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Russian FM Lavrov reiterates Russia’s maximalist goals in Ukraine

Russian FM Lavrov reiterates that Russia still wants to “denazify” and “demilitarize” Ukraine, denies Ukraine’s agency as a sovereign state.
Russia UN Security Council
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov speaks at a UNSC meeting on 18 January 2018. Credit: Russian MFA/Flickr
Russian FM Lavrov reiterates Russia’s maximalist goals in Ukraine

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov reiterated that Russia’s maximalist objectives in Ukraine remain unchanged and that Russia is not interested in negotiations with Ukraine or the West, the Institute for the Study of War reports.

Some Western actors advocate for Ukraine to engage in negotiations with Russia to bring an end to the ongoing conflict. Meanwhile, Russia has consistently asserted its interest solely in Ukraine’s capitulation and the relinquishment of its sovereignty.

Lavrov stated at a January 18 press conference that Russia “will achieve the goals of its ‘special military operation’ consistently and persistently.

The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ (MFA) summary of this speech included a reference to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s 24 February 2022, address. In that speech, Putin articulated Russia’s objectives of “demilitarizing” and “denazifying” Ukraine, along with a demand for NATO to refrain from admitting new members. These goals are seen by many as equivalent to a complete surrender of Ukraine and the West.

Lavrov reiterated that that these objectives remain unaltered, emphasizing that “serious” discussions about the practical terms for concluding the conflict would require Ukraine to abandon Nazi ideology, Nazi rhetoric, anti-Russian sentiments, and seek NATO membership.

Lavrov sought to rationalize these requirements by presenting them as crucial for safeguarding Ukraine’s independence and cultural identity. However, it is worth noting that ISW has consistently reported on Russian forces and occupation authorities engaging in extensive and deliberate ethnic cleansing campaigns. These campaigns aim to erase Ukrainian language, culture, history, and ethnicity in regions under Russian control.

Also, Lavrov denied Ukraine’s agency as a sovereign state, claiming that “it is not Ukraine that will decide when to stop and start talking [with Russia] seriously” about the end of the conflict, but that it is the West that will make this decision.

Russian ex-president Medvedev confirms Russia seeks to destroy Ukrainian state, remains intransigent

He brushed off a question regarding recent media reports concerning the potential for negotiations between Russia and Ukraine, stating that “rumors are just that – rumors.” Lavrov claimed that the West – not Russia – is to blame for the absence of negotiations and threateningly stated that “those [in the West] who refuse [to negotiate] must understand that the longer they wait, the harder it will be to negotiate” and that “there is no hope that Russia will be ’defeated.’”

Lavrov reiterated similar remarks on 15 December 2023, indicating that the Kremlin’s perspective entails the belief that prolonging the conflict will allow Russia to expand its occupied territory, thereby diminishing Ukraine’s bargaining power in the ongoing negotiations.

Lavrov asserted that some individuals had departed Russia when the war commenced, but he emphasized that the “overwhelming part of [Russian] society came together in an unprecedented way.” These statements aim to portray Russian society as unified around the war, even though the Kremlin has actively suppressed dissent and disproportionately amplified pro-war factions. Lavrov’s remarks also highlight the Kremlin’s lack of a unified stance on the return of citizens who had left. While some Kremlin officials, including Putin, have welcomed the return of Russians from abroad, others have publicly issued threats to them.

Russian ex-president Medvedev confirms Russia seeks to destroy Ukrainian state, remains intransigent

Lavrov claimed that some of these people left Russia at the beginning of the war, but that an “overwhelming part of [Russian] society came together in an unprecedented way.” Lavrov’s statements are meant to frame Russian society as unified around the war, despite heavy Kremlin efforts to crack down on any dissent and disproportionately amplify factions who support the war. Lavrov’s statements also indicate that the Kremlin continues to lack a unified position about the return to Russia of those citizens who previously left, as some Kremlin officials, including Putin, have celebrated the trend of Russians returning from abroad, whereas others have publicly threatened them.

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