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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Lavrov Calls for a Balancing Role

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Monday that Russia was keen to play a balancing role in the post-Cold War world order but would not bend in its opposition to a U.S. missile shield and Kosovo's independence.

Lavrov, speaking to students at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations, a top school for training diplomats, also criticized Britain for its position in a dispute over extraditing businessman Andrei Lugovoi for trial in the poisoning of former security officer Alexander Litvinenko.

Lavrov traditionally uses the annual speech on the first day of classes to set guidelines and priorities for the year ahead.

"For 300 years, Russia has been carrying a fair proportion of the burden of maintaining balance in European and international affairs," he said.

Lavrov said Russia's departures from this, for example after its 19th-century Crimean war against Turkey, Britain and France or between the two world wars, led to "unhealthiness in European politics, leading the continent to catastrophe."

"Russia will continue playing its balancing role in international affairs and will never become part of any 'holy alliances' against anyone," he said.

Lavrov reiterated Russia's view that the emergence of new centers of power, like China and India, created a need for a new way of looking at how to manage the world.

Russia, Lavrov said, was keen to play a role as a bridge between the old "Euro-Atlantic world" and new emerging powers.

Lavrov, who in last year's speech criticized U.S. "unilateralism," indicated that there were no breakthroughs foreseen in the near future on major irritants in relations between Russia and the West.

"Our partners should understand that we don't bargain," he said. "It should be understood that, for all the nonconfrontational external policy of Russia, there are so-called 'red lines' for us -- this is when there is a real threat to our national security or to the existing order of international rights. Among these are, for example, plans for deploying bases in Eastern Europe for a global missile defense system by the United States and resolution in Kosovo."

Russia vehemently opposes the United States' push to place elements of a missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic. On Kosovo, Russia has repeatedly said it would not support any decision on Kosovo's status that is not agreed to by Serbia. Serbia says the province must remain a part of the country.

Lavrov said Britain had failed to make its case against Lugovoi after identifying him as the main suspect in last year's murder of Litvinenko. "It is a pity that in the absence of convincing evidence against Lugovoi, London has opted for a noisy propaganda show," he said.

Britain has asked for Lugovoi's extradition. Prosecutors say the Constitution prohibits such extraditions, but that they are willing to put Lugovoi on trial at home if Britain presents sufficient evidence.

In July, Britain ordered the expulsion of four Russian diplomats in protest of the refusal; Russia countered by expelling four Britons.

Reuters, AP, MT