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13 December 201717:51

Briefing by Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova, Moscow, December 13, 2017

2424-13-12-2017

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Table of contents

  1. Foreing Ministry's Business Council meeting chaired by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov
  2. Memorial plaque to Andrey Karlov
  3. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s meeting with African Union Commissioner for Peace and Security Smail Chergui
  4. General Meeting of the Commission of the Russian Federation for UNESCO
  5. Meeting of the Government Commission on Compatriots Living Abroad
  6. UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson’s forthcoming visit to Russia
  7. Developments in Syria
  8. UN cross-border humanitarian aid supplies to Syria
  9. UNESCO’s role in restoring world heritage sites in Syria
  10. Middle East settlement process
  11. Temporary suspension of Russia’s diplomatic presence in the Republic of Yemen
  12. Ministerial Meeting of the International Support Group for Lebanon
  13. Meeting of the Joint Commission on implementing the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on Iran’s nuclear programme
  14. Developments on the Korean Peninsula
  15. Regular OHCHR report on human rights in Ukraine
  16. The Venice Commission’s response to the education law recently adopted in Ukraine
  17. 100th anniversary of Finland’s independence
  18. Moscow Exchange Forum 2017
  19. Russian Seasons in Japan
  20. Setting up Russian Fan Houses 2018 at Rossotrudnichestvo missions abroad
  21. Russian ambulance spotted in Stockholm
  22. “The bear is coming: On Russia hate, stilted thinking and military blunders”, a book published in Sweden
  23. Statements by US Department of State Spokesperson Heather Nauert

 

Foreing Ministry's Business Council meeting chaired by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov

 

On December 18, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will chair a regular meeting of the Business Council. The event will concern economic cooperation within the BRICS interstate association, the launch of multilateral projects, and utilising BRICS institutions and mechanisms for the benefit of Russian businesses.

Participants will discuss their plans to collaborate within BRICS for 2018 during South Africa’s presidency.

Among the participants will be senior officials of the Foreign Ministry, other Russian ministries and agencies, as well as representatives of major Russian business associations, large companies and banks. 

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Memorial plaque to Andrey Karlov

 

On December 19, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will attend the unveiling ceremony for the memorial plaque to Hero of Russia, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Andrey Karlov.

Russia’s Ambassador to Turkey Andrey Karlov was murdered by a terrorist on December 19, 2016 in Ankara. A number of events over the past year were held to memorialise this outstanding diplomat. Streets in Moscow and Ankara as well as School 648 in Moscow, where he studied, and the school at the Russian Embassy in Turkey were named after him. A bust of Hero of Russia Andrey Karlov was installed at the Russian Embassy in Turkey in Ankara.

The unveiling of the memorial plaque was organised in cooperation with the Moscow Department of Cultural Heritage. The ceremony will take place at 10 am at 24 Petrozavodskaya Street, building 2.

Media representatives are welcome to attend the event.

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Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s meeting with African Union Commissioner for Peace and Security Smail Chergui

 

On December 20, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will meet with African Union Commissioner for Peace and Security Smail Chergui, who will be on a working visit to Moscow on December 18-21.

The Foreign Ministry expects a detailed discussion of the current status and prospects of cooperation between Russia and the African Union regarding counter-terrorism measures and combating trans-border crimes, including drug trafficking, human trafficking and illegal arms trade. Special attention will be paid to the resolution of conflicts in Africa, particularly, in Libya, the Sahara-Sahel region, the Great Lakes region, and the Horn of Africa.

Another point of discussion will be cooperation between Russia and African states on the African Union’s agenda within the United Nations and the UN Security Council.

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General Meeting of the Commission of the Russian Federation for UNESCO

 

On December 20, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will chair a general meeting of the Commission of the Russian Federation for UNESCO in the Foreign Ministry Mansion.

It will be attended by high-ranking officials of the Presidential Executive Office, the Government Executive Office, federal ministers, regional governors, members of the Federation Council of the Federal Assembly, Deputies of the State Duma of the Federal Assembly, and prominent Russian education and cultural figures and scientists.

The participants will listen to reports by the members of the Commission and the leaders of its programme and regional committees, sum up results of the work done during the period under review and adopt specific decisions aimed at further developing cooperation between Russia and UNESCO.

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Meeting of the Government Commission on Compatriots Living Abroad

 

On December 21, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will chair the next meeting of the Government Commission on Compatriots Living Abroad (GCCLA).

The participants plan to sum up the results of the commission’s work in 2017, in particular, its central event – the global thematic conference of compatriots titled “The centenary of the Russian Revolution: unity for the sake of the future” which was successfully held in Moscow between October 31—November 1. It was attended by over 150 delegates from 91 countries.

Members of the commission will review the results of the work carried out by its Interdepartmental Youth Council during 2017.

The participants will discuss the tasks facing the commission in 2018, including preparations for the presidential elections next March and the sixth congress of compatriots tentatively scheduled for the autumn of 2018.

