Briefing by Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova, Moscow, January 21, 2021
- Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s meeting with a united delegation of Syrian opposition representatives
- Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s meeting with Acting Foreign Minister of the Republic of South Ossetia Dmitry Medoyev
- Foreign Minister of Sweden Ann Linde’s visit to Russia
- Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates of Jordan Ayman Safadi’s visit to Russia
- Entry into force of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons
- Developments around the Open Skies Treaty
- Appointment of Jan Kubis as Special Envoy of the UN Secretary-General on Libya
- EU sanctions against Syrian Minister of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates Faisal Mekdad
- New US sanctions
- Communications problems at the Russian Consulate General in New York
- Report by the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence
- Presentation of prize for democratic values to Norwegian organisations engaged in cybersecurity
- Alleged cyberattack of “Russian hackers” on state agencies and private companies in Denmark
- Ukraine toughens discrimination against Russian and other languages
- A new edition of Hitler’s Mein Kampf to be released in Poland
- The arrest of Russian bloggers in South Sudan
- International cooperation on combatting coronavirus
- Russian Ambassador to Zambia Alexander Boldyrev passed away
- Authorities’ actions with regard to the Yves Rocher case against Alexey Navalny
- Article by Igor Ivanov on the importance of taking steps between Russia and the United States on a number of topical matters
Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will receive a delegation of prominent Syrian opposition representatives today, part of the Moscow and Cairo platforms: Qadri Jamil, Khaled al-Mahamid, Jamal Suleiman and Muhammed Dlikan.
Mr Lavrov’s meeting with a joint delegation of the patriotic opposition is aimed at encouraging constructive inter-Syrian dialogue with a view to promoting political settlement in Syria in line with UN Security Council Resolution 2254 and facilitating the involvement of all Syrian public and political forces in the concerted efforts on a post-conflict national recovery.
In addition, the Foreign Ministry has also scheduled consultations between the Syrian delegates and supervising Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov.
I would also like to remind you of events we announced previously. On January 22, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will meet with Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Hungary Peter Szijjarto.
On January 26, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will hold talks with Foreign Minister of the Islamic Republic of Iran Mohammad Javad Zarif.
On January 25, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is expected to meet with Acting Foreign Minister of the Republic of South Ossetia Dmitry Medoyev. The officials are to exchange views on key bilateral issues and foreign policy coordination in the international arena.
Russia and South Ossetia maintain friendly relations based on alliance and integration. They rely on a firm contractual foundation and are immune to opportunistic considerations. In accordance with the policy approved by the President of the Russian Federation, Russia is actively helping South Ossetia develop a modern democratic state, enhance its international status, and ensure reliable security and socio-economic recovery in the country. The republic is given comprehensive aid in countering the new coronavirus infection and resolving other urgent tasks in different areas of cooperation.
The two countries maintain an intensive top-level dialogue. In 2020, President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin and President of South Ossetia Anatoly Bibilov met in Moscow on two occasions – March 13 and June 24 on the sidelines of the ceremonies devoted to the 75th anniversary of the Great Victory.
They have developed vigorous cooperation in the Russia - South Ossetia Intergovernmental Commission on Socioeconomic Cooperation. The Investment Programme for Promoting South Ossetian Socioeconomic Development in 2020-2022 is being carried out. Russia and South Ossetia maintain regular contact between their foreign ministries and other relevant ministries and departments.
On February 2, Moscow will host talks between Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Foreign Minister of Sweden Ann Linde who will be in Russia on a visit as OSCE Chairperson-in-Office.
The ministers of Russia and Sweden will discuss a wide range of issues related to the OSCE’s activities as well as developments in security in the Baltic Sea area and Northern Europe, cooperation in the Arctic, and current topics related to bilateral relations.
On February 2-3, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates Ayman Safadi of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan will be in Moscow on a working visit. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will hold talks with him on February 3.
The ministers will have an in-depth discussion on topical aspects of the international and regional agenda with an emphasis on the development trends in and around Syria. They are also expected to have a detailed discussion on the promotion of the Middle East settlement process as well as developments in Iran. Of course, they will also talk about further strengthening bilateral cooperation in various spheres.
We note that Russian-Jordanian political dialogue is carried out on a regular basis and is characterised by a high degree of trust with Moscow and Amman having close or similar approaches to many key problems today.
