Briefing of the Foreign Ministry Spokesman
Briefing by Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova, Moscow, October 17, 2019
- Celebrations of the 85th anniversary of the Foreign Ministry’s Diplomatic Academy
- Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s talks with Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Bulgaria Ekaterina Zakharieva
- Russia-Africa Economic Forum and Summit
- Anti-Russia articles in US media ahead of Russia-Africa Summit
- Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s visit to the Kingdom of Norway
- Unveiling of monument to Yevgeny Primakov
- Sergey Lavrov’s talks with OSCE Secretary General Thomas Greminger
- Update on northeastern Syria
- Update on Venezuela
- Further toughening of US anti-Cuba sanctions
- Developments in Spain
- Violations of travel rules by American diplomats
- Insinuations surrounding the US citizens’ arrests
- Civilians killed in US air attacks on drug labs in Afghanistan and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s statements on the ICC’s attempts to resume proceedings against US military personnel
- Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed awarded Nobel Peace Prize
- Russian-Belarusian film festival on World War II in Brussels
- Unveiling of a memorial to Soviet guerrilla fighters in the Belgian Rebecq community
- Biased coverage of Russia in the Western press
- Global Themed Conference of Russian Compatriots Abroad “Compatriots and Continuity of Generations”
- Meeting of young diplomats from Russia, India and China
- EU’s role in Syrian settlement
I will start with two milestones in the history of the Foreign Ministry’s education institutions. The Foreign Ministry’s MGIMO University celebrated its 75th anniversary the other day. They received congratulations from President of Russia Vladimir Putin and graduate of that university Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
Related materials are available on the Foreign Ministry’s official website.
On October 18, the Foreign Ministry will host a gala evening devoted to the 85th anniversary of the Foreign Ministry’s Diplomatic Academy. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is expected to attend.
The Diplomatic Academy is the oldest education institution under the Foreign Ministry. Its main objective is to retrain and upgrade the skills of both Russian and foreign diplomats in international relations. Employees of other federal and regional government bodies also take training courses at the academy.
Over the years the academy has become the Foreign Ministry’s centre for scholastic life and expert analysis. The publishing activities of scholarly magazines and academic books are being stepped up.
Recently, the academy has opened new opportunities in diplomatic education that include bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Combined with the PhD courses, the academy has become a full-fledged education institution with high standards for teaching languages, including Oriental and rare languages.
Over the years of its existence, about 800 ambassadors extraordinary and plenipotentiary have graduated from the academy.
Additional materials on the academy’s history will be available on the ministry’s website soon.
On October 21, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will hold talks with Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Bulgaria Ekaterina Zakharieva who will be in Moscow on a working visit.
The ministers will discuss the state of and prospects for bilateral relations and exchange views on major international and regional issues.
On October 23, Russian and Egyptian leaders will open an economic forum in Sochi that will include Russian and African officials and representatives of big business as part of a high level events programme. Following the forum, the participants are expected to sign a package of trade, economic and investment agreements.
On October 24, Sochi will host the Russia-Africa Summit co-chaired by President of Russia Vladimir Putin and President of Egypt and Chairperson of the African Union Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. This will be the first event of this kind in the history of relations between Russia and the African countries. The heads of all African states and the leaders of the largest sub-regional associations and organisations have been invited to attend the event.
The participants will pay special attention to the state of and prospects for Russia’s political, economic, technical and cultural relations with the African countries. They plan to discuss a broad range of international issues, including cooperation in countering new challenges and threats and consolidating regional stability. Following the summit, the participants plan to adopt a political declaration on major areas of Russian-African cooperation.
During the events at the Russia-Africa Economic Forum and Summit, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will take part in President Vladimir Putin’s work programme and in meetings with foreign ministers of African countries. The schedule is being finalised now, and we will inform you when it is ready.
I must say a few words about the shocking number of anti-Russia news items, in particular, in US media outlets, ahead of the Russia-Africa Summit. This is unparalleled. We understand that this is being orchestrated by someone. I would like to address the US media: you cannot allow yourselves to be used like this. We have a complete picture of what is going on. We have the impression that officials of respective agencies in Washington are resorting to desperate attempts to discredit Russia’s policy in Africa using media outlets and government-related NGOs. This is being done specially and directly on the eve of the summit.
News agencies and so-called “experts” are now routinely blaming Russia for any transgression, in this case with regard to the African continent – for supporting the “wrong” regimes by supplying them with arms and military equipment, for interference in elections, and for corruption. A narrative is being pushed through that Moscow is “attempting to hammer together an anti-West front to smear the positive role of the US and its allies.” This is an example of a quote that the world audience is being offered with respect to the Russia-Africa Summit in Sochi.
One has to ask: Why? In view of such awkward attempts to manipulate public opinion, Washington is apparently afraid that the Russia-Africa Summit will strengthen Russia’s trade, economic, political and diplomatic relations with the countries of this continent, including those that the US sees as its backyard, unaware of the fact that the nations of the region can select partners by themselves. I believe it is time to admit that neo-colonial approaches, attempts to impose their will on sovereign states, are being rejected by the overwhelming majority of the world community. Most African nations support a multipolar system of international relations and are quite capable of determining their own future.
We are confident that such misleading stories will fail to shake the solid foundation of mutually advantageous interaction between Russia and Africa, a foundation that is based on international law and mutual respect.
On October 25, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will visit Kirkenes at the invitation of Norway’s Foreign Minister Ine Marie Eriksen Soreide. The visit is timed to the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Northern Norway by the Red Army.
This page in history has everlasting significance for both Russia and Norway; it enhances the neighbourliness of the two countries which is evident in the participation of King Harald V of Norway, Prime Minister Erna Solberg and other members of the government, parliament and local authorities in the rich programme of joint jubilee events.
Talks between the two countries’s foreign ministers are scheduled for the visit. The parties plan to have a detailed discussion of bilateral relation, interaction in regional formats, and a number of key issues on the international agenda.
