8 November 201816:28

Briefing by Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova, Moscow, November 8, 2018


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Table of contents

  1. Second round of the Moscow format consultations on Afghanistan
  2. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's upcoming meeting with Foreign Minister of South Ossetia Dmitry Medoyev
  3. Update on Maria Butina
  4. Update on Syria
  5. UN joint report on mass atrocities committed by ISIS on Iraq territory
  6. Update on Libya
  7. A joint statement by Germany and France on the disappearance of an OSCE Special Monitoring Mission drone
  8. Introducing criminal liability in Ukraine for illegal border crossings
  9. The Ukrainian Security Service’s violent actions against Yelena Berezhnaya
  10. The Czech Foreign Ministry’s statement on the occasion of the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists
  11. Russia, Japan and UNODC’s project to build a dog training centre in Afghanistan
  12. Russia’s position on the issues of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration
  13. The likelihood of US sanctions against Russia
  14. Tweet by the US Department of State
  15. Article by former US Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defence Elbridge Colby
  16. Russian membership in the Council of Europe
  17. Another anti-Russia provocation in Montenegrin newspaper The Victory
  18. The book ‘Munich 1938: Falling into the abyss of World War II’
  19. Recommendations to Russian citizens planning to visit the Indian state of Goa

Answers to media questions:
Moscow format consultations on Afghanistan 
Meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Donald Trump on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Buenos Aires
Results of the US midterm elections 
Effect of resumed sanctions against Iran on the Russian-Iranian cooperation 
Killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi 
Update on the Skripal case 
Map showing Russia-NATO borders 
Turkish artillery's strikes on the Kurdish region in Syria
Possibility of Russian-Iranian cooperation using payments in national currencies 
Archbishop Ambrose denied entry to Ukraine to attend commemorative events at the invitation of Kiev Theological Academy
Cases of improper radioactive waste storage in Norway 



Second round of the Moscow format consultations on Afghanistan


As previously reported, on November 9, the second round of the Moscow format consultations on Afghanistan will take place in Moscow at the level of deputy foreign ministers and related special representatives. Invitations to attend the event have been sent to participating countries – Afghanistan, India, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, China, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and the United States. President of Afghanistan Mohammad Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai has made a decision to send a delegation of the Afghanistan High Peace Council. For the first time, a delegation of the Taliban's political office in Doha, Qatar, will take part in an event of this kind. Coordination of a final document is not planned.  

The meeting will be opened by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov at 10:30.

We reaffirm our position on the lack of alternative to a political settlement in Afghanistan and the need for active coordinated efforts by Afghanistan's neighbouring countries and regional partners in this arena.

The announcement on the event and accreditation for journalists is available on the Foreign Ministry's website at http://www.mid.ru/ru/foreign_policy/news/-/asset_publisher/cKNonkJE02Bw/content/id/3400922

We invite you to take part in the event. Please bring your passport.

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Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's upcoming meeting with Foreign Minister of South Ossetia Dmitry Medoyev


On November 11-13, Foreign Minister of the Republic of South Ossetia Dmitry Medoyev will be in Moscow on a working visit.

During the talks between Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and his South Ossetian counterpart scheduled for November 12, the officials will have an extensive exchange on key issues on the bilateral agenda, strengthening South Ossetia's positions on the international stage, and interaction as part of the Geneva discussions on security and stability in South Caucasus.    

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Update on Maria Butina


We are constantly monitoring the situation involving Russian citizen Maria Butina, who was arrested in the United States on July 15 on fabricated charges. The United States' unfounded persecution of Butina is a black spot on the reputation of the country, which consistently presents itself as a guarantor of human rights but in fact put our compatriot in prison for her Russian passport. Once again, we consider Maria Butina a political prisoner.

Staff  members of our Embassy in Washington visit Butina on a regular basis. She has not expressed any health complaints lately but she feels indignant over this outrage committed against her. 

We will continue demanding that the US authorities free Maria Butina and see to her prompt return home.

On October 4, Russian diplomats visited her in prison again. Maria did not complain of any health problems. Owing to the efforts of the Russian Embassy in the US, the conditions of her confinement were improved.

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Update on Syria


The situation remains relatively calm in most of Syria. Armed clashes have been observed only in the enclaves where terrorists are still present, such as Idlib and southwestern Syria outside the towns of Hajin and Sousse, from which the Americans and their Kurdish allies have been trying unsuccessfully to drive out the remaining ISIS formations for months now, as well as on the al-Safa volcanic plateau, where the Syrian government army is conducting mop-up operations against the terrorists.

The Russia-Turkey Memorandum on the Stabilisation of the Idlib de-escalation zone of September 17 is ongoing. Despite progress in creating a demilitarised strip under the Memorandum along the borders of this zone, it is too early to talk about the completion of the work that needs to be done. Nusra and its allies stage daily provocations, such as the shelling of residential areas in western Aleppo, undertaking desperate attempts to breach Syrian government troop positions on the southern flank in the direction of the town of Hama and conducting raids in the Latakia Mountains. About 200 such incidents were recorded in October.

Hostilities flared up near the Syrian-Turkish border east of the Euphrates River on October 31, with cross-border exchanges of fire between the Turkish military and the Kurdish self-defence units, which, however, stopped after the Turkish and US military started joint patrols of the town of Manbij west of the Euphrates River and US and Kurdish military units started joint patrols east of the river.

