Briefing of the Foreign Ministry Spokesman

22 July 202121:19

Briefing by Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova, Moscow, July 22, 2021

Table of contents

  1. Meeting of the World Coordinating Council of Russian Compatriots

  2. Upcoming commemorative events at the Russian Orthodox Chapel near Vrsic Pass (Slovenia)

  3. Russia’s interstate legal suit against Ukraine in the European Court of Human Rights

  4. New language discrimination norms come into force in Ukraine

  5. US-FRG deal on Nord Stream 2

  6. Restricting access to Czech Radio material

  7. Recent statements by MI5 Director General Ken McCallum

  8. Haiti update

  9. Update on Mali

  10. Update on South Africa

  11. Developments involving Ethiopia’s Renaissance hydroelectric project

  12. OPCW draft report on CWC implementation in 2020

  13. New data on the role of senior officials of the OPCW Technical Secretariat in misrepresenting conclusions in the final report of the OPCW Fact-Finding Mission in Douma (Syria)

  14. Main outcome of the 47th session of the UN Human Rights Council

  15. The situation invoving a monument to Waffen SS’ Latvian Legion soldiers in Flanders

  16. WFP assistance to Kyrgyzstan

  17. UN General Assembly resolution on road safety

  18. 30th anniversary of Russia-ASEAN relations

  19. Diplomatic Journal for 2020 

Answers to media questions:

  1. Cypriot settlement halted over plans to reopen Varosha
  2. Czech government approves law on compensations for Vrbetice explosions
  3. Nagorno-Karabakh settlement
  4. Proof of Washington-ISIS collaboration Russia’s foreign policy and developments around Belarus
  5. Calls by chief editor of online Czech resource Forum24 to sever diplomatic relations with Russia, block Sputnik website in the Czech Republic
  6. Statements by Director of Foreign Ministry’s Second Asia Department Zamir Kabulov on Taliban’s readiness for political compromise
  7. Latvian parliament amends law on legal status of foreigners
  8. Russia-EU talks on mutual recognition of vaccines

Meeting of the World Coordinating Council of Russian Compatriots

 

A meeting of the World Coordinating Council of Russian Compatriots Living Abroad will take place online on July 27 with support from the Foreign Ministry. The council is the chief executive body of the World Congress of Compatriots.

The participants will discuss preparations for the 7th World Congress of Compatriots in Moscow on October 14-15 of this year, as well as efforts to protect the interests of the Diaspora, to support and promote the Russian language and other major issues that are topical for our compatriots. They will review separately information exchange with organisations of Russian compatriots abroad in connection with the forthcoming elections to the State Duma of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation.

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Upcoming commemorative events at the Russian Orthodox Chapel near Vrsic Pass (Slovenia)

 

A traditional event will take place in the Republic of Slovenia on July 31 at the memorial to Russian soldiers killed during World War I – the Russian Orthodox Chapel by the alpine Vrsic Pass. Russian POWs built this historical landmark in 1916. It became well-known as a symbol of Russian-Slovenian friendship when President of Russia Vladimir Putin took part in events devoted to the 100th anniversary of the chapel five years ago.

The Russian Embassy in Slovenia, the Slovenia-Russia Friendship Society and the Kranjska Gora Mayor’s Office organise a memorial ceremony by the Russian Chapel every year. It promotes understanding between our nations and helps preserve historical memory.

This year, Vice Speaker of the Federal Assembly Federation Council Konstantin Kosachev will head the Russian delegation to Slovenia. Representatives from the top leadership of Slovenia, hierarchs of the Russian Orthodox and Slovenian Catholic churches, the public at large and the media are expected to attend the ceremony. It will be held under the honourable patronage of Slovenian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economic Development and Technology Zdravko Pocivalcek.

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Russia’s interstate legal suit against Ukraine in the European Court of Human Rights

 

The Russian Federation filed an interstate lawsuit against Ukraine with the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). This step was long overdue. In the years since the illegal coup, Ukraine’s human rights record has not improved contrary to the expectations of “the fighters for independence.” It has in fact become worse.

The crimes committed by the Maidan authorities and their accomplices at the very beginning of the crisis in Ukraine were never investigated. This includes the burning of the Trade Union House in Odessa, Kiev’s initiating of the so-called counterterrorist operation against its own people and the failure to close its air space, which led to the crash of the MH-17 flight, to name a few.

These violations were supplemented with new outrages that systematically continue to this day: the total “Ukrainisation” of education and the media (we will talk about this in more detail today) despite international commitments to protect the rights of ethnic minorities, prosecution of “objectionable” journalists, the water blockade of Crimea and so on and so forth – this list is practically endless.

To use an ECHR term, Ukraine has established an “administrative practice” (let me emphasise that this is the court’s lexicon), that means systematic connivance of the authorities at the violations of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms by government bodies and private individuals.

Why is the Russian Federation taking this step now? For many years now, Russian and Ukrainian citizens and organisations have regularly asked, and even begged us to sue Kiev in the international court for its illegal actions. We were also often criticised: Ukraine has already filed many suites. When will Russia’s turn come? Leaving aside Kiev’s uncontrolled vexation that has already become obsessive, I would like to emphasise that Russia’s reserved position during these years does not at all mean that it has no arguments or evidence. To the contrary, Russia has amassed a tremendous amount of materials and will use this phenomenal mass of evidence in court. Nothing has been forgotten, no matter how much Kiev might wish this to disappear.

Moscow has consistently adhered to the position that taking the matter to court was an extreme measure that could only be used in exceptional cases. Moscow was motivated by its respect for international organisations, and striving to find other peaceful ways of settling the disputes, outside the courtroom. But Russia has run out of patience. The Kiev regime has enjoyed complete impunity while international organisations have closed their eyes to its irrational behaviour. It was given free rein. By holding Ukraine liable internationally for its systematic human rights violations (countless personal complaints show the scale of the atrocities), Russia is defending European law and order, a key value of the Council of Europe, something we have heard a lot about.  

We hope the ECHR will exhibit independence and lack of political bias in reviewing Russia’s complaint and will study in detail the presented evidence of human rights violations by the Kiev regime.

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New language discrimination norms come into force in Ukraine

 

The process of forced Ukrainisation and restrictions on the use of Russian and the languages of other ethnic minorities continue in Ukraine.

On July 14, 2021, the Constitutional Court of Ukraine adopted a politically influenced decision recognising the shameful law On Ensuring the Functioning of the Ukrainian Language as the State Language as corresponding to the Constitution of Ukraine, although its provisions clearly contradict the fundamental law and it was adopted with serious violations of the regulations of the Verkhovna Rada. A relevant inquiry was submitted by a group of deputies, most of them from the Opposition Platform — For Life party back in 2019.

Moreover, it turned out that some spheres of human activity, namely streaming services, evaded Ukrainisation. But their joy was short-lived: Big Brother has got them by the neck as well. On July 15, 2021, a draft law was submitted to the Verkhovna Rada under which 75 percent of the films, which are available in Ukraine online and were produced and/or screened for the first time after July 16, 2021, must be in the Ukrainian language.

