Russia releases footage of alleged UK destroyer incident
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The bloc’s Franco-German engine was shut down, with multiple leaders ridiculing a proposal for a leadership showdown with Kremlin bullyboy Vladimir Putin. In the early hours of this morning, European leaders adopted a hardline stance against Moscow after a diplomatic war of words at an EU Council meeting in Brussels. The EU’s prime ministers and presidents rejected Berlin and Paris’ proposed plan of ”meetings at leaders level” with Mr Putin.
In a highly humiliating blow for German leader Angela Merkel and French counterpart Emmanuel Macron, their effort to woo Moscow was blown out of the water in favour of a threat of economic sanction if Russia continues in “malign and disruptive activity”.
Ahead of travelling to Brussels yesterday, Mrs Merkel said: “In my opinion, we as the European Union must also seek direct contact with Russia and the Russian president.
“It is not enough for US President Joe Biden to talk to the Russian president – I very much welcome that – but the European Union must also create formats for talks here.”
But early this morning, she conceded defeat for her plan – which was endorsed by French President Emmanuel Macron.
Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte had already told reporters he would not attend talks with the Russian president.
And eastern member states spoke out about the dangers of ignoring Mr Putin’s hostility towards the EU.
Lithuanian president Gitandas Nauseda warned that the EU should not engage with Mr Putin without setting out preconditions for improved behaviour for Moscow.
Ahead of the meeting, Latvian prime minister Krisjanis Karins suggested given the current state of EU-Russia relations, a summit could be a sign of weakness from the bloc.
“The Kremlin does not understand free concessions as a sign of strength,” he told reporters.
Polish PM Mateusz Morawiecki said talks should only take place if there was “actual de-escalation” in tensions.
Eventually European leaders settled on a stern warning for Russia, insisting talks can only take place if Moscow improves its behaviour.
“The European Council reiterates the European Union’s openness to a selective engagement with Russia in areas of EU interests,” their statement said.
“It invites the Commission and the High Representative to develop concrete options including conditionalities and leverages in this regard.”
Dutch PM Mr Rutte also secured a victory in the leaders’ statement, with calls for efforts to “establish truth” and win “justice” for the downing of the MH17 flight.
The Malaysian Airlines jet, from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, was shot down by pro-Russian separatists in Eastern Ukraine in July 2014, killing 193 Dutch nationals.
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