An annual EU-Russia summit has been overshadowed by a violent crackdown on opposition protests in Russia’s main cities.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and EU leaders discussed boosting trade and economic cooperation in the southern city of Rostov.
But on Monday, police had beaten protesters and detained dozens who were demonstrating in Moscow and St. Petersburg.
Top of the agenda at the two-day summit was the launch of a new Partnership for Modernisation.
EU President Herman Van Rompuy said this had to include respect for human rights:
“The situation for human rights defenders and journalists in Russia is of grave concern to the European public at large.”
Van Rompuy added that his host’s choice to base Russia’s 21st century modernization on democratic values implied a significant development.
Slow progress towards visa-free travel to Europe for Russian citizens was among Moscow’s frustrations.
Medvedev said: “There is nothing stopping us from eliminating visas. We could do that tomorow. We are ready to welcome Europeans who don’t have them. On our side, this is well on the way.”
Russia is frustrated that the EU has extended visa liberalisation to Serbia, and is making noises about doing the same for Bosnia and Albania, but has not given a time frame for doing so for Russia.
Both sides are keen to revive trade and investment, which, because of the financial crisis, fell sharply.