Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s longstanding foreign minister, provoked laughter from an audience at an international conference in India when he attempted to portray his country as the victim of the war in Ukraine.
Addressing the Raisina Dialogue, an event in New Delhi that debates the major challenges facing the world in politics and economics and one of few such events globally that still invites Russian politicians to attend, the 72-year-old staked the unlikely claim that Russia was trying to stop the war.
“The war, which we are trying to stop, which was launched against us using Ukrainian people, of course, influenced the policy of Russia, including energy policy,” he said to a chorus of laughs and groans.
“And the blunt way to describe what changed: we would not anymore rely on any partners in the West. We would not allow them to blow the pipelines again,” he continued, apparently referring to the explosions that caused damage to the Nord Stream pipeline in the Baltic Sea in September 2022.
It wasn’t all mockery, however, for the veteran politician, who has been in post since 2004. When asked about the “double standard” of Western interventions in sovereign countries, his audience applauded his response.
“Have you been interested in these years [in] what is going on in Iraq, what is going on in Afghanistan?” he asked his interviewer.
“[You] believe that the United States has the right to declare a threat to its national interest, any place on earth, like they did in Yugoslavia, in Iraq, in Libya, in Syria… and you don’t ask them any questions?”
The mixed reaction reflects how many non-Western powers around the world view the conflict in Ukraine, seeing a certain degree of hypocrisy in how the West has different reactions dependent on its own interests.
Mr Lavrov has been travelling across Asia, Africa and the Middle East over the last year to rally support for Russia.
India in particular has maintained a studied neutrality about the war, abstaining in votes at the United Nations calling for an end to the invasion. The country has longstanding economic and military ties to Russia.