19 April 201716:51

Briefing by Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova, Moscow, April 19, 2017


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  1. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to participate in a meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers of the SCO Member States
  2. Talks between Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the European Commission Federica Mogherini
  3. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to take part in the presentation of the Chuvash Republic
  4. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s meeting with Secretary General of the OSCE Lamberto Zannier 
  5. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s participation in the 6th Moscow High-Level Conference on Security Issues
  6. Russia’s participation in the international donor conference for Yemen
  7. Resumption of the special session of the Executive Council of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons
  8. The first summit of the Barents region’s indigenous groups
  9. UNICEF March review on the humanitarian situation in Ukraine
  10. The appearance of fake Facebook accounts of Russian foreign missions
  11. Balkan media publications on the supplies of Russian weapons during the 1991−1995 conflict in former Yugoslavia
  12. CIA Director Mike Pompeo’s anti-Russia comments
  13. Prizes for demonising Russia
  14. The Russian freighter Merle in Libya
  15. Answers to media questions:
  16. Nagorno-Karabakh settlement
  17. Russian national Alexander Lapshin
  18. Presidential election in France
  19. US bomb dropped in Afghanistan
  20. Situation regarding the USA and the DPRK
  21. Presidential election in France
  22. Situation on the Korean Peninsula
  23. Report by the America for Bulgaria Foundation
  24. Situation in Syria
  25. Peoples’ Friendship University of Russia


Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to participate in a meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers of the SCO Member States


Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will take part in a meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers of the Member States of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation in Astana on April 20-21.

The discussion will focus on the current state of, and prospects for expanding, the SCO’s activities in light of the forthcoming SCO membership of India and Pakistan. In line with the work to ensure the substantive content of the SCO summit, which will be held in the capital of Kazakhstan on June 8-9, the ministers will focus on documents and decisions to be reviewed by the heads of the member states. Particular attention will be paid to coordinating issues related to deepening cooperation in the spheres of security and humanitarian ties.

The participants will exchange views on current issues of the global and regional agenda as well as on ways to build up practical interaction and coordination at multilateral platforms, primarily, within the UN.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will hold a number of bilateral meetings on the sidelines of the meeting.


Talks between Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the European Commission Federica Mogherini


EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the European Commission Federica Mogherini will come to Russia on a working visit on April 24 at the invitation of Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

During the talks, the participants will discuss the current state of affairs and prospects for Russia-EU relations, as well as key international issues, including the situations in Ukraine, Syria, Iraq and Libya, the implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action regarding the situation around Iran’s nuclear programme, the Middle Eastern settlement, countering international terrorism and a number of other international topics.


Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to take part in the presentation of the Chuvash Republic


The Foreign Ministry is working to provide assistance to the Russian regions as they try to develop and strengthen their cooperation with foreign partners and the business community, which we regularly inform you about. Presentations of the economic and investment potential of the Russian regions are held at the House of Receptions at the Foreign Ministry Mansion as part of this work.

The presentation of the Chuvash Republic, with the participation of representatives of the diplomatic corps accredited in Moscow, federal and regional authorities, business circles and Russian and foreign media, will take place on April 24. The presentation is designed to familiarise the participants with international and foreign economic relations of the Chuvash Republic, and the plans of the region’s leadership to attract foreign investment and step up interaction with international partners. Long-term projects will be presented, which business circles or foreign stakeholders could take part in.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Head of the Chuvash Republic Mikhail Ignatiev will speak during the presentation.


Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s meeting with Secretary General of the OSCE Lamberto Zannier 


On April 25, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will meet with Secretary General of the OSCE Lamberto Zannier, who will be in Moscow to take part in the 6th Moscow Conference on International Security.   

Mr Lavrov and Mr Zannier are expected to discuss a broad range of issues on the agenda of the OSCE, the world’s biggest regional organisation, with 57 member countries. Russia is an active participant in the organisation and wants it to play a more effective role in international affairs as an important instrument for building an indivisible security community. 

