Briefing of the Foreign Ministry Spokesman
Briefing by Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova, Moscow, April 11
- Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s meeting with the students and faculty of the Foreign Ministry’s Diplomatic Academy
- Constituent conference of the Andrei Gromyko Association of Foreign Policy Studies
- Sergey Lavrov’s participation in the presentation of The Invincible series photo albums
- Sergey Lavrov’s participation in the 27th Assembly of the Council of Foreign and Defence Policy
- Meeting of foreign ministers of Russia, Azerbaijan and Armenia on the Nagorno-Karabakh settlement process with the participation of the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs
- Foreign Minister Lavrov’s participation in the 5th Ministerial Meeting of the Russian-Arab Cooperation Forum
- Working visit by First Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Serbia Ivica Dačić to Russia
- Sergey Lavrov’s participation in the presentation of the Novgorod Region
- Update on Syria
- Statements by the US, Great Britain, France and Canada to mark two years since the Khan Shaykhun incident of April 4, 2017 and one year since the Douma incident of April 7, 2018 in Syria
- Court in Rotterdam recognises Ahrar al-Sham as a terrorist organisation
- Developments in Libya
- Confessions of British Foreign Office minister on Libya
- Developments in Sudan
- Venezuela update
- US decision to list Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist organisation
- Humanitarian aid to Iran
- Preliminary Israeli election returns
- Anniversary of the Polish presidential aircraft crash near Smolensk in April 2010
- Japanese demarche regarding drone deployment in the South Kuril Islands
- Denial of the right to enter Estonian territorial waters to Russian training ship Sedov
- Another illegal EU decision
- US Department of State claims about the risks of travelling to our country
- Update on Bogdana Osipova detained in the United States
- The decision of the Constitutional Court of the Czech Republic on the case of the Russian citizen Yevgeny Nikulin extradited to the United States
- Establishing an “anti-Serb” court branch in Pristina
- Update on the Kirill Vyshinsky case
- Julian Assange’s arrest at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London
- Violations of the rights of Russian journalists and media outlets in France over the past years
- The Foreign Ministry’s Council of Young Diplomats to participate in the Fifth Yalta International Economic Forum
- Russian citizen Alexey Sedikov detained in Ukraine
- 2018 Diplomatic Journal released
- Results of the meeting between Prime Minister of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan and President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev in Vienna
- Donald Trump’s statement about the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a terrorist organisation
- French President Emmanuel Macron’s decision to meet with the main contenders in the Ukrainian presidential election, Petr Poroshenko and Vladimir Zelensky, in Paris ahead of the voting
- Russia’s view of Donald Trump’s decision to include the IRGC in the list of terrorist organisations
- Impact of the US decision to include the IRGC in the list of terrorist organisations on Iran’s status as a guarantor state in the Astana format of the Syrian settlement
- UNSC emergency meeting on Venezuela
- The Brussels Agreement on Kosovo
- The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe’s resolution regarding the Russian delegation
- Julian Assange’s arrest
- Meeting between the foreign ministers of Armenia, Azerbaijan and co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group on the Nagorno-Karabakh settlement
- Russian State Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin’s statement regarding Russia’s withdrawal from PACE
On April 12, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will meet with the students and faculty staff of the Foreign Ministry’s Diplomatic Academy, which is turning 85 this year.
The Diplomatic Academy is a major education and research centre that trains highly qualified experts on international relations in a broad range of areas that are in high demand. Alongside MGIMO University it remains the main source of personnel for domestic foreign service. Foreign Ministry staff and staff from other Russian departments, as well as foreign diplomats regularly upgrade their knowledge and skills at the academy.
Mr Lavrov will share his views on the current international situation and discuss Russian foreign policy priorities, after which he will answer questions.
On April 12, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will take part in the constituent conference of the Andrei Gromyko Association of Foreign Policy Studies.
The association was established by representatives of domestic non-government, scientific and educational organisations to promote expert dialogue between the CIS, the EAEU and the CSTO member countries. Representatives of parliamentary, public and business circles, as well as experts on international affairs from the Russian Federation and the Republic of Belarus will speak at the forthcoming event. They will discuss the association’s plans for the near and long-term future, which will be reflected in the conference’s final document. Mr Lavrov will also visit the exposition prepared by the ministry’s historical and documentary department for the 110th birth anniversary of outstanding Soviet diplomat and statesman Andrei Gromyko, which will be observed this year.
On April 12, Sergey Lavrov will attend the presentation of The Invincible series photo albums at the Foreign Ministry mansion. The photo albums were released by the Russia-Cuba Friendship Society ahead of the 85th anniversary of Yury Gagarin’s birth and the 90th anniversary of Ernesto “Che” Guevara’s birth. The two men were the first heads of the USSR-Cuba Friendship Society that was established in 1964.
The photos document the main events in the life of these outstanding personalities of the 20th century. Of special interest are photos showing official contacts and informal meetings of Gagarin and Guevara in Moscow and Havana, where the paths of the space pioneer and the Latin American revolutionary symbolically crossed. This event will emphasise yet again the historically strong ties of friendship and cooperation between Russia and Cuba.
Heads of diplomatic missions of Latin American and Caribbean countries, active members of the Russia-Cuba Friendship Society, government officials and members of the cultural and academic communities were invited to attend the presentation. Some photos from the albums will go on display.
We are inviting the Russian and foreign media to take part in this event.
On April 13-14, the Lesniye Dali holiday hotel in Moscow’s suburbs will host the annual Assembly of the Council of Foreign and Defence Policy, Russia’s oldest non-governmental organisation which addresses matters relating to international relations and foreign policy. The discussion, titled “What Lies Ahead: World War or World Revolution?”, will address the current situation in the world and the priorities of Russian foreign policy.
Sergey Lavrov will attend the event, in keeping with tradition. He will greet the participants in the forum, share his views of the current international situation and speak about important objectives of Russian diplomacy.
The Foreign Ministry greatly appreciates the constructive cooperation with the Council of Foreign and Defence Policy. We need the ideas and recommendations of experts from this and other Russian non-governmental organisations, which address international foreign policy matters, in our practical work.
Foreign Minister of Russia Sergey Lavrov, Foreign Minister of Azerbaijan Elmar Mammadyarov and Foreign Minister of Armenia Zohrab Mnatsakanyan will hold a meeting in Moscow on April 15 on issues related to the Nagorno-Karabakh settlement process. The OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs (Russia, the United States and France) will also attend the meeting.
On April 16, the 5th Ministerial Meeting of the Russian-Arab Cooperation Forum will be held in Moscow with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in attendance.
In line with the format recorded in the Memorandum on the Establishment of the Forum signed in December 2009, the event will be attended by the three foreign office representatives of the Council of the Arab League (Iraq, Sudan and Somalia), as well as Tunisia (as current Arab League Summit chair) and the Arab League Secretary General. Also, foreign ministers of some other Arab states are expected to attend the Forum.
An in-depth exchange of views will be held during the meeting in this collective format on the situation in the Middle East and North Africa with a focus on addressing major sources of tension in the region and responding to the challenges and threats facing Arab countries. The most pressing regional and international problems are to be discussed, including the Palestine-Israel peace process, the situations in Syria, Libya and Yemen, the comprehensive normalisation of the situation in the Gulf area, countering terrorism and extremism, and establishing a WMD-free zone in the Middle East.
Particular attention will be paid to coordinating practical steps to further enhance the whole range of relations between Russia and Arab countries, primarily trade and economic relations, investment, culture, education and people-to-people ties. Following the Forum, a joint declaration will be adopted as well as an action plan to implement the principles, objectives and tasks of Russian-Arab cooperation for 2019-2021.
We expect the upcoming event to effectively promote joint approaches to solving international and regional problems that need to be solved, and to give a substantial boost to Russia’s multi-pronged partnership with the Arab world.
First Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Serbia Ivica Dačić will be in Moscow on a working visit on April 17. During his talks with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov they are expected to discuss key elements of the agenda for Russian-Serbian interaction, further steps in the development of their bilateral strategic partnership and current issues in the Balkan region.
