Briefing by Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova, Moscow, May 4, 2018
- Two-plus-two format talks between foreign and defence ministers of Russia and Egypt
- Developments in Syria
- Provocative questions by some Western media outlets during a briefing at the OPCW headquarters
- Regarding reports of ending the White Helmets’ funding
- Accusations against Russia in connection with the alleged chemical attack in Douma
- Latest on the Skripal case
- Accusations by British Prime Minister Theresa May
- Results of an investigation in the Czech Republic regarding the possible production of Novichok chemical warfare agent in that country
- Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s statements on Iran’s nuclear programme
- Situation in Venezuela
- Developments in Armenia
- The anniversary of the May 2, 2014 events in Odessa
- Anniversary of Dmitry Ganin’s murder in Estonia
- US and Turkish assistance to establishing armed forces in Kosovo
- Removal of a Russian flag by US authorities
- Answer to a Greek journalist’s question regarding the Cyprus settlement
- A tweet by Latvian Justice Ministry Parliamentary Secretary Janis Iesalnieks
- US policy towards Venezuela
- Countering disinformation
- The Czech Republic’s conclusions on Novichok
- The information war against Russia
- Visits by heads of state and foreign ministers for Vladimir Putin’s inauguration
- Britain’s attempts to strengthen the anti-Russia alliance with the EU and the US
- Russia-UK relations
- Nagorno-Karabakh settlement
- Russia-Azerbaijan relations
On May 14, Moscow is expected to host a regular meeting between the foreign and defence ministers of Russia and Egypt. The respective ministers are scheduled to meet separately, as well as together in a two-plus-two format.
This consultation mechanism was put in place in November 2013 as a sign of relations between Russia and Egypt reaching a high level of trust and strategic partnership.
The upcoming contacts will feature a detailed exchange of opinions on the regional and international agendas with a focus on the Middle East and North Africa. The participants will pay special attention to stepping up cooperation between Moscow and Cairo with a view to settling crises in keeping with the principles of international law, respect for the sovereignty of the regional states and non-interference in their domestic affairs. The ministers are also expected to discuss further coordinated steps to counter the global threats of terrorism and extremism.
The ministers will review the key areas of Russian-Egyptian cooperation with a focus on practical measures to enhance bilateral ties in all areas.
Egypt is one of Russia’s leading partners in the Middle East, the Arab world and the African continent. Our countries are bound by historical ties of friendship, mutual respect, and a multi-faceted mutually beneficial partnership. Moscow is committed to maintaining proactive ties with Egypt on international and regional affairs, developing bilateral relations across the board and implementing large-scale joint projects in various areas.
The negative consequences of the massive missile strike carried out by the United States, Britain and France against Syria on April 14 have continued to negatively affect developments in that country, though, as Russian military experts have said, this aggressive action was not of major importance militarily. Importantly, as we have already emphasised, there were no real reasons for this action – the Syrian Government forces did not use any chemicals. This was an imperious and crude provocation staged by the opponents of a peaceful political settlement in Syria.
To eliminate any doubts in this regard, Russia organised a briefing in the OPCW headquarters in The Hague on April 26. Russia did everything to enable residents of Douma – unintentional participants and witnesses of this frame-up – to attend this briefing. Some of them had testified to OPCW experts earlier from the scene. Incidentally, there were allegations that these people were taken out of Douma to prevent them from meeting the experts. There were many opponents of the briefing in the OPCW headquarters. They claimed that the briefing may disrupt the work of the experts. This is not true. Syrians themselves gave explanations to the experts, so their work on the scene was not disrupted in any way. The countries that do not represent international organisations or some coalitions on the ground, simply received an opportunity to have direct contact with the residents of this city.
Russia wanted to make this situation absolutely transparent, to tell the public the truth about what happened, to speak directly rather than indirectly. Regrettably, Western countries boycotted the event. Obviously, it is painful to hear the truth.
We continue facilitating the investigation conducted in Douma by the OPCW Fact-Finding Mission, primarily for security purposes. As we understand, they are working in line with the plan. They have already taken samples from two facilities (depot and lab) that were mentioned in connection with the alleged chemical attack. We hope that the OPCW will complete its technical work and produce an unbiased professional report.
In the evening of April 29, several Syrian military facilities in the provinces of Hama and Aleppo were hit by missile strikes. The attack targeted the permanent deployment site of the 47th Syrian Army brigade to the south of Hama, a depot near Al-Nayrab Airport and Aleppo International Airport. The Syrian authorities blamed Israel for the attack.
The evacuation of the so-called “irreconcilable” militants from Eastern Qalamoun has been completed. On April 26, the last group of 1,500 militants and members of their families left for the north of Syria. In parallel, the Syrian authorities are conducting legal rehabilitation for the “repentant” so to speak and restoring socio-economic infrastructure in residential areas where there has been reconciliation.
Government forces continue the counter-terrorist operation in the south of Damascus. They ousted ISIS from several districts in the capital suburb of al-Ḥajar al-Aswad, forcing the terrorists to retreat as far as the Palestinian refugee camp Yarmouk.
In parallel, an agreement was reached with Jabhat al-Nusra militants in Yarmouk with the mediation of the Russian centre for the reconciliation of opposing sides in Syria. They are supposed to be sent to the Idlib province, and in exchange about 5,000 civilians will be able to leave the cities of Al-Fu'ah and Kafriya in Idlib, which are besieged by Jabhat al-Nusra.
On April 26, Russia and Syria’s offices at the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) organised a briefing for the OPCW member countries at its headquarters in The Hague, and a press conference for the media. The participants discussed the staged video of the “chemical attack” in the Syrian town of Douma made by the notorious White Helmets. To reiterate, the briefing was attended by Syrians who have involuntarily become the protagonists of this show and didn’t quite realise what was going on. There were children among them as well. As you may recall, this included Hassan Diab accompanied by his father and medical workers of the hospital where the White Helmets shot their video.
I would think that the sincerity and plainness with which the witnesses of this staged event shared their experience should leave no doubt about what really happened. However, unfortunately, as it often happens in the modern world, things look different in crooked mirrors, at least, many are doing their best to achieve this effect.
