Briefing by Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova, Moscow, December 6, 2017
- New methods of exerting pressure on Russian media by US special services
- Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s participation in the OSCE Ministerial Council
- Russian, Indian, Chinese foreign ministers to meet in New Delhi
- Russian Foreign Minister to attend opening ceremony for exhibition of Ilya Glazunov’s Nicaragua themed works
- Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s presentation at Federation Council Government Hour
- The situation in Syria
- The situation in Yemen
- The situation in Afghanistan
- Konstantin Yaroshenko
- International conference on combating the glorification of Nazism held in Slovenia
- Event to mark the 20th anniversary of the Joint Commission for Studying the Recent History of Russian-German Relations
- Situation in Lithuania with the monument to Red Army soldiers in Vilnius
- Remarks by Special Assistant to US President and National Security Council Senior Director Christopher Ford at the Hudson Institute on November 14, 2017
- Investigation into Andrey Karlov’s assassination
- Unveiling Pushkin’s bust in Budapest
- Unveiling memorial marking 350th anniversary of first Russian embassy’s arrival in Spain
- World Golf Award rates Moscow Country Club best Russian golf hotel
- US allegations regarding Russia Today
- Amie Ferris-Rotman’s publication in Foreign Policy magazine
- Answers to media questions:
- UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman’s visit to the Russian Embassy in Pyongyang
- The final coordination of the Convention on the Legal Status of the Caspian Sea
- The Russian Foreign Ministry’s reaction to the US decision to recognise Jerusalem as the Israeli capital and relocate the US Embassy there
- Sergey Lavrov’s upcoming meeting with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson
- The Russian Olympic team ban from the 2018 Olympics
- Sergey Lavrov’s recent visit to Italy
- Vladimir Putin’s instruction to the Russian Foreign Ministry
Again, we raise the question of the unprecedented pressure on the Russian media exerted by US special services, not only with our US colleagues but the international community as well. Just recently, and for a fairly long time before that, we have been talking about the rights of the reporters being violated, including in the wake of Washington's request to Russia Today television channel to register as a foreign agent and to disclose internal information. However, US officials have set their minds to finding more ways to create an uncomfortable environment for our journalists. In addition to legislative pressure, the authorities of that country are practicing less formal, but, as they see it, more effective methods. Recently, representatives of Russian media, including in the United States, have been subjected to strong pressure by US special services in the form of recruitment attempts.
These attempts are numerous and come in multiple phases. These are the so-called “approaches” made to representatives of Russian state and private media, including Russian journalists and representatives of Russian media outlets’ editorial boards. For obvious reasons, I cannot give out the names of the Russian journalists. I can share a specific case with you, though. First, the special services suggested that a Russian journalist begin cooperating with them, and did so more or less by the book, without revealing the true nature of such cooperation. Faced with an outright refusal, they changed tactics and offered money. Then, they moved on to psychological pressure, eventually stooping to banal threats. They went as far as invasion of privacy, including when the reporters were off duty, and made such approaches to family members who have no involvement in journalism.
We consider all this part of a large-scale attack on freedom of speech, an information attack not only against Russia, but also an encroachment on freedom of speech worldwide.
As we see it, Washington and the US special services are becoming increasingly aware of it, and the media are just a tool they are using to attain their immediate goals. While, after such pressure, outright threats, and occasionally blackmail attempts, Russian reporters can promptly seek help at the Russian Embassy, a consulate or a representative office in any country and obtain the necessary protection and assistance, it is scary to even think about the situation the US media have found themselves in now, since they are amenable to all kinds of pressure. Apparently, this is how the US special services go about it.
Recently, the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Harlem Desir, was in Russia. We would like him to take note of this unacceptable situation and draw the appropriate conclusions.
It would be nice to have the United States comment on this, but I know perfectly well what will happen if you put this question to the US State Department. They will simply make a helpless gesture and say that they are not aware of such cases and have no such information. If you ask the FBI (whose employees made the above approaches and performed other illegal actions with regard to Russian diplomats), they will say that they do not provide comments on the situation. For this situation not to recur, the corresponding information will be presented to the United States during talks in Vienna between Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. They will not be able to claim then that they have no information, or do not comment on it.
On December 7−8, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov plans to take part in the 24th meeting of the OSCE Ministerial Council that will be held in Vienna.
We hope for open and mutually respectful dialogue at a high political level on the state of affairs in European security, challenges facing the OSCE member states and prospects of cooperation between them. We hope the discussion will help restore trust and defuse military-political tension in the Euro-Atlantic region, that it will facilitate the harmonisation of approaches in the struggle against transnational threats and give impetus to the settlement of conflicts, primarily in eastern Ukraine, as well as bring closer the positions of states on the urgent issues of economic and humanitarian cooperation.
