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16 November 201716:50

Briefing by Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova, Moscow, November 16, 2017

2202-16-11-2017

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Table of contents

  1. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s visit to the Republic of Azerbaijan
  2. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s visit to the Republic of Armenia
  3. The situation in Syria
  4. US Secretary of Defence James Mattis' statement on Syria
  5. The situation in Lebanon
  6. Situation in Zimbabwe
  7. Reports on cooperation between the US, NATO troops and ISIS in northern Afghanistan
  8. Annual Afghan Opium Survey by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime for 2017
  9. Spanish officials’ statements on alleged “Russian interference” in the Catalan crisis
  10. Interpretations of the words of Russian Ambassador to Romania in a number of online publications
  11. Speech by President of German Federal Intelligence Service Bruno Kahl
  12. Voting at the UNGA Third Committee on a draft resolution on combating glorification of Nazism, neo‑Nazism and other practices that contribute to fuelling contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance
  13. Monument to Soviet servicemen vandalised in Sarnice, Poland
  14. Establishment of the Andrey Karlov Foundation
  15. Monument to Alexander Pushkin unveiled in Slovenia
  16. Russian children participate in the Theatrical Petersburg educational programme
  17. Russian law on foreign media
  18. US media latest “information” on money transfers to Russian diplomatic missions
  19. Ukrainian website Mirotvorets opens in the United States
  20. Results of Russia-US events on the Hawaiian Islands

From answers to media questions:

  1. Misinformation in BuzzFeed
  2. Accusations of Russian interference in European countries' domestic affairs
  3. Work of the OSCE Minsk Group for the Nagorno-Karabakh settlement process and statements by the US party on possible changes to the group’s format
  4. Russia-US interaction in connection with the 84th anniversary of establishing diplomatic relations
  5. Death of Deputy Director of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s State Protocol Department Sergey Barashkov
  6. Situation around BuzzFeed and changes in the Russian law on mass media
  7. Accusations of Russian cyber attacks
  8. Offsite briefings during FIFA World Cup
  9. Negotiation process on the Kuril islands and statements by heads of eastern Ukrainian republics on renaming the cities of Donetsk and Lugansk

 

 

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s visit to the Republic of Azerbaijan

 

On November 20, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will pay an official visit to the Republic of Azerbaijan.

Mr Lavrov is planning to hold talks with Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov. The sides are expected to exchange views on a wide range of bilateral, international and regional matters.

As we have repeatedly said and as is demonstrated by concrete actions, Azerbaijan is our important strategic partner in the Caucasian region. This year, we celebrate the 25th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between our countries. Russian-Azerbaijani cooperation is rooted not just in years-old traditions of friendship and mutual respect, but also in the fact that our approaches to key regional and international issues are very close or identical.

The tone of Russian-Azerbaijani cooperation is set by political dialogue at the highest level. Regular friendly contacts between our countries’ presidents are responsible for the rapid pace of development of bilateral relations, making it possible to promptly address any emerging problems and coordinate efforts at various regional and international platforms. We maintain intensive contacts at other levels, including through parliamentary ties. We develop economic cooperation. Our cultural and humanitarian ties are traditionally very active.

Russia, in close cooperation with the other co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group, continues to assist the parties to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict in the search for peaceful and mutually acceptable solutions.   

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Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s visit to the Republic of Armenia

 

On November 20-21, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will pay an official visit to Yerevan, during which he is planning to hold talks with Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian and meet with President of Armenia Serzh Sargsyan.

The visit marks the 25th anniversary of the establishment of Russian-Armenian diplomatic relations (April 3) and the 20th anniversary of the “big” Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance (August 29). The ministers will attend the opening of the Russia and Armenia: Friendship Forged by Centuries exhibition, as well as the ceremonial cancellation of the first Armenian postage stamp dedicated to the above-mentioned anniversaries. A plan of consultations between the Russian and Armenian foreign ministries for 2018-2019 is expected to be signed.

The agenda of the bilateral talks comprises a wide range of matters pertaining to bilateral cooperation, foreign policy interaction within the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), and the coordination of positions within the framework of the UN, the OSCE, the Council of Europe, the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organisation (BSEC) and other international forums. The ministers will discuss regional security matters, including the prospects for the Nagorno-Karabakh settlement.

Intensive political dialogue at the top level helps advance bilateral cooperation. On March 15, the President of Armenia paid an official visit to Russia. On August 23, President of Russia Vladimir Putin and President of Armenia Serzh Sargsyan held talks in Sochi. Yesterday, on November 15, our countries’ leaders attended the opening ceremony of Days of Armenian Culture in Russia held at the Tretyakov Gallery.

We will inform you later about possible events that the Russian Foreign Minister may attend. His schedule is tight, but the fast changing situation in the world sometimes requires amendments.  

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The situation in Syria

 

The terrorist presence of ISIS in Syria is coming to an end. The scattered ISIS units are departing for the eastern bank of the Euphrates River towards the Iraqi border. The Syrian Democratic Forces supported by the US-led coalition could have finished off the terrorists in the border areas, but, unfortunately, they are not doing so.

The media are increasingly publishing evidence that our US partners in fighting international terrorism are, in fact, providing cover to the extremists, ISIS, in particular.

I’d be remiss not to comment on a story aired by the BBC on November 13. They ran a big story about how ISIS militants were evacuated from Raqqa under the “supervision” of the Western coalition. In particular, they showed footage (we hope it’s authentic, because if it is not, then corresponding comments should follow, we presume) of an 8-km long ISIS convoy leaving Raqqa. At the same time, the Russian Defence Ministry accused the US-led coalition of providing cover for the ISIS militants to withdraw after the town of Abu Kamal was liberated. According to our military department, the “allies” not only refused to launch strikes on the terrorists, but also created obstacles for the Russian Aerospace Forces as they tried to attack the targets in the specified area.

This behaviour of our “partners” cannot be considered fair play. Clearly, ISIS has no chance of staying in Syria. Hence, the question: Where will those hundreds of fanatics, extremists and militants whom our American colleagues rescued from fire go? This is not the only question that I would like to ask. There are a few more to ponder. What will be the consequences of such US actions not only for the countries of the Middle East, but also for Russia, Europe and Central Asia?

We expect the United States to strictly adhere to the agreements on fighting terrorism that were outlined in a joint statement by the presidents of Russia and the United States following the meeting on the sidelines of the APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting in Danang on November 11.

With the defeat of ISIS and the creation of de-escalation zones, Syria has actually found itself on the threshold of a transition from long-standing armed confrontation to reconciliation and restoration of the unity of society, and socioeconomic reconstruction in the wake of major infrastructure disruptions. Just like earlier the Syrians needed help in confronting international terrorism, today they need assistance in organising a broad intra-Syrian dialogue, establishing a political process, building up international humanitarian aid, including humanitarian demining, and saving cultural heritage sites.

