Briefing by Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova, Moscow, June 17, 2021
- Sergey Lavrov’s upcoming meeting with OSCE Secretary General Helga Maria Schmid
- Sergey Lavrov to take part in the High-Level Dialogue on the 25th anniversary of the Asia-Europe Meeting
- Sergey Lavrov’s upcoming meeting with Foreign Minister of Venezuela Jorge Arreaza
- Sergey Lavrov’s upcoming meeting with President of the International Committee of the Red Cross Peter Maurer
- Working visit by Ethiopian Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Demeke Mekonnen to Russia
- Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s participation in the 9th Moscow Conference on International Security
- Sergey Lavrov’s upcoming talks with Foreign Minister of Guatemala Pedro Brolo
- Russia-US summit
- G7 Summit
- The NATO summit summary
- Joint Communication from High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell and the European Commission on EU policy in relations with Russia
- Statements by the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces of Sweden
- The militarisation of Kosovo
- The 80th anniversary of the beginning of the Great Patriotic War
- The International Forum of Russian Compatriots June 22, 1941, Victory Will Be Ours
- Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba’s remarks on Nord Stream 2 and Crimea
- Settlement of incidents on Armenian-Azerbaijani border
- Presidents of Turkey and Azerbaijan visit Shusha
- Azerbaijan hands over Armenian prisoners of war and other detainees
- Turkish President’s statements during his visit to Nagorno-Karabakh
- NATO leaders’ statements on Ukraine and Georgia’s joining the alliance
- Turkey to oversee security at Kabul Airport after the US and NATO withdraw their troops from Afghanistan
- Barring Russian journalists from US President Joseph Biden’s news conference
On June 21, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is scheduled to meet with OSCE Secretary General Helga Maria Schmid, who will be in Moscow to participate in the 9th Moscow Conference on International Security at the invitation of Defence Minister Sergey Shoigu.
The talks’ agenda includes a wide range of issues of the OSCE’s current work on three dimensions of security: the military-political, the economic-environmental, and the human rights dimensions. The parties will discuss the OSCE’s role in helping to resolve regional conflicts in its space. In particular, they will consider the settlement of the internal conflict in Ukraine with regard to the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine and the OSCE’s coordination of the Contact Group, which includes representatives of Russia and the OSCE who are assisting Kiev, Donetsk and Lugansk in the implementation of the Minsk Package of Measures. The parties will also exchange views on the progress in the Transnistrian and Nagorno-Karabakh reconciliation processes and at the Geneva Consultations on Security and Stability in the South Caucasus.
They are also planning to review the work of the OSCE executive bodies, including its Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), the High Commissioner on National Minorities and the Representative on Freedom of the Media.
Russia consistently advocates enhancing the OSCE’s influence and effectiveness. As the world’s largest regional organisation, the OSCE has the necessary potential to provide a platform for an equal dialogue between the participating States in order to jointly respond to common challenges and threats, and prevent and resolve conflicts.
On June 22, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will take part in the High-Level Dialogue at the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) devoted to its 25th anniversary and the strengthening of the Asia-Europe partnership in a changing world.
ASEM is a useful mechanism for practical cooperation in Eurasia with its growing demand for progressive methods of creative, conflict-free cooperation. As one of the coordinators of the Asian Group, Russia is striving to promote this vector of development.
We continue working on many specific initiatives and various applied projects that are being carried out under ASEM or have just been launched. ASEM has concentrated on countering the COVID-19 pandemic and the tasks of post-crisis recovery. The five ASEM coordinators (Russia, the EU, Germany, Cambodia and Singapore) released a statement to this effect. We stand for promoting cooperation in e-trade, creating transcontinental supply chains, developing intellectual transport systems, supporting small and medium-sized companies and female entrepreneurs, and upgrading remote territories. ICT, science and education, a movement of volunteers as a new socio-economic phenomenon are also much in demand.
The agenda of the upcoming meeting is consonant with the goal of expanding the integration of Greater Eurasia by combining the potential of the main regional development centres – the Eurasian Economic Union, ASEAN, the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation and the European Union.
We hope the dialogue will help the participants to determine the key areas for further ASEM development, including preparations for its 13th summit in Cambodia.
On June 22, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will have talks with Foreign Minister of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela Jorge Arreaza who will pay an official visit to Russia.
