A question asked by a Greek reporter was met with a long-drawn-out response from Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who suggested European leaders were “hasty” in their support for Kiev including traditional friends Greece and Cyprus who followed American advice.
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Greek OPEN TV journalist Thanasis Avgerinos, who is also a correspondent for Cyprus, asked one of the 18 questions put to Lavrov during a press conference in Moscow on Wednesday.
“You know there is an opinion among many Europeans that Russia did not put its best foot forward when it decided to start military action,” Avgerinos said, adding that Russia was being seen as acting like other imperialistic countries such as the United States.
Avgerinos said criticism of Russia regarding conquest of territories was especially prominent in Greece and the Balkans.
“You probably know the Cyprus issue the best, there is a threat in the Aegean Sea against Greece from Turkey, we hear this opinion a lot. How would you refute this position?” Averginos asked.
Lavrov conceded that his country was being dubbed an empire but said he would leave it up to the historians to study the issue, slamming NATO and western countries for failing to seek peace and pointing out that Russian President Vladimir Putin had committed to historic reconciliation back in 2000 when he spoke in German during a visit to the Bundestag.
'We were the only country that sought to make sure that the Minsk agreements were observed, whereas the others followed advice from the US and I think Greece and Cyprus are suffering because of that'
Lavrov suggested it was difficult to reach common understanding on the issue of imperialism “but I think you understand full well what I’m talking about,” he told Avgerinos.
“We are a nation, a country, which is home to many nationalities and ethnic groups, we have 150 or so languages, all the world’s religions are represented among our population, we have respect for national traditions of each and every ethnic group and as a multi-ethnic, multi-religious country we have been developing following on this pattern for centuries, and unlike western colonial practices we have never suppressed nations that were part of the Russian empire and we never destroyed them, never tried to put them into a melting pot for them to lose their national identity, national culture, to become, you know, as Americans, one homogeneous nation –even Americans failed to do that– and we never sought that,” Lavrov said.
The minister went on to say Russians “managed to preserve” national traditions and characteristics, including languages and identities.
“As far as the conquest of territory is concerned – as far as what you said that we have the same instincts as western empires,” Lavrov embarked on a thesis targeting Washington.
“After the end of the cold war, well let’s take 1990, after that, the US invaded other territories” Lavrov said, adding “why did they do that, either because someone offended the Americans – this happens regularly in Central America or the Caribbean or they sought to eliminate threats to peace and security.”
The Russian minister cited examples such as Saddam Hussein, Gaddafi, Yugoslavia, as well as Serbia, adding that then-senator Joe Biden had been in favor of bombing Belgrade, destroying bridges and taking oil reserves, a whole year before NATO took action in that country.
“When the international court itself decided to look into potential military crimes that might have been committed by the American military in Afghanistan, the US said that we’re gonna slap sanctions on you, we’ll take away your money, and this high institution of international justice decided to keep mum,” Lavrov said.
“Yes you can draw a comparison, that’s true, but as I said, we have been protecting our own security because Ukraine was being turned into a bridgehead to undermine our interests in the Sea of Azov, there were plans to build military naval bases, Anglo-Saxon military bases in particular, and these are serious threats,” Lavrov said.
He also said “humiliation of Russians” inside Ukraine was unacceptable and against a constitution that called for their protection, while also citing events in 2014 saying a “western inspired coup d’ etat” took place but there was “no effort to build a national dialogue.”
“The west sided with the regime that declared anti-Russian goals, that declared its commitment to the principles and practices of Nazism, when they bombed Odessa, when they bombed Luhansk, and no one is investigating these crimes,” the minister said.
Lavrov went on to say that a war had been waged against those who disagreed with the coup, adding that efforts to stop war through the Minsk agreements led nowhere, citing recent reports that former European leaders admitted western signatories had simply signed off on buying more time for Kiev to build up its military “for the next phase.”
“So do you think we didn’t put our best foot forward in this particular case, because we were the only country that sought to make sure that the Minsk agreements were observed, whereas the others were not so enthusiastic and were simply following the advice from the US,” Lavrov said.
“I think that Greece and Cyprus are suffering because of that,” he added.
“Greece and Cyprus and Russia have always been very close friends and the transformations that have happened in the leadership of both countries have not gone unnoticed by us,” Lavrov said.
Moscow’s top diplomat then concluded his 10-minute-long answer by pointing out that a hybrid war had been in the works for many years but expressed confusion as to whether European leaders took part knowingly or willingly, saying he did not think there would be any talk of “strategic autonomy” in Europe any time soon.
Lavrov said Moscow was taking note of European leaders who were “hasty to support the aggression against Russia.”
"The war one day will come to an end and we will defend our truth. But I cannot imagine how we’ll live our lives as everything will depend on the conclusions drawn by Europe,” Lavrov said.