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9 August 201819:22

Briefing by Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova, Moscow, August 9, 2018

1473-09-08-2018

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Table of contents

  1. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to participate in the Meeting of the Caspian Littoral States’ Foreign Ministers
  2. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s upcoming visit to Turkey
  3. The situation in Syria
  4. Progress of the investigation into the deaths of Russian journalists in the CAR
  5. Update on Maria Butina following her arrest in the US
  6. Russian citizens’ detention in the United States
  7. US decision introducing new anti-Russian sanctions
  8. Resumption of unilateral sanctions against Iran by the United States
  9. Developments around Salisbury and Amesbury
  10. Porton Down laboratory releases annual report and accounts 2017/2018
  11. Daily Telegraph article on the outcome of investigation into the death of Alexander Perepelichny, a Russian national
  12. Detention of RIA Novosti Ukraine Editor-in-Chief Kirill Vyshinsky in Ukraine
  13. UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths’s intention to summon intra-Yemeni consultations in Geneva
  14. Situation in the Gaza Strip
  15. Earthquake in Indonesia
  16. Situation in Venezuela
  17. Incident involving an airplane of NATO's Baltic Air Policing mission
  18. A US citizen in Chukotka
  19. Introduction by Belgium of a compulsory security screening fee for journalists
  20. Publications on new Russian "interferences" with elections in foreign countries
  21. Russian priests having trouble obtaining Greek visas
  22. Russian Ministry of Education launches online project
  23. Cooperation agreement signed between the Foreign Ministry’s Information and Press Department, the Foreign Ministry’s Diplomatic Academy, the Foreign Ministry’s Council of War and Labour Veterans, the Military Recruiting Office in the Golovinsky District of Moscow’s Northern Administrative Area and City School No. 1250
  24. Moscow to host Second Turkish Festival
  25. Moscow to host VTB Russian Open Golf Championship (Senior) and 23rd International Charity Golf Tournament
  26. Upcoming briefing of Russian Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova in Kaliningrad

Answers to media questions:

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to participate in the Meeting of the Caspian Littoral States’ Foreign Ministers 

 

On August 11, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will take part in the 8th Meeting of Foreign Ministers of the Caspian Littoral States dedicated to hosting the 5th Caspian Summit.

The most recent such meeting was held in Moscow on December 4-5, 2017.

I would also like to draw your attention to a detailed interview with State Secretary and Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin published today in the Kommersant newspaper on Caspian issues and preparations for the events, which I just mentioned.

 

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s upcoming visit to Turkey

 

On August 13-14, at the invitation of Foreign Minister of Turkey Mevlut Cavusoglu, which was extended in February, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will attend a meeting of ambassadors and permanent representatives of Turkey to international organisations.

As part of his visit, Minister Lavrov will speak at the meeting and meet with Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu. The focus of the Russian-Turkish meeting will be on important issues on the international agenda, including the state of affairs in the Syrian settlement process, the Middle East, the Transcaucasus, Central Asia, Ukraine and the Black Sea region, and other important matters.

The ministers will consider the agenda for promoting bilateral trade and economic relations with an emphasis on monitoring the implementation of key energy projects, in particular, the construction of the Turkish Stream gas pipeline and the construction of the first nuclear power station in Turkey at the Akkuyu site, as well as expanding ties in new areas. The upcoming schedule of meetings at various levels will also be considered.

We will keep you posted of changes in Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s schedule.

 

The situation in Syria

 

Overall, the situation in Syria remains tense. However, positive dynamics are taking hold. Hotbeds of terrorism have been eliminated in southwestern Syria. Control over the border with Jordan was restored. The process of normalisation of life in the areas liberated from terrorists is nearing completion. The infrastructure is being restored in the reconciled provinces of Quneitra and Daraa, and assistance is being provided to returning civilians. The Syrian Red Crescent Society, in cooperation with UN World Food Programme, sent 64,000 food packages to Daraa over the past month. About 1,500 people received proper medical care at Syrian Red Crescent Society’s three mobile clinics. The legal status of former members of illegal armed groups continues to be settled. In particular, over the past months, over 500 militants and deserters in Teyiba and Amtaya towns have taken advantage of presidential amnesty.

With the elimination of terrorists near the Golan Heights, the UN Disengagement Observer Force received an opportunity to resume patrolling in the Ubur post area, which was interrupted in 2014. Syrian and Russian military are deployed along this UN demarcation line.

Syrian government forces launched a large-scale counter-terrorist operation in eastern Suwayda province. Artillery and aviation are working on the remaining ISIS strongholds.

In response to provocations staged by Jabhat al-Nusra and its associated illegal armed groups, the Syrian army is delivering strikes on their positions in western Idlib, as well as in the mountainous areas in northern Latakia province. An attack by Nusra in northern Hama province has been successfully pushed back.

Within the framework of the Syrian leadership's stated course on the return of Syrian refugees to their homeland, the Syrian government decided to create a special Coordinating Committee headed by Minister of Local Administration and Environment Hussein Makhlouf who reported the return of over 3 million internally displaced persons to their homes.

In addition, according to the UN, about 890,000 refugees may return to Syria in the coming months. The administration of the town of Rastan in northern Homs province reported that about 1,500 local residents returned there over the three months since the city was liberated from terrorists. In the neighbouring town of Talbiseh, the population grew from 5,000 to 12,000 with many civilians returning home.

 

Progress of the investigation into the deaths of Russian journalists in the CAR

 

On August 7, officials of the Russian Embassy in the Central African Republic (CAR) held a meeting with the leadership of the National Gendarmerie of the CAR. Local law enforcers updated the Russian diplomats on the facts uncovered during the investigation of the journalists’ murder, and allowed them to talk with the chauffeur who drove them, an eyewitness of what happened.

According to the driver’s testimony, on July 28, the Russians met him in one of Bangui's cafes and asked him to accompany them in his private car for ten days.

On the next day, the journalists attempted to get into Berengo training camp, where Russian instructors train Central African soldiers, but, since they had no official approval from the Central African Defence Ministry to visit the military facility, they were denied access by the Central African soldiers guarding the camp.

On July 30, at about 11 am, the journalists went to the town of Bambari, north of the capital of the CAR. They stopped in Damara, 70 km away from Bangui, and spent one and a half hours filming and talking with the locals. After that, without explaining their motives, the journalists abruptly decided to deviate from the original itinerary, asking the driver to go to Dekoa. On arrival at Sibut, a town on the way to Dekoa, around 6.30 pm, their car was stopped by a Central African military patrol, who strongly recommended not going further and spending the night in Sibut, because beyond the city laid an uncontrolled area. However, the journalists insisted on going, saying they were in a hurry, and after a long dispute, they were allowed to go on.

