Briefing of the Foreign Ministry Spokesman

1 July 202118:58

Briefing by Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova, Moscow, July 1, 2021

 

Table of contents

  1. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s upcoming talks with Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Bahrain Abdullatif bin Rashid Alzayani
  2. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s visit to Southeast Asia
  3. Opening ceremony of Russia-Greece Year of History 2021
  4. UN Security Council meeting on Bosnia and Herzegovina
  5. Czech compensation demands over Vrbetice explosions
  6. The 2020 EU Annual Report on Human Rights and Democracy in the World
  7. A seminar in the French Senate about anti-Semitism in Ukraine
  8. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) outlook
  9. Update on Ethiopia
  10. Sixteenth conference of Russian and German partner cities
  11. Russia-Italy cooperation on preserving Genoese cultural landmarks in Crimea and the Black Sea-Azov basin
  12. German troops in Iron Wolf 2021 NATO drills in Lithuania
  13. Another example of the Polish official policy aimed at falsifying the history of WWII
  14. Germany’s attempts to prevent RT DE broadcasting
  15. Several Iranian media websites blocked on the United States’ order

Answers to media questions:

  1. Prospects for the Russia-EU summit
  2. Police in the Czech Republic detain Roma community member
  3. Russia’s position on more active moves by the Taliban
  4. Possible impacts of Taliban’s military activities on Central Asian states
  5. Imposition of new sanctions against Russia
  6. Dutch Defence Ministry’s statement on the  situation involving the Evertsen 
  7. NATO’s  SeaBreeze 2021 exercises
  8. Russian Foreign Ministry’s role in a situation involving Russian citizens detained for participating in Belarusian protests
  9. Update on Yegor Dudnikov 
  10. Removal of the state flag of the Russian Federation in Latvia 
  11. Estonian educational system transition to the  state language
  12.  Russian Foreign Ministry staff are vaccinated with Sputnik V

 

 

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s upcoming talks with Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Bahrain Abdullatif bin Rashid Alzayani

 

As we announced at the previous briefing, tomorrow, on July 2, talks between Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Bahrain Abdullatif bin Rashid Alzayani, who will be in our country on a working visit, will take place in Moscow.

Mr Lavrov and Mr Alzayani will have a thorough conversation on developments in Syria, the Arab-Israeli peace settlement, the prospects for lasting stability in the Gulf area and other pressing issues on the regional agenda. They will also discuss key issues of Russian-Bahraini cooperation at the UN and other multilateral platforms.

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Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s visit to Southeast Asia

 

On July 5-8, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will visit the State of Brunei Darussalam, the Republic of Indonesia and the Lao People’s Democratic Republic.

On July 5, in Bandar Seri Begawan, Sergey Lavrov will meet with Sultan of Brunei Hassanal Bolkiah and hold talks with Second Minister of Foreign Affairs Erywan bin Pehin Yusof. The parties will exchange views on a wide range of topics on the bilateral agenda, including cooperation in the political, trade, economic, cultural, defence and security spheres.

In addition, interaction of the two countries within the UN and other international platforms will be discussed. Taking into account Brunei’s Chairmanship of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, special attention will be paid to promoting the Russia-ASEAN strategic partnership and coordinating steps within ASEAN-centred forums and formats.

On July 6, in Jakarta, Sergey Lavrov will meet with President of Indonesia Joko Widodo and have talks with Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi. The sides will discuss the entire range of bilateral relations, current issues on the global and regional agendas and interaction in the fight against the spread of the new coronavirus.

Mr Lavrov and Mrs Marsudi will also hold, via videoconference, a Special Russia-ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of Russian-ASEAN relations and the 25th anniversary of the establishment of a full dialogue between Russia and the association. It will focus on further developing the strategic partnership with the association and the formation of security architecture and cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region.

A separate meeting is also scheduled between Sergey Lavrov and Secretary-General of ASEAN, Dato Lim Jock Hoi.

On July 7, Sergey Lavrov is scheduled to meet in Vientiane with President of Laos Thongloun Sisoulith, Prime Minister Phankham Viphavanh, as well as to have talks with Minister of Foreign Affairs Saleumxay Kommasith.

As part of existing strategic partnership relations between Russia and Laos in the Asia-Pacific region that and based on a constructive political dialogue, mutually beneficial cooperation and bonds of traditional friendship, the parties will discuss a wide range of issues of bilateral cooperation in the trade, economic, scientific, technical and cultural fields and exchange views on current international and regional topics.

The main points of Sergey Lavrov’s programme have been outlined. We will promptly inform you of any changes.

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Opening ceremony of Russia-Greece Year of History 2021

 

On July 2, an official ceremony will be held in Athens to open the Russia-Greece Year of History, which will be held throughout 2021 under the auspices of the President of Russia and the Prime Minister of Greece.

The chairs of the national Organising Committees – Presidential Aide Vladimir Medinsky and Secretary-General of the Hellenic Parliament Foundation for Parliamentarism and Democracy Evanthis Hadjivassiliou – will sign a joint statement approving the programme of the year. The list of scheduled events on both sides numbers over 140, and some of these events are already being implemented.

An agreement on holding this ambitious cultural and humanitarian project was reached in Moscow on November 6, 2019, following talks held between foreign ministers Sergey Lavrov and Nikos Dendias. During their meeting in Athens on October 26, 2020, they signed a Joint Memorandum to this effect. The official announcement of the Year of History was made by Prime Minister of Russia Mikhail Mishustin on May 25, 2021 in Athens, on the sidelines of the celebrations devoted to the 200th anniversary of the start of the Greek War of Independence.

It is symbolic that the Year of History will be held in the year of the 200th anniversary of the start of the Greek Revolution. We can say confidently that this is our common holiday. Russia made a really decisive contribution to Greek independence and helped it develop its statehood. A vital role was played by the allied naval forces of Russia, Britain and France, which routed the Turkish-Egyptian fleet in the Battle of Navarino on October 20, 1827. Already in September 1828, the Russian Empire established diplomatic relations with the nascent Hellenic state and was hence the first foreign state to recognise its independence. Lastly, the 1829 Treaty of Adrianople, which concluded the Russo-Turkish War of 1828-1829, included a provision on the Ottoman Empire granting autonomy to Greece. Many of the events to be held during the Year of History will be dedicated to the national liberation struggle of the Greek people and Russia’s contribution to its independence.

The long-standing traditions of friendship and mutual assistance, respect and sincere empathy constitute a solid foundation of the current stage of cooperation between Russia and Greece. The goal of the Year of History is to highlight the special nature of spiritual and cultural ties between our nations, preserve the memory of our shared past and confer this vital legacy to future generations.

