Briefing of the Foreign Ministry Spokesman

24 August 201712:51

Briefing by Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova, Moscow, August 24, 2017

Table of contents

  1. The death of Russian Ambassador to Sudan Mirgayas Shirinsky
  2. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s working visit to Kuwait, UAE and Qatar
  3. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s meeting with students and faculty of Moscow State Institute of International Relations and Russian Foreign Ministry’s Diplomatic Academy
  4. Developments in Syria
  5. US Department of State’s allegations of Syrian government’s involvement in chemical attacks in Eastern Ghouta and Khan Shaykhun
  6. The new US strategy on Afghanistan and a statement by US State Secretary Rex Tillerson
  7. The situation on the Korean Peninsula
  8. Japan’s Defence Ministry plans to deploy Aegis Ashore systems in the country
  9. Introduction of peacemakers in Donbass
  10. Russia’s participation in the project to build a new Museum Memorial at the former Sobibor Nazi death camp
  11. Desecration of a monument to Red Army soldiers in Kosice
  12. Latest act of vandalism in Western Ukraine
  13. Answers to media questions:
  1. Cybersecurity cooperation between Russia and the United States
  2. Presidential Aide Vladislav Surkov’s meeting with Kurt Volker, US Special Representative for Ukraine Negotiations
  3. San-Francisco incident
  4. US diplomatic staff reduction and difficulties with issuing US visas
  5. Ukraine’s plans to change the visa regime
  6. Establishing a priority development area on the Kuril Islands (Sakhalin Region)
  7. Situation on the Korean peninsula
  8. Expansion of the anti-Russia sanctions by the US
  9. Customs agreement between Turkey and the EAEU

 

The death of Russian Ambassador to Sudan Mirgayas Shirinsky

 

On August 23, Russian Ambassador to Sudan Mirgayas Shirinsky died in Khartoum. According to the Russian Embassy, the ambassador died around 6 pm local time. When he was discovered in the residence, he appeared to have symptoms consistent with a heart attack. The embassy employees at the residence immediately summoned medical assistance. Unfortunately, the doctors were unable to save the ambassador’s life.

Mirgayas Shirinsky was a top professional who dedicated his life to diplomatic service.

We express our sincere condolences to the family and friends of the Ambassador. May he rest in peace.

 

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Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s working visit to Kuwait, UAE and Qatar

 

On August 27−30, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will make a working visit to Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar.

While in Kuwait, Sergey Lavrov will meet with Emir of Kuwait, Sheikh Sabah IV Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah and will hold talks with First Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Kuwait Sabah Al-Khalid Al-Sabah.

In Abu Dhabi, Sergey Lavrov will meet with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, National Security Adviser Tahnoun Al Nahyan and Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, who also co-chairs the Intergovernmental Russian-Emirates Commission for Trade, Economic and Technical Cooperation.

In Doha, Sergey Lavrov will meet with Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani and will hold talks with Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al Thani and Defence Minister Khalid bin Mohammad Al Attiyah. 

The Russian delegation will use the upcoming meetings to discuss the traditionally friendly relations between Russia and these states and their further development. The parties will review in detail the implementation of the decisions that have been made by their leaders in this respect.

Our joint tasks include maintaining a regular political dialogue, expanding trade and investment partnership and preparing mutually beneficial projects in energy, metallurgy, manufacturing, agriculture, infrastructure and other areas. In addition, the parties will discuss the possibility of promoting cultural ties, including cultural exchanges and cooperation in tourism.

A major issue at these talks will be the continued coordination of the parties’ positions on the key global and regional issues, including support for Russia’s position and initiatives at the UN and other international organisations.

The parties will hold in-depth discussions of the situation in the Middle East and North Africa, primarily the need to settle regional conflicts by political and diplomatic methods, through dialogue based on mutual respect for the interests and concerns of all the sides involved.

Much attention in this respect will be given to the ongoing crisis in Qatar’s relations with the United Arab Emirates and several other Arab countries. Russia has firmly urged the countries involved to abandon confrontational rhetoric and instead settle the dispute through negotiations and compromise solutions. Russia supports Kuwait’s mediation towards this end.

