Moscow accuses West of seeking Russia 'regime change'

Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

MOSCOW - Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Saturday accused the West of seeking to force a regime change in Russia through sanctions over the Ukraine conflict.

"The West is showing unambiguously that they do not want to force (Russia) to change policy, they want to achieve a change of regime," Lavrov told a forum of political analysts in Moscow.

"Now public figures in Western countries are saying that it's necessary to introduce sanctions that would destroy the economy and rouse public protests," Lavrov said, cited by TASS news agency.

The United States and European Union have imposed several rounds of sanctions on Moscow as they blame Russia for abetting the pro-Kremlin insurgents in east Ukraine.

The embargoes targetting Russia's key energy, defence and finance sectors have forced the ruble into freefall and sent inflation soaring.

Lavrov argued that the sanctions against Russia were unlike those imposed against North Korea and Iran which "were done in such a way that they did not cause harm, only hit the elite and did not damage the social sphere or the economy."

At the same time he dismissed a warning from United States Vice President Joe Biden on Friday that Russia would face "greater isolation" if it failed to deliver on its commitments under the Minsk peace plan on Ukraine.

"The vast majority of countries - we are continuing dialogue with them... There is no isolation," Lavrov said.

However, Russia's dealings with Europe will no longer be "business as usual", the minister said.

"No one plans to shoot themselves in the foot by scrapping cooperation with Europe. But everyone understands that business is usual is no longer possible."

Russia has retaliated against the Western sanctions by imposing a sweeping embargo on most food imports from the European Union and the United States.