Briefing by the official representative of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Alexander Lukashevich, 11 September 2014
The situation in Ukraine
The main task now is consolidation of the agreements, which were decided in Minsk on the 5 September in the Protocol as a result of the negotiations, which has, in fact, become the first important step on the way to a political settlement of the drawn out Ukrainian crisis.
If we talk about today's situation in the South-East of Ukraine, we see the following as an optimum variant of the development of events in the first place. The main thing is a cease fire, an end to military actions, the wrapping-up of the forceful, so-called antiterrorism operation, conducted by Kiev, the establishment of a truce, which would make it possible to operatively resolve the most acute humanitarian issues related to the provision of essentials to the civilian population – water, electric power, food, medical aid and communications.
At the same time, we need the organisation of a comprehensive, open, as we say, inclusive, internal Ukrainian dialogue with participation of representatives from all the Ukrainian regions and all the political forces about the future of the country, its constitutional order, parameters of the state, where all the nationals would live in comfort and safety, where human rights would be respected in full scope in all their variety, where there would be no spread of radicalism and nationalism.
As for Russia, we are ready to provide all the possible and necessary assistance for the creation of favourable conditions for the resolution of the problems faced by Ukraine.
We hope that all the provisions of this document and the reached agreements will be strictly fulfilled.
It is important that all the necessary documents to implement the reached agreement are agreed upon in the near future.
According to the Minsk agreement between Vladimir Putin and Petro Poroshenko on the 26 August, we intend to send the second shipment of humanitarian cargo, including food, medicines, equipment generating energy, principal items, to the Lugansk and Donetsk Region of Ukraine in cooperation with Ukraine and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
We expect that the delivery will be made with participation of officers of the border guard and customs services of Ukraine, representatives of the ICRC, and the aid will be distributed among those in need under the aegis of the ICRC.
The logistics of the delivery of the humanitarian cargo are being coordinated right now.
I will provide several specific facts about the refugee situation from the territory of Ukraine.
The monitoring of applications of Ukrainian nationals to the territory of the Russian Federation as at 10 September 2014 shows the following.
In the period from 1 April 2014, 833,751 Ukrainian nationals entered the territory of the Russian Federation and remain there on the stated date (10 September 2014).
1013 temporary settlements accommodating 57,805 people, including 18,456 children aged up to 18, are situated in the territory of the Russian Federation.
339,882 people were accommodated in the private sector, 100,832 Ukrainian nationals in the private sector in near-border regions of the Russian Federation.
Federal and regional authorities do the maximum possible to provide the Ukrainian nationals with all they need.
As you cansee, these numbers are more than impressive. They are the reflection of the tragedy, which has been and still is happening in the South-East of Ukraine.
Ban to rebroadcast Russian TV channels in off-the-air and cable networks of Ukraine
Ignoring appeals from representatives of international organisations and journalist associations, the Kiev authorities continue to build-up their efforts to keep a strict administrative control over the mass media, openly preventing objective reporting on the events in the country. We view the decision by the Kiev District Administrative Court in the action of the National Council of Ukraine with regard to the ban to rebroadcast 15 Russian channels in Ukraine (Pervyi kanal, REN-TV, Life News, Russia Today, RBK-TV, etc.) as contrary to the norms of international law and explicitly political.
This line of reasoning used in the action, "biased reporting on the crisis situation in the South-East of Ukrainian state", is evidence that the law enforcement bodies of Ukraine consistently deprive the population of their country of the opportunity to receive information from alternative sources.
I will not prevaricate– Olha Herasymyuk, representative of the National Council of Ukraine for Television and Radio Broadcasting, who initiated this action and reached a decision, made the following statements. She said that now Ukrainian mass media do not need to stick to the standards of journalism and present different points of view to their audience. There is only one point of view, which is correct. For example, even speeches by the President of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin, cannot be broadcast, because people do not need to know the opinion of the "aggressor". At the same time, Olha Herasymyuk does not consider these bans to be censorship. A curious phrase followed: "We gained the freedom of speech, but we have not understood what it means. And now we are at war with this misunderstanding without being aware that journalism must unite professionalism and patriotism".
In fact, we have evidence of an uncovered act of censorship with regard to mass media, which is absolutely unacceptable, especially in a country, which allegedly shares European democratic values.
