Nothing would have happened without external forces, neither glorification of the Nazis, or the transformation of Nazism into the current Ukrainian government’s theory & practice.
Question: Today, we are being told (primarily by the Ukrainians) that the Russians have “made things up” and there are no Nazis in Ukraine and there have never been any. However, we remember history well. We can see that over the years of independence they have brought up vast numbers of Nazi-aligned organisations that enjoy support at the state level. For instance, the oligarch-sponsored Azov was under the Ukrainian Interior Minister’s wing. How did this become possible in a place that is called a European country? How did it happen? Did external forces influence it in any way?
Sergey Lavrov: Absolutely. Nothing would have happened without external forces, neither glorification of the Nazis, or the transformation of Nazism into the current Ukrainian government’s theory and practice. This has been the case since the creation of the Soviet Union. President Putin repeatedly made clear how Ukraine was formed within the borders in which it found itself at the time of the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.
Back then one of the masterminds of the US approach to international affairs and US dominance Zbigniew Brzezinski said that Russia with Ukraine was a superpower, but without Ukraine it was just a regional player. It was Washington’s hands-on policy. In many ways, this position prevented our approach – “that’s the way life goes” – from coming to fruition after December 1991. We wanted to see Ukraine a good neighbour of ours and a reliable friend. Our “family ties” were tight, and so many people’s lives were intertwined. It was something we really wanted. I know what I’m talking about, because back then I was working on the issues that arose in the post-Soviet space.
The Americans sought to achieve the opposite outcome and to make Ukraine “anti-Russia.” The then Ukrainian leaders fell for the smooth tactics of the Americans. Back when no one could see Ukraine becoming an “anti-Russia,” President Leonid Kuchma wrote a book titled “Ukraine is not Russia.” Perhaps, everyone is striving to attain some kind of a romantic goal and to become part of some culture, but even then the subtext of this “tagline” was that there was Europe, and there was Russia.
Talk at the OSCE in the late 1990s about the need to build a common economic and humanitarian space, as well as a security space, spanning the entire Eurasian continent from the Atlantic to the Pacific, turned out to be just that, empty talk. Behind these beautiful words, what the West really means was “either you’re with us or you’re with Russia.” Back in 2003, early on during another presidential race in Ukraine, the EU official figures, including Belgian Foreign Minister Louis Michel, publicly stated that the Ukrainian people should decide who they want to be with: Europe or Russia. This particular “either-or” and “whoever is not with us is a Moskali” philosophy that is deeply embedded in European and Western minds has played a major, if not decisive, role in getting us where we are now. The neo-Nazi ideology is made part of Ukrainian life in every possible way.
You mentioned volunteer and nationalist battalions and regiments like Azov. When the coup took place in 2014, Azov was already known as an extremist organisation. In 2015, when deciding on the allocation of aid to Ukraine, including military aid, the US House of Representatives introduced a special clause to remove this formation from the list of recipients. Azov was put on the list of terrorist organisations in a number of European countries and Japan. Now, look at the Japanese outdo everyone. After the special military operation began, they officially apologised to the Azov members for putting Azov on the terrorist lists and assured them that “this will not happen again.”
Under what banners did the putschists come to power in February 2014? Their first demand was to strip the Russian language of its regional status, which it had under Ukrainian law. The hastily cobbled together Verkhovna Rada chose not to rescind this law, but the instincts of the people who illegally grabbed power became clear instantly. One of the coup leaders and head of the Right Sector (which is outlawed in our country just like the Azov regiment) Dmitry Yarosh said that Russians will never think like Ukrainians, will not speak Ukrainian and will not honour Ukrainian heroes, so the Russians must be pushed out of Crimea. This extremist was behind the idea of sending “friendship trains” to Crimea with armed thugs, including the Right Sector and other radicals. This highlights the philosophy and ideology of the people who carried out the coup and came to power. The West swallowed it whole.
Maidan was not yet at the boiling point and had not come to a head. The Ukrainian Security Service and the police did not use weapons, and NATO, speaking through then Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, repeatedly urged President Yanukovych not to use force against the protesters. When the coup was effectively carried out, the Maidan powerbrokers announced a “campaign” against Crimea, branded as terrorists the people of eastern Ukraine who refused to accept the neo-Nazi putsch and sent the armed forces and the nationalist battalions there. At that point, Anders Fogh Rasmussen said that the alliance called on the new authorities in Kiev to “use force” proportionally. Do you see the difference? No one really tried to cover this bias up. Dmitry Yarosh who told the Russians to get out of Crimea is, in fact, the spiritual father of Vladimir Zelensky who said exactly the same thing, but this time with regard to all of Ukraine. In September 2021, long before the current developments, taking a question about the people living in eastern Ukraine during an interview, the Ukrainian President said there were people and there were “species” (a slip of the tongue that is typical of Nazis), and that if someone lives in Ukraine and feels like a Russian, they should leave for Russia for the good of their children and grandchildren. This is exactly what Dmitry Yarosh was talking about. The Kiev regime’s neo-Nazi nature was clear from the start and has not changed a bit.
