21 May 202113:51

Briefing by Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova, Moscow, May 21, 2021

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Table of contents

  1. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s participation in the New Knowledge federal educational marathon
  2. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s upcoming talks with Foreign Minister of Greece Nikos Dendias
  3. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s upcoming talks with Minister for Foreign and European Affairs of the Republic of Malta Evarist Bartolo
  4. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s upcoming talks with Minister of Foreign and Expatriate Affairs of Yemen Ahmed Awad Bin Mubarak
  5. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s upcoming talks with Foreign Minister of  Gabon Pacome Moubelet-Boubeya
  6. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s upcoming talks with Foreign Minister of the People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria Sabri Boukadoum
  7. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s upcoming talks with Foreign Minister of the Republic of Slovenia Anze Logar
  8. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s upcoming talks with Foreign Minister of Portugal Augusto Santos Silva
  9. Developments in Afghanistan
  10. Cases of continued Western interference in Moldova’s internal political processes
  11. Ukraine update
  12. Lvov district court sentence to the student who threw paint over monument to Stepan Bandera
  13. Dutch authorities’ efforts to cover up White Helmets financing abuses
  14. US selective approach to dealing with far-right extremists
  15. Ending the Palestinian-Israeli armed confrontation
  16. Russia-Kazakhstan biological security cooperation
  17. Coronavirus update
  18. Russian citizens’ evacuation from Nepal
  19. Procedure for applying for Russian visas by people from countries that resumed/failed to resume air service with Russia
  20. Holding UEFA EURO 2020 matches in St Petersburg

Answers to media questions:

  1. Palestinian-Israeli talks
  2. Position of Crimean Tatars
  3. Russian-US dialogue on Afghanistan
  4. Preservation of cultural and historical heritage in Nagorno-Karabakh
  5. Russia-Slovakia relations

 

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s participation in the New Knowledge federal educational marathon

 

On May 21, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will take part in the New Knowledge federal educational marathon, which is being held between May 20 and 22 in several Russian cities, namely Moscow, St Petersburg, Vladivostok, Novosibirsk, Kazan, Sochi, Nizhny Novgorod and Kaliningrad, in an online and offline format.

The main goal of the event is to demonstrate Russia’s achievements and leading representatives in various spheres, such as state management, culture and arts, science, business and sports. The marathon is expected to rally as many as 5 million young people throughout the country, from megacities to small towns and villages. The marathon will focus on history and culture, science and technology, ICT, medicine, the economy, environmental protection, sports and a healthy lifestyle. It will demonstrate recent achievements and new technologies, as well as ongoing projects. The participants will get to know the authors of these achievements and learn about their life stories and how they developed as professionals.

Sergey Lavrov will give a lecture on Current Lessons of International Relations, which will be followed by a Q&A session that will be attended by general school pupils and university students attending the event, as well as students from the Russian regions taking part in the marathon online. The event will be streamed by Russian television channels and will be available on the Ministry’s official website and social accounts.

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Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s upcoming talks with Foreign Minister of Greece Nikos Dendias

 

On May 24, Sergey Lavrov will meet in Sochi with Foreign Minister of the Hellenic Republic Nikos Dendias, who will be in Russia on a working visit.

The ministers will discuss the further development of political dialogue, economic cooperation amid the coronavirus restrictions, as well as cultural and humanitarian ties in the context of the joint initiative to hold the Russian-Greek Year of History in 2021.

The ministers will exchange views on a broad range of international and regional topics of mutual interest, including the Cyprus settlement and the developments in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Balkans.

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Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s upcoming talks with Minister for Foreign and European Affairs of the Republic of Malta Evarist Bartolo

 

On May 25, Sergey Lavrov will meet in Sochi with Maltese Minister for Foreign and European Affairs Evarist Bartolo, who will be in Russia on a working visit.

They will exchange views on the current state and further development of Russian-Maltese cooperation and will also hold an in-depth discussion regarding the international agenda.

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Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s upcoming talks with Minister of Foreign and Expatriate Affairs of Yemen Ahmed Awad Bin Mubarak

 

On May 26, Sergey Lavrov will meet in Sochi with Minister of Foreign and Expatriate Affairs of the Republic of Yemen Ahmed Awad Bin Mubarak, who will be in Russia on a working visit.

The talks will focus on a comprehensive peaceful settlement of the acute military-political crisis, which began in Yemen in 2015, first of all the necessity of ending the hostilities and launching a broad-based national dialogue on the future political government in Yemen.

