Photo: Russian MFA press-service
Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks at the embassy roundtable discussion of a settlement in Ukraine, Moscow, January 30, 2024:
Ladies and gentlemen,
We regularly communicate in this format on the topic that is now being pushed into the foreground of world politics. However, it does not always work out so well. Many other crises similar to the conflict in Ukraine are taking place. They are caused by the neo-colonialist policy of the United States and its satellites. They sidetrack attention from Ukraine. I believe we must continue and support in every way our tradition to meet in this format and discuss the ongoing developments regarding the Ukraine topic.
We attach special importance to this format and topic, our discussions, your questions and an opportunity to answer them, considering that to a large extent, the Ukraine crisis is a test for the emerging multipolar world order, for the global majority, which is coming to the realisation that exclusive reliance on the mechanisms of international relations created by the collective West has no prospects. The collective West is mercilessly exploiting these mechanisms for the sole purpose of continuing its neo-colonialist robbery and living at the expense of others.
We see how the United States and other Western countries are openly, shamelessly describing what they see in Ukraine. They view it as one of the tools of deterring Russia. Former NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, now a consultant or adviser for the Vladimir Zelensky team, said recently that the West viewed Ukraine as a “defensive wall” in front of Russia. According to this mindset, everything that is linked with Ukraine must be used to inflict a “strategic defeat” on Russia. This was the case (I recalled it before) during the Napoleonic wars when all of Europe was united under Napoleon’s banners for attacking our country. The same happened during World War II when Adolf Hitler subordinated virtually all European countries to his goal of attacking the Soviet Union. You know how it ended. The mindset has remained the same.
Today, the United States has united 54 countries into a camp that is pumping Ukraine full of weapons and sending various military specialists and experts to that country. They are helping with the targeting of long-range weapons. All this is being done to prevent Russia’s victory. They are saying outright that if Russia wins and upholds its interests in this war, the Baltic countries, Sweden and Finland will be next in line. US President Joe Biden said this. The absurdity of such statements is obvious to anyone who is even remotely familiar with history and the goals of our special military operation in Ukraine, which we declared openly, without hiding anything.
We are removing a historical injustice and countering the attempts not just to rewrite the history of the peoples of our country but to forget it forever and turn the current territories on which Russians and other people of Russia lived for centuries into a bridgehead that US-led NATO would use to threaten the security of the Russian Federation. I will repeat that nothing has changed. Napoleon, Hitler and now the United States have each found their way of attacking Russia.
In 1942, the Nazi criminal Reichskommissar Erich Koch, later sentenced at the Nuremberg Trials, wrote, “Ukraine is merely an object of exploitation for us. It should pay for the expenses of the war, and its population to a certain extent should be utilised as second-rate people for the tasks of the war, even if they have to be caught with a lasso.” Doesn’t this remind you of anything? It is with a lasso that Ukrainian men of any age are now being caught figuratively and literally to send them to the front for the sole purpose described by Reichskommissar Koch long ago – “its population should be used as second-rate people.”
At the previous meeting, we discussed that all this did not happen by accident or overnight. This was prepared for many years. To a large extent, this started in 2003, when the US-led West started already openly meddling in the political life of Ukraine. When presidential nominee Viktor Yanukovich, who wanted to improve relations with the Russian Federation, won the regular elections, the West forced the Constitutional Court of Ukraine to make an unconstitutional decision to hold a third round. The West resorted to fraud and underhanded games at which it had become quite good. It did all it could for the pro-Western nominee Viktor Yushchenko to eventually become the president. This started long ago.
In 2013, the European Union flatly refused to find a compromise in view of Ukraine’s desire to sign the EU Association Agreement and to consider at the same time Ukraine’s commitments to the CIS, including the free trade area. It would seem this was a natural and completely pragmatic issue. Ukraine wanted free trade with Europe. It was necessary to align things because Russia did not have free trade with Europe. We had serious protections for many industries of our economy. The Westerners categorically refused to listen. Instead of seeking an agreement in a grown-up and, I would say, decent way that reflected the interests of the EU’s Ukrainian and Russian economic mechanisms, they provoked the Maidan. It was followed by the anti-constitutional coup. You know what happened next: people in Eastern Ukraine and especially in Crimea did not accept the coup and were branded terrorists. They started a war against their own people. They shelled Eastern Ukraine that refused to recognise the coup with heavy weapons and used combat aviation to attack cities. The episodes of this period, including the death of almost 50 people who were burned alive in the House of Trade Unions in Odessa on May 2, 2014 are still horrifying but nobody is going to investigate them.