I would like to share with you some takeaways from this press conference, so as to dispel all doubts about the fake nature of these videos and the entire information campaign involving non-governmental organisations, journalists financed by Western governments and, unfortunately, foreign diplomats.
I would like to share with you several questions that the Western media asked the Syrians who arrived in The Hague in order to honestly tell about what happened to them.
Rupert Evelyn from the British ITV asked how much the participants of the briefing from Syria were paid for allegedly changing their testimony to support Russia, and how they were being intimidated. This is not a question. The journalists had the opportunity to ask these people any question, such as where were they at the time of the attack, did they feel a sting in their eyes (since it’s all about chemical agents), where did they run to, who did they talk to, how were they found, how they packed for The Hague, and whether this is their first trip abroad. However, this question sounded like an accusation – how much were you paid and how did they manage to intimidate you.
It was not the only question that, frankly, shook me. Anna Holligan from the BBC asked whether we thought about how a young boy would cope with international media and whether he would manage to overcome this trauma. The child was taken out of a country that has for many years been bleeding and torn apart by internal strife with the active participation of so-called outside powers. His coming to The Hague and the opportunity to tell everyone what he saw and heard is referred to by the Western media as “psychological trauma.”
I heard the advice offered following this press conference that the Syrians should have been “properly prepared.” No one prepared them. They suffered and experienced so much that they were ready for an absolutely honest and sincere conversation. The questions that they were asked leave no doubt that this is part of a campaign of intimidation – since British journalists brought it up – and accusations against people who sincerely wanted to share what happened to them.
Unfortunately, this is a perfect example of journalists acting like tools of propaganda. If you want to see propaganda, look no further. Once again, they were not representatives of government bodies defending their position, but journalists who are supposed to be independent and who had a unique opportunity to talk with eyewitnesses.
To reiterate, no one worked with the Syrians to prepare them for the interview, and they were available for interviews and questions.
A full video of the briefing has been posted on the websites of the Foreign Ministry and our foreign missions.
Unfortunately, most of the media that joined the anti-Russian campaign encouraged by Western governments have found “heroes” in the so-called White Helmets. So what kind of an organisation is it?
Emerging in 2013 from the ranks of exclusively local Syrian volunteers, according to the White Helmets’ official website, for some reason it was created in the Turkish city of Gaziantep by a former British secret service officer and private security specialist, James Le Mesourier, who has vast experience of service in “humanitarian interventions” by NATO, including in Kosovo, Bosnia, Iraq and Lebanon, not to mention his ties with Blackwater, a notorious American security company. Interesting people are behind the story about how the White Helmets humanitarian organisation came into being, don’t you think?
According to Senator Ron Paul’s Institute for Peace and Prosperity, the organisation known as Syria Civil Defence (the name under which the White Helmets operate) really exists, but it was set up 63 years ago and is a member of the International Civil Defence Organisation recognised by the United Nations. That is how it all was until the White Helmets began using their name and history as a cover absolutely illegally.
So who are the White Helmets? It is a kind of humanitarian organisation that, as we understand, proclaimed itself the Syria Civil Defence, for which it had no legal grounds, and pledged to “save people” in Syria. In reality, however, they appear, armed with cameras, in the right place at the right time and allegedly give first aid to people affected, particularly by chemical attacks, without having proper training for that. Let me repeat that all that is done with almost professional equipment: videos of how footage was edited have repeatedly made their way onto the internet. We have said many times that this is staged footage. Or else, the people involved in those video shoots have no idea what is happening to them, because all those operations are quick and fast.
Attempts were made to nominate this organisation for the Nobel Peace Prize. It managed to receive the Right Livelihood Award. The film White Helmets took the Oscar for Best Documentary Short at the 89th Academy Awards Ceremony in 2017. On the whole, we knew that no one, particularly in the US and Canada, was going to reject the “tail wagging dog” premise of this work of fiction. We did not know, to be frank, the scale it would reach.
In France, a White Helmets delegation led by Raed Saleh (we will talk about him later) was given a welcome that any head of state would envy (see photos).
Unlike our Western colleagues, who level absolutely false accusations, we would like to cite a number of facts about this organisation, confirmed by independent international specialists and journalists. Doubts about the humanitarian nature of the White Helmets were expressed by journalist Cory Morningstar, Sydney University professor Tim Anderson, Asia Times columnist Christina Lin and other experts and journalists. The Hamilton Coalition to Stop the War launched a signature campaign in support of a petition to bar the White Helmets from a Nobel Peace Prize nomination. Vanessa Beeley, an independent British journalist, went the farthest in her investigation. For several months, including in Syria, unlike most other Western reporters, she was studying, in direct contact with local residents, the secret to success of those heroes, whose organisation is truly recognised in the West. The evidence that she found is so indisputable that she petitioned to strip the organisation of its Right Livelihood Award.
Her main conclusion is that the White Helmets is just a platform for supporting Jabhat al-Nusra and affiliated extremist groups such as Harakat Nour al-Din al-Zenki, notorious for its public execution of a 12-year-old Palestinian boy.
The White Helmets are operating only in opposition-controlled areas. It is strange that “humanitarian” workers are seen in the video with weapons in hand, celebrating with fighters. But this is a documentary.
The White Helmets claim they are not under the influence of any country. Sure, nobody is under any influence – they are simply taking their money. The media report on the substantial donations they receive from many states that are deeply involved in the Syrian crisis – the United States, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands.
The Qatar Foundation announced the granting of aid to them for the purchase of heavy-duty equipment and gear. The allocated sum and the type of equipment are not specified. The arrangements for funding the White Helmets are very sophisticated. The funding also can be traced back to British origins, for instance the Mayday Rescue foundation that is operating in Syria. There are also a number of dubious EU NGOs that are contributing to the White Helmets’ financial support.
