Briefing by Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova, Moscow, November 27, 2020
- Coronavirus update
- UN World Food Programme assistance to Kyrgyzstan
- Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s upcoming talks with Minister of Foreign Relations of Uruguay Francisco Bustillo
- Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s participation in the CSTO Council of Foreign Ministers meeting
- Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's participation in the OSCE Ministerial Council meeting
- Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's participation in the Rome MED 2020: Mediterranean Dialogues 6th Edition
- Update on Nagorno-Karabakh
- Statement by the NGOs cooperating with UNESCO on the Nagorno-Karabakh situation
- Moldovan President-Elect Maia Sandu’s statements about Russian military presence in Transnistria
- US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s visit to an Israeli settlement in the West Bank and to the occupied Golan Heights
- Statement by US Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Ford at a virtual plenary meeting of the Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction
- Statement by German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas on the need to upgrade the European arms control architecture
- New US sanctions
- Canada puts Russia on list of countries posing the greatest cyber security threat
- Australian war crimes in Afghanistan
- Second Global Conference for Media Freedom
- Draft amendments to Russian laws designed to protect Russian media content from discrimination
- International Business Week in Bashkortostan and the 6th Small and Medium-Sized Business Forum of the SCO and BRICS Regions
- BRICS expert anti-corruption event
- The approval of the Russian State Antidrug Policy Strategy until 2030
- The anniversary of the uprising at the Sobibor Nazi death camp
- Developments around Marshal Konev monument in Prague
- Celebrating the 250th birth anniversary of Ivan Kruzenstern
- East Timor’s Independence Day
- Mauritania’s Independence Day
- Barbados’ Independence Day
- Celebration of the Central African Republic’s National Day
- The 45th anniversary of the Lao People's Democratic Republic
- Unofficial armed groups from the Middle East and their activities in Nagorno-Karabakh
- Possibility of holding a political dialogue with Poland on historical issues
- Turkey’s role in the post-war settlement in Nagorno-Karabakh
- Ability of Russian peacekeepers to ensure the safe return of Armenian refugees to the territory of the former NKAO (Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Area)
- Warsaw’s attempts to blame Russia for Lech Kaczynski’s plane crash
Unfortunately, the global spread of the novel coronavirus infection remains a challenge. The lockdown measures taken by various countries undoubtedly help stabilise the situation to some extent, but the virus continues to run wild on all continents. This is demonstrated by the international statistics that we have as well as reports from our missions abroad. According to the WHO, there were about 16 million new coronavirus cases reported in the past four weeks alone, which is more than during the spring pandemic wave that lasted over half a year. As of November 27, the number of coronavirus cases has already exceeded 61 million. Experts believe the infection rates may rise further due to the absence of a common coronavirus response vision.
The situation in Europe and the Western Hemisphere is a source of particular concern. The virus is spreading rapidly in specific countries that are Russian tourists’ favourite travel destinations. Of course, the local authorities are doing all they can to prevent the further spread of the infection, but the arriving citizens must be aware of their responsibility for their own health and strictly observe the anti-COVID rules.
Realising that the resumption of full lockdowns would be a serious trial for the survival of many states, national governments in some countries are trying to maintain a balance between tough sanitary measures aimed at protecting human health and the need to somehow save their economies from a protracted depression. The coronavirus policy is increasingly taking into account the lessons of the past months and is gradually moving towards the cautious lifting of restrictions. Experts think life cannot fully return to normal prior to vaccination.
Against the pandemic backdrop, experts note the growing alarm and pessimism in society and the psychological fatigue of the public due to the absence of clear prospects for an improvement in the COVID-19 situation. Manifestations of social alienation are becoming stronger, which cannot but be alarming. Numerous actions and protests in various countries have not stopped.
The G20 leaders discussed in detail the strategy for containing and overcoming the pandemic, including measures to restore consumer demand, during their summit at the end of last week. Russia again raised the question of guarantees of all countries’ equitable access to the tools for combatting COVID-19, including receiving the vaccine. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov described Russia’s position of principle in his video address to the Online Conference on Global Recovery after the COVID-19 Pandemic on November 20, 2020. All recommendations on travel abroad we made at our previous briefings remain valid.
On November 25, an official ceremony was held in Bishkek to transfer this year’s last batch of food consisting of wheat flour and fortified sunflower oil to the Kyrgyz Republic, as part of Russia’s main contribution to the UN World Food Programme Fund in 2020-2021 in the amount of $8 million.
This event was a continuation of Russia’s efforts to help Kyrgyzstan solve its food security problems using the potential of the UN World Food Programme.
The UN World Food Programme used Russia’s contribution to purchase more than 9,000 tonnes of food. According to the decision of specially established commissions under local authorities, the food will be distributed among 125,000 of the neediest people in the Kyrgyz Republic.
Since 2008, Russia has allocated about $96 million to support food programmes in Kyrgyzstan, thanks to which more than a million Kyrgyz people have received assistance.
The UN World Food Programme project of providing hot meals to primary school students is widely known. It is being implemented in Kyrgyzstan entirely through Russian funding. The project gives hot breakfasts to 400,000 children in 800 schools in Kyrgyzstan today.
On December 1, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will hold talks with Minister of Foreign Relations of the Eastern Republic of Uruguay Francisco Bustillo, who will be in Russia on a working visit.
The parties will discuss the development of bilateral relations, including the prospects of deepening political dialogue, expanding trade and economic cooperation and strengthening cultural and humanitarian ties.
They will also exchange opinions on a number of topical issues on the international and regional agendas. Special attention will be paid to the coordination of their interaction on international platforms, above all in the UN and its specialised agencies.
The visit of Francisco Bustillo is further evidence of the progressive development of the mutually beneficial relations between Russia and Uruguay, our long-standing and reliable partner in Latin America.
On December 1, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will chair a videoconference meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation.
The agenda includes the state and prospects of global and regional security and a variety of aspects of the CSTO activities. Sergey Lavrov will advise his colleagues on the results of Russia’s chairmanship in the Organisation, which will next pass over to the Republic of Tajikistan. Special attention will be paid to the interaction between the CSTO and the United Nations with an emphasis on peacekeeping.
On December 3, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will take part in the opening of the 27th OSCE Ministerial Council, which will be held via videoconference.
The discussion will focus on the results and prospects of the organisation's activities in three dimensions of security: military and political, economic, environmental and humanitarian, as well as crisis situations within the OSCE. One of the key issues on the agenda is the achievement of consensus by the member states on the appointment of the OSCE Secretary General, High Commissioner on National Minorities, Representative on Freedom of the Media and Director of the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights.
For the meeting, Russia has prepared a draft decision on establishing an informal working group to improve the effectiveness of the OSCE. We hope it will meet support. Work is underway on over 20 draft ministerial documents.
In 2021, the OSCE chairmanship will pass from Albania to Sweden.
On December 4, at the invitation of the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of the Italian Republic Luigi Di Maio, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will take part, via videoconference, in the Rome MED: Mediterranean Dialogues 6th Edition organised by the Italian Foreign Ministry and the Italian Institute for International Political Studies. Traditionally, we took part in this event in person, but this time it will be held via videoconference.
In his speech, Sergey Lavrov will present Russian approaches to addressing the problems of the Mediterranean and adjacent regions, including developments in Syria and Libya and the Palestinian-Israeli settlement.
The situation in Nagorno-Karabakh continued stabilising during the week. No ceasefire violations were recorded. There were no provocations against Russian peacemaking troops, either. The main provisions of the trilateral statement of November 9, 2020 are being carried out without any serious incidents.
These positive trends are tangible proof that the line that was adopted by the leaders of Azerbaijan, Armenia and Russia and is now being fully implemented by the parties in practice was correct. This attitude also prevails among our foreign partners who do not think in terms of geopolitics and zero sum games.
The entire range of issues stemming from the November 9 Statement remained in the focus of the Russian leadership. On November 23 and 24, President Vladimir Putin had a number of telephone conversations with President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev and Prime Minister of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan. They discussed the modalities of the Russian peacekeepers’ mission, further steps in rendering humanitarian aid to the population and the preservation of religious and historical landmarks. These issues were also the theme of the November 19 and 24 conversations between Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and his newly appointed Armenian counterpart Ara Ayvazyan. President Vladimir Putin had a detailed exchange of views on Nagorno-Karabakh issues with President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan; Mr Lavrov spoke with Foreign Minister of Iran Mohammad Javad Zarif. Comments on these contacts are published on the websites of the President of the Russian Federation and the Foreign Ministry, and in our accounts in the social media.
The Russian peacemakers continued creating favourable conditions for the return of refugees in Nagorno-Karabakh: they cleared the mines and searched for the missing or dead military personnel.
The humanitarian response centre has been unfolding its work. Several dozen federal ministries, departments and agencies are involved in its operation. The involvement of relevant departments of Azerbaijan and Armenia in its work was considered. The first humanitarian consignments arrived.
The Foreign Ministry mobilised international support on the part of the OSCE and other co-chairs of the Minsk Group, as well as related UN agencies. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is actively involved. We are cooperating with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, the World Food Programme, UNESCO, UNICEF, the UN Development Programme and the WHO.
We urge all parties not to politicise the humanitarian efforts and start working without delay because this work is in great demand in the fairly acute situation in the region. This would be an important contribution to preserving cultural landmarks and religious sites and reaching interfaith and interethnic reconciliation and accord.
In accordance with President Vladimir Putin’s instruction, the Russian interdepartmental delegation, including Deputy Prime Ministers Alexei Overchuk and Alexander Novak, as well as heads of some ministries and departments, including Mr Lavrov and Sergey Shoigu, paid working visits to Yerevan and Baku on November 21, 2020. Mr Lavrov’s detailed comments on the results of the visits are published on the Foreign Ministry website. The participants thoroughly discussed issues of rendering humanitarian aid and creating conditions for normal life in Nagorno-Karabakh.
We hope that the comprehensive measures being carried out by the Russian Federation, both in cooperation with Azerbaijan and Armenia and the interested foreign partners and organisations, will facilitate peace and security in the South Caucasus.
We welcome the joint statement by the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), the International Council on Archives (ICA), the International Council of Museums (ICOM) and the International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA) on the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh. These authoritative NGO, which are partners of UNESCO, urged all sides involved in implementing the ceasefire agreement to actively ensure respectful attitude and protection of all sites of cultural, historical, architectural and religious heritage in accordance with the provisions of The Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict of 1954.
We hope the expert potential of these world-renowned organisations will be fully used in preparing and sending a UNESCO mission to the region in cooperation with Armenia and Azerbaijan.
We have noted Moldovan President-Elect Maia Sandu’s interview with a Moldovan television channel during which she voiced her intention to seek the withdrawal of the Russian task force from Transnistria.
We believe that this statement is aimed at undermining efforts to resolve the Transnistria problem by peaceful methods.
The presence of the Russian task force in Transnistria has clearly defined goals. First of all, the task force supports the Russian contingent, part of the Joint Peacekeeping Force. The operation’s mandate clearly links the duration of Russia’s involvement with the attainment of political agreements on resolving the conflict. So far, these agreements are a long way off.
We would like to point out that over the past 25 years of the Russian peacekeepers’ presence in the region the situation has remained stable. There has been no bloodshed and no gunfire. It would be good if all experts, politicians and public activists who talk on these subjects with such ease always kept this in mind.
The presence of Russian service personnel in Transnistria is also motivated by the need to guard military depots. This responsibility completely rests with us. We don’t renounce our obligations to remove and dispose of this property. We consider attempts to create a stir around this matter to be unacceptable. We will be able to talk about practical steps in this direction when the conditions are met, as stipulated by documents of the 2002 OSCE Ministerial Council Meeting in Porto. Let me remind you that 42 trains carried ammunition and military equipment from the region before 2003, when such conditions were in place.
During his recent visit to Israel, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo travelled to the Israeli settlement of Psagot in the West Bank and the occupied Golan Heights.
We view this as further proof of open disregard by the United States for the universal principles of international law underlying the Middle East settlement. Such US attempts to lend legitimacy to the illegal Israeli settlements contradict the UN Charter and UN Security Council resolutions, including the key provision on the inadmissibility of acquisition of territories by war. Trying to get ahead of the direct Palestinian-Israeli final status negotiations, Washington is out to create an “irreversible reality on the ground.”
We reaffirm Russia’s position of principle on the illegality of Israel’s settlements in the territory occupied in 1967. We believe that this is hindering the efforts to relaunch the talks aimed at establishing a fair, lasting and comprehensive peace in the Middle East.
The United States is the only signatory of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) that has not completed the destruction of its declared chemical stocks. Despite its impressive material, financial and technological capabilities, the United States is reluctant to destroy this type of weapons of mass destruction.
Moreover, starting in the 1980s, the United States has been conducting a research and development project on nerve chemical warfare agents, which the West has designated as Novichok, a Russian word, for political reasons. The US authorities have registered over 140 patents on the military uses of such chemical agents. It is obvious that the scale of these activities is considerable and implies the existence of a major secret research project in this sphere. The scandal with blogger Alexey Navalny has shown that many US allies in Europe, in particular Germany, France and Sweden, have the knowledge and technology to synthesise and produce the so-called Novichok agents. In this context, the allegation that Russia has a state-level chemical weapons programme and is therefore undermining the OPCW norms looks as an unscrupulous attempt to find a technical reason for taking completely cynical actions against Russia in the form of sanctions, which have become traditional for the United States and its allies. This is what Washington implied by praising the EU for adopting anti-Russia sanctions over the so-called poisoning of Alexey Navalny with what they describe as a warfare chemical agent.
This scandal has revealed our Euro-Atlantic partners’ complete disregard for their international obligations. They have been using a variety of unscrupulous methods. We have seen this happen for a long time and have provided our opinion of these developments many times. However, these countries continue with their deliberate efforts to involve the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in their geopolitical games, although its reputation has already been seriously undermined by numerous scandals over the falsified reports on chemical provocations in Syria. This has not only ruined its prestige but has threatened its very existence. It is the arbitrary actions by Western countries to push the OPCW leading bodies to adopt decisions that contradict the CWC and to subordinate the OPCW Technical Secretariat to their interests that are undermining the OPCW efforts.
The Americans are urging their allies to continue to put pressure on the Syrian authorities and to “send a strong message” to Russia and Syria at the upcoming OPCW Conference of the States Parties (CSP). Their goal is obvious: to take the heat off the real beneficiaries, organisers and executors of these provocations by any means available. The foreign-financed Syrian fighters have learned chemical terrorism skills from their Euro-Atlantic sponsors and mentors. Pursuing their geopolitical goals, the United States and its allies do not care how this will affect security in the Middle East and beyond. They will think about it post factum, and will convene international conferences and call on all countries to form a consolidated front against the “historical” adversaries. But this will be later. Now they are busy finishing off the OPCW.
We have carefully studied the remarks by Federal Foreign Minister of Germany, Heiko Maas, in which he talked about the need for a comprehensive overhaul of Europe’s current arms control architecture.
Based on the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE Treaty), the previous architecture has become irreparably outdated. As such, raising the prospect of updating it seems quite logical, at least in principle.
The current policy and practical steps by NATO countries to expand their military presence along the Russian border prevent these efforts from getting off the ground.
Further improvements in confidence- and security-building measures, as well as a new framework for conventional arms control could be undertaken, but only subject to creating a favourable environment, that is if the West renounces its containment policy towards Russia.
For this reason, we need to focus on carrying out the existing confidence- and security-building measures (CSBMs), as well as on specific steps towards de-escalation, scaling down the military confrontation, reducing military activity along the Russian and NATO borders, on a reciprocal basis, and restoring military-to-military dialogue.
We believe that efforts to promote military and political de-escalation should be undertaken in the Russia-NATO format, as well as across the OSCE region as part of the “structured dialogue” on the security challenges it faces. The key purpose of this structured dialogue is precisely to create conditions for breathing new life into conventional arms control and confidence- and security-building measures in Europe. Russia is committed to working along these lines, although so far our Western colleagues have been reluctant to engage in this dialogue.
We find the approach adopted by the German government to be ambiguous and inconsistent. On the one hand, they are calling for upgrading the conventional arms control architecture in Europe, while on the other hand, remain proactively involved in the so-called NATO nuclear sharing missions, a provocative and extremely destabilising undertaking that involves non-nuclear states in planning the use of nuclear warheads and acquiring the corresponding capabilities. This constitutes a flagrant violation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. As long as these outrageous practices and efforts to modernise the US nuclear arsenals in Europe continue, including on German territory, there can be no serious discussion on ways to improve security in Europe.
Washington’s sanctions machine has been churning out anti-Russia restrictions. Less than a week after the previous sanctions wave, three more business entities operating in Russia have been slapped with restrictions. They are now prevented from purchasing defence-related items in the United States, receiving US government assistance or participating in US government procurement.
This time, the restrictions stem from the alleged violations of the Iran, North Korea, and Syria Non-Proliferation Act (INKSNA). In keeping with its old-time tradition, the US administration has not bothered providing any evidence to back its actions.
Elecon factory was among the businesses that faced unilateral sanctions. This company succeeded the Kazan Radio Component Plant, which had contributed to the famous Soyuz-Apollo project. Without the equipment it made, the historic handshake in space, which came to symbolise cooperation between our countries in outer space, would not have taken place.
We cannot but regret that today we have to discuss new unfriendly steps exclusively driven by an opportunistic agenda instead of cooperation opportunities, even if against the backdrop of bilateral political tensions.
As for the restrictions regarding “US government assistance” as part of these sanctions, the Russian companies have never asked for it and did not intend to do so.
Canada has released a whole new cascade of speculations that do not hold water, such as “the state-sponsored cyber programmes of China, Russia, and other countries pose the greatest strategic threats to Canada.”