Subjects of discussion include the OSCE’s tasks as a unifying platform for restoring trust in international relations, the organisation’s contribution to responding to transnational challenges such as terrorism, drug trafficking and cyber threats and prospects for harmonising the integration processes underway in the common European space. Other subjects of discussion include the OSCE’s work in the Balkans and the organisation’s role in facilitating the resolution of regional conflicts, including in eastern Ukraine.

Mr Lavrov and Mr Zannier will also examine in detail the activities of the OSCE’s field missions and specialised institutions, for example, the ODIHR (Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights), and the Representative on Freedom of the Media, including the need to correct imbalances in their work, as well as other structures and personnel issues related to planned changes in senior leadership.   

We look forward to constructive and fruitful talks on all above themes.


Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s participation in the 6th Moscow High-Level Conference on Security Issues


On April 25-27, the Defence Ministry plans to hold the 6th Moscow High-Level Conference on Security Issues, which is expected to be attended by over 700 representatives of state agencies, international and non-governmental organisations from 85 countries.

One of the key speakers, along with other representatives of Russian state agencies and bodies, will be Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who will use his speech to address a wide range of current issues related to countering international terrorism, and global and regional security in the Middle East and North Africa, the European continent, Central Asia and the Asia-Pacific Region.

We expect that the conference will once again confirm its high status as an international platform for exchanging views and experiences on countering new challenges and threats, which require a comprehensive integrated approach.


Russia’s participation in the international donor conference for Yemen


On April 25, Geneva will host a high-level donor conference to address the humanitarian crisis in Yemen, organised by the UN, Switzerland and Sweden. Russia will be represented by Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov.

According to UN estimates, the war in Yemen is the largest humanitarian crisis of our time. It has been a terrible ordeal for the population. Based on the most conservative estimates, at least 7,500 people have been killed and over 40,000 people injured. About 19 million people, or 80 percent of the population, need humanitarian aid. Over 7 million people do not get enough food.

The conference aims to provide funding for the UN humanitarian response plan, to show solidarity with the Yemeni people suffering in the humanitarian disaster, and to send a clear message on behalf of the international community that the parties to the conflict must strictly adhere to international humanitarian law and ensure the population’s access to humanitarian aid.

A focus of Russia at the conference will be calling for an immediate end to the conflict, which, as we firmly believe, does not have a military solution. The parties should return at the negotiating table with the mediation of the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed. The normalisation of the humanitarian situation in the country is possible only through a long-term ceasefire and the beginning of a stable political settlement.


Resumption of the special session of the Executive Council of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons


I would like to recall that the special session of the Executive Council of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) resumed its work today, April 19. It is dedicated to the situation in Syria in connection with the events in Khan Sheikhoun. The Russian delegation is led by Ambassador Alexander Shulgin, Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation at the OPCW. Director of the Department for Security Affairs and Disarmament Mikhail Ulyanov will take part in the discussions.

We will promptly publish the text of remarks at the session on the Foreign Ministry’s official website and will inform you about the session’s work. 


The first summit of the Barents region’s indigenous groups


On April 28, Moscow will host the first summit of the Barents region’s indigenous groups. It will be convened within the framework of Russia’s chairmanship of the Barents Euro-Arctic Council in 2015–2017 to further dialogue and cooperation between the state authorities, businesses and indigenous peoples’ organisations in the region.

I would like to point out something that might cause misunderstanding: Please don’t be misled by the word “summit,” because heads of state will not be participating in the forum. It will be attended by representatives of the indigenous peoples and various branches of power, which I will talk about later.   

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov advanced this initiative during the 15th ministerial meeting of the Barents Euro-Arctic Council in Oulu, Finland, on October 14, 2015.

Coinciding with the 12th Treasures of the North international exhibition/fair, the forum will be in the format of a plenary meeting and panel discussions involving representatives of the Barents region’s indigenous populations, the State Duma and the Federation Council of Russia’s Federal Assembly, relevant Russian ministries and agencies and the administrations of the Republic of Karelia, the Murmansk Region and the Nenets Autonomous Area. Representatives of the North European countries’ ethnic and regional executive bodies and legislatures will also take part.

