Briefing by Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova, Moscow, August 20, 2020
- Coronavirus update
- Russia’s coronavirus response assistance to Uzbekistan
- Russia’s urgent humanitarian aid to the Kyrgyz Republic to fight the coronavirus infection
- Assisting Russian citizens in coming home
- Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to attend the Terra Scientia National Educational Youth Forum
- Foreign Minister of Azerbaijan Jeyhun Bayramov’s official visit to the Russian Federation
- International Day of Remembrance of and Tribute to the Victims of Terrorism on August 21
- Military coup in the Republic of Mali
- Prospects for the start of intra-Afghan talks
- Statements by US Special Presidential Envoy for Arms Control on potential deployment of US missile systems in the Asia-Pacific region
- United States’ Space Force Doctrine
- Events in Latvia on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of Riga Peace Treaty of 1920
- Estonia unveils monument to Forest Brothers
- Ukraine shuts down Russian channels in a catering establishment
- The Oriental Republic of Uruguay celebrates 195th anniversary of independence
- US intention to initiate a process at the UNSC for renewing previously cancelled sanctions against Iran
- Resumption of operations at oil facilities controlled by the Libyan National Army
- The number of Russian nationals in Libya
- Russia’s position on the release of captive Taliban members
- Prospects for resuming air service between Russia and Pakistan
The epidemiological situation around the world continues to be difficult. According to Director-General of the World Health Organisation (WHO) Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, “we have witnessed near exponential growth in the number of new cases, reaching almost every country.” As of August 20, the total number of cases has exceeded 22 million since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, with a weekly increment at 1-2 million infections. Due to the progressing statistics, many states are keeping their restrictive measures in effect, and are even tightening them.
We agree with the experts who believe the coronavirus has had an extremely negative economic impact on a global scale, and it has affected people’s daily lives. According to IMF estimates, the pandemic is costing the global economy $375 billion a month, and the cumulative global economic damage is projected at several trillion dollars this year. The G20 countries have already allocated over $10 trillion in fiscal stimulus. We emphasise once again that the only way to fight new global challenges and threats effectively is through the combined efforts of the entire international community.
In order to help Uzbekistan in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic, from March to July 2020, Russia donated over 1000 kits of Russian-made test systems for diagnosing COVID-19 to that country. Experts from the Ministry of Health and Rospotrebnadzor are holding videoconferences with Uzbek sanitary and epidemiological specialists on issues concerning the spread of the coronavirus infection.
At the request of our partners, a team of 38 Russian doctors was sent to Tashkent on August 16. It included ICU doctors, pulmonologists, infectious disease specialists, cardiologists, and general practitioners from Moscow, the Moscow Region, St Petersburg and Tatarstan. They will spend a month there providing practical and advisory assistance to their Uzbek colleagues in the treatment of patients with COVID-19 at clinics in Tashkent, as well as in the Tashkent, Samarkand, Bukhara, Surkhandarya, Khorezm and Jizzakh Regions.
There is a plan to dispatch a group of Rospotrebnadzor specialists to advise our Uzbek partners on organising anti-epidemic measures. We assume that this visit will take place in the near future.
We hope that our joint efforts with our friends will significantly improve the epidemiological situation in Uzbekistan.
Russia could not stand idle when the Kyrgyz Republic, our strategic partner and ally, asked for assistance in the fight against the spread of the coronavirus infection.
Due to a sharp aggravation in the epidemiological situation in Kyrgyzstan, the Government of the Russian Federation decided on July 22 to provide the people of this fraternal republic with urgent humanitarian aid.
On July 22, a special Russian Ministry of Defence aircraft took six medical teams to Kyrgyzstan. The teams included 19 doctors and paramedics, special equipment, as well as personal protective equipment, disinfectants and medicines.
On July 23, 49 doctors from Moscow and Ufa arrived in Bishkek on a special flight of the Russian Emergencies Ministry to work at hospitals in Kyrgyzstan. On July 26, a consignment of medical supplies, personal protective gear and medical equipment, including 31 ventilators and five X-ray machines, was also sent to Bishkek.