The legitimate authority was strengthened in the areas controlled by the Syrian government, and some infrastructure, destroyed during the hostilities, was rebuilt. Efforts were made to return the area to a peaceful life. Internally displaced persons and refugees from abroad continued to return to their homes. About 1.5 million people have returned since earlier this year, including about 250,000 Syrians who had found refuge in the neighbouring countries. The opening of the Naseeb checkpoint on the Syrian-Jordanian border in mid-October made it possible for about 6,000 Syrians to repatriate from Jordan. There’s a steady flow of refugees returning home from neighbouring Lebanon.

At the same time, the economic difficulties faced by Syria are affecting this process. These difficulties are the result not only of the massive destruction caused by the armed conflict, but also the severed economic ties between the country's western provinces and its eastern regions, where quasi-state administration bodies are being created in violation of Syria’s constitution and its sovereignty with the support of the illegal military presence of the United States and radical Kurdish politicians.

The Syrians continue to feel the negative effects of unilateral financial and economic sanctions imposed by the United States and its allies. The situation is particularly difficult in healthcare. According to the World Health Organisation, there are significant problems with access to skilled medical care. This is due not only to the slow recovery of medical institutions, but also shortages of medicines, primarily for cancer treatment. On top of that, commercial deliveries of medicines to Syria are extremely difficult due to restrictions imposed on bank transfers.

We would also like to note the consequences of other actions by the United States, or rather, the coalition they are leading. Last week, in its letters to the UN Secretary General and the UN Security Council President, the Syrian government provided tragic statistics of civilian casualties caused by bombings of Raqqa by the US-led coalition during what was said to be “liberation from ISIS.” This is difficult to look at. It’s hard to believe, especially given the hysterical reaction that the United States and other Western countries and non-governmental organisations have expressed in relation to the rights of the Syrians. Nonetheless, I’m compelled to make this data public.

Over 4,000 dead bodies were found, mostly women, old people and children, when clearing up the debris caused by airstrikes in the ​​Al-Hadiqa Al-Baida district, the Ar-Rashid Stadium and the local zoo. In addition, a mass grave with over 2,500 bodies was found on a farm near a pediatric clinic and the National Hospital. Another burial ground with 1,500 bombing victims was uncovered in the Panorama area. The letters noted that only 2 percent of the debris had been cleared in Raqqa at this point, which was almost razed to the ground. Water supply is partially restored only on the outskirts of that city, and mine clearing hasn’t even started.

All of this is in stark contrast with the information provided in a number of recently released reports by various Western NGOs on the situation in Raqqa. For example, a material by REACH (www.reach-initiative.org) prepared on the occasion of the anniversary of Raqqa “liberation” from ISIS shows a rosy picture of the city being rebuilt which, unfortunately, is at odds with the tragic reality which was witnessed by the people who began analysing what really happened in this area.

On November 3, after several days of delays, the necessary guarantees were finally obtained from the United States that the US military, rather than their wards from among armed gunmen, will ensure the security of a UN humanitarian convoy consisting of 72 trucks. The humanitarian supplies were delivered to Rukban Camp for internally displaced persons located inside the “exclusive” 55-kilometre zone created by the Americans on Syrian soil around their illegal Al-Tanf military base. Outside this zone, the security of the column was ensured by the Russian and Syrian militaries. Despite the initial setback, we highly appreciate the result of this joint operation, which made it possible to somewhat postpone the humanitarian disaster threatening the residents of this 60,000-strong camp, who were actually deprived of normal contact with the outside world. Clearly, one-time efforts, no matter how large, cannot resolve the problem of these people who found themselves on a territory actually occupied by a foreign power.

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UN joint report on mass atrocities committed by ISIS on Iraq territory

We have taken note of the joint report of the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on the mass atrocities committed by ISIS on the territory of Iraq, which was published on November 6.

The UN investigators managed to uncover over 200 mass graves located in areas of Iraq formerly controlled by the aforementioned terrorist group between 2014 and 2017. These shocking facts that have been published serve as further evidence of mass atrocities committed by ISIS against the civilian population, which the UN rightly classifies as war crimes and crimes against humanity.

We call for a comprehensive and impartial investigation into the facts presented in the report and for bringing those responsible to justice. We agree with the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Iraq Jan Kubis’ statement on the necessity of establishing the exact circumstances of these civilians’ deaths. In this regard, we believe it is important to support the report’s recommendations to the international community for assisting the Iraqi authorities in the matters of exhuming, transporting and identifying the human remains.

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Update on Libya


National reconciliation remains the main item on Libya’s domestic agenda. This is a hard goal to achieve. Due to the persisting confrontation between the main military-political forces, the situation is not only far from stable but it even shows signs of further aggravation.

Regrettably, for the time being the intentions of the major Libyan leaders to act in harmony, orienting themselves to the preparation of the presidential and parliamentary elections on December 10, which they announced at the Paris conference last May, are rarely backed by practical steps.

The inability of the Libyan sides to agree on a relevant legal framework for a national expression of will is a stumbling block. As a consequence, House of Representatives sessions in Tobruk on discussing laws on a constitutional referendum and the elections are continuously postponed for lack of a quorum.

A very weak security situation, even in the capital, remains another serious obstacle to the preparations and holding of the elections. Thus, armed clashes in Tripoli from late August to late September of this year led to the death of over 120 people, mostly civilians, and heavy damage. The presence of ISIS and al-Qaeda militants, that are being joined by extremists from Syria and Iraq, is a source of serious concern.

