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EU leaders reject push for Putin summit

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Russian President Vladimir Putin addresses school leavers in Moscow on June 25, 2021. (Photo by Alexey NIKOLSKY / Sputnik / AFP)

European Union leaders have rejected a push from Germany and France to restart meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Friday.

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“It was not possible to agree today that we should meet immediately at the top level,” Merkel said after talks between the bloc’s leaders at an EU summit in Brussels.

Merkel said that leaders had agreed to maintain and develop a “dialogue format” with Russia.

“I would have liked to see a bolder step here, but it is also good this way and we will continue to work on it,” she said.

Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda said “there will be no meetings at the European Union leaders’ level with Russia”.

“We see that the situation of our relations with Russia is deteriorating and we see new aggressive forms in behaviour of Russia,” he said.

Berlin and Paris had blindsided their EU counterparts by putting forward a last-minute proposal for the bloc to resume meetings with Putin in the wake of US President Joe Biden’s sit-down with him in Geneva last week.

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There was opposition from numerous member states — especially in eastern Europe — who remain deeply wary of rewarding the Kremlin with talks before it changes course.

Moscow said Thursday that Putin was a “supporter” of the proposal, which would have potentially revived a regular fixture frozen in 2014 after the takeover of Crimea by Russia.

The last summit between EU chiefs and Putin took place in early 2014, but the Kremlin strongman has always preferred to deal bilaterally with individual nations.

The EU is looking to revamp its strategy on keeping its vast eastern neighbour in check as Brussels admits that relations with the Kremlin look set to deteriorate further despite having already reached their “lowest level”.

Moscow has been at loggerheads with a number of Western capitals recently after a Russian troop build-up on Ukraine’s borders and a series of espionage scandals that have resulted in diplomatic expulsions.

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