Briefing by Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova, Moscow, April 25, 2019
- Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s meeting with Mankeur Ndiaye, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for the Central African Republic and Head of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic
- Working visit to Russia by Bangladeshi Minister of Foreign Affairs Abulkalam Abdul Momen
- Anniversary general meeting of the Commission of the Russian Federation for UNESCO
- Visit to Russia by Cape Verde's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Communities and Defence Luis Filipe Lopes Tavares
- Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s working visit to Uzbekistan
- Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s participation in the Arctic Council’s ministerial meeting
- Events to celebrate the 74th anniversary of Victory
- The Victory Songs peacekeeping project
- Developments in Syria
- Venezuela update
- Presidential election in Ukraine
- Verkhovna Rada's adoption of the Ukrainian language bill
- The presidential executive order on simplified procedure for conferment of Russian citizenship to permanent residents of individual districts of Ukraine’s Donetsk and Lugansk regions (the DPR and LPR territories)
- Developments in Sri Lanka
- Cancellation of intra-Afghan dialogue meeting in Doha
- Debates in the Parliament of the Netherlands on providing shelter to Afghan citizens who cooperated with the Dutch military contingent in that country
- Remarks by US Ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman
- World Press Freedom Day
- One more false story about the Skripal case
- Interview by German Federation of Journalists President Frank Überall to the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
- Attitude toward Russian media in France and retaliatory measures
- Publication of a Russian report on the topic of “interference” in the US election
- US plans to impose a total ban on Iranian oil import
- Meeting on Syria in Nur-Sultan
- Developments in Ukraine following the presidential election
- New provocations prepared by the White Helmets
- 9th international forum Victory Forged by Unity
- Jon Huntsman’s statements and the nature of Western diplomacy
- Libyan National Army offensive on Tripoli
Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s meeting with Mankeur Ndiaye, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for the Central African Republic and Head of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic
On April 29, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will meet in Moscow with Mankeur Ndiaye, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative and Head of the UN Mission in the Central African Republic (CAR).
Planned topics of discussion at the talks include the political settlement process in the CAR and the UN peacekeeping operation in support of that process.
Russia has been actively facilitating peaceful dialogue between the government and armed groups in the CAR and engaged in comprehensive military-technical assistance there.
Russia will continue its robust support for the settlement process in the Central African Republic acting in coordination with the country’s leadership, the African Union and the CAR’s international partners, as well as at the UN and its Security Council.
On April 29, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the People's Republic of Bangladesh Abulkalam Abdul Momen will come to Moscow on a working visit at the invitation of Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
During the talks the foreign ministers are expected to discuss the condition of current Russian-Bangladeshi relations, prospects for advancing the political dialogue, the development of trade, economic, people-to-people and other ties, as well as the expansion of the bilateral contractual legal framework.
In considering the international and regional agenda, special attention will be paid to deeper interaction in international organisations, above all the UN and its specialised agencies.
On April 29, the Cultural Centre of the Foreign Ministry’s Main Administration for Service to the Diplomatic Corps will host an anniversary general meeting of the Commission of the Russian Federation for UNESCO to be chaired by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. It is devoted to the 65th anniversary of Russia’s accession to UNESCO and 30th anniversary of joining the 1972 Convention concerning the Protection of World Cultural and Natural Heritage.
The meeting will be attended by senior officials of the Presidential Executive Office and the Government Executive Office, federal ministers, regional governors, Federation Council members, State Duma deputies and prominent Russian figures in education, science and culture.
During the meeting Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will present a report on the Commission’s performance over the previous period, including in the context of President Vladimir Putin’s meeting with UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay in Moscow last March. The members of the Commission will discuss the current stage of Russia-UNESCO cooperation and take specific decisions aimed at further strengthening the position of our country in this major inter-governmental humanitarian organisation.
Cape Verde's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Communities and Defence Luis Filipe Lopes Tavares will pay a working visit to Moscow from April 29 to May 1. Mr Lavrov will hold talks with him on April 30. They plan to discuss bilateral political, trade, economic and people-to-people ties, paying special attention to the promotion of mutually beneficial cooperation in energy, the fuel and energy sector, tourism and agriculture. An inter-governmental agreement on ending visa formalities for reciprocal travel is being prepared for signing.
There will also be a detailed exchange of views on urgent international issues with an emphasis on crisis settlement and peacekeeping in Africa. They will discuss practical ways of combatting international terrorism and extremism in the context of the collective efforts to neutralise these threats in Africa.
On May 2-3, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will pay a working visit to Uzbekistan. On May 2, Mr Lavrov will be received by President of the Republic of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev. He will also have talks with his Uzbek counterpart Abdulaziz Kamilov. The ministers are expected to discuss the implementation of the large-scale agreements reached during President Vladimir Putin’s state visit to Uzbekistan on October 18-19, 2018 and exchange views on urgent issues of bilateral cooperation. They will also discuss a broad range of regional and international issues of mutual interest, paying special attention to the situation in neighbouring Afghanistan and the need to coordinate efforts to peacefully overcome the crisis in that country.
On May 3, Foreign Minister Lavrov will take part in the ministerial segment of the 11th review meeting of the sides of the May 4, 1996 memorandum of understanding and cooperation in monitoring illegal production, trafficking and abuse of narcotic drugs, psychotropic substances and their precursors.
On May 6-7, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will take part in the events of the 11th ministerial meeting of the Arctic Council in the city of Rovaniemi, Finland.
The foreign ministers of the Arctic countries will sum up the results of the Arctic Council’s work in the past two years and discuss topical issues related to enhancing international cooperation in the Arctic with a view to ensuring its sustainable development, as well as main priorities of cooperation in the region in the next two years.
Mr Lavrov will have separate conversations with his counterparts from other Arctic states on the sidelines of the ministerial meeting.
The Foreign Ministry and its missions abroad are planning memorial, protocol, information and cultural events ahead of the upcoming celebrations marking the 74th anniversary of Victory in the Great Patriotic War (1941-1945). These include official receptions and ceremonial meetings, meetings with war veterans, ceremonies at monuments and memorials to Soviet soldiers, and various public functions involving Russian compatriots.
On May 7, under a plan of events dedicated to the 74th anniversary of Victory in the Great Patriotic War (1941-1945), a delegation of diplomatic service veterans and central office personnel led by a Ministry’s high ranking official will lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier near the Kremlin Wall.
On May 8, the Ministry’s lobby will host a traditional ceremony involving Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov, who will put baskets of flowers by the memorial plaques, whereupon a ceremonial meeting of the Ministry staff and veteran diplomats will be held at the conference hall on the occasion of Victory Day.
On May 9, a traditional military parade will be held on Red Square, to which we are planning to invite heads of foreign diplomatic missions and representatives of international organisations accredited in Moscow.
