Briefing of the Foreign Ministry Spokesman
Briefing by Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova, Moscow, January 15, 2021
- Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s online conference on the results of foreign policy activities in 2020
- Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s meeting with High Representative of the UN Secretary-General for the United Nations Alliance of Civilisations, Mr Miguel Angel Moratinos
- Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s meeting with CIS ambassadors
- Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s meeting with Hungarian Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Peter Szijjarto
- Foreign Minister of Iran Mohammad Javad Zarif’s working visit to Russia
- US bank’s blocking of Russia’s humanitarian financial aid to Central American countries
- Placing of Cuba on the US list of state sponsors of terrorism
- Guantanamo Bay detention camp
- Yet another anti-Russia statement by the US Department of State
- Tweets by US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo on Russia-US relations
- US Secretary of State’s statements on the INF Treaty
- Russia accused of hacking US information resources
- German officials’ statements
- Dutch funding for terrorist group in Syria
- Terrorist threat at the borders of Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso
- Test systems to diagnose the new coronavirus infection sent to Belarus
- Destruction of the monument to Soviet and Polish paratroopers in Poland
- Act of vandalism against the monument to Red Army soldiers in the Czech Republic
- Act of vandalism at the burial site of Kherson liberators
- Memory Place project
- Opening the first Russian cultural and educational centre in Tajikistan
- 65th anniversary of establishing diplomatic relations between Russia and Liberia
- Gastronomic Map of Russia 2021
On January 18, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will hold a traditional annual news conference on the main results of foreign policy during 2020. It will take place remotely, in the online format, for the first time.
Russian and foreign journalists are invited to attend.
The announcement was published on the Foreign Ministry website (https://www.mid.ru/ru/foreign_policy/news/-/asset_publisher/cKNonkJE02Bw/content/id/4520005).
Accreditation for media representatives was opened yesterday and will last until 6 pm today, January 15, 2021.
There is one more novelty. Due to the technical limitations and restrictions on time, those who do not get an answer to their questions during the news conference will receive a response later on.
In the accreditation form, there is a column for questions and topics of interest.
On January 18, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will meet with High Representative of the UN Secretary-General for the United Nations Alliance of Civilisations, Mr Miguel Angel Moratinos who will be on a visit to Moscow.
One of the main topics for discussion will be preparations for the holding in Russia of the Conference of Heads of States, Parliamentarians and Representatives of the World Religions on Intercultural and Interreligious Dialogue in May 2022 by the Inter-Parliamentary Union with UN participation.
We welcome the active involvement of the alliance in the preparations for and the conduct of the world conference. We support its participation in all initiatives aimed at reaching accord between representatives of various ethnic, religious and cultural groups.
During his visit to Moscow, Mr Moratinos is expected to meet officials from the Federation Council of the Federal Assembly and leaders of Russian traditional religious communities.
On January 21, a traditional meeting between Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and CIS member-countries’ ambassadors accredited in Russia will take place in Moscow.
The officials are expected to sum up the results of the joint work carried out during 2020 within integration associations in the post-Soviet space and discuss further steps to promote comprehensive cooperation in the political, economic, cultural and humanitarian spheres and in security.
They are also expected to exchange views on topical international and regional issues.
On January 22, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will meet with Hungarian Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Peter Szijjarto in Moscow.
During the conversation, the ministers are expected to compare notes on a wide range of bilateral issues in the context of implementing the agreements reached between President of Russia Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister of Hungary Viktor Orban in Budapest on October 30, 2019. The agenda includes a discussion of practical aspects of the bilateral dialogue and cooperation to overcome the coronavirus infection.
The ministers will discuss several topical international and European issues, including the settlement of the intra-Ukrainian crisis and the protection of the language rights of ethnic minorities in Ukraine as well as the developments in the Middle East and around Nagorno-Karabakh.
On January 26, Foreign Minister of the Islamic Republic of Iran Mohammad Javad Zarif will be in Moscow on a working visit, during which he will hold talks with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
The ministers are expected to continue discussing several topical international issues, including developments in Nagorno-Karabakh, the situation regarding the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on the Iranian nuclear programme and developments in Syria, Afghanistan and the Gulf zone.
They will also discuss the bilateral agenda, above all its trade and economic component in the context of implementing key joint projects in energy and transport as well as the promotion of cultural and humanitarian ties.