Vladimir Medinsky will hold meetings in Athens with Minister of Culture and Sports Lina Mendoni and with Evanthis Hadjivassiliou, Secretary-General of the Hellenic Parliament Foundation for Parliamentarism and Democracy and chair of the Greek Organising Committee. The events will also be attended by Mikhail Shvydkoi, Special Presidential Envoy for International Cultural Cooperation and coordinator of the Year of History.

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UN Security Council meeting on Bosnia and Herzegovina

 

On June 29, 2021, the UN Security Council held a meeting on Bosnia and Herzegovina at Russia’s initiative. It focused on the allegedly decided appointment of Christian Schmidt (Germany) as the new High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The Russian side pointed out that any candidate for this post will have no legitimacy without the agreement, so far absent, of the UN Security Council and all Bosnian sides and no political support for effectively promoting a post-conflict settlement. The attempts to appoint a new High Representative in the absence of consensus in the  Council’s Steering Board for the implementation of the General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina (1995 Dayton Agreement), between the Bosnian parties themselves and in circumvention of the UN are incompatible with the interests of lasting peace and stability in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

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Czech compensation demands over Vrbetice explosions

 

The story of the blasts in Vrbetice and Czech compensation demands are increasingly looking like the adventures of the Good Soldier Svejk from the immortal story by Jaroslav Hasek. We are witnessing a surrealistic story bordering on the absurd and sometimes going overboard. This “concept” precludes any rational discussion of the event, rendering diplomacy ineffective and replacing it with various kinds of fiction. This is Svejk-like absurdity. I have scrutinised the available facts in an attempt to make some sense of what is taking place in Prague. The clumsy inconsistencies and absurd statements by the country’s political establishment make it extremely difficult to understand what the Czech Republic really wants and what can really serve the interests of the Czech people.

The Russian Embassy in Prague has received a note with absurd demands from our partners, who disregarded the legal procedure and did not even try to provide facts to confirm the unsubstantiated accusations made by Czech officials at different levels. Our partners demand “full reparation for the injury caused by this internationally wrongful act.” This is a new word in international law. I’m not sure that the word is reasonable, but it is interesting indeed. I would like to remind everyone that there is no unity in the Czech leadership when it comes to the assessment and versions of the blasts that took place at the military depot in Vrbetice seven years ago, and that the investigation is not over yet and there is no court verdict. It is absurd not just to speak about any demands, but even to discuss any political statements on a subject that is a legal matter to be dealt with by a court. This situation defies common sense. I am not even talking about the presumption of innocence. It could have been discussed if at least some legal formalities were complied with. Not in this case.

Our verdict is simple. Lost in a mess of versions and interests, which have nothing to do with its national interests, Prague has started creating myths and promoting the phantasies it presents as facts.

We regard as unacceptable the Czech invitation to discuss its demands. We will shortly state our position on this politicised fuss to the head of the Czech diplomatic mission in Moscow, who will be summoned to the Foreign Ministry of Russia.

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The 2020 EU Annual Report on Human Rights and Democracy in the World

 

The recently published 2020 EU Report on Human Rights and Democracy in the World clearly shows that Brussels continues to pursue a destructive policy of weaponising human rights issues and to promote a politicised and openly selective approach to observance of human rights in the world.

However, clearly the degree of demands addressed to third countries is directly proportional to deterioration of the situation in the European Union and its member states. One can see the logic here: the worse things are at home, the louder and more assertive are the attacks on neighbours. The examples abound and include the continuing shameful phenomenon of statelessness, systemic problems with observance of the rights of ethnic and linguistic minorities, imposition of censorship under the pretext of combating disinformation, numerous daily facts of encroaching on the journalists’ rights in connection with their professional activities, and ceremonial parades of former SS legionnaires and those who glorify Nazi collaborators in the streets of a number of European cities. This is taking place either with the tacit consent of the Brussels bureaucrats, or with the direct participation of the EU member states.

Against this background, we cannot view the EU’s shameless attempts to impose its vision of the human rights situation in third countries other than as negligible in terms of their content and moral message.

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A seminar in the French Senate about anti-Semitism in Ukraine

 

A seminar dedicated to anti-Semitism in Ukraine in the run-up to the 80th anniversary of the tragedy in Babi Yar, which took place in the French Senate on June 21 has come to our attention. French Senator Nathalie Goulet, who visited Ukraine in early June as part of the parliamentary delegation, spearheaded this seminar. The main speakers included Verkhovna Rada Deputy Vadim Rabinovich and a prominent French writer and public figure, and a former prisoner of the Warsaw ghetto Marek Halter.

Seminar participants presented the facts and supported them with photographs. They spoke with concern about the trend that has taken root lately in Ukraine to glorify Nazi criminals and their collaborators, about growing anti-Semitism, emphasised the unprecedented, from their point of view, scope of the campaign to glorify the SS men from among the Ukrainian nationalists, including from the Galician Division. The problem of rampant neo-Nazism in Ukraine, which has long been obvious to us in Russia, which looks particularly blasphemous against the background of the anniversary of the monstrous crime committed by the Nazis in Babi Yar outside Kiev, was brought to the attention of the French public and authorities. Senator Goulet sent a written inquiry to the Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs of France, in which she expressed her extreme concern about neo-Nazi parties rearing their head in Ukraine, which train militants, primarily the young people, in their camps and inquired about the French Foreign Ministry’s position. Admittedly, we are also interested in what official Paris has to say in this regard. We will be interested to familiarise ourselves with it, of course, if the answer follows.

Unfortunately, this seminar was not widely covered in the French information space, which is not surprising really, since the EU report on human rights and democracy in the world for 2020 did not cover these issues in detail. In principle, France and the West in general choose to turn a blind eye to neo-Nazism and anti-Semitism rearing their head in Ukraine, a country whose people have experienced the horrors of Nazism and, together with other peoples of the Soviet Union, made an enormous contribution to the victory over Nazism.

All the while, the very fact of holding the above seminar confirms, and we note this with satisfaction, that there are people in France who see and openly speak out about the alarming and dramatic processes unfolding in Ukraine. I would like the official authorities of all European states without exception to take note of this. It is about time.

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The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) outlook

 

The JCPOA was concluded six years ago on July 14, 2015. These major international agreements sealed by UN Security Council Resolution 2231 gave the world hope for a comprehensive settlement of one of the most pressing and long-standing nuclear non-proliferation issues which stemmed from the questions that the IAEA had regarding the Iranian nuclear programme.