Concerning the crime, the driver mainly repeated his previous account of the attack by unknown armed robbers on the Dekoa road between 8 and 9 pm.

CAR law enforcement authorities continue to investigate the attack. The laptop, removable storage media, and mobile phone with Russian and Central African sim cards belonging to one of the journalists could be important evidence for the investigators. A request is being prepared to the local cellular operator to provide information about calls and messages made from that phone.

In response to the Russian Investigative Committee, the director of the CAR National Gendarmerie confirmed to our embassy in Bangui that they are open to cooperation with Russian investigators, ready to receive them in the CAR and provide the necessary conditions for their work, including security and organising a visit to the crime scene.

We note the CAR authorities’ willingness to cooperate with the Russian side to clarify all the circumstances of the tragedy. We are satisfied with the way the interaction with the Central African authorities is currently proceeding.

The Russian Foreign Ministry continues to prioritise this matter and, as information becomes available, will report on the progress of the investigation, in cooperation with Russian law enforcement agencies.

 

Update on Maria Butina following her arrest in the US

 

A special focus for us is the case of Maria Butina, who was arrested on July 15 in the United States on charges of being an agent of a foreign government.

We are taking all possible measures to improve the conditions of her confinement, where she has faced outright discrimination on the part of the US authorities. This Russian woman is being subjected to overt psychological pressure, including frequent searches of her cell, denial of medical assistance, as well as various restrictions that do not apply to other prisoners.

It is quite obvious that all these steps are being taken in an attempt to force Butina to plead guilty. It stands to reason because all the accusations against our citizen are clearly contrived and based on social media messages taken out of context.

Therefore, we demand an immediate end to the criminal prosecution of Maria Butina, a victim of the internal politics of the United States, and her release.

For our part, we will continue to press the US authorities to respect her rights and legitimate interests.

 

Russian citizens’ detention in the United States

 

We are concerned about new reports of Russians arrested in the United States. Last week, FBI agents detained Maxim Suverin, Nikolay Tupikin, Stanislav Lisitsky, and Alexey Livadny on charges of fraud and money laundering as part of a criminal group.  

The Russian Embassy in Washington appealed to the State Department for clarification, and the Consulate General in New York contacted the local FBI office and met with Suverin at the detention center. At present, we are determining the whereabouts of the others and working on organising a consular meeting with them.

We continue to closely monitor the situation, while taking all possible steps to protect the rights and legitimate interests of our citizens.

 

US decision introducing new anti-Russian sanctions

 

Unfortunately, we again have to return to the issue of Washington’s sanctions against Russia.

Yesterday, the US Department of State announced a new set of restrictions. This time the Skripal poisoning case was chosen as the trumped-up pretext. The Russian leadership is directly accused of using the nerve agent Novichok in spite of the fact that up to now the UK has failed to present any evidence of Russia’s involvement in what happened in Salisbury and has been refusing to cooperate with Russia in the investigation. Nevertheless, despite the absence of any evidence whatsoever, the US administration, hiding behind some notion of allied solidarity, considered it necessary to introduce odious new sanctions.

The announced restrictions, which are due to take effect on August 22, include a ban on any foreign assistance to Russia except humanitarian, a ban on the sale of military and dual purpose goods and a denial of government loans or other financial assistance. The demands that have been made as a condition for the sanctions to be lifted are patently unacceptable to us. And this is just the first phase. We are being threatened with tighter sanctions pressure.

In this way, the US is deliberately seeking to further aggravate bilateral relations that have already been reduced to almost zero through its own efforts. Instead of earnestly searching for ways to improve relations, as discussed during the recent summit in Helsinki, the US administration has done everything to make the situation even more complicated.

The goal of those who are behind the latest twist in the so-called Skripal case is obvious. They are seeking to keep the anti-Russian theme going for their own benefit in order to continue demonising Russia. Moreover, this is an attempt to portray our country as a state that fails to honour its international commitments. In this specific case, these are commitments under the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), although it is well known that Russia eliminated all its chemical weapons last year in strict compliance with its CWC obligations, whereas the Americans have yet to destroy their own chemical warfare arsenals and keep postponing the deadline for the implementation of the corresponding programme. Against this background, all these groundless accusations look utterly cynical.

Russia has repeatedly warned that talking to us from a position of strength and in the language of ultimatums is futile and pointless. We will consider counter measures to this most recent unfriendly move by Washington.

In this context, assurances by the US administrations that it will nevertheless continue working towards improving relations with Russia look bizarre. This is unconcealed hypocrisy. Unfortunately, Washington’s deeds suggest otherwise. One gets the impression that the US and its allies have adopted a new standard of conduct, levelling at Russia all sorts of odious accusations unsubstantiated by any evidence.

I would like to add that in response to a direct question by a Russian representative, who was invited to the US Department of State, as to whether the investigation into the “Skripal case” had concluded, no answer was forthcoming. What this means is that the accusations were not built on any legal foundation whatsoever, despite invocations of international law, compliance with legal norms and honouring of commitments. There was no answer to a direct question because there was nothing to say. This is evident because UK investigative authorities are scant of comments.

This is not the only u-turn that the US administration has made lately. There are also the new economic restrictions against China and the resumption of sanctions against Iran, which I will discuss in more detail. It looks like part of the political elite in the US has completely lost their senses.

 

Resumption of unilateral sanctions against Iran by the United States

 

On August 6, US President Donald Trump signed an executive order that restores the anti-Iranian sanctions in two stages. The sanctions were suspended in 2016 in connection with the signing of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on Iran’s nuclear programme. The first restrictions came into force on August 7. They were related to financing and banking in the Islamic Republic and a number of commodities, including civilian aircraft. The second wave of sanctions is planned for November 5 and is aimed against Iran’s oil and energy sectors.

These are exterritorial restrictions, that also include individuals and organisations from third countries, against cooperating with Iran in the areas banned by US laws.

We have emphasised more than once that Washington’s course towards destroying the JCPOA and restoring the full-scale pressure of the sanctions on Iran is absolutely destructive. By taking this step, the US is again acting against the opinion of the majority of states and is pursuing its own narrow, opportunistic interests, flagrantly violating international legal standards, including UN Security Council Resolution 2231 that nobody in the US would have considered vetoing at one time.