At the ministerial meeting in Vienna, we will prioritise the issues of countering terrorism, drug trafficking and cyber threats, linking integration processes and protecting traditional values. We will draw the attention of the participants to the unsatisfactory military-political situation that has been caused by NATO’s policy of consolidating its “eastern flank”. We will also focus on violations of language and education rights, freedom of the media and the growth of xenophobia and neo-Nazism in Ukraine, the United States and the EU, above all in the Baltic countries. In cooperation with Hungary we are preparing an event on protecting the rights of Christians on the meeting’s sidelines. We will reaffirm the importance of continuing the implementation of the reform of the OSCE, including the drafting of its Charter and improving the performance of its institutions and missions.
Based on these priorities Russia has suggested three drafts of OSCE decisions – on countering terrorist ideology and propaganda in support of UN Security Council Resolution 2354, reform of the OSCE human dimension, and linking integration processes (Russia drafted the latter initiative in cooperation with its EAEU partners). In all, there are about 30 drafts that have been submitted for discussion at the Vienna meeting.
Mr Lavrov also plans to hold bilateral meetings with ministers of OSCE partners and heads of international organisations on the sidelines of the Vienna meeting. A partial list includes: Paul R. Gallagher, the Vatican’s Secretary for Relations with States, OSCE Secretary General Thomas Greminger, President of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly George Tsereteli, Malta’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Promotion Carmelo Abela, Austrian Federal Minister for Europe, Integration and Foreign Affairs and OSCE Chairperson-in-Office Sebastian Kurz, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Head of Switzerland’s Federal Department of Foreign Affairs Ignazio Cassis, Finnish Minister for Foreign Affairs Timo Soini, Afghan Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani, Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Siyarto and Danish Minister for Foreign Affairs Anders Samuelsen. We will inform you in detail about them.
Mr Lavrov’s new conference on the results of the OSCE Ministerial Council is scheduled for December 8. We will specify the exact time later on.
On December 11, the 15th meeting of the Russian, Indian and Chinese foreign ministers will take place in New Delhi. It will be chaired by the Indian side.
The ministers will exchange views on the current situation in the region and the world as a whole, including in Afghanistan, the Middle East and the Korean Peninsula. Special attention will be given to fighting terrorism and drug trafficking, as well as ensuring global information security. Other matters will include coordination of joint efforts within the framework of leading international and regional associations, primarily the UN, BRICS, the SCO, G-20, the EAS and the ARF.
Coordinated approaches toward topical issues on the global and regional agendas will be reflected in the final Joint Communique.
Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is expected to have a meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on the sidelines of the trilateral event. The two foreign ministers will sum up the results of Russian-Chinese strategic cooperation in the outgoing year and exchange views on RIC and several other topical international issues.
On December 13, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will participate in the opening ceremony for an exhibition of Ilya Glazunov’s works devoted to Nicaragua that will take place at the Ilya Glazunov State Gallery in Moscow.
In 1983, the artist visited Managua where he met with members of the government of national revival, including the country’s current President Daniel Ortega. The result of his trip was a series of works (about 50 paintings and drawings) dedicated to the Sandinista People's Revolution.
The exhibition is timed to coincide with the anniversary of the establishment of Russian-Nicaraguan diplomatic relations (December 12).
The heads of Latin American diplomatic missions accredited in Moscow, activists of the Russia-Nicaragua Friendship Society, representatives of state and government agencies and companies doing business with Managua have been invited to the ceremony.
On December 15, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will speak during the Government Hour as part of the plenary session of the Federation Council of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation.
The Government Hour will include a discussion of topical global political issues, in particular the situation in Ukraine and Syria, fighting terrorism, integration processes in the Eurasian space and fostering cooperation in various spheres with leading international players.
Mr Lavrov’s annual meetings with members of parliament help improve cooperation between the executive and legislative branches of government, and provide an opportunity to share their views on the current international situation and map out paths to enhance the effectiveness of Russia’s foreign policy course.
The eighth round of UN-brokered intra-Syrian talks has been under way in Geneva since November 28. In the course of the tough going discussions, the delegations of the Syrian government and the opposition, with the active role of UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura, are trying to find consensus-based decisions to achieve a lasting political settlement and normalise the situation for good.
We note with satisfaction the continuing positive trends in the development of the situation on the ground in the Syrian Arab Republic. The Syrian Army is advancing along the old Hama-Aleppo road. Army subunits advancing from the southeast of the Aleppo Province have driven Al-Nusra militants from the villages of Abisan and Ramlah. In the northeast of the Hama Province, government troops, supported by the Russian Aerospace Forces, have taken control of several villages.
Russia’s two-day ceasefire initiative has helped stabilise the situation in Eastern Ghouta. In response to the militants’ mortar attacks against Harasta and the capital district of Bab Musalla, the army shelled al-Nusra and Faylaq al-Rahman’s positions in Jobar and neighbouring Ayn Tarmah. As the situation de-escalated, on November 28, the UN was able to deliver aid to residents of the town of Al-Nashabiyah, after the first unsuccessful attempt.
On the eastern theatre, mopping-up operations continue against ISIS members on the west bank of the Euphrates. The remaining terrorists, driven from the settlement of Kuria, have been trapped in the town of Hasrat and Syal west of al-Bukamal. The terrorists are making attempts to break out of the encirclement.
