Russia doesn’t want war but will defend its interests: official

FILE PHOTO: Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov looks on during a meeting with Switzerland’s President and head of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs on the sidelines of the US – Russia summit in Geneva, Switzerland, on January 21, 2022 – Washington and Moscow’s top diplomats agreed at high-stakes talks to keep working to ease tensions over Ukraine. (Photo by JEAN-CHRISTOPHE BOTT / POOL / AFP)

MOSCOW, Russia (AFP) — Moscow doesn’t want war but will not allow its interests to be ignored, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Friday as tensions continue to simmer over Ukraine.

The West has accused Russia of massing 100,000 troops on the border with Ukraine and has threatened unprecedented sanctions if Moscow invades.

“If it depends on Russia, there will be no war. We do not want wars,” Lavrov said in an interview with the heads of four Russian radio stations.

“We will also not allow our interests to be ignored”, he added.

His remarks come after the United States and NATO responded to security demands put forward by Russia in exchange for a de-escalation of tensions over Ukraine.

The demands include a ban on Ukraine joining NATO and on new military bases in former Soviet countries.

Russia said Thursday that its views were not addressed in the response it received but did not rule out further talks.

Lavrov said Friday that the US response contained “grains of rationality” on secondary issues.

He added that the response from the US was “almost an example of diplomatic propriety”, while the NATO response was highly “idealised”.

“I was a little ashamed for the people who wrote these texts,” Lavrov said.

Lavrov said the introduction of further Western sanctions, such as personal measures against President Vladimir Putin and cutting Russia from the SWIFT payment system, would be the “equivalent of severing ties” with Russia.

“I don’t think this is anyone’s interest,” he said.

© Agence France-Presse