The work of Russian civilian and military medical workers made it possible to significantly stabilise the epidemiological situation in Kyrgyzstan. As a result, the incidence curve in the republic dropped from 1,020 new cases per day on July 23 to 272 cases by August 15. Thanks to the Russian specialists, treatment protocols were adjusted, Kyrgyz health workers were taught the rules of biological safety and epidemiological procedures, and large-scale medical assistance was provided directly to the people and to Kyrgyz military personnel.
Russian doctors visited 31 medical institutions throughout Kyrgyzstan, examined more than 4,000 patients and treated them; they discharged more than 1,200 people from hospitals. Military medical teams at the military hospitals in Bishkek and Osh, mainly treated patients with severe and moderate forms of the disease.
On August 15, the Russian medical “landing” in Kyrgyzstan was completed. On the same day, President of the Kyrgyz Republic Sooronbay Jeenbekov received the leaders of the teams of civilian and military doctors – Deputy Minister of Healthcare of the Republic of Bashkortostan Yevgeny Kustov and head of the sanitary and epidemiological unit of the Ministry of Defence, Stetsenko. The president of Kyrgyzstan, on behalf of the entire people of the republic, expressed gratitude to the Russian doctors and personally to President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin for providing this effective support at such a difficult time.
Assistance for Russian citizens in returning home continues under the guidance of the Emergency Response Centre, the Government and the Russian agencies involved in this effort, and of course Russia’s foreign missions.
A few words about the current situation. Let me remind you that evacuation flights are made under the algorithm approved by the Russian Government’s Emergency Response Centre headed by Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova, and in conditions of effective restrictions, as well as a number of new requirements imposed by some countries. The flights are still in demand. The situation continues to change, it is not static. The relevant working conditions are also changing. Over 3,000 people took advantage of evacuation flights over the last week. The total number of those who have returned home at this point is over 285,000. The number of applications submitted to our missions abroad is also growing in connection with the approaching new academic year.
As you know Switzerland was added to the list of countries that have resumed regular air service with us on August 15. This gave Russian citizens additional transport opportunities for returning both from Europe and from more remote regions via transiting routes. The restrictions for foreign nationals on entering the Russian Federation established by Government Directive No. 635-r of March 16, are still in effect. Although, I would also like to remind you that some categories of foreign citizens, if they have all the certified documents in line with the above directive, are entitled to take regular flights even if they are not citizens of Tanzania, Turkey, Great Britain or Switzerland and have no residence permit for these countries. The relevant explanatory activities are ongoing among foreign airlines by the Russian Ministry of Transport and the Federal Agency for Air Transport.
Back to evacuation flights, I’d like to say that in addition to the approved flight schedule, we will also have evacuation flights from some CIS countries, specifically from Armenia, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan through the end of August. Moreover, there will be scheduled evacuation flights from Turkmenabad (Turkmenistan) and Damascus (Syria). Given the specifics of drawing up passenger lists for these flights, we would ask those wishing to take them to contact the Russian foreign missions directly.
The Federal Agency for Youth Affairs is holding the 5th Terra Scientia National Youth Educational Forum from July 18 to September 2.
The forum is a large-scale event involving broad public, political and youth circles. Naturally, it focuses on what concerns young people in contemporary Russia. The forum enjoys great popularity among the Russian and foreign public.
Traditionally, the forum is attended by well-known Russian public and political figures. Like in previous years, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov plans to attend the forum and give a speech during the Serving the Fatherland session on August 23.
Foreign Minister of the Republic of Azerbaijan Jeyhun Bayramov will make an official visit to the Russian Federation at the invitation of Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on August 26.
The foreign ministers will discuss a broad range of issues pertaining to bilateral relations as well as to the regional and international agendas. Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov has also scheduled meetings at the Government and the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation.
Today, terrorism continues to pose a serious threat to international peace and security. Not a single country is immune to it. It is important to remember that this crime, which is qualified in various countries as “terrorism,” has no justification. It does not matter when it is committed, by whom, where or for what purpose. Day in and day out, terrorists and their accomplices continue cynically violating one of the most fundamental human right – the right to live. Any person can fall victim to terrorism (and we are all well aware of this), regardless of citizenship, ethnic origin or religion.