In this context, it is very important for Libyan military organisations and security forces to unite as soon as possible to mount any effective struggle against terrorism and organised crime.

We believe there is no alternative to an inclusive intra-Libyan dialogue and that for all of its drawbacks, the Libyan political agreement signed in Skhirat, Morocco in December 2015, is the only legal foundation for establishing viable central bodies of government in the country.

We believe the responsible Libyan sides that are directly involved in the process of national reconciliation and the building of a new Libya will display maximum goodwill and the badly needed ability to find mutually acceptable solutions to disputed issues, which would help overcome the lack of unity. We assume that they would facilitate the unity of the Libyan people for implementing national goals.

In this context, foreign support for the political process in Libya is called upon to play an important role but should be rendered with strict respect for its sovereignty and territorial integrity. It is crucial for such assistance to be coordinated and closely tailored to the UN Action Plan for Libya. We would like to hope that the Italian Government-initiated international conference on Libya, to take place in Palermo on November 12 and 13, will contribute to this goal. Russia’s participation in the forum is envisaged.

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A joint statement by Germany and France on the disappearance of an OSCE Special Monitoring Mission drone


We were dismayed at the joint statement by Germany and France, issued on November 1, on the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) to Ukraine’s long-range drone that went missing on October 27 in the conflict zone in eastern Ukraine (near the town of Nizhnekrynskoye, the Donetsk People’s Republic). With reference to the SMM data, the statement peremptorily points at Russia and the so-called separatists it supports as those responsible for the incident.

Revealingly, the authors of the statement brought forward these unfounded accusations prior to the results of an official investigation into the incident. As far as we know, the OSCE SMM has already contacted representatives of the Donetsk People’s Republic, who pledged all the necessary assistance. It should be borne in mind that, on October 22, the Donetsk and Lugansk people’s republics forwarded official requests to the SMM to be notified in advance about the flight routes of OSCE drones and to equip these drones with flashing beacons. This is necessary because Ukrainian troops increasingly use attack drones as combat aircraft against civilian targets in Donbass.

It is worth mentioning that since the deployment of the OSCE mission in Ukraine in 2014 this is already the ninth such incident involving a long-range drone and that five of them were lost over the area controlled by the Armed Forces of Ukraine. However, our Normandy format partners preferred to ignore those cases of lost drones.

We are urging France, Germany and others to refrain in the future from publicly exacerbating the situation with anti-Russian undertones prior to thorough and transparent investigations into incidents occurring in the conflict zone in eastern Ukraine.

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Introducing criminal liability in Ukraine for illegal border crossings


Kiev continues its policy of fighting fictitious foreign enemies. Reports have recently emerged that President Petr Poroshenko has signed a law on the introduction of criminal penalties for illegally crossing the Ukrainian border. In accordance with the amendments introduced in the Criminal Code of Ukraine, this action will now be punishable by imprisonment of up to three years, and three-five years for repeated violations. The legal justification for criminal prosecution contained in the law (entrance with intent to inflict harm on Ukraine and the use of allegedly forged documents when crossing the border) provide the Ukrainian authorities with vast and unchecked opportunities for a liberal interpretation of the adopted law and a potential case against any citizen. Considering how easily the status of “Ukraine's enemy” is assigned without cause, the charge of “inflicting harm on Ukraine” can be applied to any person.

Kiev is not hiding the fact that these steps are aimed primarily at achieving political goals and at representatives of Russia, whom the present Ukrainian regime calls an “aggressor country,” following their own logic. It appears that the Ukrainian authorities' imagination is starting to wane; they cannot think of anything new to justify their own failed policy and the lack of progress in achieving peace for their citizens. Previously, restrictions were introduced individually; then they began using them against groups of people, such as artists, journalists, cultural figures and others. Now, to avoid even minimal scrupulosity, Kiev has decided to act on a larger scale and has begun introducing restrictions that can easily be applied to large groups of people, particularly, Russians who intend to visit Ukraine.

We see this as another attempt by Kiev to continue stirring up anti-Russia hysteria in Ukraine ahead of the presidential election under the far-fetched pretext of protecting the country's sovereignty and territorial integrity.

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The Ukrainian Security Service’s violent actions against Yelena Berezhnaya


Not only people entering Ukraine are exposed to violence from local authorities but also those who live in Ukraine and are citizens of that country become targets for the Ukrainian security services.

As the presidential election in Ukraine draws closer, tensions are running high. Although all election programmes and statements are touting unprecedented freedom of speech that Ukraine allegedly guaranteed to all, in reality local politicians are sparing no effort to nip any dissent in the bud and neutralise the most troublesome figures. All available means are being used. Now the list of such figures includes human rights activists who are shedding light on the rise of neo-Nazism in Ukraine. The other day the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) carried out one such act of intimidation – this time against well-known civic and human rights activist Yelena Berezhnaya who speaks publicly about what she thinks is happening in her country, with a focus on the nationalists’ no-holds-barred behaviour. I read quite a few statements by Ukrainian officials and politicians, who accused Yelena Berezhnaya of maintaining some “close ties” with Russia and who counted her trips abroad and the like. If only these people could tear themselves away from what they are writing and saying at least for an hour and simply read and analyse what Yelena Berezhnaya is writing and saying, they would understand that she is working for the benefit of only one country and that country is Ukraine. She is seeking to alert people to the threat that neo-Nazism poses in what was once a quiet and peaceful country where people from various ethnic, cultural and religious backgrounds could get along.   

