Briefing of the Foreign Ministry Spokesman

21 September 202120:21

Briefing by Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova, Moscow, September 21, 2021

Table of contents

  1. Sergey Lavrov’s meetings on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly
  2. Mr Lavrov’s upcoming talks with Foreign Minister of Vietnam Bui Thanh Son
  3. Meeting of the Business Council under the Foreign Minister
  4. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to take part in the 29th Assembly of the Council on Foreign and Defence Policy
  5. Some results of the elections to the State Duma of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation abroad
  6. US State Department comments on elections in Russia
  7. Update on Afghanistan
  8. The judgement of the European Court of Human Rights on the case of Carter v. Russia
  9. The “Catalan link” in the European Parliament’s resolution on Russia
  10. Western response to Russia-Belarus Zapad-2021 exercises
  11. The 75th anniversary of the end of the International Nuremberg Tribunal
  12. Payments for the individual survivors of the Siege of Leningrad
  13. Media freedom in Ukraine

Answers to media questions:

  1. New accusations against Russia in the Skripal case
  2. Issuance of US visas to the Russian delegation for the UN General Assembly
  3. Trilateral meeting in Kabul
  4. Statement by the European Commission on the elections in Russia
  5. Ukraine’s sabotage of the Minsk Agreements
  6. Discussion on Afghanistan at the SCO and CSTO summits
  7. Cyberattacks from abroad against the elections in Russia
  8. Compatriots’ participation in the elections abroad
  9. Accusations of Russia’s interference in the internal affairs of Montenegro
  10. Sergey Lavrov’s meeting with Antony Blinken on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly

 

 

Sergey Lavrov’s meetings on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly

 

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s programme on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly is still being drafted. There are many requests for bilateral and multilateral meetings with the Russian Foreign Minister. At present, his programme includes about 25 meetings with the heads of foreign delegations, meetings with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and President of the 76th UN General Assembly session Abdulla Shahid, and a number of multilateral events.

The Russian Foreign Minister is expected to speak at the UN General Assembly on September 25. A news conference for UN-accredited journalists will take place on the same day.

Mr Lavrov plans to hold talks with his colleagues from Egypt, Syria, Slovakia, Poland, France, Britain and Cuba on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York. These are just some of the meetings that have been confirmed or are in the planning process, but there will be many more. We will promptly provide the latest updates.

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Mr Lavrov’s upcoming talks with Foreign Minister of Vietnam Bui Thanh Son

 

During the last briefing, we announced talks between Mr Lavrov and Foreign Minister of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam Bui Thanh Son during his first official visit to Russia in this capacity.

During the meeting, the ministers will discuss current issues of bilateral cooperation and key aspects of joint efforts at regional and international organisations and forums.

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Meeting of the Business Council under the Foreign Minister

 

 A meeting of the Business Council under the Foreign Minister, chaired by Sergey Lavrov, will be held on September 28. The participants will focus on new trends and the top priorities in international cooperation that are being formed as part of the international climate agenda.

Officials from the corresponding Russian agencies and relevant domestic companies and business associations will be joining the meeting.

As a reminder, the Business Council under the Foreign Minister was created in May 2006. Its key goals include strengthening interaction with Russian businesses in order to protect the country’s political and economic interests abroad and to use Foreign Ministry and Russian foreign mission capabilities to support domestic entrepreneurs’ foreign economic activities and to counter discrimination against their legitimate interests.

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Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to take part in the 29th Assembly of the Council on Foreign and Defence Policy

 

As is customary, on October 2, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will take part in the annual assembly of the Council on Foreign and Defence Policy which is Russia’s oldest non-governmental organisation and an expert intellectual club that brings together experts in international relations and foreign policy. The topic of this year's discussion is “Do you have an idea? Where Russia is headed amid pivotal international shifts.”

