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No malign influence of situation around Navalny on relations with Finland — top diplomat

According to the Russian foreign minister, the Finnish side brought to Moscow the same evaluations of the situation with opposition blogger Navalny as their colleagues in the European Union did previously
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov The press service of the Russian Foreign Ministry/TASS
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov
© The press service of the Russian Foreign Ministry/TASS

ST. PETERSBURG, February 15. /TASS/. Moscow does not see any malign influence of the situation around Russian blogger Alexey Navalny on Russian-Finnish relations, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said after talks with his Finnish counterpart Pekka Haavisto on Monday.

"As for the question on how this whole situation [with Navalny] influences our relations with Finland, if at all, I will answer that we do not experience any malign influence on our close bilateral cooperation, on the cooperation within the framework of regional structures in the North," the Russian top diplomat noted.

He added that the Finnish side, as well as their colleagues in the European Union before this, brought to Moscow the same evaluations of the situation with Navalny which "are edited and written in the European Union" and are a subject of consensus in the community. "We hear this rather regularly and literally verbatim. Well, if there is such a decision in the organization named the European Union, we perceive it as a given. So in response to a read-out of these problematic issues we give an answer and, most importantly, show how the same European Union consistently, diligently and ingeniously moves away from any specific discussions based on facts and not on those accusations directed at us with and without reason," the minister said.

According to him, such evaluations "largely are simply a subject of geopolitics and not real life." He emphasized that such issues have no influence on trade, mutual investments and cultural events as well as on the interaction in the spheres of science, education and tourism between Russia and the European Union.

Additionally, the top diplomat again noted that European diplomats deported for participation in unauthorized rallies were consciously meddling in Russia’s internal affairs. "That is why, diplomats, when they take to the streets in this situation, considering the effective decree of Moscow’s City Hall related to a ban on public events of this type in the conditions of the coronavirus pandemic, I think, they knew perfectly well that it was not about fulfilling their functions according to the Vienna Conventions but rather about meddling in the internal affairs of the Russian Federation. <...> The diplomats of the vast majority of the European Union countries did not go walking about the streets as the opposition was urging. This indicates they realized what it means," he concluded.

On February 5, the Russian Foreign Ministry reported that Russia declared a Swedish, a Polish and a German diplomat personae non gratae for participating in unauthorized rallies in Moscow and St. Petersburg on January 23. Representatives of these countries’ embassies were summoned to the Russian Foreign Ministry and handed notes of protest. On February 8, as a retaliatory measure, these countries deported Russian diplomats.