There is particular cynicism in the timing with Yelena Berezhnaya – it happened right before a meeting by the monument to General Nikolay Vatutin that was to mark the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Kiev from Nazi invaders where she was supposed to speak.

Ukrainian security service officers stormed into the woman’s flat and searched it, without producing any documents verifying that their actions were authorised. As if that were not enough, security service officers caused her bodily harm after which she was taken to hospital. On the same day SBU officers distinguished themselves once again, summoning the leader of the Ukrainian Union of Leftists, Vasily Volga, for interrogation.   

Similar punitive actions in respect of those who think differently, as well as attempts to intimidate anyone who dares to voice an opinion different from Kiev’s official propaganda have, unfortunately, become a routine phenomenon in today’s Ukraine. The Ukrainian authorities are set to obstruct as much as they can the activities of those who oppose the outrages committed by extremists and is prepared to stand up for real values like human rights rather than pseudo values.

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The Czech Foreign Ministry’s statement on the occasion of the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists


On November 1, the Foreign Ministry of the Czech Republic issued a statement on the occasion of the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists. We respect different points of view, listen to them, make conclusions and respond. But this is a special case I would like to comment on.

What draws attention is the fact that when commenting on the situation, the Czech Foreign Ministry singled out the states where it believes journalists to be under intense pressure. For some reason, together with Saudi Arabia, the list of “offenders” includes such countries as Russia and several other states, while Ukraine and all Western countries are not mentioned. And all of this is happening amid the current situation in the state that is situated on the same continent and in the same cultural space as we are, the state that signed all the obligations that are in effect on the European continent.

Unfortunately, this is the policy of “double standards.” But I am not focusing on the Czech Foreign Ministry’s statement; I used it as a prominent example.

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Russia, Japan and UNODC’s project to build a dog training centre in Afghanistan


Last year, Russia, Japan and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) decided to implement a joint project to build a dog training centre in Afghanistan, which will become a functional department of the Afghani Interior Ministry’s Anti-Drug Police. This initiative aims to boost the potential of Afghanistan’s police in countering illegal drug trafficking.

The project was approved at the highest level during President of Russia Vladimir Putin’s talks with Prime Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe on the sidelines of the Eastern Economic Forum on September 10.

The project is financed by voluntary investments from Japan and the UNODC. Russia’s in-kind contribution consists of training Afghani dog specialists and administrative and maintenance staff as well as providing dogs that are adapted to the climate and sanitary conditions in Afghanistan.

The project will be implemented in several stages.

The first stage, which will take three years, includes building the dog training centre in Kabul and conducting a safety risk assessment. At the same time, experts will undergo training at the Rostov School of Working Dog Breeding of the Russian Interior Ministry.

On October 1–31, 15 Afghani employees who will work in the administration and management of the future centre studied there. In the future, it is planned to train dog training experts with dogs that will become the foundation of the Afghani Interior Ministry’s Anti-Drug Police.

If this stage is implemented successfully, the number of dogs and the area where they work might be expanded, in particular, to the international airports of Kandahar, Herat and Mazar-i-Sharif.

On November 12, the opening ceremony of the project will take place in Vienna. In particular, it will be attended by Deputy Foreign Ministry Oleg Syromolotov and UNODC Executive Director Yury Fedotov.

We invite you to attend this event.

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Russia’s position on the issues of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration


On December 10-11, Marrakech, Morocco will host an intergovernmental conference that will adopt the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration. This document is an important step towards developing long-term comprehensive international cooperation on regulating migration flows and enhancing interstate coordination on the issues of migrants and the mobility of people.

Russia supports the adoption of a Global Migration Compact. The Russian delegation took an active part in intergovernmental consultations in New York on developing this document. Many of our remarks were considered, although we still have concerns.

Thus, we consider the promotion of the concept of “shared responsibility” to be an attempt to lay some responsibility on the shoulders of others because the current complicated migration situation is largely a consequence of irresponsible interference in the domestic affairs of sovereign states in the Middle East and North Africa. In this context, the countries that took an active part in this interference should bear the brunt of responsibility for this, including the consequences of migration.

We also consider it inappropriate to link climate change issues and the natural disasters provoked by climate change with migration because today there is no evidence and universally recognised scientific data on a direct connection between climate change and migration, as well as the primacy of environmental factors that might force people to move.

We assume that this Global Migration Compact is not a legally binding document, but in fact is a political declaration that allows its participants to pursue their national priorities by using provisions in the compact that can help them resolve migration, security, economic and humanitarian issues.

In this context, Russia intends to make a statement that interprets its position during the adoption of this Global Migration Compact in Morocco.

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The likelihood of US sanctions against Russia


We are watching with interest the show that continues to play out in the US. The US Department of State reported to Congress the other day that Russia was not abiding by the US law on chemical and biological arms control and allegedly should be “punished” for this.

Let me remind you that as early as August, Washington announced an intention to use the sanctions envisaged by this law against Russia in connection with the supposed poisoning of Sergey and Yulia Skripal in London. It is unclear whether this poisoning actually took place because nobody has seen the victim. We saw only Yulia Skripal on the screen but had no opportunity to talk to her.  Despite this, they invited us to take the non-existent blame upon ourselves, as they repeatedly did in the case of the invented “Russian meddling” in the US elections. We were urged to confess of what we had not done. They even threatened us with new sanctions. Now they are launching the procedure to introduce them.