Sources on the ground report ongoing internecine fighting among extremists in Syria. According to these reports, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (formerly Jabhat al-Nusra) has ordered a campaign in the Idlib province to eliminate several influential field commanders on charges of “betraying the ideology of international terrorism.”
I would like to draw special attention to recent media reports with footage showing ISIS’ arsenal discovered near al-Ashara, Subeyhan and al-Salkhiya in the southeast of the Deir ez-Zor province. The Syrian military seized several thousand small arms and light weapons, a supply of antiaircraft missile launching tubes, heavy tank machineguns and artillery systems. The trophies included US- and European-made military equipment.
Recently, British media outlets, in particular the BBC, published investigative reports on a project to finance the so-called Free Syrian Police active in the Aleppo, Deraa and Idlib provinces. The BBC story shows that part of the money went to Jabhat al-Nusra militants and that the militants themselves chose who would perform “police functions” and on what terms. What’s more, al-Nusra often included “ghost members” in their lists in a bid to secure additional funding from the sponsors of the project.
We regard any attempts to support extremists in Syria as unacceptable. We urge our international and regional partners to respect Syria’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity. We draw their attention to the fact that Syrian people need more aid and assistance in rebuilding vital infrastructure and the national economy, but definitely not weapons or money for members of illegal armed groups that are in some way or other affiliated with the terrorist underground.
The situation in Yemen has sharply escalated over the past several days.
Amid the ongoing blockade of the country and airstrikes against its territory by the so-called Arab coalition, a final split occurred within the alliance of the Ansar Allah Houthi movement, which controls Yemen’s northern regions, and supporters of former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh. Large-scale armed clashes have been going on between these forces since November 29, centering around the Yemeni capital of Sanaa. Over 200 people have been killed and more than 400 injured in street fighting.
On December 4, Abdullah Saleh, who the day before had stated his readiness to start peace negotiations with the “coalition,” was killed. Tellingly, Ansar Allah has said “the fight against traitors” will continue. For their part, Saleh’s followers, including the leaders of major tribes, are determined to avenge the death of the Yemen’s former head of state and are calling for a march on Sanaa.
Moscow is seriously concerned by this negative turn of events. There is a high risk of Yemen sliding into political and military chaos, accompanied by an unprecedented humanitarian disaster. We can see no alternative to preventing such scenarios other than by ending the armed confrontation as soon as possible and launching the broadest possible national dialogue under UN auspices, based on mutual respect and consideration for the interests of all political forces in Yemen, in keeping with the fundamental norms of international law. We hope that major international and regional players will use their influence on Yemeni parties to persuade them to end violence, stop fighting and return to the negotiating table before the extremely dangerous situation in the country becomes irreversible.
For our part, we continue to actively facilitate the fulfillment of this task. At the same time, we would like to reiterate that in accordance with current international conventions, ensuring the safety of diplomatic missions in Sanaa, including the Russian mission, is the responsibility of the host country, as well as of all parties involved in the conflict.
The military and political developments in Afghanistan provide no cause for optimism as yet, as the threats of terrorism and drug-related crime coming from this country are growing even stronger. The expanding presence of an ISIS branch in Afghanistan and its strengthening in the northern provinces that border Central Asian countries remains the focus of heightened attention. We consider this to be a direct threat to our national interests. We are waiting for the results of the operation against ISIS in this region of the country, which was announced by Commander of US and NATO Forces in Afghanistan John Nicholson.
The situation with drugs is the most worrying. We already mentioned the record high levels of opium poppy planting and production in Afghanistan. Against this backdrop, reports about a special operation to destroy opium-producing laboratories in the southern Helmand Province, which was carried out by Afghan national security forces with support from US aircraft, look somewhat modest. Experts believe that the operation is unlikely to significantly reduce opium production because the destroyed factories can be restored very quickly. Also, given the number of opium-producing provinces – 24 out of 34 provinces, according to a UN Office on Drugs and Crime report, we expect more active and large-scale action to be taken to fight narcotics in all problem areas, rather than in one province only.
After our persistent demands, Russian pilot Konstantin Yaroshenko, who was kidnapped by the American intelligence services in Liberia and sentenced to 20 years in US prison over absolutely unsubstantiated accusations, has received, at last, adequate medical treatment. He has long suffered from several medical conditions, including those that he acquired as a result of being beaten during the arrest. Currently, following a recent planned surgery, he is undergoing postoperative rehabilitation.
We consider this to be a positive development, however, we expect more – we are waiting for a decision to send him back to his home country on humanitarian grounds, which we have been seeking since 2010. So far, it looks like Konstantin Yaroshenko, like Viktor Bout, who is also serving a long sentence in an American prison, are held hostage in Washington. And this is not a case of emotions running too high: former US Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland frankly told us last year that both Russians, who had flatly refused to plead guilty in court, would serve their full sentences to teach others not to follow suit. To put it differently, they want them to serve as an example that will make our other compatriots who happened to be detected by the “American justice” more compliant. I would like to stress that I am not speaking about real crimes or attempts to commit a crime but rather about completely staged provocations.
