Briefing by Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova, Moscow, October 26, 2017
- The 30th meeting of the Foreign Ministry’s Council of the Heads of Constituent Entities of the Russian Federation chaired by Sergey Lavrov
- Foreign Minister of the Republic of Suriname Yldiz Pollack-Beighle to visit Russia
- Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to meet with the Association of European Businesses in Russia
- Upcoming global conference of Russian compatriots living abroad, 100 Years of the Russian Revolution: Unity for the Sake of the Future
- International biosecurity conference
- Situation in Syria
- The situation in Eastern Ghouta
- The situation in Yemen
- The situation in Venezuela
- Draft UN Security Council resolution on Myanmar
- The situation in Myanmar’s Rakhine State
- Ukraine’s discriminatory policies
- The archives of the Russian Consulate General in San Francisco, the Trade Representation in Washington and the Trade Representation branch in New York
- Situation regarding the Nagorno-Karabakh settlement following the Geneva meeting of the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan
- Plans to create a memorial in Pretoria to commemorate Soviet heroes who perished while supporting the national liberation movements of southern African countries
- The situation with Russia Today in the United States
- New anti-Russian statements from Britain’s Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson
- The First Global Forum of Young Diplomats in Sochi, October 16-20
- Window on the World video conference with Crimean journalists on November 1
- Answers to media questions:
- International security mechanisms in Abkhazia and South Ossetia
- New settlement activity by Israel
- “Supply” of militants to ISIS from Russia
- “Intensive Russian language instruction” in Azerbaijan
- Russian-US relations
- Russian-Belarusian relations
- Meeting of the Russian and Japanese foreign ministers on the APEC summit’s sidelines
- Report on the investigation into the chemical attack in Khan Shaykhun
- 19th congress of the Chinese Communist Party and Dmitry Medvedev’s upcoming visit to China
- Declassifying information on the assassination of John F. Kennedy
- Russian-Polish relations
The 30th meeting of the Foreign Ministry’s Council of the Heads of Constituent Entities of the Russian Federation chaired by Sergey Lavrov will be held at the Russian Foreign Ministry on October 27.
The meeting will be attended by the heads of regions who are council members, senior officials from the Presidential Executive Office and federal executive agencies. The agenda includes the work of the regions with civil society institutions to promote Russia’s interests on the international agenda. The meeting participants will discuss way to step up interaction between regional authorities and Russian NGOs. The main focus will be on engaging civil society institutions in work at international venues, developing contacts with foreign partners, etc.
Following the meeting, the participants will adopt recommendations for the regions of the Russian Federation, federal ministries and departments regarding the formation of new formats of interaction with civil society institutions and strengthening existing ones.
Foreign Minister of the Republic of Suriname Yldiz Pollack-Beighle will pay a working visit to Russia on October 29-31.
The talks with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov are planned to be held on October 31, during which the ministers will exchange views on a wide range of bilateral, international and regional issues.
This is the first ever visit by the head of the Suriname Foreign Ministry to Russia, which will be a milestone in promoting Russia-Suriname interaction, and is indicative of the fact that our ties with Latin America and the Caribbean region are gradually expanding.
During the upcoming talks, the ministers will discuss strengthening the legal framework and outline ways to bolster Russia-Suriname relations across the board with a focus on promoting political dialogue, interaction in the material sphere and cultural and humanitarian exchanges.
On October 31, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will speak before the Association of European Businesses in Russia, which brings together over 500 companies and banks from the EU member states, the European Free Trade Association and other states operating in Russia. As you may be aware, meetings in this format are held on a regular basis (the most recent one took place in October 2016) and have already become a good tradition.
This year, the meeting will be dedicated to current relations between the Russian Federation and the European Union and the prospects for their development.
Russian and foreign media are welcome to attend this event. Accreditation is open until noon of October 30. The accreditation announcement was posted on the ministry’s website.
On October 31-November 1, Moscow will host the international conference, 100 Years of the Russian Revolution: Unity for the Sake of the Future, under the aegis of the Government Commission for the Affairs of Compatriots Living Abroad and the World Coordination Council of Russian Compatriots Living Abroad. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is expected to address the delegates on October 31. As many as 155 leaders and activists of public organisations of compatriots from 92 countries have been invited to the forum.
The participants will discuss many important issues such as the Russian diaspora abroad in historical context, preserving Russian identity as the main condition for the existence of the Russian diaspora abroad, compatriots and the modern world, the significance of efforts aimed at consolidating and strengthening the Russian diaspora abroad.
During the two-day conference, plenary sessions will be held, as will a series of panel discussions: “The Revolution and the Russian World,” “Compatriots in the Modern World,” “The Russian Revolution and the Russian Diaspora Abroad,” “The Contribution of the Young Generation of Compatriots to Preserving the Russian Language, Russian Culture and Russian Historical Heritage Abroad,” “Compatriots’ Media Outlets in the Era of Modern Technologies.”
We invite you to cover this event. Accreditation is open until noon, October 27. The corresponding announcement is published on the Russian Foreign Ministry’s website.
On November 1-2, Sochi will host an international conference, Global Biosecurity Challenges: Problems and Solutions, which will bring together more than 100 representatives from 40 countries, international and public organisations and the scientific community. The conference has been organised by the Federal Service for Supervision of Consumer Protection and Welfare in cooperation with the Russian Foreign Ministry. Our department will be represented by Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov.
The delegates will discuss the current situation related to biosecurity in the world in the context of the implementation of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxic Weapons (BTWC) with a view to promoting constructive negotiations within its framework (a conference of its member states will be held in Geneva on December 4-8, 2017) and a corresponding programme of action for 2018-2020.
One of the event’s focal points will be the presentation of new recommendations and best practices for the prevention of and emergency response to epidemic threats and the demonstration of the corresponding material component, technology and Russia’s experience in promoting relevant international cooperation for peaceful purposes. Also scheduled for discussion are scientific and technical achievements related to the Convention, as well as monitoring and risk management mechanisms in this area.
We invite media representatives to cover this event. Accreditation is open until 5 pm, October 30. The accreditation notice will be posted on the Russian Foreign Ministry’s website today after the briefing.
Recently Syria has seen dynamic development of the trends that may lead to normalisation in the foreseeable future, final elimination of the terrorist hotbed and consensus agreements with subsequent launching of a productive political process.
Conditions for these steps are gradually being created by the Astana process. The seventh international meeting on Syria in Astana (IMSA-7) is scheduled for October 30-31.
The formation of the four de-escalation zones in the south-west of Syria, Eastern Ghouta, in the north in Homs and in Idlib Province and the start of their functioning facilitated the delivery of humanitarian relief to the needy. This was the first step towards restoring what has been destroyed, both in a material sense and the trust between different groups of the population. In effect, the conditions for ending this bloody conflict have been created. Refugees and displaced persons have received hope of coming home.
Grassroots national reconciliation committees have been established and are working productively. Their members discuss priority reconstruction of critical facilities, preparations for winter, and the return of refugees and displaced persons to the places of their permanent residence.
Syrians are considering the idea of convening the Syrian National Congress that could help implement the provisions of UN Security Council Resolution 2254 on political settlement in that country. Combat operations continue with a view to completely eliminating all terrorists on Syrian territory, including ISIS and Hayyat Tahrir al-Sham (former Jabhat al-Nusra).