In addition to the liberation anniversary, the 70th anniversary of the 1949 treaty between the Government of the USSR and the Government of Norway on the Soviet-Norwegian border regime and the settlement of border conflicts and incidents will be marked during these days. The ministers will open an exhibition of old maps at The Borderland Museum.
Foreign Minister Lavrov will meet with Russian and Norwegian WWII veterans in Kirkenes and will take part in a flower-laying ceremony at the Soviet Liberation Monument and the monument to wartime mothers.
On October 29, a monument to Yevgeny Primakov is to be unveiled in the public garden opposite the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The grand ceremony will coincide with the 90th birth anniversary of this outstanding statesman.
The idea to install this sculpture has been considered since 2016. One of the initiators was the Russian Foreign Ministry while the Moscow Mayor issued a corresponding directive. Yevgeny Primakov’s family agreed to the project. The sculptor is Georgy Frangulyan, People's Artist of the Russian Federation. The project was funded by the Art, Science and Sport Charity Foundation headed by Alisher Usmanov.
This is expected to be a key event in a series of commemorative events as part of the Primakov Year programme. The ceremony will be attended by prominent representatives of the socio-political community, research institutions and universities, as well as a number of non-profit organisations.
On October 31, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will meet with OSCE Secretary General Thomas Greminger in Moscow.
Sergey Lavrov and Thomas Greminger plan to discuss important current issues on the OSCE agenda, considering the upcoming meeting of the Ministerial Council in Bratislava on December 5-6. Russia and its CSTO allies are drafting several important documents for this meeting, which is a central event for the OSCE – a declaration for the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II, as well as draft resolutions on urgent problems for OSCE participating states such as efforts against terrorism and drug trafficking and free public access to information.
During the talks, the parties plan to compare notes on all three dimensions of OSCE activity – the military and political, economic and environmental, and humanitarian tracks. They will particularly focus on the OSCE’s efforts to help resolve regional conflicts, including the efforts of the Contact Group and the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission in Ukraine. The situation in the Balkans and Central Asia will also be considered.
The parties will also present their assessments of the activities of OSCE institutions, including the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, the High Commissioner on National Minorities, and the Representative on Freedom of the Media. They will exchange views on the administrative, budgetary and personnel aspects of the organisation’s current work.
In recent days, a major escalation of tension has taken place east of the Euphrates River, an area which is not controlled by Damascus. On October 9-10, the Turkish armed forces launched Operation Peace Spring in the vicinity of the Syria-Turkey border. The Turkish army units entered Syria and launched an assault on border towns and villages. They are carrying out air and artillery attacks on Kurdish targets in northeastern Syria. According to reports, people were killed and wounded on both sides. Also reported are casualties among civilians, many of whom were forced to leave their homes and move deeper into Syria.
In addition, the terrorists took advantage of the surge of tension and activated their sleeper cells. In this regard, the level of guarding ISIS prisoners in prisons located south of the Euphrates River and their families in IDP camps, including the 70,000-strong Al-Hawl, is of great concern. After all, they pose a threat not only to Syria, but other countries of the region and beyond as well.
With this in mind, we urge all parties on the ground to exercise restraint and carefully consider their actions in order to prevent a further escalation of tension. We are convinced that achieving sustainable and long-term stabilisation and security in this region of Syria, that country and the region in general is possible only on the basis of restoring its sovereignty and territorial integrity. This means the ultimate transfer of all national territories, including the border with Turkey, under control of the legitimate Syrian Government. In this regard, we can only welcome Damascus and the Kurds reaching the appropriate agreements.
However, we remain convinced that the escalation of tension in northeastern Syria should not stop us from continuing and even upscaling efforts to advance the political process in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 2254. We are making energetic efforts in cooperation with the Syrian stakeholders, our Astana format partners and in coordination with the UN Secretary General’s Special Representative for Syria Geir Pedersen to prepare for convening the Constitutional Committee in Geneva in late October. Please note that Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov spoke in detail on this account today. We consider the launch of the Constitutional Committee and its productive work an extremely important step forward which will allow us to start a direct dialogue between the Syrians, in particular, to discuss in detail the future of their country, as was decided by the Syrian National Dialogue Congress in Sochi. We believe that everything is ready for the first meeting of the committee, and all candidates have been invited and are preparing to come to Geneva.
I would like to point out the assessments of the situation which were made by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov yesterday during a news conference in Sochi. The transcript is posted on the Foreign Ministry’s official website.
We can see de-escalation in the intra-Venezuelan conflict, to a certain degree. Talks continue as part of the national dialogue roundtable, initiated in September between the Bolivarian government and the constructive opposition. They discuss key issues for the further development of the country, such as election system reform and the search for a formula of co-existence of branches of power, as well as possible proposals on how to overcome the economic crisis and streamline migration flows, among other things. We can see here an attempt by Venezuela’s responsible political forces, who care about the future of the country, to finally address the backlog of problems. In addition, it is important that the sides made this dialogue open. Other political parties can join it if they wish.
With these positive changes, we regret to note our American partners’ unwavering desire to play up the role of the “Russian factor” in Venezuela. It seems the US cannot accept that some Latin American countries continue to protect their positions and stick to their independent domestic and foreign policy even despite the unprecedented sanctions pressure.
Russian Deputy Prime Minister Yury Borisov’s visit to Venezuela became a new trigger for anti-Russian statements. Admiral Craig Faller, commander of the United States Southern Command, decided to remind everyone that the Pentagon was not pleased with Russia protecting its interests in the Western Hemisphere. Once again, we can hear speculations about “hundreds of Russian soldiers” and “a significant number of armaments” allegedly deployed in Venezuela, spiced with recollections about flights by Russian strategic bombers that “may carry nuclear weapons.” This looks more like head-on anti-Russian and anti-Latin American propaganda, a course pursued by certain forces in Washington. I would like to repeat this for those who didn’t hear me the first time: Russian military specialists and equipment are deployed in Venezuela in strict compliance with the intergovernmental agreement on military and technical cooperation. We don’t mind explaining our strategic course for the hundredth and two-hundredth time. We will give a clear response, such as a comment, explanation or disavowal of fake news, to all the disinformation.
