Watch: Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov Says War Was Launched On Russia, Audience Bursts Into Laughter

Last month, Russian President Vladimir Putin also said it was Ukraine and its Western backers that had started the war and Russia merely countered it with force.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has gone viral on the internet after a comment by him ignited bouts of laughter at a conference in Delhi. 

Lavrov said Russia is only defending itself and the war was launched against it. Before he could complete the sentence, the audience burst into laughter. 

"The war which we are trying to stop and which was launched against us using Ukraine," said Lavrov at a session at the Raisina Dialogue organised by the think tank Observer Research Foundation (ORF). 

Lavrov made the comment in response to a question on how the ongoing Ukraine War has impacted Russian energy policy. After the interruption, Lavrov went on to say that the war "of course influenced the policy of Russia, including the energy policy".

At the conferemce, Lavrov also hit out at Western nations of hypocrisy and dubbed the Ukraine War as an existential situation for Russia.

He said, "Nobody was giving a damn about anything but finances and macroeconomic policies which the G20 was formed for...when Russia has started to defend itself, there is nothing except Ukraine that is of interest to the G20...It is a shame. If they say it is existentialist for them, it is existentialist for us."

A combative Lavrov also wondered why everyone was asking Russia whether it was ready to negotiate to end the war when Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky had signed a decree making negotiations with Moscow under President Vladimir Putin a "criminal offence". He said US President Joe Biden and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg have publicly stated that Russia must be defeated on the battlefield.   

He said, "They say Russia must suffer a strategic defeat and this they say is existentialist for the west in the context of global domination. This is a blunt admission."

Lavrov also added that Moscow had been warning the West for decades against the expansion of NATO and pushing arms into Ukraine to prepare them for war against Russia. He said the countries in Europe were not affected by what Russia was doing in Ukraine, but by the reaction of the West on Moscow’s actions in the region after ample warnings.

"They do not remember when Serbia was bombed. Joe Biden, a senator at that time, bragged that he promoted that approach. When Iraq was ruined as a state, a few years later Tony Blair said it was a mistake. You think the United States has the right to declare a threat just like they did to other countries, but no one questions it for that," said Lavrov.

Russia has long framed the Ukraine War as self-defence measure against Western expansionism. It has also termed Ukraine as a Western pawn doing the bidding of the US-led Western bloc against Russia.

Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the invasion of Ukraine on February 24, dubbed as the "special military operation". While Russian forces reached the outskirts of Ukrainian capital Kyiv in the initial days of the Russian invasion, the progress soon stalled and forces were soon redeployed to the country's east and southeast where some of the heaviest fighting is still going on. 

Last month, Putin said it was "they" who started the war —referring to Ukraine and its Western backers— and Russia merely countered it with force. In the state-of-the-nation address, he also termed Ukrainians as "hostages of their Western masters", according to The Guardian. He said Zelenskyy's government is serving foreign powers. 

Putin also said that Ukrainian people had become "hostages of their Western masters" who occupied the country in political, economic, and military terms, and that Zelenskyy's "regime is not serving their national interest. They are serving the interests of foreign powers", according to The Guardian.

Justifying the Russian invasion of Ukraine in his speech, Putin also said that Russia was left with no choice other than defending itself. 

CNN quoted Putin as saying, "They did not leave us any other option for defending Russia and our people, other than the one we are forced to use today. In these circumstances, we have to take bold and immediate action. The people’s republics of Donbas have asked Russia for help."

(With PTI inputs)