The West seeks to punish Moscow for its independent foreign policy and recently the United States and a number of EU capitals have redoubled their efforts to contain Russia’s development, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in an interview with Croatian newspaper Vecernji List published on Tuesday.
"Unfortunately, we have to admit that recently, Washington and a number of EU capitals have redoubled their efforts to contain Russia's development; they are trying to punish us for an independent foreign policy, for consistently upholding our national interests. <…> So we have no other choice but to conclude we cannot count on a mutually respectful consideration of the emerging problems, because the West has made it a rule to talk with Russia based on the presumption of its guilt," Lavrov said.
According to Lavrov, in order to justify their actions, including the introduction of new anti-Russia sanctions, Western states "throw in various accusations and insinuations" without showing any facts or evidence. "This rhetoric is always being kept at the ‘highly likely’ innuendo level; those claims are based on fabricated accusations and run contrary to even elementary logic," the foreign minister explained, noting that all Russia’s proposals to set up a professional dialogue on any concerns remain without any reaction, TASS reports.
Lavrov also mentioned "Berlin's arrogant refusal" to respond to numerous requests from Russia’s Prosecutor General's Office on the situation with blogger Alexey Navalny, which is "a direct violation of Germany's obligations under the 1959 European Convention on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters."
"Instead of respecting this international legal document, representatives of Germany and France initiated another batch of illegitimate EU sanctions against Russian citizens. All this deplorably and clearly illustrates the inability of the European Union to adequately assess what is happening in the world, and its tendency to put itself beyond the law," Lavrov said.
Meanwhile, Russia’s top diplomat stressed that Moscow is not going to put up with the West’s rudeness and won’t leave anti-Russian attacks unanswered. "We never avoid responding proportionately to the anti-Russia attacks by our Western colleagues who seem to have forgotten what diplomacy is and have sunk to the level of vulgar rudeness. Our retaliatory steps in the US and EU are well known," Lavrov said.
However, Russia is trying to pursue a multi-vector foreign policy "to build up interaction with those who are open to honest joint work on the principles of equality, mutual respect and a balance of interests." "The overwhelming majority of such international partners we have are in Eurasia, Africa and Latin America. Among them are our friends and allies in the EAEU, CSTO, CIS, BRICS and SCO," Lavrov said.
Moscow is not going to tolerate the West’s rudeness and won’t leave anti-Russian attacks unanswered, Lavrov said. "We never avoid responding proportionately to the anti-Russia attacks by our Western colleagues who seem to have forgotten what diplomacy is and have sunk to the level of vulgar rudeness. Our retaliatory steps in the US and EU are well known," Lavrov said.
Moscow hopes that common sense will prevail in the European Union regarding Russia and dialogue will be fully restored, Russian Foreign Minister said. Russia’s top diplomat noted that "the sanctions spiral inspired by Brussels and a number of Russophobic EU countries at the direct orders from Washington remains a serious obstacle for further strengthening Russia-Croatia ties."
"They have been stepping up this anti-Russia policy lately. I hope that our European colleagues will have the wisdom, vision and simply common sense, so that our dialogue with the European Union and its member states is fully restored based on the principles of neighborly relations, good faith, predictability and openness," Lavrov said.
Meanwhile, Lavrov said he would not describe Moscow’s relations with Zagreb as being stagnant. "Russia and Croatia maintain regular and advanced political dialogue. In 2017 and 2018, President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic visited Russia at Vladimir Putin’s invitation. These were very useful, productive meetings," he noted.
"There is also forward momentum in our practical cooperation. Last year, the Intergovernmental Commission for Trade, Economic, Scientific and Technical Cooperation held a meeting in Moscow. We planned to hold this year’s gathering in Croatia, but the pandemic has changed our plans. It will take place after the epidemiological situation stabilizes," he said. "Of course, Croatian companies continue working in Russia, and the same is true for Russian companies in Croatia." In 2019, trade between the two countries exceeded $1.5 bln, he also noted.
Gas contracts with European countries
Russia’s gas contracts with European countries are based only on business interests and there is no political rationale behind them, Russian Foreign Minister said. Lavrov stressed that Russia has been a reliable and honest energy supplier for many decades now, and officials in Zagreb are perfectly aware of this. "They also know that there is no political rationale behind these gas contracts. This is nothing but business. Of course, we heard allegations that Croatia and other European countries depend on Russian gas, but we have seen nothing but attempts to sow groundless doubt. We do not impose anything on anyone, and we responsibly perform all the contracts we have," Lavrov said.
Lavrov noted that Russia respects the right of any country to pursue its own energy policy and choose the best energy supply sources. "We have nothing against competition. That said, this should be fair competition based on market principles instead of Cold-War-era political slogans."
This also concerns the plans on building an LNG terminal on Croatia’s Krk Island, which is funded by the EU and has the US political support. "The project to build an LNG terminal on Krk Island is Croatia’s internal affair. If our Croatian colleagues believe that liquefied gas would be better for their economy compared to cheaper pipeline gas, so be it. Everyone has the right to decide what is profitable and what is not," he said.
Russia sees no need for any additional initiatives on ironing out the Ukrainian crisis, including Croatia’s "peaceful reintegration" idea, Russian Foreign Minister said. According to Russia’s top diplomat, the February 2015 Minsk Package of Measures is an uncontested basis for a peaceful settlement. "Now all that is left to do is fully implement what the parties agreed on more than five years ago following hours of a diplomatic marathon," Lavrov stressed. "We can see no need for any additional external initiatives."
In October 2016, a working group for cooperation with Ukraine was set up in Zagreb, which is aimed at sharing with Kiev Croatia's experience on "peaceful reintegration of occupied territories," which supposedly could be applicable to Donetsk and Lugansk.
Croatia bears its share of responsibility for fulfilling the Dayton Agreement, Sergey Lavrov said. "We are confident that the Dayton accords retain their relevance; it formalized the fundamental principles of sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of B&H, equality of the three state-forming peoples and two entities with broad constitutional powers that are crucial for maintaining peace, stability and security, and promoting development. I think our approaches are consonant with Croatia’s position. That country has signed the Agreement, it bears its share of responsibility for its implementation and I do not think many others are as interested in its fundamental postulates being implemented," Lavrov said.
Russia is ready to provide all kinds of support when it comes to this, he stressed. According to Lavrov, both Russia and Croatia are interested in strengthening international peace, security and stability, in ensuring sustainable development, and in political and diplomatic solutions to numerous crises and conflicts.
"South-Eastern Europe remains a natural, historical environment for Russian-Croatian interaction, a region where our joint efforts should support processes that imply deeper mutual understanding between regional participants, building a genuine national reconciliation system based on common sense and effective international agreements," the foreign minister said.
The General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina, also known as the Dayton Agreement, signed in December 1995, put an end to the Bosnian War. The warring parties agreed to peace and created a single sovereign state known as Bosnia and Herzegovina. The BiH state system is one of the most complex in the world, which is composed of three peoples: Bosniaks (Muslims), Serbs (Orthodox) and Croats (Catholics).