The minister will share with the assembly members his thoughts on the current state of international developments and our country’s foreign policy goals as well as ways to fulfill them. As part of an interactive Q&A session, Sergey Lavrov will take questions from the council members. This type of communication makes it possible not only to share the Foreign Ministry’s views and Russia’s approaches to key issues of international life with those in this authoritative meeting, but also to receive feedback from them in the form of ideas, suggestions and recommendations, and sometimes even constructive criticism. We highly appreciate the existing level and quality of this dialogue with the domestic expert community, and we are focusing on using it in the foreign policy process.

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Some results of the elections to the State Duma of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation abroad

 

We have already commented on these elections. You could practically monitor in real time (as real observers) the elections in Russia’s foreign offices. Of course, there were places where the elections were not interactive. This applies to on-site or early elections abroad. Now we can sum up the results.

The elections took place at all of the 348 previously announced polling stations. The turnout was 192,194 people (for comparison’s sake, 205,200 people voted in the 2016 Duma elections and 474,400 people voted at the 2018 presidential election).

I would like to note one basic difference. This time, people expressed their will in conditions of the pandemic. Every country has its own restrictions in this regard, but despite this, our foreign offices dealt with the local situation; the elections took place. They were very transparent and open for both the observers and the media, as well as for a large audience, considering we covered them almost round the clock.

The elections were held in full conformity with election law and in observance of the proper safety measures, which are particularly important during the pandemic. Supporters of the Russian “non-system opposition” held demonstrations and pickets in a number of countries, for instance, the Netherlands and the United States (Consulate-General in Houston) but they did not affect the functioning of the polling stations.

Yulia Ilyinskaya, who became known after last year’s referendum on the constitutional amendments, again voted twice at the polling station in the city of Ashdod (Israel) even though she had to sign a statement that she was informed about administrative and criminal liability for this violation of the law at the insistence of the members of the district election committee. No other major provocations were recorded. At one point, some photos were disseminated from a foreign office in the Czech Republic. This was presented as a sensation but in reality, there was none. The Central Election Commission sent warnings to our foreign offices about the need to prevent potential provocations on dual voting. This fabrication was supposed to cause a sensation, but we disavowed it.

There were no threats to the security of the Russian foreign offices.

The elections at the foreign offices were monitored by numerous observers of all categories: from political parties, candidates for deputies and the Public Chamber of the Russian Federation. Minor grievances were reviewed and relevant explanations provided. There were some misunderstandings with observers from the Yabloko party. Unfortunately, they presented their applications to the Russian territorial election committees too late and had to be present at the elections unofficially.

International observers, in part from the CIS Interparliamentary Assembly, also monitored the elections. They did not make any critical remarks.

All materials on voting information were submitted to the Central Election Commission. Please address any questions to them.

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US State Department comments on elections in Russia

 

I’d be remiss not to mention the reaction of our foreign partners who mainly represent the collective West. We have already commented on this live, but then we received statements from the US State Department. As they say, “not a day goes by without a line about Russia.” The US State Department (this was expected) was concerned with our country’s compliance with its OSCE commitments during the State Duma elections. The haste with which our US partners joined in the Russophobic chorus from the European Parliament, or the European Parliament adopted US policy, is quite notable. Everyone knows that the official results of the elections have not been released yet, but this does not prevent anyone who enjoys criticising our country from doing so.

I would like to remind everyone, primarily our Western partners, that our elections were held in full compliance with the provisions of Russian and international law. Despite the unprecedented number of cyberattacks on Russia’s Central Election Commission (the CEC mentioned it explicitly), half of which came from the United States, as well as blatant interference from US-based internet platforms in preparations for and in the course of the elections, our detractors failed to discredit the Russian electoral system, and they will always fail.

Of course, per tradition, Washington absolutely does not bother itself with bringing at least some specific piece of evidence to back up its fantasies. They do not recognise not only the objectivity of the election results, but also, in principle, our electoral system as such. At the same time, almost concurrently, the United States has declared its interest in a “constructive” dialogue with Russia. Just a piece of advice to our partners: it’s either idle talk or a constructive dialogue. You need to choose. And if you really want to talk about our elections, the State Department may as well share the results of an analysis of the data passed along by Moscow regarding the interference that we detected from the territory of the United States.

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Update on Afghanistan

 

We welcome the reopening of Kabul International Airport, announced on September 20. This creates a positive environment for the country's return to a normal peaceful life.