Syria is another current issue on the agenda of Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s tour of the regional countries. The Russian delegation will update its Arabian colleagues on Russia’s efforts to settle the Syrian crisis, including within the framework of the Astana process, and on the creation of de-escalation zones in Syria. The parties will also exchange opinions on the possibility of progress at the intra-Syrian talks held in Geneva in keeping with UN Security Council Resolution 2254.

We view Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s upcoming visits as an integral part of our consistent efforts to promote multifaceted and mutually beneficial cooperation with all our partners in the strategically important region of the Middle East and North Africa. We have always believed that this fruitful cooperation meets the long-term interests of Russia and regional countries and serves the cause of peace and stability.

 

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Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s meeting with students and faculty of Moscow State Institute of International Relations and Russian Foreign Ministry’s Diplomatic Academy

 

According to our long-standing tradition, on September 1 the Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will meet with the students and faculty of Moscow State Institute of International Relations and Russian Foreign Ministry’s Diplomatic Academy, marking the beginning of a new academic year. There will be an interactive discussion with the students, which has also become traditional by now.

I don’t think there’s any need to explain how important these two institutions are for Russia’s foreign policy and for the Foreign Ministry. For decades they have been training highly professional experts in international relations, as well as state officials, politicians, diplomats, researchers, journalists, and business leaders for Russia and other countries; but they also make a major contribution by strengthening the analytical expertise of the Foreign Affairs Ministry when it comes to preparing important foreign policy decisions.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will share his ideas about the main trends in the future global development, comment on key international issues and answer questions from the audience. We hope that the upcoming meeting, as well as the interactive discussion, will help the young people who are entering a new and very important stage of their lives to understand Russia better in terms of foreign policy issues, and see how committed we are to establishing a positive and unifying agenda and following the principles of objectivity and fairness.

As always, the meeting will be broadcast live. We invite everyone to visit the Moscow State Institute of International Relations on September 1. Please make sure to get your accreditation beforehand. Those who don’t get accreditation will still be able to watch the stream on the Foreign Ministry’s website and on our pages in social networks.

 

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Developments in Syria

 

The military-political situation in the Syrian Arab Republic took a largely positive turn after the signing of the memorandum on the creation of de-escalation zones in Syria by guarantor countries of the Astana process – Russia, Iran and Turkey – on May 4 and the subsequent creation of these zones in southwestern Syria, Eastern Ghouta and in the north of the Homs Province.

The Syrian government forces continue their efforts to rid the country of terrorists from ISIS, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (or Jabhat al-Nusra) and the groups that support these organisations.

The counterterrorism operation is ongoing against al-Nusra in the Jobar district of Damascus and in the neighbouring Ayn Terma. The jihadists are shelling residential districts in Damascus, in particular, Bab Touma and Al-Hamidiya. Several shells have been fired towards the 59th Damascus International Fair, killing four people. But the international fair, which has been held for the first time since 2011, has not suspended its work.

Aleppo, the most densely populated province in Syria, has been fully liberated from the terrorists. Overall, 50 towns and over 2,700 square kilometres of Syrian territory have been liberated.

The assault groups of the Syrian army, who are fighting in the east of the Hama Province with support from Russia’s Aerospace Forces, have assumed control over several commanding heights near the towns of Hisayah and es-Savannet and have surrounded a large group of ISIS fighters near Uqayribat. The terrorists have been trying to break out of the trap and flee towards Deir ez-Zor.

The Syrian army is carrying on the offensive near the town of Abu Kamal on the Syrian-Iraqi border towards the Euphrates.

The combined Kurdish and Arab units of the Syrian Democratic Forces continue the operation to liberate Raqqa from ISIS fighters. These units have assumed control over some 60 per cent of the city area.

Tensions persist between Faylaq al-Rahman and Jaysh al-Islam, which has joined the de-escalation agreement. These groups are fighting each other on the battlefield and in the media, where they question the other party’s loyalty to the “revolutionary ideals.”

