(Reuters) – Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Saturday that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s attempt to secure direct NATO help in the conflict between their countries was not helping talks between the two sides.
“Constant angry statements from Mr Zelenskiy do not increase optimism,” Lavrov told reporters on Saturday.
In particular, he mentioned Zelenskiy’s strong criticism of the Western military alliance on Friday for refusing to intervene in the conflict by preventing Russian missiles and warplanes using Ukrainian airspace.
“My question is: If he is so upset that NATO has not intervened on his behalf as he hoped, then he expects to resolve the conflict by involving NATO in all this, and not through talks?” Lavrov said.
Earlier, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said he was open to talks with Lavrov, but only if they were “meaningful”.
Russia invaded Ukraine by land, sea and air on Feb. 24, in what it calls a “special military operation”.
Wary of being dragged into Moscow’s war on its neighbor, NATO on Friday turned down Zelenskiy’s appeal to create a no-fly zone over Ukraine, prompting the Ukrainian president to say that the alliance had given Russia the green light to continue its bombing campaign.
Russian and Ukrainian delegations from Moscow and Kyiv have held two rounds of talks, the latest on Thursday, after which they said they had agreed on the need to create humanitarian corridors to evacuate civilians, but not much else.
Lavrov said Moscow was ready for a third round, but had not received new dates from the Ukrainian side, which he said was inventing pretexts to delay the process.
The Kremlin said on Friday that progress in the negotiations would depend on Kyiv’s reaction to Moscow’s position on how to end the war, which had been conveyed to Ukraine on Thursday.
(Reporting by Reuters; Editing by Louise Heavens and Kevin Liffey)