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2 November 201719:11

Briefing by Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova, Moscow, November 2, 2017

2103-02-11-2017

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Table of contents

  1. Sergey Lavrov’s upcoming meeting with OSCE Secretary General Thomas Greminger
  2. Ceremony to present the Pushkin Medal, a state decoration of the Russian Federation, to foreign nationals
  3. Mauritanian Foreign Affairs and Cooperation Minister Isselkou Ould Ahmed Izid Bih to visit Russia on November 6-8, 2017
  4. Sergey Lavrov to attend a joint meeting of APEC foreign and trade ministers
  5. Russia’s participation in the search for the Russians aboard the Mi-8 helicopter that crashed off Spitsbergen
  6. Moskovsky Komsomolets report on Russian blogger Manekin and 300 Russian nationals allegedly “languishing” in the Donetsk and Lugansk People Republics’ prisons
  7. The death of Russian citizen Vlada Dzyuba in Shanghai
  8. The situation in Syria
  9. Situation in South Sudan
  10. Situation in Kenya
  11. The second Japanese business mission to the Southern Kurils
  12. New US sanctions against Russia
  13. Twitter’s ban on ads from RT and Sputnik
  14. Unveiling of restored Red Army soldiers memorial in Tajikistan
  15. Another case of Soviet Army memorial desecration in Sofia
  16. Launch of themed Russian train on London Underground
  17. St Petersburg Meetings in Portugal
  18. On National Forum of Russian Language and Culture in Mexico
  19. Report by the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights
  20. Proposals to rename Alexandre III Bridge in Paris
  21. Answers to media questions:
  1. Russia’s position on the Kurdistan Workers’ Party and the Kurdish Democratic Political Union
  2. Washington’s new anti-Russia sanctions
  3. Position on Iraqi Kurdistan
  4. Google decision to remove links to the Federal News Agency
  5. Possible measures in response to infringement on Russian media rights
  6. Risks for journalists
  7. European companies in Crimea
  8. The fight against terrorism
  9. Situation in Catalonia
  10. Upcoming visit by Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono to Russia
  11. Russia’s position on Kosovo
  12. Russia-North Korea relations

 

Sergey Lavrov’s upcoming meeting with OSCE Secretary General Thomas Greminger

 

On November 3, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is set to have a meeting with OSCE Secretary General Thomas Greminger who will be in Moscow on his first working visit since assuming the post in July. Mr Greminger will also attend a meeting of the CSTO Permanent Council.

During the meeting, the officials will exchange views on the state of affairs in the OSCE and discuss the Secretary General’s plans during his term in office, as well as preparations for the OSCE Ministerial Council meeting in Vienna on December 7-8.

Russia remains interested in the OSCE – the world’s largest regional organisation that brings together 57 nations – playing a more active role in global and European affairs and enhancing its efficiency as a tool of building an undivided security community.

We hope that the OSCE’s contribution to reducing military-political tensions on the European continent and restoring trust – an issue that is being so much talked about today – will be addressed in depth. Special attention will be given to the organisation’s efforts in countering transnational challenges, including terrorism, drug trafficking and cyber security threats. We stand ready to discuss prospects for joint Russian-OSCE projects to train drug police officers from Afghanistan and Serbia in Russia.

Another important topic at the upcoming talks will be the OSCE’s assistance in resolving regional conflicts – in eastern Ukraine, Transnistria and Nagorno-Karabakh, as well as co-chairmanship at Geneva discussions on stability in Transcaucasia and the organisation’s activity in the Balkans.

We are ready for a substantive conversation on enhancing the efficiency of OSCE institutions – the ODIHR, as well as other institutions, in particular the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, who we greatly respect, as well as its field missions, which, in our opinion, are going through a systemic crisis.

We will highlight the need to resume the OSCE reform aimed at rectifying the geographical imbalance in the organisation, including the personnel sphere, as well as enhancing transparency, in particular for projects financed by the private sector. We intend to draw the Secretary General’s attention to the importance of developing an OSCE Charter, procedural rules for its executive agencies, consolidating its administrative agencies and consensus rules. That will make it possible to increase its efficiency in dealing with topical security and cooperation challenges in Europe.

I would also like to welcome OSCE Head of Communication and Media Relations Ina Parvanova as a guest at our briefing, who is accompanying the Secretary General during his visit to Moscow and with whom we will have a separate meeting. 

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Ceremony to present the Pushkin Medal, a state decoration of the Russian Federation, to foreign nationals

 

On November 4, the Foreign Ministry will host a ceremony at which Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will present a state decoration of the Russian Federation, the Pushkin Medal, to the foreign nationals who were awarded by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s Executive Order No. 475 of October 9, 2017 for their contribution to the strengthening of friendship and cooperation between peoples and fruitful work to bring national cultures closer together through mutual enrichment.    

The awardees include citizen of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan Najam Sahar Butt, head doctor at Najam Hospital and translator of Russian literature into Urdu; Hungarian national Attila Vidnyanszky, General Director of the Hungarian National Theatre; citizen of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam Nguyen Tuyet Minh, a scientific adviser to the Russian World Foundation Centre at the Hanoi State University International School; and citizen of the Republic of Lithuania Valery A. Tretyakov, Editor-in-Chief of Litovsky Kurier newspaper.  

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Mauritanian Foreign Affairs and Cooperation Minister Isselkou Ould Ahmed Izid Bih to visit Russia on November 6-8, 2017

 

Isselkou Ould Ahmed Izid Bih, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of the Islamic Republic of Mauritania, will be in Moscow on a working visit on November 6-8 at the invitation of Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. We regard the visit of our foreign policy colleague as an important step toward fostering the traditional relations of friendship and mutually beneficial partnership between Russia and Mauritania.

At the upcoming talks, the foreign ministers plan to have a substantive discussion of topical issues on the global and regional agenda. In particular, they will exchange views on the situation in North Africa, the Middle East, the Sahara-Sahel region, the Western Sahara and Middle East peace process, the current situation in and around Syria, as well as other topics of mutual interest.

Naturally, special attention will be given to an array of issues related to strengthening bilateral relations, primarily fostering mutually beneficial cooperation in sea fishing in the context of ensuring a more favourable working environment for Russian fishing companies in Mauritania’s exclusive economic zone.

We intend to discuss in depth the prospects for our cooperation, primarily in training national Mauritanian professional personnel, using the capabilities of Russian companies in the energy and hydrocarbons production sectors and outlining other specific partnership areas.

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Sergey Lavrov to attend a joint meeting of APEC foreign and trade ministers

 

On November 8, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will participate in a joint meeting of Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) ministers of foreign affairs and trade that will take place in Da Nang, Vietnam. The meeting will mark the final stage of preparations for the anniversary 25th APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting set for November 10-11.

