Briefing by Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova, Moscow, July 9, 2021
- Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s upcoming talks with Minister of External Affairs of India Subrahmanyam Jaishankar
- Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s upcoming talks with Foreign Minister of Sudan Mariam Al-Sadiq Al-Mahdi
- Sergey Lavrov’s upcoming talks with US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry
- SCO Foreign Ministers Council meeting
- SCO−Afghanistan Contact Group meeting
- High-Level International Conference “Central and South Asia: Regional Interconnectedness. Challenges and Opportunities”
- The forthcoming 4th CA5+Russia ministerial meeting
- Russian sailor’s release from Atlantic Princess
- The 16th International Meeting on Syria in the Astana format
- The 20th anniversary of signing the Treaty on Neighbourliness, Friendship and Cooperation between Russia and China
- Situation on the Afghan-Tajik border
- Update on Ukraine
- Early elections to the Parliament of the Republic of Moldova on July 11
- Czech authorities on the explosions in Vrbetice
- The outcome of the second UN Counter-Terrorism Week
- Inauguration of the Group of Friends in Defence of the UN Charter
- Investigating the assassination of the President of Haiti
- US interference in the internal affairs of Nicaragua
- Espionage drama in Albania
- Foreign Ministry’s regular report on the human rights situation in some countries
- Foreign Ministry’s medal Posolsky Prikaz
- Opening of the World in Faces photo exhibition in UNESCO
- Introduction of amendments to the Russian law on foreign agents
- Developments around the Ryanair flight
- Ukraine-adopted law on indigenous people
- Situation on the border between Belarus and Lithuania
- Military cooperation between Turkey and Azerbaijan
- The list published by Reporters without Borders
- A Russian military base on Armenian territory
- Developments on the Armenia-Azerbaijan border
Today, in just an hour, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will have talks with Minister of External Affairs of India Subrahmanyam Jaishankar.
During the meeting, the parties will discuss the key spheres of bilateral relations, taking into account previous agreements and forthcoming contacts, including at the high and highest levels.
The ministers will compare approaches to cooperation within the UN, BRICS, the SCO, and the RIC format, as well as on the most important global and regional problems, including the political process in Afghanistan, the settlement process in Syria, developments around Iran’s nuclear programme and approaches to forming a reliable and indivisible security architecture in the Pacific and Indian oceans.
On July 12, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will have talks with Foreign Minister of the Republic of Sudan Mariam Al-Sadiq Al-Mahdi who will be in Russia on a visit.
The ministers will have an in-depth discussion on key issues of bilateral relations. They will focus on ways to develop trade and economic cooperation as well as the expansion of opportunities for Russian companies’ participation in implementing strategic projects in Sudan.
Topical international and regional problems will be discussed separately, with an emphasis on the need to look for political and diplomatic solutions to crises in the Middle East and Africa.
On July 12, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will meet with US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry during Mr Kerry’s working visit to Moscow.
Sergey Lavrov and John Kerry will have a thorough discussion covering the topical issues on the international climate agenda in view of the preparations for the 26th session of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), to be held in the autumn, and Russia’s current chairmanship in the Arctic Council.
They will also exchange opinions on the national priorities of Russia and the United States and the possibility of joint action to achieve realistic climate goals – primarily under the 2016 Paris Agreement.
On July 13−14 in Dushanbe, Sergey Lavrov will take part in the SCO Foreign Ministers Council meeting.
The event will open the final stage of the preparations for the SCO Heads of State Council meeting on September 16−17 in Dushanbe, dedicated to the 20th anniversary of the Organisation. The ministers will analyse the current state and prospects of multilateral cooperation in politics, security, the economy and humanitarian affairs. They will also discuss draft documents that will be submitted to the country leaders for consideration.
The agenda of the meeting will include topical issues concerning international and regional affairs.
Sergey Lavrov will also have some bilateral talks with his foreign partners.
On July 14 in Dushanbe, the foreign ministers of the SCO member states and the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan will meet in the format of the SCO − Afghanistan Contact Group. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will also attend the meeting.
The foreign ministers will have an extensive discussion of the international and regional agendas, focusing on the state of affairs in Afghanistan in view of the withdrawal of foreign troops from the country.
A Kabul representative will share their account of the developments and Afghanistan’s perspective of specific aspects of cooperation with the SCO under the current circumstances.
It is expected that following the meeting the foreign ministers of the SCO member states will adopt a joint statement.
Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will take part in a high-level international conference “Central and South Asia: Regional Interconnectedness. Challenges and Opportunities” in Tashkent on July 15-16. The conference was spearheaded by President of the Republic of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev.
The leaders of the foreign and other ministries of the Central and South Asia countries, Russia, China, the United States, the European Union, Israel, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, the United Kingdom, Japan and other states, leading international organisations, financial institutions and companies, global research centres and think tanks were invited.
During the upcoming forum, the participants will review a wide range of region-to-region cooperation issues and the prospects for implementing transport and transit, innovation-driven, technology-related, and cultural and tourism opportunities.
The Russian representatives will draw the participants’ attention to the importance of working on a unifying and non-politicised cooperation agenda and highlight the best practices used at the EAEU, the CIS and the SCO, including harmonising trade, economic, investment and transport initiatives in the Eurasian space.
