Briefing by Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova, Moscow, September 12, 2019
- Visit to the Russian Federation by Minister for Foreign Affairs, Cooperation, African Integration and Nigeriens Abroad of the Republic of the Niger Kalla Ankourao
- Signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the Russian Government and UN Children's Fund
- Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s visit to Iraq
- Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s official visit to Kazakhstan
- Update on Syria
- Update on Libya
- Prospects for a peace settlement in the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan in the wake of the US decision to discontinue talks with the Taliban
- Venezuela update
- CNN reports on the extraction of a US intelligence services informant from Russia
- Russian citizen Alexander Korshunov arrested at Naples airport at US request
- Report in Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera
- International conference on preventing corruption in sports
- Remarks by Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Joseph Dunford on “Russian threat” in outer space
- Trespassing on the Russian Trade Mission premises in London
- Japanese protests over new fish plant on Shikotan
- Statements on the exchange of detainees between Russia and Ukraine
- Espionage charges against head of the National Russophile Movement in Bulgaria Nikolai Malinov
- 5th Small and Medium-Sized Business Forum of SCO and BRICS Regions
- The West’s destructive take on new realities in the South Caucasus
- Results of presidential elections in Abkhazia
- Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s possible meeting with new Foreign Minister of Japan Toshimitsu Motegi on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly
- Support to citizens handed over to Russia by Ukraine as part of recent exchange
- Statements by DPR Head Denis Pushilin
- Establishment of the Commission on the Investigation of Foreign Interference in Russia's Internal Affairs
- Trade and economic relations between Russia and Ukraine
- Mistake by Figaro during streaming of briefing by President of Ukraine
- UNIAN’s ability to set up interview with Kirill Vyshinsky
- Under what conditions and when does Russia intend returning vessels captured in Black Sea neutral waters?
- Prayers by Russian Orthodox Church for peace in Ukraine
- US increases financial assistance to Azerbaijan
- Konstantin Malofeyev and Leonid Reshetnikov prevented from entering Bulgaria
- Ruling by ECHR to reject appeal against ruling recognising that Soviet repressions against Forest Brothers could be regarded as an act of genocide
- Suspension of talks between Taliban and US
- Update on Jammu and Kashmir
Minister for Foreign Affairs, Cooperation, African Integration and Nigeriens Abroad of the Republic of the Niger Kalla Ankourao will be in Moscow on a working visit on September 18-20. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will have talks with Mr Ankourao on September 19. The ministers will discuss ways to invigorate Russian-Nigerien political, trade, economic, humanitarian and other ties. Special attention will be given to the prospects for developing business partnerships, particularly in areas such as minerals prospecting and development, energy and infrastructure.
They will hold an in-depth exchange of opinions on the current issues on the global and pan-African agendas with an emphasis on maintaining peace and stability in Africa, including in the Sahara-Sahel region. The ministers are to have a substantive talk on combatting international terrorism and extremism in the context of collective efforts intended to neutralise these threats on the African continent.
The signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the Government of the Russian Federation and the United Nations’ Children's Fund (UNICEF) to be attended by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta H. Fore has been scheduled for September 17.
The memorandum is to take cooperation between Russia and UNICEF to a new level of interaction in the areas of priority for Russia in the context of assistance for the development of the partner states.
Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s visit to Iraq is scheduled for October 7–8. The Minister will meet with the Iraqi leadership in Bagdad and administration of the autonomous Kurdistan Region in Erbil.
The sides will hold detailed discussions on key aspects of the Middle East agenda with an emphasis on the developments in Iraq, Syria and the Persian Gulf region, as well as the situation around Iran and in the Palestinian territories. They will pay special attention to further promoting cooperation in fighting against international terrorism and the spread of religious extremism.
Discussions on the prospects for the comprehensive development and strengthening of traditionally friendly Russian-Iraqi relations, including fuel, energy and humanitarian cooperation, will certainly be a priority.
On October 8-9, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will make a return official visit to the Republic of Kazakhstan (Kazakhstan’s Foreign Minister Beibut Atamkulov made an official visit to Moscow on January 28, 2019).
Foreign Minister Lavrov will meet with the leadership of Kazakhstan. During talks with Foreign Minister Beibut Atamkulov, the ministers will discuss current issues related to Russian-Kazakhstani relations and cooperation within common interstate associations (the EAEU, CIS, CSTO and CIS) and at leading international organisations, above all the UN and OSCE. They will coordinate their positions on the most important matters on the regional and international agendas and focus on preparations for bilateral and multilateral events at a high and the top levels, in particular, the 16th Russia-Kazakhstan Interregional Cooperation Forum, which will be held in Omsk this autumn and attended by both presidents.
Hotbeds of tension remain in areas that are not controlled by the Syrian Government, specifically, Idlib and northeastern Syria.
Terrorists from the Nusra-controlled Hayat Tahrir al-Sham alliance continue to shell Syrian government forces’ positions and to attack the Russian Khmeimim air base with attack drones despite the “silence regime” introduced around the Idlib de-escalation zone on August 31. In the first 10 days of September alone, the militants initiated over 300 attacks and made another attempt to attack Khmeimim on September 3 using two unmanned aerial vehicles. Such aggressive raids by the terrorists have led to civilian casualties in nearby towns and among Syrian troops. So, about 150 Syrian troops have been killed and over 470 people have been injured in Idlib over the past month alone. About 50 civilians have died and over 100 were injured as a result of the shelling by terrorists.
Against this background, an arbitrary US airstrike against the presumed location of terrorists in the vicinity of Idlib on August 31, which led to numerous casualties, including children, and destruction, came as an alarming signal. In addition, this unilateral US military action actually threatened the moratorium on hostilities introduced on the same day. We believe that such strikes will not resolve the problem of the massive terrorist presence in Idlib, but may well undermine efforts to stabilise the situation.
Currently, the Idlib de-escalation zone is controlled by about 50,000 well-armed and experienced terrorists. They, in fact, are holding hostage and terrorising 3 million civilians. The terrorists brutally suppress peace demonstrations in towns such as Maaret-Nouman, Ariha, Harim, Kafr-Takharim, Salqin and Saraqib, during which protesters demand that the militants leave the territories they occupy. The terrorists are using firearms to disperse demonstrations thus causing numerous casualties.
For our part, we are convinced that long-term stabilisation and security in Idlib are possible only through a return to full compliance with the Sochi Memorandum of September 17, 2018. This primarily concerns creating a demilitarised space along the internal perimeter of the de-escalation zone and neutralising the terrorist threat.