The forum will discuss issues of socio-economic development and improving living standards essential for the Barents region’s indigenous peoples, with a focus on preserving their traditional livelihood, languages and cultures.


UNICEF March review on the humanitarian situation in Ukraine


The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has released its latest monthly review of the humanitarian situation in Ukraine (for March 2017).

Fund officers are working on both sides of the contact line and are stationed in Kharkov, Dnepropetrovsk, Kramatorsk, Donetsk and Mariupol. UNICEF participates in implementing projects in education, water supply, sanitation, healthcare, including the fight against HIV/AIDS, nutrition, and child protection. Only one-third of the UN humanitarian appeal for UNICEF has been funded ($9 million out of the necessary $32 million).

Citing the OSCE, the review notes that hostilities are subsiding though public facilities are still occasionally shelled, which disrupts water supply. In terms of civilian causalities, it is reported that five adults and a child have been killed and 36 wounded.

The chronology of the Donetsk and Lugansk people’s republics trade blockade, as portrayed in the review, is indicative: it creates the impression that the blockade was imposed as the Kiev authorities’ response to so-called external management of all Ukrainian businesses except Waters of Donbass and MTS. The review does not say a word about provocative actions by the notorious anti-terrorist operation veterans, who closed transport links with Donbass early this year – as if these actions never happened and no one knows about them. 

Among events with an impact on the general situation, the review mentions the murder of a “former Russian legislator”, the temporary closure of the Russian-Ukrainian border on its Chernigov stretch, and the attack at the Polish consulate general in  Lutsk.

Note that the plight of children in Donbass (UNICEF estimates the number of children in need of help at a million) is made worse by the Ukrainian government blocking food and medicine supplies to the country’s southeast.

We, for our part, are doing everything we can to aid the population in need. By March 23, 2017, Russia had sent to the Donetsk and Lugansk people’s republics 62 humanitarian convoys carrying over 66,700 tonnes of supplies – mainly food, medicine, fuel, construction materials, electrical equipment and generators, farming equipment, and school books.

According to Russia’s Federal Migration Service, the number of Ukrainians currently in Russia was 2,300,320 as of March 16, including 1,015,214 from south-eastern Ukraine. There are 31 temporary settlements in 14 constituent entities, and Ukrainian refugees receive regular food and other aid and medical care.

I would like to touch on fake news and hoaxes – in fact, blatant misinformation – in this context. I announced a figure today that shows that Russia has sent over 60 humanitarian convoys to the Donetsk and Lugansk people’s republics. Just remember what it all began with: tweets and Western press reports about Russia launching an armed invasion of Ukraine. Convoys in duly marked white lorries were made out to be carrying armoured vehicles and not humanitarian aid.

Who is circulating fake news? I don’t think the culprits are hard to find. Everyone is keeping silent for some reason now. No one spots a single humanitarian convoy in Donbass, no one is tweeting anything of the sort, and we don’t see any relevant contributions in the Western press. I don’t think we will see any, for that matter.     


The appearance of fake Facebook accounts of Russian foreign missions


We are moving now from the information aggression against Russia to an even more complex issue. The number of fake social media accounts, on Facebook for example, of Russian foreign missions has beein on the rise. Fake accounts created for our embassies in the Czech Republic and Slovakia published incendiary and misleading items on high-profile issues in the focus of users’ attention. We have noticed the extremely high professionalism of these fake accounts’ authors. But this is only part of the story and not the most interesting one.

Instead of blocking these fake accounts after our requests, the Facebook administrators and moderators blocked the official account of the Russian Embassy in Slovakia and preserved the fake account created by cybercriminals.