Russia is making every effort to provide political and humanitarian assistance to the Syrians. Moscow is convinced that the new Russian initiative to convene the Syrian National Dialogue Congress will be able to give significant additional impetus to the positive trends that have emerged in Syria and to take the next necessary step towards achieving a peaceful settlement in that country.

***

I would like to digress and speak from the heart for a moment. I will say it in plain Russian without any professional jargon. It’s about the situation with our American colleagues providing cover to the terrorist militants. We provide numbers and facts, we talk about trends in fighting terrorism, and we analyse how the militants and terrorists were withdrawn, shielded and emboldened by the US-led coalition. I would like to address these words to ordinary people, particularly in Europe. When next time (God forbid, but, unfortunately, there is such a trend) a terrorist attack takes place in Nice, London or Paris, and our European friends begin to change their profile pictures en masse to support their friends, colleagues and fellow citizens, when central cultural monuments and other sites in European capitals are illuminated in the colours of national flags, then ask yourself where did the extremists, militants and terrorists from liberated towns go under the cover of the United States, where they are now, and what they are doing. These questions are not so much for the politicians, but ordinary people. Today, now, please ask yourself: those who were allowed to leave, what will they do next? Perhaps, there is no point in waiting for the next terrorist attack to deliver this wave of indignation to today's political masterminds who are behind preserving the ISIS, the helpers of terrorist groups who are doing their best to preserve terrorist elements and militants in Syria in order to promote their selfish political interests in the reconfiguration of the structure of that region. Think about it.

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US Secretary of Defence James Mattis' statement on Syria

 

We were surprised to hear US Secretary of Defence James Mattis' statements made while addressing journalists on November 13, claiming that US forces are present in Syria with the permission of the UN. We would like these questions to be answered by our American colleagues rather than remain rhetorical and hang in the air in this audience. What specific mandate was he talking about? Who issued it and when? Maybe there is some copy of the document that US Secretary of Defence is speaking of? After all, this is a person who takes serious decisions and whose words have a significant influence on what is happening not only in the United States but also in the world. What was he talking about?  

I would like to remind everyone that the UN Security Council is the only body, under its Charter, that is authorised to make a decision on the use of military force by the international community.  However, it has not given any sanction to the US regarding Syria. Besides, US units are located there against the will of the country's legitimate Government, and in fact are acting as occupiers.

Such statements coming from Washington raise major questions that we asked earlier on the actual purpose of having US units on Syria's territory. US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has repeatedly mentioned that the United States' sole goal in Syria is to defeat ISIS. As we understand it, this means that immediately after the terrorist hotspot is extinguished, which will happen soon (unless actions are taken to withdraw and provide cover for the extremists), Americans must leave Syrian territory and its airspace. Hoverer, the Pentagon chief told journalists the US military will stay there until progress is achieved towards a political settlement. This raises another question: Is there any contact between the Pentagon and the US Department of State?

Who is supposed to determine if the progress is sufficient and how? Is there any tool for this? Where is the mechanism for measuring political sufficiency? One gets the impression that the US wants to reserve this right and intends to hold part of Syrian territory for as long as they wish. The goal behind this approach is to achieve the desired settlement result by force.

I would also like to remind everyone that under UNSC Resolution 2254 the decision on the future configuration of Syria and its leadership can be taken only by Syrians themselves. We all can provide assistance and offer our ideas, thoughts and designs for the future structure of the country. But we must do so solely as a supplement to the intra-political dialogue. Due to the efforts of certain international actors, among which I should mention Russia, Iran and Turkey, there is a durable trend of progress in this process.

We are very concerned about the US attempts to set up camp in someone else's home, and they are definitely not bringing peace and quiet. We expect, as Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov already mentioned, that the US will work out an honest and legitimate stance on its presence in Syria. It is desirable that this stance be unified and voiced on the international arena on behalf of the whole government so that we have a clear idea of what this stance is.   

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The situation in Lebanon

 

Moscow is closely watching the situation in Lebanon. As is known, after consultations with the country’s leading political forces, President of the Lebanese Republic Michel Naim Aoun refused to accept Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s televised address, which was broadcast by Saudi Al-Arabiya television channel on November 4, as an official resignation request. President Aoun is insisting on compliance with the formal procedure under Lebanese law that requires the resignation request to be submitted by Hariri in writing and in person to make sure that this decision was made voluntarily and was not imposed on the prime minister. 

However that may be, at present Lebanon’s incumbent Prime Minister Saad Hariri still remains in Saudi Arabia, where he meets with foreign officials, including the Russian Ambassador to this country. On November 12, Hariri gave another extensive interview to Al-Arabiya, in which he said that he believed he would be able to return to Lebanon in a few days. He did not rule out that he might disavow his televised address of November 4 but at the same time pointed to several conditions relating to the understanding between the Lebanese political forces that form the coalition government he leads. 

Meanwhile there are signs that Lebanese society is coming together. Lebanese representing various political forces and faiths are speaking out in defence of their country’s sovereignty. The Lebanese leadership kicked off a flurry of activity in the capitals of the world’s leading countries, trying to drum up international support for their country’s sovereignty. On November 17, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Emigrants Gebran Bassil will be in Moscow on a working visit in order to meet with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. 

Russia’s position on Lebanon remains unchanged. We strongly support the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of this friendly country and we believe that the Lebanese people should resolve all issues on their national agenda on their own, and we are against any outside interference that threatens to upset the existing political and religious balance in Lebanon.

We note again that the country’s stability markedly improved after Lebanon overcame the executive power vacuum, Michel Naim Aoun was elected president of the country and the coalition government led by Saad Hariri was formed. The smooth functioning of governmental institutions began, allowing the country to resolve a number of important issues, including the elimination of the hotbed of international terrorism on the Lebanese-Syrian border. We believe that the Lebanese will succeed in their efforts to preserve these positive trends and prevent a new crisis in the government, which could also call into question general elections scheduled for May next year. Russia will support these efforts.   

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Situation in Zimbabwe

 

We take note of a serious complication in the internal political situation in Zimbabwe. On November 15, a representative of the Armed Forces announced on national television that the military uprising which blocked government buildings in Harare was directed at criminal elements holding power, whose actions led to a decline in the country’s social and economic situation. It was emphasised that President Robert Mugabe and his family were guaranteed safety, and the population was urged to remain calm.

