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14 October 202116:14

Briefing by Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova on the sidelines of the third Eurasian Women’s Forum, St Petersburg, October 14, 2021

2064-14-10-2021

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Table of contents

  1. Third Eurasian Women’s Forum
  2. Interregional ties of St Petersburg and the Leningrad Region
  3. Marking the 25th anniversary of the Solzhenitsyn House of Russia Abroad
  4. Sergey Lavrov’s upcoming talks with Minister for Foreign Affairs, International Cooperation and Communities of the Republic of Guinea-Bissau Suzi Carla Barbosa
  5. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s forthcoming participation in a Valdai Club meeting
  6. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s upcoming talks with Foreign Minister of the Republic of Cyprus Nikos Christodoulides
  7. Update on Afghanistan
  8. Outcome of the G20 extraordinary summit on Afghanistan with the participation of Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov
  9. Update on Ukraine
  10. Statements by Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida
  11. US Under Secretary of State Victoria Nuland’s visit
  12. Celebrating Fridtjof Nansen’s 160th birth anniversary
  13. Traditional Weddings of the World: Cultural Heritage project

Answers to media questions:

  1. Journalist investigations of an attempted coup in Belarus

  2. Expansion by the EU Council of the list of designated Russian nationals

  3. Ukrainian Foreign Ministry’s statements

  4. North Korea’s right to defend itself

  5. Possibilities for a new Normandy format meeting

  6. Forthcoming talks with the Afghan delegation in Moscow

  7. Hearings in The Hague of Ukraine’s suit concerning the Kerch Strait incident

  8. Foreign media publications on Cyprus settlement

  9. Germany’s payments of pensions to Leningrad siege survivors

  10. Nagorno-Karabakh settlement

  11. Situation with the Russian national detained in Prague

  12. “The women’s mission to shape a new agenda for peace and trust” session at the Eurasian Women’s Forum

 

 

Third Eurasian Women’s Forum

 

I am glad to welcome you to St Petersburg. Our offsite briefing today is taking place on the sidelines of the third Eurasian Women’s Forum.

Let me remind you that the Forum is held at the initiative of Federation Council Speaker Valentina Matvienko under the auspices of the CIS Interparliamentary Assembly and the Federation Council of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation. It is attended by female leaders from the CIS member states and other countries of the world (over 100 states), parliamentarians, representatives of executive authorities, international organisations, the business and scientific communities, public and charitable associations, as well as the international women’s movement and the media: journalists, press secretaries, and PR people.

Yesterday we had a fruitful discussion on effective partnership in the information sphere, on the role and influence of women in the formation of digital media culture and gender balance in journalism.

Key discussion topics at the Forum include the role of women in ensuring global security, transitioning to new models of economic growth, social progress, overcoming the negative consequences of the coronavirus pandemic, achieving balance in the context of universal digitalisation, and solving global environmental and climate problems.

The Eurasian Women’s Forum can rightfully be considered an effective mechanism for interaction and dialogue between women who influence social, political and economic decision-making.

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Interregional ties of St Petersburg and the Leningrad Region

 

St Petersburg is an important venue for holding major international forums and conferences, provided there is strict compliance with public health restrictions. Recently it has hosted the St Petersburg International Economic Forum and other large international events. St Petersburg is a leader of the national investment climate ranking. We support the efforts of the city leadership to attract foreign investment and promote tourism.

The consistent work carried out by the St Petersburg government to support and develop cultural projects and programmes to promote the Russian language in foreign partner cities makes a significant contribution to protecting the national interests and preserving the historical memory of Russia.

During his visit on September 6, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov praised the high level of cooperation between the Foreign Ministry and the city administration, in particular, the St Petersburg Committee for External Ties, which marked its 30th anniversary this year.

The introduction of electronic visas for foreign guests of St Petersburg and the Leningrad Region on October 1, 2019 was an important factor in increasing business contacts and the flow of tourists. Unfortunately, the public health situation forced some changes, which were not so positive and complicated the follow-through on this decision. However, we will continue to simplify the procedure for the entry of tourists and businesspeople to St Petersburg and the Leningrad Region.

The humanitarian aspect of St Petersburg’s external ties during the coronavirus pandemic deserves special attention and praise. It is impossible to overestimate the contribution of the city’s medical workers and the corresponding humanitarian aid to its foreign partners: Chisinau, Palestine, Syria, Serbia, Italy, and Uzbekistan among many others.