Thus, diplomacy gained the upper hand, discussions about other “options on the table” subsided, and in a relatively short time – six months – the Agency was able to rebuild the full picture and fill all the information gaps regarding nuclear activities in Iran, thus ensuring its ultimate transparency. For several years now, Iran has remained the most audited state among the IAEA members. We are convinced that Tehran, the Agency and the international community have benefitted from this. Those who are accustomed to seeing Iran as a permanent threat have lost one of their key arguments which was their claim that the Iranian nuclear programme had a military orientation.

The JCPOA confirmed its effectiveness and value even when one of the parties strongly involved in the drafting of agreements – the United States – unilaterally scrapped its obligations under the nuclear deal and redirected its focus on creating obstacles to the implementation of the UN Security Council Resolution 2231 by all responsible and law-abiding countries. We have to note with regret and concern that, having declared its desire to return to the implementation of the JCPOA, the current US administration has not yet taken any practical steps that would show that it has refused to follow the destructive course of its predecessors. All previously imposed unilateral sanctions against Iran, together with restrictions and bans on the implementation of the JCPOA projects for reconfiguring the Iranian nuclear programme, remain in force. Tehran’s response in the form of an ever deeper freeze of its obligations under the JCPOA is a direct consequence of Washington’s ill-considered policy, which heavily relies on Iranophobia, regime change plans, etc. Healthy forces around the world realise that there may be no policy more bankrupt than “maximum pressure,” which led the United States under a “roller” of its own design, having learned a historical lesson of isolation in the UN Security Council.

The main question today is not who is to blame (there is an answer to that), but what to do. The ongoing talks are designed to achieve precisely this goal. Washington’s agreement to work with the JCPOA countries, including Iran, on a potential scheme to allow the United States to return to full compliance with the requirements of the agreements with a concurrent counter-movement on the part of Tehran came as a fundamental shift in recent months. Since April, a total of six in-person rounds of intensive consultations have taken place under the auspices of the JCPOA Joint Commission, which went hand-in-hand with almost uninterrupted activities at the expert level. The exact number of work contacts cannot be counted. We note in this context the irreplaceable role of the European External Action Service (EEAS) and personally EEAS Deputy Secretary-General Enrique Mora (Spain) who, at the cost of incredible efforts, managed to build a connecting bridge between all the stakeholders, including Washington and Tehran, despite the ban on direct talks with the Americans imposed on the Iranian negotiators.

During these three months, the delegations managed to make significant progress in agreeing on the parameters and modalities of the JCPOA restoration process, to determine the response and sequence of steps to be taken by the United States and Iran, and to analyse how the corresponding obligations will be assumed and verified. Of course, the Americans find it difficult to admit their violations of international law and their strategic missteps, but there is no way around it. In turn, Iran promises to immediately backtrack on all positions regarding suspension and to return to strict compliance with all the provisions of the 2015 nuclear deal. We sincerely hope that it will be so.

Along with an all-out revision of the anti-Iranian restrictions previously adopted by the American side, which are at odds with the JCPOA and UN Security Council Resolution 2231, the speedy restoration of the IAEA’s verification activities in Iran within the scope designated by the JCPOA is of paramount importance. This will allow the Agency to keep its finger on the pulse of the developments in the Iranian nuclear programme. Importantly, the global nuclear non-proliferation regime, the cornerstone of which is the NPT, is based on transparency. We believe that the IAEA will continue to carry out its mission at a high professional level, both in terms of using guarantees in Iran in connection with the NPT, and ensuring the verification of the Iranian side’s compliance with its nuclear obligations.

Thus, the efforts are centred on returning the implementation of the JCPOA into a stable and predictable channel and creating conditions for normalising international cooperation with Iran in the economy, trade, scientific research and technology, including the peaceful atom. Russia is interested in this, since Iran is our neighbour, with which we are bound by many common projects, business contacts and cultural ties. Revising or expanding the scope of the 2015 comprehensive agreements is out of question. Ideas on this score have been heard for many years now, but, clearly, they have no future and will only hamper progress towards restarting the nuclear deal in full capacity. We believe that everything needed to restore the JCPOA is laid down in the document itself, which came at a cost.

Like all other parties, Russia is striving for an early completion of the negotiating process, preferably no later than the 6th anniversary of the JCPOA. But this is rather a wished-for psychological mark. The real value is a high-quality result which we hope will be achieved. As we know from practice, the secret of the survivability of the JCPOA is that these agreements have no reasonable alternative, and without them, peace and security become more vulnerable.

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Update on Ethiopia

 

We are closely following the military and political developments in the friendly Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia. We believe that the June 28 unilateral decision of the federal government to immediately establish a ceasefire in the Ethiopian region of Tigray is a step in the right direction.

We hope this initiative will tangibly improve the humanitarian situation and, step-by-step, will lead to socio-economic stabilisation, allow the country to conduct its sowing campaign and to return internally displaced persons to the places of their permanent residence.

We urge all political forces to support these steps by the Ethiopian Government with a view to restoring peace and normal life in the region. We believe the decisive role in settling the internal Ethiopian conflict belongs to the Ethiopians themselves, with the assistance of primarily the African community. 

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Sixteenth conference of Russian and German partner cities

 

On June 28-30 of this year, Kaluga hosted the 16th conference of Russian and German partner cities. It is gratifying to emphasise that the event took place despite the difficult sanitary-epidemiological situation, albeit in a truncated hybrid format.

It is especially important that bilateral regional and municipal cooperation continue developing steadily despite the difficult period in bilateral relations. At present, 20 Russian regions and German lands remain in contact. The municipalities of our countries have 120 partnership agreements. We think that sister city ties open good prospects for people’s diplomacy, create fertile ground for expanding people-to-people contacts, exert a positive impact on the economy, trade and tourism and provide an impetus for joint scientific, education, culture, humanitarian and sports projects. We see this as graphic evidence of the public demand for better Russia-Germany relations in both countries.

In their welcome speeches to the organisers and participants in the forum, many Russian participants talked about the priority role of municipal ties for promoting the positive dynamics of Russian-German relations. President of Russia Vladimir Putin, Federation Council Speaker Valentina Matviyenko, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Chair of the Duma Energy Committee and Coordinator of the Deputy Group for Relations with the German Bundestag Pavel Zavalny all spoke about this.

However, there was a fly in the ointment against this backdrop. The video address by German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas sounded somewhat out of place. He started speaking positively and then finished in a sorry state. Mr Maas could not resist serving up yet another portion of negative comments on Russia. We regard his actions as unacceptable and provocative.

That said, we think the conference in Kaluga had a positive outcome overall. During its sessions, the working groups discussed practical aspects of cooperation in countering the pandemic; they also discussed trade, economic and investment cooperation, and youth exchanges aimed, in part, at upgrading professional and technical skills. The participants paid special attention to the importance of preserving historical memory in the context of the 80th anniversary of Nazi Germany’s treacherous attack on the USSR.