We welcome the statement that Jacob Zuma, President of South Africa, made on behalf of the Southern African Development Community (SADC). It expresses hope that the internal disputes in Zimbabwe will be solved within the limits of the existing constitution, in accordance with both SADC and African Union principles.

The Russian Embassy in Harare reports that the situation in Zimbabwe remains calm in general. Nevertheless, we recommend Russian citizens to avoid tourist travel to Zimbabwe for some time. We continue to monitor the situation closely.

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Reports on cooperation between the US, NATO troops and ISIS in northern Afghanistan

 

We took note of the Fergana Information Agency’s publication, Who Is Helping ISIS Strengthen its Position in Northern Afghanistan?, citing officials from a number of Afghanistan’s northern provinces (Sar-e Pul, Balkh, Faryab and Kunduz) as well as Afghan MPs and local residents, who refer to facts testifying   that ISIS terrorists are strengthening their positions in the districts bordering Central Asia.  

These statements explicitly point out that US and NATO troops stationed in Afghanistan are protecting and supporting the Afghan flank of ISIS, including by transporting militants aboard “unidentified helicopters”, and providing them with weapons, among other things. Once again, this raises questions about the true aims of the foreign military presence in Afghanistan.

We call on the Afghan authorities to conduct a thorough investigation of all the facts mentioned in the article and take urgent measures to prevent an increased risk of terrorism in the regions bordering the countries of Central Asia.

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Annual Afghan Opium Survey by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime for 2017

 

We note with concern the catastrophic deterioration in the situation regarding illegal drug trafficking in Afghanistan. According to the most recent report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) on Afghan opium, the total area of cultivation of the opium poppy in that country increased by more than 60 percent to 328,000 hectares in 2017. Opiate production has also nearly doubled since last year and is equivalent to 900 tonnes of heroin, a record figure in recent years. At the same time, positive action to eradicate opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan is hardly noticeable and incommensurable with the extent of the rise in drug trafficking. These statistics indicate that the international community should probably rethink and, in some way, re-adjust the magnitude and direction of its efforts to combat the drug problem in Afghanistan.

Unfortunately, we have to admit that the law enforcement activities carried out by the Afghan authorities do not actually cover the provinces controlled by the Taliban where the opium poppy is cultivated. The ISIS cells operating in northern Afghanistan are also trying to use illegal drugs to improve their finances. The opiate industry in Afghanistan has become a key source for fueling terrorist activities, which further destabilises that country and beyond.

The UN Security Council designates the Afghan drug industry as a threat to international peace and stability. Clearly, a surge in opium production in Afghanistan will have a global impact and lead to further diversification of drug trafficking routes, the search for new markets for opiates, the involvement of an increasing number of people in this criminal business and, ultimately, an increase in the number of drug addicts. Given these circumstances, the Afghan authorities, with the full support of the international donor community, will need to make additional efforts in order to intensify the fight against illegal drug trafficking. Only if we act together, collectively, on the basis of relevant international legal documents, will we be able to stop the flow of narcotics coming from Afghanistan.

We believe that regional efforts to counteract Afghan drug trafficking should be promoted with the use of resources of such authoritative international platforms as the Paris Pact initiative, the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), and the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO).

We are willing to continue to build constructive cooperation with the Afghan leadership, based on the principle of common and shared responsibility, in order to overcome the Afghan drug challenge. In particular, we will continue to assist Kabul in strengthening its anti-drug potential, within and beyond the framework of the projects we are carrying out jointly with UNODC and Japan to train law enforcement personnel at educational institution of the Russian Interior Ministry.

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Spanish officials’ statements on alleged “Russian interference” in the Catalan crisis

 

We have taken note of the latest statements by Spanish Government Official Spokesperson Inigo Mendez de Vigo, Minister of Defence Maria Dolores de Cospedal and Minister of Foreign Affairs Alfonso Dastis alleging that “Russian hackers” interfered in the internal politics of Spain, almost alleging an attempt to change the country’s constitutional system, in connection with the situation in the autonomous community of Catalonia.

We deeply regret the fact that the anti-Russian campaign unleashed by Western media has, this time, taken hold in Madrid at the official level in the context of the Catalan crisis. Remarks by Spanish Foreign Minister Alfonso Dastis that Russia allegedly seeks to weaken Spain are particularly dismaying.

We would like our Spanish colleagues to start taking responsibility for their words and offer concrete evidence. It is absolutely unclear what considerations could have prompted the Spanish minister to make these “revelations”. The Russian side has repeatedly stated its firm and unambiguous stance on the Catalan issue. Was it not heard in Madrid? Suffice it to mention the Russian Foreign Ministry statement from October 11, which was published on the ministry’s official website. Is it possible that the Spanish Foreign Ministry knows nothing about this and that the Spanish Embassy in Moscow has failed to properly inform it? Let me point out that communiqués from the Foreign Ministry’s website are translated into Spanish.

Such disregard for objective factors and the unwarranted obsession with unsubstantiated accusations, which, as we understand, were picked up from dubious sources, obviously don’t cast Spanish diplomacy in a positive light. Similar actions will cause nothing but harm to Russian-Spanish relations.

Once again, I would like to draw your attention to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s comment on this issue during yesterday’s news conference.

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Interpretations of the words of Russian Ambassador to Romania in a number of online publications

 

With regard to the remarks Valery Kuzmin, Russian Ambassador to Romania, made at the conference on the promotion of business ties with Russia held on November 9 in Suceava, we would like to draw your attention to the unacceptability of some of the interpretations appearing in several publications on the future of Romanian-Moldovan relations. They arose from incorrect translation to the Romanian language and selective quoting of some phrases plucked out of a broader context. An official correction has been already given by the Russian Embassy in Romania, and the text is available on its official website.

We reaffirm Russia’s unchanged position on supporting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Moldova, as stipulated in the Treaty on Friendship and Cooperation between the Russian Federation and the Republic of Moldova, signed on November 19, 2001.

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Speech by President of German Federal Intelligence Service Bruno Kahl

 

We have taken notice of the speech given by President of the Federal Intelligence Service of Germany Bruno Kahl in Munich, in which he depicts Russia not as a partner, but as a threat to European security and criticises our country for trying to resume a leading role on the European continent, which he sees as an attempt to weaken the European Union and to drive a wedge between the EU and the US.

It is sad that the head of German Intelligence Service cannot be free from ideological chains and continues to spread phobias about an alleged “threat from the East.” The election to the Bundestag is long since over. Also, according to the official statements by the German leadership, the rumours spread about omnipotent “Russian hackers” and Moscow trying to destabilise the internal situation in Germany and discredit the German leadership, have not been confirmed by any facts. At the same time, Berlin cannot calm down.

