Briefing by Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova, Moscow, June 11, 2020
- Update on the coronavirus pandemic
- Russia assists African countries in countering the coronavirus
- New entry/exit rules for the Russian Federation
- Helping Russians return home
- Georgian authorities’ assistance in returning Russian citizens
- Russia Day
- Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to pay a working visit to Russia
- Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s upcoming visit to the Republic of Serbia
- Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s working visit to the Republic of Belarus
- Russia-US dialogue on extending the New START Treaty
- Statements by US leadership on the withdrawal of a part of the US contingent from Germany
- New sanction initiatives by US lawmakers
- Chief military prosecutor of Great Britain refrains from prosecuting military members potentially implicated in war crimes in Iraq
- Leonid Sviridov’s lawsuit against Polish television company TVP1
- RT extends the deadline for submissions for the Khaled Alkhateb International Award
- Independence Day of the Republic of the Philippines
- Events held by Rossotrudnichestvo representative offices to mark Russian Language Day and the anniversary of Alexander Pushkin’s birth
- Hearings on the 2014 Flight MH17 crash resumed
- Romania’s Supreme Council of National Defence position regarding Russia
- Ban on the display of Soviet symbols in Latvia
- Russian musician Denis Kaznacheyev detained and arrested by German police at the request of the United States
- Mounting tensions between Greece and Turkey
- Trilateral video consultations between Russia, the United States and Afghanistan
There are opposite trends in the spread of the coronavirus infection. Relative stabilisation in European figures stands in contrast to the global epidemiological situation where signs of a potential deterioration are recorded. These are primarily data from international organisations. Over 7 million people have been infected. Last week, the average growth rate stood at more than 100,000 people per day.
The disease rate is growing in a number of South and North American countries and in South Asia. These countries account for about 75 percent of new coronavirus cases. The situation is complicated in Central Asia and some countries in central Europe, the Middle East and Africa. According to some foreign analysts, the pandemic could trigger a sharp growth in international instability, violence and domestic conflict, while the economies of many states may sustain heavy damage.
During his regular briefing the other day, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus again urged all states and organisations to consolidate the available potential for effective and resolute countering of this dangerous cross-border infection. He also warned against premature optimism, addressing even those countries that have managed to make real progress in fighting this new challenge and largely localise its negative manifestations and consequences.
In connection with the pandemic, Russia received requests from 29 African states and the African Union to assist in countering the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus. At present, assistance has been given to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (28,000 units of disposable laboratory materials and over 8,000 units of individual protection gear); Djibouti (over 20 multi-purpose medical modules, tents and component parts for two medical clinics), South Africa (50 test system kits) and Guinea (test systems for 6,600 tests). The logistics for delivering medical equipment and materials to Conakry (Guinea) are being worked out with United Company RUSAL and Rospotrebnadzor (Federal Service for Supervision of Consumer Protection and Welfare).
Also, food supplies have been sent to the Comoro Islands (172 tonnes) and Madagascar (about 500 tonnes).
This year, Russia plans to make an additional annual contribution of $10 million to the UN World Food Programme (to be distributed equally between Burundi, Djibouti, Somalia, Sierra Leone and the Central African Republic) and to allocate $10 million to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) fund for fighting a massive locust onslaught in East Africa (to be distributed between Kenya, Uganda and Ethiopia – $3 million each and South Sudan– $1 million).
This work will be continued.
I would like to comment on an issue that many journalists and many other people are asking us about: the new rules for entry into the Russian Federation and the exit of Russians for non-tourism purposes.
Due to the improving epidemiologic conditions in Russia as well as the many requests from individuals and legal entities received by the Government response centre, Government Resolution 1511-r dated June 6, 2020 expands the categories of persons allowed to enter and exit the Russian Federation. General information on the amended resolutions, 635-r and 763-r on the entry/exit procedure, will be published on the Foreign Ministry’s website today.
I would like to update you on our efforts to assist Russian citizens stranded abroad who want to return home. Over the past week, Russian and foreign air carriers have returned over 3,000 people from Tel Aviv, Cairo, Paris, Bishkek, Osh, Bangkok, New York and from Latin America: Mexico, Chile, Argentina, Brazil and Cuba.
The total number of the Russians who have returned home is almost 34,000. That is, those who informed us they wanted to return to Russia since the beginning of April, those who added their names to the list at the Public Services website and who were flown back using the algorithm approved in early April.