We believe the forum helped promote a positive agenda in the dialogue with Germany, strengthen the uniting elements in bilateral relations and deepen understanding between our countries and people.

Credit for organising the forum goes to the Kaluga region and the city administration, the German-Russian Forum and the Twin Cities International Association. They managed to ensure effective organisation in difficult sanitary-epidemiological conditions.

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Russia-Italy cooperation on preserving Genoese cultural landmarks in Crimea and the Black Sea-Azov basin

 

I would like to tell you about the continuing Russian-Italian cooperation on preserving Genoese cultural landmarks in Crimea and the Black Sera-Azov basin. On September 25, 2019 we held a news conference at the Foreign Ministry Press Centre to inform the public about the expert studies of Italian cultural heritage in Crimea. We see that this is of special interest to people in both Russia and Italy.

 On June 22 of this year, Genoa (Liguria) hosted a meeting of the delegation from the Moscow affiliate of the Russian Geographical Society (RGS) with Deputy Mayor Massimo Nicolo and representatives of regional scientific and public organisations. The participants discussed the results of a Russia-Italy research expedition in Crimea in 2019. The goal was to inventory and preserve over 40 Genoese fortifications in Crimea with a view to including them on the UNESCO World Heritage List. They planned future cooperation, in part, exchanges of university researchers and students from both countries and the introduction of technological innovations based on virtual and augmented reality, robots and artificial intelligence.

On June 22, the Russian delegation took part in a conference on preserving Genoese fortresses in the Mediterranean, Black and Azov seas held under the patronage of the Italian Ministry of Culture and with broad support from the local authorities.

We would like to note that these events took part in a positive and constructive spirit. Our partners emphasised the absence of any obstacles to international research activities in Crimea. Thus, last May, a representative from the University of Genoa took part in the international conference, “Black Sea issues in the focus of world politics.” Her trip to Crimea did not include any difficulties.

For its part, the Russian Foreign Ministry and Russian offices abroad will continue to promote the development of scientific cooperation between the Republic of Crimea and our foreign partners.

This is an example of how to develop international cooperation on studying and preserving history regardless of the political environment.

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German troops in Iron Wolf 2021 NATO drills in Lithuania

 

An outrageous event took place 80 years after Nazi Germany attacked the Soviet Union. German troops from the NATO Enhanced Forward Presence Battle Group Lithuania, deployed in Rukla, took part in the bloc’s Iron Wolf military exercise held in May 2021. The name has special meaning for Lithuanian neo-Nazis. It is the name of the Lithuanian fascist movement, which was created in 1927. Its members took an active part in the execution of Poles and Jews. After the organisation was dissolved, many of its supporters joined Lithuanian collaborators and were involved in the planned extermination of Baltic Jews.

Judging by what a spokesperson of the German Defence Ministry said at the Bundestag hearings on June 23, the ministry did not see any untoward connection between the name of the NATO exercise and the Lithuanian fascist movement. They probably have a poor knowledge of history, if any. It would be more reasonable to assume it was a deliberate choice. Neither did the Bundeswehr explain how the involvement of German troops in a military exercise designed to train in repelling a “Russian threat” on NATO’s eastern flank corresponded with the Germans’ historical responsibility for Nazi Germany’s attack on the Soviet Union. They chose instead to shift the blame to Lithuania, saying that Iron Wolf is the name of the brigade to which the German troops deployed in Rukla had been assigned. Since this is a series of national exercises, Vilnius is free to give them any name it wishes.

German officials, who had to admit in parliament that the symbols of the drills included the emblems of the Lithuanian Iron Wolf Nazis, claimed that the emblem is rooted in a medieval legend and that it is in this capacity that it is being used today in “democratic” Lithuania. We are well aware that torch marches and everything else connected with the fire cult is rooted in history, just like the history of the swastika. However, the world reached the correct conclusion from the biggest tragedy of the 20th century by condemning WWII, the ideology of fascism and Nazism and the symbols which became the emblem of the largest crime in human history. The symbols of the Third Reich have roots that go back centuries, but they are unacceptable nevertheless. Why invent anything and provide historical coverage for obviously unacceptable activities? This flirting with the theme of neo-Nazism can be extremely dangerous, and Berlin is bound to be aware of this.

This is not the first unsavoury story involving Bundeswehr military deployment in Lithuania. German media outlets have provided facts, which German officials had to confirm as true. In April 2021, German soldiers, deployed in Rukla, celebrated the birthday of Nazi leader Adolf Hitler by singing Nazi and anti-Semitic songs and humiliating and beating up their mates. Defence Minister of Germany Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer publicly denounced this behaviour and withdrew the entire platoon back to Germany.

There is a connection between all these events. Encouraging or turning a blind eye to flirtations with Nazi symbols and ideology invariably leads to such results. An internal investigation has revealed numerous facts of harassment, physical abuse, and anti-Semitism, racism and far-right extremism. These are not just any adults, they are servicemen. The inspection also found that a considerable amount of ammunition was missing from inventories. There is no telling what really took place there, considering the facts revealed.

We are shocked not so much by this latest example of moral and combat corruption in the Bundeswehr, as by the advancing loss of Germans’ historical memory. Taken together, these factors can have horrible results. This is proof of the total misunderstanding of the Baltic nations’ complicated history during the period of Nazi occupation. They don’t understand that flirting with neo-Nazism is beyond the pale for the civilised world. It looks as if Germans continue to see the region as their fiefdom where they can do what they wish, just as they did during WWII. They may be evoking the Middle Ages, but this is the 21st century.

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Another example of the Polish official policy aimed at falsifying the history of WWII

 

In advance of the 80th anniversary of Nazi Germany’s attack on the USSR, the Institute of National Remembrance (IPN) – the main vehicle for the contemporary Polish historical policy – organised a conference on June 17 called “The Third Reich’s attack on the USSR in June 1941 and its impact on the Polish issue,” and its employees gained attention for several provocative publications.

Warsaw and its pseudo-scholars, who cannot be called historians, have long taught us that they know nothing about historical memory, grief and respect for history.

Reports of cases of desecrating Soviet and Russian war memorials and military graves and of anti-Semitic incidents regularly come from the banks of the Vistula. We cannot afford to ignore the Polish attempts to revise the past from positions close to Nazi collaborators.

