Briefing of the Foreign Ministry Spokesman

30 September 202116:46

Briefing by Deputy Director of the Information and Press Department Alexey Zaytsev, Moscow, September 30, 2021

 

Table of contents

  1. Sergey Lavrov’s upcoming talks with Foreign Minister of Egypt Sameh Shoukry
  2. Sergey Lavrov’s upcoming talks with Foreign Minister of Rwanda Vincent Biruta
  3. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s upcoming meeting with members of the Association of European Businesses in Russia
  4. Update on Ukraine
  5. OSCE observers complete their mission at the Gukovo and Donetsk checkpoints at the Russian-Ukrainian border
  6. Developments in Afghanistan
  7. Antony Blinken’s accusations of Russia blocking the annual OSCE meeting
  8. Lithuanian court overturns media regulator ruling on suspension of RTR Planeta broadcasting
  9. US military supplies to Moldova
  10. Oslo’s plans to introduce border control on Spitsbergen
  11. Update on Russian national Alexey Nikiforov accused of espionage in Denmark
  12. The death of Nazi criminal Helmut Oberlander, who lived in Canada
  13. 80th anniversary of the 1941 Moscow Conference
  14. 80th anniversary of the USSR’s recognition of the French National Committee, Free France
  15. Unveiling a monument to Marshal Malinovsky in Slovakia
  16. Russia’s assistance to Abkhazia in fighting COVID-19
  17. Icelandic media reports hacker attack on Geislataekni
  18. Russia’s position on the French government’s approval of ‘injection sites’ in Paris
  19. The SCO Member StatesHeads of Regions Forum
  20. Russian language courses at the Matias Romero Institute - Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Mexico

Answers to media questions:

1.    Expansion of the Dukovany Nuclear Power Station

2.    Cooperation between the foreign ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan

3.    Armenian POWs

4.    Economic and transport links between Azerbaijan and Armenia

5.    The creation of a demilitarised zone near the Armenian border

6.    Potential meeting between the President of Azerbaijan and the Prime Minister of Armenia under the aegis of the OSCE Minsk Group

7.  Statement by Vjosa Osmani

8.  Using Kosovo car license plates in central Serbia

9.    Prospects for EU-Russia relations

10. Regulations on economic activity on the South Kurile Islands

11. Touring exhibition “Not to be forgotten”

 

 

 

Sergey Lavrov’s upcoming talks with Foreign Minister of Egypt Sameh Shoukry

 

On October 4, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will hold talks with Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Arab Republic of Egypt Sameh Shoukry who will pay a working visit to Moscow on October 3-5.

During the meeting, the ministers will review the current issues of further expanding bilateral cooperation in the political, trade, economic, cultural and humanitarian areas. They will also discuss developments in the Middle East and North Africa.

Moscow places much emphasis on high-level cooperation with Egypt, which is one of Russia’s main partners in the Arab world and Africa. The two countries continue to promote their diverse ties with success. The Treaty on Comprehensive Partnership and Strategic Cooperation signed by the leaders of the two countries in Sochi in October 2018 has provided a powerful impetus to this process. Moscow and Cairo have always built their relations on the traditions of friendship, respect and mutual consideration for each other’s interests. 

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Sergey Lavrov’s upcoming talks with Foreign Minister of Rwanda Vincent Biruta

 

On October 7, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will conduct talks with Vincent Biruta, Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of the Republic of Rwanda, who will be on a working visit to Moscow on October 6-7.

The ministers plan to discuss the main areas of bilateral partnership in the political, trade, economic, cultural and other fields. They intend to focus on further promoting mutually beneficial business cooperation, in particular, in energy and the peaceful use of nuclear power, geological prospecting, digital technology and the education of Rwandan specialists at Russian universities.

The ministers will have a detailed exchange of views on major global and regional issues, including peacekeeping and crises settlement in Africa and the need to counter new challenges and threats, such as international terrorism and extremism. They will review practical cooperation between Russia and Rwanda at the UN and other multilateral venues. The ministers plan to devote much attention to preparations for the second Russia-Africa Summit scheduled for 2022. 

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Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s upcoming meeting with members of the Association of European Businesses in Russia

 

On October 8, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will meet with members of the Association of European Businesses in Russia, which brings together over 500 companies and banks from the EU countries, the European Free Trade Association and a number of other countries, who do business in Russia. Meetings in this format are held regularly (the last one took place in October 2020) and have become a good tradition.

During the meeting, the participants will discuss current issues of cooperation between Russia and the EU in trade, the economy and other areas and the role of business circles in creating the necessary conditions for normalising Russia-EU relations while keeping them pragmatic and mutually beneficial.

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Update on Ukraine

 

The Ukrainian authorities’ approach to resolving the conflict in Donbass and protecting human rights and the rights of ethnic minorities continues to cause serious concern.

The most recent meeting of the Contact Group and its subgroups on the settlement of the crisis in eastern Ukraine took place online on September 28-29. The lack of specific agreements between the parties to the conflict – Kiev, Donetsk and Lugansk – came as an unpleasant, but no longer surprising, outcome of these meetings. The Ukrainian negotiators have once again shown an unwillingness to fulfill their obligations under the Minsk agreements.