Obviously, Washington’s grievances against Iran’s fully legitimate nuclear activities are just a cover up for its efforts to maintain political pressure against Tehran under far-fetched pretexts. In the process it is overtly ignoring the interests of other countries, including US European allies. Washington is twisting their arm by compelling them to give up mutually beneficial trade and economic relations with Iran.

It is clear that these voluntary actions by the US administration will have long-term negative consequences for global non-proliferation and will impart an additional destabilising effect on the situation in the Middle East.

Russia remains committed to the JCPOA and continues to be guided by the provisions of UN Security Council Resolution 2231. As far as we know, the other participants in the JCPOA intend to adhere to the same policy. It should not be forgotten that this so-called nuclear deal is an asset of the entire international community that has repeatedly confirmed interest in preserving it and in maintaining long-term sustainable implementation for enhancing world and regional peace and security, as well as a nuclear non-proliferation regime. 

 

Developments around Salisbury and Amesbury

 

The British media have started a new round in the London-initiated information and propaganda game. When official London claimed that Russia had come up with several versions of this situation in order to confuse everyone, we decided to count the number of versions published by the British media. We were unable to do that as there are not dozens but hundreds of versions and suppositions. The situation has been completely tangled up.

Clearly, the journalists won’t leave this urgent subject alone, but we consider mainly the official position of the investigative bodies to be the most important. We believe they are working under political pressure. We think this pressure is aimed at directing the investigation towards the line of absurd accusations that the UK political leaders made shortly after the incident. No pressure should be exerted on the investigation or investigative bodies. This was a Western dogma. Can you imagine what investigators working on this case in the UK and trying, as we see it, to understand what happened in reality feel when they suddenly learn that Washington is adopting a package of what our Embassy in the US called “draconian” sanctions against Russia, saying that these sanctions are imposed on Russia for taking part in this crime? What position of distance between politics and law-enforcement investigations can one speak of when a country considered by Britain as one of the largest in the world and which protects it in many areas is taking such steps? This amounts to direct pressure on the investigation. This is also psychological pressure on the people that are meticulously restoring the picture of the incident. Seeing how a guilty verdict is summarily handed down against an entire state, British police and investigators understand full well what awaits them if they unexpectedly reach a conclusion that does not follow the mainstream. This is direct psychological pressure on those that are investigating the incident.

UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said recently, “chemical weapons have been used on the streets in England – something that we believe was authorised by the Russian government.” This is again confirmation of the political, psychological, and emotional pressure that politicians – people with power – are exerting on the investigative bodies.

The London police recently published a statement on the incident in Amesbury, the first in three weeks. It indicated that they are continuing to discover poisoned locations and items with the participation of the chemical lab at Porton Down. This is a kind of a vicious circle or a merry-go-round that carries, one after another, the British Government, the investigative bodies and the fog-enveloped lab at Porton Down. There is simply no way off this merry-go-round.

Given that Russian citizens sustained damage in Salisbury, Russia insists on a truly independent, objective and transparent investigation of the two incidents by the British authorities. As before, Russian law-enforcement agencies are willing to render them any necessary assistance.

 

Porton Down laboratory releases annual report and accounts 2017/2018

 

We took note of the annual report and accounts released recently by the Porton Down chemical laboratory on its performance in 2017-2018.

The Salisbury incident is mentioned very briefly and merely states the fact. Nothing is said about the type of agent that was allegedly used in Salisbury or the results of the analysis conducted by the OPCW. The laboratory’s chief executive, Gary Aitkenhead, is quoted in the report’s overview as saying that a “nerve agent attack” took place in Salisbury while refusing to talk about any finer details, citing an ongoing investigation and “reasons of national security.” So, what do we see? While political forces in Washington and London are undertaking new measures justified by what is presented as a clear insight into the incident, experts and specialists who are directly involved in the investigation and are in charge of these matters refer to an ongoing investigation, the sensitive nature of the file, and shy away from any clear-cut conclusions.

The report also stresses the challenges that the Porton Down chemical laboratory has been facing in recent years. Most of the incidents reported in 2017 and 2018 were “high potential/actual incidents” related to the institution’s safety. Considering that the laboratory’s profits have been declining in recent years, it is obvious that apart from technical matters the human factor is at play.

Was it a coincidence that the incident with the Skripals and the British couple in Amesbury took place not so far away from the famous Porton Down laboratory? This question is far from idle. We proceed from the premise that it is up to the investigation to provide answers to this and many other questions.

There is no doubt that the investigation should remain focused on the Porton Down chemical laboratory. Considering what has happened, we deem any reference made by the UK to some kind of “national security interests” to be inappropriate. If you take decisions and decide to drag the entire world into this affair, you must take responsibility before the international community and answer questions it has been asking for a long time.

Accordingly, we insist that the British authorities disclose data on the laboratory’s work to synthesise chemical warfare agents, including those referred to as Novichok in the West.

 

Daily Telegraph article on the outcome of investigation into the death of Alexander Perepelichny, a Russian national

 

We paid close attention to an article published by The Daily Telegraph, which attempts to question yet again the results of the investigation into the death of Alexander Perepelichny, a Russian national, carried out by the UK police, as well as the results of his autopsy conducted by experts from the Home Office in Great Britain.

In fact, the British media compete against one another in making up various incredible versions, and are interested in this case because part of the investigation was carried out behind closed doors and was accompanied by the decision made by the UK Government to classify material from its secret services on this incident, citing national security concerns.

Some media outlets were quick to fill the vacuum left by the lack of reasonable transparency in this investigation, which makes all the parties involved responsible.

At the same time, there are obvious attempts to make a political affair out of the coroner’s report, and add a pronounced anti-Russian twist to the results of the investigation. We believe this to be unacceptable. The Foreign Ministry continues to insist on creating conditions for drawing the line under this investigation in an unbiased and independent manner.

 

Detention of RIA Novosti Ukraine Editor-in-Chief Kirill Vyshinsky in Ukraine

 

Kirill Vyshinsky’s situation remains unchanged. The Kherson City Court has extended his arrest to September 20. Even though Russian consular officers are still being denied access to the detainee under the pretext that he is a Ukrainian national, the Russian Embassy in Ukraine and the Odessa Consulate General keep the situation under their constant control and provide every possible support to Vyshinsky’s defence.

 

UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths’s intention to summon intra-Yemeni consultations in Geneva

 

We noticed the plans to arrange intra-Yemeni talks in Geneva on September 6 under the auspices of the United Nations. The talks will focus on the de-escalation of the continuing armed conflict in the Republic of Yemen, to outline measures to strengthen mutual trust and other steps towards a political resolution of the Yemeni crisis.