Meanwhile, Jabhat al-Nusra has been trying to escape public censure as a terrorist organisation by blending in among the locals in the administrative units it has created in the areas it controls in the Idlib, Hama and Aleppo provinces. With this aim in view, it has been working to create its own “government” and local governments and to merge the allied terrorist groups into the so-called Northern Army.

The current developments in Syria point to an urgent need to expedite the creation of de-escalation zones, strengthen the ceasefire regime and improve the humanitarian situation in the country as soon as possible. We call on our regional and international partners to support the efforts to rout terrorists in Syria ahead of the sixth International Meeting on Syria, which will convene in Astana in mid-September, and to take additional efforts to help the conflicting sides find compromise solutions that would put an end to drawn-out confrontation in Syria.

 

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US Department of State’s allegations of Syrian government’s involvement in chemical attacks in Eastern Ghouta and Khan Shaykhun

 

We would like to draw your attention to the press statement on the August 21, 2013 chemical attack in the eastern suburb of Damascus, which the US State Department’s Office of Press Relations issued on August 21. Without a shadow of a doubt in its exceptional righteousness and exclusive right to the truth, which has, unfortunately, become the prerogative of our American colleagues, the US State Department has again blamed the Syrian government for the chemical attack perpetrated four years ago, as usual, without any substance. In the same statement, the Americans again repeated the allegation of Damascus’ involvement in the Khan Shaykhun chemical attack on April 4, 2017.

I would like to remind everyone that the Russian Foreign Ministry has more than once provided detailed comments on Eastern Ghouta and Khan Shaykhun. We have yet to receive any reasonable and objective arguments to substantiate this allegation, and so we do not understand why Washington is convinced that the blame rests with the government of Bashar al-Assad. Washington’s conviction is so strong that it delivered a missile strike on the Syrian government forces on April 7 in gross disregard for international law.

We view the events in Eastern Ghouta and Khan Shaykhun, as well as the commotion raised over them by the biased Western media and officials, as clear elements of the information war that is being waged against sovereign and independent Syria and as attempts to torpedo the efforts towards a political settlement of the Syrian crisis based on UN Security Council Resolution 2254.

 

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The new US strategy on Afghanistan and a statement by US State Secretary Rex Tillerson

 

We took note that a new strategy on Afghanistan announced by US President Donald Trump on August 21 focuses on a military solution to the Afghan issue, including through beefing up foreign military contingents.

This approach is in tune with the prescriptions for Afghanistan issued by the previous US administration, which, as is known, failed to improve the security in the region.

Regrettably, the strategy does not reflect the danger posed by the Afghan offshoot of the ISIS terrorist group, which is actively spreading its influence in Afghanistan, and completely ignores drug production in Afghanistan as well. Russia, the UN and corresponding entities have repeatedly said that the drug production represents a major source of revenue for terrorists.

We expect that the planned expansion of powers of the US armed forces in Afghanistan will not violate sovereignty of that country or infringe upon the national interests of the states in that region.

For our part, we are willing to continue to assist Kabul in training and equipping its national security forces as the main guarantor of security in Afghanistan, as well as in advancing the national reconciliation process. We reaffirm our openness to cooperation in these areas with the United States and other stakeholders.

US State Department Secretary Rex Tillerson’s remarks during a briefing on August 22 to clarify a new US strategy on Afghanistan, where he accused Russia of alleged arms supplies to the Taliban, are extremely perplexing. Of course, you are all perfectly aware of our position on this matter. We repeatedly rejected all accusations, and also asked our American colleagues to provide evidence, but to no avail. To reiterate, such statements aren’t conducive to the establishment of effective cooperation between our countries in Afghanistan. Once again, we state that we do not provide any support to the Taliban.

I would like to say once again that all the statements or comments that we made over the past year on this account are available on our official Foreign Ministry website. When quoting the current or future statements by US officials, please be mindful of the official position of the Russian Federation.

 

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The situation on the Korean Peninsula

 

We noted a certain decrease in intensity of bellicose rhetoric surrounding the Korean Peninsula. The lack of an alternative to a peaceful settlement of the issues faced by the sub-region is becoming increasingly clear for all, albeit with some difficulties.

