Moscow blasts attempts to exclude Russia from security body meeting

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Russia on Wednesday said Western countries tried to prevent its officials from attending the annual ministerial conference of the pan-European security body OSCE.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, under European sanctions, had to ask permission to fly over EU airspace to attend the two-day meeting, which begins on Thursday in the North Macedonian capital Skopje.

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Ukraine and the Baltic states said they would skip the meeting over Lavrov’s attendance, arguing that Russia should be excluded over its offensive in Ukraine.

“We see attempts by part of the West to do everything possible to hinder our country’s normal participation at this meeting,” Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said.

She accused some countries -- without naming them -- of threatening “the very existence of the organization, just to satisfy their ambitions.”

When Poland hosted the annual meeting last year, it did not allow Lavrov into the country, sparking an angry response from Moscow.

But Bulgaria said it would open its airspace to the Russian minister, making a diplomatic exemption to European skies being closed to Russia over the conflict in Ukraine.

This triggered furious reactions from Ukraine, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell said he would attend the meeting in Skopje, but would not meet Lavrov directly.

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