Briefing by Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova, June 5, 2019
- The 23rd St Petersburg International Economic Forum
- Session on restriction of freedom of speech and global legislative regulatory practices on the internet at SPIEF
- Working visit by Foreign Minister of Mali Tiebile Drame
- Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s participation in the Primakov Readings international forum
- Foreign Minister of Grenada Peter David’s visit to Russia
- Current developments in Syria
- Update on Venezuela
- US tightens anti-Cuba sanctions
- INF Treaty update
- Statements by US National Security Adviser John Bolton on the “Russian threat in the Arctic”
- Washington’s recommendations to develop video games for combating “dictatorial regimes”
- US demands to the entire world
- Current developments in Kosovo
- Aggravated situation in southeastern Ukraine
- Another outrage by Ukrainian radical nationalists
- Turkey hosts events marking 75th anniversary of deporting Crimean Tatars and 150th anniversary of ending the Caucasian War
- Developments in the Julian Assange case
- The German Government’s criticism of alleged Russian “attacks” on Deutsche Welle
- Update on the probe into the beating of Russia Today correspondent Frederic Aigouy by French police in Toulouse
- PM Broadcasting company given foreign agent status in the US
- Russia Today TV extends deadline for entries in the Khaled Alkhateb International Memorial Awards
- The second Allied front
- Answers to media questions:
- Western countries’ recommendations regarding the security of fans at UEFA Europa League in Azerbaijan
- Violation of ceasefire in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict
- Telephone conversation between President of Russia Vladimir Putin and President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev
- Ukrainian army attack on civilians and Donetsk People's Army’s positions
- Pristina’s plan to declare Russian member of the UN mission Mikhail Krasnoshchekov persona non grata
- Paul Whelan’s detention
- Nagorno-Karabakh peace process update
The regular 23rd St Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) will take place from June 6 to 8.
Traditionally, SPIEF is a meeting platform for world business leaders, government officials, experts and media representatives to discuss and jointly search for solutions to the most pressing issues in the Russian and global economies.
The SPIEF ranks with most recognised international formats due to the representation of Russian and foreign political and business leaders.
The key theme of this year’s forum, Creating a Sustainable Development Agenda, will include discussions on the current state of and prospects for the sustainable development of the global economy.
The business programme will comprise four themed blocks: The Global Economy in Search of a Balance; The Russian Economy: Achieving National Development Goals; Technologies Shaping the Future; and People First.
As usual, a high-profile Foreign Ministry delegation led by Sergey Lavrov will attend SPIEF. Lavrov will take part in bilateral events on the Presidential agenda as well as hold several meetings. I can list a number of bilateral meetings that have been scheduled by the Foreign Minister. Specifically, on June 6, the programme includes talks with Executive Director of the World Food Programme (WFP) David Beasley, meetings with Chairman of the tripartite Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina Milorad Dodik, Greek Foreign Minister Georgios Katrougalos, Vice President of Paraguay Hugo Velazquez, CAR Foreign Minister Sylvie Baipo-Temon, Foreign Minister of Hungary Peter Szijjarto, and Foreign Minister of Qatar Mohammed Al Thani. He will also attend trilateral meetings with the foreign ministers of Qatar and Somalia. A meeting with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Slovakia Miroslav Lajcak is being arranged. On June 7, meetings are scheduled with Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic, Kenyan Secretary for Foreign Affairs Monica Juma, Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda Gaston Browne, Foreign Minister of Botswana Unity Dow, as well as a meeting with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.
As always, his schedule is flexible. If there are changes, we will update you promptly. We will also publish press releases on the meetings on the official Foreign Ministry website.
On June 6, an information session will be held as part of the SPIEF business programme, devoted to the restriction of freedom of speech around the world and global legislative regulatory practices on the internet, initiated by the Foreign Ministry and Rossiya Segodnya. The participants, including the heads of relevant committees in both parliament houses, the State Duma and the Federation Council, representatives of Russian and foreign news agencies and journalism associations, and IT experts will discuss the problems of online censorship, and the future of the global network in the context of informational confrontation that we now see almost every day. The fight against misinformation and fraudulent news will be highlighted as a separate subject.
Detailed information on the session is available here: https://www.forumspb.com/programme/68875/
An hour before our briefing, I noted a comment made by EU Envoy to Russia Markus Ederer on his participation in SPIEF. In particular, he said he viewed his visit to the forum as an opportunity to attract high-level political attention to the Вaring Vostok case. This is very strange, because political attention is the only high-profile attention this case is getting. I would recommend that the European diplomat read yesterday’s comments by Russian Presidential Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov and statements made before that by quite a few Russian officials and representatives of the business community. If a diplomat from the European Union considers it his mission to attract political attention to such issues, then I cannot help but suggest that he also attract political attention to other cases, such as Kirill Vyshinsky’s case, or the outrageous and unprecedented incident with UN worker Mikhail Krasnoshchekov in Kosovo. These cases are clearly not getting enough political attention from the European Union.