We hope that the initiator of this meeting, UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths, will succeed in achieving the declared goals. Moscow has always supported and will support any efforts to ensure that the military confrontation in Yemen is replaced by peaceful talks, and to help the Yemeni nation in reaching an agreement on the future political system in the country.

We would like to remind you that the upcoming consultations in Switzerland will become the first direct contacts for two years between the Yemeni conflict parties. Therefore, it seems extremely important that these contacts do not share the same fate as the previous rounds of this dialogue in Geneva, Muscat, Biel and Kuwait City, and that they are fully oriented at achieving specific results and help to actually facilitate the long-awaited peace and stability in Yemen.  

 

Situation in the Gaza Strip

 

The situation in the Gaza Strip has become tense once again. On August 7, an Israeli tank shell killed two members of Hamas’s militant wing in the area near the border with Israel. On August 8-9, some 150 missiles and mortar shells were launched from Gaza at the Israeli territory. As a result of these attacks, two Israeli nationals and a national of Thailand were injured, and several infrastructure facilities were damaged in the borderline Israeli towns.

During the same days, the Israeli Air Force struck more than 140 facilities belonging to Hamas and other Palestinian groups. The media reported three Palestinians dead, including a pregnant woman and her 18-month old child.

Moscow is deeply concerned with this dangerous escalation of events. As the tension on Israel’s border with the Gaza Strip has persisted since May, there is a significantly increasing risk of a full-scale military confrontation around the strip, which may cause new victims among civilians on both sides and a drastic deterioration of the humanitarian situation in the Palestinian enclave.

Once again, we call on the Palestinians and the Israelis to exercise restraint and to take measures in order to reliably prevent any repeated violence with unpredictable consequences. However, as we have stated many times before, to break this cycle of armed opposition it is necessary to move towards a speedy establishment of a constructive negotiation process based on the two-state formula of the Palestinian-Israeli settlement and existing UNSC and UN General Assembly resolutions as well as the Arab Peace Initiative. Any unilateral decisions bypassing the existing international legal framework of the Middle East peace settlement will not help to achieve the goal.

 

Earthquake in Indonesia

 

On August 5 at around 7 pm local time, the island of Lombok (Lesser Sunda Islands, the Republic of Indonesia) was hit by a magnitude 7 earthquake that killed around 130 people and injured around 1,500. Residential construction, energy and transport infrastructure were seriously damaged.

The airports on the islands of Lombok and Bali were partially damaged, which resulted in the suspension of their operations. The flights from these terminals are currently operating as normal.

No Russian nationals were reported to be among the dead or injured. The Russian Embassy in Jakarta sent a diplomat to Lombok and is closely monitoring the developing situation in the region. The websites of Russian foreign missions have contact information for 24/7 inquiries from the public. The media are strongly encouraged to use these contacts to inform our nationals currently staying in the region.

 

Situation in Venezuela

 

The Foreign Ministry’s statement of August 5 strongly condemned the recent assassination attempt on the President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. We are overjoyed that the head of state was unharmed.

As is now clear, the numerous warnings by Caracas about a plot to physically eliminate the Venezuelan leader were not unreasonable. The devious way the assassination was attempted, using modern technology, as well as the public nature of the incident were apparently designed to destabilise the situation in the country, and leave no doubts about its terrorist nature. 

We consider it absolutely unacceptable that the Venezuelan anti-government forces are resorting to criminal methods of practicing politics that endanger the security and the stable development of both Venezuela and the entire Latin American region.

We expect that the investigation will reveal not only the perpetrators and organisers of the crime but also the funding sources and channels. The corresponding international bodies, responsible for countering the financing of terrorist activities, should be expected to pay close attention to the incident and draw the appropriate conclusions.

According to the Russian Embassy in Caracas, the situation in the country remains calm. We once again wish a speedy recovery to those who were hurt during that terrorist attack. 

 

Incident involving an airplane of NATO's Baltic Air Policing mission

 

NATO’s military activity near the Russian borders under the far-fetched pretext of guarding against some mythical Russian threat gives us another reason for concern. On August 7, a Spanish Air Force jet on the NATO's Baltic Air Policing mission in Estonia accidentally launched an operational air-to-air missile.

This was to be expected since NATO has turned this once peaceful region in terms of military activity into an area of intensive training and combat operations in which dangerous incidents are a serious risk.

It is good that there were no casualties and no plane, such as a passenger jet, crossed the missile’s path. The incident is another vivid illustration that NATO’s actions, including in the Baltic states, create more security risks rather than enhance security.

In this situation it is becoming more evident that real steps are needed to de-escalate tensions and prevent unpremeditated incidents instead of leveling groundless accusations at Russia.

This morning at 7 am I was listening to the Full Contact show on Vesti FM radio with Vladimir Solovyov and Anna Shafran who had invited an expert on NATO and sanctions. I would be happy to listen to the show again. The expert said two very interesting things. The first is that the entire threat discussed in the EU countries – and we understand that it has NATO behind it – is a fabricated and fake story. The second point concerned the reason why, which was a very interesting point of view from an expert. Because it is practically impossible to unite in a natural way such different countries as, for example, those of northern, eastern and southern Europe. They are countries with different traditions, culture, history, as well as with different development rate, different economic and financial indicators, capabilities, and outlook on the future of their countries. What could be done? They can be united with a defence agenda when a common enemy is invented. Unification is occurring very rapidly on this basis and that paradigm and is presented as natural even though there is nothing natural about it. The expert quoted public opinion polls in the EU, NATO and Baltic countries containing questions on the circumstances under which Russia would attack their countries. Nobody gave any reasonable explanations. Why is this being done? Some tried to say “in order to enlarge its territory.” These people must have never seen a map of the Russian Federation.

In this, I think, the answer to the question of why it is needed can be found. It is difficult to unite on the basis of a constructive agenda, which requires work and doing something. Meanwhile, a destructive agenda and an agenda of intimidation make it very easy and simple to unite without any significant material costs.

 

A US citizen in Chukotka

 

We are keeping tabs on the situation concerning US citizen John Martin, who, boating down the Yukon River ended up in the open sea and, as we understand, lost his way and found himself off the Russian coast in the Chukotka Autonomous Area on August 1.

He was taken to Anadyr at the end of last week. During a medical checkup at a local hospital, Martin was diagnosed with an acute respiratory viral infection. His life is no longer in danger. According to doctors, his condition is satisfactory. He is receiving the necessary medical care and has no complaints.

The Ministry maintains contact with the local authorities and US diplomatic missions on this matter.