In light of the complicated socioeconomic situation in Yemen, the ministers will discuss the practical measures to be taken to prevent any further aggravation. They include the conflicting parties’ strict compliance with international humanitarian law, the lifting of all kinds of blockades in the territory of Yemen, and the provision of emergency humanitarian aid to the Yemeni civilians, who are experiencing serious shortages of food, medicine and other vital necessities.

The ministers are expected to reaffirm mutual resolve to resume full-scale multifaceted Russian-Yemeni ties after stability is restored and bodies of power are established in the Republic of Yemen. This cooperation has been suspended in the majority of spheres due to the ongoing hostilities and the actual split within the country.

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Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s upcoming talks with Foreign Minister of  Gabon Pacome Moubelet-Boubeya

 

On May 27, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will hold talks with Foreign Minister of the Gabonese Republic Pacome Moubelet-Boubeya, who will pay a working visit to Moscow on May 26-28. There are plans to discuss ways of invigorating Russian-Gabonese political, trade, economic and humanitarian relations. Notably, the parties will review prospects for strengthening the business partnership in mining, the fuel and energy sector and in implementing infrastructure projects.

The ministers will hold an in-depth exchange of opinions on topical matters of the global and regional agenda, cooperation within various multilateral formats, including the UN, the African Union and other regional organisations. The parties will also discuss the resolution of crises and peacekeeping operations in Africa, and efforts to counter terrorist threats and piracy in the Gulf of Guinea. They will hold a separate discussion on the preparations and the agenda of the 2nd Russia-Africa Summit, scheduled for 2022.  

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Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s upcoming talks with Foreign Minister of the People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria Sabri Boukadoum

 

At the previous briefing, we announced Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s upcoming talks with Foreign Minister of Algeria Sabri Boukadoum and discussed them in detail. This meeting has been postponed until May 27.

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Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s upcoming talks with Foreign Minister of the Republic of Slovenia Anze Logar

 

On May 28, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is to hold talks with Foreign Minister of the Republic of Slovenia Anze Logar, who will be in Russia on a working visit on May 27-29. The parties are expected to sign a plan of consultations between the two countries’ foreign ministries for 2021-2022.

The agenda includes exchanging opinions on bilateral cooperation, a discussion of bilateral steps to deepen political, trade, economic, cultural and humanitarian cooperation, including work on historical memorials.

The ministers will hold a detailed discussion on Russia-EU relations and their future in the context of Slovenia’s chairmanship of the Council of the European Union from July 1, 2021.

They will also review the situation in Southeast Europe and topical international matters.

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Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s upcoming talks with Foreign Minister of Portugal Augusto Santos Silva

 

On May 31, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will hold detailed talks with Foreign Minister of Portugal Augusto Santos Silva, who is due to arrive in the Russian capital on a working visit. This is his third trip to Moscow as Foreign Minister of Portugal. The last time he visited Moscow was in February 2018.

Russian-Portuguese relations are traditionally based on a mutually respectful partnership and constructive cooperation. The upcoming talks will promote the positive trends in Russia’s political dialogue with Lisbon. At their meeting, the ministers will discuss the bilateral agenda and chart ways of further expanding Russian-Portuguese relations.

While reviewing trade and economic matters, the ministers will focus on more actively using the two countries’ potential in investment and research and development during the implementation of joint projects, with due consideration for promising achievements in the area of high-tech cooperation. This subject will be in the focus during preparations for the regular eighth session of the Mixed Commission on Economic, Industrial and Technological Cooperation between the Russian Federation and the Portuguese Republic.

Portugal ranks among Russia’s most important European partners. Considering Portugal’s current six-month chairmanship of the Council of the European Union (January-June 2021), there are plans to hold an open and constructive exchange of opinions on a wide range of international and regional matters.

The Portuguese Foreign Minister and Sergey Lavrov will attend the opening ceremony of a conference on Russia-EU relations, organised by the Russian International Affairs Council together with the Portuguese Embassy and the Delegation of the European Union in Moscow. This will become an important aspect of the visit.

The parties will also conduct a detailed discussion of bilateral cultural and humanitarian cooperation. They will touch upon the possibility of holding a bilateral Cross-Year of Culture, Education, Science and Youth Exchanges in the future.

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Developments in Afghanistan

 

Regrettably, military tension is on the rise in Afghanistan as the US and NATO pullout gets into a high gear. Announced last week, a short Eid al-Fitr ceasefire failed to influence in any significant way the overall trend towards an escalation of violence. Active warfare is being conducted in the majority of the country’s provinces. We see as indicative the recent seizure of Narkh District, Maidan Wardak Province, which is located a mere 50 kilometres away from Kabul.   A high level of terrorist activity in Afghanistan is also a matter for concern. Every day, terrorist attacks killing dozens of civilians are registered in the capital and other cities. ISIS and other terrorist groups are using the armed conflict to strengthen their positions and to intensify violence, including in northern Afghanistan that adjoins Central Asia.   