As for the Foreign Ministry, it continues to work to ensure that Russian nationals who received prison sentences in the United State return home.
On December 1, Maribor, Slovenia hosted an international conference, Lessons of the Past for Future Prosperity, which was held to review the history of WWII in the context of current challenges. The event, which was organised by the Russian Embassy in Slovenia and the Russian Centre for Science and Culture in Ljubljana, was attended by academics, politicians and public figures from Russia, Slovenia, Austria, Serbia, Croatia and other countries. Deputy Chairperson of the Federation Council Committee on Science, Education and Culture Lyubov Glebova and other speakers pointed out the importance of historical memory as a public diplomacy instrument, the need to fight any attempts to distort the truth about the events of 1941−1945, as well as the vital importance of instilling antifascist ideals in young people. These views have been reflected in the final resolution of the conference.
We see this initiative as a major step towards the implementation of a Russian-Slovenian project, which provides for opening an International Research Centre for the Second World War in the former Nazi camp for Soviet prisoners of war in Maribor. We reaffirm Russia’s resolve to continue taking multifaceted efforts with our Slovenian and other foreign partners in order to prevent the falsification of WWII history and the glorification of Nazism.
The 20th anniversary of the Joint Commission for Studying the Recent History of Russian-German Relations was marked at the German-Russian Museum Berlin-Karlshorst on November 30. The event was attended by over 100 academics, researchers and experts, including Commission co-chairs Academician Alexander Chubaryan, Director of the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of World History, and Andreas Wirsching, Director of the Institute of Contemporary History Munich-Berlin (IfZ). Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov sent his greetings to event participants.
It should be said that the Commission is greatly contributing to the development of Russian-German cooperation in the area of history and memorials. It has implemented many joint projects, such as the publication of a Russian-German history textbook and the study of the history of prisoners and internees of the two world wars and those who were forced to work for Nazi Germany during the Great Patriotic War.
The Commission is an important instrument of cooperation between our academics and researchers. It helps to formulate objective assessments of the past events and to fight the attempts to falsify history for short-term political considerations, of which we have seen a lot recently.
A similar event was held within the framework of the 20th meeting of the Joint Commission at the Foreign Ministry in Moscow in July. The meeting agenda also included an academic conference on the centenary of the 1917 Russian Revolution.
There is a new twist in the story of the memorial plaque in Vilnius’ Antakalnis Cemetery, where seven Soviet soldiers were reburied. Continuing their offensive against the Forgotten Soldiers War History Association, which installed this monument, the Lithuanian authorities imposed a fine on its President Viktor Orlov.
This action was clearly illegal. Suffice to say that the reburial took place in 2013 with the approval of the Vilnius mayor’s office, and in May 2016 the Association was accused of infringing upon the Rules for Improving Cultural Heritage Sites of Special Significance for Foreign States. As far as we know, Viktor Orlov intends to challenge this fine in court.
As a reminder, in May the Moscow Government funded the installation of a black marble memorial plaque at the burial site with the names of the soldiers engraved on it, which included the contour of a five-pointed star, which Russia’s ill-wishers found objectionable. As we know, there is a ban in Lithuania on distributing or displaying “Nazi or communist symbols,” which include “the Soviet five-pointed star” without banning all images of stars, however. Given the total absurdity of this legal standard, the claims regarding the star are expected to be settled soon.
We hope that common sense and justice will prevail despite the destructive efforts of the Lithuanian authorities who continue their undeclared war on historical memory.
We noted the discussion with the Special Assistant to US President Christopher Ford at the Hudson Institute, who said that Russia’s withdrawal from almost all aspects of bilateral cooperation in securing nuclear materials could result in a reduction in security at certain facilities within Russia’s vast and expansive nuclear complex. He went on to say that Russia helped Syria conceal its chemical weapons potential.
Regarding nuclear security, it was quite predictable to hear this kind of response from the US political elite to a series of steps undertaken by Russia to limit the ability of the US to interfere in Russia’s domestic affairs. After all, nuclear security and protection of nuclear materials is a very sensitive area that is essential for the overall security of our country.
As for Mr Ford’s statements on the resources Russia should commit to maintaining the “vast and expansive” nuclear complex, let me note that the size of the Russian nuclear complex and the spending it requires are Russia’s domestic affairs that do not fall within the purview of the Assistant to US President.
Speaking of cooperation on nuclear safety and security, let me emphasise that the Russian Federation is open to cooperation of this kind within the relevant international platforms and with all our foreign partners, including the US. We have confirmed our commitment to this cause on numerous occasions and we have been quite effective in our international cooperation efforts to strengthen nuclear security around the world.
However, we have always sought to prevent and will oppose any attempts to impose approaches on the Russian Federation that do not meet its interests or to interfere in Russia’s domestic affairs under the pretext of strengthening nuclear security, or force our country to subscribe to ideas developed without due regard for our position. We will not tolerate any actions in this sensitive area undertaken outside official channels. Mr Ford and other US officials will have to take this into account, if they wish to work effectively with Russia on nuclear safety and security.