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UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson’s forthcoming visit to Russia

 

UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson plans to visit Moscow before the end of this year. At the talks, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Mr Johnson are expected to discuss the present state of Russian-UK ties and prospects for their future, with a view to normalising relations through mutually respectful and equitable dialogue that should not be burdened by artificial linkages or reservations. As President of Russia Vladimir Putin said at his meeting with British Prime Minister Theresa May at the G20 summit in China in September 2016, we are ready to restore relations and go as far as our partners are ready to go.

In general, we proceed from the need to comprehensively restore the work of the main mechanisms of bilateral cooperation and all interdepartmental ties. We are to discuss with Mr Johnson in detail the potential modalities of such work. Importantly, we consider it insufficient to conduct dialogue selectively, only “on a number of issues that are of interest to the United Kingdom”, as British officials say, because this does not match either the potential of Russian-British cooperation or our requirements, and, in essence, is of no additional value to us.

In addition, any dialogue should be accompanied by real steps demonstrating a genuine striving to improve bilateral ties. As we see it, these steps should be specific and tangible. We hope that action will be taken in the time before Mr Johnson’s visit, or during contacts with the head of the Foreign Office in London.

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Developments in Syria

 

The military-political hotbed of international terrorism has been completely eliminated in Syria. The Russian army group has made a decisive contribution to achieving this victory. According to Russian leaders and international experts, this army group has brilliantly accomplished its objective and has helped the Syrian army to preserve Syria as a sovereign and independent state.

Under the December 11 order issued by Russian President Vladimir Putin during his visit to Hmeimim air base, a considerable part of this army group is now being withdrawn to their permanent bases in Russia.

At the same time, Russia retains a military presence in Syria and, if necessary, it is ready to thwart attempts of the terrorist underground to regroup and to recover their losses in manpower and equipment.

I would like to note that this legitimate military presence hinges on agreements that have been concluded by Russia and Syria in full compliance with international law.

This cannot be said of some of our partners. Syria is a full-fledged subject of international law and a UN member. Now that ISIS has been eliminated in Syria, no justification of actions violating the sovereignty of this state can be accepted, especially when they are accompanied by claims that ISIS has not been completely defeated in Syria, and that if it was defeated, it would be the United States that deserves credit.

We will not talk about credit. Everything is clear as is. But there is one real problem, that is, a reluctance to admit that ISIS has ceased to exist as a military-political organisation in Syria.

At the same time, a new objective reality is making it possible to launch a political settlement of the Syrian conflict and is calling for launching the country’s rapid reconstruction. Syria is in need of the broadest possible international assistance for resuming peaceful life and overcoming the consequences of the humanitarian disaster.

This week, the Russian Defence Ministry said that agreements on sending humanitarian convoys December 12-18 to a community in Homs province and to five more communities in Hama province had been reached after contacts with senior officials from the Syrian Arab Red Crescent. In addition, Russian service personnel continue to deliver humanitarian relief to Syrian regions that have been affected most by combat operations.

At the same time, they continue to discuss organisational issues of convening the Syrian National Dialogue Congress which is called on to invigorate intra-Syrian talks and to create favourable conditions for resuming national dialogue. The Congress will greatly assist UN-led intra-Syrian talks in Geneva. Agreements on constitutional reform and UN-monitored national elections that have been reached by the warring parties in Syria through consensus are to be finalised under the Geneva format, as stipulated by UN Security Council Resolution 2254.

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UN cross-border humanitarian aid supplies to Syria

 

Currently, the UN Security Council is continuing to discuss the extension of the special mechanism for delivering UN humanitarian aid to Syria across the border of neighbouring countries that was established in 2014. This mechanism was introduced by UN Security Council Resolution 2165 during the escalation of the hostilities, at a time when the Syrian Government lost control over vast territories and there was no other way of providing humanitarian aid to the population in these regions. The resolution approved humanitarian access through border crossings at the Turkish, Jordanian and Iraqi borders without having secured the approval of authorities in Damask, who had received prior notice, though. The resolution also approved a humanitarian monitoring mechanism for overseeing UN-sponsored humanitarian aid delivered to Syria in the border area, which, however, does not monitor the distribution of this aid on the territory of the country, where, unfortunately, militants who were fighting against the government often got hold of it. 

In the context of positive developments in Syria, we believe it is necessary to push for the gradual winding down of the mechanism established by the aforementioned UN Security Council resolution. It was created as an emergency measure when the conflict conditions were altogether different. It infringed upon and continues to infringe upon the sovereignty of Syria and tends to set a very undesirable precedent for international approaches to providing humanitarian aid. In addition, in Russia’s view, now this system is contributing to the division of Syria, which contradicts the UN Security Council resolutions and decisions that have been agreed on in various international formats.

