Briefing by Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova, Moscow, May 8, 2020
- Coronavirus update
- Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's participation in the CIS Foreign Ministers Council meeting
- Videoconference meeting of the SCO Council of Ministers of Foreign Affairs
- Foreign Ministry archive materials on the 75th anniversary of Victory in the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945
- Article by German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas and Director of the Institute of Contemporary History Andreas Wirsching for Der Spiegel magazine
- Update on Syria
- The Advisory Opinion of the Office of the Procurator General of the Supreme Court of the Netherlands regarding the repatriation of women and children from “Syrian Kurdistan”
- ISIS terrorist attack in Mozambique
- Celebrations of the 60th anniversary of restoring diplomatic relations between Russia and Cuba
The spread of the novel coronavirus infection remains a difficult challenge. While the number of cases is still growing (and approaching four million), there is a positive trend in recoveries (1.3 million) and deaths. The US still has the highest number of cases (over 1.3 million). The spread of the coronavirus in Central and South America as well as in Africa is alarming.
At the same time, glimmers of real breakthroughs can be observed in some European countries which were only just recently in the grips of rapidly growing pandemics, thanks to quarantines and other restrictive measures. Some countries – not only in Europe, but also in Latin America and Asia – have already begun lifting public health restrictions and are taking step to end the quarantine.
We have always supported the WHO’s coordinating role in countering the pandemic and share its opinion that, despite the socioeconomic impact of restrictions imposed around the world, the hurry to lift them may result in new losses.
Measures are still being taken to return Russians from various regions of the world. The schedule of flights is coordinated based on developments in specific countries and Russian regions’ ability to receive passengers while enforcing public health codes.
Aid is being provided under Russian Government Resolution 433 dated April 3, 2020 (on providing social support (aid) to Russians in foreign countries who cannot return to the Russian Federation due to the spread of the coronavirus infection). A total of one billion roubles has been allocated for this. Payments have been made to almost 15,000 people. At the same time, we can see that there are occasional problems with payments. We have listed the reasons: mistakes when filling out and submitting or resubmitting forms on the government services website, so that it took longer to examine the applications. Another problem is technological, related to monetary transactions among other things. There are other problems as well, which we hope to fix quickly; we are focusing on them.
On May 12, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will take part in a regular meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers of the Commonwealth of Independent States, which will be held via videoconference for the first time.
The meeting participants will exchange views on current topics on the international and regional agendas, and discuss issues of cooperation between the foreign ministries in addressing tasks associated with fighting the coronavirus infection. They will focus on the 75th anniversary of Victory in the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945, including attempts to falsify history, glorify Nazi criminals and wage a war on monuments.
The participants intend to take several decisions aimed at strengthening cooperation in law enforcement, culture, and other fields.
The foreign ministers will sum up the results of implementing the plan of multilevel consultations between the CIS foreign ministries in 2019 and will adopt a similar plan for this year.
Following the meeting, several documents will be submitted for the approval of the CIS Heads of Government Council (on May 29, 2020) and the CIS Heads of State Council (on October 16, 2020).
On May 13, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will chair a videoconference meeting of the Council of Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation.
The participants will discuss current regional and global issues, with a focus on promoting cooperation within the SCO amid the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) infection, and also the forthcoming 75th anniversary of Victory in WWII and the 75th anniversary of the UN.
They will also discuss preparations for the SCO Summit in St Petersburg and other events to be held during Russia's SCO Presidency.
At our previous briefing we spoke in detail about the events scheduled by Russia’s Foreign Ministry and our diplomatic missions abroad. Unfortunately, most of them will be held in an online format. Nevertheless, quite a bit of work is underway. This format will not and cannot be an obstacle or an impediment to remembering those events and relating them to today’s reality.
The Russian Foreign Ministry and the Federal Archive Agency are preparing the largest digital collection of documents on the Great Patriotic War and World War II.
The exhibition “Stalin-Churchill-Roosevelt: Joint Battle with Nazism” is confirmation of how greatly the Soviet Union appreciated cooperation with the leading powers of the anti-Hitler coalition. A similarly-named internet project was launched on April 27.
Materials on the liberation of Europe from Nazism from the ministry’s archives have been presented in an exhibition at the State Central Museum of Contemporary Russian History. The name of the exhibition is The Road to Victory: Evidence from Historical Sources. This exhibition was translated into 11 languages to be shown abroad.
Documents from the Great Patriotic War were included in the album, On the Diplomatic Front. It is being published in time for the 75th anniversary of Victory. Press release on this was published on the ministry’s website yesterday.
The Russian Foreign Ministry archive was the source for several unique documents in the exhibition and for the corresponding internet project, 1939: The Beginning of World War II. Authentic archival documents, newsreels, photos and museum pieces, 300 in all, narrate the events which led to this massive global conflict and help viewers understand the reasons for the failure to create a broad anti-Hitler coalition together with the USSR as well as the logic of Soviet leaders in the international context of the times.
The Russian Foreign Ministry also participated in the long-term historical documentary project, In the Headquarters of Victory, which has been ongoing since 2015. The exhibits were on display at the Small Manege Exhibition Hall.
