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French military in Ukraine would be ‘legitimate target’ for Russia: Lavrov

AP

Published: June 5,2024 6:05 PM

While touring Africa, Russia’s foreign minister also dismissed the Ukraine peace and security conference, which is due to take place in Switzerland in July.

Any French military instructors in Ukraine would be a “legitimate target” for Russian armed forces, Russia’s top diplomat said during a tour of Africa on Tuesday.

Sergey Lavrov made the remarks at a joint news conference with the Republic of Congo’s foreign minister, Jean Claude Gakosso.

French instructors were already in Ukrainian territory to train Kyiv’s troops, Lavrov added.

“Regardless of their status, military officials or mercenaries represent a legitimate target for our armed forces”, he said.

Ukraine’s top commander has said he had signed paperwork allowing French military instructors into Ukrainian training centres. However, French President Emmanuel Macron said last week he wouldn’t comment on “rumors” that France had boots on the ground in Ukraine.

Macron’s office declined to comment on Lavrov’s remarks.

Leaked documents online in April 2023 suggested that special forces from the West were on the ground in Ukraine, with large contingents from the UK, US, Baltic States and France.

It was not clear exactly what these troops were doing or what level their numbers had consistently been at.

Lavrov’s visit to the Republic of Congo was his second stop in a tour of Africa.

He also visited Guinea on Monday, where he met with the country’s foreign minister.

Lavrov has visited the African continent several times in the past few years, where Russia seeks to increase support amid Moscow’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

During his tour, Lavrov dismissed the Ukraine peace conference, which is due to take place in Switzerland in July.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is currently in Asia to shore up support for the conference, to which Russia has not been invited.

“This conference in Switzerland has no meaning,” said Lavrov. “The only meaning it can have is to try to preserve this anti-Russian bloc which is in the process of crumbling.”

Lavrov landed at the airport of the Burkina Faso capital, Ouagadougou, late on Tuesday.

He is scheduled to meet on Wednesday with Captain Ibrahim Traore, the country’s leader who took power following a 2022 military coup, before travelling to Chad on Wednesday afternoon.

 

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