Russia strongly condemns such a vicious practice of frightening mass media representatives, interfering with their activities and the persecution of them, up to connivance in murders. We expect that the world community, international, professional and community organisations will give a principled assessment of this explicitly discriminating decision by the Ukrainian law enforcement agencies, which grossly violate the international obligations undertaken by Kiev.
I would like to see a special statement by the body, which was created for this purpose within the framework of the OSCE and is headed by Dunja Mijatović.
Visit by the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Nils Muižnieks, to the Russian Federation
The Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Nils Muižnieks, was on a visit to the Russian Federation from the 8 to 12 September. The Commissioner's programme included meetings in Moscow, as well as his trip to the Crimean Federal District (Simferopol and Bakhchysarai).
On the 9 September, Nils Muižnieks had talks with the Deputy Foreign Minister, Aleksey Meshkov, the Minister of Justice, Alexander Konovalov, and the Human Rights Commissioner of Russia, Ella Pamfilova. A wide range of issues related to the cooperation between the Russian Federation and the Council of Europe was discussed, including in the context of the implementation of recommendations by the Commissioner for Human Rights during his previous visits to Russia, other topical issues of the international agenda, including the situation in Ukraine.
Within the framework of his visit to Crimea, the Commissioner planned meetings with the Plenipotentiary Representative of the President of the Russian Federation in the Crimean Federal District, Oleg Belaventsev, the Acting Head of the Republic of Crimea, President of the Council of Ministers, Sergey Aksyonov, the President of the State Council of the Republic of Crimea, Vladimir Konstantinov, and the Prosecutor of the Republic of Crimea, Natalia Poklonskaya. Furthermore, Nils Muižnieks met representatives of the civil community.
The Russian Federation, on its part, positively assesses the constructive and mutually respectful dialogue with the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights. We hope that as a result of Commissioner's visit to our country, including his trip to the Crimean Federal District, Nils Muižnieks will get a complete idea of the efforts of the Russian leaders in the area of observation of human rights, including the fulfilment of our international obligations, including within the Council of Europe. I will emphasise that all the obligations extend to Crimea in full scope.
Development of the situation in Syria
The situation in Syria remains tense. In the last days the government forces continued a large-scale military operation against militants from illegal armed formations in Eastern Ghouta. There were confrontations between the Syrian army and the armed groups in Daraa and Quneitra Governorates, as well as in the area of the old town of Aleppo. According to the available information, serious damage was done as a result of an explosion in underground tunnels under several buildings of historical significance by the militants. Syrian air forces made a missile and bombing raid against positions of militants behind the Euphrates River in Ar-Raqqah and Deir ez-Zor Governorates.
The number of casualties among civilians is growing because of the high explosive war unleashed by terrorists. 6 people died and 9 were injured after the blow-up of a passenger bus in the As-Suwayda Governorate. Neighbourhoods of Al Shagour, Barzeh, Al Midan and Jaramana suburbs in Damascus were mortared.
Against the backdrop of never ending sorties by terrorist groups we believe that the priority task of the new Syrian Government (formed on the 28 August) to extend the practice of "local cease-fires" is important. The negotiations about this started in Daraya, which has been an arena for a severe confrontation for a long time. The truce in Tel is being successfully implemented.
The statements by Syrian officials, in particular that of the Deputy President of the Government, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates of Syria, Walid Al-Muallem, in support of the unanimously adopted resolution 2170 of the UN Security Council on fight against terrorist challenges in Syria and Iraq, seem to be important. The Syrian leaders are ready to coordinate their steps with the international community to eradicate the "caliphate" created in the Middle East region by terrorists from the Islamic State (IS) group. Mass executions and human trafficking take place regularly and , violent misappropriations of property are quite frequent in the territories under their control. The modern education system is being liquidated and replaced by pseudo-religious disciplines. These facts were reported in the report by the Human Rights Watch.
It is evident the IS militants in Syria do not differ much from their "brothers-in-arms" in Iraq. In fact, a well-organised, motivated and cruel terrorist group is operating on both sides of the Syrian-Iraqi border. This fight against evil needs to be fought in strict compliance with the generally accepted international legal framework, UN resolutions on problems of counter-terrorism, but, of course, with respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria and Iraq.
