The way Russia used and implemented the meeting with the EU's foreign policy chief Josep Borrell on Friday was "as cynical as it was predictable", Minister of Foreign Affairs Eva-Maria Liimets (Center) has said.
Borrell's joint press conference and meeting with the Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov in Moscow has already been heavily criticized and deemed a failure by many, including Estonian MEPs.
In a statement, Liimets said: "The way in which Russia has implemented the visit of the high representative of the European Union as propaganda is as cynical as it was predictable." She added this is something Estonia had predicted would happen before the meeting.
Discussing the expulsion of EU diplomats from Poland, Sweden and Germany, which was announced during the joint meeting, she said: "Russia sent another signal that they were not interested in substantive cooperation and dialogue."
Liimets said, overall, Estonia had been left with "a number of serious questions" after the meeting.
She reiterated the timing of the meeting was bad and said one of the preconditions for the meeting should have been a meeting with Russian opposition party leader Alexei Navalny, his wife or a member of the Anti-Corruption Foundation organization he founded.
She said it should have been noted by Borrell that several EU countries, including Estonia, had already called for additional sanctions on Russia after Navalny was handed a 3.5-year prison sentence.
That Borrell did not raise the issue of Ukraine was also a point of concern. "We would have expected the EU to clearly condemn Russia's continued aggression in eastern Ukraine, the annexation of Crimea and the torpedoing of the Minsk agreements by Russia. Unfortunately, this did not happen," she said.
Liimets said it was "disappointing" that Borrell had criticized the U.S. - "Estonia's biggest ally" - during the joint press conference.
Additionally, she said it is questionable for Borrell to have praised Russia's coronavirus vaccine Sputnik V which has not been fully tested especially considering "Russia's own hostility towards Western vaccines".
However, she also welcomed the fact that Borrell had met with representatives of Russian civil society and academia and that he called for the release of Navalny at the joint meeting.
Speaking about the content of the discussions which took place before the joint press conference, Liimets said she had been told they lasted almost five hours and were "long and difficult".
"I have expressed my wish to talk to the EU high representative in the near future, including about the content of his meetings in Moscow and the results of his visit," she said, adding Estonia diplomats are working on the issue.
Estonian MEPs have been among those who have harshly criticized Borrell's visit. Isamaa MEP Riho Terras called the meeting a "master class in pandering". Urmas Paet (Reform) said the meeting was a "fiasco" and said it should result in the cancelation of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project. Former Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa) said the meeting was a "total failure".
Editor: Helen Wright