The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) will enter into force on January 22. The Russian approach to this treaty has been expressed repeatedly at the relevant multilateral venues and is well known. It will remain the same after the treaty becomes valid.
Let me emphasise once again that we respect the views of those who want to renounce nuclear weapons as soon as possible. However, we do not share these positions on reaching this goal, which envision an artificial acceleration of nuclear disarmament. This is why we consider the TPNW a mistake. This treaty is unable to contribute to the limitation and reduction of nuclear arms. It obviously provokes discord in the international community. The treaty was drafted without considering the fundamental principles underlying the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty or existing strategic realities. Nor does it consider in any way the key problems that must be resolved to achieve sustainable nuclear disarmament on a global scale.
The treaty will not be binding on Russia or on other countries that will not sign or ratify it. We do not think that it establishes universal standards or norms or facilitates the development of common international law.
We are firmly convinced that real progress in nuclear disarmament can only be ensured through consensus solutions. It must be accompanied by the consolidation of international security and stability and enhancing the security of all states without exception. The treaty clearly fails to meet these criteria.
Following our statement on January 15, I would like to elaborate on our explanation of the Treaty on Open Skies.
The United States and its allies are fully responsible for abolishing the Open Skies Treaty. It is the US’s withdrawal from the treaty that has drastically changed its format and upset the balance of interests of its participants.
US participation was a major condition for ratifying the treaty by the Russian Parliament in 2001: in effect, Russia and the NATO countries agreed to monitor each other’s territories. Unfortunately, Washington and Brussels are very reticent about the fact that after November 22, 2020, the NATO countries maintained the opportunity to observe Russia’s entire territory whereas US territory was closed to monitoring by Russia.
However, even under these destructive conditions, we did all we could to save it. We offered the Western participants the chance to fulfil at least the minimal requirements: deny the US the information obtained during observation flights over Russian territory and let Russia monitor their entire territory, including US military facilities deployed there.
In effect, our proposals were dismissed. In doing this the Western countries scrapped forever the once vital measure of transparency and mutual trust in the Euro-Atlantic space from Vancouver to Vladivostok.
Considering its national security interests, Moscow has decided to start national procedures on a withdrawal from the Open Skies Treaty. The depositories will be notified about them in accordance with the treaty provisions.
As you know, Jan Kubis has been appointed as the Special Envoy of the UN Secretary-General on Libya. We congratulate Jan Kubis on his appointment as Special Envoy of the UN Secretary-General on Libya. We are confident that his extensive diplomatic experience will make a significant contribution to advancing the Libyan settlement and establishing an inclusive and sustainable political process involving all influential forces in the country. The UN has a special role to play here as an honest and impartial mediator committed to Libya’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity.
We look forward to working closely with Mr Kubis to facilitate the success of his challenging yet noble mission.
I have to once again bring up the topic of the misguided Western practice of unilateral sanctions against countries regarded as objectionable. Unfortunately, this practice is being applied ever more widely and could erode international law and undermine the domain of the UN Security Council. This is probably the goal of those who are advocating a new “rules-based international order.”
The issue concerns Syria this time. The unilateral sanctions pressure stepped up by Washington and Brussels, including the notorious Caesar Act and many others, is having an extremely negative impact on the situation in that long-suffering country.
The UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Syria Geir Pedersen, who addressed the January 20 meeting of the UN Security Council, painted a grim picture of the current situation and the suffering of Syrian people. He addressed those whose activities and decisions are complicating the situation in Syria and making life worse for Syrian civilians.
Taking into account the factor of the coronavirus pandemic, such illegal unilateral Western sanctions seriously exacerbated the socioeconomic crisis in Syria last year.
Syrians are unable to deal with such challenges alone; they badly need the support of the international community. What should be done to help the Syrians? The first obvious step should be to stop making their lives even more difficult. Instead of this, we see mounting political pressure on Damascus and ongoing attempts to strangle the Syrian economy. The deliberate application of sanctions is hindering a political settlement, the economic revival and the return of refugees. It is primarily peaceful civilians who are suffering as a result of the sanctions. No earnest attempts have been made by the West to ease the sanctions pressure even amid the pandemic in Syria and despite the calls of the international community. The so-called humanitarian exemptions, which have been bombastically announced by the European Commission turned out to be ineffective and all but useless. Instead of encouraging EU operators to maintain business ties with representatives of the sanctioned states, primarily in the humanitarian and health spheres, they are aimed at discouraging cooperation through numerous bureaucratic obstacles and restrictions.
