UNITED NATIONS — The Russian foreign minister issued a blistering attack on the West and NATO on Saturday, accusing them of being unable to change their Cold War "genetic code" and saying the United States must abandon its claims to "eternal uniqueness."
Sergey Lavrov's assault appeared to be an extension of the increasingly anti-Western stance of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is riding a wave of popularity at home with his neo-nationalist rhetoric and policies.
Speaking at the United Nations General Assembly, Lavrov said the crisis in Ukraine was the result of a coup d'etat in that country backed by the United States and the European Union for the purpose of pulling Kiev out of its "organic role as a binding link between" East and West, denying it the opportunity for "neutral and non-bloc status."
Lavrov also said the Russian annexation of Crimea earlier this year was the choice of the largely Russian-speaking population there. Former Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev transferred control over the strategic Black Sea region to Ukraine from Moscow in the 1950s.
Immediately before Lavrov spoke, the German foreign minister said Russia's actions to retake Crimea were a crime.
"Russia has, with its annexation of Crimea, unilaterally changed existing borders in Europe and thus broke international law," Frank-Walter Steinmeier said in his address to the world body. He spent considerable time speaking about what the West sees as Russian meddling in Ukraine, a nation on the verge of bankruptcy after a series of corrupt post-independence regimes.
Lavrov made no mention of Western allegations that Russia has sent troops and heavy weapons into eastern Ukraine in support of pro-Russian rebels there who have taken over a number of key industrial cities after the ouster of former pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovich.