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28 April 202011:26

Extract from the briefing by Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova, April 23, 2020

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Coronavirus update


We are beginning our regular briefing with the problems that are really pressing for the entire world: the current pandemic situation. There has been no radical qualitative change in the battle against the coronavirus pandemic in the world over the past week. The rate of the spread of the disease remains as high as before. The pandemic has invaded 181 countries. In addition to the growing number of patients and victims all over the world, the pandemic has had extremely unfavourable effects on the world economy.

Meanwhile, in today’s most complex situation we can see in some capital cities extremely inappropriate, biased and groundless attacks against some states and international organisations, as well as attempts to burden them with the full responsibility for this epidemiologic crisis. We believe that today it is more important to reach joint agreements and pool our efforts.

Russia supports the measures taken by the WHO and its leadership to combat the coronavirus and supports its coordinating role in the struggle against the pandemic. We also proceed from the need to immediately lift all unlawful unilateral sanctions, which are aggravating the humanitarian situation during the epidemic in quite a number of countries.

This crisis has become a most serious test for the entire international community, for all states, an important survival test as well as a test of how prepared we are to develop new approaches in contemporary international relations with a view to solving serious issues through a collective agenda. After understanding the essence of what is going on and our interconnection, interdependence and common destiny in the face of the current global threat, we now have a unique opportunity to confirm that there is no alternative to joint constructive efforts and initiatives for the resolution of common tasks, whether it is eliminating the effects of the pandemic or coping with the global economic imbalances caused by the pandemic. You know very well the specific proposals of the Russian side as expressed by the President. Our shared future depends on the lessons we can draw from this crisis and how we deal with it.

And now to the priorities of the Foreign Ministry and our diplomatic missions abroad in dealing with issues to assist Russian citizens abroad.

As part of following-up on the decisions of the Russian Government’s emergency response centre, work continues on rendering financial assistance to the Russian nationals abroad who are waiting to return home and find themselves in a difficult situation because of the pandemic. A commission is working in the ministry on these issues. It considers applications and makes decisions on payments for those in need in accordance with Government Resolution No. 433 dated April 3, 2020.

Concurrently, based on the schedule developed by the Federal Agency of Air Transport (Rosaviatsia), Russians who were stranded abroad are being evacuated. Flights from Antalya, Goa, Kathmandu, Yangon, Denpasar, Bangkok, Phuket and other destinations have been arranged in recent weeks. Our citizens were taken to the cities and regions of their permanent residence in Russia, not just Moscow and St Petersburg but also Kazan, Ufa, Yekaterinburg, Irkutsk, Novosibirsk, Krasnoyarsk, Tyumen, Vladivostok and other cities.

Regarding the regions, I would like to specially stress how deeply they have become involved in the evacuation of Russian citizens, the residents of their cities. We managed to build this difficult but effective chain of interaction in the last few days. You may have seen that flights are going to large regional centres and that the eligible passengers are both residents of those cities and regions and also neighbouring ones. Thus we are closing in on the early return of all of our citizens from abroad. 

This takes very detailed cooperation between federal ministries and agencies under the Government of the Russian Federation and regional authorities, public organisations, legislators, deputies, human rights ombudspersons, and of course, journalists. The media are helping us a lot.

There is an increasing number of interactions like this. Novosibirsk took on a high load of incoming flights with residents of the Siberian Federal District. Vladivostok is doing the same for the Far Eastern Federal District. Also actively involved are Yekaterinburg, Kazan, Irkutsk, Krasnoyarsk, Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk. Sochi and Rostov-on-Don have recently become involved. We are expecting the regions in the Northwestern and Volga Federal Districts to join in.

A recent flight to Makhachkala brought 230 Russian nationals home. Most of them were accommodated in the quarantine centres in the region because they do not reside in Dagestan. However, this testifies to the high social responsibility of the region, its residents, the authorities, NGOs and others. This is the kind of work that unites us. The flight to Makhachkala was particularly difficult. Although there are no easy flights now in general, that one was extraordinary in terms of logistics and organisation. So I would like to note the well-coordinated work of all the agencies involved: the Russian Ministry of Transport, Rosaviatsia, the Ministry of Communications, and our diplomatic missions in Saudi Arabia who settled complicated issues virtually “on the go.” I would especially like to mention the reserve and patience of the Utair crew. This flight was made by this airline and they did an excellent job despite a many-hour delay which was caused by the need to fill the aircraft. Everyone who wanted to get home at that time could do so. We did all this together.

I would like to stress that this work requires an exceptionally high level of coordination by all the agencies involved, primarily regarding the prevention of importing new cases of the infection and its spread. We hope the regional programme will expand shortly with new destinations. The regions now have excellent experience, as I mentioned. 

Let me reiterate that all of these steps to evacuate Russian nationals from abroad can only be accomplished through close cooperation and mutual understanding. In this case, I also want to mention foreign governments. Russia supports other countries by fulfilling their requests, including on helping bringing back their nationals. We expect and in most cases encounter the same interaction and rapport from many countries. We are open to a constructive dialogue with all of our partners without exception on organising the evacuation of foreign nationals from abroad and from Russia to their countries of residence. We expect reciprocity in return. Let me stress again that we need to untangle the situation with our compatriots in Southeast Asia. We are sending the relevant documents and diplomatic notes, and we are maintaining contact with Fiji. We hope very much for prompt cooperation.

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