Q.: How can you comment Catherine Ashton's statement in the European Parliament in its part referring to Russia?
A.: Biased comments on the internal political situation in Russia articulated by EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President of the European Commission, Catherine Ashton, in her statement in the European Parliament on 1 February can not but cause bewilderment.
We believe that in her comments, obviously adjusted to expectations of the audience, Catherine Ashton overstepped the boundaries of the appropriate, assuming to have the right to interfere in the internal affairs of a sovereign state and to lecture Russian authorities on how they should arrange the “agenda of change”. It is surprising that Catherine Ashton’s attempts to speak on behalf of a part of Russia’s civil society, whose maturity manifests itself precisely in the fact that it does not need any foreign “mouthpieces” to express its aspirations.
Her appeal to review the decision to deny registration as candidate for the post of President of the Russian Federation to one of the aspirants transcends the limits of political correctness. It would seem appropriate to treat Russian legislation and the relevant ruling of Russia's Central Electoral Commission with more respect. Indeed, it seems rather strange to hear from one of the highest EU officials a call for breaching the law, whomever it might be addressed to.
Nor was left unnoticed from our side the conspicuous attempt by the EU representative to in fact question a priori the free and fair nature of the forthcoming presidential elections in Russia.
Our EU partners should be well aware of the significance Russia attaches to faithful implementation of its international commitments in the sphere of democratic elections, human rights and fundamental freedoms. Unlike a number of our foreign partners, including some EU member states, we invited – in a timely and full-fledged manner – observers from the OSCE and other international agencies to monitor the December elections to the State Duma of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation, as well as the elections of the President of the Russian Federation due to take place on 4 March.
These and some other assessments made by Catherine Ashton are tendentious in nature and do not correspond to the spirit of partnership in relations between Russia and the European Union. It should be stressed in this context that serious problems in the field of human rights exist in EU member states as well. Many of them are mentioned in the Russian MFA's report on human rights in certain states, based on objective information provided by prominent international sources including the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights. The EU leadership ought to be paying close attention to resolving relevant domestic problems rather than trying to lecture others on democracy.