What can I say? We have become used to this attitude. It is nothing new for us. We also understand the reasons behind it: They go on with their Russia containment policy and, of course, there is the host of domestic political problems in the US. I think these days we are seeing yet another upsurge in antagonism, a split in society and in political forces, and the impossibility to find common ground for consolidation. This is exactly why, in keeping with the best traditions, an external enemy is needed and a feint of diverting attention to an external threat. And this threat is already in existence, given how much money and effort has been put into anti-Russia propaganda.

Since 2011, the US has imposed various restrictions and bans on Russia 62 times. New excuses are found with the passage of time. We understand that new sanctions may follow that will be adopted with the same ease and irresponsibility as before. Regrettably, this approach has become routine for the US, but this is not an indicator of its power but largely a sign of its impotence in resolving real problems facing Washington, including international problems. This approach is aimed to divert attention from the impossibility of taking any steps to deal with the issues on the agenda.

Naturally, it is impossible to intimidate Russia with ultimatums. But the professional level of the US politicians that make these statements is frightening. This country had destroyed its arsenal of chemical weapons long ago, as was duly verified and confirmed by OPCW representatives. Meanwhile, the US has not yet fulfilled its commitments to destroy its chemical stockpiles and is continuously postponing the completion of this process. I am sure that those who spoke about the need to punish Russia for failure to comply with the US law on control over chemical and biological arms are simply unaware of this. If so, we can remind them.

So, the Americans should apply this law to themselves. Is this absurd compared to what is being said as regards Russia? Yes, this is absurd. What is scary, therefore, is the level of people who invent and promote these sanctions.

We are calling on the Americans to do exactly what I say – apply their own law to themselves and punish those in the US who urge terrorists in Syria to stage provocations involving the use of toxic chemicals with a view to laying the blame on Damascus. Washington’s attempt to divert the world’s attention from its own sins and real crimes will not work. History has proved this more than once.

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Tweet by the US Department of State


Yesterday, the US Department of State posted a tweet with a map of Russia, which US diplomats use to cast doubt on Russia’s concerns about the expanding global military presence of NATO and the US, in particular.

The material contains an intriguing paragraph explaining that the map may be used in conversations with everyone who believes that NATO is surrounding Russia. The map shows the Russian Federation and the nearby countries that make up the alliance and have common borders with Russia. The logic is that Russia has borders with just several NATO members and has nothing to fear. I wonder whom this is intended for. For kindergarten children? Although it seems that today’s children have better analytical abilities than those who make up such fakes.

I would like to show another material prepared by RIA Novosti in 2015: an infographic that shows the military presence of only one NATO member around the world: the US. It shows military bases all over the globe and directly near our borders.

I believe that this material will be useful for everyone who works on NATO issues and the expansion of the US’ military presence in the world as well as Russia’s concerns about this. Of course, we will draw the attention of our colleagues at the Department of State to this map, just to broaden their horizons.

While US President Donald Trump fights fake news at CNN, he seems not to notice that his administration’s Department of State continues to produce it on an industrial scale.

We would like to remind everyone that Russia regards the expansion of NATO, the moving of its military infrastructure closer to Russian borders and the buildup of its military activities in the regions located near Russian borders negatively, as actions that violate the principle of equal and indivisible security, deepen old dividing lines in Europe and create new ones.

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Article by former US Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defence Elbridge Colby


I would like to say in connection with the US intention to pull out of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, on which we have commented before, that the advocates of putting more weight on nuclear weapons and expanding US nuclear capabilities have become more active in the United States. We would like the online resources of the US Department of State to pay more attention to this trend, for example, to the statements made by some of its former high-ranking officials who used to be associated with US defence policies – or shall we say offensive practices? The need for this course has always been justified by the mythical Russian threat.

This course, which we regard as extremely alarming, has been presented in a recent Foreign Affairs publication by former US Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defence Elbridge Colby. Mr Colby does not just call for building up the US nuclear capabilities but also to “prepare to conduct limited nuclear operations.” We wonder where these “limited nuclear operations” could be waged. On which continent will, or rather could, this strategy be applied?

It is notable that this is not a private opinion of a retired military man. Similar ideas can be found in the updated US Nuclear Posture Review, which was published in early February 2018. Moreover, Washington has announced its plans to create nuclear charges and their delivery vehicles for use within the framework of this strategy.

It appears that US analysts are seriously considering the concept of a limited nuclear war. Some of them probably believe that the United States and its allies can “come out on top” in such a war.

This is an irresponsible and extremely dangerous policy. We firmly believe that there can be no winners in a nuclear war and that it must never be waged.

Remember the Fukushima tragedy. It was not the result of using nuclear weapons for destruction but an accident caused by a natural hazard at a nuclear power plant. Look at the area on the available online maps. It was a localised disaster, which not only the Japanese government but the international community rallied to clear up. Very many countries, including the United States, helped Japan. We should look where we succeeded and where we failed, instead of thinking about the pinpoint use of nuclear weapons. This is playing with the devil.

Provisions to this effect have been also sealed in the effective Russian-US agreements on the reduction of the nuclear threat, such as the 1971 Agreement on Measures to Reduce the Risk of Outbreak of Nuclear War and the 1973 Agreement on the Prevention of Nuclear War.