Russian-Iranian relations continue to develop actively, as is evident from the intense and trust-based dialogue at the highest level: last year the two countries’ presidents spoke by phone four times. Despite the restrictions due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, Russia and Iran maintain regular contacts, including between foreign ministers, parliamentarians, representatives of other ministries and agencies and businesspeople of the two countries.
We would like to inform you about an example of gross hindrance of Russia’s humanitarian cooperation with foreign states.
In November 2020, hurricanes Eta and Jota hit Central America, causing enormous damage to the subregion’s economy and people.
In that situation, the Central American Parliament (PARLACEN) appealed to Russia for emergency assistance. The Russian Government decided to transfer funds to PARLACEN for the purchase of water filters to provide fresh water to people in the affected regions and to prevent the spread of dangerous diseases.
However, US Citibank, which acted as an intermediary bank for the transfer of the funds, first requested clarification and additional information (one of the strangest questions was about what type of organisation the Foreign Ministry of Russia was and what its official duties were), and following two weeks of procrastination returned the funds to the sender, that is, Russia.
We are waiting for an explanation for the bank management’s decision, which has seriously damaged the financial institution’s image. We also expect the US Department of State, which has been posing as the defender of human rights, advocating assistance to people in difficult circumstances, to issue a comment.
We regard this case as outrageous. It is a glaring example of the United States deliberately hindering the provision of humanitarian aid to countries in need. We see Washington’s policy of economic sanctions against Russia as the only logical explanation for this.
We would like to assure our Central American partners of our readiness to continue to cooperate with them, including within the framework of Russia’s dialogue with the Central American Integration System (SICA), where Russia holds observer status. We will continue acting in this spirit even despite the artificial obstacles being created by external forces.
We regard the news about placing Cuba back on the US list of state sponsors of terrorism, from which it was removed in 2015, as yet another absolutely unconstructive move. The decision is clear proof of Washington’s inability to conduct a consistent foreign policy based on objective reality and unbiased and substantiated assessments of current developments.
We do not expect Washington to take adequate decisions on regions which it knows little about. But this decision concerns a region of which the United States is an integral part. They share a long and complicated common history, and Washington should be aware of at least this part of global history.
US accusations of Cuba harbouring Colombian “rebels” from the National Liberation Army (ELN) look especially strange, considering the US Department of State’s admission that they had travelled to Cuba for intra-Colombian peace talks. It turns out that Havana is being punished for its efforts to promote a dialogue, a peaceful settlement of a conflict and national reconciliation. Under this strange foreign policy logic, no good deed goes unpunished.
In general, the United States has been operating amid a collective rejection of its Cuban policy by the international community. This follows from the almost unanimous annual approval of the UN General Assembly resolution to end the US-led blockade of Cuba. In the current situation, when the world is fighting against the coronavirus pandemic, the United States has discredited itself in the eyes of those who have first-hand information about the selfless work of Cuban doctors in dozens of countries across the world. In this situation, Cuba deserves to be placed on a list of international providers of disinterested solidarity and assistance.
We would like to hope that future US decisions regarding Cuba will be based on verified facts and meet the real interests of the people of the two countries.
What are Washington’s accusations of Havana sponsoring terrorism if not the fake news the United States has claimed to be fighting? They are lies, untruth that has been granted an official status. These lies have an official status because this is Washington’s official policy.
The infamous Guantanamo Bay prison will turn 19 this year. Despite the international community’s repeated, annual calls to close the disgraceful mediaeval-torture facility, the prison continues operating to this day.
Its prisoners are held in a complete legal vacuum: no charges are brought against them, and they are denied access to competent, unbiased, fair and independent legal proceedings. Cruel and inhuman treatment in that prison is used on a systematic basis. Indefinite detention and an uncertain fate are also covert forms of torture, bringing unbearable moral anguish both to the prisoners as well as their family and friends. Guantanamo prisoners die, frayed by the inhumane imprisonment conditions and interrogation methods. Although, the real circumstances of their death are still unknown.