On June 9-10, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of the Republic of Mali Tiebile Drame will be in Moscow. Sergey Lavrov will meet with him on June 10 to discuss ways to enhance Russia-Mali cooperation in political, economic, humanitarian and other fields. Special attention will be paid to the prospects for the development of a business partnership, primarily in such areas as exploration and development of mineral resources, energy, and infrastructure.
The two ministers will exchange views on important current issues on the global and African agendas with an emphasis on maintaining peace and stability in Africa, including in Mali and the Sahara-Sahel region. They are to thoroughly consider the problems of countering international terrorism and extremism in the context of collective efforts to neutralise these threats on the African continent and in the world.
The Primakov Readings international expert forum organised by the Institute of World Economy and International Relations under the Russian Academy of Sciences will take place at the World Trade Centre on June 10−11. This year, the readings, similar to a wide range of other events in Russia and abroad, will mark the 90th anniversary of Yevgeny Primakov’s birth. Reputable Russian and foreign political analysts, academics, diplomats and journalists will take part in the discussion titled “Return to confrontation: Is there an alternative?”.
Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will speak at the session on June 11. He will speak of Russia’s assessment of the global situation, outline approaches to solving current international issues and answer the participants’ questions.
Primakov Readings are a leading expert venue in Russia and the world. In the five years since its establishment this forum has gained the reputation of an authoritative format for a serious dialogue on the current issues in global politics and economy.
Foreign Minister of Grenada Peter David will make an official visit to Russia on June 9−13. On June 11, the foreign ministers of the two countries will hold talks, during which they plan to discuss important aspects of developing bilateral cooperation and current issues on the international and regional agendas. They intend to pay special attention to the prospects of expanding relations between Russia and the Caribbean Community.
The first visit by the Foreign Minister of this Caribbean state in the history of modern Russian-Grenadian relations confirms the mutual intention to promote political dialogue and constructive interaction between our countries.
Tension persists around the Idlib de-escalation zone. Hayat Tahrir al-Sham terrorists continue to attack the positions of the Syrian government forces and communities located near the area. For example, the towns of Al-Saqlabiyah and Mharda with a predominantly Christian population are subjected to regular mortar and rocket attacks. Civilians, including women and children, are suffering as a result; the civilian infrastructure, medical and education facilities have been seriously damaged.
Despite the provocations and the aggressive militant attacks, Russia remains committed to the agreements reached with Turkey on stabilising the situation in Idlib. The service personnel of our countries are maintaining permanent contacts and coordinating their actions in order to help prevent an escalation of violence and destabilisation. At the same time, we cannot overlook the dangerous provocative actions of the terrorists threatening the Russian air base in Hmeimim, Syrian service personnel and civilians.
We are particularly concerned over the fact that the terrorists do not abandon their attempts to aggravate the situation in Idlib by preparing provocative chemical attacks. These plans of the militants are proved by the fact that the Syrian forces have located a field hospital of the pseudo-humanitarian organisation White Helmets in Qalaat al-Madiq in the northern part of the Hama Governorate. While inspecting the facility, they found numerous chemical protection systems, including gas masks, special-purpose protective suits, medication and medical equipment. We are urging the international community to respond extremely seriously to any possible new staged chemical attacks carried out by the terrorists (about the possibility of which we have repeatedly warned). According to our sources, the terrorist organisation Hayat Tahrir al-Sham has even established a separate unit for these purposes.
Regarding the humanitarian track, we continue to monitor the developments at the al -Hawl camp for internally displaced persons, located in the Al-Hasakah Governorate and in an area not controlled by the Syrian authorities. As you know, a situation bordering on disaster has taken shape there. The camp is filled to overflowing and has over 74,000 residents, including over 47,000 minors. They are hard pressed for water and food, and there is a dire shortage of medical personnel, medication and medical equipment. Infectious diseases are spreading in the camp whose residents lack elementary hygiene facilities. The camp accommodates many more people than it should. Over 15,000 people have to live inside dugouts. In this connection, the camp administration’s recent decision to start listing people who wish to leave the camp instils certain optimism. We express hope that this camp will soon be disbanded and its residents will be able to return back to their homes in Syria and Iraq.
In turn, we continue to evacuate refugees from the Rukban camp for internally displaced persons, located in the illegal US occupation zone, in coordination with the Syrian authorities. We expect that the refugees will soon start returning actively to territories, controlled by the Syrian Government. The pace of relocation slackened about a month ago due to alleged pressure exerted by US-controlled terrorist groups on the camp’s residents (according to media reports). Nevertheless, the exodus of the refugees continues even in such conditions; their total number has already reached about 14,000 people.
We are noting the gradual restoration of Syria’s ties with the outside world, primarily with Arab states, that were disrupted during the years of the conflict. For example, the management of the Dubai-based airline Emirates have voiced their readiness to resume flights to Damascus, and the relevant request has already been submitted to the concerned UAE agencies. In turn, the private Syrian airline Cham Wings has inaugurated scheduled services on the Damascus-Muscat-Damascus route.