The norms of the justmentioned language law came into effect on July 16, 2021. Forced Ukrainisation has reached out to culture and entertainment, tourism, filmmaking and the screening of films and series in cinemas and online, concerts and theatres, as well as museums.

Films produced in other languages have to either be dubbed or have a voiceover in order for them to be shown on television or in cinemas. The law sets the quota for the number of films that can be shown in other languages (with Ukrainian subtitles) at up to 10 percent of the total number of films shown a month. When the Maidan rallies began, the speakers kept saying that this was what the people wanted, and that the ongoing changes were based on the will of the people. Can’t the people of Ukraine decide for themselves which language should be used for films, books, museums and names of paintings and which language is more pleasant, interesting and better for them? Is it necessary to adopt laws with percentage requirements? These measures show that Kiev is not considering the will of the people but is acting on orders from a certain group of individuals, who clearly constitute a minority but are enforcing their will on the majority of people. First of all, this contradicts democratic principles. And secondly, it has exposed the falsehood of the declarations according to which people can only realise their will through Maidans and colour revolutions. This shows that the authorities’ decisions on the permitted share of Ukrainian, Russian or other languages to be used in the country are adopted according to what the minority wants. The Kiev authorities are not formalising the will of the majority through this law but are enforcing the will of the minority.

As for publishers, at least 50 percent of their annual circulation must be in the Ukrainian language. The only exceptions concern publications in the languages of the indigenous peoples and official EU languages. Are Europeans the indigenous people of Ukraine? Well, maybe Kiev will go as far as this someday.

The law stipulates obligatory Ukrainian language tests for the applicants for government jobs, positions at local governments and citizenship.

Some deputies of the Verkhovna Rada representing the pro-presidential Servant of the People party made half-hearted attempts to postpone the enforcement of some provisions, but they didn’t do this to protect the rights of the citizens who speak Russian or national minority languages. They did this to protect their vested financial and commercial interests. The requirement on dubbing Russian-language films and series on Ukrainian television, including those produced by the Kvartal 95 Studio, entails major financial losses for the television industry. On the other hand, they will likely find a way to compensate their losses. Another proposal concerned the postponement of obligatory language tests when applyingfor government jobs.

However, these “servants of the people” bowed to the will of the nationalist-minded minority. They revoked their proposals and refused to support their own party’s previous initiative to allow all people – not only Ukrainians and indigenous peoples, but all people in Ukraine – to receive education in their native languages at all levels, including universities, and to abolish penalties for violating language laws.

The day before, President Vladimir Zelensky signed the law On Indigenous Peoples of Ukraine, the provisions of which we already commented on when the draft of that law was made public. I looked for the adopted law several hours ago, but the official text has not been posted yet. I hope it will not be kept secret.

We are disappointed that the OSCE and Council of Europe bodies simply turned a blind eye to the systemic discrimination of Russian speakers in Ukraine. I mentioned this when commenting on the lawsuit Russia had filed with the European Court of Human Rights. Vienna and Strasbourg, which are clearly pandering to Kiev, refuse to hear the serious concerns expressed in Russia and several other countries. This manifestation of double standards runs contrary to the mission of these organisations and is undermining their standing of common European platforms.

The enforcement of the new provisions of the law on the state language amounts to yet another infringement on the desire of Ukrainian citizens to speak Russian, which is the native language for the majority of them. The latest discriminatory decisions of the Kiev authorities contradict the European Convention on Human Rights, the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, and the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities.

They also have no regard for the provisions of fundamental documents adopted by the CSCE/OSCE.

I assure you that we will not slacken our efforts to attract the OSCE and Council of Europe’s human rights bodies to Kiev’s flagrant violations of the commitments it adopted within the framework of these organisations to protect the rights of national and language minorities.

We will continue to demand that the OSCE’s Project Coordinator and Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine monitor the situation with national minorities and faithfully include into their reports information about any infringements on the minorities’ rights and freedoms.

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US-FRG deal on Nord Stream 2

 

The Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline will soon become operational despite Washington’s ongoing active attempts to politicise this project that will benefit the Europeans and to disrupt its implementation in its own geopolitical and economic interests. No matter what odd decisions might be adopted under US pressure, as was the case at the recent American-German talks, they cannot change the objective reality of this major construction project entering the “final stretch.”  It is in full accord with the norms of international law, the EU regulatory requirements and the laws of littoral states. Apart from other things, it also conforms to the much-discussed EU green climatic agenda.

Leaving the parrot-cries about “Russian aggression” on the conscience of writers, we can only reiterate that Russia has never used energy supplies or the transit issue as a weapon and has no intention either to do this in the future. On the contrary, we have been consistently committed to politics-free energy cooperation and its development with all countries based on the principles of respect for partners’ interests and mutual benefit.

We have nothing against a German-controlled Green Fund for Ukraine. If Kiev hopes that the West will be able to meet the needs of its population and economy by investing in renewable solar and wind energy, it is up to the Ukrainian leaders and the Ukrainian people, to whom the former have promised a lot of things. Russia will only welcome an ambitious Ukrainian contribution to the fight against climate change and to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The US-German statement has also made it clearer who and how will manage the development of the Ukrainian fuel and energy complex. This is somewhat at odds with the US and EU fundamental postulates on the sovereignty of a state, the sovereignty of its industry and the economic sectors, and the sovereignty of decision-making in what each state regards as its strategic areas. While urging support for the sustainability of Ukraine’s energy sector, Washington and Berlin seem to have forgotten that it was Kiev, not Moscow that took the decision on the formal cessation of Russian gas deliveries. We never had any intentions not to supply gas to Ukraine or via Ukraine. This matter is purely commercial and a prerogative of the relevant business entities.

It is certainly somewhat bizarre to hear states, which ostensibly uphold the market principles, say that the Russian company should mandatorily sign a new gas transit contract with Ukraine for no less than 10 years without regard for its economic aspect. Have you ever heard anything like this? Perhaps other countries have approached US fuel and energy companies to recommend or mandate that they supply energy to other nations or to the domestic market on terms laid down by states which these companies have no relation to?  Moreover, these statements are being made against the background of the already imposed illegal unilateral restrictions and artificial rules that are hampering this company’s operations, as well as threats to adopt new measures up to blocking energy exports to Europe.  It would be interesting to watch our Western partners’ reaction, if Moscow presented them with an ultimatum to sign a long-term contract for considerable amounts of Russian gas.

Hopefully, common sense will prevail and a reasonable solution will be found, a solution based on pragmatic economic calculations rather than political speculations, phobias and myths. We are confident that Nord Stream 2 will function reliably, providing affordable energy to European consumers and strengthening energy security of our common European continent.

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Restricting access to Czech Radio material

 

I would just like to say a few words or so about Twitter diplomacy. On July 20, 2021, Foreign Minister of the Czech Republic Jakub Kulhanek wrote on his Twitter account that he was surprised by the decision made by the Russian authorities to block the Radio Prague International website, and that he did not understand what was going on. He said that the Foreign Ministry and the Czech Radio would demand an explanation in connection with this absurd censorship on the part of the Russian side.

In reality, this allegedly absurd decision is not really absurd at all. There is no decision, mentioned by the Foreign Minister of the Czech Republic. Unfortunately, this is not the first time that Mr Kulhanek has been carrying out fact distortion. Quite possibly, he is getting incorrect information from the Czech Embassy in Moscow.