We see this as part of the information attack on Russia. This issue involves hackers, influence, information aggression and wars, provocations and the like. We regard the appearance of such fake accounts within the framework of yet another round of the Western information aggression. We urge users to be cautious not only with regard to the information published on the accounts of Russian embassies and government agencies, but to be more cautious generally, because your personal accounts and the accounts of your companies can be duplicated to mislead the users. Many users can fall prey to this scam.

Since Facebook does not have an office in Russia, the Foreign Ministry has forwarded all information regarding the above facts to the Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media (Roskomnadzor). Of course, it would make more sense to forward our complaints to Facebook’s office in the United States. I would like to tell you a story from my personal experience.

I have a Facebook account. It is quite popular and has many visitors. It is my personal account. It will serve well as an example. Many people, not just journalists and public activists, but also ordinary social media users, ask me whether it is really my account, considering that there are so many fake accounts around. Several years ago, I came to the conclusion that it is too difficult to try to answer all such questions. However, people need to have clear information when the issue concerns a public person, and so there should be some verification for such accounts. As you know, Facebook has a page verification option, which implies placing a special verification sign, or checkmark, on your page. I provided authentication to prove that this really is my page and asked Facebook to give a verification sign to my account to differentiate it from fake accounts, so that visitors would know where to receive reliable information. Can you guess what happened? We are still waiting for the checkmark. The company’s explanations were both ridiculous and strange. First they told us that in order to receive a verification sign the account needs to have a large audience. My audience now is over 300,000. I believe this is a good figure for a Facebook account and sufficient to get a verification sign. Then they told us that they had technical problems and that it is very difficult to assign such checkmarks via their American office. However, verification signs have been assigned to other applicants, including members of the unregistered opposition. It’s very difficult to understand how the system of assigning these verification signs works.

I have told you about this to answer the question on why we had not acted through the company’s US office. But we did, and we raised the issue repeatedly with our American partners and the US Embassy in Moscow, asking them for direct contacts and assistance in developing a dialogue with one of the largest companies in the US cyber space. Regrettably, we see that Facebook, while proclaiming the policy of fighting fake information, sometimes becomes, wittingly or unwittingly, the source of fake news. The United States and the US State Department, which spend so much money on fighting fake news, should start by looking at themselves, focus their attention on this American company and see what is happening there. How can it be that the official account of an embassy is blocked while the fake account continues to prosper? This means that something is amiss, that improvements are needed and a communication channel should be established. This is not just an ordinary personal or company account.

Once again, I know very well how ordinary users and company representatives suffer when their accounts are faked. We are talking about the accounts of official organisations. Just look at the number of terrorist attacks in Europe. Our embassy accounts are the only source where many social media users can find reliable and prompt information and the embassy’s contact information, or leave their comments. This is an issue of not just information security but overall security. This is why we have referred the matter to Roskomnadzor.


Balkan media publications on the supplies of Russian weapons during the 1991−1995 conflict in former Yugoslavia


We have noticed a number of Balkan media publications on the alleged supplies of Russian weapons, including S-300 surface-to-air missile systems, to Croatia during the 1991−1995 conflict. This information is presented subtly but contains obvious hints of Russia’s allegedly questionable role.

We have posted our reply in the appropriate section. I would like to recall that, about a month ago, we launched a rubric to list and expose fake news to try to prevent the circulation of false information.

We would like to stress that we strictly adhered to our obligations under international law regarding the UN embargo on exporting weapons to warring parties during the crisis of 1991−1995 in Yugoslavia. It is common knowledge that, during that period, Central and Eastern European countries, as well as post-Soviet republics, had stockpiled many Soviet-made weapons, ammunition and military equipment. As far as we know, unscrupulous Croatian businessmen took advantage of this circumstance to supply Zagreb. The Russian Federation never had anything to do with this.

This propaganda campaign, based on ill-intentioned speculation around this media leak, pursues an absolutely obvious goal: it aims to damage cooperation between Russia and friendly states on the Balkan Peninsula and to complicate cooperation with our partners, primarily with Serbia. I repeat once again, we will track these materials and promptly respond to them.