Different-format Immortal Regiment functions are being planned all over the world as part of the celebrations dedicated to the 74th anniversary of Victory in the Great Patriotic War. By tradition, these are organised by Russian compatriots, with the Russian foreign missions giving them the needed support.
This year, the processions abroad are expected to be held on an even greater scale than previously. At least, the applications coming to the Russian foreign missions demonstrate that the number of participants will increase by comparison with what was the case last year. According to unofficial data, functions are likely to take place in more than 110 countries and nearly 500 cities and towns.
I would like to stress that we always give support to NGOs and our compatriots, who are actively involved in organising Immortal Regiment events.
We hope that in a number of states these events, like last year, will be joined, along with Russian compatriots, by members of foreign missions, local citizens, veterans and representatives of anti-fascist organisations. We do our best to induce the authorities in host countries to facilitate the holding of these memorial ceremonies rather than impede them. We have some experience in this regard. Many government officials, legislators and politicians in a number of countries also join these processions and relevant events to honour the memory of those who defeated Nazism.
Personal greetings from the President of the Russian Federation will be conveyed to veterans of the Great Patriotic War (1941-1945), survivors of the siege of Leningrad, and former young prisoners of Nazi concentration camps, who are residing abroad.
You know how hard the Foreign Ministry and its foreign missions work to beautify and keep in a decent state the Russian (Soviet) military graves located in foreign countries. Late April and May is the period, when this work acquires special significance, although it is pursued on a year-round basis.
Today (April 25), the Victory Museum on Poklonnaya Gora hosted the presentation of a new season of the large-scale Victory Songs peacekeeping project sponsored by the Government of Moscow with support from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Culture. This song marathon started years ago. A distinctive feature of this year is that a film, Victory Songs, about the 2018 historic musical marathon will be shown on a wide screen for the first time. Last year, Russia’s Turetsky Choir and SOPRANO group performed for 10 days war, peace and heroic songs on the central squares of Berlin, New York, Vienna, Paris, Ljubljana, Minsk, Tel Aviv, Brest and Moscow.
There will be another marathon this year. As part of it, Victory Songs will be performed in Rome, Washington, Toronto, Warsaw, Budapest, Prague, Beijing, Qingdao, and again in Berlin, Vienna, Paris, Moscow and Minsk.
I would like to stress that the entrance is free.
May 1. Rome (Italy). Auditorium Conciliazione;
May 2. Paris (France). Casino de Paris;
May 3. Washington (USA). The National Mall;
May 4. New York City (USA). Victory Songs to be screened at the UN General Assembly;
May 5. Toronto (Canada). Mel Lastman Square;
May 7. Warsaw (Poland). Square by the Russian Embassy;
May 8. Budapest (Hungary). St Stephen’s Basilica Square;
May 9. Moscow (Russia). Belorussky Railway Station Square;
May 10. Prague (Czech Republic). Central Square;
May 11. Vienna (Austria). Schwarzenbergplatz;
May 12. Berlin (Germany). Gendarmenmarkt;
May 23. Qingdao (China). The Olympic Park;
May 25. Beijing (China). Kuche Xiaozheng Square;
July 3. Minsk (Belarus). Central Square.
We continue to closely follow developments in Syria.
A tense situation persists in the Idlib de-escalation zone. According to reports, militants from the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham terrorist group are trying to pose as moderate opposition. In early April, the terrorists announced the convocation of the so-called parliament for drafting internal rules and establishing a unified government. Jabhat al-Nusra also urged groups operating in Idlib to join the consolidated paramilitary formation Jaysh Muwahhad. In turn, we are convinced that it is necessary to continue the fight against terrorist organisations, recognised as such by the UN Security Council, regardless of the names under which they may hide.
The Sunni Arab population continues to protest against the actions of local administrations in northeastern Syria. Unfortunately, violence flared up, and casualties have been reported. The data of international organisations highlight a deteriorating humanitarian situation in areas east of the Euphrates River. For example, a dire situation bordering on the verge of a disaster has taken shape at al-Hol camp for internally displaced persons. The facility that is intended for accommodating not more than 40,000 people now has twice that number and the people there are suffering from a shortage of food and water, as well as acute respiratory and gastro-intestinal diseases. Dozens of people, including children, have died from hypothermia, malnutrition and a lack of medical treatment.
The Russian side continues to evacuate residents from the Rukban camp for internally displaced persons, located in an area around the Al-Tanf community in southern Syria which is illegally occupied by the United States. Over the past week, about 2,000 people have been evacuated from there. In all, it became possible to evacuate about 6,000 people from Rukban, mostly women, children and senior citizens.
The situation in and around Syria is being stabilised. Last week, the ambassadors of India and Brazil presented their credentials to President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus. A delegation of the Bulgarian-Syrian Business Council visited Syria, discussing the involvement of Bulgarian companies in the upcoming Damascus International Fair with Syrian colleagues. Syrian authorities have authorised Qatar’s airlines to use the country’s air space. The Abu Kamal checkpoint on the Syrian-Iraqi border has also reopened.
Today, Nur-Sultan is hosting the 12th international meeting on Syria in the Astana format. Delegations of guarantor countries (Russia, Turkey and Iran), representatives of the Syrian Government and the Syrian armed opposition, observers from Jordan, the UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy for Syria Geir Pedersen, as well as experts from the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and the International Committee of the Red Cross have arrived in Kazakhstan for the two-day event. The sides will discuss developments on the ground, humanitarian matters, as well as the political process, prioritising efforts to launch the Constitutional Committee’s work.
Members of the Working Group on the Release of Detainees/Abductees, Handover of Bodies and Identification of Missing Persons that operates as part of the Astana format will hold their eighth meeting on the sidelines of the event. Earlier, the group’s members facilitated the third operation to release 18 hostages. We are noting with satisfaction that the Astana format confirms its efficiency and relevance in these important areas and in other matters.
Washington is trying to scare the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean (CELAC) with Russia. It’s hard to imagine a more absurd threat to our friends. In more than two hundred years of Russian-Latin American relations, our country has never taken any forceful action in that region, never made any threats of military action, humanitarian interventions or low-intensity force operations against any CELAC country. On the contrary, cooperation with the CELAC region is an inherently valued track of Russian diplomacy, which we are building on a basis free from ideology.
Russia has consistently advocated a politically united and economically stable Latin America. We do not confront our partners with dilemmas like “whoever is not with us is against us.” A number of CELAC countries have recognised the Venezuelan parliament speaker as the interim head of state, while others continue to cooperate with the legitimate Government of Venezuela. At the same time, all our partners in the region tell us that differences on this issue cannot and should not affect our bilateral relations. We fully support this constructive attitude.
