VILNIUS – Russia's threats to sever diplomatic ties with the European Union should not deter the bloc from standing up for its values, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis said in Riga on Friday.
"It is obvious that the main problem is that the main opposition leader in Russia (Alexei Navalny) was the victim of a poisoning attempt, had to get a treatment in Germany, came back, was detained, trialed and now is sitting in jail. This is the main problem," Landsbergis said after meeting with his Latvian counterpart.
"I think that the EU has to stick to this very concrete issue, problem, that he has to go free, have a possibility to participate in elections that have to be fair. This is the basic values that the EU is fighting for," he said.
Landsbergis was commenting on Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's statement that his country was ready to cut ties with the EU if the bloc imposes new, economically painful sanctions.
Lithuania's top diplomat said the statement was "typical" of Russia.
"Regarding Lavrov's statement, I think that it's typical of Russia to offer the rules of the game for the EU. I think, that need for EU is not to be triggered, when these triggers arise. I think, there has to be a clear strategy on what EU is trying to achieve and stick to the strategic plan," the minister said.
"If they think that fighting for this sort of values is a problem and diplomatic relations should be canceled, well, it is their choice, but that shouldn't deter Europe from standing for what is right," he added.
Such statements create "a very noisy area" that distracts attention from key issues, according to Landsbergis.
The EU's ties with Russia have been tense since Moscow annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and started fueling the war in eastern Ukraine.
Relations worsened further after Kremlin critic Navalny was sentenced to almost three years in prison following his return to Russia from Germany, where he had undergone treatment for nerve agent poisoning.
EU foreign ministers are expected to discuss their next moves on Russia on February 22.