Lavrov: Ukraine must demilitarize or Russia will

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Russia’s foreign minister on Tuesday again warned Ukraine that it must demilitarize, threatened more military action and falsely accused Kyiv and the West of fueling the war. which began with the invasion of Moscow.

Sergey Lavrov said that Ukraine must remove any military threat to Russia; otherwise, “the Russian army (will) solve the problem.” His comments also reflected persistent unsubstantiated claims by the Kremlin that Ukraine and its Western allies were responsible for the 10-month war, which has killed tens of thousands of people and displaced millions.

Russia launched the war on February 24, claiming a threat to its security and a plot to bring NATO to its doorstep. Lavrov reiterated on Tuesday that the West was fueling the war in Ukraine to weaken Russia, saying it was up to Kyiv and Washington how long the conflict would last.

“As for the duration of the conflict, the ball is on the side of the (Kyiv) regime and Washington is behind it,” Lavrov told the state news agency Tass. “They can stop the mindless resistance at any time.”

In an apparent reaction, Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak tweeted that “Russia needs to face reality.”

“Neither full mobilization, nor the search for ammunition in a panic, nor secret contracts with Iran, nor threats from Lavrov will help,” he said. “Ukraine will demilitarize the RF (Russian Federation) to the end, it will expel the invaders from all the occupied territories. Wait for the end in silence…”

A day earlier, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba told the Associated Press in an interview that his government wants a summit to end the war but does not expect Russia to participate.

Kuleba said Ukraine wants a “peace” summit within two months with UN Secretary General António Guterres acting as mediator. But he also said Russia must face a war crimes tribunal before her country talks directly to Moscow.

Both statements illustrate how complex and difficult any attempt to end the war could be. Ukraine has said in the past that it would not negotiate with Russia before its full troop withdrawal, while Moscow insists that its military achievements and the annexation of the Crimean peninsula in 2014 cannot be ignored.

Meanwhile, fierce fighting continued on Tuesday in the Russian-claimed Donetsk and Lugansk regions, which have recently been the scene of the most intense fighting.

Ukraine’s Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar said Russian forces are trying to encircle the town of Bakhmut in the Donetsk region, but to no avail. Heavy battles are also taking place around the city of Kreminna in the Luhansk region, Luhansk Governor Serhiy Haidai said.

In the partially occupied southern Kherson region, Russian forces shelled Ukrainian-controlled areas 40 times on Monday, injuring one person, Ukrainian authorities said. The city of Kherson itself, which Ukraine recaptured in a major victory last month, was attacked 11 times, regional administrator Yaroslav Yanushevich said.

Since its initial gains at the start of the war 10 months ago, Russia has made few major gains, often battering Ukraine’s infrastructure and leaving millions without power, heat and hot water amid wintry conditions.

Lavrov did not specify how the Russian military will achieve its goals of demilitarizing and “denazifying” Ukraine, which was Russia’s declared goal when the invasion began in February. The reference to “denazification” stems from Russia’s accusations that the Ukrainian government is heavily influenced by radical nationalist groups and neo-Nazis. The claim is ridiculed by Ukraine and the West.

Lavrov warned that further Western support for Ukraine could lead to a direct confrontation.

“We continue to warn our adversaries in the West about the dangers of their course to escalate the Ukraine crisis,” he said, adding that “the risk of the situation getting out of hand remains high.”

“The strategic goal of the United States and its NATO allies is to win a battlefield victory over Russia in order to significantly weaken or even destroy our country,” he said.

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Follow AP’s coverage of the war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

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