EU condemns Moscow’s tit-for-tat measures, says it reserves right ‘to take appropriate measures in response’.
The European Union has summoned Russia’s Ambassador Vladimir Chizhov to condemn Moscow’s decision to bar eight officials from entering the country in retaliation for sanctions imposed on Russian citizens by the EU.
Diplomatic tensions have continued to rise since the start of 2021, when Moscow expelled European diplomats during an official visit by the EU’s high representative.
The EU has in turn angered Moscow by demanding that Kremlin critic Alexey Navalny should be released from prison, while blacklisting more Russian officials for human rights abuses.
Russia’s ambassador to the EU, Vladimir Chizhov, was summoned “to condemn the decision of the Russian authorities from last Friday to ban eight European Union nationals from entering the territory of the Russian Federation”, the EU Commission said in a statement.
“Ambassador Chizhov was informed of the strong rejection and firm condemnation by the EU institutions and EU member states of this decision, which was purely politically motivated and lacks any legal justification,” the EU executive added.
In the meeting with Chizhov, the EU representatives also recalled Russia’s expulsion of Czech diplomats and Russia’s executive order of so-called “unfriendly states”, according to the statement.
Russia’s foreign ministry said on Friday those banned included Vera Jourova, vice president for values and transparency at the executive European Commission, David Sassoli, the president of the European Parliament, and Jacques Maire, a member of the French delegation at the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly.
“The importance of diplomatic efforts to rectify the current unhealthy situation in the dialogue between Moscow and Brussels was stressed,” Chizhov said in a statement after the meeting, adding the Russian side had reaffirmed its readiness for this endeavour.
The EU will consider its next steps at a meeting of foreign ministers next week but may also look to the Council of Europe, a non-EU body of which Russia is a member, for ways to respond to what Brussels says are continued Russian rights abuses.
Moscow has called on the EU not to interfere in its internal affairs and denies any wrongdoing.
Navalny was arrested in January upon his return from Germany where he spent five months recovering from a nerve agent poisoning that he blames on the Kremlin. Russian authorities denied any involvement and questioned whether he was even poisoned. European labs have confirmed that Navalny was poisoned.
He was sentenced in February to two and a half years in prison for parole violations on an earlier embezzlement conviction that he says was politically motivated.
The EU imposed sanctions in March on two Russians accused of persecuting gay and lesbian people in the southern Russian region of Chechnya.
The EU also imposed sanctions on four senior Russian officials close to President Vladimir Putin in March.