The Russian Aerospace Forces have destroyed most of the terrorist combat capacity as a result of its military operations. According to the Russian Defence Ministry, ISIS militants control not more than five percent of Syrian territory. Nonetheless, they are still committing daring attacks against the Government Army and Syrian civilians, trying to ramp up violence.
The Syrian armed forces liberated the city of Al-Qaryatayn in the south of Homs Province, which was captured during one of such attacks. Shortly before, ISIS militants committed a massacre in the city, killing over a hundred of its residents.
Over the past weekend militants from al-Nusra and allied Faylaq ar-Rahman shelled from mortars the following districts of Damascus: Bab Sharqi, al-Abbasiin, Tabla and Qaymariyya. There are dead and wounded among civilians.
Supported by the Russian Aerospace Forces, the Syrian Government Army expanded the area of its control in Deir-ez-Zor on both banks of the Euphrates. They captured a major terrorist stronghold in the city of Mayadin.
On October 22, the US-led anti-ISIS coalition announced the capture of Raqqa that was considered the capital of the ISIS caliphate at one time. The terrorist leaders left the city several months ago. They were followed by convoys of ordinary terrorists. Those who were laying siege to the city essentially did not prevent them from leaving and in some cases they left by consent. Raqqa was taken by units of the Syrian Democratic Forces whose backbone is formed by Kurdish volunteers. The United States and other members of the coalition provided them with active air and fire support.
As a result of indiscriminate missile strikes and bombing Raqqa was almost completely razed to the ground. Witnesses, among them correspondents of leading Western media outlets, say that the city lies in ruins and it is difficult to establish civilian losses, including women and children.
The US official authorities acknowledge that bombing killed just slightly over 700 people during the three-year-long war against terrorists in Iraq and Syria. Meanwhile, witnesses report that at least a thousand civilians were killed during the liberation of Raqqa. Its population of half a million decreased to no more than 25,000. This is the truth behind the assessments we hear from our Western colleagues about the developments in Syria and the rest of the region.
In some western media and social networks, instead of proper coverage of the situation in Raqqa, there is a campaign gaining steam regarding the alleged famine in the Eastern Ghouta suburb of Damascus. Photographs that are supposed to touch an emotional chord are being spread and statistical data and citations from statements by representatives of international organisations, torn out of context, are being very skilfully chosen and combined.
This suburb of Damascus is part of one of the de-escalation zones established through the leading role of Russia. For a long time, it was fully controlled by illegal armed formations. Clashes between various groups were going on in some areas of Eastern Ghouta until recently and there still remain some hotbeds controlled by the Jabhat al-Nusra terrorist organisation.
Russia has been persistently calling for broader humanitarian aid to Syria, holding intensive contacts to that effect and really helping address current problems both in Eastern Ghouta and other parts of the country, which desperately need aid. In doing so, we constantly see how humanitarian issues are being shamelessly used for political goals to increase unilateral pressure on the Syrian government and also on Russia as it helps it combat terrorism.
As regards Eastern Ghouta, which, by the way, is an agrarian district and a granary not just for Damascus, but also for other regions of the country, more than 45 tonnes of humanitarian aid was brought in there in July and August by Russian servicemen from the Reconciliation Centre. Another 42 trucks delivered UN aid to Eastern Ghouta this September.
We, on our part, have been strenuously urging the UN and other players on the humanitarian field to step up relief aid to all regions of Syria, including Eastern Ghouta. During a meeting within the framework of the trilateral humanitarian consultations mechanism in the Syria-Russia-UN format, we made it completely clear that humanitarian convoys must be rushed into certain areas of the country, Eastern Ghouta among them. Not just food and medicines are needed, but also medical equipment and expendables to save people’s lives in severe cases. But the latter is something that neither the Syrians, nor the UN can buy. You know the reason. They cannot buy this due to tough European and US sanctions, which block transactions for the purchase of technical means. It is no secret that plenty of medical aid, including mobile clinics and volunteers, is supplied by dubious NGOs to areas controlled by anti-government militants. But as soon as the latter face a defeat, those clinics and volunteers in white lab coats are promptly evacuated and notorious propaganda campaigners in “white helmets” step in and start doing their job.
The aim of this campaign is obvious: to maintain pressure on the undesirable President Bashar al-Assad, whom the curators standing behind the militants’ backs for years have been pressing to step down, to discredit our efforts to reconcile the warring parties in Syria, disrupt the political process, drag out humanitarian aid to the population that really needs it and preserve the hotbeds of instability in Syria.
Simultaneously, another task is being set, namely to “balance” world public opinion and the media space for the public has been shocked by the virtual complete destruction of Raqqa through the efforts of the so-called “anti-ISIS international coalition,” which is led by the United States and which operates in Syria without the permission or invitation of the legitimate government of Syria.
I would like to inform you about our assessment of the situation in Yemen. Unfortunately, we have to say that the intensity of the military-political conflict in the Yemen Republic, which is into its third year, has not abated. The heaviest fighting is reported in the country’s northeast and several southern regions. The civilian death toll is increasing and the humanitarian disaster in Yemen as a whole is getting worse. Constant shortages of food, medications and fresh water, limited availability of social services and the spread of cholera and other epidemics have long become part of everyday life for ordinary Yemenis.
Against this disturbing backdrop, Moscow still believes in halting the violence in Yemen as soon as possible and resolving outstanding problems and disagreements at the negotiating table, based on broad national dialogue, taking into account the interests of all political forces in the country. For our part, we intend to continue facilitating the achievement of these extremely important goals.
At the same time, we act on the premise that restoring intra-Yemeni unity as soon as possible is key to an effective fight again terrorist groups, which, taking advantage of the power vacuum, are consolidating their positions in various parts of the country. The longer Yemeni society remains divided, the harder it will be to wipe out the terrorist enclaves on its territory in the future.
We would like to share our assessment of the way the situation in Venezuela is developing.
Recent events give cause for cautious hope for stabilisation. The opposition’s street protest activity, which has taken a toll of dozens of lives in Venezuela, has run out of steam. Elections, first, for the National Constituent Assembly (NCA) and then gubernatorial elections – in the latter case with a high turnout at 61.4 percent – have shown in no uncertain terms that people are tired of violence and are looking to resolve political disagreements in a civilised way.
Having said that, we have no reason to doubt the objectivity of the vote. According to most Venezuelan analysts, compared to the 2015 parliamentary elections, in which the opposition garnered 7.7 million votes, almost 3 million fewer (4.8 million) people have voted for its candidates in the recent gubernatorial elections. With such unequivocal results, there is simply no ground for talking seriously about any ballot rigging.
Clearly, intolerance is becoming increasingly unacceptable. The Venezuelans have spoken out in favour of political methods of overcoming the domestic confrontation based on compliance with law and order and current legislation and without destructive interference from the outside. This approach has received broad international support. This is also our consistent and principled position that we have repeatedly made known to our partners in public, as well as through various bilateral and multilateral channels.
Such international support, which seemed almost unanimous, was a strong external incentive for launching dialogue in Santo Domingo brokered by the President of the Dominican Republic.
In this context, we certainly welcome the decision of four (out of five) elected opposition governors to swear allegiance to the NCA. We regard this as an important signal toward establishing practical cooperation and coordination between various political forces in Venezuela.
Unfortunately, the radical part of the opposition misread the political result of the gubernatorial elections. Faced with declining protest activity following the NCA elections, it placed its bet on outside support. That mistake was followed by another – halting political dialogue – what’s more, largely on advice from the outside.