At the same time, Washington continues to toughen illegal unilateral sanctions against Venezuela and also Cuba as its closest ally in the region. In his interview with Reuters, US Special Representative for Venezuela Elliott Abrams said that another package of sanctions was being prepared, now to target Cuba’s tourism sector and also to tighten its grip on the supply of Venezuelan oil to Cuba. He directly threatened to introduce secondary sanctions against Russia because it supported “Maduro’s regime” financially. It seems that Washington feels more and more devastated that the attempts to overthrow the legitimate Venezuelan government failed. US experts responsible for Latin America somehow seem completely confused.
Let me remind you once again that Russia’s position on Venezuela remains the same: we are in favour of a peaceful political settlement process carried out by the Venezuelans themselves, based on international law and national legislation, without any destructive foreign interference. We will continue to cooperate with other responsible members of the international community to help different political forces in Venezuela reach an understanding. In order to improve the socioeconomic situation in the country, it is necessary to lift sanctions on the humanitarian sphere, above all the supplies of essential goods and medicines, as soon as possible.
We still hope that our call will be heard in Washington and common sense will prevail at last.
Prior to the UN General Assembly vote on a resolution, “Necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by the United States of America against Cuba” we would like to draw your attention to one of the most important and sensitive aspects of Washington’s sanctions campaign against undesirable governments – the humanitarian aspect. This time, absolutely wild US sanctions were imposed on the Cuban bio-pharmaceutical industry, threatening the health of thousands of consumers of Cuban produced medications.
New restrictions that result in targeted, specific damage to average people have been introduced in addition to continuous pressure on Cuban doctors working abroad and annual multi-million losses for the Cuban pharmaceutical industry due to the containment of research.
Sanctions affect people that have nothing to do with politics and live far from Cuba, who could otherwise receive medications exported by Cuban pharmaceutical companies. Lately, due to the direct and indirect impact of the sanctions, interruptions in raw materials supplies and the manufacturing process stopped the production of 2,000 units of liquid preparations and over 61,000 capsules for the FARMACUBA company; stopped shipments to Cuba of a large consignment of injections of the Phenytoin anti-epileptic medicine from an Asian country; and stopped supplies of almost 2 million packages of Cuban-made parenteral solution to Colombia’s PROENFAR.
The facts speak for themselves against the backdrop of US politicians’ false concern about human rights. Innocent people again suffer from sanctions that are ostensibly taken in defence of democracy. When the West talks about human rights, it is not always clear who these abstract people are, where they live and what concerns they have. Yet their rights are always “defended”. When it comes to specific people that can be named and counted and their specific rights, all this is instantly forgotten.
We resolutely reject these and other measures on toughening the US anti-Cuba blockade. There is no doubt that this garrote that is designed to stifle Havana is primarily hitting its average citizens, depriving them of the basic rights and freedoms that are being “defended” by Washington.
We are watching closely the public protests by the supporters of independence for Catalonia in Barcelona. According to the information in our possession, there are no Russian nationals among those injured in the protests. Our analysis shows that the situation in the country has not so far affected the number of Russian tourists visiting Spain.
At the same time, we would like to ask Russian nationals visiting Barcelona, as well as those who plan to go there soon, to be mindful of the current events, including likely travel restrictions or restrictions on the use of tourist facilities.
We also recommend keeping an eye on information posted on the Foreign Ministry website. Relevant updates are available from the information resources of our Embassy and Consulate-General in Spain.
On October 14, American military attaches were reportedly detained near Arkhangelsk. What really happened and what is happening now?
You have seen the comments by the US Embassy and the US State Department. All of them are amazing, exciting and very interesting. It seems to me it is time to explain what really happened. Indeed, three staffers from the US Embassy Defence Attache’s Office – we know their names, but I believe we won’t rush to disclose them right away as we want to use traditional methods, although we do not see our American partners show as much tact – filed a request with the Russian Defence Ministry to travel to Arkhangelsk and received permission in the proper manner. The destination they indicated was Arkhangelsk and not any other area. Instead, they drove a rental car with a Russian license plate to Severodvinsk where they switched to a commuter train and went to a town near a testing site and other defence facilities.
When the American officers arrived at the station, they were stopped by a police patrol who explained to them they were in a restricted area. Since they had no special permits to be there and they could not have them because they had not requested them, the police told them to go back on the same commuter train. They did what they were told.
Nobody detained the American military attaches. As far as we know, they took the car in Severodvinsk and drove back in the direction of Moscow. Perhaps they have already arrived here – I don’t know this. You can ask them.
The existence of restricted areas that are off-limits to foreigners or the general public is common practice. Every country has similar rules. The United States is a country that has areas like this. The notification procedure for long-distance travel means you have to file a notice in order to obtain permission to visit a particular area. The notification rules for long-distance travel, that is, beyond a radius of 25 miles or 41 kilometres, apply to our and American diplomats alike, in line with the policy of reciprocity. These rules have been preserved since the Cold War times at Washington’s insistence.
In general, this can be described as a routine situation. Now and again, American military attaches try to get into closed-off areas across our vast country, totally ignoring the notification requirements. It is an open question why they behave like this. It seems to me it is high time the US Embassy answered this question. Slight cheating like this, when they seemingly show concern over their diplomats having not been allowed to travel some place, while not disclosing the entire truth, has become repetitive and annoying. So, something has to be corrected here, given that our American colleagues comply with the lofty standards of freedom of speech, speaking endlessly about their desire to combat fabricated news and accusing everyone of being unscrupulous propagandists. I believe this is a good illustration of how one has to set an example.
