Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said Moscow is ready to sever ties with the European Union (EU) if the bloc hits it with painful economic sanctions, according to extracts of an interview posted on the ministry’s website on Friday.
Relations between Russia and the West have come under renewed pressure over the arrest and jailing of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, which has sparked talk of possible new sanctions.
Three European diplomats told Reuters on Thursday that the EU was likely to impose travel bans and asset freezes on allies of Russian President Vladimir Putin, possibly as soon as this month, after France and Germany signalled their willingness to move ahead.
Pressure for sanctions has grown since Moscow infuriated European countries last week by expelling German, Polish and Swedish diplomats without telling the EU’s foreign policy chief, who was in Moscow for a visit. Paris and Berlin now say there must be a response.
Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov was asked in an interview due to be published in full later on Friday whether Moscow would now move towards cutting ties with the EU itself.
“We proceed from the fact that we’re ready [for that]. In the event that we again see sanctions imposed in some sectors that create risks for our economy, including in the most sensitive spheres,” Lavrov said.
“We don’t want to isolate ourselves from global life, but we have to be ready for that. If you want peace then prepare for war,” he said.