Russia says West’s ‘Russiaphobia’ worse than during Cold War

Foreign minister Sergei Lavrov warned Moscow has ‘red lines’ that should be respected

Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said on Sunday said the West’s "Russiaphobia" was worse than during the Cold War and warned Moscow has "red lines" that should be respected.

“This Russiaphobia is unprecedented. We never saw this during the Cold War,” Mr Lavrov, fresh from a visit to New York on Thursday and Friday, said in an interview with the Russian daily Kommersant’s online edition.

“Back then there were some rules, some decorum. Now, all decorum has been cast aside,” he said.

Mr Lavrov warned: “Russia has its ‘red lines’ ... Serious politicians in the West understand that these ‘red lines’ should be respected as they were during the Cold War.”

The long-standing politician, who has been in the post since 2004 and is a key confidant of Vladimir Putin, denounced what he called “efforts to punish Russia by any means possible”, calling sanctions imposed by the United States and the European Union “absurd and baseless”.

Russia was slapped with sanctions in 2014 because of its annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula and theconflict in eastern Ukraine, with Kiev and the West accusing Moscow of backing rebels – allegations that the Russian authorities continue to deny.

The country is also mired in a doping scandal that led to the exclusion of its athletes from the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro and the World Athletics Championships in London last year.

The International Olympics Committee has also suspended Russia from next month’s Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. "Clean" Russian athletes will be allowed to participate under the Olympic banner.

“There are a number of indications that, apart from real cases of doping among our athletes, there is a totally orchestrated campaign” targeting Russia, Mr Lavrov said.