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18 April 201916:52

Briefing by Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova, Yalta, April 18, 2019

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Table of contents

  1. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s meeting with members of the International Council for Cooperation and Investment at the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs
  2. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s participation in the presentation of a compilation of documents entitled “Crimea in Russia’s development: History, politics and diplomacy. Documents from the Archives of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs”
  3. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s participation in the Moscow Conference on International Security
  4. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s meeting with OSCE Secretary-General Thomas Greminger
  5. Crimea’s international and interregional relations
  6. Response by the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Harlem Desir, to the detention of members of Hizb ut-Tahrir terrorist organisation in Crimea
  7. Update on Syria
  8. Developments in Libya
  9. Developments in Sudan
  10. Upcoming trilateral meeting on Afghanistan
  11. International Criminal Court’s refusal to investigate the situation in Afghanistan
  12. Update on Venezuela
  13. Russia to provide humanitarian aid to Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Malawi
  14. Appeal by residents of the city of Almelo, the Netherlands, to the leaders of Russia, the USA, the Chairman of the European Commission and the Prime Minister of the Netherlands
  15. Soviet war memorials
  16. Kazan to host Forum of Young Diplomats from Organisation of Islamic Cooperation countries

Answers to media questions:

  1. The Sevastopol-Verona twin city concept
  2. The 75th anniversary of Sevastopol’s liberation from Nazi invaders
  3. New US sanctions against Cuba
  4. Meetings with Bundestag and European Parliament deputies on the sidelines of the Yalta International Economic Forum
  5. Visa-free entry to Crimea for former compatriots
  6. The process of Brazil being engaged to join NATO
  7. Political prisoners and Russian citizens held in captivity in Ukraine
  8. Celebrations of the fifth anniversary of Russian Spring in Crimea
  9. The international youth movement in Crimea
  10. A Syrian delegation to attend the Yalta International Economic Forum
  11. Developments in Venezuela
  12. Foreigners asking questions about Crimea
  13. UK promoting a resolution on Libya at the UN Security Council
  14. International Alliance of BRICS Strategic Projects signing two memorandums with the Head of the Republic of Crimea and the Governor of Sevastopol
  15. Russia’s membership of the Council of Europe
  16. Malta’s refusal to issue overflying permit to Russian aircraft heading for Venezuela
  17. The EAEU development prospects
  18. Foreign investors attending the Yalta International Economic Forum

 

 

 

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s meeting with members of the International Council for Cooperation and Investment at the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs

 

On April 19, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will meet with members of the International Council for Cooperation and Investment at the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs (RSPP – Russian acronym).

The International Council for Cooperation and Investment is a consultative body of the RSPP. It is a venue for dialogue between foreign businesses and Russian government agencies. The council unites leading foreign investors in the Russian economy, representatives of business associations and bilateral chambers of commerce.

The meeting participants plan to discuss aspects of Russia’s practical cooperation with key foreign partners. They will pay special attention to the opportunities for foreign businesses created by Eurasian economic integration. 

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Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s participation in the presentation of a compilation of documents entitled “Crimea in Russia’s development: History, politics and diplomacy. Documents from the Archives of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs”

 

 On April 23, the Foreign Ministry Mansion will host the presentation of a compilation of documents entitled “Crimea in Russia’s development: History, politics and diplomacy. Documents from the Archives of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.”

The compilation includes unique documents and materials from the archives of the Russian foreign policy department, many of which have been published for the first time. They embrace more than two hundred years – from the Treaty of Constantinople between Russia and Turkey signed in 1700 to the 1922 Treaty on the Creation of the USSR. The collection covers events related to Crimea’s entry into the Russian Empire and the political, economic and cultural development of the peninsula.

Representatives of the Federal Assembly, ministries and departments, academic circles and public organisations have been invited to attend the event. An exhibition of historical documents will be part of the event. We will duplicate the exhibition on the Foreign Ministry’s online resources, as we traditionally do.

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Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s participation in the Moscow Conference on International Security

 

On April 24, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will participate in the annual Moscow Conference on International Security organised by the Russian Ministry of Defence.

This conference is a major global event dedicated to military-political issues. It is traditionally characterised by a representative range of participants from Russia and numerous foreign countries, and an eventful programme addressing many relevant issues of concern to the global community today. Given the current situation in the international arena, this kind of collaborative intellectual effort is very much in demand.     

In his speech, the minister will set out Russia’s approaches to ensuring global and regional security and stability.

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Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s meeting with OSCE Secretary-General Thomas Greminger

 

On April 24, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will meet with OSCE Secretary-General Thomas Greminger, who will be in Moscow to participate in the 8th Moscow Conference on International Security.

The upcoming talks will have a substantial agenda, covering a wide range of issues concerning the OSCE’s current activities. There will also be an exchange of views on the prospects of the “structured dialogue” on deescalating the military and political situation in the Euro-Atlantic region and cooperating to combat terrorism and the drug threat, as well as on cybersecurity.

The officials will discuss the activities of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine, and the work of the Contact Group in which representatives from Russia and OSCE are assisting Kiev, Donetsk and Lugansk in implementing the Minsk Package of Measures on settling the Donbass conflict. They are also expected to discuss the Balkans, Central Asia, the Transnistria and Nagorno-Karabakh settlement processes, and the Geneva Discussions on Security and Stability in Transcaucasia.

The work of the OSCE executive bodies will be considered, including its institutions, such as the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, the offices of the High Commissioner on National Minorities and Representative on Freedom of the Media (we have questions to ask him, I will expand on them today), and field missions.

Russia consistently advocates for strengthening the OSCE’s standing in European and international affairs. As the largest regional organisation in the world, the OSCE is a platform for countries to conduct equitable dialogue to restore trust and develop ways to jointly address common challenges and threats.

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Crimea’s international and interregional relations

 

We note with satisfaction and great joy the growing demand for an objective view of the realities in Crimean among the international community. It is extremely important to us that, despite the escalation of outside pressure (as you know, another wave of sanctions swept over us in March), the positive dynamics of foreign delegations visiting the region continues.

The recent celebrations of the fifth anniversary of the reunification of the Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol with the Russian Federation reaffirmed the deep interest from foreign politicians and our business partners in the development of mutually beneficial cooperation with the peninsula. Delegations from the French parliament and mayors of French municipalities, regional public figures and business leaders from Germany, and representatives of foreign media took an active part in the celebrations for the Crimean Spring anniversary in March.

The annual Yalta International Economic Forum was a graphic reflection of the positive development of Crimea’s foreign economic relations – I mean the real one, because there is also a false forum.

I think you have already seen the wide scope of respected forum participants. At least, when I flew in, the plane was packed, mostly with foreigners – people from different regions of the world. Such a scope of participants confirms how pointless it is to attempt to politicise international economic relations, and that any efforts to erect sanctions barriers are counterproductive.

