Briefing by Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova, Moscow, November 13, 2020
- Coronavirus update
- Meeting of CSTO military medical services on counteracting COVID-19 and providing medical support
- Russia's participation in Cuba's socio-economic development programmes through international organisations
- Humanitarian aid to Mongolia
- Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's meeting with President of the International Committee of the Red Cross Peter Maurer
- Minister for European Neighbourhood and the Americas of the British Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office Wendy Morton’s visit to Russia
- Meetings of the Council of National Coordinators of the SCO Member States
- Developments in and around Syria
- OSCE SMM report on civilian casualties in eastern Ukraine
- German Justice and Consumer Protection Ministry spokesman Stefan Zimmermann’s comment on the so-called Navalny Case during the weekly news conference of the Government of the Federal Republic of Germany held in Berlin on November 6, 2020
- Voting in the UNGA First Committee on Russian draft resolution on Developments in the Field of Information and Telecommunications in the Context of International Security
- Release of Bogdana Osipova
- Return of Russian cultural valuables from Salzburg Museum
- Lithuanian authorities’ decision to suspend RTR Planeta broadcasting
- Documentary content removal by YouTube
- President of Peru Martin Vizcarra’s impeachment
- Hurricane Eta in Central America
- Unveiling memorial plaque in Samara
- Opening the Russian World Foundation Centre in Tskhinval
- The 15th anniversary of signing the Treaty on Allied Relations between the Russian Federation and the Republic of Uzbekistan
- 75th anniversary of UNESCO
- Forced resignation of professor from Dnepropetrovsk Technical University
- Militants from the Middle East in Nagorno-Karabakh
- Criticism of Russia in connection with Nagorno-Karabakh
- Turkey’s presence in Nagorno-Karabakh
- Afghanistan joining SCO
- 31st Special Session of UN General Assembly on Covid-19
- Joint military exercise in Pakistan
- Possibility of US return to JCPOA and lifting sanctions against Iran
Unfortunately, I have to start today’s briefing again with disappointing news concerning the COVID-19 global situation. Having proved to be incredibly powerful, even against the backdrop of the previous “gloomy” predictions, the pandemic is confidently setting new anti-records both in the total number of infected people – over 52 million people on November 11 (the growth of over four million per day in the past two weeks) – and in the depth of its negative impact on practically all areas of socio-economic, moral, psychological and simply everyday usual life of various countries and peoples. That said, international epidemiological experts believe that there is no hope for a change for the better in the near future. Apparently, there are no grounds to expect any promising changes at least until spring. This is the expert opinion on this issue.
The situation in the Eurozone perimeter is particularly alarming and dramatic. The average daily dynamics of coronavirus cases is rapidly and implacably going up and there are regular leaps in the statistics on infected people. Christmas is not far away and most EU states once again have had to toughen restrictions, sometimes to the detriment of national businesses. They are again introducing all-out quarantines, tough limits on free movement of people, including night curfews, states of emergency and a ban on large-scale performances, cultural, sports, religious and other public events. Naturally enough, these highly unpopular steps that are objectively designed to reduce the burden of the critical load on their domestic medical systems and alleviate their misfortunes are far from always welcomed by the public. Numerous actions by the opponents of these government measures in different European cities are often developing into riots and clashes with the police.
In this context, speaking at the opening of a regular meeting of the resumed 73rd World Health Assembly on November 9, WHO Secretary-General Tedros Ghebreyesus again urged the international community to start a new era of cooperation, taking into account the accumulated experience in countering the pandemic, and to provide medical services for the entire population. He laid special emphasis on the unacceptability of politicising global efforts to counter COVID-19, a policy that aggravates the threats to security and injustice.
In connection with the extremely unfavourable sanitary-epidemiological situation in the world, we would like to advise our citizens to thoroughly plan their foreign trips, to weigh all potential risks and not to subject themselves or their families and friends to unnecessary threats. I would like to emphasise that all recommendations of the Foreign Ministry remain topical. Additional information is accessible on our website and social media accounts.
The Collective Security Treaty Organisation member countries continue looking for efficient mechanisms to overcome emerging challenges amid the coronavirus pandemic.
On November 11, a research and practical conference of military medical services of the CSTO member states and experts from the Kirov Military Medical Academy under the Russian Defence Ministry was held at the CSTO Crisis Response Centre via videoconference.
Conference participants exchanged experience in managing epidemics amid the spread of COVID-19, as well as providing medical support for collective efforts in the complex sanitary and epidemiological situation.
The countries spoke in favour of further boosting the organisation’s potential by enhancing the military medical part of the CSTO Collective Forces. They also discussed the possibility of using mobile medical units and including a special purpose medical unit in the Forces.
The participants agreed to continue contacts in this format to analyse and exchange information related to the spread of COVID-19 in the CSTO space, and other issues of medical support within the organisation.
The Republic of Cuba, as our long-standing strategic partner, is one of the priority recipient countries of Russian aid. In the context of the illegal economic embargo imposed by the United States, we consider Russian assistance to Havana an important contribution to supporting the socio-economic development of the republic.
Our countries have accumulated a wealth of experience in effective cooperation in the framework of UN organisations in the areas of development, food security and disaster relief.
Given the deteriorating situation with providing minors with adequate nutrition due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Russia has launched a project of technical assistance to Cuba to improve the school nutrition system through the UN World Food Programme (WFP). The project is aimed at providing students with a healthy and balanced diet by improving local food production capacity. The WFP plans to use the Russian experience, expertise and technologies for this purpose.
Our voluntary contribution to the WFP for this project is $5 million to be implemented in 2021 ̵ 2024.
