Lavrov:Russia 'worried' by EU's Eastern plans

Lavrov:Russia 'worried' by EU's Eastern plans Luxembourg - Russia would like to believe European Union assurances that the bloc is not trying to create a sphere of influence in the former USSR, but the EU has not yet been convincing enough, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Tuesday. "We would like very much to believe" that the EU's planned Eastern Partnership with six former-Soviet states is not aimed at encircling Russia, Lavrov said after talks with EU diplomats in Luxembourg.

Nonetheless, "some comments I have heard do worry us," he said.

The EU is set to launch its so-called "Eastern Partnership" with Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine at a summit in Prague on May 7.

EU officials say that the goal of the initiative is to help stabilize and modernize the six partner countries by bringing in free-market and pro-democracy reforms in return for EU support and concessions on trade and travel.

But on March 21, Lavrov accused the EU of trying to build up a "sphere of influence" in the former-Soviet space.

He hinted at that fear again on Tuesday, saying that the EU had agreed in 1997 that "any processes leading to developments within the EU should ... ensure no overlap in the post-Soviet area."

EU officials have repeatedly dismissed those fears as groundless.

On Monday, Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg, whose country currently holds the EU's rotating presidency, said that Lavrov's March comments were "nonsense," while the EU's top diplomat, Javier Solana, dismissed them as "not true." (dpa)