Briefing by Deputy Director of the Information and Press Department Alexey Zaytsev, Moscow, August 6, 2020
- Coronavirus update
- Assisting Russian citizens in coming home
- Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s talks with German Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs Heiko Maas
- Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s message to the Mayor of Hiroshima and city residents in connection with the 75th anniversary of the atom bombs
- 45th anniversary of the Helsinki Final Act
- Global Engagement Center report on Russia
- The Republic of Cote d’Ivoire celebrates Independence Day
- Celebrations of the National Day of Singapore
- Chad Independence Day celebrations
- The new 2019 Diplomatic Journal
- US military biological activities in the post-Soviet space
- US National Security Advisor accuses Russia of collusion with the Taliban
- Russia-US dialogue on counterterrorism
- US plans to reduce its contingent in Afghanistan
- The situation regarding the migrant camp on the Russia-Kazakhstan border
The epidemiological situation around the world remains tense. The novel coronavirus infection continues to spread at a rapid rate. The total number of cases in the world since the beginning of the pandemic has exceeded 19 million. The biggest number of COVID-19 cases have been registered in North and South America (about 10 million people) and in Europe (more than 3.5 million people). Several countries, such as Germany and Estonia, have announced the start of the second wave of COVID-19.
Due to a noticeable increase in the number of new cases, several countries had to suspend their plans to gradually lift the restrictive measures both in relation to foreign visitors and their own citizens.
On July 31, the WHO convened the fourth meeting of International Health Regulations Emergency Committee regarding the outbreak of coronavirus disease. In its statement, the Committee highlighted the anticipated lengthy duration of the COVID-19 pandemic. The members emphasised that the effects of the crisis will be felt for decades to come and called for sustained community, national, and global response efforts. The Committee advised the WHO Secretariat and member states to continue to mobilise global and regional multilateral organisations, including partners for accelerating access to tools to combat COVID-19. The Committee’s statement, with further details of the meeting and their recommendations, is available on the organisation’s website.
On August 1, Russia resumed regular air service with three countries – Great Britain, Turkey and Tanzania. Starting August 10, additional flights from Turkey will be launched, notably from Antalya, Bodrum and Dalaman. Also, traffic via the Russian-Abkhazian border was resumed for citizens of both countries in line with the Government’s directive. In addition, Switzerland was included on the list of countries whose citizens may enter Russia.
In the meantime, in parallel with regular flights, Russia continues its programme of assisting Russian citizens in coming home from abroad. The number of Russians who have returned home since the middle of March has exceeded 275,000 people, including over 67,000 since the launching of the evacuation algorithm on April 7.
Inbound flights primarily allow Russian citizens to come home from remote countries. Thus, tomorrow an Azur Air flight from Caracas (Venezuela) and La Romana (Dominican Republic) is scheduled to land at Sheremetyevo Airport. It will bring home over 150 compatriots and citizens of other CIS countries.
Flights from countries with which regular air service has not yet resumed are planned in the next few weeks from the US (New York and Los Angeles), Israel, Germany (Frankfurt), France (Paris) and the UAE (Dubai), as well as from some CIS states.
The relevant section on the Public Services portal is continuously being updated, currently with planned inbound flights throughout August. Please, find the latest information there.
The hybrid plan continues working well – combined regular flights by foreign airlines with Russian inbound flights via Seoul, Dubai, Frankfurt and Paris. In this way, hundreds of our compatriots from various parts of the world have already safely returned home.
We would like to draw your attention to the rules of sanitary-epidemiological control that have changed since August 1. Under Resolution No. 22 of the Chief Sanitary Doctor, foreign citizens flying to Russia on both regular and evacuation flights, must provide a certificate that indicates negative for a COVID-19 PCR test, taken no longer than 72 hours before arrival in the Russian Federation. It is important to bear in mind that flight time is also counted. In other words, in planning a trip, travelers should take into account trans-continental flights with a total duration of over 10-15 hours. In addition, they have to fill out a form on the Rospotrebnadzor website.