A similar WFP project in terms of content and funding was launched by Russia in Nicaragua.
Currently, a project on climate change adaptation and water management in the province of Santiago de Cuba is being implemented in Cuba with our expert and financial participation under the UN Development Programme, (budget $1 million, implementation period 2017 ̵ 2020).
In 2019, the Russia-UNDP Trust Fund for Development approved two capacity building projects to improve the resilience of the urban environment to natural disasters in Central Havana (budget $1 million, to be implemented in 2020 ̵ 2023), as well as in the field of stimulating youth employment in the Guantanamo province (budget $1.5 million, implementation period 2020 ̵ 2023).
Another project funded by Russia through the UN Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) is currently being completed. It is focused on strengthening food security through the development of agrochemical and agricultural engineering (budget $2 million, implementation period 2017 ̵ 2020).
We plan to continue, in cooperation with international organisations, to provide assistance to our Cuban partners to achieve sustainable development.
On November 6, the National Centre for Zoonotic Diseases at the Mongolian Ministry of Health received a donation of a vehicle-derived mobile epidemiological unit of Rospotrebnadzor. The goal is to improve the monitoring system and rapid response to sanitary and epidemiological emergencies.
The laboratories are equipped with cutting-edge high-tech equipment for diagnostic tests using advanced technologies. The mobile health unit can be used both to increase the efficiency of certain areas of work of the local anti-epidemic services, and for autonomous activity in hotspots of the epidemic located in hard-to-reach areas not covered by a stationary laboratory network, as well as in emergency zones.
On November 17, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will meet with President of the International Committee of the Red Cross Peter Maurer. During the meeting, the parties plan to exchange assessments of what is happening in a number of regions of the world, including Nagorno-Karabakh, and discuss possible ways in which our country can cooperate with the ICRC amid the pandemic.
Following the talks, a news conference is scheduled.
On November 17, Moscow will host consultations between First Deputy Foreign Minister Vladimir Titov and Minister for European Neighbourhood and the Americas of the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office of the United Kingdom Wendy Morton.
The parties will discuss the state of Russian-British relations, as well as current issues on the international and regional agenda.
Next week, starting on November 17, a series of meetings of the Council of National Coordinators of the SCO Member States will be held via videoconference, during which the results of the November 10 SCO Heads of State Council meeting will be summed up and preparations for a meeting of the SCO Heads of Government Council will begin. The Russian side will be represented by Russian President's Special Representative for SCO Affairs Bakhtiyer Khakimov.
Despite sporadic raids by international terrorists who have dug in Idlib, as well as the continuing illegal presence of foreign, primarily US military, which impedes the restoration of the territorial integrity of the country, the Syrian authorities have begun tackling the resolution of large-scale challenges of post-conflict settlement.
The return of Syrian refugees who were forced to seek shelter aboard during the hostilities is an obvious priority among these challenges. This work requires additional funding for creating appropriate conditions for the returnees – providing them with housing, jobs, electricity and water supply, and schools for the children – is being pursued under conditions when Syria’s enemies are trying to strangle it economically. Restrictive measures by Washington and its closest allies are being constantly ratcheted up. All this is being done under the slogans of assisting the Syrian people. Last June, the so-called Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act passed by the US Congress came into effect. It basically restricts the freedom of international trade and imposes a tough financial and economic blockade of Syria. Such illegitimate actions significantly undermine Syrian authorities’ efforts to eliminate the devastation and render help to the population. Meanwhile, even the coronavirus pandemic is not considered by Washington to be a sufficient humanitarian reason for easing the restrictions.
Clearly, it would have been hard for Damascus to cope with numerous challenges of the post-conflict restoration independently. International assistance and support are particularly needed.
In this complicated situation, an international conference on refugees and internally displaced persons opened in Damascus on November 11. Delegations and representatives from over 20 countries and a number of international organisations such as, among others, the International Red Cross Committee and Aga Khan Fund. Regrettably, the United Nations was only represented at the forum by an observer.
The United States and its closest allies who insistently called for the boycott of the conference (again “for the good” of the Syrian people) once again showed double standards regarding Syria. The need to return refugees to the Syrian Arab Republic is clearly written in UNSC Resolution 2254, which serves as the basis for international efforts in facilitating the comprehensive settlement of the Syrian crisis.
Issues pertaining to the Damascus forum were reviewed by the presidents of Russia and Syria during their November 9 meeting via videoconference.
Russia assisted Syria in organising the event and sent one of the biggest delegations to Damascus comprising representatives of 30 federal ministries and agencies, who are discussing issues of assistance to Syria and bilateral cooperation with their Syrian partners on the sidelines of the conferences. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov addressed the conference participants with a message of greeting during the opening of the conference. The message was read out by Russian President's Special Envoy on Syria and Ambassador-at-large Alexander Lavrentyev. The text of the message is posted on the Foreign Ministry’s official website
We proceed from the fact that the conference on refugees in Damascus is not a one-time event but rather a beginning of targeted system-wide work with the international community in the context of implementing the provisions of UNSC Resolution 2254.
On November 9, the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (SMM) published a thematic report on civilian casualties in the conflict-affected regions of eastern Ukraine between January 1, 2017 and September 15, 2020.
We have long called for publishing a comprehensive and systematic report on this theme. We have held discussions on this issue with media representatives, because we needed a coordinated point of departure. The parties and experts hold different views because they use different methods for counting casualties and analysing the situation. Now that the report has been published we can take an objective look at the internal Ukrainian conflict based on hard facts. We would like to mention the positive role played in this matter by the Albanian Chairmanship of the OSCE and the personal contribution of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office, Prime Minister and Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs of Albania Edi Rama, who promoted the publication of the report.