Mr Ford absurdly alleges that Russia somehow choreographed Syria’s efforts to relinquish its chemical weapons stockpile in order for the Syrian government to retain some chemical weapons for further use.
A high-ranking official who has access to the sources of information should know that the elimination of Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile was undertaken under intense international scrutiny and was made possible by the relevant Russia-US framework agreement concluded in September 2013 in Geneva. In late 2015, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) officially confirmed that Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile was eliminated.
We understand all too well that groundless and irresponsible statements of this kind by US officials were used as a pretext for intervening in Iraq in 2003, which was later recognised as a “mistake.” It seems that these tragic events did not teach Mr Ford anything.
On December 19 it will be one year since the assassination of Russian Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the Republic of Turkey Andrey Karlov. Turkish law enforcement agencies continue to investigate the crime in cooperation with Russian operatives. Persons suspected of complicity in the crime have been arrested, and their activities are being investigated.
The Foreign Ministry and the Russian Embassy in Turkey continue to focus on and monitor this issue closely.
In the past 12 months, we have regularly briefed you on all events linked with perpetrating the memory of Andrey Karlov and on the work of the Foreign Ministry and NGOs, and we will continue to do this in the future.
On November 22, a bust of Alexander Pushkin was officially unveiled at Eotvos Lorand University under the Days of Moscow in Budapest programme. The bust was installed near the Russian Language Faculty named after the great Russian writer and poet. It may be symbolic, but some of the University’s buildings are located on Pushkin Street. Sculptor Nikolai Kuznetsov-Muromsky from Moscow created the monument.
The unveiling ceremony was attended by Russian Ambassador to Hungary Vladimir Sergeyev, President of Eotvos Lorand Budapest University Dr. Laszlo Borhi, representatives of the Hungarian Foreign Ministry and the University’s faculty and students.
The project was organised by public activist and Great Patriotic War veteran Igor Novosyolov, who has already helped erect 34 monuments and busts in 25 countries in Europe, Asia, Africa and America under public diplomacy projects.
As we see it, the unveiling of the monument to Pushkin in Hungary is a particularly important event against the backdrop of frequent attempts to vandalise various monuments in Eastern Europe. We are grateful to the people of Hungary for this friendly gesture symbolising friendship and cooperation between our countries.
On December 5, a memorial marking the 350th anniversary of the arrival of the first Russian embassy in Spain, which was headed by Pyotr Potemkin, was officially unveiled in the city of El Puerto de Santa Maria (autonomous community Andalusia).
Russian Ambassador in Madrid Yury Korchagin, Mayor of El Puerto de Santa Maria David de la Encina Ortega, representatives of the public and academics attended the ceremony. This is another good symbol of friendship between our countries.
The winners of the World Golf Award 2017, the international golf tourism prize, have been announced. The Moscow Country Club, a subsidiary of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Directorate for Servicing the Diplomatic Corps (UPDK), has been rated the best golf hotel in Russia.
Each year, World Golf Award rates the quality of services being provided by golf clubs worldwide. This is the fourth World Golf Award ceremony to date, as part of the World Travel Awards, a major international contest in the area of tourism achievements that was launched 24 years ago.
In August 2018, the Moscow Country Club is to host the highly important Russian Open Golf Championship-Senior event.
We appreciate the attention given to Russia by the US State Department in the context of the registration of the RT television network as a foreign agent. However, we would like to caution them about interpreting factual material, or more precisely, US rather than Russian legislation, and to urge them to act more professionally when commenting on Russia’s proportionate responses to US actions involving Russian media outlets.
I would like to point out a mistake the US State Department made when assessing the consequences of RT’s registration as a foreign agent. For example, State Department representative said that this would not affect their ability to gather information and report. It turned out that this is not so. On November 29, RT received a letter saying that their credentials at the US Congress have been revoked because as a foreign agent they are no longer eligible. This means either that American officials do not know their legislation, or that they know their legislation but choose to mislead everyone.
We have also analysed the list of media outlets registered as foreign agents in the United States. We received statements from the US State Department saying that the law has been applied to all media outlets similar to RT. But this is not true. We would like to point out that there are other foreign-financed media outlets working in the United States, such as Al-Jazeera and France24, which are not registered as foreign agents. This raises questions about the competence of those who represent US views on the international stage, as well as about the selective application of this law, in particular, against RT.
A lot of comments have been made regarding the amendments to the Russian media law with respect to government-financed foreign media outlets. The Russian law provides for the registration of US state-owned media outlets that are broadcasting to the Russian audience. Many people in the United States, including our colleagues at the State Department, say that this law is harsher than the American law. This is not true either. The Russian law stipulates administrative liability for failure to register as a foreign agent, while the American law stipulates criminal penalties for violating it.