The requirement for 14-day self-isolation is valid for foreigners and stateless persons who arrive to work in Russia.
Russian citizens must take a COVID-19 PCR test within three days of arrival and attach the result to the form they fill out on the Public Services portal upon arrival. (www.gosuslugi.ru/394604).
On August 11, Germany’s Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs Heiko Maas will pay a working visit to Moscow and St. Petersburg as we approach the 50th anniversary of signing the Moscow Treaty of August 12, 1970 between the Soviet Union and the Federal Republic of Germany.
Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is to hold talks with Heiko Maas in the morning of August 11. The heads of the Russian and German Foreign Ministries will discuss key matters on the Russian-German agenda, and will coordinate the schedule for upcoming political, cultural and economic contacts through the end of the year. They will also discuss “overlapping” initiatives.
The ministers are to conduct an in-depth exchange of opinions on the most topical international issues, including developments in Ukraine, Syria and Libya, the situation around the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on the Iranian nuclear programme, as well as matters of global stability and strategic security. It goes without saying that they will touch on Russia-EU relations, with due consideration for Germany’s presidency of the Council of Europe in the second half of 2020.
In the afternoon, Heiko Maas will meet with St. Petersburg Governor Alexander Beglov and will speak with survivors of the siege of Leningrad via teleconference.
Today, the whole world recalls the tragic events of 1945. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov sent a message to the Mayor of Hiroshima and city residents in connection with the anniversary of the US atom bomb strikes against Japan. In his message, Sergey Lavrov noted that the year 2020 marks the 75th anniversary of the end of the largest and bloodiest war in history.
The message states that Russia is now extremely concerned over the degradation of the international arms control system, the abolition of treaties, the contempt for the principles of not infringing on the security of other states and a substantial increase in nuclear risks. Alarming changes in military-political doctrines are taking place, and this implies the acceptability of using nuclear weapons as a means of warfare.
The minister emphasised that it is necessary to rule out the risk of military clashes between nuclear powers and the possibility of nuclear war. There can be no winners in this war that must never be unleashed. We must guarantee through collective efforts that the horror and grief of Hiroshima and Nagasaki will never be repeated.
The full text of the message is posted on the official Foreign Ministry website (https://www.mid.ru/ru/foreign_policy/news/-/asset_publisher/cKNonkJE02Bw/content/id/4279615).
On August 1, the world marked the 45th anniversary of signing the Final Act of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe. This document was agreed upon in a tense international situation owing to the political will of the participants, and their ability to consider each other’s interests and search for compromise. It has become a symbol of détente and one of the pillars of the current European security system.
Today, the European security system is again going through hard times. International legal instruments for ensuring global stability are being eroded and dividing lines have not been erased. They have merely been moved eastward and are becoming even deeper. The reluctance of the Western countries to give up confrontational block-based approaches and instruments of implementing their geopolitical ambitions at the expense of the security of others undermines trust in the Euro-Atlantic Region and beyond.
The OSCE, the most representative, unique pan-European organisation, has found itself in crisis and increasingly resembles a “discussion club” rather than a platform for developing collective security solutions.
The OSCE’s basic principles that were set forth in the 1975 Helsinki Final Act, the 1990 Paris Charter for new Europe, the 1999 Charter for European Security, the 2010 Astana Declaration and other fundamental documents, remain valid. It is important to make sure that this entire set of interrelated principles and commitments is understood uniformly by all participating states and applied in practice without selective approaches and double standards.
Russia stands for reforming the OSCE, consolidating its legal status and enhancing its prestige. For all of its drawbacks and problems, it would be a mistake to give up on the potential of the OSCE. It is simply impossible to re-create such a mechanism in the current situation. Due to its wide geographical coverage, comprehensive approach to security, the rule of consensus and a culture of dialogue, the OSCE can and should play a more significant role in resolving pressing international issues.
