30 November 201814:59

Briefing by Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova, Moscow, November 30, 2018


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Table of contents

  1. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s participation in the International Volunteer Forum
  2. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s participation in the OSCE Ministerial Council meeting
  3. Update on Maria Butina
  4. Update on Syria
  5. Martial law in Ukraine
  6. Completion of a UN enquiry into the acts of the Ukrainian delegation on the sidelines of the UN Committee on Information, 40th session
  7. Statements by National Security Adviser to the Afghan President Hamdullah Mohib on the Moscow format meeting on Afghanistan
  8. Terror attacks in Pakistan
  9. Russia’s position on UN Security Council reform
  10. Adoption of laws against “manipulation of information” in France
  11. The latest surge in anti-Russian propaganda in Great Britain
  12. Prosecution of Latvian journalist Yury Alekseyev by security police
  13. Marking the Day of the Unknown Soldier
  14. Russia’s position on the situation around the General Framework (Dayton) Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina
  15. Aspects of the Ottawa Convention
  16. Excerpts from answers to questions:
    1. Nagorno-Karabakh conflict update

    2. Syria update

    3. Developments in Ukraine

    4. Provocation in the Kerch Strait

    5. Presidential election in Georgia

    6. Relations between Iraqi Kurdistan and Baghdad

    7. Russian-US relations

    8. Russian-Japanese relations

    9. Statement by Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov

    10. Statement by Turkish President Recep Tayyp Erdogan on the Kerch Strait incident

    11. Diplomatic missions in Ukraine

    12. Britain’s policy of double standards

    13. The possibility of Sergey Lavrov’s meeting with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavel Klimkin

    14. Statement by British Prime Minister Theresa May on the Kerch Strait incident

    15. Cancelled Trump-Putin meeting at the G20 summit

    16. Further steps to settle the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict

    17. New phenomenon of Russian-US relations

    18. US resolution condemning Russian aggression against Ukraine

    19. Consultations on candidates for the post of CSTO Secretary-General




Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s participation in the International Volunteer Forum


On December 2-5, Moscow will host an International Volunteer Forum as part of the Year of Volunteers held in Russia in 2018. The forum will be attended by members of the Russian Government, heads of large NGOs and representatives of the business community and educational organisations.

Sergey Lavrov will deliver his remarks on December 3 at the plenary session titled The World: Opportunities for Russia. He will speak about Russia’s involvement in international cooperation in the field of volunteering aimed at consolidating international efforts towards the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, as well as the projects for promoting volunteering that are being implemented together with the UN Development Programme and the UN Volunteers Programme.

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Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s participation in the OSCE Ministerial Council meeting


On December 6-7, Sergey Lavrov will attend the 25th OSCE Ministerial Council meeting in Milan.

We expect to hold an open high-level political dialogue based on mutual respect to discuss the situation with European security, common challenges and cooperation prospects among the OSCE member states. We hope that these discussions will help ease military and political tensions in the Euro-Atlantic region, boost the fight against transnational threats, give momentum to the settlement of conflicts and harmonise the participating states’ positions on current issues of economic and humanitarian interaction.

The Russian priorities we will promote in Milan include the fight against terrorism and the drug threat, the alignment of integration processes and the protection of traditional values. We also intend to raise the issue of NATO’s growing military infrastructure and its advancement towards our borders accompanied by aggressive anti-Russian propaganda. We will be speaking about the violations of language and education rights, attacks on the freedom of the media, as well as the rise of neo-Nazism and growing ethnic and religious tensions in Ukraine, the United States and EU countries, primarily the Baltics. We plan to support the OSCE efforts to promote the settlement of conflicts, including in eastern Ukraine, Transnistria and Nagorno-Karabakh, as well as its work in the Balkans and at the Geneva International Discussions on Stability in the South Caucasus, which the OSCE is co-chairing.

Russia and its allies have prepared four draft decisions for the Milan meeting: on combating terrorism, on the OSCE’s role in combating the global drug threat, on free access to information for the media, and on the protection of the national minorities’ language and education rights. We hope the OSCE ministers will approve these documents. Overall, there are over 20 draft documents on the meeting’s agenda. Our experts are taking part in their coordination.

Sergey Lavrov plans to meet with several of his counterparts from the OSCE countries and the leaders of the OSCE and other international organisations on the sidelines of the OSCE Ministerial Council meeting in Milan.

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Update on Maria Butina


We are outraged by yet another decision to once again toughen the detention terms of Russian citizen Maria Butina who was arrested in the United States last summer on trumped-up charges and whom we see as a political prisoner.

These restrictions are to completely isolate her 22 hours a day. She is allowed to leave her cell and use the general-purpose facilities for only two hours a day and only at night. It goes without saying that this will negatively affect her health, and not just because of her individual needs. This would negatively affect the health of any person, even the healthiest person. That said, she is not receiving any professional medical treatment.

On November 27, Russian diplomats visited Ms Butina and lodged a protest with the prison administration; they also demanded that the authorities stop treating her in a degrading manner. Russian diplomatic missions in the United States have also sent a note containing tough-worded demarches in this regard to the US Department of State.

We see the actions of the US authorities as a means of pressuring Ms Butina prior to the upcoming trial, due to begin December 19. Certainly, we will continue to demand the release of this Russian citizen who is the victim of outright arbitrary rule.

Not only is Ms. Butina a political prisoner; today, we can safely say that she is also a hostage of the US authorities who only want to manipulate her for political purposes.

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Update on Syria


On November 28-29, Astana hosted the 11th international meeting of high-level representatives on Syria. In addition to the Syrian government’s delegation headed by Syria’s UN Ambassador Bashar al-Jaafari and the opposition’s delegation headed by Ahmed Tuma, and those of the guarantor countries (Russia, Turkey and Iran), the meeting included observers represented by UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura, the Jordanian delegation, and representatives from the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

Generally, we have a positive view of the results of this meeting. The participants discussed a wide range of issues regarding the Syrian peace settlement: from the political process, including the ongoing effort to complete the establishment of a Constitutional Committee in line with decisions of the Syrian National Dialogue Congress in Sochi, to plans to hold an international conference on facilitating the return of Syrian refugees back home.

The sixth meeting of the working group on releasing detained persons, exchanging bodies and searching for missing persons took place on the sidelines of the event. Efforts in this format are beginning to yield practical results. On November 24, the first ten citizens of the Syrian Arab Republic, held by illegal paramilitary units, were exchanged in Al-Bab city in the northern sector of Aleppo Governorate for ten armed-opposition militants, held in government prisons. This was done with the assistance of Russian service personnel. We hope that such exchanges will continue in the future, and that they will assume greater proportions.