However, we believe that conducting large-scale naval exercises by the United States and the Republic of Korea (Ulchi-Freedom Guardian 2017, August 21 – September 1) is not helpful for de-escalating tension on the Korean Peninsula. We call upon all parties to be very careful. Since the region is flooded with weapons, any rash move or even an unintended incident may trigger off a military conflict.

We expect the DPRK to continue to exercise restraint and not react to these maneuvers in a military manner.

We are convinced that the need for nuclear missile tests or military exercises will disappear after the stakeholders reach basic agreements on mutual relations and the principles of peaceful coexistence. To do so, the dialogue must be resumed, but first, of course, it is important to reduce military activity in the region.

 

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Japan’s Defence Ministry plans to deploy Aegis Ashore systems in the country

 

We are closely following the years-long discussion in Japan on the purchase of advanced missile-defence systems from the United States. Needless to say, we paid attention to the recent media reports about the Japanese Defence Ministry’s preference for Aegis Ashore systems.

Since the very start, we made it clear to Tokyo that we are concerned over these plans and consider inadequate Japan’s attempts to justify them by the progress of North Korea’s nuclear missile plans. We are confident that the adoption of a decision to purchase and deploy these systems should be viewed as disproportionate to the real missile threats in the region. Considering the systems’ eventual incorporation into the military structure of the Asian segment of US global missile defence, the decision may undermine strategic stability in the northern part of the Pacific.

 

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Introduction of peacemakers in Donbass

 

Ukrainian President Petr Poroshenko and other officials keep talking about the introduction of UN peacekeepers in the southeast of Ukraine. In this context, we would like to note the following.

On a par with the participants in the Normandy format and the Minsk Contact Group, the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) is actively involved in the process of crisis settlement in Ukraine. Its employees are actively working in different parts of Ukraine, including Donbass. The SMM is monitoring the situation at the contact line, and verifying the withdrawal of weapons and the disengagement of combat equipment and personnel of the conflicting sides.

It should be emphasised that both the participants in the Ukrainian domestic conflict – Kiev, and Donetsk and Lugansk – and various international agencies and countries that are directly involved in the settlement process recognise that it should be based on the Package of Measures for the Implementation of the Minsk Agreements that was agreed upon by the sides of the conflict on February 12, 2015 and approved by the leaders of the Normandy Four and supported by the UN Security Council. Therefore, today the main task is to strictly and consistently fulfil the provisions fixed in this package. Incidentally, this document does not say a word about UN Blue Helmets and OSCE armed observers. I would like to recall once again that this document was drafted with Kiev’s direct involvement. Therefore, the initiatives of the Kiev regime are obvious attempts “to squander” the implementation of Minsk-2 and avoid fulfilling relevant commitments.

 

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Russia’s participation in the project to build a new Museum Memorial at the former

Sobibor Nazi death camp

 

We are pleased to note that during the meeting with President Vladimir Putin in Sochi on August 23, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu supported Russia’s participation in building a new museum on the territory of the former Nazi death camp in Poland’s Sobibor. We consider his statement a major step towards restoring historical and human justice and a signal that should encourage the members of the international steering committee to resume the discussion on Russia’s full-fledged participation in the work of this body.

We were ready for full participation in this project from the very start. We  believe that the Israeli side’s affirmation of its traditional attitude to the results of WWII and the Red Army’s role in the victory over Nazism is a clear signal that rules out any insinuations on Russia’s involvement in the project and Russian-Israeli cooperation to preserve historical memory and prevent the revision of the results of one of the most horrible tragedies of the 20th century.

 

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Desecration of a monument to Red Army soldiers in Kosice

 

The latest act of vandalism has taken place at the Kosice, Slovakia memorial to the Red Army soldiers who fell liberating Czechoslovakia during World War II. We regard this act, which was designed to attract public attention, as provocative, unlawful and immoral.

We have commented on other such cases before, cases that took place in many countries, particularly in Europe. Reminding the violators about morals and respect for the fallen, which are normally respected in civilised societies, is a thankless job. We hope that the Slovak authorities will promptly investigate this crime and bring those guilty, who have been identified, to account.