In the situation prevailing now, we believe that the global community, countries that call themselves “friends of Venezuela,” should play a key role again.
We have to note that we cannot agree, in particular, with statements that can unequivocally be interpreted not as a call for a peaceful resolution of the conflict through dialogue but as support for just one of the sides, which is, in effect, direct instigation of violence. The OAS secretary general continued his destructive role, creating “parallel” Venezuelan “government power structures” under his “umbrella.”
What is dangerous about this approach? It is a great risk when fierce political struggles jeopardise the existence of the state itself. We in Russia more than once went through that in the 20th century. We know what this can lead to, how tragic the consequences can be and how hard it is to rectify the situation. We do not wish that for anyone – either for ourselves or for Venezuela or for any other country.
We believe that the threats of external pressure on Caracas with the use of unilateral sanctions-related mechanisms, isolationist measures and forceful, ultimatum-like methods are categorically unacceptable. Democracy is not an end in itself but a method of solving a country’s problems. Every state has a sovereign right to determine the forms of democracy for itself, without outside interference.
During his talks with President of Venezuela Nicolas Maduro on October 4 in Moscow, President of Russia Vladimir Putin reaffirmed Russia’s commitment to a peaceful resolution of the country’s political crisis. We will continue cooperation, including in the energy sector and the mining industry, and provide assistance to Caracas in dealing with its socioeconomic problems, in particular with wheat supplies. We are not impaired by tunnel vision and are open to contact with all constructively minded political forces in Venezuela.
We hope that our partners and colleagues in Europe and Latin America will follow a balanced policy on Venezuela and refrain from pressure and sanctions whose counterproductive nature is obvious.
We took note of unsubstantiated reports spread by a number of media outlets to the effect that Russia had allegedly vetoed or is planning to veto a draft UN Security Council resolution on Myanmar. We would like to take a moment to address this.
The United Kingdom and France have indeed submitted a corresponding draft to the UN Security Council. In our opinion, it includes a number of controversial provisions, which, in particular, do not fully correspond to the realities in the Rakhine State and mischaracterise the stakeholders’ efforts to stop the crisis there. This is exactly what our delegation in New York told those who drafted this document.
To emphasise, work on the draft continues. We are ready for a constructive discussion of further steps by the UN Security Council on this matter.
In this regard, I would like to inform you about Russia’s take on the situation in the Rakhine State of Myanmar. The security situation in the north of the Rakhine State has stabilised in general. The Myanmar authorities are taking steps to resolve the crisis, including in cooperation with foreign countries and international organisations.
We are seriously concerned about the continuing flow of the Muslim population from Rakhine State to Bangladesh. At the same time, according to local government officials who promptly respond to reports about large groups of people massing on the border and travel to such places to clarify the situation, the refugees cite socioeconomic difficulties and fears for their safety amid the recently reduced Muslim population in northern Rakhine State as the reasons why they are leaving Myanmar.
In the wake of the recommendations issued by the Advisory Commission headed by Kofi Annan, the Myanmar authorities announced the creation of a Union Enterprise for Humanitarian Assistance, Resettlement and Development in Rakhine and formed a committee for its implementation (both headed by State Counsellor and Foreign Minister Aung San Suu Kyi). The enterprise is called upon to combine resources and coordinate the corresponding areas of government activities, civil society, foreign partners and donors. The priority goals include repatriation of refugees from neighbouring Bangladesh and providing them with humanitarian assistance, resettlement and socioeconomic rehabilitation of internally displaced persons, economic development and establishment of lasting peace in Rakhine State. Local businesses are involved in implementing the social and economic components of this enterprise. The first project was launched, which provides for the restoration of housing and economic facilities in the places of compact residence of one of the ethnic minorities (the Murung ethnic group), whose representatives were attacked by militants of the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army.
Systemic measures to document the Rohingya Muslim community continue. According to the data released on October 21, the field groups of the Immigration and Population Department of Rakhine State have issued more than 2,600 national verification cards over the past two months (we are talking about temporary identity cards) for residents of a number of settlements in that state.
On October 13, the Chief Command of the Armed Forces of Myanmar announced the formation of a dedicated investigation commission to investigate possible offences with regard to civilians that could have occurred during a special operation in northern Rakhine State in August-September. It is emphasised that all those guilty of violating military regulations will be held accountable.
At the national level, active efforts are being undertaken through interreligious dialogue in order to ensure harmonious coexistence of numerous ethnic and religious communities of the country.
Efforts are being made to revitalise the bilateral dialogue with Bangladesh. Minister of the State Counsellor’s Office Kyaw Tint Swe and Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Myanmar U Kyaw Zeya visited Dhaka in early October. On October 24, Minister of Home Affairs of Bangladesh Asaduzzaman Khan arrived in Myanmar to sign memoranda of understanding on dialogue and cooperation in the sphere of security and establishing communication offices between the border guard agencies of the two countries. A joint working group with the participation of the security and border guard services of the two countries to run checks on the refugees who will be part of the Myanmar repatriation programme will be created before November 30.
Kiev’s discriminatory policies against ethnic minorities and large groups of the population are a very serious issue that is a subject of heated debates by the media and the public, particular in Europe. Recently the media reported about new agreements of the Ukrainian authorities with their East European neighbours on education in ethnic minority languages. Faced with strong objections to the discriminatory provisions of the law on education, the Kiev regime is trying to put a good face on the matter and promises Warsaw, Bucharest, Budapest and Sofia that there are no threats to education in their languages in Ukraine. Now we have grounds to ask: Whom does the new law threaten then? Against whom have these novelties been drafted and introduced?
Let me repeat that these capitals are given assurances that their compatriots and related ethnic groups will not face any linguistic problems in Ukraine. It turns out that all these measures are taken exclusively against Russian speakers and the Russian language. How can this be described? Read the history of the 20th century and you will find many similar things.
I no longer see our European colleagues chuckling at Moscow when we start speaking about the really serious nationalist influence that is rapidly growing in Ukraine. In the past, they laughed at us, saying these are our inventions. These are not inventions. Kiev moved to the active introduction of nationalistic decisions. Let me repeat that it is possible to travel many times to European capitals and assure European leaders that these laws do not harm the interests of their compatriots, but where is Europe’s adequate response to what is happening? Where are the questions that our European colleagues are usually not embarrassed to ask? Why don’t they ask the Kiev regime against whom these laws will be used? What is it called when laws are used against one specific ethnic and cultural group and one language that is so widespread in Ukraine? The main point is that the language has not been disseminated artificially by moving Russian speakers there. They lived there historically, one generation after another and made material, financial and cultural investments in Ukraine. Science and industry were developed by Russian speakers. Now one specific political regime backed by street demonstrators with nationalist slogans is trying to oust all this from Ukraine, taking such discriminatory steps and measures.
Today we will talk about this at length and in detail. An analysis of all Ukrainian legislative initiatives makes it clear that they amount to an intentional onslaught on the Russian language and the rights of Russian speakers in Ukraine. Suffice it to recall the law on cinematography that makes it legal to prohibit the showing of Russian movies and TV series devoted to Russian military and law enforcement service members, and all Russian TV series and films produced after 2014; the law on language quotas on television under which the minimum quota on broadcasting in Ukrainian is 75 percent; amendments to certain Ukrainian laws restricting the access to the Ukrainian market of anti-Ukrainian foreign publications that has actually stopped the export of books and printed press from Russia to Ukraine, thereby considerably limiting the rights of Russian speakers in Ukraine to receive objective information in their native tongue; amendments to the law on guest performances under which Russian artists must ask the Ukrainian Security Force for permits to come to Ukraine and many other aspects bearing on the implementation of what I spoke about. These are not just methods of preventive oversight. They amount to purposeful cultural aggression against people representing a specific ethnic and cultural group.