I would like to tell you about what is really happening. On July 2, 2021, acting under a Rospotrebnadzor decision, Roskomnadzor included a hyperlink for some material, posted on the website of Czech Radio’s Russian language service, in the Joint Register of Banned Information. I repeat, this is a hyperlink for a story, rather than for the entire website.

Under a Rospotrebnadzor decision, this hyperlink contains the following banned information, namely, an article about Jan Palach and his followers. It contains information about various methods for committing suicide, and this is inadmissible under the current Russian legislation.

On July 2, 5 and 8, 2021, the hosting provider and the administration of this internet resource were notified three times about Roskomnadzor demands on the need to delete this banned content. On July 15, 2021, the Rospotrebnadzor order on blocking the hyperlink for the just-mentioned article entered into force and was implemented by communications network operators.

I would just like to pointout once again that the administration of this website did not reply to Roskomnadzor demands, and the banned content has not been deleted to date.

In this connection, it is necessary to demand some explanations from the administration of the Czech website, rather than from Russian agencies. It is the administration of this website that refuses to fulfill the orders of Russian state agencies. The article will be de-blocked following the deletion of this section. The facts show that this does not imply the work of Czech Radio.

If the Czech Foreign Minister is so concerned over the future of this resource, then we suggest informing the management of Radio Prague International about the need to comply with Russian laws, and there will be no more problems.

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Recent statements by MI5 Director General Ken McCallum

 

We have noted statements by MI5 Director General Ken McCallum, which have been taken up by the British media, referring to security threats facing the United Kingdom, allegedly emanating from the actions of hostile states, namely, cyber-attacks, misinformation, etc. Director General Ken McCallum also lists Russia among such hostile states. At the same time, all of his assertions are in the well-known “highly likely” style. He provides no evidence or specific facts and merely speaks about certain hybrid threats. There is no specific example to confirm all this; however, this creates a narrative that is detrimental for and has a destructive effect on interstate dialogue and the normal development of bilateral ties.

We have repeatedly said that it is pointless to comment on such assertions. We consider it important to conduct a responsible conversation and to use concrete facts. If the British side has any specific data, rather than empty talk, that it can present to media outlets and social media networks, then it is free to do so. Please send it via the relevant channels.

I would like to recall that the Russian side has repeatedly suggested at various levels that Moscow and London hold bilateral interdepartmental consultations on international information security. For example, the relevant proposal was voiced during talks between Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and the then Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson in Moscow in December 2017.

We have emphasised for many years that Moscow is invariably guided by the principle of non-interference in the domestic affairs of other countries. Nor do we harbour any unfriendly intentions with regard to the UK.

At the same time, we have repeatedly warned London that the anti-Russia hysteria that has been launched in the UK will eventually have a backlash against its masterminds. In this connection, we would once again like to note that there is no future in elevating Russophobia to the rank of state policy. Moreover, it is important to conduct dialogue based on mutual respect and consideration for each other’s interests.

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Haiti update

 

We continue to closely follow the developments in Haiti where the domestic political crisis has approached the danger line following the vile assassination of President Jovenel Moise.

We note that the situation is changing to some extent. A new government headed by Ariel Henry has been appointed. Mr Henry’s team faces the difficult task of stabilising the domestic situation, launching all-inclusive dialogue between Haitian political forces, searching for mutually acceptable options to resume the country’s constitutional development and becoming a government of popular accord.

We wish every success to the new prime minister, and we believe in his rich political experience. However, we cannot help but comment on an important circumstance. The government’s lineup was held under tough external control on the part of a select group of countries and under US supervision. This obvious and objective fact shows that the new Haitian leaders will have to continue acting under all-out foreign control in the future.

Based on open sources alone, we would like to note the information that has been published on the substantial direct involvement of foreign citizens in the brutal assassination of the president of Haiti. We are talking about a large group of Colombian military and private military company CTU Security LLC from the United States. We have noted that US experts are doing their best to hush up the involvement of this private military company in the tragic Haitian developments. One has every reason to ask why they are doing this, why they do not comment on the matter, and why the involvement of the US private military company has not become front page news. Perhaps this would downplay the issue of Russia’s involvement in domestic US affairs. Or are there suspicions that this issue should not be raised in the United States, and that the international public should not be involved in analysing developments in Haiti whose president has been assassinated? We know honest American journalists who should focus on this topic.

We are not inclined to make any unequivocal conclusions. The Haitian authorities should conduct an unbiased investigation of their president’s assassination, at least in the context of current realities. Nevertheless, we will closely follow this investigation.

In a broader context, the problem is that the history of this long-suffering country knows periods when Haiti had been virtually placed under external control. This practice spelled nothing good for the country’s citizens.

We hope that the people of Haiti themselves will be able to break this vicious circle, overcome the mutual distrust of political forces, independently establish legitimate institutions of state authority through a democratic expression of people’s will and thus start moving towards the country’s revival.

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Update on Mali

 

We are following closely the developments in the Republic of Mali. Regrettably, the incoming news is alarming. On July 20 this year, after the feast prayer on the occasion of the Eid al-Adha (Kurban Bayram) festival of the Muslims at Bamako’s main mosque, an unidentified man attempted to stab interim President Assimi Goita. The assailant was detained by the presidential guard.  Luckily, Mr Goita emerged unscathed. According to a statement by the Presidential Executive Office, an investigation has been launched to explore the circumstances of this incident.

Moscow resolutely condemns attempts on the life of the Malian leader. We support Bamako’s firm resolve to take all necessary measures to identify all those implicated in this crime, detain them and bring them to trial.

We regard this incident as yet another attempt by the destructive forces to hamper progress in Mali’s domestic political process, which has been unfolding under the aegis of the interim authorities. We express hope that the Malian leadership will be able to carry out its plans to consolidate society and hold AU- and ECOWAS-assisted general democratic elections on February 27, 2022, as scheduled.

Russia will continue, including as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, to take a constructive part in international efforts to stabilise the situation in Mali and intends to proceed with rendering comprehensive bilateral support to Bamako. 

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Update on South Africa

 

We continue to follow the domestic political developments in the Republic of South Africa in connection with massive unrest provoked by the arrest of former President Jacob Zuma on July 7 this year. We deplore the numerous civilian casualties (over 200) resulting from the riots that have broken out in several regions of the country.

We believe that a determining factor in this course of events was the existence of profound socioeconomic problems that were exacerbated by the spread of the new coronavirus infection. 

We hope that the consistent steps being taken by the South African authorities will help them to normalise the situation and bring it back to the constitutional ambit.  

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Developments involving Ethiopia’s Renaissance hydroelectric project

 

We are following closely the developments related to the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on the Blue Nile River. We are fully aware of the significance of this matter for Addis Ababa and also for Egypt and Sudan that are located further downstream.

Russia took an equidistant stance with regard to differences between the three countries regarding the filling and operation of the hydroelectric complex at the July 8 open meeting of the UN Security Council on this subject. We believe that a search for solutions should take place at trilateral talks under the African Union’s aegis.

