Briefing by Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova, Moscow, November 19, 2020
- Coronavirus update
- Russian application for WHO pre-qualification of the Sputnik V vaccine
- Seventy-third World Health Assembly completed
- Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to visit the Russian Federation
- Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s participation in the upcoming Afghanistan Conference in Geneva
- Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein’s upcoming visit to Russia
- Russian and Belarusian foreign ministry collegiums to meet in Minsk
- Update on Nagorno-Karabakh
- Presidential election results in Moldova
- New President of Peru sworn in
- Ethiopia update
- The US Senate adopts the Rodchenkov Anti-Doping Act
- The US reaction to the International Conference on the Return of Refugees in Damascus
- US tests the interception of an intercontinental ballistic missile
- Third Committee of the 75th session of the UN General Assembly adopts resolution on human rights in Crimea
- Outcomes of the Russian-Chinese forum on region-to-region cooperation in the post-pandemic era
- Parliamentary elections in Myanmar
- Parameters of the Cyprus settlement
- Iranian Foreign Ministry official’s statement on withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan
- Speech by German Ambassador to Lithuania on the unveiling of a monument to the Jewish water carrier in Vilnius on October 19, 2020
- Lessons of Nuremberg international scientific and practical forum
- Update on Alexey Navalny
- Seventeen US veterans decorated with Ushakov Medal
- Creating an Observatory on History Teaching in Europe at the Council of Europe
- The 40th anniversary of UNESCO’s International Programme for the Development of Communication
- Marking the 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the Russian Federation and the Federal Republic of Nigeria
- Russian agenda in the dialogue with the new leader of Moldova
- Foreign Ministry assistance to Russian sailors abroad during the coronavirus pandemic
- Peaceful settlement in Nagorno-Karabakh
- Military cooperation with Norway
- Developments in Nagorno-Karabakh
- Russia's position on the Cyprus settlement
Unfortunately, the situation with the spread of the coronavirus continues to show alarming negative trends. COVID-19 is attacking almost everywhere. The number of those infected is skyrocketing: as of November 19, there were 56 million cases. Epidemiology experts tend to see the near future in the most negative way.
Governments in most countries, especially in Europe, are reintroducing quarantine restrictions in order to not only hold down the wave of infection cases but also to alleviate the burden on national healthcare systems that are suffocating from the pandemic. Countries with popular resorts are meticulously checking the list of countries from where tourists can be allowed without risking bringing the virus in.
The situation changes every day. Restrictions add to the economic recession, the scale of which not only threatens a decline in investment activity, but also a “budget collapse” in some places. An unprecedented growth of social unrest and protests, especially from the most vulnerable social groups, can be seen. Protests from small and medium-sized businesses, which have almost worn out ways to survive when all business activities are paralysed, have become a new phenomenon in our COVID era. Everyone is discussing vaccination, development and distribution of the vaccine.
The recently circulated statement by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights’ Special Procedures is calling on all countries to support the WHO’s initiative to create and freely and fairly distribute advanced anti-coronavirus innovations as well as ensure general non-discriminating access to the main package of medical services. The document emphasises that “vaccine nationalism” as well as unjustified commercialisation of various aspects of its production and distribution is unacceptable.
This topic was thoroughly discussed on November 17, during the BRICS online summit where Russia emphasised how important it was to develop joint international steps to counter the coronavirus infection and promote cooperation among national health systems to protect people’s lives and health, including with the help of the BRICS Vaccine Research and Development Centre, which is being created.
Considering the epidemiological situation in the world on which we provide regular updates, we would like to once again focus on the need to carefully examine threats related to foreign trips, avoid unjustified risks and follow the recommendations published on the Foreign Ministry’s website, our embassy pages and social media accounts, and the Foreign Assistant app, when travelling abroad.
The Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) submitted applications to the World Health Organisation (WHO) for the accelerated registration and pre-qualification of the Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine, based on the well-studied human adenovirus vector platform. Thus, the Russian Federation was one of the first countries in the world to apply to the WHO for the pre-qualification of its vaccine against the novel coronavirus infection.
In the face of the pandemic, the accelerated vaccine registration will make the Russian vaccine available globally in a shorter time than usual procedures and will support worldwide efforts to prevent the coronavirus infection. Successful pre-qualification will enable the Sputnik V vaccine to be included on the list of medicines used by international procurement organisations and countries to manage bulk purchases of medicines.
More detailed information on this subject can be found on the RDIF resources devoted to the vaccine development.
The resumed seventy-third session of the World Health Assembly, the main governing body of the WHO, ended on November13. Due to coronavirus restrictions, the event was held via videoconference. It brought together representatives of various countries including a Russian interagency delegation.
During the session, the participants considered various issues on the WHO’s agenda, including the COVID-19 pandemic response effort as well as the functioning of the International Health Regulations (2005) system. An expert dialogue was held on several specialised topics – the fight against meningitis, neglected tropical diseases and other dangerous diseases. The WHO Member States supported the draft WHA resolution on epilepsy control sponsored by the Russian Federation.
Much attention was paid to the effective functioning of the WHO; the participants considered a range of administrative and budgetary issues.
On November 23, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Mohammad Javad Zarif, will pay a regular working visit to Moscow where he will meet with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov.
The sides are expected to continue the exchange of views on a range of the most relevant international issues, including the situation in the Nagorno-Karabakh region, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on the Iranian nuclear programme, developments in Syria, Afghanistan and the Gulf area.
Sergey Lavrov and Mohammad Javad Zarif will certainly discuss the bilateral agenda, primarily trade and economic cooperation in key joint energy and transport projects, and the possibilities for deepening cultural and humanitarian ties.
Russian-Iranian relations continue to expand quickly; this much is evidenced by the intensive and trust-based dialogue at the highest level – the presidents of Russia and Iran have spoken by telephone on at least four occasions this year. Despite the spread of the coronavirus infection, regular contacts are maintained between our countries, including between the Foreign Ministers – this will be Mohammad Javad Zarif’s fourth visit to our country this year. We also maintain an active dialogue at the level of representatives of parliaments, ministries and other government agencies in Russia and Iran.
The Geneva Conference on Afghanistan will take place online on November 23-24 chaired by the Afghan and Finnish governments together with the UN. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is expected to take part in the plenary session on November 24.
Russia regards this event as timely. It will give the international community an opportunity to reaffirm its commitment to developing and rebuilding Afghanistan amid efforts by the IRA government and the Taliban to launch full-scale intra-Afghan peace talks.
There are plans to adopt a joint statement following the conference.
On November 25-26, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of the Republic of Iraq Fuad Hussein will be in Moscow on a working visit. This is his first visit to the Russian capital as Foreign Minister of Iraq.
During their talks scheduled for November 25, Sergey Lavrov and Fuad Hussein will discuss current issues on the regional and global agendas, with an emphasis on developments around Syria, the Middle East peace process, the Persian Gulf zone and Yemen. They will also focus on consolidating efforts to fight international terrorism.