It was not us who initiated the discussion of this issue publicly, this is not our story, but then let’s make a clean breast of it. We want to note that American diplomats, including military attaches, are very fond of loitering with camera in hand near Russian defence facilities and, more than that, they know what to do to not catch the eye, for example, renting cars with local licence plates. They are also often seen breaching traffic rules. We regularly have to call them to order like this time.
This hypocritical approach to information, truth and facts has become too obvious to ignore and to not start calling on our American partners to get back to the rules of basic decency.
In recent days, clearly on cue, the US media have been debating the thesis that the Russian authorities are “purposefully” arresting US citizens and they are claiming that Americans can be arrested in Russia for no reason except to be later exchanged for Russians arrested in the United States. Of course, they do not discuss why Russians get arrested in the United States. This subject is apparently “not interesting.” People have been held behind bars there for years now. They will stay there for decades to come, and totally unlawful enforcement measures are used against them. Big deal. None of that is interesting. What is interesting is to tell stories about what’s in store for Americans who come to Russia. These assertions have no basis in reality.
No one is arresting Americans in Russia to be later exchanged for Russian nationals. According to reports, 22 US citizens are in detention centres in Russia today. That number includes those who are serving terms under court sentences, and those who are under investigation. One more person under investigation is under house arrest. They are all charged with specific crimes, including fraud, drug smuggling, robbery and rape.
Paul Whelan is among them. Our American colleagues endlessly talk about him in ways that are totally detached from reality. There’s no shortage of discussion about him. The other detainees are apparently not that interesting so officials, authorities, NGOs, and the US media focus on him. I would like to remind you that he was caught red-handed in Moscow on December 29, 2018 when conducting an intelligence operation. He entered Russia on a tourist visa in his American passport. However, he is also a citizen of Great Britain, Ireland and Canada. He is charged with espionage, that is, under article 276 of the Criminal Code of Russia, and is facing up to 20 years in prison.
The speculation in the media that his arrest is connected with the Maria Butina arrest in Washington on July 15, 2018 holds no water. This Russian citizen was arrested and convicted in the United States solely for being a Russian citizen. No other charges were made. That is, there are no facts that can be presented to the world, to her, to her lawyers, the jurists or to the public, which indicate that she threatened someone, broke any laws, jeopardised national security or violated applicable legislation by her actions. She ended up being a victim and a political prisoner. She became hostage to the psychosis that started and continues to spread in the United States in connection with the fictitious “interference in the US election by Russia.” The result of this psychosis can be clearly seen. It is a notorious witch hunt, which, unfortunately, is now in full swing in the United States.
Unfortunately, there is more than one instance of our citizens being persecuted by US authorities. These persecutions are unfounded and appear politically motivated. However, the facts of Paul Whelan's espionage activity are well documented and, as is typical, have never been disputed by US officials in our working contacts.
In public, US officials continue to, as they are supposed to, “express concern” about his fate. The staff at the US Embassy in Moscow, as well as the diplomats of the three other Western countries mentioned above, have regular access to him and are well aware that Mr Whelan’s statements, made when the court extended his detention, about bullying and even threats to his life are nothing more than a provocative line of defence.
We have to talk about this not of our own free will, but simply because a large amount of materials appears in the US media on tips from corresponding US agencies. The materials are completely biased and were clearly made to order.
The investigation into Paul Whelan’s case has been completed. The final charges were presented on August 30, and he has been reading the case materials since September 4. One gets the impression that he is not in a hurry, although his trial date now depends on him alone.
We would like to ask the US media not to make up any conspiracy theories in order to scare their compatriots and prevent them from going to Russia. We are always pleased to welcome tourists, businesspeople and cultural figures from the United States, in a word, anyone who comes with good intentions and does not break the law. I think this is fully consistent with the hospitality rules in the United States. Such guests are always welcome. Unlike Washington, which has deliberately created visa barriers for Russians, Russia – our diplomatic and consular missions in the United States that survived the attack of the US political establishment on our property and consular buildings – issues visas to Americans easily and quickly. In addition, it does so using the latest technical means without the medieval approach involving many months of tormenting people with visa formalities and interviews. We operate in a modern fashion. Things are done quickly and clearly, and, in many instances, remotely. We meet applicants halfway. I really do not want this subject to become a piece of misinformation.
We noted the joint report of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan and the Office of UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on the large number of victims among civilians after the US air attacks on drug labs in Afghanistan on May 5, 2019.
While recognising the importance of fighting drug production in Afghanistan, we believe that this must not be done at the cost of civilian lives. Such actions provoke a negative response in Afghan society and are not acceptable under international humanitarian law. We call on Washington to carefully investigate those involved in the death of civilians, hold them accountable and take comprehensive measures to prevent further casualties among Afghan civilians during future operations like this.
In this context, the recent statement by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on the futility of attempts of the International Criminal Court to resume proceedings against US military personnel for their crimes against civilians during the Afghan conflict is also a cause for regret. We believe that the sense of impunity encouraged by such statements does not help in preserving basic international humanitarian law, but can result in an increase in the number of military conflict’s victims. We call on the involved parties, including the international coalition, to take comprehensive measures to prevent civilian deaths in Afghanistan.
We believe the Nobel Committee’s decision to award the Nobel Peace Prize to Prime Minister of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia Abiy Ahmed on October 11 to be an excellent way to praise his role in the Eritrean–Ethiopian settlement process and his efforts to normalise the general situation on the Horn of Africa.
Russia has always provided and will provide the necessary support to African countries in order to stabilise the situation in the region and to promote sustainable development, peace and constructive cooperation on the African continent in general.
On October 2-11, Brussels hosted the Russian-Belarusian film festival, “World War II in Focus” as part of events to mark the 75th anniversary of the victory in the Great Patriotic War. It was organised by the two countries’ embassies at the Russian Centre for Science and Culture.
Visitors were very interested in the unique photo exhibit of World War II posters from the State Literature Museum’s collections, held as part of the screening dedicated to the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Belarus.