“Blacklisting” Russian cultural figures, who, according to the Ukrainian authorities, “pose a threat to national security” has become common practice. Where are the criteria that determine whether cultural figures, printed materials or films pose a threat? Maybe this was a consolidated decision of the Ukrainian state, based on plebiscites or public councils including really respected people who are experts in this area. Nothing of the kind! Everything was farmed out to just one organisation – the Ukrainian Security Service. We know very well about its work methods, including where it recruits personnel, who runs it, what resources it has and also the fact that it stops at nothing.
The cultural figures I have mentioned not only have been banned from entering Ukraine but their creative activity as such has also been banned. The accreditation of Russian media outlets at government agencies has been suspended until the conflict in southeastern Ukraine is resolved. Virtually unbearable working conditions are being created for Russian-speaking journalists. You can see what is happening – we are not making anything up: abductions, deportations and hours-long questioning of Russian-speaking journalists. This happened, for instance, to an NTV journalist, your colleague, in an ordinary street in Ukraine. He was just doing a report. He was apprehended, like in the Middle Ages, based on an accusation by a person who started shouting that he had caught a spy who was jeopardising national security. That’s the Middle Ages at their worst. This is what has already moved from slogans to the mentality of ordinary people. With such legislation in place and with the constant intimidation of the public over the past several years, this has already become daily routine. People from Europe who are sitting here, imagine that a film crew is standing in the street in Paris, London, Warsaw, Rome, Madrid or any other European capital, doing a report, and all of a sudden a local resident comes up, grabs the reporter by the arm and starts shouting about national security and a threat to his country and calling police and the security service. Can you imagine anything like that? In the country that you have been so actively euro-integrating, this is happening now. One could probably understand this if it was happening in reverse, not exponentially but on a downward trend in the Maidan atmosphere as the situation would have settled down. However, what is happening is the exact opposite. The situation is only escalating. The more we move away from the time of the illegal overthrow of the government by “the will of the mob,” as we were told, the more lawlessness there is in the streets not only of Kiev but also other cities in that country. Is it possible that nobody can see that?
The actions of the Kiev authorities show that the country is effectively slipping toward totalitarianism and turning into a police state. Only not a police state that is supposed to consolidate power at a difficult moment but a state where the police ignore the law. Here is what’s so terrible. Whereas in the past the regular police officer was guided by the opinion of Maidans or public manifestations, the so-called “vox populi,” even though that could not be further from the concept of democracy, now this is in limbo. Neither law nor public oversight has any impact on what is going on in Ukraine. These punitive capabilities, measures and resources are being consolidated without any basis in legality whatsoever.
The country’s basic law – the Constitution that guarantees citizens’ rights to free development, the use and protection of the Russian language and ethnic minority languages – has simply been trodden upon, tossed in the corner. Nobody cites it anymore. Naturally, this is being done to suit the short-term populist sentiments of radical nationalists. Is that still a secret to anybody? Can this kind of national leadership be regarded as a reliable partner in the international arena? Again, I am putting this question to our European colleagues who have throughout these years been shaking hands, holding top-level meetings and organising all sorts of PR events to support this regime. Do you realise who you are supporting and what these people are doing in their own country, using your support? If you believe that this is all right, tear up all European charters and conventions that protect human rights. You have to make a choice: either you support people who have no idea about human rights, mocking those rights and mocking you, or you choose law and legality, but then without any double standards.
In this context, we would advise our Polish, Hungarian, Romanian and other colleagues, who Kiev is now promising a lot in the form of targeted exemptions from the law on education, not to trust the promises of the Kiev administration. Here is just one example. They not only promised verbally – they put their signature on the Minsk agreements. The whole world was watching for hours as they were being elaborated. The signatures of President Vladimir Putin and the presidents of the two largest European countries (Germany and France) are on those agreements. Is Kiev complying with them? Do you really think that if they have verbally promised to grant the Hungarians and some other ethnic groups certain exemptions and cut them some slack they will actually deliver on that? A person may be replaced at a local council, a new one will come and say he has heard nothing about any agreements. They will dupe you and they will do so not for the first time, as they have been doing this for years in many areas. Consider their promise to use financial aid to fight corruption but in reality they transferred those funds to European bank accounts. Everybody knows about this. What language law? Look at how they are carrying on. They will dupe you, as they always do.
The callous and crude policy of forced Ukrainisation is undermining the language diversity and unique character of Ukrainian society. Ethnic diversity is one of Ukraine’s assets, which they seem to be unaware of. It is not a problem, it is the backbone of Ukrainian society. Their actions are eroding this multicultural foundation of Ukrainian society. But the origin of these actions is not in Ukraine. It is obvious who stands behind this and who continues to finance the hypersensitive attitude to the language issue, which is not a problem in itself but they are making it into a problem.
The ongoing forceful assimilation stands in stark contrast to the European concept of living together in diversity. This formula has been used many times to show us the correct way. Now look at how this is being done in Ukraine. Can you cite at least one example of the successful application of the living-together-in-diversity formula in Ukraine over the past few years? Nothing that is happening there corresponds with the European values of diversity and tolerance, which the West has been trying hard to instil there, not to mention democracy and human rights, which are non-existent in Ukraine. Regrettably, the European structures and organisations that sponsor the Maidan government have turned a blind eye to the ongoing offensive against human rights in Ukraine.
Where are your principles, gentlemen? You have made promises, held whispered discussions, signed documents, and that’s it? Is this the famed European commitment to human rights? Don’t be ridiculous. We again urge international human rights organisations to closely monitor developments in Ukraine and to respond promptly and harshly to any violations of the rights of any ethnicities there without exception.
This is not all I wanted to say in this context. We said more than once that Ukraine’s actions violate the fundamental UN, OSCE and Council of Europe principles sealed in their documents. It is obvious that Kiev is not trying to come to terms with EU countries because it cares for the rights of ethnic minorities in Ukraine, but because it wants to embellish the situation so as to preserve the sympathy it has always enjoyed, in particular in Brussels.
Of special interest to us is the position of some EU countries I have mentioned today, whose representatives of ethnic minorities have been affected by Kiev’s decision, as well as the position of some European organisations. Will they continue to uphold their much touted values, or will they make a deal with Kiev based on the exemptions Kiev has made in the law for these countries’ diasporas in Ukraine?
If these EU countries accept this selective approach in Kiev, discrimination against the other minorities in Ukraine, primarily Russians, will amount to an open and deliberate violation of EU conventions and much vaunted European values. Responsibility for this will rest not only with the Kiev government but also with EU countries, primarily Brussels.
While speaking on this matter, I would like to mention an article on this topic by Dr Dieter Segert, a professor at the Vienna University Department of Political Science, which was published by a respected Austrian magazine Der Standart.