Crimea’s isolation is a myth. In 2018, there were over 60 visits to Crimea by foreign representatives, and over 40 international events were held on the peninsula.

The louder the talk of Crimea’s isolation on international platforms or in other countries, the more they actually contradict themselves, even in this context putting Crimea on the global agenda thereby expanding the international community’s awareness of this region. Although a paradox, it is still a fact.

The most significant among the visits and events I mentioned are the 12th Great Russian Word international festival and the 4th Livadia Forum, attended by academics, cultural workers, artists and educators from about 40 countries. This year, the International Livadia Humanitarian Forum will be held on June 4-5 with expanded international representation.

The current sanctions create artificial barriers to traditional diplomacy when it comes to promoting the potential of Crimea. In this context, the role of public diplomacy and civil society relations is growing. Last year, the Coordinating Council of the International Association of the Friends of Crimea was formed. Clubs of Friends are already functioning in a number of countries on three continents.

Despite the sanctions, Crimea’s interaction with a number of countries is developing positively, including Syria, Abkhazia and South Ossetia. The practice of expanding sister-city ties continues. Last January, for example, a cooperation agreement was signed between the city of Sevastopol and the Syrian province of Tartus.

Contrary to the false information systematically planted abroad to the effect that Crimea has ethnic problems, that human rights are widely violated there, an atmosphere of interethnic harmony has actually developed here as the interests of all minorities are observed and their rights respected. All this became possible after Crimea’s reunification with Russia, after a large legislative package was developed and enforced to provide people with the appropriate rights. According to the VTsIOM public opinion research centre, a survey taken in March indicated that the overwhelming majority of Crimeans (92 percent) described local ethnic relations as good. The Days of the Crimean Tatar Culture festival, which was held in Turkey last December and enjoyed a high response, was a vivid illustration of this. Although a lot of fake information was published about it.

Despite the Russophobic attitudes of a number of Western capitals, we intend to continue to fully encourage the interest of foreign sociopolitical and business communities, representatives of civil society and the media in developing cooperation with Crimea.

All I can suggest to anyone who criticises the situation in Crimea, is come here and talk to the people, ask them questions, see for yourself and form your own opinion of the place from your own personal experience, rather than from some outside unverified and a priori fake information.

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Response by the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Harlem Desir, to the detention of members of Hizb ut-Tahrir terrorist organisation in Crimea

 

In cooperation with the Interior Ministry and the National Guard Federal Service, the FSB conducted a special operation to curb the activities of a cell of the international terrorist organisation, Hizb ut-Tahrir, in Crimea in late March. This resulted in the arrest of several of its members. Our law enforcement agencies are showing unprecedented transparency in covering their own activities.

We have become accustomed to a situation where facts are distorted and propaganda that comes, for example, from Ukraine is reproduced without a second thought. Even instances of fighting terrorism are used as an alleged example of human rights violations in Crimea or other parts of Russia.

This time, none other than the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Harlem Desir, responded to this story in an unexpected manner. Yesterday he published a press release on this report. I doubt this was accidental, the idea being to add a “fly to the ointment” regarding our Yalta forum. In this press release, those accused of terrorist activities suddenly became “citizen journalists.” Accordingly, criticism was expressed, although it cannot be called criticism because it is not entirely clear who these “citizen journalists” are. We do not understand what the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media had in mind in referring to persons detained on terrorism charges as “civilian journalists.”

This reaction is puzzling. Of course, we will raise this issue before the OSCE and forward the corresponding materials, and let this high-ranking official know that such assessments are not consistent with his mandate.

I would also like to remind the OSCE Representative that Russia does not support an expanded interpretation of the notion of “journalist” in this context. The status of a media representative is acquired in accordance with Russian law and based on related professional activity.

I’d like to see anyone claiming to be a “citizen journalist,” without the documents to prove it, show up at an OSCE event. I can imagine what the same OSCE Representative would have said. Of course, such a person would not be admitted to any media event.

It’s not a civic activity or a civic position that qualifies a person as a journalist, but their professional activities backed by corresponding documentation.

This is reminiscent of the situation with the White Helmets. This pseudo-humanitarian organisation was sponsored by the security forces of Western countries and posed as a non-governmental humanitarian organisation, but in fact engaged in subversive activities in Syria and the entire region. They were also portrayed as humanitarian workers and some kind of “citizen journalists.”

I would like to once again draw the OSCE’s attention to the fact that we are talking about individuals detained on suspicion of committing a crime under Article 205.5 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation “Organisation of the activities of a terrorist organisation and participation in the activities of such an organisation.” I refuse to believe that the OSCE can somehow justify activities like this. What do the media and freedom of expression have to do with this?

We urge Mr Desir to act within his mandate and to be more cautious when evaluating incidents like this, especially incidents associated with a serious international threat such as terrorism.

It is unacceptable when the situation with the media in Crimea is assessed based on politically motivated and completely groundless statements made by questionable organisations from third countries that have nothing to do with the peninsula. Russia has repeatedly invited Mr Desir and his colleagues to visit Crimea personally in order to talk with the representatives of civil society, the media, relevant bodies and organisations involved in providing information and to form their own opinion about the status of journalists in this Russian region. We hope this will happen sometime soon.

Instead of engaging in this kind of propaganda in the run-up to the Yalta forum, Mr Desir could better use his fervour to defend Julian Assange. However, we haven’t seen the OSCE do that so far.

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Update on Syria

 

The situation in Syria remained largely unchanged during the past week. The main hotbed of armed clashes, as before, was in or near the Idlib de-escalation zone. Hayat Tahrir al-Sham militants concentrated there repeatedly attacked Syrian army positions. Civilian infrastructure was hit again in the town of Masyaf, leading to more civilian casualties. Mortar fire by Al-Nusra terrorists at Khalidiyeh and a market on al-Neel Street in western Aleppo killed 11 and wounded 10 civilians. Government forces retaliated with strikes on militant firing positions in Anadan, Huraitan and Kafr Hamrah. Also, reports appeared that terrorists alongside the pseudo humanitarian White Helmets, an organisation I mentioned today, are fabricating new provocations to accuse the legitimate authorities of using chemical agents. This time they held joint training sessions on media coverage of the events as well as practical training in mitigating the aftermath of a chemical agent attack.

Despite the objective difficulties, the process of bringing the Syrian refugees back home continues. About a thousand Syrians come back to their country from abroad every day. Thus, over 190,000 people have returned to their homeland since July 2018. This also applies to internally displaced persons – over a million Syrians have returned to their permanent places of residence since September 2015. This is happening against the background of the “fairytales” we are being fed about Syrians being scared and unwilling to come back to their native country. The numbers of people returning is not just stable – it is increasing. The Syrian authorities, with Russia’s support, are making efforts to increase the efficiency of the process. Refugee reception and accommodation points to accept over 1.5 million people have been set up in 413 towns and villages that suffered the least from military hostilities.

