Briefing of the Foreign Ministry Spokesman

4 October 201718:27

Briefing by Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova, Moscow, October 4, 2017

Table of contents

  1. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov meets with university graduates joining the Ministry’s diplomatic service
  2. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to take part in the meeting of the CIS Council of Foreign Ministers
  3. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s talks with Minister of External Relations and International Cooperation of the Republic of Burundi Alain Aime Nyamitwe
  4. Presentation of the art album The Pearl of the Antilles devoted to Cuba and leader of the Cuban Revolution Fidel Castro
  5. Three Russians die in an air crash in the Democratic Republic of Congo
  6. Developments in Syria
  7. Tragedy in Las Vegas
  8. Meeting of the SCO-Afghanistan Contact Group
  9. Progress in restoring inter-Palestine unity
  10. Adoption of the “Canadian Magnitsky Act”
  11. Outbreak of plague in Madagascar
  12. The case of Russian citizen Dmitry Ganin
  13. Demonstration by far-right forces in Gothenburg
  14. Renaming of Fyodor Tolbukhin Park in Bucharest
  15. Desecration of a monument to Soviet soldiers in Szczyrk (Poland)
  16. Delivery of humanitarian aid to Mexico following the earthquake
  17. The 60th anniversary of the space era
  18. “Harassment and detentions” of Simon Reeve’s film crew (BBC)
  19. Answers to media questions:
    1. Fate of detainees in Syria
    2. Russian-North Korean consultations
    3. Situation in Catalonia
    4. Russian-Turkish relations
    5. Closure of the Taliban office in Qatar
    6. Japanese businesspersons’ visit to the Southern Kurils
    7. Ukraine’s law On Education
    8. Ukraine’s draft law On Donbass Reintegration in the context of the Minsk Agreements

 

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov meets with university graduates joining the Ministry’s diplomatic service

 

On October 9, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov met with the university graduates of 2017 who have been accepted into the diplomatic service at the Russian Foreign Ministry.

 It has to be stressed that this year the Ministry hired the largest number of university graduates in the last five years. All in all, 115 graduates have been hired this year.

Such meetings have long been a good tradition. New diplomatic workers at the Ministry will have a chance to speak directly with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on topical issues of the current foreign policy agenda. 

Also taking part in the meeting will be Ministry executives and foreign policy veterans whose experience and knowledge are invaluable for the new generation of Foreign Ministry staff.

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Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to take part in the meeting of the CIS Council of Foreign Ministers

 

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will chair a regular meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers of the Commonwealth of Independent States in Sochi on October 10.

The agenda will cover various aspects of the many-sided cooperation within the CIS, including topical international issues. Particular attention will be paid to the problems of combating corruption, ensuring security and fighting terrorism.

The ministers are expected to approve the draft statement in support of the institution of family and traditional family values developed at the initiative of the Russian side as part of the Year of the Family being held in the Commonwealth in 2017.

A number of documents aimed at deepening cooperation in the economic, law-enforcement, military and cultural areas are to be passed.

The draft documents approved by the meeting will then be submitted for consideration to the Council of CIS Heads of State (October 11, Sochi) and the Council of CIS Heads of Government (November 3, Tashkent).

I would like to draw your attention as media representatives to the fact that the official Russian MFA site has posted an announcement on the accreditation of journalists for the upcoming event. Those planning to cover the event should make sure you get your accreditation before noon on October 6. 

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Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s talks with Minister of External Relations and International Cooperation of the Republic of Burundi Alain Aime Nyamitwe

 

Minister of External Relations and International Cooperation of the Republic of Burundi Alain Aime Nyamitwe will pay a working visit to Moscow on October 11-13. He will have talks with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on October 12.

The two ministers will discuss issues concerning the progressive development of Russia-Burundi ties, paying attention to the practical aspects of promoting interaction in the political, trade, economic, humanitarian and other areas.

An in-depth exchange of views is to take place on key international and regional problems, with the focus on resolving the crisis situations in the hot spots on the African continent. 