We are convinced – this is our position of principle – that the appeal to establish a broad anti-terrorism international front with the participation of all countries for neutralising the global terrorist threat remains current. We stand for conscientious international cooperation on helping the victims of terrorism based on the standards of international law, primarily, the UN Charter, without politicisation, double standards or hidden agendas.
We welcome the plans of the UN Office of Counter-Terrorism to hold, as part of the UN second counter-terrorism week, the First Global Congress of Victims of Terrorism, which was suspended until next year due to the complicated epidemiological situation in the world. We hope for an interested and detailed discussion during this important forum that is called on to provide an additional impetus to the development of multilateral cooperation in this area.
On August 18, a military group seized power by force in Bamako, the capital of Mali. They arrested President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, Prime Minister Boubou Cisse and other Government members, President of the National Assembly Moussa Timbine, and top army officers, including the Defence Minister. At present, they are being detained in the military garrison at Kati near the capital. The insurgents have established control over the presidential residence, key government offices and the state television building.
On the night of August 19, President Keita made a televised address, announcing his resignation and dissolution of the government and the parliament.
The rebels were led by Colonel Sadio Camara who said his goal was to form a transitional government followed by new presidential elections due to the inability of the current authorities to cope with the challenges faced by Malian society.
The UN and the African Union have denounced this unconstitutional change of power in Mali and appealed for the immediate release of the captured Malian leaders. The members of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) have announced their decision to close common borders with Mali and discontinue financial transactions with it.
Moscow is seriously concerned about the developments in Bamako. We urge all Malian public and political forces to settle the situation peacefully at the negotiating table.
The situation in Bamako remains tense: some government and residential buildings are being robbed and the crime rate has spiked. According to incoming reports from the Russian Embassy in Bamako, there are no victims among Russian citizens in Mali. The Foreign Ministry advises Russian citizens to refrain from travel to Mali until the situation comes back to normal and reliable security guarantees are provided.
The main obstacle that hinders the first round of intra-Afghan talks is the exchange of prisoners between Kabul and the armed opposition that is incomplete. We welcome the release of all 1,000 prisoners, which are Afghan army and police, by the Taliban in accordance with the agreement reached between the United States and the Taliban on February 29, 2020. We also look forward to the early implementation of President of Afghanistan Ashraf Ghani’s decision to release the remaining imprisoned militants, which was adopted following the Consultative Loya Jirga.
Unfortunately, in recent days, we have seen reports of new difficulties with launching a peaceful dialogue. I am referring to the release of the six persons who are on the list of militants involved in terrorist attacks against foreign citizens, as well as the recent demand by official Kabul to release two dozen Afghan special forces members held by the Taliban.
We hope that these issues will not become new obstacles to the launch of a peaceful dialogue and will be resolved in the near future. We are confident that the early start of intra-Afghan talks should benefit the interests of both the people of Afghanistan and that country’s international partners.
An interview with Special Presidential Envoy for Arms Control Marshall Billingslea, published in Japan’s The Nikkei, has come to our attention, where he touched on the possibility of deploying future US medium-range missiles, previously prohibited by the Intermediate‑Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), in the Asia-Pacific region (APR). The anti-China element of this intention was emphasised, while the missile systems being developed were described as ‘the kind of defensive capability’ that US allies will need for the future.
As we have explained many times, we would consider such a move an extremely risky and destabilising measure for international and regional security. Undoubtedly, the deployment of new American missile systems in the region would provoke a dangerous new round of the arms race. We are also compelled to take into account the additional missile risks for our territory that such weapons would create, including to our facilities of strategic importance; and naturally, the situation would call for compensatory response measures.
We primarily view these steps by the US administration as an effort to find a new pretext for turning regional allies against China. Once again, I would like to say that this much is obvious from the article published by The Nikkei.