The Russia-Serbia political dialogue is robust. The official visit by Russian President Vladimir Putin to Belgrade on January 17 has given a powerful impetus to joint work in key areas. Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić visited Russia twice last year and participated in the Victory Day celebrations and the Immortal Regiment’s march. The foreign ministers also meet on a regular basis.
It should be noted that the Serbian leadership follows a balanced course toward the establishment of mutually beneficial ties with all interested countries, including Russia. There are positive trends in the dynamics of Russian-Serbian trade and economic relations. In 2018, bilateral trade amounted to $2.1 billion, according to Russian customs statistics, which is 1.9 percent more than in 2017.
Settlement of the Kosovo situation is a traditional focal point. Our support for Serbia on the Kosovo problem remains unchanged and is based on UN Security Council Resolution 1244.
On April 18, a presentation by the Novgorod Region will be made at the Foreign Ministry’s Reception House as part of an effort to help Russian regions promote and strengthen cooperation with foreign countries and the business community.
The presentation will be attended by members of the diplomatic corps accredited in Moscow, federal and regional officials and members of the business community as well as Russian and foreign media representatives. The event will highlight the Novgorod Region’s economic and investment potential and show how the region’s authorities plan to further boost cooperation with their foreign partners. The Novgorod Region will present various projects that can be implemented jointly with businesses and governmental structures in foreign countries interested in doing business with the region.
Sergey Lavrov and Governor of the Novgorod Region Andrei Nikitin are expected to speak at the event.
Militants of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, who have entrenched themselves in the Idlib de-escalation zone, continue their attacks on the positions of Syrian government forces. Both military and civilians continue to be killed. The shelling of a hospital in Masyaf in Hama Province on April 7 received widespread coverage. Five people were killed and 15 wounded as a result. On the same day, about 500 terrorists made an abortive attempt to break the defences of the Syrian army in the mountainous area of Latakia. To prevent the situation from deteriorating further, we continue our coordinated efforts with Turkey to reduce tensions around the demilitarised zone, the formation of which is provided for by the relevant Sochi agreements. The situation in Idlib and other current issues regarding the settlement process in Syria were discussed at the Russian-Turkish summit in Moscow on April 8.
Work is ongoing to resettle internally displaced persons from the Rukban camp that is in the zone of the illegal American occupation. During the past week, about 1,500 residents of the camp were led out of it by Russian servicemen in coordination with the Syrian authorities and with the participation of the elders of local tribes. All necessary conditions meeting international humanitarian standards were created for them to return to their places of permanent residence.
In this context, we took note of the report by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) which states that donor countries failed to fulfil their commitments on aid to Syrians on time. Out of the necessary $3.3 billion, only $180 million has been raised to date. Implementation of UN humanitarian programmes is substantially delayed for lack of funds.
A graphic example of this shortage of money is the disastrous situation in the notorious al-Hawl camp for internally displaced persons where large-scale interruptions in food supplies are expected in summer. Let me recall that this place of temporary accommodation is located on the territory controlled by the Syrian Democratic Forces and their American patrons. The humanitarian disaster that is unfolding there before our eyes was provoked by the crude miscalculations of the US-led anti-ISIS coalition during anti-terrorist operations in the south-east of Syria.
In this connection, I would like to appeal again to the international community to support the Syrian people in the difficult task of post-war recovery. It is time for our Western partners to give up finally this political bargaining over the strictly humanitarian issue of aid to Syrians.
We plan to discuss the afore-mentioned key problems related to the Syrian settlement process and promoting a political process in the country at the 12th international meeting on Syria in the Astana format in Nur-Sultan. The event will take place at the end of April of this year. We will inform you of the exact dates later.
We took note of the outrageous statements released almost simultaneously by foreign ministries of the US, Great Britain, France and Canada to mark two years since the Khan Shaykhun incident of April 4, 2017 and one year since the Douma incident of April 7, 2018 in Syria. These statements set forth yet another salvo of groundless accusations and go as far as to directly threaten Damascus.
I would like to remind you that in 2017 the US carried out missile strikes against Syria, a sovereign state, and the infamous troika of Western countries did the same in 2018. These crimes resulted from politically motivated decisions that bypassed the UN Security Council and violated all norms of international law, including the Chemical Weapons Convention. As for the Douma incident, the act of aggression I am referring to took place just a few hours before the experts from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) arrived at the scene. They had a mandate to gather witness accounts and collect samples on the ground, analyse them at the organisation’s independent laboratory and come to a conclusion on whether chemical weapons were used.
Let me once again highlight Russia’s position on the Khan Shaykhun and Douma incidents. We have every reason to believe that the reports made by the OPCW Fact-Finding Mission that was tasked with investigating the possible use of toxic chemicals in these two cases were made to fit the political agenda of the same aggressors.
This is already the third time over the past few months that I am raising a question that remains very much relevant. I am referring to the Dutch government providing so-called non-lethal support to terrorist groups.
The Dutch authorities have been claiming that the assistance they provided in 2013-2017, including various munitions, pickups, satellite telephones and many other things, were intended exclusively for the “moderate Syrian opposition,” and terrorists could have got their hands on these deliveries only by mistake. However, these assertions have been recently contradicted not only by journalist investigations, but also by a court ruling adopted following a hearing held in Rotterdam.
In doing so, the Dutch courts officially recognised Ahrar al-Sham as a terrorist organisation. That being said, we remember all too well that Dutch Foreign Minister Stef Blok assured Dutch parliamentarians just a few weeks ago that this organisation had to be viewed as a “moderate” group, when he alleged that Ahrar al-Sham was not on the EU and UN list of terrorist organisations.
Quite a few times we signalled to the international community the excessive willingness of some Western countries to engage in outrageous projects, such as providing non-lethal aid to organisations that turn out to be terrorist groups. We are eager to find out what new justifications the Dutch executives, including the Foreign Ministry, will come up with in order to justify their lack of judgement, to say the least.
Reports continue to come in on armed clashes on the approaches to the Libyan capital between military groups supporting Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj’s Government of National Accord and units of the Libyan National Army under Khalifa Haftar’s command. There were recorded cases of air attacks, including on the country’s only functioning international airport in Tripoli. According to various data, both parties to the conflict are sustaining losses in personnel and equipment.
There are no Russian citizens among the wounded and the dead. The Russian Embassy in Libya has been operating from neighbouring Tunisia for a number of years on account of the persisting terrorist threat in Tripoli. We reaffirm our recommendation to Russian citizens to refrain from visiting Libya for security reasons.
During the week that has elapsed since the current dramatic surge in tensions, the international community has repeatedly urged the conflicting sides to stop the military operations and sit down to the negotiating table. The escalation of tensions in Libya was discussed by the UN Security Council at its latest meeting.
Under these circumstances, Russia has clearly and consistently pointed out that there is no alternative to a political settlement based on the Plan of Action proposed by the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Libya, Ghassan Salamé, and that military methods of power struggle should be renounced. It is important that all responsible Libyan military and political forces pool efforts to restore national unity as soon as possible and form full-scale state institutions capable of effectively coping with national priorities, including primarily the fight against terrorism.
I remember well how many years ago, when the Russian side, among others, asked our Western colleagues in different formats, primarily French representatives, about arms supplies to Libya, they told us that we should not worry because all was well and under control. Weapons, they said, were being supplied to the right side. Today we see what the Western community’s support of the so-called “democracy” has led to and what is happening with weapons in the territory of the state that used to exist as a state before and is just struggling to gain this status today. We see – and I am quoting official estimates of the United Nations – mind-boggling amounts of weaponry in that territory. We would like to listen to those who claimed that the contemporary arms supplies were a way to support the democratic processes and represented no threat to peace or stability both in that state and the region as a whole.