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Presentation of the art album The Pearl of the Antilles devoted to Cuba and leader of the Cuban Revolution Fidel Castro

 

A presentation of the art album The Pearl of the Antilles devoted to Cuba and Cuban Revolution leader Fidel Castro will take place in the atrium of Foreign Ministry building 1 on October 13.

The album has been prepared by the National Committee for Economic Cooperation with Latin American Countries (NC CEPLA) jointly with the Russia-Cuba Business Council, the Creative Expeditions Office and the Orden Cultural and Educational Centre headed by member of the Russian Academy of Arts Vladimir Anisimov, with the support of the Del Rio group of companies. The collection contains reproductions of paintings by Soviet and Russian artists inspired by Cuba, the Island of Freedom.

The heads of Latin American diplomatic missions accredited in Moscow, activists of the Russian Society of Friendship with Cuba, and representatives of government bodies and business circles cooperating with Havana have been invited to attend the presentation. A number of works included in the album will be on display during the event.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is planning to attend the presentation.

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Three Russians die in an air crash in the Democratic Republic of Congo

 

Among the five crew members of the An-12 plane which crashed on September 30 in a Kinshasa suburb, in addition to Ukrainian and Uzbekistan citizens, there were three Russians, second pilot I.Morozov, flight engineer B.Mironov and navigator A.Chebotarev, who worked in the DRC under private contracts, the Defence Ministry of the Democratic Republic of Congo announced on October 3.

The Congolese authorities will soon send an official letter to the Russian Embassy in Kinshasa with detailed information on the Russian members of the plane’s crew. Measures will be taken to identify the remains and send them back home.

We express deep condolences to the families of those who died in this tragic incident.   

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Developments in Syria

 

Positive trends have recently prevailed in the developments in Syria despite the dangerous inroads by ISIS and al-Nusra terrorists that are trying to use the double standards and inconsistency of some of our partners in the fight against international terrorism in order to derail the movement towards peace and political settlement. The situation in de-escalation zones in south-western Syria, in the provinces of Homs and Idlib, and in certain parts of the provinces of Latakia, Hama and Aleppo is generally described as stable. Some provocations are being made, but they are not systemic and do not badly undermine the ceasefire in Syria.

Work is underway to prepare for the regular, seventh, international meeting on Syria in Astana, which is due to take place in late October. The mechanism to adjust the functioning of de-escalation zones is actively working, including the joint working group with the participation of the guarantor countries – Russia, Turkey and Iran. Contacts continue at the Joint Russian-Jordanian-US monitoring centre in Amman.

The Russian Aerospace Forces are dealing effective blows at ISIS terrorists in the east and al-Nusra in the west of Syria, thereby preventing attempts by terrorists to concentrate forces and facilities for new provocations. Several field commanders from al-Nusra were killed by an air strike on October 3. Their leader, Abu Mohammad al-Julani, was severely wounded.

Supported by the Russian Aerospace Forces, the Syrian Army is completing efforts to eliminate the consequences of the dangerous ISIS raid in Al-Qaryatayn where the militants slipped through from the zone that is controlled by US military in the suburbs of al-Tanaf near the Syrian-Jordanian border.

The Russian Federation continues rendering humanitarian relief to the Syrian population. Russian military medical workers deployed an additional hospital in Aleppo. Several full-fledged medical teams work in this new place. Every day over 100 Syrians receive medical aid. We would like to make a note that the medical workers of the Russian Defence Ministry brought seven tonnes of medicines with them because Syria is short of quality medications due to unilateral sanctions of the United States, EU countries and some others.

 Russian military completed the restoration of the Hassan Ibrahim secondary school for 700 pupils in the city of Homs. Commissioning operations at one of the two production lines of the Albassel bakery have been completed in the city of Adra near Damascus. It will produce over 10 tonnes of bread products for local people per day.