We are prepared to work jointly to identify the best ways of winding down the mechanism for the cross-border delivery of humanitarian aid, given that its mission is complete, while minimising the likely harm to those who are really in need. Steps are also needed to create a transparent mechanism for informing the UN Security Council about who is getting the UN humanitarian aid from across the border and how much of this aid there is. Russia has submitted relevant proposals to the UN Security Council. In so doing, we believe that merely extending the mechanism mechanically, without seriously changing it, does not meet the new demands of the situation in Syria.

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UNESCO’s role in restoring world heritage sites in Syria

 

Russia is undertaking consistent and purposeful steps towards restoring cultural heritage sites in Syria that have been destroyed by extremists. The Memorandum of Understanding on the protection and restoration of cultural values in conflicts zones, in particular, in the Middle East, which was signed by the State Hermitage and UNESCO in October, is an important step in this direction.

We hail the new version of the Strategy for the reinforcement of UNESCO’s action for the protection of culture and the promotion of cultural pluralism in the event of armed conflict that was approved at the 39th session of the UNESCO General Conference. We believe that this document could serve as a good foundation for promoting strong international cooperation on these issues.

At the same time we believe that it is high time we moved from words to practical actions and we are calling on UNESCO to step up its activities and get involved in the effort to restore world heritage sites in Palmyra and Aleppo.

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Middle East settlement process

 

Protest rallies of varying degrees of intensity have been going on since December 6 in the Palestinian territories of the West Bank of the Jordan River, including East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, as well as Arab districts of Israel, in response to President Trump’s decision.

Reportedly, four Palestinians were killed, about 2,000 injured, and dozens sustained gunshot wounds as a result of clashes with the Israeli police.

Mass protests are also taking place in some other Arab and Islamic countries, such as Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco, Turkey, Indonesia, and Malaysia.

Moscow is seriously concerned about the destabilisation in the region caused by the US Administration’s decision on Jerusalem. We are convinced that the resumption of Palestinian-Israeli talks in order to achieve a lasting settlement of the conflict based on the well-known decisions of the international community are the only way to break the vicious circle of violence and tension. We believe that prior to that, all stakeholders should exercise restraint and refrain from actions which may cause harm to innocent people and damage the prospects for restoring peace, justice and security for all in that region.

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Temporary suspension of Russia’s diplomatic presence in the Republic of Yemen

 

Russia’s diplomatic presence in Sana'a was suspended on December 12. All Russian Embassy staff in the Republic of Yemen left its capital on a special flight made possible by Russia. Thirty Russian citizens and several citizens of other states who wished to leave the zone of ongoing armed conflict in Yemen boarded that flight as well.

The decision was made in the wake of the rapid deterioration of the security situation amid further escalation of the intra-Yemeni crisis. The Russian Ambassador to Yemen temporarily staying in Riyadh will continue his activities and contacts with legitimate leaders of Yemen residing in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

In this regard, we believe it is necessary to reiterate our principled position that the opposing sides in Yemen should end hostilities with all due haste and discuss disagreements and the future of Yemen’s government structure at the negotiating table with due account taken of the opinion of all major political forces in that country. We will continue to use all available avenues to pursue this goal.

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Ministerial Meeting of the International Support Group for Lebanon

 

On December 8, Paris hosted a Ministerial Meeting of the International Support Group for Lebanon. The Russian Federation was represented by Ambassador of Russia to France Alexei Meshkov.

President of France Emmanuel Macron spoke at the opening of the meeting. It was attended by Prime Minister of Lebanon Saad Hariri, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, UN Deputy Secretary‑General Amina Mohammed, as well as representatives of Britain, Italy, China, the United States, the EU, the Arab League, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, the UN Development Programme, the World Bank and the Office of the UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon.

In his speech Ambassador Meshkov reaffirmed Russia’s solid, consistent support for the sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity of Lebanon, and Russia’s desire to see Lebanon as a stable and safe state. He emphasised that Lebanon should not become a venue for the settling of scores by influential regional and international players. Such actions are fraught with the country’s destabilisation, collapse of its statehood and the emergence of new hotbeds of conflict in the Middle East. Attention was drawn to the flow of refugees from neighbouring Syria to Lebanon in the past few years. Their return home would considerably improve the situation in Lebanon. Russia is doing all it can to facilitate this. It is helping Syria to counter terrorism, ensure security, rebuild the country and facilitate the resolution of domestic political problems. Russia invariably advocates the resolution of all urgent issues of the Lebanese agenda by the Lebanese people without outside interference via dialogue with due account of the interests of all leading political forces and ethnic and religious groups of that country.

The participants adopted a joint statement on the situation in Lebanon following the meeting.

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Meeting of the Joint Commission on implementing the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on Iran’s nuclear programme

 

On December 13, the Joint Commission of the six world powers and Iran met in Vienna. The participants discussed in detail the implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). All members of the Joint Commission reaffirmed their commitment to the consistent fulfilment of the JCPOA, emphasising the need to ensure its efficiency and sustainability in the long-term perspective.

The Joint Commission welcomed Iran’s strict observance of commitments under the comprehensive agreements, which is regularly confirmed by the IAEA – the only international agency that is authorised to monitor Iran’s nuclear programme.