Apart from everything else, as many journalists have reported, the White Helmets are resorting to receiving serious media promotion from organisations sponsored by George Soros. Much has been written about his role in the Syrian crisis. Numerous British, US and Middle Eastern organisations with far from sterling reputations are also giving the White Helmets media support for PR purposes.
In April 2016, Raed Al Saleh, the head of the White Helmets (who was cordially received by the French President) was denied entrance to the United States, tentatively because of his connections to terrorists as former Deputy Spokesperson for the US Department of State Mark Toner acknowledged to journalists once. We spoke about this but it would make sense to sum up this information, especially now that the White Helmets have been caught red handed so many times. Moreover, several weeks ago they did so on a really big scale for the first time. Is there a terrorist connection or not – this is also a big question. But facts remain facts.
According to the latest information, the Syrian suspected of planning to attack Berlin Airport worked for the White Helmets in Idlib. Honestly, it is scary to imagine how many such fighters generously funded by the West are hiding under the title of the White Helmets.
Today the world got some fantastic news: the US Department of State discontinued funding of the White Helmets, an NGO operating in Syria. Why? Was the latest video bad? Or maybe there is some other reason? To be honest, it would be important to know how much money the White Helmets received directly from the US Government and from the governments of other states, including those that attacked Syria recently. I believe this is vital to understanding how this finely tuned producer of fakes operates.
I have one more point for the journalists who were so interested to know how much the Syrians who came to The Hague were paid. Why don’t they ask how much the White Helmets have been paid? This is the gist of the problem.
To be honest, we do not know precisely. It is a matter for future investigations by journalists. Why was the funding stopped? Is this the final decision or was it just suspended and will be resumed later on? It is hard to predict but I think this is a very urgent issue today.
I think that after the recent exposure, the criminal media activities of the White Helmets will have long-term repercussions. Much will depend on what they will do and, most important, have already done. I am absolutely sure there will be many more exposures.
I would like to say that the White Helmets project created during the Syrian crisis stands apart from others in scale. Not everyone received an Oscar or was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize for such activities. Of course, this is not the only case in the history of international relations when fake staged videos were used in the adoption of major decisions by the international community.
We continue to be accused of participating in the chemical attack that allegedly took place in Douma, Syria, on April 7. For all its absurdity, and despite clearly being staged, the campaign does not abate. We have repeated many times that we are not saying anyone should be taken at their word, but rather that there should be a thorough investigation of what happened in Douma, including by the OPCW. Unfortunately, all the so-called “experts” do not have any factual information from the ground, even that which we are ready to provide, preferring instead to rely on the White Helmets’ fake materials.
I would like to recall an example from recent history.
On August 6, 2007, Georgian leadership accused Russia of launching a missile strike at a radar station near the town of Gori. Local television channels showed President Mikheil Saakashvili and other leaders inspecting fragments of an unexploded missile found near the Tsitelubani village. Based on this broadcast, a group of “independent experts” issued a statement that contained accusations against Russia, based on one-sided and unverified information provided by Saakashvili’s team. This group refused to contact Russian experts. At the time, this staged incident aggravated relations. Today, the White Helmets and other groups in Syria are doing something similar, but on a much larger scale.
In 2007, a group of Russian experts was sent to Georgia to join the investigation. The data they collected refuted the version of Saakashvili’s team. Saakashvili refused to cooperate further and promptly destroyed the missile’s central section, which was the main piece of evidence.
The conclusions drawn by the international community leave no doubt about who committed aggression and how. Unfortunately, the aggression was launched by Saakashvili against South Ossetia. Let us hope that these tragic pages of history we all witnessed will not repeat, although we are seeing just the opposite.
As we said earlier, there is a piece of sensational news regarding the Skripal case. We took notice of information that appeared on social media about British Government’s use of the so-called D-notice – an official ban on covering certain facts in the media due to the high sensitivity of the information – in order to obstruct journalists’ investigation into the Sergey and Julia Skripal poisoning incident in Salisbury on March 4. In particular, the British Government has reportedly banned any mention in the media in connection with the Skripal case of Pablo Miller, a MI6 agent who is believed to be Skripal’s handler, and is also preventing the release of information about Miller’s connections with Orbis Business Intelligence, one of whose officers was the author of the so-called Trump dossier – ex-MI6 officer Christopher Steele. How perfectly everything fits together.
I think that honest and independent international journalists could take part in the efforts to establish the true picture of this crime, which official London is now so painstakingly trying to hide.
We continue to pay close attention to developments related to the Skripals. We are involved in a real way, not just formally, in the fate of the Russian citizens, and are practically attacking Britain to get access to or factual information about the Skripals’ whereabouts and their current condition.
We noted that the campaign launched by Britain in the media about this incident and used by London to make groundless accusations against Russia, has subsided noticeably. Apparently, when it came to the need for official London to provide clear answers to specific questions, all interest immediately vanished. We also see that the British media, which traditionally “dig deep” in such cases in order to find every bit of information, are not even trying to interview the Skripals. For some reason, there has been no leaked photo or video of these Russian citizens. There is no information about their actual condition, whereabouts, plans for the future, etc. This kind of behaviour leads us to reflect on the harsh state censorship in the UK and the obvious attempts by London to prevent leaks this time, despite the fact that the entire previous stage was built around leaks. This time they are blocking everything. The leaks that are now being blocked, could confirm the involvement of the British authorities in this anti-Russian provocation, and that is precisely why they get blocked.
The UK population is kept in the dark regarding the key points of this case. The issue is about the use, according to Theresa May, of chemical weapons in the UK. I would like to know more. The information about the secret laboratory located near Salisbury in Porton Down is hushed up. The victims themselves, as we understand, were taken by the British special services to a safe place. To reiterate, we have no information about what is going on with the Skripals.
Today, a sensational statement was made by head of the OPCW Secretariat Ahmet Uzumcu to the effect that the amount of the agent used to allegedly poison the Skripals amounted to anywhere between 50 and 100 grams. According to experts, 50 to 100 grams of the chemical agent mentioned by the UK and inside the OPCW is enough to poison the residents of all neighbouring communities, not just two individuals. Meanwhile, the residents not only survived but function normally, at least, that’s what is claimed in a statement made on behalf of Yulia Skripal. Is this even possible? The questions are growing as to whether the statements officially released by the British Government contain at least a few of words of truth, or are just one big pack of lies.