Our American partners continue to say that the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) is a mere formality and that no consequences are implied for violating it. This is not true again. RT has reported that its registration as a foreign agent has resulted in practical obstacles to its operations. For example, many of its old-time partners have added unacceptable terms to their contracts. They are doing this to protect themselves, because otherwise they can be required to register as a foreign agent for cooperating with RT, which is a foreign agent.
I would like to say once again what we have said many times before and what seems to escape the attention of the US State Department and our American colleagues. First, the amendments to the Russian media law are a proportionate response to US actions, and second, these measures and any other measures that may be taken in this respect in the future will be cancelled as soon as the US restrictions are lifted from RT and the other media outlets against which these restrictions have been applied. However, this phrase seems to go unnoticed by the US media and Washington officials.
I would like to ask you to look at your screens. Do you know who this is? You don’t? This is interesting. It’s strange that you don’t recognise her but she was also completely unknown to me. I didn’t know her either. To be more precise, we saw her exactly once when we issued her a foreign correspondent’s accreditation card in May. She has not been in touch with us since. This is Amie Ferris-Rotman who works for Foreign Policy, a US magazine.
I don’t need to tell you that we have various communication formats with foreign reporters: weekly briefings, weekly Q&A meetings, addressing your technical problems, queries, organising interviews and written inquiries, requests for comment and the media tours of Russia for foreign reporters, which began about two years ago. I’m not even talking about the fact that I can be contacted at any time via social media, messaging or mobile phone (I believe everyone has one). We regularly reply to your questions.
So, since Amie Ferris-Rotman received accreditation at the Foreign Ministry she has not once been in touch with the press service on any matter. We have never seen her at briefings or any other meetings.
I wouldn’t talk about this and we would still not know about her – possibly to our mutual pleasure, but the problem is that she wrote an article for Foreign Policy entitled “Donald Trump Has Been Torture for Foreign Correspondents” in Russia. Generally speaking, this article is about you. I will tell you about it now.
The article claims that it has never been harder to be a foreign correspondent in post-Cold War Russia than it is now. Is it hard for you? I can just see your gloomy faces. The article says that now is the hardest time – for you, not for me. To support this point, Amie lists the following complaints: it’s impossible to gain access to state and government agencies or get any comment. Interviews and meetings are just out of the question. In short, everything in Russia is bad.
Ms Ferris-Rotman may be very much surprised, but in order to get a comment or an interview, you need to make yourself known in one way or another. One way is by email. We also have fax. For especially tech-savvy reporters, such as Amie, this could be via text message. Anything. You can send [a note] by courier service. Modern and traditional means of communication enable you to do this in just a couple of minutes. However, she has never even tried! We have looked high and low but have not found any queries [from her] – i.e., during the seven months that have passed since she received accreditation as a Foreign Policy correspondent. I would like to highlight the name of this journal. It would seem that the Foreign Ministry should be the one government agency that Amie would be in contact with. Amie, we’re here! Where are you? We’re looking for you and waiting for you! We want to mend our ways!
By the way, when we read this article, when I read it – Sergey Lavrov did not call me “despotic” for nothing – I was really puzzled. Since you and I meet every week, I thought that maybe Amie had conducted some poll among you, that you felt awkward about telling me about it and so you told Amie that it is hard for you to work here. We decided to hold a little survey. We called 100 reporters (perhaps some of you here received a call). The numbers were picked at random. The question was: “It is hard for you to live and work in Moscow and Russia as a whole?” I’ll tell you straight away: The absolute majority of respondents stated with confidence that they were fine. There were some specific suggestions but in general everyone was happy. I’ll take the liberty of saying that many noted an improvement in the work of the ministry’s press service recently, specifically shorter response times in processing reporters’ queries, prompt and effective assistance in dealing with their problems, facilitating contacts and liaison with representatives of other government agencies.
There were also critical remarks. As a matter of fact, we get together at least twice a week to discuss this. We will continue to improve further. I promise this to both Amie and you.
While I’m on the subject, I’d like to tell you about other publications by Amie Ferris-Rotman. In fact, this is important. We went even further. We thought that maybe there are some passages in her articles that really criticise us on objective grounds. It would seem that Foreign Policy should be about foreign policy. However, apparently Amie does not agree with this. Here are the titles of just some articles published under her byline:
- “The Next Must-See TV Show Is Russia’s Version of ‘The Americans”
- “The Bolshevik Revolution Is a Chinese Tourist Trap”
- “Putin's Next Target Is Russia's Abortion Culture”
- “Russians Don’t Understand Why Anyone Is Upset with ‘Girl Crazy’ Weinstein” – surely you understand what this is about.
Maybe this is in fact the problem? Maybe the articles penned by Amie Ferris-Rotman indeed have absolutely nothing to do with foreign policy as a matter of principle? Why then did we and other government agencies catch flak?
Most likely, in her article, Amie simply listed all possible excuses in a bid to justify her inability (as well as the inability of others) to find any evidence to corroborate the worn-out allegation about “the Kremlin’s meddling in the US election.” Considerable efforts were made to put substance behind this claim, but all to no avail because it just did not happen! Still, it must be found. So maybe it’s her editors or Amie herself who insists on holding somebody responsible for failing to find a Russian trail in all of America’s troubles. You have to justify yourself, when you claim it’s hard to work here.