I would like to mention the longest flight, as of today, which was a logistical challenge; we consider it a real success. The plane flew from Moscow to Havana – Sao Paolo – Buenos Aires – Santiago – Havana – Moscow. In fact it took four days, with 416 passengers who were stuck in Brazil, Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Bolivia, Paraguay and Cuba. Every person had their own story. The road was especially difficult for the Russian travellers from Bolivia: they spent 40 hours in total on the road, just to get to the capital of Argentina, not counting the time they spent aboard the plane.
This means we have almost completed the return of Russians from the Latin American countries, except one region: Central America (180 people in total). We are looking for the best solution here. Of course, we will keep you informed.
I would like to note that we tried to respond to requests from our friends and partners from other countries, mainly the CIS countries, as generously as possible, allowing them to take these flights.
Today, another long flight is being completed from Cape Town. The plane has already left with 143 passengers, including Russians who went to South Africa from Namibia; it is heading to Morocco. Let me remind you that this is the second flight from South Africa.
Just yesterday we published detailed information for Russians in the countries that had no direct flights to Russia before the pandemic, on the Foreign Ministry’s website and social media accounts. Thanks to the effectiveness of the existing outbound algorithm we managed to agree and even test new logistics plans linking foreign airlines’ regular flights and our “outbound” flights from large transport hubs in Europe and Asia. Now our compatriots, who are in, for example, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and Singapore, have an opportunity to return home using this algorithm. To do this, they need to contact the nearest Russian diplomatic mission, file the necessary information and register for an outbound flight at the Public Services website. Our colleagues at embassies and consulates will help Russians change planes at transit points if necessary, depending on the number of free seats.
This is a very difficult and meticulous task done by hand, considering that the countries we have no direct flights to have their own rules for movement and exit abroad. All of this demands that our diplomats at foreign missions provide assistance 24/7. I would like to repeat that this experience has already proven effective. We have been using it for three weeks now. Again, you can find detailed information on this topic at our website and on social media. It will also be updated on Russian foreign diplomatic mission pages pending flight schedules and developments in the country.
Today we received information that I am especially glad to share. I want to tell you about the successful interaction with Georgia on returning Russian citizens home.
We appreciate Georgian assistance in the evacuation of three Russian citizens – sailors V. Kreitsus, D. Sivokhin and O. Ordin – via a special flight from Nigeria. Their contracts had expired and regular flights between Russia and Nigeria had been terminated, and a Russian evacuation flight from that country was not scheduled.
Our Georgian colleagues agreed to take Russian citizens aboard a June 7 flight from Lagos to Tbilisi, where diplomats from the Russian Interests Section of the Swiss Embassy in Georgia met them and took them to the Russian-Georgian border crossing near Verkhny Lars (Republic of North Ossetia – Alania). The three of them have arrived at their permanent residences.
This helpful interaction was not the only example. Last week we received assistance in returning two of our compatriots, two women, who had received medical treatment in Turkey, through Georgia to Russia. Assistance was also provided in the transit of Russian citizens returning home from Armenia (173 people in total), and in April to reunite a Russian family divided by the coronavirus and the ensuing consequences, as well as in arranging exit for Russians from Georgia.
I will use this opportunity to thank the Georgian Foreign Ministry, the Georgian Interests Section in Moscow and the Swiss Embassy in Tbilisi, which effectively provided for agreement and resolution of numerous organisational issues associated with these Russian citizens’ evacuation.
It is important that we have managed to establish humanitarian interaction despite currently strained Russian-Georgian relations. We are sure that this is the right example of how people should act when they are facing a common problem. It would be good to not wait for the next problem to emerge but to use this approach on a daily basis. We expect that this positive experience will be needed after the coronavirus pandemic as well.
I also want to say that we have helped some Georgian citizens too. Specifically, we had a similar example in Brazil, where Russian and Georgian citizens stranded there needed assistance in returning home. We helped that Georgian family as we would our own citizens. These are wonderful examples we should rely upon; then perhaps we could resolve many issues.
Tomorrow our country will mark its national holiday – Russia Day. It will take place in an unusual epidemiological situation caused by the coronavirus pandemic around the world. By tradition, our diplomatic missions abroad, including embassies, permanent missions and consulates-general, hold state receptions for foreign guests, compatriots and diplomats in honour of Russia Day. Given the quarantine restrictions in place in the majority of countries, as well as the need to protect the health of our people, foreign friends and diplomatic staff, the main events to mark the holiday this year will be held online.
