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Iranian press review: Russian diplomat warns Tehran 'not to be tricked by the West'

Meanwhile, Iran sees major increase in oil exports, and experts warn of environmental crisis over upcoming holiday travel
Iranians and Ukrainian nationals rally in front of the Ukraine embassy in Tehran, on 26 February 2022, to show support for Kyiv and protest the Russian invasion (AFP)

Russia blames West

The Russian ambassador to Iran, in a rare interview with an Iranian publication, said that Russia was forced into carrying out a “military operation” in Ukraine in self-defence and blamed the current crisis on an “American conspiracy”.

Speaking with the Etemaad Daily, Levan Dzhagaryan refused to describe his country’s attack on Ukraine as an “invasion” and claimed that Russian President Vladimir Putin had ordered the “special military operation” to “protect Russians against the Nazis hiding in Ukraine”.

Moscow calls its opponents in Ukraine “Nazis”.

'Mr Putin emphasised that it could be said that Ukraine was, in fact, a country named Vladimir Ilych Lenin, and that Lenin was the architect and founder of Ukraine. Ukraine did not exist at all and is a fictitious country'

- Levan Dzhagaryan, Russian ambassador

"We are not scared. We will destroy all of them," the daily quoted Dzhagaryan’s response to a question about Moscow’s “fear of Nazis".

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"We are not scared of anyone. We are an atomic power. We hate Nazis and we will uproot them until the end," said the Russian diplomat.

Dzhagaryan, who served in Iran as an ambassador for over 10 years, drew a parallel between Russia's invasion of Ukraine and the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s, saying Russia even has the same slogan that Iran had during its war. 

"War, war, until the victory" was the Iranian soldiers’ most well-known slogan during the bloody eight-year war, from 1980-1988, which started after Iraq invaded Iran’s oil-rich Khuzestan province.

As talks continue in Vienna to revive the Iran nuclear deal, Dzhagaryan warned Tehran not to be “tricked” by western powers, claiming the West was trying to break up the Islamic Republic’s alliance with Moscow.

"[Western powers] directed a new play to make a gap between Iran, Russia, Syria and Venezuela. But one must not be tricked by them. It is not only about the Iranians, it is also a reality for us," Dzhagaryan said.

"We were once tricked by them. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, they said that Nato would not have any expansion toward the east… but what have they done? It's not possible to trust them," he added.

Since the beginning of the war in Ukraine on 24 February, the Russian embassy in Tehran has dramatically increased its propaganda activities. It has urged Iranian news agencies to refrain from calling the invasion of Ukraine a "military attack" but rather a "special military operation”.

In the interview with Etemaad Daily, Dzhagaryan reiterated that President Putin believed Ukraine was a “fictitious country” founded by Vladimir Lenin, leader of the former USSR.

“Donbass previously belonged to Russia and was forcibly annexed by Ukraine. The Russians live there, and so Mr Putin emphasised that it could be said that Ukraine was, in fact, a country named Vladimir Ivitch Lenin, and that Lenin was the architect and founder of Ukraine. Ukraine did not exist at all and is a fictitious country.”

Asked if any country could violate the territorial integrity of another UN member state to assume a historic claim, Dzhagaryan said Russia had “no other choice in the matter” and put the blame squarely on the West.

“I repeat once again that we were not in favour of war. We were forced, and this was an American conspiracy. Those who boycotted Russia were looking for excuses. 

“If it were not for Ukraine, they would have found another excuse, because Russia is a large and independent country and they should like to weaken Russia. They cannot tolerate countries that are not under their control - like the Islamic Republic of Iran, China and Russia.”

Iran sees increase in oil exports

Iran's oil exports have seen a sharp increase in recent months, reaching over 1.5 million barrels per day despite US sanctions on its oil and petrochemical products exports and its banking system, officials said.

According to local media, Iran's income from oil exports during the first 11 months of the current Iranian year (ending on 20 March) increased nearly 10 times compared to the same period last year.

The news comes nearly a year after the administration of US President Joe Biden removed some sanctions on Iran's energy sector in June 2021.

On Saturday, Iran's oil minister Javad Oji told Iran Daily that the growth in oil and gas exports was achieved through the adaptation of “new contract formulas” for oil sales and the targeting of new customers.

"The increase in oil exports did not happen because of the lifting of sanctions against Iran… By utilising all potentials in the oil ministry, we have gradually increased the exports of crude oil and gas condensate," the daily quoted Oji as saying.

Oji also accused the US of resorting to the seizure of tankers transporting Iranian oil and fuel as a tactic to maintain its "maximum pressure” campaign that began during former president Donald Trump’s administration.

"When the enemy realised it could not halt our exports and ban our contracts, it started to seize our ships," Oji told the daily.

Since 2019, the US has confiscated several cargo ships carrying oil and fuel exports from Iran.   

Environmental concerns rise 

Iran risks seeing a "tsunami of environmental destruction" during its upcoming new year holiday due to a lack of binding legal measures, experts and environmentalists have warned.

When the Iranian new year begins on 21 March, the first day of spring, Iranians will be able to travel freely for the first time after two years of coronavirus-related restrictions on domestic tourism.

This freedom of movement has worried environmentalists in the country, according to Arman Daily.

"Environmental experts are concerned about [domestic] tourists flooding into [natural environments] and travelling between cities," the daily wrote.

According to the experts interviewed, a lack of adequate legal and regulatory frameworks is a primary cause of the environmental destruction perpetrated by the government, private firms and ordinary people.

There is also no meaningful punishment for those who cause environmental damage.

Iranian lawyer Gholam Ali Riahee gave the example of planting a new tree after cutting one down.

"These kinds of penalties are just fanciful, with no deterrence," Riahee told the daily.

Esmaeil Kahrom, a prominent environmentalist and academic, told the daily that ecological destruction does not come as a surprise when officials themselves don’t follow the rules.

"The main problem is a governing system that does not comply with laws and regulations," the daily quoted Kahrom as saying.

"In response [to the government's action], people's reaction appears in the form of being indifferent about the environment," he said.

*The Iranian press review is a digest of reports that are not independently verified as accurate by Middle East Eye.

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