To support their “research,” the country’s Communications Security Establishment and its Cyber Centre use the usual string of highly likely-style arguments: “very likely” and “almost certainly,” which are derivatives of that same expression that hides a lack of evidence. This report is definitely another link in the chain of unconfirmed statements concerning threats allegedly emanating from our country in the digital landscape.
The Russian Federation has consistently proposed building a transparent, secure and inclusive system of international information security (IIS). Unlike our Canadian colleagues, our words do not diverge from our deeds. Our agenda has been clearly confirmed by action – on September 25, President of Russia Vladimir Putin made a historic statement (without exaggeration) on a comprehensive programme of measures to restore Russian-American cooperation in the field of IIS. The President called on all countries (not just the United States) to work towards a global agreement on a political commitment of states on no-first-strike with the use of ICTs against each other. So far, we have seen no official reaction to this proposal from either Washington or other Western countries. Indeed, why would they bother with an official response or present a certain clear position, when they can just keep it ambiguous and continue hiding behind new fakes they spread about the alleged cyber threat from Russia, in Canada this time?
Our Canadian partners are well aware that Russia established a National Coordination Centre for Computer Incidents in 2018. It is the authorised body for Russia’s liaison with the relevant authorities of foreign states, international NGOs and foreign organisations responding to computer incidents. As practice shows, overseas fighters for the purity of the internet are in no hurry to reach out to us through official channels for information exchange about computer incidents in order to find out the truth. They prefer the tactics of accusations, planted stories, conspiracy theories, and they use the media for these purposes.
Russia has an official agency responsible for reviewing any information, data, or materials indicating threats in the cyber environment received from its foreign partners (both government agencies and NGOs). But they don't use it. Instead, they are peddling speculations about cyber threats on the part of Moscow and use these arguments to promote their own agenda.
The respective Canadian agencies are pushing for bigger budgets citing the increased activity of ‘state hackers’ from Russia and China. Their agenda is clear. Why contact the Russian National Coordination Centre for Computer Incidents, which is responsible for liaising with foreign authorities? This would not bring about an increase in the budget. On the other hand, a media campaign clamouring about a threat from Moscow can get you money for it. And taxpayers will wholeheartedly believe that Canada needs to be protected.
It is sad that our Canadian colleagues have to come up with this kind of parallel reality in pursuit of funding, instead of joint constructive work to combat real, not fictional, threats in the digital environment, but this too will pass. A time will come when our Western partners will begin to consider this topic from a reality perspective. They will convene conferences, appeal to all countries to speak and be active and rally for a common goal – to fight real digital threats. This will happen later on. Right now, they are just milking their governments for money to fight digital windmills.
In conclusion, I would like to remind you that it was the Russian Federation that proposed two initiatives, in 2018 and in 2020, to create a specialised UN working group. The UN-mandated Open-Ended Working Group on Developments in the Field of ICTs in the Context of International Security became the only transparent, inclusive and truly democratic negotiating platform, but Canada then voted against it.
On November 19, 2020, Australian Defence Force Chief General Angus Campbell presented a report on the results of a four-year inquiry of serious violations of international law by Australian military, a group within the elite Special Air Service, in Afghanistan. According to the inquiry, Australian special forces were involved in the murder of at least 39 Afghan civilians and prisoners over the past several years. There is shocking information about an initiation ritual in the Special Air Service when newbie soldiers have to kill a prisoner.
These crimes have become part of the system due to the practice of covering them up and lack of control from commanders, as well as the silencing of dissent in the ADF.
The Australian Department of Defence is going to transfer the cases of 19 former and present servicemen that have been involved in crimes, to the federal police for a criminal investigation.
There are reasons to believe that not all cases, including those with compelling evidence, have been looked into. According to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, the official list of 39 killings does not include the murder of two 14-year-old Afghan teenagers, arrested by the Special Air Service on suspicion of involvement with the Taliban. The teenagers were stabbed by the special troops at the site, and their bodies were put into bags and dropped into the river.
These events make us doubt the true readiness of the Australian authorities to bring all servicemen involved in crimes to justice, as well as the seriousness of the stated intentions of the command to reform the special force units.
These mass, system-wide and grave crimes conducted by Australian elite forces for many years against the residents of Afghanistan make us see the meaning of the official Canberra’s stated adherence to the “rules-based international order” in a new light. What kind of rules are these?
The second Global Conference for Media Freedom, co-hosted by Canada and Botswana, was held on November 16. The first conference was held in London in June 2019 as a select club meeting. Russian media representatives and even diplomats were denied the right to attend or cover the event. There is a real story about how Russian media representatives were not allowed to do this. As for Russian diplomats, although Russia was invited to attend the conference, they were denied British visas even though the purpose of their visit was clear to the host country.
The aim of the second conference as presented by Foreign Minister of Canada Francois-Philippe Champagne in his opening remarks was noble: to “join forces and oppose those who seek to silence the voices of journalists and who choose to repress media freedom.” But it is the leading Western countries – Britain, the United States, France and Germany – who systematically infringe on the rights of journalists. There are very many examples of this. The rights and interests of Russian journalists from RT, Sputnik and many other Russian news agencies have been violated. The gap between the conference’s noble goal and such ignoble actions was obviously not discussed by the participants. The reason is that there was nobody among the mainstream media to bring the topic up. We would have done this, but we have not been invited. Why? Of course, there were more interesting topics on the conference agenda, which, after all, had been declared to have such a noble goal. Our Western partners have fully established themselves in their own eyes as the judges who alone have the right to deliver verdicts on the independence of the editorial policies of media outlets. The story of Julian Assange was not among the main topics of the conference. Of course, his absence has solved the problem for them.
As for editorial independence, we would like to remind the conference participants and organisers that it was American journalists and human rights activists who sued the US State Department’s Agency for Global Media leadership for violating US laws on freedom of the media and interfering in the broadcasters’ editorial policies. As for Russia’s participation, or rather non-participation, it has been prevented from attending such events on many occasions. At first they were invited but denied visas or the journalists were prevented from entering the host country. Now they are not even invited, because you don’t need a visa to attend an online event. If you invite a country or individual to an event, you are obliged to put them on the list of speakers because there are no technical limits for such events. If the invited individuals were not allowed to speak, this would reveal the political bias of the event. Therefore, we are not invited.