In this connection, we call on the opposing Afghan sides to reduce the level of combat activity in the interests of their country’s prosperity and the future of its statehood and to use the time remaining until the full withdrawal of foreign troops to start talks on the key issues of national reconciliation.

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Cases of continued Western interference in Moldova’s internal political processes

 

The Foreign Ministry has repeatedly focused on the continuing attempts made by the United States and EU member-states to interfere in Moldova’s internal political processes. We have to state once again that the aggressive Western rhetoric is picking up momentum in the run-up to the early parliamentary elections in the republic scheduled for July 11, 2021.

Here is yet another case in point. Attending a local television show Expertise Hour on May 18, head of the EU delegation to Moldova Peter Michalko reiterated criticism of the Moldovan bodies of state power, criticism impermissible for a diplomat. Specifically, he focused on the “imperfection” of the judiciary in the Republic of Moldova and claimed openly that the new Moldovan parliament “should be trustworthy.”  As if they are unable to sort it out for themselves without him in Moldova.

This manifestation of disrespect for Moldova’s political institutions and selectivity in choosing targets for criticism, which targets are always the forces favouring dialogue with Russia, has become the usual practice for Western countries.   

Russia is in favour of truly equal and friendly relations with the Republic of Moldova, based on the principle of non-interference in internal affairs, respect for the Moldovan people, and readiness for a dialogue with the institutions of power to be formed as a result of its vote.   

We are calling once again on the United States and the EU countries to renounce their policy of interference in the internal affairs of sovereign states and of influencing their internal political processes.

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Ukraine update

 

President of Ukraine Vladimir Zelensky reviewed the results of his second year as president at a news conference yesterday. It turned out that there is nothing to brag about again. His pledge to launch real reform, restore peace in Donbass and change Ukrainians’ lives for the better has not materialised. Socioeconomic problems continue to accumulate in Ukraine. The country’s public debt has reached $125.7 billion (up $4 billion in 2020), and the shadow economy accounts for 30 percent of the GDP. Political turbulence is growing, and political opposition is being persecuted. Undesirable media are also being persecuted, and the rights of ethnic minorities and the Russian-speaking population are violated on a large scale. At the same time, local radical nationalists, the ideological heirs of the Nazi accomplices are terrorising civil society and feel at ease because the authorities are wary of them.

Unfortunately, apart from the usual rhetoric, Ukrainian citizens did not hear their president say that he was ready to take any practical steps to resolve the accumulated problems. I am referring to the conflict in Donbass and Kiev’s fulfilment of its obligations under the Minsk Package of Measures. Mr Zelensky again avoided being specific and tried to blame Russia for the lack of progress in the negotiations. The Ukrainian president did not even mention any dialogue with Donetsk and Lugansk.

We noted a security forum held in Kiev last week. The participants, including representatives of the Ukrainian government, defined the country’s main security objective as preparing to fight against a non-existent Russian threat. This idea is in line with Zelensky’s previous demand to keep defence spending at least at 5 percent of GDP in 2021-2022. Today Ukraine spends $7.5 billion annually on military projects, which is the fastest growing military spending in the world.

Kiev’s militaristic plans are in line with the buildup of NATO’s military activity in Ukraine and in the Black Sea. The largest military exercise in the last 25 years, Defender Europe 2021, has begun this spring, with 28,000 total troops from 27 NATO countries and its allies taking part. Next in line are equally large-scale manoeuvres: Cossack Mace, Silver Sabre, and Sea Breeze. A total of seven joint military exercises with NATO countries are planned on the territory of Ukraine in 2021. That means military manoeuvres are staged every six to eight weeks.

All this does little to advance intra-Ukrainian reconciliation. The May 19 regular meeting of the Contact Group once again showed that Kiev negotiators have no interest in finding a compromise or acting in accordance with the letter and spirit of the Minsk agreements.

There was an unexpected twist in the Donbass topic amid the aggravation of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Radical nationalists from Ukraine’s infamous National Corps used the Middle East situation as an opportunity to carry out a provocation outside the Russian Embassy in Kiev. Its participants protested against Hamas allegedly receiving assistance from Moscow, like Donbass. What gruesome logic. Our neighbours, at least the radical part of the Ukrainian state, seem to live in this paradigm. The protesters shouted anti-Russia slogans and insults, and blocked the entrance to our diplomatic mission’s grounds. The embassy sent a note of protest to the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry.