Dr Segert writes that the new Ukrainian law on language, which is designed to strengthen the positions of the state language to the detriment of minority languages, including Romanian, Hungarian, Moldovan, Polish and Russian (is Russian really a minority language?), is only exacerbating the political conflict in the country. The international community keeps urging the implementation of the Minsk Agreements by all signatories. Compare the goals of the Ukrainian law on language and the goals of the Minsk Agreements, and you will see that their goals are different and even mutually exclusive.
According to studies by Dr Segert, Ukrainians use Russian in everyday life almost as much as Ukrainian, and therefore it cannot be considered a national minority language. To me this is absolutely obvious. Incredibly, this is now obvious to quite a few educated people in Europe, who are starting to alert the public to this issue. But it appears that in Brussels they do not see it.
We have to agree with Dr Segert that the law on education, sponsored by Ukrainian nationalists, is yet another attempt to split Ukrainian society and reinforce nationalist sentiments, which goes against Ukraine’s European aspirations.
We share the author's conviction that by removing the Russian language from public life through the adoption of the education law, the nationalists are seeking to obliteratek he Russian language the historical links between Ukraine and Russia and the people who have lived and continue to live in both countries.
We also note that there are more and more researchers in Europe like Dieter Segert, who believe, as we do, that the actions of the Ukrainian authorities do not serve the purpose of internal consolidation of Ukrainian society, but only complicate this process.
Paragraph 4, Article 7 of the Ukrainian Law On Education stipulates that "at educational institutions, in accordance with the educational programme, one or more disciplines may be taught in two or more languages: in the state language, in English, or in other official languages of the European Union."
This provision essentially prohibits instruction in Russian and Moldovan languages at Ukrainian educational institutions, as they do not belong to the official languages of the European Union, unlike Hungarian, Polish and Romanian.
One is left to wonder whether there are any experts in Brussels, considering the lavish funding they receive, who can point to the outright discrimination against thousands of people? Don’t they have any courage, professional dignity or expertise to acknowledge this fact?
I refuse to believe it. Dozens and even hundreds of conferences and roundtables are held every year with various non-governmental organisations in attendance. They engage in lengthy discussions and draw complex diagrams. This is not just a human rights violation that we are talking about, but outright discrimination and disregard of human rights and the whole array of international legal documents that are supposed to ensure and protect human rights from the insanity that is currently happening in Ukraine.
Along with other restrictions imposed by the Ukrainian education law, Paragraph 4, Article 7 highlights its discriminatory nature and assimilative focus, and confirms that Ukraine is in violation of its international obligations under the following documents.
I would like to once again list the international legal agreements that have been signed, as we are always told, by civilised countries and which are grossly violated by the provisions envisaged in the new Ukrainian law on education, sponsored by the ruling regime in Kiev.
All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.
3. Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.
Article 8. Right to respect for private and family life
1. Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.
2. There shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right except such as is in accordance with the law and is necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security, public safety or the economic well-being of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.
Article 14. Prohibition of discrimination
The enjoyment of the rights and freedoms set forth in this Convention shall be secured without discrimination on any ground such as sex, race, colour, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, association with a national minority, property, birth or other status.
Article 2: Right to education
No person shall be denied the right to education. In the exercise of any functions which it assumes in relation to education and to teaching, the State shall respect the right of parents to ensure such education and teaching in conformity with their own religious and philosophical convictions.
1. For the purposes of this Convention, the term ‘discrimination’ includes any distinction, exclusion, limitation or preference which, being based on race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, economic condition or birth, has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing equality of treatment in education and in particular:
(a) Of depriving any person or group of persons of access to education of any type or at any level;
(b) Of limiting any person or group of persons to education of an inferior standard;
(c) Subject to the provisions of Article 2 of this Convention, of establishing or maintaining separate educational systems or institutions for persons or groups of persons; or
(d) Of inflicting on any person or group of persons conditions which are incompatible with the dignity of man.
2. For the purposes of this Convention, the term ‘education’ refers to all types and levels of education, and includes access to education, the standard and quality of education, and the conditions under which it is given.
The enjoyment of any right set forth by law shall be secured without discrimination on any ground such as sex, race, colour, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, association with a national minority, property, birth or other status.
Article 7 – Objectives and principles
1. In respect of regional or minority languages, within the territories in which such languages are used and according to the situation of each language, the Parties shall base their policies, legislation and practice on the following objectives and principles:
(d) the facilitation and/or encouragement of the use of regional or minority languages, in speech and writing, in public and private life;
(f) the provision of appropriate forms and means for the teaching and study of regional or minority languages at all appropriate stages;
(g) the provision of facilities enabling non-speakers of a regional or minority language living in the area where it is used to learn it if they so desire;
2. The Parties undertake to eliminate, if they have not yet done so, any unjustified distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference relating to the use of a regional or minority language and intended to discourage or endanger the maintenance or development of it. The adoption of special measures in favour of regional or minority languages aimed at promoting equality between the users of these languages and the rest of the population or which take due account of their specific conditions is not considered to be an act of discrimination against the users of more widely-used languages.
1. The Parties shall encourage a spirit of tolerance and intercultural dialogue and take effective measures to promote mutual respect and understanding and cooperation among all persons living on their territory, irrespective of those persons’ ethnic, cultural, linguistic or religious identity, in particular in the fields of education, culture and the media.
2. The Parties undertake to take appropriate measures to protect persons who may be subject to threats or acts of discrimination, hostility or violence as a result of their ethnic, cultural, linguistic or religious identity.
1. The Parties undertake to recognise that every person belonging to a national minority has the right to use freely and without interference his or her minority language, in private and in public, orally and in writing.
1. Within the framework of their education systems, the Parties shall recognise that persons belonging to a national minority have the right to set up and to manage their own private educational and training establishments.
1. The Parties undertake to recognise that every person belonging to a national minority has the right to learn his or her minority language.
2. In areas inhabited by persons belonging to national minorities traditionally or in substantial numbers, if there is sufficient demand, the Parties shall endeavour to ensure, as far as possible and within the framework of their education systems, that persons belonging to those minorities have adequate opportunities for being taught the minority language or for receiving instruction in this language.
All of this strengthens our impression that the Ukrainian Law on Education is above all designed as a blow to the huge Russian-speaking community in Ukraine. The consequences will be diverse and numerous. The attempts to pursue a “double discrimination” policy towards the Russian language appear to be outrageous when compared to the policy towards other minority languages or towards Ukrainian. We would like to remind Kiev that under international law ethnic minorities must have equal rights and that these rights must be secured by the authorities in full and equal measure. We are saying this not only and not so much for Kiev, because we know who stands behind it. We are saying this above all for our Western colleagues. In addition, we would like to remind them about the unreliability and wilfulness of the current Kiev authorities (they should know this if they are discussing these issues with Ukraine). They will promise one thing today, especially if it is a verbal promise, and do the opposite tomorrow. You have seen this happen many times.
We are often told that we are upholding the rights of the Russian language in Ukraine although no protests or demonstrations have been held there to indicate that this problem exists. I would like to tell those who have not noticed any protests in Ukraine about the main public slogans and requirements that were advanced in southeast Ukraine, including in Donbass. Look at what these people demanded.
Do you believe that people in Ukraine don’t hold protest rallies or demonstrations because they all support the government? Nothing of the kind. They are scared to death, because they were shown in Odessa what can happen to protesters. They can be burned alive or shot dead. Worse still, for several years after their death, the Ukrainian legal authorities will continue to humiliate their relatives and insult their memory by claiming that they burned themselves. Ukrainians have been shown that this can happen. Moreover, this has happened with the silent approval of the Western colleagues, partners and sponsors of the Maidan process.
