Russian Federation says it’s open to better ties with European Union despite chill

Ross Houston
February 16, 2021

Ties between Russian Federation and the West, already at post-Cold War lows, have come under renewed pressure over the fate of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, whose jailing and treatment by Moscow have raised the prospect of further sanctions on Russian Federation.

Navalny was handed a two and half year jail term by for violating probation terms while he was in Germany recovering from the poisoning attack. "Thereupon, we pointed to the importance of [Finnish] President [Sauli] Niinisto's initiative on air safety over the Baltics", Lavrov said, noting that the initiative was implemented "to a significant extent", Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Monday after talks with his Finnish counterpart.

"We don't want to isolate ourselves from the world, but we need to be ready for that".

Some clutched flowers, while others recited poems by Anna Akhmatova, one of Russia's most beloved poets.

Navalny was back in court Friday on a charge of defaming a World War II veteran who was featured in a video previous year advertising constitutional amendments that allowed an extension of Putin's rule. He rejected the libel charges as part of Kremlin efforts to disparage him and could face a fine or community service, if convicted.

On 5 February, Russia deported three diplomats from Sweden, Poland and Germany for allegedly participating in unauthorized rallies in Moscow and St. Petersburg on 23 January.

Russia's top diplomat blamed the European Union Monday for a freeze in ties but argued that Moscow remains ready to mend relations if it hears positive signals from the bloc.

The three European Union countries responded in kind Monday, each expelling a Russian diplomat. On Sunday, thousands of Russians took to the streets with flashlights in a show of defiance against the latest round of political repressions. Many protesters were fined or given jail sentences ranging from seven to 15 days. Just as European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell was visiting Russian Federation earlier this month, Moscow announced the expulsion of diplomats from Germany, Poland and Sweden for attending protests in support of Navalny.

Lavrov said that economic relations with the European Union have been hurt by sanctions and political contacts have been limited to sporadic exchanges of views on global crises.

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