Russian foreign minister met with laughter as he tells audience the West started Ukraine war

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Russia’s foreign minister was ridiculed with groans and laughter from an audience at an international conference on Friday when he claimed Russia was a victim of the war in Ukraine.

The crowd at India‘s G20 Summit in New Delhi erupted in laughter when Sergei Lavrov tried to falsely suggest that the war in Ukraine ‘was launched against us [Russia]’.

Lavrov appeared visibly taken aback by the ridicules from the audience as he stumbled over his words and paused for the interlude of chuckles before resuming the stony-faced propaganda.

The veteran Russian foreign minister may have been expecting a sympathetic hearing in India, where Narendra Modi’s government has appeared as an ally of Putin and his regime. However, India has insisted it is a neutral country in the conflict and has abstained on United Nations votes over the conflict.

But this comes as Russian forces claimed they are about to seize the Russian city of Bakhmut, a key eastern stronghold in the Donetsk region that has been the scene of intense fighting for some months.

Russian foreign minister met with laughter as he tells audience the West started Ukraine war

Lavrov appeared visibly taken aback by the ridicules from the audience at India’s G20 Summit in New Delhi on Friday

Lavrov may have been expecting a sympathetic hearing in India, where Narendra Modi's government has appeared as an ally of Putin and his regime. The two were pictured at the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit in September last year

Lavrov may have been expecting a sympathetic hearing in India, where Narendra Modi’s government has appeared as an ally of Putin and his regime. The two were pictured at the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit in September last year

A Ukrainian serviceman fires an automatic grenade launcher, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, in the front line city of Bakhmut, in Donetsk region, Friday

A Ukrainian serviceman fires an automatic grenade launcher, as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues, in the front line city of Bakhmut, in Donetsk region, Friday

Prior to the public rebuke yesterday, an audience member at the New Delhi conference asked the Russian foreign minister: ‘How the war has affected Russia’s strategy on energy, and will it mark a privilege toward Asia? And if it does, how is India going to feature in it?’

Lavrov responded: ‘The war, which we are trying to stop, which was launched against us using the…’

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But the veteran Russian minister was cut off by a chorus of groans and laughter.

One voice at the conference shouted: ‘Come on!’

Lavrov eventually continued: ‘…The Ukrainian people, of course, influenced the policy of Russia, including energy policy.’ 

‘And the blunt way to describe what changed: we would not anymore rely on any partners in the West. We would not allow them to blow 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 in February last year. Putin’s war has killed or wounded hundreds of thousands of people, displaced people from their homes, and erupted the largest conflict in Europe since the Second World War. 

The Q&A in India comes as the Russian foreign mister continues his ongoing tour across countries in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East as the outcast country continues a desperate search for allies. 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy awards a soldier wounded fighting in the Bakhmut area with a medal for heroism on Friday

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy awards a soldier wounded fighting in the Bakhmut area with a medal for heroism on Friday

This file video grab taken from a drone by AFPTV shows an aerial view of the destruction of the city of Bakhmut on Monday

This file video grab taken from a drone by AFPTV shows an aerial view of the destruction of the city of Bakhmut on Monday

Ukrainian servicemen load a 152 mm shell into a Msta-B howitzer to fire towards Russian positions, near the frontline town of Bakhmut on Thursday

Ukrainian servicemen load a 152 mm shell into a Msta-B howitzer to fire towards Russian positions, near the frontline town of Bakhmut on Thursday

A Ukrainian serviceman smokes a cigarette after leaving Bakhmut, in Chasiv Yar, Ukraine, Friday

A Ukrainian serviceman smokes a cigarette after leaving Bakhmut, in Chasiv Yar, Ukraine, Friday

A Ukrainian armoured personnel carrier (APC) rides by a road outside Bakhmut, in the Donetsk region on Friday

A Ukrainian armoured personnel carrier (APC) rides by a road outside Bakhmut, in the Donetsk region on Friday

Russian artillery continued to pounded the last routes out of Bakhmut on Friday, aiming to complete the encirclement of the besieged Ukrainian city and bring Moscow closer to its first major victory in half a year after the bloodiest battle of the war.

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The head of Russia’s Wagner private army said the city, which has been blasted to ruins in Russia’s more than seven month onslaught, was almost completely surrounded with only one road still open for Ukraine’s troops.

Reuters observed intense Russian shelling of routes leading west out of Bakhmut, an apparent attempt to block Ukrainian forces’ access in and out of the city. A bridge in the adjacent town of Khromove was damaged by Russian tank shelling.

Ukrainian soldiers were working to repair damaged roads and more troops were heading toward the frontline in a sign that Ukraine was not yet ready to give up the city. To the west, Ukrainians were digging new trenches for defensive positions.

Russia’s RIA state news agency released a video showing what it said were Wagner fighters walking by a damaged industrial facility. One fighter is heard saying Ukraine’s army is destroying infrastructure in settlements near Bakhmut to prevent the Russian encirclement.

The commander of Ukraine’s ground forces, Oleksandr Syrskyi, visited Bakhmut on Friday for briefings with local commanders on how to boost the defence capacity of frontline forces.

Denys Yaroslavskyi, commander of a Ukrainian army unit at Bakhmut, told Espreso TV that parts of some units had been ordered to rotate to more secured positions, describing the situation since the morning as ‘a slaughterhouse on both sides.’

A Russian victory in Bakhmut, with a pre-war population of about 70,000, would give it the first major prize in a costly winter offensive, after it called up hundreds of thousands of reservists last year. Russia says it would be a stepping stone to completing the capture of the Donbas industrial region, one of Moscow’s most important objectives.

A Russian tank is engulfed in fire as it is destroyed by an explosive dropped by a drone near Bakhmut on Wednesday

A Russian tank is engulfed in fire as it is destroyed by an explosive dropped by a drone near Bakhmut on Wednesday

Russia's Wagner Group fighters appear to be standing with a flag on top of a building in Bakhmut, Ukraine, in this still image taken from video released Thursday

Russia’s Wagner Group fighters appear to be standing with a flag on top of a building in Bakhmut, Ukraine, in this still image taken from video released Thursday

Before the war Bakhmut was known for salt and gypsum mines. Ukraine says the city has little strategic value and the huge casualties Russia has suffered trying to take Bakhmut could shape 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 determined was filmed on a rooftop in a village some 7 km (4 miles) north of the city centre.

‘Only one route (out) is left,’ he said. ‘The pincers are closing.’

He called on Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to order a retreat from Bakhmut to save his soldiers’ lives. The camera panned to show three captured Ukrainians – a grey-bearded older man and two boys – asking to be allowed to go home.

Robert Brovdi, the commander of a Ukrainian drone unit active in Bakhmut who goes by the name ‘Madyar’, said in a video posted on social media that his unit had been ordered to withdraw immediately. He said he had been fighting there for 110 days.

Volodymyr Nazarenko, a deputy commander in the National Guard of Ukraine, told Ukrainian NV Radio the situation was ‘critical’, with fighting ’round the clock’.

‘They take no account of their losses in trying 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 metre of Ukrainian land costs hundreds of lives to the enemy,’ he said.

‘There are many more Russians here than we have ammunition to destroy them.’

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