We would also like to remind you that the Russian Federation has taken a number of steps to maintain predictability and retain opportunities for dialogue after the INF Treaty was destroyed by the United States. In particular, we have announced that we will not deploy intermediate or shorter-range ground-based missiles in any region unless the United States does so in the same region. This also applies to the APR. So, a responsible good-faith reaction from the United States would have been to reciprocate with a similar ban; but, unfortunately, there is no sign of such reciprocity on their part.
We have taken note of the first doctrine published by the US Space Force under the title “Spacepower.” It sets forth the priorities and outlines the focus areas for this new branch of the US Armed Forces, as well as ways of their implementation.
The document confirms the aggressive nature of Washington’s space policy and its determination to achieve superiority or even total supremacy in outer space, which is viewed by the US exclusively as an arena for military action.
The provisions of the doctrine on the need for the Space Force to have not only deterrent but also coercive capacities when preparing to carry out military operations in space deserve special attention. Restricting access and the freedom to operate in space for “adversaries,” and if needed reducing the effectiveness of their military capability both on Earth and in the cyber domain are regarded as the core objectives of military spacepower.
Furthermore, military spacepower integrates defensive (including active actions) and offensive (including preventive actions) operations. Under the doctrine, the Space Force is expected to use force, including for “physically destroying adversary military capability,” or the threat of force in space, from space, and to space. The document also provides for using military spacepower to enable strikes against terrestrial targets in any part of the globe, which means against any state.
The doctrine provides for fulfilling these provisions by improving the Space Force and developing core competencies among its personnel (in orbital warfare, space electromagnetic warfare and cyber operations, space battle management, etc.). It is emphasised that the Space Force is “prepared to fight and win our Nation’s wars, in space, from space, and to space.”
Yet again, Washington used its usual tactic of shifting the blame in order to justify the creation of the Space Force as a separate branch of the US Armed Forces, as well as this destructive policy that clearly incites an arms race in outer space and destabilises international security in general. Once again, we hear about the “potential adversaries” the United States faces in space, and the “emergence, advanced development, and proliferation of a wide range of demonstrated counterspace weapons” by these adversaries, which threatens orbital objects.
Washington’s cynical position is further illustrated by the fact that the US presents these space warfare objectives, including offensive actions, as consistent with the international law and the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, which prescribes the peaceful use of outer space. To further legitimise this destructive space policy, the Space Force is expected to focus on developing standards and norms of behaviour in space, exclusively tailored to suit Washington’s interests. This may refer to developing “responsible norms of behaviour” in outer space as part of the aspiration by the West to build a “rules-based order,” since international law has clearly nothing to do with it.
Russia continues to prioritise the peaceful use and exploration of space, as well as preventing an arms race in outer space. Unlike the United States, we do not aspire to superiority or supremacy. On the contrary, Russia is interested in maintaining a strategic balance for the sake of enhancing international security. The Russian-Chinese draft Treaty on the Prevention of the Placement of Weapons in Outer Space, the Threat or Use of Force against Outer Space Objects (PPWT) remains a key initiative in this sphere. States should address all their existing and eventual concerns regarding space weapons as part of the PPWT negotiating process within the Conference on Disarmament. We will keep up our proactive and results-driven efforts in this sphere.
We closely monitor Washington’s aggressive moves, analyse their possible consequences, and see opportunities for removing mutual concerns within the Russia-US working group on space security, which held its first meeting on July 27, 2020 in Vienna. We reaffirm our readiness to engage in further bilateral discussions on all space-related matters.
A few days ago, Latvia celebrated, on a grand scale, the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Russia-Latvia Peace Treaty.
It is regrettable that the Latvian authorities again used this opportunity to continue imposing a one-sided interpretation of historical events of the last century to whip up the anti-Russia hysteria.
We believe that building a bilateral relationship based on the principles of neighbourliness and mutual respect serves the interests of our nations, which are bound geographically and by centuries of shared history.
We urge the Latvian side to abandon its historical grievances, and to concentrate instead on removing old irritants and looking for common ground.
A few days ago, a monument was unveiled on the island of Saaremaa, Estonia, to commemorate the Forest Brothers, a gang that operated on the island until 1950.