CIA Director Mike Pompeo’s anti-Russia comments


We cannot help but comment on CIA Director Mike Pompeo’s first extensive appearance at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, DC, on April 13. He lashed out at Russia, saying that it meddled in US elections and in the internal affairs of other states and that Russia was a territory of propaganda in the person of RT. The usual lot. We have already heard all kinds of different variations on that theme. Specifically, the main blow fell on WikiLeaks. It was this organisation that provoked the CIA Director’s ire.

He said directly that the internet resource WikiLeaks had cooperated with Russian secret services and was supposedly used by the GRU to leak emails stolen from DNC servers. For him, Julian Assange and Edward Snowden are traitors.

What’s interesting is that the CIA Director has used WikiLeaks resources with much success – I am not even mentioning the fact that he used them for official purposes – even though, in his opinion, all these internet resources and related people are traitors and do other countries’ bidding. It is not my story, it’s yours. He used this openly in the public internet environment.

For example, he wrote in his Twitter post of July 24, 2016, that WikiLeaks-published DNC emails were “evidence” that President Barack Obama and the Democratic Party favored Hillary Clinton during the primaries. Given this he should sign up as a traitor himself, if he used and quoted this material in support of his views, or sort it out in some other way. How come? If you use these materials yourselves, you should finally make up your mind on whether people who work for Russia are traitors or not. But it can’t be like this. One should be ashamed of talking about it. The Twitter post has been deleted, but there is a copy. Mikhail Bulgakov once said that “manuscripts don’t burn.” Neither do tweets!


Prizes for demonising Russia


I must congratulate our colleagues from The New York Times on such a remarkable achievement as the 2016 Pulitzer Prize they received for a series of stories on Russia. The main theme was that there is no difference between post-Stalin Russia and modern Russia; the intervening 62 years are a wall-to-wall tragedy. This is the kind of “exposé” that earns prizes!

After these materials and the hows, whys and whoms of prize-giving, one should consider the role of the US national media and the entire current propaganda campaign with regard to the Russian Federation. There is no other way to describe them but propaganda-mongers.


The Russian freighter Merle in Libya


This dry-cargo ship was detained by the Libyan Coast Guard in Libya’s offshore zone and escorted to the port of Tripoli. There were 7 crew members on board (all of them citizens of the Russian Federation), who are currently being kept in custody at a military base in the country’s capital.

After being informed about the incident with the ship, the Russian Embassy in Libya (temporarily located in Tunisia) immediately contacted the authorities in Tripoli and urged them to arrange a meeting with the Russian crew. It also asked for an explanation for seizing the Merle.

The meeting with the crew was organised at Mitiga Base on March 13. The Russian crew members were provided with the necessities and were given a way to send a message to their families. Regular contact is being maintained with the local authorities to track the status of the crew. As far as we know, the crew is being charged with an illegal attempt to export scrap in collusion with unidentified persons.

On April 3, the court extended the crew’s detention for another month at the request of the Libyan Prosecutor’s Office.

Regrettably, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Government of National Accord in Tripoli, despite our repeated pleas, has failed to provide an official explanation for the detention of the ship, referring to the continuing investigation. The heads of the Russian Foreign Ministry have interceded with Chairman of the Presidential Council of Libya and Prime Minister of the Government of National Accord of Libya, Fayez al-Sarraj, to release the ship and send the Russian crew home. He promised to take the investigation under his personal control.

Within the allowable limits, the Russian Foreign Ministry continues to take the necessary measures to defend the legitimate rights and interests of the Russian citizens and secure their early release.

Also, we would like to point out the following: despite repeated and insistent recommendations to refrain from visiting Libya for security reasons, issued by the Russian Foreign Ministry to Russian commercial operators engaged in international haulage and to Russian aircraft or ship crews, such incidents, regrettably, continue to occur. Libya has held the Mekhanik Chebotaryov and its crew for over a year beginning in September 2015. The captain and the first officer of the Temeteron (a tanker), who were detained in June 2016, are facing trial.  

