MOSCOW (Dispatches) —
Russia’s foreign minister accused the West on Thursday of becoming directly involved in the conflict in Ukraine by supplying the country with weapons and training its soldiers.
Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov also said that Russian missile strikes on Ukrainian energy facilities and other key infrastructure were intended to weaken Ukraine’s military potential and derail the shipments of Western weapons.
“You shouldn’t say that the U.S. and NATO aren’t taking part in this war. You are directly participating in it,” Lavrov said in a video call with reporters. “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.”
He said the barrages of missiles, drones and artillery fire that have left millions of Ukrainians without power, heating and water was intended to “knock out energy facilities that allow you to keep pumping deadly weapons into Ukraine in order to kill the Russians.”
“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.
Asked how the strikes on infrastructure in Kherson and other areas comply with Moscow’s stated goal of protecting Ukraine’s Russian-speaking population, Lavrov responded by drawing parallels with the Battle of Stalingrad during World War II.
“The city of Stalingrad also was part of our territory, and we beat the Germans to make them flee,” he said.
Lavrov insisted that 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,” he said.
The Kremlin has urged Ukraine to acknowledge Crimea, which Moscow annexed from Ukraine in 2014, as part of Russia and to recognize other land gains that Russia has made since sending its troops
into Ukraine on Feb. 24. It also has pushed for guarantees that Ukraine wouldn’t join NATO, along with vaguely formulated “demilitarization” and “denazification” goals.
Asked if a meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Joe Biden was possible, Lavrov replied that “we don’t shun contacts” but added that “we haven’t yet heard any serious ideas yet.”
Russia said Friday that Western demands it should pull out completely from Ukraine as part of any future talks to end the war effectively rule out any such negotiations, as Russian strikes continued.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov reiterated that Russian President Vladimir Putin remains open to talks but the Western demand that Moscow first withdraws its troops from Ukraine is unacceptable.
Peskov’s comments came as Putin spoke on the phone Friday morning with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz. Scholz’s office said he made clear to Putin “that there must be a diplomatic solution as quickly as possible, which includes a withdrawal of Russian troops.”
On Thursday, U.S. President Joe Biden also indicated he would be willing to talk with Putin if he demonstrated that he seriously wanted to end the war and pull out of Ukraine.
A statement issued by the Kremlin after the phone call with Scholz said Putin again blamed the West for encouraging Ukraine to prolong the war by supplying it with weapons.