Russia, hit with stiff Western sanctions for its role in the Ukraine crisis, accused the United States and the European Union on Saturday of backing a “coup d’etat” that drove Ukraine’s pro-Russian president from power early this year.
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, in an address to the United Nations General Assembly, said “Washington has openly declared its right to unilateral use of force,” and is “trying to decide for everyone what is good or evil.”
Saturday’s address is the latest evidence of deteriorating ties between Moscow and the West. In it, Lavrov cited the 1999 NATO bombing of Serb targets in Kosovo, the 2003 invasion of Iraq and the 2011 NATO intervention in Libya as examples of what he called “arrogant [Western] policy.”
He also described Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula in April as a choice made by the Russian-speaking population there.
Immediately ahead of Lavrov’s address, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier called the annexation a crime — a characterization shared by Washington and the 28-nation European Union.
Steinmeier accused Moscow of having “unilaterally changed existing borders in Europe” and said Moscow “thus broke international law.”
Lavrov made no reference to Western accusations that the Kremlin sent troops and heavy weaponry into eastern Ukraine to back the separatist rebellion near the Russian border. Nor did he refer to Western charges of Kremlin complicity in the July shootdown of a Malaysian airliner in Ukraine airspace. U.S. analysts say the aircraft with 298 people on board was destroyed by a Russian surface-to-air missile battery supplied by the Kremlin.
Moscow has denied involvement and insists Russian troops inside Ukraine in recent months were acting as volunteers.
At the White House Saturday, President Barack Obama said the United States is leading a global effort “to rally the world against Russian aggression in Ukraine.” He also vowed that the United States and its allies “will support the people of Ukraine as they develop their democracy and economy.”
Sources AP, AFP and Reuters.