Russia continued coordinated activities on resettling the Rukban camp. Over 3,500 people have been moved from there to government-controlled territory since last February. If the current rate of the exodus continues, up to 60-70 percent of its residents can leave the camp within two weeks. I don’t feel like using the word “population” because we understand that this is a place where they are staying temporarily. Whatever the case, people are there now.

Meanwhile, the situation in the al-Hawl refugee camp continues to deteriorate regardless of the international humanitarian effort. The camp with a capacity of 40,000 has two times that many people. The US-supported Syrian Democratic Forces are unable to cope with the situation. Also, according to reports, the delivery of humanitarian aid to the camp remains hindered, while money is being demanded from the refugees for permission to leave it, as we have repeatedly pointed out. The Syrian people in the camp are being blackmailed and are extorted for amounts of money that they cannot raise.

A meeting of the joint Syrian-Iraqi intergovernmental commission was held in Damascus after an eight-year break. A protocol on cooperation in trade, the economy, investment and banking was signed following the meeting. The parties agreed on cutting customs tariffs and easing the procedures for exporting Syrian pharmaceuticals to Iraq. Also, plans were discussed to set up a special industrial zone in the border regions. The respective Syrian and Lebanese agencies held talks in Damascus on enhancing cooperation in agriculture and trade in agricultural products.

We welcome stepping up economic relations between Syria and its Arab neighbours. Restoring the ties broken by the conflict is a natural and objective process that testifies to the end of the armed conflict and the beginning of normalisation in the country.

Dates for holding the 12th International Meeting on Syria in the Astana format have been announced. The meeting will be held on April 25-26, in Nur-Sultan. It will be attended by the guarantor nations (Russia, Turkey and Iran), representatives of Syria’s government and opposition, a delegation from Jordan, United Nations Special Envoy for Syria Geir Pedersen, as well as experts from the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Red Cross Committee. The working group on releasing detainees/hostages, transferring the bodies of the dead and the search for missing persons will hold its eighth meeting on the sidelines of the event.

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Developments in Libya

 

The situation in Tripoli continues to deteriorate. The hostilities are taking on a positional character. The casualties have reached hundreds of people. The warring sides do not show any interest in responding to the appeals by UN Secretary-General António Guterres and the international community to stop combat operations without preconditions and come to the negotiating table.

The current situation is extremely concerning to us. Obviously, renewed escalation of the internal Libyan conflict creates space for greater activity on the part of all sorts of terrorist and criminal groups. Doing away with them is only possible through the combined efforts of all national patriotic forces both in the west and in the east of the country.

In this regard we reaffirm our principled position in favour of a peaceful settlement of the Libyan crisis under the aegis of the UN, based on the groundwork and understandings that have already been achieved on the way to that goal with the active mediation of the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Libya Ghassan Salame.

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Developments in Sudan

 

Last night the Foreign Ministry published a detailed comment on the results of its contacts with the Sudanese side (http://www.mid.ru/ru/foreign_policy/news/-/asset_publisher/cKNonkJE02Bw/content/id/3618902). Today we have a small supplement to our position on that matter.

Moscow continues to closely monitor developments in Sudan. Hopefully, this crisis will be resolved by peaceful democratic means on the basis of a broad national dialogue. In this respect we note the efforts by the Transitional Military Council to stabilise the situation in the country.

We welcome the statement by its leadership that despite the change of power resulting from mass popular protests, bilateral Russian-Sudanese relations, based on traditions of friendship and mutually beneficial cooperation that have developed over the course of many years, remain unchanged and are regarded in Khartoum as strategic.

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Upcoming trilateral meeting on Afghanistan

 

On April 25, Moscow will host the second Russian-Chinese-US meeting at the level of the special envoys for Afghanistan. Zamir Kabulov will represent Russia. Plans include a discussion of the situation in Afghanistan, and around a new round of talks between the US delegation and the Taliban in Doha, Qatar, as well as prospects for launching a national reconciliation process in Afghanistan. A joint statement for the press is to be issued after the talks.

The trilateral meeting is not a new negotiating format on Afghanistan and is being held within the framework of leading global players’ efforts to create favourable conditions for initiating an Afghanistan peace process, and it plays an auxiliary role. Russia is calling for combining these efforts with the work of the Moscow format of consultations on Afghanistan that reflects the interests of regional states and this country’s neighbours.

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International Criminal Court’s refusal to investigate the situation in Afghanistan

 

On April 12, the International Criminal Court declined to investigate the situation in Afghanistan.

The court’s Pre-Trial Chamber decided that too much time had elapsed since the preliminary investigation of the Afghanistan file by the ICC Office of the Prosecutor. The court’s officials believe that an incipient official investigation would run counter to the interests of justice at this point. It should be mentioned that the Office of the Prosecutor has tried to deal with this case for over ten years. After the case was handed over to the judges, they decided that, given the current circumstances related to the Afghanistan file, prospects for a successful investigation were extremely limited. To me, this is a new word in jurisprudence, although the ICC has already confirmed its jurisdiction. These statements are contained in the court’s press release, posted on its website (https://www.icc-cpi.int/Pages/item.aspx?name=pr1448). This is a noteworthy document, and this position is quite unusual.

The decision to close the file on Afghanistan was made after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced on March 15 that Washington would impose visa restrictions on everyone involved in this investigation. This is simply the triumph of democracy and respect for the law, both domestic and international.

On April 5, the media reported on the sanctions imposed against the ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda. Whether this is a coincidence or not, I believe the answer is obvious. To put the pieces together, I would also like to recall that US National Security Adviser John Bolton threatened some time ago to declare sanctions on the financial assets of the court’s judges.

I would say that this is the peak of apotheosis. International law exists under these conditions today. Although countries can voice different attitudes towards the International Criminal Court, I believe this to be a serious precedent.

In their decision, the judges refer to the interests of justice. It appears that officials at the International Criminal Court believe that such interests boil down to their ability to travel to the United States and to use the US financial system.

Russia has repeatedly expressed that the International Criminal Court’s actions indicate its lack of professionalism, efficiency and unbiased attitudes. As a judicial agency, it must be independent; but what independence is there after what happened to the Afghanistan file in The Hague? I have listed just a few aspects of this drama, but you can read all the materials on the website.

Russia consistently calls for bringing any individuals that are guilty of the gravest crimes to account. Virtually every day, we read news about the deaths of civilians in Afghanistan as a result of strikes by the so-called coalition forces that are there to establish peace, law and order. Illegal drug trafficking has increased as a result, completely escalating out of control. Every day, we receive news bulletins about the deaths of civilians. We have become convinced once again that the International Criminal Court has proven itself unable to achieve its stated goals.