It is perplexing that Russia, the world’s largest country which has over 75,000 registered media outlets, 95 percent of them private, was not invited. Why? Russia represents a huge segment of the conference theme. Are they afraid of something? We were not afraid to host a recent OSCE conference organised by OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Harlem Desir. We were not afraid to take part, openly and at the official level, in an online discussion between NGOs, private media outlets, government agencies and representatives of all branches of power. That two-day conference was absolutely open and multifaceted. We were not afraid to hold it in Moscow under these conditions. Ukraine, which the Western community believes has entered and is resolutely moving along the path to democracy, cannot afford this, whereas we can.
Let’s get back to the Canadian initiative. It never fails to amaze us that such closed-door events which a certain group of countries join on short order are supported by the leadership of respected international organisations, such as UNESCO and several other UN bodies. This is not a real conference held to discuss a real problem but an event convened to decide who to ally against this time. Ironically, on the day when the conference was held, November 16, we published an article titled UNESCO: Humanitarian Horizons by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who chairs the Commission of the Russian Federation for UNESCO. In that article, Sergey Lavrov recalled that UNESCO “is the moral compass in the post-war world that outlines the international community’s intellectual trajectory.” We would like the UNESCO Secretariat to remember this noble and honourable duty when adopting decisions on which forums to support. At the very least, they could have raised the issue of forum participants.
Russia always speaks openly and honestly about freedom of the media at all levels, discussing both its own and international problems. We speak about the rights of journalists and the media environment openly; we do not try to hush up problems but discuss them and adopt decisions to improve the situation in this sphere. I speak about this at virtually every briefing. There are specialised global platforms whose mission is to deal with these problems at the international level, namely the UN, UNESCO, the Council of Europe and the OSCE.
Therefore, the duplication of the activities of international organisations that are responsible for any given sphere based on the consensus of the member states results in the replacement of the truth with a false message. The Canadian organisers of the conference obviously tried to present it as a global event, which is eroding the global discourse on media subjects and is designed to serve the opportunistic interests of Canada and a number of other countries. We will continue to draw attention to their opportunistic essence and will raise these issues on international venues. Our Western partners will not be able to sit it out. We will continue to call them to account. It is outrageous when those who have a right to speak are denied the floor at a conference on media freedom.
We are surprised by the reaction from certain political circles abroad to the draft amendments to the laws On Information and On Measures to Influence Persons Involved in Violations of Fundamental Human Rights and Freedoms and the Rights and Freedoms of Citizens of the Russian Federation. I would like to remind you that all of this is as yet at the discussion stage and that all the adjustments are aimed at introducing a mechanism of media responsibility for allowing unjustified discrimination, in one form or another, of Russian media content.
In this regard, it is important to remind our Western partners – and it is they who are outraged by the fact that Russia was not the first to start drafting measures to restrict major Western platforms’ meddling with the content – that such mechanisms are being developed within the EU space and are being discussed at other international venues.
For us, this measure is an absolutely forced response, brought about by an unending series of bans, account or content removals, Russian content labelling, or pushing down in search results, as committed by Western transnational platforms. I regularly inform you about all these cases in my briefings and in the foreign ministry and embassy social media accounts. The responsibility mechanisms for digital platforms have been suggested to protect the Russian media, their intellectual property and rights.
Journalists would spend upwards of six months shooting a documentary, collecting materials, operating within the law, and spending a lot of money on the project. They put their heart and soul into this work, but after the documentary is published, it simply vanishes from a digital platform without any coherent explanations. In fact, how could this be explained? Only by the desire to remove the Russian point of view or that of Russian journalists from the internet, by the unwillingness to circulate an alternative point of view? It does not work like that.
The Russian Foreign Ministry is involved in the ongoing consultations on these amendments, and its objective in this sense is to ensure that they conform to Russia’s international human rights commitments. We have repeatedly conveyed not just our concerns but also examples of what is occurring to Russian content in the digital environment to the international public, to our partners via bilateral channels and at international venues. We said that sooner or later the time would come when coexistence will become impossible under these circumstances and measures would have to be taken.
In 2020, Russia holds chairmanship in the SCO and BRICS. Even though the meeting of the countries’ leaders has been postponed, themed events and forums are still being held, some of them in the online format.
These events include the International Business Week in Ufa, the Republic of Bashkortostan. Between December 8 and 11, several forums on various economic development areas will be held in a unique hybrid format, both online and offline. Participants in the events will outline and discuss problems and key issues of business development amid the current global economic situation.
International Business Week partners are the Russian Export Centre, the Centre for Strategic Research, the Financial Research Institute of the Russian Ministry of Finance, and the Association of European Businesses.
It is expected that this year’s International Business Week will bring together 10,000 registered online participants and an audience of millions. You too can join in.
We invite the media to cover the forum and wide audiences to join in. To learn more about accreditation and the programme, go to ibw-bashkortostan.com
On December 1, the BRICS Expert Round Table on Anti-Corruption Education and Training will take place via videoconference. The event was initiated by the Russian chairmanship in BRICS in accordance with its anti-corruption priorities in 2020.
The roundtable programme includes issues of anti-corruption public education, introducing the teaching of anti-corruption disciplines at universities, and improving the professional training of practicing experts. Among the participants are leading specialists, staff from major universities, representatives of competent agencies, private sector and civil society of BRICS countries, as well as experts from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and the International Anti-Corruption Academy.
Following the roundtable discussion, a strategic document on the further development of BRICS cooperation in anti-corruption education and awareness will be prepared.
Detailed information about the event, as well as a registration link are available on the Russian BRICS chairmanship website.