The agreements reached at the meeting in the capital of Kazakhstan have been formalised in a joint statement by the countries, the guarantors of the Astana process, which has been published.

The sides focused on the situation on the ground, including in Idlib. Despite Turkey’s efforts to fulfil the September 17 Russian-Turkish memorandum, the situation there remains volatile. Terrorists are trying to thwart measures to disengage them from the so-called “moderate” forces and to establish a demilitarised zone. The scale of provocations continues to increase. On November 24, al-Nusra militants fired chlorine-filled mortar rounds at residential areas in Aleppo, poisoning over 100 people, including eight children. In this connection, the Syrian Foreign Ministry sent letters to the UN Secretary General, the UN Security Council’s President and the OPCW Director General.

Once again, we urge the international community to respond appropriately to this barbaric attack. We have repeatedly warned that the terrorists were preparing to stage chemical weapons provocations in Idlib, including provocations involving the so-called White Helmets. In the past, their efforts were aimed at provoking the US-led coalition into launching all-out strikes against Syrian government forces. And now, as we see it, their goal is different: they want to thwart the implementation of the Russian-Turkish memorandum, to disrupt cooperation in the Astana format, including between Russia and Turkey.

The latest, 11th Astana meeting on Syria shows convincingly that such terrorist plans are futile. The joint statement of the guarantor countries notes that they resolutely condemned the use of chemical weapons in Syria, and demanded that the OPCW, as the main international agency charged with investigating the use of chemical weapons, conduct a timely and professional investigation in full compliance with the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on their Destruction.

We regret to say that the United States, which had observer status at the Astana format, abstained from sending its representative to the 11th international meeting of high-level representatives on Syria. It appears that our US partners have their own plans for Syria, and they show little concern for efforts to achieve a political peace settlement in that country. This is evident from US actions on the eastern bank of the Euphrates River that evoke growing concern in Russia and elsewhere.

The US military is basically safeguarding a quasi-state entity, which they established with the help of separatist-minded Kurdish activists in northeastern Syria. Last week, again, they continued to establish US observation posts along the Syrian-Turkish border in the vicinity of Tel Abyad and Ayn Al-Arab (Kobani).

It is hard to imagine how these steps show a commitment to Syrian unity, sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity – things that have repeatedly been declared by the United States in international and bilateral documents, and passed with its involvement. In principle, it is impossible to say that these actions conform to international law.

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Martial law in Ukraine


The Kiev leadership continues “playing with fire.” The other day, the Verkhovna Rada approved the imposition of martial law in 10 provinces of Ukraine. This event is part of a carefully planned scheme and its first stage was the Ukrainian Navy staging a provocation off the Russian coast in the vicinity of the Kerch Strait. The Russian leadership has provided all the necessary assessments of this provocation.

The plot devised by the Kiev regime, its representatives and, of course, President Petr Poroshenko, is quite clear and aimed primarily at using martial law for improving their plummeting electoral ratings in a bid to score points riding the crest of yet another anti-Russia wave. Under the pretext of standing up to a phony “Russian aggression,” they have imposed severe restrictions on the main constitutional freedoms of Ukrainian citizens, including a ban on the freedom of speech, the freedom of assembly, and the freedom of movement. Now the Kiev authorities, if they so wish, can make the population surrender just about anything, from personal property to documents. The Ukrainian military and law-enforcers are granted exceptional powers, up to using force without trial or investigation, which in itself is a serious threat fraught with the civil conflict spreading to the rest of the country’s territory.

We also noted that martial law is imposed selectively and applies mainly to the predominantly Russian-populated regions whose inhabitants, if we are to believe sociological polls, mostly disapprove of the actions of the current authorities.

We regard what is happening in Ukraine as yet another alarming signal indicating that the vector of developments points to an all-out confrontation. We call upon the UN, OSCE, Council of Europe and other international organisations to pay attention to the threat of a power-projected scenario and the dismal human rights situation in Ukraine. We warn the Western sponsors of the Kiev regime about the extreme danger of President Petr Poroshenko’s artifice. In a desperate attempt to retain power, he is dragging his country into yet another gamble fraught with disastrous consequences for Ukraine itself and European security as a whole.

Take the so-called “murder” of journalist Arkady Babchenko, a story that shook the entire world community but proved a plan hatched and carried out by the Ukrainian secret services. Nevertheless, this fake reached the UN Security Council, where it died after the world saw the safe and sound journalist. I think, the naval provocation in question was planned by the same people using identical methods. Being provocative is the main characteristic feature of the current Kiev regime. They have no other opportunities to influence the situation. There is no positive dynamics in the economy, no positive shift in civil society integration, no opportunity to implement at least something from the Minsk Agreements. In general, they have no achievements to show to their voters in the upcoming elections. After all, it is clear that you must report to the public on how you delivered on the promises you gave before your first term rather than promise again in an attempt to be reelected for a second presidential term. There is nothing to report. It is for this reason they had to stage a naval operation, a provocation with long-playing consequences.

It seems to me they have forgotten about the main thing – the country and the people – as they seek to build up their ratings and keep themselves afloat under any circumstances.

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Completion of a UN enquiry into the acts of the Ukrainian delegation on the sidelines of the UN Committee on Information, 40th session


As you may remember, about six months ago the Ukrainian delegation to the United Nations held a fake event as part of a forum on fighting fake news convened by the Ukrainian delegation. What I mean is that the Ukrainian delegation organised a workshop on fighting fake news, but at the end of the day this turned out to be a fake event since the Ukrainian diplomats alleged that it was part of the UN Committee on Information’s agenda. As a matter of fact, it was not related in any way whatsoever to the session of the Committee on Information. Furthermore, as I said earlier, some of this forum’s participants, who were present at the UN Headquarters, including snipers, wore camouflage uniforms and openly threatened the Russian diplomats. We asked the UN Secretary-General to look into this issue, and now we have the results.

The enquiry took more than six months. Here is what we find in the official response from UN Under-Secretary-General for Safety and Security Peter Drennan on the enquiry into the provocative actions by the Ukrainian delegation during the 40th session of the UN Committee on Information in early May 2018.

Again, Ukraine organised a fake event that was presented as being held on the sidelines of the UN Committee on Information meeting. Its participants included snipers who had taken part in the counter-terrorist operation. They threatened to inflict bodily harm on a Russian delegate while in a UN building.

In the document we received, it is said the guests attending the Ukrainian event were on the second floor of the UN Headquarters without authorisation, since these premises are subject to additional restrictions, including the requirement to be accompanied by accredited delegates from an inviting mission. Let me remind you that the Russian delegation and Permanent Mission asked the Secretariat to review CCTV footage from multiple cameras installed throughout the UN Secretariat, considering that Ukraine alleged that Russia was spreading disinformation and that “everything was wrong” in the way we presented the incident. We pointed out this hard evidence and asked the UN to analyse it.