Specialists of the International Anti-Mine Centre of the Russian Armed Forces have started demining the roads to socially important facilities in the liberated city of Deir ez-Zor. To ensure safe passage of humanitarian convoys, Russian sappers are clearing roads and adjacent buildings.

We are again urging interested members of the international community to facilitate de-escalation and stabilisation in Syria, in particular by increasing relief to its population. Syrians need international assistance for restoring vital social and economic facilities and demining territories freed from terrorists. We are pleased to mention enhanced activities of the UN specialised agencies and the International Committee of the Red Cross. In the past few days they sent humanitarian convoys to different parts of Syria.

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Tragedy in Las Vegas

 

We would like to once again express condolences on behalf of the Foreign Ministry over the horrible tragedy in Las Vegas, USA. During the past few days, President Vladimir Putin and other Russian officials have expressed their sympathy and support to the government and people of the United States.

The Foreign Ministry continues to monitor the situation, of course. According to the information available, there are no Russian citizens among the victims of this tragedy. However, Russian offices abroad continue to update the information as well as maintain contact with US authorities, including the Las Vegas police department.

The Russian Embassy in Washington and the Consulate General in Seattle are doing their part of the work. Regrettably, our Consulate General in San Francisco, the city situated the closest to Las Vegas and the largest on the West Coast, has been closed by decision of the US administration, as you know, and the consulate’s premises have been seized by local security services.

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Meeting of the SCO-Afghanistan Contact Group

 

The SCO-Afghanistan Contact Group will hold a meeting in Moscow on October 11 to exchange opinions on the current situation in the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, to discuss paths towards a settlement there and to strengthen cooperation between the SCO and Afghanistan.

The group was established back in 2005 by decision of the Council of Foreign Ministers of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation so as to be able to coordinate efforts in the fight against terrorism, separatism, extremism and drug trafficking, as well as to launch consultations between the SCO and Afghanistan and to involve the SCO in international programmes of assistance aimed at stabilising the socioeconomic and humanitarian situation in Afghanistan. The modalities of the Contact Group’s operation are stipulated in a protocol and regulations on the operation of SCO representatives. The work of the Contact Group was suspended when Afghanistan received observer status at the SCO.

Between June 8-9, 2017 an agreement was reached at the SCO summit in Astana at Russia’s initiative to relaunch the Contact Group at a higher level, or more precisely, at the level of deputy foreign ministers. This decision was taken due to the continued deterioration of the situation in Afghanistan and the alarming growth of activity by terrorist groups there, including ISIS, which has compounded regional security risks.

We are convinced that our joint efforts within the SCO framework will promote the revival of Afghanistan as a peaceful, stable as well as an economically prosperous country.

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Progress in restoring inter-Palestine unity

 

Following the talks with representatives of the Egyptian leadership, Hamas announced in Cairo on September 17 the dissolution of the Administrative Committee in the Gaza Strip, urged the Palestinian National Unity Government to extend its power to the Gaza Strip and supported the proposal to hold general Palestinian elections.

The full cabinet of ministers headed by Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah came from Ramallah to the Gaza Strip on October 2 on the instruction of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to organise the work of the Palestinian central government in the Gaza Strip. The government held a meeting in Gaza on the following day.

We believe the start of the process of transferring power from Hamas to the official Palestinian authorities is an important and timely step that will facilitate the restoration of Palestinian national unity. Egypt’s mediation deserves special mention in this context.

Clearly, it is hardly possible to quickly overcome the 10-year rift between Ramallah and Gaza. This process requires time and strong political will. We are calling on the Palestinians to maintain a constructive spirit in order to achieve genuine unity on the basis of the PLO political platform and the Arab Peace Initiative. Resolution of this difficult task is a necessary prerequisite for realising the lawful aspirations of the Palestinians to create their own independent state within the 1967 borders in accordance with international law.

For our part, we will continue actively supporting all Palestinian sides in this matter.

