The expulsion of some European diplomats during a formal EU visit to Russia was an aggressive act and contrary to the principles of diplomacy. That’s according to Josep Borrell, the bloc’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs.
The Spanish eurocrat took a now-infamous visit to Moscow in February, his first to the country in three years. During the trip, he met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, as well as representatives of some civil society groups.
However, while Borrell was in the country, Moscow decided to expel diplomats from Germany, Poland and Sweden after it was determined they participated in uncoordinated protests in support of Western-backed opposition figure Alexey Navalny.
“The purpose [of the visit] was to test Russia’s attitude to the European Union, and the answer was clear,” Borrell told French state-owned outlet FRANCE 24. “Russia chose aggression, expelling European diplomats while the visit was taking place, which is against all diplomatic behavior.”
While in Russia, Borrell complimented the country on its fight against Covid-19, and spoke cordially in public appearances. However, upon his return to Brussels, a chorus of MEPs called for him to resign after what many called a “humiliation.”
Borrell rapidly backtracked. In a blog post, he accused the Russian government of not wanting to reverse the negative trend of relations between Moscow and the bloc.
“An aggressively staged press conference and the expulsion of three EU diplomats during my visit indicate that the Russian authorities did not want to seize this opportunity to have a more constructive dialogue with the EU,” the European diplomat wrote.
In the same interview with FRANCE 24, Borrell lamented Russia’s continued diplomatic relationship with Myanmar, following the February coup.
“What’s happening in Myanmar is a shame for humankind, it is brutal repression – and we have to use the tools we have,” he said.
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