Agreements on cooperation with 96 foreign cities and 30 regions are being implemented, as well as “diagonal” agreements with the governments of Belarus, Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan. On September 10, an agreement was signed between the governments of St Petersburg and Belgrade on trade, economic, social, humanitarian and cultural cooperation.

The Leningrad Region has secured its place among the regions doing the most to foster interregional contacts. It the first quarter of 2021, the foreign trade of the Leningrad Region amounted to $2.67 trillion. Trade grew by 8.3 percent, while exports increased 4.3 percent and imports 15.6 percent. We can also see the active development of the Leningrad Region’s humanitarian ties, especially cooperation with the regions of foreign countries in the sphere of environmental and social initiatives.

Cooperation at the municipal level is an important element of interaction between the Leningrad Region and European countries. Today there are over 100 such agreements in force. We will continue to support the development of contacts with CIS countries.

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Marking the 25th anniversary of the Solzhenitsyn House of Russia Abroad

 

On October 18, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will attend a ceremony dedicated to the 25th anniversary of the Solzhenitsyn House of Russia Abroad.

On May 2019, in keeping with the instruction of Russian President Vladimir Putin and with his support, the Museum of Russia Abroad opened at the House, so now these two have been transformed into a modern museum-cum-archive, combining the functions of a library, as well as a research centre, an information and publishing centre and a cultural and educational centre. 

Today, the Solzhenitsyn House of Russia Abroad is a major spiritual and intellectual centre for preserving and promoting Russian heritage abroad, which offers an effective format for a fruitful dialogue with our compatriots living all over the world and for perpetuating the memory of those who, while living abroad, did not forget their homeland and kept its traditions alive.   

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Sergey Lavrov’s upcoming talks with Minister for Foreign Affairs, International Cooperation and Communities of the Republic of Guinea-Bissau Suzi Carla Barbosa

 

On October 18, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will hold talks with Minister for Foreign Affairs, International Cooperation and Communities of the Republic of Guinea-Bissau Suzi Carla Barbosa, who will be on a working visit in Moscow on October 17-19. The ministers plan to discuss ways of stepping up bilateral cooperation in politics, trade, the economy, education, healthcare, culture and other areas, and sign a Memorandum of Understanding between the Russian Foreign Ministry and the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, International Cooperation and Communities of the Republic of Guinea-Bissau on Political Consultations. 

The two officials are expected to have an in-depth discussion on topical issues on the global and regional agendas, including crisis settlement and fighting terrorism in Africa, and review in detail the prospects for cooperation at the UN and other international platforms and multilateral formats, as well as issues of promoting further Russian-African cooperation in the context of preparations for the second Russia-Africa Summit scheduled for 2022.

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Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s forthcoming participation in a Valdai Club meeting

 

On October 19, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will take part in the 18th annual meeting of the Valdai International Discussion Club in Sochi.

The theme of the current meeting is “Global Shake-Up in the 21st Century: The Individual, Values, and the State.” There are many contradictory trends in global development. There is much to discuss with Russian and foreign experts at this venue that has become authoritative over the course of many years. The Valdai International Discussion Club has been thriving for almost 20 years now.

Mr Lavrov will share Russia’s views on the key aspects of international developments and, by tradition, answer questions from conference participants.

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Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s upcoming talks with Foreign Minister of the Republic of Cyprus Nikos Christodoulides

 

On October 21, Moscow will host talks between Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Foreign Minister of the Republic of Cyprus Nikos Christodoulides who will be on a working visit to Russia.

The foreign ministers will discuss prospects for the further deepening of political dialogue and joint efforts to counter the spread of the coronavirus and overcome its economic consequences, and to promote cultural and humanitarian ties.

They will exchange views on current international and regional issues with an emphasis on the settlement process in Cyprus and developments in the Eastern Mediterranean, the Middle East and North Africa.

The ministers plan to sign a number of bilateral documents.

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Update on Afghanistan

 

We are concerned that the activity of the ISIS terrorist group has not abated in Afghanistan. On October 8, the group committed a major terrorist attack in a Shiite mosque in Kunduz in the north of the country, killing about 150 people and wounding another 200. The militants also assumed responsibility for a terrorist attack in a religious school in the province of Host, which killed seven people. We hope that the new Kabul authorities will honour their promise to deal with ISIS single-handedly without external support.

We noted the two-day visit to Qatar by a Taliban delegation headed by Afghan acting Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi. Talks were held, in part, with representatives of the US Department of State. We expect the arrival in Moscow of a representative Taliban delegation to take part in a third meeting of the Moscow-format consultations on Afghanistan.