Answers to media questions:

Question: Baku repeatedly stated its readiness to take part in a trilateral meeting on the Nagorno-Karabakh settlement at the level of foreign ministers of Azerbaijan, Russia and Armenia. A short while ago co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group spoke about the possibility of holding such a meeting in Moscow and called for the parties to return to the negotiation table as soon as possible. Are there plans to hold such or similar meeting on Nagorno-Karabakh settlement? If not, what are the reasons? Are any contacts being maintained?

Answer: The possibility of contacts on the Nagorno-Karabakh settlement you mentioned does exist. It hasn’t yet taken a particular shape to inform you about. Let me reiterate, such a meeting is possible. As soon as we have more details, we will let you know.

Question: Will the Nagorno-Karabakh settlement issue to be discussed during Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s meeting with OSCE Secretary General Lamberto Zannier?

Answer: I think this issue might be touched upon among other issues, taking into account its special urgency.

Question: In view of the situation around Russian national Alexander Lapshin it was stressed a number of times that the Russian Foreign Ministry keeps track of the issue and takes all possible measures to protect his rights. In this connection, I would like to know if the Russian Foreign Ministry is taking any steps to protect Russian national Dilgam Askerov who was sentenced to life in prison by an illegal court of the unrecognised Nagorno-Karabakh Republic in December 2014? 

Answer: I will check and provide detailed information on the situation.

Question: The first round of the French presidential election will be held on April 23. The campaign is taking place amid an unprecedented anti-Russia information hysteria, which also targets those candidates who favour friendly relations with Russia, for example, Marine Le Pen. What do you expect from the election?

Maria Zakharova: Our only expectation is that the election will be held in accordance with French laws and that French citizens will elect a new president. We also hope that our position is clear to both Russian and international journalists: elections are an internal affair of France and the choice of the French people, which we greatly respect.

Question: What is Russia’s official position on the US Air Force dropping the “mother of all bombs” on a target in Afghanistan?

Maria Zakharova: If you want information about the details of this event, you had better ask our military experts. We have pointed out repeatedly that US actions in Afghanistan are absolutely unsystematic, and that they have not helped stabilise the country but have in fact undermined it. Regrettably, the more time goes by, the more evidence of this we see.

Question: In a recent interview, US President Donald Trump admitted the threat of a nuclear war between the United States and North Korea. The North Korean Foreign Ministry said, in turn, that the country was prepared to respond to an all-out war with an all-out war. What do you think about the possibility of a war between them?

Maria Zakharova: I think it is a battle of words of mass destruction. This is how I would describe it. The problem is not new, and it has a solution, which can be found through negotiations. The issue has a legal framework, history and experience. The Trump administration is not the first US administration to address the issue. Our American colleagues have an unfortunate tendency: they act first and analyse the problem later. We saw this in the case of Ukraine, Syria and in many other situations over the past decade. We would very much like for the situation to take a different course in this particular case, that is, start with analysing the problem, then draw conclusions and choose the best strategy, and only then make statements and act. As I said, the international community has considerable experience in this sphere. Some methods failed, while other produced a positive result. We would like the US administration to refrain from making hasty statements and acting as it always has, but first analyse the problem and choose a strategy and only then act.

Question: The United States and North Korea are exchanging loud statements and accusing each other of pushing the world towards a nuclear conflict. In this situation, Russia and China have called for resuming the six-party talks.

Maria Zakharova: Yes, I can confirm this. We have seen very many situations that developed under a hastily chosen scenario that involved the use of military force. Can you name at least one case when this scenario had a happy end? I doubt that you can think of one, because there are no examples of this. Creating yet another flash point of military danger is a dramatic perspective, especially when the issue concerns nuclear weapons.

Question: A deputy foreign minister of North Korea has told Al Jazeera that the six-nation talks aiming to make the Korean Peninsula free of nuclear weapons were “throttled at birth.” Is this just a phrase, or does this mean that Pyongyang will not talk?