The situation remains volatile in northeastern Syria which is illegally controlled by the United States. The terrorist underground and the so-called ISIS sleeper cells have stepped up their activities as well. A particularly disturbing situation has developed in the Al-Hawl camp for internally displaced persons. Despite the efforts of international humanitarian workers, the camp residents are in need of emergency help, and the situation in the camp continues to degrade. ISIS terrorists who infiltrated Al-Hawl under the guise of refugees are taking advantage of this situation, spreading radical ideology and getting away with crimes. On September 5, Kurdish guards were attacked in the camp, with two people killed and two more wounded. The delay in resolving the Al-Hawl problem is fraught not only with the disastrous deterioration of the humanitarian situation there, but also with the flight of ISIS members from this camp to other parts of Syria and beyond.
In this regard, we note the efforts of the Presidential Commissioner for Children’s Rights, Anna Kuznetsova, to evacuate and return four Russian children from Al-Hawl to Russia.
Clashes between Kurdish units and Sunni Arabs, which protest against the authoritarian rule of Kurdish administrations, in particular, the mandatory service in the Syrian Democratic Forces, continue unabated. Over 60 such clashes have occurred in August alone, leaving about 60 Kurds dead and about 70 wounded.
At the same time, Russian military experts, in coordination with the Syrian authorities and representatives of the UN and the Syrian Red Crescent Society, continue to work on resolving the IDP camp Rukban problem. Humanitarian aid was delivered to the camp in early September, and the evacuation of civilians was planned for mid-September. Thus, we expect that civilians will leave Rukban by late September, and the camp itself will be disbanded and cleaned up.
Overall, despite individual hotbeds of tension, normal peaceful life is gradually returning to Syria. Holding the 61st annual Damascus International Fair was of great importance for restoring the economy and infrastructure destroyed as a result of the attacks by international terrorism. Despite active opposition by a number of Western countries, delegations from about 40 countries in the Middle East and other regions took part in the event. A number of agreements on investing in the Syrian economy were signed, and joint energy, agriculture, education and information projects were agreed upon. It should also be noted that the tradition of holding annual fairs in Damascus resumed in 2017 with the active assistance of Russia. This year, 16 Russian companies took part in the fair, and the 3rd Russian-Syrian business forum was held.
Regular visits by various delegations to Damascus are indicative of the gradual normalisation of the situation in Syria and the end of the country's international isolation. A group of European Parliament deputies from France visited the Syrian capital in late August-early September and held talks with President Assad. The visit was organised as part of an initiative by French politicians to resume bilateral contacts and establish practical cooperation on matters of mutual interest, such as fighting terrorism and having refugees return home.
Disappointing reports continue coming in from Libya. The armed confrontation between the units loyal to the Government of National Accord led by Fayez Mustafa al-Sarraj and units of the Libyan National Army of Marshal Khalifa Haftar that started near Tripoli last April has acquired a protracted character.
The inability of either side to change the situation on the ground in its favour despite the massive use of heavy weapons and aircraft clearly shows that attempts to resolve the conflict by force are doomed to failure. The negative humanitarian consequences of this constant violence are obvious. According to the UN Support Mission in Libya, civilian losses in the Libyan capital since the start of hostilities on April 4 have amounted to over a hundred killed and at least 300 wounded. About 120,000 people have been forced to leave their permanent residence. The number of killed among the direct participants in the hostilities exceeds a thousand.
One more alarming aspect of this fight is the expansion of the confrontation area. In August, armed clashes broke out near the town of Murzuq in the south of Libya between the Ahali tribe that supports Haftar and the non-Arab Tebu tribe that backs the Tripoli authorities.
We believe there is no alternative to the political methods of settling contradictions in Libya, with a UN coordinating role represented by the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General Ghassan Salame. We are willing to support his efforts in every possible way. We urge all parties to the current confrontation to return to the negotiating table without delay so as to find a way out of the crisis and ensure Libya’s unity and territorial integrity.
In connection with the many questions we have received (for instance, a request from Asia News), we have decided to comment on the prospects of a peace settlement in Afghanistan in the context of the US administration’s decision to discontinue talks with the Taliban.
In connection to reports on President Donald Trump’s decision to cancel a closed meeting with the Taliban representatives at Camp David and cease contacts with this movement, we hope that the current pause will not undermine the long-term efforts of the sides and the substantial progress achieved at the talks in Doha on a peace settlement in Afghanistan.
In this context we welcome the Taliban’s statement on its willingness to continue the dialogue with the United States. As before, we believe there is no alternative to a political and diplomatic approach to settling the crisis in Afghanistan.
We urge the sides to resume talks as soon as possible with a view to reaching and signing a peace agreement. We are convinced that the complete end to foreign military presence is an inalienable condition of durable peace in Afghanistan.
We see new alarming features in Venezuela and continued attempts to destabilise the country by external actors. Washington keeps saying – this has become an international meme by now – that “all options are on the table,” which includes a military one, as far as we can see.
Deliberate actions are being taken in Washington to create a context for this. Any unbiased observer can see that the plans for a rapid removal of the legitimate – I repeat, legitimate – government of President Nicolas Maduro have failed. Their masterminds have misjudged the public support for the government (even despite the economic difficulties), the loyalty of the army and the real influence of the opposition, especially its radical wing.
Overall, the coup’s ideologists started off on the wrong foot. The stifling sanctions have hit the interests of common people. It should be said that although the scenario had a different target, it was ordinary Venezuelans that took the brunt of the blow. As the result, these operations have only complicated the lives of common people in Venezuela still more.
It is for a reason that everything possible has been done to provoke a halt (we hope it will be a temporary suspension) of the intra-Venezuelan talks in the Norwegian format.
At the same time, efforts have been taken to increase mistrust between Venezuela and neighbouring Colombia, which is at a complicated stage of trying to overcome half a century of political confrontation by negotiating peace agreements between the Government and the rebels.
These operations are based on the classical formulas of information warfare. We can tell you about them in great detail from our own experience. For example, the media publish “secret” documents, which later turn out to be fake but first this leak is taken as a reason for taking adverse foreign policy decisions.
On September 11, the day of the 46th anniversary of Pinochet’s military coup against the Popular Unity government in Chile) the Organisation of American States decided to convene the so-called meeting of consultations [Meeting of OAS Ministers of Foreign Affairs], which can invoke the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance (TIAR) in response to the crisis in Venezuela.
We believe that this can have a dangerous effect on regional security and stability in South America.
Just a few facts for your information: The Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance (Spanish abbreviation TIAR), commonly known as the Rio Treaty, was signed in September 1947. It is an instrument of the Cold War and the Monroe Doctrine and a relic from a period when Washington was working consistently to create NATO-like regional military blocs around the world. Of course, many things have changed in the 50-odd years that followed. Many of the signatory countries have withdrawn from the Rio Treaty, which now has 16 out of the initial 35 member states from North and Latin America, plus the self-proclaimed government of Juan Guaido. However, the document is still alive and, as it turned out, can be successfully manipulated under certain conditions.
