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16 September 202120:39

Briefing by Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova, Moscow, September 16, 2021

1836-16-09-2021

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Table of contents

  1. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s meetings on the sidelines of the SCO Heads of State Council session
  2. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s upcoming meeting with heads of diplomatic missions of Latin American and Caribbean countries accredited in Moscow
  3. Sergey Lavrov’s remarks at the 76th UN General Assembly session
  4. Mr Lavrov’s forthcoming talks with Foreign Minister of Vietnam Bui Thanh Sơn
  5. Afghanistan update
  6. Position on the outcome of the so-called G7 ministerial meeting on Afghanistan
  7. Organising the election to the State Duma of the Russian Federal Assembly at Russia’s foreign missions
  8. US companies meddling in Russia’s State Duma elections
  9. Developments in Ukraine
  10. Mandate of the UN Support Mission in Libya discussed at the UN Security Council
  11. Australia’s plans to build nuclear-powered submarines
  12. New evidence on the Navalny case
  13. Developments concerning Russian citizen Alexander Franchetti, arrested in Prague
  14. Another act of vandalism with regard to a Russian war memorial in Latvia
  15. The 200th anniversary of independence of Central American countries
  16. Twenty years of Russian Diplomatic Service History Centre
  17. History and records exhibition Forever Remembered tours Europe

 

Answers to media questions:

  1. The conference on the armed anti-Communist resistance in Central and Eastern Europe in 1944‒1953
  2. The Labour Party’s victory in the elections in Norway
  3. Accepting Afghan refugees
  4. Retaliatory measures following Alexander Franchetti’s detention in the Czech Republic
  5. Ukrainian Foreign Minister’s statements
  6. Nagorno-Karabakh settlement
  7. Contacts with representatives of the Taliban
  8. US interference in Russia’s domestic affairs
  9. Russia‒Syria contacts
  10. Russian‒Czech relations
  11. Ukrainian National Security and Defence Council Head’s statements on Crimea
  12. Developments in Afghanistan
  13. Disinformation campaign

 

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s meetings on the sidelines of the SCO Heads of State Council session

 

Sergey Lavrov just had a meeting with Foreign Minister of China Wang Yi. A detailed commentary is published on the Foreign Ministry website.

He also plans to meet with Foreign Minister of Pakistan Shah Mahmood Qureshi. The diplomats will focus on the developments in Afghanistan and further coordination of efforts, including in the expanded Troika format (Russia, the United States, China and Pakistan), with a view to ensuring stability and security both in Afghanistan and the rest of the region. The ministers also intend to discuss in detail the status of the bilateral partnership and steps to promote it, primarily in trade, economy and counterterrorism. In addition, they will review some current issues of Russia-Pakistan cooperation in the SCO.

The foreign ministers of Russia, China, Iran and Pakistan plan to hold a quadripartite meeting to discuss a number of international issues, including the current developments in Afghanistan. The four countries intend to actively contribute to the Afghan settlement by creating conditions for intra-Afghan dialogue and an inclusive peace process.

I would like to add that as far as I know, the Iranian Assistant Foreign Minister is expected to take part in this meeting (but it is better to ask Iranian officials about this). We will publish more details on the results of these talks.

 

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Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s upcoming meeting with heads of diplomatic missions of Latin American and Caribbean countries accredited in Moscow

 

On September 21, Mr Lavrov plans to meet with the heads of diplomatic missions of Latin American and Caribbean countries accredited in Moscow.

We attach special importance to this event. The participants plan to conduct a comprehensive review of Russia’s relations with these countries and map out promising areas of their further development.

Converging or close positions on the key issues the world is facing today form the bedrock of Russia’s relations with Latin America. First, this applies to the commitment to the fundamental principles of international law that are sealed in the UN Charter. We view Latin America and the Caribbean as one of the rapidly emerging centres in a multipolar international order.

Active cooperation in countering the coronavirus pandemic imparts positive dynamics to Russia’s relations with Latin America.

The meeting participants will also exchange views on topical international and regional issues.

 

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Sergey Lavrov’s remarks at the 76th UN General Assembly session

 

On September 25, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will speak during the general debate at the UN General Assembly session, which opened on September 14.

As the head of the Russian delegation, Mr Lavrov will take part in the session in person and hold a number of bilateral meetings with our foreign partners on its sidelines. We are now working on his schedule and will publish it later.

During the 76th UN General Assembly session, Russia is traditionally advocating the strengthening of the UN central coordinating role in world affairs. We consider any attempts to undermine the authority and legitimacy of the UN to be dangerous and believe they may weaken the polycentric system of international relations. For more details about Russia’s position at the 76th UN General Assembly session, go to the Foreign Ministry’s website.

 

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Mr Lavrov’s forthcoming talks with Foreign Minister of Vietnam Bui Thanh Sơn

 

On September 27, Sergey Lavrov will meet with Foreign Minister of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam Bui Thanh Sơn during his first official visit to Russia in this capacity.

During the meeting, the ministers plan to discuss topical issues of bilateral cooperation with emphasis on implementing the agreements reached at the highest and high levels, the schedule of future contacts, and key aspects of cooperation in regional and international organisations and forums.

Vietnam is a long-standing friend and partner of Russia. Relations with it are of special character and are a priority of Russian foreign policy in the Asia-Pacific Region. In 2020, the two countries observed the 70th anniversary of diplomatic relations and this year they celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Declaration on Strategic Partnership. In 2022, it will be ten years since the adoption of a Joint Statement on Comprehensive Strategic Partnership. We attach special importance to regular political dialogue with the leaders of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam with a view to further deepening our bilateral cooperation.

 

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Afghanistan update

 

The situation in Afghanistan is being discussed at the highest level in Dushanbe as we speak. I would like to draw your attention to Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks on this subject, and also share the latest Foreign Ministry comments.

We continue to closely follow the developments there, and we expect normal, peaceful life to be restored in Afghanistan without any further delay. Completing the political settlement and forming government structures that would cater to the interests of all ethnic and political forces in Afghanistan currently tops the agenda. We noted the intention, declared by the Taliban, to hold a general election in the country.

It is encouraging to see that preparations are underway to resume air services at Kabul international airport. The Taliban are also calling on government officials, in particular from the Foreign Ministry and the Ministry of Justice, to return back to work in order to ensure that the state agencies can function properly. The reopening of universities is also being discussed.

 

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Position on the outcome of the so-called G7 ministerial meeting on Afghanistan

 

A considerable number of international mediators and organisations are working on the developments in Afghanistan. The international community is paying particular attention to this region, and a wide variety of formats have emerged to discuss matters resulting from the sudden changes in the country.