At that time, Russia said that the Western actions were unacceptable, in part, because they violated the Minsk Agreements designed to stop this bloody war unleashed by the putschists against their own people. The Minsk Agreements were endorsed by the UN Security Council and were crudely violated every year since 2015. In late 2021 – early 2022, the West started supplying Kiev with ammunition, anti-aircraft missile systems and other heavy weapons that were used against the residents of Donbass with growing intensity. This was the last straw, no more patience was possible.
For many years now, Russia and President Putin have been warning against the attempts to break the promise not to expand NATO to the east, making it clear that any attempt to draw Ukraine into the alliance will end tragically, and that common security guarantees need to be developed that will take into account the interests of Ukraine, Russia and the European countries and ensure the security of that country without it becoming a NATO member.
All of that was ignored, including the corresponding draft treaties that we officially transferred to the United States and NATO in December 2021. All of them were turned down. As I said earlier, they continued to rush weapons to the Kiev regime and, in late January and early February 2022, it intensified the shelling attacks against Donbass in defiance of the Minsk agreements. This is when the final decision on the special military operation was adopted and it will be carried through to the end.
I am certain that since you are working in Moscow, you are keeping a close eye on the assessments made by Russian leadership in connection with the developments in and around Ukraine.
Many problems are caused by the Nazi regime, its minions and patrons. There is enough hard evidence showing that not only mercenaries are fighting in Ukraine against the Russian army. Recently, dozens of French mercenaries were caught up in a targeted strike in Ukraine. However, there are also instructors who officially serve in the Western armed forces. There is no way to hide this just like the fact that offices on several floors of the Ukrainian Security Service building have been taken by the special services of the United States and the United Kingdom for at least a decade now. These are well-known facts.
There is one more side to it that the West is unwilling to admit. The fact is that the weapons supplied to Ukraine are spreading to various hot spots around the world and are being used by extremists and terrorists, among others.
Speaking about the West prioritising its goals, including from the perspective of its claims to perpetuate its global leadership (they refer to the United States as an indispensable nation), as well as from the point of view of its attempts to artificially perpetuate its dominance around the world where the balance of power has shifted dramatically towards the Global South and the Global East, or (as we now say) the Global Majority, there are robust statistics showing the West’s priorities. It is important to keep these in mind when the West is busy ingratiating itself with its partners on different continents and claiming that only it can take the country in question to a world of “happiness and prosperity.”
Here are the statistics. In less than two years, the West has allocated over $200 billion to Ukraine to support its military programme and to shore up the budget of this totally insolvent country. To put this in perspective, the EU has appropriated less than 80 billion euros to be disbursed within seven years to provide socioeconomic support for the Global South and the Global East. There is a difference. Of that amount, 29.1 billion euros will go to Africa, 8.5 billion euros to the Asia-Pacific region, and 3.4 billion euros to Latin America, which comes down to a little more than 10 billion euros a year. Compare that to 200 billion dollars in less than two years.
The United States is the main donor, followed by Germany, Britain, Denmark, Poland, Norway, the Netherlands and Sweden. The amounts that are sunk into Ukraine speak volumes. One can instantly see the importance of Project Ukraine staying on track for the West. They already know it’s failing, but cannot stop. Not only for reasons of preserving their status, which they believe is at stake and thus they cannot loose, but also in terms of economic gain.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken had literally the following to say on December 7, 2023, about supporting Ukraine as a lucrative investment in the US economy, “90 percent of the security assistance that we provided to Ukraine has been spent here in the United States, benefiting American businesses, workers, communities, strengthening our nation’s defence industrial base.” The US defence industry’s position in Europe has abruptly improved with over 60 percent of the weapons purchased by the EU countries coming from the United States.
Washington is forcing EU countries to send everything they have to Ukraine for next to nothing. The countries that do this are replenishing their arsenals with US-made weapons they buy at full price.
If we look at these actions from the viewpoint of international law or even EU law, the conclusions are noteworthy. There is the international Arms Trade Treaty, and there is a common EU position on the rules of military technology and equipment export control. A key provision of both is that the transfer of weapons and ammunition should not be authorised if there is reliable information indicating that they would be used in the commission of genocide, crimes against humanity, grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions, attacks directed against civilian objects, or other war crimes.
