To underscore escalating tensions between Moscow and the 28-member economic bloc, the twice-yearly meeting between Russia and the EU was condensed to one day from its customary two, and a dinner offer to Putin was withdrawn, the New York Times reported.
Russia and Europe have, for weeks, traded accusations over Ukraine, each side accusing the other in meddling with Ukraine's internal affairs, where peaceful protests have developed into street violence and arrests. Russia also accused the EU of human rights abuses and scorned what it called "an alien view of homosexuality ... as a norm of life and some kind of natural social phenomenon."
Putin arrived in Brussels Tuesday for talks with Herman Van Rompuy, president of the European Council, and Jose Manual Barroso, president of the union's Executive Commission.
"We could not simply have a business-as-usual summit following the usual agenda," a senior European Union official said, explaining the change in format.
European Union leaders "don't know how to deal with Putin. They can't deal with him. They don't have a response to Russia other than words and phrases," said Amanda Paul of the European Policy Center, a research group based in Brussels.
After prodding Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych to reject a trade and political agreement with the European Union in November, Putin risks looking like the loser, said Michael Emerson, formerly the bloc's envoy in Moscow.
"A few weeks ago it looked like Putin was winning. Now Putin is losing. This should be a setting for a thorough re-think by both parties, particularly Russia," Emerson said.