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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

EU Lawmakers Urge Unity on Russia

STRASBOURG, France -- The European Parliament on Wednesday urged EU member states to give "serious thought" to their future relations with Russia in light of the recent murder of journalist Anna Politkovskaya.

It also called for a principled stand when the EU discusses a new partnership program with Russia at a summit next month.

In a strongly worded resolution, the parliament urged the member states to "give serious thought to the future of relations with the Russian Federation ... with a view to placing democracy human rights and freedom of expression at the core of any future agreement."

The resolution is not binding, but is used as a form of political pressure by the EU's only elected body.

The parliamentarians voiced their concerns over what they called the increasing intimidation, harassment and murder of journalists and other people critical of the Russian government, saying the tendency could stain Russia's reputation abroad.

Less than one week ago, EU leaders met President Vladimir Putin at a summit in Lahti, Finland. They grilled him over human rights issues and urged him to commit to a legally binding energy charter that would guarantee better access to Russia's oil and gas fields.

Finnish Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen, who chaired the Lahti summit, said both sides where critical of each other during what he called a frank and open dinner discussion.

"I was especially pleased we were able to speak with one voice. Our united line will help at the EU-Russia summit when Putin knows we really have a mandate from all 25 member states," Vanhanen told journalists in the parliament.

But Vanhanen warned against portraying Russia as what he called "some brutal dictatorship," saying Moscow was keen on close cooperation with the EU.