Excerpts from Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s statement and answers to questions following the G20 Foreign Ministers’ meeting in New Delhi, March 2, 2023

On 20 March 2023 at 01:17

The speech below features excerpts from Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s statement and answers to questions following the G20 Foreign Ministers’ meeting, New Delhi, March 2, 2023. Views expressed in the speech do not represent the opinions of IGIHE.

“The agenda offered by the Indian hosts fully reflects the aspirations of all states to overcome the persisting crisis, ensure sustainable growth, remove artificial barriers, guarantee fair competition in trade, enhance the multilateral character of the global system, support the UN’s central role and help developing nations have more of a say in international decision-making. All these issues are reflected in the document that our representatives and experts discussed for several days. Agreement was reached on all issues of the G20 agenda, including the need to ensure genuine multilaterism and bolster the positions of developing nations.

It was agreed that from now on the African Union will be a full-fledged member of the G20, just as the EU that has been working in this capacity for several years now. The document concerns the need to ensure food and energy security and reform the WTO. These are useful and correct agreements.

Unfortunately, the G20 declaration was not approved on behalf of all G20 foreign ministers. As a year ago (under Indonesia’s Presidency), our Western partners were going all-out to highlight the situation around Ukraine, which they were presenting as “Russian aggression” in numerous rhetorical statements. No good came of it. The remarks by Western delegations, primarily the G7 countries, became too emotional, disrupting the normal discussion of the issues on the G20 agenda. As a result, the final document on behalf of all ministers was not adopted. The West insisted on reproducing the text on the situation around Ukraine, which was coordinated at the G20 Summit in Bali in 2022, fully ignoring our arguments that much had happened since then, such as the sincere admissions by former German Chancellor Angela Merkel, former President of France Francois Hollande, former President of Ukraine Petr Poroshenko and President Vladimir Zelensky himself to the effect that none of them were going to fulfil the Minsk agreements. In terms of Western interests, they were signed to gain time to pump Ukraine full of weapons and prepare for war against Russia. Our Western partners categorically refused to mention this well-known fact that no normal person would dispute. Likewise, they also refused to accept another fact – the act of terror against the Nord Stream gas pipelines. Our Western partners categorically rejected our appeal to reflect the need for an unbiased and honest investigation in the final declaration. Their position blocked adoption of the final declaration. Results of the discussion will be set forth in a summary to be made by the Indian Presidency. I hope they will objectively reflect the exchange of views we had.

We pointed out that UN Security Council reform is long overdue in the context of the developing countries playing a greater role in global governance. We reaffirmed Russia’s position on the importance of this by expanding the representation of the developing countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America and have re-emphasised our position where there’s no need to provide additional seats to the West or its allies because the West is “overrepresented” in this main UN body as it is. No one claiming a seat as a permanent UNSC member will add any value to this body. Our position on this is well known. Today, we reiterated it.

The Indian Presidency continues. I hope the discussion of the items on the G20 agenda will result in corresponding draft recommendations for the G20 Summit to be held in Goa in September.”

“All multilateral institutions are being tested for compliance with the new geopolitical realities. Given the new circumstances, the associations (this includes the UN and the G20 alike) which act as platforms to find a balance of interests rather than to present their approaches or to make claims to justify their alleged entitlement to hegemony, will remain in high demand.”

“To what extent does the West realise that its line is leading to a blind alley? They are declaring the need to inflict a “strategic defeat” on Russia, that this is an “existential problem for the West.” I am referring to their bid to preserve their hegemony in the world arena (which they don’t conceal). The developing nations understand this perfectly well. It’s another matter that some of them, feeling unprecedented pressure from below-the-belt tactics, are compelled to mention this issue in their remarks, emphasising in different forms their commitment to the principles of the UN Charter, especially to territorial integrity and respect for sovereignty. We are all for that. I would like to merely recall that like any document adopted by the entire international community, the UN Charter cannot be fulfilled selectively. It is not a menu to choose from.

In addition to what I’ve said, the UN Charter lays more emphasis on the principle of the right of nations to self-determination. Since the very start of the UN, its member countries have noted the need to have a common understanding of the principle of sovereignty and territorial integrity on the one hand and the right of nations to self-determination, on the other. A process launched with the participation of all UN members culminated in the adoption of the Declaration on Principles of International Law in 1970. Nobody has rejected or disputed this document since then. It interprets the link between these two principles in the following way: every state must observe the sovereignty and territorial integrity of any other state whose government respects the principle of self-determination and represents the whole nation living in said country. There is no need to prove that since 2014, after the bloody coup in Ukraine organised and supported by the West, the radicals that came power do not reflect the interests of either Crimeans or the people of eastern Ukraine. Everyone is well aware of this.”