It would be a good idea to recall who those Forest Brothers really were before the Baltic states started hailing them as some national freedom fighters. The core of their groups comprised former policemen, punitive officers and Wehrmacht collaborators who had gone underground, who had been involved in massive executions of the Jewish population and the elimination of prisoners at concentration camps during World War II, or criminals, such as the gang’s leader, Elmar Ilp. In fact, they continued to do the same after the war – their victims were mainly civilians, including Estonians.
It is shameful that in the year of the 75th anniversary of the Great Victory over Nazism, Tallinn chose frankly dubious characters to worship as idols, instead of honouring the true Estonian heroes who liberated the country from Nazi enslavement with the Red Army or partisan units. And all this is being done for the sake of keeping the anti-Russia rhetoric alive. We are aware who is behind this. Notably, the Speaker of the Estonian Parliament has pronounced warm opening remarks at this event, clearly unimpeded by any restrictions connected with the coronavirus pandemic.
We do expect that such outrageous facts will be properly assessed by the relevant bodies of the UN, the OSCE and the Council of Europe, as well as by Estonia's partners in the European Union.
Ukraine’s National Council of Television and Radio Broadcasting has reported on the termination of broadcasting of four Russian TV channels – RTR-Planeta, NTV-Mir, Rossiya 1, and TNT in a catering establishment in the resort village of Khorly in the Kherson Region after a complaint was made about it.
That was certainly a high-profile and report-worthy operation. The Council published a full-scale news release where it stressed that the head of the business was given an explanatory lecture.
I wonder what they’re going to do next: raid the homes of people who have been reported to covertly watch Rossiya 1? Calling them in for more explanatory lectures? What else can they invent in the 21st century? With the impressive list of international documents signed by Ukraine – those protecting the rights of national minorities and languages of people living in Ukraine – what else will they do?
That was apparently an attempt to billboard their heroic results and successes in this field. But Kiev’s zeal in fighting dissent along with all the international legal documents they have signed, trumpeting each “achievement” in suppressing the freedom of speech, increasingly resembles the well-known totalitarian practices of the past years. At the same time, the Kiev authorities are completely ignoring the interests of Ukrainian citizens, such as their need for these media products, and grossly violating the right of the Russian-speaking population to unimpeded access to information in their native language.
All this is happening amid continuing repression against undesirable media outlets and journalists, whose work de facto entails a risk to life in that country. Allow me to remind you that the murders of Andrei Stenin, Anton Voloshin, Igor Kornelyuk, and Anatoly Klyan have never been properly investigated. Unfortunately, Kiev is not showing the same kind of spirit when it comes to investigating these and similar crimes, as in its effort to mop up the information landscape. Moreover, this is just a small share of the crimes that have been committed. In fact, there have been many more of them.
We would like to see more effort from relevant international organisations and human rights NGOs aimed at bringing the Ukrainian government’s policies in line with their obligations to ensure freedom of expression and equal access to information.
The Oriental Republic of Uruguay became independent on August 25, 195 years ago.
Uruguay is an amazing country with a no less amazing history that abounds in heroic exploits primarily linked with the striving for a single national spirit for self-determination and self-assertion.
Russia continues to develop relations with Uruguay. In the past few years, we have created groundwork that allows us to move forward today in the difficult conditions of the global pandemic. We have added many important documents to our common contractual foundation. Thus, our ministries and departments have markedly increased contact. We have expanded our range of cooperation with social security and healthcare.
If everything goes as planned, we intend to hold bilateral political consultations and a meeting of the co-chairs of the Russia-Uruguay Mixed Commission for promoting trade and economic ties before the end of this year. These meetings will allow us to analyse the best options for developing cooperation during the coronavirus crisis. I’d like to repeat that these are our plans and we hope they will be carried out.
We sincerely appreciate our high level of cooperation with Uruguay. On behalf of our Ministry I would like to wish the people of this wonderful country peace, prosperity and wellbeing.
Question: What can you tell us about the US’s intention to initiate a resumption of the previously cancelled sanctions against Iran at the UN Security Council?