The socioeconomic reconstruction of Afghanistan and bringing the humanitarian situation in that country back to normal are becoming ever more urgent. In this regard, we took note of Head of the World Health Organisation Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus’ visit to Kabul and his meeting, on September 20, with Head of the interim Taliban government Mullah Hasan Akhund. We will keep you informed of our assessments of the situation in that country.

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The judgement of the European Court of Human Rights on the case of Carter v. Russia

 

The judgement delivered by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) on September 21 of this year on the application of the widow of Alexander Litvinenko, Carter v. Russia, has raised quite a few questions not only on the merits of the conclusions drawn by this international body but also regarding the Court procedure and the approaches taken by the Court.   

In particular, this is yet further evidence of the willingness of the ECHR, which is positioning itself as an international judicial authority, to play a political role and make its contribution to cultivating an atmosphere of Russophobia that has become so popular in some Western countries. We cannot understand the position of the Court, which, as a matter of fact, has decided to rubber-stamp the obviously politicised and dubious from a legal viewpoint, to say the least, conclusions of the national judicial body of a Council of Europe member country.   

Putting aside the content of the document and erroneous conclusions by Strasbourg justice – they will be given a legal assessment by the Russian Prosecutor-General’s Office, which was authorised to represent our country before the ECHR – one cannot fail to notice the Court’s arbitrary departure from its standard practice of considering individual applications linked to interstate disputes. Earlier, the ECHR undertook to not consider cases like this prior to delivering a judgement on the key points of the related interstate lawsuit. 

I want to remind you that on February 23, 2021, Ukraine lodged a ninth application [with the ECHR] against Russia in connection with “targeted assassination operations against perceived opponents of the Russian Federation, in Russia and on the territory of other states”. This is how Ukraine formulated its application. Since the case of Carter v. Russia falls within the subject of this interstate lawsuit, the inconsistency of the Court looks astonishing – it should have suspended the consideration of the application, as in the case of thousands of other applications related to interstate affairs. Putting aside arguments about the relevance of Kiev’s application, including if it is legally warranted, we deem it to be unacceptable that the European Court takes different approaches to identical situations.

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The “Catalan link” in the European Parliament’s resolution on Russia

 

On September 16, the European Parliament approved a resolution that again raised the issue of alleged ties between the Catalan separatists and Russia.

This allegation was included in the document for only one reason: the recent publication of a fake article by The New York Times, which was later disseminated by the Spanish media. We did not receive any inquiries from the US newspaper before the article was published even though the matter dealt with Russia’s international ties and our foreign policy. We immediately refuted the article and demanded that the US newspaper published a retraction.

In the process, the majority of members of the European Parliament completely ignored the position of Spain as represented by its National Trial Chamber that sent to the archives in 2020 the investigation on Russia’s alleged interference in the preparations of an illegal referendum on Catalonia’s self-determination, due to the lack of a criminal element. They also ignored the Spanish Prosecutor’s Office’ statement that officially dismissed as unsubstantiated and groundless the investigation into the Russian “trace” in the Catalan issue.

This is irrational. Based on the article in the US newspaper, the European Parliament adopted a resolution that runs counter to the position of the official agencies and law enforcement bodies of the country that is directly mentioned in the document. How does this make sense? Who in this organisation is responsible for checking information and original materials?

We believe that European institutions have long followed this rule: when it comes to criticising Russia, anything goes – any fabrication, lie or untruth. Meanwhile, the MPs in the European Parliament represent not just themselves and not just the lobby groups that pass such nonsense to them, they also represent their people, the citizens of their countries. But in reality, by inventing this kind of fraud they are misleading their constituents instead of representing them.

I would like to recall that one EU country (Belgium) granted asylum to runaway Catalan separatist leaders and rejected Madrid’s demand for extradition. I have not heard anything about the European Parliament’s recent discussion of a document denouncing Brussels. It is not that we insist on this, but there should be at least some logic in such insinuations. This logic could be false, but there is none in this case; it simply does not exist in principle.