Russia and Venezuela are tied by relations of strategic partnership based on equitable and mutually beneficial cooperation, friendship and mutual empathy between the two nations. Last year, the two countries celebrated the 75th anniversary of diplomatic relations, and this year is the 25th anniversary of the Treaty on Friendship and Cooperation.
The upcoming visit of the Foreign Minister of Venezuela to Russia demonstrates the dynamic development of political dialogue despite the pandemic.
The Russian and Venezuelan diplomats will discuss the developments in Venezuela and around it, and a broad range of bilateral issues, primarily, efforts to counter the coronavirus infection. Russia regularly sends consignments of the Sputnik V vaccine to Venezuela.
Diplomats will also conduct a detailed exchange of opinions on global and regional issues, and cooperation in the UN and other international venues, which is based on strict respect for international law, including the principles of protecting sovereignty and non-interference in internal affairs.
On June 23, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will meet with President of the International Committee of the Red Cross Peter Maurer, who will visit Moscow on June 21-24 of this year to attend the 9th Moscow Conference on International Security.
Mr Lavrov and Mr Maurer are expected to discuss global challenges in humanitarian area and efforts to rein in the COVID-19 pandemic. In keeping with tradition, they will also exchange views of the current humanitarian situation in hot spots.
Top officials of the Foreign Ministry and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) maintain a regular dialogue, which is invariably constructive and substantive. We believe the upcoming meeting will further promote cooperation between the Foreign Ministry and the ICRC.
On June 23, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will meet for talks with Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia Demeke Mekonnen during the latter’s working visit to Moscow.
The talks will focus on priority areas of bilateral cooperation in politics, trade, the economy, investment activity, education, healthcare and culture.
The two officials are expected to review the current issues on today’s global and regional agendas, ways of resolving crises in Africa and the situation in the Horn of Africa area.
They will also touch upon certain aspects of the preparations for the second Russia–Africa Summit scheduled for 2022.
On June 24, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will take part in the 9th Moscow Conference on International Security that is organised by the Defence Ministry of the Russian Federation.
In his speech at this representative forum, the foreign minister will review the most pressing issues and challenges in ensuring global and regional security and stability.
On June 24, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will meet with Foreign Minister of Guatemala Pedro Brolo who will pay a working visit to Russia.
Guatemala is one of Russia’s promising partners. Our cooperation is traditionally based on mutual respect and equal consideration for each other’s interests. In 2020, our countries celebrated the 75th anniversary of diplomatic relations.
The ministers will discuss a broad range of bilateral issues, including opportunities for enhancing and diversifying trade and economic ties, deepening cultural, humanitarian, scientific and technical cooperation and upgrading the mutual legal and contractual framework. They plan to focus on the efforts to counter the new coronavirus infection.
The ministers also plan to exchange views on the most urgent international and regional issues. They will review the development of Russia’s dialogue with the Central American Secretariat for Economic Integration (SIECA), which is chaired by Guatemala in the latter half of 2021.
In anticipation of questions by the correspondents who have joined us, we will reply to the questions we received before the briefing. Some of them are related to yesterday’s Russia-US summit in Geneva.
All the assessments have been given by the Russian leadership. In addition, I would like to draw your attention to Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov’s interview on strategic stability and Russian-US cooperation in this area. It is published on the Foreign Ministry website. He set forth in detail our positions that you know and the prospects for working with our American colleagues in this area.
Everyone is interested in the answer to the question about Ambassador of the Russian Federation to the United States Anatoly Antonov. We believe he will spend next week in Washington, DC.
The Foreign Ministry is already working on the tasks set by the President of Russia at yesterday’s news conference.
We watched with interest the G7 Summit, which took place in the UK on June 11-13.
Generally, we can understand the G7 leaders’ willingness to prop up this forum, once an authoritative conference, and fill it with a new meaning. It is not an easy task as the G7 group is an association of leading Western countries. As former US President Barak Obama used to say, this forum has become regional. As far as I’m concerned, this is how it should be treated. Neither Russia, nor China are members, although the forum devoted much, if not too much, attention and time to these two countries.
However, relevant work can still be carried out in the G20 group, which in addition to the G7 nations, includes the BRICS member countries and other leading economies.
We note that in the UK, the G7 group has used a value-focused agenda to consolidate its ranks. They resorted to this as a platform for discussions and taking decisions on a broad range of issues. However, the so-called values of the G7 nations are not universal and are not necessarily shared by the majority of world community members. It is important to note that no broad consensus has been reached inside these countries on quite a few values that are being imposed on the world community using the G7 institution’s informational and political tools.