The 4th meeting of foreign ministers of the Kyrgyz Republic, the Republic of Kazakhstan, the Russian Federation, the Republic of Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and the Republic of Uzbekistan will be held in Tashkent on the sidelines of the International Conference “Central Asia-South Asia: Regional Interconnectedness. Challenges and Opportunities” on July 16.
In the context of the worsening situation in Afghanistan and amid the accelerated withdrawal of the military contingents of the United States and a number of other NATO member countries, special focus will go to interaction of our states in regional security and threats posed by drug trafficking and foreign terrorist fighters emanating from international terrorist organisations.
The ministers will also discuss key items on the regional and international agendas, cooperation and mutual assistance amid the ongoing global COVID-19 pandemic as well as measures to increase our countries’ ability to address these challenges.
Last week, Russian citizen Valery Vasilyev, who was kidnapped in a pirate attack on May 20 in the exclusive economic zone of Ghana alongside four other crew members of the Atlantic Princess fishing vessel owned by the Pioneer Food Cannery registered in Tema, Ghana, was freed. The Russian sailor’s condition is satisfactory.
The release of Mr Vasiliev became possible due to interaction of representatives of the ship owner, the Ghanaian and Nigerian authorities, and Russian diplomats in Ghana and Nigeria. We express our gratitude to everyone who contributed to the safe release of the Russian sailor from pirate captivity.
We would like to once again urge our compatriots planning to work on foreign ships to carefully weigh all the risks and take into account the fact that, in connection with the increasing number of pirate attacks, navigation in the Gulf of Guinea poses a real danger to crew members of ships that enter this water area.
On July 7-8, 2021, Nur-Sultan was the venue for the successful 16th International Meeting on Syria in the Astana format. Apart from delegations representing the Government of Syria and the Syrian opposition, the meeting involved high-ranking representatives from Russia, Turkey and Iran as countries, co-guarantors of the Astana format, as well as delegations from Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon, the UN and the International Committee of the Red Cross.
I would just like to remind you that the Astana format is a uniquely effective mechanism for providing international assistance to the Syrian peace process.
Following the meeting, the parties passed a joint statement whose text is posted on the Foreign Ministry’s website. You can access the statement’s text there.
July 16 marks the 20th anniversary of signing the Treaty of Good-Neighbourliness, Friendship and Cooperation between the Russian Federation and the People’s Republic of China. The document laid the legal foundation for forging a modern model of Russian-Chinese relations of all-round partnership and strategic cooperation, as well as the comprehensive development of practical cooperation. The leaders of Russia and China have agreed that the anniversary of this document is the most important event in both countries’ political dialogue this year.
The 20-year experience of steadily deepening bilateral ties shows that the Treaty has successfully passed the test of time, and that its provisions remain topical in modern conditions. The Joint Statement produced by the heads of both states, passed following their June 28, 2021 conversation via videoconference, confirms the important role of this international act. In their Joint Statement, the President of the Russian Federation and the PRC President praised the Treaty’s historical and practical significance and agreed to extend its duration for another five years under the document’s Article 25.
Russia invariably strives to further implement the Treaty’s potential and to deepen ties with China in the most diverse fields, while being guided by the fundamental concept of our basic bilateral document, namely, the determination to pass the friendship between the peoples of both countries from generation to generation.
I would like to address our Chinese friends and to quote a statement that they probably know very well: 我们撸起袖子加油干，使两国人民间的友谊世代相传！
(Translation of Xi Jinping’s statement: We will roll up our sleeves and work, so as to pass the friendship between the peoples of both countries from generation to generation).
We have noticed a dramatic increase in tensions on the Afghan-Tajik border of late. The Taliban quickly occupied most border districts and is currently in control of about two-thirds of the Tajikistan border. Meanwhile, there have been many instances of Afghan forces crossing the border into Tajikistan territory as a result of military clashes with the Taliban.
The growing tensions near the southern border of our ally in the Collective Security Treaty Organisation cannot but raise concern. Moscow and Dushanbe maintain close working contacts between their defence agencies, border guard services and diplomatic channels. We are paying close attention to the situation on the border.
The 201st Russian military base in Tajikistan is fully equipped to help the republic control the situation on the border. If need be, we will resolutely take additional measures in the spirit of Russian-Tajik cooperation with a view to preventing aggression or territorial provocations.
I want to draw your attention to the detailed comment on the situation that Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov gave yesterday evening in Vladivostok. The transcript is available on our website.
We call on the conflicting sides in the intra-Afghan conflict to show restraint and prevent the tensions from boiling over outside the country.
The situation in Ukraine continues to be a source of concern. The talks on settling the conflict in Donbass continue to falter, as before. On June 6 and 7, 2021, the Contact Group and its working sub-groups held sessions via videoconference, which again produced no results. The main reason is the position of the Ukrainian delegation, which became even more destructive than at previous meetings, even though it seemed that it could not get worse.
To sidetrack attention from its own subversion of the Minsk agreements, the Ukrainian representatives go on the record with overtly provocative statements. Recently, one of the members of the Ukrainian delegation in the Contact Group, Alexey Arestovych, said the Minsk agreements are supposedly not binding and merely express the sides’ goodwill. He said that in 2015 the UN Security Council did not endorse the Minsk Package of Measures but just welcomed it as a kind of a roadmap. This is not the first astonishing “discovery” by our Ukrainian colleagues, but it sounds impressive. It is also surprising that our Ukrainian colleagues said the commitments, which are clearly described in the UN’s official languages, were welcomed rather than endorsed. Quoting Resolution 2022, I can cite some words and expressions that remain, much to the surprise of the Ukrainian delegation. The word used is “endorses” rather than “welcomes” and this fact is reflected in French, Spanish, Arabic and Chinese if Russian is not enough. The Ukrainian delegation has encroached on the norms of international law with this interpretation and has misled its own public as regards the language of the UN Security Council resolution.
