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Moscow comments on fate of ‘window to Europe’

Moscow will not shut ‘the window to Europe,’ which Tsar Peter the Great ‘cut open’ at the turn of the 18th century, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists on Thursday.

Sweeping reforms aimed at modernizing Russia and strengthening its connections with Europe, as well as providing the country with access to the Baltic Sea, are among the key achievements of the first Russian emperor. He ruled from 1682 to 1725 and founded the city of Saint Petersburg as Russia’s ‘window to Europe’, due to its location on the Neva River which flows into the Gulf of Finland in the eastern part of the Baltic Sea. The expression he used was later immortalized by poet Alexander Pushkin.

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The 350th anniversary of Peter the Great’s birth will be marked on June 9. This comes as relations between Moscow and the ‘collective West’ have soured to the lowest levels in modern history. Since the launch of the military operation in Ukraine in late February, Russia has become the most sanctioned country in the world due to the array of restrictions imposed by the EU, US, and other, mainly Western, countries – among the stated goals is the attempt to “isolate Russia.

READ MORE: World doesn’t share West’s negative views of Russia – poll

Asked if ‘the window to Europe’ will be shut, Peskov said: “Nobody plans to close anything.

Describing Russian President Vladimir Putin as “a deep connoisseur of history,” Peskov said that “he highly appreciates the role of Peter” will not miss out on the celebration of the tsar’s jubilee.

Putin has previously accused the West of seeking “to curb Russia’s development,” to undermine its sovereignty, and to weaken its “industrial, financial and technological potential.” However, he pointed out that “it is generally impossible to strictly isolate anyone in the modern world, especially such a huge country as Russia.” Putin also said the country is prepared to work with others “who want to interact.

Russia attacked the neighboring state in late February, following Ukraine’s failure to implement the terms of the Minsk agreements, first signed in 2014, and Moscow’s eventual recognition of the Donbass republics of Donetsk and Lugansk. The German- and French-brokered protocols were designed to give the breakaway regions special status within the Ukrainian state.

The Kremlin has since demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join the US-led NATO military bloc. Kiev insists the Russian offensive was completely unprovoked and has denied claims it was planning to retake the two republics by force.

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