if Brussels introduces sanctions that create risks for sensitive sectors of the Russian economy.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov also said Russia wants to maintain normal ties with the EU but needs to prepare for the worst, if the bloc takes hostile actions.
“If we face a destructive course that will hurt our infrastructure, our interests, Russia must be ready in advance for such unfriendly steps,” Peskov said during a call with reporters. “We must be self-reliant. We must ensure our security in the most sensitive strategic areas and be prepared to replace everything we could be deprived of with national infrastructure in case madness prevails and such unfriendly actions take place.”
Russia-EU relations have sunk to new lows over Navalny's arrest and imprisonment. The opposition leader was arrested Jan. 17 upon his return from Germany, where he spent five months recuperating from the nerve agent poisoning he blamed on the Kremlin. Russian authorities have denied the allegations.
Last week, a court in Moscow sent Navalny to prison for two years and eight months for violating terms of his probation while recuperating in Germany. The probation stemmed from a 2014 embezzlement conviction that Navalny has rejected as fabricated and the European Court of Human Rights has ruled to be unlawful.
European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said after visiting Russia last week that the 27-nation bloc must take a firm stance in its relations with Russia and ponder new sanctions in the wake of Navalny’s prison sentence. While Borrell was meeting with Lavrov, Moscow announced the expulsion of diplomats from Germany, Poland and Sweden for attending protests in support of Navalny.
The three EU countries responded in kind Monday, each expelling a Russian diplomat.
Borrell has said he plans to submit proposals for possible actions against Russia when he chairs the next meeting of the bloc’s foreign ministers on Feb. 22.
Navalny's arrest triggered a wave of protests across Russia that drew tens of thousands of people to the streets in the largest show of discontent in years. Authorities responded with a sweeping crackdown, detaining about 11,000 people across Russia. Many protesters were fined or given jail sentences ranging from seven to 15 days.
The United States and the European Union have urged Russia to release Navalny and to end the crackdown on protests. The Kremlin has accused them of meddling in Russia’s internal affairs and said it would not listen to Western criticism of Navalny’s sentencing and police actions against his supporters.
Lavrov accused the West of pursuing the “aggressive containment of Russia” to punish the country for its independent foreign policy.
“The sanctions wouldn't bring any result. They wouldn't change our course for defending our national interests,” Lavrov said.
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