EU condemns Russia over Nemtsov funeral bans



BRUSSELS (AP) - EU-Russian relations took a further dip on Tuesday when the European Union strongly condemned Moscow for banning Polish and Latvian officials from entering the country to attend the funeral of slain Kremlin critic Boris Nemtsov.

European Parliament President Martin Schulz called the bans a "high affront" and said he will intervene with Russian authorities "in the strongest terms and demand an official explanation."

Latvia, which holds the rotating EU presidency, joined the criticism, arguing in a statement that the move to deny MEP Sandra Kalniete entry "flies in the face of basic principles of humanity."

The EU foreign policy service was especially irked since the "justification in this particular case implies that she would represent a threat to the security of the state or public order," said spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic. "This does not appear as a credible explanation."

The Baltic News Service quoted the Russian embassy in Latvia as saying that "Kalniete's attempt to enter Russia is nothing more than a provocative public relations campaign."

Poland joined the chorus of criticism after its senate speaker Bogdan Borusewicz was kept out of the country for the funeral.

Borusewicz said Russia is now "an undoubtedly authoritarian system that is moving in the direction of dictatorship."

Under the leadership of President Vladimir Putin relations with the 28-nation EU have steadily deteriorated over the past half decade and have turned into confrontation over the war in Ukraine, deliveries of gas and human rights.

In the wake of the fighting in eastern Ukraine and Moscow's annexation last year of the Crimean Peninsula, the EU has imposed visa bans on 151 individuals, including several Russians. It also has imposed economic sanctions, to which Moscow has retaliated.

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Vanessa Gera in Warsaw and Karl Ritter in Stockholm contributed to this article.

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Raf Casert can be followed on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/rcasert

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