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‘How Can You Defend Them?’: Stephanopoulos Grills Russian Foreign Minister Over Kremlin’s Lies, Attacks On Ukrainian Civilians
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov looks on as he gives an annual press conference on Russian diplomacy in 2021, in Moscow on January 14, 2022. (Photo by Dimitar DILKOFF / AFP) (Photo by DIMITAR DILKOFF/AFP via Getty Images)

ABC anchor George Stephanopoulos grilled Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov during a press roundtable that aired on Russian television, and he did not hold back in asking questions that challenged Russia’s actions directly.

“The world is seeing civilians being killed in Ukraine by Russian bombs. The world is hearing the lies Russia is telling about those attacks. The world is uniting to contend those attacks & those lies. How can you defend them?” Stephanopoulos asked.

“I cannot comment — conjectures and there is a great deal of these now,” Lavrov replied through an interpreter, appearing to suggest that claims of Russian lies and attacks on Ukrainian civilians were little more than “conjecture.”


Lavrov went on to complain that the western nations were attempting to shut down Russian media, claiming, “Europe, mostly, and the United States are trying to close down all of the outlets, media outlets and information sources broadcast by Russian — from Russia on how the special military operation progresses and advances and how the Ukrainian army and the neo-Nazi battalions behave towards the peaceful civilians. They rob and rip off the Donbas settlements. When they fall back they take vehicles and property from Ukrainian residents living there. They behave like pillagers and marauders.”

Lavrov continued to refer to the Ukrainian government as the “Kyiv Regime,” calling them neo-Nazis on several occasions and repeatedly directing Stephanopoulos to a Russian website that he said would provide the real truth.

Stephanopoulos continued to press, asking Lavrov about his — and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s — repeated assertions that Ukraine was riddled with neo-Nazis and this invasion was not an attempt to seize control but rather to “de-nazify” the region.

“Do you believe that President Zelensky, the first Jewish president of Ukraine, whose famil[y] [was] killed in the Holocaust, is a Nazi?” he asked.


“I think that the Nazis and neo-Nazis manipulate him. Otherwise, it is hard to account for how President Zelensky can preside over a society where neo-Nazis make strife, they make marches and torch processions,” Lavrov replied, suggesting that Zelensky’s role in building up and training the Ukrainian military in urban warfare tactics was proof that he was sympathetic to neo-Nazis. “How can not a neo-Nazi president support laws banning the Russian language at school?”


Lavrov denied outright that there were any Russian troops in the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv — which has been under attack for several days.

As Fox News National Security Correspondent Jennifer Griffin tweeted, “Sergei Lavrov with a straight face: ‘in Kharkiv there are no Russian troops….You like the word murderer. Kyiv regime, those are real murderers. Zelensky, yes, he is a Nazi and a neo Nazi because he’s on their side.’ Orwell weeps.”

Ukrainian Member of Parliament Lesia Vasylenko tweeted a photo of the carnage in Kharkiv after days of Russian rocket attacks, adding, “#Kharkiv will never forget #Ukraine will never forgive. The scale of destruction grows every day. The amount of reparations to be paid by #Russia — unimaginable. #StandwithUkraine.”

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