Another way of distracting attention from the subversion of the Minsk agreement by Kiev is the permanent neglect of different initiatives. We have heard Kiev’s ideas to hold a referendum on Donbass, transfer the talks from Minsk and involve the US and Britain in the Normandy format. There have been several schemes. President Vladimir Zelensky recently came up with a new one. As always, he expressed it not with Ukraine’s dialogue partners but in the media – that is to create an additional negotiating format that would be parallel to the Normandy format.
All these actions show that Ukraine is deliberately driving the process of settlement into a blind alley. It is doing this purposefully and persistently. In the meantime, Kiev continues to move new forces to the contact line and toughening the economic and humanitarian siege of the region, aggravating the already difficult life of its residents.
Unfortunately, the Ukrainian authorities are not only failing to fulfil the agreements on Donbass and their international commitments, they are also violating the norms of their domestic legislation. This has been identified in studies by a number of Ukrainian centres, timed to the 25th anniversary of the Ukrainian Constitution that was celebrated last week. In their evaluations, of its 161 articles, 125, or 78 percent, are systematically violated. The guarantees for the use and protection of Russian and other languages are being ignored. The rights of ethnic minorities are trampled underfoot. A ban on interference in religious affairs, and provisions on the protection of private property and personal inviolability are neglected. Again, these are domestic Ukrainian studies, not Russian accusations.
The rampage of neo-Nazism in Ukraine is a source of special concern. Feeling they can get away with it, the Ukrainian neo-Nazis have started preparations for celebrating the 80th anniversary of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army that was created on October 14, 1942. They intend to show the continuity of the old and new nationalists that are called “fighters for the independence of Ukraine.” A draft resolution to this effect has already been submitted to the Verkhovna Rada. All parliamentary parties have become co-authors with the exception of the Opposition Platform – For Life. Many ideas have been voiced, such as renaming streets and squares in honour of Nazi collaborators and erecting new monuments to them. President Zelensky was advised to return the title of Hero of Ukraine to such infamous characters as Stepan Bandera and Roman Shukhevich who are outside the law and without morals. Continued connivance with such trends between Kiev and the international community could have grievous consequences for Ukraine and other states in Europe and the world.
As before, we will pursue our own policy in this area. We urge international organisations and our foreign partners to compel the Ukrainian authorities to observe their commitments on settling the conflict in Donbass and observe basic rights and freedoms since this is what Kiev has pledged to do.
On July 11, early elections to the Parliament of the Republic of Moldova will be held. More than 20 political parties and associations will compete for 101 seats in the country’s new legislative body. Some of them advocate the balanced development of relations with Russia, the EAEU member states, the CIS and Western states. Others are supporters of an exclusively pro-Western policy to the detriment of traditional ties with Moldova’s other partners.
Russia is closely following the preparations for the elections as the most important domestic political event in the life of Moldova, which is a parliamentary republic. We hope that the Moldovan voters will be provided with all the necessary conditions for an honest, free and transparent expression of their will. Russian observers will monitor compliance with the Moldovan electoral legislation and relevant international acts within the missions of the CIS Executive Committee, the CIS Interparliamentary Assembly, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Union of Belarus and Russia and the OSCE ODIHR.
We are forced to state with regret that the election campaign in Moldova has been accompanied by unprecedented interference in the country's internal political processes by representatives of the United States and the European Union. The Russian Foreign Ministry had repeatedly drawn attention to the inadmissibility of openly biased statements and comments with slanted attacks on political opponents. Unfortunately, our calls were not heeded. The result has been an aggravation of the internal political situation in Moldova and the polarisation of society.
Russia has always advocated the state sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Moldova – a country with which we are linked by a common history and close historical, cultural and humanitarian ties. We stand for the preservation of a balanced foreign policy and the neutrality of Moldova enshrined in the Constitution. We will be ready to work constructively with the new Parliament and Government of the Republic of Moldova, which will be formed following the elections.
We hope that the elections themselves will be held in a calm atmosphere in accordance with the norms of domestic legislation and international law.
I would like to say a few words about new “revelations” from Czech Interior Minister, First Deputy Prime Minister Jan Hamáček. Again and again he makes such witty statements that surprise us more every time.
On July 8, he gave an interview to a local internet newspaper saying that by expelling Russian diplomats and “agents,” the Czech authorities “have fulfilled the dream of a secure community, complicated the work of Russian intelligence and equalised the number of diplomats in both countries.” Was it an investigation of what happened in Vrbetice, or was it someone’s dream that they finally managed to fulfil? Judging by the statements of the Czech Interior Minister, it was a dream.
As we understand, he made this statement officially, so all of this was planned, done consciously and, as is now clear, is malicious in nature. Now it is obvious that this was all a quick-and-dirty concoction. For some reason, Petrov and Boshirov were added to this made-up story. Apparently, the version with Russian hackers seemed less pompous and effective.