For more than two years now, Venezuela has been forced to live under the actual Damocles sword of looming US aggression. Since August 2017, when President Trump stated for the first time that he is considering all options for resolving the Venezuela issue, including the military one, Washington has been absolutely set on “liberating” this South American country from “tyranny.” We have already witnessed repeated attempts at a coup and violations of the borders of a sovereign state under the pretexts that lie far from reality and the truth. At the same time, Washington is deliberately working to identify undecided people who have not yet taken a political position on a number of issues or who are leaning towards centrist positions. Much of this work is being done among the generals. The US officials are directly calling on the officers to desert and to break the oath. We urge the US authorities to drop the actions aimed at splitting the armed forces of Venezuela. This state institution must be safeguarding the constitutional order rather than participating in internal political processes.
We have seen such US approaches and experiments that were conducted under the auspices of the United States with the participation of a number of Western states in other regions of the world. We are aware of the ramifications and the price ordinary citizens had to pay for these failed coup attempts or the coups that were successful, but led to disasters in a number of regions.
Now that the threat of direct intervention in Venezuela appears to have subsided, the danger of illegal actions against the government of this country, including low-intensity military actions, remains. Nevertheless, the Americans continue to prepare the public opinion for a possible military crackdown on Caracas. Take, for example, US Senator Lindsey Graham calling upon President Trump to do in Venezuela what President Reagan did in Grenada. This line of thinking can only lead to more bloodshed. We hope that Washington understands the consequences of this rhetoric and this line of thinking, all the more so, actions.
The war on “tyranny in the Western Hemisphere” declared by the White House and concrete legal governments in Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua becomes increasingly disconnected from reality and starts resembling a scary action film. It really starts looking a bit like something absurdly theatrical on a global scale, because right before our very eyes, over the past decades (this has been definitely lasting more than five years), by and large, the United States had morphed exactly into something it had been fighting before. One can, of course, use figures of speech, and say that this is all hypocrisy and pseudo-struggle for freedom. However, going back to political terminology, this is justifying unsavoury tactics to reach a noble cause. If someone hasn’t so far learned the lessons of Yugoslavia, Iraq, Syria and Libya, then they’d better take a look at what kind of future is awaiting the “heroes” who consider themselves “freedom fighters.” Everyone would win if the United States does not repeat its own mistakes, learns from them and acts like a responsible participant of international relations.
First of all, it concerns the observance of international law and non-interference in the internal affairs of other states. I’m talking about the need to refrain from putting pressure on the government and the opposition who maintain contact through international mediation, to say no to all preconditions and to give political opponents the right to determine the format for resolving intra-Venezuelan contradictions. To reiterate, only a peaceful diplomatic settlement of differences in accordance with the Constitution can lead to a sustainable overcoming of the crisis.
For our part, we welcome the desire of the government and the opposition to maintain contact with each other and are willing to provide the necessary assistance to this dialogue.
Yesterday, the US Treasury Department announced a new package of illegitimate restrictions against Cuba. From June 5, a ban is introduced on US citizens’ group trips to Cuba as part of educational exchanges, and US cruise ships are not allowed to enter Cuban ports.
The blatantly cynical phrasing raises eyebrows as Washington justifies such harsh unilateral sanctions against Havana and its own citizens. US Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin, who is now the main sanctions supervisor at the White House, says Cuba plays a destabilising role in the Western Hemisphere. One question: did he really mean to say Cuba?
We strongly condemn the tightening of the US embargo on Cuba. We are confident that stronger sanction strangling of Havana, above all, hits ordinary citizens, depriving them of their fundamental rights and freedoms Washington seems to protect so zealously.
We have noted the continued complaints about Russia “violating” the INF Treaty in the NATO leadership’s public rhetoric on the subject, while urging the Russian side to “show political will and abide by the Treaty to save it.” As we understand it, such rhetoric will increase as we approach August 2, when the United States withdrawal procedure will be completed, destroying it completely. What Russia has to do with this is completely incomprehensible. As far as we understand, by replicating the accusations against our country, NATO representatives are trying to help Washington camouflage the true causes of the INF collapse and to divert attention from America’s true intentions by creating a kind of propaganda veil with such comments and statements.
On June 4, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg made another statement of this kind. As a reminder, Russia has made every effort to save the Treaty. We have proposed to Washington a series of realistic measures based on mutual transparency to reconcile the mutual grievances, including Russia’s long-standing concerns we have repeatedly informed the American side of and spoken about publicly. However, as you know, all Russian initiatives were rejected. Washington refused not only to address the issues related to their compliance with the INF, but even to participate in Russia’s goodwill initiative to demonstrate its missile system, which allegedly worried the US and other NATO countries so much. Anyone interested in this topic had the opportunity to attend the presentation. There were experts and specialists present who could answer any questions. Let me remind you that Washington also forbade its NATO allies to attend the presentation.
So, if the NATO Secretary General really supports preserving the INF Treaty, then it would be logical to expect him to primarily urge the US to return to the negotiating table and address the INF crisis.
Speaking before graduates of the US Coast Guard Academy, National Security Adviser John Bolton stated Washington’s intention to defy Russia in the Arctic. This statement once again highlights incipient changes in US approaches towards the Arctic. Judging by the militant rhetoric, a line to transform the region into a theatre of hostilities and to escalate tension now prevails. What does this have to do with Russia? It is hardly surprising that the US side prioritises military methods, greater military spending in the Arctic region and attempts to undermine trust and an atmosphere of multilateral Arctic cooperation. All these accusations seem absolutely ridiculous.
