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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

EU Envoy Seeks New Status for Russia

The Kremlin's EU envoy, Sergei Yastrzhembsky, pushed for a special relationship with the European Union on Tuesday, saying the EU's vision for a new partnership along the lines of ties with its other neighbors doesn't suit Russia.

Yastrzhembsky said the only reason for the postponement of a planned Russia-EU summit this week was that Russia wants to deal with a new European Commission after it is formed.

But Yastrzhembsky said Russia is too important to be bound by an EU formula for partnership that would place it on the same level as the expanded, 25-nation group's other neighbors.

"We believe that this formula does not fit Russia," Yastrzhembsky told a news conference, several days after the summit was postponed from its planned date on Thursday in The Hague.

"The format of relations between Russia and the EU is far broader, deeper, more massive than ... with all the other EU partners combined," he said, referring only to EU neighbors. "So for us ... this suit is a bit tight -- it squeezes Russia's shoulders."

Yastrzhembsky said no other EU neighbor has relations as intense as Russia, with summits twice a year and plans for a broad-based agreement encompassing relations in four spheres: economic, internal and external security, and humanitarian issues.

"I think that this argumentation in the end will be accepted," he said.

Yastrzhembsky said major progress had been made on humanitarian and economic issues, and that "much has been done" on external security. Talks were continuing, though, and "there are differences that must be overcome" on internal security, including on Russia's push for visa-free travel to Europe, he said.

EU officials have said the summit was postponed because negotiations toward an agreement had made insufficient headway, and that it might be held in mid-December. Yastrzhembsky and Deputy Foreign Minister Vladimir Chizhov, who spoke separately, also said Russia wants to hold the summit this year.

President Vladimir Putin said he hopes the meeting will bring "substance to the comprehensive dialogue, if we don't reach any agreements written on paper," Itar-Tass reported.

Relations between the EU and Russia have rarely been smooth. The EU upset Moscow by absorbing three former Soviet republics -- Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania -- and four former Soviet allies -- Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia -- this year.

Yastrzhembsky and Chizhov both reiterated complaints about the rights of Russian speakers in Estonia and Latvia, where Yastrzhembsky said their treatment "does not meet European standards."