Los Angeles Times

Diplomat says Russia’s goal is to free Ukraine’s people

Latest remarks appear to contradict Kremlin assurances that it was not seeking overthrow of Kyiv government.

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KYIV, Ukraine — Russia’s top diplomat said Moscow’s overarchin­g goal in Ukraine is to free its people from its “unacceptab­le regime,” expressing the Kremlin’s war aims in some of the bluntest terms yet as its forces pummel the country with artillery barrages and airstrikes.

The remark from Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov comes amid 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 Odesa over the weekend.

“We are determined to help the people of eastern Ukraine to liberate themselves from the burden of this absolutely unacceptab­le regime,” Lavrov said at an Arab League summit in Cairo late Sunday, referring to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s government.

Apparently suggesting that Moscow’s war aims extend beyond Ukraine’s industrial Donbas region in the east, Lavrov said: “We will certainly help the Ukrainian people to get rid of the regime, which is absolutely anti-people and antihistor­ical.”

Lavrov’s comments followed his warning last week that Russia plans to retain control over broader areas beyond eastern Ukraine, including the Kherson and Zaporizhzh­ia regions in the south, and will make more gains elsewhere.

His remarks contrasted with the Kremlin’s line early in the war, when it repeatedly emphasized that Russia wasn’t seeking to overthrow Zelensky’s government, even as Moscow’s troops closed in on Kyiv. Russia later retreated from around the capital and turned its attention to capturing the Donbas. The war is now in its sixth month.

Last week, Russia and Ukraine signed agreements aimed at clearing the way for the shipment of millions of tons of desperatel­y needed Ukrainian grain, as well as the export of Russian grain and fertilizer.

Ukraine’s deputy infrastruc­ture minister, Yuriy Vaskov, said the first shipment of grain is planned for this week.

While Russia faced accusation­s that the weekend attack on the port of Odesa amounted to reneging on the deal, Moscow insisted the strike would not affect grain deliveries.

During a visit to the Republic of Congo on Monday, Lavrov repeated the Russian claim that the attack targeted a Ukrainian naval vessel and a depot containing Western-supplied antiship missiles. He said the grain agreements do not prevent Russia from attacking military targets.

In other developmen­ts:

■ Russia’s gas giant Gazprom said it would further reduce the flow of natural gas through a major pipeline to Europe to 20% of capacity, citing equipment repairs. The move heightened fears that Russia is trying to pressure and divide Europe over its support for Ukraine at a time when countries are trying to build up their supplies of gas for the winter.

■ Ukraine’s presidenti­al office said Monday that at least two civilians were killed and 10 wounded in Russian shelling over the preceding 24 hours. In the Kharkiv region, workers searched for people believed trapped under the rubble after 12 rockets hit the town of Chuhuiv before dawn, damaging a cultural center, school and other infrastruc­ture, authoritie­s said.

Kharkiv Gov. Oleh Sinegubov said: “It looks like a deadly lottery when no one knows where the next strike will come.”

■ Ukraine charged two former Cabinet ministers with high treason over their role in extending Moscow’s lease on a navy base in Crimea in 2010. Prosecutor­s said Oleksandr Lavrynovyc­h and Kostyantyn Hryshchenk­o conspired with thenPresid­ent Viktor Yanukovich to rush a treaty through parliament granting Moscow a 25-year extension, leaving Crimea vulnerable to Russian aggression.

■ Russia said it thwarted an attempt by Ukrainian intelligen­ce to bribe Russian military pilots to turn their planes over to Ukraine. In a video released by Russia’s main security agency, a man purported to be a Ukrainian intelligen­ce officer offered a pilot $2 million to surrender his plane during a mission over Ukraine. The Russian claims couldn’t be independen­tly verified.

 ?? Evgeniy Maloletka Associated Press ?? RESCUERS work at the site of a Russian air attack in Chuhuiv in Ukraine’s northeaste­rn Kharkiv region. Authoritie­s said 12 rockets hit the town before dawn, damaging a cultural center, school and other infrastruc­ture.
Evgeniy Maloletka Associated Press RESCUERS work at the site of a Russian air attack in Chuhuiv in Ukraine’s northeaste­rn Kharkiv region. Authoritie­s said 12 rockets hit the town before dawn, damaging a cultural center, school and other infrastruc­ture.
 ?? Russian Foreign Ministry Press Service ?? RUSSIAN Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov called the leaders of Ukraine “anti-people and anti-historical.”
Russian Foreign Ministry Press Service RUSSIAN Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov called the leaders of Ukraine “anti-people and anti-historical.”

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