Overall, it is a balanced document based on statistical data. The most important figure is the number of shelling and SALW (small arms and light weapons) casualties. According to the report, nearly 75 percent of civilian casualties were reported in the non-government-controlled areas. This proves that the main targets of the Armed Forces and the National Guard of Ukraine, as well as the so-called volunteer units, are peaceful civilians, whom Kiev is punishing for their choice and their refusal to accept the outcome of the 2014 state coup.
We have been saying this for a long time, but many people in the West prefer to take no notice of our words. Now the OSCE SMM report has confirmed that Russia’s assessments have been correct. The SMM has not yet provided the data for the entire conflict, but it is obvious that the number of casualties since the beginning of the punitive operations in 2014 will be even more convincing and tragic.
Regrettably, the report does not provide information about the devastated civilian infrastructure in Donbass. It is important that the destruction – often deliberate and planned – of residential buildings, transport, energy, gas and water infrastructure, medical, social and educational facilities, as well as other infringements on private and municipal property are a cause for a serious deterioration in the humanitarian situation. Registering this data and the side responsible for the damage is a vital objective, including for the OSCE.
I would like to remind the international media, primarily Western outlets, that when they are preparing their reports and assessments of the developments in eastern Ukraine, especially on the occasion of large international forums and meetings being held, or the extension of old and the adoption of new sanctions against Russia, they should consider visiting the places about which they write so as to see for themselves what is taking place on the ground. Russian journalists go there to make their reports. Their documentary reports are part of the analytical materials that offer an insight into what is happening there. We would like more foreign journalists to go to this region as well, so that they can tell the truth about these developments to the Western audiences.
German Justice and Consumer Protection Ministry spokesman Stefan Zimmermann’s comment on the so-called Navalny Case during the weekly news conference of the Government of the Federal Republic of Germany held in Berlin on November 6, 2020
We are compelled to respond to a comment made by Stefan Zimmermann, spokesman of the Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection of the Federal Republic of Germany on the so-called Navalny Case during a weekly news conference of the Government of the Federal Republic of Germany held in Berlin on November 6, 2020.
When asked why the German authorities have still not responded in essence to a single request from the Prosecutor General's Office of the Russian Federation for the German law enforcement agencies to provide legal assistance in connection with the Russina Interior Ministry’s inquiry into the Russian blogger's emergency hospitalisation in Omsk on August 20, 2020, the German Ministry spokesman said the German authorities would only be able to, quote, “consider” transferring any Navalny Case-related data to the Russian side if Russia opened a criminal case on his poisoning, which, allegedly had been established as fact by German military experts. This requirement, the German representative said, arises, among other things, from the 1959 European Convention on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters. This statement by Mr Zimmermann does not correspond to reality. The 1959 Convention does not stipulate a specific stage in the process at which interstate cooperation can occur. Let's take a closer look at this document. Article 1 of the Convention provides for cooperation in “legal proceedings” in relation to offences punishable under the national laws of the parties. In the English version, the even broader term “proceedings” is used, which actually covers all stages. In addition, the explanatory report of the Second Additional Protocol to the Convention says in the Commentary on Article 1, “it has indeed always been understood by all that the Convention applies at all stages of proceedings.” It follows from the above that Germany’s insistence on linking the transfer of the requested data with the formal institution of a criminal case in Russia is legally untenable. What are we talking about? It is clear that Berlin does not want to transfer materials and is clinging to any chance of finding some excuse, but this attempt has failed. We do not rule out the possibility that the Ministry of Justice spokesman is not familiar with the provisions of the convention he was referring to; this might be possible. Or maybe he deliberately distorted the real situation for political reasons.
On November 3, 2020, the Prosecutor General's Office of the Russian Federation sent detailed explanations to the Federal Department of Justice of the Federal Republic of Germany regarding the legal status of the above-mentioned investigation by the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Russia into Alexey Navalny's hospitalisation (the German side has confirmed the receipt of that letter). According to Russian criminal procedure legislation, this inquiry, also referred to as the “pre-investigation check,” is one of the established pre-trial stages of criminal proceedings. This makes the German Ministry’s statement that Russia has not opened a formal criminal investigation procedure equally untrue.
We were surprised by the official representative’s statement saying that the receipt of the four official Navalny Case requests sent by the Russian Prosecutor General's Office to the responsible regional justice bodies of Berlin, which had been confirmed by the department, did not automatically mean agreement to cooperate. Can you even imagine the kind of drama our German colleagues have created instead of simply telling us what exactly they have found in Navalny’s tests? It looks like the German authorities are contradicting themselves, because on September 6, 2020 Federal Foreign Minister of Germany Heiko Maas publicly confirmed in an interview with the media that the first Russian request of August 27, 2020 would be granted, because, quote, “there are absolutely no reasons for not doing so.” (Quote, Die Zeit online version: Der russische Botschafter sei bereits informiert worden, dass man einem Rechtshilfeersuchen Russlands zustimmen werde, sagte Maas in der ARD-Sendung Bericht aus Berlin. Es gebe auch „uberhaupt keinen Grund, dem nicht zuzustimmen). These assurances were also communicated through diplomatic channels to the Russian Ambassador to Germany, so it was not a slip or journalistic error, but the information was provided to us officially. Now, more than two months since that moment, the German authorities have still not given any substantive response to the August 27 request or to any of the subsequent requests from the Russian Prosecutor General's Office. According to Mr Zimmermann, not a single Russian request has been approved, which runs contrary to the aforementioned statement by the Minister of Foreign Affairs.