The Executive Order of the President of the Russian Federation of November 23, 2020, approved the State Antidrug Policy Strategy until 2030. This Strategy is for us a roadmap in relation to international cooperation in solving the world drug problem. The objectives prioritised by the Strategy include prevention of any weakening of the existing global drug control regime, including legalising drugs for so-called recreational purposes, and the continued rendering of technical assistance to our foreign partners.
We would like to note the considerable successes achieved by Russia in the fight against drugs over the past decade. Specifically, at Russia’s initiative the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs has adopted a number of resolutions on pressing issues, such as curtailing illegal financial flows generated by drug trafficking, training anti-drug personnel, protecting children and youth from the drug threat, and promoting scientific approaches to dealing with the narcotics problem.
As a donor, Russia is involved in implementing a broad range of initiatives tackled by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime. Our flagship initiative is a joint Russian-Japanese project to train anti-narcotics police for Afghanistan and Central Asian states at the Russian Interior Ministry’s educational institutions. This year’s signature events include a joint statement by the SCO leaders on fighting the drug threat approved at the initiative of the Russian SCO Chairmanship.
Based on this, we intend to put into practice the provisions of the Antidrug Strategy endorsed by the Russian President.
We noted that a number of Polish media (Radio Lublin and some other regional media) had reported about events held to mark the 77th anniversary of the uprising at the Sobibor Nazi death camp and the opening at the new Memorial Museum of a permanent exhibition titled SS-Sonderkommando Sobibor. The 1942-1943 German Death Camp. What causes perplexity and regret is the fact that an appeal dedicated to this event, one issued by Polish Deputy Minister of Culture and National Heritage Jaroslaw Sellin, contains not a single word about the uprising and its leader Alexander Pechersky, while the exhibition mentions the camp’s Soviet inmates only in passing.
It is odd to have to recall this, but in the modern world, where we record continuous attempts to rewrite history, we need to constantly remind people. Russia has invariably focused on opposing the falsification of the true history of World War II and on perpetrating the memory of victims of those horrible events. In 2013, Russia received an invitation from the Polish Ministry of Culture and National Heritage to join the Sobibor museum project, which was reaffirmed by the Polish side later. Russia expressed readiness to participate and make a large financial contribution. This country has the right to aspire to an important role in shaping the concept of the Museum’s exhibition: apart from the numerous Soviet prisoners of war exterminated at Sobibor, this Nazi “death conveyor” is known for being the location of the Second World War’s only successful prisoner uprising, led by the Soviet officer Alexander Pechersky.
In 2017, after a long and clearly conscious delay in discussing this obvious issue, the Polish side informed us that the International Steering Committee had decided to “continue cooperation with the former composition of participants,” that is, without the Russian Federation. This position is in good agreement with Warsaw’s policy of “correcting” the history of WWII to call into question the USSR’s key role in liberating Europe from the “plaque of brownshirts.” We will continue to oppose all such attempts.
We deeply regret to note that the pedestal of the monument to Marshal of the Soviet Union Ivan Konev was dismantled in Prague on November 20, 2020.
We perceive this step towards the total destruction of the monument to the liberator of Prague from the Nazi invaders as an aspiration to erase one of the most important pages of Czech history from the memory of the country’s residents. This is lamentable.
We would like to note that these actions by the Czech side violate the provisions of the 1993 bilateral Agreement on Friendship and Cooperation stipulating obligations to preserve military monuments. We have repeatedly drawn the attention of Prague to this.
We are urging our Czech partners to return bilateral relations to a civilised international-law context, including in the sphere of military memorials. We will heed the absence of an appropriate response in the overall complex of our bilateral cooperation.
Russia recently hosted festivities marking the 250th birth anniversary of the great seafarer Ivan Kruzenstern, an admiral of the Russian Imperial Navy, under the auspices of the Russian Geographical Society. The world knows him as the initiator and organiser of the first Russian round-the-world expedition, as a Russian scientist-cartographer, oceanologist and physicist and also as an educator and manager who turned the Naval Cadet Corps into one of the best Russian education institutions of that time.
Ivan Kruzenstern was born into a German-Swedish family in the Estland Gubernia. He considered himself a true son of Russia and devoted his entire life to serving the Russian Navy and national science.
While recalling the round-the-world voyage aboard the ships Nadezhda and Neva, Kruzenstern noted that he was guided solely by the interests of expanding Russia’s trade and ensuring its prosperity. Later, he repeatedly proved his selfless loyalty to the Motherland, including when he donated a third of his fortune to financing militia units during the Patriotic War of 1812.
Today, the immensely rich legacy of outstanding seafarer and Admiral Ivan Kruzenstern rightfully belongs to the whole of humankind, and the peoples of Russia and Estonia can feel proud of the fact that such a great compatriot is, was and always will be in their memory.
On November 28, the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste will mark the 45th anniversary of its independence.
On this day in 1975, the Revolutionary Front for an Independent East Timor declared Portuguese Timor’s independence from Portugal’s rule, which lasted for almost 300 years. In December 1975, the young state became part of Indonesia for almost 25 years. The 1999 referendum showed that the majority of the population was in favour of independence. On May 20, 2002, the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste became the first country to gain sovereignty in the 21st century.
Russia intends to further promote mutually beneficial bilateral cooperation as well as a constructive dialogue with East Timor on global and regional issues, including at regular meetings between Russia and developing island states in the southern Pacific.
On the eve of this important date, we would like to wish the friendly nation of East Timor peace, well-being and prosperity.
On November 28, the Islamic Republic of Mauritania will mark the 60th anniversary of its independence.
The north of today’s Mauritania used to belong to nomad Berber tribes, while the south was part of the once powerful Western African states. By the 15th century, Arab tribes settled there. In the 16th century, European travellers started to explore the coast of today’s Mauritania. In 1920-1960, before gaining independence, Mauritania was part of French West Africa.
The USSR and the Islamic Republic of Mauritania established diplomatic relations on July 12, 1964. Our bilateral ties are traditionally friendly and constructive. Our countries are united by a commitment to the fundamental principles and norms of international law, political methods of settling conflicts, and the central and coordinating role of the UN in global affairs.