Having carried out this review, the UN came to the conclusion that the Ukrainians who threatened a Russian diplomat were not accompanied by representatives of the Ukrainian Permanent Mission at that time.

We are glad to see the UN Secretariat leadership complete the enquiry into this incident and officially recognise the violations committed by the Ukrainian delegation. That incident was a frame-up within UN walls. We strongly believe that the United Nations, the primary platform for promoting peace and international cooperation, should not serve as a venue to stage political provocations. Any abuses within UN premises must be stopped in an implacable and prompt manner, especially when coming from those for whom living in constant disregard of the law and any other norms has long become a norm.

I would like to say that we will not fail to release additional materials on this subject on the Foreign Ministry website. We will show how Ukraine, including the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry, said that it was all not true and that the Russian Foreign Ministry was making false claims. But now we have a conclusion from the enquiry.

Once again, provocation has become the trademark of the current Ukrainian authorities (https://bit.ly/2P8I0RChttps://bit.ly/2zzv96a).

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Statements by National Security Adviser to the Afghan President Hamdullah Mohib on the Moscow format meeting on Afghanistan


The Foreign Ministry took note of the statements by the National Security Adviser to the President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan Hamdullah Mohib on the second Moscow format meeting on Afghanistan that took place on November 9. Among other things, he alleged that Russia “put Afghanistan’s sovereignty into question, while Afghanistan attended the meeting as a guest.”

Russia has been consistent in its efforts to facilitate intra-Afghan reconciliation in cooperation with its regional partners. This Moscow format meeting brought together Afghanistan, China, Pakistan, Iran, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and the United States. The countries represented at the event shared the view that the meeting was a significant step toward a direct peace dialogue between Kabul and the Taliban.

It has to be noted that President of Afghanistan Ashraf Ghani has declared on a number of occasions that he was ready to engage in peace talks with the Taliban “anywhere and at any time.” It was his initiative to bring a delegation of the High Peace Council to the Moscow format talks to represent civil society. As the host country, Russia ensured that Kabul enjoyed the same rights as the other participants in the Moscow format. Among other things, Deputy Head of the High Peace Council Hajji Din Mohammad was placed first on the speakers’ list at the meeting.

Let me remind you once again that Russia merely provides a dialogue platform for the opposing sides in Afghanistan and is far from seeking to replace them at the talks. We stand ready to continue cooperating with Kabul to promote peace in order to help Afghanistan emerge as an independent, peaceful, self-reliant country free from terrorists and drug trafficking.

If Afghanistan’s official representatives have doubts regarding who puts the sovereignty of their country into question, I believe they should look for answers not on the territory of the Russian Federation, that’s for sure. I would suggest looking for answers at another continent.

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Terror attacks in Pakistan


The Pakistani television channel Sach TV has asked us to comment on the recent terrorist attacks in Pakistan, including an explosion near a Shiite mosque in the Orakzai region, as well as an armed attack on the Chinese Consulate General in Karachi, responsibility for which was claimed by a separatist group known as the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA). The Pakistani correspondents would also like to know our response to reports that BLA leader Khair Marri, who has long been residing in London, has political asylum in Britain.

The answer with regard to those terror attacks is obvious. Russia condemns in the strongest possible terms any terrorist attacks, for which there is no and can be no justification whatsoever. Earlier, we expressed our view on the extremist raids in Orakzai and Karachi by supporting a corresponding statement of the UN Security Council.

As for BLA leader Khair Marri, we do not possess information on his current status in Britain, or his place in the BLA hierarchy, or the extent of the group’s involvement in the Karachi incident.

As regards his status in Britain and his residence there, this part of the question should be addressed to the British authorities.

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Russia’s position on UN Security Council reform


One of the topics brought up at our previous meetings concerned Russia’s position on reforming the UN Security Council.

Russia supports reforming the UN Security Council to make it more representative and better able to reflect the current geopolitical realities.

Considering the major differences that persist in the approaches of UN member states, it is necessary to continue searching for a reform plan that would win support from as many member states as possible – far more than the required two-thirds majority as formally envisaged in the UN Charter. The best case would be consensus support. It is important that negotiations be comprehensive and transparent and that all existing proposals be considered, without any schedules or deadlines.

Another key aspect is that efforts to impart a more representational character to the Security Council must not undermine its efficiency or capability. No matter what path reform takes, it must be able to respond promptly and adequately to emerging challenges and threats. In that regard, it is necessary that the reformed Security Council stay relatively compact.

It is our principled position that the countries of Africa, Asia and Latin America should be represented in the Security Council on a broader scale. We have no doubt that many countries in that large group of states are able to significantly contribute to maintaining international peace and security.

We do not conceal that we are sceptical of ideas on restricting the veto power. We regard it as an important tool in working out balanced and verified solutions by the Council and protecting the interests of the minority. It is no secret that Western countries can easily mobilise a sufficient number of votes in the UN Security Council to block projects they are opposed to without resorting to a veto. The ways these votes are mobilised are far removed from the relevant norms of the UN Security Council Charter.

Russia consistently stands for a harmonious system of international relations based on such essential principles as the political settlement of emerging crises and the renunciation of the policy of forcible regime change. Common adherence to these principles would objectively tamp down the polemics over the veto power.

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Adoption of laws against “manipulation of information” in France


On November 20, the French government passed a package of scandalous legislative acts against “manipulation of information,” developed at the initiative of French President Emmanuel Macron. The legislative novellas were approved despite objections from the Senate that voted against them twice during their reading in the Parliament, and also despite the criticism from the opposition parties, representatives of the country’s expert and journalist communities, including Le Monde and Le Figaro. 

According to the laws that were passed, the French Superior Council of the Audiovisual is to be granted the authority to suspend the operation of media outlets disseminating “fake news” during a period of up to three months before the national elections. Digital platforms are also obliged to take action against misinformation online and to report to the council on its efforts annually.

We have repeatedly stressed the discriminative nature of these legislative initiatives and their obvious purpose to clear the media space of the views that are not welcome in Paris.

Meanwhile, we have no doubt that, on the pretext of fighting misinformation, the French officials set a goal for themselves to create legitimate grounds for the persecution of above all Russian media whose rights have been systematically violated for quite a long time.

I would like to remind you about the course of events over the past year. Sputnik and Russia Today employees have not been able to obtain press cards required for their journalist activity in the country in order to attend official events taking place in government agencies.

The politics I am talking about is accompanied by provocative statements made by French officials who in this case act as instigators of this fake news as they accuse Russia Today of what it did not do and of which it is absolutely not guilty.