The UK Government hasn’t provided any intelligible official answers to our reasonable and clear inquiries and refuses to maintain a dialogue with us in order to clarify the circumstances and the causes of the incident, and to identify the perpetrators. Our legitimate demands concerning consular access to these Russian citizens are being ignored. As we have been told, they fell victim to a chemical attack, but this remains to be verified. However, the fact that they have become the victims of a provocation does not need any proof. This situation is absolutely unacceptable.
As you may be aware, the Russian Embassy in London has been sending corresponding official inquiries to the Foreign Office on an almost daily basis. About 40 notes have already been sent, which contain about 60 questions. Two-thirds of them have not been answered at all, and the rest have been given formal answers, in which the British continue to distort the facts and use tough confrontational rhetoric, which only testifies to London's desire to intentionally further damage our bilateral relations.
No political statements, even at the highest level, all the more so, the rhetoric we hear in the public space, basically everything that official London is now using cannot replace professional discourse under the related international legal mechanisms.
In this regard, we pay special attention to the fact that, in response to our official inquiry regarding Paragraph 2 of Article 9 of the CWC, Britain pointedly ignored a group of key questions. Specifically:
- Has the United Kingdom ever developed samples of a combat poisoning agent such as Novichok or the like?
Why is this such a difficult question? Everyone around the world who is following the Skripal case is interested in knowing this, isn’t it? If you do not want to provide the answer to Russia, provide it to others. The answer to this question is long overdue. Has Novichok ever been developed in the UK or not?
- What signs (markers) led to the conclusion that the agent used in Salisbury was of “Russian origin”?
- Does Britain have any control samples of the agent that the British refer to as Novichok?
These are simple questions that do not need lab tests or publication of classified information to be answered.
These questions remain unanswered. One thing is clear: London is not at all interested in finding the truth in this incident, but only seeks to inspire unsubstantiated public accusations against Russia and hide all the factual information on this issue.
I would like to believe that the UK, despite all the fundamental differences and problems that we have, will remain a civilised and responsible state capable of mustering enough strength to engage in a dialogue and cooperation on this issue, and not finally fall into an escalation and complete curtailment of bilateral relations.
We urge the UK to abandon its reckless policy with regard to Russia and move on to substantive and responsible interaction within the framework of international legal formats and mechanisms and on a bilateral basis. In particular, we expect London to maintain honest cooperation under the criminal proceedings initiated by Russia’s Investigative Committee on March 16 in connection with the Salisbury incident into the attempted murder and the corresponding requests of Russia’s Prosecutor General's Office for legal assistance sent to the British side.
I would like to remind you that the accusations the Prime Minister of Great Britain Theresa May took the liberty of making against Russia were based on three supposed pieces of evidence.
First. Theresa May’s government claimed that that they had identified the country that produced the agent allegedly used to poison the Skripals. This charge was dismissed by British experts by no less than the head of the Porton Down laboratory.
Second. London claimed (Prime Minister Theresa May and her Cabinet members said it a number of times) that only Russia could have a motive for poisoning the Skripals due to the history of our country’s “bad behavior” and because Russia sees some defectors as “justified targets for murder.”
This accusation was refuted by Russia with facts in hand by presenting real evidence of the UK’s regular violations of international law, ethics and morals in the name of achieving “national interests” as well as by listing some apparent motives for that provocation that London might harbor. One such motive is obvious – to discredit the Russian Federation on so-called chemical issues in Syria. Immediately after the Skripal provocation moved into its active phase, a fake video was released by White Helmets, who are also funded by the British authorities, including indirectly. And following that, missile strikes were launched on Syria with the UK’s participation. For that reason, one can endlessly speak about motives and the need to spin this case, and about official London’s involvement. This is just one example of a huge number of them.
Third. Prime Minister May’s government claimed that Novichok was allegedly produced only in Russia.
As you may be aware, in his interview yesterday with the television channel Barrandov, Czech President Milos Zeman cited a report by Czech military intelligence and admitted that the military research institute in Brno produced and tested a small amount of the Novichok-class chemical agent.
As you may recall, following the absolutely groundless and unfounded accusations by Britain of Russia's involvement in the Skripal incident, we immediately insisted on the need to conduct a thorough verification by recognised international and Russian experts in order to investigate this crime. Back then, we noted that chemical warfare agents of this type (to reiterate, this is the Western classification) could be produced in many countries, including NATO members with specialised military chemical laboratories. When we mentioned the Czech Republic as a country with such capabilities (I'd like to point out that nobody was accusing anyone – we do not engage in things that London engages in), we were immediately attacked with accusations of spreading supposedly “fake news.” I will by all means prepare a selection of articles in the Western, namely, European press, which referred to our statements as “fake news.” We were also accused of wanting to completely confuse everyone. As you may recall, almost all Czech leaders, the political establishment, without even conducting a more or less thoughtful analysis of the issue, categorically denied this possibility and designated the statement of the Russian side as the main reason for the decision to expel three Russian diplomats from the country.
A couple of weeks later, President of the Czech Republic Zeman announced that a military research institute in Brno used to manufacture Novichok. These statements must be followed by some other statements, in particular, by the Czech Republic.
To reiterate, only a few politicians had the courage not to yield to the general hysteria that has been deliberately whipped up and to call for a thorough investigation.
The outcome? As soon as an independent and unbiased analysis of the arguments provided by Russia is carried out, there immediately appears the truth, which is very uncomfortable for those who initiated this anti-Russian campaign. British experts admitted that they do not have evidence of the Russian origin of Novichok. Now, the Czech Republic confirms the validity of the concerns expressed by Russia. Once again, I will remind you of the epithets directed at us for the information that we openly shared. It is no coincidence that from the very outset London did its best to keep Russian experts from participating in the investigation and to deny them access to the samples of the agent which was used to commit the crime. As we understand, the only reason for that was the fear that this entire clever ploy would collapse and the truth would be discovered. And they were right to fear it. As they say in the Czech Republic, “pravda vitezi,” which means “the truth wins out.”