Obviously, this approach is fraught with the most unfavourable consequences for the region’s countries and its overall development. Nor will this make any constructive contribution to the work of regional organisations, international forums, venues and platforms. We perceive this approach as an attempt to impose a non-constructive policy in the Arctic region, which has always been an area of international partnership, stability and low military tension.
According to media reports, Washington has advised major US digital software developers to launch a series of video games that would motivate the younger generation to combat “dictatorial regimes.”
This software should help bring together the forces of good and justice for combating global threats to democracy as personified by authoritarian regimes. The following scenarios have already been developed:
- Russia conducts a military operation against the three Baltic states and Eastern Europe;
- Iran is about to launch a nuclear-tipped missile against Israel;
- China is preparing to attack Taiwan and to stage a massacre in Hong Kong;
- North Korea is masterminding a cyberattack against the stock exchanges in Tokyo, New York and London.
Players will be advised to base their retaliation strategies on a “democratic state’s” positions, to involve allies and to chart a joint plan of operations. It would be interesting to find out whether these scenarios of retaliatory democratic operations include attacks on peaceful cities, European capitals and civilians. At any rate, this plants negative stereotypes about certain countries in the minds of young people, including Russia, while “the forces of good and justice” should, naturally, rally around the United States.
We can see that, instead of addressing on a global scale issues that unite us and, perhaps, resuming a discussion of globalisation and elevating these matters to a new level, or correctly and harmoniously combining globalisation and the preservation of national identity in the world, these ideologists are dividing the world in line with the friend-or-foe principle. At the same time, they are using the entire range of tools, including misinformation, fake news and the substitution of concepts that should have already become history.
According to the media, US Permanent Representative to NATO Kay Bailey Hutchison presented Turkey with an ultimatum during a CNN interview: the Turkish Government must abstain from buying S-400 surface-to-air missile systems from Russia if it wants to acquire US-made F-35 fighters. “So, what happens is that they will have to make a choice, they have the right to make that choice, but it is one or the other, not both,” she noted.
Who else should do something to make the US administration happy?
As I see it, the US Department of State should have done this work. They should post a special rubric on their website and write who should do what to make them happy. We can make a start, and, maybe, they will catch on.
- Europe must pay for NATO membership and buy US-made weaponry, and it must not cooperate with Russia. Europe must annul Nord Stream agreements and buy US gas at higher prices. European telecommunications companies must not buy cheap and high-quality equipment from Asian countries. Europe must store US nuclear weapons on its territory forever;
- India must curtail its military-technical cooperation with Russia;
- China must charge low duties on US goods, but it must not object to high tariffs being imposed on its goods exported to the United States. China cannot compete with the United States in the telecommunications sector. At the same time, Beijing must give the United States full access to China’s high-tech industry;
- The Philippines must not purchase Russian weaponry nor fight the drug mafia;
- Mexico must pay the United States for building a wall along the border;
- South Korea must deploy US missile-defence systems on its territory and join sanctions imposed on a high-tech Chinese company;
- Japan must forget about Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the entire world must recognise that it was the United States that won World War II;
- Iran must not develop its peaceful civilian nuclear power industry. To be honest, Washington’s demands with regard to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea), Syria, Venezuela and Iran are so excessive that these states would be unable to fulfil them even if they wanted to. Judging by Washington’s current logic, it would be better for them to disappear altogether. This would resolve all matters.
- Speaking of Russia, I am afraid to even start listing what it must do.
I have a question: isn’t Washington afraid that the world might, at some stage, ask it to pay for these services after the results of this “must-do” policy are announced?
I cannot help but say that, of course, all countries must also accommodate US military bases on their territories. Just look at the map.
The local situation remains explosive after the May 28 crude invasion of Serbian-populated municipalities in northern Kosovo by Kosovo Albanian special forces. Although the active phase of the special operation, conducted under the far-fetched pretext of fighting organised crime, ended, arrests of police officers, mostly Serbian nationals, continued. In our opinion, this is nothing but an act aimed at deliberately intimidating part of the population by creating unbearable conditions for them.
The arrest and beating of Russian citizen Mikhail Krasnoshchokov, a member of the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo who has diplomatic immunity, testifies to the atmosphere of complete impunity in the region, an absolute contempt for international law and for the norms of civilised international communications. Russia will continue to closely follow the ongoing investigation of this incident and will insist that all the culprits be punished along the entire chain of command.
We have to state that Kosovo remains the main source of regional instability and potential for conflict. This virtually uncontrollable territory is not only a source of instability but also a potentially dangerous and uncontrollable territory in Central Europe.
We hope that Pristina’s sponsors, who are guided solely by their own interests in the Balkans, rather than by the interests of local people, will use their influence to bring the Kosovo Albanian leadership to reason. Otherwise, the consequences could be irreversible.