It is absurd to speak about such things in the early 21st century, but we have to. The anti-torture legal and law-enforcement measures adopted by the US administration cannot be regarded as Washington’s full compliance with its commitments under the 1984 Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, which introduced a complete ban on torture. Regrettably, US authorities have not yet taken any real steps to call to account those who are involved in crimes associated with torture, including high-ranking officials. Perhaps US legislators should draft a Guantanamo Act and use it to charge their US officials?
We proceed from the need to investigate without delay and bias all the cases of extraordinary rendition, secret detention, and use of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment committed, including under the pretext of fighting terrorism. We think it is unacceptable to maintain the impunity of all those involved in such crimes.
We hope that the new US administration will keep Washington’s promises and promptly close the Guantanamo Bay prison, give its prisoners access to fair, independent and impartial justice, conduct the requisite investigations, and bring to account all those guilty, including top officials, for authorising, conniving at or engaging in secret detentions, arbitrary arrests of civilians, torture, abuse and the use of harsh interrogation tactics, including under the pretext of combatting terrorism.
We read with surprise a statement by the US Department of State that was published on January 13, 2021. It was timed to Russian Press Day and contained yet another portion of critical comments on the failure of our country to observe the rights of journalists and NGO workers. Indicatively, representatives of the State Department recorded this message in Russian only. There is no English version, but we have filed the gap and translated the text from Russian into English. The American audience should know how their State Department officials lecture other countries. This contradicts what US officials and politicians are doing at home. This is why the message was recorded in Russian. It has been translated into English, and American journalists can read it. It contains many interesting points, including the US position on the press.
We have noted more than once that, unfortunately, relations between Moscow and Washington are hostage to the internal political inter-party struggle in the United States. A series of anti-Russia tweets by US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo is yet another attempt by the outgoing administration to emphasise its successes in destroying bilateral relations and meet the requirements of those who favour the further deterioration of mutual ties with Russia. This may be a final attempt at writing something flashy and memorable.
We agree with Mr Pompeo on the failure to normalise our dialogue over the past four years. Washington even managed to put us on its list of America’s enemies. The US’s unfriendly and destructive steps aimed at aggravating the crisis in bilateral relations have included the introduction of various anti-Russia sanctions, the de facto destruction of the entire system of arms control and many other things. Regrettably, all attempts to improve our relations with the Trump administration have been unsuccessful, but not due to Russia. As a result, any positive changes in Russia-US cooperation have been blocked.
We confirm that it is useless and counterproductive to talk to us in the language of threats and intimidation with a view to gaining unilateral advantages. We realise the risk involved in potential further aggravation of the situation, but in this case the ball is in the US’s court. We believe the US should first of all stop manipulating public opinion in the US itself, discontinue the Russophobic campaign that is being actively conducted among the American people, and end the stream of concocted news against our country, which is being sponsored and lobbied for by certain factions in the US political establishment.
For our part, we remain prepared to discuss the accumulated irritants together if Washington develops a sound interest in this.
We noted statements by US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo on the INF Treaty, published January 11, 2021, where he summed up the performance of the outgoing US administration.
On the one hand, the last days in office are a good time for an unbiased analysis of what has been done and to determine the areas where the new administration can make extra efforts, in part, to redress the current situation. On the other hand, judging by Michael Pompeo’s statements, as before, the US foreign policy team does not realise the results and consequences of its destructive actions in arms control and continues to openly juggle the facts.
The Secretary of State tries to present the discarding of the INF Treaty under the far-fetched pretext as a “landmark achievement” of the Trump administration. He claims that the abandonment of this treaty has enhanced US security because before this the US stupidly complied with it despite “Russia’s violations” and the Americans were just disarming unilaterally.
This is part of a traditional package of US propaganda myths about the INF Treaty, which Russia has exposed more than once. The Foreign Ministry’s website has described in detail the true situation and the relevant arguments in a dedicated section. Thus, it carries information on the implementation of the INF Treaty in the early 1990s when Russia eliminated twice as many missiles as the US did, including the Oka system, which was not covered by the treaty’s missile range parameters. The website also explains in detail the lack of any evidence of alleged “Russia’s violations.” It also reviews the US’s failure to comply with its obligations for many years and Washington’s blocking of Russia’s initiatives to start practical professional cooperation to remove mutual concerns on a reciprocal basis.