On October 12, a ceremony to unveil a memorial to Soviet guerrilla fighters who joined the Belgian Resistance took place in Rebecq. The memorial plaque was placed at a city cemetery near the grave of enlisted man Vladimir Talda, a Soviet citizen who fought with Belgian guerrillas and was killed in 1944. The commemorative inscription is devoted to Soviet soldiers and officers that were taken prisoner at the Eastern front and forced into labour in Belgian coal fields by the Germans. It reads that those who managed to escape captivity and join the guerrilla movement played an active role in the struggle against the occupiers.
The ceremony was arranged by the patriotic association “The Belgians Remember Them” and the Rebecq community with support from the Russian Embassy in Belgium.
There are over 300 graves of Soviet guerrilla fighters and POWs killed during World War II. The names of most of the soldiers are known and the archival and search work continues. The graves are in good condition. They are maintained by the local authorities and Belgian activists and Russian diplomats in Belgium.
We note a very interesting study by Rossiya Segodnya news agency. It analysed articles on news from Russia in six Western countries and Japan from 01.01.2019 to 30.06.2019. Only 2 per cent could be described as positive.
The British media are the leaders in publishing materials about Russia (25,000 articles) and only 1 per cent could be described as positive. In the United States this figure is even less – only 0.2 per cent. Negative articles are about 90.8 per cent of the total, and neutral (information materials) are only 9 per cent. Most of the negative articles were published by CNN, The New York Times, and The Washington Post. In Britain, Daily Express and The Times lead in this respect. Comparable figures are quoted in the analysis of the German media where the audience sees Russia in a negative light because of local media coverage.
Thus, the number of negative materials about Russia is dozens of times higher than that of positive articles. This obviously illustrates the biased coverage of Russia. There is a clear correlation between the policy of the leaders of these countries and the coverage of Russia by their leading media that conduct vicious anti-Russia propaganda for political considerations.
So, what about the institute of “independent journalism” and the principle of “unbiased coverage” that we have been told about for so long? We would like to draw the attention of our Western colleagues, especially the experts for the international organisation Reporters Without Borders and the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Harlem Desir to the obvious political bias of the Western media.
It would be particularly interesting to know what they think of their international Journalism Trust Initiative in this context, which is supposed to provide for the division of the media into those that are trustworthy and those that are not. How and who will determine the criteria and legitimacy of this segregation? This is a non-classified, accessible and most interesting study. If you express your opinion or an alternative view, we would be pleased to learn about it.
Global themed conferences with Russian compatriots living abroad are held under the Federal Law on the Government Policy of the Russian Federation Regarding Compatriots Abroad. Since 2010 these conferences have been held in Moscow under the aegis of the Government Commission on Compatriots Living Abroad and the Coordination Council of Russian Compatriots Living Abroad. This year a regular, seventh global conference will open on October 30. It is devoted to the role of women in the life of the Russian Diaspora and will be held under the slogan “Compatriots and Continuity of Generations.”
Women amount for at least 65 per cent of the leaders of the organisations of Russian compatriots.
The forum will be attended by 155 representatives of Russian Diasporas from 93 countries, members of the Russian Federal Assembly, the heads of federal and regional executive government bodies and famous women of Russia from among political and public figures, entrepreneurs, teachers of Russian philology, scientists and journalists.
The goal of the event is to bring together active women from Russian communities abroad with a view to promoting their creative and business potential.
Special attention will be paid to the development of the business and public potential of compatriots, preserving Russian identity and the Russian language in a foreign society, upholding the historical truth, and encouraging the moral and patriotic upbringing of the younger generation, and including preparations for and the holding of commemorative events, by foreign communities, for the 75th anniversary of Victory in the Great Patriotic War, including the Immortal Regiment.
A plenary session and two plenary panel discussions “Compatriots and Preserving Identity” and “Women in the 21st Century” will be held on the opening day of the conference on October 30. The work of the sessions “The Protection of the Lawful Rights and Interests of Compatriots Abroad and Consolidation of the Community,” “Upbringing of the Younger Generation of Compatriots,” and “Modern Communications and Female Communities” will take place in the latter half of the day.
The second day of the conference, October 31, will start with the sessions “Campaigning for the Historical Truth,” “The Russian Language as a Factor in Self-identification of a Russian Compatriot” and “Women in the Business World.”
The forum will end with a plenary session, an awards ceremony for active compatriots and the adoption of a final resolution.
Apply for accreditation at the Foreign Ministry website before noon on October 25. Information for the mobile satellite communication stations should be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org. Contact the Foreign Ministry Information and Press Department: Olesya Makoveyeva (accreditation information), +7-499-244-20-87; Sergey Dremin (other issues), +7-499-244-18-63.
The third, regular meeting of young diplomats from the Russia-India-China Association (RIC) took place on October 13-17. Speaking at the informal RIC summit on the sidelines of the G20 meeting in Osaka on June 28, 2019, President Vladimir Putin emphasised the importance of promoting trilateral cooperation among young diplomats from RIC.
This forum was convened in the framework of the current Russian Presidency of RIC and took place in Russia for the first time. Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov, Indian Ambassador to Russia D. Bala Venkatesh Varma and Chinese Ambassador to Russia Zhang Hanhui spoke at the opening of the forum. Debates were conducted in several venues. There was also a roundtable discussion with the participation of senior diplomats from the Foreign Ministry and employees from Russia’s leading research centres. The participants discussed major development problems in the Pacific and Indian ocean regions in an informal, lively and interested manner and the role and place of young diplomats in this context.
Guests visited the Tver Region, met senior officials from the regional administration, learned about the region’s eventful history and current achievements and enjoyed the great views of the Volga River’s upper reaches.
We are confident that the further development of cooperation in this format will facilitate the consolidation of long-term friendly ties between the RIC countries.
Question: During her October 14 news conference, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini touched upon the EU’s role in a Syrian settlement. We would like to know your opinion on this.
