EU summons Russian envoy over travel bans on Brussels officials

File photo. Russian Permanent Representative Ambassador Vladimir Chizhov speaks to the press at the start of a conference on 'Supporting the future of Syria and the region' at EU council headquarters, in Brussels, Belgium, 25 April 2018. [Stephanie Lecocq/EPA/EFE]

The European Union summoned Russia’s ambassador to the bloc on Monday to condemn Moscow’s decision to bar eight officials from entering the country, which the Kremlin said was in retaliation for sanctions imposed on Russian citizens by the EU.

The protest is the latest in rising diplomatic tensions 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 Alexei 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.

The EU representatives expressed “their grave concern for the cumulative impact of all these decisions on the relations between the EU” and Russia, and noted that the EU reserves the right to take appropriate measures in response.

According to a press release by the Russian mission to the EU, Chizhov “met” with Secretary-General of the EEAS Stefano Sannino and Secretary-General of the European Commission Ilze Juhansone.

The Russian statement says that “both sides” expressed regret “in connection with the recently intensified trend” towards the deterioration of relations.

“The importance of diplomatic efforts to rectify the current unhealthy situation in the dialogue between Moscow and Brussels was stressed. The Russian side reaffirmed its readiness for this endeavor”, the Russian statement reads.

Russia’s foreign ministry said on Friday those banned included Věra Jourová, 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.

Russia bars EU officials as latest row escalates

Tensions between Russia and the European Union escalated on Friday (30 April) as Moscow barred eight EU officials from entering the country and Brussels warned it could respond in kind.

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.

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.

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