No 'great tragedy' if Russia expelled from G8: Lavrov

THE HAGUE (AFP) - Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Monday he saw no "great tragedy" if Moscow was expelled from the Group of Eight (G8) club of leading nations for its annexation of Ukraine's Crimea peninsula.

"If our Western partners think that this format has outlived itself, then so be it. At the very least, we are not trying to hold on to this format, and we see no great tragedy if it (the G8) does not meet," Mr Lavrov told reporters after holding separate talks with both US Secretary of State John Kerry and Ukraine's interim Foreign Minister Andriy Deshchytsya.

As Mr Lavrov was speaking, G7 leaders - the United States, Japan, Germany, Italy, France, Canada and Britain - were meeting nearby to decide whether to inflict further punishment on Moscow for its actions on Crimea.

British Prime Minister David Cameron said earlier it was "absolutely clear" that a planned meeting of the G8 hosted by Russia would not go ahead, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the "political conditions" were not in place for such a gathering.

However, Mr Lavrov was defiant, insisting that Crimea had "a right to self-determination".

Russia's takeover of the region was not "malicious intent", said Mr Lavrov, but was to "protect the Russians who have been living there for hundreds of years".

"We trusted our Western partners for a long time. We have an idea of the value of the promises of our Western partners," the minister added.

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