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14 February 201915:50

Briefing by Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova, Moscow, February 14, 2019

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Table of contents

  1. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s bilateral meetings on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference
  2. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s talks with Minister Responsible for Foreign Affairs of Oman Yusuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah
  3. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s talks with OSCE Chairman-in-Office and Minister of Foreign and European Affairs of Slovakia Miroslav Lajcak
  4. Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Zambia Joe Malanji’s visit to the Russian Federation
  5. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s participation in an international scientific and practical conference commemorating Vitaly Churkin
  6. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s talks with Foreign Minister of Cyprus Nikos Christodoulides
  7. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s meeting with members of Association of European Businesses in the Russian Federation
  8. Syria update
  9. New evidence that the incident in the Syrian town of Douma on April 7, 2018 was a staged event
  10. Update on Venezuela
  11. Report by Bundestag’s legal service on the situation in Venezuela
  12. Tampered reports on Russia’s approach to upcoming trilateral consultations with Australia and the Netherlands on MH17 crash
  13. Head of Netherlands General Intelligence and Security Service, Dick Schoof’s hand in “editing” МН17 crash report
  14. Update on the investigation of organ trafficking in Kosovo 
  15. Update on Roman Seleznyov
  16. Canadian Foreign Ministry’s refusal to provide accreditation to Sputnik and RIA Novosti correspondents for the Lima Group meeting in Ottawa
  17. 19th Winter Diplomatic Games
 
Answers to media questions:
  1. Peace process in Libya
  2. Situation in the south of Libya
  3. US intention to introduce new sanctions against Russia
  4. Update on Syria
  5. Statements by Deputy Speaker of Ukraine’s Verkhovna Rada Iryna Herashchenko on Russia
  6. Presidential election in Ukraine

 

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s bilateral meetings on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference

 

On February 15-16, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, as head of the Russian delegation, will participate in the 55th meeting of the Munich Security Conference.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will deliver keynote remarks during the main session of the Conference on February 16, where he will focus on building cooperation across a wide region from Greater Europe to Greater Eurasia and outline Russia’s principled approach to ensuring international security and global stability.

A busy schedule of political contacts, bilateral and multilateral meetings is expected on the sidelines of the Conference. Specifically, the meetings currently under negotiation include Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s bilateral meetings with foreign ministers of Germany Heiko Maas, South Korea Kang Kyung-wha, Belgium Didier Reynders, Pakistan Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Mongolia Damdin Tsogtbaatar, Armenia Zohrab Mnatsakanyan, Croatia Marija Pejcinovic Buric, Japan Taro Kono; Yang Jiechi, member of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and the PRC State Council; NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Libya Ghassan Salame and High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini.

The meetings are subject to change based on the parties’ schedules and time available. We will notify you promptly in case of any changes.  

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Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s talks with Minister Responsible for Foreign Affairs of Oman Yusuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah

 

On February 18, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will hold talks with Minister Responsible for Foreign Affairs of the Sultanate of Oman Yusuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah who will pay a working visit to Moscow.

During the talks, the foreign ministers of our countries will thoroughly discuss topical aspects with respect to further strengthening the traditionally friendly Russia-Oman relations. We proceed from the premise that gradual and consistent development of the multifaceted links meets the long-term interests of Moscow and Muscat and serves the purpose of ensuring peace as well as stability in the Persian Gulf and the Middle East in general.

The ministers will carefully analyse their views of the current developments in the Middle East and North Africa focusing on the importance of resolving regional conflicts through political and diplomatic means, through a mutually respectful dialogue and consideration for the interests and concerns of all the parties involved. In particular, the ministers will discuss the Palestine-Israeli conflict, the situations in Syria, Yemen and in the Persian Gulf.

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Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s talks with OSCE Chairman-in-Office and Minister of Foreign and European Affairs of Slovakia Miroslav Lajcak

 

On February 19, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will hold talks with OSCE Chairman-in-Office and Minister of Foreign and European Affairs of Slovakia Miroslav Lajcak in Moscow.

During the talks, there are plans to discuss at length topical European matters, current OSCE activities and the organisation’s work plans for 2019.

The ministers will also look at aspects of bilateral relations, including the development of trade, economic and inter-parliamentary ties, as well as energy, transport, military-technical and cultural cooperation. In addition, they will touch upon topical international matters.