The latest example is quite embarrassing. The information concerned the  Foreign Ministry directly. Russian media representatives were not allowed to attend Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s news conference in Paris. This is absurd. This is an attack on the freedom of speech and media representatives from two directions, by legislative and “manual” means. 

We hope that the laws which have been passed will receive adequate assessment from competent international bodies and human rights organisations as to their compliance with such fundamental principles of international law as the freedom of expression and equal access to information for all. Of course, we will raise this matter at the upcoming OSCE Ministerial Council meeting on the sidelines of which a great number of relevant meetings and events take place.   

I cannot even imagine how our French colleagues would choke with outrage if a similar bill was passed in the Russian Federation or if similar measures were taken against the French media in our country.

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The latest surge in anti-Russian propaganda in Great Britain


The end of November in Britain was marked by another surge in anti-Russian rhetoric, which is not surprising. The aggravation of the domestic political conversation around Brexit, which led to a number of resignations in Theresa May’s Cabinet and the inability to reach a consensus in society on this matter, forces the authorities to seek out distractions. What could be better than the tried and tested “external threat” of which Russia is the main source. The ploy was developed long ago.

On November 24, the day before the EU summit on Brexit, which proved fateful for the British, Chief of the General Staff General Mark Carleton-Smith gave an interview to Daily Telegraph, in which he portrayed Russia as a greater threat to Britain’s national security than terrorist organisations such as al-Qaeda or ISIS. That’s a strong statement, given that the terrible terrorist attacks in London and Manchester by international terrorists are still fresh in our memory.

The creation by ISIS of a major Caliphate in the Middle East, with all the ensuing consequences, was prevented solely thanks to Russia’s intervention. However, the British commander still believes that Russia is the main threat. It’s more than a sad delusion; it’s plain dangerous.

The so-called Skripal poisoning is at the forefront of the anti-Russian information campaign unleashed by Great Britain against our country this year. It is no longer possible to understand what really happened there. At some point, it appeared that the passions had begun to subside, because there’s nothing to discuss in the absence of official information. As you saw, it turned out differently. It started all over again. On November 22, a new “sensational investigation” was released in the form of a film made by British journalists. I believe everyone can and should form their own opinion about this film. I’m positive that everyone needs to watch it for a variety of reasons.

Clearly, the film is an attempt to recreate the timeline of events. Contrary to the narrative that the authors tried to build, the numerous facts mentioned in the film produce the exact opposite effect. There are inconsistencies and contradictions in the official British version of events. There is, of course, the emotional component, which is also interesting. The authors are clearly drawing on classic Hollywood techniques with the unsettling and mysterious background music. Salisbury is presented as a quaint town with bucolic landscapes – a perfectly green pasture, grazing animals and locals strolling down the streets – an idyll, against which Moscow appears as a dark, ominous and frightening place. Our Foreign Ministry is portrayed as a citadel of evil. The way it is shown in the film could scare children.

Of course, it was necessary to have a protagonist to build the story around. Perhaps, like me, you expected that either the victim or the alleged perpetrator should be the main character. That is a logical assumption. The life of Sergeant Nick Bailey, who was allegedly poisoned by a nerve agent, is the key storyline. This is the only person who can be presented to the world. Nick Bailey can be presented to the world and you can talk with him. You can ask him questions and get answers. You can touch him, which we can’t say about the others. By design, the viewer must feel a sense of deep compassion for this rank-and-file British policeman who risked his life in the line of duty, and lost all his property as a result. However, even the elementary question of compensation was omitted by the authors. If there was no compensation, then this is a question for the authorities; if there was, then at least the material losses were covered. There’s no answer to the question of why only one of the three policemen who inspected Skripal’s house was affected. Are the rest not worthy of being mentioned in the film? What happened to them? Dozens if not hundreds of such questions come to mind as you watch the film. By and large, the film is, of course, a success. As they say, the tea was excellent, they just forgot to add water.

The key question remains open. Where are the Skripals? What's going on with them? Are they alive? Are they in the UK? Have they been taken somewhere? What condition are they in? Are they together or have they been separated? Who is working with them? I’m using the word “working” deliberately, because even before the incident, British intelligence worked with people like him and, I think, a whole group of specialists in all areas are working with him now after the “poisoning.” Where are these people who are working and interacting with the Skripals? Why were the law enforcement bodies willing to assist journalists preparing the story in everything, except providing access to the Skripals? Former chief of the British Secret Intelligence Service MI6 John Sawers (he was the UK's permanent representative to the UN Security Council) hints in the film that he is privy to much more detailed information about the current situation of the Skripals. Why does a retired officer know more about them than the public and Russia, given that Yulia Skripal is a Russian citizen. Big question. What are these hints for? Say it straight. It’s a film after all.

The film reconstructs the events of March 4 and the days after minute by minute, starting with the travel of Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, the response by the ambulance and the police to poisoned Skripals, up to interaction with the Porton Down laboratory. There are questions, though. What about the Skripals? What were they doing at the time? We saw Yulia on British television once. She could at least let us know what happened to her on that day, what she remembers, some fragmentary memories or feelings. Why did everything have to start with talking about the people whose participation in this incident wasn’t proved, and make it the central part of the film? As we understand, there’s at least one living real character of this drama – Yulia Skripal, who could tell us the story, because she was there, as we were told earlier.

To reiterate, the timeline is reconstructed all the way to the interaction with the Porton Down laboratory. The question about the movement of the Skripals themselves remains a big hole in that story. We know from police reports that they left at 9.30 am and drove northeast. If you look at a map, driving northeast will take you straight to Porton Down. They turned off their mobile phones, and then left the house again at 1.30 pm. Where did they go and why? Why did they return if they did? Who did they meet with? When did they come back home? Are all these questions of interest only to Russia, but not the British journalist who made this film?

Let’s go further. The police are reported to have studied 11,000 hours of CCTV footage in Salisbury. And where are the Skripals there? There is a recording with Petrov and Boshirov. Fine. It is absolutely unclear who those people are and what they were doing in the city in the context of the charges made. The key question is where are the stills with the Skripals?

Does anyone believe that a former British intelligence agent, who was brought back to the UK and remained there, was not under surveillance of the British authorities? His house is surrounded by a large number of CCTV cameras. Where is the footage?

When it comes to the substance allegedly used in the poisoning, even more questions emerge. The film says the investigators immediately found that the nerve agent had been applied on the door handle of Sergey Skipral’s house. What about the numerous versions of the ways the Skripals might have been poisoned that were dutifully published by the British media including the BBC? In that case they should offer some sort of apology, say that what you see in the film contradicts the information we used to spread on the same channel before “we don’t want to be a fake channel,” state that the earlier version is contrary to the facts. Or smooth it out to at least “could not confirm.” I remember at one of the briefings we even collected all those versions by the British media which totalled nearly a dozen.