We will continue to follow the revelations of Czech politicians, although after such statements it is difficult to regard them as serious political figures. This story speaks to the complete irresponsibility of its creators and sheer stupidity.
The second UN Counter-Terrorism Week, a format to discuss the challenges facing the international community in counter-terrorism activities took place in New York on June 24-30. The series of meetings was organised by the UN Office of Counter-Terrorism headed by our compatriot, UN Under-Secretary-General for Counter-Terrorism Vladimir Voronkov. We appreciate the level of preparation and the results of the event, which once again confirmed the effectiveness of the UN Office of Counter-Terrorism’s efforts.
The central event of Counter-Terrorism Week – the second Conference of the Heads of Counter-Terrorism Agencies of Member States – brought together over 1,000 representatives from the diplomatic corps, related agencies, international and regional organisations and NGOs. The participants discussed measures to counter incitement to terrorism, recruitment of new members and other activities by international terrorist organisations, collection and exchange of data between law enforcement agencies, cutting short the movement and prosecution of foreign terrorist fighters, as well as repatriation, rehabilitation and reintegration of foreign terrorist fighters and their families.
The speech by Igor Sirotkin, Deputy Director of the FSB of Russia and Head of the National Antiterrorism Committee (NAC) Central Office, set a pragmatic tone for the entire discussion during the main session of the conference and outlined Russia’s principled approaches to counterterrorism.
Traditionally, the presentation by Presidential Commissioner for Children’s Rights Anna Kuznetsova, made as part of a panel on repatriating women and children from conflict zones, was received positively. The best practices for the prompt return of Russian minors from harsh conditions in the camps for temporarily displaced persons in Syria and Iraq found recognition with the overwhelming number of participants who showed interest in this Russian experience.
In addition to the high-level conference itself, several dozen events took place on the sidelines of UN Counter-Terrorism Week. Together with the Executive Directorate of the Counter-Terrorism Committee of the UN Security Council, we acted as co-host of a meeting on cutting off illegal arms supplies to terrorist groups, which is a matter of prime importance for our country when it comes to countering terrorism.
The briefing by adviser to the NAC chairman Yevgeny Ilyin on the development of counter-terrorism coordination centres was also a success. Foreign delegations noted the balanced nature and practical orientation of the briefing. In his remarks, Mr Ilyin presented Russia’s experience of forming a national system for countering terrorism, building mechanisms for interdepartmental coordination and information exchange.
The end of Counter-Terrorism Week was marked by the adoption by consensus of the UN General Assembly resolution dedicated to the 7th review of the implementation of the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy by the states. Despite the difficulties and differences that turned up in the course of approving it, the document reflected Russia’s principled approaches to the fight against terrorism and specialised international cooperation.
On July 6, the UN platform held a virtual event to mark the formal launch of the Group of Friends in Defence of the Charter of the United Nations, set up on Venezuela’s initiative. Russia, as a UN founding state and a responsible member of the international community, is one of its co-founders.
The impressive number of participants in the meeting – over 60 delegations – testifies to the extraordinary importance that the member-states place on unswerving commitment to the purposes and principles of this cornerstone document of modern-day international law. The need for strengthening multilateral principles in international affairs based on the UN Charter and for expanding equal cooperation in overcoming global challenges were the keynotes of most remarks. The practice of using unilateral coercive measures circumventing the UN was harshly criticised.
We emphasised that attempts to replace the current international legal architecture with such infamous constructs as a rules-based international order (Western concept) are unacceptable. We stressed that defending the ideals of interstate interaction is becoming more and more topical given the collective West’s desire to slow down the objective processes of forming a polycentric world order and to regain its lost domination.
Our intention is to continue, jointly with like-minded partners, our vigorous opposition to the destruction of pivotal provisions of international law set forth in the UN Charter and fully assist in strengthening the UN’s authority as a non-competitive forum of searching for collective solutions to global issues.
We continue to follow the ongoing investigation into the brazen and deliberate assassination of President of Haiti Jovenel Moise which is primarily the consequence of domestic instability in this country.
While investigating this crime, Haitian police have arrested about 20 suspects, mostly citizens of Colombia. At least two attackers are American citizens. This information makes us extremely concerned. It shows that external forces are once again trying to use a purely domestic conflict in their narrow mercenary interests. We have seen similar developments in other countries, including some located near Russia’s borders.
We would like to express hope that Haitian law enforcement agencies will be able to clarify the real causes of the incident and bring the perpetrators, masterminds and possible accomplices in this crime to justice.
We were surprised to learn that, on July 8, while replying to a question from journalists at a briefing, official US law enforcement representatives were unable to either confirm or refute this fact and flatly declined to comment on the involvement of American citizens in this crime.
Why does this surprise us? Official representatives of the relevant US agencies and departments are much more talkative when discussing the so-called “Russian hackers,” mythical Russian citizens interfering in elections here and there and, in the opinion of some US political forces, influencing and undermining global processes. Moreover, they quickly declare them guilty and urge the international community to solidarise in countering the “Russian threat.”
Why don’t you want to comment on statements regarding your American citizens who have been arrested in Haiti? This country has given an official statement on this. Why are you so reserved? Why don’t you consider it necessary to highlight this fact? After all, the president of a sovereign state has been assassinated.
