Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov raised alarms on Monday, saying that the West’s intervention in the Russo-Ukrainian war poses tangible risks of nuclear war and an inevitable escalation towards World War III. He added what the United States and its allies are doing in support of Ukraine is essentially waging a proxy war.

In a series of state-run broadcasts, Lavrov talked about the ongoing situation in Ukraine and Moscow’s poor relationship with the West, comparable to the Cuban missile crisis of 1962. Lavrov stated that Russia was doing everything in its power to prevent a nuclear war but indicated that those nuclear risks are now considerable.

“This is our key position on which we base everything. The risks now are considerable,” Lavrov said. “I would not want to elevate those risks artificially. Many would like that. The danger is serious, real. And we must not underestimate it.”

Lavrov then blamed Washington for allegedly cutting off communications with Moscow.

“The United States has practically ceased all contacts simply because we were obliged to defend Russians in Ukraine,” Lavrov said.

He mentioned that the West’s efforts to provide Ukraine with more sophisticated weapons – which now include a variety of heavy weaponry including donated T-72s, M-84s, 155mm howitzers, Mi-17 helicopters, an assorted number of armored vehicles, various drones including Phoenix Drones, and Switchblades, are only “pouring oil on the fire” and will only serve to prolong the war rather than bring it closer to a conclusion.

He also said that these weapons, and the facilities that will house them, will be legitimate targets for the Russian forces as they will directly contribute to the fighting on the ground.

“Storage facilities in western Ukraine have been targeted more than once (by Russian forces). How can it be otherwise?” he said. “NATO, in essence, is engaged in a war with Russia through a proxy and is arming that proxy. War means war.”

Lavrov accused Ukrainian officials of not taking peace negotiations seriously, or at least in good faith. He also compared Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, wherein both focused on stirring public opinion rather than on coming up with a settlement to the conflict.”They are similar in a way in their ability to play to the gallery. For example, they imitate negotiations,” Lavrov said.

Warning From China

Upon hearing the Russian minister’s remarks, China has urged the parties involved to observe restraint in handling the ongoing conflict and pushed for the continuation of peaceful dialogue.

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“No one wants to see the outbreak of a third world war. We hope that relevant parties can keep cool-headed and exercise restraint, prevent escalation of tension, realize peace as soon as possible, and avoid inflicting a heavier price on Europe and the world,” said Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Wenbin in a press conference.

Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Wang Wenbin (Chinese Embassy in Bangladesh). Source: http://bd.china-embassy.gov.cn/eng/fyrth/202204/t20220426_10674075.htm
Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Wang Wenbin in a press conference, responding to Lavrov’s statements. (Chinese Embassy in Bangladesh)

“Under the current circumstances, all parties should, first and foremost, support dialogue and negotiation to prevent the expansion and prolongation of conflicts.”

Wenbin’s statements made a subtle reference to China’s initial stance on the conflict that the invasion resulted from the West disregarding Russia’s security concerns.

“We should reflect on why Europe has got caught up in another geopolitical conflict more than 30 years after the end of the Cold War,” the Chinese minister added.

Ukraine’s Response to Lavrov

On the other hand, the Ukrainian government has downplayed Russia’s threats, saying that inciting the panic of another World War is a desperate attempt to stop other countries from aiding Ukraine.

“Russia loses last hope to scare the world off supporting Ukraine. Thus the talk of a ‘real’ danger of WWIII. This only means Moscow senses defeat in Ukraine,” Ukrainian Minister of Foreign Affairs Dmytro Kuleba wrote in a tweet.

Vladimir Putin’s alleged plan to oust the current government of Ukraine and replace it with a pro-Russian administration in three days has definitely failed. His invasion, which was initially intended to last just a couple of days, extended for two months as the Russian troops encountered formidable resistance from the Ukrainian people. Over those two months of fighting, the Russian army proved to be a military paper tiger and its leaders inept at conducting combined armed operations.

Russia has now shifted its war focus from blitzing the Ukrainian capital Kyiv to occupying territory in the Donbas region in the east. Reports have already stated that there were military advances of Russian troops in the east, but so far, none of them had taken huge swaths of land. To some, this shift is a sign of Moscow’s realization that complete victory is no longer attainable.

Kuleba added that Russia’s weakness is a sign that “the world must double down on supporting Ukraine so that we prevail and safeguard European and global security.”

Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby also weighed in on Lavrov’s statements, saying that it was “obviously unhelpful, not constructive, and certainly is not indicative of what a responsible [world power] ought to be doing in the public sphere.”