Russia’s Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, has labeled the United States and its allies as an “empire of lies” and accused it of adopting a neocolonial mindset to gain support for Ukraine in the war.
After a week of intense global diplomacy at the UN headquarters in New York, where Ukraine and its Western allies sought to rally support for Kyiv as it faces Russia’s invasion, Lavrov said the West had fooled a “global majority.”
“The United States and its subordinated collective continue to fuel conflicts that artificially divide humanity into hostile blocks and impede overall goals,” Lavrov stated.
“They are attempting to compel the rest of the world to play by their own self-serving rules.”
According to Al Jazeera’s diplomatic correspondent James Bays, Lavrov’s address was part of a “tour around the world of Russia’s views” that included no mention of Ukraine and scant hints of Moscow’s strategy one year into the conflict.
During a press conference after the speech, the foreign minister rejected a 10-point proposal by Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and the most recent UN suggestions to resurrect the Black Sea grain initiative.
“It is impractical,” he added of Kyiv’s proposed peace plan. “It is not possible to put this into action.” It’s unrealistic, and everyone realizes it, but they insist that this is the sole basis for negotiations.”
Restriction on Banks in Russia
He also stated that the UN proposal would fail since the West failed to keep its promises to Moscow, such as lifting restrictions on a Russian bank and reconnecting it to the worldwide SWIFT system.
The invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 caused trade disruptions and large increases in international prices for petroleum, agricultural goods, and fertilizer, which were already high due to the COVID-19 pandemic’s effects.
Russia’s foreign ministry blamed Western nations for the food and energy market crises, saying they apply “unilateral coercive measures” – or sanctions – on weaker countries.
During a layover, Zelenskyy presented two Polish volunteers with official awards, while relations between the two countries are strained over grain imports. He did not meet with any government authorities.
When Zelenskyy informed the UN General Assembly that Kyiv was attempting to safeguard land routes for grain exports but that the “political theatre” surrounding imports only benefited Moscow, he enraged his neighbors.
Poland agreed last week to extend a ban on Ukrainian grain imports, causing a rift in Kyiv’s relationship with a neighbor who had been one of its staunchest friends since Russia invaded Ukraine in February last year.
Zelenskyy expressed gratitude to all Poles who “from the beginning opened their families, their homes, opened themselves up and helped.”
“I believe that any challenges on our common path are nothing compared to the fact that our people are so strong,” he remarked.
Missile attack on Sevastopol
Ukraine is waging a counteroffensive to fight the Russian invasion and reclaim its lost areas. It launched another missile attack on Sevastopol on the occupied Crimean Peninsula on Saturday morning, a day after an attack on Russia’s Black Sea Fleet headquarters that left a serviceman missing and the main structure smoking.
Ukraine’s intelligence chief, Kyrylo Budanov, told Voice of America on Saturday that the strike on the Black Sea Fleet by Kyiv on Friday killed at least 9 people and injured sixteen others.
Budanov stated that Alexander Romanchuk, a Russian general commanding forces along the critical southeastern front line, was “in a very serious condition” due to the offensive.
According to Zein Basravi of Al Jazeera, reporting from Kyiv, Ukraine’s military intelligence confirmed the casualty toll. At least two senior generals were injured, and the fate of Russia’s Black Sea fleet commander, Viktor Sokolov, was unknown.
Russia has not confirmed the number of casualties.
Crimea has been a vital support point for Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Since the beginning of the conflict, Sevastopol, the primary base of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet since the 19th century, has played a critical role in navy operations.
According to Hanna Shelest, a security expert with the Ukrainian NGO Prism, Kyiv’s attacks on Crimea were critical to its strategy and morale.
Shelest told Al Jazeera that most strikes against Ukraine’s southern region emanate from Crimea, and efforts to reduce capabilities there are important.
Ukraine’s military said the air force launched 12 attacks against the Black Sea Fleet headquarters on Friday, focusing on facilities containing personnel, military equipment, and weaponry. According to the report, two anti-aircraft missile systems and four Russian artillery units were targeted.
In recent weeks, Ukraine has increasingly targeted naval installations in Crimea, while the bulk of its counteroffensive has made halting progress in Ukraine’s east and south.