Furthermore, all this is happening ahead of a regular session of the UN General Assembly, which objectively offers an opportunity for additional publicity, including for deplorable events.
In this connection, we would like to appeal not so much to Washington as primarily to Latin American states.
We know about and appreciate your firm position on the use of military options to “settle” international problems. Military options are not regarded as legitimate in Latin America. Five years ago, in 2014, the Latin American and Caribbean countries proclaimed their region a zone of peace. We believe it vitally important that no one rise to the provocation of creating a casus belli. This can meet someone’s interests, but definitely not the interests of Latin Americans.
I appeal to Latin American countries and people once again: Don’t let yourself be deluded!
We will continue trying to develop constructive cooperation with all the regional countries, even if someone outside the region does not like this. Even if there are slight differences in the assessment of developments, they must not be used to escalate tensions or damage our relations with our Latin American and Caribbean partners.
We would like to “ask” US officials once more: Please, stop trying to scare us with new sanctions intended to “punish” Russian economic operators for their cooperation with Venezuela. There is nothing new in this approach, as we know very well. The sanctions, which Washington is threatening to adopt, are absolutely illegitimate and are nothing other than an instrument of unfair competition that is used to gain access to unilateral advantages.
I would like to say once again that a combination of economic aggression with a permanent threat of military force used against a sovereign state is an unacceptable “might is right” policy that is damaging international law and [is contrary to] the UN Charter.
CNN reported that in 2017 US intelligence services allegedly extracted their extremely valuable informant, Oleg Smolenkov, from Russia. Citing, as always, knowledgeable sources, CNN reported at length that this decision was made after US President Donald Trump allegedly provided classified information on ISIS activities he had received from Israeli intelligence services to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov during their meeting on May 10 the same year – allegedly out of fear that the next move by the White House would be disclosing the name of the mole to the Kremlin.
As for the content of his conversation with President Trump, a few days ago Sergey Lavrov spoke again absolutely explicitly at the news conference given jointly with his Ethiopian counterpart. The transcript of what he said is available on the Foreign Ministry website. No more comments are required in this respect.
Explanations regarding Oleg Smolenkov, the man mentioned by CNN, have also been provided, including by the Russian Presidential Executive Office. I would like to cite more facts. The Russian citizen and his family vanished in a foreign country, following which Russia promptly launched criminal proceedings. Two years later, US media report that the man is staying in the United States. It is only natural that this information must be verified in keeping with appropriate procedures. In connection with the above, Washington was asked questions through Interpol regarding the disappearance of the Russian citizen and his stay in the United States.
Generally, the whole story presented by CNN is classic propaganda. First, an objective is set and then information is tailored to suit it. What is the objective? It definitely – and there is no doubt about it – has to do with US domestic policy: the election campaign in the United States has got underway. In this case, the TV channel targeted President Trump but hit his predecessor President Barak Obama, since it suggested that during his term in office a CIA informant worked in Russia. It seems to me that for some reason this part has been omitted from the CNN report. Hopefully, the TV channel will provide more detail about it.
Quite a different matter is that CNN has long since ceased to hide its bias, having turned into a tool for achieving political goals in the United States. Its target audience is the broad masses that are not well versed in foreign policy and for this reason are too ready to believe these fantastic bits of information that the TV channel has obtained from reliable sources. It would not be so serious – as it is up to Americans what TV channels to watch and how information is presented to them – were it not for CNN’s purposeful efforts to fan Russophobic sentiment in the United States and deliberately harm relations between our countries.
I would like to remind you that on August 30 a Russian citizen, Business Development Director at United Engine Corporation Alexander Korshunov was arrested at Naples International Airport at the request of the US.
We consider the arrest warrant issued by the United States for Korshunov to be a planned provocation. This is not the first incident of this kind, but a continuing course that the US special services have established and supported for a long time towards Russia. Washington has been avoiding normal, civilised cooperation with Russian law enforcement agencies for many years. When Russians travel abroad, they are hunted, including direct kidnapping. Alexander Konshunov is the forty-eighth Russian arrested at the request of the United States in a third country since 2008. In addition, in several cases there have been flagrant violations of human rights, which are supposed to be guaranteed by national and international laws. We all know that the US pays special attention to human rights, but they seem to forget about them when it comes to Russian people.
Washington’s actions are politically biased and are designed to pressure Russia and Russians, along with the sanctions, as well as to raise tensions in our relations with other countries and undermine our business ties and tourist exchanges with them. In this case, the US authorities do not seem to like the progress in Russian-Italian relations, so they have used this opportunity to create an artificial irritant.
The Foreign Ministry as well as our embassies in Rome and Washington are constantly monitoring the situation. As a Russian national, Alexander Korshunov benefits from consular access. There have been no complaints about confinement conditions from Alexander Korshunov; he remains calm. His health is satisfactory. We continue to support his lawyers’ efforts to protect his interests and to have him released and returned to Russia.
Keeping in mind that the next Naples Appeal Court’s hearing on his case is scheduled for September 19, we believe that the Italian court will be objective in this situation and rule according to the facts, without submitting to political pressure.
We regularly bring up issues of misleading reports in foreign media, purposefully fabricated stories and breaches in professional ethics. Unfortunately, Italy has provided yet another example of this. We consider this to be a provocation.
The onset of the political season in the Apennines was marked by a clumsy attempt to pour more fuel on the fire of the fading story called Russiagate. I mean the story of Russia’s alleged funding of the Italian Lega party by reselling Russian oil products. I would like to remind you that the Milan Prosecutor’s Office has launched a probe.
On September 6, without waiting for the end of the probe, the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera released a provocative report based on unverified information and citing again unnamed sources, as well as BuzzFeed, an internet site with an ambiguous reputation, in which it tried to re-enact the events at the Metropol Hotel in October 2018, mentioning, among others, a Russian diplomat working at the Russian Embassy in Italy.
We particularly regret that this is one of Italy’s leading media outlets. This newspaper with its large army of correspondents could, in our view, afford to have verified the information. We presumed that the newspaper’s policy is to ensure the unbiased, objective and responsible coverage of various developments.
The Russian Embassy in Rome forwarded a disclaimer to the newspaper, which has not been published even after almost a week since the release of the article, which can only be called libel.
We are waiting for the Italian newspaper to publish the disclaimer using the material that the Russian Embassy sent to them complete with apologies to the Russian diplomat. Of course, we will keep a close eye on this matter. We will post the disclaimer in the appropriate section of the Foreign Ministry website that presents materials and articles that have clearly been fabricated.