Many diplomatic missions have shown ingenuity in handling the task. Of course, we will give a full account of how the event was marked. Now let me say a few words about our plans. For instance, our Embassy in the Czech Republic has launched an online Photos of Russia initiative; our Embassy in Uzbekistan has offered a quiz covering the latest period in the history of our country; and our Embassy in Latvia has come up with the My Russia photo initiative and is running a children’s drawing competition. The Russian Embassy in Austria has announced preparations for the festival programme to mark Russia Day – Russia in 60 Minutes: A Trip from Kamchatka to Kaliningrad. Our Permanent Mission to the United Nations Office and Other International Organisations in Geneva has launched a series of video blogs featuring our country. Many Russian embassies abroad, in particular, our Embassy in Great Britain, will hold online concerts of some of the best works by Russia’s classical music geniuses that will be given by professional musicians. The Russian Embassy in the United States is preparing to present videos of holiday greetings from Russian NHL players and American holders of Russian state awards.
Throughout June 12, Russian diplomatic missions around the world will post materials dedicated to the holiday on their websites and social media accounts, present various online broadcasts and live stream programmes, put out videos, and open digital exhibitions. In addition, there are plans to hold a series of global, one might say, intercontinental initiatives: taking advantage of modern technologies, our diplomats from various countries and even from different parts of the world – from Tokyo to New York and from Barentsburg to Canberra – will sing the Russian anthem together and will hold a ceremony to virtually relay the Russian flag over thousands of kilometres.
On June 12, despite all the planned events I just mentioned, we will keep working as always to ensure that Russian nationals who want to return home can do so as soon as possible, despite the ongoing lockdown in the world and the absence of international transport logistics. Believe me, this work never stopped. This seems to be the best possible tribute to Russia Day.
Foreign Minister of the Islamic Republic of Iran Mohammad Javad Zarif is expected to visit the Russian Federation on June 16 and meet with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
We will publish more detailed material and information on the upcoming talks on the Foreign Ministry’s website and on our social media accounts a little later, after the logistics are agreed on.
On June 18, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will pay a working visit to the Republic of Serbia. He is expected to meet with President of Serbia Aleksandar Vucic and have talks with First Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Serbia Ivica Dacic.
The meetings are to be used to thoroughly discuss Russian-Serbian political and economic interaction and exchange views on developments in the Balkan region, as well as on current international issues.
I would like to point out that this will be Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s first foreign visit since the restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic.
On June 19, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will pay his traditional working visit to the Republic of Belarus at the invitation of Belarusian Foreign Minister Vladimir Makei.
During the talks, a wide range of bilateral cooperation issues related to implementing the Programme of Coordinated Foreign Policy Actions in 2020-2021 are expected to be discussed.
The ministers will focus on the development of Eurasian integration, cooperation within the EAEU, the CSTO and the CIS, and coordination of approaches at international venues, primarily in the UN and the OSCE. The agenda includes an exchange of views on major global and regional issues, arms control issues, as well as relations with the EU and NATO.
The parties will discuss efforts to control the spread of the coronavirus infection and consider the preparations for a joint meeting of the collegiums of the Russian Foreign Ministry and the Belarusian Foreign Ministry, scheduled for the fourth quarter of this year, and also the schedule for upcoming meetings.
Russia attaches great significance to arms control and is primarily guided by responsibility for the destinies of the world and maintaining stability and security. In the current situation, we consider dialogue with the United States on the extension of the New START Treaty to be extremely important for preventing further destruction of international agreements in this field. The issue of extending the treaty, which is the only remaining bilateral agreement on nuclear arms control today, is becoming increasingly important.
On December 5, 2019, President of Russia Vladimir Putin clearly stated Russia’s readiness to extend the New START Treaty without delay and any preconditions. Also in December an official note with this proposal was sent to our US colleagues. We have not received a direct response from the United States. US officials are trying to link the extension of the treaty with issues that have nothing to do with its subject and content. Thus, they mention including restrictive measures as regards China’s military programmes, something to which Beijing strongly objects. It seems that the United States simply wants to wreck the treaty and at the same time save face and shift the blame to Russia and China.
The importance of Russia-US dialogue on strategic stability and military confidence-building measures was noted during the June 1 telephone conversation of the Russian and US presidents, and relevant instructions were issued. Considering the importance of the treaty, we believe that dialogue on this issue must be stepped up in the near future. As for the level and format of the discussion, they can be determined depending on a number of factors, primarily the US willingness to hold practical negotiations. Needless to say, it will be necessary to take the epidemiological situation into account.