We won’t delve again into the details of our differences with the US on the INF Treaty. However, we would like to once again urge the US to pay due attention to the Russian proposals on preventing a new missile crisis in Europe and a new round of a missile race in the Asia-Pacific Region. These proposals remain valid. President of Russia Vladimir Putin set them forth as regards Europe in his statement on this issue on October 26, 2020.
We hope for willingness on the part of the new US administration to choose constructive cooperation on this and other international security issues.
The recurrent US reports of hacker attacks, “likely Russian in origin,” on US government and non-government information resources have become routine. The joint statement by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the National Security Agency, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, issued on behalf of President Trump, about the latest alleged attack makes one thing clear: the outgoing administration has decided to raise the stakes at the end. It seems that by bringing together all four agencies to make libelous allegations against Russia, the US President is trying to cover his back in the face of the Democrats and their threat to impeach him. We cannot rule out that the outgoing administration will continue this game, namely will attempt to create additional obstacles for the future administration and prevent the President-elect from resuming substantive dialogue with Russia on international information security.
We would like to remind the US side again of the Russian President’s statement of September 25, 2020, containing a number of comprehensive proposals on restoring efficient interaction in this area.
As for resolving specific claims, we urge our US colleagues not to hurl unfounded and false accusations, but to use the official Russia-US channels for exchanging information on computer incidents established in 2013. Russia’s National Coordination Center for Computer Incidents began operating in 2018. It is in charge of ensuring our country’s interaction with foreign government and non-government players in this area.
The officials in Berlin never fail to amaze us with their anti-Russia statements. Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told DPA news agency on December 30, 2020 that Russia has “blocked everything put forward by Secretary-General Guterres” when it comes to reforming the UN and its Security Council.
Unprofessional statements like this have little to do with reality. It is strange that Mr Maas is not aware of this, and if he is aware, then what he has said is disinformation. We would like to remind everyone that Russia has consistently upheld the idea of intergovernmental talks to coordinate reform that can receive maximally broad support, over two thirds of the formally required votes, or better still consensus approval by the UN member states.
We have pointed out on numerous occasions that we support UN Security Council reform through enlarging the representation of the African, Asian and Latin American countries. A distinctive feature of the current format of the Security Council, including its five permanent members, is over-representation of some of the world’s regions, mainly, a regional group of West European and several other countries, including the United States. I can understand the kind feelings this over-representation evokes in Germany, which would like to preserve it. But this is no reason for accusing of Russia of what it did not do.
At the same time, we believe that efforts to make the UN Security Council a more representative body should not affect its efficiency or performance.
Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer continues with her anti-Russia exercises as well. In her article published on the online resource Focus on January 10, 2021, she writes about new security realities and cites Russia’s alleged large-scale weapons build-up on NATO’s eastern border. She presents this as proof of the need to adopt a deterrence policy towards Russia as a prerequisite for negotiating with it from a position of strength. Based on this policy, the German Defence Minister intends to protect democratic values and human rights and to promote a peaceful settlement of conflicts, international “rules” and even the principles of multilateralism around the world. Will they use force to inoculate the world with democracy? This is an interesting approach that could be described as new except that certain countries have practiced this policy before and have failed.
We have pointed out to Berlin more than once, including with concrete examples from history, that it is counterproductive to talk with anyone, let alone Russia, from a position of strength (we cannot forget that Germany suffered a huge tragedy in the 20th century when it tried to talk to the world from a position of strength). We would like to remind it once again that it is not Russia that is approaching NATO’s border, but the bloc, whose combined military spending exceeds Russia’s many times over, that has implemented two series of eastward expansions, building up its military infrastructure and activity on Russia’s borders, contrary to our Western partners’ promises in the 1990s.
German political leadership has been regularly sending out strange signals that imply that Russia poses a threat to Germany. It would be interesting to see if there are any facts behind this allegation. Moreover, these views have been presented in the form of doctrines and directives and incorporated into the German government’s decisions and programmes. Our partners should provide facts if they don’t want such statements to be regarded as fake news.
We would like to hope that common sense regarding strategy towards Russia will prevail eventually, but the sooner the better. For our part, we are ready for an open dialogue with Germany, based on mutual respect and understanding, on a wide range of current international matters and bilateral issues.
