MOSCOW - Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has lashed out at U.S. President Barack Obama's criticism of the Kremlin's actions in Ukraine.
Lavrov, during his annual press briefing, denied allegations of fresh Russian military backing for separatists and accused the U.S. of seeking world domination.
Lavrov spoke Wednesday ahead of a meeting in Berlin to discuss Ukraine. He went on to say that the U.S. has set an "aggressive" course. But he said Moscow continues to cooperate with the West on fighting terrorism, despite the tensions over Ukraine.
Lavrov lashes out
Lavrov said Obama's comments showed the U.S. has adopted a policy of confrontation and has failed to assess its own actions.
During his State of the Union address Tuesday, Obama said U.S. support for Ukraine was a principled stand against Russia's bullying of a smaller state. The U.S. president also noted its allies were united against Russia's aggression, while Moscow faced diplomatic isolation and a tattered economy.
Lavrov said the U.S. had pressured allies such as Europe and Japan to gang up on Russia.
He said Tuesday's speech by the president shows that at the center of that philosophy is only one thing: 'We are number one and everyone else has to respect that.' Lavrov said this is a little outdated and does not reflect today's reality. It demonstrates, he said, that the U.S. wants to dominate the world and cannot merely be first among equals.
Russia's foreign minister said Western attempts to isolate it would fail.
Western nations hit Russia with economic and diplomatic sanctions after the Kremlin annexed Ukraine's Crimean peninsula last March. They widened the sanctions against Moscow after accusing it of sending weapons and troops in eastern Ukraine to support pro-Russia separatists and thereby maintain leverage over the European-leaning government in Kyiv.
The Russian government continues to deny it is helping the rebels militarily.
The sanctions have helped push Russia's economy into recession as the price of oil, its major export, dropped by more than half.
Lavrov rejected accusations Wednesday by Kyiv that Russia sent fresh troops and weapons this week to support the separatists.
He said Russia has heard the accusations concerning the flow of troops and weapons many times, and that if there is such certainty, then present the evidence. No one is able to provide us with the evidence, he said, or does not want to provide it.
When asked by a Ukrainian journalist about published photos of Russian weapons made only for domestic use turning up in eastern Ukraine, Lavrov said more proof was needed. He then turned the accusation back on the West, claiming European and NATO member-supplied weapons were flowing into the conflict zone, which he said violates their own codes.
Russia has resisted efforts by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe to increase monitoring of the Russia-Ukraine border.
Nonetheless, the Russian foreign minister said Moscow was willing to help facilitate a new cease-fire to stop fighting, which has killed nearly 5,000 people.
Lavrov said they already have received assurances from the rebels that they will withdraw heavy weapons not from the actual front line, but from the line that Kyiv is insisting on. So now, he said, the ball is in the Ukrainian leadership's court.
Lavrov joins foreign ministers from France, Germany, and Ukraine in Berlin later Wednesday to discuss the crisis and a possible summit meeting in Kazakhstan at the end of the month.
A meeting between representatives of the OSCE, Russia, Ukraine, and the separatists that was to be held last week fell through as fighting over a key airport in east Ukraine intensified.