We noted the statement by US President Donald Trump about his intention to reduce the US troop contingent in Germany by one third.
For our part, we would welcome any steps by Washington to reduce its military presence in Europe. Such steps would certainly help ease the confrontation potential and military-political tensions in the Euro-Atlantic region. Let me point out that Moscow has always said that the preservation of a large US troop contingent in Germany after the country’s unification in 1990 is a Cold War relic.
We are convinced that in the current geostrategic realities, all European countries, especially a country as powerful as Germany, are certainly able to ensure their security independently, without the obtrusive patronage of the United States. Moreover, this patronage is not at all selfless. Washington regularly “instructs” its European allies, including Berlin, to increase their contribution to the NATO budget. It does this without much regard for appearances, to put it mildly.
It is important to understand that for the most part, the US announcements regarding its intention to withdraw its troops from other countries remain just declarations. They are not followed by practical steps. Thus, despite the US President’s repeated statements on the final withdrawal from Syria, Pentagon retains its units and bases in violation of international norms and against common sense. It does not bother to explain why.
As for the current US initiative, it causes apprehension, also because it was immediately followed by the invitation to US soldiers in Germany to move to neighbouring Poland. I’d like to emphasise that reconfiguration of the US military presence in Europe will not only escalate the already high tensions in European security but also complicate the prospects of a constructive Russia-NATO dialogue in the military-political sphere. Obviously, many politicians in Warsaw would like to wreck the commitments fixed in the Russia-NATO Founding Act. But this line is unacceptable for us.
In any event, if Washington is really going to withdraw its troops from Germany, it must also take along US non-strategic nuclear weapons that are deployed there. This is particularly important since the Americans continue to actively polish practical methods of their potential use during “joint nuclear missions” with non-nuclear NATO members, which is an obvious violation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. We have repeatedly drawn their attention to this incongruity.
We have received a lot of media requests to comment on the new security strategy report, Strengthening America & Countering Global Threats, unveiled in Washington on June 10. As we understand it, the so-called Republican Study Committee (RSC) – an informal association of conservatives in the House of Representatives, has been working on this lengthy 120-page document for more than a year and a half. The report lists various types of American sanctions – illegal unilateral restrictions on the political, trade, economic and visa spheres, adding that more of those could additionally be introduced against Russia, Iran and China. The implied goal is to force those countries to follow the line of American foreign policy.
In fact, what we see here is some theoretical research, and their list of sanctions in relation to our country is not new. Again, they draw on analogies and cite slogans, invent ways of hitting our energy and financial sectors more painfully and of expanding personal sanctions. One of the new things, perhaps, is the shameless call to “designate Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism.” Now, that is sheer impertinence. We have long been accustomed to such statements uttered by individual representatives of the American political class trying to ride the wave of Russophobia and boost awareness of their own brand, and we have ceased to take them seriously or react. We just characterise these things as what they are, clearly and unambiguously. Today we have done so again.
What is more interesting though, is that these so-called analysts in their report proposed introducing similar, if not more stringent sanctions against China – all the way to actually outlawing China’s Communist Party. That is a true masterpiece of American logic. I would like to remind them that they are talking about a country where the Communist Party plays the leading role, and where transnational businesses have by now relocated entire sectors of American industry and invested trillions of US dollars. This means a significant part of the US economy has been moved to China. They had no problem with the Chinese Communist Party at the time, didn’t they? US business leaders have seen no ideological obstacles to doing business in China for decades, have they? I perfectly remember the time – that was before China’s major modernisation and its current openness to the world – when American businesses felt great there. What could have gone wrong?
Washington must understand that, following such recommendations, the US authorities will definitely not earn extra points for foreign policy. I would say, they will harm themselves, if anything.
We have noted a recent statement by Andrew Cayley, Director of the Service Prosecuting Authority, who said it was “quite possible” there would be “zero” charges brought against British troops facing allegations of war crimes during the military campaign in Iraq adding that all inquiries would be wrapped up “within weeks.”
The statement by such a high-ranking official again clearly demonstrates London's intention to hide, at all costs, the numerous cases of misconduct by British troops in Iraq. Incidentally, we are talking about 3,500 cases, with all the files on the table, and they can be studied. These are the royal armed forces’ shameful pages forever inscribed in that country’s history. All this certainly looks small-minded and cheap.