Situation in the Middle East peace process
There is still a dangerous deadlock in the Middle East peace process. Although the cease fire agreements for Gaza reached between Palestinian and Israeli representatives at the end of August in Cairo are truly a step in the right direction, we still need to nail down these understandings to long-term prospects. To resolve the Gaza problem in a complex way we need to achieve such decisions, which would ensure a secure observation of the cease-fire regime in the strip, as well as would lead to a cardinal bettering of the lot of thousands of civilians living there in conditions of a blockade and isolation from the outer world.
The task to provide humanitarian assistance to the population in the sector, who has suffered as a result of recent military actions, and to restore the civil infrastructure, is an integral part of overcoming the crisis in Gaza. To that end, we support the efforts by Egypt and Norway to convene at an international donor conference in Cairo this October for the reconstruction of Gaza.
The renewal of Palestinian-Israeli negotiations on all the issues of the final status of the Palestinian territories on a known international and legal basis would be a secure guarantee against recurrences of the use of force in Gaza. Russia is working on this task in contacts with Palestinians and Israelis and all the other stakeholders. We believe that we need to use the potential of the Middle East Quartet of international mediators more actively, whose special representatives had a TV conference last week. We are for a close coordination between the Four and regionals, primarily the League of Arab States.
We follow the internal Palestinian dialogue aimed at the overcoming of a multi-annual split between Palestinian movements closely. We are convinced that the implementation of the existing inter-Palestinian agreements based on the political platform of the PLO and the Arab Peace Initiative would generally serve the Palestine-Israel Peace Process well.
Current situation in Afghanistan
We follow the situation around the organisation of presidential elections closely. The recounting of votes from the second round completed on the 4 September. Currently, the IRA's Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) is examining the complaints submitted by rival parties. In parallel, the candidates continue negotiations about the division of authority in the future government of national unity.
The understanding that the announcement of results of the voting without achievement of a political agreement between candidates can lead to a serious destabilisation of the situation is growing.
Situation around the Transnistria peace process
In connection with the messages about the intensification of military activities in the region, which appeared on some Moldavian internet sites and were quoted by some Russian mass media without any verification, we would like to emphasise that the situation in the Security Zone of the Transnistrian conflict is still stable and is controlled by the structures administering the joint peacekeeping operation – the Joint Control Commission and the Allied Military Command. Another evidence of this is the start of works to dismantle the industrial cable road across Dniester between Rîbniţa and Rezina in the Security Zone. A decision about this was made in 5+2 format in May 2013.
As for the postponing of another round of negotiations of the Permanent Council on Political Issues within the Framework of Negotiation Process on the Transnistrian Settlement at Tiraspol's initiative, it should be noted that the rationale provided by the Transnistrians deserves close attention. It is evident that the initiation of politically motivated criminal affairs by Kishinev against official representatives of Transnistria does not contribute to the creation of a positive atmosphere for the negotiation process, and the preparation by the Moldavian Parliament of the law according to which the majority of the population on the left bank of Dniester are considered to be criminals and separatists not only politically, but also according to the law, does not contribute to this either.
Nevertheless, we believe that this pause in the negotiation process should not become too long: it cost too much effort to renew it after a 6 year break. We hope that the deadlines of another meeting will be agreed in the near future.
We also believe that the Memorandum of 1997, the resources of which have not exhausted yet, still is an important instrument in the resolution of many troubling issues for the parties.
Investigation into the incident with the Russian helicopter in South Sudan
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation is following the course of the investigation into the circumstances of the death of Russian crew members of the civil helicopter Mi-8 of UTair airlines, which was a contractor of the UN Mission in this country (UNMISS) and crashed on the 26 August in South Sudan. According to the preliminary version, the helicopter was shot down by fire from the ground ten kilometres to the east of Bentiu.
On the 5 September the remains of deceased Russian pilots, aircraft commander A.N.Berdnikov, flight mechanic T.N.Ishmetov and flight attendant A.V.Sazonov were delivered to Russia.
On the same day the National Investigation Commission formed by the authorities of this country because of this incident started its work in South Sudan.
We expect that, according to the request by the UN Security Council for a thorough and "transparent" finding of the causes of the crash, the involvement of all those who are guilty and adoption of necessary measures to prevent such incidents in the future, South Sudan in constructive interaction with authorised representatives of the Federal Air Transport Agency (Roaviation), UTair airlines and UNMISS will take all the necessary steps to ensure a full, objective and operative investigation into the causes of the tragic death of nationals of the Russian Federation.