The recent decision to impose EU targeted restrictive measures on the new Minister of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates of the Syrian Arab Republic, Faisal Mekdad, for participating or enabling “the Syrian regime’s violent repression” against the civilian population is a link in the chain of actions that are hindering normalisation in Syria and around it. In fact, it is a pointed refusal to hold talks with the Syrian Government. Can this be described as EU assistance to a Syrian settlement? The answer is obvious.
Faisal Mekdad is a career diplomat. This is known not only to us. He is also well known in the West because he has worked for years at the Permanent Mission of Syria to the UN in New York, including as permanent representative. He worked on a number of UN committees and represented his country at international conferences and forums. For a long time he held the post of first deputy foreign minister and was appointed minister after the death of his predecessor, Walid Muallem.
The accusations made against Faisal Mekdad sound strange indeed. In what repressions could he be involved? It is deeply regrettable that such EU actions are not helping overcome the consequences of a drawn-out and highly destructive crisis in Syria but are only aggravating it.
We urge the European Union to show common sense and return to the framework of international law. It is time to lift the illegal unilateral EU restrictions against Damascus, for the benefit of the Syrian people, whose well-being is allegedly a major concern for the Western community, and will help promote regional stability and security.
The outgoing US Administration has imposed new sanctions against Russia. On January 19, the Fortuna pipe-laying barge and its owner involved in laying the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline were added to the sanctions list.
The US authorities’ stubborn desire to do their utmost to hinder the completion of the pipeline project is astonishing. The threat of the use of discriminatory initiatives has stirred the resentment not only in Russia but also among the official, business and public circles in the majority of European countries. Berlin, Paris, Vienna and other capitals have wondered and continue to wonder whether Washington should aspire to regulate Europe’s energy policy and implement it via US ambassadors to European countries. How can Europe’s increased spending on imported gas help strengthen its competitiveness or “develop democratic institutions”?
Russia, for its part, has pointed out on numerous occasions that Nord Stream 2 is a commercial project designed to strengthen Europe’s energy security and promote transition to a low-emission energy system. Doesn’t this meet the interests of Europe?
The hostile actions taken against the companies engaged in Nord Stream 2 construction show that the United States is pursuing its own energy interests and is using every trick in the book to become the main “legitimate” energy supplier in Europe. Washington is not embarrassed that its actions are nothing other than open disregard for the norms of fair competition and free trade, which it has always advocated.
We would like to point out once again that such illegal restrictions have not influenced and will not influence Russia’s principled stance on the international stage. The US unilateral sanctions are not in the interests of our nations but are only further aggravating our far from easy bilateral relations.
Over the past few days, since January 18, 2021, the Russian Consulate General in New York has been unable to access local telephone lines, which has had a huge impact on the work of the diplomatic mission. In effect, the mission has been deprived of an opportunity to duly provide consular services to Russian and American citizens, and those of other countries.
We would like to specially note that in the current situation, the US Department of State, which was officially notified about the technical problems, has done nothing to rectify the situation. This position of the US authorities once again confirms the groundless nature of accusations by the US Embassy in Moscow, which claims that, unlike Russian diplomats in the United States, US diplomats in Russia have to fulfil their duties in the most constrained conditions and circumstances.
We demand that Washington take all necessary measures to restore normal communications for Russian diplomats in New York as soon as possible. I would like to note once again that many people contacting the Consulate General are American citizens. So, don’t make things more difficult for them and others.
We hope that this incident is not an invitation from the United States to take reciprocal actions. I am confident that there are more interesting spheres for displaying such reciprocity.
We have read a report by the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence published on January 12. The document is called Cyber Threats and NATO 2030: Horizon Scanning and Analysis, and a substantial section in the report deals with Russia and efforts to counter an “asymmetrical” Russian threat.
The report’s introductory note states that the publication contains the opinions of its authors only and do not necessarily reflect the policy or the opinion of NATO. However, we have no doubt that NATO will use the document for further elaborating its cyberspace strategy. Frankly, this is what the report’s authors advise the bloc to do because such adversaries as Russia and China would otherwise obtain an advantage over the Alliance.
