Ambassadors from Lithuania and four other countries have asked the EU's chief diplomat to refrain from a visit to Moscow, arguing it would be used for the Kremlin's propaganda, Bloomberg reports.
Josep Borrell, the EU’s high representative for foreign affairs, is expected to announce his plans to meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in early February in order to discuss the recent arrest of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny.
However, at a meeting of senior EU diplomats on Tuesday, ambassadors from Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Poland, and Romania asked Borrell to defer the visit, according to a note summarising the discussion quoted by Bloomberg.
The Eastern European diplomats believe the visit would be used by Moscow for propaganda purposes and do little to improve Navalny's situation.
Ahead of Tuesday's meeting, Borrell’s office wrote to Baltic foreign ministers and said he was annoyed that they had published a letter on Twitter urging him in public to postpone his trip, according to Bloomberg.
Borrell’s team has reportedly brushed off the objections of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.
Germany, France and most other EU countries support Borrell's visit to Moscow, according to the note, seeing it as an opportunity to press Russia on human rights.
A spokesman for Borrell told Bloomberg that the European Commission would not comment on conversations that happen in private.
This would be the first Moscow trip of an EU chief diplomat since the 2017 visit by Federica Mogherini.
Navalny, who on Sunday returned to Moscow from Germany where he was treated for poisoning, was arrested upon landing and handed a 30-day sentence the following day. Navalny had been flown to Berlin after a nerve-agent attack last August that he and Western governments blame on the Kremlin.
In a January 18 letter to EU foreign ministers, Borrell condemned the arrest, but did not mention any punitive actions against Moscow.
According to the notes from the Tuesday discussion, at least eight member states seemed willing to back sanctions, while others said they were prepared to explore further diplomatic measures, Bloomberg reports.