We cannot help but be concerned about the fact that, in so doing, the G7 leaders are drawing a new dividing line in international affairs. This time the divide lies between a small group of self-styled democracies and the rest of the world. This is the prism through which the G7 nations view efforts that need to be made to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, reform the global trade system, protect the environment and mitigate climate change.
We doubt that this approach is capable of producing stable positive results and is a contributing factor in enhancing the genuine versatility epitomised in the UN and its Charter, including, primarily, the principles of equitable and mutually beneficial cooperation between all countries.
As for the discussion and the related odd parts regarding Russia in the final communiqué, we did not see anything new; it was just as we expected. A well-known set of confrontational guidelines has been replicated. If our colleagues are unable to express themselves any differently, we cannot forbid them to do so and do not want to, for that matter. Clearly, these endless exercises in anti-Russia rhetoric are doing nothing to improve the atmosphere in relations between the West and Russia. Incidentally, this also refers to China, for which the G7 nations compiled a list of presumptuous demands and claims, in line with the West’s practice of interfering in the domestic affairs of independent countries. The same unconstructive approach has been taken on Belarus, our ally, and some other countries that, apparently, do not fit in the Procrustean bed of notorious democratic standards.
That said, we have noted the thesis on the G7 nations’ willingness to maintain stable and predictable relations with our country. Hopefully, these are not empty words but the sincere desire of the summit participants and the West will support this through actions. We have always demonstrated stability and predictability in international affairs. On our behalf, we reaffirm again our readiness to meet them halfway, clearly, on the principles of equality, pragmatism and mutual respect.
The results of the NATO summit held in Brussels on June 14 were expected and predictable for us. Clearly, the alliance dreams of playing a global role. It is preparing to be a rival to China, whose aspirations and assertive behaviour have been declared a challenge for the Euro-Atlantic region. Every time you read these final documents about threats and challenges, you can’t help thinking that years go by and these threats and challenges are never confirmed. It turns out they come from completely different places and stem from other problems. Great lines come to mind: Rebellious, it seeks out a storm, as if it could find peace in a storm. It appears that this NATO summit and its final documents were inspired by this poem.
We heard threats to use Article 5 on collective defence in the event of an attack in outer space or cyberspace attacks. We hear about cyberspace regularly. What do our NATO partners expect from attacks in outer space? It would be interesting to hear more about that.
This lowers the threshold for the use of force, worsens the security situation for all countries, and seriously complicates the prospects for reaching universal agreements aimed at preventing the use of outer space and the cyber environment for non-peaceful purposes. Ideologically, it’s a claim to unite the democratic world as opposed to autocracies, including China. Clearly, this is the basis for a new ideology concept. No more and no less.
With regard to Russia, the alliance remains in a “reality” that it made up itself. Again we hear about Russia’s “aggressive actions” which are called a threat to Euro-Atlantic security in the communique from the meeting. The bloc’s position on Russia remains rigid, and a destructive “dual” approach in the form of “containment and dialogue” remains unchanged. I wonder if this has ever worked for them.
The leaders of the alliance countries claim that NATO has tried to build partnership relations with Russia for over 25 years now. We were accused of thwarting this process, violating the values, principles, trust and obligations set forth in the agreed upon documents that underlie relations between Russia and NATO. The complaints against us include military build-up, provocative activities, including near NATO borders, unannounced large-scale exercises, deployment of dual-use missiles in the Kaliningrad Region, strengthening military cooperation with Belarus and, even more ridiculous, repeated violations of NATO member countries’ airspace. Our proposal for a mutual moratorium on the deployment of medium-range missiles in Europe with the possibility of verifying implementation has been declared untrustworthy, and they refused outright to discuss it. This is yet another scene at a theater of the absurd.
Russia is again being asked to adhere to international law and its obligations. Allegedly, until Russia does this, the Alliance will pursue a course of containment with regard to our country, including a forward presence on the eastern flank. At the same time, we are being convinced that everything that is being undertaken by the Alliance allegedly does not contradict the Russia-NATO Founding Act. They say the Alliance does not seek confrontation and does not pose a threat to Russia, as if it were not the Alliance that was pulling more countries into its “net.” As if its members do not regularly conduct exercises with thousands of troops (and not only on their own territories), and bring their military capabilities and infrastructure closer to Russia’s border. Their total military spending has already exceeded $1 trillion which is more than half of the world’s total.