Russia was not involved in the event held in the G7 format. There were a number of questions to this effect. We believe that what matters the most is the expanded troika (Russia, the United States, China and Pakistan) mechanism. Moving forward, we intend to work in the Moscow Format which includes 11 regional countries, including all the neighbours of Afghanistan.

We proceed from the premise that the United States and the countries involved in the international coalition that were present in the country over the past 20 years bear responsibility for what is currently happening in Afghanistan. It is for this very reason that they must assume a fair share of the cost related to post-conflict recovery and Afghanistan’s further development.

 

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Organising the election to the State Duma of the Russian Federal Assembly at Russia’s foreign missions

 

The Russian foreign missions and consular offices are completing the preparations for holding the election to the State Duma of the Russian Federal Assembly being held on September 17-19 for Russian citizens who are permanently or temporarily based abroad: 348 polling stations have been made available in 144 countries. Precinct election commissions have been formed and are ready to get down to work.

In view of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Russian foreign missions are taking all the necessary precautions to keep voters and election commission members safe from contracting the virus. All the sanitary protocols and rules set forth under local law will be complied with.

In some countries, early and field voting has been offered in areas with a high concentration of our compatriots. As of September 15, 2021, 26,339 of our compatriots had already voted in 42 countries. The Civic Chamber of the Russian Federation, political parties, candidates running in the State Duma election, as well as international organisations have sent their observers to these polling stations.

The Foreign Ministry’s main job is to ensure that Russian nationals abroad can vote freely and safely. We invite all our compatriots stationed abroad to exercise their constitutional right.

For more information on where to vote if you are abroad, please visit the websites and social media accounts of our foreign missions.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov released a message to this effect today.

 

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US companies meddling in Russia’s State Duma elections

 

On September 10, US Ambassador to Russia John Sullivan was summoned to the Foreign Ministry of the Russian Federation.  During his conversation with Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov, the latter stressed that Russia possessed irrefutable evidence that US internet platforms were violating Russian laws in the context of preparations for and holding of elections to the State Duma. In this connection, interference in Russia’s internal affairs was declared to be categorically unacceptable.

We have communicated the relevant information to the US Department of State and the US National Security Council via the Russian Embassy in Washington. We are attaching key importance to this subject. Specifically, this was declared by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov as he answered media questions during his visit to Dushanbe on September 15.  It is also indicative that Chairman of the Federation Council’s Interim Commission for the Protection of State Sovereignty and Prevention of Interference in the Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation Andrey Klimov made a relevant statement at the commission’s meeting that was considering signs of US internet companies, specifically Apple and Google, meddling in Russian parliamentary elections. 

We proceed from the premise that US authorities will take urgent and extensive measures to satisfy our demands. Russia has so far refrained from erecting barriers for US businesses in Russia, but our patience has its limits. 

The European Parliament’s recommendations on the direction of political relations between the EU and Russia

Yesterday, on September 15, the European Parliament approved by an overwhelming majority of votes a voluminous and disinformation-laden document on Russia entitled European Parliament Recommendation to the Council, the Commission and the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy on the direction of EU-Russia relations.   This genre is notorious and it is stale through and through. Essentially, it is yet another collection of farfetched accusations and ideological-cum-conspiratorial clichés about Russia, which are intended to sour the already difficult EU-Russia relations and influence the internal processes in this country. But there is something new, too. The authors of the “report” went so far as to claim that the EU should be ready to deny recognition of the results of the State Duma elections and suggest possible suspension of the Russian membership of international parliamentary structures, specifically PACE, if the elections involve violations of democratic principles and norms of international law. It is also clear that the European Parliament is going to draw conclusions to this effect based on the findings of organisations that have either withdrawn from monitoring the State Duma elections under a farfetched pretext or have no relation whatsoever to this process.  

 

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Developments in Ukraine

 

We are becoming increasingly concerned about what is happening in Ukraine. Almost every day the Ukrainian Armed Forces are violating the terms of the ceasefire on the contact line in Donbass. According to the OSCE SMM, the average monthly number of ceasefire violations has increased from about 3,000 at the beginning of the year to over 7,000 in early September. The Ukrainian forces are shelling the region with all types of artillery guns, including large-calibre ones that have been prohibited under the Minsk agreements, and are using drones to drop mines. During the last three weeks, nine civilians, including women and children, have been wounded, and 11 civilian infrastructure facilities have been damaged, among them educational and medical institutions, despite the beginning of the academic year.

The security situation was put on the agenda of the Contact Group meeting scheduled for September 14. However, the Ukrainian representatives evaded the topic. They also refused to verify ceasefire violations by the Ukrainian Armed Forces in accordance with the additional measures to strengthen the ceasefire, which all members of the Contact Group, including Ukraine, approved on July 22, 2020. The Contact Group meeting ended indecisively on September 15 due to the non-constructive stand of the Ukrainian negotiators.

It is notable that tension is growing in Donbass against the backdrop of the Kiev officials’ increasingly aggressive rhetoric, which has gone beyond any reasonable boundaries. They made some shocking statements over the last few days. Alexey Danilov, Secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defence Council, has said recently that if the  Supreme Commander issues a corresponding order, the Ukrainian army can occupy the Donetsk and Lugansk people’s republics. President Vladimir Zelensky has warned that an all-out war with Russia was a possibility.

Such statements must not be permitted by those in the West who are “managing” Ukraine, who claim to be concerned about its future and allegedly keep calling for restoring peace there. Actually, we have not heard them make such statements, but we do see the actions that are being taken in the opposite direction. They continue supplying weapons and military equipment to Ukraine, sending instructors to train Ukrainian military personnel for combat, including in built-up areas, and holding joint exercises.

Six joint exercises with NATO countries have been held in Ukraine this year, including the largest drill in 25 years, Defender Europe 2021.The NATO-Ukraine Coherent Resilience command staff exercise, which started in Odessa on September 14, involves some 150 Ukrainian representatives and international experts. A series of large-scale drills has been planned for this autumn, namely Joint Efforts 2021 (September 22-30) and Rapid Trident 2021 (September 20 – October 1).

Kiev is doing this to distract the public from its internal policy and socioeconomic flops. The Ukrainian authorities seem to be trying to shift their citizens into a parallel reality, where the authorities’ political and economic mistakes, the officials’ inaction and corruption, as well as increasing chauvinism and nationalism can be blamed on a mythical Russian threat. The joint drills with NATO should convince the Ukrainians that all will be well.

We urge the Kiev regime to stop the years-long military operation waged against their own people in Donbass without any delay, and to get down to national reconciliation in earnest, so that all citizens of Ukraine can live in dignity, regardless of their nationality, language or political affiliation.

