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EU officials privately considering shift to less combative approach to Russia

Brussels: The European Union may be having a change of heart in its rhetoric towards Russia, with some of the most senior executives in Brussels allegedly advocating a softer approach, Bloomberg reported on Saturday, citing sources familiar with a private meeting recently hosted by EU Foreign Policy Chief Josep Borrell.

According to the media outlet, the Monday dinner was attended by EU Ambassador to Russia Markus Ederer and other senior officials, who reportedly proposed to develop a new plan on Russia, claiming that Europe’s stance on Moscow was outdated and too focused on the Ukrainian conflict.

The report noted that such statements could lead to disagreements with some EU member states which maintain sanctions over the 2014 Crimea reunification with Russia and the situation in eastern Ukraine.

Borrell’s spokesperson, Nabila Massrali, declined to comment on the matter, saying the EU foreign ministers agree on the “continued relevance of implementing the five guiding principles, as well as the broader approach of pushing back, constraining and engaging with Russia where needed.”

The principles mentioned by Massrali, as cited in the report, include the full implementation of the ceasefire agreements in eastern Ukraine, promoting close ties with Russia’s ex-Soviet neighbors, fortifying against the so-called Russian threats and engaging selectively on issues such as counterterrorism.

Relations between Russia and its European partners took a turn for the worse in 2014 after the leadership change in Ukraine and subsequent reunification with Crimea after a referendum on the peninsula. Since then, Russia has been under Western sanctions. Moscow has consistently expressed the view that sanctions are counterproductive to EU-Russia relations.

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