 

Introduction by Belgium of a compulsory security screening fee for journalists

 

We noted information from Belgium about a mandatory security screening fee. Predictably, this caused a wave of criticism from journalists and professional associations.

This innovation is due to the entry into force on June 1 of amendments to the Belgian security law of December 11, 1998, which were adopted in February 2018. Pursuant to the most recent changes, representatives of the media with Belgian citizenship, or the ones performing their professional activities in Belgium on a permanent basis, will now have to pay a fee of 50 euros for a background check every six months to be carried out by Belgian law enforcement officers.

Our interest in this innovation is due to the fact that Russian journalists working in Brussels on a permanent basis will also be affected by the new rules.

We cannot assess these requirements other than discriminatory and restricting freedom of the media, as journalists are actually forced to pay for the opportunity to do their job.

It is not yet known how the Belgian law will be implemented in practice. Notably, the European Commission condemned this move and said it was not going to apply Belgium’s "best practices" to European institutions. On the contrary, the European Commission will check the law for compliance with EU standards.

We will keep tabs on this matter. Those who plan to work in Belgium, should be aware of it, so as not to be accused of disloyalty.

 

Publications on new Russian "interferences" with elections in foreign countries

 

On August 3, a central Indian newspaper published an article by the Washington bureau of the Press Trust of India news agency titled "Russia now targeting elections in India, Brazil: Oxford expert tells US lawmakers.» It focuses on recent hearings at the US Senate Intelligence Committee on the impact of foreign states through social media platforms. Professor Philip N. Howard dealing with online studies at the Oxford University was invited to the hearings and argued that, following successful interference with elections in the United States and other countries, Russia is going to use its tried and tested technology to tamper with the outcomes of upcoming election campaigns in India and Brazil.

I think that endless Russophobic mudslinging by various American figures and British researchers no longer deserves to be even mentioned.

The meaning of the accusations is clear, and the goal of another get-together at the Senate is to drive a wedge between partners, in particular, BRICS. As you may be aware, a BRICS summit was successfully and constructively held just recently.

Clearly, the Americans were seriously upset by the weighty results of the most recently held BRICS summit in Johannesburg, the growing authority of the five powers and the ever strong interaction between its participants on matters of global order. Returning to consideration of a positive and constructive agenda, there’s nothing they can offer in terms of "smart power" or "soft power." So, they go ahead and publish such planted articles. Fake news again. We call attention, also of the Indian media, to the fact that this is a case of unadulterated fake news. Why? It’s simple and is all about anti-BRICS lobbying.

I’m confident that publishing such fake news will accomplish nothing. It is unpleasant by itself and poisons the information environment. However, this will not affect Russia-India relations which are improving as well as interaction within the BRICS group.

 

Russian priests having trouble obtaining Greek visas

 

The Foreign Ministry is closely following the situation with regard to the issuance of visas to Russian citizens. Any discrimination in the issuance of visas, whether on national or professional grounds, is unacceptable.

We have watched Tsargrad videos and have read publications on social media networks. We have sent the relevant note to the Embassy of the Hellenic Republic in Moscow, asking them to explain the situation. We are expecting a response from the Greek side, and we will keep you informed.

 

Russian Ministry of Education launches online project

 

We would like to tell you that the Ministry of Education and Science of the Russian Federation has launched a database listing Russian online educational curricula and courses, established by professors of major Russian universities, under the high-priority project Development of the Russian Education System’s Export Potential. The above-mentioned project was approved on May 30, 2017 by members of the Presidium of the Russian Presidential Council for Strategic Development and Priority Projects.

Today, on the Ministry’s www.coursesinrussia.com website, there is a list of subjects for research, including economics, history, IT, management, sociology, etc. These subjects have been prepared by lecturers from 20 national universities and are presented in an easy-to-read English-language format. The website also contains materials providing an insight into Russia, including a course called Understanding Russia: Contexts of Inter-Cultural Communication.

 

Cooperation agreement signed between the Foreign Ministry’s Information and Press Department, the Foreign Ministry’s Diplomatic Academy, the Foreign Ministry’s Council of War and Labour Veterans, the Military Recruiting Office in the Golovinsky District of Moscow’s Northern Administrative Area and City School No. 1250

 

On August 9, a cooperation agreement was signed between the Foreign Ministry’s Information and Press Department, its Diplomatic Academy, the Foreign Ministry’s Council of War and Labour Veterans, the Military Recruiting Office in the Golovinsky District in Moscow’s Northern Administrative Area and City School No. 1250 at the Foreign Ministry’s Diplomatic Academy. The aim of the agreement is to help school students receive professional orientation and enlarge their scope of knowledge in the area of international relations.

Under the Agreement, there are plans to implement the Moscow School’s Cadet Class project for training young specialists-diplomats, organising internship and practical training courses at the Foreign Ministry not only for university students but also general secondary school pupils in Moscow. 

Hopefully, this pilot project will prove successful, in view of the number of specialists involved in it.

Even if students don’t opt for a diplomatic career and don’t link their future life with diplomacy, they will learn how to address complicated issues in life and will act diplomatically in everyday life, Diplomatic Academy Rector Yevgeny Bazhanov said.

 

Moscow to host Second Turkish Festival

 

At our previous briefing, a question was asked about the Turkish Festival in Moscow, due to take place between August 10 and 12 in Krasnaya Presnya Park.

We welcome this initiative from the Turkish side that aims to strengthen cultural and humanitarian cooperation between Russia and Turkey.

As we understand it, the Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism, as well as the Turkish Embassy in Moscow, are sponsoring this event. In this connection, we would like to advise you to ask them for more detailed information about the festival programme. It is great that we have an opportunity to implement such wonderful humanitarian projects.

It should be noted that the capital of Russia is a very hospitable venue for holding such festivals.

 

Moscow to host VTB Russian Open Golf Championship (Senior) and 23rd International Charity Golf Tournament

 

On August 17-19, the Moscow Country Club, affiliated with the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Main Directorate for Servicing the Diplomatic Corps (GlavUpDK), will host the VTB Russian Open Golf Championship (Senior), part of the European Senior TourVTB Bank is the 2018 Championship’s title sponsor.

The Championship is to involve 54 leading golf players from 20 countries, namely, legendary players over 50 years old. Its organisers are offering $500,000 in prize money.

The Championship’s official opening ceremony and the 23rd International Charity Golf Tournament are both scheduled for August 16. Amateurs taking part in the latter event will team up with professionals – national and world tournament prize-winners. As usual, the proceeds from the Charity Tournament will go to foundations providing assistance to children.

The Tournament is held from August 17 to 19, with the awards ceremony taking place on the final day.