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Outcome of the G20 extraordinary summit on Afghanistan with the participation of Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov

 

The G20 held an extraordinary summit on Afghanistan (via videoconference) on October 12 of this year under Italy’s Presidency. The Russian delegation was headed by Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov. Special Presidential Representative on Afghanistan and Director of the Foreign Ministry’s Second Asia Department Zamir Kabulov also attended the meeting.

Participants in the summit emphasised the need to provide humanitarian aid to the population of Afghanistan with a view to ensuring stability and security in the region as a whole. They confirmed the urgency of the efforts to counter the threats of terrorism and drug trafficking emanating from Afghan territory.

The Russian delegation laid emphasis on the importance of forming an inclusive government that reflects the interests of all ethnic and political forces of the country as a key step towards concluding a peaceful settlement in Afghanistan. It noted that the states whose 20-year presence in the country ended in a deplorable situation are expected to take a responsible approach to providing assistance during the post-war recovery of the Afghan economy. The Russian delegation urged other participants to pool efforts to prevent a crisis in Afghanistan and its aftermath, such as the growth of terrorism and drug trafficking in the region and the rest of the world, as well as a new wave of Afghan refugees and the risks of terrorists entering neighbouring countries, primarily, in Central Asia, in the guise of refugees.

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Update on Ukraine

 

The situation in Ukraine is of growing concern. The gap between the Kiev government’s words, declarations, statements and actions continues to widen.

In a word, the Kiev regime is promising to settle the conflict in Donbass peacefully, and is declaring its commitment to the Minsk agreements. However, it is alternating these statements with remarks to the effect that the Minsk agreements are hopelessly out of date. In fact, it is doing everything possible to drive the situation to a dead end. Over the past two weeks, the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission has recorded 2,800 attacks on the line of contact. Since July 2020, when Ukraine signed additional Measures to Enforce the Ceasefire, the number of violations has exceeded 60,000. Think about these numbers. Following in the footsteps of the commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine Valery Zaluzhny, the commander of the Joint Forces Operation Alexander Pavlyuk officially allowed the Ukrainian military to open fire without the higher chain of command’s approval, which violates the above additional measures and increases the number of civilian casualties in Donetsk and Lugansk. The Verkhovna Rada is considering a draft law on the “transition period” policy, which, once approved, will put an end to the special status of Donbass. It comes into direct conflict with the Minsk agreements and creates a legal basis for official Kiev to drop out of them.

Given this, it is not surprising that the Contact Group and its subgroups’ meetings for the settlement of the conflict in Donbass, which took place on October 12-13, ended without any results. The Ukrainian officials have once again done everything possible to make this happen.

Given the difficulties in settling the conflict in eastern Ukraine, the leaders of the Normandy format countries agreed during a telephone conversation on October 11 to direct their political advisers and foreign ministries to step up the efforts in this regard. For our part, we will continue our mediation efforts in the Contact Group and the Normandy format, including through our Foreign Ministry, with an eye towards encouraging Kiev, Donetsk and Lugansk to fulfill their obligations under the Minsk Package of Measures.

Unfortunately, instead of encouraging their wards to implement the Minsk Package of Measures, Kiev’s Western overseers, on the contrary, are encouraging the Ukrainian leaders in their efforts to shift responsibility for the settlement of the internal Ukrainian conflict onto Moscow.

The EU-Ukraine summit of October 12 was quite revealing when it comes to this. One could almost think that our Western partners were in some kind of parallel reality. The leaders of the EU and Ukraine called on Russia to implement the Minsk agreements in full. Apparently, they believe that not Kiev, but Moscow can grant Donbass a special status within Ukraine, declare an amnesty for the residents of Donetsk and Lugansk, and carry out a constitutional reform in Ukraine with an emphasis on decentralising its territorial structure. Is this really what the EU had in mind? If so, then it is a new milestone in international law.

Just a reminder, all of the already mentioned measures to be taken are included in the Minsk Package of Measures and are the key preconditions for a comprehensive political settlement of the conflict. They can only be realised by Ukraine, if we are talking about constitutional reform, amnesty, etc. Why are they making these kind of statements then?

The fact that Brussels is reviewing plans to deploy an EU military training mission in Ukraine is of growing concern. The implementation of this initiative, which contradicts the Minsk agreements, will further militarise that country and escalate tension in Donbass, and encourage the Kiev authorities to further sabotage the Minsk Package of Measures. We are urging them to abandon this, to put it mildly, ill-thought-out move. If this is a deliberate move, then my question is what its goals are.

