Haavisto and Lavrov sharply disagree on Navalny, expulsions of European Union diplomats


European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said after visiting Russian Federation last week that the 27-nation bloc must take a firm stance in its relations with Russian Federation and ponder new sanctions in the wake of Navalny's prison sentence.

"If the European Union goes down that path then yes, we should be ready, because you have to be ready for the worst", Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on a conference call. The point is that we don't want this - we want to develop relations with the European Union, but if the European Union follows this path, indeed, we will be ready. "When it comes to Europe, we are not going anywhere", Lavrov said.

Asked if Russian Federation is heading towards a split with the European Union, Mr Lavrov replied, "We proceed from the assumption that we are ready for that". "If you want peace, you must prepare for war".

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov discussed climate change with USA envoy John Kerry and the two agreed to cooperate further within the Arctic Council, the Russian Foreign Ministry said.

Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny has returned to court for a trial on slander charges he calls politically motivated amid mounting tensions between Russia and the West over his jailing. The most prominent political foe of President Vladimir Putin was arrested January 17 upon his return from Germany, where he spent five months recuperating from nerve agent poisoning he blamed on the Kremlin.

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Russian authorities have repeatedly denied allegations they poisoned Mr Navalny.

While Mr Borrell was meeting with Mr Lavrov, Moscow announced the expulsion of diplomats from Germany, Poland and Sweden for attending protests in support of Mr Navalny. The three European Union nations expelled a Russian diplomat each in a quid pro quo response.

Based on the number of social media posts, it can be assumed that tens of thousands of Russians took part in Sunday's event, Ivan Zhdanov, the director of Navalny's Anti-Corruption Foundation, told the independent Dozhd news broadcaster.

The Kremlin said Monday that there were no mass arrests Sunday because the protesters had not violated any laws.

Lavrov said that economic relations with the European Union have been hurt by sanctions and political contacts have been limited to sporadic exchanges of views on worldwide crises.