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Top EU diplomat accuses Russia of not taking Europe seriously

BRUSSELS - A top EU diplomat has accused Russia of not taking Brussels seriously, saying it is likely to backfire on Moscow.

The EU has become more and more frustrated by being left out of official talks with Russia. Last week, Russian officials met with their US counterparts and held talks with NATO members. Although some EU countries are also members of NATO, top EU diplomats have not been included in these direct talks with Moscow.

The EU has so far tried to ease tensions with Russia by meeting with Ukrainian officials and talking regularly with the United States through some of its member states, namely Germany. German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, for example, visited Moscow on Tuesday, where she met with her colleague Sergey Lavrov.

Asked whether Russia takes the EU seriously, Stefano Sannino, Secretary-General of the EU External Action Service, said the EU's diplomatic service: "No, it does not."

Relations between the EU and Russia have soured since 2014, when the Kremlin illegally annexed Crimea. Their bond hit a new low last year when Lavrov claimed the EU was an "unreliable partner", with Josep Borrell, the EU's top diplomat, standing right next to him at a press conference.

"This is a choice that they [Russia] have made, but it will run the opposite [to] their own interest, in the sense that they dream of a multipolar world made by the United States, Russia and China. And unfortunately, the world is more complex with it, "Sannino said on Wednesday.

"Russia looks back a little to the end of the 19th century, the beginning of the 20th perhaps; rather than to see[ing] in the modern world and what it is, the EU, today, "he added.

His comments reflected the statements of the Ukrainian ambassador to the EU, Vsevolod Chentsov, who told CNBC this week that "Russia needs to reinvent itself as a modern state and stop joining, let's say, the idea of the reconstruction of the Soviet Union. "

The European Union, which brings together 27 nations, is often criticized for its long and bureaucratic way of formulating policy. On many issues, consensus is needed for laws to be implemented.

However, Sannino said that despite its complexity, the EU is "an important player."

"We can have our problems, and our difficulties and our complexities, and I do not deny that. But that does not mean that the European Union does not exist, or [it] is not an important player from all points of view. We are what we are, 500 million people and the largest market, the most relevant market in the world, "he said.

New sanctions against Russia

A recent criticism of the EU has been the lack of details on potential new sanctions against Russia.

The bloc has said there will be "massive consequences" in the event of further aggression from Russia to Ukraine, but it has not yet explained how far it is willing to go.

Ukraine's Chentsov told CNBC that his country "definitely wants more details" about this.

On Wednesday, Sannino told CNBC. "Sanctions, this is something that, how to say, is very important to have in the drawer and to put on the table when the moment comes. And I think the time has not yet come for this to happen. As I said, we still believe that there is room for dialogue and diplomacy. "

If this is not the case, "we will be ready to put a credible and substantial package on the table," he said.

Another question mark is what kind of action from Russia would cause the EU to impose new sanctions. The main Ukrainian government websites were subjected to a cyber attack on Friday, for which Ukraine has already blamed Russia.

Asked what kind of action will lead to the imposition of sanctions on the EU, Sannino said: "You have to see what is the development of the situation on the ground. But I certainly believe that any kind of military presence on the ground, or "Any kind of effort to destabilize Ukraine would involve a very strong response from the EU and again from the West: the United States, Britain, Canada and other like-minded countries."

Representative of the People's Police of the People's Republic of Lugansk shows a seized homemade strike drone equipped with a grenade launcher, which was used by Ukrainian government troops near Slavyanoserbsk in eastern Ukraine.

Alexander Reka | TASS | Getty Images

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