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Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Zambia Joe Malanji’s visit to the Russian Federation

 

Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Zambia Joe Malanji will make a working visit to Moscow on February 19-21.

On February 20, he will hold talks with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. There are plans to discuss the state and prospects of the further sustained development of the traditionally friendly political, economic, scientific, technological, cultural and other ties between both countries (that will mark the 55th anniversary of  diplomatic relations this year) during these talks.

The ministers will also review topical matters on the international agenda, including efforts to ensure Africa’s sustained socioeconomic development and to prevent and resolve conflict situations on the African continent.

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Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s participation in an international scientific and practical conference commemorating Vitaly Churkin

 

On February 20, the hall of ceremonies at the Foreign Ministry’s Diplomatic Academy (53/2 Building 1, Ostozhenka Street, second floor) will host an international scientific and practical conference commemorating Russia’s Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Vitaly Churkin. The event will be held in the form of a plenary meeting and a panel discussion dealing with new challenges and threats, as well as the potential of diplomacy.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, President of the Republic of South Ossetia Anatoly Bibilov, Chair of the Russian State Duma’s Committee on International Affairs Leonid Slutsky, Ambassador of the Republic of Serbia to Russia Slavenko Terzic, Chair of the Department of External Church Relations at the Moscow Patriarchate Metropolitan Hilarion, Acting Diplomatic Academy Rector Mikhail Troyansky, other state officials and public activists, as well as members of Vitaly Churkin’s family, will take part in the event.

A book on Vitaly Churkin, published by the Moscow Patriarchate, will be presented at the event.

We invite Russian and foreign media outlets to this event.

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Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s talks with Foreign Minister of Cyprus Nikos Christodoulides

 

On February 21-22, Foreign Minister of the Republic of Cyprus Nikos Christodoulides will be in Russia on a working visit, during which he will hold talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

The officials will discuss the current state and prospects of cooperation between Russia and Cyprus, as well as some current issues of bilateral cooperation. The ministers will compare notes on a wide range of international and regional issues of mutual interest, including the Cyprus settlement and the situation in the Eastern Mediterranean.

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Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s meeting with members of Association of European Businesses in the Russian Federation

 

On February 22, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will address members of the Association of European Businesses in the Russian Federation, which brings together over 500 companies and banks from the EU member states, the European Free Trade Association, and from other states operating in Russia. Meetings in such a format are held on a regular basis, with the most recent one held in October 2017, and have become a long-standing tradition.

The discussion will focus on the current state of relations between the Russian Federation and the European Union, as well as their prospects.

Following his address, the Foreign Minister will answer questions from the audience.

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Syria update


Syria is an issue that remains relevant. At the same time, considering busy schedule of the Russian leadership and the talks with partners to be held in Sochi today, I will comment on this very briefly. The main updates on this issue will be released following the Astana Format summit.

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New evidence that the incident in the Syrian town of Douma on April 7, 2018 was a staged event

 

I would like to draw your attention to the latest media and social media articles that are focusing on the events in the Syrian town of Douma on April 7, 2018, which have been making headlines since yesterday.

At that time, a fake event that took place in a sovereign state, the Syrian Arab Republic, an incident that was egregious and outlandish in nature and scope, led to the Western coalition delivering a massive missile attack. We debunked the falsification, explained how it was done and described the sad results. These materials are available on the Foreign Ministry’s official website.

Now even staunch proponents who promoted the justification and proportionality of the Western coalition’s actions, are no longer able to continue to play this role. The masks have been removed and continue to be removed.

Russia was persistent in its calls to look into the situation, to conduct a proper investigation using generally accepted and legitimate international mechanisms before taking any actual steps, but the West shamelessly hid behind "eyewitness accounts" that allegedly left no doubt that the Syrian government had used chemical weapons against its citizens. The fact that these “eyewitnesses” were, in fact, pseudo-humanitarian activists from the White Helmets, who collaborate with terrorist groups and are funded by quasi-government Western entities, as has always been the case, did not come as a surprise to anyone then. The facts of the matter were totally ignored. Instead, the information space was filled with bellicose rhetoric by the same politicians and officials who demanded, as always, to severely punish Bashar al-Assad and Russia which supports him.

Unfortunately, our prediction came true with respect to our statement that it would no longer be possible to hide the facts and it would turn out that it really was a staged event, and that everyone who, inadvertently or consciously, took part in it, would recognise this as fact.