No sooner had the scandal with the Netherlands providing assistance to Syrian groups suspected of committing illegal acts in Syria died down when new facts on the financing of terrorists by The Hague have come to light.
It has been revealed that the Dutch government has been providing financial support to the so-called Syrian Association for Citizens Dignity headed by one of the former leaders of the Ahrar al-Sham group in Syria. Significantly, in the Netherlands itself, members of this group have been convicted of terrorism. Nevertheless, the Dutch ministers of foreign affairs and justice see no conflict with allocating money derived from Dutch taxpayers to fund these war criminals. For some reason, this Syrian group is not included in the country’s list of terrorist organisations, despite the Dutch court’s ruling to this effect.
At the same time, last year, the Kingdom announced its intention to initiate proceedings against Damascus for alleged violations of its obligations under the Convention against Torture. Where is the logic? Is this not yet another manifestation of frank, undisguised double standards and appalling hypocrisy from the Hague?
I can answer this question. Yes, it is. But the problem is not in the rhetoric, or in the demonstration of illogical actions by our Western partners, and the inconsistency of their slogans with practical steps. The point is that they are persistently striking at what they themselves built – the democratic system.
A question for our American partners: When will you declare the Netherlands a country that assists and finances terrorist organisations, as you did with Cuba?
Russia is concerned about the deterioration of the security situation in the Sahara-Sahel are – the so-called Liptako Gourma region which borders Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso – where the significantly intensifying activities of numerous terrorist groups, affiliated with ISIS and Al-Qaeda, have been recorded.
On December 28, 2020 four French servicemen were killed in an armored vehicle explosion in Mali near the Burkina Faso border, which means that Paris’s losses since the deployment of troops in Mali in 2013 have reached about 50. This terrorist attack came as a response to the special operation carried out in the Liptako Gourma region on December 24 where over 10 terrorists were killed.
Just two days ago the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) suffered new losses: three Ivorian peacemakers were killed by terrorists.
On January 2, 2021, on the eve of the second round of the presidential election in Niger, Islamist radicals carried out a large terrorist attack on two villages near the Mali border. Over 100 civilians were killed and dozens were injured. On December 13, 2020, just hours before municipal elections, extremists seized the village of Tumur. Over 30 people were killed and about 800 houses were burned down.
Russia condemns these extremists’ crimes and conveys its condolences to the victims’ families and friends.
We always support efforts taken at the regional and international levels to counter the terrorist threat in the Sahara-Sahel zone. We will continue to provide all the necessary assistance to the countries in the region on relevant issues, including improving the military capabilities of their armed forces and training their service members and law enforcement personnel.
On January 5, Russia donated 300 kits with test systems and reagents to the Republic of Belarus. The kits were produced at the Vector State Scientific Centre of Virology and Biotechnology. They will be enough to conduct 30,000 tests to diagnose COVID-19.
This humanitarian shipment was sent to the Republican Centre of Hygiene, Epidemiology and Social Health in Minsk by special transport. Healthcare Minister of Belarus Dmitry Pinevich, his deputy, Chief Sanitary Doctor of Belarus Alexander Tarasenko and Ambassador of Russia to Belarus Dmitry Mezentsev were present at the transfer ceremony.
Last year, Russia donated 240 test systems and reagents to carry out 24,000 laboratory tests to Belarus as well as sets of respirators and other personal protective equipment. In addition, assistance was provided to return Belarusian citizens home on Russian flights.
Russia will continue to provide comprehensive help to the fraternal nation of Belarus to counter the spread of the novel coronavirus, including through vaccinating its people with Russian vaccines.
The war against memorial heritage continues in Poland. The monument to the Soviet and Polish paratroopers near the village of Sokolow in Greater Poland Voivodeship was partially destroyed by a decision of the Polish authorities. The family names of the Soviet and Polish paratroopers were removed as well as the inscription immortalising the heroic feat of the Soviet and Polish paratroopers who landed in this place in 1944. They were members of a special operations airborne group led by Lt S. Ilyashevich from the Polish First Army that operated behind enemy lines.
Usually, these kinds of actions are committed by vandals and we refer to them as acts of vandalism. But in this case I’m talking about the Polish authorities. I do not use these words but not because these actions do not fall under the definition of vandalism, but because we would like to give the Polish Government a chance to change its approach.
