Russia said on Sunday that the aim of its invasion of Ukraine is to topple the government of President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Speaking to envoys at an Arab League summit in Cairo, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Moscow is determined to help Ukrainians “liberate themselves from the burden of this absolutely unacceptable regime.”
“Russian and Ukrainian people would continue to live together, we will certainly help Ukrainian people to get rid of the regime, which is absolutely anti-people and anti-historical,” he said, accusing Kyiv and “its Western allies” of spouting propaganda intended to ensure that Ukraine “becomes the eternal enemy of Russia.”
Moscow had earlier insisted it was not seeking to overthrow Zelensky
Early in the war, Kremlin officials repeatedly emphasized that they weren’t seeking to overthrow Zelensky’s government, a total contrast to Lavrov’s remarks.
Lavrov argued that Russia was ready to negotiate a deal to end hostilities in March when Kyiv changed tack and declared its intention to rout Russia on the battlefield, adding that the West has encouraged Ukraine to keep fighting.
Lavrov’s remarks come amidst Ukraine’s efforts to resume grain exports from its Black Sea ports, something that would help ease global food shortages under a new deal tested by a Russian strike on Odessa over the weekend.
Following the signing of identical agreements by Russia and Ukraine with the United Nations and Turkey on Friday in Istanbul, the way was cleared for the shipment of millions of tons of desperately needed Ukrainian grain as well as the export of Russian grain and fertilizer. However, it was uncertain when grain shipments would resume.
Russia intensifies ‘military’ offensive on Ukraine
Over the weekend, Russia attacked the port of Odessa, but on Monday, the Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that it targeted military assets and would not affect grain shipping, insisting that the strike had to do “exclusively with the military infrastructure.”
Peskov said “this is in no way related to the infrastructure involved in fulfilling the agreements and exporting grain. So, this can’t and shouldn’t affect the start of the shipment process in any way.”
“Russia is a responsible gas supplier, and no matter what anyone says…the European Commission [or] in European capitals [and] in the US, Russia has been and continues to be a country that to a large extent guarantees Europe’s energy security,” he added.
“Russians are using the scorched earth tactics”
Ukraine’s presidential office on Monday said that at least two civilians were killed and another ten were wounded in the latest Russian shelling during the last 24 hours.
Meanwhile, in the eastern Donetsk region, the focus of the Russian offensive, Russian artillery struck Avdiivka, Kramatorsk, and Kostiantynivka. An airstrike on Bakhmut damaged at least five houses.
“The Russians are using the scorched earth tactics across the entire Donbas, they fire from the ground and from the air to wipe off entire cities,” Donetsk Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said in televised remarks.
The Russians also struck the Kharkiv region. In the city of Chuhuiv, a Russian strike ruined the building of a local club and rescue workers removed several people from under the debris.
Kharkiv Governor Oleh Sinyehubov denounced the attack as “senseless barbarity,” saying that “it looks like a deadly lottery when no one knows where the next strike will come and the entire region is dangerous for living.”
It was also reported that in the Dnipro region, a ten-year-old girl was wounded by shelling, and a seven-year-old child was wounded in the Russian shelling of the Mykolaiv region.
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