Why doesn’t the journalist ask whether everyone was deliberately misinformed? How can we trust the media altogether if they are used to manipulate people?

Regrettably, fairly dubious and even odd circumstances inside and around Porton Down were not investigated during the compiling of that material (we also spoke about it and paid attention to it). The journalist doesn’t ask about the activities related to producing Novichok in the laboratory.

The authors of the film are not bothered by apparent inconsistencies in the details concerning the properties of the nerve agent. The Soviet chemist Vil Mirzayanov, who has been residing outside our country for a long time, claimed in the aired interview that Novichok easily degrades when it comes into contact with water and allegedly it was due to the humid weather on that day that the Skripals did not receive a fatal dose. Let’s go back to the beginning. If they did not get a fatal dose, it means they are alive. If they are alive, show them. Why were they not shown even in this film?

If everything is the way it is presented in the film and it all comes down to Britain’s humidity, why did the authorities stage a large-scale decontamination operation using powerful ingredients? Why were all the houses visited by the Skripals on that day demolished? They could have just hosed them down with water. Wasn’t it an operation to conceal another chemical, among other things? Why did the British media pay no attention to that?

Another expert quoted in the film, a “Professor Tim” from Porton Down (they use fictitious names in the film while the faces of the interviewed scientists or special agents are in plain view; they may actually also be “crisis actors”) claimed that the identified amount of the substance could have killed several thousand. Why then were only a few affected in reality? Even though the Skripals’ house is “on the outskirts of Salisbury”, it is not in the middle of nowhere, it is surrounded by other residences.

Special mention should be made of the number of artistic flourishes used, some of which I have already mentioned. In particular, to translate the interviews of the Russian experts and the Skripals’ relatives a speaker was chosen who speaks English with a pronounced Russian accent. Where are we living? Can you imagine a native speaker of English translating from Russian butchering his native tongue so that the audience has a feeling of total verisimilitude, as if they are hearing the words of the real participants of the drama? This is something entirely new in journalism.

And, of course, the cherry on top is the sketch from Vladimir Rezun’s bestseller on showing future participants of similar dramas what could happen to them, in particular, a film on burning a traitor of the Motherland. All that is right out by John Cipher, a former CIA agent in Moscow. Reciting fairly tales could have been equally successful. It is some sort of absurdity disguised as journalism. The interesting point is that the journalists did their job but in such a way that it did not answer any questions with the material presented. More questions have arisen.

All this is happening in a country geographically very close to France where laws on fake news are being drafted. Amazing.

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 Prosecution of Latvian journalist Yury Alekseyev by security police


Last week, Latvian Security Police arrested Yury Alekseyev, the chief editor of the Imhoclub.lv news website, and one of the leaders of the Latvian Non-Citizens' Congress, a public association that defends the rights of Russian-speaking people and supports education in Russian.

According to the attorney, Latvian law enforcement officers have behaved extremely rudely during his detention, have been violent with him, and later, pressured him psychologically. The journalist faced prosecution in the past, in December 2017. He said pistol cartridges were planted by police during searches in his house at that time.

In fact, these are flagrant reprisals against an opposition journalist, who is undesirable to official Riga, and an attempt to silence him. Similar incidents of the detention of progressive media workers have become routine in Latvia. The authorities, adopting a policy of suppressing dissent, continue to deal with undesirable human rights defenders and Russian-speaking public activists, including by resorting to outright falsification and criminal pressure.

We believe such actions should not go unanswered. We call for a reaction by specialised international agencies and international human rights organisations. We expect an OSCE assessment. We would like to hear public comments from Brussels on how such actions by an EU member state, infringing on freedom of speech and violating international law, are consistent with common European democratic values.

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Marking the Day of the Unknown Soldier


On December 3, Russia marks the Day of the Unknown Soldier, honouring the memory of the fallen sons of our Fatherland. This commemorative date was established only recently – in 2014. It was on this day in 1966 that the remains of an unknown soldier were moved from the mass grave at the 41st km of the Leningradskoye motorway to a place of eternal burial, the memorial at Alexander Garden near the Moscow Kremlin wall. This was done to commemorate the anniversary of the defeat of the Nazis.

Every year on this day, our offices abroad, in close coordination with the embassies of the CIS countries, hold commemorative and wreath-laying events. This tradition, which is important in terms of maintaining and preserving our historical memory, has already spread around the world – to China, Europe, the US and Canada.

A more detailed story about each event is available on our embassies’ online resources. Today I would like to talk about the unveiling of memorial plates with the names of 2,455 Soviet prisoners of war who died in Nazi captivity and were buried in a mass grave at a memorial in the central cemetery of Sokolov in the Czech Republic. For the first time in the history of that country, a long list of names of Soviet soldiers was immortalised directly at the place of their burial.

These names, returned from oblivion, are the result of an entire year of painstaking work on cataloguing the wartime graves of the Karlovy Vary Region carried out by the representatives of the Russian Ministry of Defence with the support of the Russian Consulate General in Karlovy Vary, the embassies of the CIS countries and the leadership of the Russian Federation regions. In the course of the archival and research work to recover the dead soldiers’ personal data, the mission staff studied more than 25,000 prisoners’ cards. As a result, they established the fate of more than 2,000 people who had previously been considered missing.

The official event organised by the city administration is expected to be attended by the leadership of Sokolov and the Karlovy Vary Region, representatives of the embassies of Russia and the CIS countries and, of course, the relatives of the fallen soldiers. For them, this day will be of particular importance.

The fact that this initiative was eventually brought to practical implementation is especially important in the context of recent events. During our briefings, we more than once mentioned the outrageous and cynical actions aimed at the destruction of monuments to Soviet soldiers in a number of Eastern European countries. Poland is high on the list – there, such events happen with the local authorities’ tacit consent, if not direct involvement. The saddest thing is that these are not isolated instances or acts of vandalism, but a trend.

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Russia’s position on the situation around the General Framework (Dayton) Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina


At the last briefing, a question was asked about Russia’s position on the General Framework (Dayton) Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina in connection with the 23rd anniversary of signing the Dayton Agreement for Bosnia and Herzegovina that was marked on November 21. As you know, the other day Milorad Dodik took the office of Chairman of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina. In his interview to a Serbian state TV channel, Dodik said that after taking his new post, he would continue to seek the elimination of the Office of the High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina. Does Russia, as one of the signatories to the Dayton Agreement, consider Bosnia and Herzegovina to be ready for this move?     

I would like you to note that our position on this issue remains unchanged. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has talked about this subject while on his numerous visits to the region and, generally, has answered these kinds of questions.    