Question: This entire philosophy that they have adopted over the past few years has led to a situation where the second President of Ukraine is fighting Russia. The first one said that he was waging and heroically winning a proxy war against the Russian Federation. The incumbent president is saying that he is winning a real war. Both of them are united by the fact that they assured everyone that our two countries did not have and could not have a common future. They tried hard to erase our common past. What will be the outcome of the efforts to destroy our common past and history?
Sergey Lavrov: When Pyotr Poroshenko realised that a blitzkrieg aiming to forcibly suppress Donbass had failed, he decided to sign the Minsk Agreements and, as we believed at that time, he showed that he had deal-making skills. In reality, that was just a semblance of his negotiability. In July 2022, the former President of Ukraine told Radio Liberty that he had signed the relevant agreements, but that he did not intend to honour them. He noted that he had to temporise in order to obtain more Western weapons. This is undisguised cynicism. For many years after the signing of the Minsk Agreements, Western colleagues ignored their sabotage by Poroshenko and his regime. They used slogans, calling for them to be fulfilled because allegedly there was no alternative to these documents.
We submitted specific proposals to Germany and France, as countries that were involved in the Normandy Format. We also made proposals to the United States, the main patron and overlord of the Kiev authorities. We urged them to pressure Kiev to fulfil purely specific requirements, namely, a special detailed status for certain districts of the Donetsk and Lugansk people’s republics, rather than the whole of Donbass. We expected that they would clarify all aspects of that status, from A to Z. Although the relevant document was ready for signing, Poroshenko did his best to delay this process, and the West pandered to him in this respect. At the final stage of sabotaging the Minsk Agreements, Germany and France started claiming that Russia should fulfil them. However, there was no reply when President Vladimir Putin asked what we should do.
At that time, they were fighting a proxy war, and now a real war is going on. While stating his line, Vladimir Zelensky is saying that Ukraine will win this war and will regain control of all its territories, including Crimea. At the same time, he is forgetting the history of the peninsula. Perhaps he did not know its history when he was starring in the Club of the Merry and Resourceful show. I have no doubt that this line will fail.
We will not tolerate neo-Nazism on the territory of Ukraine. We are fighting neo-Nazis, rather than the people of Ukraine, and we have nothing against the latter. This nation is closely related to us, we are intertwined at the level of human destinies, and this concerns millions of families with a multitude of ties, spiritual, cultural and other bonds. I am convinced that the neo-Nazi government in Kiev will be unable to undermine this genetic code; at the same time, we must also accomplish a lot. It is necessary to offer specific ideas, involve civil society and facilitate contacts between people in Ukraine and Russia. The Russia-Ukraine-Belarus format existed some time ago, and public organisations and experts met within its framework in Minsk and elsewhere. For obvious reasons, this is not happening today, but we need to think about the future.
The people of Ukraine will be liberated from neo-Nazi rulers, and they deserve to live in neighbourliness, friendship and prosperity together with fraternal Slavic nations.
Question: The current regime appears to be in the terminal phase of the disease called Nazism. They are bringing up new Ukrainian “patriots” who are programmed for maximum cruelty which can be seen in their slogans (“a good Russian is a dead Russian” or “hang Moskali from a branch”) all the way to heinous violence that they are broadcasting on all channels. Europe is backing this. Aren’t they concerned that these people who are overflowing with hatred and aggression, and now armed with Western weapons, can take advantage of visa-free travel regulations and go to Europe in this state of mind?
Sergey Lavrov: Europe is playing along with the United States. The EU has almost no independence left. Washington has brought Brussels to heel. There are almost no independent voices left in the EU. Now and then, but increasingly less often, French President Emmanuel Macron is trying to remind everyone of the EU’s “strategic autonomy.” No one will let them create any kind of autonomy, let alone strategic.
European leaders are emboldening the Ukrainian government and encouraging neo-Nazi acts. President of the European Council Charles Michel, Head of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen, and Secretary General of NATO Jens Stoltenberg never stop saying that a “battle for European values” is going on in Ukraine, and President Zelensky is “defending freedom and democracy.” In the same way, they backed the neo-Nazi coup of 2014 which sought to abolish everything that is Russian in Ukraine. Later, it was codified in numerous laws outlawing Russian education, media and culture. Today, they are supporting the slogans which Vladimir Zelensky is using to carry out his campaign and presidency.