Materials from our archives that show Soviet foreign policy and diplomacy during the Great Patriotic War and World War II are also presented in themed collections on our official website and the websites of Russian missions abroad.
The project, The USSR and the Allies, has enduring value as it provides free access to 4,000 archived files totalling 370,000 pages of unique documents. This project is becoming part of the presidential documentary project on the history of World War II.
Pursuant to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s instruction, a massive project is underway on compiling a comprehensive digital collection (database) of information resources on the Second World War. This is an unparalleled project in the world. The coordination group for this project includes the Federal Archive Agency’s top officials as well as the heads of the history and archive services at the Presidential Executive Office, defence, security and law enforcement agencies and the Foreign Ministry of Russia.
To mark the 75th anniversary of Victory, our site has published a series of themed document sets under this category on the major diplomatic events of the war years. It opens with materials on the Yalta Conference and the diplomatic side of the liberation of Central and Eastern Europe by the Red Army. Materials on the end of the war in Europe, the Potsdam Conference, the creation of the UN and the USSR’s contribution to the defeat of Japanese militarism are to be posted shortly.
Let me note that these types of documentary exhibits, in the digital format, are playing a bigger part in world archive practice. The Russian Foreign Ministry is in the mainstream of the general trends in this respect, especially in view of the current situation. The majority of these projects are available in Russian and English, which greatly expands the number of users.
So, even in these times of quarantine and self-isolation, we offer an opportunity for those who are interested in history to get an unbiased view of past events based on authentic archival documents, from the comfort of home.
The other day, the Pentagon published a post on the history of World War II, entitled “Victory in Europe Day: Time of Celebration, Reflection”.
According to this new version of history from the US Department of Defense, the “conflict” began when “Germany and the Soviet Union invaded Poland.” That is, according to the American side, the USSR is just as guilty of unleashing the Second World War as the Third Reich. At the same time, it says nothing about how it was our country that broke the back of the fascist military machine and that the largest number of Nazis were killed on the Eastern Front. But it does say that less than a year after the landing of the United States and its allies in Normandy, the war ended. Apparently, nothing much happened in the previous years. The “Second Front” in Normandy was opened when the Americans realised that the Third Reich was losing the war, and they hastened to land in order to prevent the USSR from spreading its influence throughout Europe after the war was won.
And here is the view of German officials on these events, the 75th anniversary of which we are celebrating this year.
Foreign Minister of Germany Heiko Maas and Director of the Institute of Contemporary History Andreas Wirsching wrote the following in an article for Der Spiegel magazine: “Only Germany is responsible for World War II and the Holocaust. Those who sow doubts about this and foist the role of criminal on other nations commit an injustice towards the victims of this war.”
This probably says it better than any additional definitions, explanations and comments could. These words put on exclamation point on our efforts to clarify something to our Western partners. Many of them, even on such days and dates that are special for all humankind, do not stop searching for ways to distort history and, in pursuit of current political aims, level accusations at our country that are monstrous in their falsehood and hypocrisy.
In general, the situation in Syria remains stable. In Idlib, the Russian and Turkish militaries continue efforts to implement the March 5 additional protocol, with a focus on unblocking the M-4 highway and creating a “security corridor” adjacent to it. The scheduled, ninth, joint patrolling of part of the road took place on May 7. We note Ankara’s efforts to resist the provocations staged by the radicals and their attempts to destabilise the situation in the de-escalation zone. We believe that, in the long run, sustainable security can only be achieved in Idlib after separating “the moderate opposition” from the terrorists, the latter of which must be neutralised.
The situation remains complicated in the south of Syria, in the 55 km area around Al Tanf, which is illegally occupied by the United States. Rukban, an IDP camp, is located in this zone. According to incoming reports, the sanitary-epidemiological situation continues to degrade there. After the closing of the Syria-Jordan border as part of measures to counter the spread of the coronavirus infection, the refugees lost any opportunity to receive qualified medical aid. Meanwhile, UN humanitarian agencies are failing to find alternative channels for providing medical aid, for lack of security guarantees. Militants from illegal armed units, in this US occupied zone, are attacking the convoys and stealing humanitarian cargo. Moreover, they are destroying efforts to create proper conditions for medical personnel in the camp. They are also blocking refugees from leaving Rukban, having basically turned them into hostages. All this is taking place with the knowledge of the US that bears full responsibility for the civilians in the controlled territories as the occupying power.
For our part, we continue to provide humanitarian aid to all the Syrians who need it without discrimination or preconditions. A total of 850 tonnes of food were recently delivered to the port of Tartus. It will be distributed throughout the entire territory of Syria. In addition, Russian specialists continue mine lifting and are providing medical assistance.
The Syrian authorities continue helping refugees that want to return home during the pandemic. Thus, the Syrian Foreign Ministry announced its decision to cancel the deadlines for the submission of applications from citizens who want to return home but cannot do it due to the suspension of international transit.
