“Of course not!” was Sergey Lavrov’s response when asked whether a weakened, destabilised Europe would be in Russia’s strategic interest.
The Russian foreign minister told Euronews that his country wanted “to see Europe strong and stable”, despite the negative events of the past three years.
However, he added, Moscow never avoids contacts in international affairs – as witnessed by its willingness to talk to both government and different opposition movements in Syria.
“We do not call anyone an outlaw. And we do not shut the door to positive contacts,” Lavrov said.
The Kremlin came in for criticism when President Putin greeted Marine Le Pen, then French presidential candidate, before last year’s election. Lavrov was asked how he reacts when a politician supports the disintegration of the European Union.
The foreign minister replied that the French National Front leader’s views reflected the opinion of “a large part of the population”.
“When these representatives want to develop contacts with us, they want to know better how we live, how we solve problems in this or that part of life and how we can interact, with at least those regions that they represent. Avoiding such discussions, to my mind would be irresponsible.”
Western embassies in Moscow meet regularly with Russian opposition leaders, Lavrov added – not only in parliament, but also with what he described as the “so-called non-system opposition that criticises power in a very arrogant way”.
Sergey Lavrov was speaking to Galina Polonskaya of Euronews during an extensive interview in The Global Conversation.
Russia is preparing for presidential elections on March 18, with Vladimir Putin standing for a fourth term.
Opposition leader Alexei Navalny has been barred from running following a fraud conviction considered by many to be a pretext. He has criticised high-level corruption and has been targeted by Putin supporters.
Two members of punk protest group Pussy Riot are claiming asylum in Sweden, saying they were forced to flee Russia because of threats from Putin’s security services as they clamp down on dissent and dissidents.