The story is unfolding amid calls by the UK’s Elder Brother – Washington – to launch global investigations with regard to the WHO and China, that is, accusations against an international organisation and a sovereign state in connection with the pandemic. So why did the UK, which has always followed the US lead on many issues, suddenly decide to curtail – not some far-fetched inquiries – but a concrete investigation into real-life cases where people died? There are numerous facts. A strange trend.
Such behaviour in London warrants strong condemnation from the global human rights community. We will certainly continue to monitor the progress of the investigation into human rights violations by British troops. These are not some new highly likelys – these are facts. It is truly difficult to comprehend why an incomplete investigation has been dropped halfway. I know this is not the kind of story one can sell to tabloids, at least it is not as marketable as many others harped on about in the UK over the past few years, but nonetheless, this is a case of lives being taken away by the British military, and a huge number of other ugly facts they are carefully trying to hide from public opinion – or, at the very least, they are trying to avoid a full-fledged public investigation. But what is really important is the opposite – that crimes committed by the Western coalition in Iraq are exposed and those responsible prosecuted.
High-profile statements are being made on the need to investigate the causes of the pandemic; whole states are being accused, and specific names are being cited – all this is being done within a solid political framework. The campaign in Iraq took place so many years ago. There are documents; many people died, including civilians of a sovereign state. Isn’t it time someone from that very Western coalition was held accountable?
We have taken note that a Polish court has registered a lawsuit file by Rossiya Segodnya journalist Leonid Sviridov against Polish television company TVP1. The journalist decided to file a defamation suit after TVP1, which reported false information according to which Sviridov was suspected of espionage in May 2019, refused to publish a refutation.
I would like to remind you that this unsavoury story with the espionage allegations and Sviridov’s deportation from Poland began back in 2014, when the Polish Foreign Ministry cancelled without any explanation the accreditation of this Russian correspondent, who had worked in Warsaw for over 10 years. Following this, the Polish authorities cancelled his residence permit. The advocates’ numerous requests for reasons for such actions remained unanswered. Moreover, the case material was classified, further limiting the opportunity to understand the motives for the Polish authorities’ actions against Sviridov and whether they had any legal basis. As a result of this, the journalist had no opportunities to protect his interests. In June 2019, the Supreme Administrative Court of Poland upheld the legitimacy of the discriminative actions taken against the defendant. This decision made one wonder about the objectiveness of the Polish judicial system. It is a long and rather nasty story – I am referring to the Polish authorities’ actions against the journalist.
We pointed out more than once that the case of Leonid Sviridov was a glaring example of the Polish authorities’ arbitrariness and direct infringement on the legitimate rights of the journalist and Warsaw’s international commitment to ensure the freedom of the media.
I would like to remind you that several years ago now, when Sviridov was deported from Poland under those circumstances, we took an unprecedented reciprocal action to oust a Polish journalist from Russia. It was not our choice but a reciprocal action.
We will continue to monitor the hearing of Sviridov’s case. Despite a negative background, we still hope for a fair trial.
RT has extended the deadline for the filing of submissions for the annual Khaled Alkhateb International Memorial Awards for Best Journalism from a Conflict Zone until June 30.
Khaled Alkhateb was 25 and working for RT Arabic as a freelance correspondent when he was killed by an ISIS shell in Syria in 2017. He was reporting on the fight waged by the Syrian government forces against terrorists. In 2018, President Putin signed an executive order on the posthumous award of the medal For Courage to the journalist. The medal was presented to his family.
This year the presentation of the Khaled Alkhateb International Award will be held for the third time. The awards are presented in three categories: Best Video Journalism from a Conflict Zone: Long Form and Short Form, and Best Written Journalism from a Conflict Zone.
Last year saw submissions from 25 countries. The awards were presented to journalists from Russia, the United States, Italy and India who reported from conflict zones in Syria, Iraq and Libya. The jury included prominent international and Russian journalists.
The 2019 awards ceremony took place as part of the RT Media Talk titled Covering Conflict: Dimensions, Risks and Responsibilities of Journalism in the Hot Zone. It was attended by leading Russian IT experts plus international and Russian journalists. The participants spoke about the authenticity of video footage recorded in a conflict zone and its verification, as well as other topics.
This year the winners of the Khaled Alkhateb International Award will be announced on the anniversary of his death.
Submissions can be filed via https://award.rt.com/
The Philippines celebrates its Independence Day on June 12, the day when the Republic of the Philippines came about in 1898 in the course of an anti-colonial revolution, which ended more than 300 years of Spanish rule.