It is outrageous that attempts, under the guise of a “research” event, to popularise the narrative that “the German-Soviet conflict was beneficial to Poles” and that “the Germans’ arrival in 1941 was perceived by the residents of the former Polish suburbs (as the IPN calls Western Belarus and Ukraine and also part of Lithuania) as a deliverance.” It is strange to remind Poles that the Nazi regime brought enslavement and death to them, to Russians, Ukrainians, Jews, Lithuanians and other peoples. In 1939, exactly this and not “deliverance” began on the territory of the Governorate General and in parts of pre-war Poland annexed by Germany, and from June 22, 1941 on Soviet lands invaded by the Nazis. The heroic feat of the Soviet people and the Red Army put an end to this. The Red Army defeated Nazism and saved the European nations from the Nazi plague, which threatened to exterminate everyone, including the Poles.

In recent years, the anti-Russian aspirations of the Polish authorities in various fields have had no limits. Observing, in the case of the Polish Institute of National Remembrance, the gradual movement from “unconsciousness” through Russophobia and historical falsifications to a partial justification of misanthropic Nazism, we want to warn everyone who has not yet understood: this is exactly why it is dangerous to rewrite history for the sake of immediate political interests.

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Germany’s attempts to prevent RT DE broadcasting

 

At the end of 2021 we expect the launch of RT television broadcasting in German, which was announced earlier this year. Apparently, we are not the only ones waiting, but not in the same way.

We have said many times that RT is forced to face many difficulties: we have talked a lot about blocked bank accounts and the impossibility of operating financially in Germany, while strictly complying with the German law. We can review Commerzbank’s discriminatory policy, although this part must be purely commercial. But politics influence this, too. Without any reasons or facts the bank closed the accounts of RT DE Production. Let me remind you that the largest holder of the bank’s shares is the Federal Republic of Germany. This is not the first case of obstructing Russian media activities in Germany. We have tried to attract public attention to this because the efforts to build a constructive dialogue at various levels have not borne results. Difficulties set by “purely commercial organisations” (which, as we know, are politicised) and counteractions from a range of state officials were enough to ask the question: isn’t it time to stop and go back to the high ideals of freedom of speech, which Berlin talks about to the world?

Sueddeutsche Zeitung recently published an investigation of Berlin’s campaign to prevent the launch of RT Deutsch’s broadcasts.

In order to secure the right to broadcast in the European Union, RT asked for permission in Luxembourg. The television channel will be broadcast from Moscow to the Luxembourg Astra satellite and to the EU. The request was made in compliance with European broadcast licensing legislation and in accordance with the applicable criteria. Even before the official application was submitted, German bureaucrats started thinking about how to prevent it. Sueddeutsche Zeitung writes there was a secret meeting with members of the German government, diplomats, German and Luxembourg secret services officers, and Luxembourg media regulators. We hope there will be an official comment on this considering how meticulously Berlin defends the basic principles of democracy, freedom of speech and protection of journalists’ rights. We would like to hear the explanation.

All of this together with the non-stop information war the German media declared on the Russian television channel, which includes Bild, Spiegel, Focus, Frankfurter Rundschau and other media outlets. They have many names for RT DE such as the mouthpiece of the Kremlin and a propaganda tool. Their behaviour is not only unacceptable but beyond professional ethics. They always respond that they do not consider RT professional or regard it as media. First, this is not for them to decide. Second, millions of viewers and the channel’s content consumers all over the world confirmed that RT largely provides an alternative point of view that would never make it to the largest global media outlets, because they are biased on an entire range of issues; they confirm what everybody knows: RT has journalists providing high-quality coverage and they carry out their professional duties responsibly. It is surprising that the TV has not launched broadcasting yet but that the channel has already been accused of lowering the ratings of the Green Party. How can this be?

It is strange and sad to see how the fundamental freedom to distribute and receive information recorded in many international agreements that Berlin uses as guidelines is violated and twisted.

Perhaps Berlin doesn’t know, so they can hear it from us. Many German journalists work in Russia. They enjoy the same rights as Russian journalists. The Russian media has never done to them even a fraction of what German media does to us. We have never posed a question about the activities in Russia of, for example, Deutsche Welle: an “independent” holding that receives financing from the German government. No one puts up obstacles to their activity. Should we tolerate this attitude towards the Russian media in Germany, while providing opportunities for free, professional, high-quality journalism for the German media in Russia, and for how long? Haven’t we come to a dangerous line in our good attitude based on respect for freedom of speech? I think we have. Is Germany abusing our patience and good attitude? It is time for Berlin to stop the extensive persecution and attacks on Russian media and journalists.

This is not the only example of a biased attitude and disrespect for freedom of speech from our Western partners.

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Several Iranian media websites blocked on the United States’ order

 

On June 22 of this year, American internet providers restricted access to over 30 Iranian government-funded media resources, citing a law-enforcement action against them as a pretext. It was only the next day that official commentary was released. According to a press release by the US Department of Justice published on June 23, the court ruled to take down Iranian news sites, allegedly based on the accusations against them as sites that are spreading disinformation and have a harmful effect on people in the United States. This situation is nothing new. Accusations of disinformation are deep-rooted in Washington’s political tradition, having become a convenient tool to fight the media and journalists that American politicians disapprove of and keep a close eye on.

These actions by Washington provoked a reaction from Teheran it had anticipated. Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh called this move an “outrageous violation of freedom of speech,” and “another example of double standards policy on the part of the United States” and an “absolutely unconstructive approach” in the context of the JCPOA talks. We fully agree with our Iranian colleague’s assessments. We would even use stronger words. These are not double standards but violations of international standards and rules. Double standards are not about shutting down media outlets, rather the term implies a biased approach to them, while blocking them is nothing less than political persecution. 

Washington’s cynicism is overstepping the boundaries of propriety. The change of US administration has changed nothing in its approach to freedom of speech for their own people on one hand, and strangers, on the other. They continue to preach freedom to express one’s own opinion and media rights, while in reality they restrict access to foreign information resources, oblivious, in so doing, of their own lofty ideals. 

The impression is that the United States has become carried away in playing the part of an internet censor. At the same time, the Americans forgot about their commitments under international human rights documents. For example, under Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948, the public has the right “to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.” Also, under Paragraph 9.1 of the OSCE Copenhagen document of 1990, “everyone will have the right … to freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers.” I could continue citing documents for a long time. It is important that the United States does not discard them.

There is no need to speak about the ethics of major companies with huge sales and high share prices on world stock exchanges. These IT giants – we understand they are linked to the US authorities – easily turn a blind eye to the many pages of their organisations’ codes and charters and unceremoniously deprive whole nations of the opportunity to alert the world to their position. All this is happening amid uneasy consultations on the JCPOA in Vienna, which are directly associated with security.

We know that several sites that have been blocked are now back online with new domain addresses, however, this cannot be considered a solution to the problem. We are calling on the internet companies and the American authorities to stay within legal boundaries and abandon the practice of politically motivated restrictions, as well as to not give up democratic values to please part of the Washington elite, given they have not repudiated as yet their lofty statements regarding freedom of speech in other countries.   