Another example of a gap between words and actions of the Ukrainian leadership is the way it treats historical memory, its own history and the historical facts. During the events dedicated to the 80th anniversary of the Babi Yar tragedy, President of Ukraine Zelensky said that “dignified commemoration of the victims is our duty to previous generations.” Despite these statements, the destruction of war memorials and graves of Soviet soldiers who died in the Great Patriotic War continues in Ukraine in violation of national legislation and international law.

A monument on a mass grave of the Red Army soldiers and tombstones with the names of the soldiers was demolished in the town of Kolomyia, Ivano-Frankovsk Region, on September 30. All of this is happening at the same time under the same president of Ukraine. These statements are being made by the same people, and these actions are being performed with the connivance of the official authorities that are making statements about the need to preserve the memory of those who have fallen. On October 8, the Lvov City Council resolved to dismantle the central part of the Field of Mars memorial - a scaled-up copy of the Order of the Patriotic War.

These are the real facts. Do you believe President Zelensky is not aware of them? I’m not so sure anymore. Perhaps, he simply isn’t. This begs the question: how can he not know it and why? They don't report this to him? Did he issue an instruction not to report this to him? How can you not know about this? After all, in the end, it was not he or people in his circle who erected these memorials and built these monuments. This was done by previous generations.

President Zelensky is talking about “the horror, pain and suffering that Nazism, racism, anti-Semitism, xenophobia and intolerance bring to humanity.” What do we see in real life? This is all about them not doing as they are saying. Ukraine votes against the UN General Assembly resolutions on combating the glorification of Nazism, neo-Nazism and xenophobia, just like the United States. Sometimes these two countries use the support of some other state. In splendid solitude, year in and year out, they vote against the UN General Assembly resolution, which proposes concrete practical steps and an international legal format to prevent the glorification of Nazism, xenophobia and other similar practices. There is an explanation for this. Nazis and their accomplices are actually being glorified in Ukraine, which is exactly why they have been voting against this resolution for many years now. This is not because they do not really understand what this resolution is about, or because they are just forming their attitude towards it. That would be possible if we were talking about several years, but we are talking decades. The streets are being named after Nazi henchmen and collaborators and monuments to them are being erected. The Lvov and Ivano-Frankovsk regions proclaimed 2022 the year of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army. Can you believe it? Today, on October 14, Ukraine is celebrating an anniversary dedicated to the founding of this punitive Nazi organisation.

Once again, we would like the international community to take note of the Ukrainian authorities’ hypocritical policy and call to influence them in order to make Kiev fulfil its obligations to resolve the conflict in Donbass and preserve the historical memory that relies on facts and reality, not myths or fakes.

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Statements by Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida

 

We have taken note of the statement the new Prime Minister of Japan Fumio Kishida made in parliament. According to him, Tokyo will not sign a peace treaty with Russia without settling the territorial dispute first.

Perhaps our Japanese partners are trying to determine the course of peace treaty negotiations with such ultimatums, but in fact, they are making the prospects for its adoption less likely.

We invariably proceed from the premise that the first step in this direction should be Japan’s full recognition of the results of World War II, including Russia’s lawful ownership of the southern Kuril Islands. At the same time, the search for a mutually acceptable solution to the issue of the peace treaty must be pursued in line with the comprehensive development of Russian-Japanese relations through the expansion of trade, investment and economic cooperation, with confidence-building measures in the military and political sphere, and rapprochement of positions in international affairs.

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US Under Secretary of State Victoria Nuland’s visit

 

We believe that the October 12 talks with Victoria Nuland at the Foreign Ministry were useful and timely.

The conversation was straightforward and blunt, touching upon a wide range of issues that are viewed as irritants in our bilateral relations, including the obstacles for the operation of Russia’s diplomatic missions that were artificially created by Washington, as well as the steady stream of visa and other restrictions that we cannot leave without a response.

