EU leaders yesterday said the bloc had rejected a push by Germany and France to relaunch meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin after fierce resistance from member states worried about Moscow's aggressions.
Berlin and Paris blindsided EU counterparts by putting forward a last-minute proposal for the bloc to resume meetings with Putin in the wake of US President Joe Biden's sit-down with him in Geneva last week.
But there was opposition from numerous EU member states -- especially in eastern Europe -- which remain deeply wary of rewarding the Kremlin with talks before it changes course.
"It was not possible to agree today that we should meet immediately at the top level," German Chancellor Angela Merkel said after hours of wrangling between the bloc's leaders in Brussels.
The German leader said that leaders had agreed to maintain and develop a "dialogue format" with Russia.
Moscow said Thursday that Putin was a "supporter" of the summit proposal, which would have potentially revived a regular fixture that was frozen after the takeover of Crimea by Russia sent ties spiralling.
The EU is looking to revamp its strategy on keeping its vast eastern neighbour in check, as Brussels admits that relations with the Kremlin look set to deteriorate further despite having already reached their "lowest level".
Moscow has been at loggerheads with a number of Western capitals recently after a Russian troop build-up on Ukraine's borders and a series of espionage scandals that have resulted in diplomatic expulsions.