We have repeatedly expressed Russia’s official position. The situation in Catalonia is exclusively the internal affair of Spain. Madrid knows our position well. In our relations, we proceed from unconditional respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of that country.

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Western response to Russia-Belarus Zapad-2021 exercises

 

We noted that the Western media and NATO officials publicly discuss the Russia-Belarus Zapad-2021 exercises at different events, including the meeting of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on September 17-19. They claim that the drills contradict the criteria of the Vienna Document 2011 on confidence and security building measures in Europe. They accuse us of concealing information, presenting misinformation on the scale of the exercises and exceeding the numerical notification threshold fixed in the Vienna Document. What’s going on? We have to admit that our partners are openly trying to mislead everyone.

We have repeatedly confirmed that Russia fully observes its commitments under the Vienna Document and ensures the required transparency of military activities both on its territory and during activities with its allies. We suggest that Russia has long become the most screened country in terms of Vienna Document 2011.

Let’s recall that we briefed our partners on Zapad-2021 drills in advance. The Russian and Belarusian defence ministries did this in Moscow and Minsk, correspondingly, and at the Forum for Security Cooperation in Vienna. We covered in detail the parameters and the course of these exercises in the media. We invited military diplomats accredited in Moscow to attend them as observers. What else should we have done to ease our Western partners’ concerns?

We would like to emphasise that, during these drills, the maximum personnel strength of the military units under a single operational command that fall under the action of the Vienna Document did not exceed 6,400 people, which is well below the envisaged threshold of military activities subject to notification. Those who call this figure into doubt should reread the Vienna document attentively to see what forces it covers and what forces go beyond it.

Unfortunately, we do not always see such an open approach from NATO. The alliance has long been dividing its exercises into separate stages to avoid the notification threshold even though these drills have the same operational context and are conducted with the same material and human resources under the aegis of national states, NATO or the US Armed Forces in Europe. This was the case, for instance, at the largest US-led exercises held in May and June of this year on the territory of 16 states from the Baltic Region in the north to the Balkan Peninsula in the south. NATO did not invite our observers to attend these drills.

NATO statements on the need to upgrade the Vienna Document are unrealistic. This is unnecessary because the Vienna Document was signed and updated in conditions that were completely different from the military point of view. It seems that by trying to change the Vienna Document, NATO wants to make up for information losses after the suspension of the CFE Treaty by Russia and to ensure the one-sided screening of the activities of the Russian Armed Forces. We find this approach to modernisation unsuitable against the background of the line towards deterring our country.

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The 75th anniversary of the end of the International Nuremberg Tribunal

 

On October 1, 1946, the trial ended in Nuremberg which went down in history as the International Military Tribunal, the Court of Nations. It legally confirmed the ultimate defeat of Nazism.

The trial was among the most important political and legal results of the defeat of Nazi Germany. The importance of this event for humankind cannot be overestimated. For the first time in history, the preparation, planning, unleashing and waging of an aggressive war were qualified as crimes against humanity, the personal responsibility of the top officials of the state for committing them was recognised, and a legal definition for genocide was established.

It is critically important that the historic goal of this process was to administer justice against the key initiators and perpetrators of Nazi atrocities; in no case was it revenge against the German people who, to a certain extent, were held hostage to Hitler's policies themselves.

The unanimity of the Allies was the key factor in the Nuremberg trials success at all their stages, from the creation to the evaluation of the outcomes.

The Nuremberg trials had a significant impact on international legal practice and modern international law. The conceptual rulings of the tribunal were adopted by the UN as underlying principles for post-war international humanitarian and criminal law and have remained legally and politically significant.

The verdicts of the Nuremberg Tribunal remain fully relevant today with the ever increasing attempts to revise WWII history, to equate the responsibility of the aggressors and the liberators, victims and executioners, and to elevate war criminals to the rank of hero. These attempts must be resolutely rebuffed. Rewriting the history of WWII, revising the outcomes, or justifying the Nazis and their accomplices or the atrocities they committed is unacceptable. The historic significance of the Nuremberg trials is enduring, and its outcomes are not subject to revision.

