Briefing by Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova, Moscow, August 17, 2017
- Talks between Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Egyptian Foreign Minister Samen Shukri
- Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to meet with Vatican Secretary of State Pietro Parolin
- Cambodian Foreign Minister Prak Sokhon’s visit to the Russian Federation
- Foreign Minister of the Republic of Korea Kang Kyung-wha’s visit to the Russian Federation
- Situation on the Korean Peninsula
- Situation in Syria
- Developments in Afghanistan
- Developments in Kenya
- Political developments in Venezuela
- Nagorno-Karabakh settlement process
- Epidemiological situation in Turkey
- Russian citizen Renat Bakiev detained in Turkey
- Post-registration clinical trials of Russian Ebola vaccine Gam Evac Combi in the Republic of Guinea
- The anti-Russia statements by CIA Director Mike Pompeo
- Closing a US neo-Nazi website’s Russian domain
- Implementing the international project to renovate the Sobibor Museum and Memorial Site
- Statements on WWII by Polish Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski
- Attempt to desecrate Soviet war memorial in Berlin
- Another event to glorify Nazism in Estonia
- Renaming Tolbukhin Park in Bucharest
- Latvia’s law amendments obliging ethnic minority school students to take exams only in the official language
- 19th World Festival of Youth and Students
- Answers to media questions:
- Russia-US relations
- Russia-Japan consultations
- Russia-US relations
- UNSC Resolution 2371
- Russia-Azerbaijan relations
- “Russia’s isolation” by the West
- Alt-right leaders’ connection with Russia
- Chemical weapons in Syria
- Russia-India joint military drills
- Russia-US relations
- Russia-Poland relations
- Russia’s stance on US-Iran conflict
- The recent vacation
Talks between Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Foreign Minister of the Arab Republic of Egypt, Samen Shukri, who will come to the Russian capital on a working visit, will be held on August 21.
The ministers will continue their exchange of views on a wide range of issues on international and regional agenda as a follow-up to the talks between the defence and foreign ministers of the two countries held in Cairo on May 29 in the “two plus two” format. The ministers will focus on current aspects of further strengthening Russian-Egyptian relations.
Egypt is one of Russia's leading partners in the Middle East and North Africa. Our countries are tied together by long-standing traditions of friendship and mutually beneficial cooperation, close and shared approaches to key international and regional issues. Despite the turmoil in the global economy in recent years, and complex turbulent processes in the Middle East region, Russian-Egyptian multifaceted ties are expanding steadily. The countries maintain an active political dialogue, including at the high and highest levels, and new areas and forms of cooperation in the trade, economic, cultural and humanitarian spheres are being developed.
Minister Lavrov and Minister Shukri will focus on ways to settle crises in the Middle East and North Africa, including Syria, Libya, and Yemen. Considerable attention will be paid to counteracting new challenges and threats facing the countries of this region, with an emphasis on combining efforts in fighting terrorism and extremism. The ministers will focus on ways to reduce the potential for conflict, including the prospects for creating a zone free from weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East. Of course, ways to unblock the Palestinian-Israeli settlement process will be considered in detail as well.
State Secretary of the Vatican Pietro Parolin will come to Russia on a working visit on August 20-24. During the visit, he will meet with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
The sides will discuss current international issues, including countering new challenges and threats, and resolving regional conflicts.
Particular attention will be paid to the situation in Syria, Libya and other countries of the Middle East and North Africa, primarily in the context of peacefully resolving crises, overcoming humanitarian catastrophes, protecting Christians in the conflict zones and countering international terrorism.
The Secretary of State will receive an overview of Russia’s position on Ukraine, and destructive actions of the Kiev authorities, their disregard for their commitments to implement the Minsk agreements, as well as the harsh humanitarian situation in southeastern Ukraine.
Cooperation in the sphere of culture, humanitarian ties, science, education and medicine is central to the bilateral agenda. This year, the State Tretyakov Gallery hosted a one-of-a-kind exhibition from the collections of the Vatican Museums “Roma Aeterna. Masterpieces of the Vatican Pinakothek. Bellini, Raphael, Caravaggio.” The historical and documentary exhibition “The Romanovs of Russia and the Vatican, 1613-1917” which will open in Moscow in December is another important event in this sphere.
The Institute of World History of the Russian Academy of Sciences, in conjunction with the Pontifical Committee of Historical Sciences, is carrying out a number of projects devoted to the history of relations between Russia and the Vatican.
Professional ties are expanding between Russian and Vatican medical institutions which treat children with grave illnesses.
On August 22-25, Senior Minister, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of the Kingdom of Cambodia Prak Sokhon will visit Russia, hold talks with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and participate in the tenth session of the Russian-Cambodian Intergovernmental Commission on Trade, Economic, Scientific and Technological Cooperation.
The ministers plan to discuss the current state of and prospects for stepping up bilateral cooperation in various fields, emphasising the implementation of the top-level agreements reached in recent years, as well as to compare their positions on current international and regional issues.
It is hoped that the visit of the Cambodian delegation to Russia will further strengthen Russian-Cambodian cooperation in practical fields, which advances the long-term interests of our countries as well as the security and sustainable development goals of Southeast Asia and the entire Asia-Pacific region.
On August 24-25, Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha will make a working visit to the Russian Federation.
On August 25, Ms Kang plans to have talks with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. The parties will discuss the current state of and prospects for developing bilateral relations, including trade and economic cooperation. The ministers will exchange opinions on current international and regional issues, focusing on the settlement on the Korean Peninsula crisis.
The “spiral of confrontation” continues to escalate on the Korean Peninsula.
On August 5, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 2371, which reflects the global community’s concerns over the ongoing ballistic missile tests in the DPRK. Russia will continue to fulfil its international obligations, including the provisions of the new resolution.
All UN member states are obliged to implement the resolution in full. Paragraph 28 emphasises the UNSC’s commitment to a peaceful, diplomatic and political settlement of the situation and the importance of joint work to ease the tensions on the Korean Peninsula. Efforts are needed from all parties concerned on facilitating an all-encompassing dialogue for a comprehensive settlement of the subregion’s problems.