Unfortunately, the new Ukrainian administration has failed to ensure a ceasefire (that was promised during the election marathon) in southeastern Ukraine. According to experts, the intensity of fire attacks has increased in the past seven days, with almost double the number.
In the early morning of June 4, during the holy Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr, a motorised rifle brigade of the Ukrainian Armed Forces fired on the Akhat Jami mosque in Donetsk’s Kuibyshev District.
We hope that the new Kiev authorities will fulfil their election promises to the people of Ukraine, namely, to stop violence in southeastern Ukraine, no matter what.
Millions of people were shocked by another barbaric outrage perpetrated by Ukrainian radical nationalists who desecrated a monument to Marshal Georgy Zhukov in Kharkov. Pro-Nazi thugs demolished the Marshal’s bust in broad daylight with the connivance of local law enforcement agencies. It should be recalled that Marshal Zhukov’s troops liberated Ukraine from Nazi invaders 75 years ago. Obviously, those who masterminded this act hoped to shock and intimidate the people and wanted to test the immunity of Ukrainian society and the new Kiev authorities to the virus of nationalism which has been artificially planted over the past few years.
Judging by the all-out response, an overwhelming majority of Ukrainian residents whose fathers and grandfathers served in the Red Army and saved the world from the Nazi scourge have strongly denounced this act of vandalism.
At the same time, one is surprised by the belated response of official Kiev, implying that the entire incident was allegedly a domestic Ukrainian affair. In the past few decades, everything that we have witnessed in Ukraine amounts to juggling with history. Ukrainian authorities either renounce our common history or appropriate some of its elements. I would like to recall that the monument to Marshal Zhukov, as well as other obelisks and memorials to Soviet military commanders and soldiers, embody the fight of all Soviet peoples against Nazi Germany. Russia, as well as other former Soviet republics, cannot remain indifferent to the future of symbols of our common heroic history.
We resolutely condemn this outrage by extremists who are calling themselves “patriots” and who are trying to assert themselves in the war against monuments. We call on the incumbent Ukrainian authorities to find and punish the culprits, to stop the policy of pandering to radicals and nationalists and to take necessary action to protect the objects of our joint cultural and historical heritage.
In his RBK interview, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has given a more detailed assessment of the situation in Ukraine and everything linked with the resolution of the domestic Ukrainian conflict. I suggest that you read his interview that will be posted tomorrow on the Foreign Ministry website. The entire transcript will be published on RBK and Foreign Ministry outlets.
This May, Turkey hosted a series of events marking the 75th anniversary of the deportation of the Crimean Tatars and the 150th anniversary of the end of the Caucasian War. We regret to note that most of these events, including those held with the direct support of Turkey’s central and municipal authorities, were politicised and had an openly anti-Russia bias. Obviously, this does not contribute to the task of further expanding the relations of diverse partnership, set by Russian and Turkish heads of state and formalised in the relevant bilateral documents. Official Ankara’s connivance with the anti-Russia campaign in no way correlates with its own approach towards other historical events.
We are urging Turkish public and political circles and representatives of ethnic groups living in Turkey (that are linked with Russia by kindred bonds) to display an objective attitude while reviewing the complicated historical events of the 19th and 20th centuries that certainly have to be studied further by the professional academic community. It is our principled position that such sorrowful dates should not serve short-term political considerations. On the contrary, they should facilitate rapprochement between states and peoples on the basis of our common historical memory.
We advise our colleagues from US and Ukrainian diplomatic missions in Turkey who have posted the relevant statements on social media network accounts to focus on studying the history of their own states that contains many interesting and instructive episodes.
By the way, I would like to say a few words about trolling in social media networks. I recall vividly how a few years ago, the French Embassy in Moscow savoured the situation regarding street protests and rallies here and actively trolled the Russian state in this connection. It would be good if Paris used social networks to cover the Yellow Vest protesters and demonstrations in the same active manner. So far, Russia Today is the only media outlet whose traffic is growing.
We are monitoring developments in the case of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
This story is a shining example of the policy of double standards, when countries that love to arrogantly lecture other countries about all matters related to human rights suddenly forget all about them when it suits their current interests.
A question for EU Ambassador to Russia Markus Ederer: Don’t you want to draw public attention to the situation around Julian Assange? It would be good. You should not restrain yourself and keep quiet. Please comment on this in relation to human rights.
It is obvious that the persecution and arrest of Julian Assange not only contradict the ideals of the freedom of the media, but also violate the basic rights and freedoms of a concrete individual. For the past several years, Russian representatives attending various international human rights forums have tried to draw the attention of their partners to the Assange situation and strongly urged the relevant states to adhere to their international commitments in promoting and protecting human rights. Reputable international human rights institutions, including Special Procedures of the UN Human Rights Council have also repeatedly talked about that. Only recently the HRC Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, as well as special rapporteurs on the right to privacy, extrajudicial killings and tortures claimed that the violation of Assange’s rights is inadmissible. Let us see whether the countries that were urged by international human rights monitoring agencies are ready to cooperate, and most importantly, to fulfil their international obligations related to promoting and protecting human rights.
We hope that the US Mission to the United Nations in New York organises a tour for Julian Assange. I remember quite well that they like to do tours and show the UN to everyone for whom the freedom of speech and human rights matter the most.