In today’s conditions of the global struggle against new challenges and threats, including the coronavirus pandemic, we need to create and consolidate positive, unifying principles in the OSCE agenda and move to a constructive dialogue instead of an empty and futile exchange of accusations. The OSCE can use its potential to make a tangible contribution to de-escalating military and political tensions, countering transnational threats, facilitating the conjugation of integration processes in Eurasia and improving people’s lives.
There is no doubt that, having returned to building truly equitable relations, the OSCE member-countries will be able to overcome any crises and move forward to the creation of a unified community of equal and indivisible security and mutually beneficial cooperation in the vast expanse of the Euro-Atlantic Region and Eurasia, which remains a strategic guideline.
We have paid attention to the report titled Pillars of Russia’s Disinformation and Propaganda Ecosystem presented by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and prepared by the US State Department’s Global Engagement Center. We will read it more carefully, but even a cursory look leaves no doubt that this is yet another example of US policy aimed at denigrating Russia. Washington criticises any information sources that disseminate alternative points of view and tries to stifle any voice that contradicts US approaches and attitudes. The relevant list has been compiled based on politically motivated considerations and is clearly biased.
Such rhetoric with respect to our country is unacceptable. The non-constructive approach adopted by the US administration is not conducive to resuming and intensifying real cooperation between our countries in the key areas of global and bilateral interaction. We view the report as another attempt by the United States to control the activities of the media, which we regard as nothing less than an encroachment on freedom of expression.
The Russian Embassy in the United States has posted its comments on the State Department report. Among other things, it voiced an appeal to all sober-minded forces in the United States and international community to rely on official Russian information about our real approaches to the development of bilateral relations, not to slip into sweeping groundless accusations against our country.
On August 7, the Republic of Cote d’Ivoire is celebrating its 60th anniversary of independence. Sixty years ago, Cote d’Ivoire, also known as the Ivory Coast, withdrew from the French Union and started building a new life, free from external dependence. Preceding this significant event was a difficult period related to its colonial past.
Europeans began to land on the shores of what is today Cote d’Ivoire in the 15th century. The first settlers from Europe were French missionaries, who arrived there in 1637. But it was not until the 1840s that real settlement began there. In 1846, the French established a protectorate over practically the entire coastal area. In 1893, Cote d’Ivoire became a separate French colony and in 1895, it was incorporated into French West Africa. In October 1946, the country was granted the status of an overseas territory of France, and in 1958, that of a member state of the French Union. It was only on August 7, 1960, that Cote d’Ivoire gained sovereignty and withdrew from the French Union.
Gradually, the country ceased to be an agricultural and raw material appendage of its former mother country and laid foundations for modern industrial production. By 1979, it was the leading world producer of cocoa beans.
Today, after a period of instability and internal turmoil, Cote d’Ivoire is an influential member of the Economic Community of West African States. It is actively involved in the integration processes in the region and enjoys well-deserved prestige on the African continent as a whole. Its socioeconomic objectives, including the attainment of higher living standards, are being addressed successfully.
Relations between Russia and Cote d’Ivoire are developing in an atmosphere of friendship and mutual respect. The two countries maintain a political dialogue and are expanding their trade, economic and humanitarian ties. The participation of an Ivorian delegation led by President Alassane Dramane Ouattara in the Russia-Africa Forum in Sochi in October 2019 gave an important impetus to bilateral contacts. Following the events (held during the summit), the sides outlined short-term priorities for Russian-Ivorian collaboration.
Taking this opportunity, we would like to congratulate our Ivorian friends on their national holiday and wish them peace and prosperity.
On August 9, the Republic of Singapore celebrates the 55th anniversary of independence. Singapore was part of the British Empire for a long time. Aware of the benefits of the island’s geographical location, the British established a trading post there, which functioned for more than a century (from 1819 to 1942).