Speaking about Libya and the roots of today's extremely difficult situation, I couldn’t help but see what I consider as an outstanding statement in every way recently made by Mark Field, a UK Foreign Office minister who temporarily oversees the Middle East dossier. During the debate in the House of Commons, he agreed with the arguments of his Labour opponents about the “calamitous” consequences of the British invasion of Iraq and Libya and said the following: “Although the UK played a role in trying to ensure that there was further planning for a Libyan-owned, UN co-ordinated stabilisation effort, that did not come to pass in the way we would have liked. There were clear early successes in the immediate aftermath of 2011 that were not sustained. ”
This statement is beautiful in every way imaginable. It turns out that the introduction of a no-fly zone, coupled with pinpoint bombardments, including on facilities critical to the state infrastructure, is now modestly called “a role in stabilisation effort.” The “effort” apparently implies unceremonious interference in the internal affairs of a sovereign state, overt support of an anti-government coup and, naturally, public lynching and mockery on the body of a national leader who was only recently accepted by those who later shamelessly gave orders and actually sentenced Muammar Gaddafi to death. Speaking about the scenario they would have liked, obviously, that was a reference to a transformation of Libya, which is extremely rich in natural resources, into a hydrocarbons supplier fully controlled by the West with a puppet government “recognized democratic” in words. Apparently, this was the scenario the West would have liked to see implemented, only something went wrong.
Frankly speaking, what is happening now, including around Venezuela is of course completely different; yet the methods used are very similar to the drama that unfolded in Libya: attempts to convince everyone of the need for democratisation, a concentration on the country’s blunders, including economic ones within implementation of its internal policy, using a whole range of pressure tools and interference in the internal affairs of sovereign Libya, relying on those welcome and sanctions against the unwanted. That came unexpected for most countries. The world is watching in amazement what is happening in that country. The question is, is this another blunder? But one has to answer for their blunders.
The problem is that the people who wrote these scenarios, including for Libya, turned out to be mediocre. Apologies have not been uncommon in the British political culture lately. In fact they are made quite often because there is no real remorse behind them. Remember, Gordon Brown apologised for the shameful migrant policy that sent many destitute and orphaned Britons to the colonies for several decades in the 20th century. They apologised for the slavery in the past. Modern UK politicians have also repeatedly apologised. Remember Iraq? Now it’s Libya’s turn, only they didn’t apologise, but said they failed to ensure it goes according to the scenario planned for that country. How many more places on our planet will be forced into these dramatic scenarios with non-dramatic apologies afterwards?
Only faced with an acute socioeconomic crisis, primarily caused by the uncontrolled flow of migration, our Western colleagues began to look for ways to evade any threats or complaints.
One must keep in mind that all those who drafted the scenario for Libya – the politicians, experts, representatives of the executive power of Western states – feel fine, and are as rich and prosperous as ever. But millions of direct and indirect victims of those decision-makers are paying the price for their mistakes, paying their own lives and the lives of their families and friends.
Against the backdrop of the continuous protests in Sudan we received information that the military have occupied several government buildings in the capital and that some ruling party officials have been arrested. The internet was shut off, the central television stopped its normal operations and flights from Khartoum International Airport have been suspended.
Moscow hopes that all Sudanese political forces and security agencies will act responsibly in order to stabilise the situation as soon as possible and prevent a further escalation. We urge all parties to settle the domestic Sudanese problems using peaceful democratic instruments based on a broad national dialogue.
Given the aggravated security situation in Sudan, the Foreign Ministry recommends that Russian citizens refrain from visiting the country.
The UN Security Council held a meeting in New York yesterday at the initiative of the US to discuss the humanitarian situation in Venezuela. Russia’s position, whereby this is not the appropriate platform or format for discussing this topic, remains unchanged. We are not turning a blind eye to the challenging social, economic and humanitarian developments in Venezuela. Still, we do not see any threats to regional, let alone international, stability or security.
Representatives of Donald Trump’s administration are obsessive in hammering home the message that “all options are on the table.” This is a matter of grave concern. Let me reiterate that the possible military scenario, if this is what representatives of the US establishment have in mind, would lead nowhere. It is dangerous, since it could bring about a civil war. We urge our US colleagues to review these irresponsible plans that are at odds with international law. I would like to draw the attention of our Western colleagues once again to what they have done in a number of countries around the world. Just look at the scenarios you have been trying to follow there, and what came out of it.
We will continue to do everything we can to prevent the dangerous scenarios that we witnessed in a number of countries from taking place in Venezuela. We are glad that there is little support for this option within the international community, even though Washington regrettably persists in its efforts.
It is also unfortunate that the US Security Council was not able to refrain from discussing the humanitarian situation in Venezuela. Vice President Mike Pence’s remarks went beyond the bounds of decency when he called for recognising Venezuela’s new leader, backing up his claims with ultimatums and threats of new sanctions.
Representatives of the US administration do not hesitate when it comes to breaking fundamental principles and norms of international and regional law as they seek to unseat the legitimate President of Venezuela. Aggressive rhetoric against official diplomatic representatives of the Venezuelan government, recognising appointees who appeared out of nowhere, illegal takeover of diplomatic property, financial assets and other acts of this kind are all reminiscent of gang warfare rather than what professional politicians and diplomats normally do. It is possible that the US is guided by its own experience when it promotes broad recognition and largely directs the appointment of so-called Venezuelan ambassadors and official representatives around the world. Over the past years, we have seen people without any prior experience in public service being appointed US ambassadors, be it in executive or legislative branches, let alone diplomatic work. These were people that were in good graces of one administration or another or contributed to an election campaign financially. They were rewarded by ambassador posts. This is how it happens in the US. This does not mean, however, that this approach, coupled with violations of international law, should be applied elsewhere.
Washington conceals its disdain for the decades-old international legal framework behind the opaque notion of a rules-based world order and imposes it everywhere, including in regional and international affairs. This fully applies to the call by Mike Pence on the UN Security Council to withdraw the mandate from Venezuela’s permanent representative, as well as to the prospect of the US putting forward a resolution recognising the legitimacy of this country’s alternative government and its representative.
There were new developments lately regarding this situation. In particular, the Permanent Council of the Organisation of American States, a prominent structure in the Western hemisphere, decided to accept the appointment of a permanent representative designated by Venezuela’s National Assembly. This is nothing short of an attempt to legitimise the dual rule in Venezuela. The fallout from this is not just hypothetical, but real, since it establishes the duality of power in a sovereign country. All the prerequisites are created for a major internal standoff in this country. Instead of promoting a settlement and building bridges between the political sides, they are doing just the opposite. The sides are being separated only to be pitted against one another so as to make it impossible to settle this conflict by political or diplomatic means.
In addition to this, having placed on the agenda the question of the status of Venezuelan government’s official representatives, the US delegation ignored all legal arguments of other countries that are members of the Organisation of American States. In particular, this related to the fact that the Permanent Council is not entitled to determine the powers of delegations, and questions of this kind cannot be decided by a simple majority. Instead, they must be reviewed by the General Assembly of the Organisation of American States, to say the least. Therefore, the decision taken by the Permanent Council directly contradicts the organisation’s statutory documents, undermines it and is detrimental to the status of this structure. But who cares when the stakes are so high?
We call on our partners in Latin America and the Caribbean to think about the fallout from this precedent and how it will affect the future work of the Organisation of American States. I want to ask our foreign partners: What will happen if the US tries to further promote the approach of recognising a representative of an impostor as tested within the Organisation of American States? Who will be targeted after Venezuela?
In this connection, I would like to remind you that there is no such notion as collective recognition of governments and their powers in international law. This is a sovereign right of every country. Only the head of state, head of government and foreign minister are entitled to appoint official representatives abroad. We firmly oppose all attempts by a number of countries to question the powers of the Venezuelan delegation within various frameworks, and remain committed to fending off any such attempts moving forward. The ongoing developments are merely an attempt to revert human development to a primitive state.
Regarding humanitarian aid to Venezuela, there are no objective reasons for imposing it on Caracas. There are no hostilities taking place in the country, there were no natural disasters or epidemic outbreaks. Once again, let me point out that the best way to help the people of Venezuela is to lift the illegal unilateral sanctions that target primarily the people of Venezuela. This is what Washington is after, going to great lengths in order to make sure that every Venezuelan suffers and shapes his or her political position accordingly. Washington tested these tactics in many regions of the world.