The ministers are expected to have an in-depth discussion of practical tasks to further develop the full range of bilateral relations, including in the context of the activities of the Russian-Iraqi Intergovernmental Commission on Trade, Economic, Scientific and Technical Cooperation.
We are pleased with the regular and constructive nature of the bilateral political dialogue noted for a high degree of trust and the same or similar approaches to key international and Middle Eastern topics.
On November 25-26, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will visit Minsk to participate in the annual joint meeting of the Russian and Belarusian foreign ministry collegiums.
The programme of the visit includes a meeting with President of the Republic of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko and talks with Minister of Foreign Affairs Vladimir Makei, during which the ministers are expected to discuss the situation in the republic and key issues on the bilateral and international agendas.
On November 26, the joint meeting of the collegiums of the two foreign ministries will review the programme of coordinated actions in foreign policy of the Union State for 2020-2021, including the coordination of actions in international organisations, cooperation within the EAEU, CSTO and the CIS. It is planned to exchange views on the state of relations with the EU, the possibility of the CSTO participating in UN peacekeeping operations, the prospects for creating the Greater Eurasian Partnership through the alignment of integration processes, as well as interaction in the field of international information security.
Documents are expected to be signed following the meeting, including the plan for inter-ministerial consultations for 2021 and a resolution of the two collegiums, which will reflect the agreements reached on the discussed issues.
During the past week we have continued working to normalise the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh.
President of Russia Vladimir Putin spoke by telephone with President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev and Prime Minister of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan. They discussed the practical aspects of implementing the agreements fixed in the trilateral statement on Nagorno-Karabakh of November 9. This was central during Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s telephone conversations with his Azerbaijani counterpart (on November 15) and his Armenian colleague (on November 13 and 15).
On November 17, President Vladimir Putin replied in detail to media questions on the Nagorno-Karabakh settlement. I will not repeat the details of this interview. You can read it yourselves on the Kremlin website. Our leaders stay in constant contact with the leaders of Azerbaijan and Armenia, coordinating post-conflict settlement efforts.
It is important to ensure strict observance of the agreements. We are pleased to note that Russia’s mediation has made it possible to achieve a sustainable ceasefire, which was established on November 10 of this year in accordance with the statement by the Russian, Azerbaijani and Armenian leaders, and to take important steps on the return to peaceful life.
Russian peacekeepers continue being deployed along the contact line and in the Lachin corridor that links Nagorno-Karabakh with Armenia. Armenian military personnel are being withdrawn from the Agdam, Kelbajar and Lachin districts.
Humanitarian issues are moving to the fore today. On November 13, President Putin signed an executive order on establishing the interdepartmental humanitarian response centre. Its goals are to help refugees return to the places of their permanent residence, render them necessary assistance, restore the civilian infrastructure and create conditions for normal life in the Nagorno-Karabakh area.
The interdepartmental centre includes representatives from the Russian Emergencies Ministry, the Foreign Ministry, the Federal Security Service and other concerned departments. The Defence Ministry has been charged with resolving organisational and other issues linked with the centre’s creation and activities.
The centre’s operational team monitors the movement of refugees. Residents of the Kelbajar District are arriving en masse in Armenia. At the same time, refugees are returning to Nagorno-Karabakh. In all, 3,054 people have returned to Nagorno-Karabakh since November 14. Since November 13, as many as 385 bodies have been transferred. This figure includes victims on both sides.
We plan to cooperate in this area with the OSCE and relevant international organisations – the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and UNESCO. On November 17 of this year, Foreign Minister Lavrov discussed an exchange of POWs and detainees with ICRC President Peter Maurer. The transcript of this press point is also available on the Foreign Ministry’s website. We believe the ICRC can play a tangible role in overcoming the humanitarian consequences of events in Nagorno-Karabakh.
The co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group, Stephane Visconti of France and Andrew Schofer of the United States, as well as the Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office, Andrzej Kasprzyk, are in Moscow on November 17-19 at Mr Lavrov’s invitation. They had meetings at the Foreign Ministry and met with Russian Defence Ministry representatives to compare positions on further cooperation between the three countries in settling the Nagorno-Karabakh problem after the ceasefire.
On November 18, the Federation Council of the Federal Assembly unanimously approved the appeal of President Putin on sending a Russian peacekeeping contingent to Nagorno-Karabakh.
In general, the adopted measures are creating conditions for a long-term and full-scale settlement of the crisis in a fair manner and in the interests of the Azerbaijani and Armenian people, both of which are friendly to the Russian Federation.
I would like to emphasise once again that our contacts with the sides have not been discontinued. I can even say that they are taking place almost around the clock. Contacts continue at high and expert levels. Our embassies are also working together. We are permanently in touch. We will inform you of any additional news as it becomes available.
We have been closely following the presidential campaign in the Republic of Moldova; the voting in that country took place in two rounds, on November 1 and 15. According to international observers, including Russian ones, the overall process met the generally accepted democratic standards. The election campaign unfolded in an unrestricted and competitive environment. By voting, the citizens made their choice based on their vision of ways to solve the political, economic and humanitarian issues facing the Republic of Moldova.
The President of Russia congratulated the elected President of Moldova, Maia Sandu, on winning the election. We hope that her campaign promises to ensure the rights and freedoms of all citizens in that country regardless of what language they speak will be fully upheld during her presidency. We welcome the declared intentions of the President-elect to help maintain constructive relations between Moldova and Russia.
For our part, we are open to the expansion of mutually beneficial Russian-Moldovan cooperation in various fields in the interests of the peoples of our two countries, as well as to closer interaction in order to achieve a stable and viable Transnistrian settlement.
On November 17, the new interim President of the Republic of Peru, Francisco Sagasti, took office following the resignation of the previous head of state.
We wish the new administration of that friendly country, with which Russia has progressively expanding ties, every success in fulfilling its mandate and holding general elections in April 2021 in accordance with the country’s constitution while also respecting the principles of democracy and its citizens’ rights.
We reaffirm our interest in the further deepening of our friendship and cooperation with Peru in various spheres, including in coronavirus pandemic response efforts.
We are closely monitoring the tense situation in Ethiopia, where the federal government has declared a state of emergency in the northern Tigray region and ordered a special military operation to restore constitutional order in that country.
We are alarmed by reports about the civilian Tigray People’s Liberation Front casualties of armed clashes between the government army and the, as well as violence on ethnic and religious grounds in other regions of Ethiopia.
The further escalation of this conflict poses a threat to both Ethiopia’s national security and regional stability. It is our belief that the federal government and the regional authorities in Tigray need to show the political will to resume dialogue in order to find a compromise and resolve all disputed issues for the sake of preserving the country’s unity and territorial integrity.