It would be marvellous if the US State Department posted these agreements on its website instead of posting fake maps with false allegations. By the way, I would like to point out to our colleagues from the State Department that there is no Crimea on their map.

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Russian membership in the Council of Europe


We have taken note of what the Council of Europe’s press secretary Daniel Holtgen has said in a comment to RIA Novosti reporters on November 1, following his talks with Foreign Minister of Russia Sergey Lavrov and Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjorn Jagland. We do not consider that his comment is accurate. I would like to say the following on this score.

The Russian Federation is interested in continued cooperation at the Council of Europe. However, we have to say that the Council is experiencing a deep institutional crisis provoked by PACE’s discriminating decisions regarding the Russian Federal Assembly delegation.

We have been consistently working with members of constructively minded member states at the Council’s Committee of Ministers to find a solution to this situation.

We hope that our European partners share our views on the imperative principle of equality of all member states at the Council’s statutory agencies. We believe that Russia’s participation in the Council’s work is equally important for European countries and Russia.

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Another anti-Russia provocation in Montenegrin newspaper The Victory


A few days ago, a provocative article was published in the Montenegrin pro-government newspaper The Victory containing more absurd allegations of Russian interference in the internal affairs of Montenegro. The author claims that the presence of a diplomat from the Russian Embassy in Podgorica at a meeting of the constituent assembly of the municipal committee of the True Montenegro opposition party does not correspond to diplomatic practice.

This is certainly an anti-Russia fake planted with the purpose to dictate to Russia’s official representatives with whom they should keep contact and which public events they should attend. This is an obvious attempt to force local politicians and public figures to limit their communications with Russian diplomats.

The Prime Minister of Albania calls to vote for a particular candidate in the presidential elections in Montenegro; the US ambassador in Podgorica encourages Montenegrin citizens to go and vote in the parliamentary elections; the US ambassador in Skopje actually controls the process of forcing the decisions in the Macedonian parliament after the referendum on this collapsed – but all these actions are different of course. They are called “fighting for democracy.” But when a Russian diplomat receives an official invitation to attend an event and does attend, without violating ethics – this is called “intervention.”

We would like to remind the castigators of “Russian imperialism” and “experts” on the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961 that the daily work of diplomats around the world is “ascertaining by all lawful means the conditions and developments in the receiving State, and reporting thereon to the Government of the sending State.” Attending public events having received official invitations is exactly about that.

Russian diplomacy has always strictly followed the fundamental principles of international relations. We will continue to do so in the future, despite the use of double standards by the champions of “true democracy” ignoring the facts of their own direct intervention in the internal political processes of independent states.

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The book ‘Munich 1938: Falling into the abyss of World War II’


Much of what we talked about today would sound strange and more like fiction unless we regularly turn and take a look back at history. In this regard, I would like to say a few words about the recently published book, “Munich 1938: Falling into the abyss of World War II.”

This year marks the 80th anniversary of the Munich Agreement – a sad, tragic and shameful page in the history of European democracies. In the West, as recent months have shown, they either try to forget it completely, wipe it out of their own interpretations of world history, or shift the emphasis in such a way as to completely neutralise the important role of countries such as Great Britain and France in what is now described as “appeasement of the aggressor.” I don’t think I have to explain about the consequences of that policy, which brought the world to the brink of an existential catastrophe and put humanity on the brink of survival. Everybody knows about this. The important thing is that history does not forgive the forgetting of its lessons. Those who dare to forget will face new ones.

Understanding this truth is extremely important, so I am calling your attention to this book – a collection of articles compiled and edited by Veronika Krasheninnikova.

The authors, respected experts and researchers, offer their analysis of past events, the international situation in the late 1930s – early 1940s, and also provide a general retrospective of the history of international relations.

The book exposes the Western concessions to the Nazi regime – the connivance at remilitarising Germany, non-interference in the Spanish Civil War of 1936-1939, the silent acceptance of the Anschluss of Austria, the abandonment of cooperation with the Soviet Union to form a collective security system in Europe. The latter suggests particularly bitter parallels with modern realities. Today the world is failing to return to the rails of collective security, plunging into the abyss of its division according to the friend-or-foe principle.

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Recommendations to Russian citizens planning to visit the Indian state of Goa


The New Year break and the holiday period are just around the corner. Many people have already been planning their travels abroad. This information is intended for Russian travel operators, citizens and the media specialising in this particular field.

Please, pay attention to all the information concerning consular matters that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs posts on its official website as well as on its social network accounts. Our consular portal and our Consular Department’s accounts in social networks are in perfect working order. All the required information appears there promptly. I am also calling your attention to the Zarubezhny Pomoshnik (Assistant Abroad) special app which people can download onto their smartphones, tablets or computers. It provides general information on foreign countries as well as updates on the political situation, climatic conditions and natural phenomena in this or that country. The plus point is that this app has an alert button that can be used should Russian citizens find themselves in a crisis situation. To use this app registration is first required.

Information on the specifics of entry, visa issuance and the conditions on staying in various countries is also available on our site and via the app. As an example, I would like to quote our recommendations to the Russian citizens who are going to travel to the Indian state of Goa.

“Considering that in October this year the Goa authorities declared that nonresidents visiting local government medical facilities should now pay for treatment, the Russian Consulate General in Mumbai recommends that Russian citizens who are planning to visit this state should get medical insurance to cover them for the entire period of their anticipated stay.”