The people are scared and intimidated. The journalists who hold foreign passports and are protected by their states and who are ready to stand up for the Ukrainian people are arrested upon their arrival at the airport. Are Russian journalists the only ones to whom this has happened? No, this has also happened to European journalists. What can those who only hold Ukrainian passports do? Do you think all of them are tough as nails? How long can this humiliation last? They have been intimidated so much and for so long that they are afraid of saying anything. They saw what happened with the people in Odessa and what happened to Oles Buzina and other Russian and Ukrainian journalists who did not support Russia but only dared to have an opinion that differed from the official view.
However, a certain process seems to be gaining a foothold. People are writing letters and trying to organise protests, but they know very well what would happen if 20, 100 or 500 people take part in street rallies. The same night, people in balaclavas and with corresponding markings on their uniforms, which nobody in the West seems to notice, will break into their homes. People know that they will be made to suffer, that they will be punished, or killed, or burned, and made to pay for what they had done. Doesn’t anyone see this?
As far as we know, following the seizure of our Consulate General by the American authorities, some of our archives have been inspected, re-packed and moved without any consultation with the Russian party by a private haulage company. I would like you to take note of the extraordinary latter element.
Of course, in response to these US actions we have issued a note of protest to the US Embassy in Moscow and forwarded a copy of the note to the US authorities via the Russian Embassy in Washington. These US actions are in violation of the Consular Convention, which the Soviet Union together with the United States signed on June 1, 1964 (Article 17: “The consular archives shall be inviolable at all times and wherever they may be.”) and the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations of April 24, 1963 (Article 33: “The consular archives and documents shall be inviolable at all times and wherever they may be.” Article 27: “In the event of the severance of consular relations between two States, the receiving State shall (…) respect and protect the consular premises, together with the property of the consular post and the consular archives.”).
The United States has acted contrary to all these obligations. It could be that they have no time for reading international treaties, which the US establishment probably regards as superfluous.
Since the Trade Representation in Washington and its branch in New York are parts of the Russian Embassy, their archives are protected by the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of April 18, 1961 (Article 24: “The archives and documents of the [diplomatic] mission shall be inviolable at any time and wherever they may be.”)
Our American partners’ actions are clearly undermining the legal framework of diplomatic and consular relations.
We welcome the parties’ stated willingness to accelerate the negotiations and take additional measures to ease tension at the contact line. We support the efforts of the co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group, who are working on the subjects related to the next regular meeting of the foreign ministers of Azerbaijan and Armenia, during which they will discuss the essential aspects of a settlement as well as possible measures to stabilise the situation. Regrettably, the state of affairs in the conflict zone remains difficult. We urge both Baku and Yerevan to work constructively on finding acceptable solutions to the remaining disagreements.
In keeping with the Joint Declaration on the establishment of a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership between the Russian Federation and the Republic of South Africa of March 26, 2013, which stipulates activities to preserve the historical memory of cooperation in the struggle against apartheid and education of young generations of both countries in the non-racial spirit, the Russian Embassy in Pretoria is working on a project to preserve the memory of Soviet and Russian servicemen who perished during the armed conflicts in Angola and Mozambique. These conflicts are viewed in South Africa as part of the overall struggle against apartheid.
The names of about 60 Soviet and Russian heroes will be inscribed, in accordance with a list prepared by the Russian Defence Ministry, on the Wall of Names in Pretoria’s Freedom Park alongside the names of citizens from other countries
We are paying close attention to the developments surrounding the Russian TV channel Russia Today in the US. We are bewildered at Washington’s desire to distort reality and shift the blame for problems in bilateral relations, in the media sphere in this case – problems which were created by the American side itself.
The US Department of State’s spokesperson Heather Nauert recently stated that Russian legislation on foreign agents is significantly different from the one existing in the US. She asserted that in Russia this law can allegedly be applied even to those organisations that receive minimal funding from foreign sources, thus making it possible to label as political almost any kind of social activity. In the United States, she said, the foreign agent law FARA only requires registration of individuals and legal entities engaged in political activities.
The laws are actually different, it is true. We have explained many times already that the US authorities’ demand that Russia Today register as a foreign agent undeniably imposes restrictions on the freedom of this Russian media source, and increases the risk of jeopardising the personal safety of its employees. The nature of this law is clearly selective and biased, since somehow it does not apply to many other foreign media sources which are financed by foreign public sources and are engaged in journalistic activities on the territory of the United States.
Conversely, a large number of American media outlets operating in Russia (and there are much more of them than Russian media in the US), including the ones that receive public funding, have been working in Russia over the course of many years without falling under the Russian foreign agent law. It is very strange that Washington does not know this. I do not know why such statements are being made public – maybe it is a lack of professionalism. I am not sure that misinformation is being spread of Washington’s accord, it actually is being spread on behalf of a certain person and it will stay in diplomatic archives. But this is such a distortion of reality! All journalists present, most of which are foreigners, know that the activities of foreign journalists and media on the territory of the Russian Federation do not fall under the Russian foreign agent law. Why does the State Department not know this?
Once again, we appeal to the American authorities to stop trying to shift blame, spread misinformation, confuse people, interfere with the activities of both Russian media in the US and American media in Russia (we wish they were objective, of course, but everyone is doing what they have to do). We believe that maintaining a dialogue is the only way to find a compromise. There is no other way.
There is one more interesting statement we cannot ignore – the only type of statements Britain’s Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson ever makes – regarding the Russia Today TV channel. In particular, on October 17, he said in his speech at the House of Commons that “The UK couldn't have normal relations with this country [Russia]”. How does this correlate with what he said at a meeting with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in New York, that we are destined to have good relations? I do not know. Maybe these are two different people with the same name?
At the same time, Mr Johnson hasn’t missed his chance to once again use the attention of the media to harp on his favourite topic of demonising the Russia Today channel, calling it a “scandal” that members of the Labour Party appear on it. “If we study the output of Russia Today and consider the state of the press in Russia at present, we see that it is an absolute scandal that Labour Members should be continuing to validate and legitimate that kind of propaganda by going on those programmes. I am assured by my ministerial team that none of them does so,” Mr Johnson said.
In general, there is nothing new or surprising in the Foreign Secretary’s statements, except that the country’s chief diplomat, a representative of the executive branch, interfering in parliament looks very strange. We very often hear from London about the separation of powers, the lack of influence or pressure of one branch on another. As for this being enveloped in a dense layer of Russophobia, it is certainly not news.
It is not surprising either that the British Foreign Secretary is distorting the facts in a manner similar to his colleagues in the Western camp, combining them however it suits him. For some reason, he forgot to mention in his accusatory speech that his conservative colleagues, including Crispin Blunt, David Amess, Andrew Mitchell, Charles Hendry, David Davis, Craig Whittaker, Bob Blackman and many others also spoke on Russia Today – not only his party’s opponents. Moreover (please, take this seriously) last month, Boris Johnson’s father, Stanley Johnson, appeared on the Going Underground programme on Russia Today. He talked about his book, Kompromat. I wonder what figures of speech the British Foreign Secretary would use for this.