Overall, in the context of the developments concerning Mr Navalny, Berlin seems to be deliberately showing blatantly provocative non-cooperation towards Moscow, as all of the very specific questions that Russian investigators asked their partners from relevant German agencies remained unanswered. In fact, Berlin is openly sabotaging its international legal obligations in law enforcement cooperation, hiding behind the legally untenable argumentation described above, and refusing to provide the Russian citizen’s bioassays and the respective findings, or any other material evidence (something FRG has obtained in ways that are not yet clear) that can allegedly confirm he was poisoned with the notorious Novichok agent. At the same time, those pieces of evidence are absolutely necessary to complete the pre-investigation check now being carried out by the Russian Interior Ministry, which is an indispensable condition for opening an official criminal case, in accordance with Russian law. At the same time, all significant information on the OPCW report on technical assistance to Germany is for some reason hidden at the insistence of the German side. In this situation, the anti-Russia propaganda campaign is not slowing down in the German media, and the Government of the Federal Republic of Germany has initiated groundless sanctions against Russia through the EU. In addition to this, German diplomacy is rallying its NATO allies at the OPCW platform to accuse our country of violating the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) in order to create an additional reason for building up military and political pressure on us from the West. What about the legal nuances and subtleties of Germany’s relations with the OPCW? Is everything clear there? German tactics are quite transparent, and the Russian side has drawn its own conclusions from this situation. And we share them with you regularly.
We call on Berlin to abandon, by taking action rather than talking, the confrontational policy line, in which no one can win, and to finally begin normal constructive and substantive interaction to help clarify the true circumstances of what happened to the Russian citizen.
On November 9, the First Committee of the 75th session of the UN General Assembly adopted the traditional Russian draft resolution on international cybersecurity (IIS; Developments in the field of information and telecommunications in the context of international security). The Russian initiative was co-authored by 26 countries: Algeria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Burundi, Cambodia, China, Comoros, Cuba, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Madagascar, Malawi, Myanmar, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Suriname, Syrian Arab Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of), Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Overall, 104 countries spoke in favour of adopting this resolution.
Supported by an impressive majority of UN member states, Russia has yet again ensured an opportunity for the international community to contribute to inclusive, transparent and truly democratic negotiations on IIS. Towards this end, a new open-ended working group on security of and in the use of information and communications technologies 2021 ̵ 2025 shall start its activities upon the conclusion of the work of the current Open-ended Working Group in March 2021 and considering its outcomes. The new open-ended working group will discuss national IIS initiatives and may establish thematic subgroups with a view to fulfilling its mandate, which will make the discussions better structured and more dynamic.
We would like to thank all the countries that supported our draft resolution. We believe that the consistency and continuity in the work of the open-ended working group will be in the interests of all countries that want to have a voice in this specialised international discussion.
The vote on our draft resolution in the UNGA has been provisionally scheduled for December 2020.
We are delighted about the news that Russian citizen Bogdana Osipova was released from the Danbury prison in Connecticut, USA, on November 10.
In June 2019, Osipova, the mother of many children, was sentenced to seven years in prison for international parental kidnapping and attempting to extort money from the child’s father. In accordance with American law, she has served the maximum three-year prison sentence allowed for the kidnapping (taking into consideration the period of time since her arrest in 2017).
Bogdana Osipova has been released on bail and is waiting for a retrial on the extortion charge. We hope that all the charges against her will be dismissed by a court ruling and she will be allowed to reunite with her family in Russia.
The Foreign Ministry will continue making the necessary diplomatic efforts to ensure that Osipova and all the other Russian citizens, who are being tried or have been sentenced to prison terms in the US without any justification, return to Russia as soon as possible.
On November 9, Russian Ambassador to Austria Dmitry Lyublinsky, Governor of Salzburg State Wilfried Haslauer and President of the Salzburg State Parliament Brigitta Pallauf attended a ceremony during which Director of the Salzburg Museum Martin Hochleitner signed the transfer certificate for the cultural valuables belonging to the Temryuk History and Archaeological Museum (Krasnodar Territory), which were displaced and are to be returned to Russia by the end of 2020.
The three amphorae and five grave reliefs kept in the museum’s repository were stolen by the Nazis from the damaged museum in the port of Temryuk in 1943 and were later stored in the Salzburg Museum. In February 2019, museum director Martin Hochleitner announced that the Board of Trustees had decided to return the artefacts to Russia. President of Austria Alexander Van der Bellen officially reaffirmed the decision during his visit to Sochi on May 15, 2019.
We welcome the initiative of our Austrian partners. It is a shining example of readiness to return, in a proactive manner, the artefacts stolen from our country during the Great Patriotic War.
We regret to say that the rights of national minorities and the freedom of speech have again been violated in Lithuania, which has been posing as an example of Western democracy. The other day, the Radio and Television Commission of Lithuania, which regulates media relations in the country, launched a procedure to stop the broadcasting of the popular RTR Planeta channel under a far-fetched pretext.
The Lithuanian authorities, which demand respect for the high standards of democratic rights and liberties in other countries, continue to consistently eradicate any dissent at home. As part of this policy, they are forcing Russian media out of the national information space.
It is notable that violations of the freedom of speech in Lithuania have been criticised by the relevant international organisations before. For example, Reporters Without Borders, condemned Lithuania’s decision to ban the broadcasting of several RT channels.
We hope that common sense will prevail in Lithuania and it will at long last show respect for the norms accepted in civilised states, and that the relevant international organisations will not turn a deaf ear to this situation.
