Briefing of the Foreign Ministry Spokesman

26 May 202120:00

Briefing by Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova, Moscow, May 26, 2021

Table of contents

  1. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to speak at the conference on Russia-EU relations
  2. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s upcoming talks with Foreign Minister of Mongolia Batmunkh Battsetseg
  3. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to attend a Stand-alone Meeting of BRICS Ministers of Foreign Affairs
  4. Upcoming talks between Sergey Lavrov and Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of the Republic of Djibouti  Mahamoud Ali Youssouf
  5. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s upcoming participation in the Primakov Readings International Forum
  6. Sergey Lavrov’s upcoming participation at the Russia-Islamic World Strategic Vision Group meeting with the heads of diplomatic missions of OIC member countries
  7. St Petersburg International Economic Forum 2021
  8. Evacuation of Russians from Gaza Strip
  9. Statements by Western politicians about the Ryanair incident
  10. EU’s 12-month extension (until May 18, 2022) of its “cyber sanctions”
  11. Special session of the UN General Assembly against corruption
  12. Mali update
  13. Possible long-term US military presence in Syria
  14. Anti-Russia statements by UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace
  15. Lithuania's Supreme Administrative Court lifts one-year ban on RTR Planeta from 2018
  16. Maintenance of military memorials outside Russia in 2021
  17. Desecration of Russian Cross monument in North Macedonia
  18. Coronavirus update
  19. 25 years of diplomatic relations between Russia and Haiti

Answers to media questions:

  1. Dominic Raab’s statement on possible sanctions over Ryanair incident in Belarus
  2. Replacement of Belarus’ state flag in Riga
  3. Detainment of Russian citizen Sofia Sapega
  4. Crisis on Armenia-Azerbaijan border
  5. Ukrainian authorities’ actions regarding Russian cultural figures
  6. Collective West’s reaction to Ryanair incident
  7. Russian-US New START Treaty
  8. Possible addition of Slovakia to unfriendly states list

 

 

 

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to speak at the conference on Russia-EU relations

 

As we announced at the previous briefing, on May 31 Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will speak at the opening of the conference on Russia-EU relations organized by the Russian Council for International Affairs in cooperation with the Embassy of Portugal and the Delegation of the EU to Moscow. The Foreign Ministry will stream the Minister’s opening remarks on its website and on social networks.

Mr Lavrov will discuss the prospects for Russia-EU relations with his Portuguese counterpart Augusto Santos Silva.

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Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s upcoming talks with Foreign Minister of Mongolia Batmunkh Battsetseg

 

On June 1, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will meet with Foreign Minister of Mongolia Batmunkh Battsetseg who will be on a working visit in Russia. They will discuss in detail key bilateral issues, the implementation of high- and highest-level agreements on further development of mutually beneficial cooperation in trade, the economy, transport, infrastructure, energy and humanitarian areas, and promotion of cooperation in the world arena and regional affairs.

The two foreign ministers agreed in principle on Batmunkh Battsetseg’s visit during their telephone conversation on February 4 of this year. They initiated anniversary events devoted to the centenary of diplomatic relations between Russia and Mongolia (November 5, 2021).

During the visit, a ceremony will be held to confer the Order of Alexander Nevsky on pilot-cosmonaut Jugderdemidiin Gurragchaa, President of the Mongolia-Russia Friendship Society, Hero of the Soviet Union and Hero of Mongolia (he flew a space mission as part of the joint crew on March 22-30, 1981). He was awarded this order in March 2021 for a major contribution to the development of comprehensive strategic partnership between the two countries.

Ms Battsetseg will also head the Mongolian delegation at the St Petersburg International Economic Forum (June 2-5, 2021).

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Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to attend a Stand-alone Meeting of BRICS Ministers of Foreign Affairs

 

On June 1, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will take part in a Stand-alone Meeting of BRICS Ministers of Foreign Affairs/International Relations via video conferencing.

The Foreign Ministers are expected to discuss important issues on the international agenda, including ways to strengthen international institutions, regional conflicts, efforts to counter new challenges and threats including COVID-19, and cooperation between the five BRICS countries in the multilateral fora.

The five countries plan to review the status of and prospects for cooperation during this year of India’s BRICS Chairship in three main areas – policy and security, economy and finance, culture and humanitarian contacts.

We support the priorities of the Indian BRICS Chairship under the motto “BRICS @15: Intra BRICS Cooperation for Continuity, Consolidation and Consensus", including strengthening the multilateral system, cooperation in combating terrorism, using digital and technological solutions to achieve Sustainable Development Goals, and enhancing cultural and humanitarian contacts. We share the Chairship's commitment to developing cooperation in healthcare and boosting the role of women in the economy.

In the run-up to the Ministerial Meeting a traditional Meeting of BRICS Sherpas/ Sous-Sherpas will also take place.

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Upcoming talks between Sergey Lavrov and Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of the Republic of Djibouti  Mahamoud Ali Youssouf

 

On June 8, Sergey Lavrov will meet with Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of the Republic of Djibouti Mahamoud Ali Youssouf, who will be in Moscow on June 7-9 on a working visit.  

The two ministers will discuss efforts to foster Russia-Djibouti cooperation in politics, trade, the economy, investment activity, education and healthcare, including implementation of potential joint projects in Djibouti.

The detailed discussion will cover current issues on the regional and international agendas with a focus on efforts to search for solutions in resolving crises in Africa, primarily in the Horn of Africa area. Some aspects of preparations for the second Russia-Africa Summit in an African country in 2022 will also be reviewed.

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Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s upcoming participation in the Primakov Readings International Forum

 

On June 8-9 the International Trade Centre will be the venue of the Primakov Readings. This is an annual international forum and this year the topic is Emerging World Order: New Challenges.

Sergey Lavrov is expected to take part in the morning session due to be held on June 9. He will share his assessments of what is happening around the world and he will outline ways of solving urgent regional and global problems. He will also answer questions put to him by participants during an interactive discussion.