Once again, we call on the Ukrainian authorities to focus on fulfilling their international obligations, both to resolve the conflict in Donbass, and to respect human and minority rights and freedoms, and to combat xenophobia and aggressive nationalism. The Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations can also be recalled here.

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Lvov district court sentence to the student who threw paint over monument to Stepan Bandera

 

We have taken note of the verdict passed on April 29 by the Galician District Court in Lvov on the student who threw red paint over the monument to Stepan Bandera on February 5. I am not going to judge the overall situation: there is the law and jurisprudence for that. Ukraine is a sovereign state. However, the case has an important aspect concerning double standards of applying the law. The young man was sentenced to four years in prison for his actions (the punishment was replaced by two years probation). We see this decision as yet another example of selective justice and persecution of those who reject Kiev’s policy of whitewashing and glorifying Nazis and their accomplices.

The draconian verdict of the Lvov court is drastically different from the way Ukraine responds to the acts of vandalism, which have become regular, with respect to the burial places of the Soviet soldiers-liberators, who gave their lives for Ukraine’s liberation from the Nazi occupation. Just a few examples: consistent steps to demolish the Monument to Combat Glory in Lvov, desecration of the monuments to Nikolai Vatutin in Kiev and Poltava, busts of Georgy Zhukov, and many other such examples. Since 2014 the number of such incidents has grown many times over. And not in a single case have the offenders ever been found (it is clear that nobody bothered looking for them) or received the punishment they deserved.

There is no point waiting for a proper assessment from the Western patrons of the Kiev regime. Otherwise, they will have to react to similar mass violence against the historical legacy committed in the EU countries. The monument to Marshal Ivan Konev, the liberator of Prague who saved the Czech capital from destruction at the expense of thousands of Soviet soldiers’ lives, was the main target of local vandals for a long time. In Bulgaria criminals regularly desecrate monuments to Soviet soldiers. In Poland the war on monuments has swept the country like an avalanche.

All this suggests that the West not only supports the war on the past, but in effect participates in it by rewriting history.

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Dutch authorities’ efforts to cover up White Helmets financing abuses

 

We have been talking a great deal about the White Helmets, but the factual information about it is not taken into account in the West, which is actively sponsoring this pseudo-humanitarian organisation and a terrorist accomplice.

During our previous briefings, we more than once provided our assessment of this organisation, which claims to be saving civilians in the hostility zones, whereas in fact its efforts are dedicated to disinformation, the staging of fake chemical attacks and open assistance to terrorists. Highly sophisticated schemes are being used to provide financing to this pseudo-NGO, including through various foundations based in the West.

One of such such sponsors, the Mayday Rescue Foundation headquartered in Amsterdam, for a long time received substantial allocations from the Dutch government. This stopped in 2018 over misappropriation concerns following a series of scandals involving Mayday Rescue. It was not fake news but factual information that was made public.

Some time ago, Dutch journalists published information proving that the Dutch government deliberately concealed information about the foundation’s criminal schemes and illegal transactions from the parliament and the public. It has transpired that some unidentified Dutch officials decided against disclosing information about the abuses permitted by Mayday Rescue allegedly because they did not have any direct proof. As a result, the story was buried, and the financing of the White Helmets resumed in 2020 through an organisation based in Canada.

This is yet one more piece of proof of The Hague’s policy of double standards, hypocrisy and selective approach to reporting or concealing information.

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US selective approach to dealing with far-right extremists

 

On May 14, the US Department of Homeland Security issued a new National Terrorism Advisory System (NTAS) Bulletin on the current threat environment across the United States, which mentions the heightened threat posed by domestic terrorists based on religious and ethnic grievances, racial superiority and militant nationalism. There is nothing new in this expert assessment, especially in the context of the ongoing social and racial conflicts in the United States. However, the compilers of the report not only mention new trends in the proliferation of the terrorist ideology, but are also focusing, with misplaced enthusiasm, on “malign foreign influences.” They accuse Russia, China and Iran of “increased efforts to sow discord” in the United States and of amplifying conspiracy theories and calls for violence, including in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

While prioritising efforts against Domestic Violent Extremist (DVE) risks, Washington continues to regard them from the traditional geopolitical viewpoint, taking special pride in the addition of the Russian Imperial Movement NGO to the national list of international terrorist organisations in April 2020. Some experts, including American ones, were baffled by that decision of the US State Department in light of the meagre information about the organisation and its international ties. Nevertheless, the decision has been presented by the US authorities as “the first time in history the [State] Department has designated a white supremacist terrorist group.”

The logical question here is how the Washington-declared resolve to combat the growing far-right extremism and racism ties in with its selective foreign policy focused on propaganda.

