At a conference, the German head of state spoke out in favor of maintaining his country’s relations with Russia despite some tensions.
According to the Tass news agency, Frank-Walter Steinmeier said in a welcoming message at the Virtual Annual Kick-Off of the Committee on Eastern European Economic Relations on Thursday, “This is a worrying state of affairs, especially in times of crisis, and I say this explicitly to Moscow as well. We are living in the present of a difficult relationship. But there is a past before and a future after.”
Moscow and Berlin are responsible for maintaining peace in Europe, the German president added.
Since the arrest of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, German-Russian relations have been strained, and some high-ranking German officials, including German Foreign Minister Haiko Maas, called for further European sanctions against Russia.
“In this difficult phase of our relations, we must be careful not to sever all ties,” Steinmeier stressed.
Russia “has no plans to sever EU ties, but will respond to further hostilities”
Russian EU Ambassador Vladimir Chizhov made the remarks in a televised interview with Rossiya-24 news channel on Wednesday, saying his country has no plans to sever ties with the EU, but if the bloc takes further “destructive” measures against Moscow, they “definitely will not remain without consequences.”
“In case of further destructive steps by the European Union, Russia… will find appropriate ways and means to influence the situation,” he stressed.
Relations between Russia and the European bloc were strained when Brussels initially imposed sanctions on Russia in 2014 over the conflict in Ukraine and the unification of Crimea with Russia.
Bilateral relations came under renewed pressure over the detention of Western-backed blogger Alexei Navalny and an alleged crackdown on protests against his release in recent months.
The arrest triggered talk of new EU sanctions, especially after Moscow expelled German, Polish and Swedish diplomats for taking part in pro-Navalny protests earlier this month.
On Monday, the 27-member bloc agreed to impose what it called “landmark sanctions,” including asset freezes and travel bans, on a number of senior Russian security officials over the alleged crackdown on Nawalny’s supporters.
Moscow says the West is using the Nawalny case for political reasons and using it as a pretext to impose more sanctions on Russia.
“Unfortunately, everything that has been frozen in our relations with the EU so far is the result of the steps taken by our brave EU colleagues and those who support them from all sides,” Chizhov said. “Therefore, there was never any talk of Russia breaking off relations with the European Union on its own.”
Chizhov’s comments came less than two weeks after Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov threatened that Moscow would be ready to sever ties with the EU if the bloc imposed more sanctions on Russia.
by Xavier Cuesta – European Correspondent – EuroNews