We urge the parties to the conflict to prevent the further deterioration of the humanitarian situation and to take the necessary steps to ensure the safety of the civilian population. We express hope that this internal confrontation will de-escalate as soon as possible and the situation will return to normal in Ethiopia, a country that has long-standing friendly ties with Russia.
The US Senate unanimously adopted the Rodchenkov Anti-Doping Act (RADA) on November 16. It provides for criminal liability for a broad group of individuals (doctors, coaches, functionaries, etc., but not athletes) that are suspected of doping violations. Soon, the bill will be submitted for signing by the US president.
RADA applies to all WADA-compliant international sports competitions involving American athletes, as well as tournaments sponsored by the companies doing business in the United States. Offenders from anywhere in the world will face up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $1 million.
Thus, Washington has once again appointed itself chief judge, this time of all international sports, pitting the extraterritorial application of its legislation against the generally accepted international anti-doping mechanisms.
In fact, we are talking about the emergence of a new exclusively US-controlled tool for discrimination against foreign participants in international competitions. There’s no doubt that the Americans will be guided primarily by political motives when deciding to use it. We’ve seen this many times. This is a very dangerous road that can lead to the destruction of international sports.
Particularly cynical is the fact that, against the background of widespread and systematic use of doping in the United States itself, North American professional sports leagues (NBA, NFL, NHL, etc.) are beyond the scope of the Rodchenkov Act. I don’t think I need to add anything else to this. Everything is clear. Another mechanism is being created to combat the achievements of international sports that are objectionable to the United States. This is about the possibility of picking an area of international life and putting pressure on it.
We were perplexed by Deputy Spokesperson of the US State Department Cale Brown’s statement regarding the International Conference on the Return of Refugees held in Damascus on November 11-12. What’s wrong with holding an international conference on refugees in Damascus? Why so much drama before, during, and now after this international humanitarian event? What did our US partners do this time? They questioned the importance of this conference.
Notably, during preparations for the forum, which was hosted by the Syrians with strong Russian support, Washington undertook numerous demarches in the capitals of potential participating countries and the headquarters of international organisations in order to preclude their participation in the conference.
Nevertheless, the forum took place despite strong opposition from the Americans and a boycott by the EU. More than 20 states took part. We believe that the conference held in Damascus is not a one-time event, but part of a corresponding complex process, and will be followed by other events.
We regard the US representatives’ critical comments as being in line with the course pursued by Washington to prevent Syrian refugees from returning home. Dear American colleagues, you care so much about the fate of the Syrians and have for many years been focusing on only one thing in this region, namely, human rights. Why are you now showing your true colours in politics in such an awkward manner by preventing people from returning to their homeland? Even US aid to the Syrians is mainly provided to the refugees in Syria’s neighbouring countries to encourage them to stay there. Those of them who choose to return home have their benefits automatically revoked. That is, only the Syrians who are outside Syria can receive help. The Syrians who return to Syria, or who stayed there should not be helped, and their efforts to rebuild their country should be disrupted. Apparently, this is a customary thing to do in today’s democratic societies. It is also important to understand that the United States is pursuing a policy of economic strangulation with respect to the territories controlled by the Syrian government. That’s the “trick,” as Deputy Spokesperson Brown put it.
Russia is taking practical steps to facilitate the return of Syrians, including internally displaced persons, to their homes. Almost 2.2 million people have already returned, including over 850,000 from abroad. This is also a critical part of Russia’s participation and assistance in rebuilding and normalising life in that country.
Russia’s state agencies and non-government organisations provide humanitarian aid to those in need in most of Syria’s territory. Over the past five years, more than 4,500 tonnes of food and medicines, as well as essential supplies have been distributed through the Centre for Reconciliation of Warring Parties in Khmeimim alone. It should be noted that the delivery of 78 tons of humanitarian aid from Russia was timed to coincide with the above conference in Damascus. Many Russian organisations are helping Syria, but they keep quiet about their charitable activities.
Unfortunately, the US State Department continues its destructive theatrics around the international refugee forum held in Syria’s capital, which US diplomats failed to thwart no matter how hard they tried.
We have noted a report from the Missile Defence Agency of the US Department of Defence on a test in the Pacific on November 17 of the sea launch of a Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) Block IIA missile to hit an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICDM) simulated target. This is further evidence of Washington’s dangerous and destabilising policy on anti-missile defence issues and their apparent anti-Russia nature.
For years our US colleagues have assured us that US Standard Missile systems, including the above, are technically not designed to intercept Russian ICBMs and that they need a global anti-missile defence systems exclusively to counter supposed limited regional threats, the Iranian issue, for example.
However, this current test directly illustrates the misleading nature of US assurances that its global anti-missile defence system is not directed against Russia. This is direct proof and a clear example of how Washington has manipulated public opinion in its own country, lied to its international partners and based its actions in the international arena on absolutely made-up pretexts.
We must take into account that recently the Americans have straightforwardly expressed their intention to have protection against hypersonic weapons, even though very few countries with a well developed military and industrial potential can have such systems. The latest version of the Missile Defence Review published in January 2019 openly calls Russia a “potential adversary.”
The Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) Block IIA missile test to intercept IBCMs is also remarkable in that such interceptors can be installed on both US naval ships and at US NATO bases in Romania and Poland where versatile missile launchers are or will be deployed that are identical to ship-based ones. We will naturally have to take the necessary steps in response, as we have mentioned a number of times, to ensure national security and maintain strategic stability.
However, we have never closed the door on a dialogue on anti-missile defence systems. We need to search for opportunities for a constructive dialogue on comprehensive issues of providing security. Meanwhile, our colleagues in Washington should not place all their bets on an illusory win in a “great power rivalry,” something they have declared. We once again urge the US to cooperate in the search for a solution to the accrued security problems, including with the evolution of US global anti-missile defence systems.
We are hopeful that this subject will be covered by the media in Europe, the EU, so that it will not be ignored, and that they will take notice of Washington’s actions and Russia’s response, including the last paragraph in this commentary.
On November 18, the Third Committee of the 75th session of the UN General Assembly voted for the Ukraine-sponsored draft resolution on the human rights situation in Crimea.
As in the previous years, the resolution is politically biased and has nothing to do with the real situation on the peninsula. Once again Ukraine used the UN platform for peddling its groundless political and territorial claims to Crimea. In this regard, we would like to reiterate that the question of territorial affiliation of the Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol was settled by their residents once and for all in the March 2014 referendum, held in strict compliance with international law. It is even more inappropriate to raise the issue of affiliation of certain territories at the Third Committee of the UN General Assembly, which discusses exclusively social, cultural, humanitarian and human rights problems.
The extreme political bias of the resolution is also confirmed by the fact that the delegations who abstained and voted against this document outnumbered those who supported it. Also, a number of countries preferred not to participate in the voting at all, thereby demonstrating their negative attitude towards Ukraine’s proposal.