The ministerial meeting is expected to review progress on priority issues on the APEC 2017 agenda: fostering sustainable, innovative and comprehensive growth, deepening regional economic integration, building up the human potential in the digital era, primarily in the sphere of small and medium-sized businesses, and strengthening food security amid climate change, as well as address long-term goals.

Russia intends to take an active part in the discussions with a focus on the need to impart an undivided quality to socio-economic development in the Asia Pacific Region. We plan to put special emphasis on Russian ideas and proposals to interlock integration processes in the Asia Pacific Region and Eurasia, promote the evolution of the digital economy in the region, the integration of APEC’s remote economic territories into the regional system of economic ties, and ensure safe growth with a special thrust on countering the threat of international terrorism.

The meeting will result in the ministers’ joint statement and the leaders’ draft final declaration will be coordinated.

Regarding the timetable of Mr Lavrov’s bilateral contacts, it is currently at the formation stage. We will duly notify you about that.

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Russia’s participation in the search for the Russians aboard the Mi-8 helicopter that crashed off Spitsbergen

 

Through Russian agencies abroad we promptly commented on the tragedy following media requests.

Russia is actively engaged in the rescue operation on Spitsbergen (Svalbard). Over 40 rescuers of the Russian Emergencies Ministry have been working on the archipelago since Sunday, including 17 divers with all the necessary equipment such as remotely-operated deep-sea submersibles.

The Russian Emergencies Ministry personnel in close contact with their Norwegian colleagues are examining the fragments of the helicopter 209 metres deep in the sea, and the shoreline. There are plans to use a Norwegian heavy-lift vessel to salvage the helicopter.

Personnel of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation and the Interstate Aviation Committee have joined the investigation of the tragedy in short order. They are working with their Norwegian colleagues of the National Criminal Investigation Service, commonly known as Kripos.

Russian participation in these activities is directly coordinated by the Russian Embassy in Oslo and the Consulate General on Spitsbergen, which got involved minutes after receiving the news about the tragedy.

We appreciate the exceptionally high level of interaction of the Norwegian side with members of the Russian search operation.

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Moskovsky Komsomolets report on Russian blogger Manekin and 300 Russian nationals allegedly “languishing” in the Donetsk and Lugansk People Republics’ prisons

 

We could not fail to notice and comment on a report in the Moskovsky Komsomolets newspaper, which ran an article yesterday on allegedly hundreds of Russians kept in Donetsk and Lugansk prisons. The report also mentioned the inaction of Russian government bodies, in particular, referring to the Foreign Ministry of the Russian Federation. We have said a number of times that the situation with arrested and imprisoned Russian nationals abroad is under the Ministry’s special monitoring. We did not speak about that just theoretically, we gave real examples of successfully completing work, still ongoing, as an imperative.

I would like to draw your attention to the fact that during the preparation of the article the Moskovsky Komsomolets did not get in touch with the Foreign Ministry’s press service (we are the ones who interact with the media and provide comments) for explanations, comments or additional information. As a rule, issues of Russian citizens arrested in the DPR and LPR sent to different Russian agencies by their relatives and friends ultimately end up at the Russian Foreign Ministry. In turn, our Ministry refers these applications to the Republics’ representatives on the sidelines of the meetings of the Contact Group on the Ukraine settlement process in Minsk. The replies we get from judicial and law enforcement agencies of the relevant republics explain the reasons for those citizens being under investigation or imprisoned, citing clauses of the Penal Code. This gives grounds for interested individuals to raise the issues of their release within the legal framework.

Overall, the Foreign Ministry processed 17 such applications since the start of events in the southeast of Ukraine. It should be taken into account that Russian nationals who were convicted before 2014 are still serving their sentence in the DPR and LPR, which is a very important nuance for publications of this kind. In any case, it is important to understand which documents served as a foundation for the newspaper to conclude that 300 Russians are kept in prisons in Donetsk and Lugansk. We are expecting this crucial information from journalists. If they have it, we would like to have credible information. The article directly mentions the Foreign Ministry, so we are ready.

Regarding the blogger Roman Manekin in particular, who was mentioned earlier, we said from the outset at the briefing that we would follow this case closely, as well as the cases of other Russian citizens, and we did so. However, nobody contacted us when the report was being written.

According to the Donetsk People’s Republic envoy to the Contact Group Denis Pushilin, Mr Manekin was indeed apprehended in Donetsk for publishing false information about the situation in the republic. It is absolutely unacceptable to print information about his death. As of today, he is not just alive, he was released. I do not have information on whether he is still in the Donetsk People’s Republic or has left its territory. But let me stress again that according to our information he has been released.

Regarding the other Russian national mentioned in that shoddy report (I would never have said that but I have to), we will work on that.

It does not behove such a popular publication with a huge circulation as the Moskovsky Komsomolets to sink down to such a level. We urge them to ask the Foreign Ministry to comment so as not to look ridiculous next time and not to spread false information on particular people. You know that we provide comments promptly. We will help you. 

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The death of Russian citizen Vlada Dzyuba in Shanghai

 

We have received requests from several media outlets, including online media, asking the Russian Foreign Ministry to comment on the death in Shanghai on October 27 of Vlada Dzyuba, a citizen of Russia, born in 2002. Information that Ms Dzyuba was hospitalised reached the Russian General Consulate in Shanghai on the night of October 26. The consulate’s doctor and one of the consulate’s employees visited her at the Ruijin hospital and talked with her. They also contacted the doctors in charge of her case and the modelling agency that sent the girl to work in China. The doctors assessed her health condition as grave.

The same day, as her condition worsened, she was transferred to the intensive care unit through the consulate’s assistance. The consulate’s representative again visited the hospital to make sure that the girl was receiving all necessary aid.

Unfortunately, despite the doctors’ efforts to save her life, Vlada Dzyuba was declared dead on the morning of October 27.

Her body is now in the hospital’s morgue. The consulate is taking steps to determine the official cause of death in cooperation with the doctors. This procedure has to be paid for.

Let me note that things are complicated by the fact that the modelling agency sent a Russian citizen under the age of 18 to work abroad without the health insurance certificate required by Russian law. The Russian diaspora in Shanghai promptly responded to the situation by launching a campaign to raise the money needed for the autopsy and the necessary procedures. So far, not enough money has been raised, but we are continuing to work on it.                

Let me also note that the girl was in China, unaccompanied by any legal guardian.

The General Consulate is closely monitoring the situation and giving Vlada Dzyuba’s relatives all necessary help regarding the paperwork and the return of her body to Russia.