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Adoption of the “Canadian Magnitsky Act”

 

We are profoundly disappointed by the adoption of the Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act by the Canadian Parliament on October 2. In many respects it is simply copied from the odious American Magnitsky Act and is set to further undermine Russian-Canadian relations, as it is explicitly designed to introduce sanctions against our citizens.

As you understand, nothing good will come of this approach. We have emphasised more than once that no anti-Russian actions of Canada will go unanswered. We warn again that if the sanctions pressure on us increases we will likewise expand the list of Canadian officials banned from entering Russia.

That said, we still hope that common sense will prevail in Ottawa and it will eventually understand that a policy of confrontation has no prospects and is harmful. The attempts to isolate Russia have failed. Now our partners are trying to isolate themselves from Russia. This policy is harming the interests of Canada, in particular, by obstructing joint efforts to combat terrorism, bilateral cooperation in the Arctic and other areas. We are not convinced the Canadians will thank their government for such short-sighted policy.

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Outbreak of plague in Madagascar

 

There has been an outbreak of plague in the Republic of Madagascar since early September. Two forms of plague – pneumonic and bubonic – have been reported. To date, 144 cases have been reported throughout the country, 28 of which were fatal. The most affected cities are Antananarivo and Toamasina. Schools and other educational establishments have been closed. The authorities are considering the possibility of elevating the risk level to red.

The Foreign Ministry strongly recommends those who plan to visit Madagascar soon to take these health risks into account and to take recommended safety measures.

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The case of Russian citizen Dmitry Ganin

 

The Estonian authorities continue to drag out the investigation into the murder of Russian citizen Dmitry Ganin in Tallinn in April 2007. After the Estonian prosecutor’s office closed the case due to the expiry of the statute of limitations, it also refused to provide information within the framework of legal assistance to the Russian law enforcement agencies investigating Ganin’s case, allegedly because of these agencies’ inability to safeguard this information.

We view this decision as politically motivated, cynical and contrary to the principles of justice. It is fresh evidence of the Estonian authorities’ unwillingness to bring those responsible for this grave crime to account and also puts in question the effectiveness of cooperation under the Russian-Estonian Treaty on Legal Assistance and Legal Relations in Civil, Family and Criminal Cases, which was signed on January 26, 1993.

Neither can we accept Tallinn’s attempt to explain its decision by invoking EU standards. The EU documents on personal data protection, including Directive 95/46/ЕС of 1995, do not preclude cross-border flows of personal data, in particular in criminal cases.

The Russian Embassy in Tallinn has delivered a note to the Foreign Ministry of Estonia in which we categorically condemn this decision. We insist that the Estonian authorities provide exhaustive information in response to requests from the Russian agencies concerned.

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Demonstration by far-right forces in Gothenburg

 

We took note of the mass demonstration held by the far-right Nordic Resistance Movement in Gothenburg (southern Sweden) on September 30 with several hundred participants, which ended in clashes with the police.

We are surprised by the very fact that an extremist organisation was allowed to hold such a demonstration. The detached position of the Swedish government concerning the legal operation of extremist movements in the country borders on connivance.

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Renaming of Fyodor Tolbukhin Park in Bucharest

 

In recent time we have been watching with concern attempts of some Romanian politicians and historians to distort the truth about events of World War II.

Moscow took note of the initiative of Mayor of Bucharest's Sector 2 Dan Cristian Popescu to rename a small square in the centre of Bucharest. He said that now it is named after “occupant and aggressor” Marshal Fyodor Tolbukhin.

We cannot but be alarmed by the increasing attempts to glorify the “heroes of the Ion Antonescu army” that fought on the side of Nazi Germany and to suppress the information about the role of politicians and military that encouraged Romania to side with the anti-Hitler coalition at the final stage of the war.

 The public of Volgograd still remembers Romanian invaders that became notorious for their cruelty and looting in 1942. In organising its war memorial events in Russia, the Romanian side insisted that military honours should be granted to Romanians on a par with the Soviet soldiers who were fighting for the freedom and independence of their homeland, which evoked indignation of the local public.

