Answers to questions from the mass media by the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, on the side-lines of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, 23 May 2014
Question: Is our country still attractive and interesting to investors and foreign companies?
Sergey Lavrov: Neither I nor investors have any doubts that our country is attractive.The fact that some people have not come here is the result of interference of politics inbusiness matters, which, in my opinion, is inadmissible and our western partners have always cautioned us about this. Now they are giving us a bad example. I hope it will not be contagious. The results of the Forum should be judged on specific affairs and agreements, which will be concluded here. This will be common knowledge in a day or a day and a half from now.
Question: What does Russia bring to the new gas meeting with Ukraine and the EU?
Sergey Lavrov: You do not need to ask me this question. Our diplomacy does not interfere inagreements concerning economic cooperation and implementation of concluded contracts. Unlike our western friends, the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs does not interfere in the activities of economic entities. We help these processes. But voicing prohibitions and dictates, like others including Washington are doing right now, is not our method nor our culture.
Question: Do you plan to have a meeting with the US Secretary of State, John Kerry?
Sergey Lavrov: He has disappeared. I have not heard of him for over two weeks. At present our US colleagues are having problems with the Palestine-Israeli Peace Process, where, unfortunately, everything has come to a deadlock (we sincerely wished them success), and with Libya, which was bombed by NATO. Despite our appeals to start gathering together "Libyan splinters", they avoided political discussions in all possible ways, saying that democracy had won, everything was OK and there was no need to interfere. Now we are observing worrying relapses. We wish our western colleagues success and we are ready to help. However, they need to make up their minds and understand, what conclusions should be drawn from the mistakes made.
Question: Why was the 27 May not OK for holding the meeting of the NATO-Russia Council?
Sergey Lavrov: We have explained all this. For almost a month, immediately after the events in Odessa, we requested the convention of an NRC session, to discuss how all of this could have happened, honestly, openly, and looking into each other's eyes. Our western partners from NATO refused to convene the Council.
Now, after another reminder from us, they graciously agreed and said that they were ready to do so on the 27 May. We have no doubts that the intent of this was to legitimise the elections scheduled for the 25 May in Ukraine.
We are ready to gather after these elections, although the NATO-Russia Council hardly has anything to do with them. Yet the NRC has a lot to do with the revival of neo-Nazism crimes, which are committed by neo-Nazis, including in Odessa and other cities of the South-East of Ukraine, because in joint documents we proclaimed our joint commitment to prevent any manifestations of extremism in the European Atlantic region. They have shamefully avoided this discussion.
Let us see, which day will be convenient for everybody. I repeat, any day after the Odessa tragedy was OK for us, when we requested the urgent convention of the NATO-Russia Council.
Question: I am from Reuters' news agency.
Sergey Lavrov: I congratulate you, didn't they prohibit you coming here?
Question: Why would they do that?
Sergey Lavrov: I don't know, they prohibit everybody, but not you.
Question: I received accreditation the day before yesterday, and I can work for another year in Russia. I like it here.
Sergey Lavrov: Then do.
Question: Russia believes that the forthcoming negotiations in Ukraine are not legitimate. How then do you intend to work with the new authorities?
Sergey Lavrov: You and some of your colleagues have peculiar habits: you make a statement characterising our position first, and then ask questions arising out of it. We did not state that these elections would be a priori non-legitimate. Chancellor Angela Merkel, and other western leaders made their respective appeals to us, forcing us to state that these elections would be a priori legitimate. This is nonsense. How can we say several days or weeks before any elections whether they will be legitimate? We will see, what really happens, who will vote, how the voting will be held, will it be held along with the thunder of cannons of the so-called "counter-terrorism operation", in which civilians, Ukrainians, military persons, militia are dying, with victims on both sides. Heavy machinery is used, including against residential neighbourhoods. We will look at all of this – look how free the expression of will is and what its results are. Unlike our western partners who stated in advance that the forthcoming elections would be legitimate, we prefer to learn the facts and see the results first.
We expect a lot from the OSCE Monitoring mission in terms of objectivity of observation at the elections. Unfortunately, we have reasons to believe that there will be attempts to make the results look smoother and "slightly hide" the facts, which are not welcome to the current Ukrainian authorities and their sponsors. I will provide an example. From a whole range of sources I know that European participants of the OSCE observation mission recognise in their closed reports sent to their capitals that 70-80% of the population in the South-East are not pro-Russian, they wish for federalisation, they accept the idea of federalisation. At the same time, in public, our western colleagues say that only a few people, a negligible percentage (bandits, terrorists) use the slogan of federalisation, but the rest of the population in the South-East wants nothing, wishes to leave everything as it is and to live in Ukraine, which will not change.
We shall see the real assessments and compare them to the conclusions, which we will make ourselves based on the available information from different sources.
Question: Does Russia plan to send a big delegation to the Ukrainian elections?
Sergey Lavrov: You have probably heard today's statement by the State Duma of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation, that our parliamentarians do not plan to send participants to the observer mission, including (to a large extent) based on security considerations and bearing in mind the Russophobic campaign, started by the Ukrainian authorities, which accuse Russia of all deadly sins. In this way, the current authorities do not allow part of their people to take an independent position with regard to the future of their country, they refuse the population of the South-Eastern regions the right to speak in favour of ensuring and reinforcing their rights in Ukraine, by a significant extension of their authority in the selection of their leaders (direct elections of governors), use of the language, which they want to use. For a regular person, who switches on the TV and hears slogans, this is a sufficiently acceptable point, which all the TV channels and western radio stations like to broadcast now: everything was organized by Russia, there are some special units, which are urging plain native Ukrainians to create a militia.
We have asked them many times to announce at least one specific fact of our involvement in these processes. No facts were presented. I asked the US Secretary of State, John Kerry, and other western European partners. They have no facts. And that is all.
Question: How can Russia determine the degree of objectiveness of these elections, if there will be no Russian observers?
Sergey Lavrov: There is no problem in doing this in the age of electronic mass media.
Question: The latest polls show that Petro Poroshenko is the potential leader at the elections of the Ukrainian president. To what extent can he be an acceptable candidate to start negotiations with?
Sergey Lavrov: He or somebody else – it does not matter to Moscow. He or she must be acceptable to the Ukrainian people. As I have already said, we will determine our attitude to these elections based on our assessment of the results of the voting, and acceptance or non-acceptance of one or another person by the Ukrainian people, the Ukrainian voters.
If we are talking about relations between Russia and Ukraine (and this is not about us, but about the Ukrainians), we will certainly judge on specific deeds of the person, who will be elected President of Ukraine, provided that these elections are free, honest, fair and not made up.
I hope that the threats, which are coming from candidates for the presidential chair, that if some of them do not like the results of these elections there will be a third wave of revolution, were also heard by the west, especially by those who make statements that only Russia is interested in disrupting these elections.