The propaganda war over Ukraine ratcheted up another notch on Friday, as Russian FM Sergey Lavrov suggested that the West was attempting to manipulate global perceptions over what is happening in Ukraine.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov at the first Forum of Young Diplomats from the CIS. Photo: Pavel Gazdyuk

In response to Western accusations of Russian propaganda over Ukraine, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov suggested that the West was creating its own anti-Russian propaganda. While taking part in the first Forum of Young Diplomats from the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) last Friday, he noted that Russia will support an independent point of view in the media and blamed his Western colleagues for ignoring the Geneva agreement.

"Our Western partners, without batting an eyelid, keep demanding that Russia cease interfering in Ukraine. To withdraw troops and pull out agents allegedly caught in the southeast commanding the whole process," Lavrov said, addressing the audience of about thirty diplomats in Moscow.

"I have spoken many times with [U.S. State Secretary] John Kerry on this subject over the past two weeks now, and many times I have told him that if the Ukrainians have Russian agents in custody, show them to the people on TV," he added.

The Russian Foreign Minister told the young diplomats that "we are being addressed with slogans."

"If you think that when I get a call from John Kerry, William Hague, or Laurent Fabius, they express themselves differently on the phone and explain their reasoning, then you don't realize that they use exactly the same slogans even without an audience: "'Sergey, you need to withdraw your troops, pull out your agents – no one in the world believes that this is not Russia's doing in the southeast.' It's very difficult to respond to that."

Lavrov added that Russia is trying to explain to Western countries that as soon as Kiev implements the Geneva agreement reached on April 17, the leaders in southeastern Ukraine will take similar steps.

During the Geneva meeting on the situation in Ukraine in mid-April, top diplomats from Russia, Ukraine, the U.S. and EU agreed that parties would refrain from "violence, intimidation, or provocative actions" and that all "illegal armed groups will be disarmed." In a joint statement, they also called for all illegally seized buildings to be returned to legitimate owners and all illegally occupied streets, squares and other public places in Ukraine to be vacated. According to the agreement, amnesty shall be granted to all protesters.

The Russian foreign minister also responded to Kerry’s remarks characterizing Russian state-sponsored channel RT as a “propaganda bullhorn deployed to promote Putin’s fantasy."

Video by Vladimir Stakheev and Pavel Gazdyuk

"Russia Today is making a serious effort to rival CNN, BBC and other media. It has won a great audience in the U.S., Great Britain, Western Europe, not to mention Latin America and the Arab world. We will actively support an independent point of view, an alternative one to what is told by Western propaganda," Lavrov said.

Thus, within the space of 24 hours, the foreign ministries of the two countries branded each other’s leading news channels as "propaganda."

The two organizers of the Forum of Young Diplomats from the CIS were the NGO “Creative Diplomacy” and the ZNAK ("Sign") club of the Council of Young Russian Diplomats. It  took place on April 24-25.

"The goal [of the forum] is to create a unique platform for communication between young people who have already started directly participating in the diplomacy of their own countries," the head of ZNAK, Konstantin Kolpakov, told Russia Direct. "There are plenty of forums for all sorts of experts, students or grad students. There hasn’t been anything of that kind for diplomats," he added.

"We expect this platform to become well-known in the CIS,” said Natalia Burlinova, head of "Creative Diplomacy." They added that there are plans to increase the list of participants of the forum in upcoming years by inviting delegates from the BRICS or the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), as well as additional countries.

"We are open to discussions and promote inclusive diplomacy. We are as eager to communicate with young American diplomats as with Armenians. I personally don’t see a huge difference in the worldview of young people from different countries since we live in the world where information circulates freely," said Kolpakov.

Russia Direct was a general information partner of the forum.