As you can see, the Czech Republic acted honestly and courageously by officially acknowledging and releasing this information. I want to remind everyone, including the citizens of this country, that it was London that involved the Czech Republic in this confrontation with Russia, and it was the pressure of the British authorities, which led to the expulsion of Russian diplomats. Now, it turns out that there were no grounds for this campaign. All charges, the so-called three basic pieces of evidence, did not hold up even three weeks.
Now, we are expecting an answer from other countries, which we mentioned and which had and still have the capability to produce Novichok.
There’s one more question that I would like to ask: what about NATO? It wasn’t aware that Novichok was synthesised in the Czech Republic literally a year ago? Do you believe that? Moreover, we mentioned that there are NATO laboratory specialists in the Czech Republic who deal with such matters. Does anyone believe that the North Atlantic Alliance was not aware of Novichok being synthesised in the Czech Republic? Of course, NATO was more than just aware of it. Now here is a good question: Who participated in supervising these programmes on behalf of NATO, how were they supervised and at what level? This is my first question. The second question is what other NATO member countries (I would like to get an official NATO statement) were engaged in similar research?
We noted the fact that a group of 60 European MPs sent an open letter to the governments of the EU member states urging them to follow the lead of the governments of Great Britain and Iceland and to refuse to attend official matches of the FIFA World Cup in Russia. I could have let it go unnoticed, but this letter once again stated that the “Salisbury attack” is one of the most recent “mockeries” of European values by our country’s leadership. I would like to advise the European MPs to read the news, or to play football. It helps.
The issues of Iran’s nuclear programme are being discussed. We would like to see another term used – the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, as agreed. However, we hear in the media, and from officials, the term Iran’s nuclear programme, unfortunately.
We have received a large number of questions asking for comments on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s statement on the alleged ongoing military component of Iran’s nuclear programme.
We draw your attention to the IAEA Secretariat’s statement of May 1, which said that as early as 2015 the agency’s Director General Yukiya Amano laid out his evaluation of the data available at the Secretariat on Tehran’s “presumed research” in the military nuclear field. The IAEA Council of Governors pursuant to this evaluation finally closed that dossier in its resolution of December 15, 2015.
Clarifying the above issues was a key condition for the launch of the practical implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) as per UNSC Resolution 2231. Consequently, the international community recognised this issue as settled.
I would like to stress that the IAEA monitors Iran more than it does any other country today. Within the “nuclear deal,” Tehran agreed on the application of an Additional Protocol to the agreement on comprehensive guarantees, which is the IAEA’s key tool to confirm that nuclear material in Iran is used exclusively for peaceful purposes. This is exactly the main goal of the JCPOA. The IAEA Director General has noted several times the unprecedentedly high level of cooperation between the agency and Iran, reconfirming that Iran is fully living up to its obligations. The IAEA has no problems regarding the application of the Additional Protocol in the Islamic Republic of Iran or regarding access to any facilities the IAEA is interested in.
We consider it unacceptable to replace the agency’s instruments in the field of guarantees and well-established monitoring practices that have proven their effectiveness with innuendoes, speculation and other unverified information, which is abundant in the media now.
We proceed from the fact that all the issues related to IAEA inspections in Iran should be resolved exclusively within the agency’s purview. Any problems regarding the implementation of the JCPOA proper should be discussed solely by the joint commission of the six world powers and Iran. The plan envisages the mechanisms that are required for that.
Russia will continue fulfilling its commitments under the document and will follow this principled line as long as the other participants act in accordance with the provisions of the agreement and UN Security Council Resolution 2231.
On May 20, a presidential election will take place in Venezuela. The current president and several opposition candidates are set to run. The voting preparations are fully underway. We have received firsthand information from President of the National Electoral Council of Venezuela Tibisay Lucena, who visited Moscow on April 24-25 and met with the management of the Russian Central Election Commission as well as senior officials of the Russian Foreign Ministry and the Federation Council. The Central Election Commission accepted Venezuela’s invitation and will send its delegation to take part in the international observation of the upcoming election.
According to Russia’s data and the available opinion polls, the people of Venezuela are going to take part in the voting. This explicitly shows that people are tired of violence and radical manifestations and want all disputes and problems to be solved in a civilised manner.
At the same time, we have to state with regret that calls from outside the country to boycott the election do not abate. As the date draws nearer, Washington is building up pressure on Caracas using unilateral restrictive measures in an attempt to “isolate” Venezuela and bring about a violent coup in that country. The ultimate goal of stricter sanctions, including oil and financial sanctions, is obvious: to provoke a debt crisis followed by the aggravation of the social and economic situation. We regularly see similar scenarios used in other countries. They create grounds for people’s unrest and thus prod them to riot with predicted negative and possibly catastrophic consequences.
We are confident that, whatever the reasons and forms of political struggle used by various forces in Venezuela, and whatever the opposing views they stick to, this confrontation must by no means result in the destruction of Venezuelan statehood.
We believe that the international community’s role is not in setting Venezuelans against each other. It is necessary to help them find internal accord regarding the need to strengthen their state. We are glad that Venezuela’s neighbours in Latin America, despite strong pressure, seek the resolution of the existing problems exclusively within the framework of the law, through a broad national dialogue.
Every state has the right to choose the form of democracy in accordance with constitutional and legal procedures without being pressured from the outside. We unfailingly call for agreement and domestic stability, which will allow to determine the future economic and political development of Venezuela on the basis of healthy competition among the constructive political forces. The upcoming election is an important opportunity to reach civil reconciliation. It would be shortsighted and counterproductive to lose or intentionally ignore it.
We sincerely wish a well-organised, peaceful and successful voting on May 20 to the friendly people of Venezuela.
On May 8, the Armenian National Assembly will elect a new prime minister in accordance with the Constitution of the Republic of Armenia. The election on May 1 failed to produce results.