 

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Mandate of the UN Support Mission in Libya discussed at the UN Security Council

 

On September 15, the UN Security Council approved a technical rollover of the mandate of the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), which would have expired on September 15, until September 30, 2021.

In this context, we have taken note of media reports, which claimed that Russia has been hindering UNSMIL’s operation. We believe that standing behind this fake news is the Western countries whose unconstructive stand has prevented the UN Security Council from approving a pending decision on the parameters of the mission’s long-term functioning.

Russia has always highlighted the vital role being played by the UN, or more precisely by UNSMIL, in promoting a settlement in Libya. We are resolved to continue looking for mutually acceptable solutions to the remaining unsettled aspects of the mission’s future operation. The aim of the new resolution is to give all parties an opportunity to come to an agreement on the mission’s functioning during the upcoming complicated period of the political process in Libya. We really do hope that this is a common goal for all the UN Security Council members.

The Russian Federation will continue providing all-round assistance to the friendly Libyan people in their efforts to deal with the acute political crisis, which is directly rooted in the destruction of the Libyan statehood as the result of the NATO aggression in 2011.

 

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Australia’s plans to build nuclear-powered submarines

 

We noted the plans, announced by Australia, to build nuclear-powered submarines as part of an “enhanced trilateral security partnership” agreed yesterday by the United States, Great Britain and Australia.

We proceed from the premise that being a non-nuclear power and fulfilling in good faith the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, Australia will honour its commitments under this document, as well as the IAEA Safeguards Agreements along with its Additional Protocol. We hope that Canberra ensures the necessary level of cooperation with the IAEA in order to rule out any proliferation-related risks.

 

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New evidence on the Navalny case

 

We received a number of questions from a Der Freitag correspondent on the investigation by journalist John Helmer, who interviewed Philipp Jacoby, a German doctor who accompanied Alexey Navalny from Omsk to Berlin on August 22, 2020.

Let me read out these questions for you:

1. What do you think about the fact that the Bombardier CL-600-2B16 aircraft crew was ordered to fly to Russia as early an on August 19, 2020, several hours before Navalny’s alleged poisoning?

2. How do you interpret the fact that Doctor Jacoby, at the request of Yulia Navalnaya and Maria Pevchikh, took the bottles from Navalny’s hotel room on board the medevac aircraft in his carry-on luggage despite the fact that one of the pilots was upset about this step?

3. What role did these bottles play in the assertion that Navalny was poisoned?

4. What do you think about Philipp Jacoby’s statements that Maria Pevchikh was the first to mention Novichok on August 21, in Omsk, while the German Government did not mention Novichok publicly until September 2, 2020?

5. What was the significance of the bottles from Navalny’s hotel room in the investigation? Are they worth anything as evidence of poisoning?

6. How many people were on board the medevac aircraft Bombardier CL-600-2B16 that arrived in Omsk on August 21, 2021? Where there five or six people?

7. If there were six people, the sixth person must have been the one mentioned by the Foreign Ministry in the press release on the anniversary of “Alexey Navalny case.”

8. Can you confirm that the person wearing sunglasses in the photo is the sixth person from the Bombardier CL-600-2B16 aircraft?

Unfortunately, we are currently unable to give a sound judgment on the accuracy of the statements by Philipp Jacoby, a German doctor who accompanied Alexey Navalny on the medical evacuation flight from Omsk on August 22, 2020, as reported in John Helmer’s investigation, since we know these statements only from the quotes by John Helmer and his co-author, Liane Theuerkauf.

However, Philipp Jacoby’s assertions, as quoted in the article, largely overlap with the misgivings that we have raised concerning the numerous uncertainties and obscurities in the story regarding the alleged poisoning of this blogger. In retrospect, it increasingly resembles an engineered story designed to denigrate our country and offer a pretext for further sanctions.

You may be aware of the fact that Russia has repeatedly sought to highlight the chronological inconsistencies in the so-called Alexey Navalny case, as well as to clarify the obscure role played by Maria Pevchikh, a Russian national residing in Great Britain. In this connection, we have to remind you that eight enquiries and letters sent by Russia’s Prosecutor General’s Office to the German law enforcement agencies in 2020 and 2021 requesting physical evidence and the clarification of various circumstances related to Alexey Navalny’s alleged poisoning were left without any meaningful response. In our bilateral diplomatic and interagency contacts, our German counterparts have been openly telling us that they do not wish to discuss this matter any longer. They are doing everything to show us that they have lost all interest in this subject and would like to forget about it. They argue that Berlin “does not see any point” in this, while Germany’s decision not to share Alexey Navalny’s biomaterial with Russia in order to prove that he was poisoned by Novichok, or to disclose the formula of the agent discovered by the German military experts in his body, will not be reversed.

In addition to this, the German authorities have refused to hand over other physical evidence they purport to have of the “assignation attempt” against the blogger, including the water bottles that were allegedly taken from Omsk and contained traces of poison. They are clearly concealing the details of the role in these events played by Maria Pevchikh, who accompanied Alexey Navalny during his evacuation to Berlin. Overall, this is a murky secret. The most astonishing thing is that secrecy surrounds the purported investigators, the very people who for many years have been “exposing” the most intricate stories, coming up with 3D fakes and material that never existed, to mix it up with some facts and present the resulting data as the ultimate truth. Why were these would-be investigators unable to get to the bottom of what happened to them? Where are the formulas?

For example, in a February 15, 2021 response by the German Government to a parliamentary enquiry on the Navalny case filed on December 21, 2020 by the Alternative for Germany group in the Bundestag, the fact that on August 22, 2020, Maria Pevchikh was on the medevac aircraft as it flew from Omsk to Berlin was not even mentioned. However, she declared this in an interview with the BBC’s Russian service on September 18, 2020. In addition, the German Government said that it lacked any information on her visits to Alexey Navalny in the Charite Hospital. In addition, referring to the need to protect state secrets, the German Government refused to answer the question of who provided the water bottles for inspection, when and to what agency, or whether the competent German agencies questioned Maria Pevchikh. As if this was a state secret that the German Government had the duty to preserve.

In the context of the information provided by Philipp Jacoby, who claimed that the medevac aircraft crew was allegedly informed about the upcoming flight to Omsk as early as August 19, 2020, before the incident involving Alexey Navalny, this sheds new light on a strange mishap that happened during the 97th session of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) Executive Council in July 2021. Let me remind you that when the OPCW presented its 2020 Annual Report on the Implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention, it turned out that paragraph 1.41 of this document stipulated that the OPCW Technical Secretariat dispatched a technical assistance team in connection with Alexey Navalny’s alleged poisoning as early as August 20, 2020, in response to a request by Germany. Of course, it was a question of chemical weapons use. What this means in practice is that it took so little time for Germany to voice concerns over the fate of the “poisoning victim.” It happened on the very day that he got the first symptoms.

