Russia strongly criticised Western belligerence towards Syria and Iran yesterday, saying that a military assault on the Iranian regime could cause a "chain reaction" that would destabilise the entire world.
The country's Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, also said during his annual televised press conference that Russia would use its veto at the UN Security Council to block any resolution calling for military force to be used against Syria.
Mr Lavrov said that Russia is "seriously worried" that military action against Iran may be under consideration, and vowed that Moscow would do all it could to prevent it. "The consequences will be extremely grave," he said. "It's not going to be an easy walk. It will trigger a chain reaction and I don't know where it will stop."
Last week, a Russian newspaper revealed that the annual training exercises undertaken in southern Russia by the country's army will focus this year on scenarios related to the regional fallout of a possible military conflict in Iran.
Russia has supported some sanctions against Iran, but has rejected any talk of new sanctions. The US has already applied new economic sanctions and the EU is considering whether to follow suit as concerns mount over Tehran's nuclear ambitions, but Mr Lavrov said that such moves were disingenuous and had "nothing to do with a desire to strengthen nuclear non-proliferation". Instead, Mr Lavrov added, the new sanctions were aimed at "stifling the Iranian economy and the population in an apparent hope to provoke discontent".
On Syria, where the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad's regime is in its 10th month, the Russian Foreign Minister was equally forthright, ruling out any support from Moscow at the UN for military intervention.
Russia abstained from a Security Council vote on military intervention in Libya and was subsequently furious at what it felt was a bombing campaign that went far beyond the remit to "protect civilians" authorised by the UN.
Moscow has since made it clear on several occasions that it will not tolerate a repeat in Syria, a message that Mr Lavrov reiterated yesterday. "If some intend to use force at all cost we can hardly prevent that from happening," he said.
"But let them do it at their own initiative, on their own conscience; they won't get any authorisation from the UN Security Council."
He was also unapologetic over claims that Russia has been delivering arms to the Syrian regime despite an EU arms embargo on the country. A ship believed to be carrying weapons from Russia was briefly detained in Cyprus earlier this month, before continuing to its final destination in Syria.
Russia has not confirmed that it has been delivering arms to the country, but Mr Lavrov effectively told the West to mind its own business yesterday. "We haven't violated any international agreements or the UN Security Council resolutions," he said.
He also accused Western countries of supplying munitions to the Syrian opposition, which he labelled as "unacceptable and absolutely counterproductive".