Joint article by the US President Barack Obama and the UK Prime Minister David Cameron
Moscow took note of the joint article by Barack Obama and David Cameron in the British Times (4 September). The liberal treatment of the reality by its authors cannot but surprise. When discussing the challenges faced by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization today, the US and UK leaders in fact bracket Russia with terrorists from the Islamic State acting in the territory of Iraq and Syria, who commit ruthless reprisals over the civilians of these countries and civilians of western states.
I would like to remind Washington and London that it was not Russia who attacked the international system in the period after the end of the "cold war", who has consistently stuck to the principle of the rule of law in global affairs, it was the United States and their allies, who committed multiple illegal actions of forceful interference in Yugoslavia, Iraq, Libya and other countries. The rise of the wave of extremism and terrorism in the region of the Middle East and North Africa is, to a large extent, the result of their policy aimed at imposing their will on people living thousands of kilometres from their borders.
Such irresponsible statements like the destabilisation of the situation in the European continent through support of the anti-constitutional coup in Ukraine do not contribute to the resolution of the pressing tasks to build-up collective actions of the international community in the interests of confronting the growing terrorist threat.
Statements by the NATO Deputy Secretary-General Alexander Vershbow
We noted the following statement by Alexander Vershbow: "Russia is not a ‘troubled' neighbour, but a state actively undermining the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine".
Such statements by the alliance leaders are not new to us. They comply with the documents adopted at the NATO summit in Wales on the 4-5 September, which show an attempt to impose the lion's share of responsibility for the events in Ukraine on Russia and therefore substantiate the need to unite the organisation based on strict discipline in the spirit of the "cold war", as well as the line to the advancement of the NATO infrastructure "to the East" and the build-up of the military presence of the bloc near Russian borders.
It is characteristic that the splash of anti-Russian rhetoric is observed at each flash of hope to transfer the situation in Ukraine from the forceful confrontation to the plan for a political settlement. In this context, we are surprised at the announced plans to conduct joint exercises involving Kiev and NATO member states in the territory of Ukraine by the end of 2014. Such actions will truly cost us an escalation of tensions and will put the progress in the peace process in this country under threat. Moreover, some forces in Ukraine will consider this training as encouragement to use exclusively forceful methods of conflict resolution, and this will inevitably lead to the escalation of tension.
Another statement by Alexander Vershbow: "NATO does not see the possibility of restoring practical cooperation with Russia until Moscow starts carrying out its international obligations".
To be noted Russia strictly observes norms of international law and its obligations to its partners. The approach is unacceptable when cooperation becomes dependent on the unilateral interpretation of the fulfilment of obligations under international law..
We do not refuse interaction and are ready to work in any formats, which will allow a real contribution to be made to the modern challenges and threats such as terrorism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, the drug trade, piracy, natural and man-made disasters. However, it is possible only provided Russian national interests are taken into consideration.
Situation concerning the spread of Ebola virus
The epidemiological situation in several Western African countries because of the continuing outbreak of the disease caused by the Ebola virus is complicated. According to the WHO, the total number of persons affected by the disease exceeded 3000, more than half of these cases resulted in fatalities. The most of infected persons were found in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. Local outbreaks of Ebola virus were found in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, there was one occurrence in Senegal. No Russian nationals were infected by the Ebola virus.
The world community in coordination with the WHO and other international organisations undertake active measures to assist local authorities in the affected states to prevent the spread of the disease and overcome its consequences. The main efforts are focused on medical aid.
Despite actions by local authorities and the multi-profile aid of the world community, the situation is still not improving. According to WHO forecasts, from 6 to 9 months will be required to eliminate the outbreaks of the Ebola epidemics, but the number of infected persons by the end of September can reach 20 thousand people. The assessments by Russian specialists point out that effective anti-epidemic measures are prevented by factors such as low level of organisation and material and technical supply in health care in the affected countries, lack of effective isolation and follow-up of patients, cultural and national peculiarities contributing to the spread of the virus, uncontrolled trans-border migration processes which complicate the use of coordinated measures.