We are compelled to comment on the advisory opinion provided by the Office of the Procurator General of the Supreme Court of the Netherlands regarding the repatriation of women and children from “Syrian Kurdistan.” There are 23 women with Dutch citizenship that moved to Syria and Iraq (which were controlled by ISIS at the time) and who are now being kept along with their children in “Syrian Kurdistan” (56 people in all). This document indicates that the Office of the Procurator General has stated expressly that the Netherlands is under no obligation to repatriate its citizens to their homeland. This advisory opinion is perfectly clear.
We believe that Dutch law-enforcement bodies are obligated to at least check on the potential involvement of these people in terrorist activities. If their involvement is confirmed the Netherlands would have to follow the universally recognised principle of international law, “either extradite or try them,” something that is fixed in UN Security Council resolutions 1566 and 1624. They should either repatriate these people for a trial in their national court or hand them over to official Syrian justice. If their involvement cannot be established (which is likely for the children), the Netherlands that positions itself as a responsible state and a model of observing human rights and the principles of the supremacy of law and justice, should help its citizens return home rather than reject them under the cover of pseudo-legal casuistry.
Last month, ISIS terrorists massacred over 50 locals in Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado province after young people there refused to join the ranks of terrorist fighters. This act of terror, since this is how is must be described, induced the country’s authorities to acknowledge for the very first time the presence of ISIS on its territory.
In keeping with its obligations arising inter alia from corresponding UN Security Council counter-terrorism resolutions, the Russian Federation strongly condemns the terrorists’ barbarous acts that cannot be justified.
It was striking that the Western media failed to provide any extensive coverage of the terrorist attack, as was the case when it came to most other attacks of this kind in Africa, and unlike attacks in Western Europe that attracted a lot of media attention. It is not really clear what caused them to make this exception.
As far as Russia is concerned, we strongly believe that the value of human life does not depend on geography, while victims of any terrorist attack must be mourned regardless of the part of the world, where the attack takes place. We believe that any outrage of this kind must unite all countries around the world in their efforts to completely eliminate the global terrorist threat.
Today we mark the 60th anniversary of restoring diplomatic relations with the Republic of Cuba, our strategic partner.
Russia and Cuba are linked by historical ties of friendship, mutual sympathy, respect, solidarity and support, as well as productive cooperation. We have come a long way together. The Russian consulate opened in Havana, then the capital of a Spanish colony, in 1829. After the Republic of Cuba won independence in 1898, it opened a diplomatic mission in St Petersburg in 1902.
It is symbolic to note that on the eve of the 75th anniversary of the Great Victory that the Soviet Union and Cuba established their relations in October 1942 against the backdrop of a powerful anti-fascist movement on the island, where more than 100 committees were formed to support the USSR. In addition, immortal heroes who sacrificed their lives to save our civilization from fascism included Cubans who fought in the Red Army: Aldo Vivo Laurent died on the Neva Bridgehead, his brother, Jorge Vivo Laurent joined a guerrilla regiment near Leningrad, and Enrique Vilar Figueredo fell in combat during the liberation of Poland.
Today, Russia and Cuba are proactively expanding their strategic partnership. Our countries maintain an intensive and meaningful political dialogue, undertake major joint projects in trade and the economy, science and technology, as well as cultural and humanitarian spheres.
We note the comradely and allied cooperation between our countries on the international arena, underpinned by a near-complete convergence of positions on the overwhelming majority of key international matters. Moscow and Havana share a strong commitment to the principles of international law enshrined in the UN Charter, the respect for sovereignty and non-interference in domestic affairs. Together, we stand up against any attempts to distort history and the desire of some countries to erase from memory the role of the USSR in defeating Nazism and consign to oblivion the sacrifice and heroic deeds of the Red Army and millions of Soviet people in the fight for liberation.
Russia has showed unwavering solidarity with the people of Cuba in fighting for the immediate and unconditional lifting of the almost 60-year-long economic, trade and financial embargo imposed by the US against Cuba.
We have every reason to believe that Russia-Cuba relations have a bright future. We will persist in our efforts to defend to the fullest extent the sovereignty and independence of our countries and peoples, as well as their right to provide for their security and determine their own destiny. To do so, we have all the means and resources we need, along with a conviction that our cause is right.
Question: The Armenian Foreign Ministry, when commenting on admitting Russian experts to biological laboratories in the republic, said that the Armenian side has repeatedly stated that the laboratories only employ Armenian nationals and the presence of foreign experts there is out of the question. How can the Russian Foreign Ministry comment on this statement? Is Russia ready to support China’s urge to close American biological labs in former USSR countries?
Maria Zakharova: We keep working with Yerevan on the project of a bilateral intergovernmental memorandum of understanding on providing biological security. We are confident that the signing of such a document and its implementation will facilitate the development of cooperation in providing the sanitary and epidemiological wellbeing of people not only between our countries, but also within the entire post-Soviet space.
In accordance with the established practice, the details of agreements that have not been finalised yet, especially on such sensitive matters as biological security, are not subject to disclosure in the public space. We hope for the soonest completion of the talks on the memorandum.