We urge our Slovak partners to strictly comply with their obligations under the 1993 Treaty of Friendly Relations and Cooperation and the 1995 intergovernmental agreement on the graves of fallen servicemen and civilian war victims.

We are aware of and appreciate the Slovak authorities’ commitment to the balanced and objective position on World War II. We are grateful to the authorities and people of Slovakia for their traditional caring attitude to the memory of the fallen liberator soldiers and for taking care of their graves in their country.

We expect the Slovak authorities to act resolutely to prevent a repetition of such acts of vandalism.

The Russian Embassy in Bratislava has sent a note of protest to the Foreign Ministry of Slovakia and appeals to the Mayor of Kosice and the Slovak co-chair of the intergovernmental commission on war graves.

 

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Latest act of vandalism in Western Ukraine

 

Yet another act of vandalism took place on the Glory Hill in Lvov, Ukraine the other day. Unidentified vandals – no attempts are now made in Ukraine to identify and bring them to account – have stolen metal letters and numbers from the tombstone of Soviet intelligence agent, Hero of the Soviet Union Nikolai Kuznetsov.

We view this as the logical consequence of the government-approved policy of falsifying the history of the country and distorting it in the interests of fascist henchmen and their ideological followers who, unfortunately, carry considerable weight in modern Ukraine.

What reason do we have to say so? The reason is that we do not see the Ukrainian authorities indicating their attitude to such unacceptable acts, and we do not see any result of investigation into this crime. The so-called national activists clearly cannot resign themselves to the fact that during WWII Ukrainians selflessly fought against Nazism side by side with other Soviet people and people from the anti-Hitler countries, while the supporters of such personalities as Stepan Bandera or Roman Shukhevich either sat on the fence or terrorised civilians and helped Nazis during punitive operations.

We are convinced that the Ukrainian authorities’ attempts to destroy the historical memory of their own people are doomed to failure.

I would like to say again that this does not relieve the Lvov authorities and law enforcement agencies of responsibility to investigate this act of vandalism and to bring the guilty parties to account.

This is why we are closely monitoring the situation and make statements that are related to the history of WWII, which some people have been trying to rewrite.  

 

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Answers to media questions:

Question: The US Senate approved a bill that would oblige the US President to obtain permission to cooperate with Russia in the sphere of cybersecurity. What do you think about it? How will it affect Russia-US relations?

Maria Zakharova: I cannot comment on this bill in detail. I can ask our experts about it and prepare a detailed commentary on this matter in the near future.

There are trends in Russia-US relations. They are there for everyone to see, I mentioned them today, and, unfortunately, they are disappointing. But when it comes to a specific document, I stick to the principle that requires me to take into account the opinions of experts. I think we will give a detailed commentary on this matter in the near future.

Question: Russia and the opposition group Faylaq Ar-Rahman signed an agreement to impose a cease-fire beginning August 18. Is it still in force, or was it invalidated by the recent opposition strikes?

Maria Zakharova: I do not have such information. It should be clarified with our Defence Ministry’s military experts.

Question: The other day, the US State Department issued a statement that US State Department Special Representative for Ukraine Kurt Volker met with Russian officials in Lithuania, whereas in fact their meeting took place in Minsk. Could you please clarify that? My second question concerns the incident in San Francisco with a nine-year-old boy. Can you provide more details on what happened?

Maria Zakharova: With regard to your second question, we are receiving information from the Russian Consulate General in San Francisco. Currently, Russian diplomats are establishing the details of the incident. They sent requests to the US State Department and the Los Angeles Police Department regarding the whereabouts of the child, as well as his confinement conditions. The circumstances of this tragedy are being investigated.

The diplomats are also trying to find out the details about his murdered parents. The Consulate General is now looking for his relatives. Requests have been sent to the Interior Ministry at the place of official residence of his parents, Konstantin Morozov and Natalya Sergeyeva, in order to find the boy’s next of kin.