We see that there is an urgent need to continue the consultations between the parties following the second stage in the filling of the reservoir, including with account taken of Ethiopia’s readiness to hold such consultations. We hope that the negotiating venue supervised by Chair of the African Union and President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo Felix Tshisekedi will soon resume its work. We call on all sides to take a responsible approach to settling the water dispute and hope for an early mutually beneficial outcome in the spirit of the most important principle that calls for African Solutions to African Problems. 

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OPCW draft report on CWC implementation in 2020

 

It turned out during the presentation at the 97th  session of the Executive Council of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) of the Draft Report of the OPCW on the Implementation of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on Their Destruction (CWC) in 2020 that, according to Clause 1.41, on  August 20, 2020, the  OPCW Technical Secretariat, acting at the request of Germany,  deployed  a  team  to perform a technical assistance visit (TAV) in relation to the suspected poisoning of Alexey Navalny.

In practical terms, this means that Germany became concerned about the blogger’s fate on the very day when he showed the first symptoms of health problems while on board the Tomsk-Moscow Flight 2614 and later in the toxicology department of Clinical Hospital No. 1 in the city of Omsk, where he was taken after the plane’s emergency landing on August 20, 2020, that is, days before he was transported to the Charite Hospital on August 22, 2020, the diagnosis of his alleged poisoning with cholinesterase inhibitor made there on August 24, 2020, or the subsequent conclusions made on September 2, 2020 at the Bundeswehr Institute of Pharmacology and Toxicology regarding his alleged poisoning with а Novichok-class toxic agent.

Taking into account the sequence of official German statements with the allegations of Russia’s involvement, one tends to see them as the reason why Berlin reacted to the developments so quickly.

It was Germany rather than the OPCW Technical Secretariat who hurried to explain the date – August 20, 2020 – as a technical error allegedly made during the drafting of the report. As if it was drafted by Germany rather than the OPCW. Maybe this is how it really happened? The information about Navalny’s alleged poisoning with toxic agents included in the documents of the OPCW Technical Secretariat points the finger at Berlin. Indeed, it was Germany who commented on the OPCW report and the “errors” in its text. This makes one wonder about the organisation’s other documents. Who writes them, and on what grounds? Berlin claimed that it is beyond any question that it had sent an official request to the Director-General of the OPCW Technical Secretariat for technical assistance under Clause 38 (е) of Article VIII of the CWC on September 4, 2020, as the official sources have confirmed several times. They can tell anything now. It is one thing if the request was sent on September 4, and it is quite another matter that the OPCW report mentioned a different date, August 20. This can hardly be explained by a technical error.

We believe, and we have pointed this out on numerous occasions, that this fact in the case of Alexey Navalny’s alleged poisoning must be thoroughly investigated.  Light must be thrown at long last on the causes of that clearly orchestrated provocation, which was designed to tarnish the good name of Russia and to destroy the reputation of the OPCW. Therefore, we welcome the initiative of Vasily Piskaryov, chair of the State Duma Commission on the Investigation of Foreign Interference in Russia’s Internal Affairs, on using the potential of interparliamentary cooperation to once again attract the attention of the Bundestag and sober-minded people at the OPCW to the ambiguities and inconsistencies that have plagued this case from the very beginning. Letters signed by Vasily Piskaryov will shortly be sent to President of the Bundestag Wolfgang Schauble and Director-General of the OPCW Technical Secretariat Fernando Arias. We hope that they will read these letters carefully and will give exhaustive replies to the State Duma deputies, who represent the Russian people.

In this connection, I would just like to mention once again that we have not received any intelligible answers to the eight requests and letters sent by the Russian Prosecutor General’s Office to the German law enforcement authorities in 2020 and 2021, asking them for material evidence and explanations of various circumstances related to the blogger’s alleged poisoning. The German government’s replies to the numerous similar requests from Bundestag deputies were also without any substance.

We will not forget the questionable stand taken by the OPCW Technical Secretariat regarding Russia’s justified request for disclosing the formula of the toxic agent the traces of which were allegedly found in the blogger’s biomaterials. It pointed the finger on Berlin, which, at a loss for a better solution, sent us back to The Hague, thereby completing the vicious circle. Likewise, they kept telling us that it was Alexey Navalny himself who prohibited the provision of any information concerning him to Russia. All players in this strange performance are pointing the finger at each other. Moreover, the OPCW Technical Secretariat refused, on the basis of flimsy formalities, to implement Moscow’s initiative on sending OPCW experts to Russia to analyse the results of Navalny’s tests together with their Russian colleagues in order to identify the elements of the crime allegedly committed in Russia. We are ready to work with OPCW experts, and we have done everything necessary for this. We can see now that more inconsistencies and discrepancies will most likely come to light. Nevertheless, we would like to receive answers to our previous questions and any other questions that may arise.

We hope that the call of the Russian MPs for jointly establishing the truth looking for reasonable solutions in the interests of improving Russian-German relations and easing tension in our dialogue with then OPCW will be heeded.

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New data on the role of senior officials of the OPCW Technical Secretariat in misrepresenting conclusions in the final report of the OPCW Fact-Finding Mission in Douma (Syria)

 

We noted an interview with former members of the Fact-Finding Mission of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) investigating chemical weapons use in Douma, Syria, on April 7, 2018. The interview covers many issues which we have been raising with the UN Security Council and the OPCW for a long period of time.

The now former employees of the OPCW Technical Secretariat Ian Henderson and Brendan Whelan deserve credit for their personal courage. Despite being pressured by a certain group of countries consolidated by Euro-Atlantic “values,” Mr Henderson and Mr Whelan have been fighting for the credibility of the Nobel Peace Prize-winning organisation for two years. They shed light on tampering with the report on the incident in Douma (Syria), from which the senior officials of the once solely technical international body redacted a number of specific facts, accounts and expert opinions. How could this happen? If they scribbled in different dates, changing August 20 to September 4 and calling it a typo, what would stop them from removing important data from the report before it was even published? It is that simple. We have just seen how this happens. The rigged data corroborates findings against Syria which, in turn, justify the act of aggression against Damascus committed on April 14, 2018, by the United States, Great Britain and France in violation of the UN Charter.

We will continue to insist that senior officers of the OPCW Technical Secretariat conduct a full and comprehensive investigation into these allegations which have significantly harmed the credibility of this organisation.

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons is supposed to prohibit chemical weapons and regulate countries’ activities in this area rather than “concoct” things. It looks like the opposite is true: many OPCW employees seem to have forgotten their main agenda, which is regulating the prohibition of chemical weapons.

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Main outcome of the 47th session of the UN Human Rights Council

 

The 47th session of the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) took place in Geneva on June 21 – July 14, 2021, via videoconference.

The session focused on a wide range of issues on the international human rights agenda, including the role of civil society in combating COVID-19, the right of girls to education, the negative impact of corruption on the enjoyment of human rights, enhancing international cooperation in human rights, new digital technology and human rights, eradicating violence against women and girls, contribution of development to the enjoyment of human rights, and other issues.

Following the 47th session of the UN HRC, 25 topic- and country-specific resolutions were adopted, including on human rights in Belarus, Eritrea, Myanmar, Syria and Ukraine and the Tigray region of Ethiopia.