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Payments for the individual survivors of the Siege of Leningrad

 

As you may be aware, on September 17 President Putin signed an executive order  on a One-Time Payment to Citizens of the Russian Federation Awarded the Medal “For the defence of Leningrad,” or the Badge “Resident of besieged Leningrad.”

This is another important step in honouring the courage and heroism of the residents and defenders of Leningrad who defended their city during the unprecedentedly cruel and inhumane siege by the Wehrmacht which lasted almost 900 days. It is deeply symbolic that it comes in the year of the 80th anniversary of Nazi Germany’s treacherous attack on the Soviet Union and the beginning of the criminal siege of Leningrad by the Nazis aimed at its complete destruction.

More recently, on several occasions, we have reached out to our German partners who have been making humanitarian compensation payments exclusively to siege survivors of Jewish descent. This distinction is unthinkable in the 21st century. It is not possible to separate one ethnicity from another when talking about events of this magnitude, but we are forced to because these are the facts. I want you to know them. We have called on our German partners who are making humanitarian compensation payments exclusively to siege survivors of Jewish nationality not to draw lines between the people who were equally exposed to the horrors of those events.

We have pointed out that, in recognition of its responsibility, Berlin must find a solution based on the principles of non-discrimination, justice and morality without trying to hide behind pseudo-legal excuses. Unfortunately, our requests have consistently been turned down. Well, then we leave this immoral position on the conscience of those who made these decisions.

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Media freedom in Ukraine

 

The situation with media freedom in Ukraine has been rapidly deteriorating. The Kiev authorities continue to implement a wholesale mop-up policy, cleansing the local information space of any media whose point of view is at variance with the new Ukrainian canon. The operation is being performed openly and systematically.

This time, they are targeting the TV channels Nash 365, Inter, and Pervy Nezavisimy.  Ukraine’s National Council of Television and Radio Broadcasting has started the license withdrawal procedure against Nash 365, which is fraught with a complete blocking, including the channel’s satellite and rebroadcasting capability. Inter will be subjected to surprise checks for its “failure to comply with the language quotas” and its screening of Soviet films starring actors “who threaten the national security of Ukraine.” The same is in store for the Pervy Nezavisimy, which got on the radars of the Security Service of Ukraine as being based on what was left from the already blocked TV channels 112-Ukraine, ZIK, and NewsOne. Moreover, it is not even being concealed that these surprise inspections carried out on absurd and false grounds will be followed by further administrative and judicial harassment of these and other dissenting media operators, harassment that has become commonplace in that country. This is the kind of fine democracy that is proliferating in Europe.

Against this background, there are major concerns as to the fact that the ongoing emergence of an information dictatorship in Ukraine is not meeting with a fitting response from the states posing as “patrons” of free thinking in Ukraine, which are concurrently the cosponsors of the settlement of the internal Ukrainian crisis. The [relevant] international organisations are keeping silent as well. In all evidence, they have their hands full with Russia and prefer to disregard whatever is related to hard facts.

In particular, I am referring to an open letter (published on September 14), which the journalists of the officially disbanded TV channels and online resources sent to the UN Secretary-General, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the UN Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Opinion and Expression, and the press secretary of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.  All of them took no notice of this information about the elimination of free speech in Ukraine.

Journalists from the persecuted media passed a letter to President Joe Biden via the US Embassy in Kiev in late August, asking him to speak  with President Vladimir Zelensky at their upcoming meeting about it being unacceptable to pressurise the press and stifle freedom of expression. Judging by the press releases following the meeting, this request was ignored as well.  

We call on the authorised international institutions, including the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, UNESCO, and other relevant organisations to give a principled assessment to the state of affairs in this sphere in Ukraine and to bring pressure to bear on Kiev and make sure that it complies with its obligations to protect the freedom of expression and pluralism of views.  We also urge the Ukrainian authorities to renounce their current crackdown on independent Ukrainian media and stop the persecution of dissent.

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Answers to media questions:

Question: It has been reported that a third Russian “suspect” was named in the Skripal case. What can you say on this score? London claims that this person is a military intelligence officer.