As for the actual human rights situation in Crimea, again, we would like to underscore that Russia is committed to fulfilling its international obligations across the entire territory of the Russian Federation, including the Republic of Crimea and the federal city of Sevastopol. We are ready for dialogue with relevant international organisations about human rights in Crimea through procedures applicable to the Russian Federation's compliance with its obligations on the territory of our country. We are also ready to invite missions from the relevant organisations to Crimea if they are sent within these organisations’ mandate and as part of the procedures applicable to visiting Russia.
We are ready for dialogue. We have encountered problems with involving residents of Crimea in various international conferences – I am referring to real representatives of civil society and local journalists, not those who have lived outside the region for decades and have no idea of the current realities. Previously, when there were no problems with international transport logistics, they were denied entry and faced visa problems. Today, when all forums have transitioned to remote participation, we have connectivity problems. We are denied participation every step of the way. The Ukrainian delegation always blocks reports from the representatives of Crimea, thinking they are more familiar with the situation than the people who actually live there.
Many international bodies make decisions, including on the humanitarian situation and human rights in Crimea, without knowing the real situation, because, unfortunately, they rely on Ukraine, which has no idea what is happening there. Many so-called international experts make conclusions and declare themselves experts on Crimean problems without ever visiting the place and therefore unable to fully understand developments there. They do not even bother to use technology to establish a normal dialogue with representatives of Crimean civil society.
Interregional cooperation between Russia and China plays an important part in Russia-China relations. The Council for Interregional Cooperation at the Russian-Chinese Committee for Friendship, Peace and Development is an important platform for establishing and consolidating ties in this sphere. It sponsored an online forum, “Russia-China interregional cooperation in the post-pandemic era: opportunities and challenges”, which was held on November 12 and was attended by heads of several Russian regions and Chinese provinces.
The participants spoke in favour of stepping up interaction in e-commerce, agriculture, the coal industry and healthcare. Expanding cross-border infrastructure, increasing transit traffic and restoring freight traffic through motorway checkpoints were discussed. It was noted that practical cooperation between our countries’ regions has remained at a high level despite the coronavirus pandemic.
General elections were held in the Republic of the Union of Myanmar on November 8, during which a new deputy corps was elected for both chambers of the Union Parliament and regional legislative assemblies.
We welcome the successfully held elections, which marked an important milestone in Myanmar’s progress along the path of democratic development and national reconciliation. Despite the continuing difficult situation in certain regions, the election campaign and voting took place in an overall stable and peaceful environment and in accordance with Myanmar’s legislation and was marked by a high turnout.
We reiterate our principled commitment to further strengthen the traditionally friendly Russia-Myanmar relations and mutually beneficial multifaceted cooperation in the interests of the peoples of our countries.
We continue to closely monitor the developments related to the resumption of talks on Cyprus, and the various recent assessments regarding the parameters that must be used as the basis to search for a solution to the problem.
Russia's position remains consistent and unchanged. We stand for achieving a comprehensive, just and viable settlement on the island based on an agreement between the two Cypriot communities on creating a bipartite and bicommunal federation as provided for by the relevant UN Security Council resolutions. Possible adjustments to the existing UN framework must be approved by the UN Security Council.
We call on the Cypriot parties to demonstrate the political will towards earliest resumption of the talks.
In principle, we support Director General of the Iranian Foreign Ministry’s Western Asia Department Mousavi’s statement in the part where he speaks of the need for a responsible withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan.
We believe that Washington should analyse and be fully aware of the consequences of its 20-year military campaign in Afghanistan, focusing primarily on civilian casualties as a result of inaccurate US and NATO air strikes or unauthorised actions of their servicemen, as well as socioeconomic damage caused to Afghanistan as a result of long hostilities. In addition, as the number of foreign troops is reduced, it is important to proportionately increase support for the Afghan army in order to prevent a collapse of the security situation in Afghanistan and in keeping with the general efforts to combat international terrorism.
We are indignant at the speech by the German Ambassador to Lithuania on the unveiling of a monument to the Jewish water carrier in Vilnius on October 19, 2020. The head of the German diplomatic mission in the Lithuanian capital said that the goal of liberating Germany from Nazism by the Red Army was, no more and no less, to establish Stalin’s repressive rule in the conquered country.
We would like to ask our German colleagues if they are okay. We qualify these revelations by a high-ranking German diplomat as a crude and cynical provocation. They were inspired by the anti-Russia attitudes that have been cultivated by ultra-nationalist Lithuanian forces for decades.
In this context, we would like to recall, first and foremost, that the Soviet Union’s war against Nazi Germany was the Great Patriotic War of its peoples for freedom and independence. They were fighting against the threat of their own enslavement and destruction by the Nazis. The Third Reich, obsessed with the insane racist theory of Hitlerism declared our country to be “a living space (lebensraum)” for Germans, which must be cleared of inferior nations, Slavs, mainly.
The Wehrmacht and SS units, their allies and accomplices conducted offensive combat operations against the Soviet Union not only to inflict military defeat but also to physically destroy the population. Their actions were accompanied by unprecedented atrocities and crimes against civilians. In essence, they fall under the definition of genocide, which was defined by international law later. For more than three years, the multi-ethnic Soviet nation fought for its survival. Only after liberating Soviet territory from German occupation in 1944 did the Red Army began to pull Eastern and Central Europe from the yoke of Nazi terror, sacrificing many, many Soviet soldiers’ and officers’ lives.
Considering the history of World War II and the role of Germany and its people in the bloodiest conflict in human history, this speech by the German ambassador in Lithuania sounded particularly cynical and outrageous. We consider it to be a provocation. We expect the German side to explain this and to clearly distance itself from this individual verbal attack that, unfortunately, is not just a single case.
We feel sad about the recent increase of the pseudo-historical narrative in Germany. It equates the USSR with the Third Reich in the context of the genesis of World War II and equals the communist and national-socialist regimes. Obviously, this is being done to rid Germany of its responsibility for inhuman Nazi crimes. We are adamantly against this approach that questions the postwar reconciliation of Russians and Germans, a process that has required unprecedented human self-mastery.
The research and practice forum Lessons of Nuremberg is conducted to prevent and treat this historical amnesia.
The Lessons of Nuremberg international scientific and practical forum will kick off at the Victory Museum on Poklonnaya Gora tomorrow, November 20. The large-scale event is timed to coincide with the 75th anniversary of the start of the Nuremberg Trials, a key event of the Year of Memory and Glory.
I didn’t want to attract the attention of our German partners, the embassy and diplomats accredited here to this topic, but after such insults from the German ambassador we will do it.
Participants from all regions of the Russian Federation and from 30 countries, including former Soviet republics, Europe, South East Asia and North America, will join the largest forum of representatives of professional and academic communities, public organisations, cultural figures and education professionals. Most of them will speak online due to the current restrictions.
Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will address the forum’s participants.
