With tensions simmering over the deadly crisis in Ukraine, Russia has accused the West of seeking regime change in Moscow, prompting renewed comparisons with the Cold War era.
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov of Russia made the comments at an event Saturday as he attacked Western sanctions on Russian interests.
“As for the concept behind the use of coercive measures, the West is making it clear it does not want to try to change the policy of the Russian Federation … they want to change the regime — practically no one denies this,” Lavrov said at a meeting of a foreign and domestic policy council in Moscow.
His words reflect the deterioration of his government’s relations with the United States and many European nations over the conflict in Ukraine. Western powers accuse Russia of sending troops and equipment to help separatists in eastern Ukraine in their fight against Ukrainian government forces.
Moscow has voiced moral support for the rebels and sent aid convoys into the region, but it has repeatedly denied military involvement.
‘A new low in relations’
To pressure Russia over the situation Ukraine, the United States and Europe have imposed sanctions targeting Russian citizens, officials and industries.
Lavrov’s comments Saturday represent “a new low in relations,” according to Russia expert Ben Judah.
“Not since 1984 has a Russian foreign minister described ties with the West and its plans for “regime change” in such dark terms,” Judah, the author of a book on Russia under President Vladimir Putin, wrote on Twitter.
Putin has been in power in Russia, as either prime minister or president, for the past 15 years.
Lavrov’s words appear to follow on from comments by Putin earlier in the week that the West, in particular the United States, still strives to “subjugate” Russia.
Biden slams ‘Russian aggression’
Western officials, meanwhile, have kept up criticism of Russia’s interference in Ukraine.
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, who was visiting Kiev on Friday, said he discussed “the threat to Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity posed by Russian aggression” in his conversations with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko.
“Russian behavior represents a flagrant violation of the bedrock principles of our international system,” Biden said.
Tensions were also apparent at the G20 summit in Australia last weekend, where several Western leaders had strong words for Putin.
As well as the conflict in eastern Ukraine — which has killed more than 4,000 people since April, according to the United Nations — Russia and the West are also in dispute over Moscow’s seizure of the Crimea Peninsula from Ukraine.
Biden made clear Friday that the Crimea takeover remains a thorn in U.S. relations with Russia.