Brexit has weakened Europe, Russia’s deputy prime minister has warned, and insisted he would rather the EU had remained stronger.
As pro-Europe protesters planned to stage rallies across the UK on Saturday, Arkady Dvorkovich told BBC Newsnight: “The British decision to leave Europe made Europe a little bit weaker at this point. The whole process of getting away from Europe is a difficult one and creates more uncertainties.
“For Russia, it is important that Europe is strong, we don’t need weak partners. We need strong partners to go forward and provide for better future for Russian and European peoples.
“Strong politics makes Europe really big player in the international landscape and individual countries cannot affect international politics in the same way that a united Europe can do.”
Dvorkovich denied claims by David Cameron and others that the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, wanted Brexit in order to weaken the EU and break sanctions against his country.
“That’s just not true. First, we do not have any particular opinion whether UK should stay in Europe or leave it. It’s a sovereign affair of the United Kingdom, and the rest of Europe, Russia is not a player in this game.
“Secondly, sanctions are not because of British politics, mostly it’s the influence of the United States, and overall attitude of European governments towards events around Ukraine and in Ukraine. We believe it’s the wrong attitude,” he said.
His comments come as a nationwide series of “march for Europe rallies” will demand keeping close ties with the continent.
On the anniversary of the outbreak of the second world war on Saturday, demonstrations in London, Edinburgh, Birmingham, Oxford, and Cambridge, will demand a pause in the Brexit process.
The marches are aimed at rallying support for keeping tight economic, cultural, and social ties with the rest of Europe.
The protesters want to halt the government formally invoking article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty which triggers the two year deadline to withdrawal from the EU, and are backed by Labour’s Chuka Umunna, co-leader of the Greens Caroline Lucas, and comedians Eddie Izzard and Josie Long.
The demonstrations are also calling for greater public consultation on every stage of the Brexit negotiations.
The rallies come after the cabinet agreed immigration control would form a major part of Brexit negotiations, and ruled out a second referendum on the terms of withdrawal from the EU.