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EU-Russia talks open with election and euro concerns set to figure

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has arrived in Brussels to meet with European leaders. EU concerns over Russian parliamentary elections are likely to be discussed, along with possible support by Moscow for the euro.

EU and Russian flags

The leaders will also talk about a visa deal and trade

EU leaders were meeting a Russian delegation on Thursday with possible support by Moscow for the euro likely to come up for discussion, along with concerns over election probity.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev met his European counterparts in Brussels on Wednesday evening for a private dinner, ahead of the talks with senior EU officials.

European concerns about the validity of Russian parliamentary election results and the subsequent handling of protests - while not officially on the agenda - were likely to come up for discussion.

Russian protesters

Russians have been protesting the results of parliamentary elections

"I'm sure my president will not be surprised if this is mentioned," said Russian ambassador to the EU Vladimir Chizhov.

Ahead of the talks, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton adopted a conciliatory approach to Moscow on the matter, saying that "large demonstrations over the weekend in Russia were peaceful - and the authorities in my view generally handled it very well."

Major concerns and a call for help

However, Ashton also noted that there were strong concerns about the exclusion of opposition parties, the lack of media freedom and the detention of protesters.

Possible Russian support for the euro was also set to figure, with the EU appealing to Russia, China and others to pledge new funds for the International Monetary Fund, a move that Chizhov said Moscow was considering.

"I do not have any final numbers to share with you, but this is an issue which is being considered by my government," the ambassador told reporters on Wednesday.

Along with Ashton, Medvedev was scheduled to meet European Council President Herman Van Rompuy and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso.

Focus on 'deliverables'

On the Russian side Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was set to attend, along with economic development and trade minister Elvira Nabiullina.

A euro coin held over a globe showing Europe

Kremlin officials say Russia is willing to help the eurozone

Officials from both sides said that "deliverables" would be the main focus of the summit, including Russian demands for visa-free travel in and out of the EU.

On Tuesday, Russia struck an agreement with Poland on limited visa-free travel for inhabitants of the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad, sandwiched between Lithuania and Poland.

Ahead of the signing of Russia's World Trade Organization accession on Friday in Geneva - following 18 years of negotiation - an EU-Russia agreement on trade and political co-operation was also a likely theme for the talks.

No real progress was expected on the issue of sanctions against Syria and Iran. The strategy of economic blockades on Iran was described as "exhausted" by Chizhov.

Author: Richard Connor (AFP, dpa, Reuters)
Editor: Andreas Illmer

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