Russia has proceeded to the next stage of the special operation in Ukraine, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in an interview with India Today on April 19.
"This operation will continue, the next phase of this special operation is now beginning, and, it seems to me, it will be an important moment during this special operation,” the minister specified.
According to Lavrov, the goal of the special operation is to liberate the Donbass completely — the Donetsk People's Republic and the Luhansk People's Republic (DPR and LPR).
Earlier, Lavrov answered a question about the use of nuclear weapons in Ukraine and clarified that Russia was considering the use of conventional weapons only at the current stage of the special operation.
In the interview, Lavrov was asked about possible referendums in the Russia-controlled Ukrainian territories.
"This is democracy at its apotheosis. <…> People had been living in suffering in these regions for eight years when neo-Nazis would forbid them to speak their language, keep the memory of the heroes of the Great Patriotic War, hold parades and any events to preserve the memory of their grandparents.
"And now these people have expelled the neo-Nazis and they want to say: "Now it will be up to us to decide who will lead here. This is our mayor, this is our legislature." It seems to me that in many ways this is a manifestation of democracy after so many years of suppression. <…>
"Russia does not plan to change the regime in Ukraine. It is up to the citizens of the country who must decide for themselves how to live on. We want them to have the freedom of choice," Lavrov said.
The Ukrainian military, who left the territory of the besieged Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, declared their desire to negotiate