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Europe

Russia concerned at EU overtures to former Soviet states

After meeting with his EU counterparts in Luxembourg, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the Kremlin wasn't exactly thrilled at the bloc's Eastern European policies. But relations are still improving.

Sergei Lavrov

Lavrov and Moscow often view the West with misgivings

Lavrov was visiting Luxembourg for a meeting of the Russia-EU "permanent partnership council", but the tone wasn't always conciliatory.

In particular, Russia isn't happy with the EU's Eastern Partnership scheme, which seeks to tighten the bloc's connections with Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Ukraine and Moldova.

The EU says the initiative is aimed at stabilizing and modernizing those six countries by encouraging free-market and pro-democracy reforms in return for EU aid. But Moscow is viewing the partnership with a wary eye.

"I have to say that some of the comments we have heard about this initiative from the European Union do worry us," Lavrov told the press.

Still Lavrov's remarks fell far short of comments he made in March, in which he accused the EU of trying to build up a "sphere of influence" among former Soviet republics.

"He knows himself it's nonsense," Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg, whose country holds the EU's rotating presidency, said ahead of Tuesday's meeting.

The EU is scheduled to hold the inaugural meeting of its Eastern Partnership scheme in Prague on May 7.

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