The HRC approved the outcomes of the Universal Periodic Review for Australia, Austria, the Federated States of Micronesia, Georgia, Lebanon, Mauritania, Nauru, Nepal, Oman, Rwanda, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia and Sao Tome and Principe.

Experts were appointed as Special Rapporteurs on the effects of foreign debt on human rights, on violence against women, on the enjoyment of human rights by persons with albinism, on the right to privacy, as well as members of the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances and the Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent.

The Russian delegation used the discussions during the 47th session of the HRC to bring upon an understanding among its international partners of the importance of building a constructive international dialogue on encouraging and protecting human rights, respecting the national, cultural and historical specifics of every state in the process of democratic reforms without imposing borrowed value systems, as well as preventing the notorious policy of double standards and politicising the HRC. Russia has strongly opposed attempts by several Western states to interfere in the domestic affairs of sovereign states by means of HRC decisions, to pressure national governments or to claim territories.

For the first time since the establishment of the HRC, with Russia’s support, a group of states has adopted a joint statement expressing concern about the exercise of the right to peaceful assembly in Western Europe and the United States.  

During the session, the Russian Federation has repeatedly drawn the Council’s attention to the fact that in the 21st century, it is unacceptable for the European countries most affected by the fascist ideology to pursue a policy of segregation based on ethnicity, religion or language. Russia raised the urgent issue of preventing the exploitation of the human rights agenda to achieve opportunistic political and economic goals by certain countries.

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The situation invoving a monument to Waffen SS’ Latvian Legion soldiers in Flanders

 

We have noted a Belgian public discussion concerning a monument to Waffen SS’ Latvian Legion soldiers, unveiled in 2018 in the Zedelgem Municipality, West Flanders.

I would just like to remind you that, for more than two years now, despite the repeated protests coming fromBelgian citizens and public organisations, including veterans’ associations, a monument to Waffen SS’ Latvian Legion soldiers who were incarcerated in a local POWcamp in 1945 and 1946 is still standing in the Zedelgem Municipality, in West Flanders. The monument was erected by the Zedelgem municipal authorities in cooperation with Latvia’s Occupation Museum. Today, the public continues to focus their attention on this scandalous fact of glorifying Nazi accomplices, and members of the Flemish Parliament will have to decide on the monument’s future. Calls for immediately dismantling this man-hating structure are absolutely justified.

At the same time, some people claim that the monument perpetuates the Baltic nation’s striving for independence and democracy and has nothing to do with the glorification of Nazism. This is fraught with dire consequences. Some European states tend to revise the works of Adolf Hitler, but then there is also the decision of the Nuremberg International Military Tribunal to take into consideration.

We condemn any forms of glorifying Nazi accomplices and all kinds of collaborationists, whitewashing and defending former Waffen SS members who are blasphemously elevated to the rank of members of the national liberation movement. We should not forget the true nature of Waffen SS’ Latvian Legion soldiers: They were direct accomplices of Nazi war criminals, who swore their allegiance to the Nazi regime that had perpetrated the greatest genocide in history. The authorities of Belgium’s Zedelgem Municipality could not have been ignorant about the real nature ofWaffen SS’ Latvian Legion activities, and they clumsily explain this by a desire to merely praise universal freedom, without allegedly singling out any group or POWs. This logic is monstrous.  

Riga promotes different concepts. The website of the Occupation Museum, Zedelgem’s partner in unveiling the monument, notes directly that this freedom monument is dedicated to members of the Latvian Legion. Consequently, this is a monument to collaborationists who once who once served with Axis and Nazi forces, and it does not symbolise any abstract freedom.

We hope that the local Belgian authorities will make a historically correct and justified decision with regard to WWII victims that would respect the memory of millions of those killed during the war.

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WFP assistance to Kyrgyzstan

 

Last week, another batch of food assistance, namely, 945 tonnes of vitamin-enriched wheat flour, arrived in Osh in the Kyrgyz Republic. This project is financed by Russia’s $8 million targeted contribution to the fund of the UN World Food Programme (UN WFP). Ad hoc commissions of local government agencies will distribute all the food among 31,500 underprivileged families in southern Kyrgyzstan.

In April and June 2021, Bishkek and Osh received 1,084 tonnes of wheat flour and 365 tonnes of sunflower oil for targeted distribution among 32,500 needy families and 78,000 school pupils from various Kyrgyz regions.  These projects are a continuation of Russia’s efforts to assist Kyrgyzstan in addressing problems of food security using the UN WFP potential.

The Russian Federation is a major WFP donor in the Kyrgyz Republic; this concerns financing and technical assistance volumes. Since 2008, Russia has allocated approximately $96 million for supporting food programmes in Kyrgyzstan. Over one million Kyrgyz citizens have received assistance as a result. The UN WFP implements a well-known project to provide Kyrgyz primary school pupils with hot food, with Russia’s financial backing alone. Its implementation has allowed over 400,000 children in 800 schools in the republic to have a hot breakfast.

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UN General Assembly resolution on road safety

 

On July 21, the UN General Assembly unanimously adopted a draft resolution on arranging a high-level UN meeting on road safety in 2022. Russia and Cote d’Ivoire were the coordinators at the talks on the text of the document. Our country has been consistently supporting the UN, including when it comes to saving human lives on the roads and creating a safe urban environment. We also initiated convening a high-level UN meeting on road safety. It was Russia, which promoted the development of this field of international cooperation on the UN platform. Thus, Moscow was the venue of the First Global Ministerial Conference on Road Safety held in 2009. It established strategic benchmarks for the efforts of the international community, the main one of which was to cut road deaths by half throughout the world by 2030. We will back our partners in this difficult but important job, including at the UN specialised agencies and regional economic commissions.

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30th anniversary of Russia-ASEAN relations

 

This week we marked two important anniversaries: 30 years of Russia-ASEAN relations and 25 years of a full-fledged dialogue with ASEAN that was promoted to the level of strategic partnership at the Singapore summit in 2018.

Fostering relations with ASEAN is invariably among the priorities of our policy in Asia. The main areas of cooperation are determined at the meetings of the leaders. Ministers of foreign affairs and of the economy get together at least once a year. Two weeks ago, Sergey Lavrov, while on a visit to Jakarta, held a videoconference, jointly with his Indonesian colleague, with the foreign ministers of the ten ASEAN countries to mark the anniversary.

A solid legal and contractual framework of Russia-ASEAN relations and a ramified and multilevel structure of dialogue mechanisms have been created over a period of the past 30 years. And this work continues. This year witnessed the launching of two new platforms for specialised interaction: Consultations of the High Representatives for Security Issues and the Dialogue on ICT Security-related issues, as well as the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding in the field of Disaster Management.

The strategic link between Russia and ASEAN is an important factor of stability and sustainable development in the Asia-Pacific Region. Amid the pandemic of the novel coronavirus infection its importance is growing even more. We act from similar positions on the international arena and seek the formation of a stable, inclusive, balanced and transparent security architecture based on the rules and principles of international law. Russia is interested in enhancing the central role of ASEAN in regional affairs and is actively involved in ASEAN-centred associations of the East-Asian Summit, ASEAN Regional Forum on security and the meeting of ASEAN defence ministers and dialogue partners.