Kiev’s policy of sabotaging the Minsk Package of Measures is reflected in their legislative activities. Earlier, we discussed the draft law On the Principles of State Policy during the Transition Period, which was submitted to the Verkhovna Rada in August and which directly contradicts the Minsk agreements. This draft law was not discussed with Donetsk or Lugansk. There was no mention of the region’s special status or fundamental rights, nor amnesty for its residents. Notably, the most recent report released by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on September 23, 2021 said that “the bill does not meet international standards, does not provide a ... focus on the protection of victims.”

Kiev’s contemptuous disregard for Donbass residents is further illustrated by the situation on the line of contact. The data provided by the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission testify to new military preparations by the Armed Forces of Ukraine. The engineering work they carried out this summer is categorised as an offensive action under the Ceasefire Reinforcement Measures adopted in July 2020. Recently, the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, Valery Zaluzhny, said that the Ukrainian military could open return fire without the approval of the country’s leadership. He reiterated that Ukrainian sniper groups had arrived at the line of contact. This contradicts the above document’s provisions. As a result, the number of shelling attacks has been up and the number of victims, including civilians, has increased as well. The UN OHCHR report explicitly states that areas outside the Kiev regime’s control account for 77 percent of the fatalities.

One gets the impression that the Ukrainian leadership has completely abandoned Donbass and its residents. Citizens of Ukraine residing abroad also have to deal with this. Ukrainian consular offices refuse to provide consular services to their citizens from eastern Ukraine and direct them to Russian consulates which is egregious practice for a consular office. Of course, Russian diplomats are trying to help them to the best of their ability and legal capacity, since Ukrainians are not strangers to us.

Kiev’s hostility towards its own citizens can be seen throughout Ukraine where discrimination against the Russian-speaking and ethnic Russian population continues unabated. People are deprived of the opportunity to live in their native linguistic and cultural environment. UN experts point out that despite the presence in the Constitution of Ukraine of guarantees of free development, use and protection of the Russian and other languages ​​of ethnic minorities, the use of the Russian language is practically outlawed in the country, and “internet bullying and calls for violence, as well as threats and intimidation are used against those who express positive opinions about the Russian language or otherwise express views regarded as pro-Russian.”

Residents of Ukraine are increasingly faced with mockery over the memory of their ancestors on the part of neo-Nazis and nationalists, and the distortion of history of the lands that are part of Ukraine today.

We have repeatedly expressed all the above and other concerns on earlier occasions. However, Kiev ignores us and the recommendations issued by international agencies. We call on Ukraine’s Western curators, primarily the United States and the EU, to pay close attention to the years-long humiliation and destruction of its own population by the Kiev regime and to persuade the Ukrainian authorities to end the fratricidal war in Donbass and the massive human rights violations, including discrimination against ethnic minorities.

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OSCE observers complete their mission at the Gukovo and Donetsk checkpoints at the Russian-Ukrainian border

 

The OSCE Observer Group at the Gukovo and Donetsk checkpoints at the Russian-Ukrainian border completed its mission today, September 30, in connection with expiration of the mandate. The OSCE employees will leave Russia within the next several weeks.

The deployment of this field presence in the summer of 2014 was a show of goodwill on our behalf. We went ahead with this as a measure of confidence, hoping thus to encourage the Ukrainian authorities to pick the path of a peaceful settlement in the Donbass conflict. Unfortunately, in seven years, this move has not met with proper understanding or response from the Kiev authorities or their Western partners. Moreover, the very fact of an OSCE observer presence was used by a number of states as a pretext to foment confrontation and to put forward increasingly aggressive and absurd demands to us. Renewing the group’s mandate under these circumstances was pointless.

We have no complaints about the group’s activities which worked well in strict compliance with the mandate’s instructions and effectively interacted with the Russian authorities. During its mission, the group did not record any movement of troops or military equipment across the border.

As a reminder, the mission was deployed prior to the signing of the Minsk agreements and is not mentioned in Minsk-1, Minsk-2, or any subsequent Contact Group documents.

We believe that the claims against us in connection with the above decision are out of place. We hope that the Ukrainian authorities and their Western partners will come up with a more responsible approach and stop shifting responsibility for stalling a peaceful settlement of the internal Ukrainian crisis onto us.

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Developments in Afghanistan

 

We are observing with concern the growing tension in Tajik-Afghan ties amid the tough rhetoric of the two countries’ leaders. There have been reports of both sides pulling armed forces towards the common border. According to the information from the Taliban, in Afghanistan’s border province of Takhar alone there are tens of thousands of special forces fighters. Russia calls on Dushanbe and Kabul to search for mutually acceptable options to resolve the situation.

Afghanistan is also facing socioeconomic challenges. A decrease in cash turnover has been noted, and the country’s banking sector is paralysed. An overwhelming majority of public sector employees, including the Taliban military personnel, do not receive their salaries. The deplorable state of the national economy has resulted in a sharp rise in prices, while industrial production has declined. In these conditions, we have taken note of the decision by the US Treasury Department to allow state institutions, international and nongovernmental organisations to provide humanitarian aid to Afghanistan. We view this as a positive signal, especially since the United States bears the bulk of the responsibility for the developments taking place in Afghanistan today. A positive response from the Taliban has already followed.

We also note another statement made by Taliban official spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid about the intention to stop drug trafficking from Afghanistan. Russia hopes the Kabul leadership will take active efforts to counter the Afghan drug threat.

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Antony Blinken’s accusations of Russia blocking the annual OSCE meeting

 

We noted a statement by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, in which he blamed Russia for obstructing the annual OSCE Human Dimension Implementation Meeting (HDIM).