I would like to draw your attention to this tragic incident so as to remind you once again that it is necessary to obtain all the documents required to travel abroad, including health insurance certificates, particularly for underage persons. 

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The situation in Syria

 

The situation in and around Syria is marked by increasingly positive trends. The elimination of the hotbed of international terrorism on Syrian soil is nearing completion with a key role played by the Russian Armed Forces. Moscow continues to provide support to Damascus in stabilising the military-political situation and fostering a favourable atmosphere in Syrian society for overcoming the consequences of a protracted domestic crisis and armed conflict.

Regarding the Russian initiative to hold the Syrian National Dialogue Congress, it is in the works. We will release information on the details of this event, specifically, the time, date and participants.

The congress delegates will be faced with the challenging task of laying the groundwork for restoring unity among all ethnic, religious and political components of Syrian society and its traditional institutions. Ordinary Syrians should join the efforts to restore the country’s politics back to normal and delineate the contours of statehood.

We are confident that the Syrian National Dialogue Congress will help implement the provisions of UN Security Council Resolution 2254 on a political settlement in Syria and help advance the negotiating process under the aegis of the UN in Geneva.

The fight against terrorists in Syria is ongoing. Recently, a terrorist act was prevented in the city of Latakia. An inspection of a motor vehicle at an entry point to the city turned up 50 kilograms of explosives.

In the Jobar District in eastern Damascus, militants of the Feylaq al-Rahman group, which is affiliated with al-Nusra, blew up a tunnel with Syrian army servicemen, killing about 15. The day before, militants fired mortars against Harasta, a Damascus suburb. The Damascus districts of Shaghur and Abbasin were also shelled. Six students were killed by mortar shells that terrorists fired on a school in Jisrin west of Damascus.

A relative lull has ensued in southern Damascus after days of fierce clashes between ISIS members, who controlled a greater part of the Yarmouk Palestinian camp, and Hamas militants. That enabled the Syrian Red Crescent Society to deliver food to the camp, as well as to the neighbouring districts of Babila and Beit Sahm. However, the UN aid convoy that followed close behind had to turn back because sporadic fighting had resumed.

In the east of the country, government forces continued to mop up the last ISIS-held areas in the city of Deir ez-Zor. The districts of Hawijah Saqr, an industrial zone in the east of the city and Saqr Island on the Euphrates River were completely freed.

The Syrian Armed Forces expanded their control zone around the T-2 oil pumping station that they had seized in the southeast of the Deir ez-Zor province. The Syrian army offensive on ISIS’s last stronghold in the province – the city of Abu Kamal – is expected to proceed simultaneously with the Iraqi army’s advance across Iraqi territory toward the al-Qaim border crossing point. For our part, we welcome the coordination of action by Iraqi and Syrian security forces in fighting terrorists in Iraqi and Syrian border areas.

The Kurds, who are active on the eastern bank of the Euphrates, announced the liberation of the town of al Buseyra in northeastern Deir ez-Zor and taking control of al-Tanak, Syria’s second largest oil field.

The Russian military continue to provide humanitarian aid to the Syrian people on a regular basis. Over 2,254.5 tons of aid has been provided to those in need since the start of the Russian Aerospace Forces operation in Syria.

The Yunarmia Russian national military-patriotic public movement has provided 950 backpacks with school supplies. They were delivered by Russian military cargo aircraft to Syria and in September given to Syrian school students.

Russian civil society is keeping pace. We often tell you about the actions and steps taken by Russian NGOs in providing humanitarian aid to the Syrian people. Today I would like to tell you about Moscow School 1238 whose students took part in a humanitarian aid project, raising school and stationery supplies for Syrian children. These sets have been delivered to Syrian school students.

During the Russian military presence in Syria, Russian army servicemen have helped rebuild 178 schools and 35 kindergartens. In addition, representatives of the Russian Centre for Reconciliation in Syria have provided medical care to 380 children, including 14 children who went to Russia for treatment.

We urge all those who are sincerely interested in bringing peace back to Syria to provide active support to the Syrian people in their search for ways to resolve the conflict, including by sending additional aid to the most affected parts of the country.

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Situation in South Sudan

 

We keep a close watch on the situation in the Republic of South Sudan. It is obvious that the ongoing internal conflict in South Sudan is the logical outcome of the US geopolitical project to separate South Sudan from Sudan. As a result, the international and African communities have to look for a solution to a very difficult internal ethnic conflict in this young African state.

The military and political crisis and violence in South Sudan, which began in December 2013, have had dramatic humanitarian consequences: the number of internally displaced persons has reached 3.4 million, 2 million people have fled from South Sudan to neighbouring countries, and nearly 7.5 million people need emergency food assistance.

We believe that conditions for a lasting peace in South Sudan will not be created by the threat of sanctions from Western countries, but only by progress towards a political settlement. In this context, we pin our hopes on the success of the broad national dialogue, which has been initiated by President Salva Kiir. At the same time, the South Sudanese opposition should take reciprocal steps.

We support the peacekeeping efforts of the African community, primarily the efforts of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) of east African states to restore peace, stability and security in South Sudan. We welcome the useful and timely IGAD initiative on holding an international conference in December this year to relaunch the peace agreement the South Sudanese parties signed in 2015.

We believe that the nascent deployment of IGAD’s regional protection force will proceed with due respect for South Sudan’s sovereignty and basic peacekeeping principles.

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Situation in Kenya

 

A repeat presidential election was held in Kenya on October 26 in keeping with a decision of the country’s Supreme Court.

On October 30, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) declared incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta the winner with over 98 per cent of the vote. His main rival, Raila Odinga, the leader of the National Super Alliance (NASA) coalition, withdrew from the election and called for boycotting it. Four of the 47 electoral districts heeded the call.

Observers from the African Union (AU), the East African Community (EAC) and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) announced that the elections were held in keeping with Kenya’s Constitution and election law.

Moscow has taken note of President Kenyatta’s declared willingness to launch a national dialogue. We hope that the completion of a long and difficult election process will allow all political forces in Kenya to join forces in addressing the socioeconomic tasks facing the nation.

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The second Japanese business mission to the Southern Kurils

 

I would like to inform you about the details of the second Japanese business mission to the Southern Kurils. Between October 26-30, representatives from the Japanese government agencies and business circles completed the second business mission to the South Kuril Islands to explore opportunities for joint economic activities. The first such visit took place between June 27 and July 1 this year.

During the second visit, the main focus was on discussing practical ways to implement joint cooperation projects in the five areas that had been approved by the leaders of the two countries in Vladivostok: mariculture, wind energy, greenhouse creation, waste disposal, plus the development of package tours. Each of these areas was thoroughly discussed by the government agency representatives together with the appropriate private companies on each side. 