Sadly, in recent years we have often been witnesses to a situation where states become parties concerned only after the hot phase of the conflict occurs, with conferences urgently held and plans developed to rescue the situation and provide aid to refugees, as well as on many other issues. It would be good if today there was a greater number of those interested in a prompt settlement of the situation on the Korean Peninsula, so that everyone who can contribute to solving it in some way or another becomes aware of the insanity of what politicians have repeatedly called for when speaking in favour of a military scenario in this region.
To our great disappointment, recently we have seen just the opposite. A number of capitals openly threaten to use force and are making extremely dangerous statements on being ready for armed conflict. We firmly state that any attempt at a military solution to the Korean Peninsula’s issues will lead to an immense tragedy and massive casualties among the population of all parties to the conflict, as well as a humanitarian, economic and environmental catastrophe.
We call on all countries to exercise restraint and undertake real efforts to prevent the situation from going past the point of no return. We are duly working with the countries that are members of the six-party process. In our interactions with our Chinese partners, we insist that there is no alternative to a peaceful solution of the range of problems on the Korean Peninsula. We urge all responsible members of the global community to support the ideas put forward in the Russian-Chinese “roadmap” for the Korean settlement process, whose main provisions are envisaged in the joint statement of the Russian and Chinese foreign ministries of July 4 posted on the Russian Foreign Ministry’s website.
We are pleased to note the positive trends in the way the military and political situation in Syria is developing, the way the ceasefire regime is being strengthened and the de-escalation zones are beginning to function: in the southwest of the country, in Eastern Ghouta and in the north of Homs province. Experts are currently working within the “Astana format” on the establishment of a de-escalation zone in Idlib. The practical steps taken on the basis of the May 4 Memorandum and the agreements reached in Amman and Cairo, including the deployment of Russian military police units in the agreed-upon areas along the line of contact in the de-escalation zones, give hope that there will be significant improvements in the humanitarian situation and the gradual building of bridges of trust in Syrian society. An opportunity has emerged to concentrate far more forces than before to combat ISIS and al-Nusra terrorists.
The Syrian army is pressing ISIS militants in the Syrian Desert, the Euphrates Valley and the southeast of Syria. On August 12, the terrorists were completely driven out of their long-standing stronghold of al-Sukhnah. An offensive is being mounted towards Deir ez-Zor, which has been besieged for three years.
The enemy is putting up resistance, trying to regroup and preparing for new clashes.
From this perspective, we are particularly alarmed by the situation in Idlib, where al-Nusra units have made use of the relative calm to build up their combat potential and have been forcing their rules upon other illegal armed groups and the local residents amid signs of brewing protest among them. Over a short period of time, al-Nusra has managed to set up 14 prisons in Idlib, mostly in devastated poultry plants, where people are thrown for such heavy “offenses” as being relatives of government servicemen, policemen or officials. Bloody clashes are being provoked with fighters of those armed formations that are taking part in the “Astana process.” As a result, a new wave of violence and wild banditry has swept Idlib. Proof of that is the killing of seven local activists of the so-called Syrian Civil Defence, better known as White Helmets, in a bloody assault in the town of Sarmin. In the past, the Russian Foreign Ministry has repeatedly made clear its principled assessments of the White Helmets’ activities. Our opinion has not changed. Even so, we cannot remain indifferent to the cold-blooded mass killing of unarmed people.
The situation I have just described demands the soonest possible end. Russia together with other guarantors of the “Astana process” will continue working to help translate the agreement on the establishment of a de-escalation zone in Idlib into practice as quickly as possible and enable the population of that Syrian province to do away with the lawlessness of terrorists and criminal elements.
Unfortunately, the security situation in Afghanistan continues to deteriorate. Despite the fact that, according to the Pentagon, the US Air Force launched over 1,600 air strikes on the armed opposition in the first half of 2017, its militants are besieging more and more districts. In particular, over the past few weeks, Janikhel (Paktia province), Taiwara (Ghor province) and Ghormach (Faryab province), have also been taken under the control of extremists. The level of terrorist activity remains high. Against the background of the worsening military situation, protest sentiments in Afghan society are growing.
We can see attempts to stir up ethnic conflict in the country. In this connection, we are deeply concerned about reports of the massacre of civilians in the Hazara village of Mirza Olang in the province of Sar-e-Pul. According to eyewitnesses, this crime was committed not by the local Taliban fighters, but by foreign militants, who had been transferred there by unknown helicopters.
Cases of unidentified helicopter flights to territory controlled by extremists in other northern provinces of Afghanistan are also recorded. For example, there is evidence that on August 8, four helicopters made flights from the airbase of the Afghan National Army's 209th corps in Mazar-i-Sharif to the area captured by the militants in the Aqcha district of the Jowzjan province. It is noteworthy that witnesses of these flights began to fall off the radar of law enforcement agencies. It seems that the command of the NATO forces controlling the Afghan sky stubbornly refuses to notice these incidents.
We draw the attention of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan to the need for a thorough investigation of each such case.
On August 8, general elections took place in the Republic of Kenya, in which over 77 per cent of voters took part. Current President Uhuru Kenyatta has been re-elected, with over 54 per cent of the votes in his favour.
International observers, including representatives of the African Union, the East African Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), the East African Community and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa positively assessed the organisation of the election, noting the absence of serious violations and incidents.
The situation in the country after the announcement of the voting results remains generally calm.
Moscow was pleased with the successful elections in Kenya and confirms its readiness to further strengthen the traditionally friendly relations and mutually beneficial multifaceted cooperation between our countries.
According to different sources, the first signs of a decline in the armed confrontation between the opposition and the Government supporters are being registered in Venezuela. The National Constituent Assembly adopted a number of practical decisions to improve the political situation, including preparing for and holding regional elections in October. Parties that are members of the opposition coalition have already announced their readiness to take part in them. Analysts believe that this is obviously a step towards overcoming contradictions in Venezuelan society and resolving the accumulated socioeconomic problems democratically and in line with constitutional norms.
Against this backdrop, the positions of some global leaders cannot but cause concern. They do not see the new political reality that has emerged in Venezuela. Continued attempts to shatter the situation and exert pressure on the Venezuelan authorities have very destructive potential because they threaten to disrupt the emerging fragile balance. It is becoming increasingly obvious that the goal of such actions is not to achieve peace and prosperity in Venezuela but rather ambitious political aims that have nothing to do with the life of the country’s people.