Moscow and Nouakchott have an engaging political dialogue and maintain regular contacts at various levels. On October 24-25, 2019, the leader of Mauritania personally represented the country at the Russia-Africa Summit and Economic Forum in Sochi.
Mauritania makes a significant contribution to fighting international terrorism as an active member of the G5 Sahel, whose headquarters is located in Nouakchott.
Russia intends to further promote cooperation in various areas, including trade and the economy. Today mutually beneficial cooperation is most successful in sea fishery: Russian fishing vessels have been working in Mauritania’s maritime economic zone for several decades. Humanitarian exchanges are also expanding – around 3,500 Mauritainian specialists have been trained at Russian universities.
On the eve of Mauritania’s national holiday, we would like to congratulate our Mauritanian friends and wish them peace, wellbeing and prosperity. We believe our joint efforts will help ensure the progressive development of bilateral ties for the prosperity of our countries and in the interests of strengthening stability and security in Northern and Western Africa.
On November 30, Barbados marks its national day – the anniversary of independence (1966).
Barbados is a promising partner for us in the Caribbean. We appreciate the readiness of the Barbados people to expand cooperation based on the principles of friendship, mutual respect and consideration of each other’s interests. We hope for stronger relations, both in the bilateral format and at multilateral forums, relying on common approaches to the key issues on the global agenda and firm adherence to international law.
We would like to use this occasion to convey the Foreign Ministry’s greetings to the people and government of Barbados on this holiday and wish them peace, prosperity and wellbeing.
On December 1, the Central African Republic (CAR), bound to us by relations of friendship and cooperation, will mark its 62nd anniversary.
Until 1958, the CAR was a French colony and part of French Equatorial Africa called Ubangi-Shari. The Central African people have gone through many ordeals in their history. European colonisers began coming to the present-day CAR back in the late 19th century; the native Africans fiercely resisted the conquest of their land. Rebellions of local peoples flared up in the country again in the early 20th century and were cruelly suppressed by the colonialist regime.
A referendum held in 1958 dissolved French Equatorial Africa, and on December 1, 1958, the Central African Republic was established which was granted autonomy as part of the French Community.
The relations between our countries are characterised by a growing level of trust. Our countries show a mutual commitment to developing versatile political, trade, economic and humanitarian cooperation.
The Russian Federation is also determined to continue its support for a peace settlement in the Central African Republic, working closely with the country’s leadership, the African Union and other international partners, as well as at the UN and its Security Council.
On this special occasion, we would like to congratulate the people of the Central African Republic on their national day and wish them peace, stability and success in the pursuit of their national development objectives.
On December 2, Laos celebrates its national day – the 45th anniversary of the Lao People's Democratic Republic.
This special anniversary takes place in the year of the 75th anniversary of the Great Victory. The defeat of Nazism and the end of the Second World War gave a strong impetus to decolonisation in Asia. The Lao people, who declared independence in October 1945, needed several decades more to defend it. The tense struggle as well as the political and diplomatic efforts aimed at securing the country’s neutrality amid foreign aggression in Indochina led to the declaration of the Lao People's Democratic Republic in 1975.
We would like to congratulate our Lao friends on their holiday and reaffirm our resolve to strengthen the traditionally friendly ties and multifaceted partnership between our countries for the benefit of peace and stability in Southeast Asia and the Asia Pacific Region in general.
Question: I would like to ask again about the Middle East militants in Nagorno-Karabakh. What is the current situation? President of Russia Vladimir Putin mentioned “unofficial armed groups.” There are many videos showing the militants destroying Armenian graves and sacred places. I would like to ask about Russia’s role. What is happening to these militants?
Maria Zakharova: I will certainly speak about the unofficial armed groups later. It is not the first time this question has been asked.
Your question about Russia’s role is not clear. You have somehow connected it to the destruction of graves. What did you mean?
Question: I would like to know in whose territory this is taking place. Have your representatives noticed such acts of destruction and desecration?
Maria Zakharova: I would like to ask you to provide a concrete example. Where exactly have these acts of vandalism taken place? I will answer this question when you give me that information. It is impossible to speak about acts of vandalism and their connection to Russia otherwise.
Please send us the videos and the photographs with the name of the place where this happened. And then we will be able to see if there is any connection to your question and clarify the facts.
As far as I am aware, these videos and photographs do not depict people who are somehow connected with Russia, yet you are asking us about them. Maybe you should say whose citizens these people are and direct your question to the concerned state.
Please send the material to us, and I will look into the matter.
As for what President Putin said about unofficial armed groups in his replies to media questions on developments in Nagorno-Karabakh on November 17, he was referring to the persons Turkey had deployed in the zone of the armed Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. He meant the armed groups whose status and activities did not comply with the norms of international law.
As for assessing the situation in terms of international law, the norms that must be respected in armed conflicts are set out in the Additional Protocol (I) to the 1977 Geneva Conventions relating to the protection of victims of international armed conflicts. In particular, the militants deployed in the conflict zone can be defined as mercenaries in accordance with the definition provided in Clause 2 of Article 47 of the Additional Protocol (I), because these persons were specially recruited abroad to fight in this armed conflict; did, in fact, take a direct part in the hostilities; were motivated to take part in the hostilities by the desire for private gain and substantial material compensation (according to information from public sources, they were promised some $2,000 monthly); were not members of the armed forces of a party to the conflict; were neither nationals of a party to the conflict nor residents of territory controlled by a party to the conflict; and were not sent by a state which is not a party to the conflict on official duty as a member of its armed forces.
Since mercenary groups cannot be regarded as the legitimate parties to an armed conflict, President Putin had reason to describe them as “unofficial armed groups,” which clearly defines their status as not meeting the formal requirements of international law. This is the conclusion made by our experts of international law.
Question: I would like to return to the subject of Russian-Polish relations in connection with what has been said today: Sobibor and the dismantling of Soviet-era monuments. This is a rather painful question. You have commented on it many times. However, here are so-called denialists, including State Duma deputy Alexey Chepa, who does not agree that the Soviet leadership and personally Josef Stalin were responsible for the Katyn massacre. This provoked a sharp reaction in Poland, considering that decades ago Russia officially recognised the Soviet Union’s responsibility for the execution of Polish officers. What impact is this having on Russian-Polish relations? Is any dialogue with Poland possible at all?