Meanwhile, the US continues playing up the likelihood of a force scenario in Venezuela, although all Latin American and Caribbean countries, as well as the overwhelming majority of countries in other regions, have firmly and clearly opposed the armed invasion of Venezuela, in whatever humanitarian wrapper it is presented. In fact, the statements by members of the Donald Trump administration are destabilising Venezuela. The threats of the US military are forcing the legitimate Government of Venezuela to spend large amounts on the country's defence. The US sanctions and the pirate-style seizure of gold reserves in the UK are causing the socio-economic degradation in Venezuela. There are internal reasons of course, and no one disregards them. We are all realistic and can assess the situation realistically. There are dry figures. Look at how many Venezuelan assets in various forms and formats have been taken away from the Venezuelan people.
Obviously, Washington would be happy with any option to destabilise Venezuela if the final goal is achieved – the overthrow of the current Government. Instead of immediately ceasing to threaten the Venezuelans with war and returning the stolen money, the US is preparing new provocations. On May 1, the political opponents have scheduled the usual demonstrations. We can see how this formula is being activated again – the end justifies the means. The radical opposition is preparing new large-scale actions to provoke clashes between protesters from different camps. We have witnessed similar situations in other countries more than once – the use of firearms by unknown persons is instantly declared repressions by law enforcement agencies against civilians, and used as an excuse to unleash force to overthrow the legitimate authorities. We urge all sober-minded politicians in Venezuela to stick to peaceful methods of political campaigning – especially, on the day of international solidarity of workers. During this holiday of spring and peace, it is more appropriate to get busy with improvement in the country, not escalation of violence.
Unfortunately, we can see how those who have bought the sweet promises, which turned out empty – again, made from Washington – how those who bought these promises are now facing a harsh reality. I remember two months ago, the so-called Friends of Venezuelan Democracy all as one hammered on about some kind of amnesty for military personnel who desert the Venezuelan armed forces and promised tidy sums. So there were military who broke their oath and declared support for the self-proclaimed president and left the country. Where are they now? They were left without a homeland, documents or work. Instead of the promised benefits or other sorts of blessings, they have been recruited into sabotage groups and trained to return to destabilise the situation. They have in fact become hostages; they are not deciding the future of Venezuela, but are used in someone else’s game to determine the future of their own people whom they have been separated from by deceit.
Another way to survive is to participate in criminal activities for money or in drug trafficking. I think this should be a lesson to those who are promised too much and end up a hostage trying to play this roulette with Washington. Even more telling is the fate of former head of Venezuela's military intelligence Hugo Carvajal, the most influential general who supported the self-appointed president, recently arrested in Madrid at the request of the United States.
At all international platforms, Russia strongly urges our American partners to act within the framework of international law, and to refrain from or abandon any irresponsible steps, the introduction of new sanctions and threats of the use of force.
Russia closely followed the presidential election in Ukraine. We noted the numerous violations registered by observers, both local and international, of electoral procedures, pressure on voters, unscrupulous methods used by the media, the use of dirty campaign tactics, the actual preventing of millions of Ukrainian citizens, including those in Russia, from taking part in the voting, and banning Russian representatives from acting as international observers. Overall, the Ukrainian election in no way can be considered a model for the free and independent expression of voters’ intentions.
However, one thing is clear: despite all the political tactics and administrative methods used by the authorities, the residents of Ukraine overwhelmingly voted to express their disapproval of the destructive policies pursued by Poroshenko's regime.
Today, President Vladimir Putin spoke with journalists. I imagine you have seen those quotes already. They have been published in their entirety, and they offer a complete assessment of all these issues I referred to. Once again, I would direct you to the Russian President's comments.
This expression of Ukrainian voters' intentions has been noted in Moscow.
The prospects for Russia-Ukraine relations will depend on the practical steps to be taken by Kiev and on the new Ukrainian leadership's readiness to take responsibility for the decisions to be made as well as for implementing international agreements, including the settlement of the crisis in Donbass on the basis of the Minsk Package of Measures approved by the UN Security Council.
Today, on April 25, Ukraine's Verkhovna Rada adopted in its second and final reading the notorious law on ensuring the functioning of Ukrainian as the state language.
This is essentially a law for involuntary, basically total Ukrainisation. Its provisions impose considerable restrictions, and in many cases direct prohibition, on the use of the Russian language and languages of ethnic minorities in various spheres of civic life.
The fact that its adoption involved consideration of over 2,000 amendments proves that the concept and text of the new law are quite controversial and have met with a mixed reaction in Ukrainian society.
We reserve the right to give a proper assessment of this law upon its official publication, although it is already now clear that many provisions of the law, imposed by Poroshenko's outgoing administration, are in obvious conflict with a number of international law provisions and Ukraine's Constitution. This bill, among other things, also contradicts the Minsk Package of Measures approved by the UN Security Council, which affirms the right to linguistic self-determination.
It is already obvious what we are dealing with is a decision that will only aggravate the divisions in Ukrainian society and further postpone the prospects for settling the ongoing crisis in Ukraine.
First estimates have already been provided. I believe there’s no need to go deep into this matter, but given the large number of questions we have received, I will go over several points which will more or less highlight the already known Russian position on this account.
This story dates back a while. This decision was not taken overnight and was worked out thoroughly. This decision was based on the situation, as they say, on the ground, that is, the actual state of affairs.
Primarily, it is a humanitarian matter which requires corresponding measures to be taken, the ones in question. Official Kiev has been calling residents of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions terrorists and separatists for several years now. And it has been doing so all alone. Even the Western capitals and the media, which publish material matching the official stance of their respective capitals, do not refer to Donetsk and Lugansk residents as terrorists. This is the know-how implemented in Ukraine by the Kiev regime.
It is important to understand that the residents of the so-called Donetsk and Lugansk people’s republics did not commit any terrorist attacks, take hostages, or threaten official Kiev representatives with physical violence. Nor did they try to achieve political solutions through violence or threats. People tried to protect themselves and their children from encroachment on their identity, lifestyle and language, imposing someone else’s world view on them, and direct violation by the state of the generally recognised rights such as freedom of conscience, freedom of thought, right to freedom of opinion and the right to use their native language. After all, people tried to protect themselves against the coup and its consequences. Moreover, the illegal change of power took place in Ukraine more than once, not just in 2013-2014. It was an experiment on their own citizens, when their will, which was demonstrated during the legal and legitimate presidential elections, was disrespected on several occasions. More than once in the history of modern Ukraine, the choice of the people was changed in an unconstitutional manner during the so-called Maidan protests.
In addition to language and cultural aspects, there’s also a systematic violation of fundamental human rights, such as the right to life, the right to a fair trial and the prohibition of torture. These rights were blatantly violated by the Kiev authorities both in relation to residents of areas controlled by the DPR/LPR, and in relation, in principle, to “those who disagree” with the Kiev regime’s policy.