The participants raised issues linked with the implementation of projects on developing the production of stable isotopes at Fordow and upgrading the reactor in Arak, as well as other aspects of the JCPOA aimed at expanding international cooperation with Iran in peaceful uses of nuclear energy. In this context they emphasised the positive results of the international seminar on the 25th anniversary of Russian-Iranian cooperation on civilian uses of nuclear energy, which was held in Moscow in October 2017.

They paid special attention to problems linked with the uncertainty surrounding the JCPOA’s future due to the decision of US President Donald Trump not to certify Iran’s strict compliance with it. The members of the Joint Commission unanimously reaffirmed that the JCPOA is built on the fundamental principle of reciprocity that is designed, in particular, to facilitate normalisation of international trade and economic cooperation with Tehran.

The Russian representatives emphasised that neglect of this principle by one party to the agreements threatens the future of the JCPOA, which was endorsed by mandatory UN Security Council Resolution 2231.

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Developments on the Korean Peninsula

 

We are closely following events on the Korean Peninsula, which became even more complicated after North Korea launched a ballistic missile on November 29. We regret to note that in this context, the US continues its previous misguided efforts to expand military activities in Northeast Asia. In particular, after the most massive in history joint exercises of the US and South Korean air forces were held on December 4-8, tripartite naval manoeuvres involving the Japan Self-Defence Forces started on December 12. We are convinced that this “muscle-flexing” does nothing to de-escalate tensions but, on the contrary, is fraught with the most serious consequences for the sub-regional situation.

We urge all the parties involved, first of all the US and North Korea, to refrain from any steps that might further aggravate the conflict, and to promptly launch joint practical efforts to find ways to achieve a political and diplomatic settlement of the full range of problems on the Korean Peninsula.

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Regular OHCHR report on human rights in Ukraine

 

We have read the 20th report on the situation of human rights in Ukraine by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) based on the work of the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine (HRMMU) for the period from August 16 to November 15, 2017.

We have taken note of the reported reduction in the number of civilian casualties in Donbass. However, even the decreased figures – 15 deaths and 72 injuries – are shocking. These unjustifiable murders must stop.

We are especially concerned by the fact that, although the shelling of civilian facilities from heavy artillery guns has become routine, the leading causes of casualties are mines, booby traps and improvised explosive devices (IEDs). We support the HRMMU calls on all parties to the conflict to adhere to the ceasefire and to implement the Minsk Agreements, including the withdrawal of heavy weapons from the line of contact.

We support the OHCHR calls on Kiev to adhere to the agreement reached in Minsk on July 19 to create “safety zones” around the Donetsk Filtration Station and the First Lift Pumping Station. The shelling of these facilities restricts access to fresh water for over half a million people and is pushing the region towards an environmental disaster. We would like to remind the Kiev authorities that the shelling of civilian infrastructure is in direct violation of their commitments under international law.

We are seriously concerned about Kiev’s stubborn refusal to investigate gross human rights violations by Ukrainian law enforcement agencies and the SBU, which, according to HRMMU reports, have become systemic. These violations include arbitrary deprivation of liberty, enforced disappearances, unregistered detention when a person is held incommunicado, torture, sexual violence, as well as the use of terrorism-related provisions to deal with political opposition and dissenters. Moreover, this time the UN observers reported unprecedented direct pressure by senior public officials in Ukraine on judicial authorities, which is promoting the proliferation of arbitrariness and impunity in the country.

In this situation, it is outrageous that no progress has been made in investigating the crimes that occurred at Maidan, and in Odessa in May 2014 and other places.

We are gravely concerned about Kiev’s inhuman discrimination policies against Ukrainians in Donbass, which has been confirmed by UN expert conclusions. The Kiev authorities’ refusal to transfer pensions and social payments to people in southeast Ukraine, the absence of an approved procedure for recompensing people for the loss of housing and property as a result of Ukrainian military operations, the creation of artificial obstacles that prevent the free movement of locals across the contact line and the confiscation of their money have not only resulted in poverty for 4 million Ukrainians but have also deepened the divide in Ukrainian society and, hence, have decreased the chances for national reconciliation.

We share the HRMMU’s concern over a new wave of extreme intolerance in Ukraine, in particular by the political authorities. This includes widespread attacks against freedom of speech and assembly, the persecution and attacks on journalists, including foreign journalists, and their deportation. The UN experts have pointed out, with good reason, that the authorities do not even investigate these violations.

We also urge Kiev to take note of the HRMMU’s opinion of the Law on Education, which definitely infringes on the rights of minorities in Ukraine. Pointing out the discriminating essence of the new law, the UN experts recall the 2001 decision of the European Court of Human Rights in the case of Cyprus versus Turkey. The Ukrainian law has infringed on the language rights and legitimate interests of millions of people.

