The European Union will have to draw the consequences to decide the next steps, which could include sanctions, the bloc’s foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell says after his controversial Russia visit.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, left, and High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borrell enter a hall for their joint news conference in Moscow on February 5, 2021.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, left, and High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borrell enter a hall for their joint news conference in Moscow on February 5, 2021. (AP)

The European Union's top diplomat has said Russia was rejecting constructive dialogue with the EU and that Europe must draw the consequences, including the possibility of new sanctions.

In a blog post, Josep Borrell said on Sunday the shock expulsion of three EU diplomats during his two-day visit to Moscow, showed that Russia "did not want to seize this opportunity to have a more constructive dialogue with the EU".

The bloc "will have to draw the consequences" he wrote, insisting that "it will be for member states to decide the next steps, and yes, these could include sanctions."

Borrell's trip, which ended on Saturday, had been a controversial journey that divided the EU's 27 member states, with France and Germany backing dialogue with the Kremlin.

Other countries backed a harder line after the jailing of Kremlin critic Alexey Navalny and a crackdown on pro-Navalny protesters that has seen more than 10,000 people arrested in recent weeks.

READ MORE: Russia expels EU diplomats over Navalny protests, ties at 'low point'

Deepening division

Borrell's trip took a negative turn when Moscow expelled diplomats from Poland, Germany and Sweden just hours after he met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to discuss ties.

The former Spanish foreign minister described the trip as "very complicated" and said he returned to Brussels "with deep concerns". 

"It seems that Russia is progressively disconnecting itself from Europe and looking at democratic values as an existential threat," he said.

Borrell, whose views do not necessarily represent the 27, defended his visit arguing that criticising Russia from a distance "will not bring greater security to the EU". 

"We have to face challenges, including meeting others in their home turf, just when negative events are unfolding" in order to better assess the action to take.

"If we want a safer world for tomorrow, we have to act decidedly today and be ready to take some risks," he said.

Borrell will debrief his trip to foreign ministers from the 27 member states on February 22 and EU leaders will discuss their strained ties with Moscow at a summit in March.

Drawing up EU sanctions are strictly up to the members states and require unanimity among the 27.

READ MORE: How Russia is slowly encircling Europe

Source: TRTWorld and agencies