Russia says EU blocked Van Rompuy trip, EU denies visit planned
MOSCOW, March 19
MOSCOW, March 19 (Reuters) - Russia accused the European Union on Wednesday of cancelling a visit to Moscow by European Council President Herman Van Rompuy because his allies did not want to find out "the truth" about the Ukraine crisis.
A senior EU official in Brussels denied Van Rompuy had been planning to go to Moscow even though Russian news agencies said on Tuesday evening that he would arrive on Wednesday.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said Van Rompuy had volunteered to travel to Moscow to hear Russia's view on the crisis over Ukraine, whose Crimea region has voted to join Russia, but was prevented from doing so by other EU officials.
The ministry said in a statement on its website that Van Rompuy had "invited himself" but "he was not allowed to come by his own side."
Implying the EU had already agreed on a version of events in Ukraine that suited Brussels, the statement added: "Why would he need to know the truth if everything has already been decided?"
The senior EU official said Van Rompuy and President Vladimir Putin had discussed the possibility of a visit by telephone earlier this month.
"That was an option on the table, but it was never confirmed," the official said. "I don't exclude that we will have other contacts in the coming days, either directly or by phone. We need to engage with the Russians because there has to be a negotiated solution."
The United States and the EU do not recognise the legitimacy of a referendum in Crimea on Sunday that showed overwhelming support for union with Russia, and have imposed asset freezes on several Russian officials and lawmakers.
The seizure of Crimea by Russian forces, and moves to annex it, have caused the most serious East-West crisis since the end of the Cold War. (Additional reporting by Robin Emmott in Brussels, Writing by Alexei Anishchuk, Editing by Timothy Heritage,)