At the same time, these provocations notwithstanding, our relations with Italy are seeing positive momentum.
On September 3 and 4, the Russian Federation, in cooperation with the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and Italy, held the second international Safeguarding Sport from Corruption Conference.
The forum was attended by about 70 countries, international, intergovernmental, non-profit and sport organisations. The conference was opened by UN Deputy Secretary-General and UNODC Executive Director Yury Fedotov and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Oleg Syromolotov. The rapporteurs included Italian National Anti-Mafia and Counterterrorism Prosecutor Federico Cafiero De Raho, State Secretary and Deputy Minister of Sport of the Russian Federation Nadezhda Erastova, and leading Russian and foreign experts.
The forum made it possible to highlight our approaches to preventing corruption in sport, discuss advanced practices and the most acute issues related to exposing corruption crimes in sport, and to outline further steps in strengthening interaction between states, law enforcement authorities, sport organisations and the expert community in this area. The event was of special importance, given the eighth session of the Conference of the States Parties to the UN Convention against Corruption scheduled for this December in Abu Dhabi and the special session of the UN General Assembly against corruption to be held in the first half of 2021.
This implies his interview with the Council on Foreign Relations, where he called Russia one of America’s rivals in space (on a par with China, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and Iran) and a “real threat” to the US space infrastructure.
This anti-Russia attack is another attempt by US military-political leaders to justify their steps to deploy weapons in outer space and to blame others for destabilising the situation in the field of international security and global stability. This is nothing else than another element t of an unfair media campaign against Russia. This element is called on to divert the attention of the world public at large and the international community from Washington’s unconstructive efforts provoking an arms race in outer space and aiming to turn it into another sphere of military confrontation.
We are deeply disappointed that, instead of conducting a detailed dialogue on the prevention of an arms race in outer space (PAROS), the United States prefers to use all tools of public diplomacy and media aggression, including unjustified accusations with regard to Russia. I would like to mention one highly important fact. Washington has failed to submit even one PAROS-related initiative, and it blocks any proposals of other states on this score. What am I talking about here? It is precisely the United States that votes against Russian-backed draft resolutions of the UN General Assembly on the no-first deployment of weapons in outer space and subsequent practical steps for PAROS purposes, as well as transparency and confidence-building measures with regard to space activities. Additionally, a US expert vetoed, for no apparent reason, the approval of an essentially consensus-based report by the UN Group of Governmental Experts for PAROS containing recommendations on the main parts of the relevant legally binding agreement.
Russia prioritises the non-discriminatory use of outer space and space exploration solely for peaceful purposes. And, unlike the United States, it does not harbour any plans for accomplishing orbital missions using strike weapons. This is confirmed by a number of initiatives in this field that are being promoted by the Russian side with the help of a large group of like-minded supporters backing initiatives in the given sphere. Today, there is no alternative, and there can be no alternative, to a Russian-Chinese proposal to draft an international legally binding instrument for keeping space free from any kinds of weapons, which would hinge on a draft Russian-Chinese treaty to prevent the deployment of weapons in outer space, the use of force or the threat to use force with regard to space objects. Why don’t US officials tell their audience about this? It is a good question. We intend to continue our active work aiming to produce specific results in this area.
We are once again urging Washington to display common sense and to renounce irresponsible audacious undertakings that would spell out extremely negative consequences for the entire international community, including the United States itself. Obviously, the deployment of weapons in outer space runs counter to practical cooperation to explore outer space and use it for peaceful purposes. We are disappointed by the position of EU countries which, contrary to their national interests, do not even dare argue with the United States which stubbornly undermines international security, including by its plans to deploy strike weapons systems in outer space.
The implementation of US military-space plans would irreparably damage the current system of safe space activities. All of Washington’s earlier attempts to ensure its military superiority invariably ended with the escalation of tensions and new spirals of the arms race.
During our briefings, we have repeatedly discussed compliance with the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, specifically the need to ensure immunity of foreign missions and their personnel. In this case, we will address the situation in the UK.
Over the last few years, Russia has repeatedly urged the Foreign Office to take comprehensive measures to ensure safety of our diplomatic property in the UK. We had compelling reasons for these actions: I am referring to the level of crime in the UK and the level of terrorist threat in London. But there was never a reply, let alone action, in response to the numerous notes and requests we sent to the British foreign policy agency. I regret to say that all our fears, of which we informed our British colleagues, have eventually come true. The other day, an unknown person trespassed on the premises of the Russian Trade Mission in London, causing damage to its real estate and fleet of vehicles.
Russian diplomats immediately contacted the British side and urged it to perform their mission security commitments under the Vienna Convention and initiate an investigation.
The Russian Embassy received a reply from the London Police (hopefully, it is not the last) to the effect that the case “had no prospect” and was likely to be dismissed, despite the Russian Embassy providing CCTV footage and other ample evidence that can and do shed light on what took place.
How can this be? After all, slightly more than a year ago, it took the British Government just a few days to come up with its “highly likely” charges against this country, which, they said, had committed a chemical attack involving the use of chemical weapons, had made an attempt on the life of [British]citizens, and so on and so forth. I mean, just a couple of days was enough to crack the so-called “Salisbury case,” while what we see as a British provoked real incident has no prospect, from the British point of view. This is absurd!
Presenting global charges that entailed global consequences, including expulsions of diplomats throughout the world within a week, is realistic, but finding a trespasser, who penetrated the Embassy perimeter, given that there is CCTV footage that has been provided, is a mission impossible. In all evidence, it is equally impossible to clarify the circumstances surrounding the death of Russian citizen Nikolai Glushkov, who passed away more than a year and a half ago. This shows the true nature of the British investigative agencies – ruthless and discriminative.
To reiterate: We hope to receive from the British side a competent and responsible reply regarding this matter.
We have to remind Tokyo once again that we categorically reject as unacceptable any Japanese protests over Russia’s economic or any other activities, including in cooperation with other states, on our own territory, including the Kuril Islands, which are an integral part of our territory. Russia’s inviolable sovereignty over the islands is a result of WWII and an objective reality, which will remain as such no matter how hard Japanese officials try to disregard it.
Such protests only make Tokyo look absurd. Does Japan really want the islands to fall into neglect? No offense, but don’t bet on it. Over the past years, the socioeconomic development on the South Kurils surged ahead, and we have ambitious plans for the future. We will continue to implement these programmes in full and in cooperation with our foreign partners. We are ready for mutually beneficial cooperation with Japanese companies as well, as the Japanese side surely knows. Moreover, it has shown interest in this. But we are only ready for such cooperation if the Japanese side has the will to do this honestly and without politicising the matter.