Amie, we are waiting for you! Write, call or come over and don’t mislead the US public with claims that it’s hard for you to work here. To work hard, you should at least start to work.
Question: UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman is visiting North Korea to discuss possible ways to ease tensions on the peninsula. He has visited the Russian Embassy in Pyongyang. Do you expect any positive changes from this visit?
Maria Zakharova: We welcome and pin our expectations on any diplomatic contact in a tense situation, like the one that has developed on the Korean Peninsula.
Question: The foreign ministers from five Caspian states have completed the coordination of a convention on the legal status of the Caspian Sea, on which we primarily congratulate the Russian Foreign Ministry. Can you tell us how the convention defines the Caspian Sea’s legal status? Has it marked the maritime boundaries of the sea? When will confidential information regarding this, if any, be made public?
Maria Zakharova: Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov talked about this in detail yesterday in a statement on behalf of the Caspian states after the ministers coordinated the convention. There is nothing else I can add. The transcript of his statement is available on our website.
Question: US President Donald Trump intends to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and to announce the transfer of the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. White House representatives said this at a media briefing. How would the Russian Foreign Ministry respond to this? And what effect will this recognition have on regional security?
Maria Zakharova: Presidential Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov has commented on this situation. He said that Russia considers it premature to discuss decisions that have not been taken yet, but the Kremlin is worried this might complicate the situation. I am quoting Mr Peskov from press reports. You can check them by reading first-hand information.
Of course, we need to wait until the declaration of recognition or however else this action may be described by our American colleagues. I just wanted to explain the fundamentals of Russia’s attitude to such issues. This attitude was put forth in a Foreign Ministry statement of April 6, 2017, which reaffirmed our commitment to the UN-approved principles for a Palestinian-Israeli settlement, including the status of East Jerusalem as the capital of the future Palestinian state. I would like to say once again that we will not comment on US intentions. Again, we have put forth our position of principle on this issue many times.
Question: Is there any concrete information regarding the dates and time for potential meetings between Sergey Lavrov and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson? Will they talk to the press following the OSCE Ministerial Council in addition to the news conference you mentioned?
Maria Zakharova: A meeting with Mr Rex Tillerson has been set for the afternoon of December 7. But their meeting could be rescheduled.
As for meeting with the press, you know that we always invite the media to attend the beginning of such meetings, when the opening remarks are made. This can be interpreted as a meeting with the press. Sometimes we publish comments following bilateral meetings. We do not intend to do this in this particular case, but it is possible. However, the main accomplishments of the OSCE ministerial meeting will be reviewed at the news conference I mentioned.
Question: What can you tell us about the situation in Macedonia where members of the opposition have been arrested, allegedly for participating in the anti-NATO meetings in April but in fact for their involvement in the conflict in the parliament?
Maria Zakharova: There is nothing I can add on this issue. I will ask the experts, and if they know anything I will share it with you.
Question: I have to ask about the IOC decision to ban the Russian national team from the Pyeongchang Olympics. Many people, including athletes and politicians, agree that it is a political rather than a sports decision. Is it likely that some political forces pressured the IOC into taking this decision? Can you comment on this?
Maria Zakharova: We can see that a large-scale aggressive campaign is being waged against the Russian Federation in many areas. Today we have talked about the pressure put on the media. There is an open form of such pressure, namely, the selective use of laws, in particular, by the United States. There is also an invisible part of the iceberg, when the methods I have mentioned are applied against journalists, such as the cancellation of accreditation, endless allegations in the media and references to Russian media outlets in the context of the alleged Russian propaganda campaign, insinuations that they are part of the Kremlin’s propaganda machinery producing fake news, etc.
You can see from the example of our media outlets that this is a large-scale global campaign. The same methods are being applied in sports, including unsubstantiated accusations and banning our athletes from competitions. This is something new, and it involves the policy of collective responsibility, in the negative meaning of this word, which has been applied against Russian athletes.
Again, this information campaign began before the Sochi Olympic Games. But what we are seeing now is not just an information campaign but attempts to push Russia out of big-time sports. They probably pinned their hopes on the failure of the Sochi Olympics, thinking that our team would underperform there. But the Sochi Games were more than a success, and out athletes performed very well there. Both the fans and the teams were satisfied. Therefore, they moved on to Plan B, which they are implementing now. This is happening not only in sports, but also in the media and, of course, politics. This is a large-scale offensive.
I think the reason behind it is that the straightforward attempt to isolate Russia, a kind of crusade against us, has failed. Russia has not been isolated, but they still have a desire and capabilities to continue the offensive. These capabilities should have been applied in some other sphere, such as the fight against terrorism and poverty, or used to stand up against the elements and find ways to rebuild the infrastructure damaged by natural disasters or to prevent industrial accidents. But they have no interest in doing this, because it requires hard work and huge investment with uncertain results.