We consider unacceptable the use of illegal unilateral sanctions that will hit hardest the disadvantaged segments of the population in Venezuela, not to mention the threat of potentially using foreign military force in order to stop the tragedy in Venezuela (President Donald Trump’s statement on August 11). Such statements contradict the principles of international law on non-interference in the internal affairs of sovereign states and renunciation of the unilateral use of force. We consider such statements to be aimed against not only Caracas but the whole of Latin America. It is no surprise that the majority of Latin American nations, including those who have pursued tough anti-Chavez policy, sharply denounced such intentions and supported the exclusively peaceful resolution of the Venezuelan crisis. This is evidenced by public statements of their official representatives, heads of state or foreign ministers and numerous contacts of Russian diplomats and other officials with their Latin American colleagues.
We are convinced that Venezuelans are capable of resolving their problems themselves, with the constructive support of the responsible world community and without ultimatums imposed on them from the outside.
We have received requests to comment on the situation around the Nagorno-Karabakh settlement process.
Russia has always supported measures to reduce tension in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict area. The co-chairs have repeatedly talked about the need for specific steps in this regard and this was also stated at the Vienna (May 2016) and St Petersburg (June 2016) summits. At the same time, the implementation of measures proposed by mediators hinges on the good will of the parties to the conflict. For our part, we are doing all we can to stabilise the situation and create conditions for continuing the negotiating process to bring about a [political] settlement. This approach prevailed at a meeting of the Azerbaijani and Armenian foreign ministers in Moscow in April.
At present, the co-chairs are making preparations for the next summit on Nagorno-Karabakh. To this end, they held talks with the Azerbaijani and Armenian foreign ministers in Brussels in July. Consultations will continue on the sidelines of the upcoming session of the UN General Assembly in New York in the second half of September. A corresponding statement will be made as a result.
I would like to reiterate what we constantly say at all levels: Russia devotes special attention to the Nagorno-Karabakh issue. It is among our foreign policy priorities and is mentioned in Russia’s Foreign Policy Concept.
In view of the growing number of tourists infected with Coxsackievirus (an enterovirus infection) in Turkey’s southern resorts, the Federal Agency for Tourism and the Federal Service for the Oversight of Consumer Protection and Welfare have warned Russian citizens about the unfavourable epidemiological situation in that country. The most disturbing situation is reported in Serik, Kemer, Manavgat, Alanya, Antalya and Side.
As of August 14, 14 infections were registered among Russian citizens, all of them children under 10. Another 361 Russian tourists (including 337 children under 10) were diagnosed for viral gastroenteritis.
At the moment there is no need for emergency evacuation of Russian citizens.
The Russian Embassy in Ankara is in constant contact with Turkish health authorities to get complete information regarding the evolution of the epidemiological situation.
Turkey has announced its readiness to accept Russian experts to assess the situation and determine the level of threat to Russian citizens’ health in resort areas.
I would also like to remind you that in connection with the situation that has evolved, in keeping with Article 14 of Federal Law No 132-FZ, “Basic Principles of Tourism Activity in the Russian Federation” (November 24, 1996), a tourist has a right to require a change in a tour package to Turkey (including with regard to destination or timing of the tour) or cancellation thereof, while the expenses sustained by a tour operator may not be withheld.
We are closely watching the situation in Turkey. I would like to reiterate that Russian missions in Turkey are in constant contact not only with the Turkish authorities but also with Russian citizens who need help. Hotline numbers are available on the websites of the Foreign Ministry and the Russian Embassy in Turkey. If necessary, they can be put to active use.
Following reports of a Russian citizen being detained in Turkey, the Russian Embassy in Ankara immediately sent corresponding queries to the host country’s competent agencies. As a result, the Turkish authorities issued official notice that Russian citizen Renat Bakiev was detained on July 29 on suspicion of “involvement in the ISIS armed terrorist organisation.” In keeping with a Turkish court ruling of August 10, he was taken into custody and is currently being held at a closed correctional facility.
The Russian Embassy in Turkey is closely watching the situation to make certain that Mr Bakiev’s rights to a fair trial are ensured, as well as monitoring the case at the consular level, and will provide the detainee whatever assistance may be necessary.
The Foreign Ministry has put this case on its watch list.
On August 9, post-registration clinical trials of Russian Ebola vaccine Gam Evac Combi began in the Republic of Guinea.
As is known, the Ebola epidemic in Western Africa has mainly affected three countries: Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. According to the WHO, the Ebola virus infected 28,600 people and killed over 11,300 of them.
Russian scientists were among the first in the world to respond to Guinea’s call for help in fighting the Ebola outbreak. In response to an official appeal from the Guinea government, in August 2014, a group of specialists and two lab modules of a mobile complex of specialised anti-epidemic brigades were sent to Guinea aboard a special plane of the Russian Emergencies Ministry.
UC RUSAL (Russian aluminium company) ensured the deployment of a 200-bed military field infections hospital donated by Russia and organised and financed the training of qualified military medical personnel.
On January 14, 2016, Russia announced the creation of the vaccine Gam Evac Combi, a combined vector Ebola vaccine developed by researchers at the Gamaleya Federal Research Centre for Epidemiology and Microbiology.
On February 15, 2016, the Russian vaccine was presented to the WHO in Geneva. It is notable for the fact that it develops long-term immunity and has no serious side effects.
This past July, Russian equipment and vaccine were delivered to Guinea. The Gamaleya Research Centre prepared and sent over 1,000 vaccine doses for initial vaccination. Preparations were made to mobilise Guinean volunteers. To this end, the Guinean health minister issued an order to create a national committee to promote the Gam Evac Combi vaccination that included Russian and Guinean scientists and specialists conducting research and enlisting volunteers on the ground.
The vaccination of 2,000 Guinean volunteers and post-registration clinical trials of the Russian vaccine in the Republic of Guinea are expected to continue through 2018.
More detailed materials on this topic will be posted on the Foreign Ministry’s official website.
