Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov appeared to support the territorial integrity of Ukraine agreed after the break-up of the Soviet Union, when Crimea was internationally recognised as part of the country invaded by Moscow.
Ukrainian social media users noted Lavrov's response at a press conference on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly on Saturday when asked if Russia would "recognize Ukraine's sovereignty."
Russia annexed Crimea in 2014 and Kiev has repeatedly said that one of its war aims is to retake the occupied peninsula, which has been the theatre of a series of recent high-profile strikes carried out by Ukrainian forces.
Lavrov said that in 1991 Moscow "recognised Ukraine's sovereignty on the basis of the Declaration of Independence, which it adopted upon its secession from the USSR", in which Crimea was considered to be under Kiev's control.
He said the declaration "contained many good things", which became part of Ukraine's constitution, including protection of minority rights and the status of the Russian language.
"One of the main points for us was that Ukraine will be a neutral country and will not enter into military alliances," Lavrov said. "Under these conditions, we support the territorial integrity of this state."
This reiterates one of the reasons the Kremlin presented for its invasion, namely Kiev's alignment with NATO and the alliance's incursion into Russia's borders.
Lavrov then reiterated the Kremlin's rhetoric about U.S. involvement in Ukraine in a 2004 "coup" and said that in 2014 Crimea "joined" Russia after a referendum whose results were internationally condemned. He also pointed out that Kiev instigated the war in Donbass.
"We have no problem with the territorial integrity of Ukraine. It was destroyed by those who carried out and supported the coup, whose leaders declared war against their own people and started bombing them," Lavrov added, according to a transcript of his comments on the Russian Foreign Ministry's website.
"Surprise, surprise! Russia recognizes the territorial integrity of Ukraine under the Declaration of State Sovereignty of July 16, 1990," Ukraine's internal affairs adviser Anton Geraschenko wrote on X (formerly Twitter), next to a video clip of the comments.
Geraschenko added that the declaration "also mentions twice the inviolability of the borders of the Ukrainian SSR", which as a "sovereign nation-state is developing within its existing borders". "The territory of the Ukrainian SSR within its existing borders is inviolable and cannot be changed or used without its consent," it added.
Maria Drucka, who works in Ukrainian foreign affairs, wrote to X: "I hope this nonsense has not caught on with the Western public. Although it is interesting, if you respect Ukraine's integrity so much, will you give us back Crimea?"
Lavrov also used the press conference to accuse the West of "de facto" fighting Moscow in Ukraine and referred to Western military equipment supplied by Kiev.