Russia: Lavrov issues warning to New York
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Speaking on Russian state TV, Lavrov accused NATO of fighting a “proxy war” with Russia in Ukraine and warned of a “very serious” risk the conflict could turn nuclear. Russia’s top diplomat accused western leaders of risking World War 3 by supplying heavy weapons to Ukraine with the goal of “wearing down the Russian army”.
Lavrov said tensions between the east and west were now worse than during the Cuban missile crisis at the height of the Cold War.
He accused NATO and its allies of attempting to bully Russia on the international stage and claimed the aim to wear down its troops was an “illusion”.
When asked directly about the possibility of nuclear war, he replied: “The risks are very significant. I do not want the danger to be artificially inflated [but] it is serious, real. It cannot be underestimated.”
Russia’s foreign minister warned the risks of nuclear conflict were now “considerable”.
Lavrov’s speech has been interpreted as a threat to Western powers of a major escalation to the Ukraine conflict, as defence ministers gathered in Germany for US-hosted talks on supporting Ukraine through the coming weeks.
However, a military expert claimed the foreign minister’s speech was a warning a global war was something all sides wanted to avoid.
Speaking to German news channel ntv, military expert Thomas Wiegold said: “The general understanding or fear is that such a third world war would be above all a nuclear war, would have the danger that all life on earth is endangered, that it cannot remain regionally limited and that the effects are uncontrollable.
“So as terrible as the conventional wars have been so far, such a nuclear war would surpass them all by far.
“Now, it has to be said that in his speech yesterday, which was partly misunderstood, Lavrov did not threaten that Russia will start this third world war if the resistance of the West remains in Ukraine, for example, but rather expressed his concern that all states could slip into this somehow.
“My impression after this speech, however, was that Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, is also aware that this is something that all sides want to and have to avoid.”
Mr Wiegold said: “The problem of the past few weeks is that Russia has repeatedly pointed out, more or less openly, ‘hey NATO, hey West, don’t push it too far, we have nuclear weapons’.
“So Russia can be blamed for having repeatedly made this threat with nuclear weapons itself, at whatever level. In this respect, such concern sounds a bit strange, but I think that Russia is also aware that neither side can be interested in an escalation at the level of nuclear war.”
During his speech, Lavrov repeated warnings that shipments of western weapons into Ukraine would be considered legitimate targets by Russia.
The threat was made a day after missiles struck the country’s train network in an apparent attempt to halt deliveries.
Five train stations in central and western Ukraine were shelled by Russian forces on Monday, according to the head of Ukrainian Railways.
The attacks came within an hour of each other as 16 passenger trains were delayed and casualties were reported.
The missile strike on Ukraine’s railway infrastructure came as western leaders gathered in Germany to co-ordinate stepping up security assistance to Kyiv, including heavy weaponry as well as armed drones and ammunition.
Significant military and financial aid were confirmed at the meeting southwest of Frankfurt hosted by the US defence secretary Lloyd Austin.
Mr Austin said the west was gearing up to help Ukraine “for the long haul” and would take steps to boost rearmament to help the country as Russia stepped up its attacks.
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Politicians from 40 countries also discussed coordinating future arms supplies on top of the $5 billion (£3.9 billion) already committed to Ukraine since Moscow launched its attack on the country on 24 February.
Speaking after the meeting, Mr Austin said: “We have an important session today on the long-term support for Ukraine’s defence including what that will take from our defence industrial bases.”
He added that leaders had to “move at the speed of war” to fight “against Russian aggression and atrocities”.
Mr Austin added that would mean “dealing with the tremendous demand that we’re facing for munitions and weapons platforms” and “redoubling our common efforts to strengthen Ukraine’s military for the long haul”.
He said that both Ukraine and the west would “do everything in our power” to ensure the war does not “spin out of control”.
He added: “Bluster about the use of nuclear, the possible use of nuclear weapons is very dangerous and unhelpful. Nobody wants to see a nuclear war, nobody can win it.”
Ukraine’s foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba said Lavrov’s nuclear warning showed Moscow had lost its “last hope to scare the world off supporting Ukraine”.
Additional reporting by Monika Pallenberg.
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