Today's publications are precisely the elements that we mentioned last year. All of this suggests that, unfortunately, over the years we have been witnessing a tragic farce performed by the Western community and the media, which, on the one hand, talk about lofty democratic goals and allegedly care about the people of a sovereign state, but, on the other hand, spit on the law, international law and freedoms and the rights of an individual nation and specific persons.

I’ll give you several examples. Independent US reporters James Harkin conducted his own detailed investigation into what happened in Douma. We can’t say that his findings are totally unambiguous and that we just accept them as they are or endorse them. We simply draw attention to his key finding, which is that a potent chemical agent - the poisonous nerve agent sarin - was not used in Douma, and the footage from the Douma hospital that served as the basis for a military strike on Syria was fabricated.

This “theatre of the absurd” culminated in BBC producer Riam Dalati who, based on his research, confirmed the staged nature of the footage with the direct participation of White Helmets. We would like to hear what the BBC has to say about this, as it actively covered these events in its news. The materials were also unambiguously supportive of the US-led “coalition’s” actions in Syria. What is there to say, if BBC producers admit the staged nature of the incident based on their own investigation?

All of this not only reminds us of, but accurately reproduces the events surrounding Iraq before the aggression against a sovereign state, when Colin Powell, holding the notorious vial in his hand in the UN Security Council, similarly convinced the international community that it was necessary to save Iraq, the Iraqi people and democracy. And if not to save, then at least return it to the Iraqis. This is the same thing. Nothing new. One can only wonder how low these politicians can stoop.

I would like to reiterate that we have repeatedly, using the example of Douma and other events, pointed out that, as a rule, with the latest technology, the truth always emerges within a period of six to 12 months. However, one can accomplish much during this time. This, I think, is what the Western countries, that were plotting their schemes, this time in Syria, were counting on.

I would also like to remind everyone that, on April 26, 2018, Russia and Syria held a news conference at the OPCW with the participation of civilians who unwittingly became actors in a play staged by the White Helmets. Among them was a six-year-old boy named Hassan Diab. The victims of the provocation went to The Hague specifically to provide a firsthand account based on their experience, to tell everyone who was really interested in hearing the truth, what actually happened in Douma. In the presence of dozens of delegations from the OPCW member countries, they described in detail how the White Helmets recorded the video and what kind of equipment they used. The audience could ask questions, and they should have no doubt that it had been a staged event that was produced and directed with civilians.

I would also like to remind everyone that representatives of the United States, France, Great Britain, NATO and the overwhelming majority of the EU countries, as well as some Asian allies of the United States, did not come. We are well aware of this approach to addressing international issues.

Just look at Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov’s recent meeting with the diplomatic corps to discuss INF-related matters. It was a hands-on meeting, which lasted several hours and provided an opportunity to ask any question and get an exhaustive answer. This meeting was ignored by many leading countries that play a major part in these matters. This is classic. This in-your-face boycott is also part of a staged performance.

We are not done yet with this issue and will be revisiting it on a regular basis.

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Update on Venezuela

 

The situation in Venezuela, which is trying to uphold its statehood, independence and sovereignty, continues to be aggravated by external pressure and a growing number of provocative statements. With Washington’s unprecedented obsession with the need to overthrow the legitimate government of a sovereign state, disregarding the norms and principles of international law, the range of the so-called options under consideration continues to shrink In effect, the matter comes down to acting on an idee fixe – a coup d’etat in a single country and the overthrow of its lawful leader that is supported by the people and the army. One gets the impression that the verdict “he must go” is permanently on Washington’s table. Only the names are different, but the principles and methods remain the same. They are simply used in new geographical locations of our planet.   

The hasty formation of parallel government structures fails to achieve the desired effect. The number of participants in anti-government rallies is below the plan. The use of resources does not help consolidate the domestic opposition. The international support for the self-proclaimed authorities is rapidly taking on numerous nuances of the positions of sovereign states. There is every indication that the White House has opted in Venezuela for a scenario of an acute confrontation with the use of force.

All methods of information and psychological pressure are being used: from manipulation and provocative information attacks to the fanning of hatred. The main target is the armed forces of the Bolivarian Republic. Massive brainwashing of personnel continues. The Venezuelan military are openly urged to stage a rebellion. High-ranking officials from Washington are calling on the armed forces of another state to side with its new political leadership. What moral right does the US have after this to discourse about democracy and legal foundations either within an individual state or in the international arena? None at all.