It is probably time for such people to stop frightening German society and themselves with fantasies about Russia’s plans, which do not even exist in this context. There are facts, after all. It is not Russia that advances its troops to the German borders; on the contrary, German units are in the territory of the former Soviet Union again. It is not us who circles Europe with a network of military bases and anti-missile defences. It is not us who devises new forms of sanctions. So where does this threat come from? To whom?

In the context of an overall strengthening of the threat from terrorism and extremism, about which we have talked a lot today, of intensifying regional conflicts, crises, humanitarian and climatic problems, we have to deal with real challenges, which concern all of us. So maybe, instead of spending time and efforts on hostile rhetoric and the notorious deterrence of Russia, they should use their energy to normalise relations and promote constructive dialogue on issues of mutual interest? We would support these developments, by all means.

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Voting at the UNGA Third Committee on a draft resolution on combating glorification of Nazism, neoNazism and other practices that contribute to fuelling contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance

 

In a few hours, the Third Committee of the 72nd session of the UN General Assembly will vote on the draft resolution, Combating glorification of Nazism, neo‑Nazism and other practices that contribute to fuelling contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, which Russia introduces annually. This resolution is one of the Russian delegation’s priorities at the UN General Assembly.

The importance of this document has increased recently. The new draft condemns the war on the monuments to those who fought against Nazism and fascism, which has become a state policy in some countries over the past year, as well as the annual marches honouring Nazis and collaborationists and the neo-Nazi torch marches.

The co-authors of this draft resolution consider the glorification of the Nazi movement and former SS members, including the Waffen SS units that were declared a criminal organisation at the Nuremberg Trials, as unacceptable. It is unacceptable that those who fought against the anti-Hitler coalition and collaborated with the Nazis be praised as national and national liberation heroes.

We are often asked about our attitude towards the monuments to these people. The answer to this question can be found in the above draft resolution.

We would like to express our gratitude to the delegations of the UN member states that proposed constructive amendments to the text of the resolution and to express hope that those countries that vote against this vital resolution or abstain will change their position.

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Monument to Soviet servicemen vandalised in Sarnice, Poland

 

Vandals have damaged a monument standing at the site in Sarnice where Soviet scouts were killed while on a combat mission as part of the Soviet Army operation to liberate Poland from the Nazi occupiers.

The municipal government has said the monument is being repaired and the police have been notified. A note of protest has been sent to the Polish authorities concerned with the demand that those guilty be identified and held responsible.

Regrettably, this is not the only act of disrespect for the monuments to our compatriots who died while doing their military duty in Poland. Each new act of vandalism, no matter how the culprits present it, is a logical part of Warsaw’s state policy for fighting so-called communist symbols, a policy that has set loose and is pandering to those who deride our common history.

We are closely monitoring the situation regarding memorials in Poland and will respond harshly to any offence against Soviet/Russian military history heritage there.

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Establishment of the Andrey Karlov Foundation

 

On December 19, it will be one year since Andrey Karlov, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Russian Federation and Hero of Russia, was murdered in Ankara.

In the run-up to this date, on November 20, at 4.30 pm, a presentation of the Andrey Karlov Children’s Charity Foundation will take place at the Turkish Ambassador’s residence in Moscow (43a Bolshaya Nikitskaya Street, Building 1). The foundation has been established at the initiative of a group of Russian and Turkish diplomats, entrepreneurs, public figures and friends of the late diplomat.

Maria Karlova, the widow of the killed Ambassador, serves as the president of the foundation. She noted that “the foundation will by all means continue Andrey’s mission: to promote good relations between people from different countries. We provide help for seriously ill children, as well as for children in difficult situations. Without a doubt, it is a good way to honour the memory of Andrey Karlov, who spent a lot of time and effort on charity, without ever being public about that, but following his heart. Many worthy people announced that they would support us: diplomats, doctors, public figures and just good people who share the goals of our foundation and who are ready to help us achieve them.”

The foundation’s supervisory board includes Deputy Foreign Minister Yevgeny Ivanov, Director of the State History Museum Alexey Levykin, Director of the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts Marina Loshak, Member of the Russian Academy of Sciences and Director of the Dmitry Rogachev National Research Centre of Pediatric Hematology, Oncology and Immunology Alexander Rumyantsev, Member of the Russian Academy of Sciences and Director of Neurology Research Centre Mikhail Piradov, President of the Institute of Asian and African Countries Professor Mikhail Meyer, French entrepreneur Pyotr Seznec (Uvarov) and Merited Artist of Russia and MGIMO University graduate Alexander Sklyar.

The board is headed by Anatoly Torkunov, Member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary and Rector of the MGIMO University.

We invite Russian and foreign media to take part in this ceremony. Accreditation for journalists is available by phone: +7-929-646-11- 51. Contact person: Vladimir Solotsinsky.

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Monument to Alexander Pushkin unveiled in Slovenia

 

On November 9, Slovenia’s first ever monument to Alexander Pushkin was unveiled in Ljubljana. The bronze bust of the poet on a marble stele was given as a gift to Ljubljana’s City Hall as part of the Great Teachers of Mankind project, which is being carried out by an international public charity fund, Dialogue of Cultures – United World. The ceremony was attended by Russian and Slovenian officials, the leaders of the Forum of Slavic Cultures, members of public and educational organisations, and business and cultural figures.

Work to carry out this initiative is important proof of Russia’s and Slovenia’s determination to promote their humanitarian ties and their firm commitment to preserving the shared historical heritage of the Slavic people, in which classic Russian literature occupies a special place. We are grateful to our Slovenian partners for their respectful attitude towards the very rich spiritual and artistic legacy of Alexander Pushkin.   

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Russian children participate in the Theatrical Petersburg educational programme

 

For the fourth time now young Russians were invited to take part in the Theatrical Petersburg annual educational programme (November 14-21). The event is held by the St Petersburg Government as part of the Russian Government’s policy towards Russian compatriots living abroad.

This year, over 80 Russian children aged 12-17 came to St Petersburg from 18 counties: the United Kingdom, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Spain, Italy, Cyprus, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Slovakia, Ukraine, Finland, France, Sweden and Estonia. During their stay in Russia, our young guests will enjoy the theatrical atmosphere of St Petersburg and feel part of the great world of Russian art.

Young participants take part in workshops on acting techniques and art. They can also attend interactive performances, exhibitions, museum tours, meetings with actors from St Petersburg theatres and workshops on various topics.

Taking into account the age of the participants, they are accompanied by teachers of theatre, Russian culture, Russian language and literature who came from schools in their countries.

Roundtable discussions on cultural education of youth and visits to St Petersburg theatre schools and studios are planned for the children’s chaperones.