The discussions focused on specific commercial as well as technical aspects of possible cooperation in these areas, taking into account the experience of the existing projects in the Sakhalin Region plus the successful Russian-Japanese projects in other regions of our country.

We positively assess the results of the second business mission. They provide a significant amount of information for joint analysis and further work to implement the agreements reached at the top level on the establishment of joint economic activities on the Southern Kurils.

This work will be continued in two working groups on commercial and logistics matters, which were created as part of the main negotiating format at deputy foreign minister level. In fact, the heads of these working groups on both sides are holding preliminary meetings today in Moscow. I will be happy to provide more detailed information on these meetings, if you have any questions.

Considering the interest towards Russian-Japanese relations, I would like to let you know that today Director-General of the European Affairs Bureau at the Japanese Foreign Ministry Yasushi Masaki, who is on a visit to Moscow, had a meeting with Director of the Third Asian Department of the Russian Foreign Ministry Lyudmila Vorobyova. The parties discussed the current issues concerning Russian-Japanese relations, including the implementation of the agreements reached by the leaders of the two countries on expanding cooperation in practical areas as well as the schedule of future political contacts.

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New US sanctions against Russia


Unfortunately, now, I have to talk about Russian-US relations. I say "unfortunately" since there is nothing constructive that I could share with you, although I would like to and the need for a constructive agenda has long been overdue. The information on the new US sanctions did not come as a surprise to us. I am referring to the "guide" on restrictions against our defence companies and special services, which was made public in Washington on October 26 and the "clarification" of the conditions for international oil and gas projects involving Russian companies, released on October 31.

These steps do not change much for Russia. Our economy has long since adjusted to working in the existing circumstances. In fact, we have been able to reap significant benefits from this situation, as numerous industries have received a powerful growth impetus and our trade is diversifying. All of this has opened up quite a few opportunities.

Unfortunately, the US authorities, on the contrary, continue to prevent their business people from partaking in profitable deals and long-term contracts. Ironically, the United States, which has long presented itself as a model market economy, is increasingly slipping to state interference methods and, for political reasons, is sacrificing business interests, which undermines new job creation plus economic growth in the United States.

Regretfully, Washington continues the policy aimed at further deteriorating Russian-US relations. This is an extremely short-sighted policy, fraught with negative consequences, including for the US itself. In particular, the ban on cooperation with our special services is especially strange as it deals a blow on the potential of the joint fight against terrorism.

Such obstruction of cooperation between special services looks particularly reckless in the context of the bloody terrorist act in New York, committed by an ISIS follower on October 31. As you know, it was carried out near the memorial to the victims of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack. We extend our sincere sympathies to the victims’ relatives and those injured. We can only support and empathise with them.

We also believe that the US public would be well served to raise questions as to why Congress, which passed the anti-Russian Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act during the summer is looking for enemies in the wrong places.

Hopefully, this episode of Russophobia in Washington will fade away over time, and they will realise the fallacy of confrontation with Russia, as well as the complete futility of any attempts to put pressure on us. The sooner this happens, the better for us all.

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Twitter’s ban on ads from RT and Sputnik

 

As you know, the Federation Council held one more hearing on the efforts to force the Russia Today (RT) television network and the Sputnik news agency out of the United States, or more precisely, the decision by Twitter to block RT and Sputnik ads. I would like to say a few words on this subject. As you know, the decision to off-board advertising from all accounts owned by RT and Sputnik was adopted by the microblogging social networking service Twitter on October 26.

As members of the Twitter community, we are closely monitoring public response to this decision. We see that the number of those who are dissatisfied or who do not understand Twitter’s absurd actions is growing. It has been pointed out quite reasonably that the censors of this social network close their eyes to the hundreds of openly extremist or fascist accounts and are putting pressure exclusively on Russian media outlets.

We have also taken note of statements made by US and European experts and politicians, who have denounced this Twitter decision, which they have described as yet another infringement on the freedom of expression and enterprise.

I would like to draw your attention to a crucial fact. In 2016, Twitter representatives forwarded a business proposal on cooperation in advertising to RT worth between $1.5 and $3.3 million. This happened before and during the US presidential campaign. Despite RT’s unwillingness to accept this proposal, Twitter continued to press on and prepared a presentation for the RT staff. However, RT rejected that proposal for purely commercial reasons. You can find out what happened after that from a statement made by Margarita Simonyan, the network’s editor-in-chief.

In our opinion, Twitter’s ban is evidence of its failure as a business and its absolute dependence on the US security establishment, which directly controls decision-making on Twitter, as we can conclude from its subsequent decisions. We urge all users of this social networking service to draw conclusions from this situation. Today Twitter has banned ads by Russian media outlets, namely RT and Sputnik, and tomorrow it may decide, seeking to suit the changing political situation, to label media outlets or businesses from any other country the “enemies of America.” These media outlets and businesses, which are investing in Twitter advertising or joint projects just as RT did, could be paying for potential reputational losses.

One more thing: according to Twitter, RT posted $274,100 worth of [US-based] advertising on Twitter in 2016. I have reviewed the data and can tell you – correct me if I’m wrong – that presidential candidates received tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars in donations. This brings me to my question: Could RT hope to interfere in the presidential race in the United States so as to influence its outcome with a modest sum of $300,000, to round off the figure?  

We view Twitter’s decision in the context of the continued efforts by the US administration to shut down this alternative source of information [RT], which does not suit certain US political forces. We hold the same view on the US decision to place these Russian media outlets on the foreign agents list. An analysis of this list has shown that it includes companies that do not produce fully individual media products but mostly reprint information, lobby others’ interests or provide other publicity services.

The freedom of expression has always been among the fundamental values in the United States. We hope to see evidence of this, although the latest developments point in the opposite direction.

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Unveiling of restored Red Army soldiers memorial in Tajikistan

 

On November 7, 2017 a ceremony to unveil the restored memorial to Red Army soldiers will take place in the village of Tuda in Tajikistan’s Hisor District. The reconstruction was financed by the village residents, who raised the money themselves.

We consider this an example of a caring attitude of the Tajik people towards our common history.

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Another case of Soviet Army memorial desecration in Sofia

 

Moscow is outraged at another case of Soviet Army memorial desecration in Sofia, which took place in the night of October 31.