Relevant international agencies and human rights organisations need to give an impartial assessment of this incident. The dangerous situation created by the United States deserves to be addressed by newly appointed UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Technology Fabrizio Hochschild.

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Answers to media questions:

Question: Following the reports that the EU countries’ leaders rejected Germany and France’s initiative to hold a Russia-EU summit at a meeting in Brussels, German Chancellor Angela Merkel repeatedly spoke about the need to hold meetings between the EU leaders and President Vladimir Putin. Do you think Russia needs this summit? Can relations with the EU be normalised without additional meetings?

Maria Zakharova: This question was already answered by Deputy Chief of Staff of the Presidential Executive Office and Presidential Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov on June 25. We regret the EU not being ready to restore dialogue with Russia.

Let me remind you that Russia-EU summits were traditionally held twice a year (32 such meetings have been held). This was the main format of the multi-tier interaction architecture which took a lot of effort to build. It made it possible to not only address certain practical matters by way of talks, but also to set the strategic direction of relations, which met the interests of the people of Russia and the EU.

In 2014, when Western support for the unconstitutional coup in Kiev triggered a severe internal crisis in Ukraine – with a projection on the situation across Europe, Brussels unilaterally “froze” the format of the Russia-EU summits. They did so without any good reason, but proceeding from fleeting political interests and under heavy external pressure – the United States dictated its will to the EU back then. It was not our choice. We believe that the European Union will spearhead the reinstatement of this format. The recent Russia-US summit has shown that top-level dialogue is possible and productive even when the positions of the parties diverge greatly.

Cooperation never materialises out of the blue. Holding a meeting for the sake of holding a meeting makes no sense, as the Russian leadership has said at different levels. Proper conditions must be in place before any political contacts, especially at the highest level, can take place. One of them is the presence of the political will to work together constructively. But the signals that we have received lately from the EU show there’s no such will. I would point you to the article by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov The Law, the Rights and the Rules dated June 28, which highlights these matters.

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Question: You have already brought up the Czech Republic today. What can you say about the brutal detention of a Roma community member, Stanislav Tomas, who later died, by the Czech police? He has already been dubbed the “Czech Floyd.”

Maria Zakharova: It happened in the latter half of June. The fact that the Czech authorities proceeded to justify what transpired without conducting an official investigation is puzzling. Judging by what we see in the case of explosions, the absence of an investigation is an innovation introduced by Prague. The incident came to light only after the Roma community took it online, and, unlike a similar incident in the United States, this tragedy did not receive an appropriate assessment either from the state or civil society.

Clearly, we are talking about systemic xenophobia, including with regard to the Roma community in the Czech Republic, to which the international community needs to pay attention. The incident goes in line with the unfavourable situation in the country with the rights of the Roma minority, the segregation and discrimination of Roma, for which the Czech Republic regularly comes under criticism from specialised international agencies, such as the OSCE and the Council of Europe, including the European Court of Human Rights.

The calls for Prague to strictly comply with its international legal obligations in fighting discrimination against Czech citizens and promoting and protecting the rights of ethnic minorities are quite justified.

We support the Council of Europe leadership’s call to urgently conduct an independent investigation into the death of Stanislav Tomas.

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Question: The foreign media and some officials are expressing concerns recently that the radical Taliban is growing stronger in Afghanistan. Moscow believes differently. This week Russia’s Ambassador in Kabul Dmitry Zhirnov said that the Taliban does not have enough power to do anything serious in Afghanistan. Would you explain why Russia’s position is different from other countries and explain Moscow’s approach to this?

Maria Zakharova: Recently, due to the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan, we are seeing increasing activities by the Taliban Movement in several regions, in particular, in the northern and northeastern provinces, in direct proximity to the borders of certain Central Asian countries. Over the last 10 days, the militants have seized more than 30 counties in that part of the country. The Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) are struggling to contain the pressure. At the same time, the large cities and administrative centres in the provinces, including the Afghani capital, Kabul, remain intact, which indicates that the armed opposition currently lacks the necessary resources.

In general, we do not want to overreact to the traditionally seasonal escalation of the armed conflict between the government forces and the Taliban. We believe that after the end of the combat season the military situation in the country will more or less stabilise and the opposing sides will be ready to start a constructive and calm dialogue, not in words, but in practice.

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Question: Recently, the military activities of the Taliban and their influence over the northern districts of Afghanistan have escalated. According to Russia’s analysis, does this pose a threat to the neighbouring Central Asian states?

Maria Zakharova: Based on the Taliban’s statements and our own analyses, the Taliban is not planning to aggravate relations with neighboring countries.

At the same time, growing tensions in the provinces of Afghanistan bordering certain Central Asian countries could result in a humanitarian crisis with the growing numbers of refugees in the region, which cannot help but raise concerns.

In this sense, Russia is calling on both Afghani sides to cease military actions as soon as possible and initiate substantive talks on an agenda for national reconciliation, to produce actions not just words.

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Question: EU Foreign Policy Chief Josep Borrell said the EU is working on options for new sanctions against Russia, which will be presented in the next few months if Russia continues violating international law on the territory of the EU member states and neighbouring countries. However, he didn’t specify what these violations were about. At the same time Mr Borrell said that he is also working on ways of cooperating with Moscow. This sounds oxymoronic.

What does Moscow think about his intention to limit Russia and at the same time cooperate with it in areas of common interest? Will Russia respond in kind if the EU introduces new restrictions?

Maria Zakharova: We have to comment on the EU’s statements, including Mr Borrell’s philosophical approach, several times a day. He published the statement you quoted in his personal blog on the European External Action Service website on June 28. To be honest, I doubt that he is writing these statements himself. I have the impression that someone else is doing it, for many reasons. This particular text is based on the illusion and dangerous self-deception that it is possible to speak to Russia in a language of threats and ultimatums. I don’t know why they so stubbornly close their eyes and ears to our statements that talking to us like that is unacceptable and that any attempts to conduct dialogue from this position are sure to fail. I think we have said enough about this for them to understand. Why they fail to hear us, or remember (I don’t rule out this possibility), is a question for the EU.

The triad of principles by which Brussels intends to be guided in relations with our country sounds ridiculous – “push back, constrain, and engage selectively.” In principle, this cannot be a foundation for restoring trust and developing stable and predictable relations, not just with Russia but with any state, nation or organisation. This is distorted logic. There is some disease in perception and an erroneous view of life. This approach is certainly not in keeping with the 21st century given the expansive experience amassed by global policy.