The Russian Federation provides advisory and technical assistance to health care authorities of African countries in their fights against the spread of the virus (with WHO's assistance medical modules were transferred to the authorities of Liberia and Guinea). At the beginning of August, the leading Russian specialists in epidemiology were sent to the Republic of Guinea. Starting from the second half of August, a specialised anti-epidemic team with a mobile set-up equipped with modern epidemiological equipment has been working in Conakry.
Apart from medical aid, the efforts of the world community also include the component of food aid to the affected civilians provided within the ambit of the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP). An extraordinary operation intended for 1 million people living in the areas of spread of the Ebola virus was launched at the end of August. Its purpose is to reduce the scales of migration of the population from the affected territories because of the lack of food and degradation of agriculture. The address by the UNWFP leadership to the leading international donors, including Russia, asking for financial assistance in the implementation of the extraordinary operation of the Programme was noted.
Russia traditionally supports different WFP operations in Africa. The size of our contribution to the fund of the Programme for African states (Kenya and Somali) will be in the region of up to 3 million US dollars in 2014.
Question: Could you comment on the statement by the US President Barack Obama who announced the possibility of strikes on Syria because of the activities of the Islamic State, as well as voiced several claims towards Russia?
Answer: In his speech the US President, Barack Obama, stated the strategy for the eradication of the threat coming from the Islamic State. The assessments and the outline presented by Barack Obama are far from being non-debatable. It is certainly good that the United States, which has been turning a blind eye to the atrocities by the radical elements in Syria for a long time to use them to overthrow the legal government in Damascus, is finally aware of the scale of the disaster in almost the entire Middle East region. Of course, they have become aware of this only after these radical occupied a large part of the Iraqi territory, proclaimed the creation of a "caliphate" and ruthlessly murdered American journalists. However, as we say: better late than never.
There is a bad thing here as well. Washington is still not able to get rid of its own "double standards" attempting to replace truly collective actions against international terrorism by ambiguous manoeuvres, which present a good deal of ideology and confrontation. Helping the Iraqi government to confront Islamists, on the one hand, Barack Obama asks the US Congress to allocate 500 million US dollars to support the Syrian armed opposition, which has little difference with the radical of the Islamic State, on the other hand.
Moreover, the US President openly stated that the US armed forces may strike IS positions in the territory of Syria without consent of its legal government. Such a step without a respective decision of the UN Security Council would be an act of aggression, a gross violation of the norms of international law. There is reason to believe that the Syrian government forces can also become the target, which will incur severe consequences in terms of further escalation of tensions.
As a minimum, we have questions about another portion of groundless claims and accusations addressed to Russia, which was a part of the speech by the US President. We emphasise again: we have always supported uncompromisingly the struggle against terrorism and combination of the efforts of the entire world community on this issue. We urge the United States to stick to international law, and to stop dividing terrorists into friends and foes. This is especially topical today, on the anniversary of the tragedy of 11 September 2001.
Question: Would you comment on the information that the permanent representatives of EU countries are coordinating a package of sanctions and that the official document will be published tomorrow?
Answer: Let us see whether such a decision has been really made. As we said and commented, this is an absolutely unfriendly line contrary to the EU interests as well. At many levels the Russian political leadership made it clear that adequate measures will be adopted, and the response will be proportionate to the damage inflicted by the sanctions measures upon economies of our states.
We will provide more detailed comments when we see the agreed decision in the Official Journal of the European Union.
Question: How does Russia assess the investigation into the crash of the Malaysian Boeing in Ukraine?
Answer: Our assessments are mainly shared by the participants of this investigation, including Malaysia. As it is known, we welcomed the Minister of Defence of Malaysia, Hishammuddin Hussein, in Moscow yesterday. He had a talk with the Secretary of State, Deputy Foreign Minister, Grigory Karasin, in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The considerations, which we outlined to the Malaysian minister, mainly coincided with his vision, which he will present to his contacts with Holland conducting this investigation.
We follow the development of the situation around the tragic crash of the Malaysian Boeing-777 attentively, because it has not only led to many casualties, but also was used for the intentional escalation of tensions, putting pressure on states to push through sectoral sanctions against Russia.
In these conditions, it is even more important that the international investigation into this aircraft crash is comprehensive, transparent, thorough and independent and is organised and conducted in strict compliance with UNSC resolution 2166 and the rules of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).