For example, efforts to block the access of regional and local authorities to financial resources constitute a serious challenge for the people, while no one is questioning the legitimacy of these resources. Just think about it: the cost of humanitarian aid Washington seeks to impose on Venezuela is in the tens of millions of dollars, while the overall effect of sanctions, according to Venezuela, is estimated at over 110 billion dollars. Just give them their money back, lift the sanctions and the country will be back on track. Even a small portion of this enormous amount would have helped deal with the shortage of medicine and other essential goods in Venezuela, and help launch the needed economic reforms. Let me reiterate what we have been saying all along: if the package of measures that is currently used in Venezuela were applied to any so-called developed Western country, let alone developing ones, the targeted country would collapse.
The use by Washington of restrictive measures and threats against countries that work with official Caracas, in particular Cuba, which has been suffering from a US blockade for more than 50 years, is extremely cynical. By the way, by failing to abide by the UN General Assembly resolution urging to end the embargo against Cuba is yet another example of the US showing disdain for UN resolutions.
As for Russia, we stand for strict compliance with norms and principles of international law in all aspects related to a settlement in Venezuela, against ratcheting up tension and imposing outside rule on a sovereign country.
The US administration has decided to list the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, an official Iranian state institution, as a terrorist organisation. This decision fits in with the US line to demonise Iran and to exert maximum possible pressure on it. This policy also includes large-scale sanctions being imposed by the US in circumvention of the UN Security Council, Washington’s unilateral withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which facilitates the peaceful nature of Tehran’s nuclear programme, and efforts to oust Iranian forces from Syria (where they are stationed at the invitation of the country’s legitimate government).
We have repeatedly noted that the US policy of confrontation with Iran is unconstructive and short-sighted. It is impossible to build a solid regional security system in the Middle East and to ensure a stable situation in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan without Tehran’s involvement.
As we have reported earlier, the Russian Federation decided to deliver over 4,000 items, including blankets, tents and other essentials, to Iran, which faces a difficult situation due to continued spring-time floods.
In the late evening of April 9, the consignment, made up by the Russian-Armenian Humanitarian Response Centre and funded by Russia, was officially transferred to the Iranian side, with the assistance of the Russian Embassy in Tehran.
We would like to once again express our sympathies and support for the entire people of the Islamic Republic of Iran. We wish them fortitude in coping with the calamity that has befallen their country, which is a friend of Russia.
Israel held a parliamentary election on April 9. The election campaign was tense but also quite proper and democratic. This is also proved by the fact that representatives of 39 parties vied for 120 seats in the 21st Knesset. Voters cast their ballots actively, with a 67.9 per cent voter turnout, although this is lower than the figure for the elections four years ago.
Analysts predict that President of Israel Reuven Rivlin will instruct the incumbent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to establish a new government. According to the latest reports, he can expect that parties with 65 Knesset seats will to approve his candidacy. The leaders of these parties, which are called rightist and religious in Israel, have already announced that they will support the incumbent head of government. It will be possible to assess the final result after all the ballots have been counted in all regions.
As we understand, Benjamin Netanyahu will have the status of Acting Prime Minister pending the establishment of a new government.
Under Israeli legislation, a prospective Prime Minister has up to six weeks to hold consultations with potential coalition partners. Therefore members of the new Cabinet, no matter who heads it, will not be sworn in before late May or early June.
It goes without saying that this is a domestic affair of Israel and its people. We have no doubt that the future government of this state will also prioritise efforts to maintain friendly and stable Russian-Israeli relations.
It is 10 years since April 10, 2010, when Polish President Lech Kaczyński, his wife, retinue and the aircraft crew died in an air crash near Smolensk. This tragedy was a profound shock for both our countries.
As is common knowledge, the National Prosecutor’s Office of Poland and a specially created expert sub-commission continue to probe into what caused the accident. In this context – contrary to the findings of the Interstate Aviation Committee and the Polish Commission for the Investigation of State Aviation Accidents as well as sheer commonsense – all sorts of irrational versions of the crash continue to crop up, including claims about “explosions” on board the presidential airliner. Regrettably, we see constant allegations, demands and accusations addressed to the Russian side, including in connection with the supposedly illegal retention of fragments of the aircraft.
We would consider it appropriate to comment on the situation.
Russia had initiated criminal proceedings on the “Smolensk” disaster. The Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation has been instructed to investigate the case and the investigation is still in progress. As part of the large-scale work done, the Russian side has sent to the relevant authorities in Poland 42 requests for legal assistance and Poland is still due to deliver on two of them. Other sorts of materials related to the investigation continue to come in from Poland. For its part, the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation has fully implemented 32 Polish requests for legal assistance and another four are in the works.
As for the plane’s fragments, they are demonstrative proof and, under Art. 82 of the Criminal Procedural Code of the Russian Federation, “…shall be kept in the criminal case file till the sentence comes into legal force or till an expiry of the term, fixed for lodging an appeal against the resolution or the ruling on the termination of the criminal case, be kept as part of the criminal case.” For this reason, the handing over to Poland of the fragments of the airliner cannot be performed until a final procedural decision is passed on the relevant criminal case investigated in Russia.
On the anniversary of the tragic event that caused much human suffering and united the two nations nine years ago, when it happened, we call on the Polish side to show an adequate understanding of the complicated circumstances of the air disaster near Smolensk. Its consequences still require that we display a professional, honest and delicate attitude. We are interested in putting the final full stop to this case as a result of all legal procedures.
To reiterate: We are fully open – I am referring to the Russian relevant authorities – to interaction with the Polish side. We have displayed and emphasised this stance throughout all these years.
We have noted that Japan continues to voice complaints in connection with various events in the Kuril and South Kuril districts of the Russian Federation’s Sakhalin Region. On April 9, the Japanese side issued another demarche to the Russian Embassy in Japan, due to the deployment of drones of the Russian Federation’s Armed Forces in these districts.
We have repeatedly told Tokyo that such demarches, which essentially amount to interference in Russia’s domestic affairs, are unacceptable. Regardless of the authenticity and nature of this news, we would like to point out once again that Russia has a legitimate right to organise any events on its own territory, including for the purpose of strengthening national defence capabilities.
We perceive the actions of Japanese authorities as further evidence of their stubborn reluctance to recognise the results of World War II, formalised in Japan’s unconditional surrender and a document Japan signed during its admission to the UN in 1956. This attitude borders on revanchism and deviates greatly from the policy to strengthen trust and create a positive atmosphere in bilateral dialogue, as stipulated by the leaders of Russia and Japan.
The two countries’ leaders charted a line stipulating talks, contacts and joint work. It is important to follow this course for resolving all existing matters. A line involving various demarches and protests, especially on matters that I have mentioned, leads nowhere.
Estonian authorities have denied the right to enter the country’s territorial waters to the Russian training ship Sedov because it is carrying cadets of Kerch State Marine Technology University, located in the “occupied” Crimea. We perceive this as yet another unfriendly and provocative move on the part of Estonian authorities.
It is necessary to understand and accept the fact that Crimea is an inalienable part of the Russian Federation. This issue has been resolved forever and is not subject to discussion, whether Tallinn likes it or not. The responsibility for attempts to find pretexts for complicating bilateral relations rests with Estonian authorities.
We have noted that members of the European Union’s Council and the European Parliament have approved draft regulations formalising visa-free entry for the United Kingdom’s citizens during short duration trips to EU member-countries and associated Schengen Area states after the UK’s exit from the EU.
One cannot but ask questions about the fact that Chagos Archipelago, part of the UK’s British Indian Ocean Territory, is listed among British overseas territories in this document. It appears that the EU does not want to notice the fact that London continues to sabotage the process of decolonising Mauritius. The UK had illegally deprived Mauritius of this archipelago and evicted its native population for the purposes of establishing a US military base there. Moreover, the document actually recognises the fact that a colonial power had been an EU member for over 40 years.