The VTB Russian Open Golf Championship (Senior) will be the only international professional golf tournament in Russia this year.

We are inviting media representatives to take part in covering the event. Detailed information is posted on the GlavUpDK website.

 

Upcoming briefing of Russian Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova in Kaliningrad

 

On August 15, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova will give a briefing on current foreign policy issues on the sidelines of the BaltArtek International Youth Educational Forum (Yantar Hall, 11 Lenina St., Svetlogorsk, Kaliningrad Region). We are expanding the geography of our briefings and will be holding one in Kaliningrad for the first time.

We invite representatives of Russian and foreign media to attend.

Time and location updates will be provided.

 

Excerpts from answers to questions:

Question: You said the Russian leadership will prepare and take some sort of retaliatory measures in response to the new sanctions announced by the United States. What kind of response could it be?

If the US sanctions affect Aeroflot flights, can the Russian leadership apply sanctions against US airlines?

Maria Zakharova: We are talking about the response, not fantasies, of the Russian side, because we do not have an urge to escalate and further complicate US-Russian relations. We are planning nothing of the kind. This is about proportionate response measures. Whatever the anti-Russia sanctions are, so too will be the response. Specific measures will be worked out based on the moves the American side makes. I would add that talking about what might be is wrong, unprofessional and out of place in our serious expert dialogue here. Once there are new sanctions, we will make a decision on the basis of what the US legislators and political lobbyists came up with this time. It is quite simple: if nothing comes up, we do nothing; if something comes up, we respond. If they add something extra, we will respond in the same spirit. You know the rules of the game. They still apply in this case.

Again, this is not our choice by any means, and we are pointing out for umpteenth time where this path leads. It actually seems that, with Novichok and the Skripal case, the Salisbury and Amesbury incidents – even those experts who have not been pro-Russia all their lives and who harshly criticised Russia in all areas since Soviet times, even they are already running out of arguments to defend Washington's and London’s positions.

Obviously, this is part of one big game, where the roles are divided between London and Washington. We first saw it when Russian diplomats were expelled. Our diplomats in London and Washington were hit hardest, but what did Washington have to do with this? Another example is the sanctions package being developed. We can see that the sanctions policy is the focal point of an entire group of political lobbyists in Washington. Novichok and the “Skripal case” are simply fed into that sanctions machine. We can talk about classic collusion between the United States and Britain, their political elites that can influence this situation. It’s all part of the same collusion. It has nothing to do with the legal aspect of the case, international law, investigation or what actually happened. This we do not know, but if someone knows, please share reliable information, not fictitious and planted stories.

I will only be able to comment on the decisions that will be made if this actually happens. This is not about a Russian policy to aggravate bilateral relations, but about our response and the destructive course that Washington has taken. In this case, when it comes to Salisbury and Amesbury, London is following along, the game is obvious, and it is no longer possible to hide it. They call this “solidarity,” but in fact it is a vicious mutual cover-up.

Question: Could you comment on the Japanese Foreign Ministry’s recent protest against the deployment of Russian Su-35S fighters on Iturup Island? Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said Russia's actions are contrary to Japan's position and cause deep regret.

Maria Zakharova: Russia's actions are in line with Russia's policy, including defence and foreign policy, which is not aggressive and is not aimed at destabilising relations, whether bilateral ties with Japan or in the larger region.

Everything that happens on the territory of the Russian Federation is done openly; our foreign colleagues are regularly informed, and we answer their questions. In this case, all explanations have been given at all levels, and I do not see any reason for further comment.

Question: How do you think these actions and statements could affect the negotiations on the Kuril Islands issue?

Maria Zakharova: We believe questions relating to the process of drafting a peace treaty that you mentioned definitely offer significant room for real, concrete work. The negotiation process is being conducted at the level of deputy ministers and corresponding representatives appointed by the parties. It includes economic interaction and humanitarian aspects. There are many facets. As such, this work should be conducted on several tracks. The parties can certainly express different views on various issues, but there is a main line previously indicated by the leadership of our countries. We are making headway in this format, implementing what was planned.

QuestionFormer ambassador of the United States in the Russian Federation Michael McFaul strongly criticised actor Steven Seagal’s appointment as the Foreign Ministry’s Special Envoy and called it a desperate gesture. McFaul said he doubts that Seagal will achieve any success in improving Russia-US relations as he does not have any influence on the American public. The former ambassador called the appointment humiliating for Russia’s Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary in the US Anatoly Antonov and said that if he were Antonov he would be insulted by a trick like this.

Maria Zakharova: Unlike many of his other statements, this statement made by Michael McFaul should be taken very seriously because there is no better expert in despair than Mr McFaul. I have one question for Mr McFaul. What happened to tolerance? I don’t even understand what this has to do with Anatoly Antonov. I think McFaul has not served as a diplomat long enough and he probably did not understand something. I am not sure what this has to do with Ambassador Antonov as we are talking about a public and political post. I have no idea how he linked these two but he will probably explain later.

Question (via interpreter): You often say it yourself that the investigation of the so-called Skripal case requires transparency. Are you ready to maintain the transparency principle yourself and allow inspectors to check certain facilities in Russia as required by the new bill on US sanctions? The new bill states that UN inspectors are to inspect sites in Russia that could have been used to produce chemical weapons. Are you ready to allow this for the sake of transparency?

Maria Zakharova: You are building an interesting connection between these two matters. Are you sure that London will be as pleased by your question? I really doubt that. As concerns transparency, can you give any examples of Russia not being transparent in performing its chemical disarmament obligations? Do you have any data to prove this? Perhaps we did not perform some of the obligations? I have not seen a single complaint against the Russian Federation in reports of the OPCW or any other UN agency. Speaking about transparency in the Salisbury and Amesbury incidents, aren’t you curious about what happened there? You represent Sky News, a British media outlet. It is you who will live in this country. I think you must be a British subject. Don’t you wonder yourself what actually happened there? You know that it has been more than four months and nobody there knows what happened. Moreover, for four months it was claimed that Salisbury and the surroundings are completely safe until they suddenly found some objects related to chemical weapons. Aren’t you concerned about this yourself?

