Britain urges EU to toughen Russia sanctions | News | DW | 21.08.2018
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Britain urges EU to toughen Russia sanctions

The UK's new foreign minister, Jeremy Hunt, has called on the EU to increase sanctions on Russia. Moscow reacted swiftly, suggesting London was in no position to tell the EU what to do with Brexit only a few months away.

British Foreign Minister Jeremy Hunt told an audience at the US Institute of Peace in Washington on Tuesday that Britain will push the EU to increase sanctions against Russia. 

In his first major speech since taking over the position as the UK's chief diplomat, Hunt said the bloc should stand "shoulder to shoulder" with the US over the sanctions it imposed on Moscow this month.

Details of the speech

  • Hunt called on the EU to "truly stand shoulder to shoulder with the US."
  • "That means calling out and responding to transgressions with one voice whenever and wherever they occur, from the streets of Salisbury to the fate of Crimea," he said.
  • Hunt said Russian President Vladimir Putin had made the world "a more dangerous place."
  • Under Putin, Russia’s "aggressive and malign behaviour undermines the international order that keeps us safe," he went on. 
  • "Those who do not share our values need to know that there will always be a serious price to pay if red lines are crossed — whether territorial incursions, the use of banned weapons or, increasingly, cyberattacks," Hunt said.
  • He cited "foreign attempts" to manipulate elections in Western democratic systems.

Read moreAmerica First? Europe will respond in kind, German minister says

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says Moscow is open to bilteral talks with the UK (Getty Images/AFP/J. Makovec)

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says Moscow is open to bilteral talks with the UK

Moscow dismisses Hunt's claims

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov retorted: "Our British colleagues have quite a high opinion of themselves."

Speaking in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, Lavrov added: "A country which is leaving the EU in the framework of Brexit is trying to dictate foreign policy to the EU itself. And now, as it turns out, London wants to dictate foreign policy on Russia in Washington."

Moscow had offered to sit down with Britain and discuss bilateral ties, Lavrov said, but had been rebuffed "in a high-handed way."

EU split: EU officials said Britain had not yet proposed any new sanctions on Russia to the other 27 EU member states. Britain's position within the EU is seen as compromised by its decision to exit the bloc in March 2019. The EU recently agreed to renew sanctions against Russia relating to its annexation of Crimea from Ukraine. Its current sanctions are in place until the end of January 2019. Any new EU sanctions would require unanimity among all 28 states.

Poland and the Baltic states back Britain's hawkish position, while other EU member states including Italy, Austria and Greece, want more engagement with Moscow.

British experts at the scene of the attack in Salisbury earlier this year (picture-alliance/PA Wire/A. Matthews)

British experts at the scene of the attack in Salisbury earlier this year

Relations at a low: UK-Russian relations have in a poor state for some time and were exacerbated by a chemical weapons attack in England earlier this year. Britain, the EU and the US blame Russia for a nerve agent attack against a Russian double agent in Salisbury. The Kremlin denies any involvement.

Concerted action: US lawmakers also called for stronger measures to counteract what they called "malign" Russian activities. One senator called for a new sanctions package "from hell" and would punish Russia for actions including its annexation of Crimea, involvement in the Syrian civil war and cyberattacks seeking to influence US elections. 

Trump intervention: US President Donald Trump told the news agency Reuters on Monday that he would consider lifting sanctions against Russia if it were to do something positive for the US, for instance in Syria or in Ukraine. The move was welcomed by Moscow. "We of course welcome statements that affirm a readiness to cooperate, but we would welcome even more some kind of concrete actions," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

jbh/rt (Reuters, AP)

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