We emphasise that our departments that maintain war memorial cooperation with the Romanian side are generally satisfied with the care given to Soviet/Russian military graves in Romania and certainly highly value the respectful attitude to them from the Romanian authorities, war veterans, public organisations and the local population as a whole.

We consider isolated an act of vandalism that took place on the night of September 13-14 at Eternity Cemetery in the city of Botosani. This was an unacceptable incident when inebriated barbarians desecrated many graves and overturned 120 memorial headstones with the names of Soviet soldiers who gave up their lives for the liberation of Romania from Nazism. We are grateful to the local authorities for detaining and bringing to account the culprits and for helping undo the damage of their act.

 Moscow hopes that the Bucharest authorities will not give in to the provocations of those who want to rename Tolbukhin Park and want to cast a shadow on bilateral relations.

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Desecration of a monument to Soviet soldiers in Szczyrk (Poland)

 

The Polish city of Szczyrk (Silesia Province) has a monument to 36 soldiers of the Red Army who were killed in action while fighting to free it from Nazi occupation in February 1945. It was recently desecrated – the memorial plate on the obelisk was destroyed.

This is the 11th case of vandalism against our memorials in Poland since the beginning of this year. The matter concerns continued mayhem around military-historical heritage, responsibility for which rests with the authorities of the country. In effect, such criminal acts are a direct consequence of the so-called “historical policy” of Warsaw and its attempts to perpetuate fake versions of key events of the 20th century. In accordance with these distorted views, Poland proclaims our soldier that freed it as “occupants,” and monuments that immortalise their exploits are doomed to total demolition under the cover of pseudo-legal decisions as objectionable material evidence of the Soviet Union’s decisive contribution to the Victory over Nazism. These monuments are becoming a target for all kinds of outcasts.

In line with Russian-Polish agreements on war memorials, we resolutely demand that the Polish authorities undo the damage of yet another act of vandalism, restore the initial image of the monument in Szczyrk, find the culprits and bring them to account.

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Delivery of humanitarian aid to Mexico following the earthquake

 

As you know, on September 19, a devastating earthquake hit Mexico, resulting in the deaths of over 360 people. The Russian Federation instantly joined international efforts to assist the friendly people of Mexico.

On September 26, a Russian Emergencies Ministry plane delivered to Mexico 35 tonnes of humanitarian aid (with over 24 tonnes of food and a total of 10 tonnes of tents).

The Russian gesture of solidarity was greatly appreciated by the country’s government and its citizens.

In its communique, the Mexican Foreign Ministry warmly thanked Russia and every other country that had delivered humanitarian aid. On its official Twitter page, the Mexican Foreign Ministry posted a separate message, saying that Mexico thanks its friends from Russia for providing humanitarian relief to those affected by the earthquake.

The Russian Embassy in Mexico received numerous messages expressing sincere gratitude from the Mexican public.

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The 60th anniversary of the space era

 

Today we mark a momentous date, the 60th anniversary of the start of humanity’s space era. On October 4, 1957, the first artificial Earth satellite was launched from the Baikonur Space Centre. We are proud that our country was the first to make it to outer space. It was our science that opened the door to outer space and it did so exclusively for the sake of peaceful cooperation.

Why am I talking about it today? Of courses, there is an international legal dimension to this theme. But that is not the only reason why I would like to raise this topic. We thought we would look at and remember how this event was greeted 60 years ago, an event which without a shadow of a doubt can be called a historic breakthrough very important for the development of science, cooperation and law. The reaction across the ocean was one of consternation. The Americans were not up to the task of outstripping the Soviet Union in the race to outer space (thus, American journalists coined and used instead of the Russian word Sputnik such words as Kaputnik, Oopsnik, Flopnik and Stayputnik to refer to their own analogous but failed project).