We consider his statement as yet another attempt to distort reality. Since the beginning of this year, when the participants began consultations on coordinating the agenda and modalities of the Warsaw meeting, Russia has clearly outlined its priorities and consistently pursued them during the talks.

Russia insisted on including an item on the need to counter neo-Nazism and the glorification of Nazism on the agenda because of the aggravation of these problems in the OSCE space. In addition, we wanted the meeting in Warsaw to be organised in line with established practice. The equal and non-discriminatory access of all participants, including NGOs, is an indispensable condition for this.

The refusal of Sweden, as the current OSCE Chair, and our Western partners to consider Russia’s proposals is perplexing, particularly when they ignore the increase in neo-Nazi activity and the glorification of Nazis and their accomplices. We believe that without a discussion on this important subject the meeting would block monitoring of the deteriorating human rights situation, something Mr Blinken accuses Russia of. We would like to emphasise that Russia has done all it can to resolve any problems with regard to holding the Warsaw meeting. In this context, we believe that attempts to cast our position as obstructive are dishonest and harmful to the spirit of partnership and cooperation in the OSCE. 

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Lithuanian court overturns media regulator ruling on suspension of RTR Planeta broadcasting

 

We welcome the Lithuanian Supreme Administrative Court’s ruling in early September to recognise the national Radio and Television Commission’s decision to suspend the broadcasting of RTR Planeta as illegal. In February 2018, the commission prohibited any broadcast by this channel in Lithuania. The court also overturned the April 2018 decision of this commission to fine the Lithuanian Init telecommunications operator for broadcasting another version of the Russian channel, Rossiya RTR.

The court noted a number of violations in the Lithuanian media agency’s inappropriate decisions. It established that three of seven commission voters had official contractual relations with local television channels. This violates the principle of impartiality by a body that should take unbiased decisions in the public’s interest.

We would like to recall that Russia immediately tried to bring this violation and other inappropriate aspects of the decision to the attention of the broad public and the relevant international organisations. We urged them to look into the decision making process and to protect the right of a considerable part of the Lithuanian population that was used to receiving information from the Russian-broadcasting media. Nevertheless, they ignored our appeals.

Instead, EU leaders followed in the wake of Lithuania. On May 4, 2018, the European Commission passed a resolution saying that a ban on RTR Planeta broadcasts was not a violation of EU law, and was proportional and well grounded. We have already noted that this European Commission resolution was cynical and an illustration of their double standards. We wonder what will happen with its assessment now that the court has recognised the Brussels-approved act of direct media censorship as illegal.

We would also like to know whether an enquiry will be made into the legitimacy of other decisions by the Lithuanian Radio and Television Commission that banned the broadcasts of some RT channels. Or will the Lithuanian authorities stubbornly pursue their destructive course of eradicating a Russian-language media presence in their country with tacit approval from their senior European partners?

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US military supplies to Moldova

 

We have taken note of the delivery of US military equipment worth $5 million to Moldova on September 26. The announced purpose is to bolster the Moldovan armed forces’ capabilities and interoperability for participation in international peacekeeping operations. According to the media, the shipment included firearms, communication devices, light artillery systems and armoured vehicles. Several more similar shipments from the United States are planned before the end of the year.

We believe that such steps in line with Washington and Brussels’ plan to pull Moldova into Euro-Atlantic structures will hardly help strengthen trust on the banks of the Dniester, and will only complicate the already stalled Transnistrian settlement process.

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Oslo’s plans to introduce border control on Spitsbergen

 

We have paid attention to the news on Oslo’s plans to introduce border control for entry to Spitsbergen. The Norwegian authorities have taken this initiative allegedly because of the need to provide security on the archipelago, including protection against terrorism. In this respect, we would like to stress the following.

As is known, Article 3 of the 1920 Spitsbergen Treaty provides for equal liberty of access and entry for the citizens of all contracting parties for any reason or object whatever to the waters, fjords and ports of the archipelago. Given this provision, we believe that the Norwegian authorities’ plans are an overt infringement on the 1920 Spitsbergen Treaty.

Currently, border or other types of control are not exercised with respect to the passengers of ships and flights going to the archipelago and back without crossing continental Norway. If the Norwegian side implements its plans regarding border control on Spitsbergen, the change may lead to a deterioration in access to the archipelago and entail unwanted consequences for the Treaty-based activities of the states that are parties thereto, as well as their entities and individuals, including Russian ones.

We hope the Norwegian authorities will refrain from taking any actions that would violate the 1920 Spitsbergen Treaty. As for fighting terrorism, including providing security on the archipelago, we have suggested on several occasions strengthening bilateral cooperation on this issue. The ball is in our Norwegian partners’ court.

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Update on Russian national Alexey Nikiforov accused of espionage in Denmark

 

On May 10 of this year, the court in Aalborg, Denmark, sentenced Russian national Alexey Nikiforov to three years in prison. Nikiforov was detained in Denmark on a charge of working for the Russian intelligence service. Our compatriot pleaded not guilty and has appealed against the court ruling. A court of appeals hearing is scheduled for October 5.

It is noteworthy that the court has completely ignored Nikiforov’s arguments about the accusations being groundless. There is nothing in the sentence to indicate that Nikiforov’s work and research has caused any damage to Denmark. Given anti-Russia sentiments in the country that are being energetically supported by the Danish political establishment, the impression is that the court has just formalised the ruling on our scientist that was made in advance.