The Primakov Readings rightly occupies one of the leading places among public and political forums both in our country and the rest of the world. Prominent Russian and foreign experts, politicians and diplomats take part in this forum every year. Due to the coronavirus restrictions, the forum will take place in a hybrid format:  some of its participants will take part via modern technology but many will be personally present.

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Sergey Lavrov’s upcoming participation at the Russia-Islamic World Strategic Vision Group meeting with the heads of diplomatic missions of OIC member countries

 

On June 9, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will take part in the Russia-Islamic Strategic Vision Group meeting with the heads of diplomatic missions of the member countries of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).

Chairman of the Group and President of the Republic of Tatarstan Rustam Minnikhanov and group members will share information on forums, conferences and festivals held since the previous meeting with ambassadors of the OIC member countries. They will also outline their work with the business community, journalists, religious leaders and also young people. The common goal of these activities is to develop cooperation between the Russian Federation and OIC countries in various fields.

Those present will announce future  events and gatherings: a plenary session of the Strategic Vision Group in Jeddah (Kingdom of Saudi Arabia); international economic forum, Russia-Islamic World: KazanSummit 2021, and a report on implementing the scholarly and cultural project on the St Petersburg Museum Institute of Islamic Culture. The Yevgeny Primakov International Prize will be presented.

Welcoming remarks will be delivered by Sergey Lavrov.

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St Petersburg International Economic Forum 2021

 

On June 2-5, 2021, Russia will host the 24th St Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF). Over a period of the past few years, it has become a leading global venue for business circles to communicate and to discuss key economic issues facing Russia, emerging markets and the  world in general.

The main business agenda of SPIEF-2021 consists of four thematic topics: Joining Forces to Advance Development; Delivering on National Development Targets; the Human Factor in Responding to Global Challenges; and New Technology Frontiers. The main theme of the forum is “A collective reckoning of the new global economic reality.”

Interexchanges with representatives of business communities from African countries, Germany, Italy, Qatar, the Latin and North Americas, Finland, France, Sweden and Japan and the EAEU-ASEAN dialogue will take place on the sidelines of the forum.

The forum’s business agenda includes over 130 expert discussions on a broad range of economic development subjects. It includes the Pharmaceutical Breakfast “Health as investment: Private and public partnership in the pharmaceutical sector,” the Sberbank Business Breakfast and the Global IT Business Breakfast.

Qatar is the guest country of the SPIEF-2021. Its delegation will be one of the biggest in the history of its participation in international economic forums. Representatives of 50 organisations will be coming from Qatar to attend the event. Its business programme includes discussions on the development of economic and cultural relations between Russia and Qatar. The forum will also be the venue of the Russia-Qatar Business Dialogue. This is a high-level discussion on the further development of investment opportunities.

As has become a tradition, the forum will present the results of the national rankings of the investment climate in the regions of the Russian Federation. Those taking part in the session will also cover a programme of measures to launch a new investment cycle, which the Government of the Russian Federation is drafting in 2021 in cooperation with interested business and expert associations.

The Foreign Ministry of Russia and the Rossiya Segodnya International Information agency will organise at the forum a business breakfast on the application of the law on foreign media agents in Russia. We plan to hold a sincere informal discussion with representatives of the domestic and foreign media, the expert community, the foreign diplomatic corps and also civil society.

SPIEF-2021 will take place with the strict observance of all safety measures on preventing the spread of the novel coronavirus infection (COVID-19). The Organising Committee has thoroughly drafted them taking into account WHO requirements. The organisers of the forum will provide conditions for productive work, establishment and development of business contacts There will also be opportunities to take part in the intensive cultural and sports events.

To learn more about all events of the SPIEF-2021 go to our official website.

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Evacuation of Russians from Gaza Strip

 

The voluntary evacuation of Russians from the Gaza Strip started this morning in accordance with the instructions of the President of Russia. The first group has been delivered to Egypt. In consists of 64 people, mostly women and children. As of this moment, they are on their way to Cairo International Airport, where an Emergencies Ministry aircraft is waiting to take them to Moscow.

The humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip, which has seriously deteriorated as a result of the latest Palestinian-Israeli armed conflict, remains extremely complicated. In light of this, the Representative Office of Russia in the Palestinian authority and the Russian Embassy in Egypt are working on plans to evacuate a second group of Russians.

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Statements by Western politicians about the Ryanair incident

 

We have taken note of the fact that our Western partners are talking about “the Russian connection” in their comments on the situation. Barely three days after the incident with Ryanair, our Western partner have presented their conclusions very quickly, unanimously and, as always, without any substantiation, even though the investigation is not over and aviation experts have not offered any explanations yet. I will not repeat our official position right now, but I would like to point out that it is focused on conducting an objective and detailed investigation, unlike our Western partners, who only rely on the “highly likely” principle and are speculating about the non-existent “hand of Moscow.”

Following are several quotations:

Prime Minister of the Czech Republic Andrej Babis said immediately after the incident that according to available information, there were four Russian citizens on the Ryanair flight “who probably had a lot to do with this unbelievable act.” He alleged that these people disembarked in Belarus.

The Western officials are setting an alarming trend by combining facts with lies, which are subsequently taken up and interpreted by the media in incredible ways.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki addressed this hot issue twice: “We don’t have a belief that that is the case [that Russia had any role in diverting that plane]. I did not give any indication that we had that view yesterday, and that has not changed. <…> I wasn’t trying to jump to that conclusion, only to convey that there has been a close relationship (between Russia and Belarus). <…> Our National Security Advisor, Jake Sullivan, also raised our strong concerns on this issue — the actions of the government of Belarus — with his Russian counterpart during their phone call [meeting] this morning (May 24).”

We have noticed that the focus in this context is on close relations between Russia and Belarus. It appears that they have at long last discovered the existence of the Union State. Well, better late than never. Everyone finds his or her own way to knowledge.

UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said that “it’s very difficult to believe that this kind of action could be taken without at least the acquiescence of the authorities in Moscow.”  His French colleague, Jean-Yves Le Drian, has been more cautious. He said it is impossible to say for sure, but he thinks that [Belarus] took an independent initiative, although “Russia’s lack of reaction is worthy of caution.”

Norbert Rottgen, chairman of the Bundestag’s Foreign Affairs Committee, said that “it can at least be assumed that the state hijacking of the plane was approved by the Kremlin, if there was not even operational support from Russia.”

I have read a great deal of such statements, many of which were not surprising at all, but it would seem that people should at least observe common decencies and professional ethics. The EU and NATO have think tanks. If you can’t clearly formulate your thoughts or find facts, you should at least seek the assistance of the agencies you have been actively financing, especially in the past few years. They will probably write more adequate texts. As for what we have so far heard and read, it is a common salvo bordering on hysterics, on the one hand, and absolute disunity when it comes to facts.

The Belarusian “pseudo-government in exile” went as far as to report fantastic information about four Russian citizens who allegedly disembarked in Minsk. Their Western curators took up the news, which was disseminated by the media. No Russian citizens got off the plane in Minsk. All the explanations have been provided, along with the names of the Belarusian and Greek citizens who did get off the plane, and we have also commented on the situation with the Russian girl.

These statements are based on a big mistake of those who invented the story about the four Russians who allegedly got off the plane. They clearly acted on orders. Maybe it’s time to say sorry, to say that you were wrong and that you will not do this again? This is what those who make factual mistakes usually do.

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EU’s 12-month extension (until May 18, 2022) of its “cyber sanctions”

 

We estimate the EU Council’s decision on a 12-month extension of its restrictions in response to cyber attacks threatening the European Union or its member-states as an extremely unconstructive, politically motivated step with regard to Russia. 

Maintaining the sanction mechanisms in the information and communications sphere is an atavism against the background of states’ intensifying, open, inclusive and democratic international dialogue on venues at all levels, which is aimed at creating a system of international information security (IIS), including by developing universal rules of conduct to prevent conflicts in the IIS area and remove misunderstandings. 

We believe that this step is at odds with the EU-declared readiness to strengthen international cooperation in this sphere. Rather, on the contrary: it is cultivating total distrust and is a tool of political pressure on countries. Brussels’ consideration of “cyber sanctions” as an essential measure to achieve the goals of the EU Common Foreign and Security Policy is unconvincing and suggests the idea of an approaching next round of a “witch hunt,” where the West’s rules-based world order is set in opposition to a “collective enemy (or enemies),” on whom they can groundlessly put the blame for malicious cyberspace activities. The Russian Federation has consistently advocated the peaceful use of information space in full conformity with the generally recognised principles of international law enshrined in the UN Charter, specifically the non-use or threat of force, non-interference in internal affairs of other states, and respect for state sovereignty. 

Russia is ready for a constructive and open dialogue. To this end, early last year, we already made a suggestion to the EU, to establish direct interaction between related experts, who can solve all the problems in a maximally prompt way.

However regrettably, all our initiatives remain unanswered.

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Special session of the UN General Assembly against corruption

 

On June 2-4, the UN General Assembly will hold, in a hybrid format, a special session against corruption.  The event will be taking place pursuant to General Assembly resolution 73/191 with the aim of discussing certain important corruption-related measures, responses to this threat, and efforts to promote international anti-corruption cooperation. The Russian Federation will be represented by Deputy Foreign Minister Oleg Syromolotov.

A political declaration agreed upon in advance by consensus through intergovernmental negotiations under the auspices of the Conference of the States Parties to the United Nations Convention against Corruption will be presented for adoption by the General Assembly at its special session. The project work within the framework of the intergovernmental process took nearly a year. The resolution covers all the main aspects of the anti-corruption fight, including prevention, criminalisation, international cooperation and restitution of assets.     

We think it important that the declaration recognises the existence of gaps in international law regulating such matters as identification, arrest, confiscation and restoration of stolen funds to a country of origin. There is a general understanding of the need to shore up the international legal asset recovery regime, with further practical steps in this direction mapped out. 

The resolution includes other matters that the Russian Federation prioritises, including greater efficiency of international preventive cooperation, the use of cutting-edge technologies to identify corruption-related offenses, as well as anti-corruption education and training.  Russia came up with an initiative to add to the resolution a provision on the need for anti-corruption protection of sports to be achieved via coordination of national efforts on an inclusive and impartial basis, primarily within the UN framework, with a special focus to be placed on children’s and youth sports. 

The special session will be broadcast live by the UN Web Television Channel. A number of specialised themed events have also been timed to coincide with the event. Among other things, the Prosecutor General’s Office of the Russian Federation is organising an expert discussion on “International Cooperation on Issues of Corruption Prevention.” For more information on the special session, please go to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime website.

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Mali update

 

On May 24, 2021, military authorities arrested Interim President Bah Ndaw and the Interim Prime Minister Moctar Ouane in Bamako, Republic of Mali. They are currently being held at a military garrison in Kati.

Let me remind you that, on August 18, 2020, a group of Mali military officers headed by Colonel Assimi Goita ousted the country’s top leaders, including President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita. They subsequently established interim institutions of state authority and appointed former Defence Minister Bah Ndaw as Interim President. An interim government headed by Prime Minister Moctar Ouane was also appointed. Colonel Goita, the coup leader, became Vice President.

On May 14, 2021, President Bah Ndaw issued an executive order dismissing the government. Moctar Ouane was instructed to establish a new cabinet and prepare for general elections to be held in February 2022.

According to incoming reports, the arrest of interim leaders was motivated by Moctar Ouane’s decision to dismiss military members of the cabinet, namely, the Defence Minister and the Security Minister. Vice President Goita made a statement that the President had failed to coordinate his actions with him in violation of an interim political charter.

