Sergei Lavrov held an annual press conference in Moscow, showing the basics of Russia’s foreign policy. Theoretically, even those will get it who still believe in the myth that it is possible to get in terms with Moscow on the Ukrainian issue.

Everything seems logical, because in the Russian wonderland it has long been an axiom that everyone supporting the united Ukraine is a criminal, and this message has been worked out well during the Donbas war

"Indeed, international legal documents are important, but ..." - this phrase of Russia’s top diplomat shows the true value of documents signed with Russia. This "but" could entail any action or decision on the Kremlin’s part. If they do not like something and desperately crave to attack someone, they can always use this Russian "but" and just deploy the troops, initially branding them the "little green men." This "but" can mutate along with the official position of the Russian state, which is the real master of its word: it can give it and take it back at any time. A year ago, Lavrov assured  himself and others that Russia did not violate the Budapest Memorandum, because it did not throw nuclear bombs on free Ukrainian cities. Now it turned out that Russia’s position had changed once again. According to their latest version, Ukraine violated the document on guarantees of its own territorial integrity by allowing the Maidan Revolution.

Everything seems logical: you should always blame the victim "who was strolling down the street sporting that short skirt". Russia was forced to act violently, they say. Mr Lavrov tells western journalists colorful stories of how an agreement was reached on February 21, 2014, between the then-president Viktor Yanukovich (who subsequently fled to Russia) and the opposition, with the mediation of foreign ministers of Germany, Poland and France, but it was "ripped apart", while those who signed off the agreement on the part of EU "deceived the Ukrainian people." Okay, the West is treacherous. But when the question arises why the Russian Defense Ministry’s Medal for the seizure of Crimea was dated February 20, 2014, when the Maidan had not yet won and the "legitimate" president was still in Kyiv, the answer is of a pre-school level: it was a "technical misunderstanding".

According to Lavrov, thousands of people who came to rally outside Crimea’s Supreme Council on February 26, 2016, were nothing but right-wingers and Wahhabis (here the Kremlin says “hi” to all Crimean Tatars). Everything is logical, because in the Russian wonderland it has long been an axiom that everyone supporting the united Ukraine is a criminal, and this message has been worked out well during the Donbas war.

Kremlin officials probably believe that they "outsmarted everyone"

When Lavrov is asked what he thinks about the Big Treaty between Moscow and Kyiv guaranteeing Ukraine’s territorial integrity, his answer is just something: "For me this question has long been off the agenda." Indeed, what else can we say if the order to invade Ukraine was virtually signed on the Treaty’s back. Then it gets even funnier: "We continue to respect the territorial integrity of Ukraine" within the borders "post Crimea’s reunification with Russia," insists the Russian foreign minister. That is, it seems as if the idea is voiced that the occupied Donbas is part Ukraine, although Russia will not give it back, at the same time suggesting that the sides talk about it.

Last week Vladimir Putin reflected that after "resolving Donbas issues", bilateral relations between Russia and Ukraine will be "generally normalized". On Monday, January 15, Russia’s top diplomat specified his boss’s position: this will most likely never happen. Because the Kremlin will continue supporting its gangsters from the "young republics", smile to the outside world and tell everyone that it is with them that we need to negotiate. Kremlin officials probably believe that they "outsmarted everyone" each time they readdress negotiation proposals to their shadow puppets in Donbas. Very convenient, indeed – in case of any inconvenience, they employ their childish "we are not there" argument. You want UN peacekeepers? Go make a deal with Russian militants, although those proxies are the hand of the Kremlin itself. It is already clear that the chances for the deployment of UN peacekeepers are illusory, as Moscow seeks exclusive control over the region, putting it up for geopolitical bargaining with the West.

The new stage of bargaining has already unfolded this year. It’s no coincidence that Mr Lavrov says that the West focuses too much on the "artificially-hyped" conflict in Ukraine, adding that the war in Donbas is not really "worth" such attention. Moscow would like to see its crimes in Ukraine forgotten and forgiven, and for everyone to pretend as if nothing happened. Really, you’re saying that some 10,000 Ukrainians killed and millions forced to flee from horrors of the Russian invasion? So what? Russia was forced into it, you see...

Roman Tsymbaliuk, Moscow