We would like to comment in detail on developments in Nicaragua. A powerful wave of outside pressure on the lawful Daniel Ortega Government is mounting with the approach of the general election in that country on November 7. This pressure has little to do with the declared concern for free democratic elections and is becoming a free-for-all without rules. It’s obvious and undisguised aim is to remove the Sandinistas from power by destabilising the country.
Indicatively, the current crude interference in the internal affairs of Nicaragua, including questions of funding, is clearly spelled out in the US’s legal framework. In November 2018, the US president adopted an executive regulation that described the situation in that Central American country as “an extraordinary and unusual threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States.” In December 2018, the US endorsed an act on the terms of investment in Nicaragua, blocking the funding of Nicaragua by international banks and monetary and financial organisations (the IMF, the World Bank, etc). They also imposed visa and other restrictions on Nicaraguan officials and cancelled the temporary protection status for migrants from that country.
Cynically, economic restrictions became tougher at the peak of the pandemic. The White House has sharply reduced financial aid to Nicaragua for social development purposes and excluded it from the list of Central American countries that receive vaccines as humanitarian assistance.
Consistent efforts are being made to exclude Managua from regional free trade agreements, for instance, the Central American Free Trade Agreement, the US, Central America and Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement and the European Union Central American Association Agreement.
There are attempts to suspend Managua’s membership in the Organisation of American States.
At the same time, the US is intensifying its efforts to involve NGOs under its control in anti-government actions in accordance with American laws (Article 8 of the Nica Act). All these efforts are spelled out in US law. The US ambassador to Nicaragua directly coordinates cooperation with opponents of “the regime” at regular kickoff meetings. We have seen similar activities in many countries. According to expert estimates, over $1 billion has been invested in Nicaraguan opposition via USAID and other US “humanitarian agencies.” These funds have been channeled into the opposition in Nicaragua instead of being spent on social and humanitarian needs and efforts against COVID-19.
Ignoring the concept of the separation of powers, certain forces are fanning the hysteria around court trials of individual opposition members. The Western mainstream media describe any steps by the lawful authorities to curb foreign interference as “the suppression of freedom,” “strangling of freedom,” etc. We know well all these descriptions. All this reflects mirror-like the restrictions that are valid in the US itself, for example, the 1938 Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA). Against the backdrop of such concern by the US, it is surprising that Washington says nothing about mass beatings and even the murders of protesters in other countries, including some in Latin America. Moreover, it even justifies such actions.
The global pandemic and the grievous socio-economic crisis it has exasperated in many regions, including Latin America, have shown that today the main line for the defence of democracy and human rights largely depends on the ability to ensure state control. Meanwhile, everything the collective West is doing in Nicaragua runs contrary to this, while the freedom of elections is replaced by the tailoring of the election process to a result programmed in advance. This result meets the interests of the outside political engineering.
We are adamantly against any attempts at foreign interference in Nicaragua’s domestic affairs. We are convinced that the residents of that country have the right to determine the destiny of their country independently, without foreign interference. We sincerely wish success, peace and prosperity to the government and people of Nicaragua with which we are linked by the firm ties of friendship and strategic partnership.
We will continue following the situation in Nicaragua and will update you on our evaluations of future developments there.
Albanian media launched, or were used to launch, an information attack in the wake of criminal cases opened by local prosecutors against two Russian nationals suspected of espionage ahead of and during the recent NATO military exercise. Official Albanian authorities have not commented on the issue, and we have not received any information through diplomatic channels. The Russian Embassy sent an inquiry to the Albanian Foreign Ministry, which has yet to reply.
One of the Russian citizens has complained to the Russian Foreign Ministry about his lengthy detention and the extremely inappropriate treatment he received at the border of Albania where he was travelling as a tourist. Thus, our diplomats took action in Tirana warning of mandatory observation of international human rights and consular regulations in such cases.
The incident appears to be an exercise in NATO propaganda which has nothing to do with reality. The whole situation is based on common practice. People who want to visit Albania as tourists realise that it is not safe because they could fall victims to similar schemes by NATO. Those who plan to go to Albania on holiday should take this incident into account. We will continue to monitor the situation and provide any assistance to our citizens and protect their rights.
As an ongoing effort to draw attention to the challenges faced by today’s international community when it comes to human rights, the Foreign Ministry has released a report on the human rights situation in certain countries.
The report summarises the state of affairs in countries that classify themselves as developed democracies with exemplary human rights records, and countries gravitating towards this category. Regrettably, despite numerous discussions in the past at different levels of the universal nature of human rights and despite the seemingly universal understanding of the essence of this matter, many countries continue to apply double standards to various situations in the area of human rights. Moreover, this approach is still frequently used as an excuse to infuse confrontation in countries with “authoritarian regimes.” The most cynical thing is that this method is exploited by states which not only have serious human rights issues inside their own borders (most typically, the “collective West”) but also do not know how to overcome these issues and often deny their own problematic tendencies until they flare up – as was the case with racism in the United States.