Moscow is concerned about these developments in Mali. We urge the authorities to release members of the country’s interim leadership and to resolve the situation peacefully.

We consider it important to steadily return the situation in Mali into the constitutional framework on the basis of an inclusive nationwide dialogue and to continue the systematic efforts to prepare for the general democratic elections, scheduled for December 31, 2021 and February 27, 2022, with the assistance of the Economic Community of West African States and the African Union.

We proceed from the need to consistently implement the Algiers Peace Agreement by Mali. There is no alternative to this agreement, which is aimed at achieving lasting peace in this state.

As a permanent member of the UN Security Council, Russia will continue to constructively participate in international efforts to normalise the situation in Mali and to support Bamako on a bilateral basis.

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Possible long-term US military presence in Syria

 

We have noted statements by General Kenneth F. McKenzie, the Commander of the United States Central Command, on the alleged need for the long-term presence of US forces in Syria under the pretext of the ISIS threat there. We would like to note that, for some reason, General McKenzie omitted to mention the fact that units of the US Armed Forces are currently in Syria without Damascus’ permission, which makes their presence illegitimate.

Moreover, when he says that US military personnel is the only force fighting ISIS in Syria and preventing it from resuming its activities, the Head of the US Central Command is not being entirely truthful. We would like to remind our partners that, first of all, it was Russia’s efforts that played a decisive role in defeating the seat of international terrorism in Syria and made it possible to oust ISIS militants and supporters of other terrorist groups from the country’s key districts.

Military personnel from Moscow, Baghdad, Tehran and Damascus continue to expand their coordination and counterterrorism cooperation within the framework of the Baghdad Information Centre. Cooperation between Iraqi and Syrian leaders aiming to destroy the remaining terrorist groups on the border between their countries is an equally important factor of stabilisation.

In our opinion, the Pentagon’s attempts to illegally gain a foothold in Syria under the pretext of fighting terrorism will not help stabilise the region. The Americans are pursuing entirely different goals there, including those linked with hydrocarbon deposits to the north of the Euphrates.

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Anti-Russia statements by UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace

 

Another representative of military officials in the collective West – UK Secretary of State for Defence Ben Wallace – has made a series of anti-Russia statements naming Moscow as the UK's “number one adversary threat”.

The UK’s Defence Secretary is known as one of the most consistent anti-fans of our country in the British government. At the same time, just as before, his assertive anti-Russia rhetoric contains no specificity.

For my part, I would like to recommend that the British ‘strategists’ discontinue their destructive and destabilising activities near the Russian border. I also really do hope that London has enough political maturity to perform a more sober analysis of what is happening in the world and to tackle the real rather than the imaginary challenges facing that country. Just stop living in apprehension of endless threats. I would say, think positive.

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Lithuania's Supreme Administrative Court lifts one-year ban on RTR Planeta from 2018

 

On May 12, 2021, the Supreme Administrative Court of Lithuania overturned the 2018 decision of the National Radio and Television Commission to ban the retransmission of RTR-Planeta for a period of 12 months upholding a lower court’s decision. That decision was also overturned.

The new decision was made after exposing violations made by the Commission members. It appears that some of them were not even entitled to hold their positions because they simultaneously worked in the media. This means the ban was not imposed by the required quorum, or two-thirds of the Commission members. The same goes for the fine imposed on the operator providing the rebroadcast of the television channel in Lithuania.

While acknowledging that the illegal decision was canceled, we nevertheless cannot fail to note the level of cynicism and politicisation of all the processes related to the media in Lithuania, the Russian media in particular. This case is eloquent confirmation of the assessments we have repeatedly voiced about the Lithuanian authorities’ biased approach to Russian media activities on their territory.

Once again, we are pointing out that Lithuania’s policy, which leads to image losses for Lithuania itself, is in line with Brussels’ destructive course in relation to Russia and its attacks on the Russian media, which are groundlessly accused by EU leaders of propaganda, disinformation and other wrongs.

This sort of behaviour is unacceptable. Just a reminder that this is the media and journalists we are talking about. Bans, slander and labeling against the media are unworthy moves, and lead to extremely negative perception of the countries and international agencies that make them. This is a very important point – there is backlash, which is sometimes the only way to prevent further restrictions, and there is unprovoked initiative to activate and use all such tools to suppress dissent.

Citing Lithuania’s example, I would like to call on the authorities in neighbouring Latvia and Estonia, as well as in other EU member states, to discontinue the attacks on the Russian media and illegal actions against them. Apart from being contradictory on various points, such actions do nothing but damage these country’s own reputations. We can see what this reckless policy has led to in Lithuania.

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Maintenance of military memorials outside Russia in 2021

 

We have recently received many questions about efforts on the maintenance of military memorials outside Russia this year, which involved President of Russia Vladimir Putin and Foreign Ministry representatives.

We report on these efforts during almost all our briefings. Today I would like to provide comprehensive information on this matter, with facts and figures.

Under the Russian legislation, the Foreign Ministry has many responsibilities when it comes to the maintenance of military memorials outside Russia. For example, members of Russian diplomatic offices and consular departments abroad monitor the state of all graves of Russian/Soviet soldiers who perished in the line of duty. Russian offices abroad do this on a regular basis. The practical results include the proper maintenance of Russian/Soviet war memorials in foreign countries.

We have reported before that despite the COVID-19 restrictions adopted in foreign countries our embassies and consulates implemented the bulk of the planned maintenance and repair projects in 2020. In particular, they organised the repairs of such important monuments as the Bronze Soldier in Tallinn (Estonia) and the Alyosha monument in Plovdiv (Bulgaria), and installed memorial stones in the Zvolen cemetery in Slovakia, with the names of 11,327 Soviet soldiers who were killed in the Banska Bystrica Region of Czechoslovakia.

In 2021, we plan to renovate and repair 250 cemeteries and cemetery sections, common and individual graves abroad, as well as approximately 25 monuments located outside cemeteries.