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Update on Venezuela

 

The United States continues to purposefully ignore the principle of the non-use of force or the threat of force in violation of the UN Charter. We are hearing about the possibility of the use of force against Venezuela more often every day. This is being done with a different tone and reasoning. As in a child’s game, cubes are changing spots but the gist remains unchanged – aggressive rhetoric as regards a sovereign state. High officials in the US administration are not only demanding that Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro leave his legitimate post, but they want him to step down before the end of the year. They are threatening to use force if he fails to accept this ultimatum. The interview of SOUTHCOM Commander Admiral Craig Faller with Foreign Policy magazine is particularly typical of this approach. The tough tone of this military commander confirms our apprehensions that the potential use of force by the US is not something abstract but a potential reality, which Washington concedes.

One more pseudo reason for preparing an armed invasion is the need to curb Russian influence in Venezuela. There is information to the effect that on instructions from US National Security Advisor John Bolton, the Defence Department is working on “a response” to alleged Russian interference in the affairs of Venezuela without the consent of its government. This sounds like a joke. We deal with the legitimate authorities in Venezuela whereas the United States deals with impostors, i.e., those who pretend to be what they aren’t and who assume functions and authority that nobody has given them by law. After all that we hear about interfering in Venezuela’s affairs without the consent of its government; this is a joke.

Once again, I would like to repeat that all Russian actions on Venezuelan territory are coordinated with the lawful government of the Bolivarian Republic. I will not go onto the legal details of the illegitimacy of the false president – we have repeatedly spoken about this at all kinds of venues, published relevant statements and justified our position, for example, in the UN. We should be considering the expansion of NATO, the number of US military bases all over the world and the amount of defence expenditures. The militarism of our Western partners is going too far.

The current harassment of Venezuela brings us back to another violation of the UN Charter of 20 years ago – the US bombings of Yugoslavia. At that time NATO “refined the concept” of humanitarian intervention as an instrument of interference in the internal affairs of sovereign states by using armed forces outside its zone of responsibility. Judging by what we see, the American military is really pondering the possibility of repeating this sad experience – to start bombing civilian facilities and a civilian population whose only guilt is support for the legal president of their country, one that does not suit Washington’s taste. This suggests a question: why is NATO striving to expand cooperation with Brazil? Why is it doing this now and in this form, publicly announcing its intentions and possible plans? Why has it granted the status of global partner to Colombia?

Washington continues to repeat that all options on Venezuela are on the table despite the position of Latin American and Caribbean countries that have continuously stated that a military invasion of Venezuela or the threat of invasion are unacceptable.

I suggest returning to the history of the invasion of Iraq. We remember how many representatives of civil society – scientists, cultural figures, and NGO representatives – tried to influence Washington’s decision on an illegal invasion and aggression against a sovereign state. I remember how some people even tried to go to Iraq and make “living chains” to show the world how absurd and pernicious these steps were. History repeats itself.

Today, many in the US oppose the use of force in Venezuela, remembering everything – Iraq and Yugoslavia and looking at videos from Libya. Even an anti-Cuban and anti-Chaves mouthpiece like the Miami Herald published an editorial under the heading “U.S. military action in Venezuela would be the wrong solution.”  

Although the socio-economic and humanitarian situation in Venezuela is difficult, it does not threaten international stability and security. This cannot be said of the ultimatums presented to the legitimate government and public promises to use force against the sovereign state by other countries. A threat to peace and stability in the region as well as to the international situation in general is posed by the sanctions against Venezuela that deteriorate the social situation in the country, which is complicated as it is. We strongly call on our American colleagues to give up these irresponsible plans that run counter to international law.

US State Secretary Pompeo said in a recent interview that some countries are obstructing the delivery of humanitarian aid to Venezuela. What countries did he mean, I wonder? If Russia – yes indeed, we are against bringing in cargo disguised as humanitarian aid, which instead of medicines and food contains barbed wire and other items that are intended not for settling the crisis but, to the contrary, for fanning the flame of conflict and bringing it to a hot phase. Yes, indeed, all reasonably thinking countries and people are against this pseudo humanitarian aid.

Fortunately, there are still countries and organisations in the world that provide humanitarian assistance in strict compliance with international law. This is the humanitarian aid, and these are the forms of delivery that we decisively stand for. This week, a list of such organisations was supplemented by one of the most respected – the International Committee of the Red Cross. As a follow-up to the understandings reached between Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and ICRC President Peter Maurer, the first shipment of humanitarian aid arrived in Caracas on Tuesday. No attempts to break through the state border or threats to use force were needed to accomplish this mission or to deliver cargo from Russia and China. If it is really humanitarian aid, it will definitely be accepted.

I would like to advise the “friends of Venezuelan democracy,” who are shouting about a humanitarian crisis: if you don’t know how to arrange the delivery of your aid in conformity with relevant UN General Assembly Resolution 46/182, contact the legitimate Venezuelan government, which is ready to accept your assistance via specialised international entities.

The best way to help the Venezuelan people is to lift the illegitimate unilateral sanctions that primarily hurt common people. Stop threatening them with war and let them engage in the improvement of their country without problems. Give them back the money that you stole from the Venezuelan people. The Venezuelan government recently announced a new record-beating amount that was blocked in Portugal. Return the money to the Venezuelans and they will buy all they need – food, medicines and the basic necessities. They will do this themselves. What could be easier?

We will monitor the situation and, if necessary, take active diplomatic steps in full compliance with international law and in cooperation with the legitimate Venezuelan government in order to help settle the situation there.

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Russia to provide humanitarian aid to Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Malawi

 

The Russian Federation will send, on a bilateral basis, humanitarian aid to the Republic of Zimbabwe, the Republic of Malawi and the Republic of Mozambique after Cyclone Idai hit these countries, causing unprecedented flooding in the southeast of Africa and large-scale destruction. As a result, over 1,000 people died and many people were left without a home or means of subsistence.  

On April 22, Russia plans to deliver its first shipment of humanitarian aid via Emergency Ministry aircraft to the city of Beira, Mozambique, which was hit hardest by the cyclone, including large tents, blankets, vegetable oil, rice, canned fish and sugar to meet the basic needs of the population.

Similar humanitarian aid shipments are expected to be delivered to Zimbabwe and Malawi.  

Allow me to remind you that on April 8 multifunctional medical modules were sent to Mozambique as part of the project, which is being funded by the Russian Federation, to boost the effectiveness of the World Health Organisation’s health emergency preparedness and response.

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Appeal by residents of the city of Almelo, the Netherlands, to the leaders of Russia, the USA, the Chairman of the European Commission and the Prime Minister of the Netherlands

 

I would like to cite an interesting example of how the aggressive rhetoric from governmental bodies and the political elite in the West contradicts the wishes and aspirations of the population of Western countries, as well as their vision of how bilateral relations should be built. A seemingly unimportant event, it, however, in my view, speaks volumes about people’s sentiments.