I would like to remind you that Victoria Nuland was on the Russian stop list, and it has to be emphasised that this stop list was introduced in response to a US stop list. What made her visit to Russia possible was the delivery by the US of a visa to a Russian diplomat who needed to travel to the United States on assignment but was repeatedly denied entry. His visa applications were denied even though he was heading to the United Nations, whose headquarters are on US soil. This is an important caveat. As a country hosting an international structure, the United States is under obligation to ensure its normal operation, including the issuance of visas to foreign diplomats, civil society leaders and experts arriving at the UN headquarters in New York to work, attend conferences and symposiums. This is the direct obligation of the United States that must not be affected by bilateral relations or other factors relating to US policy. This is set forth in the corresponding documents, which means that the United States cannot simply forgo this obligation. The United States has repeatedly failed to comply with its duties by refusing to grant a visa to a Russian diplomat. Accordingly, the Russian diplomat got the opportunity to enter the United States. He received the visa. This exchange enabled us to resolve this specific issue. However, from a broader perspective, during the talks the Russian side emphasised the need to lift all reciprocal restrictions in order to ensure the normal operation of the embassies and consulates.

Summing up the consultations with Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov, also attended by Deputy Defence Minister Colonel General Alexander Fomin, as well as conversations with other Russian officials, we can say that despite the persisting crisis potential in our bilateral relations, Moscow and Washington share the commitment to continue their dialogue in order to make their relations more stable and predictable. In this context, further escalation on the Russian track, which is what Russophobic forces in the United States are calling for – I am referring to the recent call by anti-Russia members of Congress to expel 300 or 400 Russian diplomats, and other things we are hearing from Washington – can only lead to an escalation of confrontation between our countries that has already gone beyond all reasonable boundaries.

We pointed out to Victoria Nuland that we are ready to establish contacts at all levels as agreed by the presidents of Russia and the United States during their Geneva summit. The strategic stability dialogue and cooperation on cyber security were mentioned as positive examples of these interactions.

The Russian side stressed that there is no alternative for the United States to a well-balanced approach consistent with the new geopolitical reality for building its relations with Russia based on the principles of equality and taking into consideration each other’s interests.

During talks with Victoria Nuland, we stressed that the AUKUS partnership that is being formed, or should I say knocked together, by the United States, Great Britain and Australia, not only threatens to undermine the current security architecture in the Asia-Pacific Region, but could potentially put the international non-proliferation regime at risk.

At Russia’s initiative, the participants in the talks also discussed NATO’s dangerous moves to step up its activity in the immediate vicinity to the Russian border, primarily in Eastern Europe and in the Black Sea. The recent decision by Washington and Warsaw on the permanent stationing of US military forces and deploying elements of America’s global missile defence shield on Polish territory is a matter of special concern.

On the international agenda, special attention was paid to the developments in Afghanistan in the wake of the hasty and chaotic withdrawal of US troops. Russia believes that despite the radical changes in the internal political situation in the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, the Troika Plus mechanism and the Moscow format, which brings together the key regional powers and the United States, remain relevant and can effectively contribute to promoting intra-Afghan reconciliation and forming and inclusive government that would reflect the interests of all ethnic and political forces in the country.

It was reiterated that the deployment of US and NATO military infrastructure in Central Asia is totally unacceptable for Russia. Our firm position on this matter as stated by the Russian President at the Geneva summit remains unchanged.

We agreed to maintain contacts on all the topical issues on the Russia-US agenda.

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Celebrating Fridtjof Nansen’s 160th birth anniversary

 

Around this time, commemorative events are being held to mark the 160th birth anniversary of Fridtjof Nansen on October 10.

The whole world cherishes the memory of prominent Norwegian polar explorer Fridtjof Nansen who was also a scientist, a public and political activist, and who received the Nobel Peace Prize. Additionally, Nansen was one of the founders of the League of Nations. He made a tremendous contribution to solving the problems of refugees, including with the help of the so-called Nansen passports. These IDs were issued to stateless persons. He also helped repatriate prisoners of war and contributed to anti-famine efforts. It is common knowledge that the UN High Commissioner for Refugees annually confers the Nansen Refugee Award.

The whole world and Russia know his personality well. Nansen sincerely loved Russia and was a staunch advocate of establishing mutually respectful relations between Russia and Norway.

Russia has organised a number of events to mark his 160th birth anniversary. The Diplomatic Academy was the venue of a roundtable discussion devoted to the diverse activities of this legendary person. We are also holding exhibitions, conferences and educational events, including some in the Russian regions. Several new books dedicated to the great Norwegian have been published in the run-up to his birth anniversary.

We really hope that, apart from paying tribute to the memory of Nansen, including in the context of Russian-Norwegian relations, the anniversary events will help us recall the fundamental principles of love for humanity, the importance of equitable and respectful cooperation and the topicality of joint efforts to maintain security and stability all over the world.