However, the declaration of independence did not amount to real freedom from foreign domination. The United States, which helped defeat the Spanish army, refused to recognise the Philippines’ independence. Moreover, it bought the republic from the Spanish crown for $20 million in December 1898 in accordance with the Treaty of Paris. This led to the Philippine-American War of 1899 ̵ 1902, as a result of which the Philippines became a dependent territory of the United States.
The Philippines received the status of autonomy in 1935 together with the right to send one representative to the lower house of the US Congress. It was only in June 1946 that the country became fully independent of the United States as a result of WWII, which included three years of Japanese occupation.
On this day of great significance for the more than 100 million Philippine citizens, we would like to congratulate our friends from the Foreign Ministry of the Philippines, with whom we have developed closed partner ties, and to wish them all the very best and further success in their endeavours.
On June 6, the birthday of the great Russian poet, Alexander Pushkin, Russians all over the world celebrate the Russian Language Day. On this day, Russian centres of culture and science hold conferences, book fairs, reading competitions for compatriots and everyone interested in the Russian language and culture. These events are aimed at promoting the Russian language and evoking interest in it.
One of the key events held on the eve of Pushkin Day, was the opening of Russian language courses at the Russian Centre of Science and Culture in Syria’s capital, Damascus. Eighty people have already began studying there.
In Great Britain, the international literature and music marathon, Let’s Honour Pushkin, was held to perform Pushkin’s poems and romance songs in Russian and other languages.
In Germany, the Reading Pushkin poetry competition was held among the children of Russian compatriots. In the representative office of the Federal Agency for the Commonwealth of Independent States, Compatriots Living Abroad, and International Humanitarian Cooperation (Rossotrudnichestvo) in Helsinki a play based on The Tale of Tsar Saltan was staged by parents and children, many of whom are only beginning to learn Russian.
As part of the Russian Language Day celebrations this year, the International Virtual Poetic Bridge was held, which brought together lovers of Russian poetry and poets from Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, Denmark and Finland, all of them united by the common language and literature.
In the United States, actor Peter Berg read a fragment from the poem Ruslan and Lyudmila during an online event dedicated to Pushkin.
The Rossotrudnichestvo representative office in Kazakhstan, the Kazakh National University of Arts and the St Petersburg House of Music with the support from the Russian Embassy staged an online concert, Tchaikovsky and Pushkin: All-Time Geniuses, with the participation of the faculty and students of the MSU’s Kazakhstan branch and members of the Tengri literature club.
In Paris, the Russian Centre of Science and Culture presented a packed event programme for the Russian Language Day celebrations.
Given the current epidemiological situation, all of these events were held online and received a large number of views and positive comments on social networks.
Question: Court hearings on the Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 crash in Ukraine in 2014 have resumed in The Hague. Media outlets are quoting new statements made by the prosecution. How could you comment on them?
Maria Zakharova: First of all, I would like to recall our principled approach. The Russian Federation is not a party to the criminal trial now underway at the District Court of The Hague. Three Russian citizens, Igor Strelkov, Sergey Dubinsky and Oleg Pulatov, are facing charges. We are therefore following the trial, including compliance with their legitimate rights. As we know, there are lawyers representing the interests of one of the defendants.
So far, to the best of our knowledge, preliminary hearings are underway. The parties are presenting their positions as regards their readiness to examine the merits of the case. The Dutch Public Prosecution Service should display the results of the investigation of the circumstances of the tragedy, being conducted by the Joint Investigation Team. It appears that the prosecution is trying to make an impression on the court and is firing away quite controversial details of its work. The media immediately pick up sensational statements about “successes” by the Public Prosecution Service; they work as a team and broadcast court hearings live. On the whole, we can see nothing new. It appears that the investigators care more about the propaganda effect of protracted speeches, rather than the validity of the evidence collected.
I would like to note once again that Russia is not a party to the trial, and I will therefore refrain from making any detailed comments on the prosecutors’ statements concerning evidence that they plan to submit. I believe that this is up to the lawyers.
We have repeatedly discussed our perception of the quality of the current criminal investigation and the completed earlier technical investigation, and it would now be pointless to repeat what we have already said. Our approach has not changed.