We expect the Danish side to hold an unbiased and unpoliticised review of Nikiforov’s case in the course of the appeals trial, which is to begin shortly. In our view, this can be described as abuse of judicial discretion with regard to Alexey Nikiforov, and we believe the Russian national will be released.

The Russian Foreign Ministry is constantly monitoring efforts to make sure that there is a fair review of the case in question and our compatriot’s rights and legitimate interests are protected. The Russian Embassy in Denmark continues to render the Russian national the necessary consular and legal assistance. It is watching closely the legal trial and is maintaining contact with his lawyer.

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The death of Nazi criminal Helmut Oberlander, who lived in Canada

 

Yet again, a Nazi war criminal, who fled to Canada after the end of WWII, has escaped punishment for the crimes he committed.

As was the case with Khatyn butcher Vladimir Katriuk, who died peacefully at home in 2015, Helmut Oberlander died the other day, without having got what he deserved. Helmut Oberlander served in the SS-Sonderkommando 10-A unit and was directly involved in the massacre of 214 Soviet children in the Yeisk orphanage in 1942, as well as civilians in the Krasnodar Territory and the Rostov Region. The leisurely Canadian justice, which for 20 years was only seeking the deportation of this henchman of Hitler – instead of having him punished for genocide and crimes against humanity – has proved incapable of or unwilling to achieve this, however modest this measure appears to be. Let it lie on the conscience of Ottawa, which demonstrates unacceptable indulgence to the Nazis and their accomplices. 

People in Russia remember the alliance between our peoples, who fought against the common enemy, as well as Canada’s participation in the anti-Hitler coalition. We are looking forward to receiving from the Canadian authorities, despite their more than unsatisfactory track record in persecuting Nazi criminals, the legal materials that our country has requested earlier on the Helmut Oberlander case, in keeping with the 1997 bilateral treaty on mutual legal assistance in criminal matters.

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80th anniversary of the 1941 Moscow Conference

 

On September 29 - October 1, 1941, Moscow hosted a conference of Soviet, US and UK officials who discussed the mutual supplies needed to fight Nazi Germany. Minister of Supply Lord Beaverbrook headed the UK delegation. Averell Harriman, special presidential lend-lease assistant, led the American delegation. Joseph Stalin and Vyacheslav Molotov represented the USSR.

Under the First Moscow Protocol signed at the conference, the Western allies assumed a commitment to supply the USSR with an agreed-upon amount of weapons, combat hardware, raw materials and food every month. Great Britain and the United States undertook to deliver these items to the USSR. They also decided that Soviet raw materials would be shipped to Great Britain and the US. In addition, the Soviet delegation suggested discussing an expansion of the Anglo-Soviet Agreement of July 12, 1941 into an allied treaty not only for the war period but also beyond it, and also the participation of British troops in hostilities on the Soviet-German front.

The first consignment of supplies under the Moscow Protocol arrived in the USSR in late October of the same year. At the same time, President Franklin D. Roosevelt told Stalin about the decision of the US government to use its lend-lease act with respect to the USSR under which the Soviet Union would receive a $1 billion interest-free loan for the payment for these supplies.

The decisions of the Moscow Conference were the first agreement on practical cooperation and an important step in the creation of the anti-Hitler coalition. Speaking at the final meeting, Molotov said “the pooling of efforts of such great powers as the United States, Great Britain and the Soviet Union largely determines the ultimate success of our struggle against Hitler.” History has confirmed the importance of understanding the need to counter a common threat with strength and capability in the spirit of solidarity, mutual respect and trust.

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80th anniversary of the USSR’s recognition of the French National Committee, Free France

 

This is one more landmark anniversary that laid the foundations of allied relations between the Soviet Union and France during World War II.

On September 26, 1941, Soviet Ambassador to Great Britain Ivan Maisky and General Charles de Gaulle exchanged letters in London. The Soviet diplomat expressed recognition of de Gaulle as “the leader of all free French people” who refused to surrender to the enemy and were eager to fight Nazism. The Soviet Union expressed its willingness to render all-round assistance to French patriots. This event symbolised the common effort of the Soviet people and the best of the French people who refused to accept defeat and were ready to fight until a final and irreversible victory over Nazism. The heroic acts of the Normandie-Niemen Fighter Regiment in which French and Soviet pilots and mechanics served together, and the heroism of Soviet guerillas who fought in the French Resistance was a bright example of Soviet-French brothers-in-arms.

In his letter to Charles de Gaulle, Ivan Maisky emphasised “the Soviet Government’s firm resolve to ensure complete restoration of France’s independence and grandeur after our joint victory over the common enemy.” It is clear that Moscow’s support for de Gaulle’s France was unequivocal and unconditional. Although a considerable part of French territory was controlled by the collaborationist Vichy regime, the Soviet Union was confident of a common victory and outlined and prioritised the preservation of France’s status as a great power.

Now that Russia and France are increasingly facing new challenges and threats, it is more important than ever to preserve the memory of allied relations and the combat fraternity during World War II. We must use a concerted effort to counter any attempts to rewrite history and undermine the UN-centric architecture of the world arrangement that has consistently been a reliable guarantee against catastrophic scenarios.

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Unveiling a monument to Marshal Malinovsky in Slovakia

 

On September 25, 2021, a monument to outstanding commander of the Great Patriotic War [1941-1945] and two-time Hero of the Soviet Union Marshal Rodion Malinovsky was unveiled in Stary Tekov, Slovakia. This is one of the events to mark 77 years since the Red Army has liberated the country from Nazism.