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Traditional Weddings of the World: Cultural Heritage project

 

We are guests at the Eurasian Women's Forum. Its participants talk so much about women and about traditional values that are for the most part preserved thanks to women. For most women, there is nothing more important than family, marriage, raising children and continuing traditions. In this regard, I would like to tell you about a Russian project, which I think is in tune with the atmosphere at the Forum and the topics raised here.

The project, Traditional Weddings of the World: Cultural Heritage, has been launched in Russia. When I received a letter from the person who initiated this project, it made me smile and I wanted to get to know him, because it was a truly fascinating, relevant and entertaining topic. It is at the junction of several related spheres: it has to do with traditions, with history and cultural studies, as well as intercultural and interreligious ties, exchanges between countries and peoples on the subjects of history and ethnography.

So who is this man? Denis Knyazev, the initiator of the project aimed at preserving the unique wedding traditions of various peoples around the world. He started with researching traditions in our country, and then became interested in the respective traditions in other countries, and how similar or different they are.

Over the six years of this unique project, expeditions have been organised to the most remote corners of our country for filming and re-enactment. Denis Knyazev photographs artefacts, costumes and museum exhibits, and he also organises re-enactment of traditional weddings of indigenous peoples. The team working on this project has published two albums about Udmurt and Nenets weddings with descriptions of their traditional wedding ceremonies in three languages ​​- Russian, English and the local language. A book about Russian wedding traditions is being prepared for publication. The Foreign Ministry provides informational support for the project. We have also asked the Permanent Mission of Russia to the United Nations in New York to cover it because in many ways, this topic overlaps with the UN agenda.

The story of a family usually begins with the formation of this family, with the wedding, with all the ceremonies. Each nation has its own special wedding customs and traditions. These fantastic books feature unique photographs and reflect the tremendous work that has been done to put them together. I highly recommend this project.

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Answers to media questions:

Question: A number of journalist investigations have resonated recently with claims that the UN encouraged attempts to stage a government coup in August 2020 in Belarus. What do you think about the UN’s response, or rather its silence, regarding the economic and sanctions pressure exerted by the West on Belarus and accusations that it encouraged a coup?

Maria Zakharova: I have not seen any investigations of this kind.

The UN’s goals and objectives deal with sustaining the international legal framework enabling countries to build mutually respectful relations, with an emphasis on the importance and value of non-interference in each other’s affairs, respecting sovereignty, territorial integrity and the rights of peoples to live the way they deem fit within their borders.

Russia’s position on the developments in Belarus is well-known. We condemned in the clearest terms that cannot be subject to any ambivalent interpretation the collective efforts made by several countries to interfere in the domestic affairs of a sovereign state and incite illegal actions and events that run counter to the fundamental laws of Belarus. We have been consistent in our position, which is not because Belarus is part of the Union State. Of course, we have a special relationship with that country and its people, but this is our fundamental approach and a matter of principle for us. This is the way we treat any country.

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Question: Could you please comment on the October 11, 2021, decision made by the EU Council to expand the list of Russian nationals designated on the EU sanctions list targeting those responsible for “undermining or threatening the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine.”

Maria Zakharova: Let me remind you about our fundamental position that is rooted in international law: any decisions on sanctions bypassing the UN Security Council are illegitimate from the perspective of international law. This is the way to approach this matter.

From a political perspective, this can be viewed as the EU playing “sanctions games,” which is regrettable, since there is nothing but politics there. This has nothing to do with the law, and in fact contradicts it. These sanctions were approved ahead of the October 12, 2021, Ukraine-EU summit.

This sends Kiev a signal, encouraging it to sabotage the Minsk Package of Measures. Our EU partners are calling on us to fully comply with the Minsk agreements, while sending signals to the Kiev regime by making steps that are designed, in their opinion, to contain or censure Russia. They are clearly playing games. What is it if not hypocrisy? Importantly, Brussels is failing to understand one simple thing. The internal crisis in Ukraine was primarily caused by the interference by the “collective West” and Brussels into Ukraine’s internal affairs and evolved into a full-blown armed conflict, which is a shame for these countries. At first, they interfered and manipulated the interests of the Ukrainian people, and after that they just cast the Ukrainians aside. Through actions of this kind, they are now seeking to show that they care for the future of the Ukrainian people. What they are doing is a vile thing, not involvement.

