The European Union's sanctions are not aimed at ordinary Russian citizens, and Europe is committed to further invest in people-to-people contacts, the Lithuanian EU Ambassador to Russia, Vygaudas Ušackas, said in his welcome speech at the opening of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum in Tallinn.
Vygaudas Ušackas
© DELFI / Šarūnas Mažeika

"The EU restrictive measures - sanctions - are not aimed at ordinary Russian citizens. The measures target a number of selected individuals and specific entities. They are applied to change the policy and actions of the Russian government towards Ukraine. (…) Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity must be respected," the diplomat said.

In his words, the EU has no plans to "fencing the borders" with Russia and wants to enhance relations with business leaders, representatives of civil society, human rights defenders, the scientific and educational community, independent media.

"Russia is not surrounded by 'enemies' as sometimes suggested by the propaganda machine in the Russian media. We are neither restricting nor prohibiting the EU citizens or its categories from travelling to Russia. It is simply impossible to happen in a free society," the EU ambassador said. "We share a continent, a history, our economies are interlinked, and we will remain neighbours whatever will happen with the interstate relations. That is why the European Union is firmly committed to enhance and further invest in people-to-people contacts."

The West blocked access for Russian companies and banks to foreign capital, imposed sanctions against the country's defence and energy industries, froze assets of some of Russian President Vladimir Putin's allies as well as imposed travel restrictions in response to Russia's annexation of Crimea and instigation of war in eastern Ukraine. The Western sanctions led to a drop in oil prices and hit the Russian economy hard.

In his speech, Ušackas also called the existing situation in Ukraine "the most serious challenge to European security since the end of the Cold War", stressing that the conflict was sparked "due to the violation by Russia of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of our common neighbour – Ukraine."

"Trust was undermined. The EU and Russia relations became hostage of Ukrainian conflict. The recently declared shared modernization agenda was literally scrapped. (…) Sanctions and restrictive measures replaced ambitious integration goals," the ambassador concluded.

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