During the summit, the heads of state and government of the member states instructed the NATO Secretary-General to start updating the strategic concept of the bloc, which is to be adopted at the next summit in Spain in 2022. We hope that it will reflect the realities of our time, not the fantasies of certain Alliance members. I would like to believe that an organisation with such a rich history would be able to move from fictional images to facts. But then again, how can NATO do without a “threat from the East?” Judging by the outcome of the summit, it can’t, or, they need to radically change something.
We have received a number of media questions on the Joint Communication from High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell and the European Commission on EU policy in relations with Russia, published on June 16.
A source in Brussels, I think, or at least affiliated with EU institutions, said its date of publication was chosen without regard for the Russian-US summit, held on that same day. It has never occurred to me that the dates for publishing such documents are chosen without thinking. This is the first time in our experience.
We familiarised ourselves with the contents of this document. Let me recall that it was prepared jointly by the EU’s top diplomat Josep Borrell and the European Commission at the instruction of the European Council. It was initiated by EU leaders who sought a strategic review of EU priorities in relations with Russia. We believed that following this work Brussels and other key EU capitals would revise the current EU line towards Russia, proceeding from their long-term interests. Since 2016, it has been based on the well-known principles of Federica Mogherini. This policy led to stagnation and destroyed the architecture of relations. A strategic revision could become the foundation for a new beginning marked by greater predictability and stability. We know there is a demand in the EU for such a positive scenario and this is natural. In this highly competitive world in which we face an unprecedented surge in global cross-border challenges, the need for all stakeholders to work together is greater than ever before.
However, these were merely expectations. In reality we have to say that the intellectual contribution of the EU agencies does not make the prospect of normalisation between two largest neighbours in Europe any less distant. The document is not free of ideology. It is hard to view it as deliberation of the fundamental interests of Europeans as regards Russia. The ideas of the authors about Russia are divorced from reality and intended to create a myth about “the threat from the East.” We have just said that this is a NATO term and now we are calling it an EU term. As we said before, unfortunately, NATO is doing more and more to destroy the independence of the European Union, as this document confirms. The narratives about our country that migrate from one document to the next have nothing to do with the national policy of the Russian Federation or the interests of the Russian people.
The triad of principles “to push back, constrain and engage with Russia” (which may sound normal to the Brussels bureaucracy but grates on the ears in traditional diplomacy) that Josep Borrell expressed after his visit to Moscow last February, is formulated in the spirit of the Cold War. At that time the notorious concept of deterrence was considered all important and now it is being invoked again. Needless to say, such principles cannot serve as the foundation for constructive and sustainable relations between Russia and the EU, or make for more than a situational relationship, much less bring about the “renewed partnership” the authors call for. The document abounds in contradictions.
We categorically dismiss the host of groundless accusations of projecting “hybrid” or any other threats to the EU’s interests and integrity, which are so hard to believe because Brussels itself avoids discussing its stated concerns about cybersecurity and measures against disinformation in a professional dialogue with us. We are ready to discuss these issues at all levels, in any format and at a time that suits our partners. We have suggested this more than once but unfortunately, we have received no response so far. But then they raise concerns in their documents.
The European Union is trying to position itself as a “guardian” of international law. However, its interpretation of the Minsk Package of Measures, approved by UN Security Council Resolution 2202, creates the impression that EU officials have not read this foundational document for the Ukraine settlement process. It states clearly who the parties to the conflict are. They have completely forgotten the provisions of the Normandy format declaration by the heads of state of February 12, 2015, which indicate a clear-cut commitment of the leaders to contribute to the implementation of the Package of Measures by using the influence they have with different parties. EU members are not bringing any influence to bear on Kiev and, what’s more, they encourage the leadership in Kiev to subvert the Minsk agreements.
The EU prefers to ignore the fact that Crimea’s reunification with Russia and the conflict in southeastern Ukraine are the predictable outcome of the EU efforts to push through its Eastern Partnership policy and its support for the anti-constitutional coup in Kiev in February 2014. This policy forces the countries of this “common neighbourhood” to make an artificial choice between Russia and the EU. Let me recall that the organisers of the coup announced their intention to get rid of everything Russian in Crimea, thereby leaving the Crimeans with no other choice than the one they eventually made. As for human rights commitments in the OSCE and the Council of Europe, we advise EU agencies, before hurling unfounded accusations at Russia, to deal with the outrageous violation of the rights of Russian speakers and undisguised censorship of the media in the Baltic states and Ukraine. There are many instances and we regularly report them to our partners but there has been no clear response.
