The Russian foreign minister was ridiculed with groans and laughter at an international conference on Friday when he claimed that Russia was a victim of the war in Ukraine.
Crowds at India’s G20 summit in New Delhi erupted in laughter when Sergei Lavrov falsely tried to suggest that the war in Ukraine had ‘started against us (Russia)’.
Lavrov seemed visibly surprised by the audience’s ridicule as he stumbled over his words, pausing for an interlude of chuckles before resuming the icy propaganda.
The seasoned Russian foreign minister may have expected a benevolent hearing in India, where the government of Narendra Modi has emerged as an ally of Putin and his regime. However, India has maintained that it is a neutral country in the conflict and has abstained from United Nations votes on the conflict.
But this is because Russian troops have claimed they are about to take the Russian city of Bakhmut, a key eastern stronghold in the Donetsk region that has seen heavy fighting for several months.
Lavrov seemed visibly surprised by the public’s mockery at India’s G20 summit in New Delhi on Friday
Lavrov may have expected a sympathetic hearing in India, where the government of Narendra Modi has emerged as an ally of Putin and his regime. The two were photographed last September at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit
A Ukrainian soldier fires an automatic grenade launcher, as the Russian assault on Ukraine continues, in the frontline town of Bakhmut, Donetsk region, Friday
Before yesterday’s public rebuke, an audience member at the New Delhi conference asked Russia’s foreign minister, “How has the war affected Russia’s energy strategy and will it be a privilege for Asia?” And if so, how does India figure in it?’
Lavrov replied: “The war, which we are trying to stop, which has been launched against us with the help of the…”
But the veteran Russian minister was interrupted by a chorus of moans and laughter.
A voice at the conference shouted, “Come on!”
Lavrov finally continued: “…The Ukrainian people have, of course, influenced Russia’s policies, including energy policy.”
And the blunt way of describing what changed: We would no longer depend on partners in the West. We would not allow them to blow up the pipelines again,” he said in reference to two explosions that hit the Nord Stream pipelines in the Baltic Sea in September last year.
Russia launched its unprovoked and illegal invasion of Ukraine last February. Putin’s war has killed or injured hundreds of thousands of people, displaced people from their homes and sparked Europe’s biggest conflict since World War II.
The Q&A in India comes as the Russian foreign mister continues his ongoing tour of countries in Asia, Africa and the Middle East as the ostracized country continues a desperate search for allies.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy presents a medal to a wounded soldier fighting in the Bakhmut area on Friday
This file-recording video captured by AFPTV with a drone shows an aerial view of the destruction of the city of Bakhmut on Monday
Ukrainian soldiers load a 152mm shell into an Msta-B howitzer on Thursday to fire on Russian positions, near the frontline town of Bakhmut
A Ukrainian soldier smokes a cigarette after leaving Bakhmut, in Chasiv Yar, Ukraine, Friday
A Ukrainian armored car (APC) drives along a road outside Bakhmut, Donetsk region, on Friday
Russian artillery continued to pound the last routes from Bakhmut on Friday, aiming to complete the encirclement of the beleaguered Ukrainian city and bring Moscow closer to its first major victory in half a year after the war’s bloodiest battle.
The head of Russia’s private army, Wagner, said the city, which had been reduced to rubble during Russia’s more than seven-month assault, was almost completely surrounded and only one road was open for Ukrainian troops.
Reuters observed intense Russian shelling of routes leading west from Bakhmut in an apparent attempt to block the entry of Ukrainian troops into and out of the city. A bridge in the neighboring town of Khromove was damaged by Russian tank fire.
Ukrainian soldiers were repairing damaged roads and more troops were moving to the front lines, signaling that Ukraine was not ready to give up the city. In the west, Ukrainians were digging new trenches for defensive positions.
Russia’s state news agency RIA has released a video showing what they believe are Wagner fighters walking past a damaged industrial facility. A fighter is heard saying that the Ukrainian army is destroying infrastructure in settlements near Bakhmut to prevent Russian encirclement.
The commander of the Ukrainian ground forces, Oleksandr Syrskyi, visited Bakhmut on Friday for briefings with local commanders on how to strengthen the defense capacity of the front troops.
Denys Yaroslavskyi, commander of a Ukrainian army unit in Bakhmut, told Espreso TV that parts of some units had been ordered to rotate to more secure positions, describing the situation as “a slaughterhouse on both sides” since morning.
A Russian victory at Bakhmut, with a pre-war population of about 70,000, would give it the first major prize in a costly winter offensive after calling up hundreds of thousands of reservists last year. Russia says it would be a stepping stone to completing the conquest of the industrial region of Donbas, one of Moscow’s main objectives.
Russian leader of the Wagner mercenary group, Yevgeny Prigozhin (pictured), said on Friday that his forces “virtually surrounded” Bakhmut, an industrial city in eastern Ukraine that has seen the fiercest fighting of the Moscow invasion.
A Russian tank is set on fire as it is destroyed by an explosive device dropped by a drone near Bakhmut on Wednesday
Fighters of Russia’s Wagner Group appear to be standing with a flag atop a building in Bakhmut, Ukraine, in this still image from a video released Thursday
Before the war, Bakhmut was known for its salt and gypsum mines. Ukraine says the city has little strategic value and that Russia’s massive losses in taking Bakhmut could determine the course of the conflict.
“Units of the private military company Wagner have practically surrounded Bakhmut,” Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin said in a video that Reuters said was filmed on a rooftop in a village about 7 km north of the city center.
“There is only one route (out) left,” he said. “The tongs close.”
He called on Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to order a withdrawal from Bakhmut to save the lives of his soldiers. The camera panned to show three captured Ukrainians – an elderly man with a gray beard and two boys – asking to be allowed to go home.
Robert Brovdi, the commander of a Ukrainian drone unit operating in Bakhmut called ‘Madyar’, said in a video posted on social media that his unit had been ordered to withdraw immediately. He said he had fought there for 110 days.
Volodymyr Nazarenko, a deputy commander of Ukraine’s National Guard, told Ukrainian NV Radio that the situation was “critical” and fighting was going on “round the clock.”
“They don’t count their losses when they tried to take the city by assault. The task of our forces in Bakhmut is to inflict as many losses on the enemy as possible. Every meter of Ukrainian land costs the enemy hundreds of lives,” he said.
“There are many more Russians here than we have ammunition to destroy them.”