More than half a century has passed since then. Russian satellites are working for the good of our country and for world science and many areas of communication. Russia consistently comes out for preventing the militarisation of outer space. In the mid-20th century, research centres were set up to “counter Russian success in space.” Yes, that was the case. The Russian satellite problem was sorted out in the 60 years that followed, but the habit of one-upmanship has remained. New NGOs and funds are being set up and entire media outlets are tasked with countering the notorious Russian threat, Russian hackers and Russian propaganda. This is all too familiar. These are not similar but the same templates. Here is an example of how people, political forces and parties committed to anything but cooperation and to earning political and financial dividends from endless confrontation, including between Russia and the United States, are fulfilling their political assignment.

Our satellites are peaceful, as everybody knows. We have always come out for peaceful outer space. I would like to say that unfortunately the United States all these years has remained the only country that opposed, among other things, the Russian-Chinese draft international treaty on preventing the placement of weapons in outer space, the use or threat of force against outer space objects introduced in Geneva back in 2008.

Here is a concrete story that began 60 years ago and has proved the historic significance of the scientific breakthrough accomplished by the Soviet Union, its absolutely peaceful character, its non-targeting of the US in the military sense or any other state or continent.

I think this is worth remembering today when we read so much false information about an alleged Russian threat.      

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 “Harassment and detentions” of Simon Reeve’s film crew (BBC)

 

We have taken note of the documentary film, Russia with Simon Reeve, recently aired on the BBC Two channel which speaks about the journey of British journalists to the Russian Far East timed for the centenary of the Russian Revolution. (Nobody but Simon Reeve can explain the link between these two events.)

This so-called “documentary” film mixes professional scenic shots of Russian nature and interviews with our country’s citizens with anti-Russian political clichés long used by the British channel and odious statements about alleged “harassment and detentions” of the film crew by Russian security agencies. The BBC correspondent asks the Western media’s eternal question: If this is how foreign journalists are treated, what do ordinary Russians have to suffer? If it were a truthful film, then there would have been a chance to find out about life in Russia and how foreign correspondents are treated. What actually happened to the BBC crew on the territory of the Russian Federation? They simply forgot that when coming to the territory of another state they have to obey the laws of that country, especially if you come for a professional reason and not just as a tourist. The BBC cameraman had no proper accreditation required for journalistic work on Russian territory. The crew members were fined for unauthorised use of a drone.

Now imagine, for example, that a film crew from Russia goes to some country and uses a drone without proper permission. What would happen to us? I don’t think the Russian crew would get off with a fine, or a reprimand, but would confront a smooth-running and structured legal machine which would impose all manner of sanctions and take measures against Russian journalists. I have no doubt that it would be linked to allegations of some intelligence activities, espionage and cyber-espionage.

The British crew in Russia filmed from a drone without permission, for which it was fined. But the BBC journalists shrugged off the fine and launched another drone without Russia’s consent.

Besides, for some reason the journalists were interested in high-risk zones. Thus, they tried to get to the river flood area. You understand, of course, that access to such zones is strictly limited not only to foreign correspondents but to all the people to avoid dire consequences. I think floods occur in various parts of the world (the US, Europe and Asia), and everybody knows how emergency measures are taken to save people’s lives. This was what the journalists were told by the law enforcers who worked at the scene.

The BBC report referred to these situations as “harassment.” I have some questions to ask. Do these people obey the law in their own countries, or is it the case that they can launch a drone without permission, work without accreditation covering events and in principle work without enabling documents? Does such behaviour go unpunished there? Double and even triple standards are used with regard to Russian correspondents, even if they have all the requisite documents. And, as I often have to report, it all ends with deportation for unknown reasons when people have all the documents. 

I have a piece of advice for the BBC: don’t confuse reality with Russophobic stereotypes that you so frequently broadcast.

Therefore this story with corresponding explanations goes into our fake news section, which is regularly updated on the Russian Foreign Ministry official website.

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Answers to media questions:

Question: Today, the President’s Press Secretary, Dmitry Peskov, said in response to a question about the alleged Russian detainees in Syria that Moscow is concerned about the future of these people if they are indeed Russian citizens. Did the Foreign Ministry succeed in establishing the citizenship of these prisoners?