Acting in line with the standard Western practice, the report’s authors groundlessly accuse Russia of creating malware for espionage purposes, disrupting vitally important infrastructure and meddling in the domestic affairs of other states. There is no limit to their imagination. This is presented as commonly known information that does not have to be verified. Indeed, it is true that this information is widely known and does not require verification because it is not the M.O. of our Western partners, especially NATO, to check information before disseminating it in the media. Much of it amounts to conjectures that cannot be verified. This can become the Alliance’s slogan: this commonly known information that does not have to be verified, but they should add “because we made it up ourselves.” So far, they have failed to provide us with any evidence of Russia’s involvement in cyber-incidents.
NATO proclaimed cyberspace as yet another sphere of its activity at the Warsaw summit in 2016. By all indications, the agenda of the next NATO summit, scheduled for 2021, will also include the subject of cybersecurity and digital defence. Work is underway to expand the potential of the Cyber Operations Centre, established in 2018 as part of Allied Command Operations (ACO) at the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE). Notably, the Centre is called on to conduct offensive operations in cyberspace.
In this connection, we would like to recall numerous Russian initiatives and proposals aimed at using information and communication technologies solely for peaceful purposes. They include a statement by President Vladimir Putin of September 25, 2020, on a comprehensive system of measures to restore Russian-US cooperation in international information security. The statement urges all countries to conclude a global agreement on not being the first to deal a strike involving information and communication technologies.
We have noted the presentation of the Gunnar Sonsteby Prize (WWII Norwegian Resistance hero) for the defence of fundamental democratic values to some Norwegian state agencies and organisations, including the Police Security Service, the Intelligence Service and the National Security Authority for the so called “counteraction to cyberattacks.”
Given the context of this event, the developments in the West in the field of digital technology and the statement made on this occasion by the Russian Embassy in Norway, we would like to say the following.
For past several months now, the Norwegian media have been repeating numerous accusations against Russia, saying that it hacked the electronic systems of the Norwegian Parliament in August 2020. Cabinet members also spoke about this. Despite the stir caused by this subject, an investigation held by the Norwegian party did not provide any proof that Russia had played a part in the cyberattack.
It is an interesting idea to award prizes for the fight against those who never attacked. We also congratulate everyone who received the award for this fake activity. They have been provided financing for years to come to boost their offensive cyber potential.
This event reflects the common destructive approach of Western countries to building relations with Russia. This trend is obsolete now and does not meet the current demands of mankind. There are real challenges and threats, like the pandemic and its consequences. We need to unite our efforts and act together, and only then award each other prizes.
We took note that the Danish media have developed anti-Russian sentiments regarding the alleged involvement of the Russian authorities to organising a large-scale hacker attack on state agencies and private companies of Denmark in December 2020. The media point to some “experts” and the data provided by the US authorities, but no facts have been given.
It is a plan consisting of many parts and a high-quality job carried out by institutes working under the auspices of Brussels and developing information attacks and campaigns against our country in order to disseminate news about allegedly offensive, unconstructive, illegal actions of Russia in the cyber space. We have just looked at several puzzles of this overall picture.
Article 30 of the Law on the Functioning of Ukrainian as the Official Language, adopted in April 2019, entered into force on January 16, 2021. Under this article, the entire services sector must use the Ukrainian language. Employees at organisations and companies providing trade, social, educational, medical and other services will have to talk to their customers in the Ukrainian language alone. They are allowed to use other languages only at the request of their customers.
The office of the commissioner for the protection of the national language, a repressive body, will monitor compliance with the new law. It will not only issue warnings on the use of Russian in the services sector but also impose fines on violators. This is a truly repressive body; we wonder if its agents will be present at every catering facility or conduct raids at random. The commissioner himself, Taras Kremen, has urged “conscientious citizens” to complain (if a waiter in a restaurant suddenly gets confused and addresses his foreign guests with a “hello” or “good afternoon” in Russian). In other words, these citizens are encouraged to report on their Russian-speaking compatriots.
The atmosphere of resentment and fear, which is being imposed in Ukraine, is obviously part of Kiev’s official policy that is aimed at destroying multilingualism and the unique multicultural space that was created in Ukraine for centuries. Contrary to its own Constitution, the conclusions of international agencies and the realities in which Ukrainian citizens live, Kiev continues violating the rights of Russians and dozens of other ethnic groups that have historically lived in Ukraine. Often, the struggle of the Ukrainian authorities against representatives of other ethnic groups and people who do not share official views, is acquiring odious forms. For all their comic nature, these forms are not very funny because they bring us back to times we would rather forget but must remember because they are lessons of history for which humanity paid a very dear price.
