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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Lavrov Denies Any Energy Blackmail

APForeign Minister Sergei Lavrov speaking at a meeting with business leaders near the Filipino capital Manila on Friday.
MANILA -- Russia is not using its oil and gas exports to blackmail neighbors and will make its energy resources accessible to the world, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Friday.

Lavrov also defended the planting of the Russian flag on the seabed below the North Pole last week, which has been criticized as a stunt to try and claim energy-rich territory.

"We're not throwing flags around," Lavrov told reporters after meeting his Philippine counterpart in Manila.

"But it's a tradition that whenever an explorer comes to an unknown land he installs his flag there. That's the way it goes, that's the way it happened on the moon."

Earlier, Lavrov asked critics to prove that Moscow was using its energy resources as a weapon to impose on other countries, but did not directly refer to the gas dispute with Belarus.

"Don't trust those who say that Russia is using its hydrocarbon exports to blackmail other countries. ... I challenge all those who accuse us of energy blackmail to present a single fact to the contrary," Lavrov told business executives at a meeting in Manila.

Lavrov credited high oil prices for the country's economic turnaround.

"Of course, high oil prices contributed to this figure, but, out of this 7 percent, only 2 percent was accounted for by the favorable oil and gas prices," Lavrov said.

"The rest of the growth was achieved through various factors, including structural reforms and consumer spending."

He said the government had pledged to guarantee stable energy supplies to all countries, "not only to our friends and allies."