Our EU partners should know better, after all it was great Antoine de Saint-Exupery who wrote that “you become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed.” Let us not once again access these actions, since we have done this many times already. Brussels must understand its responsibility for the experiments with the people of Ukraine. The sense of “taming” that Brussels has been artificially imposing for many years creates a dual responsibility vis-a-vis the people of Ukraine. They cannot relieve themselves of their responsibility for manipulating Ukraine and its people by introducing or expanding any sanctions or renewing old ones. This may sound pathetic, but we believe that Brussels must hear this and understand that they cannot play with human destinies only to betray them afterwards. Such acts and signals exacerbate internal divisions in Ukraine that are now apparent for the entire world.

The EU’s illegal restrictions even affected members of the Russian judiciary. This is an overt attempt to put pressure on the judicial branch and to undermine its independence and impartiality. How does this relate to the statement made by the Head of the EU Delegation to Russia, Markus Ederer, in his October 8, 2021, interview with RBC, when he claimed that “there is no interference by the European Union in Russia’s internal affairs?” Or is there? This is clearly the case.

Or course, Russia will not fail to respond to this unfriendly step by the EU.

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Question: The Foreign Ministry of Ukraine declared that Natalya Poklonskaya “will not be able to hide from Ukrainian justice in Africa.” What could you say about this, especially since former Deputy of Ukrainian Prosecutor-General Gyunduz Mamedov did not rule out that Ukraine could start the extradition procedure as regards the former Crimean Prosecutor? Does Kiev have any grounds for such actions?

Maria Zakharova: The President of the Russian Federation appointed Natalya Poklonskaya a Russian ambassador. She will represent Russia abroad. This has nothing to do with Ukraine.

Under the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, as a head of a diplomatic mission Ms Poklonskaya has absolute immunity against such actions, no matter who declares them, including during her travel to the country of destination and back. Everyone must realise this.

I already commented on this yesterday. I read a comment by the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry about their intention to exercise “Ukrainian justice” in Africa. I would like to advise our Ukrainian partners to finally carry out Ukrainian justice in Ukraine. First things first. Once they do this – implement their justice in their own country – then they can move to more ambitious tasks. For the time being, they are not coping with what they should do first. Let them try their best.

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Question: What is Russia’s attitude to North Korea’s right to defend itself, considering the position it recently voiced in the UN?

Maria Zakharova: The answer is simple, and it is based on international law. We assume that Article 51 of the UN Charter gives the UN member-states the inherent right to individual or collective self-defence in the event of an armed attack. This right fully applies to all UN members, including North Korea.

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Question: A foreign minister meeting in the Normandy format. Considering that Kiev subverted the agreements of the meeting in Paris in 2020, is there anything to discuss with it now? Are there grounds to hope that Kiev will accept the Steinmeier formula?

Maria Zakharova: I have already commented on this in the opening remarks. I can repeat that during a telephone conversation on October 11, the leaders of Russia, Germany and France agreed to instruct their political aides and foreign ministries to intensify efforts in this area. The work on this issue is underway.

As for whether Kiev will accept the Steinmeier formula, please first address this question to Kiev. Or maybe not to Kiev but to those who oversee its actions from abroad.

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Question: Do you already know the agenda of talks with the Afghan delegation to be held in Moscow on October 20? What are Russia’s priorities at these talks? Will the participants discuss human rights, in particular, the protection of women’s rights?

Maria Zakharova: The main emphasis will be on post-conflict recovery of the country and mobilisation of consolidated aid by the international community with a view to preventing a humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan. An important part will be a discussion of the prospects for the intra-Afghan settlement process and the need to represent the interests of all ethnic and political forces in the country in the new government structures that are being created now. Human rights are not a priority on the agenda but may also be reviewed during the discussion.

This is not to say that this topic is not urgent. If you are following the developments in Afghanistan, you know about the terrorist activities there and a disastrous humanitarian situation that concerns everyone – not only women but also men, the elderly and people with disabilities. The international community must primarily direct its efforts to meeting basic human needs.

The Western media keep trying to present us as different from them on this issue but this is not true. We cannot simply ignore the right to life if we speak about human rights priorities because they include this right. It is impossible to implement other human rights if the right to life is neglected. If terrorist attacks take place in Afghanistan, it is no longer a question of the protection of the rights of girls and women. It is primarily necessary to resolve fundamental problems linked with security and the preservation of the infrastructure that provides life support for the country and supplies its population with medications and medical aid. But this does not mean at all that human rights problems are not important or topical for us. I hope I am mistaken that your question contains such an emphasis as well.

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Question: The International Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague started hearings on Ukraine’s lawsuit as regards the incident in the Kerch Strait in November 2018. Do you consider this trial politicised? What arguments does Russia have to defend its position?