The next factor includes the real situation in the conflict zone and complete lack of prospects for improvement. It’s not just about locking the state of affairs as it was in late 2018-early 2019, but a combination of factors. This is a matter related to the real state of affairs on the ground and the programme statements that the Kiev regime and the political establishment of that country have been making all along. These statements did not leave any hope to residents of this particular region for the situation to ever improve, either in the short or the medium term. There’s no sign of the situation ever improving, and Ukraine practically ignores the option for civil solution (the Minsk Agreements) to this problem. Again, this is a matter of practice, not theory. The state of affairs in southeastern Ukraine remains extremely bad. Despite the parties’ ceasefire agreement, it is not possible to achieve a complete and comprehensive ceasefire. We understand why. The number of violations of what was agreed upon is many times over on the part of the Kiev regime, than the opposite side.
The situation is further aggravated by measures to tighten and perpetuate the socioeconomic blockade of Donbass adopted by the Ukrainian authorities in March 2017 which was de facto imposed by them, in conjunction with radical nationalists, in 2015. The situation is getting worse almost every month.
According to estimates of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the number of people affected by the conflict in southeastern Ukraine as of late 2018 stood at 5.4 million, out of which 3.5 million are in need of humanitarian aid. About 600,000 people, including 100,000 children, are living right next to the contact line. The situation is getting worse.
I often meet with students and NGOs, and I meet with the people who came from Donbass, found a temporary accommodation here, or live here permanently. Each time during such meetings I heard (this lasted for many years) a reproach against our country that there’s clearly the need to support the people who have, de facto, become residents of our country, but see nothing coming their way from Russia. When I answer them I always reproach them and say they are being unfair with their assessment of Russia’s position. I kept saying that humanitarian aid, political assistance and moral support provided by Russia and, in particular, the Russians, are worth a lot. Probably, without it, the life of these people would have turned out much more dramatic. These arguments were accepted. We received hundreds, if not thousands, of messages and comments from Donbass residents pleading to improve their lives in some way. Russia took a direct part in doing so.
People in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions of Ukraine live under constant threats to their lives and health, actually, under shelling attacks, without any chance to exercise the very same human and citizen rights that we hear so much about from our Western partners, Ukraine’s supervisors and co-sponsors of the Minsk Agreements- those very states and politicians who have been inspiring the Kiev regime to its “exploits” for many years now.
Official Kiev unilaterally severed ties with the Donetsk and Lugansk republics, making their residents stateless persons de facto. They were cut off from everything, including social benefits, pensions, salaries and the nationwide financing system for banking services. Indeed, they came under an actual blockade, boycott or blackmail, call it what you like.
In fact, for more than five years now, Donbass residents have been deprived of the opportunity to exercise their rights and freedoms of a person and citizen not in theory, but in practice.
I also wanted to make the following point. Even despite the experiments that the Kiev regime has been conducting on them during these years, the Donbass residents could expect that they would at least be given an opportunity to use their voice and fulfill their civic duty during the presidential election, but the exact opposite happened. The presidential election was not held in certain areas of Ukraine’s Donetsk and Lugansk regions on March 31 deliberately. Thus, several million Ukrainians were completely excluded from the electoral process. An entire region was deliberately limited in its civil rights. This was done even though there was enough time to prepare for the presidential election in Ukraine and a full-fledged bureaucratic apparatus to organise them was readily available. To reiterate, the exclusion of a portion of the population in that country from the electoral process was intentional. I think these actions were meant to achieve a well-calculated result.
The concept of "citizen" implies that a person enjoys political and other rights and obligations in addition to the fact that a person has the right to life. However, the lives of Donbass residents are threatened. They have the right to safety, education, food and safety of their children.
There’s also a concept of "citizen" which is directly related to political rights. The right to elect and be elected is the key political right. By taking this right away, Kiev actually deprives the Ukrainians of full citizenship, which was effectively done.
Once again I would like to note that the Kiev regime had every opportunity to ask international institutions, such as the OSCE, the Contact Group on resolving the situation in southeastern Ukraine, or other relevant organisations, for help in resolving organisational issues (including safety) involved in holding elections in the DPR and the LPR. This was not done.
Remember how often Mr Poroshenko talked about engaging the UN in resolving the situation in Donbass? He went there regularly and spoke at the UN General Assembly. For some reason, he never discussed using the UN experience in properly organising the elections or matters related to ensuring the rights of his own people. These trips were used simply to promote himself and the election rhetoric.
It should also be noted that the process of alienating a portion of population took place in Ukraine in several stages and during many years.
One can cite endlessly the facts, figures and examples of how and why the situation on the ground is now such that the executive order by President Putin has become an absolute necessity.
I would like to draw your attention to President Putin’s comment on this matter, which he gave to the media today.
We are receiving updates on the aftermath of a series of terrorist attacks in hotels and Catholic churches on April 21. The explosions killed over 300 people, including about 30 foreigners. More than 500 people were injured. Since Monday, April 22, Sri Lanka has been placed under a state of emergency.
In relation with the tragic events in Sri Lanka, condolences were sent to the country’s government by President of Russia Vladimir Putin, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, the speakers of the both chambers of the Federal Assembly, and the Foreign Ministry. Our diplomats who are working in the country also expressed their deepest sympathies with the people of Sri Lanka.
The inhuman action of the terrorists cannot be justified. We support the intention of Sri Lanka to do everything to find the organisers of this barbaric crime and to bring them to justice.
According to the Russian Embassy in Colombo, there are no Russians among the victims. Nevertheless, we recommend that Russian citizens abstain from visiting Sri Lanka until the situation is resolved.
We would like to draw the attention of the media to this position of the Foreign Ministry and request to communicate it to the public.
It was recently announced that the second meeting of the intra-Afghan dialogue, which was scheduled to take place in Doha, Qatar, on April 19-21, has been cancelled.
We regret this decision of the organisers because this intra-Afghan format has proved to be the most promising communications channel between various political forces in Afghanistan, including the current Government and representatives of the armed opposition represented by the Taliban. I would like to remind you that the first meeting of the intra-Afghan dialogue took place in Moscow on February 5-6, and that it was quite successful. During the meeting, without any external interference, prominent Afghan politicians and Taliban representatives initiated a dialogue about the future shape of the post-conflict Afghanistan. The abolition of such a dialogue can have negative consequences for the large-scale intra-Afghan peace process.
We consider the reason for the disruption of the Doha meeting to be the unconstructive position of the current leaders of Afghanistan, which sent a delegation to Qatar that a priori did not fit in the format of the event and caused discontent among many participants, including the main opponents, the Taliban. We believe that dictating the terms of holding the intra-Afghan meeting does not correspond to the statements by the current Afghan Government about its intention to launch a constructive conversation for the sake of the future of Afghanistan.
