Former Russian Foreign Minister Would Now 'Watch My Back' if Lavrov Near

Andrei Kozyrev, a former foreign affairs minister for Russia, said Friday that Sergey Lavrov, the current Russian foreign minister who has been sanctioned by several countries in recent days for Russia's invasion of Ukraine, "used to have" his back, but he doesn't believe that would be the case now.

"Lavrov, rightfully sanctioned by the US and EU today, was my deputy in the 90s," Kozyrev said in a tweet alongside an old photo of himself and Lavrov. "Used to have my back. Today, I would watch my back if he was behind me."

Friday, the European Union, United Kingdom, Canada and the United States all announced sanctions on Russian President Vladimir Putin and Lavrov following a series of sanctions levied against Russia's government, several financial institutions and other prominent diplomats. Under the EU's proposed package, all of Lavrov and Putin's foreign-held assets would be frozen, and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Thursday that the sanctions his country will enact against Russia will be the "largest and most severe package of economic sanctions that Russia has ever seen."

"We will continue on a remorseless mission to squeeze Russia from the global economy piece by piece, day by day and week by week," Johnson said.

Kozyrev, 70, was the first foreign minister following the fall of the Soviet Union under President Boris Yeltsin, serving in the position Lavrov now holds from 1991 to 1996. He previously spoke to Newsweek in January 2021, comparing former President Donald Trump's challenges to the results of the 2020 presidential election to the political situation in post-Soviet Russia that allowed Putin to rise to power.

Lavrov, 71, has served as the foreign minister since he was appointed by Putin in 2004, previously serving as Kozyrev's deputy foreign minister before becoming Russia's ambassador to the United Nations in 1994.

Kozyrev requested help from the U.S. in Russia's burgeoning democracy in 1991 through an editorial in The Washington Post before he said that concessions were made by other politicians to Yeltsin that paved the way for Putin to eventually take power and effectively do away with true democracy in Russia.

"In defense of their cowardice, they pledged that it would be just a one-off concession, not a change to the constitutional order," Kozyrev told Newsweek last year. "Democracy is easy to lose but hard to regain. The free and fair elections along with subsequent orderly transitions of power never returned."

"The behavior of President Trump's supporters is also painfully familiar," Kozyrev also said, with lawmakers "fearful to follow the Constitution against the will of their party leader" and a "powerful media ready to attack everything…to justify the autocrat's seizure of power."

Kozyrev also said during Trump's presidency that he believed Putin was taking advantage of Trump's "naivete" that came from being new to politics and the presidency, Newsweek previously reported.

Update 2/25/22 6:08 p.m. ET: This story has been updated with additional context and information.

RUSSIA-DIPLOMACY
Andrei Kozyrev, a former foreign affairs minister for Russia, said Friday that Sergey Lavrov, the Russian official who has been sanctioned by several countries in recent days for Russia's invasion of Ukraine, "used to have" his back, but he doesn't believe that would be the case now. Above, Lavrov looks on as he gives an annual news conference on Russian diplomacy in Moscow on January 14. Dimitar DILKOFF / AFP/Getty Images