Just look at the decision of the National Union of the Writers of Ukraine to impose a ban on publishing the writings of authors from countries that do not support Ukraine’s views during the vote in the UN. The black list includes 17 countries. This decision is ignorant and ridiculous and contradicts Ukraine’s own commitments. It is also paradoxical. The Ukrainian authorities are conducting what they call de-communisation. In other words, they are destroying everything that is linked with the Soviet past in Ukraine, as they present it. This was not the case in the Soviet Union. If it happened in the Soviet Union, the Soviet citizens would never know who Jack London or Mark Twain are. Just imagine what would have happened if the Soviet people read only books written by the authors from the countries that vote properly on UN resolutions? This is what is happening in Ukraine now. Linking voting on UN resolutions e with the publication of books by authors from these countries is a “great” decision. Previously, Kiev merely imposed restrictions on books and other publications from Russia but now these phobias are multiplying. They have turned into an ideology that is hard to qualify. Some people call it an ideology of general “Ukrainian superiority.” I am not sure this description is correct but this is how it is labelled by some political scientists. To a large extent, this is an absolute misunderstanding of the realities and the mid- and especially long-term consequences of these activities and the reluctance to remember the afore-mentioned lessons of history. All this brings to mind the history of one Western European country in the 1930s and early1940s. It’s a pity that modern Ukraine finds this European experience most attractive but it’s a fact.
Ukrainian authorities are expanding their offensive on freedom of expression, toughening censorship, and intensifying its pressure on the media and literary circles. We are seeing that not all people in Ukraine are willing to reconcile with this suppression of their rights. We believe that the residents of multiethnic Ukraine, who respect themselves and their ancestors, will not allow the destruction of the rich culture of their country and will resist this obscurantism.
We would like to hope that our European partners will find the courage to properly assess the actions of Kiev unless they support Ukrainian leaders’ policy of promoting the supremacy of the Ukrainian nation.
I would like to quote a fantastically impressive saying by Vladimir Zelensky: “I would like to address the current authorities. I could say many unpleasant words but I am talking on a respectable channel, and I will respect you and ask you to respect the people. If people in the east or in Crimea want to speak Russian, leave them alone, back off. Let them speak Russian legally. A language will never divide our country. I have Jewish blood and I speak Russian, but I am a citizen of Ukraine. I love this country and don’t want to belong to another country.” This is what Vladimir Zelensky said. The only problem is that he said this not now but in March 2014. So, what has changed in the views of the esteemed Mr Zelensky now that these words are glaringly at variance with the policy carried out under his presidency in Ukraine?
We often talk about the falsification and the rewriting of history at our briefings. We provide examples, facts and material on this subject. We are often asked whether there is any general and comprehensive definition of history’s falsification, and how this can be determined not just by specific examples.
In brief, the war against Soviet-era memorials being waged by the central and local authorities in some countries is a graphic example of history’s falsification by erasing and distorting it. This phenomenon is manifested particularly vividly in Poland where the government disregards bilateral relations and agreements, signed with Russia regulating the matter of memorials. Each year, it destroys dozens of memorials and monuments proving that Soviet soldiers had saved the Polish nation.
The falsification of history in Poland is also manifested by the fact that, on the one hand, Poland’s de-communisation law artificially lists our historical memory landmarks, including common ones. On the other hand, the Polish authorities do not find any legal grounds for banning or at least coherently responding to the sale of Adolf Hitler’s book Mein Kampf in Poland. The media reported just the other day that Bellona Publishers are preparing to print additional copies of this book in Poland in late January. It was precisely this book which justified the need for eliminating the Polish nation together with other nations. This is what the falsification of history is all about.
Over the past few days, the media and the blogosphere have closely been following the “adventures” of Russian bloggers in South Sudan. Perhaps someone found it interesting to keep an eye on this incident, but we were alarmed, rather than interested. The situation could have started developing into a dramatic scenario. I would like to use this example for making some generalisations and to try and attract attention to the fact that everyone wishing to conduct journalist activities in a country with a complicated political situation should draw the appropriate conclusions.