Maria ZakharovaAs soon as this information appeared, all relevant Russian departments began to work on this issue.

I would like to remind you that yesterday the Defence Ministry promptly and publicly responded to the publication of this information and refuted the allegations that these hostages are part of the Russian Armed Forces. At the moment, the Foreign Ministry, in conjunction with other Russian departments and our foreign colleagues in the region, is already working to establish their citizenship and possible whereabouts. They are trying to identify the reason these people were in Syria and the circumstances of their abduction. The work is complicated by lack of any demands to be met before releasing the hostages. It should also be noted that the Foreign Ministry is in close contact with the Syrian local authorities. I believe we will limit ourselves to this for the moment.

To reiterate, all our corresponding responsible bodies are involved in the fact-finding process and the work to confirm the information received. Our goal is to establish the citizenship and the circumstances of the abduction, which is what we are doing now. As soon as we have the corresponding information, we will be able to provide it, as we always do.

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Question: On September 29, Foreign Ministry’s Ambassador at Large Oleg Burmistrov met with Director of the North American Department of the North Korean Foreign Ministry Choe Son-hui. Could you let us in on what was discussed at this meeting? Does Russia plan to take on the role of mediator between the DPRK and the United States in order to reconcile the two countries?

Maria Zakharova: The press release following this meeting was posted on the ministry’s website on the same day. It has all the information that we can share.

Regarding the second question, Russia is taking all the necessary steps to promptly and effectively de-escalate the situation in the region. To this end, we make use of our bilateral contacts in various areas with representatives of North Korea (in particular, with Choe Song-hui, whom you just mentioned), and South Korea. High-level meetings have taken place. We are discussing this issue with our Chinese colleagues and American partners. This topic is also discussed in the UN, in particular, at the UN Security Council and its corresponding mechanisms.

Everything that Russian diplomacy can offer is being done. Of course, this is a work in progress, and we are responding to incoming new information, and following up on our steps and initiatives. As you know, Russia and China have put forward a “double freeze” initiative, which is not just a full-fledged initiative, but, in our opinion, can become a very effective roadmap to settle the situation.

Russia is doing everything it deems appropriate, effective and everything that, from our point of view, can help. To reiterate, contacts are being established at different levels and in various areas, and all possible formats are being used to reduce tensions in the region. We have repeatedly spoken about our principled assessments of this situation and possible consequences of moving ahead with a military scenario. All information is available on the ministry’s website. We also updated and posted on the website extensive reference materials on this issue.

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Question: Is the Foreign Ministry following the developments in Catalonia? What is Russia's position on the vote held last Sunday and the use of force that took place on Sunday and during subsequent days, as well as on the statement of the Catalan authorities that they might declare independence unilaterally in the coming days?

Maria Zakharova: Relations between Russia and Spain go back centuries. This year marks the 350th anniversary of our diplomatic contacts. Our peoples are united by feelings of mutual sympathy and respect. Despite the unfavourable political circumstances, all the prerequisites are in place for Russia-Spain interaction to expand progressively across various areas.

Of course, the Foreign Ministry and the entire world are following the developments surrounding the referendum on the independence of Catalonia. We are very worried about Spain, but this is an internal matter of the Kingdom of Spain. We hope that the crisis will be overcome.

Unlike many other states, we shared our principled assessments on the territorial integrity of Spain, the observance of the constitution and our thoughts on this issue before the referendum. It was the principled and open position of the Russian Federation. Moreover, it was made public at all political levels in our country.

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Question: The Russia 24 channel recently showed the film Turkey: Reset on the experience and success of Turkish businessmen in Russia. Do you think that the reset in relations between Russia and Turkey has already begun?

Maria ZakharovaI have seen this film. I think that many people have already seen it. If you are asking my personal opinion of this media product, I would say it is interesting and relevant. Of course, this film is presenting the media’s point of view, but at the same time, it seems to me, it gives a rather wide view of the current state of Russia-Turkey relations as well.

