Excerpts from Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s interview with the newspaper Argumenty i Fakty

Question: You have mentioned the possibility of breaking off ties with the EU, which are barely alive anyway. Under what conditions would Russia be willing to again develop these relations? Is it the lifting of the sanctions, the removal of pressure over human rights issues, including the Navalny case, or something else?

Sergey Lavrov: Indeed, I have mentioned several times that our relations with the EU have been reduced to a minimum. In 2014, Brussels, acting under US pressure, as the Americans themselves admitted openly, destroyed the architecture of  cooperation which took two decades to create.

This was not our choice. Moreover, we have always tried consistently to steer the EU towards mutually beneficial cooperation in areas of mutual interest. Regrettably, EU bureaucrats have shelved many of our proposals.

The EU’s policy of containing Russia is growing stronger. There is direct interference in our internal affairs, for example, when it comes to the situation around Alexey Navalny. Unilateral sanctions against Russian individuals and legal entities are being expanded. More and more unsubstantiated allegations are levelled against us.

The latest example is the new triad of EU principles in relations with Russia. The priority has been given to pushback and containment, while the third principle, engagement, has been limited exclusively to subjects of interest to the EU. One wonders if Brussels really hopes to overcome the deadlock in our relations through this openly confrontational approach. Our colleagues should know that we will not accept these one-sided games. Russia will not be intimidated by sanctions or threats. If necessary, we will continue to respond to provocations and unfriendly moves harshly but proportionately.

At the same time, I would like to point out that we are still interested in dealing with the EU and its member states in the spirit of pragmatism and mutual respect based on the universally recognised norms of international law. It is on the basis of these principles that we are successfully developing relations with the overwhelming majority of states in Eurasia, Africa and Latin America. I am sure that a great deal can also be achieved in cooperation with our European neighbours.

Question: Western media outlets have reported that the approval of the Sputnik V vaccine by the European Medicines Agency has been put in question, allegedly because the regulator has higher criteria than Moscow expected. Is this so? Considering that many countries only allow entry to vaccinated travellers, does this mean that Russians will be unable to travel to the EU because our vaccine has not been approved in Brussels?

Sergey Lavrov: The Russian Sputnik V vaccine has passed the stage of scientific advice from the European Medicines Agency (EMA), which has started a rolling review of the vaccine.

We believe that this matter should be considered from an exclusively professional and depoliticised standpoint. It concerns the health and life of the people. The main thing is for the EU to be guided by these considerations at all the subsequent stages of considering Russia’s application.

I would like to remind you that to date Sputnik V has been registered in over 60 countries. That figure is self-explanatory. Our vaccine is trusted throughout the world.

As for reopening countries to travellers, there is a proposal to use Digital Green Certificates, which would include proof that a person has been vaccinated against COVID-19, received a negative test result, or recovered from COVID-19. So far, this idea is aimed at restoring travel within the EU. The issue of European certificates’ compatibility with similar documents or digital certificates used in third countries is being discussed.

The European Commission has also proposed simplifying the entry of vaccinated travellers from third countries, but only if they have been inoculated with vaccines approved by the EMA or WHO (the latter is currently evaluating Sputnik V for certification purposes). Ultimately, the EU states themselves will decide whether to allow tourists from third countries. Many of them have a strong interest in reopening their borders to Russian tourists.

It should be said that the epidemiological situation remains volatile in many European countries. For our part, we would like to remind our EU colleagues that their decisions should be non-discriminatory and should also take into account all the COVID-19 vaccines created in non-Western countries.