Vandals (I have no other name for them) attacked the monument just a week ago, but they have outdone themselves by putting anti-Semitic slogans on the monument. This is especially cynical considering that during WWII our soldiers prevented the deportation of Jews from Bulgaria and saved some 50,000 people from imminent death. What is particularly appalling here is not even the act of vandalism itself, but that those who committed it are absolutely ignorant about their own history. This is particularly chilling. The fact I just mentioned is valuable and significant for those who know their history and who will never approve of such actions. Those who bring jackhammers, shovels and paint to desecrate monuments are, unfortunately, completely unaware of the glorious pages of their own history, let alone anyone else’s.

We are confident that such criminal deeds will never be met with sympathy and understanding by the general public in Bulgaria.

We insist that the Bulgarian government does whatever it takes to prevent further cases of maligning the memory of Soviet soldiers who gave their lives to save the European continent from Nazism.

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Launch of themed Russian train on London Underground

 

On October 25, the Heart of Russia themed train was launched at the Baker Street station of the London Underground. The train is devoted to our country’s achievements in science and culture and marks the overlapping Year of Science and Education in Russia and the United Kingdom in 2017. The launch was organised and sponsored by the Moscow Government. The project also includes 25 posters in the central stations of the London tube, and a mobile app. The train will run on three tube lines until the end of the year.

The new train evoked great interest among both London residents and tourists. We hope this project will contribute to the progressive development of bilateral cultural ties.

By the way, a similar campaign will be launched in Moscow with the support of the British Council.

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St Petersburg Meetings in Portugal

 

At the initiative of the St Petersburg Government, a series of cultural and educational events, St Petersburg Meetings in Porto, were held in Portugal. The events of the festival, the aim of which is to promote the Russian language, culture and education, also took place in other cities in the region. The highlight was a recital given by St Petersburg opera singers at the Porto House of Music (Casa da Musica).

The St Petersburg Meetings festival evoked great interest among our compatriots in Portugal who took an active part in the preparations of the festival, and also among the Portuguese. In this connection, a proposal to hold a similar festival in the country’s southern region of Algarve in 2018-2019 is being discussed.

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On National Forum of Russian Language and Culture in Mexico

 

The annual national meeting of experts on Russia was successfully held at the Autonomous University of Nayarit between October 19-22. The event was organised by the Mexican Association of Russian Language (AMIR), other organisations of Russian compatriots, as well as the Russian Embassy and the representative office of the Russian Federal Agency for the Commonwealth of Independent States, Compatriots Living Abroad, and International Cultural Cooperation (Rossotrudnichestvo).

Russian Ambassador to Mexico Eduard Malayan, University rector Jorge Gonzalez and AMIR President Yelena Zhizhko addressed the audience.

The forum programme included lectures and presentations about the Russian education system plus the regulations related to state scholarships offered to Mexicans for studying at Russian universities. A methodology seminar for further education, certification Russian language exams, as well as a reciters’ competition, a Russian music concert plus the Contemporary Russia photo exhibition were held as part of the event.

Young Mexicans have been showing more and more interest in our country, its history as well as culture, the Russian language and studying in Russian universities.

Those at the forum praised the significant increase in the number of state scholarships given to Mexican citizens (25 scholarships in 2016-2017 and 50 in 2017-2018), as well as the increase in deliveries of Russian textbooks under the Russian Language Federal Targeted Programme.

The event was supported by the Nayarit Government and its Governor, Antonio Garcia, and the Office of Tepic Mayor. The forum was widely covered by the local media.

Such conferences are held annually in many countries under the auspices of Rossotrudnichestvo and the Russkiy Mir Foundation with the support of local governments and relevant associations of compatriots abroad. The aim of such forums is to promote the Russian language, culture as well as Russian education abroad.

The Foreign Ministry and the Government Commission on Compatriots Living Abroad support this work because it contributes to the strengthening of bilateral cultural relations between the Russian Federation and foreign countries. It also helps the Russian diaspora to implement its right for education in the Russian language.

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Report by the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights

 

We have taken note of the September summary report on the migration situation in some EU countries published by the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA).

According to this report, the migration situation is especially alarming in Greece and Italy, in particular because of poor living conditions [in reception centres]. Similar problems have been reported in Spain and Sweden, as well as France where the authorities are forcibly removing people from illegal camps.

FRA continues to report hate cases involving migrants, in particular in Finland, Sweden, the Netherlands, Germany and Austria.

Another cause for concern is the rights of migrant minors. According to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), no child protection officers have yet been assigned to children in some EU member states, while many children go missing from shelters and care centres. We have reported the statistics, if you remember.

The problem of human trafficking has not been settled in the EU. A recent report by UNICEF and IOM says that 77 per cent of children arriving in Europe via the Central Mediterranean route (CMR) fall victim to this vile practice.

We believe that the facts provided in the FRA report reflect the EU’s failure to develop a coordinated and effective migration policy. Instead of assuming responsibility for helping refugees and displaced persons, the EU member countries are taking measures to reduce their number, expose them to risks and refuse to provide them with any assistance under international law.

In this context, we consider it necessary to recall the reasons for the current migration situation in Europe. What is happening is the result of an irresponsible interference in the international affairs of sovereign states in the Middle East and North Africa aimed at destabilisation and replacement of “undesirable” governments. This policy has resulted in the collapse of states, humanitarian catastrophes, civil wars as well as the rise of terrorism, making life in these countries unbearable due to life hazards and violations of the fundamental human rights and freedoms and provoking a massive outflow of refugees and migrants from this region.

In this situation, the idea of the division of responsibility for accepting refugees and migrants, which some EU countries are promoting at the UN and other international organisations, looks completely ambiguous.

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Proposals to rename Alexandre III Bridge in Paris

 

We have taken note of an open letter by “an association to rename the Alexandre III Bridge” to the Mayor of Paris, which is circulating on the French web. This campaign is being led by Thierry Paul Valette, a left-wing liberal actor and artist. The letter is based on a petition from his association, Egalite Nationale, which 1,400 people have signed. They believe that the current name of the bridge contradicts “republican values.”

I would like to remind everyone that the Alexandre III Bridge was built in the late 19th century to celebrate the Franco-Russian military alliance and is one of the brightest symbols of Russia-France friendship.

Under the logic of the authors of this petition (provided they have a logic), new names must be found for numerous towns, squares and streets that have been named after kings and past heroes, from Henry IV to Joan of Arc, because none of them shared the “republican values.” However,  if the real motive for signing this petition is Russo-phobia, which is very difficult to hide, these people will be shocked to find out about the huge number of words that share the same roots in Russian and French and about the strong mutual influence of the great French and Russian cultures. No number of petitions can spoil this cultural and spiritual heritage.

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Answers to media questions:

Question: What kind of consensus can be reached on a Nagorno-Karabakh settlement as a result of Sergey Lavrov’s meeting with OSCE Secretary General Thomas Greminger?