Taking this opportunity, we would also like to draw the attention of the British Foreign Secretary, whose visit to Russia has already been announced by London, to the fact that many Russia Today correspondents are Moscow-based. He won’t be able to avoid their cameras even if he tries to. What could we do in this situation? We will not be able to protect Mr Johnson from Russia Today, because in this case we would have to ban them from all media ops, and as you know, this is above all for us – we have great respect for the right of the media to attend public events. We can see only one way out: some kind of a hide-away hat. If he does not have one, I know that Russia Today has a couple left. I think they could lend him one.
On October 16-20, Sochi hosted the First Global Forum of Young Diplomats (FGFYD) as part of the World Festival of Youth and Students. The forum offers foreign ministry employees a unique opportunity to communicate informally.
The five-day event – with discussions that involved over 110 delegates from 60 countries and meetings with various speakers – culminated in the adoption of the Recommendations for participants in the forum. Some of the main recommendations include supporting the initiative to establish the International Association of Young Diplomats, which requires the creation of a relevant working group, and holding annual Global Forum meetings of young diplomats.
I would like to conclude my opening remarks with another invitation – this time I am inviting you to attend an event, which will be held in the Foreign Ministry’s Press Centre on November 1, where you can be not just guests but participants. I mean our response to the request with which the Crimean journalists approached me during our recent meeting in Simferopol, which I visited on the invitation of the Crimean media.
In particular, the Foreign Ministry’s Press Centre will host a video conference entitled Window on the World. It is organised by the Foreign Ministry’s Information and Press Department and the Foreign Correspondents Association – many of you are members – in an effort to fulfil the request of Crimean journalists and foreign correspondents. We realise that there is a kind of information blockade on news reports from Crimea, a certain partiality in the coverage of Crimean events and also that, unfortunately, the Western media are largely very prejudiced against officials speaking about Crimea – we read all reports and reviews released to that effect. We suggest that you use this opportunity for direct contact with Crimean journalists. These are not journalists who came to Crimea in 2014 or later but rather those who were born there and lived and worked in the region ever since. You can talk to them and ask any questions. Officials will also take part in the video conference – their names are given in the announcement we have released. But most importantly, your colleagues will be there and you will be able to communicate, ask each other questions, ask for materials and exchange views.
It begins at 11 am. Accreditation is open until 4 pm of October 31.
Question: How would you comment on the Georgian Foreign Ministry’s recent statement about Russia’s alleged unwillingness to create "international security mechanisms" in Abkhazia and South Ossetia?
Maria Zakharova: I saw this statement, and it is really very strange, because we have repeatedly commented on this topic at various levels.
In our opinion, Tbilisi is well aware that security mechanisms in the region have long been established. At the invitation of the governments of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, contingents of the Russian armed forces and the border troops are deployed there on the relevant international legal basis. In addition, on the borders of both republics with Georgia regular meetings are held between representatives of the parties, attended by representatives of the UN, the OSCE and the Monitoring Mission of the European Union in Georgia, thanks to which, on the whole, it is possible to prevent and appropriately respond to various incidents.
However, the Georgian side continues to repeat throughout many rounds of the Geneva discussions that, in its opinion, “international security mechanisms” have not been created, each time receiving relevant explanations from the Russian side, and at the same time rejecting, one by one, drafts of a joint statement on the non-use of force proposed by other participants and the co-chairmen.
We urge Tbilisi to abandon this rhetoric of twisting words and get down to constructive work. The early adoption of at least the most general statement on the non-use of force would allow us to proceed with the main topic of the Geneva discussions ‒ the conclusion of binding agreements on the non-use of force between Tbilisi and Sukhum, and Tbilisi and Tskhinval, in accordance with the agreement between Dmitry Medvedev and Nicolas Sarkozy.
Question: What is the Foreign Ministry’s position regarding the construction of new Israeli settlements on occupied territories? Could you also comment on a recent decision not to prosecute Akhtem Chiygoz and Ilmi Umerov?
Maria Zakharova: The second question should be addressed to the concerned law enforcement agencies, rather than the Foreign Ministry.
Regarding the first question, as you know, Israeli authorities said on October 17-18 that plans to build over 2,000 housing units that are at different stages of readiness had been approved. This implies to settlements on the West Bank, including the Amichai settlement being built from scratch, which is to accommodate Israelis evacuated from the Amona outpost under a decision of the Israeli Supreme Court. Construction of 31 housing units on a settlement in the centre of the Palestinian city of Hebron, was approved for the first time since 2002.
Moscow is seriously concerned with the Israeli plans to build new housing for settlers on occupied Palestinian territories. This Israeli activity is illegal from the standpoint of international law and also presents one of the main obstacles on the road towards the establishment of an equitable, lasting and universal peace in the Middle East.
We believe that the construction of Israeli settlements must be stopped for the sake of preserving prospects for a bilateral resolution of the Palestinian issue. This would help create conditions for launching a sustained Palestinian-Israeli negotiating process.
Question: How do you know that we have hats that make people invisible? And why do you lay all the cards on the table?
Maria Zakharova: This is my job to know everything and to lay down the cards.
Question: Most importantly, this should not harm us.
An American security consultancy company has listed Russia as a leading country “supplying” most militants siding with ISIS in Syria and Iraq. Russia has outpaced such countries as Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Tunisia. Can Russia admit that this information is true? How does this influence Russia’s status as a country fighting terrorism at all levels?
Maria Zakharova: I can consult the Foreign Ministry’s counter-terrorism experts cooperating with Russian law enforcement agencies on statistics in possession of the Russian side and disclosing the involvement of the Russian Federation’s citizens in the illegal activity of terrorist organisations, including that mentioned by you.
Our principled assessment is that people involved in the activity of organisations mentioned by you are outlawed and must be prosecuted under Russian legislation. Very active efforts are being made to prevent their involvement as well as to bring them to account.
I will specify the statistics, and our principled position has been repeatedly voiced. I have now set it forth briefly once again.
Question: You have given an example of discrimination against the Russian language and Russian speakers in Ukraine. There is a positive example in Azerbaijan, which has a programme of intensive teaching of Russian, a Russian language school and branches of universities with tuition in the Russian language, as well as general respect for the Russian culture. What can you say about this example?
Maria Zakharova: It is a positive example indeed. We regularly highlight positive examples, such as the opening of Russian language centres, the policy of governments that are aware of the importance of supporting Russian in their countries and of complying with laws and resolutions to this effect.
I would like to point out an important thing. Attention to the Russian language and everything else related to Russian speakers in the countries that used to be part of one state only recently but are now independent states is important primarily for those states and is a factor that is enriching their culture and international ties. This can boost their development in many areas. Another element is not an innovation or a new proposal but something that can be described as a natural desire to protect, or, in this case, to maintain respect for the rights of people (who should be protected in Ukraine) many generations of whom were Russian speakers and whose life, experience and work enriched the country of their residence. This is not an artificial element, unlike in some foreign countries that seek to promote Russian, but a reaction to reality, which is protected by the law.
We need to regularly cover this issue and report the latest developments in this sphere. We do this on the ministry’s website and at briefings, but we should and will do this more often.
Question: What can you say about the planned meeting of the presidents of Russia, Azerbaijan and Iran on November 1?
Maria Zakharova: As you know, comments on summit meetings and their format are the prerogative of the Presidential Executive Office.
Question: How far have you progressed in preparing documents for launching legal proceedings regarding US manipulation with Russian diplomatic property? Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in his September interview with the NTV network that you are talking to lawyers and collecting preliminary opinions, but he did not provide any practical information. Can you do this now?
