Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, is facing growing criticism from the US, European countries and Lithuania for agreeing to attend Vladimir Putin's St. Petersburg International Economic Forum in Russia.
© AFP/Scanpix

Going through with the visit would make Juncker the first leader of an EU institution to visit Russia since the West imposed sanctions on Russia in 2014 for its aggression in Ukraine and the annexation of Crimea, Politico reports.

“Meetings for the sake of meetings as such do not bring added value to EU-Russia relations,” Lithuanian Minister of Foreign Affairs Linas Linkevičius said. “The Kremlin uses meetings to create the impression of business as usual, and usually reports this impression to their own public.”

Margaritis Schinas, Juncker's spokesman, said the trip would be used “to convey to the Russian leadership as well as to a wider audience the EU’s prospective regarding the current state of EU-Russia relations.”

There are reports that even some in Juncker's staff have been advising him to back out of the meeting, which Juncker may still do if Putin makes any provocative moves or if the situation in Ukraine deteriorates.

Politicians in some countries, including France and Italy, have begun speaking out against the sanctions, which they say have hurt their agricultural and industrial sectors.

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