Maria Zakharova: Tomorrow, Mr Lavrov will address the topics and modalities of the matters that were discussed during the meeting. We outline the topics that are planned for discussion while the discussion process together with the conclusions will be addressed by Mr Lavrov and his counterpart, Mr Greminger, at tomorrow’s news conference.

Question: It was reported today that eight Turkish army servicemen were killed in fighting with PKK terrorists in southeastern Turkey. The United States’ collaboration with the PKK arouses serious indignation. Recently, a list of Syrian delegations that will participate in the nationwide dialogue [congress] on November 18 in Sochi was posted on the Foreign Ministry’s official website.

Maria Zakharova: Perhaps you did not listen very attentively to what I said before. We are working on the modalities and all details of this possible event: dates, venue and participants. The list that you have mentioned was a starting point for this work.

Question: How does Russia’s position on organisations such as the PKK or the Kurdish Democratic Political Union differ from the US position on those organisations?

Maria Zakharova: I am not much of an expert on this topic and will certainly ask our experts for a detailed commentary that I will present to you. However, overall, it seems to me that the most important thing that Russia wants to do along the lines you have just mentioned in your question is to get the Kurds involved in a general political consensus or efforts to reach a general political national consensus in Syria that should produce tangible results. Not manipulating people or the ethnic-religious specifics of various groups living in Syria (which are so sensitive for people), not using these people as a bargaining chip in achieving global goals, but working to get them involved in this process. We have stated repeatedly why this is necessary: to ensure inclusive movement toward reconstituting Syrian statehood so that none of the groups living in the country feel they have fallen by the wayside in this process.

As you know very well, day after day, week after week and month after month, Russian representatives at all levels have been talking about the need to get the Kurdish population, including various political groups, trends and public organisations, involved in the process using various platforms. We have been doing our utmost to this end. You also know that our efforts have often been blocked in fact by our Western partners, as well as by a number of our other partners. We have said that we are lobbying these people and groups only in the interest of the future organisation of Syria as well as the entire region.

I believe this is the main difference. I do not want to comment on the US position although sometimes we do do this. I believe in certain cases there are grounds to talk about manipulating people’s interests to suit one’s national interests.

Question: Does Moscow plan to respond to Washington’s new anti-Russia sanctions against Russia’s leading defence companies, which are aimed primarily at impeding cooperation in the defence and technology sector between Russia and Turkey, in particular disrupting S-400 surface-to-air missile supplies to Turkey?

Maria Zakharova: We regard our cooperation with Turkey as self-sufficient and independent of third countries. This cooperation is not devoid of difficulties but has good prospects. We understand very well the interests – both in the good and bad sense of the word – of various other players, but it is important for us to maintain relations with Turkey and this is precisely what we are doing. If there are issues, we address them on a bilateral basis and if there are prospects for cooperation, we take advantage of them. The same will apply in this case.

We certainly keep the international community informed about our plans; we make no secret of them and take into account regional plus global issues, including regional security matters, and this is why we are in dialogue with Ankara, making no secret of it with regard to other participants in the international process. To reiterate, this direction is valuable in and of itself and must not be subjected to the influence of any outside players.

Unfortunately, we have already witnessed a situation where bilateral relations were exposed to an external impact. That has only led to negative results. I believe a serious lesson should be drawn from this: Relations should be developed comprehensively as a value in their own right, doing all we can to prevent negative outside influence. A positive impact is welcome.

Question: The Iraqi Government has announced that the aims of negotiations with Erbil have not been achieved and so the war with Kurdistan is expected to continue. Could you make public Russia’s latest position on the situation?

Maria Zakharova: Our first and last positions coincide at all stages. We believe in domestic dialogue, which is vital.

It is very easy to unleash a domestic conflict, especially in that region, a conflict that may be fueled from the outside, but it is very difficult to bring a peaceful situation back. Our original position has been that this problem should be solved by taking into account all interests in Iraq on a reciprocal basis.

Question: The Federal News Agency has been subjected to political censorship by Google Corporation. In particular, all our news stories have been removed from Google News. I would be interested to know your opinion about the cause of such aggression on Google’s part and whether we can count on the Foreign Ministry’s help in dealing with this situation.

Maria Zakharova: I would advise you to do the following. First, send an official query to Google (they have a Moscow office where good specialists are working) and ask a direct question about the causes and motives behind this campaign. The second step I think should be taken is to send similar official letters to the Russian agencies responsible for protecting the interests of the Russian media (which we should do by law) and various technical aspects related to ensuring the rights of Russian media outlets in their activities both in Russia and abroad.

I can confirm that the Foreign Ministry has already received such a query from you. For our part, we will ask Google about the motives behind these actions and will send appropriate notices to international agencies (the OSCE representative on freedom of the media, that I mentioned earlier, should also be informed about this). You should also send a letter to the Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology, and Mass Media, requesting it to clarify the situation. At present, we are all upholding the interests of the Russian media outlets that are being infringed upon by our Western partners, not only via private organisations but in fact with the participation, involvement and influence of law enforcement agencies in certain countries. We see this practically every day in the United States. If the information that you have been blocked for political motives is confirmed, then that will serve as grounds for the most serious action to deal with the situation.

To reiterate, we have received your query and it is being processed.

Question: Yesterday, you spoke in the Federation Council at a meeting of the working group for the protection of Russia’s information sovereignty. Your colleagues talked about possible steps in response to the measures that our US partners are taking against us in the media space. Can you say specifically what countermeasures are under consideration?

Maria Zakharova: Remember [comedian] Vladimir Vinokur’s gag: “Okay, you may not answer now but there will be a surprise for you later.” There will be a surprise!

You see, we are not thirsty for “bloody” countermeasures against US media outlets. We have stoically endured the intensity of information attacks over the past several years, and simply improved the quality of our work. To us, these countermeasures to restrict journalistic activity are not an end in itself. I can only confirm that we feel no pleasure in doing so. This takes time and energy and involves a lot of things that divert us from our main work.

However, when all possible lines are crossed, when this is about fighting without any rules as if at some fight club, when our media outlets are subjected to direct pressure, sometimes intimidation and blackmail, measures in response to that will be taken of course. Nobody will talk now about what they will be, if only because nobody takes any pleasure in this. Have these measures been developed? Of course they have. Will they be used if the activity, for example, of Russia Today in the United States is blocked (it can be blocked in different ways)? Yes, they will. Top Russian officials and representatives of relevant agencies have talked about that. This is Russia’s consolidated position. We have never used such steps but this time the situation is unprecedented. You may remember that there were cases when Russian journalists were expelled from certain countries (this happens sometimes). Measures in response to that were taken. Those were regarded as extreme, one-off cases. What we have today is blocking the work of the Russian media as a whole, not withdrawing accreditation or denying access to a particular event. Such things have also happened in the past but we have never responded to them. In particular, when our media outlets were not permitted to attend a European event to which they had sought accreditation and got it but were physically barred from attending, we took no countermeasures. That has never been an end in itself or a source of pleasure for us. However, in this case in it is necessary to take action.