They have chosen a target for their attack – the Russian Federation – and this attack is being launched on many fronts. They have reached a point where they have said – this is ridiculous and yet sad – that it is not Russia but the United States that has routed terrorists in Syria. They continue trying to steal victories, claiming that Russia only killed civilians in Aleppo while the Americans were fighting terrorists. This is total nonsense, but this is what we see happening now.
Other elements include the so-called war on monuments, which is being waged to revise history and even to erase the anti-Nazi contribution made by the Soviet Union and its peoples from history. A worldwide campaign is being waged in this area as well; this is how I see it.
You have mentioned elements of political pressure. This is definitely true. The doping problem did not crop up yesterday, nor in 2014, and certainly not in Sochi. Just look at the number of athletes around the world who have been disqualified for using performance enhancing drugs, including at the Olympic Games. But did the Olympic bodies, including the IOC or any other sports officials, react like this before? Never! Have you ever heard about a desire – which has been presented as an agreed decision – to hold repeat Olympic medal ceremonies for the “wronged” athletes? But this is what they are doing now.
The use of pressure and political tools is not my domain, but if I learn anything about this I will share the news. As for my personal opinion, I have expressed it in the social media.
Question: I want to ask about Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s visit to Italy. What conclusions have been drawn following this event? Did they have an opportunity to discuss Libya, which is a very painful issue for us?
Maria Zakharova: You could see that it was a frank discussion. It covered all the priority issues. Of course, the situation in Libya and the rest of the region was discussed at bilateral talks and also on the sidelines of the Rome MED: Mediterranean Dialogues international conference, which has been held several times in Italy. This issue was also on the agenda of Sergey Lavrov’s meetings with his foreign colleagues at this event.
Regrettably, we turned out to be right – this has nothing to do with an over-positive view of our own actions but a hard fact – when we said several years ago that the global powers’ experiments in the Middle East and North Africa were fraught with big problems in their home territory. This is exactly what we see happening now. Regrettably, these experiments had a negative outcome; they were illogical, unwise and were not supported by analytical research, and they have created the current situation. It is because of this situation that we talk above all about Syria, Libya, Yemen, Iraq and many other regional countries at all our briefings. We talk about the proliferation of terrorism and the growth of the so-called terrorism belt between the Middle East and Central Asia, something we did not think possible before. This terrorism belt has linked the Middle East to Afghanistan. Now we will need to fight the terrorist groups that have been especially active recently in the Middle East and Afghanistan.
The Russian leaders, the Russian foreign and defence ministers, as well as our experts have repeatedly drawn public attention to the entire range of these issues for the past decade. You can find this in President Vladimir Putin’s remarks in Munich and at the UN, as well as in the statements made by Russian representatives at the UN Security Council. We have not received any answer or even response to our statements at the Munich Security Conference or to our calls for joining forces and capabilities not only to fight terrorism but also to address the issue of refugees, who are bringing problems from their region to Europe. Our partners laughed, sniggered or pretended not to hear us. We would like them not just to start thinking about these problems at last, but also to take cooperative actions to resolve them. We are ready for this anyway.
Question: Last week Russian President Vladimir Putin instructed the Foreign Ministry to establish an inter-agency working group to develop recommendations on ensuring efficient legal protection for Russian nationals’ rights abroad. The working group would include NGOs. What does the Foreign Ministry plan to do?
Maria Zakharova: I can confirm that the President indeed expressed interest in the issue. This instruction from the President was submitted to the Foreign Ministry in written form, which we just received the other day. Now the Foreign Ministry is reviewing the document. The instruction is currently being processed by our departments and experts. We are very interested in this both because it was an instruction from the President and because it is in line with our priority work with Russian nationals abroad.
Considering the attention both the media and Russian citizens give to this issue, we will comment on further developments as soon as we can share our views (but first, of course, they must be communicated to the Presidential Executive Office).
Speaking of protecting Russian nationals’ rights, I would like to point out Minister Lavrov’s recent remarks at a meeting of the Board of Trustees of the Foundation for Supporting and Protecting the Rights of Compatriots Living Abroad that took place on November 28, 2017. Mr Lavrov discussed the protection of Russian nationals’ rights abroad at length.
Question: As a journalist who has worked in Russia for two years, I would like to say that Russia is the most open country for the media. I can prove it. My colleagues in Europe and the United States often have no opportunity to see the head of state, to say nothing of asking questions. Over seven months, I have addressed two questions to President Putin directly and seen him 10 to 15 times. I have also seen Minister Lavrov six or seven times. There is no other country where a president gives such large press conferences like President Putin does, or where a foreign minister will give an exclusive interview. The accreditation process in Russia is also very simple and everybody is very nice and helpful.
Maria Zakharova: Thank you very much. Nice to hear it.
Question: It has been reported that the UN plans to wind down its World Food Programme in Donbass due to lack of funding. In your opinion, is the money for this programme distributed fairly? What is the reason for this shortage?
Maria Zakharova: I will forward your question to our analysts and get back to you.