Russian minister effectively admits to deaths of civilians as result of Ukraine invasion

Sergey Lavrov refuses to say if he has ‘blood on his hands’ over killing of 10-year-old Polina

Andrew Woodcock
Political Editor
Monday 07 March 2022 10:28 GMT
Russian shelling hits Kharkiv outside Soviet-era regional administration
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Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov has effectively admitted that Moscow is responsible for the death of innocent civilians in its invasion of Ukraine.

The close ally of Vladimir Putin told a British reporter: “Any military actions are unfortunately connected to human loss, not just amongst the military personnel, but amongst the civilians.”

Lavrov’s admission came as he was confronted by Cathy Newman of Channel 4 News over the death of 10-year-old primary school pupil Polina Zapadynskaya, who was shot by Russian troops as her family attempted to leave Kyiv by car on Saturday.

Newman asked whether he felt he had “blood on his hands” over the deaths and injuries of children caught up in the week-long invasion.

Ukrainian authorities report that at least 16 children have been killed by the Russians. Among them is believed to be Polina’s five-year-old brother Semyon, understood to have died today from wounds suffered in the same attack, which killed parents Anton and Svetlana.

Lavrov attempted to offer condolences for the deaths of children, telling Newman: “What can I say in addition to what I’ve said already? Any human life is priceless.”

He said that he was “not justifying any action that leads to the death of civilians”.

But in an apparent indication that he regards civilian deaths as an inevitable part of Russia’s aggression, he added: “Any military actions are unfortunately connected to human loss, not just amongst the military personnel, but amongst the civilians.”

Despite abundant video evidence of Russian troops firing on residential areas and city squares, Lavrov claimed that personnel involved in the invasion – which he described as a “special operation” – had been given strict orders to “only use high precision military equipment to suppress the military infrastructure”.

Lavrov, who has served as Putin’s foreign minister since 2004, dodged questions of whether he had personal responsibility for the blood of children spilt by Russian troops.

In an attempt to divert attention away from Russia’s responsibility for the consequences of its military action, Mr Lavrov claimed that similar questions were not asked of Western leaders about civilian deaths resulting from their “escapades” in Iraq and Libya.

A university building in Ukraine’s second city of Kharkiv following a Russian rocket strike (State Emergency Service of Ukraine/PA)

Apparently unaware of C4N’s long record of challenging UK politicians over military action involving British troops, he accused Ms Newman of acting as “an instrument for hammering into people’s head the information that is required by the Western leaders”.

And he dismissed questions about the deaths of children as a “heated” effort to “emotionally charge your audience”.

Bizarrely, he suggested that rather than listen to his answers, the interviewer should consult the Russian defence ministry’s website to get information about what he claimed were numerous similar deaths in the Donbas region since a revolt by Russian-backed separatists in 2014.

Writing in The Independent, Ms Newman said that Mr Lavrov appeared to be trying to counter the highly successful social media campaign used by Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky to muster support for his country.

But she said that, as the “group interview” conducted over Zoom by reporters from several Western nations progressed, he got increasingly agitated by what he deemed to be “emotional” questions.

“At one point he sounded almost forlorn when he said: ‘The questions I receive are as if no one listens’,” she said.

Cathy Newman presents Channel 4 News at 7pm

The Independent has a proud history of campaigning for the rights of the most vulnerable, and we first ran our Refugees Welcome campaign during the war in Syria in 2015. Now, as we renew our campaign and launch this petition in the wake of the unfolding Ukrainian crisis, we are calling on the government to go further and faster to ensure help is delivered. To find out more about our Refugees Welcome campaign, click here. To sign the petition click here. If you would like to donate then please click here for our GoFundMe page.

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