Literally the other day (February 11) Senator Rubio presented a “personal ultimatum” to six Venezuelan generals, including the defence minister, and the commanders of the Ground Forces, the Army and the Navy. The US Senator promised the Venezuelan generals pardon and immunity from sanctions of the Venezuelan opposition parliament for “the surrender” of their supreme commander-in-chief. This is some kind of computer graphics. Puppets are real dolls that can be touched, but this is simply a virtual fairy tale that some politicians want to bring to life. 

All this is taking place against the backdrop of toughening sanctions so as to explain inside and outside Venezuela that its people must be saved from hunger and cold. After all, it is necessary to explain to the democratic forces throughout the world why Washington is so concerned over the situation in Venezuela. People are suffering. Sophisticated unilateral restrictions are not only undermining the oil industry, which is the backbone of the Venezuelan economy, but are also leading to the rapid degradation of the financial and socioeconomic situation, marginalisation of society and eventually, the destruction of Venezuelan statehood. Could US economists, politicians, and, most important, journalists be unaware of this? Not in the least. They see all of this and cover it up.

What Washington wants to do with Venezuelan economic and financial assets, primarily with PDVSA in its sanctions frenzy could be described as “the seizure of the century.” This is not just the imposition of coercive unilateral measures in defiance of international law but a clear signal to everyone: the US can do what it feels like doing with the property and assets of any country at its own discretion. This is the market economy for you, free trade and opposition to protectionism. In this case we are seeing the raid of an entire state.

They went as far as to predict that Russia and some other countries will be denied the return of loans to Venezuela. Indicatively, these threats are made in Washington whereas Venezuelan opposition leaders emphasise in every way their willingness to honour their commitments to international creditors if they come to power. Russia is directly mentioned as one of the creditors.

 I am bound to speak about the international humanitarian aid that is being imposed on Caracas. It would seem that helping people and providing humanitarian aid is a good thing. But it only seems like this at first glance to those who do not understand how it is being made up and supplied and what stands behind it. We are hearing that Russia is allegedly against humanitarian relief for Venezuela and that its draft resolution in the UN Security Council is ostensibly aimed at derailing the humanitarian actions planned by the US and its allies. This is not the case. This is a lie and an attempt to divert attention from the fact that the US draft resolution in the UN Security Council is aimed at covering up planned provocations that are obscured by humanitarian aid with a view to destabilising the situation in Venezuela and probably building a pretext for military interference. We have seen these scenarios at work in other countries. Recall the saga on the delivery of humanitarian relief, with supposed good intentions, to various other countries, including those in the Middle East and North Africa. 

The Red Cross openly announced that the planned action has nothing in common with humanitarian aid and publicly distanced itself from participation in this more than dubious project. It has refused to take part in what it does not consider humanitarian aid.

Russia stands for a respectful attitude towards the UN mechanisms for providing humanitarian relief to Venezuela. All issues related to humanitarian aid should be resolved in accordance with universally accepted international procedures and via lawful channels, including the UN office in Caracas and other humanitarian organisations. The International Committee of the Red Cross has already announced its willingness to cooperate with Russia on the Venezuelan track.

We categorically object to any attempts to politicise the issue of humanitarian aid to Venezuela and to use it to cover up the manipulation of public opinion and to mobilise anti-government forces for a coup. We know what goals the Americans are pursuing in handing out their cookies and what tragic consequences this could lead to. There are many examples to this effect.

And yet, it would be interesting to ask the organisers of the US humanitarian mission about their goals. Is it to help the people of Venezuela? Are you serious? After all, this is yet another very dirty provocation. If you insist that this is aid it would be logical to provide it via specialized UN mechanisms dealing with humanitarian support, which follow principles of objectivity, neutrality, independence and humanity. But if this is what we are taking about, we have another confirmation of our version of this from the current events in the city of Cucuta. So, let’s not delude ourselves. A provocation with victims is being prepared under the cover of a humanitarian convoy to create a pretext for the use of outside force. Absolutely everyone should be in the know about this. It seems that the organisers have miscalculated again. Armed intervention is a red line for all of Latin America and the rest of the world that considers itself civilised.

