Briefing by Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova, Moscow, May 13, 2021
- Condolences over Kazan tragedy
- Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s forthcoming talks with the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Sierra Leone
- Sergey Lavrov’s meeting with CEOs of French companies working in Russia and their Russian counterparts
- Sergey Lavrov’s participation in CSTO Foreign Ministers Council meeting
- Sergey Lavrov’s participation in May 20 Arctic Council Ministerial Meeting in Reykjavík, Iceland
- Sergey Lavrov's upcoming talks with Foreign Minister of the People's Democratic Republic of Algeria
- Russian foreign missions celebrate Victory Day
- Immortal Regiment campaign
- Unveiling a monument to Red Army soldiers in the Municipality of Ajdovscina, the Republic of Slovenia
- COVID-19 update
- Internal political situation in Moldova
- Developments in Venezuela
- Situation around the Open Skies Treaty (TOS)
- US Navy nuclear submarine calls at the port of Tonsnes in northern Norway
- The Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe’s decision on the human rights situation in the Republic of Crimea and the city of federal significance Sevastopol
- The US administration’s allegations about “abuse” of Radio Liberty/Radio Free Europe
- Russia is accused of hacking SolarWinds
- Update on the Sergey Seredenko case in Estonia
- Aalborg district court in Denmark convicts Russian citizen for espionage
- Russia and Africa: Building the Future Together international conference
- Opening the Year of Humanitarian Cooperation with Egypt
- The 30th anniversary of the launching of the State Television Company “Television Channel Rossiya” and Vesti programme
- The European Commission’s decision vindicating Latvia’s suspension of broadcasts by Rossiya-RTR TV channel in its territory
- Biological Weapons Convention
- Croatian military base in Kosovo
- KFOR mission in Kosovo and Metohija
- Attacks on Orthodox churches in Kosovo and Metohija
- Situation around Palestine and Israel
- Probe into explosions at Bulgarian arms depots
- Biological safety issues
- Accusations of cyber subversion against Russia and China
- Possible reasons for anti-Russia moves in the Czech Republic
- Compatriot initiative
- Israeli–Palestinian conflict
A horrible tragedy occurred on May 11 at School No. 175 in Kazan, an outrageous crime – the shooting of children. You know the details.
We are receiving a huge number of messages of support from around the world. Words of condolences, sympathy and understanding keep pouring in. The list grows by the minute. Let me name just a few: UN Secretary-General, President of the European Parliament, Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Secretary General of the OSCE, heads of state (Abkhazia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Turkmenistan, Finland, South Ossetia and others), prime ministers and foreign ministers (Lithuania, Serbia, Turkey, Finland, Sweden, Estonia and others), ambassadors and embassies of foreign nations accredited in Russia – they are all sending us words of sympathy and support.
Ordinary people and public figures are also getting involved. They bring flowers, candles, toys and drawings to Russian embassies and consulates abroad, leave entries in electronic condolence books or write messages on their social media pages.
We are united in our condemnation of such crimes, we stands with the families and friends of the victims and the wounded. We feel the support from all over the world. I would like to thank everyone who sent such sincere and touching words to our country and people. Thank you!
On May 17, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will have talks with Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Sierra Leone David John Francis who will be in Moscow on a working visit on May 16-18. There will be a substantive discussion of ways to boost bilateral cooperation in politics, trade and economic relations, cultural ties and other areas.
The spotlight will be on issues related to strengthening the partnership between Russia and Sierra Leone in mineral resource extraction, the fuel and energy complex, infrastructure and fishery.
There will be a detailed exchange of views on current topics on the global and regional agendas, such as settling crises and combatting terrorism in Africa, and countering the spread of dangerous infectious diseases, including COVID-19. The ministers will discuss prospects for reforming the UN Security Council in view of Sierra Leone’s chairmanship of the African Union Committee of Ten on UNSC reform, as well as issues related to further advancing Russian-African cooperation in the context of preparations for the second Russia-Africa Summit in 2022.
On May 17, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will meet with the heads of French companies working in Russia and their Russian partners that are members of the Franco-Russian Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
The participants will discuss the current state and development outlook for bilateral trade and economic relations amid Russia-EU tension, as well as ways to moderate the socio-economic consequences of the coronavirus infection.
This will be the Minister’s second meeting with French and Russian business leaders held in this format. The first such meeting was held in May 2015.
On May 19, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will attend a regular meeting of the CSTO Foreign Ministers Council held in Dushanbe. Tajikistan assumed the chairmanship of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation this year.
The ministers will exchange views on international events and their potential development, their influence on the member states’ security and ways to strengthen their multifaceted cooperation within the framework of the CSTO.
The heads of the delegations are expected to approve decisions that will be submitted to the CSTO Collective Security Council meeting, scheduled to take place in the autumn. They will also adopt several joint statements on current international topics and on cooperation between the CSTO and interested states and international organisations.
On May 19-20, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will make a working visit to Iceland, which will be the venue of a meeting of foreign ministers of the Arctic Council’s member states.
The ministers will discuss the strengthening of cooperation and the coordination of efforts for the region’s stable development, environmental protection and the maintenance of the culture, traditions and languages of the indigenous peoples of the North. The events also include a presentation of the Arctic Council’s and its auxiliary bodies’ activities during the past two years.
The participants are expected to sign a declaration reaffirming the Arctic countries’ commitment to peace, stability and constructive cooperation across the high latitudes and outlining the main spheres of further efforts to promote international interaction in the interests of stable development in the Arctic. Particular attention is to be given to environmental protection, ways to enhance the region’s adjustment and stability amid climate change, and the implementation of the planned cooperation projects.
The first ever strategic plan of the Arctic Council for the next 10 years is to be presented at the meeting.
The event will take place in a historic year for the Arctic Council, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2021. Following this, the two-year Chairmanship of the Council will be passed over to the Russian Federation, which will highlight the region’s sustainable development in three areas: the economy, environmental protection and the social sphere. The Russian Federation will maintain a strong focus on improving the quality of life of the people living in the Arctic and creating conditions for the preservation and further development of indigenous cultures, traditions and languages.