I will only share some observations. For example, Dutch prosecutor Thijs Berger has recently noted that the type of the missile that hit Flight 17 had been established. This conclusion was made by noting that only two out of 370 fragments that had been recovered bear a distant similarity to the I-beam shape of the missile warhead fragments. However, the material of the Dutch technical investigation openly say that such fragments account for just 25 percent of their total number. Consequently, there should be about 100 fragments. By the way, not a single I-beam-shaped hole was found on the aircraft's fuselage, and the fragments themselves were recovered under dubious circumstances.
And, finally, two years later, the prosecution did recall material submitted by Russia and proving the Ukrainian origin of a missile that, according to the Joint Investigation Team, hit Flight 17. Nevertheless, the prosecutors are making groundless claims that the Russian evidence had been tampered with and doctored. This is yet another lie. They were invited to Russia in order to make sure that the files are authentic. However, the investigators quickly lost interest in this subject, did not voice their desire to visit Russia and did not send any additional inquiries. It goes without saying that the Ukrainian files contained no information concerning the missile’s location after the breakup of the Soviet Union. Don’t the investigators themselves find this strange?
During their speeches, the Dutch prosecutors claimed that the Armed Forces of Ukraine did not operate in the disaster area on the day of the crash. This was done to absolve Ukraine of any suspicions. However, the entire world knows the video footage showing Ukrainian officials posing in front of operational Buk surface-to-air missiles deployed in the so-called Counter-Terrorist Operation Zone. Prosecutors themselves note directly that Buk SAMs of the Armed Forces of Ukraine were located around and in direct proximity to the disaster area.
All this is taking place among claims that it is Russia which is not playing it fair and is trying to lead investigators into a blind alley. And don’t the investigators themselves who are obviously becoming confused want to ask Ukraine any questions about the numerous discrepancies? They are also overlooking Kiev’s responsibility over its failure to close national airspace in the war zone. We have also repeatedly noted this. And, of course, it is no good that the court examined evidence from the Security Service of Ukraine, an obviously interested party, regarding a number of episodes.
It would now be better to allow the judges themselves to assess the conclusions of the investigators. This is not the right time for anticipating the court’s decision.
Question: A few days ago now, the Supreme Council of National Defence of Romania approved the country’s new draft national defence strategy for 2020-2024 that mentions Russia among ‘threats.’ The document says that the buildup of Russian military potential close to Romania, including on its eastern flank, i.e. on the border with NATO, poses serious challenges for strategic national interests, the security of the EU and NATO borders and energy security and stability in the Black Sea region. What would be your comments regarding this assessment from the Romanian side?
Maria Zakharova: Indeed, the new draft of the National Defence Strategy for 2020-2024 approved by Romania’s Supreme Council of National Defence categorises Russia with ‘threats’ along with terrorism, hybrid and cyber threats. According to the document, the deterioration of relations between our country and NATO is a ‘challenge’ to the country’s national security, as well as a threat to other EU states and the North Atlantic Alliance in the Black Sea region.
It might have been important to note who caused the deterioration in relations, so that the blame would not be put on our country, but on those who actually contributed to making this situation.
Mentioning Russia among the sources of global problems is nothing new. Unfortunately, this dubious trick is often used in the West to blame others for their own flaws and blunders. Bucharest plagiarising this method just confirms the lack of independent thinking among Romanian politicians and their willingness to serve other people’s confrontational ideas regarding Russia even at the cost of their own interests, which, inter alia, arise from Romania and Russia both being part of the Black Sea region.
Obviously, the new version of Romania’s strategy will be used to intensify the buildup of the US and NATO military presence in the Black Sea. This way Bucharest, instead of acting, as it claims, as a provider of stability, is contributing to the further growth of tensions and distrust in the region.
Question: Latvia has prohibited the use of either realistic or stylised versions of Soviet symbols, emblems, or anthems, along with state symbols of Nazi Germany during public events. How is the Russian Foreign Ministry acting in this regard in its protocol interaction with Latvia?
Maria Zakharova: Latvian parliamentarians continue to mock the sacred memory of veterans who fought against the Nazi threat during the WWII. In addition to the already approved ban on wearing Soviet symbols and military uniforms (we have given a detailed comment on that), they have now begun to consider a legislative amendment banning the use of St George ribbons during public events.
The St George ribbon is a symbol of courage and military prowess in the victory over Nazism, not only for WWII veterans, but also for most countries, where it is associated with the image of a liberator soldier.