We could not but take note of and comment on the June 24 statement by CIA Director Mike Pompeo during his NBC interview. The statement dealt with Russia’s alleged longtime attempts to undermine the American democracy and meddling in US elections. It appears that in his opinion, Russia’s longtime attempts to undermine US democracy have culminated in the interference in US elections.
As we know, the issue of Russia’s meddling in the election process has become a favourite media story and an obsession in the United States. This story has been adopted by anti-Russia propagandists. This issue continues to pick up momentum and is mentioned in statements by officials who are trying to accuse Russia of engaging in unlawful actions but who have failed to produce any evidence to date. We would like to remind them about some outstanding pages of US history. Unlike the Americans, we have real facts at our disposal, and we know what we should focus on.
It is common knowledge that since the early 1990s the United States had voiced its intentions to establish a Jeffersonian democracy in Russia. But the very fact of setting such a task completely runs counter to the ideas of Thomas Jefferson, one of the founding fathers of the American nation and democracy. All of us know that he called for respecting various forms of government, chosen by other nations, and said the United States would not impose its will anywhere. He was mistaken. Thomas Jefferson referred to the idea of dictating the form of government to an independent country as arrogant, brutal and outrageous. It appears that the ideologists of the present-day America have very poor knowledge of their own history and the foundations of their statehood, if the concepts of “exporting democracy” and “humanitarian intervention” have become their favourite method for conducting an aggressive foreign policy and part of their national concept. For decades, dozens of countries all over the world have been suffering from US-imposed state system formulas that are trying to equate all countries under one and the same pattern, without any consideration for what makes each of them unique. This policy and experiments cannot be called harmless. In the past few years, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Egypt, Syria and Ukraine have fallen prey to this concept. Needless to say, al- Qaeda in all its manifestations, ISIS and other radical terrorist groups of all religious denominations evolved on the fertile soil created by the Americans and in fact often were the brainchildren of these forces.
Generous financial injections in the form of projects and grants through numerous foundations and NGOs is another “grey zone” through which the United States has been trying to influence political processes all over the world for many years. Russia virtually tops the list of these allocations. Various government and non-government organisations, including the Peace Corps, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the National Democratic Institute, the International Republican Institute and many other similar agencies, have been planting their agents for decades in order to penetrate the Russian political establishment and media community and to influence public opinion. According to some sources, the United States had spent $5 billion for these purposes in the 1990s alone. It is very strange that, while making such statements, Mr Pompeo forgets that many decisions stipulating the allocation of funding were approved by his own agency.
It is strange that Washington forgets the fact that in the run-up to the 1996 Russian presidential election, the Federal Reserve Bank delivered $500 million in cash to the US Embassy in Moscow under a far-fetched pretext of avoiding frenzied demand during the exchange of old $100 notes. Operatives from the CIA’s Moscow Embassy station, headed by Michael Sulick, virtually slept on the money bags, while guarding them. Foreign-made cars delivered small batches of money from the Embassy to certain individuals. Who did the US sponsor using this money? I believe we will also learn this someday.
Here are only a few examples of diverse US activities aiming to undermine stability in various regions worldwide and in those areas that are not ready to follow American instructions. We are in no way demanding that Mr Pompeo should stop his rhetoric because this is in the realm of fiction. One should simply understand that every action has a reaction. We are ready.
We took note of media reports on August 16 that the US neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer has moved to a Russian domain. The Russian Embassy in Washington has received numerous petitions. For some reason, all newspapers immediately learned about this Russian domain. In this connection, I would like to draw your attention to the decision of the Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media (Roskomnadzor) to deny this website a domain on Russian territory. We completely support the statement issued by the service.
We would like to reiterate that there is no place for extremist ideology and the propaganda of extremist ideas in our country. We will pursue a consistent policy in this regard, fighting the manifestations of hatred and racial superiority wherever they may come from. We urge the authorities of other states to act with the same speed and determination with regard to similar websites spreading content that Russian courts have deemed extremist, with the connivance of corresponding foreign agencies.
What an interesting setup! When the Russian Federation time and again makes official statements on its territory and at international organisations and when it makes representations in certain countries where opportunities are opened up and provided for extremist websites to operate in their internet space – websites targeting Russia and calling for extremist activity on its territory, nobody is interested in covering these issues. Nobody pays attention to this. Just five to 10 years ago, websites were opening practically every day, including in the Scandinavian countries – some of them are still active – promoting extremist activity, in particular in Russia’s North Caucasus. It was simply impossible to get the media to focus on this issue. It was as if the issue did not exist in the Western media space. When Russia tried to explain its position, we were told that we were violating freedom of expression. We are not violating anything. Freedom of expression is sacred for us, but there is extremism, which we will fight.
We consider the decision of the International Steering Committee (ISC), responsible for the construction of the renovated museum on the site of the former Nazi death camp in Sobibor, to exclude Russia from participating in the project an outrageous fact of a “historic amnesia.”
It is quite obvious that representation during the commemorative ceremonies can in no way replace full participation in the work of the committee that was authorised to create the concept for the future memorial, to organise operations on the ground, and supervise the funding. Russia was not allowed to join the project, with the organisers sheepishly retreating from the invitation they had sent earlier, although we have repeatedly confirmed our willingness to make a contribution, including serious financial input, to the construction of the memorial perpetuating the memory of the prisoners of this Nazi “death factory” that ceased to exist due to a feat of valour performed by none other than a Red Army officer.
We were less surprised by the position of official Warsaw; we are used to it. On this issue, its Russophobic policy and striving towards anti-Russian historical revisionism has been common knowledge for some time. We will dwell on that separately later today.
But, honestly, the ease with which our potential project partners – the Netherlands, Slovakia and Israel –changed their position with regard to Russian participation is perplexing, incomprehensible and surprising. For many years, we have heard at all levels, including in public, assurances that it is impossible to deny the Red Army’s contribution to the victory over Nazism. We were assured of invariable support for our participation in the museum renovation project. And what do we have as a result?
In this connection, we had to summon the heads of the Moscow-based diplomatic missions of the aforementioned countries to the Foreign Ministry for explanations and a serious talk.
