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Fact check: What to make of Lavrov's claims at the UN?

April 25, 2023

In Monday’s meeting of the United Nations Security Council, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov repeated accusations against the US, NATO and Ukraine. DW takes a look at the speech and debunks some of his claims.

Russian foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov at the meeting of the UN Security Council
Russia has been accused of using its UN Security Council presidency to portray itself as a defender of multilateralism.Image: John Minchillo/AP/picture alliance

With Russia currently holding the rotating presidency of the United Nations Security Council, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov convened a meeting of the body on Monday to discuss "effective multilateralism through the defence of the principles of the Charter of the United Nations." 

Despite Russia's ongoing war of agression against Ukraine, Lavrov repeated claims of NATO threatening Russia and the US undermining multilateralism on the global stage. He also denied the Ukrainian government's legitimacy and accused it of pursuing a policy of destruction against Russia.

Was there a coup in Ukraine in 2014?

Claim: "The Nazi Kyiv regime can in no way be regarded as representing the residents of the territory who refused to accept the results of the brutal coup in February 2014."

DW Fact check: False

Here, Lavrov is repeating several talking points of Russian propaganda relating to the war in Ukraine. First, he calls the Ukrainian government a "Nazi regime" —  a claim that has been debunked countless times. Current Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is a Russian-speaking Jew who won office in 2019 in an election that independent observers found to be fair.

Thousands of protesters gather on Kyiv's Maidan square in 2014
Russian propaganda misrepresents the Euromaidan protests as a violent coupImage: Aris Messinis/AFP/Getty Images

Lavrov further alludes to the allegation that Ukraine's so-called "Euromaidan" protests in 2014 were a violent coup d'etat. There is no evidence for this. The largely peaceful, pro-European protests erupted over then-president Victor Yanukovych withdrawing from a planned association agreement with the European Union. While experts agree that far-right groups were involved in the movement, they only played a small role.

After Yanukovych fled from Ukraine because of the uprising, his successor Petro Poroshenko was elected in 2014.

Russian tank in Ukraine
Moscow has been trying to justify its invasion of Ukraine by accusing NATO of threatening RussiaImage: Russian Defence Ministry Press Office/TASS/dpa/picture alliance

Did the Ukrainian government organize Nazi marches?

Claim: "[…] the Kyiv regime, through legislation in day-to-day life, introduced Nazi practice and theory without any concealment. Openly, they organized in the center of Kyiv and other cities exuberant torch bearing marches with SS division banners upheld.”

DW Fact check: False

There is no evidence the government in Kyiv organized "torch bearing marches."

While Lavrov gives no specific date here, there have indeed been reports about right-wing nationalist marches in past years. On some occasions, participants did carry symbols that the Nazis also used — for example the "Wolfsangel", a pagan symbol used by the SS and today forms part of the badge of the Ukrainian Azov-Battalion. It is however not viewed as a fascist symbol in Ukraine. 

Not only though is there no evidence of the government supporting such marches — a 2015 Ukrainian law also prohibits the display of both 'Communist and Nazi propaganda'.

Ukrainian nationalists marching with torches, a banner with Stepan Bandera's face is visible in the background
Ukrainian nationalist Stepan Bandera is revered by many Ukrainian right-wing groups todayImage: Anna Marchenko/Tass/IMAGO

Did Ukraine and the West not intend to keep the Minsk agreements?

Claim: "[The] Minsk agreements were trampled upon by Kyiv and its Western handlers, who themselves recently, cynically, and even with pride, recognized that they never intended to implement this. They simply wanted to gain time to funnel weapons into Ukraine against Russia."

DW Fact check: Misleading

Lavrov is referring to the "Minsk II" agreement between Ukraine and Russia, that was signed in February 2015 to stop the armed conflict in the eastern regions of Ukraine. The first attempt, Minsk I, had failed the year before.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, former German Chancellor Angela Merkel, former French President Francois Hollande and former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko
The 2015 Minsk agreement between Russia and Ukraine was negotiated with the help of Germany and FranceImage: Tatyana Zenkovich/dpa/picture alliance

While the 13 points of the second agreement were never fully implemented, nothing suggests that Ukraine or Western countries had no intention of doing so.

Lavrov might be referring to an interview that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy gave to German news magazine Der Spiegel in February 2023, in which he said: "But as far as Minsk as a whole is concerned, I told [French president] Emmanuel Macron and [German chancellor] Angela Merkel: we can't implement it like this."

In the interview, Zelenskyy explains that he did not see the possibility of Ukrainian independence with the Minsk agreement – but that he worked on implementing it because they provided an "official discussion platform to solve anything at all." Lavrov's claim is therefore misleading at best, especially since Zelenskyy was not president at the time the agreement was signed.

Another statement that Lavrov may be alluding to in this context was made by Angela Merkel in December 2022 when she told German weekly Die Zeit: "And the Minsk Agreement in 2014 was an attempt to give Ukraine time. It has used this time to become stronger, as you can see today." This does not corroborate Lavrov's claims, either. While Ukraine's military did improve in the years following 2014, Germany did not supply arms to Ukraine prior to the war, and has only started doing so after Russia's invasion.

Conclusion: In his speech at the UN Security Council, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov repeated a number of false and misleading statements justifying Moscow's war of aggression against Ukraine. Speaking on the 'International Day of Multilateralism and Diplomacy for Peace' of all days, Russia's top diplomat largely spread state propaganda misrepresenting the facts on the ground.

Rachel Baig, Roman Goncharenko, Tetyana Klug, Michael Penke, Joscha Weber, Kathrin Wesolowski and Inna Zavgorodnya contributed to this report.

Edited by: Andreas Illmer