Maria Zakharova: I can only reiterate that we are committed to our agreements and experience in that it should be reviewed again to see where we succeeded or failed, analyse our mistakes and achievements, and move on.

Question: You have commented on the upcoming French election. Is it really the same to Russia who wins it?

Maria Zakharova: We see this as the French people’s choice. A new team will be formed following the election, and new priorities will be chosen, including a new concept of relations with Russia. We will work with our French colleagues [whoever is elected]. As for preferred candidates and support, Russia has never done this. This is not our style. Regrettably, our Western colleagues have expressed support for some candidates openly and publicly, or stealthily, before the election, as if they can decide for the people who is stronger and who has slim chances. This is contrary to international law, including the UN Charter, and the democratic voting and election principles. This influence sometimes amounts to direct pressure on the voters. This happens when the leaders, foreign ministers or the really influential politicians from a foreign country call on people in another country to think about their choice and caution them against voting for a certain candidate, because this would allegedly create problems and difficulties. What is this if not interference in the internal affairs of states?

Question: How will you assess the situation if North Korea holds yet another nuclear test? How would you comment on Pyongyang’s threats to launch ballistic missiles every week?

Maria Zakharova: As I have said, we support the international documents that provide a view on the situation in the region, including North Korean missile launches, which are in violation of UN Security Council resolutions. The situation should be analysed comprehensively based on past experience and the legal framework. You know that we promptly publish our views on the concerned countries’ activities in the region.

Question: The America for Bulgaria Foundation has recently published a report on anti-democratic propaganda in Bulgaria, in which Bulgarian media that criticise the United States have been condemned as Kremlin propaganda bullhorns.

Maria Zakharova: I would say that it’s not everyone that merits the name of a Kremlin bullhorn. So, don’t stick it on every Tom, Dick or Harry. It takes hard work to get it. Getting the name for nothing? That’s out of the question.

Question: What is the Foreign Ministry doing to prevent a humanitarian disaster in the Syrian city of Deir ez-Zor, which has been under siege for nearly three years?

Maria Zakharova: You know that we provide humanitarian aid to Syria. We have been doing this since the start of the crisis. For many years now, Russia has been delivering humanitarian aid in the form of food and medicines, as well as by organising such assistance, which is no less important that the deliveries. Organising the delivery and distribution of humanitarian aid is a very difficult and dangerous mission. We cooperate with the international agencies concerned, including the UN, and the NGOs that are involved in humanitarian activities in Syria. This is part of a complex package of measures. I can request information about Deir ez-Zor for you.

Question: I graduated from the Peoples’ Friendship University of Russia (RUDN). On April 13, we had a concert at the UNESCO Headquarters in Paris. RUDN is a unique university because it has students from 150 countries. We know that you defended your PhD thesis under Professor Alexey Maslov.

Maria Zakharova: You know everything, don’t you? No chance of keeping anything secret from you.

Question: What are your impressions of the university?

Maria Zakharova: I have the best impressions about RUDN University, considering that I defended my PhD thesis there. I defended it at the doctoral council. I have the best impressions about the academic advisors there and those who provided their expert opinions about my work. It used to be a wonderful institute, now a university. It offers very broad opportunities for students and those who want to enrol at it.

I want to say that nearly every delegation that comes to Russia for talks with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has someone who graduated from a Russian university back in the Soviet times, including RUDN University. Students from many countries now study at this university under exchange programmes. All of them have the best of impressions about it.

Question: We live in the world’s most cultural country, Russia. Do you know that classical music helps dairy cows produce more milk at European farms? Could we have such music therapy together with you at the Moscow International Performing Arts Centre? We only talk about war at your briefings.

Maria Zakharova: I believe our briefings are the most therapeutic event imaginable. They have a total health improving effect. Everyone who attends them gets better.

Question: Even the Russian Defence Ministry organised a concert of classical music in Palmyra. All journalists, including cameramen, would come along if you organised such a concert.

Maria Zakharova: We’ll have to think about a soundtrack for Russia’s foreign policy.

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