In general, the philosophy of this document developed in the bowels of EU agencies shows that many EU politicians would like to develop cooperation solely on the basis of their own convictions which they hold to be the only right ones, while continuing to refashion the world as they see fit, proceeding from their understanding of which values are true. And they believe that if they fail, they must fence themselves off with dividing lines, ultimatums, and illegal unilateral sanctions that violate international law. It is hard to see the document’s forecast of a further deterioration of relations between Russia and the EU as anything other than evidence of an unwillingness to renounce this archaic approach, the ideology of bloc confrontation and their own “domination”, “rectitude in all things”, and “exceptionalism”. It is glaringly obvious how the EU is, by inertia, following in the conceptual wake of NATO and the United States. The document devotes much attention to coordinating actions with them as regards Russia. What kind of “strategic autonomy” can there be in this case?
We are open to cooperation with the EU on the principles of equality and mutual respect. We are not seeking to avoid the painstaking work of searching for points of overlap for the benefit of all residents of Europe (the document admits that Russia and the EU are bound by common history, geography and people-to-people contacts). Unfortunately, this is admitted only on paper. The EU does not back this up with practical actions. Meanwhile, we are guided by the fundamental Helsinki principles of non-interference in internal affairs, cooperation between states and conscientious implementation of commitments under international law. Our future agenda should not consist solely of our existing differences. They are not the only issue worth dealing with.
The communication presented by Josep Borrell still shows that the EU understands the importance of Russia-EU dialogue in some areas, such as healthcare, climate change, digital, science and education, countering cross-border challenges and threats, and the settlement of international and regional issues. This list is consonant with our ideas on promising areas of cooperation. We are ready to work together in these areas if Brussels develops the political will for that. But we suggest that those who are responsible for the EU’s policy towards Russia should stop looking at events outside their EU offices through the keyhole of ideological approaches. They should open their eyes to the multilateral and diverse international order in which Russia will continue playing a creative and responsible role in accordance with its national interests. This is what Brussels should do.
We have noted statements made by Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces of Sweden Micael Byden in an interview with Radio Sweden on June 12, 2021. General Byden said that his country was facing an increased national security threat and did not rule out in this connection a scenario where it came under an armed attack. In commenting on NATO’s agenda, approach and ideology, we said today that its phobias were prevailing over the sense of reality. We are witnessing the same thing here, because Russia was again named as a source of potential aggression.
We have noticed lately that the Swedish top officials make such ungrounded statements with enviable regularity. These pronouncements are dedicated to the need to prepare for a war with Russia. We perceive this as a goal-oriented campaign intended to fan paranoid phobias about a Russian military threat among the Swedish public. Few people seem to believe the tall stories about the “foreign submarines” in the Stockholm archipelago that hinted at Russia’s involvement. Now the Swedish military need new far-fetched arguments to justify the continuing, unprecedented even by the Cold War standards, increase in Sweden’s defence budget.
We regret that Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces of Sweden Micael Byden, like other high-ranking military officers, failed to mention the fact that Stockholm has ignored for a number of years Russia’s proposals to resume the military dialogue on confidence-building, which Sweden froze at its own initiative in 2014. Instead, the Armed Forces command of the non-aligned Sweden is increasingly active in building up collaboration with NATO, which goes as far as holding joint exercises in direct vicinity of the Russian borders to practice countering the so-called comparable adversary, including an imitation of nuclear attacks. Indicatively, General Byden’s statement coincided with an active phase in NATO exercises, Baltops 2021, which involve Sweden as well as US B-52H strategic bombers.
We are concerned about the reports about US deliveries of weapons and military equipment to the Pristina authorities. The United States is thereby openly undermining the international efforts to ensure peace and stability in the Balkans. The militarisation of the self-proclaimed “Republic of Kosovo” is incompatible with them.
Washington’s idea is to create an “army” in that territory, which is a direct and blatant violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1244. This fundamental international legal document provides for the disbandment of any Kosovo Albanian paramilitary units and allows an international peacekeeping contingent alone to be present in the territory of Kosovo.
We call on everyone who is not indifferent to the fate of the Balkans and the future of this sensitive region to refrain from steps fraught with its destabilisation and accumulation of explosive conflict potential.
On a terrible, tragic day 80 years ago, Nazi invaders perfidiously attacked the Soviet Union. The Great Patriotic War claimed many millions of lives and affected every Soviet family. On this day, June 22, we bow low before the memory of the fallen.
