Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov says US directly involved in Nord Stream explosions

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Thursday said the United States was directly involved in explosions that severely damaged the Nord Stream gas pipelines under the Baltic Sea last year.

Lavrov provided no evidence for his claim. President Vladimir Putin has previously accused Britain of blowing up the pipelines, which London denied.

In an interview on state TV, Lavrov also said the West was lying about Russia’s refusal to negotiate over Ukraine and was trying to turn Moldova, Georgia and former Soviet states in Central Asia against Moscow.

Putin sent tens of thousands of troops into Ukraine in February last year. He has said the operation was needed to protect Russia’s own security and to stand up to what he has described as Western efforts to contain and weaken Moscow.

Ukraine and the West accuse Russia of waging an illegal war designed to expand its territory.

Lavrov also said that Moscow had plans to overshadow pro-Ukrainian events arranged by Western and allied countries around the world to mark the anniversary of Russia sending its armed forces into Ukraine on February 24.

He added that Russian diplomats were working on something to ensure Western-led events in New York and elsewhere were “not the only ones to gain the world’s attention,” without providing details.

Lavrov also said that Russian forces would respond to the delivery of longer-range Western weapons to Kyiv by trying to push Ukrainian forces further away from its borders to create a safe buffer zone.

Lavrov said that everybody wanted the conflict in Ukraine – which Moscow calls a “special military operation” – to end, but that the West’s support for Kyiv was playing an important role in how Russia approached the campaign.

Two US officials told Reuters on Tuesday that Washington was preparing a new package of military aid worth $2.2 billion which is expected to include longer-range rockets for the first time.

“We see how the whole of NATO is waging war against us,” Lavrov said.

“We’re now seeking to push back Ukrainian army artillery to a distance that will not pose a threat to our territories,” he added.

“The greater the range of the weapons supplied to the Kyiv regime, the more we will have to push them back from territories which are part of our country.”

In this context, he said it was an “objective reality” that Russia had expanded its territory by incorporating four regions of Ukraine last year. Most countries of the United Nations have condemned those declared annexations as illegal.

The Kremlin said on Wednesday that longer-range rockets would escalate the conflict but not change its course.

Such weapons would put all of Russia’s supply lines in eastern Ukraine, as well as parts of annexed Crimea, within range of Ukrainian forces, military analysts say.

Ukraine has said it plans to retake all of its territory by force, including Crimea.

In a long TV interview, Lavrov said Russia did not need help in Ukraine from the Collective Security Treaty Organization, an alliance of ex-Soviet states, and had not asked it to provide material support.

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