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Russia Becoming More Self-Reliant Because Of Western Sanctions: Lavrov

Russian Foreign Affairs Minister Sergei Lavrov (file photo)
Russian Foreign Affairs Minister Sergei Lavrov (file photo)

Russia is learning to be more independent and self-reliant as a result of Western sanctions, though it still has extensive trade ties with Western Europe, Russia's foreign minister has said.

In an interview on June 29 with Britain's Channel 4 News, Sergei Lavrov said that Russia during the years since sanctions were imposed in 2014 has been increasing its economic and military capacities to fend for itself, especially in areas which are necessary for a state and its population to survive.

"In recent years, we learned a lot, including the fact that on these issues you cannot rely on the West" because of the sanctions, Lavrov said.

"You cannot rely on Western technologies, because they can be abruptly stopped any moment. You cannot rely on the items which are essential for day-to-day living of the population coming from the West, because this could also be stopped," he said.

Russia has been using the period of sanctions to strengthen its own industries in essential areas, and it would be content to continue doing that for as long as the sanctions are prolonged, he said.

Altogether, the Western sanctions, along with countermeasures that Russia has imposed on the West in response to the sanctions, have caused a drop of more than 50 percent in trade between Russia and Western Europe, Lavrov said in the interview.

But even with that drop, he said Western Europe remains Russia's biggest trading partner, with more than $250 billion in goods and services exchanging hands between the two each year.

The European Union and United States originally imposed the sanctions to penalize Russia for its annexation of Ukraine's Crimea Peninsula in 2014 and its backing of a separatist war against government forces in eastern Ukraine.

The sanctions have been in place since that time. Leaders of the EU early on June 29 extended their sanctions against Russia's banking and energy sector for another six months until the end of January.

U.S. President Donald Trump, speaking ahead of his planned summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin on July 16, appeared open to considering the possibility of lifting the sanctions and even recognizing Russia's annexation of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula in negotiations with Moscow at the summit.

"We're going to have to see," Trump said when asked about the matters by reporters on Air Force One on June 29. "We'll see what Russia does," Trump said.

Lavrov said Putin will not raise the issue of sanctions in his meeting with Trump, although he added that Russia "would not mind" if Trump chose to lift them.

"We are not raising sanctions, pleading to remove them. It's not our business. It's for those who introduce sanctions to decide whether they want to continue or whether common sense would prevail," he said.

With reporting by Channel 4 News
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