The monument was designed by prominent Slovak sculptor Slavomir Gibej, on the initiative of Slovak citizens, who also provided the funding. The unveiling ceremony was attended by Chair of the Committee on International Affairs and head of the Russia-Slovakia Friendship Group at the National Council of the Slovak Republic Marian Kery, as well as local officials and members of veterans’ and civic organisations. Russian Ambassador to Slovakia Igor Bratchikov also attended.

Speakers at the ceremony spoke highly of Marshal Malinovsky’s special role in the war: he was the commander of the 2nd Ukrainian Front troops, who liberated a large part of today’s Slovakia and the Czech Republic from the Nazi invaders and their accomplices. The speakers also emphasised the importance of preserving the truth about WWII, saying it was unacceptable to distort the history of this war.

The marshal’s daughter, Natalya Malinovskaya, addressed the audience via video linkup and thanked everyone for their efforts to perpetuate the memory of her father on the Slovak soil. 

It is significant that at a time that in some countries which are Slovakia’s neighbours in Europe, their authorities encourage the demolition of monuments to Soviet soldiers and commanders, who saved their peoples from the horrors of Nazism and, in some cases, from complete annihilation, Slovakia honours the memory of the heroes and liberators. We are grateful for that to the Slovak people and the leaders of Slovakia.

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Russia’s assistance to Abkhazia in fighting COVID-19

 

The Russian Federation continues to provide diversified assistance to the Republic of Abkhazia in fighting the spread of the new coronavirus infection.

The operation of the mobile multifunctional hospital sent by the Russian Defence Ministry to Sukhum on August 17, 2021, is a big part of these efforts. In addition, between August 19 and September 24, 2021, a combined detachment of the Black Sea Fleet radiation, chemical and biological protection troops carried out a set of disinfection measures in Abkhazia.

It is worth mentioning that this is the second visit by the mobile hospital to Abkhazia – the first time military doctors worked in the republic from October 2020 through March 2021; and the third one by the radiation, chemical and biological protection detachment – its two earlier trips to Abkhazia were in April and October 2020.

Russia also regularly supplies the COVID-19 vaccines, test kits and medical equipment to Abkhazia, while Russian healthcare specialists render their Abkhazian colleagues assistance ranging from practical and methodological advice to consulting. 

We are determined to continue close cooperation with this fraternal republic in healthcare.

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Icelandic media reports hacker attack on Geislataekni

 

The Icelandic media have reported a ransomware attack on a local company, Geislataekni, allegedly targeted from Russian territory.

It is easy to get the impression that the West has quotas for such accusations against Russia, and it is Iceland's turn this time. I would very much like this to be the end of their baseless plan of attack.

We remind you that Russia established a National Computer Incident Coordination Centre in 2018. The centre is authorised to interact with the competent authorities in foreign countries to counter malicious activity in the information space.

According to our information, in 2019-2020, the centre received no inquiries from any Icelandic computer incident response service or private company. In this regard, I would like to advise the Icelandic media to avoid disseminating false information.

Russia has consistently advocated strengthening international cooperation in combating information crime. Russia’s initiative has promoted the creation of the UN special committee to develop a comprehensive convention on combating the use of ICT for criminal purposes. In July 2021, Russia submitted a draft convention to the committee for consideration, and expects all countries to join the effort to coordinate the convention text.

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Russia’s position on the French government’s approval of ‘injection sites’ in Paris

 

We are concerned about reports that some European countries are increasingly using harm reduction strategies amid growing heroin use during the pandemic. Paris has recently greenlighted the opening of places known as injection sites, where drug addicts are encouraged to use the hard drugs they brought in a ‘safe’ environment.

According to the three UN anti-drug conventions, the choice of drug addiction treatment methods is the prerogative of each country. On the other hand, harm reduction strategies do not aim to cure people completely and in fact lead to the recognition of drug addiction as a social norm and even encourage it. The Russian Federation cannot agree with this approach because it runs counter to the main goal of international anti-drug efforts, building a drug-free society.

We look forward to continuing our close cooperation with France in strengthening the current drug control regime and implementing UN political documents in this field. We would like to invite our partners to the next meeting of the Paris Pact Initiative aimed at combating the Afghan drug threat, which Moscow will host on December 15-16, to discuss measures to combat the cross-border aspects of the opiate drug problem.

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The SCO Member StatesHeads of Regions Forum

 

We would like to draw your attention to the SCO’s innovative approaches to work, which focus on harmonising potentials of the member states’ regions, which is an extremely important additional factor for overcoming the national development challenges.

The second meeting of the SCO Member States' Heads of Regions Forum was held in Chelyabinsk under the chairmanship of Chelyabinsk Region Governor Alexey Teksler on September 29. It was attended by high representatives of regional administrations, economic departments and business circles from Russia, India, Kazakhstan, China, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan (the event was held in a hybrid format).

The focus was on promoting trade, economic and investment cooperation between the regions of the SCO countries, including in the context of implementing the Programme for Interregional Cooperation of the SCO Member States approved during the meeting of the Council of Heads of State that took place in Bishkek in June 2019.