Sergey Lavrov plans to hold several bilateral meetings on the sidelines of the event, including with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, which has been scheduled following the ministers’ telephone conversation. As for Sergey Lavrov’s other potential meetings, we will share information when we have it.
On May 21*, Sergey Lavrov will hold talks with Algerian Foreign Minister Sabri Boukadoum in Moscow. As part of continuing political dialogue, the foreign ministers will review pressing bilateral issues and items on the regional agenda.
Much has been done to strengthen Russia-Algeria cooperation in the 20 years since the bilateral Declaration on Strategic Partnership was signed in 2001, which underlies successful Russian-Algerian cooperation that continues to grow strong in trade, the economy, defence, science and culture.
Algeria is making a weighty contribution to ensuring regional stability in North Africa and fighting terrorism in the Sahara-Sahel area. We highly appreciate the mediating potential of this country in the peaceful settlement of the most dangerous conflicts in Africa, including Libya and Mali.
We believe that the upcoming talks will result in further strengthening the multifaceted Russia-Algeria interaction.
*Negotiations are postponed to a later date.
On the occasion of the 76th anniversary of the Great Victory, the Foreign Ministry and our foreign missions hosted numerous functions with the participation of Russian diplomats and our compatriots living abroad. Since the coronavirus pandemic continues to remain a challenge in many countries, a significant number of the scheduled events took place online. Also, according to tradition, officials from Russian diplomatic missions visited the veterans living abroad.
Much was done to prevent the attempts to distort the historical truth about the Great Patriotic War. Some of our partners tried to change the focus of the holiday and add a fly in the ointment, so we were proactive in our work using modern technology and the social media. We covered in depth the real events and the underpinnings of World War II and the importance of Victory Day for our international audiences in English, Spanish, Arabic and other languages. This work is carried out non-stop all year round, and additional series of publications are released by May 9, including ones based on archival materials.
We focused particularly on the Faces of Victory project, and Russian embassies, consulates general and permanent missions shared stories about our dear veterans who celebrate Victory Day abroad. Video interviews were recorded with some of them in order to preserve for future generations the precious first-hand accounts and memories of the events of those years. You can watch these interviews and read our historical notes about the war on our pages on social media.
The international campaign, Garden of Memory, was also held with the participation of our diplomats. In the presence of high-ranking foreign officials, the heads of Russian diplomatic missions planted trees to commemorate those who died during the Great Patriotic War. These trees and plaques will now serve as a reminder for many years to come of our country’s role in Victory over Nazism.
I’d be remiss not to mention the joint performance of the legendary song Katyusha by Russian diplomats from 54 foreign missions, which was appreciated not only in our country, but also abroad. We saw many materials from foreign media about it. I think we will continue this tradition.
Importantly, this year we managed to demonstrate again, together with our friends and partners from the CIS countries (and not only) the unity of positions regarding the Great Patriotic War and our common heroic past, including on international platforms.
So, at Russia’ initiative, the permanent missions of a number of CIS countries at the UN have implemented The Art of Victory project. The Victory Museum in Moscow, the Russian News Service and the Russian-language UN accounts in social media joined the traditional initiative on the UN platform. The aim of the media campaign is to tell a story about the crucial role of culture during the Great Patriotic War, as well as about the works of art created in memory of its heroes and victims. The project participants shared with the international audiences stories about cultural figures from all Soviet republics who supported patriotism and helped strengthen the will to overcome the enemy on the frontlines and on the home front. Rare archival videos, photographs and documents were published as part of the initiative, including from the collections of the national memorial museums.
A traditional joint article by the heads of diplomatic missions of the CIS countries was published in Washington on May 9 on the occasion of the 76th anniversary of Victory in the Great Patriotic War. This was a joint reminder that “our sacred duty is to preserve for the present and future generations the historical truth about the common battle to free the world from Nazism and to prevent recurrence of the ideology of hatred and extremism.”
The commonality of approaches was also underscored by a statement of the permanent representatives of the Republic of Azerbaijan, the Republic of Armenia, the Republic of Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Republic of Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, the Russian Federation, the Republic of Serbia, the Republic of Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and the Republic of Uzbekistan at the OSCE: “We proceed from the need to strictly comply with the rulings of the International Military Tribunal in Nuremberg, which have no statute of limitations. We strongly condemn the attempts to rehabilitate and glorify Nazi criminals and their accomplices.”
More than 110 countries held memorial events marking the 76th anniversary of Victory in the 1941−1945 Great Patriotic War, including the extremely popular Immortal Regiment campaign. In view of the epidemiological situation and in line with the requirements of local authorities, our compatriots abroad organised street marches in more than 35 countries, supported by Russia’s foreign missions. In several countries, the campaign coincided with flower-laying ceremonies at monuments to Soviet soldiers (in the UK, Norway, Uzbekistan and Cuba). The biggest events took place in Australia, Bulgaria, China, Tajikistan, Germany and South Ossetia. Belarus organised celebrations in Minsk, Brest, Vitebsk, Grodno, Novopolotsk and Polotsk. In Israel, almost 23,000 people participated in the campaign held in more than 40 cities. In Kyrgyzstan, Moldova (with up to 10,000 people participating in the Immortal Regiment marches), Serbia, Slovenia, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, the countries’ leaders attended the events as well. In Austria, President Alexander Van der Bellen and Federal Chancellor Sebastian Kurz delivered their commemorative remarks.
Motor rallies featuring patriotic symbols and portraits of Great Patriotic War veterans were held in Kyrgyzstan, the Czech Republic, the United States, Ukraine and on the Seychelles. As part of the Journey of Heroic Flame campaign, activists delivered the torch lit from the Eternal Flame at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Moscow to the Soviet memorials in Slovakia and lit it at Slavin in the early hours of May 9. In Panama, participants laid flowers at the Panama Canal in memory of the Soviet submarines’ passage through it in 1942.
