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European parliament hits back at Russia blacklist

AFP , Wednesday 3 Jun 2015
EU
European Parliament President Martin Schulz delivers a speech after receiving the Charlemagne Prize 2015 in Aachen, Germany May 14, 2015.(Photo:Reuters)
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European parliament head Martin Schulz on Tuesday said he was limiting access to the institution to the Russian ambassador to the EU and one other diplomat in retaliation for a travel ban imposed by Moscow on 89 European citizens -- many of them Kremlin critics.

The previously undisclosed ban by Russia was revealed to European diplomats on Thursday, and includes past and serving parliamentarians who have openly criticised President Vladimir Putin and the war in Ukraine.

"Following the publication of the blacklist of European politicians and officials, the president of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, today informed the Russian ambassador to the EU that insofar as the Russian authorities have failed to ensure transparency in their decisions... he considers that it is now justified to take appropriate measures in response," the German politician's office said in a statement.

Schulz said his office was "restricting free access to parliament to the ambassador and one other named diplomat." The other person was not identified.

In addition, parliament was "suspending its engagement with the EU-Russia Parliamentary Cooperation Committee" and would now assess requests for access to the European parliament by Russian lawmakers "on a case-by-case basis".

The statement by Schulz comes after the Greens group in the European Parliament on Sunday called for a debate on the travel ban describing it as a "heavy blow for EU-Russia relations, even if its confirmation is not a surprise."

An EU representative in Moscow received a copy of the Russian list, which has not been published, from the Russian foreign ministry on Thursday.

Over the weekend, the EU foreign service called the travel ban "totally arbitrary and unjustified" with leaders across Europe slamming the decision.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov meanwhile dismissed the "absurdity" of EU complaints insisting that Russia's response merely followed Western sanctions against the Kremlin.

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