We hope that Afghans will eventually manage to resolve the difficulties themselves and return to the dialogue that may prove to be seminal for their country.
We noted the heated debates in the Parliament of the Netherlands on the provision of shelter to the citizens of Afghanistan who cooperated with the Dutch military contingent in that country.
It turns out that there are some 200 of such people and only ten of them have been given shelter in the Netherlands. The rest of them, as MPs said, cannot overcome the complex bureaucratic procedures required by the country’s migration law.
In the meantime, many of these Afghans have been captured by Taliban militants; four of them have been tortured and killed. However, Dutch Minister of Defence Ank Bijleveld has relieved her ministry of the responsibility for the deaths of these people, referring to the complexity of migration procedures that must be carried out by all foreigners who request shelter.
We noted that such disrespect towards like-minded people and assistants from Afghanistan is not only common for the Dutch, but also for some other countries that are part of the international military contingent in Afghanistan. When leaving the country, the international coalition abandons its friends as it no longer needs them, and leaves them one-on-one with extremists. This again shows the true price of the ‘friendship’ that the West declares it has with the Afghan people. It leads to the disappointment of people in Afghanistan, their radicalisation and, as a result, the expansion of the social base of the armed opposition.
In our opinion, the above-mentioned situation is not a coincidence. It reflects the general attitude of the NATO countries towards the Afghan war. While losing the war, many of them are ready to abandon the country to the whims of fate and to leave its people to deal with the problems the coalition created.
Such an approach is especially dangerous in the run-up to the eventual withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan and contradicts the stated intent of the US and its NATO allies to do this ‘responsibly.’ We urge them to prevent new tragedies that are directly related to their military presence on Afghan territory.
On April 23, US Ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman visited a US carrier task force in the Mediterranean and broke into a threatening tirade against Russia: “Each of the carriers operating in the Mediterranean represents 100,000 tonnes of international diplomacy… If [Russia] truly seeks better relations with the United States, it must cease its destabilizing activities around the world.”
I would like to remind Mr Huntsman that throughout its centuries-old history Russia has repeatedly had threats of this kind that were disguised as recommendations and proved them untenable in practice on many occasions.
Let us hold a brief lesson on Russian history for Mr Jon Huntsman, US Ambassador to Russia.
Here are just a few examples.
Everyone knows the main landmarks of the Polish-Lithuanian invasion in the early 17th century. The Polish-Lithuanian force managed to occupy Moscow for two years. But in 1612, the Second People’s Volunteer Corps liberated Moscow from the interventionists. To mark this event, we celebrate Unity Day on November 4.
During the early 18th century, King Charles XII of Sweden invaded Russia. This campaign ended in, to quote historians, “shame and disgrace for the Swedes,” when over 22,000 prisoners of war – Swedes, Finns, Germans and others – were marched through the streets of Moscow in a Victory Parade. The Swedish army was routed in the famous Battle of Poltava by Peter the Great of Russia.
The Russian army dashed Napoleon’s imperial ambitions with no less success during the 1812 Patriotic War. The war ended in an almost complete rout of his Grande Armée, liberation of Russia from the invaders and the Russian entry into Paris. The Russian victory left a deep imprint both on European history and the French cultural code. For example, the French say, “C’est la Bérézina” as a synonym of complete defeat. “Bérézina” is the name of a river in Belarus, where Napoleon lost most of what was left of his “invincible” army in November 1812.
It seems quite symbolic that the US Ambassador made his statement in late April, because in early May we have yet another good tradition. On May 9, we will celebrate Victory Day – victory in the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945. It will be recalled that the Soviet Union played the decisive role in the defeat of the aggressive Hitler Coalition. This was an anti-Nazi liberation war on a global scale. The Victory in the Great Patriotic War and WWII was and still is invaluable not only for the fate of our Motherland but also for the world at large.
Perhaps Mr Ambassador wants us to have yet another occasion to celebrate. To be honest, we haven’t planned for this.
Regrettably, the threats and sanctions have become the State Department’s “signature tune” in recent years. I think they simply have to study history better than they do. This will help to avoid mistakes unpardonable for a diplomat.
Russia has always sought to pursue a peaceful foreign policy, preferring diplomatic methods to settle disputes and conflicts.
Mr Huntsman, when you are back home, please travel to New York and look at the symbol of modern world order. It is a monument called “Non-Violence” by Carl Fredrik Reuterswärd of Sweden, a revolver with its barrel tied in a knot, which stands outside the UN Headquarters. It is one of the most popular symbols of pacifism in the world. This symbol is in your country, Mr Ambassador, even though it has been installed in front of the United Nations building.
In 1990, yet another monument, “Good Defeats Evil,” by artist Zurab Tsereteli of Russia, was put alongside the “revolver.”
I think few US diplomats know this, so I’ll use this opportunity to say that precisely this monument explains the utilitarian aspect of the “tonnes of international diplomacy” mentioned by Mr Huntsman. The monument was made out of dismantled US and Soviet missiles – Pershings-2s and SS-20s – respectively. It became a symbol of the end of the Cold War.
By the way, Mr Huntsman, while you are still here in Russia, I insistently recommend that you study the design for the Russian Armed Forces church in Patriot Park. The Nazi Wehrmacht’s “tonnes of international diplomacy,” to use your expression, those dating back to the Great Patriotic War, are being recycled and will be used in its construction, specifically for steps leading to the church entrance.
May 3 is World Press Freedom Day declared by the UN General Assembly in 1993 to raise awareness of the need to ensure the free operation of the media and the safety of journalists.
Russia traditionally pays special attention to these issues, including in the context of protecting the legitimate rights and interests of domestic media abroad. We do our best to hold to account those responsible for obstructing the professional activities of media professionals, to monitor abuses against them, and to cooperate on this track at relevant international platforms, in particular, the OSCE and UNESCO.
At the same time, we have to note that the state of freedom of speech and freedom of the media in the world is far from satisfactory. First of all, we have recorded violations of the rights of Russian journalists on an unprecedented scale while performing their professional duties in a number of countries which formally declare their commitment to the principles of freedom of speech, while at the same time waging aggressive campaigns against unwanted media, in particular Russian outlets. Journalists have their accreditations withdrawn; they are denied visas and shut out of media events. Aggressive information campaigns are being launched to discredit their activities.
Vivid examples of this include the discrimination against the Sputnik agency and the Russia Today TV channel in France; the growing campaign in the German press to discredit Russian and Russian-language media in that country; the policy of exerting pressure on Russian media in the United States, where social media censorship is being promoted under the guise of fighting misinformation and ensuring proper conditions for holding elections; the anti-Russia misinformation campaigns waged by official London; restriction of the Russian information presence in the Baltic countries. This list is far from complete. Unfortunately, Brussels and the European Union also got involved in such misinformation campaigns, having created special agencies to fight “Russian propaganda” – in fact a machine for thwarting Russian journalists.