Attempts of several Baltic governments to downplay the significance of this celebration and, in some cases, to openly obstruct the festivities did not stop our compatriots. Despite police cordons around the Monument to the Liberators of Soviet Latvia and Riga, our compatriots brought flowers and portraits of veterans. On the night of May 9 to May 10, volunteers created a flower composition in the shape of a red star around the monument. Come the evening of May 9, the Bronze Soldier in Tallinn was also drowned in flowers, visited by at least 35,000 people. Despite the current restrictions in Lithuania, the Russian community and Lithuanians laid flowers at Soviet military burials at the Antakalnis Cemetery in Vilnius and other cities.
In the countries where the epidemiological situation remains difficult, thousands of our compatriots joined the online Immortal Regiment on social media and other platforms.
In the run-up to the holiday and on May 9, representatives of the Russian community held other commemorative campaigns around the world, offline and online, including the Garden of Memory, the Candle of Memory, the St George’s Ribbon, the Victory Dictation, as well as other festivals, exhibitions, videoconferences, sports competitions, and lessons of courage for children and teenagers. I have just mentioned some of the events. Full details can be found on the Foreign Ministry website and on our social media accounts.
A monument to Red Army soldiers who fought together with Slovenian partisans during WWII was unveiled in the Municipality of Ajdovscina, the Republic of Slovenia.
Azerbaijani historian Ilham Abbasov carried out research in Russian archives and established the identities of 16 Red Army soldiers who were killed in the spring of 1945 near Ajdovscina. They were buried in a common grave together with other members of the Slovenian anti-Nazi Resistance movement. Their names are now engraved on the upgraded memorial.
Russian Ambassador to Slovenia Timur Eyvazov, Ajdovscina Mayor Tadej Beocanin as well as representatives of local authorities and senior officials from the Union of Veterans Associations for Supporting the Values of the 1941-1945 Popular Liberation Struggle in Slovenia attended the official ceremony.
We see this event as a tribute to the common history of Russia and Slovenia and also as confirmation of our coinciding positions in the protection of historical memory. This is particularly important during a time when attempts to falsify history are becoming increasingly frequent in Europe. The people of Slovenia care for and look after Russian military memorials and burial sites containing the remains of both WWI and WWII soldiers. This highlights the friendly and forward-looking nature of Russian-Slovenian ties. We would like to separately thank historian Ilham Abbasov, our friend from Azerbaijan.
All this year, we are working with our compatriots, many of whom submit their proposals on how to perpetuate the memory of the Great Patriotic War’s heroes in various countries, and who take care of the graves of the Red Army soldiers and victims of those tragic events, including prisoners of war, inmates of concentration camps, etc. We are sincerely grateful for this dedicated attitude. Each request is dealt with one-by-one, so we thank the people responsible for this because this is a separate “component” of our real unity.
The situation with the global coronavirus pandemic continues to evoke well-justified alarm, and global statistics are readily available.
Over a period of the past few weeks, certain Asian and Latin American countries posted high infection rates. What is happening on the African continent is also a reason for certain concern.
Some countries and multi-national associations have suggested that producers waive patents for COVID-19 vaccines on a voluntary basis. President of Russia Vladimir Putin supported this idea and said it “deserved consideration.” “As far as I know, this would not contravene but actually comply with certain WTO rules which envision lifting such patent protection in emergencies,” he said. Vladimir Putin noted that the pandemic was precisely such a situation.
We are noting that certain countries, including those in Europe, are voicing restrained optimism on the epidemiological situation’s development. They are moving to reduce anti-COVID restrictions and to introduce more lenient entry regulations for foreigners, including tourists.
We would like to point out the following aspect: When they announce their decisions to lift or mitigate COVID-related restrictions, they can also reverse such decisions. As a rule, this happens rapidly without any prior notice, just like in a case of an emergency. It is almost impossible to prepare for this. They give people just a few days to change their logistics, etc. In this connection, it is necessary to assess the epidemiological and logistic risks.
Many European countries make these decisions for economic considerations, while relegating epidemiological safety matters to the background. We would like to once again remind Russian citizens planning to take holidays abroad of the need to carefully consider all possible risks linked with trips to any specific country. Apart from warnings and current updates, they should realise that the situation can change, the way it changed in Nepal several days ago. People were stranded there and are unable to leave this state because its borders are closed, and because there are no regular flights. Many people visiting there say that they had heard warnings but had ignored them because they believed that the situation would somehow get sorted out. It did not. Please consider all the risks at a time when the global situation is changing regularly, almost every day.
We continue to closely follow political developments in Moldova, where an early parliamentary election will be held on July 11. We hope that it will be held in an atmosphere of fair and free competition and that its outcome will reflect the will of the people in full measure. We intend to take part in observing the voting at the bilateral level and also as part of observer missions of international organisations, including the CIS and the OSCE.
We note with regret and firmly condemn the growing interference by the US and EU countries in the internal political processes in Moldova. These countries’ ambassadors in Chisinau are openly trying to exert a direct influence on the Moldovan leadership and the government institutions, including the Central Electoral Commission, while pursuing their countries’ political and economic interests in the republic. Regular public statements are being made, including on international platforms, criticising the Moldovan political forces that favour maintaining ties with Russia and cooperation with Eurasian integration associations. This is nothing other than direct interference and attempts to influence voting results.
Double standards are obviously being applied by the United States and EU countries to the activities of the current President of Moldova, her predecessor and various political groups in the Moldovan Parliament. This is evidence of their disrespect for the people and sovereignty of Moldova, which is fraught with the danger of increased polarisation and destabilisation of society.
We once again urge our Western partners to abandon the practice of double standards and to stop their undisguised interference in the internal political processes in Moldova, which could have an especially negative impact during preparations for an early parliamentary election.
We have taken note of the evolution of the situation in Venezuela. We note with satisfaction that the Venezuelan Government has been working consistently and systematically to stabilise the situation in the country and to transform confrontation between the country’s political forces into constructive joint efforts. A constructive dialogue is developing between the authorities and a broad range of political parties aimed at addressing the country’s urgent needs, in particular, at ensuring an acceptable level of socioeconomic development amid the illegal US restrictions imposed on the country. We strongly condemn these inhumane restrictions, which are limiting the capability of the Venezuelan authorities to effectively combat the pandemic and to supply the domestic market with the required amount of food and pharmaceutical products.
