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EU seeks to ‘push back, constrain and engage’ Russia, as Biden, Putin begin talks

Published: Updated:

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said on Wednesday the bloc needs to “push back, constrain and engage” Moscow, as the leaders of Russia and the US met in Geneva.

“We believe that a renewed partnership, allowing us to realize the full potential of a close cooperation with Russia is a distant prospect and the EU, therefore, needs to be realistic and prepare for a further downturn of our relation with Russia,” Borrell said.

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He said Brussels’ approach must now be to “push back, constrain, and engage with” Moscow as he presented a new report detailing a strategy to build a “more predictable and stable relationship” with the Kremlin.

Ties between Russia and the 27-nation union have hit a fresh low after the EU sanctioned Moscow over the arrest of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny and the Russian authorities hit back by targeting officials in Brussels.

EU leaders -- who will debate the report at a summit next week -- are looking to fashion a common approach to their giant eastern neighbor despite splits between some members over how to handle Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“Time and again, the European Union has demonstrated unity despite attempts by Russia to divide us, and this unity remains our biggest asset and needs to be even more robust,” Borrell said.

The unveiling of the EU’s strategy on Russia came as US President Joe Biden sat down with Putin for a hotly-anticipated meeting in Switzerland.

Biden -- who jetted to meet his Russian counterpart after meetings with allies in Brussels -- has vowed to lay down “red lines” to Putin to halt Moscow’s aggressive behavior.

Read more: Biden-Putin summit in Geneva opens with US, Russian reporters shoving, shouting