They should have qualms after all! I would like to stress that Israel is one of the countries that has behaved disgracefully in this situation. What should remain in history forever must not be distorted for immediate political reasons, because the common memory of the heroes and victims of the Second World War should live through the ages. Apart from that, we are calling on Jewish and international organisations to provide a public assessment of the situation. There has been no response. Those using a magnifying glass to peruse certain situations that have no relation to nationalism or extremism keep silent, when their voices should be the first to be heard.
We are still open to honest cooperation with our foreign partners on memorial issues. At the same time, we consider it absolutely unacceptable to turn the memory of people who fought against Nazism, a subject sacred for many nations, into an arena for settling political scores.
Several days ago, Polish Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski declared that the Soviet Union, supposedly, had “contributed greatly” to starting the Second World War. This is not the first time that Polish politicians have voiced allegations regarding an “equal responsibility” of the USSR and Nazi Germany for unleashing the world conflict. We have always made our statements in a principled and clear, if sufficiently considerate, way, correcting our Polish colleagues and conveying our concerns, views and vision on this issue. We believe that they would find it useful to refresh in memory certain well-known facts when they are not too busy launching their anti-Russian attacks.
Throughout the 1930s, the USSR held the position of a principled enemy of Nazism. This follows from the numerous statements by Soviet leadership, the practical measures to oppose the German Nazis and their accomplices in Spain and at Khalkin Gol, and our support for the international communist movement’s antifascist struggle. In the same period, it was Poland that represented Nazi Germany in the League of Nations, rejected on two occasions – in 1934 and 1936 – the French proposal to conclude an Eastern pact, and joined the West’s appeasement policy. This behaviour resulted in the Munich deal in September 1938, which enabled Poland to “grab” a portion of the dissected Czechoslovak state.
In keeping with its commitments to Czechoslovakia, the Soviet Union placed on combat alert dozens of divisions; a number of operational formations were ordered to move towards the state border. But Warsaw peremptorily refused, both in 1938 and 1939, to let Soviet forces pass through its territory, thereby exacerbating the well-known dire consequences for the destiny of Europe.
In this new foreign policy environment, the USSR was faced with the threat of war on two fronts and was forced, for this reason, to accept Berlin’s proposal to sign a non-aggression pact. Today, the attempts to avoid a conflict or at least delay its beginning are being imputed as alleged “complicity” in Nazi Germany’s aggressive plans.
It is matter of deep regret that certain high-ranking Polish officials are ready for direct fraud and deal in offensive remarks in a bid to justify their historical revisionism that denies the Red Army’s feat of valour and its liberating mission in Europe. Obviously, it is easier to convince the local public of the need to destroy Soviet monuments as so-called “signs of occupation” of Poland in an atmosphere of this sort. But any historical inventions will sooner or later boomerang against the inventors themselves.
On August 14, an attempt was made to desecrate a Soviet war memorial in Berlin’s Tiergarten Park. A man, presumably a German citizen, behaved in an ostentatiously indecent manner and shouted insulting and derogatory slogans.
The police have arrested and identified him, and a case has been opened in connection with this administrative offence.
The Russian Embassy in Germany has urged the German Foreign Ministry and the Berlin Senate to take action to prevent similar incidents in the future.
At the same time, speaking outside the context of this barbaric incident, perpetrated by a radical, it should be noted that, as a rule, the authorities in Germany and its states respond quickly to such incidents. On the whole, they are careful to maintain the memory of the Soviet soldiers who liberated Europe and the world from Nazism, and they pay attention to preserving and duly maintaining Soviet military cemeteries and war memorials. When visiting Russia, representatives of the top leadership of Germany include various events to honour the memory of Soviet soldiers killed during the Great Patriotic War during their visits, and they also lay wreaths at their graves.
In this connection, we cannot agree with assessments set forth in Rossiiskaya Gazeta’s August 15 story alleging that the heroic feat of Soviet soldiers and the suffering of Soviet prisoners of war have been forgotten in Germany. This is not so.
We would like to draw the attention of the journalism community to the need for correctly and objectively covering this issue and treating the facts in a more conscientious manner. It is necessary to separate the actions of individual neo-Nazis and vandals from the German state leadership’s line regarding this issue.
We have been asked to comment on the so-called August 11-13 sport quest called Erna Raid-2017 in Estonia.
This was the eighteenth Erna Raid to basically glorify the so-called “heroic feats” of Nazi soldiers and is dedicated to an Abwehr sabotage squad that operated behind the Red Army’s lines in August 1941. The event is sponsored by the Estonian Defence Ministry to spread propaganda among Estonian young people.
It is very sad that this shameful event that desecrates the memory of the many victims of Nazism involved service personnel from the British contingent of the multinational NATO battalion in Estonia. One would like to ask the following question: Is the appearance of British soldiers on the Erna trail a coincidence or a logical continuation of the recent video about Nazi collaborators, the so-called Forest Brothers many of whom sided with Nazi Germany, published by NATO on Twitter?
Russia condemns such manifestations of glorifying Nazism in the most resolute manner. We regret the fact that NATO has failed to learn the lessons from the recent and tragic past and that, on the contrary, it encourages its Baltic “proteges” to play these dangerous and hardly “childish” games.
We have noticed Romanian media reports on the intentions of certain Romanian activists to rename Tolbukhin Park in Bucharest.
We hope that the memory of the thousands of Soviet soldiers, who died while liberating this country from Nazism over 70 years ago, rather than this sacrilegious concept, will prevail. It should be recalled that King of Romania Michael I received the Order of Victory No. 16 from Soviet military leader Fyodor Tolbukhin, who commanded the Soviet Army’s Southern Group at the time. King Michael I was one of the five foreign recipients of this top Soviet award.
It is important to emphasise that the bilateral Intergovernmental Commission is making a weighty contribution to Russian-Romanian cooperation with regard to war-memorials. The commission works under the agreement on the status of Russian military cemeteries in Romania and Romanian military cemeteries in the Russian Federation, signed in Bucharest on November 8, 2005. We consider it worth noting that official representatives of Bucharest opened two memorials dedicated to Romanian soldiers killed during the Great Patriotic War and the postwar period, with the assistance of the Russian authorities. These memorials were opened in October 2015 in the village of Rossoshki in the Volgograd Region and in May 2017 in the town of Novoshakhtinsk in the Rostov Region.