Such protests and statements really do not do anyone any good.
I would like to remind you that the exchange was held in keeping with the agreements reached by President of Russia Vladimir Putin and President of Ukraine Vladimir Zelensky. We have commented on this subject in great detail, and relevant statements on the results of the exchange have been made by the Presidential Executive Office, the Foreign Ministry and the concerned authorities.
We are surprised by the international reaction to this event. I will not enumerate the countless statements that have been made by many countries, from Australia to Europe and the United States.
It is surprising that these countries only welcomed the release of Ukrainian citizens, whose fate was such a concern for the West. The release of people from the Russian list, who were held in detainment by Kiev and have only reunited with their families thanks to this mutual humanitarian action, has not evoked their sympathy or any other emotion. As if these are people of inferior status.
This is clear evidence of double standards and, in general, disregard for human rights to which our Western partners often appeal.
We are concerned about the charges brought against Nikolai Malinov, head of the National Russophile Movement in Bulgaria. As far as we know, this NGO is intended exclusively to promote Russian-Bulgarian cooperation and friendship between our nations.
We hope the Bulgarian Government will refrain from doing anything that can hamper the current positive dynamics in bilateral relations and that we will be able to continue working together to implement the recent agreements, including agreements on the preservation of our common history in the humanitarian and cultural spheres.
As you know, in 2020, Russia will take over the Presidency of BRICS and the SCO. During the year, our country will hold a series of themed meetings and forums aimed at expanding cooperation in various fields and attracting representatives of interested countries as part of the preparation for both organisations’ summits.
In this regard, I would like to mention the 5th Small and Medium-Sized Business Forum of SCO and BRICS Regions, scheduled for September 26-27 in Ufa, Bashkortostan. Over its five-year history, this platform has established itself as an effective mechanism for promoting dialogue between the business community and governments of the BRICS and SCO member states. Since the first Forum in 2015, more than 4,000 participants from 25 countries and 63 regions of Russia have attended the events, and 18 cooperation agreements have been signed.
It is expected that this year, 2,500 people from 30 countries will take part in the Forum, including prominent business leaders, representatives of business associations, government agencies and development institutions. They plan to discuss the conditions for economic growth in various regions of the BRICS and SCO countries: development and support of small businesses, mutually beneficial cooperation, youth entrepreneurship, new digital technologies and tourism.
We invite the media to cover this event. More information on media accreditation and the forum programme is available at https://sco-brics.ru/ru/
Our Western colleagues, especially the United States, continue to make unfounded accusations against Russia, Abkhazia and South Ossetia with remarkable persistence. Moreover, instead of helping to ensure peace and security in the South Caucasus, they are actually doing the opposite and destabilising the region. There have been too many similar articles and statements lately to ignore them.
If we talk about specific facts, we can see how Georgia is being flooded with arms and drawn into military blocs, with Washington and Brussels justifying this with considerations of “stability” of the country and the region and a mythical threat of the Russian occupation.
As a reminder, it was the 2008 Bucharest NATO summit decision ‘guaranteeing’ Georgia’s accession to the North Atlantic Alliance that the Saakashvili regime took as a direct signal for aggression against South Ossetia. That aggression ultimately led to the changes in the region, although Western analysts and officials stubbornly continue to ignore the causes of those changes.
The reality is as follows: Abkhazia and South Ossetia, relying on Russia’s allied assistance, which guaranteed their security, are consolidating their statehood while dealing with the remaining problems (that much is obvious), successfully developing their economy, social sphere, foreign trade and international relations.
Abkhazia's GDP has doubled over the past ten years, reaching almost 31 billion roubles in 2018; foreign trade has grown to 16.2 billion roubles. In 2018, its government revenues (tax and non-tax) grew almost 50 per cent on 2013 (to 4.8 billion roubles).
South Ossetia also shows similar growth rates. Its GDP grew 50 per cent in 2013-2018, reaching 5 billion roubles, and foreign trade increased from 514 million roubles to 3.3 billion roubles over the same period. At the same time, state revenues more than tripled – from 430 million roubles to 1.5 billion roubles. Wages and pensions are growing. The level of pension programmes penetration in South Ossetia is not behind, but ahead of Georgia.
In general, over the past few years, both Abkhazia and South Ossetia, seriously affected by the Georgian aggression and economic blockade, have certainly established themselves as sovereign independent states. Both republics have working systems of legislative, executive and judicial authorities; they are developing a political environment and democratic processes, and maintaining their national culture and identity. They are still dealing with a large number of problems (successfully in some cases, while in others solutions still need to be found). We regularly talk about this, also answering your questions. The international positions of Sukhum and Tskhinval are consolidating. The recent improvements include the establishment of diplomatic relations with Damascus.
If our Western partners and those who provide information services to them want to understand the real situation in these states, you can simply visit them. They say the truth is priceless, but in this case, there is a price tag on it – that of a ticket you can purchase to travel to South Ossetia, Abkhazia and just chat with people who live there, ask them directly what they think about the situation in the region and in their countries, how they assess their own realities. This way you won’t have to invent the whole story for them.
At the end of August and at the start of September, regular presidential elections took place in the Republic of Abkhazia. Since the first round of the election held on August 25 did not have a clear winner, re-voting took place on September 8, following which the Central Election Commission of Abkhazia declared incumbent President of the Republic Raul Khadjimba the winner.
On September 10, President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin sent a congratulatory message to Raul Khadjimba. All this information is available on the official website of the Russian President.
This also confirms that the Republic of Abkhazia has developed as a free, independent state that builds its economy and other spheres on a democratic foundation.
Once again, I would like to tell everyone that, despite the large number of publications with true disinformation, you can and even should visit Abkhazia and South Ossetia, if you want to understand what is happening there. You should not talk to intermediaries, not to those people who have never been there in recent years, but to people who live and work there.
Question: The new Japanese Minister of Foreign Affairs Toshimitsu Motegi has voiced his desire to hold a meeting with Sergey Lavrov as soon as possible. Can such a meeting take place on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly?
Maria Zakharova: We do not rule this out.
Question: Will the Russian authorities provide any support to the citizens transferred by Ukraine to Russia during a recent swap? For example, will they help them obtain Russian documents? Will they keep tabs on them?
Maria Zakharova: The Human Rights Commissioner of the Russian Federation Tatiana Moskalkova keeps tabs on them and helps them, including when it came to helping them to be released. She played a key role in implementing the agreements that were reached between the presidents of both countries. I have already read and heard words of gratitude to Ms Moskalkova from people who were swapped, and who arrived in Russia. I believe that she will not renounce her capabilities for assisting those in need of her protection. We have no doubt that she will accomplish this job just as efficiently as previously.
