Charles Michel had a phone call with Putin / REUTERS

President of the European Council Charles Michel called on Russian President Vladimir Putin to act in line with the Minsk peace deal on Donbas.

Michel and Putin had a telephone conversation on March 22, pending a meeting of the heads of state and government of the EU member states on March 25-26, the European Council said on its website.

Read alsoUkraine, Germany, France develop peace plan for Donbas, awaiting approval from Russia – Yermak

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In particular, the two officials discussed relations between the EU and Russia.

"President Michel expressed the view that EU-Russia ties are at a low point and confirmed the EU's approach of the five guiding principles, based on the EU's core values," it said.

There is currently disagreement in many areas.

"From the EU perspective, the relationship with Russia can only take a different direction if there is sustained progress on issues like the implementation of the Minsk agreements, stopping hybrid and cyber-attacks on Member States and respect for human rights," it said.

In this context Alexei Navalny's case was raised. "Charles Michel reiterated the EU's call on the Russian authorities to release Mr Navalny and proceed with a transparent investigation into the assassination attempt on him," it said.

The leaders also exchanged views on the COVID-19 pandemic, on vaccines and on regional and global issues.

Previous developments in EU-Russia relations

  • After his visit to Russia in early February 2021, Vice President of the European Commission, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell said Russia was uninterested in a constructive dialogue with the EU. He said the Russian authorities did not want to use his visit to Russia to establish a constructive dialogue with the EU.
  • Later, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov announced Russia's readiness to sever relations with the EU.
  • On the day of Borrell's visit to Moscow, the Russian Foreign Ministry declared employees of the diplomatic missions of Sweden, Poland, and Germany as persona non grata because of their participation in rallies in support of opposition leader Alexei Navalny. Poland, Sweden, and Germany responded by expelling three Russian diplomats.
  • On February 11, 2021, Borrell stressed there would be no normalization of relations between the EU and Russia without the fulfillment by the latter of the Minsk peace deal on Donbas.
  • The EU also imposed sanctions on four Russian officials involved in the prosecution of Navalny.