Maria Zakharova: We believe the subject of the Poles who lost their lives in Katyn has been exhausted. Russia’s position has been put forth at the top level on numerous occasions. The problem has been thoroughly researched by highly trained history professionals in Russia and Poland. The Russian Federation is indeed fighting any attempts to rewrite history and has called for taking a delicate approach to the most painful chapters in history, in particular the tragedies that took place during WWII.
Regrettably, the same cannot be said about Poland, which is aggressively pursuing an alternative policy when it comes to history. Warsaw’s openly adversarial policy has been complemented with numerous acts of vandalism against monuments to the liberator soldiers of the Red Army. The Polish authorities’ war on monuments has proliferated to war graves. In this situation, any dialogue on historical issues with the Polish side is not only impossible, it is amoral.
Question: Various sources have warned that radical pro-Turkey militants and their families in Syria, including the Grey Wolves group, are being moved to the Azerbaijan-controlled regions of Karabakh under the guise of settlers returning from Turkey. Considering that the terrorists deployed to the conflict zone are still there, this can create conditions for international terrorism to become entrenched and even flourish in Nagorno-Karabakh. What could be done to stop the movement of terrorists from third countries to Nagorno-Karabakh?
I would also like to ask about the ambiguous and perplexing Turkish rhetoric about the Nagorno-Karabakh settlement. During a conversation between the Russian and Turkish presidents, the President of Turkey mentioned his country’s great contribution to eliminating the 30-year-long injustice in Nagorno-Karabakh. It was pointed out that the parties would discuss measures that would be taken to settle the Nagorno-Karabakh issue and that Turkey, Russia and Azerbaijan would guarantee peace in the region. Has Russia coordinated the verification parameters in Nagorno-Karabakh that would not leave an impression that Turkey expects to play a bigger role in the region?
Maria Zakharova: Your questions, especially the second one, are material for a large academic project. The phrase about Turkey’s bigger role the region is enough for entire books rather than chapters.
As for the presence of militants in the region, this is the concern of military professionals. There can be no public comments on every step they make. However, I can assure you that such work is underway with both parties to the conflict.
Now about our cooperation with Turkey: it is proceeding in a number of spheres, including via political and diplomatic ties and contacts between our militaries. Of course, the direction is set by the heads of state, who regularly discuss developments in the region. I would like to remind you about President Putin’s large interview on the Nagorno-Karabakh settlement, during which he pointed out that our points of view are not always the same, and occasionally, they are diametrically opposite. We look for possible points of contact where our interaction could benefit not only bilateral relations but also regional stability. This is what we are doing. Existing ties are maintained, and points of contact are found and are given practical substance. The parameters of interaction are discussed by experts and implemented.
Question: Every day more information is published in Armenia about the inhumane and humiliating treatment of prisoners, civilians and hostages by Azerbaijani military personnel. How do the Russian peacekeepers intend to ensure a peaceful and safe return of Armenian IDPs to the parts of the former Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Region that are now occupied by Azerbaijan?
Maria Zakharova: Are you asking how a peaceful and safe return of Armenian IDPs can be ensured when the media have reported that even graves have been desecrated? Our assessment of such actions has been made public. This is why Russian peacekeepers have been deployed in the region.
We also maintain contact via military diplomatic channels. There is an expert level of actions that are taken on the ground after their coordination. This is a logical result of the agreements reached at the highest level. These actions are taken primarily by the military. Of course, we are also working at the diplomatic level. Today I have mentioned only some details of this work, such as the use of international venues and interaction with the ICRC.
Question: Poland has denounced a recent request for legal assistance submitted by the Russian Prosecutor General’s Office in the case of the crash of Polish President Lech Kaczynski’s plane as “political games” and “provocation,” accusing Moscow of hampering the investigation. Why does Warsaw continue to blame Russia for the Tu-154M plane crash?
Maria Zakharova: In November 2020, the Polish newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza published an interview with former judge Wojciech Laczewski, who mentioned a secret record of a conversation that took place shortly before the tragedy between President Lech Kaczynski and his brother Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the leader of the Law and Justice party. According to the judge, the conversation was held immediately before the crash on April 10, 2010, and its contents could clear up the circumstances of the tragedy.
I would like to point out that it was Poland’s Gazeta Wyborcza, not Russia Today, that published the interview, and it was a Polish judge, even though a retired one, who mentioned this fact. After that, the Russian Prosecutor General’s Office submitted a request for legal assistance to the Polish colleagues, including access to the copies of the transcript and audio recording of that conversation. This is a normal reaction for a state that respects its partner, international law and bilateral ties. But that routine request has produced an extremely painful reaction in Poland: Deputy Foreign Minister Szymon Szynkowski vel Sek has denounced the motion as a type of provocation in the category of certain political games. In fact, making accusations, adopting sanctions, voting for their extension and trying to scare one’s own people and the international public without any facts to prove the allegations – these are political games and provocation.
We would like to express bewilderment at Warsaw’s misguided reaction. The reason for it is probably that this story does not fit in with the conspiracy version of the disaster, which Poland has been promoting for years contrary to the facts presented in the reports of the Interstate Aviation Committee (IAC) and the Polish State Commission on Aircraft Accidents Investigation. We believe that Poland should take a serious attitude to the information about the new evidence of potentially substantial significance for the investigation. The Russian Prosecutor General’s Office is waiting for a response to its request from the official authorities rather than the Polish media.
This hype could have been avoided had Poland replied to the request of the Russian Prosecutor General’s Office. What could be simpler? Why take the path of “microphone diplomacy” again? A certain fact has been made public through the Polish media by a Polish citizen who was involved in the case. This fact should be checked, especially since hardly a day has passed in the past 10 years without Warsaw producing new details, theories and versions of the tragedy and its causes.