MOSCOW — Russia on Friday rejected talks with President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine and made it clear that it was seeking to topple his democratically elected government, which Foreign Minister Sergey V. Lavrov said was steered by “neo-Nazis” and the West.
“We do not see the possibility of recognizing as democratic a government that persecutes and uses methods of genocide against its own people,” Mr. Lavrov said during a news conference in Moscow.
Moscow also vowed that the conflict would soon be over.
“Russia cannot allow Ukraine to become a dagger raised above us in the hands of Washington,” the head of Russia’s foreign intelligence agency, Sergei Naryshkin, said in a brief address aired on Russian state television. “The special military operation will restore peace in Ukraine within a short amount of time and prevent a potential larger conflict in Europe.”
Russian propaganda falsely claims that “neo-Nazis” controlling Ukraine’s government are perpetrating a genocide against Russian speakers in the country. President Vladimir V. Putin said Thursday that the purpose of Russia’s attack on Ukraine was to demilitarize and “denazify” Ukraine, and Mr. Lavrov repeated those terms on Friday, making it clear that Russia was seeking to install a new government in Kyiv.
“What we’re talking about is preventing Nazis and those who push methods of genocide to rule in this country,” Mr. Lavrov said. “Right now, the regime that is located in Kyiv is under two mechanisms of external control: first, the West, led by the United States, and secondly, neo-Nazis.”
Mr. Lavrov said Russia would be prepared to hold negotiations only when Ukraine stopped fighting.
“We are ready for talks at any moment, as soon as the Ukrainian Armed Forces answer the call of our president to stop their resistance and put down their arms,” Mr. Lavrov said.
He also claimed that Russia was not bombing civilian targets and that it was trying to limit casualties in the Ukrainian military.
“No strikes against civilian infrastructure are being carried out,” he said. “No strikes are being carried out on locations of Ukrainian army personnel in dormitories or other places not associated with military facilities.”
The United Nations said on Friday that the fighting in Ukraine since Russia’s invasion began had caused at least 127 civilian casualties, including 25 deaths, but it cautioned that the toll was probably much higher.