Foreign Ministry blasts EU’s anti-Russian ‘witch hunt’

View of the European Parliament building in Brussels (Reuters)
A senior Russian diplomat has expressed bewilderment over the decision to limit Russian officials' access to the European Parliament, adding that such unexplained and unmotivated actions were reminiscent of medieval witch hunts.

I have an impression that the European bureaucracy is partially returning into the times of the Holy Inquisition. The hunt for Russian witches has been opened,” the deputy head of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s information department, Mariya Zakharova, wrote in a Facebook post in the early hours of Wednesday.

What will come next? Clerical processes against Russian diplomats and burning them at stakes in Brussels?” Zakharova joked. She also noted in her Facebook post that it was impossible to understand the logic in the actions by European parliamentarians.

The statement was a reaction to the European Parliament's decision "to restrict the free access" to the chief of the Russian Mission to the European Union, Vladimir Chizhov. This was announced on Tuesday by the President of the European Parliament, Martin Schultz. He said that the decision was motivated by the Russian authorities’ alleged failure to ensure transparency of the recent sanctions against European politicians. The European Parliament president also said that the body was suspending its engagement with the EU-Russia Parliamentary Cooperation Committee.

Later on Wednesday, the Russian representative in the European Parliament commented further on the parliament’s decision, saying that under the new rules only he and another diplomat were allowed free entry to the body. All other Russian officials had to receive entry permits on a day-to-day basis.

In comments to RIA Novosti, Chizhov noted that the restriction was Martin Schultz’s personal decision, announced after their telephone conversation. “In essence, this is a clearly politicized and unfounded decision that cannot be justified in any way,” Chizhov said.

The Russian diplomat added that the move had already prompted criticism from some European parliamentarians. For example, Swedish MP Anna Maria Corazza Bildt called the ban “unfounded and anti-democratic.”

The head of the Federation Council’s Foreign Relations Committee, Konstantin Kosachev, called the EU’s move a “repressive decision” and suggested that Russia reciprocate with similar actions, either symmetrical or asymmetrical. “It was not us who spoke the first word, but we must not give up the last word here,” Kosachev wrote in Facebook.

Their logic hardly impresses me by being very thought through. It rather makes me doubt the sanity of its authors. But at the same time, it is absolutely clear that they would like to have the last word at any cost – to punish and pardon,” the Russian senator stated. “This is a part of the West’s larger game in which it seeks to establish a monopoly on truth.”

READ MORE: ‘Below the belt’: Foreign ministry slams Western diplomats for disclosing Russian blacklists

The decision of the European Parliament and the Russian reaction to it were the latest developments in the standoff between the EU and the Russian Federation that started over 12 months ago, when the EU introduced sanctions against Russian officials and politicians and Russia replied with counter-measures. The Russian blacklist was not initially disclosed but leaked to the press after Moscow presented it to European diplomats after repeated requests.

On Monday, the Russian Foreign Ministry expressed disappointment in their Westerns colleagues who made the list public and called such measures a threat to mutual trust.