We welcome the Parliament’s approval on May 4 of the main body of the national election system – the new Electoral Council – in accordance with the Constitution. We hope that its full-scale operation will ensure the timely preparation and holding of the regional and municipal elections this year, which will strengthen democratic local governments.
We will continue to provide all-round friendly assistance to Venezuela and to strengthen mutually beneficial multifaceted cooperation in the interests of our nations.
The reopening of direct Moscow-Caracas flights on May 1 was yet another step taken towards this goal. We hope that this will help revitalise bilateral trade and economic cooperation and promote business contacts and tourist exchanges. On May 15, a festive ceremony will be held at Vnukovo Airport to celebrate the arrival of the first flight by the national airline Conviasa, which will operate flights between Russia and Venezuela.
Regrettably, some actors are not pleased with the Venezuelan authorities’ commitment to a peaceful and consistent development of relations and the settlement of disputes through negotiations. In this context, we are seriously concerned about the aggravation on the Venezuelan-Colombian border, where the Venezuelan armed forces have been trying for the past few weeks to prevent illegal armed units and drug-trafficking groups from breaking into the country. These armed clashes, which have become more intensive in the past few days, have led to numerous casualties. A potential deterioration in the situation could have extremely negative consequences for regional stability and security.
We are convinced that normalisation in the border regions could be promoted by direct contacts between the relevant authorities in Venezuela and Colombia. The Government of Nicolas Maduro has appealed to the Colombian leadership with such initiatives several times, but to no avail. We call on the Colombian authorities to respond with good will to the proposals of their Venezuelan partners.
There is no doubt that this will also ultimately meet the interests of Colombia, where public protests have been growing recently. We share the alarm expressed by the Organisation of American States, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the EU, the United States and other members of the international community over the Colombian law enforcers’ disproportionate use of force against protesters, as the result of which dozens have been killed and hundreds injured.
We expect these events to be thoroughly investigated and hope that the Colombian authorities will take measures to preclude a repetition of these tragedies.
At the end of April, Russia sent its position paper to the States Parties to the Open Skies Treaty. Its content was also reflected in the Russian delegation’s report to the Open Skies Consultative Commission (OSCC) on April 26, 2021, available on the Russian Foreign Ministry website. Here are its highlights.
A group of states led by the United States (just a reminder the US has withdrawn from the TOS) is trying to hold Russia responsible for the deplorable situation around the Treaty. They insist that Russia ‘rectify its violations’ before anyone even contemplates returning to the Treaty.
Our position has been stated and argued repeatedly in response to these claims. We have taken a number of steps with due account of other states’ concerns. However, there was no adequate response to these political signals.
We continue to have a number of concerns regarding the US NATO allies’ as well as Ukraine’s and Georgia’s fulfilment of their obligations. We voiced our serious concerns to the United States as well, prior to its withdrawal from the Treaty. However, those were never taken into account or commented on. This has already become a miserable tradition.
We are ready to address all mutual concerns, but this discussion can only happen after the US announces its decision to return to the Treaty.
No one should expect unilateral concessions from Russia. If the status quo is maintained, our internal procedures preceding Russia’s notification of a decision to withdraw from the Treaty will be completed shortly.
Two important events occurred in the first ten days of May. First of all, the Government of the Russian Federation adopted a Resolution on submitting to the President a proposal to denounce the Treaty on Open Skies, and then the President of the Russian Federation sent a corresponding bill to the State Duma. Its consideration there is scheduled for next week.
The time when it is still possible to save the Open Skies Treaty is running out. If our colleagues are truly interested in preserving the Treaty, they should convince the White House to immediately reconsider the previous administration’s decision that does not meet the interests of European security.
This is a short account of our detailed argumentation, which is available on the Foreign Ministry website and elsewhere.
The port call made by USS New Mexico to Tonsnes harbour facility just 50 km north of Tromso on May 10 has raised our concerns. The civilian port Washington has paid for modernising specifically for such calls, in the immediate vicinity of the Russian-Norwegian border, is clearly becoming another NATO outpost on Norwegian territory.
There is no reason to trust the Norwegian military leaders’ assurances the US submarine was carrying no nuclear weapons, which are partly aimed at pacifying their own citizens in northern Norway. Moreover, they admitted they had no reliable information on that score or control mechanisms over the Americans’ actions.
The Norwegian authorities’ tendency to attribute some sort of ‘stabilising’ role to such port calls made by submarines potentially capable of carrying nuclear warheads see them as ‘transparent and predictable,’ if anything, raises eyebrows. What could be more ‘transparent and predictable’ than a submarine's port call? These are false messages that have nothing to do with the dangerous reality.
It is especially regrettable that Oslo has adopted a harsh policy line to build up the militarisation of the Arctic and heighten tension in this traditionally peaceful region. Norway seems to place its interest in pleasing its ‘senior partners’ in NATO above its own population’s safety or years of neighbourly ties with our country.
On May 11, 2021, European Union countries made yet another step towards escalating relations with Russia, despite the recent assurances by High Representative Josep Borrell. In another abuse of majority in the Council of Europe, they approved Ukraine’s draft decision of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe on the human rights situation in Crimea.
I do not see any point in elaborating on this list of false statements and absurd accusations against Russia. All these trivial claims of “occupation” and “discrimination” against Crimean Tatars and Ukrainians are much too familiar and have nothing to do with the actual state of affairs in Russia’s Crimea.
We are disappointed with Germany’s Presidency in the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe for it is directly responsible for this attack on our country. For the entire six-month term, Berlin has been acting not as a leader of this pan-European organisation but as a flagship of anti-Russian forces, prioritising bloc interests over the Council of Europe’s statutory goal, which is to strengthen the unity of its members. It will take a great deal of efforts on behalf of more sensible states to dispose of such “legacy.” Will it be possible to return to the unity agenda or is there another crisis waiting ahead? This question remains open. It is regrettable that Germany is finishing its Presidency on such a disturbing note.
We regret to see that the Western majority is becoming more and more unapologetic in its use of Strasbourg institutions for containing Russia. This policy is causing irreparable damage to the Council of Europe, undermining its authority and prospects as a pan-European organisation.