At present, the situation in Yerevan and the rest of the country has stabilised somewhat.
As we have said repeatedly, we believe that fraternal Armenia should resolve its domestic problems under the country’s Constitution and law and through a constructive dialogue between the country’s various political forces. Yesterday the Foreign Ministry reaffirmed this position of principle in a statement.
As for our bilateral relations, we are committed as ever to continue working with our Armenian colleagues towards developing and strengthening our cooperation as two allies and participants in the integration process.
May 2 was the fourth anniversary of the bloody events in 2014 when dozens of people were burned alive and hundreds were injured in the Odessa Trade Unions House following an attack by Ukrainian radicals.
Those who are responsible for this terrifying tragedy that shook the world have not been brought to justice yet. Despite the calls of international and non-governmental human rights organisations to conduct a thorough investigation into this heinous crime, Kiev continues to cover the instigators and executors. Moreover, those who managed to escape the pursuit by these animals are currently under investigation or in prison.
The Ukrainian authorities are demonstrating cynicism that is beyond comprehension. This is not the first time. On the day of the anniversary of this terrible tragedy they authorised a march by extremists from radical right-wing groups through the central part of Odessa, which demeaned the memory of the victims of the May 2 massacre. Clearly, the march was aimed at bullying the victims’ families and other city residents and showing them the genuine master of Ukraine today.
Obviously, in these circumstances it makes no sense to demand that this country’s incumbent leadership find and punish those guilty of the Odessa tragedy, especially since the leadership’s Western patrons, who demonstrate so much concern about human rights in other countries, are reluctant to notice anything amiss in this case. We can only remind the time-servers in Kiev that crimes against humanity are not subject to a statute of limitation. Sooner or later, history will reward all according to their merits.
I would like to focus your attention on the press release by the Russian Embassy in Estonia on what happened 11 years after the Bronze Night took place in Tallinn. The mass unrest that followed the Estonian police’s actions to disperse those who opposed the monument to the Soldier Liberator’s transfer from the city centre resulted in the death a 20-year-old Russian citizen, Dmitry Ganin.
On April 27, a ceremony to commemorate Dmitry Ganin took place at his grave in Mustvee. The ceremony was attended by Dmitry’s mother Vera Ganina, Russian diplomats, Dmitry’s friends and representatives of compatriots’ organisations.
The murder investigation has not made any headway, despite promises made by Estonian officials to get to the bottom of this crime. The only thing we know is that those who beat Dmitry were fined. The police have not identified the one who inflicted the fatal blow. Last year, the criminal case was closed under the pretext that the statute of limitations had expired.
In 2015, the office of the Russian Investigative Committee in the Leningrad Region opened its own criminal investigation into Dmitry Ganin’s murder. Russia has repeatedly asked Tallinn for materials in the framework of the bilateral agreement on legal assistance, but Estonia once again refused to cooperate due to “personal data protection” (we have discussed this a lot.) This reaffirms that Estonian law enforcement agencies were not interested in a real investigation from the very beginning and took every chance possible to drop it.
The decision of the Estonian prosecutor’s office to dismiss the case led to other needless tensions in relations between Russia and Estonia, which are not at their best right now.
The events of the Bronze Night will be painful to remember for our compatriots for a long time. We express our sincere support for Dmitry Ganin’s mother and we shall continue to provide her with all necessary assistance.
Let me repeat, this was a statement issued by our Embassy, but the Foreign Ministry completely agrees with it.
Reports have emerged the US and Turkish contingents as part of the Kosovo Force (KFOR) with the involvement of the Camp Bondsteel military base are providing assistance to the authorities of Pristina in establishing a full-fledged army, in violation of the KFOR mandate envisaged by the UN Security Council Resolution 1244. This is being done through special training of the Kosovo Security Force servicemen, whose main task is responding to emergencies.
As before, we operate on the premise that creating a Kosovo army violates international law as it contradicts UN Security Council Resolution 1244, which implies military presence in the region solely on the basis of the UN Security Council mandate – namely, the Kosovo Force, which now includes primarily the contingents of NATO member states.
Also, this step would be extremely irresponsible as regards security in the region and the European continent as a whole. A new force emerging in the Balkans in the form of the Kosovo armed forces would run counter to the Florence agreement –Article IV of Annex 1-B of the General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina (Dayton Agreement), approved by UNSC Resolution 1031 – which is meant to support regional stability with assistance from the OSCE. It would mean that an army structure that is not controlled by the country’s authorities has emerged on the territory of Serbia, a party to the Florence agreement.
Just like last October, we again have to protest the unlawful removal of a Russian flag from a property belonging to Russia. Six months ago, this happened in Washington and San Francisco, where the buildings of the Russian Trade Representation and the Consulate General were seized, respectively. The same has occurred again recently at the residence of Russia's Consul General in Seattle.
The very fact that these facilities, which have been in use for diplomatic and consular services for many decades, have been arbitrarily denied immunity raises serious questions. But even so, they remain Russia’s property. As the owner, Russia in no way consented to the intrusion into its buildings or the removal of flags from them. This was done by the people who entered our premises without invitation, broke open the gate and the entrance door, and conducted a total search without any right, and have held sway since then, like raiders.
Russia’s officials are not allowed to enter six properties it owns in the United States. These are two buildings in San Francisco, one in Washington and one is Seattle, and the suburban compounds of our Embassy and the Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations. Such a violation of its own laws by Washington had never occurred in the history of the Russian-US relations.
We were not even allowed to hold traditional holiday events to mark Victory Day at the country retreats near Washington and New York, which were seized in late 2016. Such events had been organised on May 9 annually together with diplomats from CIS countries, and our American friends attended them as well.
What is happening is essentially a rejection of the inviolability of property rights, something the United States has long prided itself on, and the erasure of our brotherhood in arms during World War II. For decades, we held commemorative events at our properties and invited our American colleagues and colleagues from other permanent and diplomatic missions, in particular, in NYC. This is also about the abuse of Russia's national symbols, which comes amid mass Russophobic propaganda, not to mention acts of aggression against sovereign states. Something is broken in American democracy.
