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US, NATO directly involved in Ukraine war: Russia’s Lavrov

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Russia has accused the West of becoming directly involved in the Ukraine war. (Illustrative photo)

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has accused the West of becoming directly involved in the Ukraine war by supplying the country with weapons and training its soldiers.

“You shouldn’t say that the US and NATO aren’t taking part in this war. You are directly participating in it,” Lavrov said during a press briefing on Thursday. “And not just by providing weapons but also by training personnel. You are training their military on your territory, on the territories of Britain, Germany, Italy and other countries.”

Lavrov accused the US and its NATO allies of trampling on international law while trying to isolate and destroy Russia. He said the ongoing Russian strikes were intended to weaken Ukraine’s military potential and derail the shipments of Western weapons.

The foreign minister said Russian attacks were intended to “knock out energy facilities that allow you to keep pumping deadly weapons into Ukraine in order to kill the Russians.” Lavrov said Moscow remains open for talks on ending the conflict.

“We never asked for talks but always said that we are ready to listen to those who are interested in a negotiated settlement.”

Commenting on Russia’s decision to postpone a round of nuclear arms control talks with the United States that was scheduled for this week, Lavrov said, “It’s impossible to discuss strategic stability nowadays while ignoring everything that is happening in Ukraine.”

“The goal has been announced to defeat Russia on the battlefield or even destroy Russia,” he said. “How can the goal of defeating Russia not bear significance for strategic stability, considering that they want to destroy a key strategic stability actor?”

“The infrastructure that is targeted by those attacks is used to ensure the combat potential of the Ukrainian armed forces and the nationalist battalions,” Lavrov said.

Lavrov also accused the West of missing the chance to make the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) a real bridge with Russia after the Cold War.

At a news conference on Thursday, Lavrov said the "reckless enlargement" of NATO had devalued the basic principles of the OSCE, which currently has 57 member states, including NATO countries and allies of Moscow. “The West is doing exactly what the OSCE was created to counter – it is creating dividing lines.”

Poland is hosting the 2022 ministerial conference as it currently holds the rotating chairmanship of the OSCE. 

Lavrov said Russia’s “Polish neighbors have been diligently digging the grave for this organization all year, destroying the remnants of the culture of consensus.”

The OSCE was founded in 1975 – at the height of the Cold War – to foster relations between the Western and Eastern blocs.

Also on Thursday, the Kremlin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov strongly denounced the European Union's calls to hold a war crimes tribunal over Russia's military operation in Ukraine, saying any such tribunal would be illegitimate and unacceptable to Moscow. “As for attempts to establish some kind of tribunal: they will have no legitimacy, will not be accepted by us and we will condemn them.”

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Wednesday said the EU would try to set up a specialized court to investigate and prosecute possible war crimes committed by Russian forces in Ukraine. 

Separately, speaking at the beginning of the two-day ministerial conference in the central Polish city of Lodz on Thursday, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said he planned to discuss with his counterparts any available legal means to ensure Russia would pay for the reconstruction of Ukraine. He recalled that the EU has frozen Russian assets worth nearly 20 billion euros since the war began in late February.  

Western sanctions have also led to the freezing of 300 billion euros of the Central Bank of Russia’s foreign exchange reserves around the world. “These reserves are blocked. But from being blocked to being seized is a strong difference.”

“And there are legal procedures that have to be studied. But our proposal is on the table... Russia has to pay for the reconstruction of Ukraine.”

Russia says the operation in Ukraine has been in order to defend the pro-Russia population in the eastern Ukrainian regions of Luhansk and Donetsk against alleged persecution by Kiev. Ever since the war began, Kiev's allies, led by the United States and Britain, have been supplying Ukraine with weapons, a step that Russia says would prolong the conflict.

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