Last year, several American experts called for paying more attention to the serious threat of increasingly active neo-Nazi groups in Ukraine. That country has been turned into a bridgehead for training radicals and proliferating neo-Nazi literature and symbols. Persons directly involved in high-profile crimes, such as the murder of journalist Pavel Sheremet, and far-right groups such as S-14 continue to act with impunity in Ukraine. The Azov Civil Corps and National Corps continue to stage meetings of nationalists from the Baltics and other European countries, as well as the United States and Canada. These organisations maintain close ties with their foreign neo-Nazi peers, including the US Atomwaffen Division and the British National Action. There is no reasonable explanation for the hasty US decision to designate the Russian Imperial Movement as a terrorist organisation while refusing to do the same with regard to the notorious Ukrainian groups such as the Right Sector and the Azov Civil Corps.

At the same time, Washington and Kiev vote against the resolution on combating the glorification of Nazism, neo-Nazism and other practices that contribute to fuelling contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, which Russia submits every year for approval by the UN General Assembly. This is a regrettable but telling kind of solidarity.

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Ending the Palestinian-Israeli armed confrontation

 

Moscow is deeply satisfied to note that the ceasefire in the zone of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict entered into force at 2 am on May 21. From the first minutes of the 10-day crisis, Russian diplomacy got involved in energetic work aiming to stop the hostilities as soon as possible. The concerned parties held intensive contacts, including top-level contacts. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov communicated with key regional partners. We are also actively involved in the Middle East Quartet of International Mediators for the regional peace settlement.

The relevant efforts made it possible to stop the bloody conflict that has claimed the lives of 230 Palestinians, including 52 children, and 12 Israeli citizens. We are offering our condolences to all families of the deceased and wounded. We would like to specially note the mediation mission of leaders of the Arab Republic of Egypt. The UN, including Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Tor Wennesland, made an important contribution to ending the war.

An important, although insufficient, step has been taken to avoid a further escalation of violence. At this stage, we should focus international and regional efforts on creating the appropriate conditions for resuming direct political talks between the Israelis and the Palestinians in order to resolve a range of fundamental matters regarding final-status issues on the basis of UN resolutions and the principle of two states, Palestine and Israel, that would coexist in peace and security within the 1967 borders. This must be done to prevent another round of armed confrontation.

As a permanent member of the UN Security Council and a member of the Quartet, Russia urges its partners to continue energetic collective work to resume direct, constructive Palestinian-Israeli dialogue. The achievement of a lasting and just solution to the Palestinian problem is the main pre-requisite for comprehensive stabilisation in the entire Middle East.

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Russia-Kazakhstan biological security cooperation

 

The Russian Federation and the Republic of Kazakhstan maintain special privileged, allied relations. Our countries are expanding their cooperation in virtually every sphere. Biological security is a high-priority area of cooperation.

As allies and neighbours with a common biological security space, we strive to reliably monitor epidemiological and epizootic situations, to jointly respond to epidemics, and to reduce risks linked with the possibility of deliberately spreading such diseases and using biological agents as weapons. The creation of the relevant bilateral legal framework is a key element of such activities.

For these purposes, we aim to sign an inter-governmental memorandum on ensuring biological security. The signing of this document would make a weighty contribution to strengthening the friendly relations and biological security of our states, and would also facilitate expanded medical-biological, sanitary-epidemiological, veterinary and phyto-sanitary cooperation. It would also ensure predictability and transparency in the context of cooperation with third countries and would make it possible to avoid tough-worded statements by certain politicians and representatives of the public, scientific and academic circles, and media outlets.

We reaffirm our readiness to deepen bilateral and multilateral cooperation with the Republic of Kazakhstan in the area of biological security. We intend to continue discussing all remaining mutual issues during Russian-Kazakhstani inter-departmental consultations on this matter, scheduled for May 26 in Almaty.

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Coronavirus update

 

According to international experts, including the World Health Organisation (WHO), for the second week in a row, the spread of the coronavirus infection has been slowing down and the death rates have been falling. As of May 20, 2021, the number of new cases has decreased by approximately 33 percent as compared to last week. First of all, this relates to the countries with the highest rates of COVID-19 vaccination. At the same time, in certain regions, especially in Asia and Latin America, the daily growth of new cases is still high. India accounts for half of new global cases.   

It is getting obvious that the process of immunisation of the world population in order to prevent the coronavirus is the most important aspect of the global community’s efforts: over 1.5 billion jabs have been given as of now. The growing popularity of the Russian-made vaccine Sputnik V should not go unmentioned.

