21 Feb 2019 17:50

EU yields to U.S.', Ukraine's pressure by means of anti-Russian sanctions over Kerch incident - Lavrov

MOSCOW. Feb 21 (Interfax) - The European Union has succumbed to the pressure from the United States and Ukraine regarding anti-Russian sanctions over the Kerch Strait incident, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said.

"Unfortunately, far from everyone in Europe backs intentions to improve Russian-EU ties. The anti-Russian propaganda campaign goes on. They are insistently trying to present our country as a strategic threat to European security, and they keep on imposing unilateral restrictions," Lavrov said at a meeting with members of the European Business Association on Thursday.

"The EU again yielded to the pressure of their Russophobes, the U.S. and Ukraine the other day," Lavrov said.

"We see that demonizing Russia in the eyes of a broad European public pursues a goal of creating a comfortable veil to resolve geopolitical tasks, and continues a policy geared toward stepping up NATO's military activity and deploying the alliance's infrastructure near Russian borders," the Russian foreign minister said.

Along with Macedonia and other Balkan countries, Ukraine and Georgia "are being consistently dragged" into NATO, Lavrov added.

"The U.S.' withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, which was obediently and unanimously supported by all of the NATO countries, does not make us more optimistic, despite the, at the very least, contradictory situation surrounding this Treaty," Lavrov said.

These actions are increasing military-political tensions, specifically in the area of "our common neighborhood," he said.

On November 25, 2018, three Ukrainian naval ships violated the rules of passage through the Russian territorial water en route from the Black Sea to the Sea of Azov. The ships were detained and escorted to Kerch, while 24 Ukrainian naval sailors were arrested on the charge of illegal crossing of the Russian state border by the court ruling. The U.S. and the EU demanded the release of Ukrainian naval sailors.

The EU countries reached a consensus on the introduction of sanctions against individuals for the Kerch Strait incident at the end of last week.