On Friday Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov addressed Ukraine and Moldova achieving EU candidate status as a first step toward joining the 27-nation bloc, saying Russia sees "no risks" in this status per se, before stressing it remains the militarization among alliances that's the real problem and threat.
Lavrov used the opportunity to accuse the EU and NATO of forming a bloc in preparation to wage war against Russia. "Hitler under his banner had brought together a large part of European countries to wage war against the Soviet Union," Lavrov said while traveling in Azerbaijan. "Today the EU and NATO are bringing together such a contemporary coalition to fight and, to a large extent, wage war against Russia."
He added, "Of course, we will be looking at the real actions of the European Union and following the steps it is taking. [We will monitor] whether candidate countries comply with these requirements or [if] they still try to maintain their independence."
Expanding on this in separate remarks, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov described EU candidacy as merely a "domestic" affair in a press briefing. Notably, Georgia's push to become a candidate has thus far been rejected by Brussels.
"These are domestic European affairs. It is very important for us that all these processes do not bring more problems to us and more problems in the relations of these countries with us," Peskov said, noting that regardless when it comes to Russian-EU relations, it would be "very difficult to spoil them further".
Lavrov's charge of NATO and the EU conspiring for preparations of potential future "war" with Russia weren't followed with further specifics, but is generally in line with the Kremlin's position that Ukraine must be 'demilitarized' - after seeing signs of NATO infrastructure in the country, which was among President Putin's "red lines" in the months leading up to the Feb.24 invasion.
Lithuanian president: “Russia cannot be stopped by persuasion, cooperation, appeasement or concessions.” These small European countries fail to realize the world doesn’t revolve around them. If the plan is unlimited American commitment, they’re in trouble. https://t.co/nRwDiB2oEN— Richard Hanania (@RichardHanania) June 23, 2022
Already, Kremlin sources have increasingly viewed the conflict in Ukraine as a "proxy war" which the West is escalating by supplying heavier and heavier weapons. Kiev on Thursday announced that the US-supplied HIMARS long-range rocket systems had begun to be delivered.
Washington says it's gained assurances from Ukrainian leadership that the systems, which have a range of 50 miles, won't be used to target inside Russian territory. The Kremlin has vowed to target any externally supplied weapons that it finds.