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Lavrov: The West is blaming us for all the problems in the Balkans

Lavrov: The West is blaming us for all the problems in the Balkans

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has accused the West of waging "a hybrid war against Russia", claiming it is blaming Moscow for all the problems in the Western Balkans.

During a press conference in Skopje, North Macedonia, where an Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) summit is being held, Lavrov accused the West of always having an interest in turning nations against each other. .

"I am convinced that the peoples of the Balkan hemisphere have gone through difficult historical transitions, have a common code and should not be defeated and allow the West to make enemies of each other," Lavrov said.

Russian claims that the West is blaming Moscow for problems in the Balkans come as Ukraine - which has been facing an unprovoked invasion by Russia since last February - has warned that Russia is aiming to foment conflict between Western Balkan states.

On November 15, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told African media that he has evidence of Moscow's intentions to start a war between the Western Balkan states.

"Pay attention to the Balkans. Believe me, we are getting information. Russia has a long plan. [First we had] the Middle East - the second distraction will be the Balkans," Zelensky said.

The European Union later said it shares Zelensky's concerns. EU spokesman, Peter Stano, stated that the bloc for a long time has said that Russia is trying to exert malignant influence in the Western Balkans as well.

Meanwhile, the US Department of State told Radio Free Europe that Washington is working with the countries of the Western Balkans and with European partners to advance governance, the rule of law and order, and carry out anti-corruption reforms "that will reduce the possibility of influence Russian malignancies and bring long-term peace, stability and prosperity to the region".

Officials in Kosovo have also expressed concern about Russia's role in destabilizing the region. The Prime Minister of Kosovo, Albin Kurti, declared in November that Russia is aiming to start a crisis "in the EU's backyard", in order to, according to him, distract the Western NATO military alliance.

Kosovo, according to a report recently published by the Balkan Investigative Journalism Network (BIRN), is exposed to disinformation and narratives coming from Russia and China, which aim to instigate an inter-ethnic and inter-religious war in Kosovo.

But, during the address in Skopje, Lavrov said that he encourages "ethnic groups in the Balkans to live in peace and avoid nationalist ambitions".

He also called on them not to join the sanctions against Russia - imposed because of the war against Ukraine - only, he said, to fulfill some Western ambitions.

The Russian chief diplomat also accused the West of the identity dispute between North Macedonia and Bulgaria, saying that "Macedonians should be equal on the common continent".

As the second day of the OSCE summit is taking place on December 1, the Russian chief diplomat said that this organization has "degraded" in all key dimensions of its operation.

He said that "the OSCE has been destroyed and the Western leaders who have not learned any lesson from their failure".

But decision-making in this organization is often blocked by Russian vetoes, including on the OSCE budget.

Lavrov was able to participate in this OSCE summit, after North Macedonia and Bulgaria temporarily lifted the sanctions against Russian flights. But in the end, Lavrov had to fly over Turkey and Greece, after Bulgaria closed the airspace to the Russian top diplomat's plane because there were EU-sanctioned people on board.

His participation in this summit prompted the boycott of Ukraine, the Baltic states. Also, to avoid being at the same summit as him, US top diplomat Antony Blinken and EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell attended an informal OSCE dinner in Skopje on Wednesday and then left North Macedonia before the summit officially started its work.

Lavrov said the informal dinner was deliberately organized before he arrived in Skopje.

"They tried with photos from the dinner to present me as isolated here in Skopje. But I had a wonderful dinner with Macedonian wines and dishes and was present at the official opening of the OSCE meeting in the morning. And there were no people from Ukraine and the Baltic states, neither Blinken nor [British Foreign Secretary David] Cameron, nor Borrell. Why did this happen? Perhaps they wanted to highlight their intention to isolate Russia. But I think they are cowards, they are afraid of honest conversations with facts", said Lavrov.

Otherwise, on the second and final day of the summit, OSCE members will confirm the decision for Malta to chair the organization in 2024./rel

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