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War between Russia and the West is no longer hybrid but is ‘almost a real one’, Sergei Lavrov warns

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Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov today warned the war between Russia and the West is no longer hybrid but is ‘almost a real one’, as he blasted Ukraine’s allies for sending weapons to the war-torn country.

Western nations have pledged to send billions of pounds worth of arms to Kyiv and Poland’s prime minister said today his government would ask Germany for permission to send Leopard tanks to Ukraine – and planned to send them whether or not Berlin agreed.

Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky desperately wants the German-made Leopard 2 tank to break through Russian lines and recapture territory this year. 

Lavrov today said the war in Ukraine is a ‘real war’ that the West has been ‘plotting’ against Russia.

‘When we speak about what is happening in Ukraine – it is a war, not a hybrid one, almost a real war, that the West has been plotting for a long time against Russia,’ Lavrov said today.

Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov today warned the war between Russia and the West is no longer hybrid but was 'almost a real one', as he blasted Western nations for sending billions of pounds worth of arms to Ukraine

Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov today warned the war between Russia and the West is no longer hybrid but was ‘almost a real one’, as he blasted Western nations for sending billions of pounds worth of arms to Ukraine

Western allies pledged billions of pounds in weapons for Kyiv last week and Poland's prime minister said today his government would ask Germany for permission to send Leopard tanks (pictured) to Ukraine – and planned to send them whether or not Berlin agreed

Western allies pledged billions of pounds in weapons for Kyiv last week and Poland’s prime minister said today his government would ask Germany for permission to send Leopard tanks (pictured) to Ukraine – and planned to send them whether or not Berlin agreed

‘The goal is to destroy everything Russian, from language to culture, that has been in Ukraine for centuries and to prohibit people from speaking their mother tongue,’ Lavrov claimed, parroting the same line that Vladimir Putin has used since the beginning of the war. 

Lavrov’s comments during a visit to South Africa come as Poland’s government today pushes its Western allies to move faster on supplying Kyiv with more military hardware to thwart Russia’s invasion.

Previously, Polish officials have indicated that Finland and Denmark were ready to join Warsaw in sending Leopards to Ukraine, while the UK has pledged to send some of its Challenger tanks.

Leopard tanks are seen by defence experts as the most suitable heavy battle tanks to help Ukraine as Russia prepares for a new mobilisation.

Meanwhile, Lavrov also claimed Moscow was willing to negotiate with Ukraine in the early months of the war but the U.S. and other Western nations advised Kyiv against it. 

Lavrov’s remarks on a visit to South Africa were similar to those made last year by Russian President Vladimir Putin that his country was ready for talks but Ukraine’s Western allies prevented that from happening.

The U.S. and other Western nations have said that Russia is not serious about negotiations to end the war, set to mark its one-year anniversary next month.

‘It is well known that we supported the proposal of the Ukrainian side to negotiate early in the special military operation and by the end of March, the two delegations agreed on the principle to settle this conflict,’ Lavrov said.

‘It is well known and was published openly that our American, British, and some European colleagues told Ukraine that it is too early to deal, and the arrangement which was almost agreed was never revisited by the Kyiv regime.’

Russia has repeatedly rejected Ukrainian and Western demands that it withdraw completely from Ukraine as a condition for any negotiations. President Joe Biden has indicated he would be willing to talk with Putin if the Russian leader demonstrated that he seriously wanted to end the invasion.

Lavrov is in Pretoria for talks with his South African counterpart Naledi Pandor as Russia pushes to strengthen ties with Africa’s most developed country and an historical ally amid the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.

South Africa was seen as the most significant of several African nations to take a neutral stance on the war and refuse to condemn Russia’s invasion – to the disappointment of the U.S. and other Western partners who also view South Africa as pivotal to their plans to build relationships in Africa. 

Pandor today deflected criticism of joint military drills planned with Russia and China, saying that hosting such exercises with ‘friends’ was the ‘natural course of relations.’

