In its latest report on the civilian casualties of the Ukraine war, the UN assumes at least 4,509 dead and 5,585 injured. As the UN itself concedes, the numbers are said to be significantly higher – and the Ukrainian police chief recently spoke of more than 12,000 civilians killed in the country.

In an interview with the British BBC, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov defended his country’s war of aggression, which began at the end of February 2022, also referring to the civilian casualties.

Lavrov, who describes relations between Russia and the United Kingdom as shattered in an interview, largely follows the well-known Russian line of argument: “We did not attack Ukraine,” claims the minister, who has been in office since 2004. Instead, he calls the raid a “military special operation,” in accordance with the Russian government’s rhetoric. His country “had no choice but to explain to the West that dragging Ukraine into NATO is a criminal act.”

Lavrov also repeats the vague claim that there are Nazis in Ukraine to justify the war of aggression. Denazification in Ukraine is cited by Russia as a goal of the war. So far, so well known.

Then BBC journalist Steve Rosenberg, who conducted the interview, addresses Lavrov about an incident documented by the UN in May. Accordingly, in the Ukrainian village of Yahidne near Chernihiv, civilians were locked up by Russian soldiers in a school. 360 villagers, including 74 children and five people with disabilities, were forced to stay in the basement for 28 days. There was no way to sleep for days, there were no toilets, water or ventilation. The UN speaks of ten dead as a result of this capture by Russian soldiers.

“It is very unfortunate,” Lavrov said of the incident, only to put it into perspective again: “But international diplomats, including the Commissioner for Human Rights, the UN Secretary General and other UN representatives, are being put under pressure by the West. And very often they are used to spread fake news spread by the West.”

BBC journalist Steve Rosenberg then ironically states that “So once again Russia has behaved spotlessly clean”. Sergei Lavrov replies: “No, Russia is not squeaky clean. Russia is what it is. And we are not ashamed to show who we are.” Exactly what Lavrov is referring to when he says that Russia is not squeaky clean remains open.

The incident in the village of Yahidne is just one example of the suffering of Ukrainian civilians during the war. The best known were the finds of numerous corpses of civilians, some with their hands tied, in the city of Bucha. Ukraine then accused the Russian Army’s 64th Brigade of war crimes and mass killings of civilians.

Russian President Vladimir Putin bestowed the honorary title of “Guards” on the 64th Brigade. This was justified with “heroism and bravery, determination and courage” of the members.