It was initially billed as a working visit, but the red carpet will be rolled out for Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel when he travels to Moscow for a two-day visit with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Michel is expected to lay a wreath to the millions of Soviets citizens killed in World War II and engage in other pomp and circumstance ceremonies that are standard for state visits.
A Belgian diplomatic source, who was responsible for elevating the status of Michel’s Russia trip, said Putin wants to show that he is not isolated from the world ahead of his country’s March 18 elections.
Michel hopes to build on previous visits by other European leaders who want to re-establish a constructive dialogue with Russia, despite Western sanctions and Moscow’s countermeasures, which have crippled bilateral relations since 2014.
Michel has in recent months publicly said he is in favour of restoring an official communications channel to help normalise relations with Russia
Belgium’s Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Didier Reynders, will follow-up Michel’s visit with his own February meeting in Moscow with Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov and act as a participant on the Belgium-Russia-Luxembourg economic commission.
The last meeting between representatives of the Russian Federation and the Belgium-Luxembourg Economic Union was held in Moscow in February 2016.