Blogger Ilya Varlamov and his fellow travelers were recently arrested in South Sudan. The Russian Embassy in the Republic of Uganda (also responsible for the Republic of South Sudan) insistently advised Russian citizens to put off their planned trips to Uganda because of the upcoming general election and current travel restrictions.
Unfortunately, they ignored these recommendations. Moreover, the people concerned did not state their intention to leave Uganda for South Sudan. As we know, they were detained in South Sudan. First, they were detained in Kapoeta in the country’s southeastern region and later in Juba, the national capital.
After learning about the arrest of the Russian citizens, the Russian diplomatic mission unhesitatingly acted to ensure their release. Following talks with representatives of South Sudan, it became possible to quickly secure the detained persons’ release and to eventually ensure their unimpeded exit from the country.
It appears that the incident with the arrest of Russian citizens that, fortunately, did not harm their health, once again reminds us of the need to display a responsible attitude towards trips to countries where there is a complicated domestic political situation and insufficient security levels for foreign citizens.
To avoid such incidents that can lead to their arrest in a foreign state and to their subsequent deportation, Russian citizens should unfailingly comply with the goal of their trip, as stated by them while applying for visas. We insistently urge them to remember the simple truth: It is impossible to use tourist trips and the relevant tourist visas for engaging in journalist activities. Some countries do not require any special documents for those engaged in journalist activities, but this concerns a small number of states. Most countries require people engaged in journalism to obtain special visas. Many countries also require them to obtain accreditation from the relevant agencies. Russia stipulates the very same procedure: journalist visas and the Foreign Ministry’s accreditation are required.
We advise those planning to visit such regions to follow the information posted on various updated Russian Foreign Ministry resources, including the sos.midhelp.ru website of the Crisis Management Centre, the @mid_travel special Twitter account and the Foreign Assistant mobile app, as well as some other information sources, including the website of the Consular Department (https://www.kdmid.ru/). The above-mentioned Foreign Assistant mobile app provides various useful options and allows Russian users to voluntarily register the routes of their foreign trips and to list minimal personal data for informing the Russian Foreign Ministry and ensuring feedback in case of an emergency. People traveling to countries with a complicated sociopolitical situation should better prepare well in advance, all the more so as there are all the opportunities for doing this.
The Foreign Assistant app facilitates the Foreign Ministry’s comprehensive cooperation with Russian citizens temporarily staying abroad. It also notifies them about hypothetical or current emergencies and crisis situations in the receiving country. Those using the mobile app can register their temporary stay abroad in advance and promptly maintain interactive contact with on-duty operators of the Crisis Management Centre.
A hyperlink for downloading the Foreign Assistant app is posted on the main page of the Crisis Management Centre’s Safe Stay Abroad information/consultative website sos.midhelp.ru and also in Google and Apple app stores.
We are always open and ready to provide consultative services, on the part of our Ministry, to all Russian journalists planning their foreign visits for the purpose of conducting journalist activities. To do this, they should inform the concerned Russian Embassy in the country where the journalists are headed. The Information and Press Department is always ready to promptly cooperate.
On January 18, 2021 the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) and the Gamaleya National Centre of Epidemiology and Microbiology announced the creation of an international scientific advisory board on the Sputnik V vaccine. The board comprises leading experts in virology, microbiology, genetics and biotechnology from nine countries: Argentina, Croatia, France, Germany, Great Britain, India, Russia, Sweden and the United States. On the base of this international platform, the developers of the vaccine will be able to exchange information, opinions and expertise with their leading colleagues from other countries in order to unite the global research potential and develop international partnership, including on the coronavirus vaccine.
The RDIF is in a dialogue with the European Medicines Agency (EMA). This week, a meeting brought together over 20 international experts and scientists for a research consultation. The recommendations developed at the meeting will be submitted to the developers of Sputnik V. The process of gradual evaluation will begin in February.
The number of countries that have approved the use of Sputnik V is growing. At the moment, the Russian vaccine has been registered in Russia, Belarus, Serbia, Argentina, Bolivia, Algeria, Palestine, Venezuela, Paraguay and Turkmenistan. Several other countries will join this list within the next several days.
On January 22, the World Health Organisation (WHO) will begin the preliminary procedure for the submission of the Sputnik V registration application.
We will keep you informed on this issue.