We witnessed yet another incident of political censorship by the YouTube video hosting platform which is controlled by Google, the American transnational corporation.
On November 10, 2020, YouTube moderators qualified A Suicide of International Scale, an investigative documentary about the crash of the Malaysia Airlines MH17 (Boeing) in eastern Ukraine, as violating the principles and regulations of the platform and removed it even before the documentary premiered. The removal took place shortly before the beginning of new court hearings in the Netherlands scheduled for November 12. So what is the violating film about?
The documentary explores the version of Ukrainian Air Forces’ involvement in the plane crash and attempts to establish the circumstances of the incident, including the actual cause of death of Ukrainian pilot Vladislav Voloshin, one of the suspects in the crash case.
The film was uploaded by the moderators of the YouTube channel belonging to the Ukraina.ru multimedia outlet for its subsequent public release; however, the video-sharing platform had its own plans. As usual, YouTube did not offer any explanation as to what exactly and how the film violates.
This act of censorship is hard to explain in any other way than it being an attempt of certain interested parties to remove alternative versions of the 2014 tragedy from the global media space.
We call on the YouTube administration to review its decision and to generally abandon the practice of politically motivated moderation. These actions violate the audience’s right “to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers” (Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948). Or does YouTube believe the declaration violates this platform’s rules as well?
We expect that competent international bodies and human rights organisations will duly react to and impartially evaluate the actions of this American corporation.
On November 9, the parliament of the Republic of Peru issued a resolution to impeach President Martin Vizcarra. The impeachment procedure was carried out in compliance with the national legislation. According to Peru’s Constitution, President of Congress Manuel Merino accepted the powers of the head of state.
We hope that further developments in Peru will remain constitutional and that the democratic principles and citizens’ rights will be observed.
We confirm our readiness to develop the traditionally friendly relations between the Russian Federation and the Republic of Peru in the spirit of mutual respect and equal consideration for each other’s interests.
Hurricane Eta that formed in the Caribbean Sea in early November took a heavy toll on Central American states – Guatemala, Honduras, Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Panama – and seriously affected some areas in Cuba and Mexico.
More than 150 people were killed; hundreds are considered missing. Thousands of houses and farms were destroyed. The hurricane significantly damaged vital infrastructure. There is a serious shortage of food and drinking water.
Lukoil, in cooperation with the Russian Embassy in Mexico, got involved in the Mexican government’s humanitarian aid campaign for the state of Tabasco that suffered the greatest damage.
We would like to offer our deep condolences to the loved ones of those killed in the hurricane and wish a speedy recovery to those who were injured. We confirm our readiness to expand cooperation and mutual support with the countries in the region in the area of preventing emergencies and eliminating their consequences.
On November 7 in Samara, an unveiling ceremony took place for a memorial plaque on the facade of the building where the USSR People’s Commissariat of Foreign Affairs was based in 1941-1943.
In October 1941, the State Defence Committee made a decision to establish “a reserve capital” in Kuibyshev (Samara since 1991). In addition to defence industry facilities, some of the Communist Party’s Central Committee members, the Central Committee of the All-Union Leninist Young Communist League (Komsomol), several people’s commissariats and the diplomatic corps were evacuated to the regional centre. Embassies and diplomatic missions of 22 countries moved to the city.
A substantial number of employees of the USSR People’s Commissariat of Foreign Affairs were evacuated to Kuibyshev along with the diplomatic corps. Andrey Vyshinsky, Deputy People’s Commissar of Foreign Affairs, was in charge of managing the evacuated staff and liaising with foreign missions on a variety of issues.
The unveiling ceremony was attended by the representative of the Russian Foreign Ministry in Samara Alexey Chupakhin, Deputy Chairman of the Samara Region Government Alexander Fetisov, Head of the Samara City District Yelena Lapushkina, Rector of the Samara State Technical University Dmitry Bykov, as well as members of the public, war veterans and home front workers.
During the event, Alexey Chupakhin noted the importance of the memorial plaque for the USSR People’s Commissariat of Foreign Affairs for preserving the historical memory, and expressed gratitude to the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Council of War and Labour Veterans and the Foreign Ministry’s Main Administration for Service to the Diplomatic Corps (GlavUpDK) for their assistance with the project.
I would like to draw your attention to the artistic design of the memorial plaque. It was created by graduate and postgraduate students and instructors of the Department of Foundry and High-Performance Technologies at the Foundry Centre of the Samara State Technical University. Both conventional approaches to the artistic casting and modern digital technologies were used to produce the memorial plaque.
Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov sent his greetings to the event organisers and attendees. The message was published on the Foreign Ministry website and our social media accounts.
An important event for Russia-South Ossetia relations was the opening of the Russian World Foundation Centre at the South Ossetian State University (SOSU) in Tskhinval on October 28. Representatives of the Russian Embassy and Rossotrudnichestvo took an active part in the event preparations.
The main tasks of the centre are to promote the Russian language, popularise culture, and spread objective information about Russia. The centre gives an opportunity to learn and improve the Russian language, access Russian online libraries, and get acquainted with Russian art.
The centre in Tskhinval became the 117th one to open around the world. It is intended to become a link, a universal platform for promoting the Russian language, culture and history, and a place for philologists, Russian teachers, researchers and students to meet and exchange views. The work of this organisation will help strengthen the relations of alliance and integration between our countries.
On November 14, 15 years ago, Russia and Uzbekistan signed the Treaty on Allied Relations. The document, along with the basic bilateral agreements on the foundations of interstate relations, friendship and cooperation in 1992 and on strategic partnership in 2004, forms the regulatory framework for large-scale cooperation between Russia and Uzbekistan.