We proceed from the assumption that the Romanian authorities will not permit any attempts to rewrite history in the context of our mutual interest to continue fruitful war-memorial cooperation.
Recently, the Latvian Government approved legislative amendments proposed by the country’s Education Ministry that deprive ethnic minority school students of the right to take exams in their native language.
This discriminatory initiative, which was adopted without consideration for the opinions of ethnic minority school representatives and teachers, is another step in Riga’s systematic plan to drive the Russian language out of various aspects of this multiethnic country’s life. Notably, this is not nearly the first provocative step against minorities (others include amendments to the law on education that allow firing teachers deemed to be “disloyal” to Latvia; the draft law on amendments to the Code of Administrative Offences stipulating for a multiple increase in the fine for not using the Latvian language by city employees, and so forth.
My rhetorical question would be: why are relevant international organisations – that are so vigilant and loquacious when it comes to alleged problems in this or similar areas in the Russian Federation – staying silent?
On October 14-22, Sochi will host the 19th World Festival of Youth and Students. It is not the first time our country has hosted an event of this scale. Many remember the major youth festivals in the movement’s history hosted by Moscow, for example, in 1957 (I personally don’t remember it but I have read about it) and in 1985 (this one I remember). Historical chronicles and accounts of eyewitnesses indicate that these events were not only organised with much eclat but were true celebrations for youth and students.
I would like to remind you that accreditation for media representatives and bloggers continues on the festival’s official website russia2017.com. We expect a large media presence. The accreditation will close on August 31. There are only a couple of weeks left so those journalists who are going to cover the event should hurry.
We look forward to seeing you at the festival of youth and students. It will be fun, as always.
Question: Can you please explain how Russia will control the reduction in the numbers of employees of US diplomatic missions in Russia? Will the US have to provide a list of employees who left?
Maria Zakharova: The US said it will officially respond to Russia’s proposal within the specified time. We are waiting for official statements, for explanations from the US side (I do not know in what form they will do this). This was mentioned more than once in the course of our diplomatic contacts.
Question: Today Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov took part in Russian-Japanese consultations on joint economic activities in the Southern Kuriles. Is there a convergence of positions on the organisational and legal format of such activities?
Maria Zakharova: Once the experts prepare the relevant materials, these materials will be published on the Ministry's website.
Question: The New York Times yesterday named the developer of the malware that attacked employees of the US Democratic National Committee. The Ukrainian hacker has already given up to Ukrainian authorities and is providing evidence to the FBI. Despite this, the newspaper still blames it on Russian special services. Can you comment on this? Do you think this is somewhat reminiscent of the situation with the North Korean missile engines, where it was proved that Kiev had supplied the technology to Pyongyang, but Russia was still accused?
Maria Zakharova: As for US accusations of Russia interfering in the election, of hacking and online attacks, we have often commented on this in detail and at all levels.
In a couple of months, it will be a year since these elections in the United States, when the still incumbent Obama administration immediately accused Russia of hacking attacks. As you remember, a month after the elections, Russian diplomats were expelled and other moves made. So I have one question of late: if they are so sure, if they do not listen to our explanations, do not provide facts, and nothing we say or do can change their opinion – have any administrative measures been taken inside the US, the US administration and the government? Was anyone fired from the relevant US services for allowing this to happen? For so many years the United States has been the world leader in Internet technologies and information security; it is a major country with practically unlimited potential.
In 2005, when we worked side by side with our colleagues from the US Permanent Mission to the United Nations, I was amazed that, unlike Russian diplomats, all American employees had cellphones of a specific brand with a special badge. When I asked what the badge meant, I was told that every cellphone used by representatives of the Permanent Mission, from the head to the staff, needed to be checked by the relevant services. That is why I wonder if anyone was actually fired for letting another country allegedly change the results of elections in their own country? Have you heard of any such high-profile dismissals? It should not be about administrative punishment, but rather about criminal prosecution. If you follow the American logic, for many years the country has been spending money (you can look up how much has been allocated for cyber defence, information technology and security) on a totally ineffective system, if one or several hackers could change the situation in the country. I have not heard of any dismissals, nor about high-profile cases against people who were engaged in the protection of information technology in the United States for many years (Barack Obama’s eight years in office). Everyone knows that information security is part of any country’s national security. So I will ask, just like one Russian author: when will we see people going to prison? Have you heard anything? Nobody has, because nothing has happened. All we know is that there is a potential hypothetical criminal somewhere at large abroad, but inside the country, no one is to blame. That is, in the US, no one was punished for the fact that the country was absolutely unprepared for cyber threats from abroad.
Let me remind you that we are not talking about a small country that has delegated its security to a certain alliance, a group of countries or a more powerful state that offers protectorate. We are talking about a major power that has always been a leader in the field of technology. The lack of real cases concerning people who worked on national information security proves one thing: all accusations against Russia are nonsense. They needed an excuse, a political target and a tool that helps regularly raise this issue and organise internal political haggling.
As for the second question – about the pretty obvious situation with Ukraine supplying technology to North Korea, or at the very least having something to do with its nuclear technologies ending up there, something the media have written about, and about Kiev again accusing Russia of everything – I can argue that it won’t take the Kiev regime long before accusing Russia of masterminding the second Maidan as well. It sounds funny now, but you'll see that they will. They will say that Russia was behind the current authorities in Kiev and behind those who came in 2013-2014 and made a constitutional coup in that country, too. Russia will be to blame for everything that is happening now in Ukraine’s political life, and for its insane reforms, too. But, I repeat, they will start with attributing Maidan to the ‘Kremlin’s hand.’ The global enemy will once again be found when the situation reaches a peak, when they will have nothing to surprise its own population with and no more resources to maintain the situation more or less in balance.
Question: I would like to clarify a few points about the recently adopted UNSC Resolution 2371, which prohibits hiring North Korean workers by other countries. Will Russia employ North Koreans for existing job openings or will all cooperation in this area be terminated?