The emerging trend to try and restore trade, following the difficulties caused by the pandemic, gives grounds for optimism. Our plans are to consolidate it through the promotion of innovation and knowledge-intensive industries, support for private business efforts, with the assistance from the Russia-ASEAN Business Council and greater cooperation between the EAEU and ASEAN.

The activities of non-governmental entities, such as the ASEAN Centre at the MGIMO University, the Russian-ASEAN network of research centres as well as regular youth summits and other joint events, help us to know and understand each other better.

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Diplomatic Journal for 2020 published

 

The Diplomatic Journal for 2020, prepared by the Information and Press Department, is now available.

The publication includes various rubrics with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s statements, remarks, interviews and articles on the main topics of Russia’s foreign policy throughout 2020 in Russian and English. As before, the journal uses materials and photos from the Foreign Ministry’s website.

The publication is primarily intended for our colleagues, diplomats, experts on foreign affairs and all those interested in the contemporary Russian foreign policy.

The Diplomatic Journal has a limited print run. Each journal comes complete with a CD copy. You can also read the journal’s online version on the Foreign Ministry’s website.

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Answers to media questions:

Question: What does Russia think about the current situation in the Cyprus peace process in connection with the latest developments, namely, the reopening of the Varosha district, including in the context of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s recent visit to northern Cyprus? 

Maria Zakharova: To the best of my knowledge, Greece’s Open TV asked a similar question yesterday.

We closely follow the situation in the Cyprus peace process and around the restricted Varosha district in Famagusta. Continued changes in the Varosha district’s regime and its consequences for the prospects of the Cyprus peace settlement cannot but cause serious concern. Russia holds a well-known position: We believe that any unilateral actions running counter to the earlier UN Security Council Resolutions 550 (1984) and 789 (1992) and creating additional difficulties for the resumption of the negotiating process on the Cyprus problem are unacceptable.

The Russian Federation consistently advocates the resolution of the Cyprus issue within the well-known international legal framework, which is stipulated by UN Security Council resolutions and which calls for the establishment of a federation with two zones and two communities in Cyprus. They would have one and the same international legal standing, sovereignty and citizenship. We do not support the unilateral modification of current basic concepts of the talks and a revision of the peace process’ model. We believe that the communities themselves should find the ultimate solution without any outside pressure, without imposing ready-made options and certain deadlines. We inform all our partners without exception about our principled approach, and we are guided by it in our work at the UN Security Council.

We hope that earlier modes for resolving the Cyprus problem, approved by the UN Security Council, will be reflected in yet another resolution on extending the mandate of the UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus. Members of the UN Security Council are currently reviewing this draft resolution. Russia invariably supports the activities of the UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus, with due consideration for this mission’s highly important stabilising role. This is how we see it.

We will continue to defend the approach to creating favourable external conditions for attaining progress on the Cyprus issue at the UN and also in bilateral contacts. We believe that the soonest possible resumption of inter-community talks on finally resolving the Cyprus problem would make it possible to create a constructive atmosphere for facilitating a compromise solution on the Varosha matter as well.

We are convinced that the involvement of the five permanent UN Security Council members in discussing the peace settlement’s external aspects and the replacement of the current outdated system of external guarantees of the island’s security with UN guarantees remain highly topical.

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Question: Can you comment on the Czech Government approving a draft law on the payment of compensation over the Vrbetice case?

Maria Zakharova: This is certainly absurd. The entire situation is absurd and a bit far-out. Prague is being haunted by a seven-year-old incident involving explosions at the Czech military depots in the village of Vrbetice and an alleged involvement of the Russian secret services in this incident, which is totally unproven. The Czech authorities are so rattled that they have promised their citizens and the settlements affected by the 2014 blasts a certain amount of financial compensation for the damage. Well, they have a right to do this. It is another matter that for some unknown reason they have decided to take the money from Russia. For this purpose, the Czech Council of Ministers has even approved a relevant draft law.  Generally speaking, this looks like a joke. You know, when someone wants something but lacks the money, they come up with the idea of getting the cash from those who have nothing to do with the affair. Indeed, this is an anecdotal situation.

The Czech politicians are living in a parallel reality. We certainly know that the Czech Republic will hold parliamentary elections in October. We also understand that the internal situation within Czech society is far from simple and that various parties need to score points.  Relations with Russia have always been an important factor in internal political infighting in that country, where, evidently, the domestic agenda is not thrilling anyone.  It is, in fact, so insipid and boring that they constantly turn to Russia for a “source of inspiration.” Regrettably, Prague has shown itself to the world in an unseemly and anecdotal light in the context of the so-called Vrbetice case.

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Question: The Azerbaijani armed forces have committed provocations at the Yeraskh section of the Armenian-Azerbaijani border almost every day since July 14, firing at Armenian positions and border villages. As a result of an Azerbaijani provocation, an Armenian military member serving under contract was killed by a sniper shot. A Yeraskh border village community leader was wounded on July 19. Azerbaijan used mortars along with firearms for the first time since the Second Artsakh War. What is your reaction to Azerbaijan’s attacks on the Armenian Armed Forces and the shelling of the civilian population in the Yeraskh border community?

Question: President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev has made new territorial claims, saying: “The trilateral statement of November 9, 2020 says: all refugees must return to their homelands. Our homeland is Zangezur, Goycha (Sevan), and Irevan (Yerevan). We will certainly be back.” Can you comment on this statement, which solely concerned the Artsakh issue, not the territory of the Republic of Armenia?

Question: The acting prime minister of Armenia claims that Baku is hindering the unblocking of transport routes in the region, which is envisaged by the trilateral statement. Can you comment on the fact that Azerbaijan is refusing to open the Armenia-Georgia-Azerbaijan-Russia corridor, in continued violation of the trilateral statement of November 9, 2020?

Maria Zakharova: All the problems you mentioned have been on the media radar for a long time, so I will give a general comment.

The Russian Federation, which has close relations with both Armenia and Azerbaijan, places a special emphasis on the Azerbaijani-Armenian border situation, and of course, on the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh, where our peacekeeping force is stationed. Russia continues making a significant contribution to maintaining stability and establishing a peaceful life in Nagorno-Karabakh, streamlining urgent humanitarian issues, including the return of prisoners of war, refugees and bodies of the dead, and assisting the confidence-building measures between Baku and Yerevan. We continue working to ensure that the UNHCR and UNESCO missions have access to the region.

We observe with concern any sign of an escalation of tensions on the Azerbaijani-Armenian border. This definitely has an extremely negative effect on the regional situation, does little to normalise the dialogue between Azerbaijan and Armenia, and leads to unjustified losses among the two countries’ populations. In this regard, I would like to convey my condolences to the family and friends of the deceased Armenian service member, and wishes of a speedy recovery to all those injured in the border incidents.

Our position is well known: border incidents should be settled exclusively through political and diplomatic means. It is imperative to refrain from confrontational rhetoric or forceful methods. Systematic, painstaking work is required to find mutually acceptable compromises. This is what we are persuading both sides to do.