On the second day of the forum, on November 21, nine thematic platforms will operate which were organised by ministries, agencies, public organisations, museums and media outlets. Their participants will consider the Trials-related issues and decisions – historic, legal, ideological, humanitarian, educational and so on. The Foreign Ministry together with the Justice Ministry and Prosecutor General’s Office are co-organisers of the Nuremberg Legacy platform, which will engage prominent Russian and foreign international lawyers with vast research and practical experience.
There will be separate thematic roundtable discussions dedicated to the museum’s activities to preserve the memory of the nations’ tragedies during the war; educational programmes; myths and propaganda in the contemporary information space. The forum will also sum up the results of a number of events held in 2020 within the project, No Statute of Limitations.
Also, a multimedia historical project, Nuremberg. Casus pacis, will be presented on the 75th anniversary of the most important trial of the 20th century. The project will be launched by RIA Novosti of the Rossiya Segodnya media group. The project will present information about the trials in the form of podcasts, VR reconstructions and presentations based on unique archival and museum documents, photographs, cartoons, photo and video materials. The project’s website nuremberg.media comes online today, on November 19, in Russian, German, French and English. It will operate for a year. The project is based on eyewitness reports. Journalists, public figures, historians, analysts and military experts are engaged in the project. The key objective of the Nuremberg Casus pacis project is to present unprecedented facts and evidence of the genocide of the Soviet people during World War II and make this notion a foundation for international assessment of Nazi crimes, thus restoring historical justice.
Today, when Nazi doctrines are winning minds in many countries and cynical attempts are being made to equate the victims and their executioners, to elevate Nazis and their henchmen to the rank of heroes (I mentioned this when I quoted the German ambassador’s remarks), we must redouble our efforts to uphold the historical truth about the Great Patriotic War in memory of the millions of victims, and to preserve the fundamental principles of democracy and human rights.
We believe the forum will make a significant contribution to countering the falsification of history and establishing a consolidated position of the international community in assessing the Nazi crimes against humanity.
I would like to draw the attention of our German colleagues to the fact that prominent Russian public figures are literally demanding facts on Navalny’s case. Gleb Pavlovsky, Matvei Ganapolsky and Viktor Shenderovich, to name a few, are asking us to tell them what has actually happened with their friend and partner.
They are alarmed by the increasing number of versions of this incident. They do not express their opinions in the Russian state media, which could be qualified as propaganda; they deal with the liberal press. They raise this question over and over again and so we are forwarding it to Berlin.
We urge German officials to release the materials on Navalny’s case and present the results of the samples and tests taken by European doctors. We demand that in response to their inquiries, Russian officials receive a normal, readable document rather than a blacked-out document. In the materials submitted by the Organisation for Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) most of the critical facts have been blacked-out with a black marker. The materials we have received are semi-formal replies that do not contain any meaningful information.
The Russian Prosecutor-General’s Office has made numerous inquiries and we have spoken with our German colleagues, diplomats, many times. Russian leadership – representatives of different ministries and departments have addressed Berlin in public. Every attempt has been useless. Apparently, they do not understand what we are saying in Russian. In this context, I would like to quote an excerpt from Heinrich Heine’s Lorelei in German for our colleagues from the German Foreign Ministry and the Ministry of Justice:
Ich weiß nicht, was soll es bedeuten,
Daß ich so traurig bin;
Ein Mährchen aus alten Zeiten,
Das kommt mir nicht aus dem Sinn.
Esteemed German colleagues, your story about Navalny threatens to turn into another old tale like the legend of Lorelei. Nobody understands anymore what is true and what is false in it. We are waiting for replies to our questions. As of today, Heine has more facts at his disposal.
I would like to bring to the media’s attention the information the Russian Embassy in Washington has posted on Facebook about Russian state awards conferred on American veterans. President of the Russian Federation signed an executive order in August 2020 conferring the Medal of Ushakov upon 17 US veterans of Arctic Convoys who delivered goods and military equipment to the Soviet Union during the Great Patriotic War.
The contribution of Russia’s allies in the anti-Hitler coalition to the common Victory over Nazism is highly appreciated in our country. We admire the courage of those heroes, the Navy service members who selflessly performed their duty in the most difficult conditions. Their feat is forever in our hearts.
We hope that these examples of courage and dedication will help the new generations of American politicians and public activists to improve their judgement and decision-making in the modern world, and to opt for constructive interaction with our country. We are ready for it.
On November 12, 2020, the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers adopted a resolution establishing a new autonomous body – the Observatory on History Teaching in Europe as an Enlarged Partial Agreement of the Council of Europe. Our country was one of its co-founders, along with 16 other states.
I am referring to an initiative that the French presidency of the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers proposed in September 2019. We supported that project from the very beginning, and helped write the Observatory’s charter. We have always advocated a greater engagement of the Strasbourg potential in order to preserve historical memory and pass it on to new generations. It is especially important in the current situation, now that historical revisionism has been elevated at the state policy level in certain European countries, school textbooks glorify Nazi accomplices, and memorials and burial sites of the soldiers who liberated Europe are being desecrated.
The Observatory will carry out a comparative analysis of programmes and methods of teaching history used in the secondary education systems in the participating countries, will prepare reports and recommendations, and will be a platform for expert discussion and exchange of experience. We hope that this new body will not turn into another Council of Europe monitoring mechanism, will not impose any educational standards or ideological attitudes. We see its main purpose in strengthening mutual understanding and trust between countries and peoples on the continent.
The Russian Ministry of Education is to represent our country in the Governing Board of this new Enlarged Partial Agreement of the Council of Europe.
On November 24, UNESCO is marking the 40th anniversary of the International Programme for the Development of Communication. This is the UN Family’s only intergovernmental forum aimed at defending the freedom of speech and supporting independent media in developing countries.
In the autumn of 1980, delegates of the 21st UNESCO General Conference Session in Belgrade decided to institute this programme with the aim of building a more equitable and democratic new international information order. At that time, they stipulated the main goals of the International Programme for the Development of Communication, including efforts to improve international information exchanges and encouraging cooperation on expanding national and international communication.
Our country co-founded the Programme and ranked among its main donors in the first 15 years of its existence. For example, the Soviet Union built several dozen printing offices and radio facilities in developing Asian, African and Latin American countries. It provided basic and advanced training for young journalists from these regions and also rendered consultative assistance in establishing professional news agencies.
The Russian Federation, including the Russian Committee for the International Programme for the Development of Communication, is proactively involved in the Programme’s activities, including its Intergovernmental Council, whose regular session is scheduled to be held on November 25-26 at the UNESCO Headquarters in Paris. Russian priorities include efforts to promote media and information literacy, the development of specialised journalism education, improving professional standards and journalist ethics and enhancing the safety of journalists in armed conflict zones.
November 25 marks the 60th anniversary of establishing diplomatic relations between the Russian Federation and the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Before it obtained independence on October 1, 1960, Nigeria traversed a long and difficult path in its national liberation struggle against the British colonialists and the fight for state sovereignty.