Taking into consideration that the tragedy sparked a wide international outcry and its consequences for the system of international relations, we believe that such an investigation is not only critically important for the establishment of the true causes of the events but also making those who are guilty responsible for their actions. It also affects support of international peace and security. We are for the strict observation of the decision by the UN Security Council according to which the Council will "control" the developments around the aircraft crash.
We urgently appeal to all the parties to refrain from hasty, public and groundless accusations and statements, which not only disrupt the foundations of international communication, but also are an outrageous interference in the conduct of an independent investigation.
I will say some words about the course and interim results of the international investigation in relation to the publication of a technical report by Holland.
We can note that the process is seriously delayed by the international commission in general. We emphasise the importance to regularly remind our international partners of the need for an independent investigation in full compliance with norms of international civil aviation.
The report presented by the international commission does not contain any convincing data about the circumstances of the crash. The most important examinations and studies have not been conducted (no collection and presentation of plane wreckage, no search for damaging agents, no anatomic pathological examinations). It is impossible to draw any conclusions on the causes of this event without this data. Besides, no answers to the questions asked earlier by the Russian Ministry of Defence and Rosaviation have been provided.
Because of the delay of the investigation into the aircraft crash, many examinations are already impossible to conduct – the wreckage was in the area of military actions and, certainly, might be damaged as a result of multiple shooting in this territory; anatomic pathological examinations also seem to be a problem.
It seems that the international commission delays this investigation under pressure from certain western forces and, in fact, does not do its job, which is evident for any aviation specialist. Finally, it may face a situation that the causes of the tragedy are not stated and not reported to the public.
We insist on a fully transparent investigation, fulfilment of all the requirements of ICAO norms for the purposes of accurately establishing the causes of the tragedy.
We noted that the text of the published report does not include any references to the UN Security Council resolution 2166, which envisages a mechanism for reports by the UN Secretary-General on the developments in the context of the investigation which is being conducted.
We do not doubt the sovereign right of the "state of the event", Ukraine, to determine the plan for the organisation of the investigation into the aircraft crash, which happened in its air space. At the same time, since the incident sparked a wide public outcry all over the world, we are convinced that such a plan should ensure a truly international nature of the investigation and sufficient transparency in the matters of its organisation (of course, not to the detriment of privacy of the investigation process itself). At the same time, it is also important that specialists from different countries, who are members of the group of international experts, act in close contact, as a team, without external interference, as well as having equal and fair access to all the materials of the investigation.
It seems that the selected scheme of the organisation of this criminal investigation (based on bilateral agreements of Ukraine with individual states) does not fully comply with the above criteria.
We are worried about some "restraint" with which the report comments on not having access to the crash site and plane wreckage, while this is one of the priority tasks. In the opinion of aviation experts, the study of the crash site and plane wreckage can have an important (if not the key) meaning for the establishment of the causes of the crash of the Malaysian plane.
Question: Was Russia invited to the conference on Iraq, which was convened at the initiative of the President of France Francois Hollande? This event reminds us of the conference of "friends of Syria". What is Russia's attitude to this event?
Answer: Russia received an invitation. The level of our participation in the conference in France on the 15 September is being clarified now.
I would like to note that the day before yesterday, answering the question from your TV channel (Al Mayadeen), the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov provided our rationale in an exhaustive way. This recording is published in full on the official website of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
This is the most pressing topic. I hope that the forthcoming event in France will counter-balance the rhetoric.
Russia has always been an active member of the anti-terrorism coalition. We actively acted with US anti-terror partners not only within the framework of the UN, but also in other international formats – G8 and others. There can be no "personal plans" or "separate coalitions" in this matter. This is the task of the entire international community. All its active and inactive participants must make their contribution to the common goal, act as a team, and resolve complicated tasks to fight the spread of this, probably, the most serious threat of the XXI century collectively.
As to the resemblance to the Friends of Syria Group, I can say that we need a wide group of friends to fight international terrorism. This is probably the idea of the French initiative within the framework of preparations for this international conference.
We will follow the development of events. We are ready to participate in various formats. We do not accept the formula, when such coalitions are created to match personal interest, with a personal vision of the range of their participants.
Question: When is another meeting within the framework of the Minsk Contact Group planned? What will be its agenda: only cease fire measures or more global topics, including decentralisation of power?
