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Russian FM Sergey Lavrov
A wedge is being driven between Russia and its neighbors, with the West demanding that countries across Eastern Europe and Asia turn on Moscow in order to gain acceptance, Moscow's foreign minister Sergey Lavrov has claimed.

Speaking at a webinar on international relations on Friday, the veteran diplomat accused the US and its allies in Europe of
"trying to form a belt of instability around us - forcing our closest neighbors, our brotherly peoples, to make a choice - either you are with the West, or you are with the Russian Federation." They want "to surround us with a cordon sanitaire, and even to profit from the fact they are having a decisive influence on the benefit of our neighbors."
He went on to point to the unrest that broke out in Belarus after last summer's disputed presidential elections, arguing this was supported from afar. In addition, the diplomat accused the West of trying to pull Moldova into its sphere of influence.
"Now our Western colleagues are trying to expand their presence, including military, along the perimeter of our borders, including Central Asia and the Transcaucasus."
Lavrov added. Moscow has previously expressed serious concerns over NATO's growing buildup in Central and Eastern Europe, saying that drills and exercises near the frontier with Russia are increasing the risk of catastrophic accidents or miscalculations.

Lavrov, who is standing as a candidate in September's State Duma elections for the governing United Russia party, claimed earlier this month that
"our Western colleagues do not hide the fact that many of them would prefer to deal with a weak Russia, devoid of landmarks, a Russia ready for any concessions. We see efforts - nearly daily - to influence our domestic and foreign policy."
The lead-up to the vote could, he argued, become a target for "attempts to undermine [and] destabilize the situation, and provoke protests - preferably violent - as the West likes to do."