The West and its allies have provoked Russia’s actions in Ukraine, and not vice versa, said Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, using a familiar justification for Moscow’s invasion.
“The more they [the West and allies] talk about unprovoked aggression, the more everybody is convinced it was provoked by them,” Lavrov told reporters on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Bali on Tuesday.
“And it is not aggression, it is [an] operation to defend the legitimate interests of Russian security because of threats on Russia’s borders and to defend the Russian population in Donbas,” he added, using one of the Kremlin’s common propaganda lines.
Lavrov also accused NATO and the European Union of interfering in the war in Ukraine.
“I believe NATO and the European Union have long been participants in a hybrid war in Ukraine, hybrid conflict with their arms supplies and training servicemen, and helping with a large amount of intelligence, helping with targeting,” he said.
Despite speaking out against the West, Lavrov also told reporters that he had spoken to France’s President Emmanuel Macron, claiming that the French leader told Lavrov he wanted to keep talking to the Russian president.
“I spoke to President Macron and he confirmed his intention to continue contacts with President (Vladimir) Putin, to look for agreements that will allow a settlement to the situation,” said Lavrov.
“I reminded him, as I said, that all the problems are on the Ukrainian side, because of their categorical refusal of any negotiations,” he added. “They are putting forward conditions that are clearly unrealistic and inconsistent with the situation.”
In October, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky signed a decree formally ruling out the possibility of negotiations with Putin. It was dated the day that Putin announced he would annex Kherson, Zaporizhzhia and the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics — in violation of international law.
Last week, however, Zelensky told CNN’s Chief International Anchor Christiane Amanpour he had not completely ruled out peace negotiations with his counterpart in Moscow.
“I haven’t closed the door. I said we would be ready to talk to Russia — but with a different Russia. One that is truly ready for peace. One that is ready to recognize that they are occupiers … They need to return everything. Land, rights, freedom, money. And most importantly, justice.
“And so far, I haven’t heard statements like that from the Russian Federation — either from Putin or from anyone else.”