According to the Consulate General (they made this information public), the boy’s parents had both Russian and US citizenship, which is why the US authorities failed to notify the Russian mission about this tragic incident. Without any doubt, Russian diplomats and our foreign ministry are monitoring the situation, and will provide the boy with all the necessary consular assistance. Once again, practical steps to this end have already been taken.

With regard to the meeting between Russian Presidential Aide Vladislav Surkov and US Special Representative for Ukraine Kurt Volker, it was, of course, held in Minsk. We have noticed a strange pattern: our American colleagues constantly run into topographic issues when it comes to Belarus. What really amazes me is that the State Department press service, for example, knows that Russia supplies the Taliban with weapons, but cannot provide evidence, but isn’t aware of where their special representative Volker goes to meet with Mr Surkov. Amazing!

Question: Could you please comment on Russia-US relations, in particular, relations between the Department of State and the Foreign Ministry in connection with the reduction in the number of US diplomats and difficulties in the issue of US visas? Will this confrontation be aggravated by new measures?

Maria Zakharova: The Foreign Ministry website has released so many comments and statements on this score that repeating them would take a long time.

As for counter measures in response to more complicated visa procedures, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov clearly replied to this question during the news conference – the text and video are on the Foreign Ministry’s website.

We react to this decision with confusion and regret. After many extremely tough and unjustified (I’m referring to the absence of facts) sanctions, including the expropriation of Russian property in violation of all norms of international law, after all the votes of US legislators, the Russian side merely imposed restrictions on the use of diplomatic property in Russia and asked the US to reduce the total number of employees of US foreign offices in Russia to the number of our diplomats and technical personnel in Washington, New York, San Francisco, Seattle and Houston. In response we got yet another strange reaction that has been commented on by Russian representatives actively and in detail.

As we see it, the main reason for this decision is not technical complications faced by the well-equipped US consular service with its vast resources but political considerations. Probably, this is also linked with how professionally material and human resources are used. We have mentioned this as well. The Foreign Ministry website exemplified how the embassies and consular offices of other Western countries that are popular with Russian citizens issue several times more visas while having a lot fewer employees for their procession.

Judging by everything, one of the goals of our US colleagues is to make Russian citizens unhappy about Moscow’s actions and Russia’s foreign policy.

However, our American colleagues would only be able to exploit this subject if journalists, including you as a media representative, had no access to credible information on this score. You are well aware of what is going on and receive information from different sources. You may compare and calculate the number of technical personnel that worked in Moscow. You may also look at the number of joint events they recently held in Russia – it was shrinking to zero. This suggests the question of what these people are doing here.

I would like to recall that visa procedures were made substantially more difficult several months ago not only for Russians but also for citizens of other countries. The time period for a visa application and its review were also increased out of all proportion, ostensibly due to internal difficulties. The hastily invented story that this was a result of Russia’s actions is totally unfounded. Apparently, this is an attempt to quickly compile facts and explain invented difficulties. As to why they were invented, we expressed our view on this and gave our assessment of these actions.

As for some future actions on Washington’s behalf, they are completely unpredictable because its logic is difficult to understand. We called for cooperation all the time but got a new round of aggravation in bilateral relations in response. Even in the most complicated times when Washington made decisions aimed squarely at Russia, we kept saying that it is better to cooperate and discuss problems rather than create new or multiply old ones. Our permanent position is and will be invariable. This is what we proceed from: We will never take it out on US citizens, by deliberately creating unbearable conditions for receiving Russian visas and taking revenge on God knows whom and for what. This is not our way. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said this outright. We stand for interaction and cooperation, realising that the main recipients of the results of this cooperation are people who live on the other side of the ocean. Creating deliberate difficulties for them because of some political ambitions is simply not our way. This is true. Russian foreign consulates will continue working normally, fulfilling all of their functions.

I would like to repeat that we received a huge number of questions on this subject from our compatriots – US citizens who live in the US or stay elsewhere. Will they be affected by counter measures? I will say it again. This is not our way. This is not Moscow’s way.