We have repeatedly urged our Western colleagues to abandon their double standards and stop turning a blind eye to the actual problems that require a response from the Council of Europe. Still, the council prefers to ignore the peninsula’s water blockade and other humanitarian crimes committed by Kiev officials, who believe they have the right to subject the Crimean population to collective discrimination for the choice they made in 2014 in favour of reunification with Russia. If the Crimean people are “victims of occupation,” as the decision of the committee states, then what are they being punished for with economic and visa restrictions? Is this a rhetorical question or a dead end in the ideology imposed by the pan-European institution and the big brother?
Most importantly, we cannot help but see this verdict of the committee as an infringement on Russia’s territorial integrity. The Council of Europe crossed the line and, with its own decision, created artificial obstacles in the way of this organisation’s normal operation on the territory of these constituent entities of the Russian Federation.
Decisions of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe only serve as guidelines. However, we refuse to recognise this decision even as a guideline.
The constant claims by high-ranking US officials that the right of journalists to professional activity is allegedly being violated in Russia have come to our attention. They are citing Radio Liberty/Radio Free Europe as an example.
The complaints about the obstruction of journalistic work in Russia are a fiction and a lie. We welcome the activities of the US media in our country along with other foreign media bureaux. We are doing our best to ensure that media pluralism remains, in practice, an integral part of a truly free society as opposed to the unanimity of thought that is being imposed in the United States with its “cancel culture” and other “delights” of modern liberal dictatorship.
All that the journalists are required to do is to comply with the Russian legislation regulating the activities of foreign agents (please pass this information on to the head of the State Department). This was developed in response to the United States using its Foreign Agents Registration Act against Russian journalists since about 2017. In particular, American journalists need to properly label their publications. We consider these requirements to be easy to follow in light of the provisions of US laws in this area, which provide for much stricter conditions for registration and reporting by foreign agents. Their requirements make the life of the foreign and local media, which are recognised in America as foreign agents, unbearable. I think their position will change when the US leadership is made aware of this. I’d be hard pressed to believe that the State Department knows all this and is drawing such false conclusions.
The above attacks by US officials seem strange to us and are inconsistent with the actual situation. Unfortunately, the more statements, the more they demonstrate the true role of Radio Liberty/Radio Free Europe as a mouthpiece for US state propaganda. Once again, they confirm that the foreign agent “title” was conferred upon them correctly, and there were grounds to do so.
This is a clear case of groundless accusations against Moscow which look increasingly absurd. Following the notorious “highly likely” approach and the tradition of accusing Moscow of all imaginable and inconceivable sins, the Biden administration justified the “95th wave” of anti-Russian sanctions on the basis of a hack of the SolarWinds software company that is used by US government agencies.
Let's see what is really happening there. Of course, those who doubted this - and they do exist despite the tough pressure from the US media propaganda front - were immediately pegged as “agents of the Kremlin” and “agents of Putin.” But what about the top executives of the leading IT corporations in the United States who at the February hearings in both chambers of Congress actually disavowed the administration’s vocal statements, which served as the basis to impose sanctions on obscure “Russian hackers?”
Answering the lawmakers’ leading questions, the SolarWinds CEO Sudhakar Ramakrishna denied the involvement of state agencies that acted with premeditation. According to Kevin Mandia, head of the FireEye company, who was the first to discover the cyberhack, the majority of SolarWinds users believe what the special services say about it as they are unable to find out who was behind the attacks. George Kurtz, the CEO of the leading corporation in the field of information security CrowdStrike insisted that his experts could not identify the offenders.
No one, of course, dares to assume that the US intelligence community is simply using a “foreign flag” (as they say in this community) for provocations attributed to the “enemies” in order to drum up more money from the budget while addressing operational tasks. Although, I believe, this is a “dignified” way to conduct journalistic investigations.
Many are simply afraid to go against the official policy and risk their business or even their freedom, like Julian Assange who is sitting behind bars in Britain, or Edward Snowden, who narrowly escaped Big Brother’s revenge. Apparently, everyone has learned the lesson of the reprisals unleashed by the American system against people who allow themselves even slightest dissent.
Orwell’s Animal Farm and 1984 come to mind. We were persistently told that these books were about the USSR. This is not true. This is just another fake statement. This ingenious foresight was about modern liberal dictatorship with its total control over minds and doublethink, when people prefer to keep their doubts to themselves or only timidly refer to them in small doses like the above IT companies.
This is another example of a vast gap between reality and accusations. No one wants to make even one step in search of the truth because of the paralysing fear of the possible actions of the corresponding US services.
The Estonian authorities continue to pursue a policy of using punitive justice for political purposes. On April 30, 2021, Sergey Seredenko's detention was extended for another two months. As we noted earlier, the accusations against him are absurd and unsubstantiated.
Russia has stated its assessment of these malicious actions by Tallinn against the Russian-speaking human rights activist in our bilateral contacts as well as in specialised international organisations. As we can see, our principled position is shared by respected politicians and public figures in the Baltics and other states, who, in particular, sent letters to the Estonian government demanding they put an end to political persecution.
Sergey Seredenko's release could be a positive signal from the authorities in Estonia to start a dialogue and pull bilateral relations out of the deadlock they created.
On May 10, 2021, the district court of Aalborg sentenced Russian citizen Alexey Nikiforov, who was arrested in Denmark on charges of working for Russian security services, to three years in prison. Russian diplomats were present in the courtroom when the verdict was announced.
The defendant appealed the court ruling. The Russian Embassy in Denmark continues to provide Mr Nikiforov with the necessary consular and legal assistance and maintains contacts with his lawyer.
We regard the court's decision as a vivid example of the anti-Russia campaign that has recently engulfed official Copenhagen and the West in general. Our compatriots who are legally engaged in scientific activities on the kingdom’s territory become collateral damage to the Danish government’s attempts to find the so-called Russian trace in every incident.
This activity by the Danish special services uncannily resembles a witch-hunt. It jeopardises the work of Russian scientists in Denmark, damages scientific and technical cooperation and will inevitably have even more negative implications for bilateral relations already darkened by Copenhagen’s unconstructive position.
