West has launched ‘total hybrid war’ on Russia, claims Putin’s foreign minister – Uber Turco News

Russia’s foreign minister says the West had announced a “total hybrid war” against Russia but that it would withstand sanctions by forging deeper partnerships with China and India.

In a speech on the 80th day since Russia invaded Ukraine, Sergei Lavrov pointed to the barrage of sanctions imposed by the West in an effort to portray Russia as the target, not the perpetrator, of aggression.

He said Moscow had done “everything to avoid a direct clash” but said they “accepted the challenge”.

“The collective West has declared total hybrid war on us and it is hard to predict how long all this will last but it is clear the consequences will be felt by everyone, without exception,” he said.

“We did everything to avoid a direct clash – but now that the challenge has been thrown down, we of course accept it. We are no strangers to sanctions: they were almost always there in one form or another.”

Vera Kosolopenko, reacts while looking at her destroyed greenhouse, after her house and property were hit by Russian bombing, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in the village of Bezruky, Derhachi district, Kharkiv region, Ukraine, May 14, 2022. REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes
Vera Kosolopenko looks at her destroyed greenhouse after her house was hit by Russian bombing, in the village of Bezruky, Derhachi district, Kharkiv region (Reuters/Ricardo Moraes)

Efforts by the West to isolate Russia were doomed to fail, Mr Lavrov said, while pointing to the importance of Russia’s relations with China, India, Algeria and Gulf countries.

Mr Lavrov also laid out the strategy that Moscow is pinning its hopes on as it tries to cushion the hit to its economy and build new markets elsewhere.

He cited the sanctions, which have included the seizure of nearly half of Russia’s $640 billion (£52 billion) in foreign reserves, as evidence that no one is safe against expropriation and “state piracy”, and of the need for countries to lessen economic reliance on the United States and its allies.

“Not only Russia but many others too are reducing dependence on the US dollar, western technology and markets,” he said, without stating evidence.

Efforts by the West to isolate Russia were doomed to fail, he said.

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Russia’s relations with China were the best they had ever been and it was developing a privileged strategic partnership with India.

Just back from a trip to the Middle East, he also cited the importance of ties with Egypt, Algeria and Gulf nations, as well as Asia, Africa and Latin America.

In one example of a sanctions-induced pivot in exports, Russia sold twice as much crude oil to India in the two months after its invasion of Ukraine as it did in all of 2021, as Western nations cut purchases of Russian oil and Indian refiners seized the chance to buy it at a discount.

Despite Russia’s insistence it can thrive under sanctions, its economy is on track to shrink by somewhere between 8.8% and 12.4%, according to an economy ministry document seen by Reuters, and not return to its pre-invasion size before 2026.

It came as Russian President Vladimir Putin warned his Finnish counterpart relations between the two neighbours could be “negatively affected” if Finland follows through with plans to apply for Nato membership.

The Kremlin’s press service said in a statement that Mr Putin told Sauli Niinisto that Finland’s abandonment “of its traditional policy of military neutrality would be an error since there are no threats to Finland’s security”.

“Such a change in the country’s foreign policy could negatively affect Russian-Finnish relations, which had been built in the spirit of good neighbourliness and partnership for many years, and were mutually beneficial,” the statement added.

The response came after Mr Niinisto told Mr Putin in a phone conversation that the militarily non-aligned Nordic country that has a complex history with its huge eastern neighbour “will decide to apply for Nato membership in the coming days”.

(FILES) This file photo taken on July 27, 2017 shows Finland's President Sauli Niinisto (R) and Russian President Vladimir Putin shaking hands after a press conference in Punkaharju hotel in Savonlinna, Finland. - Finnish President Sauli Niinisto spoke with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on May 14, 2022 regarding the Nordic country's application for NATO membership, which is expected to be officially announced this weekend, his office said. (Photo by Alexander NEMENOV / AFP) (Photo by ALEXANDER NEMENOV/AFP via Getty Images)
Finland’s President Sauli Niinisto (R) and Russian President Vladimir Putin shake hands back in July 27, 2017 (Photo: Alexander Nemenov/ AFP via Getty)

Mr Niinisto’s office said in a statement that the Finnish head of state told Mr Putin how starkly Finland’s security environment had changed after Moscow’s February 24 invasion on Ukraine, and pointed to Russia’s demands on Finland refraining from seeking membership to the 30 member-state Western military alliance.

“The discussion (with Putin) was straightforward and unambiguous and was held without exaggeration. Avoiding tensions was considered important,” said Mr Niinisto, Finland’s president since 2012 and one of a handful of western leaders who has been in regular dialogue with Mr Putin over the past decade.

Mr Niinisto pointed out that he had already told Mr Putin at their first meeting in 2012 that “each independent nation would maximise its own security”.

“That is still the case. By joining Nato, Finland will strengthen its own security and assume its responsibilities. It is not something away from anybody,” Mr Niinisto said.

Mr Niinisto stressed that Finland, despite its likely future membership in Nato, wants to continue to deal with Russia bilaterally in “practical issues generated by the border neighbourhood” and hopes to engage with Moscow “in a professional manner”.

According to the Kremlin statement, the two leaders also discussed Russia’s military operation in Ukraine, and the possibility of achieving a political solution to the situation.

Mr Putin said negotiations between Moscow and Kyiv had been suspended due to Ukraine’s “lack of interest in a serious and constructive dialogue”.

The phone call was conducted on Finland’s initiative, Mr Niinisto’s office said.

Finland shares an 830-mile border with Russia. A formal announcement from Mr Niinisto and Ms Marin of Finland’s intention to apply for Nato membership is expected on Sunday.

Neighbouring Sweden is set to decide on its Nato stance, also on Sunday in a meeting of the governing Social Democratic Party led by Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson.

Additional reporting by Reuters and AP

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