The constituent meeting of the SCO Member States' Heads of Regions Forum was held in October 2020 (also chaired by the Chelyabinsk Region) and opens up good opportunities for reaching out to the SCO observers and dialogue partners. This is of particular importance in light of the fact that decisions regarding a new round of the SCO expansion were adopted during the SCO summit in Dushanbe on September 17.

In order to effectively realise the potential of this mechanism initiated by the Chelyabinsk Region, the Russian national part of the Forum was formed, which includes the Astrakhan, Kurgan, Omsk, Samara and other regions.

A Russian-Kyrgyz road map on trade, economic, scientific, technical and cultural cooperation between the Chelyabinsk Region and the Issyk-Kul Region was signed on the sidelines of the event.

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Russian language courses at the Matias Romero Institute - Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Mexico

 

A ceremony dedicated to the beginning of Russian language courses for Mexican Foreign Ministry workers took place at the Matias Romero Institute-Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the United Mexican States (similar to the Diplomatic Academy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia) on September 27.

The Russian-Mexican cooperation, including within the framework of the Memorandum of Understanding in the Academic and Diplomatic Sphere signed between the Diplomatic Academy of the Russian Foreign Ministry and the Mexican Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 2017, has reached a new level, as evidenced by an increased interest on the part of the Mexican diplomats in studying Russian.

The courses are being attended by 45 employees of the Mexican Foreign Ministry, both senior and junior diplomatic staff, including those employed in Mexico’s foreign missions. Beginner and advanced level groups have been formed. The diplomats studying Russian at the courses will be enrolled in the reserve pool of appointments for overseas positions in the foreign missions of the Mexican Foreign Ministry, not only in Russia, but also in other CIS countries, in Ukraine, and also in the permanent mission to the UN.

We would like to express our gratitude to the leadership of the Mexican Foreign Ministry and the Matias Romero Institute for supporting and promoting the Russian language in Mexico.

For our part, through the Embassy of Russia and the Office of Rossotrudnichestvo in Mexico, we will provide the necessary assistance, including in recruiting teachers of the Russian language and in choosing teaching aids.

We are confident that the implementation of this project will not only help to improve people’s knowledge of the Russian language, but will also help to learn more about our country’s history and culture.

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Answers to media questions:

Question: Czech President Milos Zeman signed an executive order sidelining Russian and Chinese companies from the tender on expanding the Dukovany nuclear power plant. What do you think about this decision and its influence on Russian-Czech relations?

Alexey Zaytsev: Indeed, on September 27 of this year, President of the Czech Republic Milos Zeman signed a law on the country’s transition to the low-emission energy. Both chambers of the Czech Parliament have already approved it. At the initiative of the right-wing liberal opposition, the law included provisions discriminating against Russian and Chinese companies that were expected to take part in expanding the Czech Dukovany NPP. Under the law, only the technology of the participants in the 1996 WTO Government Procurement Agreement can take part in the construction of new units in the Czech Republic. Russia and China are not among them. The law also has other provisions blocking the participation of these companies in nuclear projects on Czech territory. It enters into force on January 1, 2022.

We can only regret that this politicised approach prevailed in Prague. It is contrary to logic and damages the interests of Czech businesses. It is common knowledge that Rosatom State Corporation was going to take part in the tender on expanding the Dukovany NPP. Rosatom is the leader in the world nuclear power industry and a long-term and traditional partner of the Czech Republic. We have been developing productive cooperation in this sphere for decades.

We noted that earlier the Czech president did not support the adoption of this law. He said with good reason that the reduction in the number of participants in the tender reduces competition and makes the project more expensive.

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Question: The first postwar meeting of the foreign ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan took place as part of the UN General Assembly with the mediation of the co-chairs. What does Russia think about this meeting as a co-chair? Can we say that the negotiating process on Karabakh has been resumed with the co-chair mediation?

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on September 28, 2021, that in New York the co-chairs coordinated the resumption of regional visits and on-site meetings with representatives of Armenia and Azerbaijan. When will the co-chairs pay a regional visit and what will be its agenda?

Alexey Zaytsev: We would like to confirm again the positive assessment of the efforts by the co-chairs (Russia, the United States and France) of the OSCE Minsk Group, which Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov made at the news conference on September 25. An important result of the contacts in New York on September 24-25 was the agreement of both sides of the conflict to the regional visit by the representatives of the three co-chairs in order to continue the search for ways to resolve priority tasks in the region. As Mr Lavrov noted, it is primarily necessary to encourage and strengthen positive trends by ensuring the co-existence and cooperation of the Armenian and Azerbaijani communities on the ground.

The co-chairs of the Minsk Group will themselves announce the time and the modalities of their visit when they deem it necessary.

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Question: It’s been a year now since the start of the war but Azerbaijan continues dodging its commitments under the tripartite statement and is not returning Armenian POWs. What do you think about the violation of the Geneva Convention by Baku?

Alexey Zaytsev: We are aware that both Armenia and Azerbaijan conducted memorial services in connection with the anniversary of the start of the armed confrontation in Nagorno-Karabakh in 2020. We wholly share the grief of the relatives and friends of all the people who perished on both sides of the conflict.

We believe that the statements made by the leaders of Russia, Armenia and Azerbaijan on November 9, 2020 and January 11, 2021 are a reliable guarantee against any such tragic events happening again in the future. In the process of attempting to try and stabilise the situation in the region, Russia lays emphasis on implementing the tasks outlined in the tripartite agreements and moving forward in all directions.