The Soviet Union immediately recognised the young African state and moved to expand all-round bilateral cooperation. Since the very first years of independent Nigeria’s existence, the USSR provided it with large-scale financial and material assistance and made a substantial contribution to its socioeconomic development, including the creation of strategic industrial facilities that have paramount significance for the country’s economy. Thousands of Nigerians were trained at Soviet and Russian education institutions.
Relations between our countries continue to expand. We maintain high-level political dialogue. In October 2019, the presidents of Russia and Nigeria met on the sidelines of the Russia-Africa Summit in Sochi. Their meeting provided a new impetus to developing trade, economic, investment and humanitarian cooperation. Various cooperation aspects, including geological prospecting, joint production and processing of hydrocarbons and the nuclear power industry, are seen as highly promising.
We sincerely congratulate our Nigerian partners on our shared holiday, and wish them peace and prosperity.
Question: The new president of Moldova, Maia Sandu, has said she would like to develop relations with Russia so as to resume exports and settle the Transnistrian problem. What will Russia’s agenda for dialogue with the new Moldovan leader be? What might the next stage of the Transnistrian settlement be?
Maria Zakharova: I began my briefing today with this material. I can repeat it. We congratulated Maia Sandu at the top level on her victory. We hope that all election promises regarding respect for civil rights and freedoms, regardless of the language citizens speak, will be implemented in full. We welcome Ms Sandu’s statement about her plans to promote constructive relations between our countries.
Question: During the first coronavirus wave, the Russian Foreign Ministry organised repatriation flights, which was a large-scale project. My question is about the Russian sailors in situations of distress whose plight has been further complicated by the coronavirus pandemic. Novaya Gazeta has reported that dozens of Russians are in trouble on vessels that have been abandoned or arrested in foreign ports, namely in Turkey, Italy, Lebanon and the Philippines. Many of these vessels do not belong to Russia, but there are Russian citizens among their crews. Many of them have to go for months without money, with almost nothing to eat and without any medical assistance, because it is difficult to provide it amid the pandemic. At the same time, some countries do not allow crews to get off their ships. Ships have been abandoned or arrested, and there are problems with people returning to their home countries. Is the Foreign Ministry aware of this? Are you monitoring the situation or helping the waylaid sailors?
Maria Zakharova: Frankly, I don’t see any connection between the interdepartmental repatriation project being implemented in Russia, including by the Foreign Ministry and its diplomatic and consular offices abroad, and the situation with sailors and other Russian citizens who encounter legal problems abroad. I believe that these are two different things. Not only Russia has had to help its citizens return home. A huge number of countries have faced this challenge for the first time; the world has not experienced a transportation collapse on this scale before. It is an unprecedented situation, beyond compare. We must draw lessons from this experience. It turns out that even such situations can happen. In my opinion, it is important to conduct an active information campaign, including among Russian citizens, to tell people about such situations, offer our recommendations and update information, which is exactly what we are trying to do.
You said correctly that the issue of sailors is a recurring problem, and not only this year. But this time the situation has been complicated by the coronavirus pandemic, which has added new aspects. Anyway, this problem did not appear this year or even two years ago. Unfortunately, it has been on the table for decades.
Of course, we have taken note of the item published in Novaya Gazeta. As far as I am aware, it was one of a series of pieces published in October and November about the plight of Russian sailors who have become “hostages on their ships, without money, medical assistance, food or water,” as the newspaper wrote. This has to do with merchant vessels that have been abandoned or arrested for the debts of the ship owners. These vessels are lying offshore or have been moored in foreign ports, which is further complicating the repatriation of crews amid the unfavourable global sanitary and epidemiological situation. The newspaper claims that all the sailors’ pleas for help to the Russian agencies and personally to President Putin allegedly fall on deaf ears.
It seems that Novaya Gazeta has become aware of this problem only this year, whereas it has been with us for decades. Moreover, it has been settled on many occasions. Regrettably, this is yet another example of a biased attitude. I would like to repeat that we must be proactive in terms of information to prevent this.
The protection of the rights and legitimate interests of Russian citizens abroad has always been a priority for the Foreign Ministry and its foreign offices. These efforts are comprehensive, multifaceted and include the improvement of the legal framework.
When it comes to Russian sailors – and helping them is one of the priority tasks for our embassies and consulates – I should mention the Russian Foreign Ministry’s order that has been in effect since 2016 (Order No 1692 of February 10, 2016). The order established the repatriation procedure for crew members of vessels operating under the national flag of the Russian Federation as well as Russian nationals who are crew members of vessels operating under foreign flags. The document was adopted pursuant to Russia’s obligations under the 2006 Maritime Labour Convention and regulates consular officials’ actions if the ship owner or competent authorities of the state under which flag the ship operates cannot organise the sailors’ return.
The document released in 2016 is what our diplomatic and consular missions and their officers refer to. It provides instructions on how to assist sailors in difficult life circumstances – Russian nationals working for both Russian and foreign vessels.
The difficult life circumstances in which sailors sometimes find themselves abroad cannot be blamed only on ship owners although, of course, problems mainly occur on the latter’s side. Some issues may be due to objective inability and sometimes deliberate refusal of dishonest ship owners to fulfil their obligations to their crews. Some of the most complicated cases in which Russian consular offices get involved include arrests of sailors and pirate attacks on ships with Russian crew members. These cases have nothing to do with ship owners’ misconduct. We would like to note once again that it is important that Russians observe the laws and customs of the state they are visiting, follow basic safety rules and behave in public in accordance with local context. Sailors should be extremely cautious about choosing a potential employer when it comes to jobs on foreign vessels because this may be the cause of many problems.
Obviously, every particular incident requires its own thorough investigation. There is no universal approach and there cannot be one because every case is unique.
In addition to reports by sailors and their family members, the Foreign Ministry monitors media publications on any new cases. Sometimes journalists happen to find out about such incidents before our foreign missions. This may be due to the fact that there are no Russian foreign missions in a country where the incident took place and it is easier for people to report the incident to the media which, in turn, will draw our attention to it. We will conduct an inspection and take the necessary response measures.
Not all of what was reported by Novaya Gazeta has been confirmed. We looked into what was reported. We are continuing to work on certain incidents (in particular, with regard to the sailors in Turkish ports). With the active involvement of Russian embassies in Libya and Egypt, Russian members of tanker crews, earlier detained for not paying port duties in these countries, managed to obtain permission from the local authorities to return home.
The Novaya Gazeta newspaper claims that ships Khosrov Bey, General Shikhlinsky and tankers Gobustan and Zeynalabdin Tagiyev were detained in Italian ports. According to the information received by Russian foreign services in Italy from the officials in Venice, Oristano and Ravenna, the newspaper’s report that there are Russian nationals onboard these ships is not true.