Of course, both the OPCW and Germany rushed to explain that these “revelations” on what happened on August 20, 2020, where a technical error caused by negligence during drafting of the report. They argued that without any doubt Berlin sent its request for technical assistance to the Director-General of the OPCW Technical Secretariat under Article VIII, paragraph 38(e) of the CWC on September 4, 2020, as confirmed on numerous occasions by official sources. However, the draft report tells a different story. We believe, and have repeatedly said so, that any newly discovered evidence on Alexey Navalny’s alleged poisoning, including what Philipp Jacoby has said, should his words be corroborated, must be subject to the most intense scrutiny. We need to shed light on the origins of this anti-Russia provocation that was clearly engineered and seriously undermined the constructive nature of Russia’s cooperation with Germany. We will persist in our efforts to get to the bottom of this story and will use any means and possibilities at our disposal to do so. Still, there are questions that only Germany can answer. We are waiting for this answer.  Let me assure you that they will once again hide behind state secrets and start referring to some far-fetched commitments, or claim that it is Alexey Navalny who has not granted his authorisation to disclose information, etc. However, they were the ones who started this story, so maybe it is high time that they tell us the truth about what actually happened there.

 

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Developments concerning Russian citizen Alexander Franchetti, arrested in Prague

 

On September 12, Russian citizen Alexander Franchetti was arrested at Prague International Airport, and new details are becoming available in this context.  The arrest was made at the request of the Ukrainian Prosecutor-General’s Office, sent directly to the Ministry of Justice of the Czech Republic. This aspect is another cause for alarm, considering the current rampant legal nihilism in Ukraine, as tribute to the prevailing political madness.

According to media reports, the Russian citizen was incarcerated on September 14 under a decision of the Prague City Court. The Russian Embassy in Prague is maintaining close contacts with Mr Franchetti and his Czech lawyer, as well as with his relatives. We are expecting the Czech party to release the Russian citizen as soon as possible, and we are also expecting answers to our questions concerning the reasons and motives for his arrest. We are urging the Czech side to make a well-though-out decision, to prevent its politicisation and not to follow in the wake of the Ukrainian authorities.

We are expecting Prague to refrain from adding new irritants to our already complicated bilateral agenda that has become extremely tense as a result of Prague’s actions. Statements made by some representatives of the Czech authorities imply that these developments have nothing to do with our bilateral relations. It is impossible to call these statements anything else but hypocrisy.

 

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Another act of vandalism with regard to a Russian war memorial in Latvia

 

We have taken note of the acts of vandalism of Soviet war memorials and graves in Latvia which are now becoming ever more frequent.

Only the other day, there was yet another incident involving a memorial stone, with lettering in Russian and Latvian, on the shore of Kisezers (Lake Kish) in Riga. Unknown persons barbarically dismantled a memorial plaque in Russian and Latvian languages saying that on October 12, 1944, Soviet forces started liberating the capital of the Latvian SSR from Nazi invaders. Who are these people whom this information motivated to act in such an insane and barbaric manner? It appears that they probably did not want Nazi forces to leave this vicinity.

Following the incident, the Russian Embassy in Riga promptly sent a note to the Foreign Ministry of Latvia and demanded that Latvian authorities take action to investigate this act of vandalism, eliminate its consequences and punish the culprits in accordance with Latvia’s international legal obligations.

We hope that the Latvian authorities will duly assess the cynical aspirations of the radicals who have encroached on the sacred memory of those who gave their lives in the struggle against Nazism.

 

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The 200th anniversary of independence of Central American countries

 

September 15 marked the 200th anniversary of independence of Central American countries: Guatemala, Honduras, Costa Rica, Nicaragua and El Salvador. Our Central American colleagues have received congratulations from President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. Russian leaders have wished peace and unity, well-being and prosperity to them and the peoples of their countries. We would also like to join these congratulations.

Our political dialogue and cooperation with the region continues to expand. We regularly inform you about this and provide the required facts that show our coinciding or similar approaches towards addressing major international matters. This hinges on our commitment to the UN Charter, respect for the principles of the states’ sovereignty and non-interference in their domestic affairs. We strengthen our bilateral and multilateral relations with reliance on equitable and mutually beneficial cooperation in overcoming common current challenges, including the COVID-19 response efforts and the fight against illegal drug trafficking and organised crime. Mutual respect for the diversity of cultures and traditions is another inalienable part of our efforts, including those to expand education, cultural and humanitarian ties.

Despite objective pandemic-related difficulties in organising bilateral contacts, foreign minister of Honduras visited Russia last April, foreign minister of Guatemala was here in June and of Nicaragua in July 2021. In September, an exhibition of works by famous Russian photographer Sergey Kovalchuk opened in Costa Rica. We are preparing to hold consultations at deputy foreign minister level with El Salvador in October. In June 2022, we are set to mark the 30th anniversary of diplomatic relations with this country. 

We will continue to expand cooperation with our Central American partners. This concerns bilateral cooperation and that within multilateral formats, including the Central American Integration System, with reliance on the decision of this association’s Council of Ministers for Foreign Affairs to grant observer status to Russia within SICA. We intend to work actively with the Central American Parliament and to actively promote integration and ties in such fields as science, technology, space exploration and information security.

Our ties with countries of the Central American region and their associations have substantial prospects.

 

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Twenty years of Russian Diplomatic Service History Centre

 

In September 2001, the Russian Diplomatic Service History Centre opened on the 5th floor of the Foreign Ministry building on Smolenskaya Square. It is a museum featuring a unique display of artefacts and documents related to the rich history of Russian diplomacy.

At the end of last century, the Foreign Ministry veterans and young employees proposed ​​creating their own professional museum. The idea was supported by then Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov who signed a corresponding directive. Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Yury Khilchevsky agreed to implement the new idea and got busy with it with great enthusiasm. He certainly had a lot of help from employees of the Ministry’s History and Records Department as well as from other departments including Olga Volkova, Anna Zaleyeva, Nikolai Kochkin, Nadezhda Morozova, Petr Stegniy, Alexey Fedotov and others. A working group was set up to create the display at the museum.