We are confident that a sustainable de-escalation can only be reached through the immediate launch of work on the delimitation of the border between Azerbaijan and Armenia and its subsequent demarcation. We are ready to support these efforts with the cartographic information we have. The Russian side has prepared a number of documents that can help move the discussion onto a constructive track. Contacts on this subject currently continue between the foreign and defence ministries, as well as the border services of the three countries.

Regional stability was high on the agenda of the talks between President Vladimir Putin and Acting Prime Minister of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan on July 7 and with President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev on July 20. Essentially, the leaders of Russia, Azerbaijan and Armenia, despite the complexity and scope of the challenges in the region, have reaffirmed their determination to continue their joint activities to find optimal solutions. They expressed their firm commitment to consistent and comprehensive implementation of the November 9, 2020 agreement, which effectively stopped the bloodshed, and the January 11 deal that paved the way for reopening the transport links in the South Caucasus.

We note with satisfaction that the trilateral working group, established by the agreements of the leaders of Azerbaijan, Armenia and Russia, co-chaired by deputy prime ministers, has held several rounds of substantive discussions and coordinated positions on the ground, outlining a sequence of the necessary steps to restore transport and economic ties. We hope it will resume its meetings in the near future. This would pave the way to the phased implementation of joint infrastructure projects, which fully meets the interests of both Armenia and Azerbaijan, and the entire South Caucasus.

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Question: Russian Special Presidential Representative for Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov said that Russia has evidence of links between US officials and Islamic State militants. Does Moscow plan to present this evidence to the international community – for example, as a report to international organisations such as the United Nations?

Maria Zakharova: For the past few years, we have drawn and continue to draw the attention of the international community to this issue, in the format of official comments for the media, interviews and statements, and quoting Afghan authorities, including parliament members, provincial governors, heads of districts, etc., as well as the Taliban. Speaking about evidence, we have provided it multiple times, although not in the Anglo-Saxon manner of showing vials in the UN Security Council which later turn out to be fake, but based on data. I can remind you of what I am talking about. 

We have many questions about unmarked helicopter flights, recorded since 2017, over the areas of activity of ISIS militants, especially in northern Afghanistan. We made several statements about this. According to Afghan sources, the helicopters were used to deliver reinforcement, weapons and munition and to remove killed and wounded terrorists from battlefields. We made this information public and said that this information should attract serious attention from specialised bodies and all involved parties. We spoke about this before, and, I should stress once again, this kind of activity was not possible without the knowledge of the United States and NATO, who completely controlled the Afghan air space.

Similar incidents have been reported in the provinces of Faryab, Badghis and Sar-e-Pol. In the eastern provinces of Nangarhar and Konar as well as in Jowzjan in the north, air strikes by the US Air Force targeting the positions of the Taliban troops that clashed with ISIS have been reported. This kind of selective action clearly indicates that a connection exists.

We believe that this data is enough to make a substantiated conclusion that the United States cooperates with ISIS militants. As concerns submitting this information to the UN, we have reported it, and it is freely available to use.

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Question: Leader of the Belarusian opposition Svetlana Tikhanovskaya recently said she wanted a dialogue with Russia. However, experts often criticise Russia’s foreign policy, which, unlike the United States, rarely supports opposition forces in other countries. To a large extent, Russia portrays itself in the international arena rather theatrically in favour of sovereignty and against interference in other countries’ internal affairs. Will this change? Under what circumstances might Moscow start a dialogue with Ms Tikhanovskaya?

Maria Zakharova: It is not that Russian foreign policy or the Russian Federation portray themselves like you have said. It is about international law. This is what the UN Charter says. We are a member of the UN and the UN Security Council. We are committed to international legal norms, primarily, the UN Charter, Security Council resolutions and everything that humankind has accumulated since the creation of this world organisation. There is nothing theatrical about this. This is about the numerous states’ practical life over decades. Why was it done? There were few theatrics involved. There were pragmatic considerations to prevent conflicts between states that could lead to another world war.

The UN structure and charter were developed during WWII. This culminated in the creation and opening of the headquarters and the beginning of the work of the member states after the war ended. The objective was not theatrical, but pragmatic, namely, to provide a proper environment for the countries and peoples to address emerging problems, disputes and misunderstandings on the basis of the general rules outlined in legal documents. It was not about coming up every time with rules suited to oneself that could be conveniently used in particular circumstances and then dropped or about preventing others from using these very rules on an equal footing, but the objective was for the law to remain the same for everyone. There may be different ways to interpret, uphold or promote it on the basis of consensus, amendments or additions. It must be a consolidated process based on common ground which is international law.

So, I just can’t agree with your argument that it is a “theatrical position.” It comes from actual experience in order to prevent suffering and to preserve life and peace.

That brings me to Belarus. In your question, you aptly noted that Russia rarely supports opposition forces abroad. We do not support opposition or any other forces altogether. Opposition in a sovereign state is a sovereign matter of the people of a particular country. Only the people living in a particular country can decide whether or not to support the opposition, which political force is closer to them, for whom to vote and whom not to consider serious politicians. This is not a matter to be addressed by another state, but exclusively the prerogative of the people of a respective country. This is what makes us different from the United States, which has a habit of unceremoniously interfering in the internal affairs of sovereign states, including supporting non-systemic opposition.

We maintain contacts with the opposition. It can be a political party which is not a ruling party, but is represented in the legislative assembly and participates in a social dialogue. Or, it may be a political force that is not registered as a party, but which participates in the internal political process, is proclaimed as such or is, for example, supported by international organisations. We do maintain contacts with such forces which are very different from one another. This in no way implies that we support their ideology or form of activity. There may be different situations where this is beneficial for the state – not an individual political force, a party or a group, but the entire state.

We have just covered the situation in Afghanistan. Yes, we are supportive of an intra-Afghan dialogue there and are in contact with various forces participating in this political process inside Afghanistan. There is a UN Security Council resolution calling on countries to adopt a similar approach. Everything here is clear and legal. I am not sure if it is theatrical, but it is dignified.

Indeed, we respect other countries’ sovereignty and independence and are not going to be like some of our Western partners who are trying to implement the theory and practice of “colour revolutions” around the world, especially in the post-Soviet space, in order to bring to power the forces on which they are placing their stakes, which advance the interests of other countries or country associations rather than their own national interests.

With regard to Belarus, we are not willing to help legitimise fugitive opposition members. Internal processes in Belarus are an internal affair of that country. Unfortunately, representatives of the Belarusian emigration, including Ms Tikhanovskaya, do not have a constructive and unifying agenda for overcoming the crisis in the country and disregard the steps taken by Minsk regarding constitutional reform, which is critically important for the state. On the contrary, as we can see (this is not just theory, but factual analysis) they are doing their utmost to rock the situation in the republic and to damage its economy. The calls to the Western community to impose more sanctions on Belarus, its economy and citizens speak volumes. Does this do anything to consolidate society, is it beneficial to Belarus as a state, or does it advance national interests?

We believe that there is hardly any political future for those who call for tougher sanctions on their own country. We believe that only Belarusian citizens and their legal representatives, rather than self-styled “leaders of democratic forces” and their Western curators, can decide on the future of their country.