We share the WHO’s concern about the disproportionate distribution of immune response modifiers and support WHO Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus’s call to share coronavirus vaccines. Our country has done everything in its power in this area and will commit itself to the cause. We believe that under no circumstances can this issue be subject to politisation.

An entire range of “resort countries” are currently lifting the pandemic restrictions. Just before summer, despite the unsteady positive epidemiological trend, they are rushing to open their borders to support their tourism industry, and they assure their partners that increased epidemiological measures are in place at resorts, airports and hotels.

While understanding the desire of these countries’ governments to restore international tourism, we must note that the situation with COVID-19 remains volatile, including due to the spread of new variants of the virus. It could prompt emergency restrictions, including the suspension of international travel. There are many examples of that.

The case of foreign tourists, including Russians, who got stranded in Nepal, makes us seriously consider the risks of travelling outside Russia.

Therefore, we would like to urge our citizens to weigh the pros and cons before they decide to travel abroad. This is crucially important.

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Russian citizens’ evacuation from Nepal

 

On May 18, Aeroflot airlines made a Katmandu-Moscow evacuation flight for tourists who were unable to leave Nepal after the authorities there imposed a complete ban on air service starting May 6 because of changes in the country’s epidemiologic situation. The plane evacuated 253 people, including 219 Russian citizens. The plane also took on board tourists from Belarus, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Moldavia, Tajikistan and Ukraine.

We extend our appreciation to the Nepal authorities for their assistance in resolving the problems related to the evacuation flight.

As for me, I must thank the Russian Embassy in Nepal, which once again helped bring these citizens home, tourists who were in Nepal during the pandemic despite repeated Russian Foreign Ministry’s warnings, people who were actually stranded there. Special thanks to the Russian ministries and agencies, as well as to Aeroflot Russian Airlines, which were involved in that operation.

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Procedure for applying for Russian visas by people from countries that resumed/failed to resume air service with Russia

 

We have received several inquiries from the media, in particular Kommersant Daily, on whether citizens of countries that have resumed air service with Russia can obtain Russian tourist visas and come to this country as tourists, and what the citizens of countries that have not yet resumed air service with Russia have to do.

In this context, we would like to draw your attention to the following: pursuant to Clause 2, paragraphs 14 and 15, of the Russian Government Directive No. 635-r of March 16, 2020, temporary restrictions on entrance to the Russian Federation do not apply to the citizens of foreign states and persons having residence permits or any other documents confirming their right to permanent residence in such states, indicated in Schedule 1 to this directive. That said, citizens in the above categories may only enter the Russian Federation by direct flight from one of the states listed in Schedule 1.

The schedule includes 28 countries, 14 of which enjoy visa-free entrance. Citizens of the other 14 countries (with visa requirements) and persons with residence permits for these countries may get visas of any category, including tourist visas, to enter the Russian Federation under the normal procedure pursuant to applicable Russian laws.

Now, as for the citizens of those countries that have not formally resumed air service with Russia, under Clause 2 of the Russian Government Directive No. 635-r of March 16, 2020, some categories of foreign nationals and stateless persons are exempt from the temporary restrictions on entrance to the Russian Federation and are eligible for visas of the relevant types, depending on the purpose of their travel, in accordance with Clause 5, Par 6, of the above directive.

We have also been asked if there are plans to start issuing e-visas gradually or if this will be done for all 52 countries after the borders are adequately opened. Under Clause 5, paragraph 3, of the Russian Government Directive No. 635-r of March 16, 2020, issuance of unified e-visas to foreign nationals has been suspended with a view to providing for state security, protecting people’s health and putting a stop to the spread of the novel coronavirus infection (COVID-19).

So, foreign nationals will only be able to obtain unified e-visas to enter the Russian Federation after the established restrictions are lifted, the time for which has yet to be determined.

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Holding UEFA EURO 2020 matches in St Petersburg

 

In June-July 2021, St Petersburg will be the venue for UEFA EURO 2020 matches. Russia’s diplomatic missions abroad will inform potential fans of the procedure for entering the Russian Federation during the Championships, specifically, how to obtain personal spectator cards or FAN IDs. Russia’s diplomatic missions abroad have received FAN ID samples and related pamphlets for fans. FAN IDs allow their holders to enter the Russian Federation multiple times visa-free from May 29, 2021 through July 2, 2021 and to exit from the Russian Federation multiple times, visa-free, from May 29, 2021 through July 12, 2021.

The Foreign Ministry has also instructed Russia’s diplomatic missions abroad to issue high-priority visas to media representatives, participants in sporting events and certain other categories of foreign citizens planning to take part in the Championships.

We will provide additional information on the accreditation of foreign media outlets and the procedure for obtaining documents.