Today, the Russian diplomacy museum is popular far beyond the walls of the Foreign Ministry. Its employees are involved in a lot of awareness raising, educational and research work. Over the past 20 years, the exhibition has been visited by a lot of tour groups that included newly hired Ministry employees as well as students from the Diplomatic Academy, MGIMO University, Moscow State University, the Foreign Ministry College and other schools. Young diplomats, members of the diplomatic corps in Moscow and foreign delegations are also its frequent guests.

The Centre hosts presentations and meetings with merited workers of the diplomatic service. Many documentaries about the Russian diplomatic service are also filmed there.

The History Centre carries out extensive patriotic education work alongside the Hall of Military and Labour Glory and the Diplomatic Courier Service Museum.

In 2015, this Centre and the Interior Ministry Museum were second only to the Museum of Cosmonautics in a competition among Moscow museums at government agencies, where they shared the second place. In recent years, the Centre has grown to be one of the three best such museums in Moscow.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov sent a message of greetings to the Centre’s staff on its 20th anniversary.

The museum activities regulated by relevant provisions are being complemented by volunteer efforts. Many people donate their own artefacts related to the diplomatic service history as well as documents they have found at auctions or in second-hand bookshops. This is true dedication, selfless work that people do with their whole souls and hearts. So once again, I wish all the best to everyone involved in the creation of this museum.

 

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History and records exhibition Forever Remembered tours Europe

 

An exhibition exposing the crimes committed by the Nazis and their accomplices against the civilian population in the Soviet Union during WWII is being shown in a number of European countries. The Forever Remembered travelling display, based on transportable sketch boards, is a project supervised by the Russian Historical Society.

This exhibition has tremendous importance in the current context, with repeated attempts to rewrite history, erase from the memory of the current generation the feats of the Soviet soldiers who liberated the world from Nazism, granting the gift of life to entire countries and even continents. This project is intended to remind the international community, primarily the younger audience, of the innumerable sacrifices the peoples of the USSR made to save the world from the brown plague of the 20th century.

The exhibition will tour 22 European countries. The first displays have already been set up in the Russian houses of science and culture in Berlin and Paris.

 

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Answers to media questions:

Question: How would you comment on the recent international conference on Anti-Communist Resistance in Central and Eastern Europe in 1944-1953, which was held in Vilnius?

Maria Zakharova: Judging by media reports, this event was specifically timed to coincide with the 100th anniversary of one of the WWII and post-war criminal leaders, Juozas Luksa, aka Daumantas, who has been turned into a hero in Lithuania. Accordingly, the conference focused on the so-called fight for freedom from the Soviet power, and how Lithuanian wartime “forest brothers” set an “example” for other peoples to raise national consciousness.

You should be aware of our position of principle and assessment of such moves. This kind of activity, which has already become routine for Vilnius, is aimed at revising history in order to present members of wartime underground nationalist groups as heroes, while most of them collaborated with the Nazis and participated in mass executions of civilians. This policy cannot be regarded as anything less than a mockery of the memory of the numerous victims of the gangster terror in Lithuania. At the same time, the truly heroic accomplishments of hundreds of Lithuanians who helped liberate the country from Nazi occupation are deliberately being hushed up. Shame on them.

Question: What is the Foreign Ministry’s opinion of the election victory of Norway’s Labour Party, which stands for closer cooperation with Russia?

Maria Zakharova: Any election processes in sovereign states are the cause of their citizens. Therefore, if the Norwegians have made this choice, it is their sovereign right to do this. The Russian Federation has always stood for the development of multifaceted constructive and mutually beneficial ties with Norway.

Russia and Norway share a long history of neighbourly relations and a positive experience of joint efforts to deal with our common issues, effective interregional and cross-border interaction, as well as fruitful work within the framework of bilateral and international organisations, including the UN, the Arctic Council, the Barents Euro-Arctic Council, and field-specific Russian-Norwegian commissions. We intend to continue developing our ties with Oslo in this spirit, regardless of the lineup of political forces in Norway.

Of course, we have pointed out repeatedly that the increasingly “toxic” Western attitude towards Russia, the aggressive encouragement of anti-Russia sentiments, and the demonisation of Russia’s policy have also affected, unfortunately, our relations with Norway. During our communication with the Norwegian partners, we point out the destructiveness of this approach. We urge Oslo to develop ties based on mutual respect, a balance of each other’s interests, and readiness to coordinate a positive agenda in deed rather than in word. This attitude is typical of the countries that develop their international ties on the basis of international law and in accordance with the letter and spirit of the UN Charter.

We are aware that the Norwegian Labour Party, which has won the election, previously spoke in favour of making efforts to improve the climate of our bilateral cooperation. We will take a look at the coalition government, which will be formed as the result of the election, and its declared policy towards Russia. It is not only important to see which principles are proclaimed and how this is done, but also at their subsequent implementation. We will determine our policy based on this.

Question: Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz has announced, quite categorically, that Austria will not take in any Afghan refugees. The other European countries are in no hurry to accept them either. Will Russia accept Afghan refugees? If so, how many and on what conditions? If not, why?

Maria Zakharova: Since you have started with Austria and specifically mentioned Chancellor Sebastian Kurz’s decision, I would like to point out that independent states have a sovereign right to formulate their domestic and foreign policies. This is Austria’s decision.

As for assistance to Afghan refugees, we are guided in this matter by the existing international obligations and norms. In light of the migration developments around Afghanistan, we are concerned that terrorists and extremists might spread into neighbouring countries, more specifically Central Asia, using the cover of humanitarian slogans and calls for helping refugees. You know about our position on this matter. We have put it forth on many occasions. Incidentally, it was also included in the CSTO statement on Afghanistan, which was adopted in Dushanbe on September 15.

We believe that the international community and Afghanistan’s traditional Western sponsors, who are responsible for the results of their 20-year-long presence in Afghanistan, must provide effective assistance to the Afghan people to reduce the number of refugees or stop people from fleeing their country altogether. Unlike many other countries, we know the history of the region, including Afghanistan, very well. It is based on this knowledge that we have formulated our attitude to the recent developments. We have repeatedly called on the United States and the Western coalition as a whole to get back to the principles of international law and to act in accordance with the UN Security Council’s mandate. We have pointed out on many occasions that they should report on their activities to see if they complied with the mandate and recommendations of the UN Security Council on coordinating activities in line with international law. They have not done this. We can see the results now. The responsibility rests with those who were in charge  of the situation there over the last 20 years.

Question: Am I right in thinking that Russia is not considering taking refugees from Afghanistan yet?

Maria Zakharova: This obligation must be assumed by the countries that used to preach to Afghanistan about how to run its affairs, made promises to the Afghan people and led them on. They must fulfil all the obligations they undertook in the past 20 years.