Russia consistently speaks in favour of the need to comply with the basic principles laid down in the General Framework (Dayton) Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina of 1995. These principles are respect for this country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity; giving broad powers to the two entities making up Bosnia and Herzegovina (the Serb Republic, or Republika Srpska, and the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina); and ensuring equality among the country’s three constituent peoples – Bosniaks, Serbs and Croats. This approach is fully shared by all parties in Bosnia and Herzegovina, which they reiterated during Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s working visit to Sarajevo and Banja Luka on September 21.  

Russia is actively involved in the efforts to push the stabilisation process forward in Bosnia and Herzegovina, including at the UN Security Council and the Steering Board of the Peace Implementation Council for Bosnia and Herzegovina. Our position has always been that responsibility for the situation in the country must be placed in full in the hands of the country’s sides. We have stated many times and at all levels that we believe the elimination of the Office of the High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina as soon as possible to be long overdue.  We believe that this type of protectorate over the country has ceased being effective and is only impeding the normal development of Bosnia and Herzegovina as a sovereign and independent state.   

We believe that the successful functioning of Bosnia and Herzegovina (as a state) is only possible if the fine-tuned system of checks and balances provided for in the Dayton Agreement is effectively used. This system was designed to help the people in Bosnia and Herzegovina to independently, that is, without outside interference, seek consensus-based decisions on all current issues. We believe that the role of the international community in the Bosnian settlement should be confined to efforts to help the Bosnians expand their constructive joint agenda. This approach completely meets the interests of the people living in Bosnia and Herzegovina and helps them address the basic task of strengthening stability in the Balkans.

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Aspects of the Ottawa Convention


During the last briefing, a question was asked about the Ottawa Convention.

Russia shares the goals and objectives of the Convention on the Prohibition of Anti-Personnel Mines (Mine Ban Treaty, Ottawa Convention). We are successfully implementing our approaches to dealing with the mine threat within the framework of the convention and its Amended Protocol II (AP-2) and are making rigorous efforts to create a world free of mines.

In recent years, Russia has disposed of more than 10 million mines, including anti-personnel mines. Since 1994, our country has imposed a moratorium on the transfer of undetectable anti-personnel landmines (APLs), as well as mines not fitted with a self-destructing mechanism. Taking into account the humanitarian aspects of the mine problem, since 1998 Russia has completely stopped the production of anti-personnel high-explosive mines, which are one of the main sources of civilian casualties. In 2001, the Russian Ministry of Defence released guidelines on international humanitarian law for the Russian Armed Forces, which outline the basic requirements for the use of anti-personnel equipment in accordance with AP-2.

Russia’s engineer troops have accumulated solid scientific, technical and expert capabilities allowing them to participate in demining programmes of any complexity. At different times, units of the Russian Armed Forces and the Emergencies Ministry participated in demining operations in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Nicaragua, and Serbia. Since December 2016, the Russian military has conducted several anti-mine operations in Syria: two in the architectural and historical center and residential areas of Tadmor (Palmyra) and one each in Allepo and Deir ez-Zor. Currently, work is underway in South Ossetia.

The International Mine Action Center (IMAC) established in 2014 by the Russian Armed Forces plays an important role in the mine actions carried out by Russia. In particular, it trains specialists in detection and neutralisation of improvised explosive devices (IEDs), demining the terrain, operators of mobile robotic systems, and mine search service personnel.

We underscore IMAC’s openness to international cooperation and its willingness to share its achievements with all interested states. In order to share our experience of humanitarian demining, we are making efforts to register the IMAC with the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) to include it in the list of subcontractors for humanitarian demining under UN auspices on a commercial basis, as well as in the UN Peacekeeping Capability Readiness System (PCRS).

At the same time, we note that APLs remain an effective and low-cost means of protecting the Russian borders. Therefore, at this stage, we deem it unadvisable to join the Mine Ban Treaty, considering Russia’s national defence interests.

Please note that the states that do not share the idea of ​​a complete ban on anti-personnel landmines constitute quite a large group, including the leading producers and users of such mines. Alongside Russia, it includes Israel, India, China, Pakistan and the United States. Other countries such as Azerbaijan, Armenia, Vietnam, Egypt, Iran, Kazakhstan, North Korea, Cuba, Mongolia, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Singapore, Uzbekistan, South Korea and others are not parties to the Mine Ban Treaty either.

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Excerpts from answers to questions:

Question: A few days ago, the head of the self-proclaimed Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, Bako Sahakyan, visited Moscow. In response to that, Azerbaijan’s Foreign Ministry said that the permission to enter Russia, which he was granted, undermines efforts to promote the peaceful Nagorno-Karabakh settlement process and violates Russia’s obligations as a co-chair of the OSCE Minsk Group. Could you clarify the position of the Russian Foreign Ministry on the matter?

Maria Zakharova: His trip cannot be regarded as anything other than private. Its nature is obvious. In that capacity it does not violate either the Russian laws, or existing international agreements, or the mediation mission. The claims against the Russian side, which were expressed by Baku in its recent statement, are groundless from our point of view.

Question: Washington has issued warnings to Russia. The Pentagon called for refraining from on-site falsifications of the suspected chemical attack that was committed in Syria’s Aleppo on Saturday. How do you assess such warnings? Do they have reasons to believe that Russia might hinder this investigation in any way?    

Maria Zakharova: This is an absurd assumption. Unfortunately, it is in tune with many other absurd statements by our American colleagues. I have just commented on this topic and said that the OPCW must conduct an unbiased investigation and analysis of the incident. It seems to me that Washington does not follow formal statements by Russian officials, including our diplomats. Perhaps, they should look up our website more often?  

Question: Just an hour ago, it was reported that Ukrainian President Petr Poroshenko imposed an entry ban on Russian male citizens aged from 16 to 60. How will the Russian Foreign Ministry respond? Should we expect reciprocal measures?

Maria Zakharova: With respect to Ukraine, not so much the state as the regime that is currently in power there, it is simply frightening to talk about reciprocity. If anyone tries to reciprocate what is going on in Kiev now, it might lead to insanity, or, speaking in nationwide terms, total collapse. The somersaults we are witnessing in Kiev and Ukraine as a whole attest to the complete dysfunction of the government system and the state as an entity. This is the consequence of, if not unplanned, certainly wild moves by the country’s leadership. As regards that decision, I think that it fits what I have just said.

Question: Have Ukrainian diplomats voiced an intention to visit their compatriots among the crewmembers arrested after the provocation in the Kerch Strait?       

Maria Zakharova: The Ukrainian side sent us a note demanding consular access to its detained citizens. Actually, this is the usual practice when it comes to high-profile detentions widely covered in the media. In other cases, the Ukrainian diplomats do not demonstrate similar enthusiasm.    

