Ukraine crisis: Lavrov warns over Russia 'regime change' goal

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image captionAnalysts say Western sanctions are beginning to have an impact on Russia

Western sanctions against Russia over its role in Ukraine are aimed at forcing regime change in Moscow, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says.

Speaking to foreign policy advisers in Moscow, Mr Lavrov referred to calls for sanctions "that will destroy the economy and cause public protests".

On Thursday, President Vladimir Putin said Moscow must guard against a "colour revolution".

Russia denies arming Ukrainian rebels or sending Russian troops there.

Western sanctions were first imposed when Russia annexed Ukraine's region of Crimea in March following a controversial referendum.

Further measures have been added since, targeting senior Russian officials as well as defence firms, banks and the country's oil industry.

Analysis: Sarah Rainsford, BBC News, Moscow

Far from softening under sanctions, Russia has been toughening its stance over the crisis in Ukraine.

Mr Lavrov's statement fits Moscow's narrative, that what happened in Ukraine a year ago was not a popular uprising, but an illegal coup, plotted and co-ordinated from abroad.

Moscow argues the West's aim was to snatch Ukraine from Russia's sphere of influence.

It's another reminder of the huge gulf of understanding that now divides Russia and the West, whose relations are worse now than ever since the end of the Cold War.

On Thursday, referring to uprisings in former Soviet states including Ukraine and Georgia, Mr Putin said the world could see "what tragic consequences the wave of the so-called colour revolutions has led to".

Ukraine's 2004 pro-Western uprising became known as the Orange Revolution, while Georgia's Rose Revolution took place in 2003.

"We have to do all that is needed to ensure that similar things never happen in Russia," Mr Putin said.

Addressing the advisory Foreign and Defence Policy Council in Moscow on Saturday, his foreign minister said: "As for the concept behind to the use of coercive measures, the West is making clear it does not want to force Russia to change policy but wants to secure regime change."

"Public figures in Western countries say there is a need to impose sanctions that will destroy the economy and cause public protests," Mr Lavrov said without naming any Western officials.

image copyrightAP
image captionRebels have been trying to consolidate their positions in the east of the country

Troops accusations

A ceasefire has been in place since the outlines of a peace deal were agreed in September, but it has been broken regularly.

Visiting Kiev on Friday on the anniversary of the uprising which ousted pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych, US Vice-President Joe Biden warned that Russia faced "rising costs and greater isolation" if it failed to respect the September peace deal.

Since the ousting of Mr Yanukovych in February, Russia has annexed Crimea from Ukraine after a disputed referendum. while a separatist conflict in eastern Ukraine has cost at least 4,300 lives.

On the ground in eastern Ukraine, pro-Russia rebels continued firing against government troops in the separatist stronghold of Donetsk.

On Saturday, Ukraine's defence minister accused Russia of sending 7,500 troops inside Ukraine.

Russia says accusations of troops concentrations on the border with Ukraine or of Russian troops inside the neighbour's territory are "fake".

Figures released by the UN human rights office on Thursday show that an average of 13 people have been killed daily in eastern Ukraine since the 5 September ceasefire came into place.

A report by the UN described a total breakdown of law and order in the rebel-held Donetsk and Luhansk regions. It also highlighted allegations of abuses by government forces.

Human cost of conflict in east Ukraine

image copyrightAP
image captionMourners at the funeral on 7 November of two schoolboys killed by shelling in Donetsk, Andrei Yeliseyev (18) and Daniil Kuznetsov (14)

4,317 deaths since April, 957 of them since the 5 September ceasefire, and 9,921 people wounded

466,829 internally displaced persons within Ukraine

454,339 refugees living abroad, 387,355 of them in Russia

UN data from 18 November