Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has warned that the conflict in Ukraine risks escalating into World War III and that NATO is “in essence” fighting a proxy war with Moscow by supplying arms to Kyiv.
In a wide-ranging interview broadcast on state television on Monday, Lavrov said that the risk of nuclear conflict should not be underestimated and that the essence of any agreement to end the conflict in Ukraine would largely depend on the military situation on the ground.
The interview was broadcast hours after US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin visited Kyiv and promised more military assistance to Ukraine. Austin said the United States wanted to see Russia “weakened” and vowed to arm Ukraine to help it beat Moscow.
This week, the United States is also set to host a meeting of more than 40 countries for defense talks related to Ukraine that will focus on more arms shipments.
During an interview on Monday, Lavrov was asked about the importance of avoiding World War III and whether the current situation could be compared to the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, a low point in US-Soviet relations.
Lavrov said Russia is doing a lot to support the principle of striving to prevent nuclear war at any cost.
“This is our main position on which we build everything. The stakes are now high,” Lavrov said.
I don’t want to artificially increase these risks. Many would like it. The danger is serious and real. We must not underestimate him.”
Russia’s two-month invasion of Ukraine, the largest attack on a European country since 1945, left thousands dead or wounded, reduced towns and cities to rubble, and forced more than 5 million people to flee abroad.
Moscow describes its actions as a “special military operation” to disarm Ukraine and protect it from the Nazis. Kyiv and the West say this is a false excuse for Russian President Vladimir Putin to launch an unjustified war of aggression against a sovereign country. The Russian leader also early in the war put nuclear deterrent forces on high alert, citing “aggressive statements” from the West.
Lavrov defended Moscow’s actions, blaming Washington for the lack of dialogue.
“The United States practically stopped all communications just because we had to defend the Russians in Ukraine,” Lavrov claimed, repeating the rationale for Moscow’s invasion of its southern neighbor.
But he said Western supplies of advanced weaponry, including Javelin anti-tank missiles, armored vehicles and advanced drones, were provocative measures aimed at prolonging rather than ending the conflict.
“These weapons will be a legitimate target of the Russian army in the context of the special operation,” Lavrov said.
Storage facilities in western Ukraine have been targeted more than once [by Russian forces]. How could it be otherwise?” He added. “NATO is, in essence, engaged in a war with Russia through a proxy and it is arming that proxy. War means war.”
He said that the Kyiv authorities were not negotiating in good faith and that President Volodymyr Zelensky, a former representative, was like British Prime Minister Boris Johnson playing in front of the audience rather than tackling the task at hand – the negotiations.
“They are somehow similar in their ability to play in the show. For example, they imitate negotiations, said Lavrov.
However, he said that Moscow will continue to talk with the Ukrainian negotiating team.
“As in any case where armed forces are used, of course, everything will end with a treaty, but the parameters of that treaty will be determined by the stage of military actions at which that treaty becomes a reality.”
Lavrov’s comments came after reports that Putin had written off any possibility of signing an agreement with Ukraine after the sinking of the “Moskva”, the flagship of the Black Sea Fleet.
The Financial Times quoted three people who had seen conversations with the Russian president, mentioned Earlier on Monday, Putin now appeared determined to seize as much Ukrainian territory as possible.
“He needs to find a way out of this victorious,” one person said. But “after Moskva, he did not seem to be a winner, because he was humiliated.”
The sinking of the Moskva River follows Russia’s decision to withdraw from northern Ukraine and abandon plans to capture the capital, its stated goal when it launched the invasion on February 24.
Moscow now says its goal is to capture Donbass, the Russian-speaking industrial region in eastern Ukraine. While both sides say the campaign in the east is underway, Russia has yet to launch an all-out ground offensive nor have it made any significant breakthroughs.
Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said late on Monday that Lavrov’s warnings of a nuclear conflict “mean that Moscow feels defeated” and urged the West to continue supporting Kyiv.
Russia is losing the last hope to frighten the world from supporting Ukraine. Thus the talk speaks of the “real” danger of World War III. This only means that Moscow feels defeated in Ukraine. Therefore, the world must redouble its support for Ukraine so that we can win and protect European and global security.
– DmytroKuleba 25 April 2022
“Russia is losing the last hope of intimidating the world from supporting Ukraine,” Kuleba wrote on Twitter.
“So talk of a ‘real’ danger of World War III. It only means that Moscow feels defeated in Ukraine. So the world must redouble its support for Ukraine so that we can win and protect European and global security.”
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