Such practical information is of utmost importance and is especially handy for anyone planning to travel abroad.

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Answers to media questions:

Question: What will be the format of the Moscow consultations on Afghanistan? Will it be a roundtable discussion? Will delegates from the Afghan government and the Taliban sit down at the same table? Will they interact with each other directly during the talks? You mentioned the countries invited to the consultations. Will all of them, including the United States, be there tomorrow?

Maria Zakharova: Journalists asked about the US attendance or non-attendance even before this briefing, back yesterday night. It is an intriguing question, considering that the Americans refused to attend these talks before. News agencies have posted different speculations. At this moment, the United States is expected to attend the talks as an observer country and should be represented by a member of the US Embassy in Moscow.

As for the first part of your question, the consultations will take place at President Hotel. It has a large hall with a round table. As for whether contacts between the Taliban and the Afghan delegation from Kabul will be direct or indirect, you should better put this question to them, possibly via the embassy. Better to ask these questions on the spot.

We are doing all we can to, first, discuss all the aspects of an Afghan settlement and ways to move forward, and, second, to create the necessary atmosphere for bilateral and multilateral talks in Moscow. As for the format of this particular meeting and the number of bilateral and multilateral side events it will include, we cannot be sure at this moment. Right now we are making the necessary preparations. Come to the open part, which will have an address from Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. After that, the meeting will continue behind closed doors. There will also be a photo opportunity. I would like to say once again that we are still working on the details. Everyone is welcome. Just receive an accreditation and have you passport with you.

Question: Presidential aide Yury Ushakov has confirmed that President Vladimir Putin and President Donald Trump will hold a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Buenos Aires, and that these talks will be attended by their foreign ministers. Could you make any preliminary comments or statements on this subject?

Maria Zakharova: I may not comment on what my superiors say. But I don’t question statements made by members of the Presidential Executive Office. If Yury Ushakov said so, this is how it will be.

As for senior Foreign Ministry officials’ attendance, the Foreign Minister traditionally accompanies the President on major international visits. If I learn about any plans for ministerial meetings on the sidelines of this event, I will duly let you know.

Question: Mid-term elections were held in the United States this week. Will their outcome influence Russia-US relations?

Maria Zakharova:  To tell the truth, it is an internal affair of the United States, as we have said more than once to confirm our positon on this subject. It may be strange to do this every year, but considering the atmosphere created by the United States, or rather US politicians and members of various political movements, we have to say again and again that it is the domestic affair of the United States.

We don’t believe we should comment on this, because it concerns the internal affairs of another sovereign state. Russia does not interfere in these affairs. We can only wish success to the newly elected and still serving members of Congress. We hope they will find the time to consider ways to normalise relations between our two countries despite the complicated political situation at home. It is what we really want, because the matter concerns our peoples. We make no secret of this interest. We have every reason to believe that our bilateral relations can develop on the basis of mutual benefit and respect.

I would also like to say that we strongly hope to see the end of the Russophobic campaign that has been ongoing for the past few years, with fake stories about alleged Russian interference in the US elections and some Russian hackers. Unfortunately, we fear a new series of these allegations is upcoming. On the other hand, it seems to me that the American people, including many politicians, have become aware of the absurdity of totally unsubstantiated accusations of alleged Russian interference in US affairs. We hope this campaign will not continue and that our partners will abandon the practice used, in part, during the Obama administration, when in reply to our requests for facts they sent us printouts or screenshots of social media accounts. And then they refused to do even that because the information is available online.

Question: How does Russia estimate the influence of the renewed sanctions against Iran on Russia-Iran cooperation, first of all, as regards the Syrian settlement and the North–South Transport Corridor project?

Maria Zakharova: Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov already spoke about this in detail during his news conference with Spanish Foreign Minister Josep Borrell in Madrid. The transcript is posted on the website. Please, familiarise yourself with it.

Question: I would like to ask you about what Saudi Arabia is doing in Yemen given that it currently holds presidency in the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women. We are also concerned about the fate of our colleague Jamal Khashoggi, who went missing at the Consulate in Istanbul.

Maria Zakharova:  He is not missing anymore. It has been officially announced that he is dead. It is incorrect to say that he went missing because his death was officially confirmed. As for the circumstances and the final wording, that’s the business of the investigators.

Question: I would like to continue. The West has imposed sanctions against Russia when there was nobody killed, I am referring to Salisbury.

Maria Zakharova: I have to correct you here. We do not know what happened in Salisbury. You are saying that nobody has died there. Do you have such information? We do not. We saw Yulia Skripal just once on television in a period of the past six months. She briefly appeared on the screen, and we do not know who was making the video and who wrote her script. We have not seen Sergey Skripal and I believe you have not either.

If you say that no one died there, then you must have reliable information, so please share it with us. We have no clue as to what happened to Skripal. His relatives, Russian representatives and British journalists are not allowed to see him, even those who are hand-fed by Downing Street. We do not know where this man is and what has happened to him. We can only repeatedly demand on the daily basis to be given access to him. We do not want to make any speculations or statements based on numerous leaks and manipulations of the media, which the official government of the United Kingdom is engaged in. We want to receive official data.

Question: They are both alive and kicking, but the sanctions have been imposed nevertheless.

