Russia says Ukraine is thwarting progress by seeking NATO involvement

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Saturday that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s attempt to get direct NATO help in the conflict between their countries was not helping the talks between the two sides.

“Mr. Zelenskiy’s constant angry statements do not increase optimism,” Lavrov told reporters on Saturday. In particular, he mentioned Zelenskiy’s strong criticism of the Western military alliance on Friday for refusing to intervene in the conflict by blocking Russian missiles and warplanes from using Ukrainian airspace.

“My question is this: if he is so upset that NATO has not intervened on his behalf as he hoped, then he expects to resolve the conflict by involving NATO in all this, and not by talks? said Lavrov. Previously, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said he was open to talks with Lavrov, but only if they were “meaningful”.

Russia invaded Ukraine by land, sea and air on February 24, in what it calls a “special military operation”. Fearing being drawn into Moscow’s war against its neighbour, NATO on Friday rejected Zelenskiy’s call for a no-fly zone over Ukraine, prompting the Ukrainian president to say that the alliance had given the green light to Russia to continue its bombing campaign.

The Russian and Ukrainian delegations in Moscow and Kyiv held two rounds of talks, the last on Thursday, after which they said they had agreed on the need to create humanitarian corridors to evacuate civilians, but not much else. Lavrov said Moscow was ready for a third round but had not received new dates from the Ukrainian side, which he said was making excuses to delay the process.

The Kremlin said on Friday that progress in negotiations would depend on Kiev’s reaction to Moscow’s position on how to end the war, which was conveyed to Ukraine on Thursday.

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