I operate on the premise that Europe is part of the processes that seek to revive neo-Nazism. It’s hard to draw other conclusions. President Macron recently wondered why Ukraine should live according to a Russia-imposed model. A statement that says it all. In the years that followed the coup, he never asked why the Russians in Ukraine should live according to a model imposed by the neo-Nazis, which is a clear case of double standards. A person who claims to be the number one politician in Europe is saying things like that unashamedly. Amazing.
You got it right in your assessment of the ensuing course of events. There are statistics showing that about 8 million Ukrainian refugees are now in Europe. There are media reports about some of them mistreating citizens of European countries and breaking the law. This is Europe’s choice. If they chose to provide shelter to Ukrainians, the vast majority of whom are people of means who want to continue to live like that going forward – then the people of Europe should feel the consequences of their choice for themselves. We saw similar things in a situation where the Europeans took in the militants from the North Caucasus during a rampage of international terrorism in that region of our country, or refugees from North Africa and the Middle East, including proponents and members of ISIS, who committed bloody crimes in a number of European countries. We do not wish evil to Europe. It must make up its own mind on what it wants to do.
The Arab Spring has created an enormous number of illegal migrants. The Europeans decided to give them legal status and began to place them on their territory and to agree on distribution quotas. The Arab Spring problem was created by military aggression, primarily, against Libya. That country was bombed out and turned into a black hole. It was later used as a conduit for refugees and illegal immigrants fleeing to Europe. Terrorists and weapons smugglers surged in the opposite direction to the Sahara-Sahel region. African countries are still dealing with the aftermath of the reckless Libyan operation, and the EU with the crowds of people of no definite occupation, not all of whom are willing to be law-abiding residents of the European countries.
Europe has created this situation in Ukraine, because it outright refused to convince Pyotr Poroshenko and then Vladimir Zelensky to honour the Minsk agreements. The EU was openly pandering to Kiev’s proclaimed policy for implementing Plan B to capture Donbass by force. This was the reason behind our special military operation. Over the years, we came to realise the futility of our trying to convince the West to consent to an equal and mutually respectful agreement on ensuring security for all without expanding the Alliance.
In this regard, Europe is, to a certain extent, acting as someone who is behind the current state of affairs as well. I hope that after the Arab Spring the EU will see the ongoing Ukrainian “wave” as food for thought, but so far the EU countries have not been thinking much about themselves. German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock made it clear (many are citing her) that she is aware of German voters’ issues, but it is now “more important” to meet Ukraine’s needs for military help. With a philosophy like that, Europe… Well, I wish it good luck.
Question: We live in an interesting era when the media is a dangerous weapon. What is the role of the mass media in the revival, rise and flourishing of Nazism in modern Ukraine, in your opinion?
Sergey Lavrov: The role of the media, including traditional and electronic media, as well as social networks, is constantly growing but it is not they who “rule the roost,” but politicians. In recent years, we have already seen that the West, especially the United States, Germany, France and other European countries are good at “bossing around” journalists, the media, and ensuring loyalty to the policy that this or that government wants to pursue.
This is especially noticeable in the case of the Biden Administration, when almost all electronic media, television, and print publications are aimed at mobilising public opinion in support of what the United States is doing in Ukraine. However, this does not always work out. Now US newspapers are openly criticising the indifference with which the Administration treated the natural disaster in Florida against the background of tens of billions of US dollars allocated to Ukraine. This shows that the authorities cannot always control the media and public opinion. In Germany, there is virtually no dissent in the media. All mass media are “mobilised” to justify what the Germans are doing in Ukraine. In France, the situation is similar.
Europe, through various international agencies, primarily those created under the European Union, has been using outright censorship for more than a year (it started about eight years ago), preventing alternative points of view from reaching the public consciousness on the continent. A “good” example: when RT and Sputnik opened representative offices in Paris and tried to get accreditation at the Elysee Palace, they were refused. President of France Macron explained to journalists that “this is not the media but Moscow’s propaganda tool.” In addition, various platforms and associations were established in the West to protect freedom in cyberspace and the independence of the media, within which alternative sources of information were stifled under the pretext of finely worded slogans.
During the events leading up to the Soviet Union’s disappearance, we were so complaisant in all international arenas, as if an era of universal, eternal wellbeing had dawned. In 1990, at the initiative of France and other Western states, the OSCE adopted a document obliging all the member states without exception to provide full access for their citizens to any sources of information, both domestically and abroad. Therefore, the refusal to issue accreditation to RT and Sputnik at the Elysee Palace is a gross violation of the obligations assumed 30 years ago at the initiative of France.