Russia warns EU of visa retaliation
Russia on Tuesday warned the European Union that Moscow was considering retaliation if the bloc further delays dropping visa requirements for Russians.
Moscow has pushed for years to loosen the visa requirements for Russian citizens and drop them altogether for certain kinds of travellers, in an issue that has now become a major diplomatic bone of contention.
The issue is expected to be President Vladimir Putin's top concern at an EU-Russia summit next month in Brussels, said Russian foreign ministry special envoy Anvar Azimov.
"He will put the question pointblank: are we moving forward or not?" Azimov said, RIA Novosti reported. "The next year will be the moment of truth and we will be making decisions at the end of the year."
"If there is no breakthrough on this agreement by the end of 2013, Russia will be making conclusions from this," Azimov said.
"We are sometimes slow on the uptake but we can hit back sufficiently," he said, without elaborating on the nature of the retaliation.
Moscow has previously accused some European countries of being stuck in a Cold War mentality on the visa issue, using it as a political lever against Russia.
The European Union also appears itself divided, and Azimov said he believed that 17 EU states were in favour of swiftly loosening visa controls and 10 were opposed.
Azimov added that starting in December, Russia will demand that foreign flight crews obtain visas on Russia-bound flights, after failing to agree on visa-free travel for Russia's diplomatic and military passport holders.
Some European politicians have criticised Russia for cracking down on protestors and giving them excessive jail sentences.
Lawmakers in the Council of Europe passed a resolution on Russia in October noting "serious concerns" with recent restrictive laws and jailing of punk band Pussy Riot, causing a storm in Russia's political circles.
© 2012 AFP