Question: Georgia has recently held its presidential election, which was won by Salome Zurabishvili. We know her as a long-serving diplomat, an ambassador and Georgia’s former Foreign Minister. Has the Russian Foreign Ministry had the pleasure of working with her before? What are we to expect from the Georgian people’s President-Elect?

Maria Zakharova: You already know the answer to this question since you have just mentioned that she used to be a foreign minister. Yes, of course we knew her well in that capacity.

But as for expectations, this is not a question for the Russian Foreign Ministry to answer. You are well aware of our position on this, too.

It was not Russia who initiated the severing of diplomatic relations. We believe this was a colossal mistake on the part of those who were in power in Georgia at the time. We do understand, however, that this situation affects the people of both countries. On different levels, which have nothing to do with interstate relations, such as the cultural dialogue, economic relations and humanitarian ties, the contacts between the people of our countries continue. But they are, of course, seriously complicated by the lack of proper diplomatic relations between the two states.

Question: How does the Foreign Ministry assess relations between Iraqi Kurdistan and Baghdad? How can Russia contribute to improving relations between the two countries?

Maria Zakharova: As we have stated repeatedly, we believe Iraq to be a unitary state. We are currently enhancing cooperation between Moscow and Baghdad. At the same time, as you know, we develop economic ties and energy cooperation with Iraqi regions as well – based on respect − the main principle, which is necessary for developing interstate relations and ties.

As for our possible contribution to improving dialogue, it seems to me that practice precedes theory in the way Russia treats Iraq and the Iraqi people. We do not simply talk about the importance of dialogue and mutually respectful relations in theory; we also act accordingly, so that this concept is realised in practice.

Question: It was reported yesterday that, regrettably, there would be no Russian-American dialogue at the G20 summit, and in addition Secretary of State Michael Pompeo said that he had no intention of meeting with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. The dialogue on the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty is also frozen. What is your opinion of the future of Russian-American relations after the US’s decision? What will happen to the INF Treaty?

Maria Zakharova: As for the future of the treaty, you can reference Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov’s recent briefing on this subject


As for the future of our bilateral relations, we said long ago that it was time to lead them out of this deadlock. You understand that it is difficult to analyse what is going on in Washington in terms of the political elites’ everyday strategy because it changes every minute and every second. In terms of the world in general, it is clear that we are witnessing a really tough domestic political infighting that, among other things, complicates America’s relations with other countries, and not just countries but also organisations, international treaties, and so on.

Question: As you know, Prime Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe and President Vladimir Putin will meet on December 1. Japan puts high hopes on continuing the talks on a peace treaty based on the Soviet-Japanese Joint Declaration of 1956, and, as a consequence, coming to specific agreements. Does Russia share this attitude? What agreements can be reached?

Maria Zakharova: We can endlessly repeat the magic words about our expectations and how to encourage them, and we can add emotional colouring and continue to be vague. But there is a definite plan of action which can be implemented to make real progress. This is a well-known fact not only to our Japanese partners but also to the media. This strategy or plan of action, as we call it, the operating procedure is no secret. Looking forward to a meeting is fine and organising diplomatic contacts is great. We take every opportunity to do this and we are grateful to Japan for the same approach. As you know, several days ago, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov met with his Japanese counterpart Taro Kono in Rome. In terms of making progress, meetings and contacts are important but it is also important to implement the agreements that have been reached.

Question: Yesterday, Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov said that one should not joke around with the President of Russia and he also joined Bulgaria’s President in calling for the release of the ships seized in the Kerch Strait.

Maria Zakharova: I do not agree. I think the Russian leaders have no problem with a sense of humour. Provocation is a different matter. This is a fact.

Question: Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov said a new gas hub was to be built. Can Bulgaria provide a hub within Europe?

Maria Zakharova: Bulgaria had such opportunities for many years. The country itself rejected them. Everyone has a chance. The question is whether the state seizes the opportunity or not.

Question: Turkish President Erdogan stated that Ankara is ready to act as a mediator in resolving the Kerch Strait incident. What do you think of such statements?

Maria Zakharova: We heard the same statements from our German partners. The Russian side pointed out that in this particular case it is a matter of Kiev being reigned in by those countries, states and officials who for many years encouraged it to pursue its present policies. The regime which is now in full blossom is a man-made phenomenon - for both Ukraine and the world in general, it is the outcome arising from the experiments on statehood and democracy conducted by Western colleagues: the US, European structures and certain European nations. Now it’s time for a responsible approach, and, let us speak straightforwardly and without sarcasm, the moment has arrived for real help to Ukraine. Because under the leadership of its President, Petr Poroshenko, the country has gone too far in its provocations.

Question: We are alarmed to witness growing extremism towards diplomatic missions and diplomats in Ukraine. If this continues to escalate, might it be possible to move some diplomatic functions from Kiev and Lvov to Donetsk and Lugansk? This would support the legitimacy of Donbass as a Ukrainian territory that defied the 2014 military coup, ensure the safety of diplomats and reinforce the Malorossiya political project bequeathed to us by Alexander Zakharchenko.

Maria Zakharova: This is a long and multi-faceted question. Let me focus on the essence – the diplomatic missions. Media outlets regularly cover and show footage of what Ukrainian radical nationalists dare to do with regard to Russian diplomatic and consular representatives. The outlets do not do this on purpose, to promote the material on the federal channels, but because the internet and social networks are full of photos and videos, information people send to each other.

I have only one question: Are they aware in Ukraine that the Russian public may at some point run out of patience? I would like to remind you that Ukrainian diplomatic and consular missions also operate in Russia and there are Ukrainian diplomats here. We maintain contact with them, we respect and protect them. The point is that, being realists, we are perfectly aware that people (such as yourself, for example, as I sensed indignation in your voice) get the feeling that there is a limit to people’s patience.

Radicals allow themselves new provocations against Russian political sites and facilities in Ukraine. They are not average people and not from the population of the country that keeps on working and toiling. When people work, they have no time to roam about and destroy, they are earning money (this is all the more important there now, in view of the current situation.) They are caring for their families and in general dealing with the issue of survival. They would definitely not spend time throwing Molotov cocktails at the embassy and consulate and setting cars ablaze. All that is done either by people who are paid in advance to do it or by dedicated nationalists (perhaps not so much dedicated as trained).

At the Foreign Ministry, every day, we get thousands of such questions along with demands to stop this lawlessness. They must understand in Ukraine that officially Moscow will do everything to stay committed to all the conventions on diplomatic relations and to protect the Ukrainian diplomatic missions in our country. But there is a limit to people’s patience. This needs to be kept in mind.