The Russian General Consulate in Milan states that there are no Russians among the crew of Zeynalabdin Tagiyev, currently in the port of Venice (all sailors are nationals of Azerbaijan). Neither are there any Russian nationals onboard Khosrov Bey and General Shikhlinsky moored in the port of Oristano. Gobustan, which is currently moored in Ravenna, was the only vessel whose crew included 12 Russians. Based on the information from the port’s coast guard, all of them have long since safely returned home on flights from Milan. The consulate in Italy has not received any reports from any Russian sailors named in the publication or their family members.
Please note that if no report has been filed with a Russian foreign mission, it is illogical to wait for a response. Frankly speaking, it is surprising that the newspaper allows itself such a superficial and careless approach to facts. I do not want to call this fake news. I hope it was just poorly researched material. Once again, you can always contact us and we will promptly establish the facts, and confirm or refute them before a publication is released. Otherwise it may happen that the ship is there but there are no Russians onboard. We are always open. The sentiment is clear but in any case, this work requires a balanced and responsible approach, including when it comes to data which must be verified because it is intended for a general audience.
Positive examples should get noticed as well. Sometimes we talk about them. We cannot publicise everything, including at sailors’ requests, because when problems occur many ask us for our response. But after the actual release or when the issue gets resolved, many request that their return stay private. There are quite a few examples of that happening.
For example, we have sailors from the Zapolyarye motor ship operated by the Murmansk Shipping Company. The ship has been in Spain since entering the port of Ceuta on July 1, 2018. Sailors are sent there to maintain the ship every now and them on a rotational basis.
In May 2019, facilitated by the Russian Embassy in Spain, the Murmansk Shipping Company repatriated six crew members back to Russia. Nine sailors currently remain onboard the ship. Following yet another complaint from the crew about the lack of normal working and living conditions onboard, the Russian Embassy promptly contacted the Murmansk Shipping Company with a request to resolve the situation and help their workers in the most responsible manner. Judging from the measures taken by the company’s management, the intervention was successful. The sailors received money to pay for hostel accommodation and, according to the chief specialist of the human resources department at the Murmansk Shipping Company, on November 16, 2020, the motor ship was auctioned off and the sailors will be transferred back to Russia within a month, at the company’s expense. This is just one example of coordinated work. It is impossible to work without cooperating with ship owners or a company (state-run or private) that is in charge of the ship and is the sailors’ direct employer. Identifying the owner of a ship may sometimes be a problem. It is very time-consuming work.
The Foreign Ministry gives special priority to protecting Russian nationals abroad, including, of course, sailors. It should be stressed that sailors are not the only category that requires our attention. However, assistance by consular workers is not always made public, for a number of reasons, from the need to avoid disclosing personal data to certain issues that arise if the incident in question is hostage taking. Many refer to the fact that they have a perfect right to not publicise these stories.
If you have specific questions, we will gladly answer them. Please ask. We always welcome questions.
Question: In a frank interview given to Pavel Zarubin, President Vladimir Putin emphasised that the trilateral agreement was mainly about the cessation of bloodshed. Earlier, he reminded President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev of the need to ensure the safety of Christian churches in the areas of Nagorno-Karabakh that will be transferred to Baku.
Yet, the Turkish flag at the entrance to Shusha, radical nationalists, and terrorists bursting into Christian churches yelling ‘Allah Akbar’ put into question even the safety of the Christian population in Nagorno-Karabakh, not just churches. In this regard, what steps could Russia take to suppress foreign activity in the process of a peaceful settlement, to rule out religious provocations and to prevent the emergence of Christianophobia and the risks it entails?
Maria Zakharova: I would break your question into two parts. The first part will be quite concise. The other part is philosophical and calls for a statement. I would rather not go there for one reason – it will take a long time. And one more reason why I will not go into details now, is because this work is currently in progress.
Of course, we will stay alert and focused on this topic. I would not like to say many words or comment on the work that is at the formation and implementation stage just now.
Back to a concise commentary, I can say that preserving places of worship and cultural sites is among the highlights of our contacts with the parties. We attach special importance to it. I can confirm that it is also a priority for our peacekeeping forces deployed there. This is the short answer I can give to make it clear and to assure you that this topic remains one of the most relevant. Of course, right now, all our efforts are focused on people – saving lives, returning refugees, restoring infrastructure, and creating the necessary conditions for their survival. But the question you asked is also of particular relevance and it is certainly on the agenda of our contacts with the parties.
There are images, the horrible photographs you are referring to, and confirmed monstrous attempts to desecrate or destroy various sites. But there is also another side to that. You have seen our peacekeepers act with dedication to protect and preserve places of worship and cultural sites in that region. I hope I will be able to give you a more detailed and substantive answer at the next briefing.
Question: On November 9, the Russian Embassy in Oslo said that Norway’s decision to allow US nuclear submarines to enter the port of Tromso had damaged neighbourly relations with Moscow. Has this resulted in a deadlock in bilateral military cooperation? What proposals can Russia offer to resume it?
Maria Zakharova: We hope that Oslo has taken note of that comment by the Russian Embassy.
Russia-Norway relations are going through a rough patch. We have reported many facts. Our ties deteriorated due to Oslo’s activities following the Ukrainian crisis. In 2014, the Norwegian Government curtailed all military ties with Russia, and we do not see any sign of a wish to resume them. Norway has been acting in the spirit of the Western sanctions policy and is vigorously involved in NATO’s military activities, especially those in direct proximity to our border. Contrary to the policy precluding the deployment of foreign troops, which Norway adopted in 1949, in the last few years foreign troops have been permanently deployed on its territory. We have noticed that their number keeps growing. Norway’s plans for the development of its armed forces, the acquisition of armaments and the modernisation of its military infrastructure have taken an anti-Russia turn. The number of military exercises involving foreign troops is increasing. The most shocking thing is that Russia is designated as the adversary in these exercises.
The territory of Norway has been turned into a bridgehead for NATO’s advance to the Arctic. A recent example is the deployment of the bloc’s nuclear submarines in the civilian port of Tonsnes near Tromso, a city in Northern Norway’s Troms og Finnmark County bordering on Russia, which fits in with the efforts to strengthen NATO’s military infrastructure near the Russian border.
This will not defuse tension in Europe, strengthen trust or form a positive agenda for our dialogue. The statements made by Norway’s political authorities about their alleged desire to maintain good relations with Moscow contradict the country’s actual destructive policy of deterrence against Russia. We will have to take this into account when making national security plans.
At the same time, Russia is not interested in fuelling tension and remains open for an equitable and constructive dialogue with all the concerned parties aimed at restoring trust and expanding the security space in Europe. In this context, we strongly urge our partners to develop really equal relations and abandon the destabilising dual-track policy based on a selective approach to cooperation, which is only promoted in the spheres that can benefit our partners, in this instance, Norway. We have proposed discussing issues of mutual concern on numerous occasions. Regrettably, we do not see any response.
