Top EU Diplomat Warns Russia Heading Down 'Authoritarian Route'

The EU’s top diplomat, Josep Borrell, says his visit to Moscow last week showed that Russia is heading down a “worrisome, authoritarian route” that closes off democracy and the rule of law.

Speaking to the European Parliament to report on his trip to the Russian capital, Borrell said on February 9 that the Kremlin has no intention of developing constructive relations if human rights are part of the conversation.

“They are merciless,” Borrell said after visiting Moscow from February 4-6.

“The current power structure in Russia, combining vested economic interests, military and political control, leave no opening for democratic rule of law,” he added.

Relations between Moscow and the EU have been sorely strained by Russia’s 2014 annexation of the Ukrainian region of Crimea and its support for separatist formations waging a war against Kyiv in parts of eastern Ukraine, the EU’s rejection of a disputed presidential election in Belarus and its criticism of a brutal crackdown by the government of strongman Alyaksandr Lukashenka, and other issues.

Most recently, the poisoning of Russian opposition leader Aleksei Navalny with a military-grade nerve agent, and his subsequent detention upon returning from Germany where he was being treated for the attack, has put relations between the 27-member bloc and Russia at a crossroads.

Borrell said Russia was trying to drive a wedge between some EU members and that while further policy steps may include new sanctions, the bloc must avoid permanent confrontation with Moscow.

“It will be for the member states to decide the next steps, but yes, this could include sanctions,” Borrell said, noting concrete proposals will likely be discussed at an EU foreign ministers’ meeting on February 22 and at an EU summit in March.

Based on reporting by Reuters and dpa
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