We deem it necessary to abstain from any actions and statements that can provoke an escalation of tension in Venezuela, in part, from any appeals to the armed forces of Venezuela, which may involve them in a domestic civil confrontation.

We continue to repeat that the task of the international community is to help the various political forces in Venezuela find an understanding.

We have paid much attention to the formula of mediation suggested by Mexico, Uruguay and the CARICOM countries in the Montevideo Mechanism format that envisages a comprehensive and inclusive dialogue without ultimatums and preconditions. We believe this initiative and the form in which it was announced deserve broad international support. In this context, Russia would be ready to join any mediation efforts with a view to overcoming the crisis in Venezuela.

In conclusion, I would like to say a few words about Russia’s efforts in this area. We are maintaining the broadest possible contacts on the Venezuelan issue. We are consistently explaining our position to the US, among others. But these are not the consultations mentioned by the media in quoting Elliot Abrams’s speech in US Congress yesterday. Honestly, it is unclear what he meant. Please be more attentive when translating into Russian.

Let me recall that the day before yesterday Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov spoke over the telephone with US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo at the latter’s initiative. During the conversation he warned against any external interference in Venezuelan affairs. The question is what the US wants. If it wants Russia to change its position, this is not possible because it is not based on considerations of expediency. Russia proceeds from international law and state sovereignty based on the principles of the UN Charter. This is the vein in which we are ready to talk with anyone, including our US partners.

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Report by Bundestag’s legal service on the situation in Venezuela

 

The legal service division of the Bundestag, the lower chamber of the German parliament that we referred to, released an expert opinion on Venezuela. The authors argue that matters related to choosing and appointing a head of state fall within the exclusive purview of domestic actors, while a decision by outside forces to recognise an individual as the head of state does not make the new government legitimate and cannot be used to determine whether the government is constitutional or unconstitutional.

This leads the authors to the firm conclusion that a foreign government’s recognition of an interim head of state constitutes interference in the country’s domestic affairs. Let me emphasise that this was the conclusion made not by individual politicians, but by the legal service of the German parliament’s lower chamber.

The authors explicitly equated the threat of military intervention to the threat of force against another country, which is a blatant violation of the UN Charter.

In addition, a threat against a head of state is regarded as a physical threat that undermines the political independence of a state, which runs counter to the principle of sovereign equality.

This report is telling. I believe there was no need to convene a meeting of some legal service to come to this conclusion, even though it is the sovereign right of any country to order and release reports of this kind. After all, there should be no doubt as to what is happening in Venezuela. At the same time, the developments in Iraq, Syria, Libya and Serbia could also have seemed quite obvious, but still the international community and many other countries that view themselves as civilised nations and that position themselves as “democracies” rather than “regimes” supported actions that were directly at odds with international law.

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Tampered reports on Russia’s approach to upcoming trilateral consultations with Australia and the Netherlands on MH17 crash

 

Earlier this year, both during our briefings and on the Foreign Ministry’s website (comment of February 11), our ministry published materials on preparing tripartite consultations with Australia and the Netherlands on the MH17 crash. Many Russian and foreign media outlets ran reports which, unfortunately, distorted the point of our discussions (whether they did so deliberately or not is a question for those who wrote them). I have a feeling that it was possibly done deliberately because the authors never contacted us for comments.

One gets the impression that the commentators who wrote on this topic either missed the point of what we published, or loosely interpreted it, or worse, deliberately distorted our position.

Notably, the comment during the January 11 briefing was a reaction to earlier remarks from the Netherlands the about diplomatic contacts on tripartite consultations. In this regard, I believe that the statements by some journalists that Russia was the first to speak publicly about planning the talks, have nothing to do with reality. Actually, Australia and the Netherlands, without waiting for the end of the investigation, accused Russia of being involved in the crash and demanded a consultation in the form of an ultimatum. However, they wanted to discuss legal consequences for Russia arising from this unsubstantiated accusation.

I will go over this again, although it’s strange to do so, given the amount of related material and information that we have released. I really want to clarify this issue. Russia agreed to hold these consultations only after the Hague and Canberra officially confirmed in a diplomatic note their willingness to discuss the range of issues related to investigating the MH17 crash, including the question of the responsibility of the state in whose airspace the crash occurred, as well as the use of data transmitted by Russia to the Joint Investigation Team. To reiterate, this is not about some behind-the-scenes meeting, but a well-documented correspondence and the express consent of the two above states.