Speaking of the heart of the matter, I can safely say that the reset, as you called it, in bilateral relations is going well. As you know, it started last year. We can give specific examples. It can be seen in the considerable momentum of the political dialogue: since the beginning of this year five meetings have been held between the presidents of the two countries. The most recent talks, as you probably know, too, were held in Ankara a week ago, on September 28.

This dialogue is producing results, without a doubt. In the period following the crisis, Russia and Turkey managed not only to fully restore bilateral trade and the flow of mutual investments, but also – most importantly – to re-launch cooperation on a whole range of issues, with the Syria issue being, probably, the most important of them. All these efforts are aimed at ending the civil conflict in the Syrian Arab Republic.

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Question: Currently Washington is discussing the closing of the Taliban office in Qatar. Does the Russian Foreign Ministry welcome such steps? Are we to expect a reaction from the Russian Federation?

Maria Zakharova: I will look into this and provide an answer later.

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Question: The latest visit of a Japanese business delegation to the southern Kuril Islands began today. Can you clarify with which Russian officials meetings will be held?

Maria Zakharova: In the course of the Russian and Japanese leaders’ meeting in Vladivostok in early September it was agreed that a second Japanese business mission would visit the southern Kuril Islands to fine-tune on-site the priority projects for establishing joint economic activities. You are evidently speaking about that. I will find out which meetings have been scheduled and will give you a detailed answer at the next briefing.

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Question: This question concerns the Ukrainian law on education. Hungarian Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó said that Hungary and Romania would act together to seek changes to the Ukrainian law on education. Is Russia planning to somehow join this international coalition?

Maria Zakharova: Regarding the law, you will remember that it was Russia that promptly released its assessments after studying the document at the expert level, comparing it with international legal acts that regulate this area. We have called on the member countries of the respective international bodies, countries that signed declarations on these issues, to make their reaction known. Also, we issued a corresponding statement addressed to the countries whose compatriots are going to feel directly the full “charm” of the law drafted and introduced by the current regime in Kiev. Moscow sent a clear and salient signal that such legislation (even though it hardly warrants the name), such practices ultimately will lead to another round of confrontation in Ukrainian society. They completely erase Ukraine’s international legal obligations signed by Ukraine itself, pose extreme danger and undoubtedly demand an international response.

Apart from our political declarations based on the expert assessment of the law, we made corresponding statements not only in the public domain but also within the OSCE. Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the OSCE Alexander Lukashevich made crystal clear everything related to Russia’s response to that law, everything related to Ukraine’s violation of its international legal obligations. I am not sure that there is any kind of front in opposition to the law, nor am I sure there should be one. States should make their own responses as nations. Besides, countries should have their say at international venues.

The fact that the law is unprecedented does not need proving. What is needed is to communicate Russia’s expert assessments and those of the countries you mentioned – in the most effective way possible using the means available – to the international bodies regulating this sphere. Moreover, they should be reported to NGOs dealing with human rights and humanitarian issues.

This is not a matter of forming coalitions or a front, it is rather a matter of active work at international diplomatic venues,  of working in other formats.

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Question: A few hours ago, Ukrainian President Petr Poroshenko submitted to Ukraine’s Verkhovna Rada a draft law on the reintegration of Donbass. Russia is designated as an aggressor country in it. Also, it says that the Ukrainian Armed Forces are engaged in ensuring national security and defence and deterring Russian armed aggression in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions. How does this draft law correlate with the Minsk Agreements signed by Petr Poroshenko himself?

Maria Zakharova: Herein lies the gist of the answer to your question, I think. Our experts will have to study this draft law as per its correspondence to the Minsk Agreements, taking into account, as you have noted, that it is a new initiative. The way we see it, relevant documents regarding the future of Donbass – Donetsk and Lugansk regions – should correlate to the Minsk Agreements. This is the position of not the Russian Federation alone, but also of the international community, and was announced a long time ago. We will provide an expert assessment after we study the document.

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