The Kremlin today defended its decision to expel European diplomats, but it said it wants to continue to “develop” its relations with the European Union (EU), despite the deepening crisis following the poisoning and imprisonment of Alexei Navalny.
Russia was and remains interested in reviving relations between Moscow and Brussels, “Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters today.
However, “the expulsion of diplomats (..) is the consequence of actions taken by certain foreign missions in Moscow, in the context of illegal unrest. Russia has clearly shown that it does not intend to tolerate this,” added Peskov.
The expulsions announced on Friday were seen as an affront in Europe, occurred on the day of a visit to Moscow by the head of European diplomacy, Josep Borrell.
Russia accused German, Polish and Swedish diplomats of participating in an illegal demonstration in support of Russian opponent Alexei Navalny to justify their expulsions from the country.
Peskov promised to take action “very decisively” in cases of “interference”.
“But that does not mean that we want to withdraw and further worsen relations (…), on the contrary, we are interested in its development,” said the Russian spokesman.
Upon returning from Russia, Josep Borrell said on Sunday that he was very concerned about the Russian authorities’ refusal to engage in a “more constructive” dialogue with the EU, calling on European leaders to “deal with the consequences”, which could mean a new wave of sanctions.
Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said today it was “surprised” by Borrell’s statements.
The head of European diplomacy was indeed more conciliatory in Moscow, but that was before Russia announced the expulsion of European diplomats.
The EU has repeatedly called for the release of opponent Alexei Navalny, detained since January 17, after spending several months in Germany recovering after suffering poisoning in Siberia.
The European bloc also accused Moscow of refusing to investigate the poisoning suffered by the opponent and, in return, adopted sanctions against senior Russian officials.