Several days ahead of this date, we would like to note that, while talking about those days and while preparing for them, we are once again thinking about the causes of those fateful developments. The aggressive and misanthropic essence of Nazism and the policy of Axis countries was their main cause. Connivance on the part of the then leading powers and the desire of Western “democracies” to channel the Axis aggression to the East, facilitated the implementation of their aggressive plans. As the Munich collusion showed, those powers tried to solve the problem of their security at the expense of other countries’ security and sovereignty.
In this context, allegations about a certain identity of Nazism and communism, attempts to equally blame Germany and the Soviet Union for unleashing the war, to equate henchmen and their victims, to keep quiet about the Soviet Union’s decisive contribution to crushing the Nazi war machine, to do everything possible to make the heroic feat of the Red Army soldiers-liberators seem less impressive than it really was are absolutely unacceptable, blasphemous and simply anti-historical.
Russia perceives these allegations desecrating the memory of millions of Soviet citizens who were killed while fighting Nazism as an insult. Speaking at the May 20, 2021 meeting of the Pobeda (Victory) Organising Committee, President of Russia Vladimir Putin noted that “We cannot but respond to these actions in a suitable manner. As I have repeatedly said, we will rely on facts and do everything possible to ensure the continuity of historical memory in Russian society, so that decades and centuries from now, future generations will cherish the truth about the war and display a sacred and grateful attitude towards its heroes, as well as to their ancestors.We cannot but respond to these actions in a suitable manner. As I have repeatedly said, we will rely on facts and do everything possible to ensure the continuity of historical memory in Russian society, so that decades and centuries from now, future generations will cherish the truth about the war and display a sacred and grateful attitude towards its heroes, as well as to their ancestors.we cannot but respond to these actions in a suitable manner. We will do everything possible, so that future generations will cherish the truth about the war and display a sacred and grateful attitude towards its heroes, as well as to their ancestors.”
The Foreign Ministry and its foreign missions will organise a number of events. Considering the epidemiological situation, most of them will be held online, and we invite you to join them.
On June 19-23, 2021, Minsk and Brest will be the venue of the International Forum of Russian Compatriots June 22, 1941, Victory Will Be Ours, dedicated to the 80th anniversary of the beginning of the Great Patriotic War. The event will be held under the auspices of the Government Commission on Compatriots Living Abroad.
Attendees will include over 80 Russian diaspora representatives from about 40 countries; these people are actively involved in public and social life abroad. Deputy Foreign Minister Andrey Rudenko will attend the forum’s opening ceremony. Speakers will include Yelena Afanasyeva, Member of the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the Federal Assembly’s Federation Council, Head of the Federal Agency for the CIS Affairs, Compatriots Living Abroad, and International Humanitarian Cooperation Yevgeny Primakov, other representatives of executive agencies, Russian NGOs and patriotic foundations. Those taking part in the discussions will prioritise efforts to consolidate the Russian diaspora using our common historical memory, as well as those aiming to prevent the falsification of history and to ensure the patriotic education of the rising generation.
The compatriots will visit the Brest Fortress, lay flowers there and attend a requiem gathering on its territory. This will become an important part of the programme.
Question: The other day Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba put forth a condition for Russia to launch Nord Stream 2. He proposed exchanging Crimea for the launch of the gas pipeline plus up to 10 percent of the pipeline’s shares to compensate Ukraine’s losses. Would you comment on these statements?
Maria Zakharova: There is a saying to illustrate this situation both symbolically and literally: It’s neither in the kitchen garden where the elderberry [buzina in Russian - Ed.] grows, nor in Kiev where the uncle lives, which is mixing apples and oranges. Of course, we would like Oles Buzina to live in Kiev, but this cannot be because he was killed. Meanwhile, the “uncles” in Kiev keep poking in others’ kitchen gardens. This is a classic example. Anyway, how can Kuleba propose exchanging something to which Ukraine has no connection whatsoever?
The matter of Crimea’s territorial status was settled once and for all seven years ago in a free expression of people’s will. It was their choice. And it was also their assessment of the Kiev authorities’ performance during Ukraine’s independence period.
As for Nord Stream 2, I would like to remind Dmitry Kuleba and the Kiev regime that it is a commercial project designed to benefit the countries and partners involved. If Kiev wants to join it, it should just indicate its wish.