Regarding your question on transferring the diplomatic missions elsewhere, an example from recent history shows that sometimes such a transfer is not necessary: sometimes the status of the diplomatic missions changes. For example, we had a Consulate General in Simferopol which later became the Foreign Ministry’s Office in the region. Things like that happen.

Question: I would like to thank you for your answer to the question on the Chinese Consulate attack in Pakistan that was asked earlier today. What is your assessment of Britain’s policy of double standards? On the one hand, the United Kingdom is supporting a terrorist leader in his home country. On the other, Britons are defending human rights in their own country. They also accuse other countries of interfering in the UK’s domestic affairs. For example, they have accused Russia many times. 

Maria Zakharova: I have partly answered your question. We have no information that a representative of the extremist organisation you have mentioned is currently in Britain. If you have facts to prove this and if you have Britain’s official position regarding this, we will eagerly make a political statement about it. But today I cannot comment on a person’s stay in Britain as I lack the relevant information. You were right in saying that this is what makes us different from London. We do not engage in speculation in the absence of information. If you can pass the information you have to us, we will analyse it.

Question: Will Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov meet with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavel Klimkin on the sidelines of the upcoming OSCE Ministerial Council meeting in Milan? If there is a meeting, what will be discussed?

Maria Zakharova: Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s schedule is still being made up. Currently, the minister is in Argentina as a member of the Russian President’s delegation. He can meet with other heads of foreign ministries there. I think that next week we will be able to tell you about his scheduled meetings at the OSCE meeting in Milan. So far, I have no details on the meeting you mentioned.

Question: On Friday night, November 30, British Prime Minister Theresa May said new sanctions should be imposed on Russia because of the Kerch Strait incident. Can you comment on this?

Maria Zakharova: As far as I am concerned, we should take this quietly as there is no need to cite any reasons [for imposing sanctions]. This does not make sense. We all know too well that Britain and a number of foreign politicians largely from Western countries firmly adhere to a policy of pressuring Russia through sanctions. And not just Russia but other countries as well. They think this is the right way to either solve their own problems or to influence the international agenda. This is their approach.   

What is the point of talking about the situation in the Kerch Strait, or the Syrian settlement, or the situation in other regions? It is just redundant. It seems to me that it would be honest and fair and also less energy intensive – and today Britain needs its strength for Brexit – to say directly that new sanctions against Russia are needed. It is likely that no one will even complain about the United Kingdom. These are simply mantras it cannot stop repeating. The set design changes but the dance remains the same.  

Question: You have already mentioned the cancellation of the Russian-American meeting at the G20 summit in Argentina. How wise is it on the US part to cancel the meeting with President Vladimir Putin with less than 24 hours notice?

Maria Zakharova: I believe this is a question for US political experts who know the internal situation in their country. Whether it was wise or not should be seen in the context of the US domestic political agenda.

We talk about expediency, solving problems, the future of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) and issues on the global agenda. From this viewpoint, any contact, especially at the level of heads of state, which was announced in advance and seriously prepared, means progress. Whether it was wise or not, is a question that should be addressed to the American society.  

Question: At the beginning of the briefing you mentioned that Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov intends to touch on issues related to the Nagorno-Karabakh settlement at the coming OSCE Ministerial Council meeting in Milan. Is there a plan to discuss further steps to resolve this conflict?

Maria Zakharova: If we are talking about the Minister’s speech at the OSCE Ministerial Council, it will include everything related to the OSCE agenda, especially those issues in which Russia is involved. We will share our views.

Certainly, there will be bilateral meetings during which these topics will be discussed in more practical terms. These meetings can result in concrete steps and initiatives.

Question: Do you believe that Donald Trump’s latest refusal to meet with Vladimir Putin was due to the Kerch incident? Who will the Russian President meet with in Buenos Aires instead of Donald Trump? Is the US always this incapable of reaching agreements or is this a new factor in Russian-US relations?

Maria Zakharova: Donald Trump is an entirely new phenomenon. He is a trailblazer in many fields.

Is the Kerch provocation planned by Kiev the real reason for the cancellation of the meeting? We heard this public explanation and we took it into account. In my opinion, the real reason is in the internal political situation in the US, which  takes precedence in decision making.  

On the whole, everything that has taken place in our bilateral relations over the last few years really stands out. It began with Barack Obama and, sadly, is still going on. The deterioration of our bilateral relations and efforts to escalate the situation were the conscious choice of US President Barack Obama and his team. Now, I believe, we are dealing with the aftermath of that policy that cannot disappear overnight. The situation reflects the fierce political struggle that is ongoing in the US.

As for Vladimir Putin’s schedule, it is for the Presidential Executive Office to comment.

Question: The US Senate unanimously adopted a resolution attributing blame to Russia for aggression against Ukraine in connection with the provocation in the Kerch Strait. The resolution calls on the international community to unite in opposition to the actions of the Government of the Russian Federation in the Kerch Strait since they “infringe upon fundamental principles of international law affecting all nations.” Is such a resolution designed to put pressure on all the other countries?

Maria Zakharova: I am not really up on the issue, maybe you know – has the Senate sorted out the matter of the disappearance and murder of the journalist who used to work for the US media? Did you see anything? Did they say anything? They are not interested, are they?

As for the resolution, it is a sign of the extremely low intellectual and educational level of those who put it forward. Its authors haven’t got a clue about the matters they are discussing, they do not know the texture, do not understand and have no knowledge of the problems they are making statements on.

I would like to remind you that it is the US and its foreign policy officials that are responsible for the fate of Ukraine and the Ukrainian people in recent years. The “Maidans,” the seizure of power, the dissolution of legally-elected structures and all the other changes we witnessed happened under the direct guidance of the US Department of State officials. The future of Ukraine was “drawn” under the dictate of US diplomats, officials and security agencies, shaping state power and politics, in particular regarding Donbass.

Rather than putting forward yet another piece of paper, the US should realise the role of their country and its officials in the Ukrainian tragedy and adopt a different resolution, for example, on the role of the US Department of State in the 2013-2014 events in Ukraine.

Question: On December 6, the CSTO countries will discuss the new candidate for the position of the organisation’s Secretary General. As you are aware, there are three options: appointing an Armenian or Belarusian candidate, or Deputy Secretary General Valery Semerikov will be acting as Secretary General. Are the foreign ministries of Armenia and Russia holding consultations on this matter? Which of the three options is Russia most inclined to accept?

Maria Zakharova: Consultations on this issue are underway, not only between Armenia’s and Russia’s foreign ministries, but also among all CSTO member-countries since the issue concerns the leadership of the entire organisation.

Regarding the options you voiced, it is a matter of study by experts and, obviously, a decision based on this by the countries’ leaders.


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