We are completing the third, last phase of the comprehensive repairs of the main Soviet war cemetery in Leusden, the Netherlands. Dutch activists have proposed establishing a small museum on the history of that site. This proposal is being discussed at the interdepartmental level. By the end of 2021, the Interior Ministry and the Defence Ministry of Russia plan to complete a joint project commemorating the Soviet crew of the Catalina flying boat, which crashed near the Hasvik municipality in Norway in 1944. We also plan to start implementing a project to erect a monument to Soviet citizens forced to work at the heavy industry facilities in Luxembourg during WWII.

We continue working closely together with the Russian Military Historical Society on an interactive map of Russian/Soviet memorials and monuments on the Memory Place portal. In January to March of this year, the Russian Embassy in Latvia has completed the marking on the map of all such facilities located in its consular district. I would like to point out that information about graves includes a link to the names of all those buried there. Our diplomatic offices in Berlin, Warsaw, Chisinau and many other cities are working actively on this project.

I would like to draw your attention to the Memory Place website once again. You can go there to see for yourselves the results of our foreign offices’ efforts.

I would also like to express our gratitude to the caring people throughout the world, including both Russians and foreign citizens who have volunteered their assistance. They are helping us of their own free will. There are very many examples of such assistance and caring attitude. People write to us when they find information about Soviet war graves. They also report on the maintenance of monuments in the areas where there are no Soviet representative offices. They offer their assistance and support and express their views on how such projects can be implemented. We bow low to them. Thank you very much!

I would also like to add that your letters are not brushed aside at the embassies; they are not just carefully scrutinised but are used as part of our large-scale and extremely important work. Don’t think that your desire to help is disregarded. No, it does meet with our grateful response. Thank you again.

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Desecration of Russian Cross monument in North Macedonia

 

The desecration of the Russian Cross monument in Bitola, North Macedonia on May 24 is a blemish on our countries’ common history.

We would like to remind everyone that this monument, dedicated to Russian Imperial Consul Alexander Rostkovsky, was unveiled in 2003 at the initiative of the Bitola residents on the 100th anniversary of his tragic death.

We share the outrage expressed by the North Macedonian community over this incident and expect the country’s authorities to conduct an investigation and call the culprits to account.

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Coronavirus update

 

We view Russia’s COVID-19 vaccines as our contribution to the global efforts against the pandemic. We believe that global vaccination is a top priority and reaffirm our openness to cooperation in the fight against the pandemic with all the interested parties on the basis of non-discrimination and transparency.

Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine has been registered by the national authorities of 66 countries, which is the second largest number of approvals throughout the world.

This vaccine is being delivered to approximately 35 countries. We are paying special attention to the transfer of the vaccine technology to increase its production abroad to meet export requirements. Some countries, notably Argentina, Belarus, India, Kazakhstan and Serbia, have started local production, and several others are preparing to do so in the near future. Similar agreements have been signed with companies in Egypt, China, the Republic of Korea and Turkey. Many other foreign partners have indicated their interest in this cooperation as well.

Work is underway to add Sputnik V to the WHO’s Emergency Use Listing Procedure and to register it at the European Medicines Agency.

We believe that this Russian vaccine, which has shown 91.6 percent efficacy and reliably protects against severe forms of the disease, can by right be considered one of the most in-demand vaccines against the coronavirus infection. We would like to reaffirm our openness to cooperation with all interested parties when it comes to vaccine deliveries, the analysis of its efficacy and the possible localisation of its production outside Russia.

The COVID-19 trends this week were almost the same as those made public during our briefing last week. According to the WHO data as of May 25, as many as 166.3 million new coronavirus cases have been reported throughout the world and the average daily increment was approximately 500,000.

In one of his recent statements, Director-General of the World Health Organisation Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus once again highlighted the importance of global solidarity in the distribution of vaccines and the exchange of research and technology for effectively combating COVID-19, including its identified and potential new strains. We fully share this view and also point out the inadmissibility of politicising the topics of public health and healthcare.

Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine reliably remains one of the safest and most in-demand immunomodulators. It is delivered at competitive prices, and often free of charge, as we have reported on many occasions, at the official request of our partners. The most recent such request the Russian Government received was from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).

Since the global coronavirus situation remains volatile, we urge Russians to plan their foreign travel very carefully, leaving nothing to chance, since the situation can change dramatically any day, as we have seen happen in a number of countries during the past few months. Tighter coronavirus restrictions and lockdowns can come as an unpleasant surprise, complicating the tourists’ return back home (actually, closed borders have become a fact of life in many countries). We also urge everyone to remember about the elementary risks of contracting COVID-19, including its dangerous strains, which are spreading throughout the world very rapidly.

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25 years of diplomatic relations between Russia and Haiti

 

Diplomatic relations between the Russian Federation and the Republic of Haiti were established on June 2, 1996. Our ties have been constructive and friendly from the very start, are developing successfully now and hold a promise of new opportunities and areas.

Russia has always been interested in Haiti, which has a rich and complicated history. It has covered a difficult path from colonialism to independence and was the first country in the region to declare sovereignty in 1804.

Haiti is facing new challenges connected with a lasting period of internal political instability. We are aware of its problems and are closely following the country’s efforts to resolve them. We are helping our Haitian friends to maintain political stability and peace and protect human rights, both at the bilateral level and under the auspices of the United Nations Integrated Office in Haiti. We are always ready to give it a helping hand, just as we did after natural disasters.

Our countries are cooperating on the international stage and when promoting candidates during elections in the UN system. Our countries are committed to the principles of international law sealed in the UN Charter, including respect for sovereignty and non-interference in internal affairs.

Russia is open to dialogue and cooperation with Haiti, which was reaffirmed during the March 30 telephone conversation between Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and his Haitian counterpart and now Prime Minister of Haiti Claude Joseph. Russia, as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, will continue working to ensure that UN assistance is used towards achieving a true normalisation and stronger sovereignty and independence in Haiti.