Maria Zakharova: We do not know whether they are alive and in good health. This is what I am talking about. You made a comparison and said that there was a man who was killed or lost, and here the people are alive. We do not know whether they are alive and in good health or not alive and not in good health. We do not have such information. We do not know what has happened to them.

Question: I somehow can’t read the map of the NATO-Russia border.

Maria Zakharova: We will send a copy to you, so that you will be able to study it. This map was published by RIA Novosti in 2015. At the next briefing, we will provide the precise figures for the NATO bases and the number of US troops deployed on the border with Russia and around the world. We will certainly do this job. The US Department of State has published this tweet very recently. This is why we did not provide our own information – we just couldn’t do it within two hours – but instead took the data that was available via the media. But next week we will certainly provide our official figures on the number of NATO bases around the world and directly on the Russian border.

Question: Turkish artillery is shelling Kobani and is threatening Syrian Kurdistan. What is Russia’s attitude to these Turkish actions?

Maria Zakharova: We hold that Syria is a unified state with a legitimate government, which is conducting a counterterrorist operation to liberate the remaining parts of the national territory from the members of terrorist organisations and militants.

We also believe that in accordance with the norms of international relations and state system, a legitimate government has the right to conduct such operations in its national territory – we all remember that the terrorists were bleeding Syria white for many years.

Of course, such operations must be conducted with due regard for human rights and the fundamental standards related to the protection of civilians. You know that we have called for launching an internal political dialogue more than once and for encouraging close interaction with all political groups, parties and associations in order to preserve the national integrity of Syria and destroy the remaining terrorist strongholds. This must be done in a consolidated manner. We hope that these efforts will create the main, or additional, basis for the consolidation rather than for the further division of Syrian society.

Question: It has been reported that SWIFT has discontinued service to Iranian banks and designated Iranian financial institutions. Will Russia and Iran cooperate in this sphere, especially since it has been announced that the Central Bank of Russia has created a system of its own that is similar to SWIFT?

Maria Zakharova: Russia maintains cooperation in this sphere with many countries. Regrettably, the US and, in general, Western blackmail and threats, which have been made in the past few years,  to disconnect not only Russia but also other countries from payments systems and to freeze their accounts have made the world wonder if settlements in Western currencies and payments systems are reliable.

You know that Russia is negotiating practical agreements with a number of countries to make mutual settlements in their national currencies. Frankly speaking, we don’t see why this dialogue should be limited to the countries with which we are already discussing this possibility.

The reason and pretext for this dialogue was the actions of our Western partners. We lived in a globalising world and believed that globalisation, even despite its drawbacks and the questions raised by analysts and anti-globalists, offered quite a few advantages and benefits for the development of individual countries, regions and the entire world. We kept moving in that direction until the West (the Western community or individual countries) launched a policy of pushing certain countries out of the system of international relations, including currency and financial relations, even though these countries were acting legitimately and in accordance with the law of competition. The West did this by arbitrarily changing the rules of the game. Russia primarily saw this as an extremely alarming sign.

Question: Could you comment on the news that Archbishop Ambrose was denied entry to Ukraine to attend commemorative events at the invitation of the Kiev Theological Academy?

Maria Zakharova: I already spoke about this today. Ukraine has been conducting this alternative viewpoint purge for a few years now, intervening in the life of the real, rather than invented, civil society. Everything is put under control of the Ukrainian security officials who dictate the rules of the game, rewrite Ukrainian laws, and enforce their own instructions. The Constitution of Ukraine together with its laws are one thing, but the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) instructions are something completely different. They can cancel an entire legal field in Ukraine with one piece of paper saying that, for security reasons, they have to “prohibit this,” “expel that person,” “deny entry to a group of people,” “seize something,” or simply break into someone’s flat or house and beat whoever it is up and then arrest them. This is all simply done with the stroke of a pen.

Therefore, I do not consider this “news,” as you said. Unfortunately, this is just another manifestation of what was news a few years ago, something we pointed out urging our Western colleagues and international organisations to address. However, unfortunately, there has been no progress; these things have not been noticed. Many even justify the Kiev regime, saying that for the sake of national security, they have the right to do so.

However, there is another point of view, but unfortunately it emerged too late: all this goes against the basic principles of the lives of normal people – not just with the theory or with high requirements in the field of human rights.

Intervention regarding religious affairs is yet another manifestation of harsh state policy in the sphere that the executive branch should not even touch.

Question: There have been reports in the Norwegian media about cases of inappropriate storage of radioactive waste recorded in that country. Is Moscow aware of this and is there a risk of leaks or contamination of the environment?

Maria Zakharova: We have seen these reports. They mentioned inadequate storage of radioactive waste at the main national storage and disposal facility in Norway – Himdalen 50 km from Oslo. Two serious breaches have been recorded (or at least publicised): the erroneous placement of eight containers with a radioactive acid in the repository in 2013-2014, which, due to its chemical properties, can destroy the containers over time; and nine containers placed in conservation in 2014 exceeding the permissible limit for the concentration of radioactive americium-241.

Although Norwegian experts say there is no danger of contamination, cases of negligent storage of radioactive waste cause us concern. We expect that the Norwegian authorities will conduct a thorough investigation and take all necessary measures to prevent possible environmental consequences.

Taking into account the long-term experience of cooperation on nuclear and radiation safety between the two countries’ relevant agencies, Russia is ready to assist its Norwegian colleagues in resolving the problems encountered in the management of dangerous radioactive waste.

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