Maria Zakharova: We have taken note of the Scotland Yard statement on charging in absentia a third Russian citizen for his alleged involvement in the Skripal poisonings.

It has been a long time since they raised this issue. I don’t know why they have done it at this particular moment. Maybe this is part of preparations for a meeting of their minister with his Russian counterpart in London.

I would like to remind you that for the past two and a half years the British authorities have been using the Salisbury incident deliberately to further sour our bilateral relations. Despite numerous Russian appeals and calls for a responsible dialogue, London has refused to launch a substantive discussion and a joint investigation of that incident, as a result of which Russian citizens were injured. It is also neglecting its obligations under international law, including the bilateral Consular Convention signed in 1965. At the same time, the British authorities continue using the Skripal case to put pressure on Russia, stoking anti-Russia sentiments in British society and developing a Russophobic concept, which is subsequently proliferated in the British media.

We resolutely condemn London’s attempts to make Moscow responsible for the Salisbury incident. We demand a professional, objective and unbiased investigation and reaffirm our readiness for substantive collaboration between our law enforcement agencies and experts.

Our position has not changed. Russia is determined to establish the truth. We will continue to demand that the British authorities provide exhaustive official information and honour their international obligations to provide consular access to our compatriots. It is time London told the international community the truth.

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Question: What will Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov do with this State Duma mandate?

Maria Zakharova: I would like to note that the final election results have not yet been announced. In accordance with our legislation, we should wait for their announcement by the Central Election Commission.

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Question: Have all members of the Russian delegation to the UN General Assembly session received US visas?

Maria Zakharova: No, not all of them have received their visas. We expect the United States as the host country of the UN to honour its obligation to issue visas to all Russia delegates who are expected to attend the UN General Assembly session.

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Question: There were reports that special representatives of Russia, China and Pakistan had a meeting today with Afghanistan’s acting prime minister in Kabul. What topics did they discuss?

Maria Zakharova: Special Presidential Envoy for Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov is taking part in this meeting. The Foreign Ministry will publish a press release on its website on the outcomes of these contacts. They are still ongoing.

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Question: The European Commission has said that the elections in Russia took place in an “atmosphere of intimidation” and with “no international independent observation.” What do you think about these statements?

Maria Zakharova: I already commented today on a similar statement made by the US Department of State, but we can go over the way the “collective West” and European structures assessed our elections one more time.

There is a clear contradiction. On the one hand, yesterday we heard a statement delivered by the spokesperson to the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell who said that they are unable to provide an assessment of the Russian election, alleging that there were no observers capable of providing objective information. However, this was followed by a statement made by Josep Borrell himself who said that the election failed to comply with some kind of standards. This is quite confusing. Are they unable to assess the election because there were no international observers? Or the observers were actually present and they can assess the election? These “pendulum swings” are becoming unbearable, especially considering the radical changes in their position that go as far as 180-degree turns. Where are they getting these facts from?

As usual, Russia invited everyone involved in international election monitoring to come and observe the Russian parliamentary election. You have witnessed the drama, in particular, when the OSCE ODIHR decided to condition its work in our country on the number of its observers, although it remains rather unclear what kind of criteria underpinned this decision. They insisted on having 500 people. Considering the epidemiological requirements, as well as the way OSCE ODIHR works, we suggested that 50 observers representing this structure come to Russia. If you look at its experience and the way elections take place both to the west and to the east of Vienna, this figure seems quite appropriate. But this did not satisfy anyone. After this they started saying that they either cannot assess the election, or they can, and the election was not being held the way it should be, since there are no observers. You probably understand where all this was heading for all these months. This is what our partners call “constructive uncertainty.” Building on the context they shape themselves they can change course at any given moment and fine-tune their position the way that best suits their momentary needs. This is not the way it should be.

As for the facts, here is what the actual international observers who actually travelled to the Russian regions and monitored the election said. For example, Ilkham Nematov, who headed the CIS Observation Mission, said that members of his mission visited 623 polling stations and did not report any violations. What they saw was that the election was well organised, which paved the way to holding the election to the highest standard.

