EU-Russia relations have become increasingly strained over the past decade, not least because of the country's 2014 annexation of Crimea, the Kremlin’s support for separatists in eastern Ukraine and Russia’s military intervention in Syria. Another source of tension is Russia’s disinformation campaigns and cyber-attacks, as well as attempts to interfere in Western democratic processes and the arrest of opposition leader Alexei Navalny.
Since the annexation of Crimea in 2014, EU economic sanctions target Russia’s financial, defence and energy sectors. Russia has responded with counter-sanctions.
The European Parliament (April plenary session) confirmed concern about Russian military posturing close to the country’s border with Ukraine as well as in illegally occupied Crimea. The EP resolution also deplored the revelation that Russian intelligence services set off the explosion of an arms depot in Vrbětice, Czechia, in 2014, in which two Czech citizens were killed. Parliament also reiterated its call for the immediate and unconditional release of jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny.
On 30 April Russia barred eight officials from European Union countries from entering the country in retaliation for sanctions imposed on Russian citizens by the EU. Russia's foreign ministry said those banned included Vera Jourova, vice president for values and transparency at the executive European Commission and David Sassoli, the President of the European Parliament. Presidents of the European Council, Commission and Parliament condemned in a joint statement the imposition of restrictive measures targeting the EU by Russia as unacceptable and groundless.
During September vote in plenary Parliament said that the EU must push back against aggressive policies while laying the groundwork for cooperation with a future democratic Russia. Assessing the state of EU-Russia relations, the European Parliament made clear that it distinguishes between the Russian people and President Vladimir Putin’s regime.