We will continue to monitor this situation.
In a May 23 interview with influential German publication Die Welt, Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media Monika Grutters said that Germany’s state-owned international media corporation Deutsche Welle was allegedly under attack in a number of countries, above all Russia, where freedom of the press is in jeopardy.
Such statements seem strange, to say the least, all the more so as Russia has created the most favourable conditions for the work of foreign media outlets. Russian officials and agencies have never discriminated against German media outlets and journalists, nor do they discriminate against them today. I don’t even know what they are talking about. As I see it, they do not face any restrictions in their professional activities. They often publish materials about Russia with a share of malicious criticism, and they are involved in covering various events, ranging from those organised by the state to protest actions.
Germany launched a real campaign to discredit Russia’s Sputnik and RT news agencies long ago. This campaign involves representatives of the local political establishment and professional journalist associations, such as the Union of German Journalists. We have repeatedly quoted these terrible and absolutely unimaginable statements, including those by Frank Uberall [Chairman of the Union of German Journalists], who openly calls for boycotting Russian media outlets and preventing them from accessing cable networks.
One gets the impression that, instead of moving to rectify the situation with freedom of speech and media freedom in their own country (in response to repeated Russian remarks), our German partners are placing the blame on us.
We would like to hear an official explanation from Germany on Monika Grutters’ complaints. What difficulties, exactly, is Deutsche Welle encountering in Russia?
I have a surprise for Ms Grutters. On May 16, representatives of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Press Centre had a meeting with Deputy Editor of Deutsche Welle’s Russian Department Yekaterina Kryzhanovskaya and the Moscow Bureau’s Chief Correspondent Yury Resheto. The journalists themselves requested this meeting and thanked the Russian side [during this meeting] for effective cooperation in addressing their current issues. They said that they appreciated the Foreign Ministry’s assistance and support very much and also expressed hope that current fruitful cooperation would continue. In addition, they underscored favourable working conditions in Russia.
Stop lying, Ms Grutters. Speak with Deutsche Welle correspondents. Call them on the carpet, as you usually do, and ask them whether it is comfortable for them to work in Russia. They are telling us something diametrically opposite to your statements to the global public, and such statements are called fake news.
We continue to watch closely the situation around the beating of Russia Today correspondent Frederic Aigouy by French police in Toulouse on May 25. We expect the French authorities to conduct a thorough investigation into the incident.
We are worried about the increased number of incidents of police violence against Russian journalists in France during the suppression of protests. Let me remind you that this is not the first time that police have attacked an RT correspondent. Earlier, on May 1, RIA Novosti correspondent Viktoriya Ivanova sustained injuries from an attack by French police. So far, no update on the investigation has been made available.
I would like to stress that in all incidents the injured correspondents had visible identification showing they work in the media.
We are calling on the French authorities to take additional measures to guarantee the safety of the media covering the protests. It is unacceptable that they become the targets of attacks by police, while any use of force should be proportionate and justifiable. All incidents like these must be investigated.
We will certainly continue keeping a close eye on the progress in the investigation and will do this together with the relevant international organisations. We are waiting for official information from the French law-enforcement agencies.
According to information from the US Department of Justice, the Florida State District Court has ruled that the American PM Broadcasting company must register as a foreign agent. In November 2017, PM Broadcasting signed a contract with Russia Today to allocate radio airtime to the Sputnik news agency.
In other words, PM Broadcasting must either stop cooperating with the Russian media or register as a “Russian agent” following Rossiya Segodnya and a number of other media companies.
Under the pretext of defending the rights of American nationals from the alleged interference of Russia in the internal political processes in the US, Washington is actually obstructing the work of our media outlets in the US.
This is accompanied by the tightening of web censorship. For example, Russian media accounts on Facebook have been blocked. What we are seeing now is nothing more than a mounting campaign to clean up the information space in the US, using legislative tools.
We consider this to be an act of direct pressure on the sources of information that are out of favour with Washington.
We are calling on international organisations and professional communities to pay attention to this situation.
For the second time this year, Russia Today will hold an awards ceremony to give the Khaled Alkhateb International Memorial Awards for best journalism from a conflict zone.
The award was established in memory of correspondent Khaled Alkhateb who was killed in Syria. He worked for RT Arabic as a freelancer. He covered events in Syria, as well as the fighting between Syrian government forces and terrorists. In 2018, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed an executive order to award Khaled Alkhateb posthumously with the medal For Valour, which was given to the correspondent’s family at the first Khaled Alkhateb Memorial Awards ceremony.
Journalists from other countries have already submitted their nominations for the award. The Foreign Ministry can assist the entrants in having their documents processed without delays.
The winners will be announced on July 30: Khaled Alkhateb was killed on this day. The deadline for accepting documents has been extended until June 24. I need to say this because many foreign nationals have to obtain visas.
To submit an entry, visit https://award.rt.com.
On June 6, the world marks the beginning of Operation Overlord, which is the landing of the Allies in Normandy on June 6, 1944. Thus, the second front was opened, which the Soviet political leadership and military commanders insisted on. We pay tribute to the memory of all those who fell in battles on the second front in Europe.