Maria Zakharova: This is an inappropriate question. Russia cannot but comply with a UNSC resolution as it is a permanent member of the UN Security Council and observes international law. The resolution was adopted by a vote, including the vote of the Russian Federation. As you know, even if Russia had abstained and the resolution been adopted it would still have been binding for us. All provisions of the UNSC resolution are mandatory.
If you are interested in specific details and aspects please formulate your question, I will forward it to the experts and we will present our view on the specific aspects of fulfilling this resolution.
Question: Did the Foreign Ministry receive specific instructions regarding the Russia-Azerbaijan cooperation following the meeting between the presidents of Russia and Azerbaijan in Sochi?
Maria Zakharova: As you know, it is the Presidential Executive Office that comments on the results of top-level meetings. We gladly share information but not to the extent of commenting on the instructions given or not given by the President to the Foreign Minister.
Question: Are there any threats to businesses from our opponents? If there have been such cases, how does the Foreign Ministry respond?
Maria Zakharova: It is odd you are asking this question in 2017. You should have asked it a long time ago.
When the so-called policy of Russia’s isolation by the West and by Washington, in particular, started and we could see its first signs, I participated in an international media event as a guest speaker and afterwards spoke to journalists covering international issues. We got talking about this strange approach that was not so aggressive and obvious at the time. I asked the European journalists why they thought it was happening and why was Russia being attacked by Washington and other countries that are one way or another under the patronage of the United States? In the past 20 years there has never been a period when they were pleased with Russia. There would always be problems, many of them imaginary, and what was happening in reality was brought to a global political scale. The journalists answered that the reasons were obvious. There is fierce financial and economic competition and attempts to prevent any potential investment into Russia. As you understand, Russia is like Klondike for SMEs and foreign investment. A huge number of industries did not even exist here 30 years ago.
There are many interesting and attractive projects here now, too, and they can bring fantastic profit and dividends. This constant building up of pressure around Russia, portraying it as the enemy hits potential investors. If we see companies operating in Russia being driven out of the Russian market as a result of almost targeted efforts or getting the toughest obstacles for working in our country, what do you think is happening to investors looking for opportunities to invest in the global market? This was the answer of the western journalists.
We have talked about this extensively, too. Minister Lavrov has frequently mentioned in his interviews and speeches that we have evidence showing how US officials and agencies pursued a policy of blocking access of small, medium or large businesses to Russia, using tactics ranging from intimidation to creating unbearable conditions. We know that US embassies sent letters to economic and finance ministries in the countries of presence around the world in which they warned about impossibility and danger of participation of representatives of those countries and businesses in Russian forums – specifically, in economic forums. We all know this based on the results of various Russia-hosted business events, forums and conferences. You are well aware that Latin American countries, Asia and Africa send large and high-profile delegations while the United States is very poorly represented. That being said, we have so many things in common. There are a great number of people who have dual Russian and US citizenship, have families and relatives in both countries. We have great potential; however, the US delegations are absurdly small and the level of official representation is low. All this is an indication of the policy of containment that is based on their idea of competition.
Question: The US press and some social media accounts link the so-called alt-right leaders involved in violent clashes in Charlottesville, Virginia, with Russia and even President Vladimir Putin. We know that the Russian Foreign Ministry does not comment on domestic US issues, but perhaps you could say something if Russia is now being accused of involvement?
Maria Zakharova: Are we also involved there? I know about this indirectly because, as my colleagues told me yesterday, the Russian Embassy in the United States received identical inquiries on a similar issue from various US media outlets, seeking to find out the forms and extent of Russia’s involvement and its ability to influence the situation. Quite possibly, they were sent certain claims, and some media outlets decided to ask the Embassy, for the sake of a clear conscience, whether Russia was also involved in these developments or whether Russian diplomats decided to sit this one out.
All this fits conceptually with the totally bizarre, rabid anti-Russia hysteria being whipped up in the United States. The motives and reasons for doing this are clear. In fact, the establishment is split; there is a problem inside of it. Instead of subsiding, the post-election situation is still being whipped up. As a result, the hobbyhorse of one presidential candidate’s campaign policies is becoming the main topic during the post-election period. Actually, our forecasts are coming true. They will not abandon this issue, and it will continue to be whipped up in all conceivable, and even inconceivable, facets and angles.
Question: Yesterday, the Syrian Foreign Ministry said US-made and British-made chemical weapons had been found at bases retaken from the militants. What might this attest to, and how could this influence counter-terrorist cooperation in Syria?
Maria Zakharova: First, these reports must be promptly verified by specialised international agencies, as stated yesterday at the UN Headquarters by Russian Ambassador to the UN Vasily Nebenzya; and the Foreign Ministry has also provided the relevant comments.
Second, this is not the first instance when Western countries, including representatives of countries that are members of the US-led coalition, are suspected of complicity in weapons deliveries and of supporting terrorist groups, extremists and militants using various resources. This information demands the most serious attention and immediate verification.
Such are the realities of the modern world: all secrets become public very quickly. Quite recently, we have seen numerous confirmations of the fact that secrets being concealed by the Western world eventually become public, and that various issues that had been denied five to seven years ago are now being confirmed. There are absolutely no doubts that this information may be quite real. But there are specialised international institutions that must start the appropriate verification.
Question: This autumn, Russia will host a joint military exercise with India. Western and Indian media outlets are linking this exercise with aggravated Indian-Chinese relations in the context of the continued confrontation in the Doklam (Donglang) border area. Could you explain the Russian position on this issue?
Maria Zakharova: The Russian Federation does not hold any military exercises or any other events under cooperation projects in connection with aggravated relations between any countries with which we maintain diverse and multifaceted relations. We hold military exercises and other events under our relations with neighbours and partner states. We do so openly, and we provide the relevant information to the concerned countries. I believe that any linkage is simply inappropriate here.
We maintain wonderful relations with China, and we are expanding relations with all regional countries. To my mind, these statements and attempts to distort the situation can be perceived as a provocation to some extent. If necessary, we provide the relevant information, so as to cut off all speculation on such issues as quickly as possible.
I would also like to note that Russian-Indian military ties are an important element of the especially privileged strategic partnership between our countries. We have been holding annual bilateral military exercises since 2005, and naval exercises have been taking place since 2007.