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Answers to media questions:

Question: UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said that London may consider sanctions against the Nord Stream 2 and Yamal-Europe energy pipelines following the Ryanair incident in Belarus, in which Russia could be involved, according to him. What is the Russian Foreign Ministry’s opinion of this statement?

Maria Zakharova: We have seen these statements by UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, and we are aware of his views on the incident with the emergency landing of a Ryanair flight in Minsk on May 23.

This did not come as a surprise. This is the notorious British logic and London’s official mentality. We have to state once again that Britain’s foreign policy has stopped being rational during the past 10 years and has become a hostage of Russophobic puppets of the British political establishment. Regrettably, these attacks are drowning out the voices of the politicians who call for a pragmatic dialogue with Moscow. We are fully aware that this time-serving policy does not meet the interests of the people of Britain. Once again, this is being done by the UK political establishment and its representatives.

I would like to remind everyone that any unfriendly actions taken against Russia will inevitably receive a harsh and commensurate response. And responsibility for the negative consequences of this for bilateral relations will rest squarely with the initiators of confrontation.

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Question: The incident with the replacement of Belarus’s state flag in Riga involved the Latvian Foreign Minister and the Mayor of Riga. How does Moscow evaluate such actions?

Maria Zakharova: Moscow has already issued a comment and described the incident as an outrage.

As for the incident with the Russian state flag, we have posted a comment on the Foreign Ministry’s website, which is available.

I can repeat the key points now. As you may be aware, the Riga authorities have removed the Russian state flag from a downtown area where the national flags of the countries taking part in the world hockey championships were raised. The Russian state flag was replaced with the flag of the Russian Olympic Committee.

First of all, this is open disregard for the state symbol of Russia. In this connection, we have taken relevant actions in Moscow and Riga, pointing out that such provocative moves can have a destructive effect on bilateral relations.

Regrettably, these contemptible actions are fully in line with the openly Russophobic policy of the Latvian ruling elite. The attempt to blame the incident on municipal officials is untenable. References to the decisions of international sports organisations prohibiting the use of the Russian flag at the championships look feeble as well, because the restriction only covers the use of the Russian flag at sports arenas. Incidentally, the Latvian officials had said so publicly to explain their decision to raise the Russian flag in the streets of Latvian cities. In short, there is no reasonable explanation for the incident.

It looks as if our Latvian neighbours are doing their best to gain a foothold among the states that are unfriendly to Russia. If this is Latvia’s conscious choice, we will draw relevant conclusions from this.

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Question: Is there any new information on the situation with Russian citizen Sofia Sapega, who was arrested in Minsk on May 23 along with Belarusian journalist Roman Protasevich on extremism charges?

Maria Zakharova: The Russian Embassy in Minsk is closely following the Russian woman’s situation and is helping her. On May 25, the Russian consul was cleared by the Belarusian authorities to meet with Sapega; the meeting took place on the same day at the Belarusian security service pre-trial detention centre. The Russian woman said that she felt fine and had no complaints about any improper treatment. She asked for assistance in solving some everyday issues; the request was satisfied.

On May 25, the Russian embassy received an official resolution from the Prosecutor General of Belarus placing Sofia Sapega in custody for two months because they have reason to suspect her of criminal activity. According to Belarusian law, within 10 days of her arrest, she must be formally charged or she must be released.

Russian diplomats maintain contact with our citizen’s relatives and her lawyer, and will continue to provide all the necessary assistance in protecting her rights.

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Question: On the morning of May 12, the Azerbaijani armed forces committed a provocation, crossing the state border of Armenia in the vicinity of Black Lake in the Syunik region. Ignoring the calls from the international community, Azerbaijan has not pulled out from Armenian territory, and even continued its illegal actions. On May 25, an Armenian contract serviceman, junior sergeant Gevorg Khurshudyan, was fatally wounded during a firefight that followed shooting from the Azerbaijani side in the Verin Shorzha border area of the Gegharkunik province. Two co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group, the United States and France, bluntly demand the withdrawal of Azerbaijani troops from the sovereign territory of Armenia. What is Russia's position as a co-chair of the OSCE Minsk Group?

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who commented on the crisis on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border, said the parties had reached an agreement, but he did not elaborate. What kind of agreement have they reached?

President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev said in a discussion, “For our part, we are willing to recognise Armenia’s borders. But Armenia should also recognise Karabakh as part of Azerbaijan.” Until now, the status of Artsakh has been one of the matters being negotiated by the Minsk Group. But now Ilham Aliyev has declared that Armenia should recognise Karabakh as a region of Azerbaijan. What is your assessment of this statement?

Maria Zakharova: Your questions are actually interconnected. I’ll give a comprehensive answer, if I may.

The Minsk Group Co-Chairs – representatives of Russia, the United States and France – are exclusively concerned with the Nagorno-Karabakh settlement. This is spelled out in their mandate from the OSCE. In the Statement of April 13, 2021, the Co-Chairs stressed that “special attention should be paid to the achievement of a final comprehensive and sustainable settlement” of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. In this respect, the Co-Chairs called on the parties “to resume high-level political dialogue under the auspices of the Co-Chairs at the earliest opportunity” and reminded the sides that “additional efforts are required to resolve remaining areas of concern.”

  • the return of all POWs and other detainees in accordance with the provisions of international humanitarian law;
  • the exchange of all data necessary to conduct effective demining of conflict regions;
  • the lifting of restrictions on access to Nagorno-Karabakh, including for representatives of international humanitarian organisations;
  • the preservation and protection of religious and cultural heritage;
  • the fostering of direct contacts and co-operation between communities affected by the conflict; and
  • other people-to-people confidence building measures.

I would like to underscore that this format of negotiation among the Co-Chairs enjoys broad international support and must continue to handle the political settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. As you know, Baku and Yerevan still have significant disagreements, especially concerning the status of Nagorno-Karabakh. After the well-known events in September-November 2020, both countries have just embarked on the path towards restoring a full-fledged dialogue and mutual trust.

