Russia Ukraine conflict

Lavrov says Russia will ‘sober up’ NATO and EU

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Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Thursday that Moscow would do all it could to “sober up” the European Union and NATO, which he accused of setting out to weaken and defeat Russia.

His comments came on the same day that former Russian president Dmitry Medvedev warned NATO that a defeat for Russia in Ukraine could trigger a nuclear war.

Nearly 11 months after invading Ukraine, Russia is increasingly presenting the war to its own people as an existential battle with the West. In televised comments, Lavrov said Moscow would set out to disabuse Western politicians of their “presumptuous” and “colonial” attitudes to Russia.

“I hope that the sobering up will come,” Lavrov said. “We will do everything so that our colleagues from NATO and the European Union sober up as soon as possible.”

He was speaking during a visit to Moscow's close ally Belarus, which is staging air exercises with Russia this week - part of a long series of joint military activities that have drawn concern from Ukraine that President Vladimir Putin may seek to draw Belarus into the war on Russia's side.

“We have a common position on what goals need to be achieved and how to ensure that neither Russia nor Belarus is threatened by our neighbors - be it Ukraine or anyone else,” Lavrov said in a statement after meeting Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko. Belarus said the defense ministers of both countries had also spoken by phone.

The joint air exercises started on Monday and are due to run until Feb. 1, using all of Belarus's military airfields. Belarus has said they are purely defensive in nature.

Ukraine has repeatedly warned of possible attacks from Belarus's territory, and President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said last week that Ukrainian forces must be ready at the border.

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