Question: Journalism is a highly dangerous profession. Media representatives die on a regular basis in various countries around the world. How can this be dealt with? Occasionally some Russian news is seen as sheer propaganda and a threat to the EU…

Maria Zakharova: What news is regarded as a threat to the EU? I can’t recall this. Do you mean London trains highlighting Russian culture? When and whom did we threaten? Where are statements or actions threatening the European Union?

Question: Our [Bulgarian] press, in particular, occasionally features news from Russia and there are charges that this is direct Russian propaganda. Shall we perhaps talk about culture in the future?

Maria Zakharova: Are you inviting me to the theatre? With pleasure! Seriously, this is a very important problem. I don’t understand why you merged the threat to journalists’ life with how Russia is covered in the media, specifically the Bulgarian media. I would separate the two themes.

Journalism is certainly a dangerous occupation and all of us know this. It is for this reason that a number of international organisations have entire institutions, staff and commissioners to address these issues. The OSCE, UNESCO, the Council of Europe, the United Nations as well as various NGO’s draft relevant resolutions and adopt decisions.

This is, of course, a matter for you, the professional community, but it seems to me that today we can talk not only about the dangerous work of journalists but also about the public exposure as such as a factor inviting potential aggression against a recognisable person. There are bloggers who have numerous followers plus they attract much attention to their posts.

In my view, this problem has even wider repercussions today than was the case 10 to 20 years ago. New means of communications make people popular beyond the traditional media. Apart from everything else, this problem is about how we assess and analyse threats, be it political (to journalists) or personal as related to journalists’ public exposure. There are also numerous other nuances and aspects.

Russia regards all things related to protecting freedom of expression and media work as its priority. Regrettably, journalists are attacked for various reasons in this country as well. These attacks are investigated as a matter of priority.

In this case, I can only support this theme and say that it calls for a discussion. This is what we do at various forums by drafting relevant resolutions. We also keep on the right side of the law in this country.

Your other question was about how news about Russia was presented. I can agree with you that what comes from the horse’s mouth – communications from Russian government agencies or Russian media reports – is perceived as propaganda. At least, there are frequent attempts to present these as such. More than that, the most recent charge is that we have created a “fake news machine.”

We are always open to working with this theme. If there are any instances of patently unreliable information being spread, we are ready to admit to it. But all the charges against RT we saw or heard are just ungrounded. We have not been presented with any material on this score. Of course, all journalists have a right to make mistakes and a duty to correct them. Both RT and other media outlets made mistakes occasionally and promptly corrected them by publishing refutations, excuses, etc. However, claiming that we have created a machine to diffuse propaganda and unreliable information is as much fake news as the charges against us.

As for putting greater emphasis on humanitarian, cultural and art news, this is what Rossotrudnichestvo (Federal Agency for the Commonwealth of Independent States, Compatriots Living Abroad, and International Cultural Cooperation) and a number of other ministries and agencies are doing. I can only welcome this. I am pleased to talk about developments in these areas and will do this more often.  

Question: We went to Crimea this summer. I was surprised to see large European shopping malls there, despite the sanctions. What can you say on this?

Maria Zakharova: We should find out when these malls opened and when their business grew. Or do you want to see a total blockade of Crimea? We have seen the energy blockade, and it took us enormous and even titanic efforts to pull through. You cannot imagine what we did to overcome that problem. We also keep fighting the information blockade. I think that some countries’ and multinational associations’ refusal to issue visas to Crimeans is a kind of blockade as well.

Regrettably, today we have seen one more example of this policy. It is connected with your colleagues, Crimean journalists who have been prevented from attending an OSCE event. They received proper accreditation, but our Austrian partners refused to issue visas to them. This is outrageous. Unfortunately, this is not the first time that professional journalists (not just some Kremlin agents sent to Crimea, as the Western mainstream media try to present them but real Crimean journalists who began their careers back when the peninsula was part of Ukraine and who continued working as journalists after Crimea’s reunification with Russia) are denied access to attend an international forum where they planned to provide first-hand information and answer questions about the situation in Crimea, which is so often discussed in foreign media, including in Europe. What is this if not a blockade?

We negotiate this obstacle by means of online videoconferences. One of such online events was held at the Foreign Ministry yesterday. Crimean journalists will be offered an opportunity to make a video address for the OSCE event.

I believe this is something that should strike you as strange. If there are any problems, and there are problems in Crimea, we do not try to smooth them over, but we invite journalists to go to Crimea so as to see what is happening there with their own eyes. Go there to talk with the people, government agencies, NGOs and human rights organisations so as to get first-hand information.

But no, these reports are based on information provided by NGOs that have never worked in Crimea and whose representatives have long left Crimea yet continue to provide their analysis of the situation there. This is what should surprise you, rather than the existence of malls. What is so strange about malls selling goods?

You should be surprised that some European capitals are actively peddling anti-Crimean information, sending notes to embassies, writing letters, telling travel agencies not to sell tours to Crimea, and in general spreading lies about the situation and life in Crimea. This is what should cause surprise and incomprehension.

Question: The recent terrorist attacks in New York (and elsewhere) bring to mind the terror attacks in Europe, in particular in Paris and St Petersburg. Could the fight against terrorism bring Russia and the United States together again?

Maria Zakharova: I would like to say the following regarding this. You must remember that carnage, the terrorist attack in which people were killed and maimed, the case of the Tsarnaev brothers. I would like to remind you that long before that terrorist attack, our American colleagues received information from Russian security services regarding the suspicious activities of the Tsarnaev family in the United States. This information was not provided or hidden in a large package of documents, and neither was it shaped as a single line in a document regarding some other issue. It was targeted information that was provided in connection with a specific case. Moreover, Russian intelligence services delivered this information to a particular person and drew that person’s attention to its importance. Although we provided hard facts and did our best to draw our American colleagues’ attention to them, the answer was that we shouldn’t worry, that they had control of the situation and did not need any assistance from us because the issue concerns their people [American citizens]. You certainly know that we were not going to interfere in another country’s affairs. We offered cooperation, but since our American colleagues had no need for it, pressing on was not the right thing to do at the time. We said what we wanted to say, the materials were delivered, and the answer was that the Americans were not interested in developing partnership or cooperation on this issue. Awhile later, the Tsarnaev brothers blew up the bombs. You surely remember that high-profile case.