I would also like to remind our Kiev colleagues that this project is based on the Russian and European companies’ economic interest in ensuring stable deliveries of Russian gas via the most cost-effective route. It may seem strange to Dmitry Kuleba, but there is no political underside to this project: only economic considerations. Any conditions for the pipeline’s launch and operation, whether put forth by Ukraine or any other state, contradict legal norms and the generally recognised market principles, on which international trade and economic ties should be based. This is exactly what Kiev’s Western “curators” wanted us to do. We have accepted these principles and are implementing them. Kuleba’s statements are an attempt to politicise the matter, something which the project’s opponents are blaming Russia for.
When the project was proposed, many leading European companies took a far-sighted approach and decided to co-finance Nord Stream 2 to ensure the stable deliveries of Russian gas at a bargain price and also to receive gas transit revenues. If Ukraine wants to join the project, it should negotiate this matter with project shareholders and other interested companies, stop its political hysterics and behave.
Question: The Azerbaijani armed forces, which have invaded the sovereign territory of Armenia, are staying put. It was reported the other day that Russian military representatives visited the Armenian-Azerbaijani border to discuss the areas and sites where Russian border guards could be deployed following the sides’ disengagement. What is the outcome of the talks held with Russia’s mediation?
Maria Zakharova: We have already pointed out that the incidents on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border happened because the border has not been marked in accordance with international law. This is exacerbated by the lack of mutual trust between the sides.
Russia continues with its active mediation to defuse tensions. We maintain close interaction with the foreign and defence ministries and the border guard services in Baku and Yerevan. Overall, tensions have subsided thanks to these efforts during the past few weeks. Consultations will continue to settle the border dispute.
In our opinion, a sustainable and lasting solution to the problem depends on launching, as soon as possible, the delimitation and subsequent demarcation of the border between the two states. We reaffirm our readiness to give every possible assistance to this process.
Question: On June 15, President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan and President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev visited the occupied city of Shushi. Given Azerbaijan's invasion of Armenia and non-fulfillment of its obligations to return prisoners of war for about seven months, do you not think arranging such a visit is a manifestation of psychological pressure on the Artsakh Armenians or a provocation against the fragile stability just established in the region?
Maria Zakharova: We do not consider it correct to mix any topics concerning Nagorno-Karabakh proper with Azerbaijan’s (or Armenia’s) bilateral relations with third countries. This is how we view the most recent Azerbaijani-Turkish contacts at the highest level.
We strongly believe that bilateral ties in the region, including defence contacts, should not be aimed against any other states. We strongly support any steps focused on normalising the dialogue between Baku and Yerevan, and between Yerevan and Ankara. International contacts in the South Caucasus should be based on neighbourly principles, and should take into account a balance of interests of all the countries in the region.
Question: Seven months since the cessation of hostilities, the Azerbaijani authorities have not yet fulfilled their obligations assumed by the November 9, 2020 statement – in particular, to return prisoners of war and other captives. Moreover, Azerbaijan has opened fake court proceedings against Armenian prisoners of war. What comments would you make regarding the fake lawsuits filed by Azerbaijan?
Maria Zakharova: The subject of prisoners of war and other detainees remains relevant, including in the context of implementing the provisions of the statement adopted by the leaders of Russia, Azerbaijan and Armenia on November 9, 2020. We welcome the June 12 transfer of 15 Armenian citizens by the Azerbaijani side to Yerevan. We insist on the completion of the 'all for all' prisoner exchange without any preconditions. At the same time, we believe it is important to solve other humanitarian problems, in particular, when it comes to demining and provision of maps of minefields. I think you are aware of our efforts on this track.
Question: When President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited Nagorno-Karabakh on June 15, he promised to support Azerbaijan in case of an attack on that country. Is this not a provocative statement that fuels militaristic sentiments, considering the enormous efforts being made to re-establish a normal peaceful life in the region?
There were reports about the possibility of opening a Turkish consulate in Artsakh, in particular, in the occupied city of Shushi. Doesn't this run counter to Russia’s peacekeeping mission? What comments would you make on such a statement? What is the purpose of this move? How does Russia view Turkey’s activities and its overt attempts to gain a foothold in the region?
What is Russia’s attitude towards the so-called Shushi Declaration signed between Erdogan and Aliyev?
Maria Zakharova: I have already commented on a similar question today. I think it wrong to mix up two topics, one related directly to Nagorno-Karabakh, the other to Azerbaijan's bilateral relations with third countries.