There is information that the United States plan new unprecedented severe sanctions which will ban US companies from investing in oil projects in the Arctic Region and other regions. How can you comment on this?
Answer: As to the second question, the answer is simple: while there is nothing, we have nothing to comment on. This is all talk.
You know our attitude to sanctions well. It is not simply negative, it is very negative. Such restrictions are non-legitimate according to their international legal nature, because the regime of sanctions can be introduced by decisions of the UN Security Council only. National sanctions have no such international legal basis. On the other hand, they do tremendous harm to the economic opportunities of states, including with regard to the region you mentioned.
Of course, we will respond to these unfriendly steps, but the scope and the nature of this reaction will depend on the depth of the decision, which the US authorities plan to adopt. We expect that good judgement and the economic component will prevail over the so-called "political appropriateness" to punish Russia using different schemes.
Although the scope of our trade relations with the United States is not so big, the US and European business is generally against such measures. May be this has not assumed a massive nature yet, but at least we see seedlings of understanding that sanctions are counter-productive in Europe. We expect that business will press on short-sighted politicians who play these sanctions "games". The delay in the coordination of sanctions within the European Union recently is a reflection of the real business mood in the European business community, which, in the event sanction measures are introduced, will receive even more economic and financial damage than before.
As to the meeting of the Contact Group, the precise date is not known yet. We expect that the CG will have another session in the near future. To be noted, video conferences in this format are quite frequent. There is a need to discuss and agree on specific areas and items of the Minsk agreements of the 5 September. This is related to the elections and a very important element, which was fixed there – the continuation of a nation-wide inclusive dialogue and resolution of a range of other matters, which should be shaped as separate documents. I believe that we get this understanding from the text of the Protocol of the 5 September. This is just a start of this work, and, of course, we are interested that such agreements are reached on paper and then implemented in full scope. We will contribute to this in all possible ways.
Question: Yesterday the Secretary General of the Amnesty International, Salil Shetty, presented a report, in which he announced the conflict in the South-East of Ukraine to be international conflict and called the Russian Federation a party to this conflict. How would you comment on this statement?
Answer: I have not studied this report in detail yet and have not seen this phrase. If this is so, it is a profound mistake. We emphasised many times, and it is already fixed on paper, including in the Minsk protocol of the 5 September: it states the conflicting parties very clearly. They must negotiate, but Russia and the OSCE are assisting parties, which, using their possibilities and influence on the parties to the conflict, will help to advance the negotiations in the areas, which we managed to agree on in Minsk.
I would better note another aspect of this report. I believe that this is the first time, when an international human rights organisation loudly and openly makes two principled statements: the Aidar battalion is a punitive battalion, and the Kiev authorities are responsible for its actions and must stop them immediately. In our opinion, this is a very important statement, which was presented by Salil Shetty to the Kiev leadership, and proposed to the world community to provide an assessment of that. To be noted, we talked about this. This concerns not only the Aidar battalion. There are many other territorial groups, which are sponsored by oligarchs and are not influenced by the central Kiev authorities. We expect that taking into account this cease fire, which, luckily is generally been observed, these structures will not be allowed to violate principled agreements, which have opened up a path to peace for the entire Ukrainian population.
Question: Please comment on more and more frequent deaths of Russian militaries in the territory of Ukraine, in particular, troopers, announced by Russian human rights defenders and reported on by one of federal TV channels. On which basis does the Russian army fight in territory of Ukraine, in particular, based on which international norms?
Answer: I will say directly and honestly – there are and have been no Russian militaries in the territory of Ukraine, the Russian army is not fighting there. There are volunteers, who cannot stay out of the events in Donetsk and Lugansk Regions. For some reason, there has been little comment about the presence of big numbers of mercenaries from different countries and nobody seems to be interested based on which international legal norms mercenaries fight in units of regular Ukrainian army.
The presence of volunteers is an impulse, the wish to help brothers in trouble, which has been developing for ages and of friendship between our peoples.
Question: Right now, are there any talks with Ukraine at official level within the framework of the Minsk agreements regarding the liberation of two Ukrainian nationals – Oleg Sentsov and Nadezhda Savchenko?
Answer: Frankly speaking, I see no connection to the Minsk protocol, because it talks about the prisoners of war, who were seized during military actions.
