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Russia’s war with West is ‘almost a real one,’ Putin’s foreign minister warns

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Russia's war with the West is no longer a "hybrid" and is almost a real one, Vladimir Putin's foreign minister has warned.

Putin's pal Sergei Lavrov has warned that the conflict is edging ever closer to a real fight.

Lavrov slammed NATO’s support for Ukraine, saying that the West was using the fight between Russia and Ukraine to try to destroy his country.

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“When we speak about what is happening in Ukraine – it is a war, not a hybrid one, almost a real war, that the West has been plotting for a long time against Russia,” Lavrov said today (Monday, January 23).

He added: “The goal is to destroy everything Russian, from language to culture, that has been in Ukraine for centuries and to prohibit people from speaking their mother tongue,” he added, repeating propaganda lines that Putin himself has used more then once in the past year.

Lavrov also said that Western leaders had deliberately sabotaged negotiations between Russia and Ukraine, prolonging the conflict.

Speaking in Pretoria while he was visiting south Africa for talks with his opposite number there, Naledi Pandor, Lavrov said Russia did not “refuse negotiations” with Ukraine.

He added: “It is well known that we supported the proposal of the Ukrainian side to negotiate early in the special military operation and by the end of March, the two delegations agreed on the principle to settle this conflict.

"It is well known and was published openly that our American, British, and some European colleagues told Ukraine that it is too early to deal, and the arrangement which was almost agreed was never revisited by the Kyiv regime."

“But,” he warned, “those who refuse must understand that the longer they refuse, the more difficult it is to find a solution."

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Kremlin officials have blamed Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who has said he will not negotiate as long as Russian leader Vladimir Putin remains in power, for the diplomatic stalemate.

South Africa is an important ally for Russia, being one of only a handful of nations that have failed to condemn to invasion of Ukraine.

Ms Pandor hit back at criticism of joint military exercises planned with Russia and China, saying that “all countries conduct military exercises with friends”.

Russia's TASS news agency has reported that a Russian warship armed with “unstoppable” hypersonic cruise weapons would be taking part in the joint exercises.

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