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Answers to media questions:

Question: In a recent interview, you mentioned efforts to hold a Palestinian-Israeli meeting and confirmed a proposal to hold it in Moscow. What do Israel and the Middle East Quartet think of this proposal?

Maria Zakharova: I would like to reaffirm the statements by Russian leaders. The Russian proposal to hold direct talks between the leaders of Israel and Palestine, without any pre-conditions and on Russian territory, remains valid.

The Palestinians have repeatedly expressed their resolve to attend such meetings. The Israelis remain undecided. It appears that West Jerusalem is so far unprepared for a direct dialogue with the Palestinian National Authority.

Regarding the attitude of the Middle East Quartet of international mediators, none of them has voiced any objection.

In this connection, it would be appropriate to recall that UN Security Council Resolution 1850, which was unanimously adopted in 2008, formalises the idea of convening an international conference on the Middle East peace settlement in Moscow. To study this issue and also acting in the interests of de-escalating the situation there as soon as possible and creating an atmosphere of trust, we consider it important to hold a Quartet emergency meeting at the ministerial level. We also suggest convening a Quartet ministerial meeting with key regional players.

The current dangerous escalation of violence in Palestine and Israel once again shows that there is no alternative to resolving the Palestinian problem at the negotiating table. We are ready to help organise direct Palestinian-Israeli contacts for working out the required compromise solutions on all fundamental issues of a final status. I commented earlier on the ceasefire agreements they reached.

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Question: This is a question about Turkey’s excessive concern over Crimean Tatars. On May 18, 2021, the Turkish Foreign Ministry released a statement on the memory of “the victims of the deportation of Crimean Tatars and Circassians,” claiming that after 77 years Crimean Tatars continue to confront the challenges related to the consequences of being deported. This is a quote: “Turkey will continue to support efforts to protect the identity of the Crimean Tatars and resolve the problems faced by our compatriots. Ankara strives to make a contribution to improving the living standards of the Crimean Tatars.” Spokesman for the Turkish Foreign Ministry Tanju Bilgic declared that the lands of the descendants of the Caucasus peoples “were occupied by Tsarist Russia 157 years ago.” How does the Foreign Ministry respond to statements like this from Turkey? What problems and challenges do Crimean Tatars face that motivate Turkey to try to resolve them?

Maria Zakharova: We consider such statements politicised and confrontational. It is regretful that year after year Ankara tries to use the biased interpretation of historical events for destructive purposes and in an attempt to satisfy its own political ambitions.

Insinuations about the complicated events of the 19th-20th centuries have nothing to do with academic historiography or the real situation in Crimea and the North Caucasus. Russian law and law-enforcement practice on the peninsula guarantee the observance of human rights and freedoms in full conformity with the international commitments of our country. We take practical steps to strengthen the status of the Crimean Tatar language as a national language, to expand the participation of Crimean Tatars in representative government bodies and the region’s socio-economic life, and to ensure the effective performance of religious organisations, ethno-cultural and education institutions.

Russian, Ukrainian and Crimean Tatar are the national languages in the Republic of Crimea. There are a variety of opportunities to study them in schools and universities. Crimea has created equal rights and conditions for preserving and developing national culture and identity, and freedom of conscience and religion.

Ethnic and religious accord is one of our priorities. The Inter-Religious Council “Peace is a Gift from God” operates under the Head of the Republic of Crimea. The Ismail Gasprinsky Media Centre confirms the success of this policy. According to public opinion polls, in 2020, 96 percent of Crimeans described inter-ethnic and inter-religious relations as benign. The State Committee for Ethnic Relations of the Republic of Crimea supports the operation of the following media: the Pereyaslavska Rada 2.0 information website, the Krimsky Vestnik newspaper and Krim Siogodni (in Ukrainian); the Hoffnung newspaper (in German and Russian); Tavrika (in Greek and Russian); Izvor (in Bulgarian and Russian), and the Golub Masisa or the Dove of Masis (in Armenian and Russian). The Millet TV Channel, Vatan Sedasi Radio, the Yildiz journal and the Yanı Dunya newspaper are successfully operating as part of the Public Crimean Tatar Television and Radio Company.

If the statements by the Turkish Foreign Ministry you mentioned had quoted such facts, its officials would have realised themselves that they are pointless. Such are the facts, and we urge the Turkish Foreign Ministry not to keep them from their public since they initiated the discussion on this issue.

Turkey’s very demonstrative concern over the status of the Crimean Tatars in Crimea (considering that prior to 2014, its authorities stubbornly ignored several grievances from international organisations against Ukraine regarding the implementation of the ethno-cultural rights of Crimean Tatars) only points to its opportunistic character.

