Josep Borrell travels to Moscow

The relations with Russia, Iran nuclear deal, the global response to the coronavirus pandemic and Navalny among the main topics of discussions with Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov

Photo: EU Josep Borrell.

The EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President of the European Commission, Josep Borrell, travels to Russia on Thursday for a two-day visit which will be first trip to Moscow by an EU foreign policy chief since 2017.

Following the angry reactions against the arrest and subsequent sentencing of Alexei Navalny, both from the European Parliament and some Member States, apparently Borrell will place more emphasis on this topic during his visit.

On Tuesday, Borrell stated in a tweet that the sentencing of Alexey Navalny runs counter Russia’s international commitments on rule of law and fundamental freedoms and against the verdict of ECHR, which ruled this case arbitrary and unreasonable, Borrell called for Navalny’s immediate release.

A day before his visit to Russia, EU’s top diplomat released a declaration on behalf of the European Union on the sentencing of Alexei Navalny.

“On 2 February, a Moscow court sentenced the Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny to two years and eight months’ imprisonment. The Russian authorities have pursued his sentencing for the alleged violation of his probation while Mr. Navalny was recovering in Germany from an assassination attempt by poisoning suffered in the Russian Federation by a military chemical agent,” the declaration reads.

“The European Union condemns the Russian authorities’ decision to sentence Navalny and considers it unacceptable as it is politically motivated and runs counter to Russia’s international human rights obligations.”

The EU reiterates its call for the immediate and unconditional release of Mr. Navalny, as well as all those citizens and journalists who have been detained for exercising their rights to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression, the declaration  emphasise noting that these developments confirm a “continuous negative pattern of shrinking space for the opposition, civil society and independent voices” in the Russian Federation.

Borrell also says in the statement that the EU will revert to the issue at the upcoming Foreign Affairs Council and discuss its implications and possible further action.

According to the preliminary agenda, the visit will provide an opportunity to have wide-ranging discussions with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and other Russian interlocutors ahead of the European Council’s strategic discussion on EU-Russia relations scheduled for March.

HR/VP Borrell will address Russia’s actions in Ukraine and in the neighbourhood, the importance of continued implementation of the Iran nuclear deal, the global response to the coronavirus pandemic, climate change, among others.

Josep Borrell will also meet with representatives of Russian civil society organisations and members of the academic community in Moscow.

Ahead of the visit, Josep Borrell commented that the relationship with Russia is one of the EU’s most complex and “recent developments only serve to further underline the need for me to visit Moscow”.

He also stressed that beyond the issues of contention there are also areas in which the EU and Russia do cooperate, or need to cooperate more,” that require our urgent attention”.

After their meeting on Friday, HR/VP Borrell and Minister Lavrov will hold a joint press conference.

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