Brussels (Brussels Morning) The EU has summoned the Russian ambassador after Moscow barred entry to eight EU officials in retaliation for the move by Brussels introducing sanctions over the imprisonment of prominent Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, AP reported.
On Friday, the Russian Foreign Ministry announced it would no longer permit entry into the country by eight EU officials, including EC vice-president Vera Jourov, president of the European Parliament David Sassoli and Jacques Maire, a member of the French delegation at the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly.
The ministry accused the EU of continuing “to pursue its policy of illegitimate, unilateral restrictive measures against Russian citizens and organisations”. Moscow claimed the bloc was “openly and deliberately” undermining the independence of Russia’s domestic and foreign policy.
According to EC spokesman Peter Stano, Russia’s Ambassador to the EU, Vladimir Chizhov, was summoned to meet with senior EU officials who would “convey to him our strong condemnation and rejection of this decision”.
Stano emphasised that the latest travel bans imposed by Moscow are “obviously very politically motivated and lack any legal justification”. He described them as “groundless”, adding that their actions show how Russia is “determined to continue the hostile track of confrontation”.
The EU Council of Foreign Ministers is scheduled to discuss the latest developments with Russia on 10 May. Heads of government and state of the 27 member states are expected to debate relations with Russia at their 25 May EU summit.
The most recent tit-for-tat exchange of EU sanctions and Russian retaliations began as Moscow arrested opposition figure and anti-corruption activist Alexei Navalny, the most outspoken critic of President Putin’s regime, in February this year.
Navalny was jailed for allegedly breaching terms of a suspended sentence he had received in a case the European Court of Human Rights had ruled was politically motivated. He was unable to report on time to Moscow prison authorities because he was in Germany receiving treatment for poisoning, believed by western agencies to have been administered by Russian intelligence operatives.