I have no accurate data. I understand that for several reasons you are seriously interested in this matter. I will not say, but will certainly inquire about the state of examination of these cases.
Incidentally, the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Thorbjørn Jagland, who visited Russia, was also interested in this. We said openly that they face serious accusations in relation to their actions, which will be examined according to the norms of our law, according to the set procedure. Of course, there is a humanitarian aspect of this problem. I will learn details and then attempt to say something more certain.
Question: Is the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs dealing with the case of the resident of the Rostov Region Marya Dapirko, who is now in a Vietnam prison being accused of drug trafficking?
Answer: Yesterday I already recorded a detailed video comment for your TV channel (REN-TV), which was already shown in your programmes.
Indeed a Russian national (Marya Dopirko) was detained in the airport of Ho Chi Minh for the transportation of drugs, which is a severe crime in Vietnam. She is now in a pre-trial detention centre of Ho Chi Minh. We expect that tomorrow (12 September) consular employees of the Russian Embassy in Vietnam will be able to speak with her. There is an agreement on this with the official authorities. We will protect her rights as a Russian national, and have a thorough talk to our Vietnamese colleagues about the prospects of investigation into this case.
The Embassy and the Consular Department of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has established direct communication with relatives of this Russian. A lawyer is being selected, and there is also the possibility to find a lawyer through her relatives.
As to the scope of consular assistance which is envisaged by our obligations as a country, of which the detained person is a national, we use it to its fullest scope. We will further trace this unpleasant incident.
I would ask you not to trust unfair and low quality, or sometimes even provocative attempts to spread panic on the Internet. In my comment, taking into account that relatives of the detained person were certainly watching this programme on your TV channel, I asked to note that this case is difficult and unpleasant, but we will do everything possible to resolve this incident.
Question: Today Saudi Arabia agreed to arrange a camp for training of the Syrian opposition to fight the current authorities in Syria in its territory. Don't you think that such a step is a refusal from any peaceful agreements to exit the Syrian crisis? Isn't Moscow afraid that the UNSC resolution on fighting terrorism will be used to overthrow the Syrian regime?
Answer: I have no information about actions of Saudi Arabia, but I trust your sources.
Even the US President Barack Obama in his speech yesterday confirmed the importance of finding ways for a political settlement to the Syrian conflict, although, this phrase probably is only a décor in the context it was used in. Nevertheless, the opportunities for a political settlement are not exhausted yet. We expect that despite the severity of the situation in Syria, we all will continue to search for ways of resolving the conflict by diplomatic and political means, because this conflict (like any other armed conflict) has no military solution.
A reference to the resolution is hardly correct, because, as I have already said, it was generally approved by the Syrian Government, provided that Syria will participate in joint large-scale events of the international community in the fight against terrorism. The Government of Syria is actually doing this. The only legitimate condition of Damascus is that any actions against the Islamic State in the Syrian territory are undertaken with consent of the Syrian authorities and in accordance with norms of international law, primarily, related to sovereignty and territorial integrity of the state. Without that, any attempts to make strikes will be evaluated as direct acts of aggression.
Question: Does Russia see the Donetsk Popular Republic and the Lugansk Popular Republic as a part of Ukraine, or as individual entities seeking independence? What will be the further policy of our country with regard to these territories?
Answer: I refer you to the wording of the Minsk protocol, where these parts of Ukraine are marked as parties to the conflict, which is an important statement. As to their status, including in the future, it is a subject matter for negotiations between Kiev and Donbass, and this is also included in the Protocol. We believe that Ukrainians should determine the status of their territories themselves. To be noted, this Protocol has a special entry about Kiev's obligation to adopt a law on temporary elections in these regions, which, in fact, means a special status for a transitional period until wider agreements are reached about the territorial allegiance of these regions. But I repeat that this is a subject matter for specific negotiations between Kiev and Donbass.
We will accept any choice made by Ukrainians. It is very important for us that this friendly country remains as close, fraternal, war-free and with opportunities, which will open up our economic and kinship ties, to let people move freely without problems. The main thing is to have no artificial hostility, which is now being cultivated in many parts of Ukraine towards everything Russian, the Russian world, and Russia. The psychology of such kind has never been acceptable in the history of our relations, and I expect that it will not be acceptable in the future as well.