Russia‘s foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said at a disarmament conference in Geneva that Ukraine has been seeking to acquire nuclear weapons, a “real danger” that Russia needed to respond to.

“Today the dangers that (Ukrainian President Volodymyr) Zelenskiy’s regime pose for neighbouring countries and international security in general have increased substantially after the authorities set up in Kyiv have embarked upon dangerous games related to plans to acquire their own nuclear weapons,”  Lavrov told the Conference on Disarmament in a pre-recorded video address, according to a Reuters report.

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“Ukraine still has Soviet nuclear technologies and the means of delivery of such weapons. We cannot fail to respond to this real danger,” he said.

Lavrov was supposed to fly to Geneva to attend the conference in person, but Russia accused unidentified EU states of blocking his flight path.

The speech was addressed to a thin crowd as many diplomats, including France and Britain, staged a walk-out in protest of Russia’s attack on Ukraine. 

The diplomats from these countries stood in a circle outside the meeting with a Ukrainian flag in hand, while Lavrov delivered his speech.

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Meanwhile, Ukraine’s foreign minister also accused Russia of war crimes at the same conference, calling for a special meeting to address the invasion and Moscow’s use of weapons of mass destruction, according to the Reuters report. 

The news agency accessed a copy of the request, which said the meeting would be about “the use of conventional weapons against the civilian population as well as nuclear and other WMD threats”.

Predictably, Russia objected to the meeting, while ‘numerous other members’ of the conference supported it, as per the request copy.

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A minute of silence was held for the victims of the Russian attack of Ukraine. More than 190 Ukrainian soldiers had been killed in the first four days of the assault, Ukraine’s health ministry said. 

Further, the invasion has resulted in the death of at least  352 civilians since last Thursday, Kyiv said earlier on Tuesday. The death toll includes 14 children.  

Both death tolls are likely to be higher. 

Russia launched a massive invasion of Ukraine by land, air and sea, after months of military build-up at the border and heightening suspicion of war by the West. Moscow’s aggression is considerably the biggest attack by one state against another in Europe since World War II.

Russian forces on Friday closed in on Ukraine’s capital Kyiv in an apparent encircling movement after a barrage of airstrikes on cities and military bases around the country.