This new “structure” (it is hard to call it a philosophy) has the same fundamental drawbacks as the notorious “2016 five guiding principles of Federica Mogherini.” This is a perverse interpretation of the Minsk Package of Measures the implementation of which is constantly subverted by the Kiev authorities. The declared support for the focus states of the Eastern Partnership Initiative again betrays the desire of Europe’s institutions to continue facing the post-Soviet countries with an unrealistic and artificial choice: either be with Russia or be with the European Union. This is beyond criticism because all attempts to present Russia as a source of threat to EU countries and accuse it of cybercrimes are illogical and pointless.

We have given examples of how we have caught hackers, swindlers, cyber criminals and IT experts, members of organised crime, during an operation in the EU space with the participation of EU bodies. Yet they write that Russia is still a source of cyber threat and criminal activity in the cyber space. They are disseminating some materials that have been obviously obtained by hacking, through illegal means. Nobody in the EU countries, in the NATO space, considers how these materials were obtained and where they come from. If they can stand to gain, they are using these materials without thinking whose hackers have got them. Such attitudes point to global hypocrisy and a reluctance to consider reality.

I would like to recall that it is the EU that is consistently avoiding a professional conversation on cyber threats and the need to counter disinformation. We have repeatedly offered our partners, including our Western colleagues, the opportunity to create mechanisms (they are open proposals and Europeans know about them) for cooperation on cyber security and international information security.

To finish my answer to your question, I would like to say that it is useless to talk to Russia in the language of sanctions, blackmail and threats. We regret that instead of recognising this obvious and historically true fact, the EU continues fanning the flames of confrontational rhetoric that further alienates the EU from our country. Trying to “constrain” Russia and simultaneously to develop cooperation with it in the areas where it sees benefits for itself, Brussels is becoming a hostage to it vicious concept of mutually excluding principles and preconditions for normalising EU-Russian relations.

A continuation of this policy will lead to an unprecedented crisis of trust. The formats for Russian-EU cooperation that existed before the 2014 state coup in Ukraine have been wasted.

There is an alternative to this shortsighted policy. It is mutually beneficial and equitable cooperation with consideration for each other’s interests. Developing relations with Russia on this foundation will bear fruit. If the EU does not want to hear this, let it at least refrain from blocking information about this to allow individual EU countries to know our position in this regard. We hope that the EU member states will eventually realise this if they are interested in security and stability on our common continent. If they are not, let them be straight about their lack of interest.

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Question: The Dutch Defenсe Ministry accused Russia of creating a dangerous situation in the Black Sea, where the Dutch frigate Evertsen had been making a passage. In particular, the Dutch Defence Ministry put out the following statement: “Russian fighters created an unsafe situation for the Zr. Ms. Evertsen in the Black Sea. This happened last Thursday, when the warship was southeast of Crimea.”

They also said that Russia's actions violated the right to free navigation.

How does Russia see this statement/accusation from the Netherlands? How will Russia respond to this accusation?

Maria Zakharova: The Russian Defence Ministry has provided exhaustive clarification on this matter. It only remains to remind everyone that, contrary to the claims by the Netherlands, the Russian aircraft flights were carried out in full compliance with international rules for the use of airspace. Our combat aircraft scrambled only after the Dutch frigate Evertsen, which was making a passage in the Black Sea southeast of the Crimean coast on June 24, changed course towards Russia. In order to prevent a violation of Russia’s territorial waters, Su-30 fighters and a Su-24 bomber flew at a safe distance around the Dutch Navy ship. There can be no question about violating the right to free navigation or creating a dangerous situation. Any attempt to interpret this the way the Netherlands did may be considered ‘fake’ news.

What remains unclear is why it took the Netherlands so long (five days) to release this statement. We did not receive any explanation or evidence of “aggression.” Considering that the Evertsen incident took place the day after the incident with the British destroyer Defender, I’d be hard pressed not to point out the fact that the Dutch side acted in a coordinated manner both within NATO and directly in contact with its British partners. It is hard to escape the conclusion that the dangerous maneuvering of the Dutch frigate was a calculated provocation.

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Question: The large-scale NATO Exercise Sea Breeze 2021 started in the Black Sea. In light of the recent dangerous provocation by Great Britain near the Crimean Cape Fiolent, provocative statements have been released.

“Ukrainian and NATO ships can pass through the waters of Crimea after the British destroyer Defender did so.” This is what former Deputy Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine Igor Romanenko said. He also added that “the Russians only understand strength.”

What does Russia think about this statement? Is it a provocation or a threat? In the event of a deliberate provocation by the participants of NATO exercises against Crimea, how will Russia defend its borders? Is NATO using a deliberate provocation to create an actual military conflict? How can NATO's plans that are so dangerous for the entire Black Sea region be cut short?

Maria Zakharova: As for Igor Romanenko's statement, it was, first and foremost, a stupid thing to say. Second, this is a provocation and a threat, and everything that goes with it. Third, this is, of course, a statement for the domestic audience, since there are no other ways to “show valour” and there are no ways to address pressing problems related to truly national goals and interests. They are unable to do that, and this kind of rhetoric follows.

We have said more than once that NATO exercises (in Ukraine or with its participation) are regularly held in the corresponding waters. They are conducted in a number of areas. This is definitely a case of provocative muscle flexing. They brought in over 30 countries and warships, and about 5,000 troops. They called this “training event” Sea Breeze 2021. What do friendly intentions have to do with that? What do the exercises have to do with it? All of that is unfolding on a specific political basis. A military deployment of this scope near Russia triggers a corresponding reaction from us. Black Sea waters are, in fact, consistently being changed by Washington and its allies from a space of cooperation, which was being built, into a zone of military confrontation. This is being done intentionally so that yet another region in the world, under the leadership of the United States, can become unstable and begin to pose a threat.

There is no doubt that these maneuvers clearly have an anti-Russia slant. You can see it yourself. There are plenty of examples; you yourself gave one. That is, the British destroyer Defender that acted provocatively. Apparently, this was done to warm up the media in the lead up to the exercises. The state border of the Russian Federation was brazenly violated. After the preventive actions of our border guards, the ship retreated. On June 24, further provocative intentions were demonstrated by the Dutch frigate.

From our point of view, these are coordinated developments. This goes to show that NATO continues its aggressive policy towards Russia.

Proclaiming its readiness for a dialogue, in fact, the North Atlantic bloc is purposefully destabilising the situation along our borders and increasing the likelihood of an armed incident. If NATO really wanted to mitigate the degree of confrontation, it would have long ago responded to Russia’s proposals to de-escalate and reduce military activity, including the withdrawal of exercises away from the contact line, and would not engage in provocations with unpredictable consequences and endless lies to justify their aggressive behaviour.

