Russian FM accuses West of direct fighting in Ukraine

Westerners are "de facto fighting against us, using the hands and bodies of Ukrainians," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said

September 24, 2023 05:44 am | Updated 06:27 pm IST - United Nations, United States

Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov attends a press conference after addressing the 78th Session of the U.N. General Assembly in New York City, U.S. on September 23, 2023.

Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov attends a press conference after addressing the 78th Session of the U.N. General Assembly in New York City, U.S. on September 23, 2023. | Photo Credit: Reuters

Western powers through their support to Ukraine have effectively entered direct fighting against Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on September 23.

"You can call it anything you want, but they are fighting with us, they are straight-up fighting with us. We call it a hybrid war, but that doesn't change things," Mr. Lavrov told a news conference at the United Nations.

U.S. President Joe Biden has repeatedly said he is seeking to avoid a direct confrontation with Russia, a fellow nuclear power, and will not send American troops. His administration has also distanced itself from Ukrainian attacks into Russia itself.

But Mr. Lavrov pointed to the billions of dollars in Western military equipment provided to Kyiv since Russia attacked last year, as well as U.S. and British intelligence support and the presence of Western military advisors.

Westerners are "de facto fighting against us, using the hands and bodies of Ukrainians," Mr. Lavrov said.

"I think everybody present here who pays at least some attention to... the situation in Ukraine knows very well that Americans, Britons and others are fighting, first of all, through providing more and more weapons," he said.

He also pointed to the presence in Ukraine of Western mercenaries. The United States and several other Western governments say that they discourage citizens from traveling to Ukraine and that such fighters have gone on their own.

Mr. Lavrov was taking part in the annual United Nations General Assembly, where all eyes were on Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who flew to New York to appeal for greater support against the invasion.

Mr. Zelenskyy on Wednesday addressed a special Security Council session, in which he demanded that Russia be stripped of its veto. Lavrov showed up well after the Ukrainian president had spoken.

"I watched it on TV. He seemed rather grim," Mr. Lavrov said.

"But I have my own affairs to attend to. We all knew what he was going to say, so why waste time?"

Mr. Zelenskyy has promoted a 10-point blueprint for ending the war that would include a complete Russian withdrawal from Ukrainian territory — including Crimea, which Moscow seized in 2014 — and a special tribunal for accountability on war crimes.

Mr. Lavrov scoffed at Mr. Zelenskyy's plan and denounced the United States and European Union for backing it.

"It is not realistic and everybody understands this, but at the same time they say this is the only basis for negotiations," Mr. Lavrov said.

"We draw our conclusion that nobody wants to seriously show an understanding of what is happening," he said.

On ending the conflict, "under these circumstances, if they say it's on the battlefield, then fine, it'll be on the battlefield."

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