EU, Russia hold 'clear the air' talks
Updated: 2014-01-28 22:06
BRUSSELS - Russian President Vladimir Putin and the European Union's top two officials were set to hold "clear the air" talks in Brussels on Tuesday after months of growing tension over Ukraine and trade and energy disputes.
Instead of the normal two-day summit, the EU decided to cut out dinner with Putin on Monday night, sending a message to the Russian leader that it is no longer "business as usual", with relations at their lowest point in years.
The summit will now involve around three hours of face-to-face discussions between Putin, European Commission President of Jose Manuel Barroso and European Council President Herman Van Rompuy, over and after lunch.
Ukraine is set to dominate the talks, after Moscow convinced Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich to turn his back on a trade and political association agreement with the EU last November and forge closer ties with Russia instead.
Since then, Russia and the EU have accused each other of interfering in Ukrainian affairs, as protests against Yanukovich's decision have gripped Kiev and other cities, the worst unrest since the Orange Revolution in 2004-2005.
Senior EU officials have made repeated trips to Kiev to meet the protesters and Yanukovich, who has ordered a crackdown against the demonstrations in which at least three protesters have been killed. EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton travels to Ukraine on Tuesday.