Foreign minister Sergei Lavrov says ‘we didn’t invent collateral damage’ as Russian invasion kills thousands

Press conference comes day after Ukraine reports more than 2,000 civilians killed during conflict

Sam Hancock
Thursday 03 March 2022 10:04 GMT
Sergei Lavrov says ‘we didn’t invent collateral damage’ after hundreds die in Ukraine’s invasion
Leer en Español

Russia’s foreign minister has claimed his country did not “invent collateral damage” with Ukraine, eight days into a war that was started by the Kremlin and has killed more than 2,000 civilians.

Sergei Lavrov, a staunch ally of Russian president Vladimir Putin, also blamed “hysteria” being whipped up by the UK and US as the real issue in the ongoing conflict – not Russia or the offensive it is currently unleashing on its neighbour.

He made the bizarre remarks during a press conference, in which he mostly attacked western politicians and journalists in an apparent attempt to divert anger away from Russia.

Comparing the US to Adolf Hitler at one point, Mr Lavrov condemned the Biden administration for “dictating to the Germans what is good for European energy security”, referring to Germany’s decision to abandon the Nord Stream 2 pipeline that it was to share with Russia.

“They’re trying to impose their own view of the future of Europe on us,” he said, adding: “Napoleon and Hitler, they had the objective to have the whole of Europe under their control – now Americans have got Europe under control.”

While taking questions from the press, the Russian diplomat suggested thoughts of nuclear war “are not in the heads of Russians”.

“We’ve got a military doctrine which describes the perimeters and conditions for application or deployment of nuclear weapons,” he said. It was in response to a question asking for reassure that Russia will not deploy nuclear weapons, as has been feared since Mr Putin decided to put nuclear deterrence forces on high alert at the beginning of the week.

Pointing to comments made by foreign secretary Liz Truss and Joe Biden, Mr Lavrov claimed it was the UK and US stirring up idea of nuclear weapons.

Lavrov spoke to reporters from Moscow

He said Ms Truss had “said she is prepared for the conflict between Russia and Nato”. And turning to President Biden, he added: “When replying to a question, ‘was there an alternative to these sanctions [placed on Russia by the US]?’ he said that the only alternative is World War III ... but I would like to point out that these are statements of Western politicians, they are repeating nuclear war.”

The conference came a day after Russia captured its first major Ukrainian city. Igor Kolykhayev, the mayor of Kherson, said in a Facebook post that the Black Sea port had been lost. He urged the Kremlin’s soldiers not to shoot at civilians and publicly called on Ukrainians to walk through the streets only in daylight.

Four loud explosions were also heard in the capital city of Kyiv last night, with residents told to evacuate to their nearest shelters immediately.

The places Ukrainian refugees are seeking shelter

Meanwhile, Ukraine reported that more than 2,000 of its civilians had been killed during the first week of the Russian invasion. “Children, women and defence forces are losing their lives every hour,” the country’s emergency service said in a statement.

But, back in Moscow, Mr Lavrov insisted Russia would not allow “provocations” by Ukraine’s western allies “to unbalance us”, before going on to make a threat. “If they begin a real war against us then they need to think carefully,” he said.

Challenged on some of his comments by Channel 4 News, though, Russia’s foreign minister appeared to show how desperate Russia is to put blame for the war elsewhere.

Asked if he was preparing a defence for a potential war crimes trial, after Russia was referred to the International Criminal Court, Mr Lavrov accused the journalist Cathy Newman of “whipping up the mood” and “putting whatever ideas you want to put into your viewers’ minds”.

“I’m not justifying any actions that lead to deaths of civilians, but it wasn’t us who invented this collateral damage,” he went on. “This was invented by our western partners from their adventures in Iraq, in Libya and so on.”

Referencing the now famous pink-haired Polina Zapadynskaya, a 10-year-old girl who was killed alongside her parents last week by Russian troops near Kyiv, Ms Newman responded simply: “You began this war and now Polina’s blood is on your hands.”

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.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in