Kremlin warns of EU split if hit with sanctions

Russia has warned the European Union that it is ready to sever ties with the bloc, if it's hit with painful economic sanctions.

Relations between Russia and the West have come under renewed pressure since the arrest and jailing of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny sparked talk of possible new sanctions.

Moscow has accused the West of hysteria over the case.

Speaking in an interview that was released on Friday (February 12) Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was asked directly by a reporter if the Kremlin was willing to separate from the EU.

“We proceed from the fact that we're ready for that. In the event that we again see sanctions imposed in some sectors that create risks for our economy, including in the most sensitive spheres, yes. We don't want to isolate ourselves from global life, but we have to be ready for that. If you want peace then prepare for war."

Pressure on Russia has intensified since last week, when German, Polish and Swedish diplomats were expelled, without the EU’s knowledge.

As for Navalny, he returned to court on Friday amid tight security for a slander trial, changes he calls politically motivated.

He criticized the way the judge was handling the case saying “I am very disappointed and I want to point out your behavior once again”.

Navalny went on question the judge’s knowledge of the criminal code and accused him of repeating it “like a parrot”.

The slander charges are punishable by up to two years in jail, although Navalny’s lawyer disputes that a custodial sentence can even be handed down because of a change in the law.

It remains unclear whether the judge in the case agrees with that analysis.