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

Ukraine has said paperwork has been signed that would allow French instructors to train Kyiv’s soldiers.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov attends a joint press conference with Foreign Minister of the Republic of Congo Jean-Claude Gakosso in Oyo
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov attends a joint news conference with Foreign Minister of the Republic of the Congo Jean-Claude Gakosso in Oyo [Russian Foreign Ministry/Reuters]

Any French military instructors sent to Ukraine would be a “legitimate target” for Russian armed forces, Russia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov said after Ukrainian officials revealed they were seeking training assistance for their troops from France.

Lavrov made the remarks at a joint news conference on Tuesday with the Republic of the Congo’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Jean Claude Gakosso.

“As for the French instructors, I think they are already on the Ukrainian territory,” Lavrov said. “Regardless of their status, military officials or mercenaries represent a legitimate target for our armed forces.”

Ukraine’s top commander said last week he had signed paperwork that would soon allow French military instructors to access Ukrainian training centres.

Afterwards, French President Emmanuel Macron said he would not comment on “rumours or decisions that could be made” and that he would elaborate on France’s support during events later this week to mark the 80th anniversary of D-Day where he will be joined by leaders including Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

Macron’s office on Tuesday said it would not comment on Lavrov’s remarks. There is no evidence that French instructors are in Ukraine.

Lavrov has visited Africa several times in the past few years as Russia seeks to shore up support amid Moscow’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Several African countries in recent years have expressed growing frustration with their traditional Western partners like France and the United States and some have turned to Russia for help in fighting Islamic insurgencies.

Lavrov on Tuesday also dismissed the Ukraine peace conference due to take place later this month in Switzerland. Russia, which insists any discussions need to start with on-the-ground “realities”, has not been invited. It currently occupies about 18 percent of Ukrainian territory.

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

Switzerland has said that more than 80 delegations have confirmed their attendance. China, which has deepened its relationship with Moscow, said last week it would not attend.

The Republic of the Congo was the second stop on Lavrov’s tour. He visited Guinea on Monday and met the country’s foreign minister.

Late on Tuesday, he landed at the airport of the Burkina Faso capital Ouagadougou, the country’s authorities said in a statement on social media. Lavrov was scheduled to meet on Wednesday with Captain Ibrahim Traore, the country’s leader who took power following a 2022 military coup.

He was expected in Chad on Wednesday afternoon, the country’s authorities said in a statement.

Source: News Agencies