I would like to answer a question from a journalist at a Greek publication that concerns the settlement of the Cyprus dispute, particularly the agenda of the permanent dialogue between the foreign ministries of Russia and Turkey on the matter. The foreign ministries of Russia and Turkey discuss a wide array of issues. During their April 28 meeting, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu spoke about the settlement, among other issues.
Russia reaffirmed its principled support for a comprehensive, fair, enduring and viable solution to the dispute. It is exclusively within the ambit of the parties to the problem to decide on domestic Cyprus aspects of its settlement. Russia will lend its support to the agreement reached by Cyprus communities. We consider unacceptable any foreign imposition of artificial settlement plans and deadlines. It is our belief that the existing system of external guarantees is outdated and does not reflect the current realities and the legal and international status of the Republic of Cyprus. We are confident that guarantees accorded by the UN Security Council would be the most effective measure to ensure the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of a reunified Cyprus.
Attempts to reconsider the UN-approved basis for negotiations are a matter of concern. Numerous resolutions adopted by the UN Security Council determine the principles of the settlement process and must remain the mainstay of the relevant negotiations. We believe that the possibilities for the UN facilitation of the final resolution have not been completely exhausted. We see no alternative to the UN in this respect.
We received a question regarding a statement by Parliamentary Secretary of Latvia’s Justice Ministry Janis Iesalnieks’ statement on the Twitter social network, in which he threatened opponents of education reform with deportation to Russia. We were asked to comment on this.
We saw this message by the Latvian official, which was timed to coincide with the May 1 march in Riga against the total conversion of school education to the Latvian language. This is an undeniable Russophobic statement.
Such outbursts by a representative of the Latvian government are a graphic illustration of the dual and hypocritical policy towards our compatriots. What integration of society can be mentioned, when a considerable part of the population is deprived of basic rights, and dissenters are shown the door. While a blind eye is turned, as usual, to nationalist sorties, criminal cases are opened against Russian-speaking human rights activists for far less serious faults on the alleged charges of “instigating ethnic and racial hatred.”
Finally, where is the reaction to this absolute lawlessness from Latvia’s European Union partners and relevant international organisations, so scrupulous about human rights? We would like to hear from them.
Question: What does Russia think of US policy towards Venezuela becoming more aggressive?
Maria Zakharova: I have replied to this question at some length. One can say with confidence that Venezuela is not the only target for the United States. The same policy is directed at other countries.
We believe that it is absolutely unacceptable. The people of Venezuela can see for themselves the destructive consequences that such interference by, among others, the United States, can have.
Question: We have been talking here about the unfairness of the situation in Syria and the policy of the West towards Russia, which has been revealing the truth to the world. However, in the West they don’t hear this truth, relying instead on the disinformation that is being fed to them. What can Russia do to counter this? What can be done in response to the information about ongoing efforts to stage another demonstrative “chemical attack” in Syria?
Maria Zakharova: First of all, as soon as we have information on this we will make it public. Because it is important, should we get hold of such information, to share it and to be able to prevent another round of provocations and use of force under a made-up pretext.
Turning to the question of greater spread of information in the West, we need to understand that Western societies are not uniform. Ordinary people are only very remotely concerned with what is happening. The political establishment is more a maker of news rather than its recipient. It makes little sense to try to convince people of the facts when their livelihood depends on lobbying a certain policy. I repeat, they receive money for promoting a particular policy. But we try. We use official channels as well, as we did with the OPCW event. The West did all it could to make sure that Russia could not physically hold that briefing. We weren’t going to show prohibited materials or use restricted data. It was simply an opportunity to talk to the people who were directly involved in what the OPCW says happened, in an attempt to uncover the truth. Why try to prevent it from taking place?
I repeat that if we learn about a provocation in the works we will go public. We will analyse it as we have been, offer our assessment, try to find opportunities to work with primary sources and do all we can to make sure that our partners have access as well.
Question: You talked about the opinions of the Czech Republic regarding Novichok. Do you think this move by Czech President Milos Zeman, which actually discredits the British version, will lead to a British response against him? Are any provocations likely?
Maria Zakharova: I cannot say that Czech President Milos Zeman reported any information that we did not have. We talked about this; we had the relevant information and we openly shared it with the public. Regrettably, at that point, part of that country’s political leadership dismissed it as false. President Zeman asked his subordinates to give him precise information based on the reports of the agencies involved and made this statement yesterday. He said himself it made no sense to conceal anything. We talked about this several weeks ago.
It was strange for us to hear such a multitude of personal insults hurled at us by the people who were supposed to use their authority not so much for verification (there is nothing to verify) but for giving out information. Instead they insulted us, saying that Russian diplomats should be expelled from the Czech Republic for what they said. The worst thing is that Russian diplomats were expelled from the Czech Republic on the grounds that they made a statement regarding the Czech Republic’s ability to produce Novichok. Will there be any investigation or sanctions following the statement of the president of a sovereign state? We would like to hope that London will accept at least this factual information. It is possible to exert strong pressure at this point, but the truth will eventually surface like it did in Iraq. Everyone learned the truth despite pressure for many years and the mysterious deaths of people who protested the official Western position with facts in hand. At any rate, now everyone knows the truth about Iraq and it is impossible to turn away from it. It will be the same in this case.
We asked NATO if it would share with us official information on which of its other members are producing, have produced or are developing the substance classified in the West as Novichok. This information will become public knowledge anyway. Do it now, do not suppress this information until it appears from unofficial sources. Repeat the courageous move of President Zeman and do what you should do – answer the questions as to what other NATO members or NATO agencies took part in developing this substance, what countries cooperated with other NATO members, how they exchanged technology, how and where the toxic agent was distributed in NATO, what conclusions have been made and what results were achieved. It was stated that this substance was destroyed on Czech territory. Who recorded this? There are experts after all. How was this documented? We asked NATO all these questions today and they should be answered.