We are continuing to work on freeing Armenian POWs in exchange for minefield maps. We are convinced that the ultimate removal of these irritants as soon as possible will facilitate the improvement of Yerevan-Baku relations.

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Question: Several days ago, Deputy Prime Minister Alexey Overchuk announced that the parties do not discuss the issue of a corridor in a trilateral format. Regardless of this, President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev continues distorting the tripartite agreements. Thus, having spoken about open aggression and voiced threats for the umpteenth time now, he said that the so-called Zangezur corridor must be opened. “The Second Karabakh war has shown what happens when our patience is exhausted. Therefore, we are giving Armenia an opportunity to fulfil all the terms of the November 10 statement and act accordingly,” Aliyev said. What can you say about the continued threats from the Azerbaijani leaders? Doesn’t the distortion of the tripartite agreements derail the opening of regional communications?

Alexey Zaytsev: We understand the media’s interest in breaking news or statements. Nevertheless, it is obvious that the exclusive emphasis on confrontational aspects does not help overcome the existing differences. Instead, it is very important to provide an opportunity for a search for mutually acceptable solutions. The demand for this attitude is confirmed by the willingness that was expressed by both Baku and Yerevan at the highest level to open up a new page in their relations and to normalise them step by step. In our work, we focus on such positive moments.

The Russian, Azerbaijani and Armenian trilateral working group on unblocking economic and transport links in the South Caucasus continues its activities at deputy prime minister level. For our part, we have taken note that Yerevan and Baku are willing to reach mutually acceptable package agreements. In perspective, these joint efforts may develop into project cooperation.

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Question: PACE included in its resolution the proposal to create a demilitarised zone near the Armenian border at the suggestion of Armenia’s Human Rights Defender. The resolution calls on the two countries to consider creating a demilitarised zone with the presence of a peacekeeping or military monitoring force. This is the only effective way to prevent the Azerbaijani military from perpetrating their criminal acts. They have been illegally stationed near settlements along the Armenian border since the war ended. What is Russia’s opinion on this matter?

Alexey Zaytsev: As far as I can see, you are referring to resolution titled “Humanitarian consequences of the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan”, which was adopted on September 27, 2021, by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. During the discussion of this document, both our Armenian and Azerbaijani colleagues approached the Russian delegation to PACE. Considering Russia’s status as a mediator, our delegation to PACE did not vote on this document, knowing that the two sides hold opposing views on its provisions.

We have repeatedly emphasised that creating a commission for delimitating the state border between Armenia and Azerbaijan, followed by the demarcation of the borderline in its entirety, would offer a sustainable and lasting solution for preventing incidents in some areas along the border between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Russia has articulated and submitted its proposals on launching negotiations on this matter to Yerevan and Baku. We are waiting for our partners to respond to this initiative.

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Question: President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev has expressed recently his readiness to meet with Prime Minister of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan under the auspices of the OSCE Minsk Group, if the Minsk Group comes forward with the initiative to arrange this meeting. What does Russia think of this statement? Are any details available on this meeting? Are any preparations underway?

Alexey Zaytsev: Russia has always believed that regular dialogue, especially at the high and the highest level, can bring about mutual understanding and create a constructive atmosphere for resolving issues. It is thanks to proactive contacts by President of Russia Vladimir Putin with the leaders of Azerbaijan and Armenia that the bloodshed in Nagorno-Karabakh stopped and the trilateral statement was signed on November 9, 2020, laying the groundwork for enabling the region to live in peace once again.

As you understand, organising meetings of this kind at the highest level requires serious preparation. We believe that a visit by the Minsk Group co-chairs to the region will help create a favourable environment for this to happen.

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Question: How would the Russian Foreign Ministry comment on a statement by the so-called President of the separatist Republic of Kosovo Vjosa Osmani-Sadriu, who said that the Belgrade authorities, influenced by Russia, are inciting tensions in northern Kosovo and Metohija and trying to destabilise the entire region? How do such accusations tally with Russia’s position that a decision regarding Kosovo should be drafted on the basis of international law and in compliance with the earlier agreements signed by Belgrade and Pristina?

Alexey Zaytsev: In the past few days, we have posted two comments on the official website of the Russian Foreign Ministry setting forth Russia’s position, which differs completely from the biased opinion of the so-called President of Kosovo.

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Question: Kosovo’s separatists have banned vehicles with Serbian license plates from entering the territory they control. They justify these actions by citing the 2016 reciprocity agreement, which applies to the use of vehicle license plates of separatist Kosovo on the territory of central Serbia and point out that the document was signed by Serbia. Does the Russian Foreign Ministry consider this agreement legitimate, and does it therefore believe that the actions of the Kosovo separatists are also legitimate? Does the Russian Foreign Ministry believe that Serbia should honour this agreement since it has signed it?

Alexey Zaytsev: Clause 5 of the agreement between Belgrade and Pristina of September 14, 2016, stemming from the 2011 freedom of movement agreement (the relevant documents are posted on the website of the Government of Serbia Office for Kosovo and Metohija) states expressly that Kosovo shall extend the duration of KS license plates for five years, after which time the parties shall return to the discussion on this matter once again, with EU mediation, if necessary.

It is clear that the discussions mentioned in the 2016 agreement must be conducted at the negotiating table and should involve authorised representatives of both parties. Instead, Pristina authorities sent their SWAT units to the Serb-populated Kosovo districts in an attempt to impose the decisions they see fit. Therefore, this is a direct, flagrant and cynical violation by the Kosovo Albanians of their obligations at a time when the legal process aiming to resolve the freedom of movement matter remains incomplete.

