Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Monday his country has "a feeling that the West wants Ukraine to continue to fight" in order to "wear out, exhaust the Russian army and the Russian military industrial war complex. This is an illusion."
Lavrov made his remarks during an interview that aired on Russian state television. He appeared to be responding to comments made by U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin after he traveled to Kyiv to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky over the weekend. Austin said the U.S. wants Ukraine to stay a sovereign country and "to see Russia weakened to the point where it can't do things like invade Ukraine."
Any weapons and supplies sent to Ukraine from Western countries, including armored vehicles and Javelin anti-tank missiles, are "legitimate" targets for the Russian military, Lavrov said, and he accused NATO of being "in essence ... engaged in a war with Russia through a proxy and arming that proxy. War means war."
He also said Russia's "key position" is to prevent nuclear war, and the "danger is serious, real ... we must not underestimate it." At the same time "everyone is reciting incantations that in no case can we allow World War III," but NATO forces are "pouring oil on the fire" by giving Ukraine weapons, Lavrov declared.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba tweeted that everything Lavrov said should actually encourage allies to provide more weapons. "Russia loses last hope to scare the world off supporting Ukraine," he said. "Thus the talk of a 'real' danger of World War III. This only means Moscow senses defeat in Ukraine. Therefore, the world must double down on supporting Ukraine so that we prevail and safeguard European and global security."