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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Lavrov Lashes Out at the West

APLavrov defended Russia's use of energy to further its foreign policy interests.
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Wednesday blasted Western leaders for criticizing President Vladimir Putin to score points at home and contain Russian power.

Speaking at his traditional, end-of-the-year news conference, Lavrov stressed that Russia's resurgence to the status of global player would continue and defended Russian policy in the former Soviet Union.

"We very often take into account recommendations when our partners pose concrete questions that are rooted in the conviction that we have something wrong somewhere, or when these questions are posed with an eye toward helping us correct ourselves in the international arena or domestically," Lavrov told reporters at the Foreign Ministry's offices in central Moscow.

The foreign minister cited the Council of Europe as an organization that has had a meaningful impact on Russian lawmaking.

He was referring to consultations between Russian officials and the council's Legal Affairs Directorate and the Office of the Commissioner of Human Rights with regard to Russia's nongovernmental organizations bill. The NGO bill has since become law.

While welcoming such outside help, Russia has no patience for the angry, anti-Kremlin mass-media campaigns and rallies that often take place in Western countries shortly before Putin is scheduled to arrive for a visit, Lavrov said.

Lavrov said such criticism -- for example, that surrounding the murder of former Federal Security Service agent Alexander Litvinenko -- was not aimed to help Russia but to play to domestic audiences.

Western media coverage of the Litvinenko case, he said, "has demonstrated the ability of the mass media to talk about anything." He added that "one can observe an unquestionable desire to paint an image of Russia in dark hues."

Lavrov linked criticism of Russian with Western recognition that Russia was growing in power. "Competitors always wish ... to weaken their competitor-partners somehow," he said.

In a separate interview, Lavrov said some Western powers are stuck in a Cold War mindset. He added that the United States' unilateral use of force had reached its limits. The interview, with Interfax, was posted on the Foreign Ministry's web site Wednesday.

Lavrov's comments came days after senior European officials questioned the Kremlin's commitment to democracy.

Russia "isn't really a democratic system as we understand it here" in Europe, Belgian Foreign Minister Karel de Gucht was reported to have said late last week.

Belgium is the outgoing chairman of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

De Gucht also tied Russia's handling of the so-called frozen conflicts in South Ossetia and Transdnestr to a national inability to get over the collapse of the Soviet Union. South Ossetia and Transdnestr are breakaway provinces; the former is in Georgia, while the latter is in Moldova.

De Gucht was echoed by Finnish Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen, who expressed serious doubts this week about the direction Russia was moving in. Finland is the president of the European Union.

Lavrov, in comments Wednesday, blamed the conflicts in Georgia on Tbilisi, saying Georgia was more focused on beefing up its military than on resolving the situation peacefully.

Lavrov also said relations between Moscow and Tbilisi are at a low point in the wake of Georgia's detention of four Russian military officers on suspicion of espionage.

And he defended Russia's use of energy exports to pursue its foreign-policy interests in former Soviet countries such as Georgia and elsewhere.

On a more hopeful note, the foreign minister said he was optimistic the EU would soon begin negotiations on a new Partnership and Cooperation Agreement with Russia. Talks have been blocked by EU member Poland, which demands Russia lift a ban on Polish meat.

Still, Lavrov acknowledged that Russia and the West remain at loggerheads over a European-backed UN Security Council resolution on Iran's nuclear program. Lavrov said the sanctions called for in the resolution were too broad.

And he said Russia was working to help resolve conflicts in Lebanon and the Palestinian territories, calling for Syria and Iran to be allowed to play a role.

"The problems of the region," Lavrov said, "should be solved by engaging all nations in talks, not isolating any of them."."