Maria Zakharova: Russia has repeatedly stated its position on this issue, publicly as well. We have spoken about this many times. The US initiatives on restoring UN Security Council sanction resolutions regarding Iran were cancelled in 2015, after the signing of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on settling Iran’s nuclear programme. The US’s initiatives on this are groundless and doomed to fail.
Let me recall that the US has no right to use the prestige and authority of the UN Security Council in its egoistic, Iran-hating interests.
The US is crudely violating UN Security Council Resolution 2231 from May 2018 when Washington unilaterally withdrew from the JCPOA, restored sanctions against Iran and began to exert pressure on other countries to ban them from implementing their commitments stemming from UN Security Council resolutions. Such actions are absolutely illegal.
Russia condemns US efforts to continue destroying the JCPOA and undermining UN Security Council Resolution 2231. We are seriously concerned that Washington’s reckless actions might trigger a deep crisis in the UN Security Council, but regrettably, it seems that our American colleagues could not care less about this today.
We are confident that US attempts to reimpose the UN Security Council’s cancelled sanctions against Iran will fail. This happened recently with the US draft resolution on introducing an indefinite weapons embargo against Tehran. Instead of learning from this failure, the US is planning a new aggravation. We urge all countries to resolutely rebuff these attempts. Let me emphasise again that the US’s plans in this area are unlawful.
Question: On August 18, the commander of the Libyan National Army’s forces that are guarding oil companies under its control said oil-producing facilities, including export terminals, had resumed operations. Can you comment on this report?
Maria Zakharova: Hydrocarbon resources are the main source of Libya and its people’s well-being. Since January 18, 2020, the Libyan economy has incurred losses of over $8 billion due to the blockade of oilfields and the cessation of oil exports. Understandably, this has an extremely negative impact on the country’s socio-economic situation and the real incomes of its population.
In this connection, we welcome the decision to resume the operation of Libya’s oil industry, made in Benghazi on August 16 by Khalifa Haftar, the Commander of the Libyan National Army, at a joint meeting with members of the Management Board of the Libyan National Oil Corporation and top managers of the Arabian Gulf oil company. At the same time, we believe that hydrocarbon export revenues should be distributed transparently and equitably among the country’s regions in the interests of the entire Libyan nation.
Question: How many Russian citizens are staying in Libya?
Maria Zakharova: I would like to recall that at present, the Russian diplomatic mission is not functioning in Libya. I can cite statistics from the Russian Embassy in Tunisia, which currently represents the Russian Federation’s interests in Libya. According to their confirmed data, about 40 Russian citizens live in Libya. However, no information is available about any others. Who are these 40 people? They are mostly women who have married Libyan citizens.
Question: France and Australia object to the release of Taliban prisoners who committed crimes against their citizens. Representatives of the Taliban movement demand that all prisoners be released as a pre-condition for launching intra-Afghan talks. The United States demands that intra-Afghan talks get underway as soon as possible. What is Russia’s position in this situation?
Maria Zakharova: We have been informed of France and Australia’s objections in connection with the murders of their citizens by the Taliban. At the same time, we are surprised by the reluctance of our French and Australian colleagues to take into account the fact that the unresolved matter of exchanging prisoners between Kabul and the armed opposition will delay the beginning of a peace dialogue, which means a continuation of the violence and further casualties and fatalities among Afghan civilians.
Question: What are the prospects for opening the border between Russia and Pakistan? What is the overall situation with opening borders in the near future?
Maria Zakharova: As you may know, Pakistan is open to air services with all other countries in the world.
The resumption of flights to and from Russia with Pakistan is under the purview of the Operational Headquarters to Prevent the Entry and Spread of the Coronavirus Infection in the Russian Federation. Pakistan remains under virus related restrictions like most other countries. Air service has resumed only with Turkey, the United Kingdom, Tanzania and Switzerland. The only exceptions are possible for officials, employees of diplomatic missions, and trips for humanitarian purposes.
We receive a lot of questions about the situation in Belarus. I would like to draw your attention to the full-format and extended answer to this question by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, which is posted on the Foreign Ministry’s official website.