I said this to show that Russia always tries to develop productive cooperation, or any kind of anti- and counter-terrorism cooperation with its Western partners in any situation. We raise the issue within international platforms, including the UN. Related documents are adopted at conferences and resolutions are drafted. We express a very practical and concrete desire and propose a constructive dialogue, promote an exchange of information and a consolidation of efforts. This must be done so as to go over from very important and needed resolutions to practical actions.

International terrorism changes like a chameleon, and terrorists no longer need planes or even explosive devices now. They don’t need any special equipment to implement their plans. They only need what many of us have, like a car, which any upright citizen who doesn’t plan to break the law can have. This has complicated the search for terrorists and, more importantly, pre-emptive measures, the work to prevent attacks. As I have said, in the past – and also now – some extremists and terrorists used special equipment such as bombs and explosive substances, but today those who committed the terrorist attacks in Nice, London, New York and other cities were indistinguishable from millions of other law-abiding people. This brings us back to the need for practical, detailed and specific country-to-country exchanges, which London has fully curtailed and suspended. And such cooperation with the United States and NATO is unsatisfactory as well.

Our counter-terrorism cooperation should be a full-scale affair, just as it was originally conceived, but it is not developing; it has been suspended and blocked. We speak about this at each briefing or at every other briefing. The Russian leadership – President Vladimir Putin, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, and representatives of the relevant Russian services – say as much. We are sending these signals in the public space, we speak about this during talks… You must remember the situation – I think, this was during the terrorist attacks in Paris – where we said that those events should serve not only as a motive for grief, commiseration and expressions of support but also as a lesson that must prompt us to pool efforts. As a result, certain Western and Russian media were mad enough to say that the Russian representative was gloating and that we were calling for cooperation and for drawing lessons from this particular case as an alternative to changing social media avatars, painting buildings in national colours, or staging processions to express solidarity. Yes, social media avatars should certainly be changed. This is a sign of support, a call urging people not to be disheartened, not to lose courage or presence of mind. Yes, the public should organise support rallies and paint buildings in national colours. Yes, people should take to the streets and march against terror. But international terrorism is a disease and it must be treated with the right drugs. One of the most effective medicines is cooperation between secret services. We constantly say this. We are longing to be heard. We want the situation to turn around. We want people to stop looking for enemies where there are none and to pay attention to the real enemies, who are no longer hiding.

Question: What is your take on the situation in Catalonia?

Maria Zakharova: I can take advantage of your question to reiterate our position that has not changed and remains consistent. Our stance was presented long before the referendum in Catalonia.

We regard the situation in Catalonia as an internal affair of Spain. We proceed from the assumption that further developments in this Spanish region will conform to that country’s Constitution and laws, in compliance with the democratic norms and human rights. We hope that the early parliamentary elections in Catalonia scheduled for December 21 will become a crucial stage in efforts to overcome the crisis and will stabilise the operation of state and municipal authorities.   

Question: The second Japanese business mission has ended. Will there be a third one? Was it discussed? I know that you mentioned that plans are still in the making, I mean Minister Lavrov’s meetings at the next summit, but still, perhaps, they may have already agreed on a meeting with the Japanese Foreign Minister? Today, Taro Kono said that he looks forward to visiting Russia. Perhaps, the Foreign Ministry could somehow speed up this process and make arrangements for an earlier visit?

Maria Zakharova: Preparations for such a visit, namely the trip of the Japanese foreign minister to Russia, are in progress. It is planned that Mr Kono will hold talks with Minister Lavrov, and also take part in a meeting of the Russian-Japanese intergovernmental commission on trade and economic matters. We will let you know about the details of the visit, including when it will be, at a later date.

Question: Since the time President of Serbia Alexandar Vučić announced a new phase of internal dialogue about Kosovo, we have witnessed increasing pressure on Serbia from the West. Can the position of the Russian Federation over Kosovo change if the position of Serbia on this issue changes sometime in the future?

Maria Zakharova: Unfortunately, it so happened that quite a lot of years have passed since Kosovo was forcibly separated from Serbia. Accordingly, if back then this topic was constantly discussed, and the public and journalists were aware of the position of each country in detail, what we are left with now, is simply the subject of Kosovo in general, and no one really remembers what exactly underlies each country’s position.

I want to remind you that the UN Security Council resolution, on which Russia is building its approach to the Kosovo matter, remains valid. From our perspective, the issue is not about its relevancy. It’s an international legal instrument, a mechanism, a document which, we believe, must be complied with. No one came up with anything else, neither Serbia nor the Western community (which, perhaps, did have other proposals). Still, Belgrade should play the leading role and have a say on this particular case. So, there are no other proposals, in particular, from Belgrade. We build our position based on this international legal document. Everything is clear, there is no double play, and things are consistent. I believe our position is devoid of any contradictory elements. It was and remains very consistent.

Question: Can you make any comments on the recent criticism coming from the United States that Russia is helping North Korea? In particular, the information that Transtelecom provided North Korea with a second communication channel?

Maria Zakharova: I can tell you that relations between Russia and North Korea are developing. However, we strictly comply with the relevant UN Security Council resolutions on sanctions which, of course, were adopted with Russia’s participation. These two elements underlie our approach to cooperation with North Korea.

Unlike the United States or other states for that matter, we do not make recourse to unilateral sanctions, additional sanctions, or broad interpretation of the UNSC sanctions in our practical actions or politics, but strictly adhere to our commitments assumed under UN Security Council resolutions on sanctions with regard to the DPRK.

As you may be aware, Russia adopts internally corresponding decisions signed by the President in pursuance of the Security Council sanctions. This was done this time too. So, everything that we do does not contradict the corresponding resolutions of the UN Security Council. However, we are developing our relations with North Korea.

Unfortunately, you are right when you say that our position is often distorted, in this area, too. We take note of it as well. Every time, our position is portrayed using strange colours.

Question: I was talking about the Russian company providing a communication channel.

Maria Zakharova: I can clarify the information about what this Russian company did, although I think they can comment on this as well. What I’m saying is that Russia does not violate corresponding UNSC resolutions. We did not impose any additional sanctions on North Korea, because it contradicts our overall belief that sanctions are legitimate only as part of the Security Council resolutions. Based on the same belief, we did not join any other sanctions. Our compliance with the sanctions is unwavering, but at the same time we are developing our relations with North Korea.

With regard to the company, I think that you should ask them directly. I can also ask our experts if we have any additional information on this matter.

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