I believe it is not just a useful initiative, but an initiative that shows good results.

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Russian law on foreign media

 

As you know, yesterday the State Duma of the Federal Assembly adopted amendments to the Russian legislation regarding the operations of the foreign media. This has been done to create a legal framework stipulating the possibility of a response to restrictive measures taken by foreign states, primarily the United States, against Russian media outlets, in particular RT television network.

I would like to repeat now what we have said more than once and what our MPs together with public figures said yesterday. Russia has always tried to expand as much as possible the area of comfortable operations unhindered by any far-fetched political boundaries for absolutely all news sources, both Russian and foreign. We have been forced to give a reply to the openly repressive actions taken against Russian media outlets, primarily RT, which was ordered to register as a foreign agent on pain of a series of sanctions, up to and including the arrest.

You know from what State Duma representatives have said that amendments to legislation have been adopted and will be forwarded to the Federation Council for approval in the near future. If the upper house approves these amendments, they will be sent to the President of Russia to be signed. Explanations on the application of these amendments will be provided subsequently.

We were surprised and even shocked by numerous questions about these latest developments and the working conditions for foreign journalists in Russia, which we received yesterday from diplomats accredited in Moscow. This is strange, because the Russian Foreign Ministry has posted numerous comments and, for several months before that, spoke about response measures we would have to take in case of aggressive actions against Russian media outlets. Numerous hearings and public debates were held on this subject, and all branches of power and civil society representatives clearly formulated Russia’s position.

Colleagues, where have you been? You have taken a very strange position. I want to tell you once again that the official Foreign Ministry website operates in several languages, and any information is available there. We posted interviews on this topic as often as twice a day. Why are you surprised? We have said that we will provide a response in case of continued attacks on and threats of closure against Russian television networks. We have provided it now. So, it is very strange that official representatives from some countries appear to be unnerved and worried. They could have expressed their concern before we adopted the amendments; we were open for consultations. Moreover, this subject was regularly covered by the Foreign Minister during talks with his foreign colleagues. I believe that more than enough has been made public on this subject .

It is surprising that all the US requirements to RT America, which has been accused of distributing unreliable information, interfering in internal affairs plus engaging in propaganda, are never applied in the United States to American media outlets.

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 US media latest “information” on money transfers to Russian diplomatic missions

 

Yesterday’s example – the Buzzfeed story alleging that Russia sponsored the US election via its Foreign Ministry – is “flawless.” I believe we should discuss this with our colleagues. In my opinion, after yesterday’s publication, it would be quite appropriate for us to have this particular article examined by experts. We will do so, sending it to relevant agencies that deal with propaganda and its dissemination via the media. Why not? This article was prepared without taking Russia’s opinion into account, without requesting our official position. We received no request to comment on the material at the disposal of that portal or media outlet (this is an open question). We have repeatedly asked the US Embassy in Moscow as to whether Buzzfeed is a media outlet and we have requested official notification. We have been waiting since 2014 for official confirmation from the US Embassy in Moscow that Buzzfeed is a media outlet. The fact that no confirmation has been provided also raises questions. Maybe in their opinion, Buzzfeed is not a media outlet, so they use it to spread whatever they like.

I would be interested to know whether experts (not relying on my modest professional experience) believe that Buzzfeed’s story is a piece of propaganda, “anodyne fake” or real disinformation or whether we are exaggerating. Frankly, I would like to find an agency that could provide an expert assessment. From all indications, this is classic disinformation – but of a hardcore nature. We were not asked to comment on this matter. We would have commented because that comment would have been not so much politically charged as factual. We would have provided hard facts with regard to the wire transfers made by the Foreign Ministry to its missions abroad.

I would like to reveal a “terrible secret”: Diplomatic missions in all countries receive money (wages, maintenance costs, utilities, official events). This money, which was wired from the centre to its missions abroad, was indeed meant “for elections.” On September 18, 2016, elections to the State Duma of the  Federal Assembly took place. Some 350 polling stations were opened abroad, as we officially announced before the elections. Several months before the elections, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said at a Government Hour session that this was our priority. Collegiums and conferences were held at the Foreign Ministry with the participation of the Central Electoral Commission regarding the methods and forms of organising polling stations abroad. There were numerous meetings and consultations as well as decisions were made within the bounds of Russian law. Indeed, money was needed to hold elections abroad, where, as our members of parliament said yesterday, hundreds of thousands of Russian citizens live, work or stay [temporarily]. Money is needed to open over 350 polling stations in more than 140 countries. Does this happen differently in other countries? When elections are held in other countries, isn’t money wired to the accounts of foreign missions, for instance, in Moscow?

Our Embassy in Washington promptly commented on this matter. We would like to continue this topic.

I should say it’s outrageous that US intelligence services have leaked to the press information about money transfers to Russian diplomatic missions – not only in the United States but all over the world too. This was done with the aim of providing a fresh impetus to the dying myths about Russian interference in last year’s presidential election in the US, to which end they are now using wire transfers from Moscow for the 2016 election campaign via Citibank. To reiterate, this is not some “anodyne fake” – this is disinformation.

Buzfeed knew very well what it was doing. Otherwise, queries would have been sent to the Russian Embassy in Washington. What’s more, during a conversation between our press secretary in Washington and a representative of this Internet platform or media outlet, the latter said they had some information suggesting that money was wired to the Russian Embassy in the United States bearing a note that said that the money was to be used “to finance elections." In response to this, our press secretary stated in no uncertain terms that this referred to the elections to the State Duma of the Russian Federal Assembly and that if this information was published without Russian commentary as an allegation of Russia’s involvement in the US election, then that would be absolute disinformation. That is to say, a warning was issued and we were willing to comment on this. If such articles are so slanted, then we regard them as disinformation. After this, there were no requests to provide a detailed commentary. At the same time, the article was published in the unacceptable form that you have seen.

To reiterate, the money transfers were designated to provide conditions to ensure that Russian citizens abroad could vote in the State Duma elections on September 18, 2016. This is a very important point both for the outlet that published this story plus for you journalists. We informed as well as officially notified the US State Department with a diplomatic note in advance about the forms of holding elections to the State Duma of the Federal Assembly on US territory. When US intelligence services “leak” this information to Buzzfeed (and this is not the first time this has happened), why did they not “leak” the note to the US State Department? Why did they not “leak” the 2016 official letter from the Russian Embassy notifying the US side as to where we would hold elections, how and when? This is also disinformation. Classic of the genre.

We have set up polling stations for decades and intend to do so in the future, in particular next March, when our missions abroad provide Russians in other countries an opportunity to vote in the Russian presidential election.