As far as we know, they are discussing whether to dismantle the monument altogether or leave it with some new impersonal inscription. Either decision would be a violation of the 1994 Russian-Polish inter-governmental agreement on burials and memorials of the victims of wars and reprisals. We would like to draw Warsaw’s attention to the fact that this memorial is included on the list of memorials of Soviet defenders of the homeland who perished on the territory of the Republic of Poland. This list was jointly compiled by Russian and Polish officials in 1997.
As we can see, in its attempts to rewrite history by deleting unwanted pages from it, Poland does not stop at erasing from the memory the names of Polish fighters against Nazism along with the names of Red Army soldiers.
Russia demands that Warsaw comply with its commitments to maintain war memorials and return this monument to paratroopers to its original appearance.
We resolutely denounce the outrageous act of vandalism committed against a monument to Red Army soldiers in the suburbs of the Czech city of Ostrava on January 5, 2021. This monument immortalised the feat of the Russian soldiers who had liberated this region in April 1945.
We hope the Czech authorities will identify the culprits and hold them responsible for this act, and will take measures to prevent such incidents in the future.
We cannot but mention the active stance of the local people who did not remain indifferent to this act of vandalism. They promptly reported the incident to law-enforcement. Criminal proceedings were initiated as a result, and the municipal authorities repaired the monument.
Following the traditional torchlight processions in Ukraine, this time in early January 2021 on the occasion of yet another birth anniversary of Nazi criminal Stepan Bandera, acts of vandalism and defacement of memorials to the Great Patriotic War took place there. On January 12, 2021, vandals did not spare the communal grave of the liberators of Kherson where 17 headstones were broken and desecrated.
The mayor of Kherson said the guilty would be identified and held responsible. We would like to hope that his words will not remain an empty phrase and that the nationalists will let him do this.
Let’s remember that 17,000 civilians, including children, were shot down and tortured to death during the occupation of Kherson. About 40,000 Soviet soldiers perished in the POW camp there. Over 15,000 people from the city and adjacent villages were deported to Germany.
The disrespect for the memory of the Red Army soldiers who gave up their lives in the struggle against the Nazi invaders and freed the city from a three-year occupation graphically illustrates the results of the policy of de-communisation pursued by Kiev in the past few years. The attempts to falsify history and glorify Nazi accomplices at the government level has resulted in the loss of moral guidelines in society, rampant behavior by right-wing radical groups, and the feeling of complete impunity in the criminals who commit such atrocities.
We denounce these barbarous acts and call for a detailed investigation into these crimes, including punishment for the guilty. But fundamentally, Ukraine should begin with revising its current ideology.
Russia is doing everything it can to protect historical monuments and history itself at a basic level.
I would like to recall the Memory Place project sponsored by the Russian Military Historical Society. All those who wish can submit information about Soviet memorials from the Great Patriotic War, including photos, on a virtual map, thereby making their own contribution to preserving the historical truth.
This is especially topical for those countries where our monuments and our heritage is under threat of spontaneous and government vandalism. Russian foreign missions, embassies and consulates, are involved in this work. Our diplomats are enthusiastic participants in this cause. We urge all people who care to pool their efforts with our colleagues to participate.
On January 10, 2021, the first Russian cultural and educational centre in Tajikistan opened in Tursunzade. The project was implemented at the initiative of the public organisation of Russian compatriots “Russian Community” with support from the Embassy of the Russian Federation and the local authorities.
We are grateful to the Tajik Aluminium Company (TALCO) for providing assistance, in particular for providing premises for the centre, free of charge. The Embassy of the Russian Federation in the Republic of Tajikistan, the representative office of Rossotrudnichestvo, the 201st Russian military base, business representatives from our countries, public associations, and the Dushanbe and Tajikistan Diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church also rendered support in furnishing and equipping the centre.
The centre offers classes on the Russian language and literature, mathematics, and computer science. There is also an art studio, a reading room and a library. Additionally, there will be classes for applicants preparing for admission to Russian universities.
January 11, 2021 marks 65 years since the establishment of diplomatic relations between the Russian Federation and the Republic of Liberia, with which our country maintains traditionally friendly relations.