On May 18, 2021, at 3 pm, the Diplomatic Academy of the Russian Foreign Ministry will host an international conference, Russia and Africa: Building the Future Together, held as part of the preparations for the Second Russia-Africa Summit scheduled for 2022.
State Duma deputies, top Foreign Ministry officials and representatives of other interested agencies will attend the conference, as well as leading Russian economic operators, representatives of the diplomatic corps, academia, the public and the media.
Almost all ambassadors of African countries accredited in Moscow will take part in the event.
They plan to discuss a wide range of aspects of Russian-African cooperation in economic projects, science, education, innovation and humanitarian exchanges. Proposals on current aspects of Russia's partnership with African countries, especially its economic component, will be an important part of the meeting’s agenda.
On May 4, in Moscow, Deputy Minister of Culture of Russia Olga Yarilova and Ambassador of Egypt to Russia Ihab Ahmed Talaat Nasr signed the Declaration of Intent on cooperation between the ministries of culture of Russia and Egypt on holding the Year of Humanitarian Cooperation between the Russian Federation and the Arab Republic of Egypt in 2021.
In June, the Cairo-based Russian Centre of Science and Culture is planning to hold a ceremony to open the Year. Its programme includes a number of events in fields such as culture, education, tourism, youth policy, and archeology, as well as related information and expertise exchanges.
We proceed from the assumption that the Russia-Egypt Year of Humanitarian Cooperation will further promote the multifaceted Russian-Egyptian interaction and rapprochement between the two countries’ people.
Thirty years ago on the dot, at 5 pm, the first Vesti programme went on the air on the RTV channel, which is now the Rossiya Television Channel. This is something that marked the beginning of a new period in the development of not only Russian television broadcasting but also the entire Russian media industry. I would also say, the world media industry too.
Vesti today is an astonishing team of professionals, masters of their trade, whose correspondents operate in the most difficult hotspots, often at risk of their lives, covering conflicts, wars, and emergencies. They put above everything else the true values of journalism – honesty, objectivity, authenticity and, most importantly, the provision to the public of unbiased information on the most important events in this country and the world. And this is what true professionalism is all about.
Vesti is very popular with both viewers in Russia and multi-million audiences of Russian compatriots elsewhere, and it is a bridge that connects all people who are not indifferent to the Russian world.
We put a high value on our close cooperation with this journalistic team and on the existing truly comradely relations, something that Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has also noted in his message of greetings to the channel. We hope to continue our cooperation “with the aim of shaping an objective image of Russia on the international arena.” This is a quote from Mr Lavrov’s congratulations posted on the Foreign Ministry website.
I would like once again to wish our colleagues creative inspirations, conquests of new professional heights, and all the best.
On May 12 of this year, it became known that the European Commission had passed a decision reaffirming conformity of the Latvian authorities’ actions towards Rossiya-RTR television channel to the EU laws. It will be recalled that the television channel, popular with Russian speakers in Latvia, was blocked, on February 15, under a far-fetched pretext.
We have repeatedly commented on the Latvian authorities’ attacks on this Russian media outlet, which had been blocked for politically motivated reasons for a shorter period of time somewhat earlier. Once again, the anchors of a popular political talk show, 60 Minutes, were blamed for “inciting hate” and for “slander.” They did not heed the fact that the show’s format was a discussion characterised by biting assessments, debates and polemic. This is the entire gamut distinguishing mainstream propaganda from a situation where different points of view are not only voiced but are also conveyed to the public.
In a democratic environment – I would like to remind our partners of this at European institutions – pluralism and freedom of expressing a view are sine qua nons for the functioning of not only the media but also a normal society as a whole. We believed that the EU leaders should be well aware of this well, but, judging by the said decision, it is more important for them to persist in their aggressive actions with regard to Russian media in EU member-states. There is only one explanation: the EU has proved unprepared for the truth and pluralism, which it took them so long to inure us to. In this particular case, the truth of the matter is that freedom of speech is found much more often on Russian television channels than in the European media, constrained as they are by self-censorship and the political order, media that the European officials keep tabs on.
We think that the EC is once again conniving at the Latvian leaders’ discriminatory policies; they seem to regard Russian speakers as people, who, from their standpoint, are not worthy of having a view of their own on developments in the country and elsewhere and who have no right of having their own point of view. This is certainly a crackdown on their rights.
In this connection, we estimate the said decision as politically motivated, non-objective and, of course, running counter to all those obligations that Latvia as a state has assumed and undersigned.
Question: First Deputy Secretary of the Russian Security Council Yury Averyanov said in a recent interview that dangerous microorganisms from the US and NATO laboratories near Russia’s border could potentially be released into the environment, allegedly by mistake, leading to a massive destruction of the civilian population both within the country and in neighbouring states. Since the early 2000s, Russia and the majority of other states have called for preparing a protocol to the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) that would stipulate the creation of a mechanism to verify the convention signatories’ compliance with their pledge not to create biological weapons. How far have the preparations of this protocol progressed, and which countries are involved? Can Russia take any other measures to protect itself from this possibility?
Maria Zakharova: The drafting of a legally binding protocol to the BWC with an effective verification mechanism is one of Russia’s priorities in this sphere. The protocol would guarantee reliable compliance with the BWC obligations and the predictability of the member states’ activities in the medical-biological, sanitary-epidemiological, veterinary and phytosanitary spheres.
A special Ad Hoc Group of the BWC member states was working on the protocol from 1994 until 2001, when the United States prevented unilaterally its approval shortly before the Fifth BWC Review Conference. Since then, Washington has been consistently blocking the resumption of talks on the protocol, although the mandate of the Ad Hoc Group has officially not expired. The protocol drafted by the expert group in 1994-2001 stipulates the member states’ obligation to make public specified biological activities, verification measures (including visits to the relevant facilities and investigation of any suspected BWC violations), as well as measures designed to promote cooperation and scientific and technical exchanges.