We view the most recent Azerbaijani-Turkish contacts at the highest level in the same vein. We strongly believe that bilateral ties in the region, including defence contacts, should not be aimed against any other states. We support any steps that focus on normalising dialogue between the countries in the region.
Given the processes taking place in that region and the multilateral efforts aimed at prodding the parties to agreement and getting them moving towards peace, all statements made in this regard should work towards a single goal, stabilisation, peaceful development, restoration of economic ties, and of course, should meet the interests of civilians living in the region.
Question: On June 14, 2021, during the NATO summit in Brussels, leaders of the alliance upheld the right of Ukraine and Georgia to join the military bloc, without stating any timeframe but pointing to the importance of continuing reforms in those countries.
Later, during his meeting with military observers, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said that Ukraine needed to carry out more reforms to be able to join NATO. Notably, such statements became more frequent in the run-up to the summit meeting between President Vladimir Putin and his US counterpart Joe Biden on June 16.
What is Russia’s stance on these statements that are pushing NATO’s idea of its further expansion? How will Russia protect its interests and security in these conditions?
Maria Zakharova: I spoke extensively about the NATO summit today and about the statements made during the summit, as well as about luring more countries into its web all these years. I have commented on that. I can only reiterate that these statements do not correspond to the noble goals which the alliance set for itself and which its senior officials and leaders of NATO member states declare, regarding stabilisation, predictability, security, etc. These statements are the complete opposite of and largely contradictory to these goals.
You know Russia’s stance on this issue very well, so I can only reaffirm it. I think it is obvious that in reality, such statements and dialogues have already produced completely opposite results and outcomes; in fact, the consequences are deplorable. They have not resulted and they will not result in greater stability, predictability or balance of interests. Therefore, these statements are out-of-touch reincarnations from the Cold War era.
I don’t think they were purposefully made in the run-up to the Russia-US summit. It was a NATO summit during which those statements were made. As to why NATO members cannot let go of this concept from the past – perhaps their intellectual potential is the reason. They should have replaced that outdated concept completely instead of revamping, giving a makeover to something that already existed and did not work. They need something fundamentally new, something that could be offered to the world as a truly progressive road forward and a response to new challenges. But I think that NATO is simply not up to the task, intellectually. If they were, they would have done it already, instead of chanting the same thing like a mantra over and over, for years on end.
Question: NATO assigns a key role to Turkey in the matter of maintaining security at Kabul airport after the withdrawal of US and other NATO forces from Afghanistan, as NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg declared at the NATO summit in Brussels on June 12. What is Russia’s position on Turkey ensuring security at Kabul airport after the US and NATO pull out of Afghanistan?
Maria Zakharova: The maintenance by Turkey, like any other country, of its military contingent in Afghanistan is, from the legal point of view, at odds with the agreement between the United States and the Taliban movement (TM), which was signed in Doha in February 2020. The agreement provides for a full withdrawal of foreign forces from the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan by May 1, a date that has already been postponed until September 11, 2021. The Taliban movement has expressed its unequivocally negative attitude to this prospect.
We believe that the final decision on this score should be adopted in a level-headed manner, proceeding, among other things, from the aims of promoting the process of intra-Afghan national reconciliation.
Apart from that, it is logical to ask, why the protection of the country’s main airport cannot be entrusted to the Afghan national security forces? Let me remind you that billions of dollars were spent on training and arming them over 20 years. During all these years, we regularly heard US and NATO officials declare that their combat readiness was high and that they were able to ensure their country’s security all on their own. And now it turns out that they do not trust the Afghan security forces.
Question: Yesterday, Russian journalists were not allowed to attend US President Joe Biden’s news conference. Can you comment on these working conditions for the press?
Maria Zakharova: That’s mighty good to see an EU journalist heart-broken over the Russian journalists being barred from US President Joe Biden’s news conference. The fact that the Russian journalists were not allowed to participate in Joe Biden’s news conference means only that all the statements about an open, democratic and censorship-free information space, which we hear from our US partners, run athwart of their own practices. In word, they proclaim high-sounding slogans that are in fact unsupported by any real steps. As you may know, we always invite journalists from various countries to (rather than just tolerate them at) news conferences granted by President Vladimir Putin or representatives of Russian government agencies or different arms of power. Moreover, when we see that an event that is to be followed by a planned news conference, a press point or a contact with the press concerns a certain country, we are sure to invite journalists from this country or region, without fail. We have no problems of this sort. Draw your own conclusions, although, to my mind, they are obvious.