Maria Zakharova: The EU’s role in a Syrian settlement? Did Federica Mogherini hold a news conference under this title? Someone in a Soviet film dropped a wonderful phrase: “You are involved in a very interesting business: you are studying something that doesn’t exist.” I read a lot on the Syrian settlement, there is plenty of unclassified information around and some analysis as well. But, to tell you the truth, I came across no mention anywhere of the EU’s role in a Syrian settlement. I am not sure such a thing exists at all, although a scope of activities, particularly for the EU, is indeed vast.
If they failed to avert the crisis, play an active peacemaking role during the crisis, or hear Russia’s reasoning – articulated by President Vladimir Putin at the UN General Assembly – that it was necessary to consolidate cooperation in the fight against international terrorism in that region, then now they might well manage to acquire new strength, patience and, perhaps, courage to launch active humanitarian efforts –real and not politicised – in the context of the existing situation, particularly, in Syria. They could choose one of the segments: aiding children, victims, or civilians; helping to rebuild the civilian infrastructure; or, perhaps, raising money and running charities. And this is something different from just holding meetings and later addressing news conferences on what they have nothing to do with from the point of view of a constructive, positive agenda.
Let me make just one reservation. I could have answered this question more diplomatically, saying that we know nothing about this matter and leaving the rest on Brussels’ conscience. This could have been done, were it not for the millions of people, who are suffering and have no chance as much as to hear the High Representative’s statement on the EU’s involvement in their fate. I think that the years of the Syrian crisis, the consequences and obvious results of some of the other countries’ participation allow us to put to one side the excessive, superficial tolerance and call things by their proper names.
Question: We know that Russia has always been against the blockade of Cuba. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said as much during his remarks at the UN General Assembly. Given the state of relations between our countries (Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev paid a visit to Cuba not so long ago, President of the Council of State and the Council of Ministers of the Republic of Cuba Miguel Diaz-Canel will soon visit Russia), did Russia discuss the blockade of Cuba at the talks with Western countries, including the United States?
Maria Zakharova: US diplomats know our position only too well. It does not require an additional highlight in the course of bilateral talks. At the same time, we are working on this closely at the UN General Assembly committees, at the UN venue, where relevant resolutions are approved, resolutions that condemn the blockade. We have been doing a massive explanatory job.
Another point is that different US administrations conduct diametrically opposite policies towards Cuba. What will the next administration conjure up? It is very difficult to estimate how the vector of US pressure on Havana will change. Will the pressure be relaxed? The US administration is displaying no consistency when it comes to this. Everyone remembers only too well how many aircraft with members of the US administration, business people and journalists on board landed in Havana. There was a fantastic number of aircraft and delegation members, who said that a new era was dawning in Cuban-US relations. But all of that was phased out within less than a year. The new players in the White House reversed the foci.
Our position is well known; we are working at venues that are authorised to deal with these matters. This question should be addressed to the United States and its political system, where Cuba is, among other things, a domestic political issue that has no relation whatsoever to the United States performing its international obligations to uphold, conform to and obey international law.
Maria Zakharova: I can once again highlight the statement made by Sergey Lavrov. He said Russia strongly advocates resolving the current situation through a dialogue between the Government in Damascus and the Kurdish forces. As you know, this dialogue has begun and is already yielding certain results. He also emphasised that Russia has always recognised Turkey’s legitimate interests in the security of its borders. At the same time, we stand for practical cooperation between Damascus and Ankara on the basis of the 1998 Adana Agreement. We absolutely clearly see the possibilities for this. The two countries’ military officials should determine the specific aspects of their interaction on the ground. Russia, for its part, is ready to assist them in such a dialogue.
Maria Zakharova: I spelled out my attitude to these lists a few years ago, when I was included on one of them. I do not take them seriously. You can review my old comments; they are still relevant.
Maria Zakharova: I had trouble figuring out what it was all about. Looks like some kind of insinuation. I do not have any information on the subject or specific data that I could share in connection with these publications. I will continue searching.
Question: Which statements made by Ukrainian officials, is Moscow relying on for the upcoming Normandy Four summit? First, the Steinmeier Formula was signed and welcomed by Moscow, Berlin and Paris. Yesterday, President of Ukraine Vladimir Zelensky said the Steinmeier Formula would be incorporated into the Ukrainian law on the special status of Donbass. How is this going to be done?
The press secretary of Leonid Kuchma who represents Ukraine on the Contact Group said the DPR and the LPR must be dissolved. What is this supposed to mean?
Maria Zakharova: I am glad you asked this question about which statements that sound from Ukraine should be taken into account. We proceed from the fact that, according to the international legal system, which has been shaken up but not yet completely destroyed, we should be guided by the statements made by the head of state, by representatives of the executive branch and officials authorised to address foreign policy issues – make officials statements and participate in negotiation processes.
So the Russian side, in this case, relies on the statements made by President of Ukraine Vladimir Zelensky and by the representatives of the executive branch engaged in foreign policy matters and specifically this topic, namely the Minsk Agreements, the Contact Group, the Normandy format, etc. This is what we are guided by.
On the other hand, reacting to every statement coming from the Rada, from press secretaries of former presidents or current politicians from various branches of government, is a thankless job. It will not lead to any desired results. The practice of recent centuries suggests that a country first adopts a consolidated position on international matters, then implements it through appropriate institutions.
Your question is not entirely fair because you suggest that I should speculate on how this would be implemented in Ukrainian legislation. We discuss it a lot, and our position is well known. All that needs to be done is stipulated in the Minsk Agreements. The predicament official Kiev has been struggling with for several years has been resolved in the Steinmeier Formula, which should guarantee the observance of everyone’s interests without discriminating any of the parties.
Now this needs to be implemented through the appropriate steps that are also stipulated. The Minsk Agreements seem quite specific to me. One just needs to find the courage and consolidate society for their implementation. So this question is not for me, but for representatives of Kiev.
