Los Angeles: Russia, which cherishes its ties with Orthodox communities throughout the Arab world, seems to have turned its back on Michel Aoun, and by extension, Hezbollah, in Lebanon.
Aoun, the head of Lebanon’s Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) and the unrelenting candidate for Lebanon’s presidency is not a consensual candidate, according to Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov.
According to a report in Lebanon’s Al Akhbar newspaper, the Russian diplomat advised Aoun to allow other Maronite candidates to run. Russia is a close ally of the March 8 alliance, which includes Hezbollah and other pro-Syrian political groups.
Infuriated by Bogdanov’s statements, Aoun told the Al Jumhuriyyah daily that he would call his supporters to mobilise street protests.
“I will not accept a repeat of Syrian [hegenomy] and I will not allow a puppet president to be elected,” he said, glossing over his chequered past with Damascus.
Aoun repeated his anti-corruption mantra, even though few Lebanese politicians boast transparent records.
The FPM leader’s insistence on running for president baffles many in Lebanon as he has repeatedly failed to win a majority of votes in parliament.
Bogdanov’s comments come as a real surprise to the Iranian-backed March 8 alliance who consistently counted on Russian support in the past.
The deputy foreign minister said that Moscow stood at an equal distance from all political parties in Lebanon.
In May, a meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and the March 14 leader, former prime minister Sa’ad Hariri, sparked a heated exchange between Bogdanov and the Iranian deputy foreign minister Hussain Amir Abdollahian.
Pro-Hezbollah daily Al Akhbar quoted Bogdanov as telling Abdollahian that holding on to hopes of candidacy was ‘ineffective’ and would prolong a vacuum of the presidency that would have negative repercussions on Lebanon’s stability and the interests of its Christian population.