Question: The head of the Donetsk People’s Republic, Denis Pushilin, said that, ideally speaking, the republic planned to join Russia as a federal district. How does Russia assess this statement?
Maria Zakharova: Considering the acute nature of this matter, Russia should not assess all the statements that are made every day. We proceed from the primacy of the Minsk Agreements that formalise everything.
Question: On August 19, members of the State Duma Council held their extraordinary meeting and decided to establish a commission for investigating facts of foreign states’ interference in Russia’s domestic affairs. An interim Federation Council commission to protect state sovereignty and prevent the interference in the Russian Federation’s domestic affairs has been working for over a year. Does the Foreign Ministry perceive this as yet another step towards strengthening national sovereignty? Do these commissions assist the Foreign Ministry in its work? Are there any cooperation plans?
Maria Zakharova: I would like to remind you about the division of government branches. This implies our lawmakers. We represent Russia’s executive branch. I can only say that we cooperate, and we respond to all the requests being received from our colleagues in the State Duma and the Federation Council of the Russian Federal Assembly. You read speeches made by Foreign Ministry representatives who were invited to meetings of the relevant commissions. The Foreign Ministry very quickly provides material on all inquiries by Federal Assembly representatives, be it the State Duma or the Federation Council. It is also involved in the relevant meetings, at their invitation.
Question: A lot has happened in Ukraine lately. A delegation of the International Monetary Fund is now working in Kiev. Work is underway to restructure the country’s external debt. Everyone understands that without cooperation with Russia, Ukraine has little chance of paying off its huge foreign debt. Is the Foreign Ministry engaged in any exchanges that would suggest that relations or trade with Ukraine are improving?
Maria Zakharova: Paradoxical as it may sound, the truth seems to be that, despite the efforts of a number of Ukrainian politicians who constituted the backbone of the Poroshenko regime, our economic relations, supported by economic operators, businesses and people, continued to develop. We have earlier cited these statistics to support the statement that deterioration of relations was artificial and provoked by anti-Russia politicians. But we must rely on facts here.
Our economic relations (figures and facts speak of this) have been growing even as many in Kiev (where Petr Poroshenko set the tone) were making every effort to curb them. With regard to trends, the exchange of detainees by successfully implementing the decision of the presidents was a very positive and promising signal, an indicator, although the process had not been easy.
Over the past few years, despite the absolutely horrible statements as well as subversive actions regarding bilateral relations undertaken by the Kiev regime, Moscow has openly continued to advocate interaction and cooperation, remaining focused on the interests of the people in the two countries. It is also our stance now.
Question: France's Le Figaro said in a video report on the Ukrainian President’s briefing following the exchange of prisoners that it took place in “Kiev, Russia.”
Maria Zakharova: I can’t say whether this was done intentionally or by accident. I saw a refutation (or rather, a statement of a blunder) and an apology the newspaper made to its audience.
Maria Zakharova: Roman, go ahead please, you probably have a question about Ukraine. By the way, have you met with Kirill Vyshinsky?
Roman Tsymbalyuk: Not yet.
Maria Zakharova: Are you going to?
Roman Tsymbalyuk: I will if I can. I am open to communication with everyone.
Maria Zakharova: Will you be allowed to do an interview with Vyshinsky?
Roman Tsymbalyuk: I saw him on TV. He did not answer the main question – why he was awarded the medal For the Return of Crimea?
Maria Zakharova: Do you think this is the main question?
Roman Tsymbalyuk: For Ukraine, yes. If I ever get to interview him, I will choose the questions.
Maria Zakharova: How was the charge against Vyshinsky formulated, again?
Roman Tsymbalyuk: This is up to the law enforcement authorities. I would ask him about the medal.
Maria Zakharova: So, this is the most important question for you. All right, the questions you ask are your personal or professional business. I was asking about something else though, namely, about the actual possibility of such an interview. We have seen for several years how the Ukrainian media, in particular the outlet you represent, had a moratorium on talking with Russian representatives – journalists, or officials. It is a fact. You were simply not allowed to do this. Now that something happened that was really appreciated both in Kiev and in Moscow, can you now speak with Vyshinsky, who is in Moscow? He is your colleague, and he is available. Can you afford to do an interview with him? To ask all your questions?
Roman Tsymbalyuk: Of course I can. You say he is my “colleague,” but I do not have a medal For the Return of Crimea.
Maria Zakharova: We have not checked this. The Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) has not visited your home yet.
Roman Tsymbalyuk: It's okay, they know my address. But I thought I was asking questions here? Now it seems like it’s you.
Maria Zakharova: It happens both ways here. You do not visit us too often, only on high-profile events.
Roman Tsymbalyuk: I will come more often.
Maria Zakharova: It is obvious that you are engaged in propaganda, 100 per cent. It seems to me you don’t even try to hide it.
Roman Tsymbalyuk: I am engaged in the propaganda of Ukraine. This is normal. But I am not engaged in information crime. There is a big difference.
Maria Zakharova: Do you think the Ukrainian media will lift the ban on communication with Russian representatives – government agencies, journalists, and others? You write about us, but you cannot afford to do a full-scale interview. Are you ready to talk, in particular, with Vyshinsky?
Roman Tsymbalyuk: I can answer for myself. You are a representative of the Russian state, and I am talking to you.
Maria Zakharova: But I was asking about something else. Can you, as a representative of UNIAN, finally do an interview with Kirill Vyshinsky? He will tell you about the medal and answer all other questions.
Roman Tsymbalyuk: We can.
Maria Zakharova: That is, UNIAN can run this interview?
Roman Tsymbalyuk: Any correspondent is perfectly aware that, regardless of the country they represent, they do not make all decisions. If I were the chief editor, I would say yes, for sure. In the same way ordinary employees of your department cannot answer all the questions that you are answering.
I will immediately forward your question to our editor-in-chief. If he wants to do the interview, and if Vyshinsky agrees, perhaps we will do it. I think it is obvious, and there is nothing to discuss.
Maria Zakharova: That's just the point: you have nothing to discuss. You have been blocked from posting interviews with Russian representatives. You write about Russia, are a staff correspondent in Russia, but you cannot interview anyone. You do not give your audience first-person talk. This is a classic manifestation of propaganda when first-person content is not available to the audience. All they have is your presentation. Maybe now is the right moment to alter the media’s information policy, get away from propaganda and begin engaging in normal journalism. The accusations brought against Vyshinsky were not about his medal.
Roman Tsymbalyuk: Did he deserve it?