That was an unofficial statement; at least, we do not consider it as reflecting Kiev’s position in general. I don’t know why it was made – as an answer to a question or a special statement – but I admit that I saw it.
We have repeatedly said that there are many such statements. How much they help society or the country progress towards consolidation based on the Minsk Agreements is anybody’s guess. In our opinion, such statements jeopardise the primary goals of implementing the Minsk Agreements and recreating the atmosphere of trust between people living in different regions of Ukraine and having various visions of the future of Ukrainian society.
So I believe in this case, we must primarily rely on Ukraine’s consolidated position voiced at the appropriate levels, and secondly on the declared priority – highlighted in all the campaign speeches of the current team – of moving towards peace and giving the country a chance for a future on the basis of, inter alia, the Minsk Agreements. This priority should be consistently followed without any deviation. And such statements certainly have no added value for this process. Or they need to decrypt what they meant. We saw only a fragment of the phrase. Maybe there was something else to it, some philosophical content. It is difficult to figure out who meant what and how they plan to implement what was declared. As it is, questions arise that cause even greater distrust and greater antagonism, although these people seem to declare a commitment to come to some kind of common vision for future reconsolidation.
Maria Zakharova: A comment on this subject is available on the ministry’s website: http://www.mid.ru/ru/foreign_policy/news/-/asset_publisher/cKNonkJE02Bw/content/id/3840136.
I can only add that the new dates will be made public after final approval through diplomatic channels.
Question: It was reported last week that four members of the Young Guard of United Russia were denied entry into Estonia and hence the Schengen zone because they took part in the march of the Immortal Regiment in Estonia in May 2019. The decision was clearly taken for political reasons. The Foreign Ministry promised not to leave it without a response. What do you think about the politicisation of this international Immortal Regiment event, in particular, in Estonia?
Maria Zakharova: I have a very negative attitude to the fact that participation in civil events and civil activities based on a common historical memory and on established and indisputable historical facts leads to such unfriendly actions taken against individuals. I have an even more strongly negative attitude to the fact that political considerations influence decisions to issue or deny visas to the people who do not have an aggressive agenda but intend to promote relations, even though these people may take an independent stand. But then, I believe that everyone is entitled to their opinion.
I resent it when visas are denied or delayed and people are kept in suspense because of their independent views on civil, political and international events. Especially when the matter concerns an EU member state that has pledged not to create obstacles to the free movement of people in the European continent and the OSCE space. When such a country also signed all the relevant conventions, this makes me wonder about the legality of its decision. A reason can be found for anything. It is easy to put a label on anyone and stamp his or her passport with the phrase “national security threat,” for example to a Baltic state. But when a state claims to pursue a policy based on democratic principles, it should explain its actions and keep in mind its obligations, declarations and statements, as well as the conferences it attends, where it makes official statements to the effect that any person has the right to have a point of view and to take part in civil forums and initiatives. Such examples as the one you have cited clearly show the deep divide between words and deeds.
Question: The media often reported on the case of Russian businesswoman Marsha Lazareva, who was arrested in Kuwait on obviously false charges. An indicative fact: the key witness in her case has a criminal record for perjury. The Russian businesswoman is still being held captive. Are you up to date on this?
Maria Zakharova: We are up to date, and we, as a foreign policy agency, are actively involved in the efforts to provide assistance to this Russian citizen and to protect her rights. Support is being provided in a number of ways. We maintain close contact with her family and relatives. We reply to their statements and letters. These are not boilerplate replies, but detailed requests, proposals and actions taken by the foreign ministry, the Russian Embassy and the Russian side in general. We never lose sight of this matter.
Question: You said the other day that Shaaban Hadiya, commander of an armed group under the Libyan Government of National Accord, is not on the list of participants in the Russia-Africa Summit. As far as we know, this person is connected to the terrorist who was involved in the kidnapping of Russian citizens Ali Sueyfan and Maxim Shugaley in Libya. Can you tell us definitely that Hadiya has been excluded from the list of summit participants? Has any progress been made towards releasing the Russian sociologists from the Libyan prison? What measures will be taken to prevent terrorists from attending the Sochi summit?
Maria Zakharova: As for preventing terrorists from attending the summit, this is a question for the Russian security services.
According to the available information, the list of the Libyan delegation has not yet been finalised. As of yesterday (I have no other information so far), the person you have mentioned was not on the list.
Speaking about the rights of Russian citizens, this is certainly a priority for the Russian Foreign Ministry. We maintain contact with our foreign partners on all cases and through various channels.
Question: Josep Borrell, candidate for EU High Representative/Vice-President for foreign affairs and security policy, has said recently when outlying his future priorities that as long as “Russia, India, and China don’t recognise Kosovo, [it] will not be a fully-fledged [UN] state.” Do you agree with your European colleague?
Maria Zakharova: No, I don’t, because Kosovo is not a fully-fledged state anyway. It is not a state but an attempt by a number of countries to push through the recognition of this problem territory as a state. There is a political aspect to this matter. You know about Russia’s position, which is that this is a gross violation of international law, sovereignty and territorial integrity. All this has been sealed in UN Security Council resolutions, which have not been rescinded; they are still in effect. However, they have been trampled underfoot “on the ground,” that is, in the political and legal spheres. Certain countries opted to violate an effective UN Security Council resolution by recognising Kosovo as a sovereign state. Our attitude to this subject has not changed.
In addition to the political assessments, which in our case are based on international law, there are also realities. Kosovo is not a full-fledged state when it comes to law or modern realities. One can keep talking about this to one’s heart content, but as time has passed, the international community has become aware of the futility of pressing this point. When those who made that decision say that Kosovo is a state, this does not change the state of affairs. These words have not become reality. As of now, this proclamation contradicts international law and the realities on the ground.
Question: President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev said recently at the Valdai Club meeting in Sochi that the world saw Nagorno-Karabakh as an inalienable part of Azerbaijan and its historical land. Will you comment on this? What did the President of Azerbaijan mean?