It is to be hoped that, instead of acting in the spirit of the notorious concept of a rules-based world order, the EU will eventually be guided by the norms of international law.
US officials demonstrated once again that they are against contacts between the citizens of our countries. This is clearly indicated by the recommendations for Americans published by the Department of State on April 9 in which they are advised to exercise extreme caution when travelling to Russia or to avoid visiting the country altogether.
Wonderful people. The obsession with which the United States was discouraging the entire world from participating, for example, in the World Cup events that took place in Russia last year was surprising. We explained that perhaps those were important ideological or politically motivated requirements from the people who strongly believe in this in Washington. It is a paradox and it always happens. The more Washington tries to talk the others out of travelling to Russia and expanding economic and financial relations with us, the more Americans come here.
The recommendations are justified by the claims that it is possible not only to encounter criminals in Russia (which can happen in any part of the world) but also to be persecuted by the law enforcement authorities.
Washington has produced plenty of such warnings. Apparently, relying on these warnings, a significant share of the US media has been inflating the number of wild tales in the past years.
It is particularly notable that US officials are attempting to restrict Americans’ freedom of movement with an actual ban on visiting Crimea.
If you objectively assess the risks, they are actually higher for Russians travelling to the United States. At this moment, several hundred Russian nationals are locked up in American prisons.
Local officials cannot even provide accurate statistics. Perhaps they can but do not want to and withhold it on purpose. Despite our requests, we do not have accurate statistics. Quite often, they do not even notify Russia when they detain Russian nationals although they are obliged to do so under the bilateral 1964 Consular Convention. We have to point out such violations to the Department of State on a regular basis as well as indicate that the guilt of many Russians is highly doubtful.
A vivid example of prejudice against Russians is the arrest of Maria Butina in Washington last year. She was studying in a local university. Amidst the Russophobic hysteria prevailing in the United States, she was arrested solely for possessing a Russian passport, without any real evidence, on the charges of allegedly interfering with US domestic affairs. She was forced to incriminate herself, threatened and subjected to very serious punishment. I cannot reveal everything because it has to do with personal data. But the information that we have is horrendous. She was put under the most rigorous imprisonment conditions. She was let out of her cell for only two hours a day at night time; she was denied medical help. This is a person who is not suspected of murder, terrorism or any unlawful activity that threatened somebody’s life. This is a person who was simply studying in an American university and expressing her civic views.
We have repeatedly commented on Maria Butina’s situation. Later I will speak about another incident which, in my opinion, is very telling. I am talking about Bogdana Osipova.
US security services are hunting for Russian nationals in third countries. Every year, the Russian Foreign Ministry updates its warning for our fellow nationals. However, unfortunately, the list of those who got arrested upon requests from Washington in different parts of the world and even kidnapped by US agents continues to grow. Last year alone, seven such cases were reported.
You probably remember what happened to Viktor Bout and Konstantin Yaroshenko. The former was arrested by US agents in Thailand, after which local officials, under the harshest pressure from Washington, were forced to extradite him. The latter was simply kidnapped in Liberia and severely beaten up during detention. Both were sentenced in New York to huge sentences, 25 and 20 years in prison, respectively. Official US representatives did not try to hide the fact that it was done in retaliation for the men’s refusal to admit guilt.
Speaking about crime epidemics, US officials should first take a look at themselves. Unfortunately, Russian nationals in the US often fall victim to not only pickpockets but also gangsters. This is everyday reality. Sometimes it even comes to murders – as it happened, for example, to 17-year-old Artyom Ziberov in Maryland on June 5, 2017.
The anti-Russian campaign rolling through the United States has even affected the Russians and people of Russian origin who live there on a permanent basis, especially those who maintain links with diplomatic and consular offices. They are frequently interviewed by the FBI and subjected to external surveillance. Their correspondence is controlled. It is as if they are opponents to the current regime and threatening it.
Once again, we want to draw the attention of Russian citizens to the dangers they may face from US security services in the United States and third countries. Many who are ironic about this later call or write to us and ask for help.
Washington is already doing everything to restrict travel of Russian citizens to America by making the visa process extremely difficult. For example, according to the official website, the waiting time for a visa appointment (mandatory under US law) at the Consular Department of the US Embassy in Moscow is 300 days, or 10 months. This results in the cancellation of private and business trips and representatives of humanitarian bodies are unable to participate in various international events.
It appears that US officials want to isolate their citizens from Russians as much as possible and, therefore, now they are claiming that it is dangerous to travel to Russia. On the contrary, we are always glad to welcome American guests, including in Crimea. Do come here and we will show you everything. Do not listen to the Department of State. Even more so because they are constantly issuing contradictory instructions.
I would like to once again draw your attention to yet another case of gross violation of the rights of Russian citizens by the US authorities. I’m talking about our compatriot Bogdana Osipova and her young children aged five and six. They were born into a marriage with an American citizen, but they have Russian citizenship.
I can’t bypass this issue today. This is not because I have just commented on a totally inappropriate statement on the website of the US State Department, but because I received several messages from Ms Osipova’s mother. She sent us materials that make your heart sink.
After divorce in 2014, Ms Osipova returned to her native Kaliningrad. However, some time later she had to go to the United States and was arrested there. Her former husband lodged a complaint, and she was accused of kidnapping her own children. For almost two years now, she has been held at one of the Kansas state detention centres.
Now, Osipova is facing a mind-blowing sentence of 43 years in prison. Her claim to her ex-husband for alimony, which was supported by a Russian court, was qualified there as extortion. She is being told that they can release her if her children, now living in Kaliningrad with her relatives, are brought to the United States. We are either at some point of cave period in human history or are slipping back there. Where are the laws, human rights activists and the media?
In fact, the Russian citizen is being held in a US prison as a hostage. No one is hiding this fact. It’s either 43 years in prison, or returning the children to the United States. This is crazy. This is blatant and cruel blackmail. They want to take away her children in exchange for her freedom. Moreover, the children’s rights are also blatantly violated: they are already deprived of their mother, and their American father does not provide them with any financial assistance.
The Russian Embassy in Washington D.C. and the Russian Consulate General in Houston, whose consular district includes the state of Kansas, have been closely following the Ms Osipova’s case since her arrest, and have been providing her with every assistance, helped her find a local Russian-speaking lawyer, and are in touch with her family. We demand that the US authorities stop their lawless behaviour and release the Russian citizen, thus returning the mother to her children.
The verdict of the Constitutional Court of the Czech Republic was issued on April 9. It cancelled the decision of the ex-Minister of Justice of the Czech Republic Robert Pelikan, on the basis of which, in March 2018, at the request of American justice, Russian citizen Yevgeny Nikulin, earlier detained in Prague, was extradited.
I would like to remind you that a year ago Russia pointed out the politically motivated haste which the Czech justice showed in the case of Mr Nikulin. Our fair arguments in favour of extraditing him to Russia were not heard back then.
The mistake made by the Czech authorities, caused, as we understood, by the desire to show some kind of “alliance loyalty,” has now become obvious even to themselves. It remains unclear who will be responsible for the consequences and whether the lessons of this incident will be learned.
The Kosovo Albanian authorities announced their plan to establish a special judicial department in Pristina which will deal with the war crimes of the high command of the Yugoslav army during the acute phase of the Kosovo conflict. These cases were handed over to local courts by the EU Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX) as part of reducing its mandate.
We regard this step as actual withdrawal of the EU from the settlement and further discrediting of its mediation role in the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina. It appears that Brussels is simply focused on presenting Kosovo as an independent entity and makes artificial use of such steps to fit the concept. Instead of encouraging the authorities to fulfill the obligations undertaken by them as part of the dialogue with Belgrade, the EU focuses on unsubstantiated transfer of competences in an extremely sensitive area of justice.
The Kosovo courts, which have repeatedly proved their bias and incompetence, are thus given powers that were originally assigned to UNMIK in this region and subsequently delegated to the EULEX. The possibility of transferring them to Pristina has never been envisaged or negotiated. This does not contribute to building trust between the parties and is fraught with aggravation of the situation in that region.