There is enough proof of these crimes committed by the Nazi regime in Kiev, including attacks on civilian facilities and the deployment of military units, heavy weapons and air defence systems in residential districts, which is strictly prohibited. I am sure that you saw the horrible footage of prisoners, blindfolded and with their arms and legs tied, being shot in the head. That footage was not provided by journalists; it was filmed by the butchers themselves, who had Nazi chevrons on their uniforms and identified themselves as “servicemen of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.” They themselves filmed the executions and posted them online. Nobody in the West has as much as lifted a finger to condemn those atrocities, let alone demand an investigation into them. There are enough facts of violations of the Arms Trade Treaty and the EU’s official position. Despite this, European countries are eagerly acting as directed in the initiatives put forth by the Anglo-Saxons and supported by the Baltic states and Poland and are forcing everyone else to follow that criminal course.
The documents I mentioned directly prohibit arms exports if they contribute to the development or aggravation of armed conflicts. Under EU rules, armaments should not be transferred to a hot war zone. Such provisions have also been approved at the OSCE, but the West is disregarding them. In fact, it is treating them with contempt.
Everyone has heard about the facts of grave breaches of all norms of international humanitarian law, namely, the Ukrainian missile strikes that openly, deliberately and purposefully targeted the residential districts of Belgorod on December 30, 2023, and the outdoor market and neighbouring shops in Donetsk on January 21, 2024. Over 50 people were killed and over 130 were wounded in these two terrorist attacks.
On January 24, 2024, Western weapons (as President Putin said, we are working to establish where they were made) were used to shoot down an Il-76 plane that was transporting Ukrainian prisoners for a swap. In total, 74 people were killed, including the prisoners, the crew and the Russian military convoy. Do you remember how the Ukrainian authorities reacted to this news? At first, they shouted hurray to the patriots. The Ukrainian parliament and government agencies posted statements saying that Ukraine had defeated the Russian aggressors again. But the tone changed immediately when it was reported that the plane was carrying 65 Ukrainian servicemen from captivity to their homeland. They started shouting in unison that it was a Russian provocation. Vladimir Zelensky, who they know as president, demanded an international investigation. Has it been launched? We are conducting our own investigation, but our actions are open to anyone who wants to establish the truth. As I said, Zelensky has called for an international investigation. What have his handlers done? Have they responded in any way to that call? They have not, and do you know why? They do not really like international investigations.
They do not care for them in the case of terrorist attacks on the Nord Stream gas pipelines. This incident happened a year and a half ago. It is clear to everyone who blew up the pipes and for what purpose. Europe and European companies are complaining that energy prices for them are at least four times higher than in the United States. Everyone can see who stood to gain from that terrorist attack. American liquefied natural gas is being delivered to Europe in large quantities, forcing European countries to pay much more than they did for reliable and cleaner Russian pipeline gas.
Vladimir Zelensky’s masters are not willing to investigate several major incidents which they used as a pretext for imposing more sanctions on us, all while guided by the “highly likely” motto. I am referring to developments without any direct links to Ukraine. We have not received a single answer to over 60 official requests we sent to London as per international conventions asking to show us a fact, even if only one, proving that Moscow was involved in poisoning the Skripals in Salisbury, as they have been saying.
We have yet to receive any document from the German government regarding the tests performed on Alexey Navalny after his suspected poisoning. They refuse to show us the results of these tests, saying that if they do, it would expose what the Bundeswehr knows about chemical weapons. Can you imagine that? This basically amounts to recognising that the Germans are doing something which runs counter to the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention which prohibits the development, production, acquisition, transfer, stockpiling and use of biological and toxin weapons and provides for their elimination. The Germans pretend that they transferred this information to the OPCW. We sent an inquiry there too only to be told that Germany said this information cannot be shared with Russia when it provided it to the OPCW. This is the way the Kiev regime’s masters have been treating international investigations, facts and the truth, which they have gone to great lengths to hide and are afraid that they could resurface.
Vladimir Zelensky’s call to carry out an international investigation into the January 24, 2024, terrorist attack against the Il-76 plane fell on deaf ears. This did not come as a surprise to me.