Liberia is one of the most historically remarkable states on the continent, stemming from the descendants of African slaves taken to North America. They decided to return to the homeland of their ancestors and create their own state. So, in 1822 the colony of “free people of colour” was founded, which received the name Liberia two years later. On July 26, 1847, the settlers declared the independence of the Republic of Liberia. The uniqueness of this state is also in the fact that it managed to maintain its independence during the colonial period of Africa.
Russian-Liberian relations have been built on the principles of equality and mutual respect in the interests of strengthening peace and stability on the African continent. Moscow and Monrovia maintained a political dialogue and made efforts to use in full the potential for cooperation in the trade, economic and humanitarian fields.
A significant event in the development of bilateral contacts was the participation of the Liberian delegation led by Vice President of Liberia Jewel Howard-Taylor in the Russia-Africa Summit and Economic Forum held on October 23-24, 2019 in Sochi. Following the forum, areas for the further promotion of bilateral cooperation in various fields, including energy and the exploration and mining of natural resources, were specified.
We are counting on further progressive development of the entire range of bilateral relations. We wish the people of the Republic of Liberia peace, prosperity and well-being.
During the past year, participants in the Gastronomic Map of Russia federal project successfully cooperated with the Foreign Ministry and its GlavUpDK (Main Administration for Service to the Diplomatic Corps). During 2020, chefs and producers from over 25 regions of Russia staged presentations as part of this project.
In 2021, GlavUpDK will be a hundred years old. In honour of this anniversary, it will launch a number of joint projects with the Gastronomic Map of Russia. Their goal will be to familiarise the diplomats from various countries who are accredited in Russia with the gastronomic and tourist potential in this country and the rich culinary traditions of over 190 peoples that live in Russia’s regions.
We are also cooperating with the Gastronomic Map of Russia. I can imagine the feelings of the journalists who are watching us because we used to stage Russian cuisine presentations here during the New Year’s holidays. Now everything is online, so let’s wait for better times. I believe we will revive our traditions.
Question: Russia is the main mediator on the Nagorno-Karabakh settlement. This is widely acknowledged. Moscow has said at various levels many times that it is important to establish peace between these nations in everyday life, and to find points of contact. Can Moscow initiate the creation of joint venues for dialogue between the Azerbaijani and Armenian intellectuals and public representatives, and the holding of some joint humanitarian, cultural events with the consent of Baku and Yerevan to facilitate the rapprochement between them?
Maria Zakharova: We would enthusiastically welcome a direct dialogue between Azerbaijani and Armenian intellectuals and the holding of joint humanitarian events between the two countries.
We believe these initiatives help create an atmosphere of reconciliation, trust and understanding, and benefit both nations and the entire South Caucasus and, hence the Russian Federation as well.
Russia would certainly support such humanitarian events if Baku and Yerevan have a sincere desire to pursue this approach.
Question: Following the Moscow talks on January 11, 2021, one of the main results was the creation of a transport corridor that will link the main part of Azerbaijan with Nakhichevan. Have the parties agreed on the terms of creating this corridor? Who will own the land on which the road and railway will pass? Who will build them? How will Azerbaijan guarantee its inviolability? Will it assume a commitment not to block it?
Maria Zakharova: Under the statement by the leaders of Azerbaijan, Armenia and Russia on Nagorno-Karabakh of November 9, 2020 (item 9) all economic and transport routes in the region must be unblocked.
Indeed, at the January 11 summit in Moscow, the leaders of the three countries further developed these agreements, paying special attention to the discussion of specific steps on building economic ties, unblocking transport routes and developing infrastructure facilities. They adopted a special statement on these issues.
Following the Moscow meeting, the sides established a trilateral working group co-chaired by the deputy prime ministers of Russia, Azerbaijan and Armenia. It is to meet before the end of this month and present, by March 1, 2021, a list of measures on restoring and building new transport infrastructure facilities necessary for organising international transport and a timetable for their implementation. The group will set up expert sub-groups on the key areas of this work that will deal with the specific issues you mentioned.
There is no doubt that the implementation of these projects will benefit both Azerbaijan and Armenia and the South Caucasus as a whole. The interests of all states will be ensured. Armenia will have a railway line to Russia and Iran via Azerbaijan. At the same time, transport routes will link Azerbaijan with Nakhichevan through Armenian territory.