Russia has been working consistently to ensure the resumption of the drafting of a legally binding protocol to the convention. During a meeting of states parties to the convention held in 2015, Russia submitted an initiative to this effect, which was co-authored by Armenia, Belarus and China. We intend to submit a draft decision regarding talks on the protocol to the convention so that it can be adopted at the BWC Review Conference in 2022.
We hope that common sense will also take priority in the United States as a depositary of the convention and that the United States, instead of blocking any further efforts, will make a constructive contribution to strengthening the BWC regime.
Question: During his visit to Pristina on May 6, Croatia’s Foreign Minister Gordan Grlic Radman announced Croatia’s plans to establish a military base in Kosovo. Does this tie in with the provisions of UN Security Council Resolution 1244 on Kosovo and Metohija, which regulates, among other things, the procedure for the deployment of foreign troops in the southern Serbian province?
Maria Zakharova: We have no information about Croatia’s plans to establish any base in Kosovo. As for foreign military presence in the province, the UNSC resolution assigned this function exclusively to the Kosovo Force (KFOR).
Question: It was reported today that President of Serbia Aleksandar Vucic has told Serbian media that, judging by the intelligence data at his disposal, an influential state will soon demand the KFOR mission’s withdrawal from Kosovo and Metohija. What are Russia’s views on the possibility of ending the KFOR mission there?
Maria Zakharova: There are relevant organisations that authorise special missions and send them to various regions. This does not happen spontaneously, and this process takes place following its coordination, assessment, etc. by the concerned parties. These decisions are thoroughly discussed and adopted within these mechanisms. They are made collectively, in line with international law, rather than unilaterally. We should discuss any similar matters in this context.
Question: What comments would you make regarding the more frequent attacks on Orthodox churches in Kosovo and Metohija lately?
Maria Zakharova: The just mentioned Kosovo Force (KFOR) and international civilian missions in the territory, primarily the UN Mission and the EU Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo, have the relevant mandates and must take action to protect religious facilities as well as the believers. We are constantly urging them to do this.
We resolutely denounce incidents and violence on the part of Kosovar Albanian radicals against the Serbs and Orthodox Christian shrines that have been taking place for many years now, not just lately. What is happening at the moment shows that the Kosovo quasi-statehood is bankrupt, and that the territory has turned into a European criminal “black hole.”
Question: I would like to learn about the situation concerning Palestine and Israel. We are receiving alarming news about the escalation of the conflict linked with the mosque on Temple Mount. It appears that the conflict is escalating into a regional war. Could you comment on the legitimacy of the Israeli authorities’ actions and possible options for resolving the conflict? Does Russia work there on its own or together with the Quartet of International Mediators? Or does Russian diplomacy act unilaterally because it has ties with all the parties to the conflict?
Maria Zakharova: Only the other day, we commented on virtually all of your questions in great detail. The relevant material was posted on the Foreign Ministry’s website on May 11, 2021, and you can read it. A detailed Rossiya Segodnya interview with Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Vershinin on this precise subject was posted yesterday.
I can repeat and underscore the following aspects though: We resolutely denounce attacks on civilians, regardless of their ethnic and religious affiliation. We also advocate unconditional respect for the status quo of Holy Sites, as well as the immediate and complete cessation of all settlement activity on occupied Palestinian territories under numerous UN General Assembly and UN Security Council resolutions.
The majority of the international community, including member countries of the UN Security Council, share similar views on the current developments.
As a permanent member of the UN Security Council and a member of the Quartet of International Mediators on the Middle East peace settlement, Russia, in cooperation with regional and international organisations, continues to consistently advocate a comprehensive and stable settlement in line with UN Security Council resolutions stipulating the creation of two states – Palestine and Israel – that would co-exist in peace and security.
We are also in contact with all the stakeholders on a bilateral basis. This subject was also mentioned during a telephone conversation between Russian and Turkish presidents and foreign ministers. It is also on the agenda of the consultations with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres who is visiting Moscow.
Question: The Bulgarian Foreign Ministry requested Russia’s assistance in investigating the arms depot explosions in 2011-2020. The accusations the Bulgarian Prosecutor’s Office has brought against Russia are not supported by any evidence, which is a common European tradition now. Has the Russian side considered this? Have you received a relevant request? Are there any contacts between Bulgaria and Russia?
Maria Zakharova: We have not received any requests through diplomatic channels. Moreover, no facts have been presented yet to support the versions being spread in the public domain. We see only groundless and unfounded stories planted to put head-on, speculative pressure on Russia, as well as all kinds of hoaxes that justify the levelling of incessant new accusations against our country, and the imposition of illegal sanctions. This is something we call an information and political campaign.
We believe Sofia as well as other European capitals involved in these information and political games are well aware that such actions cause serious damage to their bilateral ties with Russia, and to international relations in general. They are destroying the remnants of mutual trust with their own hands.
Question: After the talks between the Russian and Armenian foreign ministers on May 7, it was announced that the two countries had signed an intergovernmental memorandum on biological safety. As Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov noted, Russia and Armenia will promote biosafety on multilateral platforms, including the CSTO and the CIS. Given the sensitivity and importance of this matter and the large number of US military biological labs still operating uncontrollably and non-transparently in post-Soviet republics, will Russia invite other countries to sign similar documents or make other contacts to ensure biosafety in the region? When will the new memorandum take effect?
Maria Zakharova: I have already said a lot about our biosafety initiatives and our stance on international platforms. There is no need to add anything on international cooperation in a broader context, but I will focus on the document you mentioned.
Reducing the risks associated with the possibility of a deliberate spread of infectious diseases, or the use of biological agents as weapons, is a priority of Russia’s biological security agenda. One of the key elements of our work, not the only one, but one of the central ones, is creating an appropriate legal framework with the CSTO/CIS states.
To this end, we are pursuing a policy of concluding bilateral intergovernmental memorandums on biosafety with the member countries. Such documents have already been signed with Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Armenia. We believe this makes a significant contribution to strengthening friendly relations and the biological security of our states, and also contributes to promoting cooperation in the medical and biological, sanitary and epidemiological, veterinary and phyto-sanitary fields.