Weapons are spreading around the world. The Kiev regime has been famous for its efforts to seize every opportunity to make a profit, even if it deals in trading death. Weapons delivered to the Ukrainian regime by the West have surfaced not only in the Middle East and its conflict zones, but also in Finland, Sweden, Denmark, and the Netherlands, where illegal shipments have been identified. Weapons delivered to Ukraine have surfaced in the Gaza Strip.
The West has created a plethora of frameworks to toe its line against Russia rather than resolve the Ukraine crisis. It has been exploiting many countries in the Global South with their good manners. Whenever these counties get an invitation to attend a conference, they feel obliged to accept it. The Schuman Security and Defence Forum is one such platform. Created by the EU, it held its first gathering in March 2023 in Brussels. The European Union intends to keep using this format as part of its anti-Russia agenda by holding joint events with the countries of the Global South and East under its umbrella. On February 2, 2024, Brussels will be hosting the EU Indo-Pacific Ministerial Forum and the EU-ASEAN Ministerial Meeting.
I am certain that arms sales will feature prominently during these discussions. I would like to remind you in this context that apart from the international instruments I have mentioned, which ban arms deliveries to conflict zones and territories in crisis, where human rights violations or violations of international humanitarian law are taking place, there is also an exclusive business dimension here too. Legal, transparent and open arms sales require proper paperwork – there must be an end user certificate. Under these documents, those who receive weapons cannot resell them or send them anywhere without the consent of the supplying country. But we have seen a number of incidents when this restriction has not been respected. We have reached out to the countries who have been receiving prompts from the West to quickly hand over weapons to Ukraine without telling Russia, the original supplier. We will continue to insist that these international obligations be respected, like all other standards.
Apart from the Schuman Security and Defence Forum I mentioned, there are also the EU Indo-Pacific Ministerial Forum and the EU-ASEAN Ministerial Meeting. There is no doubt that they will offer an opportunity for promoting the solutions the West needs for preventing Ukraine’s defeat. But in reality, the West needs them to enable the Nazi regime to last a little longer in its agony. They are the ones who brought this regime to power in Kiev and continue backing it in violation of international law and contrary to the interests of the Ukrainian people.
The Copenhagen format, designed to hammer into the heads of people around the world the idea that there is no alternative to Vladimir Zelensky’s “peace formula”, is the main format advertised and promoted by the West, whose leaders are trying to inveigle everyone into it by cajoling, compliments, threats, or ultimatums. I am confident that officials in your countries are well aware of this “formula.” The West is displaying a truly maniacal obstinacy in courting the capitals of the Global Majority in an attempt to drag as many countries as possible under this “umbrella.” The latest meeting in this format was held on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, where it was proudly declared that “support is growing,” what with 84 countries and organisations taking part. Countries attending this roundtable sent their representatives to Copenhagen-format meetings, and they shared their impressions with us.
They say that this format is a road to nowhere, particularly due to West’s focus on and obsession with the idea that there is no alternative to the “Zelensky formula.” This document demands that Russia should “capitulate,” “repent,” “face a tribunal,” “pay everyone for something,” “limit itself by international obligation in types of weapons,” which it has the right to possess. and “agree to a buffer zone on its territory.” All of this is total gibberish.
At the same time, some of our colleagues say that it contains sections dealing with food, energy, physical and nuclear security. The West seeks to talk them into accepting something neutral, such as food security, and “overseeing” that section, if they don’t like the aggressive ultimatums. But even these “innocent” sections start with the claim that food security has been undermined by Russia’s “aggression” against Ukraine. As for energy security, it is in a crisis because allegedly Ukraine is the “target of a Russian aggression.” All our colleagues, including from your countries (but not only them), who told us about these gatherings, say that they make a point of emphasising at the moment of being invited that it is impossible to discuss the conflict’s endgame without Russia. But if this is impossible, why travel there?
Let me tell you a story. This was already announced. Last week, I went to New York to attend the UN Security Council meeting dedicated primarily to Palestine, which showed the collective West’s double standards and the lack of any justification for its actions in Ukraine, on the one hand, and in the Middle East, on the other. There was also a meeting on the Ukraine crisis. I had many meetings on the sidelines of these events at the UN headquarters, specifically with Ignazio Cassis, Head of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs of the Swiss Confederation, at his request. He said Switzerland would like to help find agreements. They are a traditionally neutral country and the host to the UN’s European headquarters. Switzerland has hosted numerous negotiations ever since the Cold War period and it always proved possible to find compromises. He asked proudly, if we had noticed him saying at a news conference following the Copenhagen-format meeting on Ukraine in Davos that the solution should be sought with Russia’s participation and that other options made no sense unless Moscow was involved. He said this in order to draw my attention to that fact. I asked him, why they hold all those “events,” if he understands this. No reply. It is certain that this is a propaganda move, to which the West gives much importance.