South Africa is one of Russia’s most important allies on a continent divided over the invasion and Western attempts to isolate Moscow because of its military actions.

Sergei Lavrov (L), the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, is welcomed for bilateral talks with his South African counterpart, Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Dr. Naledi Pandor (R), in Pretoria, South Africa, on Monday

Sergei Lavrov (L), the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, is welcomed for bilateral talks with his South African counterpart, Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Dr. Naledi Pandor (R), in Pretoria, South Africa, on Monday

Firefighters work near the site where a helicopter crashed near a kindergarten in Brovary, outside the capital Kyiv, killing Sixteen people, including two children and Ukrainian interior minister, on January 18

Firefighters work near the site where a helicopter crashed near a kindergarten in Brovary, outside the capital Kyiv, killing Sixteen people, including two children and Ukrainian interior minister, on January 18

South Africa has little trade with Russia but champions a world view – favoured by China and Russia – that seeks to undo a perceived U.S. hegemony in favour of a ‘multipolar’ world in which geopolitical power is more diffuse.

Lavrov said the military drills were transparent and that Russia, China and South Africa had provided all relevant information.

Pandor has said South Africa will not be dragged into taking sides, and has criticised the West for condemning Russia while ignoring issues such as Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territory.

The South African armed forces said last week the exercise was a ‘means to strengthen the already flourishing relations between South Africa, Russia and China’.

Russia’s TASS news agency reported on Monday that a Russian warship armed with new generation hypersonic cruise weapons would take part in the drills.

Lavrov was visiting six months ahead of a Russia-Africa summit in July. There was no official public comment from the Ukrainian embassy but officials said it had asked the South African government to help push a Ukrainian peace plan.

Lavrov met with Pandor in the South African capital and is expected to visit other African countries on his trip.

The war in Ukraine and its impact on Africa’s 1.3 billion people, which includes rising global oil and food prices, is expected to take centre stage during Lavrov’s talks with Pandor.

‘We are fully alert that conflict, wherever it exists in the world, impacts negatively on all of us, and as the developing world it impacts on us particularly as the African continent,’ Pandor said. 

‘This is why as South Africa we consistently articulate that we will always stand ready to support the peaceful resolution of conflicts in the continent and throughout the globe.’

A destroyed Russian tank is seen by the side of the road on December 15, 2022 in Kupiansk, Ukraine. Ukraine has been asking for more advanced weaponry to continue its momentum against the invading Russian forces

A destroyed Russian tank is seen by the side of the road on December 15, 2022 in Kupiansk, Ukraine. Ukraine has been asking for more advanced weaponry to continue its momentum against the invading Russian forces

Several NATO countries have the powerful Leopard 2 tanks (pictured, file photo) in their arsenals and have expressed their wish to send some to Ukraine. However, any such move would require sign-off from the German government. Some have said they may defy this

Several NATO countries have the powerful Leopard 2 tanks (pictured, file photo) in their arsenals and have expressed their wish to send some to Ukraine. However, any such move would require sign-off from the German government. Some have said they may defy this

Russia’s Soviet-era T-72 main battle tank

Type: Main battle tank

Origin: Russia

First produced: 1973

Cost per unit: $1 million – $2 million

Main armament: 125 mm 2A46M/2A46M-5 smoothbore gun

Top speed: 37 mph

Weight: 41.5 tonnes

Crew: 3 

Length: 31.2 feet

Width: 11.77 feet

Height: 7.31 feet

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German-made Leopard 2 main battle tank

Type: Main battle tank

Origin: Germany

First produced: 1979

Cost per unit: $5.74 million

Main armament: 120 mm Rheinmetall L55 smoothbore gun

Top speed: 45 mph

Weight: 55.15 – 62.5 tonnes 

Crew:

Length: 32.7 feet

Width: 12.3 feet

Height: 9.84 feet

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Meanwhile, Poland’s prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki said today his government would ask Germany for permission to send Leopard tanks to Ukraine, and planned to send them whether or not Berlin agreed.