Despite the solid and functional legal mechanisms of the UN, the OSCE and the Council of Europe that disclaim, condemn and prevent the glorification of Nazism, racism, xenophobia and consequent bigotry, we are currently witnessing a certain amount of propaganda with racist ideas and values in a number of countries and radical nationalists who openly promote themselves. There have been increased attempts to sow the seeds of strife in society based on ethnicity and language. Multiple countries on both sides of the Atlantic have noted a steady growth in xenophobic and racist sentiments, outbursts of aggressive nationalism, chauvinism and other forms of racial and religious intolerance. To justify their lack of response to intolerance, the authorities make hypocritical references to the supposedly absolute nature of freedom of expression, assembly and association. This is what Washington usually does when voting against the UN General Assembly’s resolution on preventing racism. They do it on purpose and, for many years, they have also encouraged their satellites to vote against it (although Ukraine seems to be the only one to go along with it). The EU does not support this resolution and we also know whose influence it is. Moreover, officials in some states are starting to use these incidents as an excuse to dispose of their political opponents. This problem has reached such a large scale that in some countries, many experts report that systematic racism and intolerance are ingrained in all areas of public life.
Protection of ethnic minorities and ethnic groups, primarily language and educational groups, remains an urgent concern. The situation is most dire in the Baltic states and Ukraine where the Russian-speaking population is subjected to continuous pressure and discrimination by the national authorities.
I should particularly mention efforts of the collective West to rewrite the history of World War II and review its outcome, as well as its cynical attempts to exonerate war criminals and their henchmen – those who created and practiced the theory of racial superiority. We are greatly concerned about the glorification of Nazi collaborators as members of national liberation movements, and about the inclusion of respective subjects in compulsory school programmes. These negative trends and other serious problems were summarised in the Foreign Ministry’s report. It is now available on our website.
Unfortunately, we have to note that at this stage, when we look at the human rights situation in the world, there are no indicators that certain countries are willing to abandon their confrontational approach in favour of constructive international cooperation for the sake of encouraging and protecting human rights.
The full text of the report is available on the Foreign Ministry’s website.
Yesterday, the media reported this, and there were questions. I would like to confirm that the Foreign Ministry has established a medal for services in foreign policy, Posolsky Prikaz (Ambassadorial Department), which will be awarded for active work in championing Russia’s foreign policy and strengthening ties with other countries.
The Foreign Ministry’s Posolsky Prikaz chest medal is awarded to citizens of the Russian Federation, foreign citizens and stateless persons for active work in support of Russia’s foreign policy, for many years of diplomatic service and for contributing to the strengthening of friendly ties between Russia and other countries.
On the obverse of the medal, there is a horseman striking a winged serpent, and around the edge, there are the inscriptions “Posolsky Prikaz” and “Eye of All Great Russia”. The year of the Foreign Ministry’s foundation is stamped at the bottom: 1549. On the reverse side, there is an image of the high-rise administrative building of the Russian Foreign Ministry.
Today we will publish a detailed article on our social media accounts.
Yesterday, on July 8, an exhibition by famous Russian photographer Alexander Khimushin, The World in Faces, opened at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris. It features 170 portraits of representatives of the indigenous peoples of Russia and other countries.
The exhibition is not only notable for these beautiful works but also because it is a symbol: the first “live” cultural event held at UNESCO after a long coronavirus-related gap. It is timed to coincide with the upcoming International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples (August 9) and marks the beginning of the International Decade of Indigenous Languages (2022 – 2032).
The event, organised by the Russian Commission on UNESCO Affairs, Russia’s Permanent Delegation to UNESCO and Nornickel, aims to draw attention to the challenge of conserving and developing indigenous languages and to highlight the importance of multilingualism and linguistic diversity in attaining sustainable development and promoting intercultural dialogue.
The World in Faces exhibition will run in Paris until August 31. It will also be available online and on UNESCO’s social media account. We will definitely share the posts.
Question: The Venice Commission of the Council of Europe published its opinion on amendments to the Russian law “on foreign agents” this week. The Venice Commission calls on Moscow to not only revise these norms, but also declares that the amendments submitted to the State Duma last year constitute serious violations of the rights of Russian citizens. Will Russia respond to this?
Maria Zakharova: I would like to clarify that the opinion published by the Venice Commission on July 6 was prepared at the request of the PACE Committee of Legal Affairs and Human Rights. Russia has displayed a completely constructive and open approach to cooperation with that advisory entity at the Council of Europe. Russian authorities prepared exhaustive answers in a timely manner to the questions received from the Venice Commission while it worked on its opinion.
Regretfully, it failed to hear Russia’s arguments. The opinion repeats many narratives from the publication of 2014 on the same subject. The analysis of our current law is fairly superficial to our mind. And law enforcement practice has been ignored.
I want to stress that a large volume of materials was sent to the commission in response to their requests. Hopefully, the Venice Commission will treat the arguments of the Russian side with greater attention and respect one day.
Maria Zakharova: On June 28, the 223rd session of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) Council discussed the interim report presented by the ICAO Secretary-General on the FR4978 Ryanair flight incident over Belarus on May 23. It describes actions taken by the ICAO Secretariat to initiate a fact-finding investigation, including setting up an Investigation Group to find out what happened; sending requests for materials to the countries involved; analysing the data received, and further areas of the Investigation Group’s activities.
The report states the need for obtaining additional information and the Secretariat’s intention to contact the states and organisations involved for any additional assistance needed to complete the fact-finding investigation. The final opinion of the Investigation Group is expected in September.
We proceed from the need for a professional and comprehensive assessment of the situation that brooks no politicisation or premature judgement.