During World War II, Singapore was occupied by Japan. After the war it was returned to British control, but with a greater level of self-government. From 1963, it was part of the Federation of Malaya. On August 9, 1965 it proclaimed independence.
Since then, Singapore has become a global centre for financial and business activities, achieved spectacular socio-economic success and gained international prestige.
We have invariably viewed Singapore as an important and promising partner in the Asia-Pacific Region and an influential member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). We have accumulated a unique experience of cooperation in various areas and created favourable conditions for the further consistent development of multi-faceted bilateral relations.
On the eve of this national holiday, we would like to wish the friendly nation of Singapore well-being and further prosperity.
On August 11, the Republic of Chad, with which we have developed friendly relations, will celebrate the 60th anniversary of independence.
Its history testifies to the uphill road that it had to traverse before gaining independence. In the 15th-16th centuries three states existed on the territory of modern Chad: – Bornu, Bagirmi and Wadai. Their independent development was cut short by France’s colonial expansion. In January 1910, Chad became part of French Equatorial Africa and became a separate colony in 1914. In November 1958, Chad was declared an autonomous republic within the French Union. On August 11, 1960, Chad declared independence as a sovereign state.
Chad’s main imperatives today are to promote security stabilisation, economic development and the upgrade of living standards.
We continue to develop bilateral diplomatic relations, which were established in November 1964. We support political dialogue and we offer federal grants for Chadian students to study at Russian universities. President Idriss Deby Itno’s participation in the Russia-Africa Summit and Economic Forum in Sochi in October 2019 was a notable step in bilateral relations.
We are sincerely happy to congratulate our Chadian partners on their national holiday and wish them peace and prosperity.
Another annual publication, the 2019 Diplomatic Journal, has come off the press. It was prepared by the Information and Press Department.
The collection includes Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s speeches, remarks, interviews, and articles in the media on the main issues of Russian foreign policy over the past year in Russian and English. As before, the journal is based on articles and photos from the Foreign Ministry website. The electronic version of the yearbook is available on the Foreign Ministry’s website.
Question: How does the Russian Foreign Ministry see US military biological activities in the post-Soviet space?
Alexey Zaytsev: The intensification of the United States and its allies’ military biological activities beyond their national borders, including in the post-Soviet space, raises serious concerns in the context of the implementation of the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC).
Under the guise of providing sanitary and epidemiological assistance, the Pentagon put on stream the construction and modernization of microbiological laboratories in the former Soviet republics. It is not possible to control the procedure or degree of these facilities’ involvement in closed research programmes under the US military. The strains of infectious pathogens obtained by American military biologists could possibly be used in the future for purposes incompatible with the interests of the national security of Russia and other CIS countries.
In this regard, we consistently advocate strengthening the BTWC regime, a fundamental instrument of international law aimed at comprehensively countering the threats and risks of using biological agents as weapons and at promoting international cooperation in biological research for peaceful purposes. In particular, we propose including information on military biological programmes implemented abroad in the annual reports submitted by the States Parties to the Convention as a confidence building measure. However, our American colleagues seem unwilling to share such information.
We will vigorously use the relevant multilateral platforms to coordinate our efforts to ensure biological safety. We will reinforce our partners’ understanding of the importance of further substantive dialogue on this matter.
During our bilateral contacts with the CIS counties, we point out the need for strict national control over any biological activity carried out on their territories. We continue to work on bilateral memorandums on biological safety. The first such document, signed in April 2019 with Tajikistan, makes a significant contribution to the development of cooperation to ensure sanitary and epidemiological safety and is a positive example for other states in the region.
To resolve any issues related to the US military’s biological activities along the perimeter of Russia’s borders, we deem it necessary to activate the mechanism under Article V of the BTWC. Under Article V, the States Parties undertake to consult one another and to cooperate in resolving any problems which may arise in relation to the purpose of this Convention or its implementation. We call on the American side to sit down at the negotiating table and discuss, in a bilateral format, the concerns we have accumulated in connection with US military biological activity.