Maria Zakharova: I am not a press secretary for the USSR Foreign Ministry. I am not in a position to comment on statements made by politicians in Ukraine or Azerbaijan. They are sovereign states. I can offer our views on these statements, but I cannot say what the leader of a sovereign state meant. Russian political analysts, journalists and politicians can do this, but I cannot. This is not my responsibility.
I would like to ask you once again not to ask me what the heads of foreign states think or mean. Statements by the President of Russia are commented on by his press secretary. I can only answer questions that have to do with Russia’s foreign policy.
Question: But you provided an assessment of similar statements made by Prime Minister of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan.
Maria Zakharova: I did not say what he meant. These are different things. I can provide an assessment, but I cannot answer questions about what foreign heads of state have in mind. So, I will answer your question in this context.
A great number of political statements on the Nagorno-Karabakh settlement have been made in Armenia and Azerbaijan with a varying degree of emotion and references to history and modern realities. We proceed from the negotiating agenda we have on the table, as diplomats say. We work with the documents that have been coordinated by the sides and the co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group. Our mission as intermediaries is to accelerate movement towards a final settlement as much as possible. We have always urged the sides to take a constructive stand. I do not doubt, and I do not want to question their intention to attain this goal, because they are responsible politicians working in the interests of their people. Throughout this crisis, the people delegated the task of settling the crisis to their leaders. They did not set their governments any task other than a settlement. We believe that we are doing our duty as constructively as we can. We are urging all sides to act constructively and to make constructive moves towards this goal. We have coordinated formulas and documents, as well as the agenda for moving ahead.
Question: Debates are ongoing about the Armenian military and political leader, Garegin Nzhdeh. The Azerbaijani media reported yesterday that the residents of the [Russian] city of Armavir, where a plaque in memory of Garegin Nzhdeh was installed in the grounds of an Armenian church back in 2012, allegedly planned to request the prosecutor’s office to remove that plaque. State Duma Deputy Leonid Kalashnikov said he would help the Armavir residents and would personally look into the matter. What decision should the Armavir authorities take in this complicated matter?
Maria Zakharova: I did not know about this plaque in the grounds of an Armenian church. First, the church is separate from the state in Russia. This concerns all religions. Second, in global terms, this problem should be addressed from the historical viewpoint. We provided our views in this context in the format of briefings and comments published on the ministry’s website (http://www.mid.ru/ru/nagorno-karabahskoe-uregulirovanie). They are still pertinent, both essentially and from the historical angle. And, third, regarding this situation and statements made by deputies and local authorities, I can request additional information so as to comment on this in more detail.
Question: Rosneft Vice President said that oil production had been suspended in Iraqi Kurdistan because of the hostilities in Syria. Is there a threat of the fighting spreading to Iraq or Iraq’s Kurdistan? Why were Rosneft’s operations suspended?
Maria Zakharova: We also had a lot of questions with regard to Rosneft, in relation to another region. I will talk about this too.
We have seen media agencies’ reports alleging that Venezuela intends to provide Rosneft with full control over the government-owned PDVSA oil company. It is our understanding that these are reprints of statements by the Venezuelan opposition and its associated media. Actually, you should ask Rosneft.
As for your question about the suspension of oil production in Iraqi Kurdistan, naturally we are monitoring the situation and the hostilities. I have talked about this today. We have sent appropriate appeals to the parties involved. As for specific actions by the specific company concerning the shutdown of its units, you’d better ask the company. Globally, we correlate the work of our specialists with the situation in the region and maintain contact with the local authorities. I can say that our specialists keep an eye on security issues among other things and use all the resources available to protect both our companies’ interests and the physical security of Russian citizens.
Question: Today you touched on the dialogue between Damascus and the Kurds and yesterday, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that there had been specific results. What were they (apart from cooperation in the military area)?
Maria Zakharova: We will not disclose the details. This is beyond the Foreign Ministry’s competence. The question is about contacts between the military. I will leave it to military experts.
Question: Recently the Embassy of Azerbaijan sent an inquiry to the Russian Foreign Ministry concerning the visit by State Duma Deputy Konstantin Zatulin to occupied Azerbaijani territory with a request to comment on the official’s statements, which allegedly run counter to the Russian position in the Nagorno-Karabakh settlement, and to specify the status of his stay in Nagorno-Karabakh. Could you comment on this, please?
Maria Zakharova: I can confirm that we have received such a document via diplomatic channels. Our website has long published an effective and relevant warning that “individuals who have visited the former Nagorno-Karabakh autonomous area and seven adjacent administrative districts without special permission from Azerbaijani authorities will be denied access to Azeibaijan by the Azerbaijani side.” Unfortunately, few people wishing to travel there pay attention to the warning. It applies to everybody and reflects Azerbaijan’s position on this matter.
The Foreign Ministry’s position on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and the ways it can be resolved is well known, as I have already said. It remains unchanged. As for the final status of Nagorno-Karabakh, all the opinions that the Russian side has expressed previously remain relevant. The status should be determined through political negotiations within the framework of the Minsk process.
As for politicians, in particular Russian legislators, who represent civil society and make statements on this subject, we see this as a matter of their personal opinion. It may be an expert point of view or a political statement but anyhow the official position on this issue is expressed by the relevant executive authorities. We have a presidential foreign policy, so this is the competence of the Presidential Executive Office, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other agencies authorised to make such statements reflecting the position of the entire state.
Question: The Latvian Saeima has approved, in its final reading, the provision on the automatic granting of Latvian citizenship to the children of non-citizens starting from 2020. What does the Foreign Ministry think about this decision by the Latvian legislature?
Maria Zakharova: We thought that the institutions of “non-citizens” and “non-citizenship” were an instance of blatant discrimination unfit for the 21st century or even the 20th. The progress made in this area (at the legislative and other levels) constitute a compensation for the departure from the standards of human rights protection and observation, which existed for decades.