Loose interpretation of the statements by the Foreign Ministry that, allegedly, Russia, by agreeing to consultations, demonstrated its willingness to admit its responsibility for the Malaysian airliner crash, is a fantasy, and a far-fetched one at that. This also applies to the reasoning behind the possibility of discussing some kind of compensation as “atonement” during the consultations. This is all misleading news that is being reported to create a negative information environment.

It is also being reported that the “substantive and professional discussion” that our delegation plans to have in Vienna should have begun four years ago. Maybe interns can get away with this kind of reporting, but it is inadmissible for professional commentators, political analysts and reporters who are familiar with the subject to do their jobs like this.

Hold on, but what has Russia been doing for the past four years? All this time, we have tried to reach out to the other side, to offer our assistance in the investigations, both technical and criminal, that are being carried out now under the auspices of the Dutch Prosecutor's Office.

Russia has declassified technical data that was classified at a time, whereas the Netherlands, hiding behind its laws, is still in no hurry to share information with anyone, and declines to provide any information even to its own deputies or media.

For a long time now, we’ve been trying in vain to find out how the investigating authorities use the data files transmitted to them which were of fundamental importance in establishing the truth, and to what extent they took into account the comments provided by Russia regarding the methodology in the investigation. In response, there was either total silence, or statements to the effect that the materials had been examined, but that they had no value as they contradicted the investigation’s main known line with an accusatory bias towards the Donbass militia and Russia.

We consider the upcoming meeting with Australia and the Netherlands as an opportunity and another attempt to ask questions that we have and discuss the course of the investigation into the flight MH17 crash in a dialogue with direct communication between the parties. Please do not engage in manipulation or fake interpretation. We are ready to answer questions and provide clarifications online. However, when we publish anything on this subject, our materials are never analyzed or made available to the general public. On the contrary, details are being pulled out of the context, facts are distorted, and they are used to float some thought into the information space that has nothing to do with reality.

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 Head of Netherlands General Intelligence and Security Service, Dick Schoof’s hand in “editing” МН17 crash report

 

I would like to say a few words on a subject indirectly concerning the case of flight МН17.

An investigation by Dutch journalists has revealed that Dick Schoof abused his office on several occasions. Schoof is the current head of the Netherlands’ General Intelligence and Security Service, and was previously the National Coordinator for Security and Counterterrorism who was responsible for coordination between various government agencies.

Dutch journalists have established that in 2015 Schoof used his administrative influence for the government’s benefit to adjust the conclusions made in a report by University of Twente experts on the efficiency of the Dutch authorities’ response to the tragedy of 17 July 2014. What is surprising is that the survey had been ordered by the Netherlands’ cabinet with a view to identifying bottlenecks in the crisis reaction system and was supposed to be strictly independent and unbiased.

However, Schoof did not like the government being criticised, and thus interfered in the report by instructing the experts to edit the document and remove the negative conclusions from the final version of the document.

Although this story has no direct bearing on the МН17 crash investigation, it vividly demonstrates the credibility of the statements by the Dutch authorities on their noninterference in the independent investigation conducted by the Joint Investigative Team. The methodology is now clear.

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Update on the investigation of organ trafficking in Kosovo 

 

As is known, in 2017, a Special Court to investigate the Kosovo Liberation Army’s war crimes related, among other things, to the kidnapping of people in order to extract their organs to subsequently sell them on the black market, was established in The Hague under the auspices of the European Union. The idea of creating the court was prompted by PACE member Dick Marty’s report released in 2010.

However, there is no evidence that the court’s activities have produced any results. No charges whatsoever have been brought so far. At the same time, it transpired that former ICTY (International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia) prosecutor Geoffrey Nice has been invited to defend Kosovars in the Special Court. How does that look from an ethical viewpoint? In his recent interview, Dick Marty said he feared that the Albanian Kosovars’ leaders linked to the crimes might not be brought to justice.    

We believe that it is unacceptable to keep silent about the cruel crimes committed in Kosovo. The international community must keep a close eye on  illegal trafficking in human organs because it affects the reputation of international justice and the European Union as a guarantor for the fulfillment by the Special Court of its functions. All people involved [in the crimes] must be given severe sentences, regardless of the posts they are currently holding in Pristina.  