Question: Recently, the Ukrainian authorities adopted a law On Indigenous Peoples, according to which Russians are not classified as an autochthonous population of the country. At the same time, de-Russification has been going on in Ukraine for many years now and even decades with varying degrees of intensity. What instruments of "soft power" is Russia now using in response to this? And does the Foreign Ministry plan on changing its policy towards Ukraine so as not to lose its influence and connection with the Russian-speaking population of the country?
Maria Zakharova: It seems to me that we can endlessly answer the question of what is being done, evaluate the results and argue, etc.
The legislative measure you just mentioned is undoubtedly discriminatory. All ethnic groups classified by Kiev as indigenous peoples live in Russian Crimea and enjoy all the rights there regarding language, culture and traditions. By such actions, the Kiev authorities are trying to divert the international community’s attention from the flagrant violation of the rights of national minorities and the Russian-speaking population in their country. The worst thing is that they are pursuing a policy of segregation, squeezing out the population, reprisals against the unwanted, and intimidation – the whole set of actions and political attitudes, which is recognised as being outside the framework of law, morality and ethics in the civilized world.
We have repeatedly drawn the attention of international organisations to this, and raised this matter with the UN, OSCE as well as with the Council of Europe. We seek from Kiev that it fulfills its obligations within the existing international legal documents.
As for "soft power," Rossotrudnichestvo and NGOs are working in this area. A lot is being done.
Question: Belarus is being accused of deliberately letting illegal migrants from the Middle East cross its border with Lithuania, which, according to the Lithuanian authorities, has caused a migration crisis in that country. They have even started building a fence on the border with Belarus and declared an emergency. At the same time, the Lithuanian Foreign Minister openly accused Minsk of using refugees as a “hybrid weapon.” Is Moscow monitoring this situation? What do you think about these moves by Minsk? Do you think the Lithuanian side’s accusations are fair?
Maria Zakharova: It is ridiculous to hear the EU, Brussels and individual countries from this association moan and groan about some obscure migration threat coming from Belarus. These are absurd statements, considering what Western countries have done, cobbling up coalitions and carrying out “crusades,” in particular, in the Middle East and North Africa. They disrupt the life of the local people, and provoke enormous migration problems for the world, primarily, Europe. After that, they accuse Belarus and other countries of allegedly creating threats in the migration sphere. It's a comical and ridiculous thing to hear.
They have messed up so many countries. They have thwarted the course and way of life in so many countries. They instigated the relocation of tens of thousands of people - refugees and migrants - who could not continue their normal lives and stay in the countries, which were exposed to outside influence. Heated phases of conflicts and civil wars took place there under external influence.
It appeared that the EU and, in particular, Lithuania would muster the common sense (one can hardly speak of conscience) not to elaborate on this matter in the context of Belarus, given what Brussels had done on the migration track, such as creating quotas “pushing” people out beyond the borders of their own countries, not only on land, but also at sea, and separating families. Just recall the terrible news that spread all over the world about family members being separated due to quotas and restrictions. The children ended up in one country, and their parents in another. People were kicked like balls in a game and all of that despite the fact that the Western countries are the culprits responsible for the people fleeing their countries in the Middle East and North Africa. This is how they were treated. This is the tip of the iceberg.
Now with regard to Belarus, of course, Belarus-Lithuania is all about bilateral relations. We are tracking this story. As a reminder, Belarus is one of the world’s leaders in countering human trafficking and illegal migration and is promoting useful initiatives at international organisations. The efforts deployed by Minsk have largely helped curb the flows of migrants seeking to enter the EU countries from disadvantaged regions. Today, everyone in Brussels and in the West in general has forgotten about this. According to the Belarusian law enforcement agencies, this effort required the Belarusian border guards to attract major resources in order to protect the borders with neighbouring states, including Lithuania.
Let's take a closer look than the one offered by the Lithuanian and Western media. Were they unaware that, in recent years, the republic’s main efforts have been aimed at countering the attempts to interfere in its internal affairs, including preventing terrorist attacks? Was it a secret to anyone? Unfortunately, these capabilities are not limitless given the massive pressure and external influence exerted on this sovereign state. Therefore, our Western partners should not be surprised that there may be problems in other areas.
If Belarus’ neighbouring states are truly interested in reducing the flows of what they believe to be “illegal migration,” I can give some good advice. They need to get in touch with Minsk directly and start talking. This is what all civilised countries do when they want to resolve a problem rather than aggravate it. What you need to do is not to sever contacts with the Belarusian authorities, not to open false Belarusian embassies around the world, but to promote interaction with Minsk and maintain a dialogue.
Question: Following the Shusha Declaration signed on June 15, 2021, Turkey and Azerbaijan supplemented the One Nation – Two States concept with a strategy of one army for these two countries. NATO’s biggest army and Azerbaijan that is militarily the strongest country in the South Caucasus are uniting and discussing an opportunity to create a NATO base in the city of Gyandzha. At the same time, President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev speaks about final peace in Nagorno-Karabakh and the drafting of a peace treaty with Armenia. In this context, against whom would this powerful military union be targeted? What measures will Russia take to strengthen military parity in the South Caucasus? Does Russia see a threat from Azerbaijan and Turkey in the potential opening of military infrastructure facilities near the Russian border?
Maria Zakharova: We have commented enough on this issue, and I do not have anything to add to our position. In addition, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov described it in detail following talks with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu in Antalya on June 30, 2021. Mr Lavrov clearly set forth our position. I have nothing to add.