We also have to point out that the HRMMU’s mandate does not allow it to monitor the human rights situation in other countries. The Republic of Crimea and the Federal City of Sevastopol are Russian territory, and any attempt to include the assessment of the human rights situation in that Russian region in the mission’s report on Ukraine is inappropriate.

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The Venice Commission’s response to the education law recently adopted in Ukraine

 

On December 11, the European Commission for Democracy through Law, also known as the Council of Europe's Venice Commission (Venice Commission), published its opinion on the controversial Ukrainian education law, which has already elicited a flurry of sharp criticism from a number of countries.

The Venice Commission experts emphasise that this law does not contain a solution for the languages ​​that are not official EU languages, in particular, Russian, as the most widely used (in Ukraine) non-official language. The opinion stresses that a less favourable attitude towards these languages ​​is hard to justify in any way, which gives rise to a question about discriminating them. It was found that the most appropriate solution would be to amend Article 7 of the law and replace its current provisions with more balanced and clearly articulated ones.

We support the aforementioned assessments of the Venice Commission. Practical implementation of this law will mean open discrimination of millions of Russian-speaking citizens of Ukraine.

For our part, we note that Russia’s demands regarding protection of the language rights of the majority of the Ukrainian population do not go beyond the recommendations issued by relevant international organisations to Kiev, whose reports contain critical remarks about the situation in the human rights sphere in Ukraine.

We call on the Ukrainian authorities, taking into account the recommendations of the Venice Commission, to hold consultations with the representatives of national minorities and other stakeholders with a view to work out solutions which would ensure equal language rights to all citizens of Ukraine without exception.

We hope that the Council of Europe will continuously monitor Ukraine’s compliance with the recommendations of the Venice Commission. We also took note of the statements by high-ranking representatives of the EU, who promised to insist on their full implementation by Kiev. This is imperative for effective exercise of the right of national minorities in Ukraine to education in their native language.

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100th anniversary of Finland’s independence

 

On December 6, Finland celebrated the centenary of its state independence. Around 5,000 festive events under the motto “Together” took place around the country and abroad to mark this anniversary throughout 2017, events that were aimed at strengthening the unity of the Finnish nation and pay respects to its national history.

Russia was largely involved in the celebration. President Vladimir Putin’s visit to Savonlinna in eastern Finland on July 27 at the invitation of Finnish President Sauli Niinisto became a key event.

On May 22−24, the 5th Russian-Finnish Conference of Brotherly Peoples took place in Turku (southwest Finland) under the patronage of the Russian and Finnish presidents. Around 300 delegates from the two countries attended the conference. Russia and Finland have approximately 130 pairs of sister cities, including Moscow and Helsinki, and St Petersburg and Turku.

On September 21−23 St Petersburg hosted the 18th Russian-Finnish Cultural Forum to mark the anniversary. Prime ministers Dmitry Medvedev and Juha Sipila opened the forum.

Other Russian contributions to the independence anniversary included performance tours of Finland by major Russian theatre companies, including the Bolshoi Theatre show in Savonlinna, Valery Gergiev’s Mariinsky Theatre Orchestra in Mikkeli, the Moscow State Circus on Vernadsky Prospekt and the Alexandrinsky Theatre shows in Helsinki, as well as the Nikolai Osipov National Academic Folk Orchestra in Helsinki and Imatra.

There has been extensive cooperation between the Russian Archives and the National Archives of Finland. On December 19−20 the two archive organisations are holding a research conference “From the empire to the republics. Russia and Finland in 1917−1920” in Moscow. The conference will open the historic document exhibit “Russia and Finland: Images of revolution, independence, war and peace from 1917 to 1920” and present the collection of documents “Russia and Finland in 1917−1920: From confrontation to peace.” Work continues on the collection of documents “Russia and Finland’s independence. 1899−1920.”

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Moscow Exchange Forum 2017

 

On December 6 and 7, the Moscow Stock Exchange and Goldman Sachs Bank convened an annual financial forum in London dedicated to investing in Russia. The event was attended by over 400 representatives of European, American and Asian banks and investment funds, service companies, and professional associations.

The highlight of the forum was Russian Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich’s speech concerning the anti-Russian sanctions imposed by the West, economic growth and diversification of our country’s GDP, including in the context of improving the efficiency of state-owned companies, and Russia's macroeconomic policy. Another major focus was a presentation of the Moscow Stock Exchange, which covered, among other things, the possibilities this trading floor offers to foreign clients, and speeches made by major Russian corporations’ executives. The forum’s success has sent yet another clear signal of Russia’s openness to further development of business relations and building up financial cooperation with the West.

We consider this kind of direct contact between international businesses and our country’s leadership extremely important. We are confident that, despite the current geopolitical difficulties, positive changes in the Russian business environment, including greater transparency and improved corporate governance, macroeconomic stability, and an expanded investment horizon, will be correctly interpreted by our partners in the context of making investment decisions with respect to Russia.