We also plan to create bilateral consultative formats on biosafety matters to optimise and increase the efficacy of the implementation of the said memorandums’ goals and provisions.
We look forward to signing similar documents with all CSTO/CIS states and believe that this will contribute to strengthening the security of our countries in a common biosafety space.
Question: British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab recently said that with their activity in cyberspace, Russia and China “want to undermine the very foundations of <…> democracy.” In his remarks, he also proposes a theory, according to which authoritarian regimes including Russia, North Korea, Iran and China use digital technology to sabotage and steal data. What is Russia’s stance on such allegations?
Maria Zakharova: Today I spoke at length (even if with regard to the United States) about fabricated stories about so-called cyberattacks which demonstrate how divided the American community is, to the point of contradicting itself. They start by making unsubstantiated accusations and then separate group proceed to deal with them. Each of these groups – IT companies, the intelligence community and political groups – has its own account which they cannot corroborate. They either create more confusion or contradict each other. Then this pile of mixed-up testimonies develops into political scandals, etc.
I think it is pointless to comment on each particular accusation against alleged Russian hackers. We need to learn to step back and look at the whole picture. This is a politicised information campaign that follows not one but several directions. The goal is clear: to create an endless chain of reasons to impose more sanctions and restrictions, to demonise and, therefore, contain our country as well as to pursue certain internal objectives. There are many moves in this game; it is rather primitive and not too sophisticated technology-wise; still they believe that their own people are convinced by it. Any comments on our part are in fact unnecessary because there is a macro view of this situation.
What can I say about the quotes you gave? This situation is completely absurd and has no evidence to support it whatsoever. No evidence was provided by either the UK or the United States – or by any countries whose strings they pull to bring this puppet of solidarity to life.
More unsubstantiated and empty allegations were made with respect to the attack on the Colonial Pipeline system in the United States. US President Joe Biden himself recently stated that “there is no evidence that Russia is involved” in the attack.
It is a dead end. When they hit a wall, they begin to prevaricate, make up new versions of events but cannot really come up with anything solid.
Since 2016, we have repeatedly suggested that the United States get its act together, sit down at a negotiations table at the level of experts and figure out what is happening in cyberspace.
I would like to remind you that back in days of President Obama, when Joe Biden was Vice President, Russia and the United States created competent agencies to deal with cyber incidents. Unfortunately, our countries have not been able to have constructive discussions and it is not Russia that is stymieing this dialogue.
Once again, we call on our Western partners to use official channels to discuss any sensitive issues instead of planting stories in the media and resorting to contrived methods of setting this mechanism of false claims in motion.
Question: Recently, a member of the State Duma Committee on International Affairs expressed an assumption regarding a sudden anti-Russia attack by Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis. He has never been a Russophobic zealot or an “Atlanticist,” but suddenly he exhibited Russophobic behavior that could put an end to his political career. The point is that Mr Babis is also a businessman and a billionaire. He is likely to have been subjected to trivial blackmail and had to make a risky political statement in US interests in exchange for the security of his business assets. Do you think the Foreign Ministry would ever publicly describe these kinds of methods of how the US-led unipolar world works, including “European unity” for the US’s sake?
Maria Zakharova: I do not wish to comment on such scenarios or assumptions. I am reluctant to drop down to the level of our Western partners who make groundless accusations without quoting facts. The United States has repeatedly hurled politically motivated threats at private individuals, businesspeople, associations, trade, industrial and banking organisations, corporations and international financial institutions. There are plenty of quotes and detailed materials with direct threats in the form of warnings or intimidations. They have been doing this for many years. I don’t think our US partners would make exceptions in some separate cases if they could benefit from it. This is not a supposition but a statement of fact. We see this being done with respect to Nord Stream 2, for example, and the sad plight of many European corporations and banking institutions. The US has not limited itself to statements and aggressive rhetoric against them in public but resorted to pressure that ranges from sanctions to all but special operations. These are facts. You can read about them and not just in conspiracy-theory sources but on websites containing remarks and statements by American officials. What’s fantastic is the fact that at the end of the first quarter of the 21st century, this approach is not disguised, on the contrary, it is being demonstrated for all to see (as an element of preventive deterrence of sorts).
As for the accusations against Russia made recently by Czech representatives, they are groundless, and contradictory. This looks like endless internal confusion under external influence.
At first, when several weeks ago these Czech representatives made numerous statements against Russia, we would comment on every one of them. Later we realised that it was impossible to comment on them from the outside since Czech society itself had become completely confused by the various versions, statements and rhetoric that it hears every day from Czech politicians. They come from official heads of government agencies rather than some freelance commentators. Apparently, Czech society needs to overcome the internal crisis that was created partly with outside influence.
Question: Other events pale into insignificance when compared with the awful tragedy in Kazan. Evil appears to be much closer to us and children can die in peacetime. More children could have been killed if it weren’t for their teachers. Elvira Ignatyeva fearlessly protected a child with her body.
There were hero-teachers in the immortal pedagogical regiment, including Polish teacher Janusz Korczak who went together with children under his care to a gas chamber in 1942; a teacher from Czech Brno Ivo Stejskal who was killed by modern Nazis in Donbass in August 2014 and now Elvira Ignatyeva, an English language teacher. How many teachers do we have like them? Those whose power lies not in filling out forms or compiling meaningless academic plans or paperwork but in their selfless commitment to their students and their pedagogical mission. Some are willing to sacrifice their lives for their children.
Some of our compatriots propose declaring an International Day of Teacher-Patriot, Defender of Children against Terrorism.
Maria Zakharova: This is not a question. This is your initiative. It must be submitted formally and promoted as a civilian, public initiative. This is not advice from the Foreign Ministry, but a comment on your remark.
If you need our advice, information support, I will be happy to provide it. Send us your ideas; we will forward them to the related officials and will certainly send you a response.
Question (retranslated from English): The war between Israel and Palestine continues. Ten children have been killed. What can you tell us about this?
Maria Zakharova: I just commented on the situation there, the aggravation of the conflict. The Foreign Ministry published two large pieces on this. They describe our position in detail. I also talked about this in replying to your Icelandic colleague’s question today.