Ukrainian officials continue to abuse power when it comes to the Kirill Vyshinsky case.
On April 5, it was reported that the Ukrainian Prosecutor General’s Office brought charges of unlawful privatisation against Andrey Domansky, lawyer of RIA Novosti Ukraine website director Kirill Vyshinsky. According to the lawyer, he is being charged with a grievous crime. He believes the persecution is related to his professional activity. Last January, his home and office were searched.
On April 9, the Ukrainian Interior Ministry put journalist Vladimir Skachko on the wanted list. The journalist, whose home was also searched recently, is being charged with infringement upon the territorial integrity of a state, the charges related to the articles Skachko wrote for RIA Novosti in 2014.
All this is further proof of the fact that the case of Kirill Vyshinsky, who was arrested on trumped up charges and has been in detention for almost a year, is thinly veiled and the official Kiev simply has no choice but to constantly postpone the pseudo-investigation by persecuting Vyshinsky’s colleagues and exerting pressure on his lawyer.
It is also obvious that the Kiev regime, which long ago started the practice of repressions against the media and purging the information space from unwanted points of view, is not going to stop its unlawful activity. Instead, Ukrainian authorities are only toughening their persecution of journalists and human rights activists by punishing them with pressure from security services and fabricated court cases.
We believe it is unacceptable and extremely provocative that the international community is quietly watching a European country completely neglect democratic and legal norms, organise a show trial of journalists, punish their lawyers while judicial bodies and law enforcement agencies become instruments of totalitarian repressions in the hands of the current authorities.
We call for a harsh response from competent international bodies and human rights non-government organisations.
Just now, we watched online as the British police detained WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. We noted that the operation was conducted in the office of the Ecuadorian diplomatic mission with the embassy’s approval. Judging from the format of the operation, a blatant and brutal neglect of the detainee’s human dignity took place. We hope that all Julian Assange’s rights will be observed.
We have seen the first response from the professional journalistic community, non-government organisations and human rights bodies. The entire incident involving Julian Assange is not a recent story. The acts of persecution and harassment, creating inhumane conditions for him constitute burying the freedom of speech and the right to disseminate information. It is a strike against the rights of a journalist. No other opinion is feasible.
Official Paris has consistently and systematically declined to issue accreditation documents to Russian journalists from Sputnik agency and employees of RT France television channel, as well as RIA Novosti correspondents, for attending events being organised by the French Foreign Ministry and the Elysee Palace. For over a year, the French Foreign Ministry has been ignoring press card issuance applications from Sputnik and Ruptly agencies, although they comply with all formalities. However, all journalists working in the country must have press cards. In 2018, French politicians and officials declined to meet with journalists on over 70 occasions. All this is being done in line with instructions from the Elysee Palace, and the French side has repeatedly notified us about this. The Sputnik editorial office does not receive news bulletins or press releases from government agencies. The agency’s Russian employees are also regularly subjected to special control while crossing the French border even during trips inside the European Union.
Timeline of violations in 2018
We always have a very critical opinion of accusations being voiced against us when no facts are presented. Today I will state the facts, and then we will get to the conclusion.
On January 10, the administration of President of France Emmanuel Macron did not allow a Russia Today film crew to attend the Rome summit. According to the television channel, the accreditation request was submitted and accepted, but members of the Elysee Palace’s press service stopped responding to journalists after the crew arrived in Italy. President Macron’s team declined to explain this decision.
On January 15, an RT France journalist was not allowed to enter the Elysee Palace hosting a briefing with President of France Emmanuel Macron’s press secretary. After seeing the press card, an employee of the Elysee Palace’s press service said that Russia Today staffers were not journalists, and that one had to be a journalist in order to enter the building. According to an RT France spokesperson, employees of media outlets who did not confirm their intention to attend the event were, nevertheless, allowed to take part in the briefing.
On May 29, an RT France journalist was not allowed to enter the Elysee Palace on instructions from the French President’s administration. According to RT France, the journalist was not allowed to enter because he worked for Russia Today. However, the journalist had a valid press card, as required by head of Elysee Palace’s press service Marion Beyret, with whom he had spoken over the telephone the day before. A BBC correspondent who also arrived there with a press card was allowed to go inside.
On September 4, a report prepared by analytical centres of France’s Foreign Ministry and Defence Ministry and dealing with information manipulation was published. The report’s authors openly deny Russia Today and Sputnik the right to call themselves media outlets and claim that our news agencies engage in propaganda. They “expose” episodes of an information war being allegedly waged by Russia in various regions without citing any evidence, and many of these episodes are based on blatant lies. For example, Russia Today is credited with a news story that the people of Catalonia study Spanish as a foreign language, although the television channel did not report on this.
Moreover, the report lists 50 recommendations for countries, civil society and private individuals. One of them advises that Russia Today and Sputnik journalists should not be accredited. The idea is to isolate foreign propaganda outlets; first, they should be called by their names. After that, their representatives should not be accredited or invited to news conferences for journalists. To illustrate the proposal to call them by their names, the document quotes President of France Emmanuel Macron as saying that Russia Today and Sputnik are agents of influence.
On November 26-27, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov paid a working visit to Paris. A shocking situation emerged during his visit when the French side declined to allow representatives of the Russian media who work in the French Republic on a permanent basis to attend a joint news conference with both ministers at the French Foreign Ministry until the last moment, citing applications that had allegedly been incorrectly submitted. Only some of the Russian journalists, members of a pool that arrived from Moscow, received accreditation. The lists of journalists were submitted in advance, and the Russian Embassy received confirmation on all of them (that they had been obtained). The following question remains open and unclear: what accreditation terms were violated? Unlike the French side that can produce nothing to confirm its position, we have all the required documents.
The matter was resolved only after Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stated categorically that he would not attend a news conference from which Russian journalists are being barred.
On November 24, RT France employees, a Russia Today correspondent and a stringer of Ruptly video news agency were injured during protests in Paris. A cameraman of RT France television channel received a minor injury, and reporters of the channel’s two film crews were hurt when tear gas was used. One of the correspondents received minor burns.
Timeline of violations in 2019
In January, the French state television (France 4 channel) broadcast a programme for children, which unambiguously stated that the Russian media are “lying,” the Russian President is spreading fake news, and Russia is the world’s most undemocratic country.
On February 1, during an informal meeting with journalists, French President Emmanuel Macron accused a number of Russian media, in particular, Sputnik and Russia Today France, of spreading misinformation in order to destabilise the domestic political situation in the country, including by purchasing social media accounts. Talking about the nature and source of threats and qualifying certain Russian news resources as “pro-Kremlin,” Mr Macron put them on a par with radical political groups, including ultranationalist movements, referred to in France as la Fachosphère.
On February 15, the head of the election headquarters of the party led by Macron said in an interview with Le Monde that neither Russia Today nor Sputnik would receive accreditation to cover the party’s election campaign. “They are not media representatives, they are propaganda outlets at the service of the Kremlin. They should not be associated with the media which verify information before publishing it. According to the European Commission, Sputnik publishes 10-15 fake news each day.” Where are these materials?
On February 27, the French newspaper Le Parisien published an interview with the French Government official spokesman Benjamin Griveaux, who once again attacked Russia Today TV channel and Sputnik agency. In addition to accusations of the Russian media that have already become traditional for the French political establishment of interfering in certain electoral processes and spreading fake news and disinformation, Mr Griveaux brought up the Fachosphère theme.
In response to a question of whether there are concerns about foreign interference in the European elections, Griveaux actually equated Russia Today and Sputnik to the Fachosphère and Patriosphère movements: “It all depends on what you call intervention. What we observed in the 2017 presidential campaign was the influence of the Patriosphère and Fachosphère social networks. Both trends are very close to Sputnik and Russia Today media sponsored by the Kremlin, which came into existence largely due to the Fachosphère support.
In early March, it was reported that the French Media Regulatory Authority (CSA) is seeking to end cooperation between the independent Paris radio station Aligre FM and Radio Sputnik France. The regulator called on the radio station to speed up the process of terminating the agreement with Sputnik, which was scheduled for late 2019.