On April 11, members of the public in the Dutch city of Almelo met with diplomats from the Russian Embassy in the Netherlands. The event was initiated by the local activist A. Gitelink, who last January had his open letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin published in a local newspaper, in which he expressed his concerns over the tense international situation. The man wrote, with reason, that victory over Nazism, as well as peace and stability on the planet were achieved through collective, rather than separate, efforts by all members of the anti-Hitler coalition, certainly acknowledging the decisive role of the Soviet people.

This event has shown that the sentiments of the public in the Netherlands towards Russia are completely different than those of the ruling elite and the biased media, although the anti-Russia campaign, which has been gaining momentum over the last five years has, undoubtedly, influenced the people’s mindsets.

At the conclusion of the meeting, Almelo residents unanimously decided to send an appeal for peace to Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Donald Trump, Chairman of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker and Prime Minister of the Netherlands Mark Rutte. They have called on these politicians to prevent a resumption of the risky and costly Cold War, and to take reciprocal actions to ensure peace and overcome the crisis over the INF Treaty.  

We believe the common sense and pragmatism typical of the Dutch will prevent the creation of a zone of alienation between Russia and Europe, which some irresponsible politicians seem to be seeking.

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Soviet war memorials

 

Today, the world is marking the International Day for Monuments and Sites. This involves a wide range of historical and cultural heritage sites. Sadly, we must acknowledge that today a civilised approach to military memorials does not always prevail. We are talking about heroes here – this is a civilisational basis of global historical memory.

We are outraged by the most recent act of vandalism committed at a gravesite of Soviet soldiers in the town of Jawor in Poland's Lower Silesian Voivodeship. Unidentified persons desecrated the central obelisk at the local cemetery where over 500 Red Army soldiers and officers are buried, who fell while liberating the country from the Nazi occupation.

As far as we are aware, the police have already launched an investigation into this scandalous incident and are looking for the culprits. The authorities assured us that the monument will be promptly put in order.

What we see here is undoubtedly another shameful episode in the war on monuments. Sadly, we see that the authorities don’t have a constructive attitude toward this issue in general. Neglect of memorials is the result of Warsaw’s national policy of rewriting the country’s own history – and global history more broadly. This gives a free hand to vandals of every stripe.

It should be remembered that people usually judge the moral state of a society by how it treats the memory of the fallen. The Polish people take pride in such traditions. We wish this could be expressed toward the hundreds of thousands of our heroes buried on Polish land.

In this context, we are pleased to note positive changes in the field of protecting and preserving monuments to military glory.

In the very centre of the Austrian capital Vienna, there is the Soviet War Memorial at Schwarzenbergplatz that commemorates 17,000 Soviet soldiers – and I had to catch my breath just speaking this number – who fell during the Vienna Offensive in 1945.

This monument has been repeatedly desecrated by vandals and neo-fascists. Each time following such mischief, the Russian Embassy in Vienna filed a note of protest demanding that urgent and effective measurers be taken to eliminate the damage done, find the desecrators, and prevent such incidents in the future. As a result, with the assistance of Austria’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs through the competent local authority, a decision was made to install 24-hour surveillance cameras. We believe that this step will make an important contribution to protecting this monument to military glory from maladjusted individuals – basically, from criminals.  

On April 25, the restored monument with the legendary Soviet tank T-34 installed on it will be unveiled in Beilrode, 150 km from Berlin. With the assistance of the Russian Federal Agency for the Commonwealth of Independent States, Compatriots Living Abroad, and International Humanitarian Cooperation (Rossotrudnichestvo) in close cooperation with experts from the Volgograd-based military history museum Naslediye (Heritage), comprehensive restoration work has been completed. The efforts also included improving the surrounding area and planting young trees.  

The memorial’s opening is timed to coincide with the most recent anniversary of the meeting of Soviet and American troops at Elbe River that took place in April 1945, which became a symbol of the comradeship of the anti-Hitler coalition countries. 

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Kazan to host Forum of Young Diplomats from Organisation of Islamic Cooperation countries

 

On April 23-25, within the framework of the KAZANSUMMIT, Kazan will host a Forum of Young Diplomats from Organisation of Islamic Cooperation countries, “Young Diplomats with Optimism for the Future.” The list of forum participants includes 35 diplomats from 21 countries. Kazan will hold this diplomatic event for the fourth time.

Konstantin Shuvalov, Ambassador-at-Large and the Russian Foreign Minister’s Special Representative for Cooperation with Muslim State Organisations, will also attend the forum.

The young diplomats will discuss the global changes in the modern system of international relations, the role of digital technology and a whole range of other relevant issues.

On April 24, a roundtable discussion on the activities of the outstanding Russian diplomat Yevgeny Primakov will be held. During the event, young diplomats and students studying international relations will discuss the principles and ideals behind Primakov’s diplomatic work.

For more information about the event, call 8-499-244-20-33.

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Answers to media questions:

 

Question: You called the experience of signing the agreement between Sevastopol and the Syrian province of Tartus positive. Now preparations are underway for the drafting and signing of an agreement to designate Sevastopol and Verona, Italy, twin cities. What does the Foreign Ministry think about this idea and will it support such a step?

Maria Zakharova: I would like to recall that the international activities of Russia’s regions are coordinated by the centre. In this case, it is the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation that coordinates the international activities of our regions. We take part in the drafting of agreements and documents for other federal agencies as well, but it also applies to the regions. Hence, we make an expert evaluation and voice our considerations regarding a political situation and the best practices that can be applied. This case is no exception.

Question: Next May we will celebrate the 75th anniversary of Sevastopol’s liberation from the Nazis. What does this date mean for Russia?

Maria Zakharova: There is a national memory that is a national symbol. Everything related to the history of World War II and the Great Patriotic War is our national symbol. No more, no less. Everything fits in into this attitude to these historical events.

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Question: Yesterday, the US announced new sanctions against Cuba. Now starting May 2, the US will no longer suspend the action of Part III of the Helms-Berton Act known as “The Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity (Libertad) Act.” What do you think about the US policy of sanctions against Cuba, Russia and Venezuela?

Maria Zakharova: To begin with, we are against any unilateral sanctions. Sanctions are possible only if they are drafted collectively in the framework of international structure – the UN, and are adopted under international law. In this case, it is the interest of one political group – not even of a country that is being considered. We saw what steps the US took under Barrack Obama and this was a contrary policy. So in this case the matter deals not with government policy that serves the interests of the US population but with a policy that caters to the interests of just one political group.

Let me repeat that we are against any unilateral sanctions. Sanctions are only legitimate if they are drafted with consideration for all factors by an international structure – the UN and the international representatives that are the members of its relevant structures.

Sanctions can be reciprocal. Sadly, these are the facts of life. If illegitimate unilateral sanctions are imposed, countries more often respond to them as there is no other mechanism to impede the expansion of these unlawful acts.