Question: US National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien said that Russia will pay the price if allegations of collusion with the Taliban are confirmed. Can you comment on this?
Alexey Zaytsev: We have long been accustomed to unfounded allegations on the part of the Americans. Russia has been accused of many things – of interfering in the presidential campaign in the United States, of cyberattacks, and even of undermining some American foundations. However, none of these allegations has yet been supported by reliable evidence. This time, the Russian special services have been accused of conspiring with the Taliban, supposedly encouraging them to conduct sorties to kill US troops in Afghanistan. This is yet another lie that does not deserve comment by definition.
It is not even about these statements by high-ranking American officials being the fruit of the raving imaginations of those in Washington who seek to disrupt our bilateral dialogue and basically cement this systemic challenge to Russia as a state. There is an equally dangerous implication – the very logic of Russian-American interaction in Afghanistan is being questioned and undermined.
In this regard, we noted a comment by US Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun, who recently spoke at a hearing in the US Senate and said that “any suggestion that the Russian Federation, or any part of the Russian government, is employed in providing resources to fighters from other countries to attack American soldiers will be met with the most severe consequences.” We consider such statements to be irresponsible and unacceptable for a high-ranking representative of any state.
Question: How can you comment on the statement by National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien that in the coming months the United States and Russia can hold a dialogue on anti-terrorism?
Alexey Zaytsev: We support the continuation of our interdepartmental dialogue with the United States on anti-terrorism. It is objectively necessary and meets both our national interests and the goals of maintaining peace and security. By now, four meetings at the level of experts and coordinators of this process have been held in Vienna under the aegis of our foreign policy departments. Our countries are capable of doing much together to more effectively counter international terrorism and other dangerous threats of our time. However, such cooperation must be carried out without politicisation and be mutually beneficial. We are open to cooperation with Washington on a broad range of issues in the struggle against terrorism but with the understanding that the US needs it no less than we do.
Regarding cooperation on this subject, the ball is on the US’s court.
Question: How could you comment on the US plans to reduce the number of troops in Afghanistan?
Alexey Zaytsev: We welcome Washington’s intention to continue reducing the strength of the US military contingent in Afghanistan and bring it down to 4,000-5,000 personnel by next November.
We believe that US President Donald Trump’s statement on this confirms a commitment to his election pledge on US troop withdrawals from Afghanistan and demonstrates the White House’s resolve to fulfil its part of the obligations in the peace agreement with the Taliban. We are convinced that the full implementation of this agreement between the US and the Taliban, as well as the start of direct intra-Afghan talks will pave the way to a long-term settlement in Afghanistan.
Question: Can the Foreign Ministry comment on the situation with the camp of migrants stuck in the Orenburg and Samara regions on the border with Kazakhstan? What agreements have been reached on the transit corridor from Russia via Kazakhstan for citizens of Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan?
Alexey Zaytsev: At about 10 am on August 3, a group of Uzbek citizens independently tried to enter the border zone of the Orenburg Region with a view to crossing the Russian-Kazakhstani border. Members of this group dispersed after law-enforcement officers took appropriate measures and conducted an explanatory conversation.
At the same time, three citizens of Uzbekistan were taken to the police station in the Bolshechernigovsky District of the Samara Region for failure to obey police officers, where administrative protocols were drawn up against them. The Bolsheglushitsky District Court of the Samara Region brought the above citizens to administrative responsibility in the form of two days of administrative arrest.
At the moment, the situation on the administrative border of the Samara and Orenburg regions is stable, no violations of public order were allowed. Citizens of the Republic of Uzbekistan do not express any demands.
As of August 5, there were 849 Uzbek nationals on the territory of the Bolshechernigovsky District, Samara Region, waiting for permission to cross the Russian-Kazakhstani border. Under the plan, they will soon be taken to Tashkent on an Uzbekistan Railways train from Kinel Station in the Samara Region.