The contribution of the Allies to victory over the Third Reich is clear, but it should not be exaggerated and, even less so, the significance of the titanic efforts of the Soviet Union, without which this victory simply would not be possible, should not be belittled. I have to mention this, as we are witnessing a catastrophic rewriting of history. This is happening not only in historical almanacs, but everywhere else. Monuments [to Soviet soldiers and military commanders] are being demolished, pseudoscientific conferences are being held, and films are being made about alleged events that completely distort reality.
According to historians, the landing in Normandy did not have a pivotal impact on the outcome of World War II and the Great Patriotic War. The outcome was already predetermined as a result of the Red Army’s victories, primarily, at Stalingrad and Kursk. For three years, the United Kingdom and then the United States delayed in every way possible the decision to open a second front, limiting their involvement to military operations of local importance. Clearly, they were waiting for Germany’s military might to weaken in the wake of its enormous losses in the East, and thus reduce their own losses in the West. There were political considerations as well.
The opening of the second front, even belated, was supposed to help the Soviet army in its combat missions. In fact, we had to come to the rescue of our Western allies, who were defeated by the Nazis at Ardennes. We hope our partners remember this.
To reiterate, today we are paying tribute to the memory of all those who fell in battles on the second front in Europe. The memory of the heroes who fought against Nazism and fascism regardless of their political views, who stood up and never asked the person fighting next to them about their ethnicity or religion, and just went into the breach – this memory is eternal.
Question: The other day, Azerbaijan hosted a major football event - the UEFA Europa League finals - which was attended, among others, by Russian political figures, in particular, Presidential Aide Igor Levitin. Before the finals, a number of Western countries issued rather unusual recommendations. In particular, the UK was concerned about the safety of its fans. As far as we can remember, the same thing happened before the FIFA World Cup in Russia. Next year, St Petersburg and Baku will host Euro 2020 matches. What could be the reason for these statements?
Maria Zakharova: Frankly, I didn’t follow the events you mentioned. Of course, I heard it on the news, but I did not delve into the issue. In general, on the one hand, we should get used to the politicisation of sports, but this does not mean that we should agree with it. The politicisation of sporting events contradicts many statutory documents, in particular, the UN bilateral and multilateral agreements between countries. Sport aims to unite, not to divide.
As you are aware, everything that came down to us from antiquity, as well as the sports traditions that were established in the 20th century, tells us that sporting events must alleviate conflicts and even stop wars.
I believe this tradition must be revived in the first place. The world has revived many glorious ancient sports traditions, but, for some reason, this one has not become a priority. Even though declarations were repeatedly made and documents to this effect signed, this tradition failed to take root in the practice of international relations. It would be great if non-governmental organisations, states and special representatives on international sports cooperation, which operate in almost every country, revive the tradition of using major international sporting events to reduce the level of conflicts or to stop hostilities. Perhaps, there’s no need to create a new forum, and existing mechanisms could be used. This is hard to imagine now given what is going on in the sphere of sports and what we have seen in recent years, but I think we should strive for the ideals.
Question: Have you been to Baku? Can it even be called an unsafe city? Or Moscow, for that matter?
Maria Zakharova: I can’t say that Baku is unsafe. I love visiting that city. I have travelled there as a Foreign Ministry employee. I also participated in informal functions and was stunned by the changes that have taken place in the capital of Azerbaijan over the past 10 years. I talk about it regularly. Baku is on my personal list of favourite destinations. But I don’t play football.
Question: Azerbaijani and Armenian service personnel were killed several days ago after a violation of the ceasefire in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Does the Foreign Ministry see any chance that the Azerbaijani and Armenian sides will, nevertheless, reach an agreement on humanitarian measures, despite these dramatic events?
Maria Zakharova: We are doing everything we can to help resolve the long-time protracted crisis in this region.
Question: President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev and President of Russia Vladimir Putin had a telephone conversation the other day. According to the Kremlin press service report, they discussed future meetings at various levels. Are there any plans to hold meetings at the foreign ministry level soon, are any meetings being prepared?
Maria Zakharova: In late 2018, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov visited Baku. This year, Azerbaijan’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Elmar Mammadyarov has come to Moscow twice, on April 5 and 14. Our diplomats maintain contact. We intend to continue holding regular consultations between national foreign ministries. I have no information about any meetings between ministers in the near future. We will certainly share this with you as it comes up.
Our countries maintain a strong multi-level and multi-format political dialogue. This is not just in bilateral formats and cooperation at international venues, but it also includes the format of top-level Russia-Azerbaijan-Iran meetings. The work of this format will continue. Due to the distribution of our functional duties, I cannot disclose this information, but I would like to say that this format will continue.
Work is underway to fill future meetings with real content. Members of the Inter-Governmental Commission for Economic Cooperation between the Russian Federation and the Republic of Azerbaijan are working hard. Considering the fact that the Commission is headed by Russian Minister of Economic Development Maxim Oreshkin and Azerbaijan’s Minister of the Economy Shahin Mustafayev, the concerned agencies hold regular meetings with delegation exchanges, videoconferences, etc.
