In South Africa on Monday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said the conflict in Ukraine is no longer a “hybrid war” between Russia and the West but is turning into a “real war.”
At a press conference with his South African counterpart, Lavrov said the Western had been preparing a “war” against Russia for a long time. He claimed the goal was “to destroy everything Russian, from language to culture, that has been in Ukraine for centuries and to prohibit people from speaking their mother tongue.”
Lavrov and other Russian officials have repeatedly made clear that they believe they are not just fighting Ukrainian forces but also the US and NATO. Ukrainian officials have also reflected this view, with Ukraine’s defense minister recently saying Ukrainians are “shedding blood” for a “NATO mission.”
Lavrov on Monday also blamed the US and its allies for the failure of peace talks that were held between Kyiv and Moscow at the beginning of the war. “It is well known that we supported the proposal of the Ukrainian side to negotiate early in the special military operation and by the end of March, the two delegations agreed on the principle to settle this conflict,” Lavrov said.
Russian and Ukrainian officials met in Istanbul in March 2022 and followed up with virtual talks. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson visited Kyiv shortly after the Istanbul talks and urged President Volodymyr Zelensky not to negotiate with Russia.
According to a report in the Ukrainian newspaper Ukrainska Pravda, Johnson also said even if Kyiv was ready to sign a deal, its Western backers were not. The report said that Johnson’s visit was a factor in the negotiations ultimately failing.
“It is well known and was published openly that our American, British, and some European colleagues told Ukraine that it is too early to deal, and the arrangement which was almost agreed was never revisited by the Kyiv regime,” Lavrov said.
As things stand today, the chances of peace talks are highly unlikely as Ukraine is demanding a Russian withdrawal and war crimes tribunals before negotiations can even happen. For their part, Russian officials insist they’re open to talks but say any deal must recognize the territories Vladimir Putin annexed as Russian territory.