Question: The media learned that Ukraine plans to introduce certain quasi-visa regulations for Russian citizens. In particular, entry to Ukraine will be possible only with biometric passports, and the Ukrainian foreign ministry will need to know about the visit one month in advance. If this goes through, what kind of response should be expected from Moscow?

Maria Zakharova: Let's wait and see if Kiev actually goes ahead with such a decision. We’ve heard many statements about this. They kept changing, and even the position of their Foreign Ministry changed. I remember the Ukrainian foreign minister saying that visa regulations are irrelevant, and introducing them is not necessary, and will only hurt Ukraine. Then, apparently, due to some political developments and certain political processes in that country, they started saying different things in favour of developing some kind of visa or hybrid regulations.

We believe that if a decision is effectively taken, we will consider it and watch the reaction. Speculating on such things is simply out of place, because the political climate in Ukraine is changing, and the weather is unstable. Let's wait and see what actually happens with these decisions.

Question: Yesterday, the Russian Government signed a resolution, On Creating The Kuril Islands Advanced Socioeconomic Development Area (Sakhalin Region). How might this affect the talks between the foreign ministries of Russia and Japan on conducting joint economic activities on the Kuril Islands? Does this mean that Russia plans to carry out economic activities on the Kuril Islands under the Russian law?

Maria Zakharova: Since you mentioned an act of Russian legislation, we see it precisely this way. Seeing it differently would be difficult. Regional partnership and regional development, including the activities related to developing economic contacts and humanitarian ties, is one of the priorities pursued by the Foreign Ministry. I can answer a specific and more precise question. In general terms, I can say that everything that is designed to develop the regions (this applies to cross-border cooperation as well) has always been a priority for our Foreign Ministry.

Question: You have already noted that the intensity of bellicose rhetoric has decreased in the Northeast Asia region. Do you believe it is possible to resolve this conflict through talks and a dialogue between the United States and the DPRK, or is this solution still not likely at the moment?

Maria Zakharova: With regard to resolving the situation surrounding the Korean Peninsula by way of talks between the United States and the DPRK, we not only do not rule them out, but rather we welcome them as a viable option and a possibility for resolving this issue in a peaceful manner. We are saying that military exercises and missile launches should be replaced by talks and dialogue, as well as establishing direct and indirect contacts in any format that the parties can agree on.

We have always been in favour of stepping up the six-party process as a model in which the interests of various parties are expected to be safeguarded. The main thing is to achieve the main goal, which is the peaceful resolution of this situation.

From us, you can hear only calls to establish a dialogue and re-invigorate the political process. The forms can vary. If this requires mediation efforts on the part of Russia, we are willing to do so. We did our best to step up the political process. Every complication and aggravation of the situation made us issue a specific statement clarifying that this is a dead-end path. We do so on an almost daily basis.

Question: The United States has again expanded its unilateral sanctions on the DPRK. The updated sanctions lists include Russian citizens. Your comment?

Maria Zakharova: We have commented on this in detail. You are aware of our position. It boils down to the fact that we not only recognise, but also actively participate in drafting sanctions, when necessary, as part of the UN Security Council’s activities. We comply with the sanctions adopted and approved by the UN Security Council in respect of, among others, North Korea.

We believe that unilateral sanctions are outside the legal framework. All this does no good, and also causes even more damage to the already aggravated situation in that region.

Permanent Representative of Russia to the United Nations Vassily Nebenzia commented on unilateral expansion of the sanctions. We are extremely concerned by the fact that by including Russian citizens on an expanded sanctions list and mentioning Russian companies, the party doing so is directly hurting Russian business, companies and entrepreneurs who strictly abide by Russian law. Russia fully complies with its international obligations.

Question: Turkish Minister of Economy Nihat Zeybekci said last Friday that Turkey plans to sign a customs agreement with the EAEU. Is Russia interested in Turkey signing a customs agreement with the EAEU? Does it support this initiative? Does Moscow expect that this initiative will be supported by other EAEU countries?

Maria Zakharova: As you rightly noted, this matter concerns not only Russia, but other participants in this format as well. It requires corresponding solutions. I can check with our experts and provide you with detailed information about our response to such statements.

 

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