“The issues at stake were the exercise of inalienable human rights, including the right of the Russian-speakers in Ukraine to speak their native tongue and educate their children in it. These rights were not just trampled underfoot but banned by laws adopted by Parliament and signed by the President of Ukraine on education in Russian, Russian language media, Russian literature and culture in general, and many other things.

I drew the attention of my Western colleagues to this fact during conversations on the sidelines. They looked at me but could say nothing in response. They have only one explanation of why Russia opted for “invasion.” Everyone stresses that it was unprovoked. The “invasion” is a reaction to the war that the West was preparing for many years and for which it was arming the Ukrainian regime that came to power as a result of the coup.”

“If we talk about history, the prototype of the "golden billion" is the colonial powers that conquered territories on different continents and established systems there in such a way as to exploit their natural and human resources and essentially enjoy life at their expense. More than half a century has passed since the decolonisation process ended. Although it is not completely over. There is a UN General Assembly decision on the remaining colonies of France and Great Britain in violation of the relevant UN resolutions. We also continue to work on these issues. We will seek implementation of the United Nations decisions.

Unfortunately, the West has not lost its neo-colonial habits and aspirations. Everything that is being done to subjugate the world economy to the interests of the West is nothing but neo-colonial instincts and practices. This includes sanctions, which many G20 members from developing countries spoke of today as being detrimental to the world economy, especially to food and energy security. It also includes attempts to manipulate prices on the world market. The declaration by Western countries of a price cap on oil is nothing short of theft of other countries’ natural resources. That is if we look at the root of the problem. Manipulation of global trade rules, including WTO standards, and more.

The West continues to advance its interests by other means and methods in the new environment without taking into account the opinion of the vast majority of the world community. Developing countries see it all perfectly well. I have already touched on this issue. Under tremendous, unseemly and immoral pressure, some of them speak or vote in such a way as to ease the pressure from the United States and its allies. But not a single developing country (maybe except for a couple of states that have made some decisions) has joined the sanctions against the Russian Federation. They understand very well what it is all about, what game the West has unleashed, and that it is not about Ukraine at all, but that our Western colleagues want to prove to everyone that they will still "solve" any issues.

The threats made against the People’s Republic of China raise doubts as to the adequacy of those who utter them. In principle, no one should be threatened. But when threats are made against China in the current circumstances, it is beyond comprehension. Our Western colleagues have badly deteriorated manners. They cast diplomacy aside long ago and only engage in blackmail and threats.”

“With regard to assistance in overcoming the crisis, we have repeatedly stated publicly that we never turn down serious proposals that sincerely seek to find a political solution. While calls are being made for Russia to sit down for talks, I can’t remember anyone from among our colleagues in the Western and several other states call on Ukraine to do the same. There must be something to it, because Ukraine is being encouraged to continue the war. In late March 2022, it was ready to talk and proposed a number of settlement principles. We supported them and were ready to sign an agreement based on these principles. But then it got a slap on the wrist. Everyone knows this for a fact. The United States, Great Britain and a number of figures from the EU countries told Kiev that if the Russians were willing to conclude a settlement agreement, Kiev should bide its time, wear them down some more and achieve (as was openly stated later) victory over Russia “on the battlefield” and inflict a “strategic defeat” on it.

See what German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock or head of European diplomacy Josep Borrell had to say the other day: no talks until Ukraine secures an advantage on the battlefield. Reaching out to Russia with serious proposals to hold talks, which we never refused, would be an incorrect approach. No serious offers have been made since March 2022. Military rhetoric and bellicose NATO decisions is all we hear.

Everyone keeps forgetting it. Journalists in the West and a number of developing countries never talk about the fact that head of the Kiev regime Zelensky signed an order banning all talks with the Russian Government in September 2022. We make this clear several times a day as we take questions of that kind. But our foreign media colleagues seem not to hear that and keep asking why Russia doesn’t agree to hold talks.”

“As I have said, the developing countries have not demonstrated any misunderstanding of our position since the beginning of the acute phase of the Russia-West confrontation over Ukraine and in the context of the United States and its satellites’ global geopolitical aspirations for domination.

