Russia's top diplomat Sergey Lavrov calls on Ukrainians to decide how they want to live, stressing Moscow is ready to compromise to find a solution to issues that led to war in Ukraine.
The goal of Moscow's special "military operation" is to demilitarise Ukraine, Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has said, accusing Ukraine's leader of promoting "anti-Russian, Russophobe" rhetoric.
Once Ukraine has been demilitarised, the Ukrainians "must decide themselves how they will live," Lavrov said on Wednesday in an interview with Qatar's Al Jazeera TV channel.
All people living in Ukraine must have a say in this matter, he said.
Lavrov said Russia recognises Zelenskyy as Ukraine's legitimate president, although "he lied to the people" with his promise to end the country's civil war.
Zelenskyy has been promoting "anti-Russian, Russophobe" rhetoric and making extremely controversial statements, he added.
Ready to compromise
Lavrov said Zelenskyy's demand for security guarantees is "a positive step" and Russia is ready to discuss the issue during the second round of talks with Ukrainian officials.
However, he said the second round may not happen because Kiev is waiting for Washington's nod.
"The fact that President Zelenskyy declared his readiness, or rather, his desire to receive security guarantees – I think this is a positive step," said Lavrov.
"Our negotiators are ready to discuss these guarantees with Ukrainian representatives during the second round of talks. But they have not yet confirmed the second round. They are biding time. I think they are also not allowed by the Americans. No one believes in Kiev's independence now," he said.
He refused to divulge any details about the first round of talks "because this is only the initial phase."
He denied that Russia wants Ukraine to capitulate, stressing that Moscow is ready to compromise to find a solution.
"If the (Ukrainian) authorities agree to the conditions that are currently being discussed, there will be an agreement," he said.
Lavrov said there are many facts that prove that Ukraine is a part of the West's plan to create a "hostile belt" around Russia.
For two years, Ukraine has been "pumped" with weapons and the shipments significantly increased in recent months, he noted.
Simultaneously, the US and UK were constructing military bases in the country, including on the Sea of Azov, he continued.
Pentagon also sponsored the construction of military biological laboratories in Ukraine, he said.
Lavrov said Russia took serious note of Zelenskyy's statement about making Ukraine a nuclear power, stressing that the former Soviet country has the potential to have nuclear weapons.
The minister slammed Western media and politicians for turning a blind eye to the problems and suffering of people in Donbass "who had been bombed and killed for eight years."
Another major objective for Russia is Ukraine’s "denazification," he said.
Lavrov said he was astonished by German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock’s comments that Germany's decision to supply weapons to Ukraine was driven by "historical responsibility."
"What’s that supposed to mean? That historical guilt and awareness of historical guilt makes Germany support neo-Nazis?" he questioned.
"The head of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, said the EU and Ukraine are closer today than ever before. What does this hint at? Probably, this is a signal that as long as you are a Russophobe, as long as you are a fascist, as long as you are a neo-Nazi, everything is allowed for you," he added.
Lavrov recalled that Ukraine's Maidan protests saw chants such as "Muscovites to the gallows" and "Kill Russians, kill Muscovites," and stressed that Russia cannot sit idly during the resurrection of Nazism in Europe.
Seizing assets 'open theft'
Lavrov said Moscow was ready for sanctions but did not expect measures affecting sports and cultural and humanitarian ties.
Previously when Western states announced sanctions against Arab and Latin American countries, they repeatedly said that sanctions are not aimed at ordinary people and only "at making the leadership of the relevant state feel the pressure of the world community and change its behaviour," Lavrov said.
"Now, though, no one is talking about it at all … The West does not care about the principles that it itself invented and introduced in international relations."
Among these, he added, is the principle of sanctity of private property, which was violated when the West began to seize assets of Russia's central bank and private companies.
"This is open theft. They have abandoned all the rules that they have been imposing for the past 70-plus years. They have now simply crossed out these rules and returned to the bandit, wild capitalism of the Gold Rush times," he said.
Russia is capable of resisting any pressure and history proves this, Lavrov asserted.
He said Moscow knows that “Americans are running through their ambassadors all over the world,” forcing any country in Africa, Latin America or Asia to do something against Russia.
"This is low for the great power that is America. Low and unworthy. But we are used to it. This has happened more than once in our history … We’ll cope with it. I am 100 percent sure of this," he said.
Lavrov likened Europe's airspace ban for Russia to "the first Iron Curtain lowered by British Prime Minister Winston Churchill."
The UK is seeking a chance to assert itself after Brexit, the Russian minister said.
"To build the Iron Curtain there are a lot of those who think in the categories of colonialism, neocolonialism. Of course, especially for the British, such categories cause nostalgic feelings," he said.
However, Russia will "continue to live and progress," he added.
The UK's other initiative to kick Russia off the UN Security Council has no chance of success because there is no such mechanism, Lavrov said.
Lavrov said it could be possible that Russia was pushed into the conflict with Ukraine so that the US could deal with China while Moscow is busy with its own issues.
"A cynical, absolutely neocolonial course of thought, typical for our Western partners. I do not exclude this possibility," he said.