The Indra 2017 joint exercise will take place in the Russian Federation in its Eastern Military District in October 2017. We consider it necessary to underscore that this is a routine annual event. We consider it absolutely incorrect to perceive it in the context of the current situation in Indian-Chinese relations, and I have already noted this is detail. It will be possible to get additional information about this exercise at the Defence Ministry, and I suggest that you do so.
We would like to express confidence that, as responsible members of the international community, New Delhi and Beijing will be able to find mutually acceptable ways to quickly defuse the tensions that have arisen between them.
Question: You said anti-Russia hysteria was being built up in the United States. And regarding CIA Director Mike Pompeo’s statement, you said that “every action has a reaction.” Do you believe that there is an opportunity to improve relations between Russia and the United States? If so, then how? If not, why not?
Maria Zakharova: This discussion could take a couple of hours. Don’t you see for youself? We do not simply see it. You know there are situations where you see but do not say. Here, we see it, and keep talking about it, and calling, and proposing. We did not close doors to the United States even during the previous administration. Even in the most difficult, extreme and bizarre moments, we always said that cooperation and collaboration, where it is mutually beneficial and helpful, remain our priority. Our only conditions are compliance with international law, cooperation based on mutual respect and, most importantly, based on the UN Charter. We have always emphasised this, even when we could no longer understand why the US administration acts one way or another. We never shut the door even when they were openly rude.
I think the deportation of Russian diplomats during the last days of December 2016 and blocking access to our property in the United States are very telling examples. Russia did not give an emotional and instant response. The United States was given more than six months to settle this situation without emotion, impulsive actions or revenge – that is, to find a way out of the situation and save face. You know how it ended. The new administration did not take any action. We could talk forever about how their work is being blocked and how they are being prevented from doing this, but the fact remains, we have taken as much time as possible to give them the opportunity to switch from confrontation to cooperation. But I want to stress once again that this confrontation was one-sided. Even after the initiation of the sanctions policy and the declaration of a crusade against Russia with banners of isolation, we always underlined our commitment to engagement and cooperation. As you know, the United States has turned to Russia many times when it needed to, and almost daily in the past two years. We maintain a dialogue.
I would rephrase what you said. We do not just see the areas where we can cooperate and work together. Frankly, we do not see any major problems in the way of cooperation with the United States in any area, which we have been doing. So we are not the party to answer this question. Our views have not changed.
We understand the internals of the United States very well and we understand that in the past decade, Washington has increasingly needed a foreign policy resource to resolve domestic political issues. This is why we have taken everything that is going on there with a lot of patience and sometimes healthy sarcasm. We were ready and are still ready to cooperate in addressing international crises and unfreezing the entire range of bilateral relations, from security and the economy to culture and politics. But we have not changed our stance. Something is going on in the United States.
Question: In the past month, there has been a lot of talk about the planned removal of monuments in Poland (230 memorials to Red Army soldiers who liberated Poland) and about the Soviet Union allegedly being to blame for the outbreak of WWII. You also talked about that. You said that “every action has a reaction.” Will there be a reaction, and don’t you think the pause has been too long?
Maria Zakharova: Firstly, it is important to understand that a lot of what is happening in the context of these statements is being done deliberately to provoke a disproportionate response. Many times in recent years, we have heard extremely harsh statements (not only from Poland but also from Washington and some other capitals) made in the hope that the addressees, including Moscow, would lose the patience to respond, clarify, explain, or that it would suffer from qualms or take some emotional action. We understand very well that there are steps and actions that must be reacted to immediately, instantly, and there are things that may be reacted to but after some time that we give to our counterparts to reconsider and fix the situation, which I just talked about. There are also situations when you just need to explain, clarify and try to do it without emotion (although sometimes you really want to give way to feelings and emotions) but armed with facts. Therefore, in every single case we make a decision on what kind of response we should give, whether it should be an equal, symmetrical response or perhaps not equal but based on explaining and reminding our colleagues, partners and neighbours who allow this kind of rhetoric that even though they are the centre of the universe they still have sunspots.
Question: Earlier this week, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani declared that Iran would revoke the nuclear deal as senseless, if the United States continued to introduce new sanctions against Tehran. What risks does Russia see in connection with a new escalation of the US-Iranian conflict? Is the Foreign Ministry considering a possibility that the nuclear deal will be really scrapped and what can be done to prevent this?
Maria Zakharova: The nuclear deal was achieved by several states and groups of states. I’m sure you remember the most active role of the EU in settling this situation. We are well aware of the existence of a domestic political pendulum in the United States, which oscillates in tune with the coming of this or that administration. But the most interesting thing is that today this pendulum seems to be oscillating outside the established trajectory, whereas previously it was oscillating from side to side. This is why the current administration is assessing the deal in the light of the political changes that occurred in Washington.
Russia’s attitude to the agreements in question has been outlined. The Russian Federation was most actively involved in their drafting and during certain periods and at certain stages did its best to prevent the conflict from turning hot.
Although you may remember the statements issued from different Western capitals (primarily from Washington) to the effect that the Iranian nuclear programme could only be stopped by force and force alone. I remember all these statements well, specifically those by US Ambassador to the UN John Bolton and others. We consistently upheld both a public and negotiating position. This is why this subject remains unchanged for us. As far as Washington’s position is concerned, it is very easy to destroy everything, and we have repeatedly seen this happening in recent years. But it is very difficult to revert to peace and negotiations. As the recent years have shown, Washington has only rarely succeeded in this.
Question: It is your first meeting with journalists after your vacation. Could you share your impressions?
Maria Zakharova: I had a wonderful holiday, primarily because it happened after all, which is always very important. In fact, there were many questions about where I spent my vacation. People looked for me on the Mediterranean coast; someone saw me in Europe and in Asia.
I was in the Russian Federation. I spent two wonderful weeks in Zheleznovodsk, a town in the North Caucasus famous for its spas, which I recommend to everyone. The most interesting thing is that they are open all year round. During the last few days, I had a chance to travel and visited Pyatigorsk and other local sights. I liked it all very much.
I think one day I’ll hold an offsite briefing and take you all over there. You don’t mind, do you?