According to our general assessment, the agreement, which is open-term in nature, is of fundamental importance for cooperation between Moscow and Tashkent in the field of security, defence, maintaining peace and stability in the region, mutually beneficial military and technical cooperation, countering modern challenges and threats, developing trade, economic and investment ties, deepening industrial cooperation, and promoting mutually beneficial relations in other areas.
Amid the difficulties caused by the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Russia and Uzbekistan have fully demonstrated the allied solidarity stipulated by the treaty, and both countries actively cooperate in ensuring the medical and epidemiological wellbeing of the population of our countries and sharing experience, technical solutions and support. We appreciate the humanitarian assistance provided by the Uzbekistan authorities in April-May 2020. For our part, we also provided Tashkent with large-scale assistance in the fight against the pandemic by donating test kits for coronavirus laboratory diagnostics and various medical equipment, as well as sending two groups of Russian doctors and diverse expert support.
Based on the principles established in the treaty, first of all, friendship, neighbourliness, mutual assistance, equality and respect for each other's interests, Russia and Uzbekistan resolve to deepen the entire range of bilateral relations in political, trade, economic, cultural, humanitarian and other spheres, to closely coordinate our positions on the world and regional stages, and to strengthen the centuries-old friendship between our peoples.
On November 16, we will mark the 75th anniversary of the UNESCO Constitution. The purpose of this organisation, which was created after WWII, just as with the UN, is “to contribute to peace and security by promoting collaboration among the nations through education, science and culture.”
Today, UNESCO is focused on creating various educational instruments, promoting academic exchanges, preserving cultural heritage, strengthening intergovernmental sports cooperation and protecting the freedom of opinion.
UNESCO, which currently has 193 member states and 11 associated members, is the world’s largest humanitarian agency.
Russia joined UNESCO on April 21, 1954.
Last year, a working meeting was held in Moscow between President Vladimir Putin and UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay, which reaffirmed the traditionally high standards of interaction between Russia and UNESCO.
Russia is one of the largest UNESCO donors and is actively involved in the majority of its programmes. Recent joint achievements include the Mendeleyev International Prize in the Basic Sciences and the addition of the Churches of the Pskov School of Architecture to UNESCO’s World Heritage List.
Although we will be celebrating this anniversary amid pandemic restrictions and many festive events have been curtailed at the UNESCO Headquarters in Paris and in the member states, Russia is preparing several symbolic celebratory events. In addition to conferences and thematic publications, we plan to issue a philatelic publication on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of UNESCO together with the Federal Communications Agency.
UNESCO values and ideals are broadly respected in Russia, largely thanks to the activities of the Commission of the Russian Federation for UNESCO chaired by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. We invite everyone to learn more about the commission’s activities on its official website (unesco.ru).
Question: The Ukrainian media and Facebook have been writing for over a month about Professor Valery Gromov, who was forced to resign from the Dnepr University of Technology for rejecting a student’s request to read his lecture in the Ukrainian language. He said “two languages make for a united nation, and one language is not Ukraine but a ruin.” After the female student filed a complaint with the rector’s office, the university administration forced the professor, who had lectured at the university for 27 years, to make a choice. The professor resigned, choosing in favour of the Russian language. Thousands of Ukrainian teachers in a similar situation are watching his fate with concern. Can Russia show concern through its government agencies for such foreign citizens who are defending the Russian language amid the general Russophobia?
Maria Zakharova: The incident in Dnepropetrovsk, where the university’s administration, instead of protecting respected Professor Valery Gromov, who had worked at the university for decades, forced him to resign is a disgrace. It is a disgrace not only for Ukraine but for Europe as a whole. I can only describe this situation as news from the Middle Ages. Of course, it could be described as yet another violation of Russian speakers’ rights in Ukraine. But this would be putting it mildly.
The trouble is that this is not the only case of this kind. It is a high-profile example of blatant injustice. But how many more such cases happen in Ukraine nearly every day at a lower level? The people are suffering all the same. This is arguably the tip of the iceberg of language discrimination in Ukraine.
It is obvious that by adopting absurd discriminatory laws on forced Ukrainisation, Kiev is deliberately sowing discord between the country’s citizens, who speak both the official language and Russian. I would like to remind you that the protection and development of Russian, which a huge number of people speak in Ukraine, is guaranteed in the Ukrainian Constitution. There were no language problems in Ukraine until they were created by the authorities. All of us are aware that this is part of the political process, part of a big and dirty political game. People had no problems before; problems have been created for them deliberately with money and special technology, and for a clear purpose. People understood each other perfectly without any political games. They spoke both Russian and Ukrainian, sometimes simultaneously. What will they do now? Take up arms, as happened in Ukraine before? Arrest people on the street? Are they pushing people, including nationalists, toward all-permissiveness?
A recent survey by the Ukrainian Centre for Content Analysis on the use of the Ukrainian language in social networks has shown that the share of Russian in communication between Ukrainians is not decreasing, despite the efforts of the Kiev authorities to push the Russian language out.
As for Professor Gromov, his firm civic position commands respect and will definitely provide an example for the numerous Russian speakers who are defending their constitutional right to speak, learn and work in their native tongue.
For our part, we will continue working so that people know about human rights violations in Ukraine, and we will attract the attention of international human rights organisations to such facts.
Question: Many Russian representatives confirmed that militants from the Middle East had been deployed to the Nagorno-Karabakh region. However, not a single Russian representative has specified who exactly has sent them to this region. What is going to happen now with the presence of the Russian peacekeepers? Where are the jihadists? Where have they gone? What exactly is Russia planning to do with them? Will somebody hold them accountable and those who brought them into the region? Will the Russian army fight against them?
