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NEW YORK – Europe should allow the entry of Russian citizens seeking to flee the country, European Council President Charles Michel said as he castigated Russia’s “web of lies” in an address to the United Nations General Assembly.
In an interview with POLITICO on the sidelines of the UN meeting in New York, Michel said the EU should show “openness to those who do not want to be instrumentalized by the Kremlin”.
Putin’s announcement of a partial troop mobilization earlier this week changed the dynamics of the war, he said.
While Michel, who leads the European Council representing EU heads of state and government, said he was open to consulting with his EU colleagues on how to achieve this, he said: “In principle, I think that… the European Union [should] welcome those who are in danger because of their political opinions. If people in Russia are in danger because of their political opinions, because they do not follow this crazy decision of the Kremlin to start this war in Ukraine, we must take this into account.
“I agree with the idea that we should very quickly cooperate and coordinate because it is a new fact – this partial mobilization.”
Michel’s comments come ahead of a meeting of EU ambassadors on Monday as part of the EU’s Integrated Political Crisis Response (IPCR) – a mechanism that allows for rapid and coordinated decision-making at EU political level. EU in times of crisis.
The question of whether to allow Russians to seek refuge in Europe is complex. This month, the European Union agreed to suspend a visa facilitation deal with Russia, after several countries objected to Russian citizens visiting and vacationing in Europe when the Putin government is waging war. in Ukraine.
But with Russian citizens now queuing at the border to leave the country, the EU is facing calls to open its borders.
The ambassadors are likely to discuss what options the EU might have at Monday’s meeting. Among the possibilities, the EU could grant humanitarian status to some incoming Russian citizens, rather than refugee status. As the EU activated its Special Directive on Temporary Protection for the first time in its history in March, giving Ukrainians the right to live and work in the European Union for a specified period, it is unlikely that such a regime be introduced for the Russians.
In particular, some Baltic countries fear that opening the door to Russians would allow pro-Putin operatives to enter the EU. Finland closed its doors to Russian tourists on Friday after the number of people arriving at the Finland-Russia border skyrocketed in recent days.
However, the German government has indicated that it is ready to take on Russian dissidents who face severe oppression.
“Our deliberations will be informed by available expertise and will take into account the perspectives and concerns of our fellow member states,” reads a document released by the Czech Presidency and seen by POLITICO ahead of Monday’s meeting.
Earlier Friday, in his address to the United Nations General Assembly, Michel lambasted the Kremlin, calling for Russia’s expulsion from the UN Security Council. “When a permanent member of the Security Council launches an unprovoked and unjustified attack, condemned by the General Assembly, the suspension of that member from the Security Council should be automatic.”
He also denounced Russia’s “poisonous lies” about the war in Ukraine, including its suggestion that Russia’s security is threatened by the West. ” It’s wrong. The Kremlin is trying, hopefully in vain, to mobilize the whole world against any imaginary enemy. Absolutely no one threatened, attacked or invaded Russia. Absolutely no one in Europe wanted a conflict with Russia. What interest would we have in jeopardizing the security and prosperity of all?
The President of the European Council also called Russia’s “lie” that it is preventing an alleged genocide of Russian speakers in Ukraine as “false and repugnant”.
Concluding a six-day visit to the United Nations, Michel said that one of the main challenges for the European Union was to communicate its message to the countries of the South and other parts of the world regarding its position on Ukraine. He is due to hold a series of bilateral meetings next week with leaders from the Asia-Pacific region when he attends the funeral of the late Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
“We have to show that we don’t lecture anyone, but what we do is we defend, we argue and we can do it with respect, with facts, with objective and scientific arguments, and by listening. also different opinions,” he said.
Jacopo Barigazzi contributed reporting.