Has the family of Russian journalist Roman Manekin, who allegedly went missing in the Donetsk People’s Republic, requested your assistance?
Maria Zakharova: I can say in response to your second question that I personally have not received any requests. I will have to ask if such requests have been forwarded to the ministry or its press service.
As for your first question, Russia is preparing a lawsuit on the illegal and unacceptable actions towards the [Russian] diplomatic property [in the United States]. Regarding the practical aspects of the statements made to this effect, I can say that practical aspects can be formulated when we choose the legal firms, structures and partners for dealing with this matter. At this point, we are still working on the entire range of these issues.
We will update you when we receive official information, which I do not have at the moment. The issue is being analysed now, though not philosophically but from the practical angle. We are working on the practical aspects of this issue, and we will provide concrete information when we have it.
Question: In December 2016, I asked you to comment on arrested Belarusian opinion writers. Back then, the Russian Foreign Ministry supported the position of the Ambassador to Belarus Alexander Surikov who said that these were very radical journalists and asked not to confuse freedom of speech with radicalism. Later it became clear that the writers were not so radical and did not use the words “sub-nation” or “sub-language,” which were attributed to them by the Belarusian media. Later, there were testimonies of leading language experts, who found no signs of extremism in their articles, either. Roskomnadzor (Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media) checked the publications of these authors in the Russian media for compliance with Russian law and found no violations, either. Has the position of the Russian Foreign Ministry on this matter changed? Will specific actions be taken to protect the rights of the journalists who have been under arrest for more than 10 months now without being able to see their family (this opportunity was made available only recently)? They face up to 12 years of imprisonment virtually for nothing.
Maria Zakharova: We have repeatedly commented on this situation both at the request of the relevant media and during Q&A sessions. At this point, we have familiarised ourselves with the information that the case of the Belarusian authorities charging the citizens of Belarus who cooperated with Russian media resources, including the ones we mentioned, with inciting racial, ethnic, religious or other social animosity, was transferred to the Minsk City Court.
We would like to urge Belarus to adopt the most responsible approach to considering this criminal case in strict accordance with the obligations assumed by Belarus, primarily, with regard to respecting the freedom of expression.
Question: Are there any plans or arrangements for a meeting of the foreign ministers of Russia and Japan on the sidelines of the APEC summit? I would also like to clarify the information about the specific date of the ministerial talks in Moscow planned for late November.
Maria Zakharova: With regard to the first question, I do not have such information. With regard to the second question, as soon as the dates and the format of the talks, as well as the time of their announcement in the media, are agreed upon with Japan, we will immediately share this information with you.
Question: A report on investigation into the chemical attack in Khan Shaykhun is due to be released today. Before that, there were interim reports that left more questions than answers. What do you expect from this report? Will it shed light on what happened? Will it reflect the fact that the United States recognised the use of chemical weapons by terrorists?
Maria Zakharova: We expect objectivity from any reports prepared by specialised agencies. A large number of assessments and position materials on this and similar issues have been published on the ministry’s website recently. I’m not going to comment on the report prior to its release and before the experts look at the text. As soon as we are done reading it, we will provide our response.
Of course, we paid attention – and the Defence Ministry representative Igor Konashenkov spoke in detail about this – to the official information provided by our American colleagues that chemical weapons, according to their current estimates, are indeed in the hands of terrorist groups and terrorists. Importantly, we don’t want the United States to forget about its official expert assessments somewhere down the road.
We have talked about this many times, presenting the facts confirmed by eyewitnesses and media who were in close proximity. We collected information and submitted it to the UN. At this stage, drawing up a line, I would like to say that we are expecting objectivity. This is what we and the international community as a whole now need given the amount of disinformation on this topic.
Once again, I would like to draw your attention to the statement by the Defence Ministry acknowledging the long-awaited recognition by our American colleagues of the fact that they are also aware that terrorist groups have chemical weapons.
Question: The recent 19th Congress of the Communist Party of China proclaimed in the final resolution that China will invariably follow a peaceful path of development and help build a new system of international relations based on mutual respect, honesty, and justice. Could you comment on this? Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev is to visit China soon. What is the purpose of this visit? What issues will be discussed?
Maria Zakharova: About your second question, I suggest you contact the Prime Minister’s press service.
As for the first question, which contained a quote from a resolution, China’s reaffirmation of its peaceful course, its choice in favour of peaceful development, cooperation, and strengthening friendly relations is certainly the country’s traditional position, something that underlies our bilateral relations as well. This is the basis that China defends on the international stage. Of course, we can only welcome this approach the Chinese leadership and people stick to.
Question: Choe Son-hui, Director-General of the North American Department at the North Korean Foreign Ministry, is completing her long visit to Moscow today; she took part in the Moscow Nonproliferation Conference and visited St Petersburg. Could you tell us if she had meetings with representatives of the Russian Foreign Ministry to discuss the situation on the Korean Peninsula?
Maria Zakharova: I will check with our experts, and we will provide you with this information later today.
Question: Recently the White House reported that US President Donald Trump is going to declassify information about the mystery of the century, the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Reports say that Lee Harvey Oswald, who studied in Minsk, in the Soviet Union at the time, repeatedly went to Mexico to meet with Cuban and Soviet spies. It looks like some accusations against Russia and the Soviet Union will follow.
Maria Zakharova: What do you mean to say? Is this also our fault?
Question: Perhaps so. Do you have any opinion or information on this matter?
Maria Zakharova: Honestly, it’s frightening to even imagine this story being presented in such a completely fiendish way, I have to say. That’s all I can say. I believe that this is a sovereign matter of the United States. I perfectly understand the interest of the international community, historians, and political analysts, who have been trying to find the truth for many years. For decades, the information has been classified. If wild insinuations involving the Russian Federation are beginning to gather, this can only be regretted. I want information, not misinformation.
All I can feel is shock at this interpretation. I never though it even possible to pervert this issue like this.
Question: Amendments to the law banning the propaganda of communism and other totalitarian regimes have come into effect in Poland, requiring demolishing 450 monuments across the country within 12 months, 230 of them commemorating Red Army soldiers. What moves is the Foreign Ministry taking in response? Are negotiations with the Polish authorities going on? We have to tell the public what’s going on.
Maria Zakharova: We regularly update the public on the situation regarding monuments that perpetuate the memory of the soldiers – not only the Red Army soldiers but also those of national armies – that fought fierce battles for the liberation of these countries from Nazism.
I would like to devote special attention to this, since many believe this is only about the memorials for Soviet and Russian soldiers; this is a half-truth. There are also other names carved on those monuments, those of people whose memory belongs to other countries, which must protect them. Many of those monuments have been erected in gratitude and on behalf of those countries where they are located, at the request of local public organisations and people. All these factors need to be taken into account. This is not only about Russia trying to protect the memory of its soldiers, but that our soldiers fought shoulder-to-shoulder with those of the armies of countries where these memorials are located. Many of their descendants now live in other countries, for example, in post-Soviet republics.
This is certainly one of our priorities. Even before this law was adopted, we repeatedly said we were monitoring the developments, maintaining contact with the Polish side, kept telling them we consider this a big mistake. We will certainly come up with a response, proportionate or otherwise; this will be decided. There is a whole range of options here; it is a matter of choosing one and actually applying it. It will all depend on how far this law will go. This requires some research.
I cannot accept your reproach. This issue is raised at almost every briefing. It is not always Poland, but we almost always touch upon monuments in varying contexts.