Russia-Ukraine War

Moscow says French instructors in Ukraine 'legitimate targets' for Russian armed forces

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov supports Congolese president's idea to organize peace conference on Libya

Elena Teslova  | 04.06.2024 - Update : 05.06.2024
Moscow says French instructors in Ukraine 'legitimate targets' for Russian armed forces North of Kharkiv region, Kharkiv Oblast, Ukraine, May 19, 2024.


French military instructors working in Ukraine are "legitimate targets" for Russian armed forces, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Tuesday.

Commenting on media reports claiming the first group of French officers may arrive in Ukraine this week, Lavrov said there are a lot of facts confirming that the French servicemen have been working in Ukraine for some time.

His remarks came at a news conference in the city of Oyo following a meeting with his counterpart from the Republic of Congo Jean-Claude Gakosso.

"There are many concrete facts that French instructors are already working in Ukraine. Whoever they are, members of the French armed forces or simply mercenaries, they represent an absolutely legitimate target for our armed forces," Lavrov said.

He then turned to the initiative of Congolese President Denis Sassou Nguesso on summoning an "all-Libyan peace conference," pledging Russia's support in bringing the warring sides together.

"We fully support the initiative of the President of the Republic of the Congo Denis Sassou Nguesso to prepare a truly pan-Libyan conference and will use our contacts with various Libyan forces to rally them on this platform," he said.

The Russian top diplomat said the conference may contribute to solving the main challenge that the country is currently facing -- to help the opposing sides reconcile and develop a common approach to the restoration of Libya's statehood.

Reacting to claims that the US State Department banned former intelligence officer and political expert Scott Ritter from leaving the country for a visit to Russia, Lavrov said: "This is just another example in addition to the many that confirm that the US, which calls itself 'the global leader of democracy,' has long been a police state."

Russia cannot take any practical steps to help Ritter overcome restrictions because he is not a Russian citizen, he said.  

Congo urges peace conference with participation of both Russia and Ukraine

For his part, Jean-Claude Gakosso spoke in favor of organizing a peace conference on the Ukrainian settlement with the participation of both warring sides.

“Peace talks should be held between the two main actors in the conflict, while we cannot ignore the fact that Russia has nuclear weapons,” he said.

Gakosso also opposed sending weapons to Kyiv, saying people who are making decisions about supplying Ukraine with arms “pose a challenge to humanity, literally pushing it towards a worldwide conflict.”

The Congolese minister said Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region was not alien to him as he spent some time there. “I lived in Donbas for one year, I know this region very well and even learned a little Ukrainian. Therefore, I think that what is happening in Ukraine is a real civil war,” he assessed.

Gakosso recalled that it was Congo where the African initiative for the Ukraine settlement was born, noting that it remains active, and the African continent insists on a peaceful solution to the crisis.

In June 2023, representatives of seven African states, led by South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, visited Kyiv and St. Petersburg to present their 10-point peace initiative, which includes a cease-fire, diplomatic talks, ensuring the sovereignty of states in accordance with the UN Charter, prisoner exchange, post-war reconstruction.

In response, Russian President Vladimir Putin had pointed out that Ukraine banned negotiations with Russia, and called the necessity of canceling the relevant law the first step to peace.

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