You should ask the war veterans or anyone who defended the world from Nazism, not based on the political situation, but based on their own ideas of truth, honour and dignity. And now, being in advanced years, and in the year of the anniversary of the Great Victory, they are wearing those ribbons with honour and pride. Instead of listening to politicians and commentators, just ask them. They will tell you what stands behind the history of the St George ribbon, its significance and value. In fact, it has no value, because it is priceless.
We strongly condemn the criminal policy pursued by Latvian radical politicians to settle historical accounts with Russia – in fact, with the historical memory of entire generations.
Question: How could you comment on the detention and arrest of Russian musician Denis Kaznacheyev by the German police at the request of the United States?
Maria Zakharova: We are carefully monitoring the situation around the detention and arrest of Russian citizen Denis Kaznacheyev by the German authorities, at the request of the US Department of Justice.
According to the information that is available, he is currently being held in Berlin’s Moabit Prison detention centre. As of June 10, 2020, we have received no requests from the Russian citizen or his lawyers for visits to be made by our diplomats or provision of consular legal assistance. I emphasise that I am citing information as of June 10, so there may be updates from our Embassy as of today. We will promptly inform everyone. The Russian Embassy in Berlin and the Russian Foreign Ministry are certainly ready to provide him with the necessary consular support if he indicates that he is interested in such help.
We note that the Tiergarten District Court notification of Kaznacheyev’s detention that the Senate of Berlin sent to the Russian Embassy according to the standard procedure contains no specific information about the circumstances of his case.
We consider Kaznacheyev’s possible extradition to the United States unacceptable and will take decisive steps to prevent this scenario. If the German authorities have good reason to assume that this citizen was involved in any activities violating the legislation, the relevant legal procedures in relation to him should be carried out in Germany, also with the involvement of Russian law enforcement agencies.
We presume that Berlin will show common sense rather than just follow the lead of Washington, which has systematically used extraterritorial interpretation of legal norms to prosecute Russian citizens around the world for a few years now (we have qualified this as a “witchhunt for Russian citizens”) under fictitious charges, as a rule, having nothing to do with justice. So far, we are drawing conclusions solely from the documents received from the German side. As soon as the Russian citizen or his lawyer shows any interest in our help, it will be provided – first of all, consular legal support.
Question: Tension between Greece and Turkey has been flaring up of late due to Ankara’s decision to begin offshore geological exploration near the Greek island of Crete and inside the Greek exclusive economic zone. According to the Turkish side, neither small nor large islands influence the maritime borders, nor do they have continental shelves. Representatives of American diplomacy told Greek media that the islands do have a legal influence on the delineation of maritime zones. What is the position of Russian diplomacy on this issue and on the current situation in the region? As you are aware, Turkey continues to send troops and weapons to Libya. How does this fit in with the embargo announced by the UN Security Council? Is Moscow interested in playing an intermediary role between Greece and Turkey as one of the most important players with growing authority in the region?
Maria Zakharova: We continue to closely monitor the developments in the Eastern Mediterranean and have repeatedly publicly voiced our position on this score. We insist on resolving all disagreements exclusively through negotiations within the framework of international law. We also count on the political prudence of our partners. We believe a deliberate exacerbation of the already complicated developments in the region will aggravate the security situation and make it difficult to find political solutions to regional conflicts.
We urge all the parties involved to make efforts to strengthen their confidence building and neighbourly relations, looking to universally recognised international standards as a benchmark – including resolutions of the UN, a good universal platform for a peaceful and effective resolution of any arising disagreements. Our assessment of the situation in Libya is laid out in detail on the Foreign Ministry website.
Question: Special Presidential Representative for Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov has proposed holding trilateral video consultations between Russia, the US and Afghanistan. Will representatives of the Government of Afghanistan and the Taliban be present? Are there plans for Afghanistan’s neighbours, Pakistan, Iran, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, to take part in the next Moscow-format consultations on Afghanistan? What are the goals and objectives of the parties to the Afghan peace process?
Maria Zakharova: The trilateral video consultations scheduled for June 15 in the Russia-US-Afghanistan format have been proposed by acting Afghan Foreign Minister Haneef Atmar. He will represent the Afghan side at the consultations. Taliban representatives are not expected to be present.
If the next meeting of the Moscow-format consultations on Afghanistan is convened, invitations will be sent out to all the participating countries, including Pakistan, Iran, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.
The main goal of the Afghan peace process is to end the war and achieve a long-term solution to the situation in that country. It is to be accomplished through direct intra-Afghan negotiations where the warring parties will have to work out a roadmap for the future statehood structure and the integration of the Taliban into peaceful life.