Sergey Viktorovich Lavrov (Russian: Серге́й Ви́кторович Лавро́в, pronounced [sʲɪrˈgʲej ˈvʲiktərəvʲɪtɕ lɐvˈrof]; born 21 March 1950) is a Russian diplomat, and is currently the Foreign Minister of Russia, in office since 2004. Previously, he was the Russian Representative to the UN, serving from 1994 to 2004.
Lavrov was born on 21 March 1950 in Moscow, to an Armenian father and a Russian mother from Georgia. His mother worked in the Soviet Ministry for Foreign Trade. Lavrov graduated from high school with a silver medal. Since his favorite class was physics, he planned to enter either the National Research Nuclear University or the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology, but he entered the Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO) and graduated in 1972.
During his education at the MGIMO, Lavrov studied international relations. Soon he learned Sinhalese, then the only official language of Sri Lanka, as well as Dhivehi, the official language of the Maldives. Moreover, Lavrov learned English and French, but has stated that he is unable to speak the French language fluently. After he was admitted to the university, Lavrov, along with other students, was sent for a month to build the Ostankino Tower.
During his summer vacations, Lavrov also worked in Khakassia, Tuva and the Russian Far East. Each semester Lavrov with his fellow students conducted drama performances, which were later presented on the main stage of the university. During the third year of his studies, Lavrov married.
Lavrov graduated in 1972. According to the rules of that time, a graduate of the Moscow State Institute of International Relations had to work for the Foreign Ministry for a certain amount of time. Lavrov was employed in the Soviet embassy in Sri Lanka as an advisor, as he was already a specialist on the country. At the time, the Soviet Union and Sri Lanka had close market and economic cooperation and the Soviet Union launched the production of natural rubber in the country. The Soviet embassy in Sri Lanka also maintained relations with the Maldives. The embassy in Sri Lanka employed only 24 diplomats. Lavrov was given the task of continuously analysing the situation in the country, but he also worked as a translator, personal secretary and assistant for Rafiq Nishonov. In addition, he gained the diplomatic rank of an attaché.
In 1976 Lavrov returned to Moscow. He worked as a third and second secretary in the Section for the International Economic Relations of the USSR. There he was involved in analytics and his office also worked with various international organizations including the United Nations. In 1981, he was sent as a senior adviser to the Soviet mission at the United Nations in New York City. In 1988 Lavrov returned to Moscow and was named Deputy Chief of the Section of the International Economic Relations of the USSR. Between 1990 and 1992 he worked as Director of the International Organization of the Soviet Foreign Ministry.
In October 1990, Andrey Kozyrev, who led the control of the international organizations at the time, was named Foreign Minister of the Russian SFSR. In that year, the powers of the Soviet Foreign Ministry and the Foreign Ministry of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic were distributed. Until then the Russian SFSR had only a ceremonial role. In October 1991, the foreign ministers of all Soviet republics, except Georgia and the Baltic states, held a meeting where they dealt with the Union of Foreign Ministries. In November 1990, the State Council decided to change its name from the Union of Foreign Ministries to the Foreign Ministry of the Soviet Union and in December that year, the Foreign Ministry of Soviet Russia became the Foreign Ministry of the Russian Federation. In 1992 Lavrov was named director of the Department for International Organizations and Global Issues in the Foreign Ministry of the Russian Federation. In April 1991, he was named deputy foreign minister. Lavrov was asked to oversee the activities of the Human Rights and International Cultural Cooperation and the two departments – for the CIS countries, international organizations and international economic cooperation. Lavrov worked for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs until 1994 when he returned to work in the United Nations, this time as the Permanent Representative of Russia. While in the latter position, he was the President of the United Nations Security Council in December 1995, June 1997, July 1998, October 1999, December 2000, April 2002, and June 2003.
On 9 March 2004, President Vladimir Putin appointed Lavrov to the post of minister of foreign affairs. He succeeded Igor Ivanov in the post. On 21 May 2012, Lavrov was reappointed foreign minister to the cabinet led by prime minister Dimitri Medvedev.
Lavrov is regarded as continuing in the style of his predecessor: a brilliant diplomat but a civil servant rather than a politician. A Russian foreign policy expert at London's pro-Western Chatham House, has described him as "a tough, reliable, extremely sophisticated negotiator", but adds that "he's not part of Putin's inner sanctum" and that the toughening of Russian foreign policy has got very little to do with him.
In 2012, a Russian delegation travelled to Syria to affirm Russia's backing of the Syrian government. Lavrov and Mikhail Fradkov, who were part of the delegation, were given a royal welcome by thousands of pro-Assad supporters. The supporters waved Russian flags in thanks to Russia's veto of a UN resolution calling for tough sanctions on the Syrian government.
After the March 2014 Crimean status referendum, Lavrov proposed that Ukraine should be independent of any bloc, that the Russian language be recognised officially, and that the constitution be organised along federal lines. Lavrov reminded readers that the zero-sum "either-or" bloc-politics of Ukraine were first suggested in 2004 by Karel De Gucht, then Foreign Minister of Belgium.
When G8 leaders voted to officially suspend Russia's membership on March 24, Lavrov stated that the G8 was an informal organization and membership was optional for Russia.
In a March 30 interview, he spoke of the February 21 agreement which he signed along with Viktor Yanukovich, Vitaly Klitchko, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, and Oleg Tyagnibok as well as the Foreign Ministers of Poland, France and Germany to promote peaceful changes in Ukrainian power. Lavrov stressed federalism as a solution to the constitutional impasse in Ukraine, and deplored the disofficialisation of the Russian language. He noticed the work of the secretariat of the Council of Europe at the Venice Commission to prevent a legitimation of the Crimean referendum, and to expel Russia. Lavrov was "taken aback" when U.S. President Barack Obama called Russia a "regional power". He deplored the misuse of the Schengen Agreement to force Crimeans to visit Kiev in order to gain a Schengen visa, and noticed that the E.U. proposes a visa-free regime for Ukrainian citizens. Lavrov stated that the Maidan revolution in Kiev and the results of the Crimean referendum should both be accepted equally by the West. He reiterated the three-part Russian proposal for the progress of Ukraine:
The Kiev government on 30 March denounced Lavrov's proposals as amounting to “the complete capitulation of Ukraine, its dismemberment, and the destruction of Ukrainian statehood.
While Lavrov acknowledged that Russia is in contact with the Ukrainian separatist rebels he denied US and EU allegations that Moscow is sponsoring the rebellion and accused the United States of aggravating the conflict. "Our American colleagues still prefer to push the Ukrainian leadership toward a confrontational path." He added that chances for settling the Ukrainian crisis would have been higher if it only depended on Russia and Europe." Lavrov said the separatists want to "defend their culture, their traditions, celebrate their holidays rather than anniversaries of Roman Shukhevych and Stepan Bandera."
In June 2016, Lavrov stated that Russia will never attack any NATO country, saying: “I am convinced that all serious and honest politicians know perfectly well than Russia will never attack a member state of NATO. We have no such plans.” He also said: “In our security doctrine it is clearly stated that one of the main threats to our safety is the further expansion of NATO to the east.”
Lavrov is a keen sportsman despite being a smoker. He likes to watch football games on television, is an ardent fan of the Moscow club Spartak, and a keen amateur footballer in his own right. He has one daughter, Ekaterina, a graduate of Columbia University, who stayed in New York City until 2014, when she was asked to come back to live in Moscow.
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