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Question: During their meeting at the UN General Assembly, Sergey Lavrov and EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell spoke about stability and predictability in relations. It appears that the main concern for Russia is the EU’s role in the settlement of the crisis in Donbass. Kiev has been doing its utmost for a long time now to join the EU. What could Brussels do in this respect, considering the stability and predictability of its policy in Ukraine?

Alexey Zaytsev: Yes, prospects for Russia-EU relations were indeed discussed during a meeting between Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell on the sidelines of the 76th session of the UN General Assembly in New York. They pointed out mutual interest in the development of predictable and mutually beneficial relations. They must be made frost proof and protected against political posturing. We are neighbours and important trade and economic partners, and no politics can change the geography.

It was hardly reasonable to make relations between Russia and its European neighbours, including members of integration associations such as the EU, dependent on the settlement of individual regional or internal conflicts in Ukraine or anywhere else. It is this flawed logic focused on differences to the detriment of cooperation throughout Europe that our Brussels colleagues are following. The EU has unwisely made prospects for Russia-EU cooperation, which could greatly strengthen Europe’s positions in this highly competitive world, contingent on the implementation of the Minsk agreements. However, it is obvious that the Kiev authorities bear the brunt of responsibility for the non-observance of the Minsk Package of Measures.

When speaking about stability and predictability in relations with the EU, we mean, on a broader plane, the importance of returning our dialogue to the highway of equal creative cooperation aimed at attaining the long-term interests of our nations. Of course, we will hardly be able to quickly resume “business as usual,” in light of a deep crisis of confidence fuelled by the unfriendly steps of some EU member states. At the same time, we remain interested in working with the EU and its member states in the spirit of pragmatism and good-neighbourliness.

But good neighbours should be tactful and respect each other’s legitimate interests and opinions. They must not interfere in each other’s internal affairs, show disregard for the judicial system, democratic procedures and public processes, promote unsubstantiated allegations or apply illegal restrictions against each other in violation of international law. Overall, the current objects openly set out in the EU policy documents regarding Russia – push back and constrain – are incompatible with the development of stable and predictable Russia-EU relations.

We believe that this situation does not meet the interests of either side and should be changed. This obvious truth is gradually making headway and winning increasing understanding in European states. As for the methods to do with improving relations with the EU, there is no need to reinvent the wheel. We have the generally recognised fundamental principles of international law, first of all, the UN Charter. These principles include sovereign equality, non-interference in each other’s internal affairs, international cooperation, and faithful implementation of international obligations.

As for the stability and predictability of the EU policy towards Ukraine, we really hope that the EU will wake up to Kiev’s open sabotage of the Minsk agreements, while Germany and France as parties to the Normandy format will encourage the Ukrainian authorities to start implementing the Minsk Package of Measures, which has been approved by UN Security Council Resolution 2202. Its highlight is the provision of a special status to Donbass following its coordination in a direct dialogue between Kiev and representatives of certain areas of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions, which should encourage the regions’ return to the bosom of Ukraine and the attainment of a comprehensive settlement of the internal Ukrainian conflict.

We hope that the EU will not leave unaddressed Kiev authorities’ deliberate infringement on the rights of Russian speakers, which runs counter to both the international commitments and the Constitution of Ukraine.

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Question: Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi declared that the Russia-proposed business regulations for the South Kuril Islands are unacceptable for his country. Will this stance pose an obstacle to collaboration with investors from other countries?  

Alexey Zaytsev: We proceed from the premise that the Russian Government’s current measures intended to accelerate the development of Russia’s Far Eastern areas, including the Sakhalin Region, will also provide an additional incentive for joint operations with Japan on the South Kuril Islands, which are part of this constituent entity of the Russian Federation. We will only welcome the desire of interested foreign investors, including Japanese partners, to join practical cooperation in these territories.

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Question: An exhibition entitled “Not To Be Forgotten” is on tour in the EU. Numerous documents speak about the heinous crimes committed by Hitler’s Germany and its allies during WWII. The truth of the past is sickening, many things are hard to accept.  In Slovakia, this exhibition is taking place at the premises of the Slovak Union of Anti-Fascist Fighters. Later, it will tour the whole country.  This is a very important and necessary undertaking (many thanks to the Russian Embassy in Slovakia for its work, support and help).  Is it likely that similar exhibitions will be taking place in other countries? Will it be possible to hold them in countries infected with Russophobia? What EU countries will not see this exhibition? 

Alexey Zaytsev: It is true that the project to hold a traveling tablet historical and documentary exhibition titled “Not To Be Forgotten” exposing crimes committed by the Nazis and their accomplices against the USSR’s civilian population during WWII is being implemented under the patronage of the Russian Historical Society in Belgium, Britain, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Greece, Germany, Finland, France, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, and Sweden. The first displays have taken place in the FRG, France, and Slovakia. Currently, the Russian Historical Society is working to expand the number of European languages in which the material will be produced for events to be held in European countries that are yet to be covered by the project.

The organisers are not regarding the exhibition as a propaganda undertaking.  Its aim is to convey the historical truth about the feat of valor committed by the Soviet soldiers and the uncountable sacrifices made by the peoples of the USSR for the sake of liberation to people, primarily the youth, who take an interest in the tragic history and lessons of WWII.

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