Russia's top diplomat criticized his American counterpart for comments on Kazakhstan peacekeeping operation
The American reaction to the recent Russian-led peacekeeping operation in Kazakhstan is a sign that the US thinks it alone has "special status" to maintain law and order around the world, Moscow's top diplomat has said following talks in Geneva.
Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov spoke at a press conference on Friday, immediately after a meeting with his American counterpart, Antony Blinken. The diplomat said that the two had discussed a number of recent political developments, and that he had demanded an explanation for comments Blinken made about the presence of Russian peacekeeping forces in Kazakhstan under the auspices of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), of which Russia and Kazakhstan are members.
"As for 'spheres of influence,' I asked Antony Blinken to explain," Lavrov told journalists. "After the president of Kazakhstan asked for help from the CSTO in suppressing the terrorists, based on the CSTO chapter for assistance, there were demands that Kazakhstan should explain why it did what it did. This illustrates that the West is confident of its own special status. They are allowed to do everything, and others are not allowed to do anything. Look at how the EU is behaving."
When mass unrest broke out in Kazakhstan earlier this month, President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev claimed that rioters were "foreign terrorists" and requested assistance from the CSTO, a Russian-led military alliance, to contain the protests. Several thousand troops, mostly Russian, were sent into the country to guard strategic facilities.
On January 7, Blinken warned that this could be a sign that Moscow had military ambitions in Kazakhstan, saying, "one lesson of recent history is that once Russians are in your house, it's sometimes very difficult to get them to leave." Last week, however, the organization declared that the mission had been a success and that the forces were beginning their withdrawal. The Kazakh government announced that at least 225 people had died in the protests, and more than 4,500 were injured.
Lavrov and Blinken met on Friday in Geneva with the goal of resolving mounting tensions over European security, particularly concerning Ukraine. Western officials have been voicing fears for months that Russia could be planning an imminent invasion of its neighbor, which the Kremlin has denied.
Moscow, meanwhile, has called for written guarantees that NATO, the US-led military bloc, will not expand into Ukraine or Georgia, a deal that American leaders have said is off the table.