The West will again recruit by fair means or foul as many participants as possible to hold yet another meeting or some kind of a “peace summit.” This “peace summit” will approve the “Zelensky formula,” enabling them to claim that this is the “opinion of the international community” which Russia must obey. I think there is no need to explain that this is a road to nowhere. The funniest thing is how they treat the countries of Africa, Asia, and Latin America, which they are pressing to come to these gatherings in support of the “Zelensky peace formula.” Please note their peremptory tone: “there is no alternative to this formula.” No point in even discussing anything else!
Let me remind you of an initiative proposed by our friends from China, focused at the heart of the problem. One of its key points is the need to address the well-known causes of the current crisis. President of Russia Vladimir Putin and other Russian representatives have been speaking in great detail about these causes and how they have been created by the West for many years (almost ten years now).
Another proposal has been made by our friends from South Africa. A Contact Group of seven African leaders met with President of Russia Vladimir Putin in St Petersburg on the sidelines of the Russia-Africa summit in July 2023. Following the meeting, the parties adopted a communiqué on the humanitarian aspects of the current situation, including prisoner exchanges.
President of Brazil Lula has also promoted an initiative, also during contacts with the President of Russia.
All these countries were invited to the Copenhagen format, where they were told that Vladimir Zelensky's “peace formula” was the only way and that the Chinese, Brazilian, Indian or South African representatives were not there to promote their own ideas but only to create an appearance of massive support. I am being deliberately blunt about this. I think that was cynical and disrespectful toward the countries invited to those events. During the first and maybe second Copenhagen format meetings, they probably had some hopes that it was about dialogue. But there was no dialogue. Most countries realised this and stopped sending their representatives to such disrespectful events.
You can see how fervently the Anglo-Saxons are insisting that the Zelensky formula has no alternative. If this is the case, anyone who knows a little about the West will have no doubt that it was the West that wrote this Zelensky formula. Just as the British once divided their possessions into India and Pakistan. I won't go into this old story now, but nothing seems to have changed.
I know that all of you interact with Western countries. You want normal relations with all states. We also want everyone to respect each other, but that respect has to be sincere and all relations have to rely on international law, primarily the UN Charter.
When the Western countries needed to tear Kosovo away from Serbia, they cited a key principle of the UN Charter, the need to respect the right of nations to self-determination. A few years later, Crimea rebelled against the brutal coup in Kiev, refused to cooperate with a government that had seized power illegally, and held a referendum. There was no referendum in Kosovo – the West just decided for them. Crimea held a referendum on independence and reunification with Russia, and the West said they violated the article of the UN Charter that defends countries’ territorial integrity. Every law has a loophole, as a popular Russian saying goes. This law – an international law – the West twists as it pleases, depending on how it fits into its rules. The main principle stipulated in the UN Charter is that the United Nations is based on the sovereign equality of states. Not once, since the creation of the UN, has the West applied or respected this principle in any situation of international or regional significance in the face of conflicts of interest. If in doubt, I recommend that you take a look at the history of diplomacy and international relations some time.
When we talk about the need to form a multipolar international system, we are not inventing anything. We insist that there are enduring principles of relations between states enshrined in the UN Charter. But they should not be applied as one pleases – used out of context to justify directly opposing views – but followed in their entirety and interrelation. This is what we mean when we talk about the need to form a just, democratic, multipolar world order. It does not even have to be created – this system has formed by itself.
Powerful centres of economic growth, financial and political influence are emerging. Look at China, India, Brazil, or the fast-growing continent of Africa. They naturally want to have a worthy place in the global system and reap their share of benefits from the international division of labour, rather than just supply raw materials and be thrown leftovers while “developed democracies” are skimming the cream.
When we discuss Ukraine, when we talk to you and your governments about Ukraine, I want everyone to see what is behind it. I tried my best to help make this happen. I was candid. I hope it was helpful.”
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