MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia made no commitment at last week’s Group of Eight summit to back U.N. sanctions against Zimbabwe so it cannot be accused of a U-turn, a senior Russian diplomat said on Monday.
However, Moscow signaled it was concerned about the political crisis in Zimbabwe, with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov urging authorities there to prosecute those responsible for violence against opposition activists.
Russia and China last week vetoed a Western-backed U.N. Security Council resolution to impose sanctions on Zimbabwe. The United States said Moscow had gone back on an agreement days earlier at the G8 summit in Japan to support punitive measures.
“There was indeed a discussion on Zimbabwe at the (G8) summit,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Kislyak told a news conference.
“During the discussion ideas were put forward that the U.N. Security Council should adopt a resolution on sanctions. The sanctions were not named. There were such ideas. We listened to them and explained why that is not right.
“This does not mean that we do not have concerns about the situation in Zimbabwe. We have different methods for addressing it.”
He rejected a comment by the top U.S. diplomat at the United Nations that Russia’s performance on Zimbabwe “raises doubts about its reliability as a G8 partner”.
Kislyak said: “Accusations against Russia that it is not a reliable partner are, we believe, not only unfounded but also irresponsible.”
President Dmitry Medvedev said at a final news conference concluding the G8 summit that no decisions had been reached about how to act on Zimbabwe.
“The G8 expressed its concern,” Medvedev said at the July 9 briefing. “But there were no concrete decisions about how the United Nations should proceed.”
Russia’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement Lavrov had spoken by telephone to Zimbabwean Foreign Minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi.
“We underlined the need for all participants in the internal Zimbabwean dialogue to show the most constructive approach possible in the interests of ensuring stability and national accord,” the statement said.
“It is also important to prosecute the culprits in the violence in June and to take measures to prevent a repeat of this in the future.”
A group of states led by the United States and Britain wanted to impose sanctions on Zimbabwe for violence during its presidential run-off election last month.
The vote was boycotted by the opposition challenger and gave President Robert Mugabe a landslide victory.
The proposed sanctions would have imposed an arms embargo on Zimbabwe as well as financial and travel restrictions on Mugabe and 13 other officials.
Russia said it blocked the U.N. resolution because it did not believe the crisis was a threat to international security.
It said sanctions could undermine talks, mediated by South Africa’s President Thabo Mbeki, between Mugabe’s administration and the opposition.