On January 20, 2021 Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Russian Federation to the Republic of Zambia Alexander Boldyrev died suddenly. Mr Boldyrev had worked as Deputy Director of the Foreign Ministry Information and Press Department for several years (2010-2012) and many journalists knew him well. We are receiving condolences from many media representatives who knew him as a professional and a kind-hearted and caring man.
We mourn his death together with his family and friends.
Question: Could you explain the logic of the authorities’ actions against Alexey Navalny in the Yves Rocher case? He has been arrested because the Federal Penitentiary Service has asked to replace Navalny’s suspended sentence in this case with a real prison term. Back in 2018, Russia paid compensation to Navalny for his criminal persecution, which the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) declared to be “arbitrary and manifestly unreasonable.” Why has the Federal Penitentiary Service asked to replace Navalny’s suspended sentence now if Russia had accepted the ECHR ruling and paid compensation? If the ruling was not recognised, why was Navalny paid compensation?
Maria Zakharova: You should really direct your question to the law enforcement authorities. I believe that lawyers specialising in this sphere will be able to give you a better answer. However, I do not see any contradiction here. The issue concerns compliance with Russian laws.
Question: Sorry, I missed the point. The Justice Ministry has paid compensation to Navalny, thereby accepting the ECHR verdict that the court decisions against him were “arbitrary and manifestly unreasonable.” And now they demand that his suspended sentence be replaced with a real prison term?
Maria Zakharova: I suggest once again that you ask the lawyers specialising in such cases about this. This matter is not within the competence of the Foreign Ministry. If you are unable to contact colleagues at the law enforcement agencies for some reason, I will be glad to help you. I can transfer your question to them. I am willing to act as an intermediary in this matter. But I believe the answer is obvious and has to do with compliance with Russian laws.
Question: In what part?
Maria Zakharova: You have misdirected your question. All matters related to criminal persecution and detainment on Russian territory are commented on by the Russian law enforcement agencies, and not by the Foreign Ministry.
Question: Could you comment, please, on an article by President of the Russian International Affairs Council and former Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, “The 46th, do you copy?”, recently published by Rossiyskaya Gazeta? He believes that Russia and the United States should take a number of proactive steps that would enable them to come to agreement in several spheres, including on New START, regional conflicts, Iran, North Korea, the Arctic and climate change. What is the Foreign Ministry’s position on this?
Maria Zakharova: Russia has made every proposal to its American partners and advanced every imaginable initiative to stimulate interaction and contacts in various spheres. We would like our American colleagues to at least provide answers to the proposals which Moscow has already made and which are on the negotiating table.
We really do hope that the new US Administration will display a desire to respond to the numerous proposals we made a long time ago, which have not been removed from the agenda. We have not received any constructive reaction or even feedback on many of our initiatives. The ball is in Washington’s court. I can provide factual examples.
During the Russia-US summit in Helsinki on July 16, 2018, an agreement was reached to establish a business advisory and an expert council. However, this initiative has not been implemented because of the American side’s unconstructive stand.
On October 22, 2018, we forwarded to National Security Adviser John Bolton a draft joint statement on the inadmissibility of a nuclear war and on strengthening strategic stability. We have not received any response.
Attempting to overcome mutual mistrust, which had increased following unsubstantiated accusations against Russia of interfering in the 2016 US elections, we proposed exchanging letters on the mutual commitment not to interfere in each other’s internal affairs, similar to the private letters on the re-establishment of diplomatic relations President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Soviet Foreign Minister Maxim Litvinov exchanged at Washington’s request in 1933. Moscow decided to repeat that positive experience. We have not received any response to that initiative.
During Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s visit to Washington on December 10, 2019, we proposed launching bilateral expert negotiations on the entire range of issues related to the Libyan crisis. Instead of the response we expected, we received a package of aggressive accusations of Russian military presence in the region.
We have called on our American partners on numerous occasions to join in the collective efforts for a Middle East settlement. For example, we proposed convening the Madrid Quartet at the ministerial level on the sidelines of the 75th session of the UN General Assembly in order to outline potential joint actions. The Americans disregarded that proposal without any explanation.
These are only few examples from the long list of initiatives we have advanced over many years, inviting our partners to cooperation and reminding them about the importance of our collaboration for settling numerous international and regional problems, as well as improving the bilateral agenda.
We do hope that the new team in the White House will pursue a more balanced policy without further aggravating Russian-US relations, which are already excessively confrontational, not through our fault.