To reiterate, we are 100 per cent sure that in preparing this story, the people who wrote it were not misguided. They had to be aware of what they were writing and how they were using the material at their disposal.

The story says that similar wire transfers, which were denominated in dollars and were therefore automatically processed through the US banking system, were sent to our embassies in various countries, including those where no elections were being held at the time. Although the introduction of the article and the way it was written unequivocally interpret the information paranoiacally to the effect that Russia meddled in the [US] election. This is fake news, disinformation as well as propaganda, pure and simple. Does Russia Today have analogous material? No. Buzzfeed has it. It is quite obvious that the initiators of this publication and this uproar deliberately sought to impose a distorted perception on the audience to sustain the myth and the lie about Russia’s influence on the election campaign in the United States. Never mind Russia Today’s advertising on Twitter, which it did legally in response to Twitter’s proposal! Here is classic propaganda for you. Is anybody in the United States going to do anything about this Buzzfeed story? Nobody will ever say anything about it. On the contrary, I believe it will get a round of silent applause from certain agencies.

What is even more serious and disturbing is the flagrant violation in this case of the standards of treatment with regard to our official representative offices, as prescribed by the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. The publication of information about wire transfers shows that not only the secrecy of banking information has been violated (I am really wondering if it exists in the United States), but also the inviolability of Russian Embassy accounts. On top of that, this shows beyond all doubt that US banks operate under total control of US secret services that in fact organised this “leak.” This is a colossal image blow to Citibank.

We regard such actions, including reports that the FBI “is scrutinising” the wire transfers to our Embassy, as yet another attempt to exert pressure on Russian missions in the United States. We are once again urging the US authorities to stop playing such games and return to normal and responsible diplomatic contacts.

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Ukrainian website Mirotvorets opens in the United States

 

We were shocked by reports that the odious and terrible Ukrainian website Mirotvorets, which runs counter to all norms regarding the protection of media outlets and journalists is now posted on US servers, and we have rechecked these reports several times. Washington is turning a blind eye to this matter.

I would like to remind you what this website is all about. Those who understand Russian know what its name means (Editor’s Note: Mirotvorets means Peacekeeper), but this website publishes the personal data of those whom the current Kiev regime considers to be its adversaries, including the personal data of journalists who have visited Donetsk and Lugansk. The website has also published data on Russian service personnel involved in the counter-terrorist operation in Syria.

All this was done with the official or unofficial connivance of the authorities in Kiev. In principle, this puts paid to efforts to uphold and protect generally accepted human rights standards, including the right to protection against arbitrary and illegal interference in private life, not to mention that this jeopardises the safety of people. The well-known Ukrainian public figures Oleg Kalashnikov and Oles Buzina were murdered by nationalists after this website published their addresses, and the guilty were never punished.

Although this notorious website openly advocates direct action and spreads an extremist ideology, it is allowed to function unhindered on US territory. In 2016, The Washington Post and The New York Times voiced concern for the safety of media employees. At that time, the United States and its allies persuaded Kiev to delete information about Western journalists alone. It appears that official Washington does not care about the dangers threatening citizens of other states.

This faulty policy is on the verge of pandering to extremist trends. It is impossible to flirt with them. They are negative and they are outlawed, regardless of their form, even under this wonderful name. We are expecting to hear an official response from Washington on this issue soon.

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Results of Russia-US events on the Hawaiian Islands

 

On November 11-14, the Hawaiian Islands successfully hosted a series of events timed to coincide with the 200th anniversary of Russia’s presence in the archipelago, including an annual forum of the Coordinating Council of Organisations of Russian Compatriots and a science-practical conference of both countries’ socio-political and academic circles. The events were sponsored by the Foreign Ministry’s Inter-Departmental Working Group for Preserving Russia’s Historical and Cultural Heritage in the United States.

 Let me remind you that Russian sailors arrived in the Hawaiian Islands 200 years ago and founded several communities, including forts Elizabeth, Alexander and Barclay. This event ushered in long-term ties between Russia and the region. Today, Fort Elizabeth is the central element of the Russian Fort Elizabeth State Historical Park on Kauai Island.

We would like to use this opportunity to thank the forum organisers and delegates, including the heads and activists of the Coordinating Council, the Congress of Russian Americans, other organisations and associations of compatriots, Historic Hawaii Foundation, scientists and experts of both countries, employees of museums and archives, public and religious figures, and prominent representatives of Hawaii State’s civil society, including the descendants of the Hawaiian royal dynasty. We would like to specially thank the organising committee’s chair, Ms Sabelnik, Mayor of Kauai Bernard P Carvalho Jr and the Hawaii State authorities.

Discussion participants touched on a wide range of issues regarding the current state of and prospects for improving relations between Russia and the United States. They discussed new cooperation formats that could help intensify bilateral cultural-humanitarian and scientific ties, non-governmental and inter-regional contacts.

Many speakers prioritised efforts to preserve both countries’ joint historical and cultural heritage. In this context, they voiced many interesting ideas, including that of holding an annual conference similar to the Fort Ross Dialogue forum in the Hawaiian Islands, on including Fort Elizabeth in UNESCO’s World Cultural Heritage lists, on rebuilding infrastructure elements of local forts, building a museum of the Hawaiian Islands’ Russian history and on establishing twin-city relations between Kauai and   one of Russian cities.

I can assure you that we will thoroughly study and analyse all proposals made by conference participants. We will conduct a joint brainstorming session involving the Russian Embassy in Washington and the Russian Consulate General in Seattle. The latter currently oversees matters in the Hawaiian Islands after the US shut down the Russian consulate general in San Francisco.

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From answers to media questions:

Question: If the Russian side believes that Buzzfeed is engaging in deliberate disinformation, maybe they should be sued? If so, in which court?

Maria Zakharova: This is not a simple matter because there are a lot of such publications, and we are taking note of the most offensive ones. This publication, however, stands apart from the rest, because it was based on material that could only have been provided to its authors by intelligence agencies.

It is important to understand who is calling the shots there. Actually, this is a platform created by intelligence agencies, a “clearing mechanism” that casts itself as a media outlet but disseminates material fed to it solely by intelligence agencies. We are keeping tabs only on the Russian track. And what is going on there with regard to domestic politics? Who is leaking this material? This is a question for the Americans. We are talking only about ourselves.

This is probably Buzzfeed’s third publication on Russia based on material provided by US intelligence agencies. This is unacceptable. There can be mistakes and clearly biased information that is deliberately disseminated. This is bad, but we know how to handle this, how to refute this. However, this is only part of the series of Buzzfeed publications that US intelligence agencies stand behind. What’s more, they hand over material that, in keeping with international law, should never be published. They distort the material, not just changing their political thrust, but saying that white is black.