We keep hearing that there was no “international observation.” Here again, facts prove otherwise. There were 249 international observers from 59 countries and 10 international organisations in our country. What legal or moral right do they have to say that there was no international observation when these specialists were here? What kind of a disdainful attitude is that? The colonial era when people were divided into first-rank and second-rank people, into slaves and slaveholders, are long gone. The international community has turned the page, as far as we understand. But how come people representing European structures, the so-called Western civilisation demonstrate so much disdain towards people from other regions of the world? These are certified, experienced and high-ranking specialists. They have proven that they are professionals not only in 2021, but in the past as well when representing their states and international structures. Who gave the West the right to treat people from other countries in such a way that was not so much snobbish as it was boorish? Did they not go too far? I suggest that they reread their own doctrines on “respecting human rights” and condemning segregation. We will never tolerate such an attitude toward people from sovereign, independent and free countries.

There is one more thing I just wanted to bring up about the “atmosphere of intimidation.” Who gauged it? Is there some kind of a device for this purpose? And how do they gauge the atmosphere in their own countries when they break up rallies held by their own citizens, beat journalists and hold political events under strict supervision, including by force? Seriously speaking, there was actually “an atmosphere of intimidation.” However, it was created not in our country, but beyond its borders. This included threats to impose sanctions in view of the election results, sending a clear signal what political movements, if this designation can be used in this case, they support. There was also an endless stream of statements claiming that the election and its results should not be recognised, and that adequate measures will be taken to this effect. This is what the “atmosphere of intimidation” is all about. Interestingly, it was not some unnamed sources, but specific officials and international structures of the “collective West” that created it. I am not even mentioning the Western mainstream media. They unleashed an all-out media propaganda campaign on their pages, screens, etc.

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Question: Deputy Foreign Minister Andrey Rudenko has stated that Russia supposes that Ukraine is withdrawing from the Minsk Agreements. Unfortunately, the Kiev regime does not stop shelling Donbass and does not honour the Minsk Agreements. This considered, the Ukrainian party’s possible withdrawal can further aggravate the situation. Does Russia see any opportunity for inducing Kiev to once again start fulfilling its obligations to resolve the domestic Ukrainian conflict?

Maria Zakharova: In addition to Deputy Foreign Minister Andrey Rudenko’s statement, I can say that Russia’s position on resolving the conflict in Donbass remains unchanged. This conflict can and must be resolved by peaceful means alone on the basis of the Minsk Package of Measures, to which there is no alternative and which was approved by UN Security Council Resolution 2202. Kiev, Donetsk and Lugansk must display political will in order to achieve this goal, and they must show their readiness to conduct direct dialogue for fulfilling agreements that have been reached and their respective obligations.

Alas, as we can see, the Kiev regime does not display such readiness.  On the contrary, we can see Kiev’s striving to sabotage the Minsk Agreements and it is trying to impose its own peace settlement logic. This line has, as of late, become obvious.

On August 9, 2021, a bill on the transitional period’s state policy was submitted to the State Rada. This document runs counter to the Package of Measures and essentially calls for removing forces disloyal to Kiev. Instead of setting forth a special status, linguistic rights, amnesty for the residents of Donbass, the powers of local authorities and conditions for organising elections under the Minsk Agreements and Normandy format accords, it contains provisions on establishing military-civilian and international administrations. The approval of this bill will virtually signal Ukraine’s withdrawal from the Minsk Agreements and the disintegration of the entire negotiation process.

Germany and France acting as mediators within the Normandy format can persuade Kiev to start fulfilling its international obligations for resolving the conflict in Donbass. Quite possibly, the United States, which influences Kiev to a considerable extent, the OSCE acting as co-mediator within the Contact Group, the UN, whose Security Council have approved the Minsk Package of Measures, as well as other countries and international organisations that are not indifferent to prospects for resolving the conflict by peaceful means should also play their own role.

Despite everything, we will continue to demand that Kiev fulfil its obligations, and we will continue to urge our international partners to encourage the Ukrainian authorities to stop sabotaging the Minsk Agreements.