We are concerned for one simple reason, because the case involves Russian nationals. As a state we must request access to them, to see them and understand what is happening there. We are conducting our own investigation into these matters. Therefore, we have to demand cooperation with the British law enforcement in order to establish connections between the Russian and the British investigations. One more thing. Russia has been subject to a number of political campaigns based on the accusations in the Salisbury and Amesbury case. We also really want to know the circumstances of the incidents. If you can refer to any reports claiming that Russia is exercising a non-transparent approach to chemical disarmament, please provide them. I have not read anything of the kind. There have never been any complaints against Russia in relation to this subject. I believe that matters should be addressed in the right order. We have complaints against the UK regarding the absolutely private course of investigation. We did not make up these stories. Making this case private is the official stance of British officials. They officially classified everything that has to do with Novichok, Salisbury, Amesbury and Porton Down. Perhaps, it is you who should start with transparency.

Question (via interpreter): In view of the new bill and new sanctions, will you allow inspectors to see the sites in Russia? For example, in Shushary? 

Maria Zakharova: Can you specify? Which sites and which requirements? Do you have any specifics? Or are we going to hypothesise as with the first question? This is a practical matter, not a theory. Please explain what exactly is required. Is there a specific request from the US or the UN? We have not received any. This is all I can say.

Question (via interpreter): If you see this new sanctions bill as an act of collusion between the UK and the US, I wondered what exactly you think the role of the UK in these new sanctions is?

Maria Zakharova: What we see is double play by the US and the UK, who have staged a political provocation with Novichok. This is obvious. I have already given you specific facts.

Question (via interpreter): So would countermeasures apply to the UK too?

Maria ZakharovaRussia retaliates against countries that impose sanctions on Russia. When Great Britain imposes sanctions or takes any restrictive action, such as expelling Russian diplomats or any other unfriendly initiatives against Russia, we invariably come up with an adequate, retaliatory response. No matter the country, we always provide a symmetric, retaliatory response.

QuestionWhat is the Foreign Ministry’s perspective on the visit to Russia by US Senator Rand Paul?

When did the idea emerge to appoint Steven Seagull the Foreign Ministry’s Special Envoy on Russia-US humanitarian ties and cultural and historical heritage?

Maria ZakharovaI think we have already commented on the first question, and information was released following the meetings that took place. We hope that constructive exchanges with the American side will continue in various areas. They can really happen, as it turns out.

As for the question on when the idea was born to appoint Steven Seagull the Foreign Ministry’s Special Envoy on Russia-US humanitarian ties and cultural and historical heritage, let me be diplomatic and say that we implemented this idea straight away.

QuestionRelations between Turkey and Syria are facing challenging times. What has Russia to offer in order to prevent them from sliding into war?

Could you provide an update on the operation to liberate Idlib?

Maria ZakharovaRegarding Idlib, I refer you to military experts. I can make an inquiry on this matter, but my advice would be to ask the military about it.

As for what Russia is doing to normalise relations between Turkey and Syria, let me remind you, and I think that you know this better than I do, that Turkey and Syria are two independent actors and countries with a history of relations behind them. It is up to them to shape their relations, including bilaterally.

Being aware of the complex political, military and geopolitical situation in the region, Russia is not so much focused on trying to help specific countries find common ground, even though this is also part of our agenda, as it is on promoting an overall, global settlement. There are various formats to be used to this effect. There are formats that Russia opens to others, such as the Astana Process, for example, or uses as a platform for promoting normalisation in Syria, as a platform for internal dialogue that cannot be separated from interstate relations. For example, the Sochi Congress promotes normalisation and dialogue among various political, ethnic and religious groups. Similarly, we invited monitors, informed sides, and relayed concerns regarding regional developments to other countries using our mediation capabilities. These are bilateral and multilateral channels. I cannot go into details on talks and share specific proposals on ways to achieve a settlement, but I can say that we are working on it.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will visit Turkey in the near future. Syria will be one of the central items on his agenda, just as during the recent meeting with his Turkish counterpart in Singapore.

All channels are being used. Content-wise, diplomats and the military are engaged in talks. In terms of the negotiating process, these include talks by traditional means, and through diplomatic efforts on the ground. Many issues are settled this way: representatives are dispatched to the region, and we keep you informed of these initiatives. Russian and Turkish foreign ministers regularly talk over the phone to follow up on the ongoing developments and resolve any matters that may arise.

This is one of the dimensions of our efforts, while the actual picture is much more complex and includes multiple formats.

Question: On August 5, US Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Wess Mitchell summoned Russia’s charge d’affaires in the US Dmitry Zhirnov in connection with Russia’s aggressive propaganda of discord and violence in the social media. How could you comment on this?

Maria ZakharovaMay I ask you to provide specific examples of the ways Russia promotes discord and violence in social media?

Question: I have not found any.

Maria ZakharovaOur requests to provide facts on the claims we have been hearing from our US colleagues, which range from election meddling to destructive action in social media and involvement in chemical warfare against the UK, are being left unanswered. Under the Obama administration they would say that everything comes from the social media, calling on people to read and subscribe, but now they have stopped it. I do not know the reasons why.

When a meeting on Novichok and a new sanctions package took place in the Department of State, our representatives asked for facts, anything at all. Nothing. There was no reply on the investigation either. When asked about facts, they said that they had them, but the file was classified. This is just impossible. All these questions have been left unanswered.

The same applies to social media. One network or another begins to talk about some kind of Russian meddling in the election by exploiting their technological or content-related features. All our requests to provide materials to this effect have been left unanswered.

You have not seen the materials, cited by the US social media. We are unable to get them from anyone. If they have anything, we would gladly take a look. But this is not the case.

QuestionAt a March 2018 briefing, your colleague Artyom Kozhin and you at the previous briefing mentioned 170 civilian instructors in the Central African Republic. Who are they, how were they hired, and how did they get there?

Maria Zakharova: This question definitely should not be addressed to the Foreign Ministry.

Question:  They are not representatives of the Russian Defence Ministry, aren’t they?

Maria Zakharova: I can assure you that they are not representatives of the Foreign Ministry either. Replying to this question earlier, we noted that we don’t deal with private military companies. We discussed the absence of any legislative framework in detail. This is not within the Foreign Ministry’s remit.

Question: But you, nevertheless, received this information.

Maria Zakharova: Yes, we did, because they are staying there. Certain agreements have been reached. We cited them and noted that these agreements had been approved by UN expert agencies, with due account for the regime with regard to the Central African Republic. We also said that UN peacekeepers and specialists visit training camps and can see everything. We do not select, recruit or send any personnel there. You want to know who selected them, but this question should be addressed not to the Foreign Ministry.

QuestionArmenia has suggested the other day that an OCSE monitoring mission similar to the one along the demarcation line in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone be held on the border with Nakhichevan, although this region is not part of the conflict zone.

What is the position of Russia when it comes to this matter as a co-chair of the OSCE Minsk Group? Is there any need for a monitoring mission along the border between Armenia and Nakhichevan?

