EU’s Michel says Russia must stop ‘disruptive behaviour’ to improve ties

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Russia must change its behaviour if it seeks better relations with the European Union, the EU said on Monday.

“The downwards trend in EU-Russia relations can only change if Russia stops disruptive behavior,” Charles Michel, the President of the European Council, which represents the bloc’s member countries, said on Twitter. 

Charles Michel, who chairs EU summits, said in a statement that EU-Russia relations were at a low point and this situation, or a worsening, was in neither side’s interest.

“The downwards trend in EU-Russia relations can only change if Russia stops disruptive behavior,” he wrote on Twitter after a telephone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The EU and Russia disagree on a wide range of issues including human rights, Russia’s intervention in Ukraine and Moscow’s treatment of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny.

Russia blames the deterioration in relations on the EU.

Putin said Russia-EU relations cannot be considered satisfactory, even though Moscow and the European Union remain major partners in terms of trade and investment, the Kremlin said in a statement.

In March, the EU imposed sanctions on four senior Russian officials close to Putin in response to Navalny’s jailing. Other EU sanctions on Moscow include measures taken by the EU in 2014 after Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine.

Putin also told Michel that EU sanctions against Belarus were counter-productive.

Belarus outraged the West in May when it forced a Ryanair flight from Athens to Vilnius to land in its capital Minsk to arrest a dissident journalist and his girlfriend. The EU described the incident as state piracy and it was looking at targeting sectors that play a central role in the Belarus economy.

Reuters