MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Monday blamed the European Union for its deteriorating relations with Russia and accused the bloc of systematically destroying mechanisms for cooperation.
Ties between Russia 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 Russia.
Last week Lavrov said Moscow would be ready to sever ties with the European Union if the bloc hit it with painful economic sanctions, a statement that Germany described as disconcerting and incomprehensible.
At talks with Finland’s foreign minister on Monday, Lavrov laid the blame for the bad state of ties on Brussels.
“Relations have been consistently torn apart by the European Union,” Lavrov was quoted as saying by the RIA news agency. “The carcass of these relations was consciously destroyed at the initiative of Brussels.”
Pressure for sanctions has grown since Russia infuriated European countries this month by expelling German, Polish and Swedish diplomats without informing the EU’s foreign policy chief, who was in Moscow for a visit at the time.
Lavrov on Monday said: “The EU has consistently destroyed all mechanisms without exception.”
However, he said, this did not mean Russia would pull back from its relations with individual member states.
“Don’t confuse Europe with the European Union. When it comes to Europe, we are not going anywhere,” Lavrov said. “We have many friends in Europe.”
(Reporting by Polina Ivanova and Tom Balmforth; Editing by Peter Graff)