Maria Zakharova: I have not read these reports, but I will certainly check up on this and get back to you.

QuestionIn a high-profile incident, various Internet giants, including Apple and Facebook, have turned against right-conservative American journalist Alex Jones who is known for sympathising with Russia. Does this have something to do with the US domestic agenda or is this a message that any pro-Russian opinion will be automatically suppressed?

Maria Zakharova: I believe that we are now witnessing a domestic political struggle in the United States under a certain slogan.

The world has repeatedly witnessed such domestic political squabbles in the United States. This amounted to a struggle between political parties, as well as to that around these parties or inside them. There have been various pretexts, accusations and high-profile cases turning the entire US political system upside down. Today, this struggle is taking place under the pretext of a certain Russian aggression and its various manifestations, including alleged election-meddling, cyberattacks, the alleged use of chemical weapons in the United Kingdom and other kinds of alleged Russian involvement in everything linked with bad and negative developments. This is a certain trend set forth by a political slogan, to quote professional PR terminology, because any campaign takes place under a slogan. Today, everything linked with Russia and Russophobia is in high demand, and this campaign can hardly be called new. It was launched by the administration of US President Barack Obama, became part of the Democratic candidate’s campaign and remained in high demand even after the 2016 presidential elections. Actually, it was ratcheted up and received substantial resources, funding included. Why should one invent something new when this well-advertised and controlled campaign linked with Russia was already being conducted? Let’s recall how all this was incited. We have already discussed this: They started doing it in around 2012, when nothing much was on the international agenda and did not include such present day subjects as Crimea or Ukraine, and Syria was still part of the so-called Arab Spring. But anti-Russia moods were already being fomented in the United States, with the Obama administration setting this trend. This campaign later became part of the Democratic election campaign. Considering the fact that the Obama administration was completely involved in supporting the Democratic Party’s candidate (the President of the United States personally supported the candidate and invested his political capital), one can understand how this campaign emerged.

We also remember perfectly well that the former Secretary of State ran for president on a Democratic ticket. Books, published long before these current international developments, clearly stipulated an anti-Russia bias. To be honest, all these ideas are now being elaborated upon. People who have read these books, who have heard these statements and who are following the international developments are hardly surprised about this trend.

Question: Several days ago Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a law on learning native languages. Immediately afterwards The Foreign Affairs, a fairly respected western media outlet, published a sharply critical article against signing this law. Why do you think the West via that media outlet is so negative towards allegedly a pure domestic political decision? Can we relate it to the fact that in the long run the law will put an end to the favourite practice of divide and rule?

Maria Zakharova: In order to give you as accurate an answer as possible, I will study everything related to the law.

Question: I am surprised that I have to pay a fee for accreditation and other things in Brussels. I have worked in the EU countries for twenty-five years, and it is the first time I hear of something like this. This is nonsense. Did I understand correctly that one has to apply for re-accreditation twice a year and this will cost 50 euros as well as one will have to obtain a sort of “loyalty certificate” like in a polyclinic?

Maria Zakharova: Generally – yes.

Question: Does it concern some special kind of journalist or all of them?

Maria Zakharova: All of them.

Question: Including US journalists?

Maria Zakharova: I cannot say, maybe the Americans are coming with their own certificates. Taking into account that their favourite trick nowadays is the principle of extraterritoriality, their documents might be valid in Belgium. I cannot tell you.

But what we read was connected to certificates which must be obtained for a fee by journalists who work in Belgium with their respective citizenship. It also concerns foreign correspondents.

Question: Russia does not have anything like this, does it? Isn’t Foreign Ministry accreditation free in Russia?

Maria Zakharova: I haven’t heard anything about payment.

Question: The Los Angeles Police Department is investigating Foreign Ministry Special Representative for Russia-US Cultural Links, Cultural and Historical Heritage Steven Seagal following allegations of sexual harassment. What does the Foreign Ministry think of that? Did it consider this information when appointing Seagal?

Maria Zakharova: I believe we should proceed from the presumption of innocence. Given the extraterritorial nature of what is going on now in the US, all sorts of political put-up job and the like, the presumption of innocence remains the immutable principle that we should be guided by.

Question: Echo of Moscow editor-in-chief Alexei Venediktov wrote on his Telegram channel, citing a certain anonymous Russian diplomat, that Steven Seagal received guarantees of immunity which he is entitled to in his diplomatic position. Can you comment: Is it true that Seagal enjoys diplomatic immunity?

Maria Zakharova: I have always said that it is dangerous to read anonymous Telegram channels, and now I see that this is the case with non-anonymous channels as well. I don’t know what sources were used. It is not accidental that they are anonymous, because what they say is a lie. At the moment, Steven Seagal does not have a diplomatic passport. We were asked if he can receive one. Yes, if the Ministry considers it necessary in the working process.

Question: Does he have any kind of immunity?

Maria Zakharova: I hope he does, in terms of health.

As for diplomatic immunity, you need to understand the procedure. One receives diplomatic immunity when he or she is sent to work abroad. In the past, when Vienna conventions on diplomatic and consular relations were complied with, there was a general understanding that a person travelling abroad had diplomatic immunity simply because he or she worked as a diplomat and had a diplomatic passport. At the moment the realities are different. As regards the United States, this rule does not work there. The US cares more about the type of visa the person has than about the colour of the passport or what is written on it. So every time a question of immunity arises.

There are countries that respect the Vienna Convention and comply with its provisions, but some countries have their own views on the matter, and we know about them. We have had unpleasant precedents. In particular, the issue of immunity was brought in the limelight in 2005, when diplomatic passport holders were sent to work in the UN. There was a whole story. Then I learned all the nuances of the US attitude towards diplomatic immunity. It is a very complicated matter, which is solved individually depending on the situation and on the country involved. Given that your question is related to the United States, all they care about is the visa type.

Question: Will he receive a passport?

Maria Zakharova: Steven Seagal is also an American citizen. He has a US passport, which seems to suggest a number of conclusions. I feel awkward explaining to you what that means. As a Russian citizen, can you request a Russian visa?

I think I answered your question in sufficient detail. What other nuances are not clear to you? Please be more specific. I think I mentioned everything – he has no diplomatic passport; the immunity issue is decided individually with each country because each country, unfortunately, has its own vision of the issue today. There is no standard solution.

Question: Will you discuss the issue of granting Seagal diplomatic immunity separately in each case? He will have to travel to the United States.

Maria Zakharova: Separately or automatically, we will think about it when it is necessary and expedient. Perhaps automatically will do.

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