By and large, I can explain this by the fact that we did not announce our decision, which we were forced to take, a day before it all began. We have been explaining our position for years, ever since the 2014 state coup in Ukraine, and after the Minsk agreements were signed in February 2015. We told our Western colleagues that it is impossible to keep lying. And they were not just ordinary lies but pledges not to infringe on our interests. This is how it was with the non-expansion of NATO, which moved ever close to our borders five times, and the promise not to station “substantial combat forces” in the territory of new bloc members. They have openly admitted that they did the same with regard to the Minsk agreements. For years since the Kiev regime came to power as a result of a coup, they have been consistently destroying everything Russian, from education to the media and culture. I have already spoken about this. Nobody responded to our calls to the West to bring those people to their senses, to force them to honour at least their own Constitution, which guarantees, in black and white, the rights of the Russian and other national minorities, and to make them implement the numerous conventions that set out these rights on the global level.

It is even possible that many of our Western colleagues incited the Kiev regime to destroy everything Russian. President Vladimir Putin said that Ukraine was being turned into an anti-Russia, which is a concise explanation. There is no doubt that this plan was put into effect long ago.

It has already been said that the foreign ministers have not coordinated a final declaration. In my statement, I reminded our colleagues that the first G20 meetings were held in 1999 at the level of finance ministers and central bank governors. It was decided to take them to the level of heads of state and government in 2008. Since 1999, the West has implemented a number of illegal and illegitimate operations in Yugoslavia, Iraq, Libya and Syria.

Libya and Iraq are still trying to regain their statehood. Hundreds of thousands of people, including civilians, women and children, have been killed there. Entire cities have been razed to the ground, like Mosul in Iraq or Raqqa in Syria. The threat of terrorism has increased many times over, in particular after they ruined Libya. The threats created by terrorists in Africa, above all in the Sahel-Sahara region, is to a huge degree the result of the Libyan gamble.

Moreover, the Americans planned all these actions on the assumption that they have a right to address any problem anywhere in the world. None of the situations I have mentioned created a threat to the United States. On the contrary, they developed tens of thousands of miles from the American coast. Nevertheless, they made the decision at night, Colin Powell showed a vial with a white substance at the UN Security Council next morning, and the day after they were bombing Iraq. Several years later, former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair admitted that they were wrong and there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. There were no such weapons, yet the country was bombed out of existence. Our Iraqi friends are still trying hard to rebuild their national unity.

In our case, we have been warning for years: do not turn Ukraine into a threat to the Russian Federation. It is not located somewhere across the ocean but right here, on our border, in the territory where Russians have lived and nurtured their culture for centuries. Their culture has been cancelled by the neo-Nazi government that seized power in Ukraine.

We will continue fighting for justice for the Ukrainian people, protect the interests of ethnic Russians in Ukraine, and ensure the interests of the Ukrainian republics and regions that spoke out at the referendum in favour of reuniting with the Russian Federation.”

“The United States, senior officials from NATO and the EU keep travelling around the world demanding that everyone condemn Russia. What kind of a democracy is that? Is this what respecting the right of every country to make independent choices mean? The UN Charter stipulates that the Organisation is based on the sovereign equality of states. The West has never respected this principle and keeps up its illegitimate pressure, if I may say so, on everyone. It is also worth examining how it makes its case. I heard from many of my friends in developing countries what the Americans have been promising them when asking to condemn Russia. They say that they will not be punished then. And nothing more. An even trade, isn’t it? You comply with my ultimatum, otherwise you will be punished. This is not the way we operate. But this is the way our Western colleagues work, regretful as it is.

As for the references to the G20 meeting in Bali and the fact that this or that country condemned us, I have already said that the G20 has been working since 1999. Since then, the West embarked on all these reckless ventures in Yugoslavia, Iraq, Libya, Syria and Afghanistan, and they all continued for many years. Their consequences are felt to this day, including rampant terrorism, drug trafficking, including in Afghanistan where NATO failed abysmally after 20 years in the country, as well as in terms of disrupting supply chains, global markets, etc. However, this was not mentioned at any of the G20 meetings since its founding in 1999. Not a single country mentioned any of these crises or conflicts, as if nobody cared. The G20 focused on its immediate mandate as long as hundreds of thousands of Africans, Arabs or Afghans were dying. But now that the Western countries failed to deliver on their ventures the way they planned, the West wants to force everyone to talk about it. This is dirty politics, of course.”

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov gives an annual press conference on Russian diplomacy in Moscow on Jan. 14. 2022: Photo by Dimitar Dilkoff/ AFP via Getty Images