The United States and its allies failed during talks in Germany last week to convince Berlin to provide its Leopard battle tanks to Ukraine, a key demand from Kyiv as it tries to breathe new momentum into its fight against Russian forces.

Poland is pushing for countries who have Leopards to send them to Ukraine, even if Germany does not want to join them. However, re-exporting the German-made tanks would normally require Berlin’s approval.

Germany’s foreign minister had said on Sunday that Berlin would not stand in the way if Poland wanted to do so. However, a German government spokesperson said on Monday that Berlin had still not received any requests to authorise the re-export of the tanks.

‘Pressure makes sense, because this weekend, the foreign minister of Germany sent a slightly different message that gives a glimmer of hope that not only Germany will not block (sending tanks) but will finally hand over heavy equipment, modern equipment to help Ukraine,’ Morawiecki said.

Defence analyst Konrad Muzyka said that if tanks were sent without Berlin’s consent, a potential consequence could be Germany refusing to supply spare parts for them.

The issue of supplying the German-made Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine has dominated recent discussions among Western allies about how much and what sort of material aid they should give Ukraine as the first anniversary of the Russian invasion nears.

Berlin, though it has provided substantial aid, has been criticised for dragging its feet on providing military hardware.

Meanwhile, Poland's prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki said today his government would ask Germany for permission to send Leopard tanks (file photo) to Ukraine, and planned to send them whether or not Berlin agreed

Meanwhile, Poland’s prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki said today his government would ask Germany for permission to send Leopard tanks (file photo) to Ukraine, and planned to send them whether or not Berlin agreed

Air Defense Missile Group 24 begins moving the first two of three committed Patriot air defense missile squadrons from Germany to Poland in Gnoien, Germany today

Air Defense Missile Group 24 begins moving the first two of three committed Patriot air defense missile squadrons from Germany to Poland in Gnoien, Germany today

A Patriot system launcher is unveiled at a press event hosted by Air Defense Missile Group 24 ahead of the transfer of the first two of three committed Patriot air defense missile squadrons from Germany to Poland in Gnoien, Germany today

A Patriot system launcher is unveiled at a press event hosted by Air Defense Missile Group 24 ahead of the transfer of the first two of three committed Patriot air defense missile squadrons from Germany to Poland in Gnoien, Germany today

German government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit said Monday it was important for Germany not to take a ‘reckless’ step that might be regretted afterward, adding that a decision will not be rushed.

‘These are hard questions of life and death,’ he added. ‘We have to ask what this means for the defence of our own country.’

Ukrainian officials have been pleading with Western allies to supply them with Leopard tanks for months, but Germany has held back from sending them or allowing other NATO countries to re-export them. Leopards, held by an array of NATO countries, are seen by defence experts as the most suitable for Ukraine.

Polish PM Morawiecki said Warsaw would ask Germany for permission to re-export tanks to Ukraine, ‘but this is an issue of secondary importance.

‘Even if we did not get this approval… we would still transfer our tanks together with others to Ukraine’, he told reporters. ‘The condition for us at the moment is to build at least a small coalition of countries.’

Western allies pledged billions of dollars in weapons for Ukraine last week but they failed to persuade Germany to lift its veto on providing the tanks.

But in an apparent shift in Germany’s position, foreign minister Annalena Baerbock said on Sunday her government would not block Poland if it tries to send its Leopards.

Baerbock’s remarks appeared to go further than Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s comments at a summit in Paris earlier that day that all decisions on weapons deliveries would be made in co-ordination with allies, including the United States.

Ukraine says the heavily armoured battle tanks would give its ground troops more mobility and protection ahead of a new Russian offensive expected in coming months.

A close ally of Putin said on Sunday that deliveries of offensive weapons to Kyiv that threaten Russia’s territories would lead to a global catastrophe and make arguments against using weapons of mass destruction untenable.

Vyacheslav Volodin, speaker of Russia’s lower house of parliament, warned that the United States and NATO’s support of Ukraine was leading the world to a ‘terrible war’.

Source: Daily Mail UK

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