Polish FM suggests EU chief diplomat visit Kiev ahead of Moscow

Borrell announced he had been invited to Moscow by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and that he planned to visit in the first week of February. John Thys/PAP/EPA

In response to news that High Representative of the European Union, European Commission Vice-President Josep Borrell intends to visit Moscow, Polish Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau suggested he first visit Kiev, the capital of Ukraine.

Rau was speaking after an EU Foreign Affairs Council sitting at which it was decided the EU will not for now apply further sanctions against Russia following the arrest of leading opposition figure Alexei Navalny. Borrell announced after the meeting he had been invited to Moscow by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and that he planned to visit in the first week of February.

"Some of us - including me - argued that it would be good to discuss the matter (of Borrell's planned visit to Moscow - PAP) with new US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, to strengthen the position of Josep Borrell against the Russian government," Rau told a press briefing. "I also think that taking into account the situation (...) it would be good to go first to Kiev. We agreed that one of the sittings of the Council will be devoted entirely to Russia, when Josep Borrell returns from Russia."

"In this context I mentioned the situation in Belarus and argued that the European Commission should present an economic plan for a democratic Belarus before Josep Borrell's visit to Moscow," Rau continued.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said after the Council sitting that the EU's foreign ministers had decided to await a court decision as to whether Alexei Navalny would be released from arrest after 30 days, before deciding on further sanctions. Sanctions were demanded by the Baltic states, Italy and Romania among other member states over the arrest of Navalny and the mass detentions of his supporters. Germany was opposed.

Borrell told a Monday press conference his trip to Moscow would be a good occasion to discuss important matters with his Russian counterpart and to hold strategic talks on the EU's relations with Russia since a March sitting of the Council would be devoted to the issue. He went on to say the Council had deemed Navalny's arrest and the suppression of demonstrations unacceptable and condemned mass detentions and police brutality. He said the EU foreign ministers appealed to Russia to release Navalny and other detainees.

Since March 2014, the EU has systematically applied sanction against Moscow in response to the illegal annexation of Crimea and attempts to destabilise Ukraine.