You understand very well that a person who is working on a story and who sees that money is wired to many countries at one and the same time should ask those “Messrs. Smiths” who hand over this material whether it is not a little strange that this money is going to a certain country where there is neither Donald Trump nor Hillary Clinton. Why? Of course, these questions were asked. However, I am 100 percent sure that they were told how to write the article, what the headline should be, what should be ignored plus that there must be a line saying that there were also elections in Russia at the time in order to preempt the perception that this is not true (we mentioned the Russian election, didn’t we?). This is a classic. You can read on the internet about how such material is prepared.

Why do I say that this is not a fake story? Fake stories are a recent discovery. They involve, among other things, information and communications technology that was used before, including unfair competition, advertising and so on. The publication in question, however, was prepared with the participation of intelligence agencies. It puts together seamlessly everything that is required for classic disinformation. This is reminiscent of Nazi leaflets that were disseminated during the Great Patriotic War on Soviet territory. However, standing behind them now are US intelligence agencies and this is why the series of Buzzfeed publications stand apart from the rest. Nobody has removed or corrected them or apologized for them.

We remember the case of journalist Christiane Amanpour who brought the photo of a boy to an interview with the foreign minister. It was classic manipulation of public consciousness. Here, however, we have disinformation, pure and simple. Why manipulation? Because presumably, at the time Ms Amanpour brought that photo she knew nothing about the fate of the boy. She could have said, at the very least, that she knew nothing about the boy’s fate and that she had not gone into that. However, nobody really knew what had happened to the boy. When the story came to light, everything became clear. We sent more than one letter to CNN suggesting that they publish new information with regard to the boy. They did not do so. In our view, that was of course manipulation of public opinion ahead of the election in order to put a required spin on the Syria issue with regard to Russia.

As for Buzzfeed’s publication, it has nothing to do with fake stories, mistakes or misunderstanding. It is classic disinformation with intelligence agencies standing behind it.

Question: In the context of Russia’s alleged interference in internal affairs [of other countries], you mentioned Spain and Germany. The number of countries that are leveling charges against Russia is visibly increasing, including Germany, France, the Netherlands and of course the United States. How detrimental is this to Russia’s foreign policy as well as its international relations?

Maria Zakharova: You said the number of countries alleging Russia’s interference is increasing but I would like to say that the amount of evidence to that effect remains the same. This is detrimental to everyone. As for evidence, there is none. Give us at least something, give us some facts. There is nothing except allegations. What’s more, such allegations are made when the domestic political situation [in a certain country] is escalating for one reason or another.

As for Spain, this is also absurd. Russia’s stance was clear-cut. We reiterated it in the course of talks with the Spanish at all levels, and we stated that in public. What can they do when they have no physical or intellectual resources to resolve a domestic political crisis in their country? They have to resort to such well-proven mechanisms.

Whether this is or is not detrimental to our foreign policy, we don’t think this way. This simply hinders the resolution of problems on the international agenda and hinders countering real threats. I talked about this today. The question is not whether this is or is not detrimental to Russian foreign policy. It is detrimental to all and impedes fostering comprehensive cooperation. I am not even talking about cultural, economic or business cooperation. This makes it impossible to address global problems. It’s as if nobody sees drug trafficking in Afghanistan, the exponential growth in opiate production. It’s as if there is no connection between a teenager dying from drugs somewhere in Europe, the United States or Russia and what is going on Afghanistan, as though these are two different planets. This is wrong – it is one and the same thing. If the problem is not resolved there, problems will continue here. This applies to everything. It’s as if nobody sees a connection between ISIS members being set free there and terrorist attacks here. There is a connection and this connection is direct. Meanwhile, myths about Russian threats are being invented and developed so that the entire world would consolidate and focus on these matters.

Question: Apparently, the work of the OSCE Minsk Group for Nagorno-Karabakh settlement has intensified. On Tuesday, Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian met with the co-chairs of the Minsk Group in Moscow. Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov is having similar talks today. Not long ago, Sergey Lavrov said the Minsk Group was working extensively on settling the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The same issue will be a priority during the Russian Foreign Minister’s visits to Baku and Yerevan. In light of these developments, former US co-chair Matthew Bryza said the US State Department intends to either recall their co-chair or change his status. Bryza explained it by the fact that the State Department has supposedly decreased its funding but everybody knows that it is not the State Department but the OSCE who is paying for the mission. Bryza suggested that the Minsk Group format may change. What would be your comment on this?

Maria Zakharova: In theory, there is nothing illogical here. In practice, I will not comment because this is a question for our US counterparts. If the Minsk Group is one co-chair short, the format will indeed change. There will be one co-chair less. Whether this will happen and why is a question for the United States, not us, along with the question on whether they have enough money for the mission (which is, of course, something new for the US economy).

You were correct that this issue is one of our priorities on the international agenda because these countries are more than just our neighbours. We are not merely connected with these nations by formal international legal documents and obligations but by our lives and fates. We have had a common history for centuries. The Nagorno-Karabakh settlement is a priority for us. The priorities of US diplomacy are for the US Department of State to comment on.

Question: Today is the 84th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the Soviet Union and the United States. How would you describe the current state of bilateral cooperation? What can be done to improve it? What can Russia do? Does past cooperation experience have an impact on the current situation and can it be helpful in any way?

Maria Zakharova: It seems to me that the number of questions raised today clearly indicates the state of affairs in Russia-US interaction and relations in general. Overall, these relations have great potential. We have repeatedly stressed that. There is a host of issues that simply require Moscow’s and Washington’s involvement in order to be resolved.

We talk about this at every level. President Putin, Foreign Minister Lavrov, the heads of other executive bodies, our lawmakers, and public representatives have noted that, unfortunately, on the Russia-US track we are all becoming hostages of a strange situation in current US domestic policy, and before that, of US leaders’ conscious desire to destroy our relations (I am talking about the Obama Administration).

Again, we have commented on bilateral relations many times. There are a great number of issues both on the international and bilateral agendas that require direct contact to normalise and improve. We always express this, even during times of rabid Russophobia.

Question: When can we expect an improvement?

Maria Zakharova: Once again, we have been doing everything to show our counterparts that we are ready to work towards achieving this goal with maximum effort.

Question: It was reported recently that Deputy Director of the Foreign Ministry’s State Protocol Department Sergey Barashkov was found dead. Are there any details about this? Can the Foreign Ministry confirm this?

Maria Zakharova: On November 9, an obituary was posted on the ministry’s website, saying that the Foreign Ministry announced with deep regret that Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary 2nd Class Sergey Barashkov, deputy director of the State Protocol Department, died on November 5 at age 64.

