Russia”s foreign minister Sergey Lavrov suggested his country must “prepare for war” if it wants peaceful relations with the European Union as the 27-nation bloc considers economic sanctions.
Lavrov said the EU was Russia’s largest trading and investment partner, but that his country needed to be prepared in case “sanctions are imposed in some areas that create risks for our economy, including in the most sensitive areas”.
He was asked in the interview, released by the Soloviev Live YouTube channel on Friday, whether Russia was heading for a “break” with the European Union.
“We proceed from the fact that we are ready [for that],” Lavrov replied, according to a transcript released by the Russian Foreign Ministry.
“We do not want to isolate ourselves from world life, but we must be ready for this. If you want peace, prepare for war.”
European and Russian officials have been exchanging strong words since last week’s visit to Moscow by Josep Borrell, the EU’s foreign policy chief.
During the trip he called for the release of Alexei Navalny, the jailed Russian opposition leader.
Borrell later told the European Parliament that the EU must take a firm stance in its relations with Russia, pointing to ongoing conflicts in Ukraine, Belarus and the southern Caucasus.
“It will be for the member states to decide the next step, but yes, this could include sanctions. And I will put forward concrete proposals, using the right of initiative the high representative has,” Borrell told EU lawmakers on Tuesday.