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Update on Roman Seleznyov

 

The situation evolving around Russian national Roman Seleznyov is giving rise to serious concern. He was kidnapped by American intelligence services in 2014 in the Maldives and was convicted and sentenced to 27 years in prison in the United States on charges of theft of funds via the internet.   

Here I will make a comment that from the legal point of view might not sound absolutely correct. Of course, people should not be kidnapped, all the more so if legal boundaries are overstepped in doing so. If the US practices this, why don’t they kidnap suspects involved in human organ trafficking? Those are heinous crimes. Just imagine that people were kidnapped, their organs were extracted and then sold. These criminals have received, among others, quite a few orders from customers in Europe under the all-seeing eye of the democratic countries. There is no keen interest in this issue, in particular in Washington. At the same time, Russians are being hunted down on various fictitious, concocted charges that are obviously blown out of proportion and that do not deserve much attention.

Russian diplomats in Washington regularly visit our countryman. During the last visit it transpired that despite serious health problems, prison authorities are not providing medical aid. They have also refused to transfer him to another detention facility where he could undergo a comprehensive health check-up.   

Roman Seleznyov must comply with special security requirements, say, he must appear at a security check-point every two hours from 6 am through 8 pm. This even prevents him from taking his meals normally. He is denied access to e-mail.

Of course, we have pointed out the unacceptability of the situation to US prison authorities and have demanded that things be promptly put straight. A diplomatic note was forwarded to the US State Department in this respect.   

We must note with regret that not only Roman Seleznyov but also many other Russian nationals who remain in American prisons have experienced this cruel and discriminatory treatment. We also see this arbitrary behaviour regarding, in particular, Konstantin Yaroshenko, Viktor Bout and Maria Butina. As for us, we will continue taking all possible measures to defend their rights and legitimate interests.

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Canadian Foreign Ministry’s refusal to provide accreditation to Sputnik and RIA Novosti correspondents for the Lima Group meeting in Ottawa

 

On February 4, the Canadian Foreign Ministry refused RIA Novosti and Sputnik correspondents accreditation to the extraordinary meeting of the Lima Group in Ottawa, where developments in Venezuela were discussed.

No reason was stated in the official letter sent from the Canadian Foreign Ministry to the Russian news agencies. Answering the additional question, Richard Walker, Foreign Ministry spokesman and Lima Group press service representative, based the accreditation denial to Sputnik’s correspondent  on the claim that the agency “had not been amiable” with Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland in the past. No official comment was provided for the accreditation denial to RIA Novosti’s correspondent.

Canada’s actions towards Russian journalists are an act of open discrimination and a rude violation of common media rights and freedoms as well as violations of the principle of equal access to information for everyone. Once again we see how the democratic values that the West, including official Ottawa, values so highly, are forgotten for timeserving political interests.

We ask any interested international agencies and human rights non-government organisations to note this incident. Of course, we will send the relevant materials to international organisations.

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19th Winter Diplomatic Games

 

On February 16, the 19th Winter Diplomatic Games will be held at the Moscow Country Club, a branch of the Foreign Ministry’s Main Administration for Service to the Diplomatic Corps (GlavUpDK).

Per tradition, the event will be attended by heads and staff of diplomatic missions accredited in Russia, senior officials from the Foreign Ministry and GlavUpDK, and famous Russian athletes and cultural figures.

First Deputy Chair of the State Duma Committee on International Affairs, Olympic champion Svetlana Zhurova, Olympic champion in sabre fencing Sofya Velikaya and the iconic Soviet fencer and Olympic champion Galina Gorokhova, and many others are expected to attend.

Almost 40 teams from diplomatic missions are expected to compete in the biathlon, hockey, skiing, table tennis, pool and futsal.

An interesting cultural programme that includes Russian cuisine food tasting has been prepared for guests at the Moscow Country Club.

We invite representatives of Russian and foreign media to cover the event.

Details are available on the GlavUpDK’s website.

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Answers to media questions:

Question: There have been no reports recently on any public contacts between Moscow and the National Transitional Council in Tripoli. Does this mean that Moscow currently prioritises contacts with Khalifa Haftar?