We, on the other hand, have not been big-brothering or lecturing Afghanistan. All we did was provide help. During the previous briefing, I spoke about our humanitarian contribution through international organisations to help that country. We have worked with Afghan officials to maintain security and train Afghan government employees to counter terrorist threats, etc. We often spoke out against our Western partners’ activity in the country that could have led to serious consequences.

There is one more important aspect. You can try and model the future of Afghanistan all you want – just like they do in Washington offices at the top. Or you can move citizens of a sovereign state from one region to another, from one continent to another. You can make up stories about building a democracy. It is so easy to do when you do not share a border with Afghanistan. And the United States does not. But without an actual intra-Afghan political process involving all the political forces in Afghanistan that represent different categories of citizens, different ethnicities and religious groups and so on, you are bound to fail. It is this process and nothing else that can guarantee peaceful and stable life in Afghanistan and the region in general.

As a result of US experiments, it is now not only an issue for Afghanistan and the region but, first and foremost, for the European continent, the Middle East and North Africa. According to recent data, 40,000 Afghans were sent to Doha and from there, 20,000 (as reported in the media) were redirected to other countries. As concerns the European countries and the EU, each has already ended up with several hundred refugees – and some even committed to taking in thousands. The United Kingdom, which is not a member of the EU but a member of the North Atlantic “family,” committed to accepting 20,000 citizens of Afghanistan in the long term. In the short term, it claims to be ready to take in 5,000 people. Do they have a tried and tested process for screening and verifying the people they accommodate on their territory? Or a proven method for separating people involved in extremism from scientists, cultural figures etc.? Judging from the previous migration waves, we can see that there is no such method. And judging from the number of terrorist attacks committed by international terrorists in the EU, we also know that their screening process is half-baked. Do our Western partners realise what they are doing? Interestingly, the whole concept was coined by the United States. Remember, they are accommodating Afghan citizens not on their own territory or the territory of the countries bordering Afghanistan, but in Europe, the Middle East and North Africa. It is quite an arrangement, don’t you think?

Question: If Alexander Franchetti, who was detained in the Czech Republic, is deported to Kiev and faces the Security Service of Ukraine, it will create a dangerous precedent. There will be no guarantee for Russian nationals that they will not be kidnapped when they are on holiday or during a business trip to the EU if they are somehow connected to or suspected of having connections to the 2014 events. Is Russia ready to take retaliatory measures or, for example, introduce sanctions against the Czech Republic if it extradites Alexander Franchetti? And do you believe that the response must have a preventive effect to discourage European countries from granting this kind of wishes to Ukraine?

Maria Zakharova: We are considering practical diplomatic steps that I have mentioned. I don’t think it is necessary to model further developments, at least not publicly. Our analysts are working on this and “do no harm” is one of the principles they will follow.

We have requested an official note from the Czech Republic clarifying the grounds for and the circumstances of Alexander Franchetti’s detention. We hope to receive a clear explanation and evidence regarding the charges against the Russian citizen. There are certain concerns that both Ukraine and the Czech Republic will try to politicise this case despite claiming that their judicial authorities are completely impartial. It is a scenario we are also preparing for. There have been plenty of similar incidents lately. Once again, I would like to stress that the unfriendly actions against Russian citizens will have consequences. I think it is obvious. What consequences? It depends on what happens next. Right now, we are doing our best to provide all necessary support to Mr Franchetti.

Question: Quite recently, Foreign Minister of Ukraine Dmity Kuleba said that his country was disillusioned with the West, that Ukraine should only rely on itself and emerge as a “flexible military state like Israel.” Prior to this, President of Ukraine Vladimir Zelensky had made some harsh statements about the EU and the United States. Do you expect Ukraine to somehow change its strategy towards Russia in this regard? Aren’t you afraid of provocations? And how will you build relations with Kiev in this new reality?

Maria Zakharova: This is the first time someone has insulted Israel by calling it a flexible military state and comparing it with Ukraine. I would say it was too hasty of Dmitry Kuleba to make such statements.

We hear a lot of conflicting statements from Ukrainian officials. Honestly, one starts wondering if they are worth commenting on or considering seriously. Do they even hear themselves or see what they are doing? How can I comment on Dmitry Kuleba's statements – is this a growing awareness that the West's attitude to Ukraine is not a partnership? We have been saying for a long time now that Ukraine is simply being used for purposes that serve the goals of the collective West, in particular the United States. It is being used as a pressure tool on Russia, at least in an attempt to exert some influence and find a reason for new sanctions.

It appears they are not listening to us in Kiev when we say this. But when someone from a Baltic country tells them about it, the message reaches them immediately. Strange logic. It is obvious that Ukraine has long turned into a springboard for anti-Russia provocations and a zone for dubious economic and energy experiments without us or any Western representatives having to point this out. If they have finally figured this out – by heeding our statements or the EU statements, well, it is probably better to know the truth. It is a good thing. But there is no certainty that they have. Tomorrow we may hear some different statements.

We believe it is not too late to stop Ukraine's destructive action against their own country, their agriculture and industry, and its transformation into a “button” in the hands of Western partners and supervisors to push. Think about the people who originally lived there and worked for their country’s welfare. Their interests should be the cornerstone. Probably it is not too late yet. There is still a chance to realise this and change their tactics. But for this, you will need to take some specific action – to stop the promotion of nationalist sentiments, discrimination against the Russian-speaking population and the country’s transformation into a NATO military foothold. This would require making a choice and showing political will. The first step towards awareness has been taken, but practical action should follow.

Let's see what they will declare or do next. The most important thing is to understand what Ukraine’s national interests are. Up to this point, they have served the West. Now they seem to have figured it out. But they still need to form an attitude and vision of their own national interests – which parties would be beneficial to interact or trade with, how this interaction should be arranged and what fields of cooperation they need to choose to meet the interests of their own population.

It is becoming more and more difficult to seriously comment on the statements made by Ukrainian representatives and officials, not only because of their absurdity, but also because their statements are contradictory.

Question: On September 6, Azerbaijan and Turkey launched joint military exercises involving live-ammunition target shooting practice in the Lachin District of Artsakh. Under Clause 3 of the trilateral statement of November 9, 2020, the Russian peacekeeping contingent is to be deployed along the Lachin corridor. Under Clause 6, the Russian Federation’s peacekeeping contingent controls the Lachin corridor. In turn, the Republic of Azerbaijan guarantees the safe passage of individuals, vehicles and freight in both directions. What does Moscow think of these provocative military exercises?

