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February 27, 2021
WORLD

Kremlin upbeat on EU summit, warns on WTO, Ukraine

Talks expected to produce little concrete progress. Republic of Moldova, also on the agenda.

KHABAROVSK
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said yesterday he hoped a summit with the European Union would help improve relations but a senior Kremlin aide warned there could be sparring over trade and energy. The two-day summit in Khabarovsk, a city on the Chinese border, is expected to bring little real progress after bickering between Russia and the European Union over gas supplies and the war last year in Georgia.

“We are developing a partnership and it is very important to get a sense of each other,” Medvedev told a meeting with students in Khabarovsk, a city 8,000 km (5,000 miles) east of Brussels. “The European Union is our key partner.” European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and Czech President Vaclav Klaus had dinner with Medvedev yesterday evening ahead of more formal talks on Friday.

The Kremlin’s chief foreign policy advisor, Sergei Prikhodko, said Moscow was losing patience with Western promises to let it join the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and questioned EU promises to modernise Ukraine’s gas pipeline network. The EU is Russia’s biggest trading partner. The 27-member bloc imports more than a quarter of its gas from Russia. Recent summits have been dominated by public spats over Russia’s rights record and democratic standards. Vladimir Putin responded to every criticism of his rule with a similar example of corruption or rights abuse in EU countries. Putin’s May 2008 exit from the presidency inspired hopes for a friendlier era between Moscow and Brussels, and EU officials had praised Medvedev as a man they could work with. But on the eve of Medvedev’s third EU summit, the Kremlin questioned EU participation in modernising the pipeline system in Ukraine, which was at the heart of a spat this winter that left EU customers without Russian gas. “The European Union signed a declaration on the modernisation of the Ukrainian pipeline network, but will they help Ukraine where the help is really needed?” Prikhodko said to reporters on Wednesday night. “Are they going to allocate cash to cover mounting gas debts?”

Prikhodko warned that Russia was losing patience after more than a decade of attempts to join the 153-member WTO. “It is an open secret that certain reprimands about resorting to protectionism are addressed at us,” he said, adding the EU had also asked for Georgia to be discussed at the summit.

Ties with the European Union were badly strained last year when Russia fought a short war against Georgia over the Moscow-backed separatist Georgian province of South Ossetia and then recognised the region as an independent state. The agenda of the summit includes the EU’s new eastern partnership, which brings six ex-Soviet republics closer to its orbit, cooperation on tackling the global economic crisis and talks on a new bilateral framework agreement.

Hostility against romania over moldova

The situation of the republic of Moldova is also to be discussed at the summit. On Wednesday, Prikhodko criticised Bucharest, accusing it of having triggered the anti-communist demonstrations in Chisinau last month. He also said that Russia would ask the EU whether it assumes responsibility for what some of its members are doing, actions that “question post-war world order and borders,” Ria Novosti reported. Prikhodko also said that Moscow is unhappy that the US doesn’t see how “special Romanian forces used various methods to trigger unrest in Chisinau.” “Is the European Union to assume responsibility over foreign policies, or will it ask us only aobut Iran and other matters? And here, in Europe, are they ready to apply the same standards as regards these inadmissible actions?”

When asked to comment on the statements, Romanian FM Cristian Diaconescu refused, saying that it’s a question of “national dignity” not to discuss statements made by a single person at Foreign Ministry level, but only more general, inter-state level issues.

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