This is our traditional approach, which you are aware of. This can be applied to any situation related to the introduction of unilateral sanctions. As regards the media for the region you represent, Latin American and the Caribbean countries, we are perfectly aware - and nobody is making a secret of it – that the current US administration has put the Monroe Doctrine back on track and is using it in the region fully in the aspects they find advantageous to suppress the sovereignty and independence of these states. The suppression of any manifested sovereignty and independence aims to channel these countries’ policies to their own advantage and, of course, to use the rich resources of the region in circumvention of the legitimate legal field and the existing norms and regulations of maintaining economic and trade relations, solely at their own discretion. Much here depends not only on global powers – of course, a lot depends on them – but also on the region’s countries and politicians that succumb to US pressure today or not .

Cuba’s history should teach us a lot. The history of other countries is very illustrative as well: as soon as you yield to this pressure there is no way you can stop it. The only rule is a state’s own sovereignty and the rule of law and order, respect for international law and independence that is  based on democratic processes and institutions, which Washington talks about so much.   

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Question: We have been taking part in this forum for five years now, meeting many members of the Bundestag and the European Parliament. The Crimean Government organises a perfect venue for making contacts while the Foreign Ministry is doing a lot to ensure that the most high-profile delegations come to us. It turns out that while staying here they give interviews, talking enthusiastically about how to cooperate with Crimea, how to help it, promote business and invest here, but after returning to Europe they vote to impose sanctions on Russia over Crimea. What is our fault?

Maria Zakharova: Excuse me for a linguistic play on words, but if someone is faulty, this does not mean that this is your fault.   

If you have sovereignty but you cannot make use of it correctly, or you cannot use the powers delegated to you by the people, in particular, in the European countries, to pursue an independent and sovereign policy to meet the best interests of your own people and ensure their rights and freedoms, then it turns out like this. The EU countries and Brussels in general as a representative of the body, take decisions which do harm, first of all, to the population in Europe. Many EU regions stand to lose a lot by missing the opportunity to cooperate with Crimea. They could make sizable profits from this. Crimea has fantastic potential for investment. Even an ordinary economist can explain this to them. But as soon as one’s own sovereignty is lost and one’s own political tools and institutions start to be used to serve the interests of other countries which bring this pressure to bear, then what happens is what we see.    

Approximately a year ago, I had a meeting with members of the French parliament. We spoke about, among other things, the sanctions policy. I asked them about their motives: after all, they lose so much because of the sanctions. These are capitalist countries and the basis of capitalism is profit-making. Of course, rules, laws and other things like this do matter, but with capitalist ideas prominent in Western society, profit-making has always been the driver. They answered that there were principles that they could not overstep. Saying this after what they did in Libya? What principles can one talk about in this case? When I talked about the loss of their own sovereignty and the impossibility to fully exercise it, my interlocutor said bitterly that nobody had ever said this to her. It is always useful to listen to something, even if it is the first time.   

We will work in this direction, keeping up today’s pace, but even more enthusiastically. We can see actual payoff.

Let’s be honest: Russia is not the only country that has problems of this kind – from international point of view. Most countries, whether they’re industrialised, developing, powerful, or those on the path to being powerful, or active or less active global players, have to deal with problems like this. There is nothing unique about it. We only need to work and we know how.   

Question: I have been taking part in the German Village project as an investor for several years now. After Crimea’s reunification with Russia my former compatriots became interested in this region. However, they are restricted in their ability to freely travel to Russia due to the visa regime. This is also a matter of money. People would really like to come, but are not willing to pay for their visas. Some build houses, buy land and want to be able to visit their property more often. Is there a mechanism that enables people who own property in Crimea to benefit from visa-free travel?

Maria Zakharova: We are very expedient when it comes to issuing visas to citizens of the Federal Republic of Germany. There is no red tape here, so I cannot accept your critique. As for the cost of visas, are you aware of the cost at stake? A German citizen has to pay 35 euros for a regular non-urgent visa to Russia. I don’t think that this is a great sum of money for such a prosperous country as Germany.

As for visa-free travel mechanisms for coming to Russia I will request additional information from our experts.

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Question: President of the BRICS International Forum Purnima Anand expressed misgivings over what you said about Brazil, BRICS participant. In this regard Ms Anand said that BRICS could provide the tools for countering processes aimed at promoting Brazil’s involvement with NATO, and that she was ready to facilitate these efforts.

Maria Zakharova: We are fully aware of the fact and never question the right of any sovereign state, be it Brazil of any other country, to take sovereign decisions on taking part in various forums. We hold this truth to be self-evident. That being said, we share the same planet and therefore we cannot fail to be concerned about international, global stability, threats to regional peace and stability, and yet more experiments of the sort that we have already witnessed on quite a few occasions.

Question: My question has to do with political prisoners and Russian nationals held in captivity in Ukraine and facing unbearable hardship. What is being done today to arrange a prisoner exchange? I do understand that Ukraine is in the midst of an election, but this is a serious matter, and some of those people are friends of mine.

Maria Zakharova: Political prisoners are not the only ones held in captivity. The Kiev regime headed by President of Ukraine Petr Poroshenko has been consistent in its efforts to undo the legal foundations for our interaction, as if dealing with his personal contracts or those of his company instead of instruments engaging an entire nation and its people. Far from acting in the interests of the people from whom he received a mandate to make life better, he acts as if it was his personal cause, as a mastermind and an executer. However, we maintained diplomatic efforts despite deteriorating ties and the erosion of the bilateral legal framework. Representatives of Russia’s foreign missions to Ukraine regularly visit our compatriots who are detained in this country, and provide any possible assistance, from legal support to finding medicine and anything else these people may need.

The Foreign Ministry is not alone in its efforts. Russia’s Human Rights Commissioner Tatyana Moskalkova has been proactive in seeking to resolve all these cases by virtue of her duties and since this is what any normal person would do. Other competent authorities also contribute to these efforts.

Prisoner exchanges have already taken place. However, at the last moment the Kiev regime abjectly violated the agreements that had been reached, even though the number of people who were to be exchanged was agreed in advance. The exchange should have included more people. Today, with the election campaign in full swing we cannot expect any reasonable or logical steps in the interests of the people. Personal, political and financial interests rule it all. We will proceed from the premise that the elections will take place, and the second round of voting will pass, but this work must continue. And it will continue. I have no doubt about this.

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Question: This year Crimea celebrated the fifth anniversary of the Russian Spring, which is for some reason referred to as the Crimean Spring. There were no reports of any particular enthusiasm in other regions of southeastern Ukraine; it was only about Crimea. We are happy for Crimea that it has successfully spun off and is now part of the Russian Federation. But there is still Donbass, where a war is going on, and a number of other regions, which also would like to be part of Russia, and are now under occupation and genocide. What do you think of it?

Maria Zakharova: The anniversary has been celebrated across Russia at all levels, from the federal to the regional. I have accurate information that our embassies organised a range of events – published material, did things on the internet, held news conferences, functions, meetings with activists, interviews, published reliable information about the situation on the peninsula, invited the Crimeans and joined international forums.