Russia is making vigorous mediation efforts to normalise relations between Armenia and Azerbaijan, stabilise the South Caucasus, and turn it into a region of prosperity. Russian peacekeepers are upholding peace and security in Nagorno-Karabakh. A trilateral working group co-chaired by deputy prime ministers of Russia, Azerbaijan and Armenia is working to unblock transport and economic ties in the region. The Russian side is also closely involved in resolving the most recent incident on the Azerbaijani-Armenian border, helping to ease the tension. We maintain regular contacts with Baku and Yerevan at the highest and high levels. The military and border services, and foreign affairs agencies have their channels of prompt communication as well.

The recent border incident was not directly related to the Nagorno-Karabakh problem. It happened because the Azerbaijani-Armenian border has never been properly demarcated based on international law; the situation has been inherited from Soviet time.

We strongly believe that such situations should be resolved exclusively by peaceful negotiation. We believe delimitation of the Azerbaijani-Armenian border with its subsequent demarcation should provide a long-term solution to the problem. Russia is ready to help launch this process in every way possible.

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Question: Several days ago, at the suggestion of the SBU (Security Service of Ukraine), the Ukrainian Ministry of Culture blacklisted six creators and actors of the Russian film Checkpoint. Earlier, the names of these same people, just like our other actors and cultural figures, were posted on the Ukrainian Myrotvorets website. Please comment on the Ukrainian authorities’ actions carried out with regard to Russian filmmakers. The film Checkpoint. Officer’s Story is based on a true story. How do the words that they pose a threat to Ukraine’s national security fit into the framework of international law and common sense?

Maria Zakharova: Here’s a brief overview of the matter. On May 17, the Ukrainian Ministry of Culture and Information Policy, upon the proposal of the country’s security service, added three Russian actors, as well as the director, a cameraman and a composer from the film Checkpoint. Officer’s Story to the list of persons who pose a threat to national security. Their names appeared at the same time on the infamous Myrotvorets website. The impression is that the Ukrainian special services immediately fan-mailed it to a wide group of recipients. At the same time, in accordance with the amendments to the Ukrainian Law On Cinematography made after the Maidan protests, the State Cinema Committee (Goskino) is to refuse to issue or revoke the previously issued state certificate for the right to distribute and screen films, in particular if one of the participants in the film is an individual included on the list of persons who pose a threat to national security.

We followed this “drama about drama.” The fact is that the drama directed by Vera Sokolova, as you rightly noted, is based on a true story of Russian sailors Alexander Baranov and Maxim Odintsov who were captured by the Security Service of Ukraine and spent three years (November 2016 - September 2019) in captivity in Ukraine. The story was written by Honoured Lawyer of Russia Ivan Solovyov who, as head of the Russian Office of the Ombudsman for Human Rights, had a personal part in having them released from the SBU confines.

Unfortunately, Ukraine’s actions fully fit into their policy that seeks to establish political censorship and strict control over the minds of their citizens. The ban imposed on a new Russian film is just one of the elements of a large-scale campaign by President of Ukraine Zelensky to mop up the country’s information field. Modern Ukraine is increasingly becoming the totalitarian state depicted in George Orwell’s 1984, in which the Ministry of Truth engaged in destroying media materials and works of art that could call into question the impeccability of the leaders’ policy.

They chose the road to Europe, but made a wrong turn. So, today in Ukraine the current (let’s call a spade a spade) nationalist government is doing the same. It is closing independent TV channels that try to provide objective assessments of what is going on in the country and the world and persecutes journalists and politicians who dare to express their own point of view. It outlaws books and films that reflect historical events, materials, magazines, publications, any information materials or fiction that they declare as harmful to national security, as you said.

Nobody knows what kind of beast “Ukrainian national security” is. Everyone knows that there is a set of punitive measures, entities and tools to select those who do not threaten and those who do threaten Ukraine’s national security. The world has been there before. That’s not new. There’s nothing new about it. The news is that we all believed that the entire set of human rights conventions and documents, and everything that protects an individual and their point of view, was supposed to take humanity to a groundbreaking level in this area, but it turned out that, unfortunately, the past will not let go of them.

It is surprising that they declare illegal not only something that is related to the historical context, which the Ukrainian leaders approach from a position of their own, as we now know, but things that have nothing to do with history, politics, or sociopolitical views are prohibited as well. We have cited numerous examples.

The current Ukrainian government is pursuing a tough national-linguistic policy aimed at squeezing the Russian language and Russian culture which is basic for the overwhelming majority of Ukrainian citizens out of the country’s life. Multilingualism and the unique multicultural space, which took centuries to take shape, are being destroyed. Moreover, this is being done in violation of the Constitution of Ukraine and the international norms and principles as prescribed in the OSCE, the Council of Europe and UNESCO documents.

We will go beyond fiction, since Orwell is not the only image that comes to mind here. There are even sadder parallels. In Nazi Germany, the authorities drew up black lists of books that ran counter to National Socialism ideology and burned them. This similarity between the two regimes is even more disturbing, since the scale and frequency of neo-Nazi actions are growing rapidly in Ukraine and are becoming increasingly aggressive. The most important part is not that they are becoming more aggressive, but that the authorities are unable or less and less inclined to control it. They just can’t. We also mentioned at some point that the nationalist monster at some point tends to outgrow its creators, which is what we are witnessing now. Every year, processions are held in honour of Nazi collaborator Stepan Bandera, and streets and civilian infrastructure sites are named after Nazi criminals. A march whose participants glorified the 14th Ukrainian Grenadier Division of the SS (Galicia) took place in Kiev on April 28. The march was protected by police, and the participants were not detained but continued to march. The authorities formally condemned it only after it caused an international response from those who most often support Ukraine in its aspirations, undertakings and the political course. And in this particular case, they did not let it go unnoticed and did not turn a blind eye.

