Russia does not consider Hezbollah to be a terrorist organization, according to Moscow’s deputy foreign minister, Mikhail Bogdanov.
The official was quoted Sunday by the Interfax news agency as he explained that Russia maintains ties with the group.
“Some say Hezbollah is a terrorist organization,” Bogdanov said. “We maintain contacts and relations with them because we do not consider them a terrorist organization.
“They have never committed any terrorist acts on Russian soil. Hezbollah was elected by Lebanese citizens to the Lebanese parliament. There are cabinet members and ministers from Hezbollah in Lebanon. It is a legitimate sociopolitical force.”
The remarks emerged during discussions on Saturday between nations discussing which groups fighting the Syrian civil war should be defined as terrorists or not. The question arose and to which groups should be invited to negotiate for a political settlement, but differences remain between the views of Moscow and Washington.
Participants at the talks on Syria, held in Vienna, appointed Jordan as coordinator of efforts to compile a list of terrorist groups. Although both the United States and the European Union have designated Hezbollah as a terrorist organization — as has Israel — Russia does not.
The unwillingness of Russia to acknowledge Hezbollah’s terrorist status is likely to impact any international effort to address the group’s terrorist activities and attacks on Israel or anywhere else.
Hezbollah has also in the past been reportedly involved in drug sales operations that cross Israel’s northern border and elsewhere in the world as well.