Question: There was information that he died under rather strange circumstances.

Maria Zakharova: The relevant agencies and departments are looking into this. As for the Foreign Ministry’s response, everything was posted on the official website on November 9.

Question: Despite all the explanations provided by the Russian side, it is still not quite clear why – if Russia Today is being harassed in the United States, European media outlets, among others, are being exposed to pressure in Russia. Regarding the Buzzfeed story, their publication says they did ask for comments.

Maria Zakharova: This is not true. Do you think they have a quota for lies? They do not. A lot of what is written there is not true. I explained in detail that they did not ask for [comment]. A separate question was emailed that did not provide all the information that they subsequently published.

Tell me, have we (as a foreign policy agency) ever withheld information? I’m not saying that our work is ideal 100 percent. However, we have long come to realise that if there is anyone, we are the ones interested in providing information. Would we really not have provided information about the number of polling stations that were opened or the countries where they were opened or the ways and methods of working with the Russian Central Election Commission, as it was just said? This is absurd. Of course, we would have provided such information. What’s more, we wouldn’t have had to provide anything. We would simply have sent hyperlinks to the relevant material on our website, because all of that has already been published. This would not have required any search for material in some foreign policy archives. Everything is available on the website – Sergey Lavrov’s remarks, briefing material, a report on the Collegium meeting that took place at the Foreign Ministry and a statement by the Central Election Commission. This would have taken between an hour to an hour and a half.

However, that was precisely the logic of those who were preparing this idiocy – to ensure that the Russian stance, which refuted the idea of [Russian] meddling in the US [presidential] election, would not be presented. Because otherwise the story would have been one about the way the elections to the State Duma were held in 2016 and how the Russian presidential election will be held in 2018. In short, this article would have been about preparations for the electoral process in the Russian Federation and Russian missions abroad. The story would have failed to achieve its purpose. Hence the entire machination.

You regularly attend briefings; you and we sit in chat rooms, communicators and social media. Are there any examples when we have not responded to your questions? We can reply late, say that we are unable to meet your deadline and ask for an extension. In any event, we can always say, “no comment.” Isn’t this so? So, this is a lie.

As for your first question about the media law, what else could have been done?

I believe that members of parliament should comment on this because we were not involved in the lawmaking process. We offered our assessment of the situation, our vision of what we have today in the media sphere with regard to Russian media outlets abroad. However, you understand that legal experts, who were invited by members of parliament, have worked on the text.

How else could this have been done? Just state in parenthesis “only with regard to US media”? And then add other countries after a comma if they have similar practices? Firstly, it doesn’t work that way. Amendments are made, stipulating the elaboration of a general mechanism of action in this case. Secondly, in my opinion, this will have, among other things, a preemptive effect so that if next time, other countries harass Russian media outlets to the point of closure, everyone will see that the corresponding mechanism is really working.

There is yet another point. This is happening not only in the United States (although nowhere to such an extent as in the US). In France, our media outlets are denied accreditation to official events (Sputnik and Russia Today representatives are sitting here; we constantly receive letters from them, send in queries, and so on). Top- and high-level officials in France constantly say that these are not media but propaganda outlets. When officials make such assertions without providing any evidence to substantiate them, this is a huge blow to the media. What is so strange about the fact that this law can also be applied to this situation? After all, when we deal with propaganda elements in the media or elsewhere, we provide hard facts. Today we analysed the Buzzfeed story and talked about Christiane Amanpour. We do not just name Amanpour by name and mention CNN news network when we say that this is manipulation but provide specific examples.

Interestingly, there are CNN representatives here. They can tell you how many letters were sent to the television channel’s bureau in Moscow asking them to rectify this situation in one way or another. We are working to resolve it. Our task is not to push CNN out of Russia or block its activity but to ensure that Russia’s official position is presented objectively, at least so that we have an opportunity to get our position across, given that CNN devotes so much time to Russia. However, we do not say that they skip our briefings or that they are a propaganda outlet, nor do we deny them accreditation. Nothing could be further from our mind (I’m telling you this as a person who is directly in charge of this matter).

Of course, this is a question for [Russian] MPs (they should comment on how the work on the document is proceeding: there are various nuances), but this is the logic I see here. We will also expect a detailed explanation regarding law enforcement practice after the amendments are adopted and the updated law goes into effect. Just as foreign media outlets, we as the executive branch of government need it, too. We are not commenting in so much detail because we are waiting for “instructions for use.”

Question: Former Bulgarian President Rosen Plevneliev said recently that Russia had used Bulgaria as a practice target for its first cyber attacks and later turned to other countries…

Maria Zakharova: Can I ask a global question? Look, you have a “magic wand” (we proceed from the assumption that the “Russian hackers” are omnipotent, right?). Tell me, will you, having this wand, do what is worse to others, or what is better for yourself?

If the omnipresent “Russian hackers” can elect a US president and hold referendums in Europe on the secession of sovereign states (what else can they do?), will, do you think, these tools be used for our own good? Why then are they used all the time to our detriment? Has no one asked this question? So, I’m sorry, I don’t even want to listen to it all. It’s a case of paranoia on a global, a world scale. I’d like to say right away: If you have facts, we’ll discuss them; if no facts are available, we’ll comment the way we always do.

Question: Can you give us a list of Bulgarian politicians, who visited Russia during the last 10 years and received awards here? For our part, we will provide a list of those who look after graves and monuments to war heroes in Bulgaria.

Maria Zakharova: We will try to provide this information.

Question: The Foreign Ministry occasionally holds away briefings. The FIFA World Cup is around the corner. Wouldn’t it be a good idea to hold a briefing at a Moscow stadium? This would be interesting both for Russian and foreign journalists.

Maria Zakharova: We have considered holding away briefings in World Cup host cities. We wanted to invite foreign journalists more than Russian. In Moscow, there are many people who can take foreign journalists around the sports facilities. As for other host cities, the idea to hold briefings there is being studied. You may have heard this.

Question: It has been rumoured that the leaders of eastern Ukrainian republics intend to rename them. There was even talk of integration. Can you give your comment?

What’s new in the negotiating process on the Kuril Islands?

Maria Zakharova: We report on talks and contacts related to the Kuril Islands on the regular basis.

As for renaming Donetsk and Lugansk, I don’t think this is the Foreign Ministry’s purview.

I can only reiterate that we are fully committed to the implementation of the Minsk Agreements. We proceed from the assumption that all developments in Ukraine related to crisis settlement should be based on these agreements. The rest should be commented on by the people who are directly involved in the process of settlement.

Question: Do you have information on what new rules or restrictions will be applied to media recognised as foreign agents?

Maria Zakharova: I just commented on that.    

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