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Lavrov: Russia Won't Be 'Punished For Independent Foreign Policy'

Russia's Lavrov Calls For Cooperation, Not Interference, From Western Countries
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WATCH: Russia Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov calls for cooperation, not interference, from Western countries

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says Moscow will not allow the West to punish if for conducting an independent foreign policy.

"Attempts are still being made to make unilateral gains and even to punish us for an independent foreign policy," Lavrov told his annual news conference in Moscow on January 26.

"We are ready for the...most constructive cooperation with our Western partners, including Europe and the United States...but only and exclusively on an equal and mutually advantageous basis and given noninterference into each other's internal affairs," he said.

Lavrov said the U.S. antimissile shield and NATO's expansion closer to Russia's borders were "destabilizing and short-sighted."

On Ukraine, Lavrov said Kyiv was unreliable as a transit route for exporting Russian natural gas to Europe.

Lavrov also accused Ukraine of dragging its feet on implementing the Minsk peace agreement in order to keep in place Western sanctions imposed on Russia.

The Minsk agreement, signed in the Belarusian capital in February 2015, spells out steps to end the conflict in eastern Ukraine between pro-Russian separatists and Kyiv.

Lavrov also ruled out any talks on returning Crimea, which Russia annexed from Ukraine in March 2014.

Lavrov said there is information that Islamic State militants are using Georgia's Pankisi Gorge for training.

Lavrov also said Russian actions in Syria have drastically altered the situation there, and claimed no one has ever supplied proof that Russian air strikes in Syria caused civilian deaths or struck the wrong militant groups.

Moscow intervened in Syria's civil war on the side of President Bashar al-Assad in September 2015.

On January 25, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Russian air strikes in Syria would continue for as long as necessary.

Based on reporting by Interfax, TASS, and Reuters