Question: Reporters Without Borders published a list of 37 heads of state and government that “crack down on freedom of the press.” This list includes the presidents of Turkey, Russia, Azerbaijan and Belarus. What can you tell us about this? Is the compilation of this list part of the information campaign against Russia?
Maria Zakharova: Well, we seldom comment on such things but since you asked I’ll admit that I’ve seen this report. It is written in a low-grade, obnoxious tabloid style.
I find something else surprising. If an organisation declaring itself a professional journalist association ventures such an analysis it must be 100 percent unbiased.
However, we have not noticed in this notorious list any leaders from Ukraine who have shut down three independent television channels and expelled all Russian media from the country in a very short span of time. We have not seen the names of Estonian leaders who set their police on the editors of Sputnik. Nor have we seen the names of the Latvian leaders who launched criminal prosecution of Sputnik and Baltnews employees in Riga. There are no Lithuanian names on the list. They have introduced censorship of the Russian media. There are no American names there, either. The American media outlets complained that they are endlessly subjected to pressure and unseemly treatment by the authorities. The current segregation of information sources in the social media in the United States is truly unprecedented. Where are all these people? Why haven’t they been granted the honour of being included into this list, or at least mentioned in it? Where is the objective assessment of the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) that has been valid in the US since the 1930s and is a punitive sword of the American elite?
Why haven’t Reporters Without Borders said anything about the actions of Elysee Palace that accredits Russian journalists but does not allow them to visit its events? It insists that they are not journalists. I think UNESCO, the UN and the Council of Europe should comment on the performance of this organisation.
Question: Moscow hosted a regular Russian-Armenian Intergovernmental Commission meeting in late June of this year. The meeting participants discussed issues related to the transfer of land plots and estate property for Russian military base use. Does this imply boosting the potential of the Russian base in Gyumri or deploying a new military base in Armenia?
Is the deployment of Russian border guards along some stretches of the Armenia-Azerbaijan border being discussed now, including through diplomatic channels? If so, what progress has been made so far on this issue? I want to note that this has become particularly pressing in Armenia, after Azerbaijani units crossed the border two months ago, on May 12, and moved 2 to 3 kilometres, on some sections of the border, into the sovereign territory of the Republic of Armenia.
Maria Zakharova: The issues of increasing regional security are discussed regularly with our Armenian partners in various formats. The discussions are based on both the numerous agreements reached by our two countries and the trilateral statements by the leaders.
As for the Russian military facilities in Armenia, this falls within the authority of the Russian Defence Ministry, as it is.
A package of issues related to the Nagorno-Karabakh settlement was discussed in detail by Russian President Vladimir Putin and Armenian Acting Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan at their meeting in Moscow on July 7 of this year. The importance of consistent efforts to implement the statements of the leaders of Russia, Azerbaijan and Armenia of November 9, 2020 and January 11, 2021, has been reaffirmed.
We again confirm what we have talked about and even more – we have been putting this into practice. Russia is ready to contribute to securing peace in Nagorno-Karabakh, building trust between Yerevan and Baku and eliminating the mutual irritants. In particular, at the recent meeting, Armenian Acting Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan thanked Russian President Vladimir Putin for his personal contribution to securing the return of 15 Armenian prisoners of war on July 3 of this year. Since December 2020, Russia has mediated the return of a total of 97 prisoners of war, including 81 persons to Armenia and 16 to Azerbaijan.
However, this problem has not been finally resolved so far, nor has the transfer of minefield maps, a priority issue for Baku. Russia’s position on this is well known: we want to find a final solution as soon as possible without any conditions or mutual trade-offs.
The situation in the zone of responsibility for Russian peacekeepers remains fairly stable. Occasional incidents are addressed quickly in cooperation with our Azerbaijani and Armenian colleagues. No provocations have been recorded with respect to Russian peacekeepers. The Russian Defence Ministry has more information about the situation on the ground. This is their responsibility. We advise you to contact them for more detailed answers to your questions regarding the situation on the ground.
Question: Recently, Russian Ambassador to Armenia Sergey Kopyrkin, commenting on the proposal by acting Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan to withdraw Armenian and Azerbaijani troops from the Sotk-Khoznavarsky section of the Armenian-Azerbaijani border and placing international observers there, noted that substantive consultations are underway and the issues are being discussed, including the practicalities. What information can you give us on the current discussions? When can we expect the withdrawal of the Azerbaijani troops that have invaded sovereign Armenian territory and the deployment of the Russian Border Guards along the border?
The other day, an Azerbaijani unit, which penetrated Armenian territory near the village of Verin Shorzha in the Gegharkunik Province provoked a shootout that resulted in the wounding of an Armenian serviceman. What is your comment on such destructive actions by Azerbaijan?
Maria Zakharova: I have said enough today about the Russian approach and reaffirmed the Russian position on this, again.
As for the border, the situation on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border is unrelated to the Nagorno-Karabakh settlement and is the result of a lack of border regulation under international law. The lack of trust between the parties further aggravates the general atmosphere of relations.
We have repeatedly emphasised that we see the earliest launch of efforts on border delimitation between Azerbaijan and Armenia with its subsequent demarcation as a stable and durable solution to the problem. We are prepared to provide any needed consultative assistance.
Contacts between foreign and defence ministries as well as border guards services, including for the de-escalation of tensions, continue.