On September 6, the Azerbaijani side fired on Armenian positions and civilian communities on two occasions – in the evening and at night – from positions overlooking the towns of Karmir Shuka and Tagavard in the Martuni District of the Republic of Artsakh. The attack damaged the home of a resident of the Tagavard community. Six civilians live in that house. What is your opinion of the violation of the ceasefire regime?

The Azerbaijani side checks the documents of Iranian drivers and their freight along a small stretch of a road near the village of Vorotan, and Iranian drivers also have to make toll payments. What do you think about the actions of the Azerbaijani side?

In September, Turkey and Azerbaijan conducted a joint exercise involving underwater attack and defence teams in the Caspian Sea. Official Tehran has already stated that the involvement of Turkish service personnel in this exercise is illegal because it runs counter to the Convention on the Legal Status of the Caspian Sea. One of the Convention’s fundamental principles states expressly that armed forces that are not affiliated with the Contracting Parties shall not be deployed in the Caspian Sea. What is Russia’s position regarding the involvement of Turkish service personnel in the Caspian Sea exercises?

Maria Zakharova: We have received similar questions from the Shant TV company regarding an outpost on Goris-Kapan highway. I will provide a comprehensive answer.

Speaking of the joint Azerbaijan-Turkey military drills, Russia has informed official Baku about its position. Considering the fact that the Azerbaijani partners have reacted with understanding over this, I consider it possible to refrain from public comments. We maintain contacts with our Azerbaijani partners.

I have no information concerning the above-mentioned attacks on Nagorno Karabakh communities. Russian peacekeepers are in this region, and they are deployed along the demarcation line of the parties and in the Lachin corridor. I suggest that you request the relevant explanations regarding these developments from the Russian Defence Ministry.

We closely follow the situation on certain sections of the border between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Specific developments, including those near the village of Vorotan, once again prove that as soon as possible, it is necessary to launch the process of delimiting and later demarcating the entire Armenian-Azerbaijani border. Russia has already submitted the relevant proposals to Baku and Yerevan. We are expecting a speedy reply for formulating a subsequent line.  At the same time, we are continuing our joint efforts with Azerbaijan and Armenia to unblock regional economic and transport ties in the context of implementing the top-level trilateral agreements of November 9, 2020 and January 11, 2021.

Question: Has Russia established contacts with the new Taliban government in addition to the dialogue at the level of the ambassador in Kabul? What issues have been discussed?

Maria Zakharova: The embassy in Kabul is our ground station for communicating with Taliban representatives. The Russian Embassy and the ambassador are the ones engaging in working contacts – and intensive contacts at that. Moreover, we maintain communication channels with the Taliban leaders at the level of Special Presidential Representative for Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov.

We are using every opportunity to ensure the safety of our diplomatic mission and other Russian nationals in Afghanistan, which is our priority, as well as the safety of foreign nationals, specifically, from the CIS and the CSTO countries, by assisting with their issues.

The fundamental purpose of these contacts is to encourage our partners to finish the national reconciliation process and eventually establish an inclusive government in Afghanistan. We believe this should be the focus of our efforts. In our opinion, this approach is what will, in the long term, take us to the main goal, which is a peaceful and stable Afghanistan and, therefore, a safe region.

Question: Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov claimed there was substantial evidence of US interference in Russia’s domestic affairs and this evidence had been handed over to the US Ambassador in Moscow. Can you give us more information on this?

Maria Zakharova: We have already covered this issue. Today’s meeting of the commission that I mentioned discussed this matter. Member of the Federation Council Committee on International Affairs Andrey Klimov made a statement to this effect. Representatives of the Foreign Ministry also attended the meeting. The statement contained many points and facts related to activity through US internet platforms that constitutes interference in our elections.

You can obtain more detailed information from the statements by the Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media (Roskomnadzor) and Russian law enforcement agencies. They provide the facts and data concerning the blocked Smart Voting project and bypassing the blocking, which has been done from abroad, primarily from the United States. I am not only referring to the platforms hosting the software that must be blocked as ordered by Russian law enforcement and executive authorities, but also attempts to bypass the blocking as well as other manipulation.

It should be stressed (and I hope you will convey this to your audience) that, as you noticed, we did not pursue this action (I am talking about the executive authorities and the parties) on the basis of unsubstantiated and empty allegations of interference. As soon as it was detected, we immediately communicated the evidence (not as declarations or statements but as specific data) to the US officials.

We were surprised to read the US Embassy press release that said nothing about the reason why the US Ambassador had been summoned. They made it look like we had simply discussed the bilateral agenda. Broadly speaking, it is a bilateral agenda but the matter was very specific. The evidence handed over to the Americans contains data, facts and figures.

We have all the necessary channels for the United States to use in order to communicate with us on these issues.

Question: Meetings of bilateral working groups on various topics were announced when Syrian President Bashar al-Assad visited Moscow for talks with President of Russia Vladimir Putin. Have any consultations taken place involving the Foreign Ministry? What have they discussed? Have any specific agreements been reached?

Maria Zakharova: I have no additional information. The announcements referred to meetings between top officials. The Foreign Ministry was not involved in any talks on the sidelines of that meeting, and our ministers did not meet.

Question: After the scandals regarding the Ivan Konev monument and all the speculations concerning the explosions in Czech warehouses that involved weapons banned by the international community – after all this, our people on social media have been rightly urging not to buy Czech-made goods (beer, cars, etc.) and not to travel to the Czech Republic. Is there any information about maybe a shrinking trade balance in relations with the Czech Republic, or a decrease in the tourist flow to the Czech Republic?

People on social media have been calling for the toughest measures, and this is understandable. They ask, what is the point of “blacklisting” the Czech Republic if no actual measures are taken? Maybe Russia should cancel flights to the Czech Republic while increasing air services with Hungary and opening Slovakia? Or is it time to introduce some retaliatory sanctions – to raise the customs duty on Czech goods? Maybe officially recommend that Russian citizens refrain from visiting the Czech Republic? Or they can arrest just everyone.

Does the Russian Foreign Ministry plan to publish a list of Russian citizens who are on the international wanted list?

Maria Zakharova: Russian-Czech trade did shrink in 2019-2020, but that was caused by objective reasons – a fall in the Russian hydrocarbons prices and sanitary and epidemiological restrictions in connection with the coronavirus pandemic. As of the end of June 2021, trade between Russia and the Czech Republic increased by 52 percent compared to the same period in 2020 and exceeded $4 billion. So no, there has been no damage to bilateral trade and economic relations. These are important numbers and indicators. They show that the “crisis” in bilateral relations was artificially provoked by the Czech side. People, companies, and business leaders are interested in expanding trade, economic relations. There is a lobby in the Czech Republic (we have spoken about this more than once, cited specific facts, and commented on their respective steps) that aims to minimise contacts with Russia and mislead the public about our country and potential that may be of interest to Czech citizens. But these figures speak for themselves – we are interested in each other. We are mutually beneficial partners for each other. All we need is that these lobbyists in the Czech Republic, unfortunately, fostered and supported by the Western supervisors, would not interfere.