On March 16, another Russian media representative, producer of the video agency Ruptly was wounded in the leg during the yellow vests protest rally in Paris.
On March 19, Head of RT France TV channel Xenia Fedorova received an anonymous letter threatening her and other members of the editorial board. An anonymous author wrote, in particular, that her death “is just a matter of time.” The board members noted that even before this, letters from another person had come to different addresses of RT France, who also called the editorial office several times by phone and demanded that the channel be closed.
In early April, information was received about the infringement of the rights of Russian media in France in the run-up to the international forum Trianon Startups sponsored by the Russian-French civil forum Trianon Dialogue, which will be held in Versailles on April 15. The Department of International Cooperation of the Skolkovo Foundation asked the Russian Embassy in France to assist it in distributing its press release among Russian journalists. The text indicated that the French organisers cited a “directive” of the Elysée Palace – this, by the way, has been running like a common thread everywhere for two years now. Everyone – journalists, representatives of press services of the executive authorities of France, political scientists, experts and people whom journalists approach for interviews – is telling us about this. Referring to the “directive” coming from the Elysée Palace, they strongly urged that “participation of Russia Today and Sputnik in the event is prohibited.” This is a bilateral event co-hosted by Russia. What are you banning? Who is your ban for? That is how it is formulated in the letter that came to the embassy.
What follows from this? We have been issuing warnings for quite a while. This period is over. Another period has begun, which we call the “period of mirror approach to France” in this area.
On April 18 and 19, the Council of Young Diplomats of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will take part in the Fifth Yalta International Economic Forum.
On April 18, the Council will host a session, Diplomacy and Sustainable Development: What am I doing for tomorrow? On April 19, the Council Chairman Konstantin Kolpakov will talk about how young diplomats see Russia after the 2014 events at the plenary meeting, World. Russia. Crimea. New world reality.
The sustainable development session will focus on important aspects of modern international relations, the place of the younger generation of Russian foreign affairs specialists in promoting the interests of our state. The emphasis will be on Crimea’s development as a full-fledged player in international relations.
A new concept of “horizontal” diplomacy will be specifically discussed.
The Russian side is aware that Russian citizen Alexey Sedikov who has serious health problems is being held in prison in Ukraine. The consular officers visit the Russian, providing him with the necessary assistance in the purchase of medicine and essential goods.
In December 2017, Sedikov was put on the exchange list agreed by the Ukrainian side at the highest level, along with other Russian citizens involved in the Ukrainian developments. However, right before the exchange procedure, Kiev went back on exchanging the Russians.
I would like to emphasise once again that it was Kiev that withdrew the Russians from the all-for-all exchange agreed upon by the Contact Group in December 2017. Russia never refused the return of its citizens to their homeland.
The 2018 Diplomatic Journal, a regular bulletin of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia issued by the Information and Press Department, has been published.
The collection includes Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s statements, remarks, interviews and articles in the media on major issues of Russian foreign policy over the past year, organised by topic, both in Russian and English. As before, the Journal relies for data on the publications and photographs from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website.
With a circulation of 250 copies, the journal is also available as a digital version on a CD. The publication has an updated design, and the CD has a modern interface. The electronic version is also posted on the Ministry website in the Press Service section.
Question: After a meeting between Prime Minister of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan and President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev in Vienna, it was announced that the two countries needed to carry out joint humanitarian projects. Two proposals came from Nagorno-Karabakh in this respect. The first was to open the Karabakh airspace for international flights. The second was to provide for the joint use of the resources of the Sarsang Reservoir by the two parties. How would you evaluate this initiative? Could this proposal bring the parties closer to conflict resolution?
Maria Zakharova: I think, first and foremost, this and other initiatives must be evaluated by the countries involved in the resolution of the conflict. Then, if necessary, co-chairs may be included in the consideration of the issue. I think the upcoming meeting in Moscow that I have announced today will be a good opportunity to discuss this and other matters.
Question: Will this meeting be bilateral or just trilateral?
Maria Zakharova: There will be an option for bilateral contacts ahead of the meeting.
Question: You said that US President Donald Trump had called the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) a terrorist organisation. In response, Iran declared the US Central Command a terrorist group. Isn’t it all absurd? The US Central Command is responsible for grievous crimes such as the shooting down of an Iranian aircraft in July 1988. Two hundred ninety people were killed, including 66 children. The United States never apologised for this incident nor did it apologise for the bombing of Afghanistan and Yemen. In your opinion, could Iran file a claim with the International Criminal Court in order for it to recognise the US Central Command as a terrorist organisation?
Maria Zakharova: I have already said today, unambiguously, whether it is absurd that Washington recognised this Iranian group as a terrorist organisation.
One of the aspects of the US Administration’s approach to Iran is demonising the Islamic Republic. This is their objective. As we understand, they want to use small elements to build a general picture of Iran as a bad country in any respect. Basically, every day we see the US do something new against Iran. But, once again, we must not rely on the daily logic of events. It is all based on the US Administration’s attitude towards that country, its leadership, people, culture and history.
As for your question regarding the possibility of filing a claim with the international judicial bodies, I think it is a question for Tehran and it concerns its plans, capabilities and practicability of such an action. By the way, I spoke about this air disaster at the previous briefing.
Thirdly, you have mentioned several locations on the map. The United States and a number of Western countries repeatedly committed unlawful acts against different countries. Today we have discussed this at length. We said time and again during our briefings – both as part of our statements and in response to questions – that citizens of these countries always have an opportunity to sue, considering that representatives of Western countries have started to apologise for everything that was done to Iraq, for example. They say that their actions were indeed unlawful and that their aggression was prompted by misinformation They admit that their moves were ill-considered, or if they were not ill-considered, the motivation was wrong, etc. Given that we are talking about recent history (when everything is still fresh in memory) and that dozens of countries involved in various affairs later admitted that their governments had acted illegally and participated in an aggression, everyone can use legal procedures, for example, to file lawsuits.
There are absurd cases like the one I commented upon during my briefing on February 14. An American female journalist was going to sue Damascus for having violated her rights while she was on Syrian territory. Hundreds of thousands of Syrians who lost their homes, families, incurred huge losses and lost years of their lives, are not filing any claims. But your question is not for us to answer. This question should be addressed either to states or individuals. And I think it is the right question to ask.
Question: I have a question regarding the decision by French President Emmanuel Macron to receive the two main contenders in the Ukrainian presidential election, Petr Poroshenko and Vladimir Zelensky, in Paris ahead of the election. German Chancellor Angela Markel is also expected to have a meeting with Petr Poroshenko. In your opinion, does this amount to interference by Western countries in Ukraine’s presidential election?
Maria Zakharova: Is it only now that you have noticed that Western countries interfere in Ukrainian affairs? We have been saying this for many years. Saying it now sounds absurd. The foreign ministers of many countries, including France, were personally involved in the Maidan protest movement in the centre of Kiev. Ukraine is a sovereign country, with Kiev as its capital. EU foreign ministers were personally involved in campaigning for one candidate or another, but instead of doing so ahead of the elections or as part of the debates, they acted when tension was at its highest. In fact, this happened twice in the history of Ukraine, during the first and second Maidan protests. What took you so long to come up with the question of whether the intention to receive one candidate or another or both of them constitutes interference in domestic affairs?
The country where your media outlet comes from has been trampling over Ukraine’s sovereignty and humiliating the country for several years. Consequently, the 2019 election should not be viewed as a starting point. It all began a decade ago. We have to remember the whole story in order to set us apart from what Western media usually do: they are selective in their memories, sifting through things they like or do not like to study. We must look at the Western countries in terms of their involvement in electoral processes in Ukraine throughout the last decade, how they took part in campaigning, financing, supported candidates and took part in protest movements.