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Question: Russian citizen Sofia Sapega, who was detained in Belarus, was recently transferred under home arrest. However, there are still Russians in Belarusian prisons who were also detained for participating in protest activity. What was the role of the Russian Foreign Ministry in the situation with Sofia Sapega? Is the ministry planning to provide support for other Russian citizens?

Maria Zakharova: Protecting the rights of Russian citizens who find themselves in a difficult situation abroad and providing them with consular assistance is one of the priorities of the Russian Foreign Ministry. This can be found in the relevant documents and is implemented in practice in relation to not just one region, but everywhere.

The Russian Embassy in Minsk closely follows the fate of Sofia Sapega and provides her with all possible support in close cooperation with her family and her lawyers. At the request of her stepfather, the Foundation to Support and Protect the Rights of Compatriots Living Abroad decided to allocate funds to pay for legal services and began remitting them.

The Russian consul personally visited Ms Sapega in the KGB Pre-Trial Detention Centre in Belarus.

On June 23, 2021, Ms Sapega’s detention status was changed from custody to home arrest. The consul will again visit the Russian national at her new place of residence soon.

The fate of Ms Sapega is on the agenda of Russian-Belarusian contacts and on the watch list. The Russian Embassy in Belarus continues its active effort to protect the rights of Ms Sapega in cooperation with her family and lawyers.

As for other citizens, we also had questions on another Russian national, Dmitry Popov. He was detained by the Investigative Committee of the Republic of Belarus on June 17, 2020, in connection with charges of organising group actions that grossly violate public order, and is currently being held at Pre-Trial Detention Centre #3 in Gomel. Russian consular officers have visited Dmitry Popov and are in regular contact with his lawyer.

The situation involving other Russian citizens detained for participating in Belarusian protests (Yegor Dudnikov, Alexander Gedzhadze) is also closely monitored by our colleagues at the Embassy in Minsk. You can be sure of this.

In general, 785 Russians are in custody for various offenses in Belarus. Of these, 94 are classified as suspects, 163 have been indicted, and 528 are serving sentences.

I emphasise that Russian diplomats are monitoring all these cases. Each of the detainees, if necessary, is provided with consular assistance. For us, a Russian citizen should have the right to defend his/her rights and receive appropriate support from Russian missions abroad. I hope that you, too, will not make any distinction or draw any lines between citizens and that you will only be interested in the fate of everyone who needs help. It seems to me that this would be fair and correct.

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Question: You spoke about Yegor Dudnikov. He passed a note with his lawyer, in which he writes that he was subjected to torture and beaten and that he received  threats from Belarusian police. Do Russian diplomats, since they have been in contact with his lawyer, have this information? Are any measures being taken in a dialogue with the Belarusian authorities to protect the rights of this Russian national?

Maria Zakharova: I said that we  have been in contact with the Belarusian authorities on all cases. Each case has specific details and the situations are different. If a detained person or a person serving a sentence requires a visit from a consular official, a schedule is drawn up. I gave you the relevant figures. You can compare the number of our Embassy officials with the number of people in detention at the relevant centres in Belarus. The work we carry out on each case depends on the requests we receive from Russian nationals. I want to point out what is really part of our everyday efforts. Russian nationals happen to find themselves in difficult situations as a result of detention, COVID-related restrictions or problems with international logistics.

I can assure you – this is what both the Russian leaders and the Foreign Ministry top officials said – that this is not just a priority on paper but part of the everyday efforts of our embassies, consular offices and consulates-general.

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Question: We remember that when the World Hockey Championship was held in Latvia, Riga Mayor Martins Stakis committed an uncivilised and Russophobic act, removing the national flag of the Russian Federation from the centre of the city. Apart from a comment by the Foreign Ministry, what else did Russia do in response to this gesture?

Maria Zakharova: We have already commented on this issue, I would say, on this unprecedented Russophobic escapade. We presume that the official holding a government office is expected to know about the standards that are generally accepted around the world regarding respect for national symbols.

Given the current strained socioeconomic conditions that Latvia is gripped by, the Riga Mayor should probably think about ways to develop trade and economic cooperation with Russian regions the way his predecessors did with great success, instead of engaging in political hooliganism. These ties, instead of benefiting one individual seeking to score more political Russophobic points, would benefit the people of his country.

Now it will be much more difficult for Mr Stakis to do this. He is included on the list of people who are banned from entering the Russian Federation.

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Question: Mayor of Tallinn Mihhail Kolvart recently harshly criticised the Estonian policy of completing the transition of school education to the state language by 2035. What comments would you make on his statement?

Maria Zakharova: We have pointed out on numerous occasions the destructive nature of Tallinn’s intention to prohibit Russian-language education in this Baltic country. This policy is undermining the basic rights of ethnic minorities sealed in UN and Council of Europe documents.

Incidentally, Russia’s position on this issue concurs with the criticisms  of these organisations’ and OSCE monitoring agencies regarding the Estonian government’s language policy. We really hope they will maintain pressure on Tallinn in this respect.

Russia will continue monitoring closely the situation in Estonia’s education sphere along  with the relevant international organisations  based on the current legal framework.

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Question: Despite the acute phase of the COVID-19 pandemic, the EU has not recognised Sputnik V. How might this affect the performance of Russian diplomatic missions   in the countries that do not recognise the Russian vaccine, considering that many of their workers have been vaccinated with Sputnik V? 

Can you tell us if you personally and other Foreign Ministry staff have been vaccinated? Is it obligatory for the ministry staff to have jabs?

Maria Zakharova: President of Russia Vladimir Putin has recently explained the situation with mandatory vaccination clearly and based on the law.

As for the Foreign Ministry, we have always taken and continue to take particular care of the personnel’s health. It would have been much better if this issue had not been so heavily politicised and if everything went quickly, smoothly and exclusively within the framework of the approved and clear norms and regulations. Unfortunately, this is not so always or everywhere. However, this matter has been discussed a great deal, so I would prefer not to go over it yet again.

I would rather provide facts without going into my personal agenda. The Foreign Ministry of Russia has sent the vaccines (Sputnik V and EpiVacCorona) to 122 countries. Vaccinating has been completed at 243 Russian diplomatic missions abroad. I would like to point out that it was voluntary and those who agreed to have their jabs could choose the vaccine where this opportunity was offered. The majority chose Sputnik V, but some chose to get vaccinated with foreign vaccines offered by the local authorities. We have talked about this as well, and many ambassadors did so too. The explanation is that it was impossible to deliver the Russian vaccine to these countries. The absence of the required licence and certification prevented us from delivering the Russian vaccine to some countries to vaccinate our personnel. This is why they were vaccinated with foreign vaccines. As of today, some 80 percent of the staff of our diplomatic missions abroad have had their jabs.

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