I don’t think the citizens of Ukraine, who supported or recognised the February 2014 coup, had this kind of democracy, these values and this life, in mind.

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Question: As you already noted, commenting on the situation with the Ryanair flight in Minsk, our Western partners began spreading and planting statements about a non-existent “Kremlin connection” in this situation. The collective West has launched a vigorous condemnation campaign with calls to stop flying over Belarus and to impose sanctions. Incidentally, Russia also found itself under attack, judging by the statement by the President of the European Commission. Ursula von der Leyen said at a news conference following the first day of the EU summit that Russia was Belarus’s biggest neighbour, that they remained closely related, as neighbours and important trade partners. She also said Moscow was allegedly challenging the EU’s values ​​and interests through sabotage, disinformation and cyberattacks.

Does the Ministry of Foreign Affairs regard what is happening as a pre-planned purposeful action to create a pretext for new sanctions and to pressure both Russia and Belarus? How will Russia react to the attacks from its Western partners?

Maria Zakharova: Let’s separate these two questions. I partially said how we assess the Western reaction. But here, it is very important to understand that any additional events that have been prompted or even programmed by the collective West cannot change the general trend or trajectory of this Russophobic discourse. We have more or less realised where the leaders of this collective West are leading all those who look up to them – toward the containment of Russia (with sanctions), deep interference in our internal affairs, etc. We have told you about this many times. So in this context, even when a neutral event occurs – one connected with Russia or even unrelated to Russia – one way or another, the West will never stop trying to link it to us or use it in their own interests.

The second part of your question has to do with the investigation of the incident that occurred in the sky over Belarus. The current rhetoric is about Russia supporting Minsk, Russia not supporting Minsk, Russia supporting the West, or Russia not supporting the West. In fact, Russia has supported an investigation that should establish what happened. It should be carried out relying on the available facts. Some evidence has been provided; and more should be provided.

Such investigations are carried out regularly because, unfortunately, this world is not perfect.

We have been aware of many investigations – as the public, ordinary people, readers, as citizens of a particular country involved in the incident. There definitely have been many more that we are unaware of because those were not high-profile incidents. Still, airlines, the relevant authorities, the owners of the airport or a private agency that is involved in such an incident are obliged to probe into such cases. They can be prompt or protracted, but one way or another, any incident that happens in the air is subject to investigation. I am not an ICAO expert, not an expert on international aviation security, but we are well aware of a large number of cases like this. I will not list them all now, or talk about the main parameters of such investigations. These things do happen with a certain regularity, almost on a daily basis. Some events require appropriate investigations, and these investigations are carried out.

The question is why this case should be an exception. Is there any reason why this incident should not be treated as an aviation security and flight safety case, but that it should be considered as part of a political agenda? Who decided to substitute a regular investigation based on laws and regulations with political statements, with the terrible polyphony we are hearing now?

Moreover, look at one detail, which I think is egregious – the airline’s statements. The first statement was made from one perspective, but the angle was later changed under the pressure of political statements made by heads of state as well as the EU and NATO. So I would stress once again – we support a thorough investigation based on facts, taking as long as necessary and conducted by experts.

I would also like to point out the fact that the media in those countries, whose leaders made these statements, have largely ignored, as if on cue. Minsk said it was not just ready to conduct such an investigation. Minsk announced complete openness and a willingness to host international experts in Belarus. What could be more logical or legitimate than starting an investigation with the very actions that Minsk proposed? This is the essence of our position. This is where efforts should be channeled.

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Question: According to a report by the US Congressional Budget Office, the United States plans to spend $634 billion on the maintenance and modernisation of its nuclear forces over the 2021-2030 period. The largest costs would be for ballistic missile submarines and intercontinental ballistic missiles. Spending on nuclear weapons laboratories and supporting activities of the Department of Energy, which are key to the replacement of existing nuclear weapons and warheads, will increase by $23 billion. What is Russia’s attitude towards the projected increases, and how could this US decision influence the future of the New START Treaty?

Maria Zakharova: The Russian-US New START Treaty does not prohibit the parties from modernising and replacing their strategic offensive armaments provided they comply with the quantitative limits and several other restrictions set out in the treaty. Thus, the US’s modernisation plans for its nuclear arms forces and support systems do not run contrary to its international commitments.

Nevertheless, we are closely monitoring US activities in this sphere, including the projected growth in long-term spending, primarily to see if these steps tie in with the goal of maintaining strategic stability.

As for the New START Treaty, Russia does have specific and substantiated complaints about US compliance with its provisions. However, our concerns are not connected with the modernisation of US nuclear forces, but with the conversion of certain strategic offensive weapons. This has been conducted in a manner that prevents us from verifying that this hardware can no longer be used as nuclear weapons, as stipulated in the treaty. We insist that the American side strictly comply with all provisions of New START. We will continue doing this.

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Question: It is being rumoured in Slovakia that Russia will extend the list of so-called unfriendly states. Could Slovakia be added to the list because it was the first among EU states to support the Czech Republic over the Vrbetice explosions?

Maria Zakharova: I would like to remind you about the story behind the so-called list of unfriendly countries. It was adopted in response to actions taken by the United States. This is not a theoretical or philosophical matter. It is a concrete response to concrete actions. As Russian leadership pointed out, we waited for a long time, very patiently, for our partners to clear up their thoughts and adjust their actions to their statements, which they made publicly and through bilateral channels. We gave them numerous opportunities to reboot rather than overload our relations and to take less high-profile but more effective measures to promote our bilateral ties and contacts. We explored every available path.

When we saw that the trend had not been reversed but was even gaining momentum, we came up with a relevant response. It was at that moment that Prague became active, which is why it has been put on the list.

The list is a response to specific actions rather than a theoretical matter that has nothing to do with reality. There are concrete actions, and there are concrete answers to these actions. When we formulate our answer in each particular case, we choose the most effective, expedient and pragmatic measure.

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