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Russian Seasons in Japan

 

On December 10, the Russian Seasons project in Japan ended with a concert by the Mariinsky Theater Orchestra conducted by Valery Gergiev, featuring virtuoso pianist Denis Matsuyev, at Tokyo’s Santori Hall. According to the Japanese side, about 3 million people in 42 cities attended Russian Seasons events, as well as the 12th annual festival of Russian culture in Japan. The festival alone included over 40 cultural events in 27 cities, which were attended by about 1.2 million people.

Alongside Russian classics, Russian Seasons in Japan offered a broad scope of our modern culture products including cartoons, cinema, cuisine, fashion, and rock music, which found ardent admirers among the sophisticated Japanese audiences.

We are glad that our Japanese partners are committed to the comprehensive development of cultural ties with Russia and eagerly work on cross-year projects. We hope we will have even more contacts in this format. Russia always has things to show the international public.

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Setting up Russian Fan Houses 2018 at Rossotrudnichestvo missions abroad

 

To attract the attention of foreign audiences to the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia and to use a systematic approach in working with football fans and tourists during major sports events, the Federal Agency for the Commonwealth of Independent States, Compatriots Living Abroad (Rossotrudnichestvo) in cooperation with the Russian Foreign Ministry, the Ministry of Culture, the Federal Agency for Tourism, the Russia 2018 Local Organising Committee and other interested agencies are implementing the Russian Fan House 2018 programme at Rossotrudnichestvo’s existing foreign missions.

The Russian Fan Houses will provide potential guests with comprehensive information about Russia and the 2018 FIFA World Cup, help them plan their trips and attend football matches. Foreign fans will be offered broadcasts of the games, meetings with players and coaches, and communication with Russian fan communities.

On December 4, the Russian Centre for Science and Culture in Berlin, Germany, hosted the opening ceremony of Europe’s first Russian Fan House 2018.

The guests showed the greatest interest in the procedure for issuing a personalised FAN ID, which entitles foreign citizens to a visa-free entry to the Russian Federation for the period of the football championship. This document is also necessary for attending the 2018 World Cup matches and traveling between the host cities. German fans have submitted over 300,000 applications for tickets.

During the opening ceremony, representatives of the 2018 World Cup host cities presented their programmes for receiving fans.

Plans call for opening Russian Fan Houses in more than 30 countries (16 in Europe, 3 in America, 9 in Asia and the Middle East) before March 2018.

The Russian Fan Houses will work on a permanent basis until the end of the World Cup.

If you have any questions, please send them to us, and we will respond promptly.

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Russian ambulance spotted in Stockholm

 

The appearance of a Russian ambulance in Stockholm has recently sparked lively discussions in both social and regular media.

Unfortunately, the lack of reliable information at that time has led to the proliferation of various speculations on the issue, ranging from innocuous assumptions about the vehicle participating in a film to ridiculous fantasies about a new case of Moscow’s interference in the internal life of Sweden.

The fact is that a St Petersburg ambulance car had driven to Sweden to transport a patient on a private insurance from Orebro to St Petersburg. While driving through Stockholm, the Russian medics stopped to give first aid to a man who needed it before the arrival of Swedish colleagues, as true professionals should do. I can tell you that their prompt and qualified actions were very much appreciated in Sweden; in particular, the words of gratitude were sent to them through the Russian Embassy in that country.

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“The bear is coming: On Russia hate, stilted thinking and military blunders”, a book published in Sweden

 

We have taken note of this book because it clashes with the general biased position against Russia. Its author, Mattias Goransson, attempted to analyse the sources and reasons for the Russophobic hysteria that continues unabated in Europe and, regrettably, in Sweden. He used a historical method to study media evidence since the Cold War and to this day.

This is not his first book on the subject. Last year, he exposed the “Swedish media troll factory”, which was constantly demonising Russia in Sweden. This time, his work is on a grander scale.

He starts his historical analysis in the 1940s, when, in his opinion, a behind-the-scenes Russophobic triangle – the armed forces, the related influential defence industries and a group of biased and corrupt bogus experts and media outlets – began to take shape. He reveals an entire brainwashing mechanism and states that there is a clear pattern. At first some rank-and-file “military sources” or “responsible citizens” feed an ambiguous news story with clear anti-Russian connotations to the media. For example, this could be a report on certain “mysterious phenomena” containing a transparent hint to their national origin. All of us remember the maniacal search for evidence of Russian submarine presence in Sweden. It transpires that stories keynoted by claims like “it’s inexplicable but a fact” happened back in the Soviet period as well.

I told you that we had reviewed the briefings for the period when the USSR was in existence. USSR Foreign Ministry spokespersons commented on stories with allegedly emerging Soviet submarines as early as then. The allegations failed to be confirmed, of course. But this news story is being exploited again and again.