Question: I came from Donbass several days ago. I watched Ukrainian artillery shell civilians and positions of the Donetsk People’s Army in Gorlovka, near Dokuchayevsk. Fire attacks by Ukrainian Army involving heavy artillery and drones dropping mines have continued for three or four months. They don’t have any misgivings about this. The internet is full of videos by Ukrainian service personnel boasting how their artillery, banned by the Minsk Agreements, operates. Can Russia, as a guarantor of the Minsk Agreements, pressure the UN Security Council in some way or raise this issue somewhere else? You see, people are being killed almost daily, and civilians are being attacked. The army of the Donetsk People’s Republic is trying not to retaliate, but it is unclear how long they will be able to tolerate this lawlessness and chaos.
Maria Zakharova: We are realists: we know that Ukraine has a new government and that it is impossible to implement election-race promises quickly. But of course, we would like to see some efforts in this direction.
We understand that the president of Ukraine is now traveling abroad, and will attend a number of important meetings. He will hopefully come back and restore order, like he promised.
Question: Do you believe this?
Maria Zakharova: I believe in God. But in these matters I set forth and state our position. We are working in this direction.
Question: You mentioned the situation with the diplomat, and employee of the UN Mission in Kosovo. What does the Russian Foreign Ministry think about Pristina’s intention to declare this Russian citizen, an employee of the UN Mission, “persona non-grata”? Will Mikhail Krasnoshchekov resume his responsibilities after medical treatment?
Maria Zakharova: I will repeat our position with pleasure and maybe even give some additional facts. The issue of principle is that the territory that was declared to be a state has not become a state. Meanwhile, it is endowed with the powers of a state by its external curators.
An attack on a UN employee in Europe is not simply a serious incident but an extraordinary event. This is not a protracted conflict that has been in a hot phase for many years. This is not a situation where people have regrettably been taken hostage or been found missing on the territory seized by terrorists or militants. The attack on a UN employee took place in a country to which its foreign curators, notably the West has assigned the powers of a state and into which huge money, resources and political support have been pumped.
The illegal detention of a UN Mission employee in Kosovo on May 28 by the so-called Kosovo police, an employee who is now undergoing treatment at Belgrade’s Military Medical Academy, is an extraordinary event to which all Western agencies, both government and non-government, but primarily government and inter-government agencies, should react.
His condition is now satisfactory. I would like to confirm officially the information that appeared in the media that his facial bones were damaged by butt-strokes and when he was thrown on the side of a car. This was done by the police, i.e. people who are vested by this so-called “state” with the functions of the police that are supposed to protect national security. When this information was initially reported, the consequences of this case were described as insignificant. It was reported that Krasnoshchekov was simply detained. This is what happened in reality: he was granted medical aid only several hours after his detention in the Kosovska Mitrovica hospital. In view of the need for a more qualified examination and treatment he was supposed to be moved to Serbia on the following day, but the Kosovo authorities did not issue the permit for this until May 30.
On May 31, an organisation that calls itself the Foreign Ministry of Kosovo, declared Mr Krasnoshchekov “persona non grata.” This act was absolutely illegal. The organisation had no authority to do this and had no understanding what international law is. It is impossible to comment on this in terms of “good” and “bad.” This act is ridiculous and contradicts the logic of international relations because such a procedure is only applied in bilateral interstate relations.
We consider the incident with the UN Russian employee to be a manifestation of complete disregard for the norms of international law and human rights in general. I would like to say once again that Russia is taking all the necessary measures to protect its citizen and establish the details of the incident.
Some organisation in Kosovo deprived a person of immunity and declared him to be “persona non-grata.” But before this happened, the police vested with authority had done this in practical terms by beating him in the face. Immunity did not stop them for one minute. This is also absurd and totally unacceptable.
We will insist on holding the guilty accountable for detaining and beating this Russian citizen and UN employee. I can assure you that we will not allow anyone to soft pedal this crime.
Question: I would like to ask a question about US citizen Paul Whelan, who is accused of espionage. The Russian authorities claim that he was caught red-handed. At the same time, the American party says no evidence has been provided. Could you comment on this, please?
Maria Zakharova: This question should go to the law enforcement agencies. There is no political component in this case. An investigation is being held, with all that it implies. Why is the Foreign Ministry being asked about evidence? If you have additional questions, I will gladly answer them. You can ask them now or send to me later. On my part, I can assist by asking my colleagues from law enforcement agencies that are dealing with this issue to answer your questions. This is certainly a matter of investigation.
It is true that we are in contact with our American colleagues and with the Embassy. This issue was discussed during meetings between the leadership of the Russian Foreign Ministry and the US Department of State. We provide detailed answers to all questions of the American party. This is diplomatic procedure. In this case, you should address your question to the law enforcement agencies.
Question: Not long ago, the co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group made a series of proposals regarding the concrete steps to settle the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, following their visit to the region. Could you please say what these proposals are?
Maria Zakharova: A press release was published following the trip of the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs to Armenia and Azerbaijan. It can be found on the website. I have nothing to add to that, the press release has all the information.