There are a variety of historical cases, but in this particular case it can be clearly seen that forces that are completely unrelated to that country are standing behind the supposedly independent political figures of Belarus who are now residing beyond its borders. These forces completely organise everyday life, activities, funding, support and political activity. We should not be talking about independent political figures representing a particular part of Belarusian society, but about forces outside Belarus that recruited convenient figures from among the ranks of the citizens of that country to promote their own agenda.

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Question: What can you tell us about the appeals of chief editor of the Czech news portal Forum24 Johana Hovorkova to sever diplomatic relations with Russia and block the Sputnik website in the Czech Republic?

Maria Zakharova: As for severing diplomatic relations, a decision on this issue can only be made by other institutions of authority in a sovereign state.

As for her demand to close this or any other media outlet, it is ridiculous to hear this from a journalist. I have always been aware of a solidarity among journalists; I know that journalists support each other despite any difficulties or situations, and uphold the interests of the journalistic community.

In this case, we are seeing that this ethic has been completely distorted, and we are hearing bellicose rhetoric from this Czech citizen. She talks about some war that the Czech Republic must win. I don’t know what country the Czechs are at war with; maybe, they are, but we are simply unaware of it.

The chief editor of this Czech news portal probably does not know this, but Czech journalists do work in Russia and have the same status as other media representatives and as their Russian colleagues. They are using all the opportunities granted to them by Russian law. They regularly appear on TV.

I have never heard that they face any difficulties. Of course, Russian journalists or their representative associations have never made any appeals (I haven’t heard of any) to close and expel a Czech media outlet.

However, you know that when Russian journalists are discriminated against abroad, we respond accordingly. I don’t think the journalist you mentioned had thought so far ahead or thought at all about the consequences of a step like blocking Sputnik in the Czech Republic. But since she didn’t think it through, I could explain what they will be.

In any case, we never leave unanswered acts of illegal discrimination against Russian journalists or violations of their rights abroad. The day is gone when we simply tried to explain why this is wrong and waited for a sensible response. Now any violation of the rights of our journalists will trigger an appropriate response.

I hope it will not come to this. It won’t be our choice, that’s for sure. I think you know about this. I hope you will manage to tell the Czech audience that Russia is sincerely complying with its commitments to protect freedom of speech and grant domestic and foreign journalists the opportunity to work freely and to professionally fulfil their duties in Russia. We would like reciprocity on this issue.

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Question:  Director of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Second Asia Department Zamir Kabulov said the Taliban is ready for a political compromise. What is this compromise about? Did Sergey Lavrov and President of Afghanistan Ashraf Ghani discuss this at their meeting?

Maria Zakharova: To begin with, Mr Kabulov is also a special representative of President of Russia Vladimir Putin for Afghanistan.

When we speak about a potential compromise between the sides involved in the Afghanistan conflict, we primarily refer to the intra-Afghan peace process. This process must produce the outlines of a future state system in Afghanistan and the formation of an inclusive transitional government with the participation of all ethnic and political forces in the country. The Taliban’s leaders are ready for the suggested dialogue.

At any rate, we go by what they say. Despite the ceremony of launching talks, conducted in Doha in September 2020, the sides have not yet started a substantive discussion of the problem. The reciprocal movement of the conflicting parties towards compromise is based on the US-Taliban agreement of February 29, 2020, on the liberation of all prisoners by the parties.

During meetings, including the recent visit of a Taliban delegation to Moscow on July 8 of this year, the Taliban confirmed its desire to discuss the above questions with a delegation representing Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.

Mr Lavrov and Mr Ghani also focused on the issues of the Afghan peace settlement on July 16, 2021 in Tashkent, on the sidelines of the international conference “Central and South Asia: Regional Connectivity. Challenges and Opportunities.

I would also like to draw your attention to Mr Kabulov’s interview, to be held at about 8 pm tonight. He will talk about a broad range of issues on an intra-Afghanistan domestic settlement, its international and legal implications and contacts with Russian representatives.

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Question: Could you please comment on amendments to the law on the legal status of foreign nationals that was recently adopted by the Lithuanian Seimas, which may worsen the situation of migrants in that country?

Maria Zakharova: The fact that the media have picked up information about legislative changes in Vilnius has come to our attention. They have noticeably toughened the terms of stay for migrants in Lithuania, like detention in a holding facility has been extended to up to six months, migrants cannot leave their original place of residence after arriving in the country and, most importantly, they have restricted the right to appeal the decision to refuse to grant asylum and have allowed the deportation of migrants pending final consideration of their appeals.

First, these changes have already been sharply criticised by human rights organisations, including the Lithuanian Red Cross. These agencies believe that such decisions run contrary to the basic principles of international law. It’s hard to disagree with that.

The most surprising part is that the Lithuanian authorities are so fond of positioning their country as a “space of democracy” and even take the liberty of teaching “democratic values” to other states. This is a concrete and practical challenge faced by Lithuania. Indeed, it is a challenge, but they need to apply the very same democratic principles that have been proclaimed by Lithuania for so many years rather than act in violation of international legal obligations.

This allegedly democratic space turns out to be a not very hospitable place for people who come to Europe not so much in search of a better deal, but because it’s impossible to stay in a place that has come to know the “hand” and the “foot” of the guardians of Western democracy.

The issue of granting asylum smacks of chauvinism and a violation of basic rules. I would like to know if Brussels will come up with any response. I would like to give a piece of advice to the Lithuanian authorities who drafted these amendments. Next time this state votes for, supports or plays along with a decision on the invasion of a sovereign state by the United States or NATO, they should think about the consequences.

After all, migration to Europe from the Middle East and North Africa was the result of a series of interventions, violations of sovereignty and adventurous actions by NATO member states. I did not hear Lithuania vote against it. I have only heard how Lithuania has always provided its overall support to Big Brother and NATO with regard to these decisions.

So, since Lithuania has not condemned or even discussed these reckless decisions, but simply acted upon them, it now should, like the rest of EU and NATO members, bear its share of responsibility for the results of their unlawful acts in other parts of the world. People come to Europe en masse not because their life in their home countries is so good and they want to marvel at the international cultural and architectural landmarks, but because a war is going on in their countries, their countries are destroyed, and because there’s nothing left of their countries, and they are looking for ways to survive. These are the consequences of the flawed and, to a large extent, criminal policy of NATO countries, including the EU countries I mentioned.

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Question: It was reported recently that the Russian Healthcare Ministry is ready to discuss the mutual recognition of vaccination certificates with the EU. This is an important issue because Russophobes are using it to discredit Russia. Tens of thousands of people in the EU, for instance, Hungary, Slovakia, Germany and San Marino, have received a Sputnik V jab. People from these and other countries come to Russia for the Sputnik V vaccine. There is obvious discrimination against those vaccinated with it. Are Russia and the EU conducting talks on the mutual recognition of their vaccines?

Maria Zakharova: Many countries are conducting bilateral talks with Russia on this issue. As you know, after our breakthroughs in inventing the vaccine, we have been open not only for dialogue and mutual information exchange but also for the production of our vaccine abroad, humanitarian and commercial deliveries and any other form of cooperation. This primarily applies to mutual vaccine recognition.

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