Maria Zakharova: Are you asking me? Go ask Vyshinsky. If you are interested in finding things out about Vyshinsky – about his medals, his writing, his life in Ukraine and in Russia – just ask him. This is some Jesuit logic to ask me about Vyshinsky, and maybe someone else about me. This is what you have been doing.
Roman Tsymbalyuk: Kirill Vyshinsky was not the only passenger on that aircraft. There were 34 others, including Russian citizens, who had committed homicide and been taken prisoner armed with weapons in their hands. This is probably the reason why the West is not overjoyed or enthusiastic about this fact. These people are terrorists convicted by relevant court rulings.
Maria Zakharova: I would like to put you right about this. Those who returned to Ukraine were convicted precisely on the same charges you are talking about. More than that, I heard their statements. They were not concealing the kind of activities they were engaged in and confirmed what the Ukrainian media, among others, were reluctant both to report and hear.
Roman Tsymbalyuk: Perhaps this was because these Ukrainian citizens had been taken prisoner on Ukrainian territory rather than vice versa.
Maria Zakharova: Ask me a real question.
Roman Tsymbalyuk: Oleg Sentsov was taken prisoner after the Ukrainian Crimea was occupied. You know it well. No one, not even your immediate neighbours, recognise the fact of occupation of Ukrainian territory.
Maria Zakharova: A referendum was held in Crimea. You know this. You can also travel there, and the residents will tell you everything.
Roman Tsymbalyuk: I have a question. I am employed here primarily as a correspondent, not propagandist, as you think.
Maria Zakharova: You yourself said that you were “propagandising Ukraine.” These are your very own words.
Roman Tsymbalyuk: Everyone should know that Ukraine was, is, and will be. This is very important.
Maria Zakharova: Would that be forgotten without you making a reminder?
Roman Tsymbalyuk: I think some people in this country are calling this fact into question.
Maria Zakharova: Who?
Roman Tsymbalyuk: Shall I give you a long list?
Maria Zakharova: Please don’t. What do I need a long list for? You can give me just a few names. Who specifically? Perhaps you and your UNIAN agency have some special informed sources, who tell you that the fact of Ukraine’s existence is called into question. Who are these people?
Roman Tsymbalyuk: In this country, I think, you should always refer to bigwigs. President of Russia Vladimir Putin said that if something went wrong he would strip my country of its statehood.
Maria Zakharova: When was it?
Roman Tsymbalyuk: He was on air talking to Russian citizens.
Maria Zakharova: Please give me the exact quote. I think, the only thing we – President of Russia Vladimir Putin, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and other officials – keep saying is that we want to build relations with the sovereign state of Ukraine. The Minsk Package of Measures, the Minsk Agreements refer to nothing but a sovereign Ukraine. Isn’t that so?
Roman Tsymbalyuk: This question was asked by a Russian militant, who is hiding here under the guise of a writer from the occupied part of the Donetsk Region, Zakhar Prilepin, when he was not yet recalled to Moscow.
Maria Zakharova: Ask Zakhar Prilepin for an interview.
Roman Tsymbalyuk: You are not the editor-in-chief of UNIAN agency and you cannot influence our editorial policy. Neither can we make you say certain things from this rostrum.
Maria Zakharova: Quite right. I am just saying that, to my mind, it would be only fair in relation to your own readers, if you gave a chance to people you write so much about, whom you quote so extensively, to speak their mind and answer your questions. This is the only thing that I would like not so much to ask as to suggest that you do. You have been writing for years about these people without giving them an opportunity to answer your questions or publishing their direct speech. This is utterly unfair and contrary to all norms of journalism. And this is evidence that you are peddling propaganda.
Roman Tsimbalyuk: An exchange of detainees was held on September 7, and our sailors have returned to Ukraine. When and under what conditions will Russia return the ships it has seized in international waters in the Black Sea?
Maria Zakharova: We have already discussed these conditions, and you know them all too well. If there are any new conditions, about which I know nothing, I promise to inquire about them. We talked about these conditions countless times. We sent relevant notes to the Ukrainian side. Do you really want me to repeat them yet again?
Roman Tsimbalyuk: Yes, I do, because the situation has changed.
Maria Zakharova: I will send you a link to the documents we have published. I will do this once again.
Roman Tsimbalyuk: What will be the technical procedure for the return of the ships? Can you explain it?
Maria Zakharova: We have described it before. We have done this officially by sending an official note to the Ukrainian side. I understand that it suits you to pretend that you know nothing about this, but this is common knowledge.
Roman Tsimbalyuk: You mean the note of June 25 of this year?
Maria Zakharova: Yes. It describes the technical procedure of the exchange, as you said.
Roman Tsimbalyuk: It also says a great deal about the sailors, but ultimately they have been included in the exchange, not released in accordance with the scheme described in the notes.
Maria Zakharova: Do you mean that Verkhovna Rada Commissioner for Human Rights Lyudmila Denisova did not offer her guarantee to secure the sailors’ release?
Roman Tsimbalyuk: Yes, she did.
Maria Zakharova: This is exactly what we wrote in the note you have mentioned. Why then do you turn everything upside down, omitting a vital part of this story? This is not propaganda but a fake.
Roman Tsimbalyuk: Well, it is a fact that Ukraine and Russia have exchanged detainees.
Maria Zakharova: Has Denisova offered a guarantee or not?
Roman Tsimbalyuk: What about the ships?
Maria Zakharova: You have asked about the technical procedure. It has been described in detail and forwarded to the Ukrainian side. You told me that the sailors were turned over to Ukraine regardless of the plan. I have replied that they have been turned over under Denisova’s guarantees. Is this so? Or am I saying something that is not true?
Roman Tsimbalyuk: But [the exchange] was coordinated by the two presidents.
Maria Zakharova: Was there a guarantee or not? The note we sent to the Ukrainian side was addressed to an executive authority. Do you understand that our foreign policy is determined by the President and implemented by the Foreign Ministry of Russia? Let us get this quite straight, so that you do not write a lot of nonsense again. So, once again, did Denisova offer a guarantee?
Roman Tsimbalyuk: Yes, she did.
Maria Zakharova: There you are.
Roman Tsimbalyuk: Has the Ukrainian state taken any legal steps within the framework of the Russia-proposed mechanism to return the three Ukrainian naval ships that were seized in international waters in the Black Sea? If so, what are these steps and how can the ships be returned to Ukraine?
Maria Zakharova: Regarding Ukrainian steps, you should request information from the Ukrainian side. You have asked me about Russia’s steps and proposals. I have already told you about them. As for Ukraine’s attitude to this and whether any steps have been or will be taken, you can inquire about this at the UkrAinian Embassy in Russia.
Roman Tsimbalyuk: UkraInian.