The situation with freedom of speech and the safety of journalists in Ukraine continues to be of particular concern. We have repeatedly pointed out to the international community the overt policy of censorship in the media, gross violations of the rights of journalists, going as far as their physical elimination – from shelling of film crews to illegal arrests of journalists carried out with the full connivance of the global public.
Head of the RIA Novosti-Ukraine agency Kirill Vyshinsky has spent almost a year in custody, arrested on absurd, false and far-fetched charges of treason and other criminal acts.
During this year, we never stopped urging representatives of relevant international organisations, human rights NGOs, and OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Harlem Desir to publicly condemn Ukraine’s lawlessness in regard to the Russian media.
On the eve of World Press Freedom Day, I would especially like to emphasise that Russia strictly abides by the principle of transparency and openness of its media landscape, ensuring the unimpeded work of foreign and domestic journalists, and willingly cooperating with relevant international agencies on media issues. So if we take any action against foreign journalists, correspondents, or media – that would be an exclusively proportional response. Yet, never in history of modern Russian have we used any tools from our Western partners’ arsenal on Western correspondents or anyone from the international press corps accredited in Moscow, except when compelled to act symmetrically – otherwise our journalists would have had to stop working in the countries where they are based.
I would like to note that every year Russia voluntarily sends a progress report to UNESCO on the investigation of crimes committed against journalists. We regularly cooperate with OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Harlem Desir. For the past few years, we have been preparing and sending detailed letters to that organisation; we are in close correspondence and hold regular meetings. We raise public awareness of cases where journalists’ rights are violated in the OSCE region and are generally making every effort to help strengthen international standards in the area of freedom of speech and the media. We will continue this work.
The campaign to spread misinformation about the Skripal case continues in Britain. Over a year has passed since the mysterious events in Salisbury, and they are still being fleshed out in the media.
Hardly did we have time to rejoice for British school student Abigail McCourt, who gave first aid to Yulia and Sergey Skripal and remained safe and sound (We remember that Detective Bailey nearly lost his life after coming into contact with the Skripals – discrepancies happen) before we had a new reason to rejoice. It appears that neither children nor animals or birds sustained any damage from the incident.
Last week we learned from The New York Times that after the Salisbury incident CIA Director Gina Haspel presented to US President Donald Trump photos of children in hospital and dead ducks killed by Novichok. According to the newspaper, this was the decisive argument for the decision to expel dozens of Russian diplomats. What was really depicted in these photos and what ducks these were are anyone’s guess. We are eager to get to the bottom of this story. How did the US adopt a decision that dealt an irreparable blow at bilateral relations? What photos were shown? How could this happen?
We couldn’t ignore this story and sent an inquiry to the Foreign Office through the Russian Embassy in London. During the past year, we sent about a hundred such inquiries. Moscow has repeatedly urged London to cooperate on the inquiry into the Salisbury case, but our questions remained unanswered this time as well. So what to do about the ducks, the photos of which motivated President Trump to make this momentous decision?
On April 18, The Guardian (UK) published a comment by Tracy Daszkiewicz, the director of public health at Wiltshire Council, who said that no wildlife were impacted by the incident and no children were exposed to or became ill as a result. Sky News correspondent Deborah Haynes confirmed this information on her Twitter account, citing security sources.
So, who is lying in this case? The British media, British doctors, the CIA or American newspapers? After all, someone must be telling a falsehood. We would like to find this out.
This may be too true to be funny because the conclusions are most disappointing. Nobody is aware of what really happened there, but everyone understands that the media is either manipulating the public or is used for similar manipulations.
Germany keeps up its campaign to discredit Russian and Russian-language media represented in the country.
President of the German Federation of Journalists (Deutscher Journalisten-Verband), Frank Überall, was unable to refrain from demonising the Russian media, in particular RT Deutsch and Sputnik, and called for restricting their operations in Germany. In yet another interview with Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung he said that they were not media outlets but rather “Kremlin propaganda tools,” without providing any examples or facts. And this comes from a person who heads the German Federation of Journalists! He contradicts himself. If this is not propaganda, it has to be based on facts. If you fail to produce facts, this makes you a propaganda mouthpiece.
Frank Überall went as far as to proclaim that the German Federation of Journalists is calling for a boycott of RT Deutsch and restricting its access to Germany’s cable networks. What a job they have at the German Federation of Journalists…
He compared RT with Deutsche Welle, a German international broadcaster financed from the budget of the Federal Republic of Germany, claiming that the German media allegedly operated in an environment where journalists can freely express their opinions and are not being directed by the state, while Russian media apparently pursue “propagandistic aims.” How does he know? Has he ever read Deutsche Welle articles in Russian, for instance? I have no doubt that he has not. Had he looked at them, I think this would have changed the way he views this outlet.
It is telling that Frank Überall’s invective was published immediately after an interview with the leading candidate of the German Social Democrats at the European Parliament elections, German Federal Minister of Justice Katarina Barley was aired by RT Deutsch. What appalled the German media were not the ideas expressed by the German politician, who by the way did not go beyond the traditional EU-minded tenets, but the very fact that the interview took place. Talk about déjà vu! A similar, if not identical, incident happened only recently with Germany’s former Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel, who also gave an interview to RT Deutsch, and the same thing happened. This is totally absurd: a politician, a foreign minister agrees to an interview, giving rise to criticism and questions. After all, all he did was express his views. We were taught that selecting media that we like to communicate our position was not the right thing to do, and that we must refrain from using administrative leverage to discriminate against media outlets.
Apart from the self-proclaimed custodians of the German media sector represented by media outlets from the Axel Springer group, Der Spiegel, a weekly magazine, also published an article criticising Katarina Barley. It seems that they really have to play the Russian card. It is sad to see one of Germany’s journalism powerhouses, with a history of over seven decades, being consumed by a propaganda vortex, forgetting its founder Rudolf Augstein’s slogan: Say it the way it is. This is exactly what Russian media operating in Germany and elsewhere are trying to do.
According to Frank Überall, RT and Sputnik often give voice to speakers whom he referred to as being on the political margins. Accordingly, had the Russian media followed in the footsteps of Germany’s mainstream media, it would have been all right. But what about pluralism?
By making such disparaging comments regarding specific political forces of his own country, the German journalist not only demonstrates how biased he is without even trying to hide his political preferences, but also puts into question the ability of the German people to express its will. Let me remind you that in September 2017 Germans voted to elect to the Bundestag these very fringe politicians whom the leader of the country’s leading association of journalists mentioned in his thinly-veiled disparaging comments. He was probably referring to Alternative for Germany and The Left parties whose representatives have been talking to various media outlets, including Sputnik and RT Deutsch. If we look at their electoral outcomes, they account for about 20 per cent of seats in local parliament, or some 10 million voters. Are they also all on the fringe? Should these people be taken out of German politics? What should be done with them?