There are subtle details, which people prefer to see their own way due to their political views or historical interpretations. In this case, globally, we can say the anniversary has been marked on a tremendous scale. The way this event was celebrated was not window-dressing or an attempt to embellish reality, but a real reflection of the will of the people and what is happening in Crimea.

As for Donbass, this is an acute matter that needs to be resolved. There was a plan developed by Russia – the Minsk Agreements. The first Minsk Agreements were initiated by Russia. There were the Minsk Agreements, which passed verification, legitimisation, attraction of international representatives and, most importantly, the involvement of the conflicting parties – they were present during the elaboration and signing of the package and sealed it with their signatures.

It was a clear plan to resolve the issue and start moving in the right direction as soon as possible, as was also indicated there. The Kiev regime, President of Ukraine Petr Poroshenko, who called himself the president of peace who knows how to resolve this conflict, and who was personally present at the elaboration of these agreements and brought them to his country for implementation, then made every effort to hamper their implementation. Or simply failed to implement them. History will show whether he did that consciously or something prevented him from following through. But the fact remains that the Minsk Agreements, which are still recognised by all the mediating parties as the only legitimate document for moving on, have not been implemented.

Furthermore, the recent presidential campaign dealt another blow both to the Minsk Agreements and to the situation in Ukraine as a whole and the crisis resolution process. I mean the conscious, deliberate and systematic exclusion of the Donbass residents from the political electoral process. The most important feature of a democratic state is the participation of its residents in the election of their country’s leadership. If an entire region, especially one involved in a conflict, is excluded from this political process, which is also done intentionally, this would hardly help resolve the situation.

When I hear Kiev officials claim that organising voting in Donbass was unsafe, but people could travel to other places to vote – these are unsustainable arguments. First, it is not the residents of the region who should chase the federal authorities begging them for a chance to vote, but the government who should have done everything to make sure the elections are properly organised. Second, and most important, we can see how this political election tourism works for the current Kiev authorities. Why wouldn’t President of Ukraine Petr Poroshenko make a few trips to international organisations, to his Western friends, to ask for assistance in organising the electoral process in his country? There is the OSCE whose job is to resolve such situations, which is well aware of what is happening on the ground and has the appropriate capabilities. This organisation could have secured the electoral process – at the very least launched it, helping work out the modalities for conducting elections in Donbass. None of this has been done. All the visits that were made pursued one goal – bolstering their own popularity ratings and for the benefit of their own electoral standing.

Question: How do you perceive the development of the international youth movement in Crimea?

Maria Zakharova: This diverse movement has a tremendous potential. We have an agency that deals with youth issues and which also operates in Crimea. You can request more detailed information there.

As for me personally, I would like to single out the potential of Artek. This is part of Russian and international history. This camp pumps young blood all over the world and, of course, in this country. I visited Artek as an invited guest and closed a camp session. They showed me everything that had been accomplished since 2014 and how this camp’s true meaning was reinstated. Unfortunately, the camp came to resemble a hotel or even a motel during the previous decade, and it did not meet its designation. Everything is working today, and Artek provides infinite opportunities while training children how to become active young people.

Crimea’s multi-cultural and multi-ethnic foundation is the second aspect. Young people are only starting to discover what life is all about. They often become interested in such issues as religious views, cultural development and history. Why am I the way I am? How does my culture differ from that of my neighbours? What is the secret of success? What is the meaning of life? The multi-ethnic line-up of Crimea and the unique environment in which it evolved create an amazing platform for involving young people in this and other aspects.

The Foreign Ministry also runs its Young Diplomats Forum at the Yalta Forum. People get very actively involved in various workshops.

I can also mention the media. There are amazing new and traditional media outlets here. This is a wonderful platform where people who are interested in this field can upgrade their skills and acquire new ones. We are always ready to help.

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Question: A huge delegation from Syria is taking part in the Yalta Forum. It has become possible to remove Crimea from isolation. Can we expect the same with regard to Syria? Will the Forum facilitate the restoration of that country?

Maria Zakharova: Do you think that Syria is subjected to international isolation? Instead of isolating Syria, there was an attempt to destroy it as a state, to wreck the country and to try and obtain specific personal benefits from the situation using the controlled chaos theory. After that, there were plans to dump Syria and move on. To be honest, this is what happened to Libya. At that time, many people said that the international community, especially Libya’s neighbours, would eventually sort things out there.

Regarding Syria, I believe the concept was slightly different, and it involved remaking the country and the entire region, rather than international isolation per se.

Today, you can watch various debates raging at international organisations. Their participants are discussing Syria’s return and its involvement in regional processes because everyone realises that that country is a major player that has experienced such an ordeal and which has the relevant experience for preventing its own breakup. And, most importantly, it has experience in fighting international terrorism.

Speaking of assistance in restoring the country, I believe that there are potential opportunities in various fields, including those from which Syria will benefit.

Question: New sanctions have been introduced against Venezuela. At the same time, Russia is sending medicines to that country. The United States says that Russia must leave Venezuela. What do you think about this?

Maria Zakharova: I think that no one can tell anybody to leave any place if the case in point is cooperation and interaction based on respect for international law and national legislation of a relevant state. No one can order what someone should do. For this eventuality we have international law and generally recognised rules and norms, which were not invented today but follow from the international legal norms.

Where the sanctions policy is concerned, unilateral sanctions are illegitimate, regardless of whether they target Cuba, Venezuela, or any other country. Apart from everything else, they are ineffective, since they have never achieved the desired effect. They can only make things worse or cater to a specific narrow political group that serves its own interests. We have a term in Russian, vremenshchiki, people who are here today, gone tomorrow, and are concerned solely with their own self-seeking projects. However, we are talking about states ruled by democratically elected individuals who must represent the people and think about their interests.

As for Venezuela, there are forces even in the United States – decidedly not a fan of the Chavism ideology on the global scale – which realise that the administration’s forceful pressure and aggressive rhetoric towards that country is a mistake.

Question: Much has been done during the past five years to dispel the myths about Crimea. You have presented and spoken at length about the English version of the Crimean Magazine. Is there a change in the tone of questions that foreigners ask about Crimea?

Question: The United Kingdom is promoting its resolution on Libya in the UN Security Council. Will Russia support it?

Maria Zakharova: As I’m sure you understand, these efforts are being undertaken on the side lines of the UN Security Council. There is no resolution for anybody to support yet. The question is about the work on a text that may or may not become acceptable. I will inquire about the stage the work is on and will share the information with you. I think that our Permanent Mission to the UN in New York will also assess the issue.

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Question: Today the International Alliance of BRICS Strategic Projects will sign two memorandums with the Head of the Republic of Crimea and the Sevastopol Governor. This is a result of joint work by our organisation and a number of Crimean non-governmental organisations. We brought investment projects from two BRICS countries to Crimea.

