- The Washington Times - Friday, February 12, 2021

Russia is prepared to sever all ties with the European Union if the bloc proceeds with threatened economic sanctions, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Friday in Moscow.

In strikingly blunt remarks, the veteran foreign minister said in a radio interview that Moscow is “ready” if EU leaders impose new travel bans and asset freezes to protest the jailing of opposition leaders Alexei Navalny, a detention that has sparked popular protests against President Vladimir Putin in cities across Russia.

“We don’t want to isolate ourselves from global life, but we have to be ready for that,” Mr. Lavrov said in an excerpt of the interview published on the Foreign Ministry’s website. “If you want peace, then prepare for war.”

The Kremlin later said critics were reading too much into Mr. Lavrov‘s comments, but added Russia must have contingency plans for “independence if madness prevails.”

Mr. Lavrov spoke just days after a visit by European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell that was widely seen in Europe as a diplomatic disaster. In a joint press conference with Mr. Borrell this week, Mr. Lavrov denied any Kremlin role in the recent poisoning of Mr. Navalny with a Soviet-era nerve gas and complained the EU was proving “an unreliable partner.”

Russia also announced the expulsion of three European diplomats in the middle of Mr. Borrell’s visit — without informing the EU diplomat in advance.

Mr. Borrell on his return to Brussels said he was open to new sanctions on Russia, and EU foreign ministers reportedly will meet soon on possible penalties.

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