This absurd and ominous rhetoric is stupefying for anyone living in the 21st century. It is discrediting to the German media that are part of this federation of journalists. This has nothing to do with, and directly contradicts, professional ethics.
We can have different points of view and assessments, but we still have to respect media freedom as a fundamental principle.
There is another question. What prevents representatives of other political parties and groups from expressing their non-marginal points of view to the Russian media outlets that I have mentioned and to promote the mainstream agenda supported by official Berlin? Nothing prevents them from doing this. Have Russian media outlets refused them an opportunity to express their views? The opposite is true, as the Russian media have been telling us: they send scores of requests only to receive refusals in response. And they are not accused of offering a platform to marginal voices. They are open to everyone, including those who are viewed as marginal voices by marginal voices, but still get turned down.
Let me emphasise that any discriminatory steps regarding Russian media constitute a blatant violation of the freedom of expression. We hope that international bodies and NGOs take note of these outrageous statements by the head of the German Federation of Journalists. We will forward these materials to the relevant international organisations.
The conditions of the Russian media in France continue to deteriorate. Meanwhile Paris officials are turning a blind eye to our calls for returning the situation back to normal and go on with their policy of restrictions and discrimination with respect to the Russian media. I will explain what the matter is to you.
We noted on many occasions that the discrimination of the Russian news providers boils down not only to hostile rhetoric aimed at them, including at the top political level, but also to specific consistent steps made by the French authorities obstructing the activities of Russian journalists in France.
Here are a few statistics to make it clear. To date, not a single Sputnik news agency journalist out of nine working in France has received a press card from the French Foreign Ministry. The card confirms that its holder is an “accredited foreign media correspondent.” This is the document that gives one the right to work. We have already said that we will start displaying reciprocal approaches toward French journalists working in Russia. I can reaffirm it. As Russian journalists receive the answer “your request is being considered” instead of press cards, French journalists will receive exactly the same answer. I would like to emphasise for those who are going to speculate on this subject saying that restrictions are imposed on French journalists – this is not the case. This is the French side’s decision and we are only retaliating. Softly, so far.
By the way, this matter has dragged on for more than a year now. The accreditation is not formally denied. There are endless appeals by our journalists for which they receive standard answers. All this is insulting for the journalists, who are not given any facts regarding their inappropriate behaviour or improper way of working.
I would like to point out that such a situation actually leaves Sputnik journalists without a definite legal status, does not let them engage in their professional activities, outlaws them and makes them work at their own risk and peril. Exactly these French methods will be applied to the French media here in Moscow.
We deem such a situation unacceptable where it concerns two countries in the 21st century and given a whole set of relevant treaty provisions governing the freedom of the media.
I would like to draw your attention to the subject of Russia’s “interference” in US political processes. On April 18, the Russian Embassy in the United States published a special report on this subject entitled “The Russiagate Hysteria: a Case of Severe Russophobia.”
The report describes in detail the timeline of events, analyses the numerous accusations against Russia, and gives examples of the media’s inexhaustible clichés, revealing them as utterly baseless. The report is based on hundreds of publicly available official documents of Congress and executive branch agencies and over 8,000 items published in the media.
The report places particular emphasis on the inquiry by Special Counsel Robert Mueller and its results: $32 million in US taxpayer money, about 3,000 subpoenas, 500 interrogated witnesses, and not a single piece of tangible evidence pointing to Russia-US collusion. This allegation has been one of the central issues in US politics and, in the past few years, the central topic of the media. Despite this, nobody is rushing to issue retractions.
Our colleagues in Washington made titanic efforts but it would be much better for both them and us to channel these efforts not into combatting disinformation and fake news or dispelling myths about “the Russian threat” but into developing constructive relations with the US, holding exhibitions, student exchanges and talks and other events, and resolving urgent issues. Regrettably, the bad situation is taking a turn for the worse – I quoted today’s statement by Jon Huntsman. It is simply outside the bounds of diplomacy.
To read the report, go to the official website of the Russian Embassy in the US: https://washington.mid.ru/en/press-centre/news/russian_embassy_special_report/
Question: We are aware that the United States is preparing to impose a total ban on Iranian oil imports. What is Russia’s position on this?
Maria Zakharova: We regard this as part of not only anti-Iranian sanctions, but an anti-Iranian global strategy and policy pursued by the United States. This applies to all aspects of Iran’s domestic political life and its international activities. The United States is trying to block all the steps by the leaders of this state in order to encumber Iran’s domestic political agenda and its actions in the international arena. We declared our principled rejection of unilateral sanctions that are not approved by the UN Security Council, which is the body that legitimises sanctions.
With regard to Iran, we have repeatedly and absolutely unequivocally communicated that we denounce the anti-Iranian policy of the US on a whole range of issues. We have always said that the purported goals, even if they are intended to appear noble, have nothing to do with the specific policy of unilateral sanctions. In fact, these are no longer sanctions, but rather one-sided, overt and very aggressive pressure on a sovereign state. So, this issue fits into both the general concept adopted by the United States and Russia’s belief that an aggressive stance towards a sovereign state and pressure on an independent country are unacceptable. Our position on this matter hasn’t changed. We consider this step on the part of Washington to be part of its anti-Iranian campaign as well.
Question: Is Russia expecting anything new from today's talks on Syria in Nur-Sultan? Will a Constitutional Committee be created?
Maria Zakharova: This is a very general, rhetorical question. What we are expecting is not something new, but the implementation of the existing plans and what the parties will bring to the negotiating table. This may be called something new and a step in the right direction.
Question: Following the election, Ukraine finds itself in a grave pre-default state. The West is now facing two tough challenges, which are to convince Russia to accept the election results and then shift the bulk of financial problems onto it. You are aware of the great number of court proceedings initiated by Ukraine. Does the Foreign Ministry feel any pressure from certain states in this regard following the election in Ukraine?
Maria Zakharova: We hear absurd statements that follow no logic whatsoever. In particular, the US Special Representative for Ukraine Negotiations, Kurt Volker, stated that the executive order facilitating the acquisition of Russian citizenship by residents of certain regions of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions allegedly contradicted the Minsk agreements. It is not clear where such a misunderstanding of the processes, lack of logic and glaring lack of professionalism come from. After all, he’s a diplomat. A duly authorised person and a special representative must be aware of all the developments.
In what way do the corresponding executive order and the granting of Russian citizenship on residents of Donbass contradict the Minsk agreements? They contain provisions about linguistic self-determination, and, today, Kiev passed a law on the Ukrainian language as the only state language. The Minsk agreements speak of the special status for Donbass, but it was Ukrainian politicians – more precisely, the presidential candidate who has won the election and will soon take office – who said there would be no special status for that region. This directly contradicts the Minsk agreements. The document talks about amnesty, but Ukraine (a new political team already) said that there would be no such thing, either. Where were the US and European sponsors of Ukraine (in all senses of the word, from financial to moral) when evaluating such statements? This constitutes a violation of the Minsk agreements and an obstacle to their implementation.