Turkey’s role in “defending” the rights of ethnic minorities appears dubious. It has its own outstanding ethnic, linguistic and religious problems. Only a few decades ago, Circassians living in Turkey had to conceal their ethnic origin, and their native tongue was banned.

As Sergey Lavrov says, we are polite people. We believe Turkey must resolve its problems itself based on its commitments. However, if this rhetoric continues, we will also have to pay attention to similar issues in Turkey. We wouldn’t like to do this, so I hope the Turkish Foreign Ministry will hear us today.

We believe Turkish politicians should give up the use of the ethnic factor as an instrument in a geopolitical game that is primarily prejudicing the interests of ethnic groups. The time has long been ripe for that.

There are numerous issues, problems and areas where we can cooperate with Ankara. We have very good experience in pooling our efforts for this purpose. Let’s use it and refrain from these kinds of charges.

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Question: The media wrote that Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken discussed issues of mutual interest, including Afghanistan. Can you be more specific on this? Have they reached any specific agreements on Afghanistan?

Maria Zakharova: Indeed, Afghanistan was on the agenda of Russian-US talks in Reykjavik. Mr Lavrov and his American colleague, Antony Blinken, discussed this issue during their meeting. This issue remains one of the areas where Russia and the United States effectively cooperate. The minister and secretary of state spoke positively about the Russian-US dialogue at the special representative level. They noted that the concerted efforts on an inter-Afghan settlement by the expanded group of three, Russia, the United States, China and Pakistan, are helping to reach national reconciliation in the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.

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Question: Under the guise of renovation, the Azerbaijani authorities removed the cupola of the Armenian Church of Ghazanchetsots in Shusha to try to distort its Armenian architectural look. Also, in violation of the UN Security Council resolution, the authorities in Azerbaijan express unscientific ideas about the “Agvanisation” of the Armenian churches in Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh). What is Russia’s response to these events as a co-chairman of the OSCE Minsk Group?

Maria Zakharova: We regularly discuss the preservation of the cultural and historical heritage in Nagorno-Karabakh and adjacent regions during our meetings with officials from Baku and Yerevan. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov addressed this issue during his working visit to Armenia and Azerbaijan earlier this month. We think it is necessary to organise an UNESCO mission to the region as soon as possible. We are also working with the co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group. The statement adopted by the co-chairs on April 13, 2021 reads that the preservation and protection of religious and cultural heritage require additional efforts from both Azerbaijan and Armenia.

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Question: Russian-Slovakian relations have deteriorated of late. At the same time, recent Victory celebrations showed that many Slovaks support friendly relations with Russia. For example, a recent article in ExtraPlus, entitled “We won’t let the West rewrite history. We were liberated by the Russians rather than the Americans,” collected an enormous number of likes and had 23,000 reposts. Prominent politicians in Slovakia asked the top leaders to offer Russia to normalise relations. What is your attitude towards this? Does Russia want to normalise relations with Slovakia and what do you think about further cooperation between Moscow and Bratislava?

Maria Zakharova: I don’t have any information on these requests.

I can talk about the position of our country on developing cooperation with Slovakia. We are interested in having smooth, constructive and mutually beneficial relations with all states. Slovakia is no exception.

As for the truth about the Great Patriotic War, World War II, you note correctly that the absurdity of the policy aimed at rewriting history results in rejection and active antagonism. Paradoxically, NATO efforts to spread disinformation and distort those wartime events have produced the opposite effect. They wanted to press on the minds of people new versions of these events, replace heroes with criminals and invent a new, false depiction of the beginning, duration, end and the outcome of the war, contrary to the verdicts of the Nuremberg Tribunal. However, all of this is to no avail. People who are exposed to this information campaign, including within NATO (it is spread not only through NATO bodies but also through other agencies, the Western media, something we often talk about), felt righteous indignation because of the impudence, peremptory character and falsehood of this information offensive. We have seen this, and we respect people, including Europeans, who do not allow anyone to mislead them.

Meanwhile, the organisers of this campaign have tried to do this, destroying monuments to heroes, inventing stories about non-existent heroes and depicting Nazi collaborators and accomplices as heroes. But common-sense people do not let anyone brainwash them. They know about the existence of historical documents, monuments, memorials, the Nuremberg Trials decisions, documentaries, and public organisations that have dealt with these issues for decades – those that are based on historical memory passed down to us by war veterans, participants in those events, rather than those that sprang into existence in the 1990s and 2000s and that are lavishly financed by Western money.

***

I will allow myself to finish the briefing at this point, but we will continue our communication shortly in the TASS Press Centre that will host a news event devoted to the Leaders of Russia contest. See you there.

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