The war in Ukraine has triggered the deepest crisis in Russia's relations with the West since the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis and President Vladimir Putin has warned the West that it risks provoking a nuclear war if Western troops are sent to fight in Ukraine.

Russia was dismayed by what Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on March 4 was a refusal by European Union ambassadors to meet him for a conversation ahead of Russia's March 15-17 presidential election.

There was no immediate reaction to Lavrov's statement from the Western ambassadors.

Asked by Russian state television anchor Vladimir Solovyov if the EU ambassadors understood their function, Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said their refusal to meet Lavrov raised questions about their role.

"The question indeed arises among everyone: what are they doing, and why, how do they interpret their conduct on the territory of our country if they do not perform their most important function?" Zakharova said.

Solovyov noted that EU ambassadors attended the March 1 funeral of opposition politician Alexei Navalny, whom he cast as their agent. Navalny, whose death at an Arctic prison colony was announced on Feb. 16, always denied he was a Western agent.

Zakharova said such behaviour showed Western ambassadors in Moscow were meddling in Russia's affairs and putting on "performances" rather than doing their diplomatic work.

The banner headline on Solovyov's television show read: "Should the EU ambassadors be sent out?"

WARNING TO BERLIN

The West is grappling with what support it will give to Kyiv after Russian forces regained the initiative on the battlefield after a failed Ukrainian counteroffensive last year.

Russian media last week published an audio recording of a meeting of senior German military officials held by Webex discussing weapons for Ukraine and a potential strike by Kyiv on a bridge in Crimea.

Russia summoned Germany's ambassador to the foreign ministry on Monday, demanding clarification of the conversations and the assistance given to Ukraine to strike Russian targets.

The ambassador, Alexander Graf Lambsdorff, was also scolded over what Moscow said were attempts by Berlin to restrict the activities of Russian journalists in Germany, according to the Russian foreign ministry.

"If they touch Russian correspondents and bring their plans to conclusion, German journalists will leave Russia," Zakharova said.

(Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge; Editing by Andrew Osborn)

By Guy Faulconbridge