Maria Zakharova: Regarding the peace process in Libya, Russia’s position is well known and remains unchanged as well as being extremely consistent. We proceed from the premise that efforts to restore the Libyan state must by based on a broad national dialogue, consensus and conciliation. Russia seeks to facilitate this process through mediation efforts, and maintains dialogue with all the interested structures that want this country to recover. I cannot say that our contacts are biased or imbalanced in any way. We regularly publish information on the Foreign Ministry’s website on corresponding discussions with representatives of the Libyan sides, as well as with international mediators, i.e. countries that care about the future of Libya. For this reason, I do not think that there is any imbalance in our contacts.

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Question: Could you please comment on the developments in the south of Libya where Khalifa Haftar’s forces restored control over oil fields, which resulted in the accusation against the head of the Libyan National Army in genocide?

Maria Zakharova: The state has been dismantled, and the government agencies vested with authority to protect public order and security have yet to be restored. What you are asking is more of a rhetorical statement rather than an actual question. Of course, we hope that the moment comes when the Libyan statehood is restored, but there is still a long way to go.

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Question: The US Senate intends to slap new sanctions on Russia that deal with the country’s debt and finances related to the President of Russia Vladimir Putin. Could you comment on this situation?

Maria Zakharova: We usually say in situations like this that it is a clinical case. From a more serious perspective, considering all the things the US did in recent years, just over one decade, and even without going deep into history, it is high time that the US Senate and Congress think about sanctioning themselves and their politicians. Just look at the extent of destruction they caused! Take the previous question on Libya. Was anyone, US politicians included, ever held accountable for what happened?

It was reported two weeks ago that a district judge somewhere in the US ordered the Syrian government to pay millions of dollars, about $300 million in fact, in damages for violating the rights of a US journalist when she worked in Syria. I have a question: could hundreds of thousands of people from Iraq and Syria also bring their cases to this judge and claim damages from the US government, maybe smaller sums of money, but at least several tens of thousands of dollars each, for destruction caused by US politicians in their countries? These new perorations by would-be US lawmakers are simply impossible to fathom. They can be hardly called lawmakers because people who draft laws must be well versed in international, as well as domestic law.

On a more serious note, the question that is pertinent when it comes to this situation is when and how the American society will look at the crimes committed by the US on the international arena. Just having a military presence in a sovereign state without its authorisation is already regarded as a crime in terms of international law. Senators and members of Congress should have started with this trivial legal matter before trying to address any questions that are beyond their reach anyway.

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Question: Would Russia accept a Turkey-controlled safe zone in Syria east of the Euphrates? On what condition would Russia approve this Turkish proposal?

Maria Zakharova I already asked you today to wait patiently for detailed comments on Syria. We are waiting for news from Sochi, including on the issue you mentioned. At the same time, I would like to remind you that the deployment of foreign troops and the activities of third countries in sovereign states, in this case, Syria, is the competence of the country’s government and must be decided by Damascus. This is our position of principle.

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Question: First Deputy Speaker of the Verkhovna Rada Irina Gerashchenko said at the latest round of talks on Donbass, which were held in Minsk yesterday, that Russia must withdraw from Debaltsevo together with military equipment and immediately invalidate the results of the “pseudo-elections” held in the Donetsk and Lugansk people’s republics. She said that Russia was behaving like a thug in a St Petersburg backstreet, claiming that Russia is not present there. According to OSCE Chairperson-in-Office Miroslav Lajcak, there are no Russian troops in Donbass. Can you comment on this statement by a Ukrainian official?

Maria Zakharova: I can say that it is yet another case of offensive behaviour of the Kiev politicians who are unable to settle internal conflicts, consolidate society or move forward with their reforms. This insolent statement was made to justify their failure in all spheres to the Ukrainian people. This is the only possible explanation.

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As for the second part of your question, it has become a trend to blame everything on Russia, but the Kiev regime is doing this more often, more insolently and more inventively than others.

Question: The presidential election will be held in Ukraine on March 31. I have a technical question. If the Ukrainian people are allowed to freely make their choice and elect the president, and if Poroshenko loses his political and diplomatic immunity, can he be prosecuted for his crimes?

Maria Zakharova: I believe that this question should be addressed to Ukraine as well. What does Russia have to do with this? You should ask Ukrainian officials. There are many law enforcement agencies and people who make bold statements, such as the ones you have cited. I believe they will be able to reply to this question.

 

 

 

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