Maria Zakharova: Unfortunately, the militants who were sent there have not disappeared. Information on their presence was based on facts that were confirmed by others, not just Russia. We mentioned them as soon as we learned about them.
We believe this question will be resolved. All parties interested in peace in the region must contribute to a resolution. I can say military experts are dealing with this problem on Russia’s behalf. I believe this question requires practical work by specialists to be followed up by a report, not the other way round.
Question: You probably know that Russia is being increasingly criticised for the events in Nagorno-Karabakh. Many articles in Greece and other countries maintain that “Russia has betrayed the Armenians and Armenia,” and that the most likely purpose was “to punish Nikol Pashinyan,” but that the Armenian people had to suffer as a result. Can you please comment on this?
Maria Zakharova: As you said, some media outlets in Greece and other countries have said that Russia has allegedly betrayed Armenia and its people. I can say the following about this. First, during this time I have read many versions of this both in foreign and the Russian media. Journalists are wondering: Who has won, who has benefited from this? Who has lost and who is the aggrieved party? Indicatively, every version of every publication contradicts the previous one. What does this indicate? Maybe, poor expert analysis? I cannot answer this question precisely.
Trying to answer this question for myself, I think that probably there was no clear understanding on the processes that took place there before and the situation that has taken shape there now, as well as the long-term prospects and goals mentioned in the statement that was signed by the leaders of the three states.
And now I would like to reply to the specific claim that ostensibly Russia has deserted Armenia and Armenians.” Quite the contrary, Russia has gone all out to settle this situation, first politically through diplomatic and international law, and later by sending peacekeepers there. Journalists and talk show hosts, who talk over each other, must remember that now it is the Russian peacekeepers that are guaranteeing security, peace, future, prosperity and stability and, first and foremost, the lives of the people in this region that is in the middle of two countries – Azerbaijan and Armenia (this applies to everyone – refugees, those who are in this territory, and internally displaced persons). This is to answer the question to what extent is the Russian Federation and its leadership is interested in the stability of the region.
These are not political declarations, important as they are. This is not only an opportunity to protect one’s position, which was aimed at a peace settlement and a ceasefire from accusations, that it is weak, has no prospects and cannot be pursued. This is also a decision to send our peacekeepers there.
All journalists must understand what our country has done to make this decision, and how much it is interested in the peace and prosperity of this region and these two countries, Azerbaijan and Armenia, in particular. By and large this is an unprecedented decision.
I don’t think the people in Greece can know second-hand what it takes to make a decision to send peacekeepers to a region, how long it usually takes to adopt it, get approvals, settle financial and logistics issues, and more. Look at how this was done now, in this situation. Let me emphasise once again that for Russia relations both with Azerbaijan and Armenia, between the peoples of our countries that have a common history and largely maintain very close contacts, are not just empty words. We were ready for the steps we made.
It is very easy to write or say the word “peacekeeper,” but this implies the lives of specific people and this must be understood.
I have the impression that many people do not comprehend the magnitude of the decision made by the Russian Federation. But it must be understood. This primarily applies to the Greek media that know the price of peacekeeping efforts and how difficult it is to coordinate them. So why isn’t this decision analysed in terms of its depth and long-term goals?
Excuse me for being pathetic, but we have become so used to treating landmark decisions without enough consideration, that sometimes it is worth stopping for a moment to analyse them seriously instead of just reacting.
Question: Some Turkish and Azerbaijani politicians keep saying that Turkey would like to have a mobile function in the monitoring centre and to play an equal role with Russia. What form will Turkish presence in the region take? Are there any guarantees that Turkey will strictly comply with the agreements and will not take part in any military activities or peacekeeping operations in Nagorno-Karabakh?
Maria Zakharova: Today I did not speak about our views on the Nagorno-Karabakh settlement, because half of Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s two-hour-long interview was devoted to this subject. He also spoke in detail about Russian-Turkish interaction in the region. I can repeat what he said.
The mobility of Turkish observers will be limited by the geographic coordinates of the Russian-Turkish monitoring centre in a region of Azerbaijan located away from Nagorno-Karabakh, which will be chosen for the deployment of the monitoring centre. A memorandum to this effect was signed yesterday between the defence ministers of Russia and Turkey. The centre will operate exclusively remotely, using live monitoring and recording systems, such as drones and other technology, to monitor the situation on the ground in Nagorno-Karabakh, primarily on the contact line, and to determine which party violates and which party complies with the terms of the ceasefire and termination of hostilities. The boundaries of the Turkish observers’ mobility will be limited to the premises that are to be set up on the territory of Azerbaijan, not in the zone of the former conflict.
Sergey Lavrov also commented on the statement made by Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu to the effect that Turkey will be working on the same conditions as Russia. This refers exclusively to the centre that is to be deployed in Azerbaijan, will be stationary and will not conduct any on-site missions. It is true that Russian and Turkish observers and specialists will be working at this centre on equal conditions. But no Turkish peacekeeping units will be deployed in Nagorno-Karabakh. I would like to point out that everything concerning peacekeepers is clearly expressed in the joint statement by President of Russia Vladimir Putin, President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev and Prime Minister of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan.
Sergey Lavrov’s interview is available on https://www.mid.ru/ru/foreign_policy/news/-/asset_publisher/cKNonkJE02Bw/content/id/4429844.
Question: In his remarks at the SCO summit, Russian President Vladimir Putin highlighted the topic of Afghanistan, a country that has long had observer status in the SCO and seeks to join it. What is Russia’s position on this score?
