Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks at the 25th OSCE Ministerial Council, Milan, December 6, 2018
Mr Chairperson-in-Office, colleagues, Mr Secretary General,
First of all, I would like to thank the Italian chairmanship for hosting this meeting and creating an atmosphere of mutually respectful dialogue and cooperation. These values are reflected in the Helsinki Final Act, which remains the basis for state-to-state interaction and the implementation of a positive European agenda.
Unfortunately, compliance with its key provisions is not to everyone's liking. In an effort to achieve primacy, a small group of countries are using blackmail, pressure and threats and even stooping to blatant interference in other countries’ domestic affairs. The support of the coup in Ukraine and the unprecedented pressure on Macedonia are vivid examples of such behaviour. The relentless expansion of NATO, the build-up of the Alliance’s capabilities on the Eastern flank, the deployment of the US missile defence system in Europe and the illegitimate sanctions under far-fetched pretexts have led to a crisis of trust in the Euro-Atlantic area. New tensions are being created as the US is planning to bury the INF Treaty.
Today, the CSTO member countries adopted a special statement to this effect which is being circulated as an OSCE document.
Russia is in favour of discussing concerns in a professional manner rather than through a “megaphone.” We supported Germany’s initiative for a structured dialogue on security challenges. If we manage to keep this process depoliticised, we will be able to contribute to de-escalation, prepare the ground for arms control work, and improve the tools used for preventing dangerous incidents. Clearly, this cannot be done without regular contacts between the military, but the West froze them and has so far refused to resume cooperation.
We appreciate the OSCE’s contribution to fighting terrorism, terrorism propaganda and financing, and its involvement in exchanging information about foreign terrorists and militants. It is important to enhance the role of this organisation in fighting the illegal drug threat.
The economic interconnectedness and harmonisation of integration processes have unifying potential. The Platform for Co-operative Security adopted by the OSCE at the EU’s initiative is a good basis for establishing contacts between the EAEU and the EU.
Unfortunately, the situation in the human rights area is deteriorating. The freedom of media as well as linguistic, education and religious rights are under attack. The shameful practice of statelessness remains in EU countries such as Latvia and Estonia. Ukraine passes laws that prohibit the use of languages other than Ukrainian in all spheres of life. Kiev promises leniency, but only with regard to languages spoken in EU countries, thus showing that its goal is to discriminate and, ultimately, to destroy the Russian language, which, as you may be aware, is used by a majority of Ukrainian citizens. I hope that the EU countries are well aware of this design, which flagrantly violates not only Kiev’s international commitments, but the Constitution of Ukraine as well. All this requires the immediate intervention of the High Commissioner on National Minorities.
We are concerned about a number of countries seeking to mop up the information space to remove dissent under the pretext of opposing propaganda. It appears that we are on our way back to censorship. Journalists are subjected to discrimination in France, the US, the UK, Ukraine and the Baltic countries. Any attempts to whitelist or blacklist media outlets are unacceptable. The OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media must respond to that.
We submitted for consideration at this meeting draft documents on upholding the language and education rights of ethnic minorities and free access for journalists and media outlets to information. We support the OSCE declaration on the Mediterranean dimension. We must reiterate the importance of adopting declarations in defence of Christians and Muslims. This needs to be done urgently in light of the plight of Christians in the Middle East and North Africa and the growing interfaith tensions in the European Union.
Year after year, we underscore the danger of rewriting history and glorifying Nazism. This has taken on fairly ugly forms, in particular, in Latvia, which honours Waffen-SS veterans. In Ukraine, radical nationalists under the SS banners are rampant. We hope that the recently adopted resolution of the European Parliament, On the Rise of Neo-Fascist Violence in Europe, which cites the corresponding UN General Assembly resolution, will help the EU members to take a principled stand on such disgusting behaviour.
The OSCE anti-crisis efforts are clearly needed. With our support, the OSCE representatives are coordinating talks between Kiev and Donbass in the Contact Group. The Special Monitoring Mission is working in Ukraine in strict accordance with its mandate. There is no reasonable alternative to the Minsk Package of Measures if we want to overcome the internal Ukrainian conflict. However, Kiev continues to relentlessly sabotage it and the decisions made by the Normandy four leaders. Efforts to resolve the Ukraine crisis are running into more obstacles, including flagrant intervention by the state in the affairs of the church, which further aggravates the already complex internal political situation and divides society. It is amazing that the Kiev regime enjoys total impunity with its Western patrons, who forgive or even justify its escapades. This fully applies to the most recent provocation orchestrated by the Ukrainian Navy in the Black Sea and military preparations by the Ukrainian armed forces near the contact line in Donbass.
We support the OSCE efforts to promote the Transnistrian and Nagorno-Karabakh settlement and its co-chairmanship in the Geneva discussions on the South Caucasus.
The Balkans should never leave our focus. As you are aware, the mandates of the OSCE institutions and missions do not provide for promoting Euro-Atlantic integration for the countries of that region. We must respect these mandates. Kosovo cannot participate in the OSCE activities as a state, and Pristina should not be encouraged in its actions that violate UN Security Council Resolution 1244. We expect the EU to get Pristina to comply with the agreements that it reached with Belgrade through the mediation of Brussels, including the creation of a Community of Serb Municipalities in Kosovo.
We are in favour of continuing the OSCE reforms. The organisation needs a Charter, procedures for its executive bodies, election monitoring rules, and regulations governing the human dimension as well as staffing and financial matters.
We are convinced that mutual respect and consideration of interests are the only prerequisites for allowing the OSCE to reach its full potential and help it move towards the goal set by the Astana summit which is to build a community of equal, comprehensive and indivisible security. The interests of ordinary people should guide us in our work. It is people who - in spite of everything - strengthen ties in culture, science, education, sports and business; who seek peaceful and secure lives and do not want confrontation. Let us not sacrifice the interests of our citizens for the sake of geopolitical games, be it in the Mediterranean or Ukraine.
In closing, I would like to wish every success to Slovakia as the next OSCE chair.