Crimean representatives are our partners; we attend UN sessions together. The most recent one, the 57th session of the UN Commission for Social Development, took place in February. On July 25, Rio de Janeiro will host a concert by the BRICS symphony orchestra during a foreign ministerial meeting. This is also our project with the participation of five Crimean musicians. How do you evaluate such public diplomacy?

Maria Zakharova: We support it to the greatest possible extent. If you need our assistance, please let us know and we will be happy to provide it.

This is not about some political meaning, and not about the federal government wanting to show international community something that does not exist. It is about letting Crimeans speak globally, giving people who live here an opportunity to let the world know about themselves and helping them communicate with the global community both on problematic issues (even if we do not consider them problematic), as well as on the issues of mutual interest. Agencies exist for your convenience, to let you implement what you want to do.

Question: May is the deadline for Russia to pay its contribution to the Council of Europe. Some say that we may leave the organisation. What is the Foreign Ministry’s position? Will Russia quit the Council of Europe? How, in your opinion, will the situation unfold?

Maria Zakharova: This is not the Foreign Ministry’s position, but the country’s.  Interagency consultations are used to develop solutions to such complex problems. The decision about taking part or otherwise (freezing, continuing, or reactivating presence) in international agencies is made by the government based on interagency discussions, and not by the Foreign Ministry alone.

As for the Council of Europe, our position is absolutely clear, logical and very simple. We believe that participation should be full-blown and the fees (the sums are quite considerable) should be paid for full-blown participation. Some of the Council of Europe member countries said “wisely” that it was Russia’s obligation to attend the meetings. Our “obligation” is to take part in the work, while mere attendance is possible via YouTube for free and there is no need to pay millions. Millions are paid for something other than watching people go through the motions on the floor. Russia must be involved on the full scale through voting, working on documents, electing representatives to various bodies, and making the organisation work so that the Russian delegation is able to participate in full. That is our position, very clear and simple. The situation where we are told, “put the money on the table and step aside” is not working anymore.

Question: How can you comment on media reports about a recent refusal of the Maltese authorities to allow Venezuela-bound Russian aircraft to overfly Malta?

According to Maltese media outlets, Russia is allegedly indignant over Malta’s refusal to allow its aircraft to overfly the country, and it can respond by launching a campaign to discredit Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat during or after the May election to the European Parliament.

Maria Zakharova: On April 4, 2019, Russia requested permission for two aircraft carrying passengers and freight to Venezuela to fly via Maltese air space. This was done in line with the established procedure through the Russian Embassy in Malta. Unfortunately, the Maltese authorities refused to allow the above-mentioned Russian aircraft to overfly the country without explaining the reasons for this decision.

Although the adoption of such decisions is a sovereign right of any specific state, the decision of the Maltese authorities deviates from generally accepted practice and implies a certain unfriendly connotation. We can state this. Certainly, the Russian side will take this aspect into account in its bilateral relations with Valletta.

We have also tracked information mentioned by you. It surprised us even more. These reports distort the interpretation of the Russian request and the response of the Maltese authorities to it.  This also implies conjectures that Russia can respond by launching a campaign to discredit the country’s leadership during or after the May 2019 elections to the European Parliament. This news is absurd. Unfortunately, this is not the first time that Malta voices such ridiculous and absolutely groundless accusations with regard to Russia. This is called fake news in modern language. We believe that such publications in Maltese media space tarnish the reputation of those media outlets which reprint all this nonsense. This is a blow to their professionalism, independence, objectivity and honesty during the fulfilment of their official duty. I would like to note the principled Russian position: Outside interference in domestic affairs of sovereign states, regardless of their size, economic and military potentials, is unacceptable. We would also like to wish our partners at Maltese government agencies and media outlets to be guided by this fundamental rule of international relations while making their assessments.

I can add that we have had similar precedents. Russian aircraft carrying humanitarian consignments to Syria were not allowed to overfly some countries, as well. Let’s recall the obstacles faced by Russian aircraft. We see now how an attempt to democratise Syria ended. The state has been fighting international terrorism for many years. I believe it is worthwhile taking into account the experience of recent history while making such decisions. Today, it is becoming obvious that support for the so-called moderate terrorists and an attempt to remake and retailor the state of Syria have failed. This attempt was not legitimate. Russia continued to voice a clear position that was implemented in line with international law and respect for Syria’s sovereignty and independence. Although I repeat, they tried to prevent us from doing this in about the same manner.

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Question: This year the EAEU marks its fifth anniversary. This is the first stage. What are the prospects for the development of this organisation? And what is your forecast for the near future?

Maria Zakharova: This integration association has great potential. Its development is going to be very dynamic; there are good prerequisites for this.

The countries agreed to the unification voluntarily, without any kind of outside pressure and arm-twisting under the guise of confidence in the benefits of cooperation. This is an absolutely voluntary, mutually beneficial partnership, cooperation and interaction.

Look at the countries involved in this integration process. These are dynamically developing economies with a huge resource potential. Each country has its own specifics, periods of growth and recession, but their resource base, which determines the potential, is enormous. For a long time we were told about globalisation and warned of the impending termination of the regional integration processes and unification phase. But now we are witnessing the emergence and development of new centres, that is, a polycentric model held together by economic benefits and interests. Now we are witnessing the processes that Russia talked about for a long time and tried to lay the groundwork for them.

Question: More and more foreign investors are participating in the Yalta International Economic Forum. But there could have been more of them. Many are afraid to come, sometimes without even knowing what they fear, because the punishment may range from sanctions to potential criminal charges in their own countries. This does not only concern Crimea. I spoke with a deputy from Argentina whose delegation is attending the Forum. He said the United States does not allow investors from Arab countries to his country’s market. Do you think modern diplomacy has any means or mechanisms to protect foreign investors?

Maria Zakharova: It does. I would like to give a more detailed comment to your remark about foreign investors being afraid to visit, and even though many of them want to, fear still prevails. The FIFA World Cup Russia hosted last year was a lesson for everyone. It was Washington that scared people the most, dissuading them from going to Russia, saying it was dangerous, that the stadiums would not be built, Russia would fail at everything, and on top of that they cited some moral and ethical principles that should prevent fans from visiting us, and the need to teach Russia a lesson, etc.

Washington was the most active in this area. We know this, and they did not hide it. Much was being done behind the scenes, and the pressure was enormous. Nevertheless, most of the guests came from the United States. Those who fell for their blackmail, who succumbed to the fear that Washington was imposing, lost in the end.

Another example. It was Washington and Barack Obama who insisted that the EU impose sanctions on Russia. It was US politicians who were so vigorously involved in twisting the arms of EU officials. As a result, EU entrepreneurs, farmers, their agro-industrial sector lost billions, while trade between Russia and the United States increased. This lesson needs to be learned at some stage. Stop being afraid. The same thing happens with other international forums – they scare everyone else off, while their representatives arrive in large groups.

 

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