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Question: What is the outcome of the SCO consultations held to determine the positions of Russia and the CSTO on contacts with the Taliban?

Maria Zakharova: The situation in Afghanistan was a priority issue on the agenda of the CSTO and SCO summit meetings held in Dushanbe on September 16-17, 2021, as well as the joint meeting of these organisations’ heads of state. The participants discussed their views on the developments in Afghanistan. They reaffirmed their resolve to stand up against the threats and challenges coming from the territory of Afghanistan and highlighted the importance of building up joint efforts against terrorism and drug trafficking in Afghanistan.

The leaders of Russia and other countries have clearly spoken out in favour of a truly representative and inclusive Afghan government that will take into account the interests of all ethnic and political forces. Their future joint policy will depend on the readiness of the Taliban to honour their own commitments on the country’s future development.

The SCO and CSTO member states share the opinion that the United States and its NATO allies must assume full responsibility for the post-conflict social and economic rehabilitation of Afghanistan, the first step in which must be rectifying the humanitarian situation. Ultimately, the future of Afghanistan depends on the Afghans themselves, on the country’s citizens.

As for the SCO, its member states are resolved to more actively use the SCO-Afghanistan Contact Group and their experience of interaction with Afghanistan as an SCO observer country.

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Question: The Central Election Commission previously announced that cyberattacks had been made on the online vote from other countries, including Germany. Can you tell us more about this? How many attacks were there? What was their duration? Did they influence the voting process? Are they being investigated?

Maria Zakharova: Relevant bodies and law enforcement agencies are dealing with this matter. It was not the CEC that registered these attacks. This is done by the agencies concerned.

This information has indeed been made public. We are ready to provide all the available data to our German partners, if they are interested in this. I believe that they should express an interest after we have made public this information. We have a special channel for communication on issues related to international information security. We are ready to respond to the relevant German requests.

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Question: Many thanks to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Russian foreign missions for giving our compatriots an opportunity to vote and directly participate in electing the country’s highest authority. I would like to emphasise that many EU citizens are not given this opportunity. Thanks to you, our compatriots could feel involved in their homeland’s affairs.

Maria Zakharova: It was not us who made them “feel involved.” It is their right as citizens, and we have provided an opportunity to exercise it. This is a very important point. It is by no means a favour the state does for its citizens. It is the responsibility of the state to create all the necessary conditions. They have been created. We are pleased to hear that citizens have really appreciated the high level of organisation of the elections. It means a lot.

As you know, we always pay heed to criticism. To be able to do this, we conduct broad information and communication work, and we always respond to requests or comments addressed to us. In this case, most of it has been praised. We are especially grateful for this.

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Question: Can you comment on the President of Montenegro accusing Russia of interference in that country’s internal affairs?

Maria Zakharova: You are referring to a statement made by the office of the President of Montenegro in an attempt to shift responsibility on our country for the unrest that followed a failed attempt to derail Joanikije II’s enthronement as the Metropolitan of Montenegro in Cetinje on September 5. Based on that statement, one might believe the “intrigues” of official Moscow and the Russian Orthodox Church are practically the root cause of the split in Montenegrin society. Russia is being accused of trying to “orchestrate the internal church and political processes” in Montenegro. Such personal attacks are regrettable and speak volumes about the level of those issuing such statements.

The Montenegrin President’s entourage, which, as you know, was behind the Cetinje events, continues to play the church card with a tenacity worthy of a better cause. Their goal is to sow confusion, split Montenegrins into friends and foes, and raise the degree of tension in society to achieve their ultimate goal – to restore Milo Djukanovic to power. They are not hiding it. What they are not saying out loud is that under the previous government, obsessed with the so-called Euro-Atlantic choice, the opinion of a significant part of the Montenegrin population was ignored. I think they should read their own analysts on this topic. If they have no time for this, and as they have appealed to Russia, I can tell them about it. That government’s disdain for their own people was the source of problems – not some mythical external interference. Have they found any “Russian hackers” there yet, I wonder?

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Question: Is a meeting between Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and his American counterpart Antony Blinken on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly under consideration?

Maria Zakharova: No, there are no such plans.

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