Mr Goransson also lists some other phenomena, such as mysterious flashes of light in the sky, odd underwater sounds and serious infrastructure failures. After being planted, these strange stories or descriptions of some unprecedented occurrences are given prominence in the media. Next they migrate to public political debate venues. As is only natural, people become anxious about the “treacherous and aggressive Eastern neighbor.” Thus, the coveted goal is finally reached: the military induce the government and related state agencies, “given the tense situation” and with broad public support, to make additional defence appropriations. As a rule, investigations into the “mysterious incidents” are hushed up or simply classified after the desired effect has been achieved. This is really so, because after submarines come to the surface and get described in detail, no one ever says what the investigation has finally led to.

As the author concludes, the current stable anti-Russian background has resulted from a long-term, purposeful and systematic campaign directed against Russia, a campaign fomented by quite trivial and venal interests of certain circles rather than ideological or geopolitical considerations. Regrettably, entire regions are falling back on this propaganda model as part of their strategies. Of course, it is disconcerting that, on the one hand, we hear our European colleagues say they are committed to law and media freedom, but in practice they are implementing the scenarios [of the kind I have mentioned] that have to be analysed by Swedes, who cover these problems professionally.     

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Statements by US Department of State Spokesperson Heather Nauert

 

We have taken note of the statements by US Department of State Spokesperson Heather Nauert during her December 12 press briefing on the idea that Russia and the US put on paper the fundamental principle of international law and ethics whereby country’s must refrain from interfering in each other’s domestic affairs. Let me share what this is actually about.

Against the backdrop of all the hysteria we are witnessing in Washington over the mythical “Russian meddling in US elections,” the Foreign Ministry suggested to the US back in July an exchange of letters reaffirming the principle of non-interference at the ministerial level, for example. There was nothing new in this proposal since the same principle was stipulated when our countries restored diplomatic relations on November 16, 1933, and let me emphasise that back then this was done at the request of the US. In 1933, the Foreign Commissar of the USSR Maxim Litvinov and US President Franklin Roosevelt exchanged personal notes stipulating the indisputable right of each country to order its own life within its own jurisdiction in its own way. As a famous saying from a Soviet movie goes, “this is a document, you know.”

Washington’s refusal to consider the proposal at this point, as US State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert said, reveals yet again the fake nature of the campaign to accuse Russia of meddling in last year’s elections in the US. In fact, this is an acknowledgment that nothing of this sort happened and that the US has never experienced any kind of threat to its electoral system from Russia.

In doing so, the US showed that it is not willing to be bound by any commitments. Why? Maybe the US believes in its right to interfere in the internal affairs of other countries. We have seen this all too well in Yugoslavia, Iraq and Libya that have been devastated by so-called “Western coalitions.” If we follow the logic of the US, bombing women and children in the name of democracy is a normal and even right thing to do.

It seems that failing to find any worthy justification for the refusal to refrain from interfering in the internal affairs of other countries, the Spokesperson of the US Department of State tried to shift focus to some unfounded claims against Russia in other matters. She came up with a series of accusations, including related to the Treaty on the Elimination of Intermediate-Range Missiles (INF Treaty).

We have provided detailed explanations on this matter on several occasions, and published a special report to this effect on the Foreign Ministry’s official website. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and our experts commented on the matter. On December 9, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov issued a detailed comment on this subject. As a reminder, the US has not shown any evidence to support its allegations, and there is no way they can, since there is no such evidence. At the same time, the United States is brushing aside our concerns with how it is handling its own commitments under the INF Treaty. For example, one can plainly see launchers at the US antimissile base in Deveselu, Romania, whose specifications enable them to launch not only interceptor missiles but also strike missiles like Tomahawks. In 2018, the Pentagon is planning to deploy identical launch systems in Poland, even though installing them on land runs counter to the INF Treaty.

We also heard criticism over the conflict in Ukraine, alleging that Russia is failing to honour its commitments under the Minsk Agreements. I would like to remind our US colleagues once again and maybe reinvent the wheel for some in the US, that only the parties to the Minsk Agreements, i.e. the Donbass republics and Kiev, are bound by them. However, Kiev has clearly been seeking to derail the agreement for a long time, not to mention that the Ukraine crisis in general resulted from the February 2014 government coup, and that the US was directly involved in it and has been working in close contact with the current Kiev authorities ever since. The current spokespersons for the US Department of State are simply unaware of what members of the Department of State were doing back in 2014, so I stand ready to offers them regular reminders.

The next topic has to do with the media, or the restrictions that the Russian media are facing. We are not surprised by their absurdity, but still this is just too much. It is obvious that the “player piano” is not only out of tune, but is also faltering due to an apparent defect, and is about to break down, so it is important to keep away in order to not get hurt.

Let’s look at recent statements by Heather Nauert point by point.

US Department of State spokesperson Heather Nauert said that she would “be very suspicious” of any kind of a deal with Russia. And what about, for example, the agreement between the presidents of Russia and the United States which paved the way for the joint statement on Syria that was released following their conversation on the sidelines of the APEC Leaders’ Meeting last month? Was everything all right with that presidential statement? By the way, back then a senior State Department official said that “this statement really builds on months of fairly intense discussions with the Russians… I would describe these discussions with the Russians as quite intense, difficult, but also professional and ultimately constructive.” He went on to say that the joint statement proved that cooperation between Moscow and Washington was possible, despite the existing differences. What is going in there? They do not read or listen to what they are saying? It all comes from one department.