Maria Zakharova: Afghanistan is an important member of the SCO family. So it is quite natural that the Afghan issue is a major focus of attention at the SCO summits. The SCO has consistently advocated Afghanistan’s development as a stable and secure state, free from terrorism or drugs, and living in peace with its neighbours. This position is traditionally reflected in the final documents of the SCO summit meetings. The November 10 Moscow Declaration of the SCO leaders was certainly no exception.
The SCO-Afghanistan Contact Group is dedicatedly working at the level of deputy foreign ministers. Specific steps to assist Afghanistan are included in the Roadmap for Further Actions adopted at the 2019 SCO summit in Bishkek.
As for Afghanistan’s accession to the SCO, let me remind you that Russia greatly contributed to Afghanistan receiving observer status with the SCO in 2012. That country applied to raise its profile in the SCO in 2015.
We support this attitude from Afghanistan. At the same time, it should be remembered that there are a number of criteria required for obtaining full membership, the most important one being a consensus in the SCO on the applicant’s candidacy. We are confident that this prospect may open up for Afghanistan once the internal political situation is stable enough.
At the same time, observer status should open up broad prospects for Afghanistan for developing cooperation with the SCO on all tracks including politics, security, the economy and humanitarian issues. The SCO also has a number of documents open for acceding, which Afghanistan is welcome to sign.
Question: The 31st Special Session of the UN General Assembly dedicated to the fight against COVID-19, initiated by Azerbaijan as the current chairman of the Non-Aligned Movement, will be held on December 3-4. Can the Russian Foreign Ministry comment on the importance and role of such an initiative in the fight against the pandemic?
It was also reported that Russia has applied for observer status in the Non-Aligned Movement. Please comment on this decision and the status of this?
Maria Zakharova: On December 3-4, general debates at the 31st Special Session of the UN General Assembly on the response to the novel coronavirus pandemic will take place in New York. The decision to hold this event was made by the UN member states last summer. The coordination of the procedural and organisational aspects has now been completed. This Special Session will be held in the so-called hybrid format. The heads of the delegations will be able to attend the General Assembly in New York in person or speak online.
This session was initiated by President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev as Chairman of the Non-Aligned Movement. From the beginning, the Russian Federation has supported this initiative by our partner in the CIS.
We consider this event an important step in the response efforts to COVID-19, confirming the leading role of the UN in coordinating the global response to the pandemic. The General Assembly has already made important decisions in this area. The UN Security Council has also approved a resolution on fighting the coronavirus. A number of programmes providing aid have been prepared and implemented by UN organisations. At the same time, the World Health Organisation has played the main coordinating role throughout the pandemic.
We expect that the discussion during this upcoming special session will be constructive, review the efforts already made to respond to the pandemic, and also help mobilise the political will to continue our joint struggle.
As for the possibility of Russia obtaining observer status in the Non-Aligned Movement, this issue is in fact being worked out in close contact with Azerbaijan as the current chairman of the movement.
In recent years, we have developed very close cooperation with the Non-Aligned Movement, primarily within the world organisation’s "platform." This has been facilitated by the similar approaches of Russia and the movement's member states on most issues on the international agenda. Against this backdrop, raising the status of Russia in the Non-Aligned Movement seems to be a logical step. This involves meeting a number of organisational and procedural requirements as stipulated in the movement's charter documents.
Question: Congratulations to President Vladimir Putin on the successful peace agreement between Azerbaijan and Armenia. Can the Russian President extend this kind of generosity in resolving conflicts in Asia, especially in Kashmir, Yemen, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Palestine? I could rephrase my question, though it sounds clumsy but nice.
Maria Zakharova: Thank you for your kind words towards Russia for its contribution in relieving the tensions around Nagorno-Karabakh. We are in favour of resolving this and other regional conflicts by political and diplomatic means through dialogue. This is not easy. It also includes criticism for the length of time taken, perhaps for the lack of rapid progress. But from our point of view, this is the only possible approach.
Question: The Russian Federation is holding military exercises with Pakistan. They are fairly important after the recent SCO military exercises in Russia. What can you tell us about their influence on strategic cooperation between Russia and Pakistan and also about the expansion of defence partnerships in industrial production? In a broader context, what is the scale of maritime cooperation between Russia and Pakistan in the Indian Ocean?
Maria Zakharova: We are working with Pakistan on strengthening its counterterrorist potential, in part by holding joint exercises. The current “Friendship” exercise in Pakistani territory, the fifth one since 2016, is also aimed at improving coordination of counterterrorism operations in the mountains.
We have been successfully cooperating with Islamabad on the anti-drug track and on curbing piracy in the Indian Ocean. We also held joint drill, code-named “Arabian Monsoon,” in October 2014, December 2015 and November 2018.
Question: What is your attitude to Washington’s potential return to the JCPOA and the lifting of sanctions against Iran?
Maria Zakharova: We have never given up on this. On the contrary, for two years we have been trying to persuade Washington of the need to fully comply with its commitments under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) to settle Iran’s nuclear programme under UN Security Council Resolution 2231. When steps are taken in this direction, they should not be accompanied or burdened by any additional terms. It is necessary to avoid any revision of the JCPOA. It would be unacceptable to include any terms that go beyond the 2015 comprehensive agreements, especially those that have nothing to do with Iran’s nuclear programme.
It is important to preserve the integrity of this “nuclear deal” and UN Security Council Resolution 2231. Washington will have to ensure full implementation of its commitments and correct the violations made by its unilateral withdrawal from the JCPOA in May 2018. This includes lifting the unilateral sanctions against Iran.