The executive order of the President of Russia and the opportunity for residents of Donbass, who had been blocked and left in that position for several years now, to obtain Russian passports, do not have any relation to the Minsk agreements and do not violate a single international legal document.
Furthermore (President Putin mentioned this today), other neighbouring countries have long been issuing papers – residence permits or citizenships – to residents of the corresponding regions of Ukraine. And no one has ever reproached them for doing that. The only difference is that, unlike Russia, they are doing so based solely on ethnicity, and our country, in this case, is guided primarily by humanitarian considerations. And this is despite the fact that it is Russia that has been supplying humanitarian aid to Ukraine, in particular, Donbass, for several years now. What we are hearing are absurd claims. Unfortunately, their number is growing.
Exerting pressure, I think, is futile, as you already know.
Russia sticks to a clear position which is to focus on concrete actions by Kiev and the new political team, which is about to get to work, and on implementing the package of Minsk agreements, which was legitimised by the UN Security Council.
Question: Recently Russia’s Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN Vladimir Safronkov reported about a planned provocation by the White Helmets. He said they are going to accuse the Syrian government of using chemical weapons. This is not the first time information has appeared on the White Helmets staging videos.
At the same time, UK Permanent Representative to the UN Karen Pierce accuses Russia of spreading false information about the White Helmets and asked it to stop telling lies about this organisation that she called “humanitarian volunteers.” What is Russia’s reaction to her statement?
Maria Zakharova: The first statement by the Russian representative exposes the words of Ms Pierce that are, by and large, just a drop in the bucket of problems linked with the White Helmets. We are witnessing a colossal global deception, deliberate falsification. This is not just a matter of inconsistency or inaccuracy in the Western position but deliberate falsification by the Western countries that tried to present people, who are being paid to carry out their policy on the ground in Syria and not only there, as representatives of a NGO involved in humanitarian work.
This deception was revealed and exposed. Several years ago we only had suspicions and we actively shared them with others, including at the UN Security Council, whereas today (this happened not today or even yesterday but has been going on over the past year and a half) we have facts in hand. They point to the criminal, extremist activities perpetrated by this organisation and its associates, including assistance to terrorists and militants and cooperation with them in Syria and elsewhere, and staged chemical attacks. The latter were ostensibly carried out by the pro-government forces of Bashar al-Assad, whereas in reality they were staged with a view to making Damascus a target of political criticism and bombings by the Western community – the ones we witnessed a year ago.
Russia has drafted a number of documents and reports that it regularly submits to the UN Security Council and disseminates as the latter’s official documents. We cite specific examples during news conferences at international venues from New York to The Hague. We collect materials published by the media, including in the region. NGOs became interested in these issues. We received many requests from their representatives and journalists (let me recall that this work was launched not this year but earlier) to help them bring this information to international officials and agencies. Several events were held in the past few months alone. We provided strictly organisational assistance to Russian NGOs with a view to help them reveal instances of criminal conduct by the White Helmets and inform the international community about them. When we receive information about the planned involvement of this organisation in yet another crime, we share these facts with others. We do this not only to accuse it or confirm our position but mainly to prevent a crime. We fully realise that the amount of money pumped into the White Helmets and the political and information resources placed at their disposal by the West cannot just dissipate overnight. The West provided too much support and resources to these people who posed as humanitarians.
Just recall the prizes they were nominated for. There was even an attempt to carry them all the way to a Nobel Peace Prize. What hasn’t been done! And all this was done through the efforts and means of the Western world which this pseudo-humanitarian organisation used to carry out its deceptive practices.
I could go on. I have much to say.
Question: Today, St Petersburg is hosting the 9th International Forum of Victors – The Great Victory Gained by Unity, attended by representatives of all post-Soviet countries. What do you think about the importance of this event and the participation of all former Soviet republics in it, including the Baltic countries, Georgia and Ukraine?
Maria Zakharova: I don’t know the details of this forum but I believe it can only be welcomed.
Question: You mentioned Jon Huntsman who made a not-so-diplomatic statement on Russia. We agreed that Russian and Western diplomacy have different characters. In recent years, Western diplomacy has been known for its embargoes, sanctions, punishments, attempts to isolate others, ultimatums, threats, boycotts and humanitarian interventions. How would you characterise it: imperialism, neo-imperialism conservatism?
Maria Zakharova: Generally speaking, this subject should be addressed by the academic community, not by the executive authority. To what extent is the Western world prepared today to use traditional diplomatic mechanisms to address domestic and international challenges?
There are obvious signs that this model is no longer working: the global notion of international law and international legality is being replaced with notions of “the current state of affairs” and “the existing world order” that were not produced within the confines of the law following years spent elaborating international legal norms. They were simply based on decisions by a group of countries or some rules that were formulated for opportunistic purposes.
As we see it, this is a sign that many representatives of different Western countries no longer think in terms of classical diplomacy that implied both political manoeuvring and actions within a certain international legal framework. They simply have no need for it. Apparently, in their view such a traditional “structure” does not match the level of their development, financial capabilities and military capacity. Why restrict oneself with international law when it is possible to resolve issues by force or the threat of force? They see this as self-restriction. For them diplomacy is something archaic, an obstacle to manoeuvring. Many think there is no need for it.
A layman, a person who is not involved in these processes, will probably see some logic to this: those who are stronger can dictate their terms to others. But the problem is that, as international experience shows, when countries that reached not even the status of modern super powers, but were real empires, started dictating their terms to the world relying on their capabilities and might, global collapses happened and a global imbalance took shape, leading to millions of victims.
This is exactly why international law was elaborated in the second half of the 20th century (although this work started even earlier). It allowed countries to play according to common rules, proceeding from their intellectual and financial capabilities and their level of military-industrial development. Nobody restricted their development but there existed a common legal atmosphere. In the same way, every country has laws that apply to all, while its citizens achieve different results owing to their own abilities.
There are historical examples. On this basis, the human race came to understand that a combination of international law and the art of diplomacy may prevent a repeat of global cataclysms. Regrettably, many consider this “archaic” today. Based on global experience and an analysis of current developments we consider this attitude wrong.
Question: Contrary to UN appeals, the Libyan National Army continues its offensive on Tripoli. Is Russia ready to facilitate a peaceful settlement of this crisis?
Maria Zakharova: This is our traditional position and it has not changed. We certainly favour a peaceful settlement by political and diplomatic means and without violence. We have repeatedly explained our approach on this issue. It remains applicable to this day.