The European Union’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said during a visit to Moscow Friday that the bloc’s ties with Russia were under intense pressure following the poisoning and imprisonment of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny.
“Our relationship is indeed in a difficult moment,” Borrell said at the start of talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
“Certainly our relations are under severe strain and the Navalny case is a low point.”
Borrell’s visit to Russia is the first by a senior EU envoy since 2017 and follows terse exchanges between Moscow and the bloc, whose ties have been deeply strained since the Kremlin annexed Crimea in 2014.
Navalny, President Vladimir Putin’s most vocal critic, was handed a nearly three-year prison term this week on old embezzlement charges, a decision which sparked condemnation from European countries.
The EU also spoke out against a police crackdown on protests spurred by Navalny’s detention last month on his arrival in Russia from Germany where he had been recovering from a nerve agent attack.
In comments to Borrell at the start of the talks, Lavrov said Russia was “ready to answer any questions”.
“The main problem is a lack of normalcy in relations between Russia and the EU, the two largest players in Europe,” he said.
“It doesn’t benefit anyone.”