Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s interview with online newspaper, July 13, 2023…

Министерство иностранных дел Российской ФедерацииМинистерство иностранных дел Российской Федерации

№ 1396-12-07-2023
13.07.2023 00:15

Question: In recent months, several peace initiatives on Ukraine have appeared at once: Chinese, Indonesian, Vatican and African. To what extent have you had the opportunity to examine the content of each of them? Which is closer to Russia’s vision? Don’t you find such initiatives premature, given that they all involve a ceasefire?

Sergey Lavrov: Above all, I would like to express my gratitude to our partners for their efforts to search for ways to settle the Ukrainian crisis peacefully.

We do not find their initiatives premature: for the Russian side, peace always has priority over combat. So, let me remind you that we already participated in a negotiation process with Kiev, in the spring of 2022, and came close to a positive outcome. However, all efforts were undermined by the Anglo-Saxons, whose plans clearly did not include the cessation of hostilities. They have remained obsessed with the manic idea of inflicting a strategic defeat on Russia.

Of course, we have meticulously studied all the peace initiatives we have received. We have held special consultations with several of our partners and discussed their ideas in detail. In mid-June, President Vladimir Putin received heads of several African states in St Petersburg. In late May, we had a very trust-based and warm meeting with Chinese Special Representative for Eurasian Affairs, Head of the Chinese delegation on Ukrainian crisis settlement Li Hui in Moscow. We had a substantive discussion with Chief Advisor of the Presidency of Brazil on International Affairs Celso Amorim, who visited Russia in late March.

We agree with many of our partners’ proposals, such as complying with the international law and the UN Charter, abandoning the Cold War mentality, resolving the humanitarian crisis, ensuring the safety of nuclear power plants, ending unilateral sanctions, and refusing to use the world economy for political purposes.

At the same time, we have to admit that Vladimir Zelensky’s Western curators completely refuse any form of de-escalation. The Kiev regime has directly and immediately rejected the possibility of talks on peace initiatives proposed by China, Brazil and African countries. Advisor to the Head of the Office of the President of Ukraine Mikhail Podolyak said that “talks would be meaningless, dangerous and deadly for Ukraine and Europe.”

Kiev did not find anything better to do than to beg for evidence of “reliability” from those who would like to become a mediator in the negotiation process. In particular, Defence Minister Aleksandr Reznikov demanded that China persuade Russia to withdraw its troops from Ukraine. Otherwise, contacts with Chinese negotiators would be a waste of time in the view of the Kiev politician.

Question: It was reported following the failed mutiny by Yevgeny Prigozhin that the G7 countries, Brazil, India, China, Türkiye and South Africa held a secret meeting in Copenhagen to discuss the possibility of launching peace talks on Ukraine in July 2023. Have you received any indication of this from Russia’s partners that attended that meeting, and do you share their forecast? If such talks are held, which provisions of the Istanbul document would Moscow support, and on which of them has its position changed?

Sergey Lavrov: We have not received any indication of this. There are reasons to assume that this is fake news, considering the persistent intention of Kiev and its Western handlers to escalate the hostilities. We have pointed out on numerous occasions that Russia has never rejected dialogue as a political method of attaining the goals of the special military operation.

As for our views on a potential settlement, we clearly outlined its goals even before we launched the special military operation. They include the defence of the people of Donbass, the demilitarisation and de-Nazification of Ukraine, and the removal of threats coming from its territory.

During our talks with Kiev held at its initiative in February-April 2022, an understanding was reached that Ukraine should resume its neutral non-aligned status, refuse to join NATO and reaffirm its nuclear-free status.

Another provision stipulated the recognition of the new territorial reality following the free expression of the will of residents of the Donbass people’s republics and the Kherson and Zaporozhye regions in favour of political integration with Russia. Also, the Kiev authorities must guarantee the rights of Russian speakers and ethnic minorities in Ukraine, including the official status of the Russian language.

As for the reported meeting in Copenhagen, its main goal was to try to convince representatives of the Global South to give a degree of support to Zelensky’s “peace formula,” which is absolutely unacceptable and has no future, as we openly told our partners in Asia, Africa and Latin America.

Because the conflict, which originates in the 2014 coup d’etat in Ukraine, has a geopolitical dimension, its settlement must include security guarantees on Russia’s western border. I would like to remind you that this is the essence of the initiative which President Vladimir Putin advanced in December 2021. The West represented by the United States and NATO contemptuously rejected it.

Our position has not changed radically. We are open to dialogue, but we will be guided by our legitimate interests, and our stand on a possible settlement will be adjusted in accordance with the situation on the ground.

Question: What do you think of Ukraine’s involving the International Criminal Court in the investigation of the Kakhovka hydropower plant dam breach? What other international organisations should have been involved and why? How do you assess the response of international humanitarian organisations to the incident?

Sergey Lavrov: We have no doubt that Kiev was responsible for blowing up the Kakhovka hydroelectric power station. It appears that the Kiev regime is asking the so-called International Criminal Court to investigate a crime that it itself committed. This has probably never happened before in the history of this “pseudo-court.”