My US colleague also mentioned the environment in which the Russian media in the US found themselves, saying that the decision was taken not by US authorities, but rather some kind of an association of reporters that handles who is given inside access to cover Congress. This point is not clear to us. Could we have some details on that? It was said earlier that the decision on Sputnik and Russia Today were taken under applicable US law. Whom should we believe? When should we trust the statements by the Spokesperson of the US Department of State?

Hearing the Spokesperson of the US Department of State call on the Russian Government to “give us the same opportunities to report freely in Russia as we provide you all here” was a case in point. I have a question: Did you given any thought to this sentence before saying it there in Washington? What if we make the same arrangements for US media in Russia as you have for Russian journalists? Do you understand what you are wishing for? It could come true.

In Russia, US media are free to attend, without any restrictions, briefings at the Foreign Ministry and other government agencies, and until recently the Russian parliament, and to have regular interviews with Russian politicians. Can you give me an example of the last interview of the US Secretary of State or spokesperson with Sputnik or Russia Today? Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and our representatives regularly talk to US journalists, including interviews and answering their questions. We know all too well, and you made an official statement to this effect, that you refuse to give interviews to Russia television networks, including Russia Today, for a number of reasons. Do you really want parity in the way we treat the US media in Russia? This question deserves an answer, even if you do not share it with us.

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Answers to media questions:

Question: Addressing his supporters in Florida December 12, US President Donald Trump said the United States had won both world wars. How can one respond to this?

Maria Zakharova: As I have already said, these statements are endless in terms of their illogical, groundless and fickle nature. Statements by US Presidents, senior State Department officials and official US representatives change constantly and sometimes are diametrically opposite. It might be appropriate to ask only one question: Is this being said for the sake of one’s own political activity, for attracting the attention of voters or is this an official US position? It is also hard to understand this.

Question: Did Russia play any role in bringing closer the positions of Washington and Pyongyang in the context of US State Secretary Rex Tillerson’s December 12 statement about Washington’s willingness to hold talks with North Korea without any pre-conditions? Do you believe that this willingness paves the way for the resumption of six-party talks on the DPRK? 

Maria Zakharova: I believe you should ask the US side about the motives for these statements. This is the prerogative and competence of the United States to respond to questions about specific motives behind this position.

It goes without saying that we have prompted and have tried to motivate all the sides, and not just the United States and North Korea but all other countries that are involved in this process in one way or another, to more actively use political and diplomatic methods to resolve the situation. We have done this openly during diplomatic talks, and we have acted very intensively. We have done this through Russian embassies in the concerned countries, Russian Parliament members made relevant statements, and the related events were also organised. We did our best to prove that it was pointless to press for a military solution and to whip up tensions. We have also tried to do everything we can to promote a political process. As for your question about Washington’s position and the motives behind it, it should be addressed to the United States.

Question: On December 10, Bulgaria celebrated the 140th anniversary of victory over the Ottoman Empire. An official event also took place near a monument to the heroes of Plevna in Moscow. Bulgarian President Rumen Radev also recalled your country’s role in the history of Bulgaria. I would like to note that Russian children stood like soldiers near the monument for two hours in cold weather. I would like to address the Mayor of Pleven (Plevna): I believe that these children deserve to be given a free trip to Bulgaria. Perhaps, Bulgarian businessmen could pay for their trip.  

Over 50,000 Jews were saved in Bulgaria with the Red Army’s help. I am sick of living like an animal. I am sick of working like a black to live like a white. I want someone to make me a Jew…  

Maria Zakharova: Now that you have used our hospitable venue for your theatrics, please see to it that they don’t insult other ethnic groups, nations and people from various religions. You should think about them, too.

Question: What actions does Russia plan to take at international venues regarding the recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel?

Maria Zakharova: The UN Security Council has just held its meeting. Russia’s representative presented some very strong arguments on the issue. You can watch his remarks online. I have commented on this matter just now as well. I said that it is necessary to pay close attention to the increasing tensions caused by Washington’s actions and that they are leading to an enormous escalation not only in the region but also beyond it.

We are closely monitoring this issue. We have repeatedly presented our principled position on the matter and stressed the importance of following the accumulated international legal basis for the settlement of this extremely complicated Middle East problem. You can also review our statements. Please follow our media publications regularly.

Question: Yesterday Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said that he had handed over to Russia the list of Kurdish groups that are acceptable for Turkey as participants in the Syrian National Dialogue Congress. Can you confirm that you have received the list and tell us more about this participation approval procedure?

Maria Zakharova: As concerns the list, I honestly do not have any accurate information, but I also have no reason to distrust the Turkish Foreign Minister’s statement.

Speaking about the preparations for the congress, they are very active. Among other things, we are discussing participants with various interested parties.

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