Maria Zakharova: Have you approved Russian as an official language?
Roman Tsimbalyuk: You should say UkraIna, not UkrAina in Russian.
Maria Zakharova: You will tell Russians how to speak Russian when it is approved as an official language and when the educational establishments where Russian is taught open in Ukraine. Until then, keep working to ensure that those in Ukraine who speak Russian and think in Russian have an opportunity to do so in accordance with Ukraine’s obligations.
Roman Tsimbalyuk: When will the ships seized in international waters in the Black Sea be returned to Ukraine?
Maria Zakharova: I believe, no, I know, because there is no place for guessing or supposition here, that Russia has sent an official offer regarding this to Kiev. It was sent quite some time ago. And now the ball is in Kiev’s court. The required institutions have been established and the heads of agencies appointed [in Ukraine]. We believe that if this issue is on the agenda, then the Ukrainian side will be able to analyse our proposals and formulate an official response to them. It is not a matter of guessing, but rather of cooperation. The proposals have been made. If the Ukrainian side has different views on this subject, it can tell us about them.
While we are on this subject: My colleagues have been quick to find that quotation, which Roman provided as proof, but it was a misquote. I would like to provide the quotation as it was said, not in the form published by UNIAN. Here it is:
“Zakhar Prilepin: It seems to us here that the Ukrainian army will take advantage of the World Cup to launch an offensive. Can you comment on this situation?
Vladimir Putin: I hope it will not reach the point of such provocations. And if this happens, I think it will have very serious consequences for Ukrainian statehood as a whole. Once again, to emphasise, I expect that nothing like this will happen. It is impossible to intimidate people who live in these areas in Donbass, in the Lugansk People’s Republic, in the Donetsk People’s Republic. We see what is happening there, and see how people are enduring it all. We provide assistance to both unrecognised republics and will continue to do so. But what is happening with these territories in general is certainly sad.”
Where is what you claim he said? How much longer will this go on? How many more fakes will you produce? You have given us yet another example of what you have been engaged in for several years, that is, disinformation. You take a quotation, pick the necessary words from it and place them in the sequence you need to bend public opinion.
Roman Tsimbalyuk: Did he mention any threat to Ukrainian statehood?
Maria Zakharova: Yes, but only in the context of offensive operations.
Roman Tsimbalyuk: And who is conducting offensive operations?
Maria Zakharova: Active offensive operations. The Minsk Package of Measures is focused on the disengagement of equipment and forces. According to the Minsk agreements, it is hostilities that are delivering the blow, including to the territorial integrity and statehood of Ukraine. This is the focal point of that package.
Roman Tsimbalyuk: And now you are engaging in propaganda, Russian propaganda.
Maria Zakharova: First of all, I am not a journalist. Second, I have provided a quotation that you, in a completely unacceptable manner (that is, unacceptable for you as a journalist) used to try to prove your point. But you completely distorted it. I have provided the quotation correctly, as it was said. There is nothing in it about Russia not recognising the statehood or sovereignty of Ukraine. Not a word. In response to a question, it says that an offensive “will have very serious consequences for Ukrainian statehood as a whole.” The message is clear. If you go to war against the people who want peace and peaceful integration and who also want to protect their rights, this action will have its consequences. This is what the Minsk Package is all about. Why are you doing this?
Roman Tsimbalyuk: Do you pray for the heroes of Novorossia in the context of Ukrainian statehood? Russia’s top military and political leaders do.
Maria Zakharova: I have advice for you. I am sorry, but I would like to make an exception in this case. I will answer this question not as the official spokesperson of the Foreign Ministry, for the Church is separated from the State in Russia, and your question concerns a religious matter. Have you ever attended a service in a Russian Orthodox church? Probably not. I mean here in Moscow or elsewhere in Russia? I suggest that you do, for you will be surprised to learn that the clergy pray for peace in Ukraine at every service in Russia (sorry for this lyrical digression, but I know this for sure because I regularly go to church).
Roman Tsimbalyuk: For peace in Ukraine or in Novorossia?
Maria Zakharova: In Ukraine. Now you know.
Question: There have been a lot of publications in the Armenian and Azerbaijani media lately saying that the United States is increasing its financial assistance to Azerbaijan and that this money is intended for counterterrorism efforts. At the same time, the United States has officially confirmed that this funding will help train officers from the relevant units. Naturally, this causes certain concern in Iran and Armenia. Suffice it to recall that Baku often refers to Nagorno Karabakh Armenians as terrorists. How would you comment on the increasing US counterterrorism financial assistance to Azerbaijan?
Maria Zakharova: I believe that every sovereign state has the right to conduct multi-vector interaction and cooperation. This includes defence and military-technical cooperation. All states are concerned with the fight against international terrorism. It is up to sovereign states to expand such interaction and cooperation. At the same time, in the context of your question and in connection with the long-standing, very complicated and unresolved situation between the two countries, Azerbaijan and Armenia, we firmly believe that everything should be done to resolve this complicated and lingering problem, so as not to aggravate it but to facilitate its solution. As you know, Russia responsibly fulfils its obligations on this matter in the OSCE Minsk Group. Nevertheless, I would keep these two aspects separate.
Question: Konstantin Malofeyev and Leonid Reshetnikov have been banned from entering Bulgaria. Is this an attempt to torpedo the nascent improvements in bilateral relations, including the implementation of economic projects that are important for Bulgaria?
Maria Zakharova: I have commented on this matter in great detail today. I stated my firm belief that no provocative actions can damage our productive and dynamically developing relations with Sofia.
Question: Earlier this week, the European Court for Human Rights turned down a request to review the historic decision that Soviet reprisals against the so-called Forest Brothers can be recognised as genocide. The ECHR verdict states that Lithuanian courts have every reason to recognise the struggle of the Soviet authorities against the Forest Brothers as genocide. How would you assess this ECHR decision?
Maria Zakharova: If you don’t mind, I would like to take some time to look into this decision and reply to you later.
Question: Talks between the Taliban and the United States were broken off before the sides were able to reach a final agreement. What does Russia think on this score?
Maria Zakharova: I have commented on this today. We are calling for a resumption of the negotiating process. I can repeat the main idea: We proceed from the need to resume dialogue and talks in the existing formats.
Question: My question is about Kashmir, which is locked down by Indian occupying forces for the last 38 days. No telephone, no Internet, no life, no business, no freedom of speech and even no medicine, food or treatment for women, kids and older people. I think it should be enough for the world to react for the Kashmiri people. What would you say?
Maria Zakharova: We have repeatedly voiced our assessment of the situation in the region. I don’t think there’s any need to provide additional comments on this matter today, despite your detailed question. Our position on this matter has not changed.