For several months now we have been following the Yellow Vests movement. Have you seen any foreign ministers from European, Arab or American countries joining demonstrations or calling on demonstrators to invade the Élysée Palace? Or have you heard them calling for a change of government or appointing a protester to the position of Interior Minister? Nothing of this sort ever happened. That being said, official representatives of Western countries, including France, frequently engaged in this type of activity regarding Ukraine. I do hope you understand that US secret services had a whole floor to themselves in Ukraine’s executive agencies. What kind of involvement in the electoral process are we talking about today? To get to this point we have to begin with an overview of what happened ten years ago, and where the Western community and EU countries led Ukraine by 2019.
I do not think that they can pretend that these were the olden times that have nothing to do with them, that this happened under a different president and under different foreign ministers. At least, the media cannot turn a blind eye to the history of relations between the European Union and Ukraine. They have to be honest and recognise, just like with a number of other conflicts and countries, that Ukraine’s sovereignty was being trampled upon for many years by Western countries, who position themselves as supporters of democratic principles.
I remember all too well how EU leaders, including of France, supported a specific presidential candidate during the 2016 race in the United States. How do you like this story? Have you forgotten that French President Francois Hollande openly supported one of the candidates, Hillary Clinton? Back then no one asked whether openly supporting one of the candidates was all right. I remember the blunder when France sent official congratulations to the candidate that was supposed to win, but actually lost. What a scandalous incident this was for France internationally. However, no one asked this question at the time.
I think that this has to do with the need to come up with common standards. There are a lot of international institutions, including the OSCE with its Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), focused entirely on elections. For more than 10 years Russia has been calling on the OSCE and ODIHR to work out common standards for assessing electoral processes, holding elections and what can and cannot be done. We need common, intelligible and transparent methods for assessing electoral processes, instead of having the mission visit one country or another, determine the number of observers and methods at its discretion. This way we would all understand whether presidents can or cannot meet with candidates from one party or one political movement, or they can meet with everyone. What would be the position of the international body? There are no standards of this kind right now. Everyone interprets these norms in their own favour.
Russia has always been consistent in its position. When we understood that our efforts were in vain and that we would not be able to persuade ODIHR and the OSCE, we started looking for our own ways to promote democratic processes, including as part of electoral processes, since there are no common standards, but we want them to materialise.
Question: You mentioned President Trump's decision to include the IRGC on the list of terrorist organisations. How should your words be taken? Is it condemnation, rejection or statement of fact? Turkey, China, Iraq, even Qatar strongly condemned this decision by the US President. Clearly, since Moscow and Tehran enjoy a special relationship, Iran is expecting Russia to provide an unequivocal stance with regard to this egregious fact.
Maria Zakharova: We do not accept the villainisation of Iran by the United States, as we mention during our briefings and at every opportunity. Of course, this is an integral part of the United States’ overall approach to Iran.
Check out the Foreign Ministry’s website. If you do, you will find out that Russia strongly condemns unilateral sanctions against Iran and the policy of villainisation in general, which the US Administration is pursuing against Tehran with all the ensuing consequences. We do this on a consistent and fundamental basis.
Question: Will the US move to include the IRGC on the list of terrorist organisations affect Iran’s status as a guarantor of the Syrian settlement process under the Astana format?
Maria Zakharova: Of course, not. I mentioned today that an Astana format meeting is being arranged. I would even criticise you for the way you framed your question. No one has ever considered it in this perspective.
We maintain relations with Iran. For us, it is a sovereign state with a legitimate government. We do not accept statements that are being made by the United States with regard to Iran in connection with a number of areas, such as sanctions, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on the nuclear programme and many other aspects. I clearly stated this today.
The previous question was about why we spoke about this quite briefly. The reason is that we talk about it every day. We do not need to dwell separately on this particular issue, because we regularly comment on it and have a principled position on it.
Question: I would like to make sure that we are talking about the US attempt to question the status of Iran.
Maria Zakharova: I think there will be many such attempts, not only in the context of Iran, but other countries as well.
We are not changing our approach towards Iran as a state because of the statements that come from Washington from time to time. We have a different kind of relationship and interaction with Tehran, which is not affected by such arrogant and marginal claims.
Question: The UN Security Council held an emergency meeting on Venezuela initiated by the United States. Do you think the Venezuelan crisis can be resolved by diplomatic means? Or is it an attempt by the West to obtain a warrant for an armed intervention?
Maria Zakharova: Today I have read five pages of information on this matter alone. We believe that the situation in Venezuela can be resolved only by political and diplomatic means. We do not accept a military scenario. It is destined to fail. I said that in plain language today. It is nothing new. I am talking about our position based on the understanding of the situation in this specific country as well as the region’s history and the general analysis of international relations.
Question: April 19 will mark six years since the initialling of the Brussels Agreement on Kosovo. Last year, when this document turned five, it was said that the agreement on establishing a community of Serb majority municipalities had not been fulfilled. This year nobody is talking about this because the illegal duties and the Kosovo army are now on the agenda. In this context, would it be right to say that in Kosovo’s case international agreements exist so that they would not be fulfilled?
Maria Zakharova: I think the situation here is different. There is a specific modelled geopolitical scenario. In this case, the goal was not to observe international law but to separate Kosovo from Serbia. This was the plan of the Western community led by the United States and a number of EU countries. This project had a financial backing and political support. Building a legal foundation was impossible because it was obvious that the decision was against the law.
It seems to me that the problem is bigger than a simple non-compliance with international or national law or the laws of Serbia. It is a matter of geopolitical and geostrategic modelling of a situation in the region that, in our opinion, resulted in absolute frustration of the initially set goals. There is no such state as Kosovo. Even if we take this project out of the legal context and don’t attempt to make a case for it, even if we just look at the actual situation, as they say, “on the ground” the project has definitely failed. There is no such state as Kosovo. Even despite its unlawful foundation, this goal was never de facto achieved.
Question: During its April session, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe adopted, by a majority vote, a resolution which, for the first time since the crisis in relations with Russia, called for Russia to form its delegation and pay its due to the Council of Europe budget. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavel Klimkin argued against the restitution of Russia’s vote in PACE. Please comment on this situation in the Council of Europe.
Maria Zakharova: We commented on this situation many times before. We support, solely and exclusively, a full-scale, rightful and very proactive participation in this body but it must indeed be rightful. Paying money for something we can watch on YouTube is a very high price.
Of course, full membership of Russian representatives in this body does require payment of fees and working in the format that is proposed for all member countries and their representatives. If Russia is not an equal member we will not be paying a contribution. This is our firm position. I have seen different views. Some members reached the point where they decided it is necessary to urge Russia to attend meetings. I read this several times. It was an official statement by a country official representative. There is no need to urge Russia. Russia has repeatedly stated that it wants to participate in the work of this body. But attending meetings without the right to vote and contribute to decision-making is not a full-fledged participation. We want this membership to be rightful and full-fledged. Naturally, we will take up our share of commitments, including financial. I did not say anything new here. I only repeated our long-established position.
Question: Will Russia raise the issue of arresting Julian Assange at international organisations?
Maria Zakharova: This is the clearest example of violating the rights of journalists and a blow to the freedom of speech that has already gone down in history. We will certainly raise this issue at international platforms. It is very important that professional journalistic organisations also have their say, because the situation is truly unprecedented.
Question: The Ecuadorian Foreign Ministry says Assange’s Ecuadorian citizenship was suspended. How does this fit in with international law?
Maria Zakharova: It is each country’s business to make certain decisions. This is the sovereign right of a sovereign state.
Question: What aspects of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict will be the focus of the April 15 meeting of the foreign ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan and сo-сhairs of the OSCE Minsk Group for the Nagorno-Karabakh settlement?
Maria Zakharova: There’ll be an entire scope of questions.
Question: State Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin said that if Russia walks out of the PACE, Russia will have the right to demand the return of its three years’ worth of contributions. What are the chances of this initiative developing and succeeding?
Maria Zakharova: I think that this question should be addressed to our parliamentarians.
Thank you very much. See you next week. Do not forget that the next briefing will be held in Yalta. We talked about this last time. We will by all means post an announcement with the exact address. Please get your accreditation for the Yalta International Economic Forum in advance.