It is impossible to imagine that the NATO Secretary General will say that NATO did not know about the developments in the Czech Republic (I hope he will be asked these questions in the near future). This would be untrue. A major structure legally present on the territory of a member country is bound to know about such developments. Moreover, as soon as this information appeared, NATO should have contacted Prague and asked the relevant questions. Why did NATO conceal this information from the public and its member countries? When we talk about NATO we have the United States in mind. This is clear. Of course, the Secretary General represents a different country but all NATO leadership and funding is in US hands. On the one hand, the United States has information from NATO that one member country developed the toxic agent, on the other, it is saying that it received an exhaustive report from Britain that it was developed only in Russia. How could this be? This is an obvious discrepancy that is called a lie by most people. Now the NATO Secretary General and our other partners will have to come up with explanations.
Question: Taking into account the information from the Czech Republic and the fact that the US Department of State cut off funding to the White Helmets, and recalling that last week Deutsche Welle practically discredited the Western version that the chemical attack had been carried out by Bashar al-Assad’s troops, stating that it was a provocation – would you say that this is a turning point in the information war against Russia, which has been accused of chemical attacks?
Maria Zakharova: I think I have given a comprehensive answer to this question. I don’t know about a turning point, but I know it will be a story similar to Colin Powell’s vial. The question is, what everybody is trying to achieve. We are operating according to the latest statements about needing to work with London through specialised agencies to find out the truth in this matter, provided that Great Britain has not made a deliberate political decision to conceal everything from everyone because it is involved somehow. We say the same for the United States. Despite what we can see it is necessary to cooperate in various areas. Our position is clear. The big question is what results the West is trying to achieve.
Question: Does the Foreign Ministry have any information on heads of state and foreign ministers that will be attending Vladimir Putin’s inauguration in Moscow on May 7?
Maria Zakharova: The Presidential Executive Office comments on all things related to the President’s schedule, based on how responsibilities are currently delegated.
I will look into visits by foreign ministers and get back to you.
Question: Yesterday, The Guardian ran an article about the UK’s push to strengthen the anti-Russia alliance with the EU and the United States which was achieved by London by diplomatic expulsions. The UK will use all large international events, including the G7 and G20 summits, to condemn Russia’s position on Ukraine, Syria and the Skripal case. At the same time the article claims that a trend is emerging where diplomats begin to view Russia as a pathological liar. What is your comment?
Maria Zakharova: As to the first issue, judging by the content of the article they just confessed what they have been doing (if the newspaper had really got hold of such key information). I think it is evident why they are doing this – there is a multitude of motives: the international agenda, the domestic problems that are impossible to account for without an external factor. One of the motives is Brexit, with negotiations facing a lot of difficulties. We have also seen the situation unfold around the UK’s Home Office, the migration scandal. They need to constantly divert public attention. We have talked about that, perhaps, not so much in a conceptual way but rather by offering concrete examples to show what Great Britain has been up to. This is no news. We acknowledge it almost at every briefing.
When we are told that a certain agency, the British media regulator Ofcom, which is watching over RT, receives some feedback from disgruntled viewers unhappy about the way the Russian TV channel covers the situation in Syria, we understand what is going on perfectly well. This article proves that Ofcom is not an independent body and that it is not its users or viewers in the UK who are unhappy about RT content. It is another state-designed campaign.
We see the media being manipulated by independent structures who keep scaring Russian media outlets operating on the UK territory that they will have to terminate their activities.
As to lying, we have talked about it today. I gave an example of how we produced information that Novichok or its analogue were manufactured on the territory of the Czech Republic, and we were promptly accused of lying. Who was lying in the end? They were. Whereas we uncover and disclose information (not immediately, since evidence needs to be collected), for example, in the White Helmets case, the whole story of how fakes appear, how they are funded and produced. If they have similar examples to show that we were wrong or that we had planned some acts, we are ready to answer all the questions as we always do.
Take the example of the “smart” and “nice” US missiles. No one in the United States has commented on that story so far. They were shown missiles with holes that had been clearly downed by air defence systems. Meanwhile, they claimed to the whole world that all the missiles (the word ‘all’ was heard a number of times, including from US President Donald Trump’s lips) hit their targets. This is about who is lying. Let us rest on facts, shall we?
Today, after the statement by Czech President Milos Zeman, an important stage began which shows who lies and who is trying to find the truth.
Question: A week ago or so the Russian Embassy in the UK said that London will no longer recognise Russian academic degrees. Three days ago the UK Embassy in Russia refuted this. Can you clarify?
Maria Zakharova: I have no information on the subject at this time. I will make enquiries and get back to you.
Question: Late last year the heads of state of Azerbaijan and Armenia agreed to step up talks over the Nagorno-Karabakh issue after the elections. Given the recent events in Armenia and the fact that the new prime minister in that country will surely not be a member of the Republican Party, will it be possible in your opinion to step up talks?
Maria Zakharova: Armenia is going through difficult times politically. I think we need to wait for the political situation to stabilise, and for the people, political forces and movements to decide on who will lead the country, which we hope will be achieved legally and constitutionally. After that a foreign policy course will become possible, which involves the Karabakh settlement that you have mentioned.
From my part, and apart from what I have already said I want to state that we have been consistent in our policy regarding this issue and are not abandoning it. We will continue to provide our assistance to the parties. But, I repeat, we need to wait for the political situation in Armenia to stabilise.
Question: Two weeks ago you announced a major joint Russian-Azerbaijani event, a documentary exhibition marking the 95th birth anniversary of Heydar Aliyev, which is to take place on May 10 in Baku. Will there be representatives of the Russian Foreign Ministry present?
Maria Zakharova: Our Embassy officials will attend. As for other officials, I will make enquiries and get back to you.
I want to inform you that our next briefing will be off-site. It’s been a long time since we had our last off-site briefing. Traditionally, we long to visit Crimea as soon as spring comes. So our next briefing will take place on May 16 in Kerch. The time, the exact location and the accreditation information will be posted on the Foreign Ministry website early next week. We invite you all to attend. As usual, I will have a surprise waiting for you. You won’t be disappointed, I promise. See you in Crimea.