We warned the UN Security Council about the plans of the Ukrainian neo-Nazis to destroy the dam back in October last year. At that time, we asked Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to do everything possible to prevent this criminal scenario. The lack of response on the part of the United Nations Secretariat has reinforced the confidence of the Ukrainian authorities that they will get away with it.

As for the response of international humanitarian organisations to what happened, just as in the case of the sabotage of the Togliatti-Odessa ammonia pipeline and the terrorist act against the Nord Streams, no principled assessments were heard from them. UN agencies limit their role to ostensible attempts to deliver humanitarian aid to the needy across the line of combat contact. They know that this is unrealistic in the context of the military operation, but they are still trying to fulfil the political order of the West and the Kiev regime.

Question: There are different opinions regarding the use of nuclear weapons by Russia. What is your general view on the possibility of using or not using nuclear weapons in the Ukrainian conflict?

Sergey Lavrov: We have repeatedly spoken out on this topic. I would even say that it has exhausted itself unless the West takes actions that again and again force us to point out the strategic risks posed by aggressive anti-Russian policy.

The conditions for Russia’s use of nuclear weapons are clearly defined in our Military Doctrine. They are well known, and I will not repeat them once again.

At the same time, I would like to draw attention to the fact that the United States and its NATO satellites are creating risks of a direct armed clash with Russia, and this is fraught with catastrophic consequences.

Just one example of an extremely dangerous turn of events is the United States plans to transfer F-16 fighter jets to the Kiev regime. We have informed the nuclear powers, the United States, Britain and France, that Russia cannot ignore the ability of these aircraft to carry nuclear weapons. No amount of assurances will help here. In the course of combat operations, our servicemen are not going to sort out whether each particular aircraft of this type is equipped to deliver nuclear weapons or not. We will regard the very fact that the Ukrainian armed forces have such systems as a threat from the West in the nuclear sphere.

Question: What are the tasks of the 2nd Russia-Africa Summit, scheduled for late July 2023? How fair is it to say that Russia is turning towards Africa? What will this mean for the Russian diplomatic service? For example, will Russia expand the network of its embassies on the continent?

Sergey Lavrov: Strong bonds of friendship have always linked Russia and Africa. For decades, they have successfully withstood an endurance test. We attach great significance to expanded Russia-Africa collaboration. The Russian Foreign Policy Concept, approved by the President of Russia in late March, formalises this aspect.

We view expanding the diverse ties with our African friends as an integral part of our common efforts to expand cooperation with the Global South.

I am confident that the Russia-Africa Summit in St Petersburg will play an important role in building strategic partnership with the continent’s countries in the next few years.

Russia is ready to help strengthen the sovereignty of African states and all their security dimensions in every possible way. This is the key idea of the upcoming meeting. There are plans to pass a declaration of leaders and an action plan dealing with high-priority political, economic, cultural and humanitarian cooperation in 2023-2026. We are set to approve specific documents in the field of international information security, counter-terrorism operations and preventing the deployment of weapons in outer space.

Following the 1st Russia-Africa Summit in Sochi in 2019, the national leadership adopted decisions on expanding our diplomatic presence in Africa. The Foreign Ministry is working to open new embassies in a number of African countries. We will disclose their locations after coordinating everything with the authorities of receiving states and completing essential legal proceedings.

Question: How have Russian foreign policy priorities changed in the past 18 months? Is it possible to say that we have passed a point of no return in our relations with Western countries? If yes, when did this happen? How do you interpret the Foreign Policy Concept’s definition of Russia as a civilisation-state in this context?

Sergey Lavrov: When the special military operation began, the United States and other NATO and EU countries stepped up their proxy war against Russia. In fact, they had launched that war in 2014. Doubtless, aggressive steps by unfriendly states create an existential threat for Russia. We will have to uphold our right to free and sovereign development using all available means.

It is also obvious that there will be no return to our former relations with unfriendly countries. If they decide to renounce their anti-Russia line all of a sudden, then we will see what exactly this means, and we will decide on our subsequent line, while relying on our interests. This concerns the collective West.

Regarding the Global East and South where about 85 percent of our planet’s population live, these countries did not join the anti-Russian sanctions, and they are interested in expanding practical collaboration. Constructive partners include EAEU, CSTO, CIS, SCO and BRICS states. We are launching purposeful work with all of them in the interests of joint development; this work stipulates various cooperation formats.

We realise that a stronger multipolar world is a reality, rather than someone’s whim. The updated Foreign Policy Concept proclaims Russia’s civilisational mission as a world power that plays a stabilising role in international affairs. In reality, this means that Russia will not merge with geopolitical and geo-economic structures where it is unable to defend its interests. We intend to team up with our friends and supporters and to facilitate the creation of a more equitable world order based on the goals and principles of the UN Charter in their entirety and interdependence and the principle of the sovereign equality of states, first and foremost.