Now about the tourist flow. If you take the worldwide situation, it has indeed dwindled, but that was because of the pandemic, not politicians. It is very difficult to link any changes with politics, because things had earlier slowed down due to the COVID-19 precautions and restrictions imposed by most countries.

As for the specific facts of our attitude towards the Czech Republic, we have been actually showing an interest in expanding the dialogue with that country. The Emergency Response Centre to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus infection in Russia made a decision to resume air services with the Czech Republic, one of the first, on August 27, 2021. Many restrictions on Czech citizens’ entry into Russia have been lifted as well. It is difficult to expect an increase in the tourist flow while COVID-19 restrictions are still in place, but there are no prerequisites for its artificial reduction on our part.

We support maintaining and expanding person-to-person communications. The fleeting political interests the incumbent Czech government seems to be guided by (not all officials in fact, just the core ones), should not be hindering it. The authorities should be guided by national interests, should see the reality of our interaction and its results.

As for the possibility of publishing the list of persons on the international wanted list on the Foreign Ministry website – each agency has its own terms of reference. Apparently, you mean the persons wanted by Interpol, and there is a special website for this. In Russia, these matters are handled by the Ministry of the Interior and law enforcement agencies, but not by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The Foreign Ministry publishes recommendations on its webpage for warnings for Russian citizens. We regularly post material that may be useful to people going abroad. We caution our citizens about foreign travel risks arising because some states seem to extend their national jurisdiction to the rest of the world.

Each country has its own lists and decisions on the arrest and detention of persons from other states, and those are not published. We do not know about them because they may simply not inform anyone about them. Therefore, your proposal is not entirely realistic.

Question: Alexey Danilov, the Head of Ukraine’s National Security and Defence Council, said that he does not rule out a full-scale offensive on Crimea by the Ukrainian Armed Forces. At the same time, Ukrainian media outlets actively claim that Russia is allegedly preparing to attack Ukraine. What does Russia think about such aggressive statements and the attendant events, such as media coverage? Does Moscow see any real danger for Crimea in the light of the fact that the United States oversees many Ukrainian sabotage operations against Russia?

Maria Zakharova: Crimea is reliably protected, and the people of Crimea know this. No hardly adequate or completely inadequate statements by Ukrainian officials should worry them.

I have already answered this question to a considerable extent. This is an attempt to distract attention from domestic Ukrainian problems, a PR stunt, and simply inadequate statements.  But there is an important aspect. When they say that they have information that Russia will certainly attack anytime and any day, one would like to ask, where are those much-discussed tanks?

Not only Kiev but Western media outlets and, unfortunately, many Western officials claimed several years ago that they had personally recorded the re-deployment of certain Russian equipment, including heavy-duty equipment or tanks to Ukraine. When the first lorries started delivering humanitarian relief aid, appropriately marked as such, The Guardian journalists published tweets with photos, screenshots and statements that those were, undoubtedly, Russian tanks. But this was humanitarian relief aid, not tanks. Huge amounts of this aid were delivered over these years. It is possible to calculate this volume in tonnes, but it is impossible to estimate the amount of Russian assistance to Ukrainian citizens because this includes not only assistance delivered to Ukraine, to Donbass, but also assistance to Ukrainian citizens who were forcibly resettled and who became displaced persons in connection with the situation in their country. Some of them obtained Russian citizenship, some have not given up their Ukrainian citizenship, but they realise that they cannot endlessly travel back and forth in an effort to survive. Many work in Russia on a seasonal basis and then go back. This also amounts to tremendous assistance and support. We welcomed a huge number of refugees in 2014-2015.

One should not fantasise or retell this fantasy and present it as hot news. Most of what they talk about is not true, and the rest is a compilation of facts and inventions.

Question: The officials and media outlets in many countries are accusing the Taliban of human rights violations. What is Russia’s position on this matter?

Maria Zakharova: I would like to ask those who are making such statements if they themselves respected civil rights in Afghanistan. Giving life lessons to others is easy. It is much more difficult to implement the lofty statements one makes. All of us have seen what they did with the citizens of Afghanistan and how they ensured their rights over the past few months. We have spoken about the developments there on numerous occasions during the past 20 years. You surely recall the fire attacks on civilians and a large number of civilians killed because the attackers mistook public celebrations for terrorist groups and opened fire on them. It happened so many times… Hundreds of people died because of “technical mistakes” made by the forces deployed in Afghanistan.

Needless to say, the Western coalition is responsible for the plight of the Afghan residents and citizens, who became hostage to the gross mistakes made by the coalition. When will the Western “teachers” start mending their own mistakes? When will they start respecting human rights in the countries they invade?

The operations of the United States, NATO and the coalition began in accordance with the UN Security Council mandate. This happened 20 years ago. But later they steered away from it. Nobody can say for sure what they did there. We only have fragmented information about of the number of civilian casualties and the experiments conducted there.

If there are hard facts, they must be analysed. But the most important thing is to pay attention to the subject under discussion – the political process. This may sound boring, but it is the only way to achieve all goals, from resolving the plight of Afghanistan and the region as a whole to ensuring respect for the rights of every citizen. The interests of citizens represented by political agencies must be taken into account within the framework of this political process.

We would like to point out that the Taliban have announced their intention to guarantee public order in the country, to amnesty government officials, and to respect the rights of women (within the framework of the Islamic legal system) and journalists. We hope that these promises will be implemented.

What amazes us most is the cynicism of our Western partners’ statements, who are preaching to Afghanistan from afar but don’t know what to do with the mess they have left there.

Question: Alexey Navalny’s team has released a new investigative film today. Can you comment on it?

Maria Zakharova: First of all, the creators of these pseudo-investigations make no secret of their goal – to crush and destroy. I have not invented this. They have said so themselves. They are living abroad on foreign grants, and their information campaigns are supported and managed by the intelligence services of the countries that see Russia as their enemy.

Second, this is done in line with Joseph Goebbels, who spoke about taking a grain of truth, distorting it with lies and presenting the result as gospel truth. Horrible classics.

Third, even his worst critics do not question Sergey Lavrov’s professionalism. His prestige is undeniable. He is respected for his deep knowledge, hard work and ability to find solutions to the most complicated international conflicts and problems, as well as for his human values.

So, don’t hold your breath.

 

 

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