VILNIUS – Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis has called on European leaders to take a "people first" approach toward Russia and suspend the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project until next autumn's State Duma elections.
"Let us give Vladimir Putin the opportunity to hold a free election to the State Duma this autumn with the participation of the opposition. Until then, let us stop the Nord Stream 2 pipeline," the Foreign Ministry quoted him as saying in a press release after Monday's meeting of the EU Foreign Affairs Council.
EU foreign ministers "agreed that despite the unconstructive and hostile behavior of Russian officials towards the EU, it was necessary to strengthen the EU and its partners' support for civil society, independent media, youth and the democratic opposition in Russia," the ministry said.
In response to the ongoing criminal proceedings against the Kremlin's critic Alexey Navalny, Landsbergis "suggested reacting quickly and unanimously, imposing targeted sanctions against officials responsible for systematic human rights abuses".
The ministry said in a tweet that in Monday's discussion, Landsbergis "called for a 'People first', not 'Regime first' approach towards Russia".
EU foreign ministers also discussed the situation in Belarus, Myanmar and Hong Kong.
Landsbergis expressed his deep concern over a new wave of repressions against free media and human rights activists in Belarus, called for a fourth package of sanctions against the Minsk regime and urged the European Commission to work on the economic support plan for a democratic Belarus, according to the ministry.
The minister noted that Belarus was using the European Nuclear Safety Regulators Group's expert mission to the Astravyets nuclear power plant for propaganda purposes in an effort to legitimize the facility that does not meet international nuclear safety standards.
The EU ministers' video conference meeting with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken focused on transatlantic cooperation priorities.
Landsbergis emphasized the importance of the United States as a strategic partner and guarantor of European security, and called for greater cooperation and coordination between the EU and the US on Russia and China.