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Lavrov Says U.S. Wants To Dominate, West Cannot Isolate Russia

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov attends a news conference in Moscow on January 21.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov attends a news conference in Moscow on January 21.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said that the United states wants to "dominate" the world and warned the West that attempts to isolate Russia would fail.

Speaking at an annual news conference in Moscow on January 21, ahead of planned talks in Berlin on the conflict in eastern Ukraine, Lavrov also said Russia supports territorial integrity for Ukraine and will do all it can to stop the fighting but put the blame on Kyiv and the West.

In line with remarks by President Vladimir Putin at closely watched forums in recent months, Lavrov used the traditional event in Moscow to portray the United States as an "aggressive" but misguided giant that is undermining global security instead of ensuring it.

He said U.S. President Barack Obama's State of the Union speech on January 20 "showed that Americans again want to say that 'We are Number One' and the world has to acknowledge it."

"This is not a modern approach," he said, adding that "it will go away" and "is already changing," citing U.S. efforts to build "alliances and associations" to tackle global problems the United States cannot handle on its own, such as the threat from Islamic State militants.

Lavrov said it is "in Americans' blood" to seek to influence Europe, adding: "It is very difficult to change their genetic background."

He said that Obama had echoed Western calls for the isolation of Russia in his speech, and warned, "All these attempts will bring no result."

NATO's 'Path Of Confrontation'

In the address on January 20, Obama said that the United States "stands strong and united with our allies, while Russia is isolated, with its economy in tatters."

The United States, European Union, and other countries including Canada, Japan, and Australia have imposed sanctions on Russia over its annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in March 2014 and its support for pro-Russian separatists who control parts of eastern Ukraine.

Lavrov said that Russia did not want "and won't allow" a new Cold War and called on the United States to return to cooperation, but complained that efforts to work together were hindered by "one-sided pressure" on Russia from the West.

He said that "NATO has chosen a path of confrontation" with Russia.

Russia denies involvement in the conflict in eastern Ukraine, which has killed more than 4,800 people since April, despite what NATO and Kyiv say is incontrovertible evidence of direct military involvement.

Ukraine said government forces came under attack from regular Russian troops in eastern Ukraine on January 20.

Lavrov said Moscow has been presented with no evidence of Russian soldiers and weapons entering eastern Ukraine, and accused Western nations of supplying Ukraine with weapons in violation of "international norms."

"Before you ask us to stop doing something, first show us proof that we are doing it," he said.

New Cease-Fire Talks

Lavrov spoke hours before he was to meet with the foreign ministers of Ukraine, Germany, and France in Berlin in an effort to advance peace efforts following a resurgence of fierce fighting in recent days.

Lavrov said Russia will do all it can to end the conflict and said Ukraine's territorial integrity should be preserved -- a signal that the Kremlin will not bring rebel-held territories into Russia or formally recognize their independence.

But he repeated Russia's calls for constitutional reform that would grant strong powers to Ukraine's regions and portrayed Kyiv as the aggressor in the conflict, saying "bombardments must stop immediately."

Lavrov said he would "push for an immediate cease-fire" and suggested he would use the meeting in Berlin to advance Russia's calls for direct talks between Kyiv and the separatist leaders in Ukraine's Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

He said Germany, France, and other "Western partners" of Ukraine should " raise their voice and appeal to the Ukrainian leadership not to allow a fallback to a military scenario again."

In Kyiv, Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk said a law was being drafted that would increase the size of the Ukrainian armed forces by 68,000 personnel to a total of 250,000, including 204,000 soldiers.

The United States and EU accuse Russia and the separatists of failing to adhere to terms of a deal signed on September 5 in Minsk that called for a cease-fire and others steps toward peace.

Lavrov said the rebels hold more territory than assigned to them under the cease-fire agreement but that Russia has received assurances from them that they will retreat to a previously agreed separation line.

"We used our influence on the [separatist] leadership and they agreed," he said, but he added that Ukraine must immediately cease fire and pull back its heavy weapons.

He said Putin had proposed that heavy weapons be withdrawn from the separation line set in the Minsk deal rather than the actual front line.

Fighting has been fierce in recent days, and Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin said on January 20 that the rebels had seized more than 500 square kilometers of land previously held by government forces.

Russia's interference in Ukraine has brought its ties with the West to post-Cold War lows.

Praise For Iran, Criticism For Israel

Asked about Putin's plan to skip ceremonies in Poland this month marking the 70 years since the Soviet Army liberated the Auschwitz death camp, Lavrov said no formal invitation had been sent but gave no specific reason for the decision.

He expressed condolences to relatives of seven members of an Armenian family massacred in an attack authorities say a soldier from Russia's military base in the ex-Soviet republic has confessed to carrying out.

Lavrov said any efforts to "make use of this tragedy to gain geopolitical advantages" were "disgusting" and "unacceptable."

Lavrov also praised Iran, saying no regional issue in the Middle East can be resolved without input from Tehran, and that a deal to curb Iran's nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief could be reached before a June 30 deadline set by world powers and Tehran.

He criticized Israel over an air strike on Syrian territory that killed an Iranian general and a Hizballah militant commander on January 18, saying conducting such strikes without the permission of the target country's government violates international law.

With reporting by Reuters and Interfax
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