by Oleg Burunov
Earlier this week, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that Moscow may stop a dialogue with the EU if the bloc introduces sanctions that put the Russian economy at risk.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Mass has stated that the EU’s relations with Russia have hit rock bottom, but that it is necessary to maintain a dialogue.
During a meeting with his EU counterparts in Brussels on Monday, Maas made it clear that he is “in favour ordering the preparation of additional sanctions” against Russia.
“At the same time we need to talk about how to keep up a constructive dialogue with Russia, even as relations certainly have reached a low”, the German foreign minister emphasised.
The statement comes after Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Monday that the breakup between Russia and the EU had been in the works for some time, with the bloc being the initiator.
“In general, it is clear for any person that takes at least some interest in the situation in Europe that the breakup has been going on for many years, as the EU consistently keeps severing ties”, Lavrov said at a press conference, held after talks with Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto.
According to the top Russian diplomat, the 2014 coup in Ukraine was a tipping point, as the EU “in fact showed it could do nothing with the agreement, which the authorities and the opposition reached just ahead of the coup and which was signed by Germany, France, and Poland”.
Lavrov added that there isn’t much left to Russia-EU relations, but Moscow is ready to continue a dialogue on mutually beneficial topics. He also said that if the EU decides to restore ties with Russia, Moscow will be ready for it.
Last week, he stated that Moscow “probably” has to stop communicating for a while with those “responsible for Western foreign policy and who do not understand the need for mutually respectful dialogue”.
“Especially since [President of the European Commission] Ursula von der Leyen is saying that geopolitical cooperation with the current Russian authorities is not working. So let it be if that’s what they want”, Lavrov said at a session of the Valdai discussion club.
This came a day after foreign ministers of the European Union reached an agreement to impose sanctions on Russia over the alleged poisoning of Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny, citing a violation of the International Chemical Weapons Convention.
Commenting on the decision, the Russian foreign minister said that the European Union had adopted Washington’s style of threatening and punishing states with sanctions.
According to him, such mechanisms violate the principles of the UN Charter and are outside the framework of the UN Security Council.
On 20 August, Navalny fell ill on a domestic flight in Russia. He was initially treated in the Siberian city of Omsk, where his plane made an emergency landing. Two days later, when doctors determined that he was fit for cross-border aerial transportation, the politician was taken to the Berlin-based Charite hospital for further treatment.
In a later statement, the German government said that doctors had found evidence of a poisonous nerve agent from the Novichok group in Navalny’s body. Moscow disputed these allegations, noting that its doctors had found no toxic substances in Navalny while he was treated in Omsk.
Russia is demanding that Germany provide evidence on the Navalny case and make the case materials available to Russian investigators.