We would like to point out that Russia is also ready for a multilateral dialogue on security and confidence building measures. Russia has announced a unilateral moratorium on the deployment of land-based intermediate- and shorter-range missiles, which will be effective until such US-made weapons are deployed in the corresponding regions.
You may be aware that we called on NATO to consider adopting a similar moratorium. On October 26, 2020, President Putin announced Russia’s readiness to discuss verification measures that could remove mutual concerns on a reciprocal basis. We have to say with regret in this connection that Norway has shown no regard for our arguments regarding the INF Treaty. Norway has not responded to President Putin’s September 2019 message on the treaty to Prime Minister Erna Solberg or his October 26, 2020 statement.
The impression is that people, ordinary people in Norway, know nothing about Russia’s proposals because they are not informed about our initiatives, which are complemented with detailed explanations and made available to the general public. The local media simply ignore this information. I believe this is being done for a reason and that every possible effort is being made to ensure that this subject is misinterpreted or complemented with very strange arguments, so that people form a distorted view on the initiatives I have mentioned.
Norway has disregarded our numerous proposals – the first one was made back in 2017 – to hold consultations on ballistic missile defence.
Russia’s proposals on strengthening security in adjacent regions have not been supported either. In May 2020, Russia proposed showing military restraint, in particular, moving tactical exercises away from the Russia-NATO contact line and taking other transparency measures. Regrettably, the bloc’s response showed that it was not ready for this. Just like its allies, Norway has rejected the proposal to resume the meetings of the Arctic states’ chiefs of General Staff. Oh, and when we say “Norway” we actually have in mind the Norwegian authorities rather than the ordinary people, who are not asked for an opinion. The authorities say that they are doing the people’s will, whereas what the people can learn from the media is far from the truth.
We have more than once called on our partners, including those in Norway, to consider resuming a foreign policy dialogue format including Russia, and the North European and Baltic countries to discuss the entire range of security topics. We have not received a meaningful reply to this proposal either.
Nevertheless, we do believe that there is no alternative to dialogue, including for settling military problems. Stronger efforts are needed to narrow the gap in trust, strengthen regional and global stability and reduce risks to international security created by misunderstanding and differences. We hope the Norwegian authorities will adopt a responsible and forward-looking approach to their policy towards Russia, and that they will not take any more steps that could undermine regional stability and damage our good-neighbourly relations.
I would like to tell you an interesting fact. The Norwegian authorities hardly batted an eye when the media reported recently that the US National Security Agency and the Danish Defence Intelligence Service spied on their European allies, including Norway. It is a confirmed fact, not a myth, unlike the tall stories about Russia or the suppression of information about our really peaceful initiatives in the field of global strategic security and stability. It is an established fact about the interference of a foreign state, which is not even located on the continent, in European affairs in violation of all norms and standards of international law. However, no sanctions have been adopted against the United States and no US diplomats have been expelled from Oslo. It turns out that direct proof of US spying and interference in internal affairs does not entail any consequences. At the same time, any unconfirmed rumour, myth or speculation about Russia is accepted as a cause for response and attempts to restrain Russia.
Question: In his interview on Nagorno-Karabakh, President of Russia Vladimir Putin said that you can assess Turkey’s actions any way you want, but it can hardly be accused of violating international law. Does this refer to Turkey in general, or specifically to Nagorno-Karabakh? Just to remind you, Turkey has been violating international law by occupying part of Cyprus.
Yesterday, the Foreign Intelligence Service said that the West is trying to undermine the peace agreement on Nagorno-Karabakh. Is there any specific information to this effect? What are these Western attempts all about? What evidence is there to support these claims?
Maria Zakharova: In this interview, the President discussed the Nagorno-Karabakh settlement and what our country has been doing recently to achieve the original goals: stop the bloodshed, cease hostilities and return to the negotiating table. This interview deals with these specific matters.
As for the facts regarding efforts by our Western partners to undermine the agreements, I advise you to refer this question to the agency that you have just mentioned.
From an expert perspective, it is clear that Western officials and the media responded to these developments. What we see is a muted, to say the least, response to the statement which opened the path to implementing the provisions it set forth. A muted response is probably the best way to describe the multiple statements we have been hearing from our Western partners.
Why is this so? Only a month or a month and a half ago everyone was so eager for a ceasefire to materialise. And it did materialise, was formalised and is being observed. We have not seen a genuine, full reaction to these developments from the West. When they proactively share their reaction, it makes headlines, as we all know. How come in this specific situation they are not eager to comment on this statement or welcome it in order to encourage the parties to abide by its terms? How come they are not eager to point out the mediating role played by our country?
What we see are media outlets orchestrated by an invisible hand. Russia’s role has not been mentioned at all in many official statements by Western foreign ministries, as if it was a bilateral statement. They did not even mention that this was a trilateral statement. It may be astonishing, but this is how things stand, as if Russia should be denied a positive or constructive role in any international affairs. We have just discussed a number of other examples, but this one stands out. Russia should be recognised for its concrete achievements as a mediator.
I would not have ventured to make this comment had you not inquired specifically about the President’s interview. There were so many parties eager to assume the mediating role in the Nagorno-Karabakh settlement. In theory at least, quite a few parties wanted and aspired to acting as the mediators. In all honesty, do you believe that any of the political figures who offered to act as mediators could have produced an interview like the one President of Russia Vladimir Putin did on the Nagorno-Karabakh settlement showing his proficiency in mediation and conflict settlement in today’s world, as well as his deep knowledge of the historical background? Could anyone else demonstrate the same level of understanding regarding Armenia’s and Azerbaijan’s goals and objectives, or the same friendly attitude towards both parties? I think that before perorating on the opportunities for contributing to the settlement process, many should ask themselves these questions. How well do they understand the developments in the region?
We have seen time and again in other instances, for example in Ukraine, how our Western partners were eager to jump in and resolve everything. But they only messed things up badly, without achieving any positive results. Only in retrospect did it become clear why this was happening. They were unaware of the historical background that matters so much when it comes to resolving problems in today’s world, including in Ukraine. One senior US official made a remarkable statement in mid-2014 (after the Maidan uprising, the anti-constitutional coup, the Crimea referendum, and after the active phase that led to hostilities in Donbass six months later) saying that he had now read enough about the history of the region to understand what was going on out there. This is something you should do before, not after.
What we are witnessing can be described as silencing information or even attempts to distort information regarding the trilateral statement on the Nagorno-Karabakh settlement and its implementation. I will seek clarification from my colleagues on other matters you have raised in your question. But I think it would be better to refer this question to the agency that issued the statement you quoted.
Question: Since you have mentioned the Cyprus settlement, in your opinion, will the visit by President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan to Cyprus and the show he performed on the occupied territories in the north of the island help bring about a settlement and could it be treated as a violation of international law?
Maria Zakharova: We have already shared our assessment. I reaffirmed our position on the Cyprus settlement today.