Russia ‘has no doubt’ that ‘provocateurs with a long-prepared script’ lurk behind the mass protests in Ukraine. This position was voiced by Russian RM Sergey Lavrov in a TV interview, in which he criticized the EU’s greed and interventionism.
The scale of the ongoing protest is “incomprehensible” the Russian minister said on Saturday on the Rossiya 24 TV channel. Such a reaction would be understandable, for example, if Ukraine’s government had declared war on a peaceful foreign nation against the wishes of the people. But merely delaying signing the EU trade deal does not give good cause for it, Lavrov believes.
“There is no doubt that provocateurs are behind it,” he said.
Lavrov defended the Ukrainian government’s right to take decisions on its national policy and criticized Western officials who have sided with the protesters demanding the government’s resignation.
“We are surprised by the almost hysterical reaction [of the West] to the sovereign decision of Ukraine’s legitimate authorities. What has the Yanukovich government done?” the top Russian diplomat wondered. “Did it withdraw from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty? Or did it announce that it was building a nuclear bomb in violation of its obligations. Did it order the shooting of somebody?”
“Just imagine me arriving in Germany after the rise of a euro skeptics party there, which would over a few months gain support through slogans like ‘stop feeding Europe’ and ‘Germany should walk away from EU’,” Lavrov suggested.
“So there I am walking among demonstrators supporting this party and calling on Germany to change its attitude towards the EU and separate from it. How would that be taken? I believe that the European Parliament and the Parliamentary Assembly of NATO, the Council of Europe and the OSCE would have all passed resolutions on how outrageous it was, and how Russians are meddling with Germany’s internal affairs,” the minister predicted.
He said this is exactly what is happening in Ukraine, when top EU officials visit the protesters and demand that the government integrate with the union.
“It appears that the choice has been already made for Ukrainians, and everyone else is told to respect it. This is rather depressing,” Lavrov said.
He suggested that the EU’s motive for putting pressure on Kiev has nothing to do with the interests of the Ukrainian people.
“Our European partners are first and foremost concerned with losing this inexpensive, if not free, addition to their profits in the times of crisis,” was the Russian minister’s charge.
“And the second reason is the ideological load. Those thinking along the ‘either-or’ lines as well as those who saw the Eastern Partnership project as a vehicle for severing the Russian neighbor – even if it required blackmail. They realized it was not that easy,” he added.
Unlike Europe, Russia is demanding that the Ukrainian people and government settle the conflict on their own, the minister stressed.
Lavrov said the conflict over Europe will require some serious negotiation with the EU. “I hope the partners will come to it honestly and won’t try to dodge it under some pretexts,” he said.
Apart from the Ukrainian debacle, Lavrov discussed other hot issues of Russian diplomacy with the journalists, like the Iranian nuclear program and the recent scandal over the charging of Russian diplomats with fraud in the US.
The minister complained that the European Union may be stalling the implementation of the preliminary deal reached by Iran and the P5+1 group [US, Russia, China, UK, France and Germany) of negotiators last month.
“The European Union told us that they need to approve the deal with all the EU member states. It can come no sooner than on December 16 this year,” he explained. “There are signs that the Europeans may fail to approve it, and then everything would be postponed until January.”
He added that Russia is concerned by the prospect and wanted to know what was actually causing the postponement by some weeks of an agreement that had been “praised as a historic breakthrough by everybody”?
The comments came just as the implementation of the deal faces another hurdle, after Iran accused the US of violating the spirit of the agreement. Tehran halted nuclear negotiations after Washington added new people and companies to its blacklist of those subject to anti-Iranian sanctions.
In his interview, Lavrov mentioned Russia’s own conflict with America over the charges pressed against 49 Russian diplomats regarding an alleged health insurance fraud. While not challenging the substance of the accusations, he suggested that the US deliberately made a media show of the case, considering the time they had spent before pressing the charges.
“If foreign diplomats are involved in violations of the laws of the country of residence, why wait for ten years? They’ve been probing into it since 2004. They may have wanted to accumulate more cases and reach a more impressive figure,” Lavrov said.
“If they had told us in 2004 that one of our employees wanted to receive benefits he is not entitled to, we would probably have dealt with such an employee,” he added.
He gave an assurance that those who broke the rules of the diplomatic service would be disciplined in Russia. The US could not prosecute the Russian diplomats due to their immunity.
Lavrov noted that foreign diplomats, including Americans, “are committing violations of Russian laws on a regular basis”.
“We do not try to make a media show out if it. We turn to respective embassies at once and try to settle things without fanning the flames. I believe the Americans should have done the same in this situation. But they chose otherwise,” he said.
The Russian minister isn’t discounting the idea that some officials in the US government may want to harm Russia over its harboring of NSA whistleblower, Edward Snowden.
“I don’t think that would be somebody in the White House or in the State Department, but probably in other parts of the US government. There are those who want to antagonize us over it,” he stated.
Lavrov added that the Americans are themselves to blame for this situation, since they were the ones who confiscated Snowden’s passport, leaving him stranded in Russia. This triggered the chain of events that led to his gaining temporary political asylum in the country.