Maria Zakharova: By initiating proceedings on the Kerch incident in the International Court of Arbitration in The Hague, Kiev is again abusing international means of peaceful settlement of disputes in order to challenge Russia’s sovereignty over Crimea.

Let’s recall that in November 2018 the Ukrainian authorities staged a deliberate provocation with the use of its naval vessels. In doing so they were guided exclusively by their domestic political interests that dominate their international agenda. Despite a warning from the Russian border guards on entering the Russian territorial waters, the armed motor boats Nikopol and Berdyansk and tugboat Yanu Kapu with military personnel on board under orders continued moving forward, thereby provoking a dangerous incident. It took place against the backdrop of Kiev’s serious arms buildup in the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea and other provocations undertaken by the Kiev regime aimed at challenging Russia’s sovereignty over Crimea.

To justify this dangerous military venture, Ukraine is trying to involve in the inquiry the International Tribunal established in 1982 on the basis of the UN Law of the Sea.

Russia proceeds from the belief that Kiev’s demands in this case exceed the jurisdiction of the court since in accordance with the statement that our country made when ratifying the Convention on the Law of the Sea, it does not accept the procedures provided for in Section 2 of Part XV, which lead to binding decisions on disputes regarding military activities, including naval activities by government vessels.

In addition, Ukraine did not fulfil an obligation to exchange views directly as a means of settling disputes, which, under the Convention’s Article 283 is an indispensable requirement for launching arbitration inquiries.

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Question: Many Greek, Cypriot and Turkish media have been alleging again that Russia and Turkey were considering the possibility of ‘mutual recognition’ of Crimea as a Russian territory and the territories occupied by the Turkish army in northern Cyprus as an independent state. Is there any truth in these reports? Are there any such discussions underway? Most of the reports rely on the statements and opinion of popular analyst Alexander Dugin, presented as an advisor to the President of Russia Vladimir Putin. Is he an adviser to President Vladimir Putin or other leaders in the Russian Government, or is this his personal opinion?

Maria Zakharova: I know Mr Alexander Dugin as a philosopher, political scientist, and public figure. I would suggest you consider his statements precisely in this capacity. Perhaps he could also tell you about his roles as an essayist and journalist, but again, this is more of a question for him.

We have already come to grips with this exciting game where fake news are planted on Greek or Turkish media (I have actually found myself the subject of such publications a couple of times), and then we are asked to give explanations on this score. I would say, if anyone should give explanations, it should be the media outlets that publish such information without asking for the concerned party’s comment before releasing the reports.

If they mention Russia’s approach, official Moscow’s position, I believe (at least the professional journalistic community always says so) it would be appropriate to ask our opinion and include the relevant parts in the articles. This does not happen, although we are open to interaction and comment on everything, even online. I urge the Greek media to contact us. We will be happy to comment.

The Republic of Crimea is an integral part, one of the most dynamically developing regions of the Russian Federation. The territory of our country has never been and will not be the subject of bargaining. Stating the opposite is close to provocation.

Finding analogies between the Russian Crimea and the so-called Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus is incorrect and I would say, unsafe, even dangerous. Such insinuations confuse international audiences, undermine trust, and generate negative emotions, also with regard to the Cyprus settlement.

You are well aware of Russia's position on the Cyprus problem the country worked out as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, which remains unchanged. We consistently advocate a solution achieved within the international legal framework established by the UN Security Council resolutions and based on a bizonal, bicommunal federation, with a single sovereignty, a single citizenship and a single international personality. We support the UN Secretary General’s efforts as part of his good offices to resume the intercommunal negotiation process.

We have seen a recent increase in the activity aimed at international recognition of the illegal state in northern Cyprus. We urge everyone to refrain from steps that could lead to heightened tension between communities and unbalance the situation on the island.

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Question: As you are staying in St Petersburg, formerly Leningrad, my question is about the German Government’s sensational decision to pay pensions to the survivors of the siege of Leningrad and certain other categories of citizens. This applies to people with a Jewish background alone. Compensation paid to Jews for 70 years were linked with the work of the public organisation Jewish Claims Conference which is located in New York and which cooperates with the German authorities. Do you consider it necessary and possible to set up a certain public association with the support of the Russian state, so as to restore justice? Otherwise it turns out that only one nation had suffered.

Maria Zakharova: We set forth our position in the relevant statement, posted on the Foreign Ministry’s website, and we have also commented on this matter at a briefing.

We worked with the German party and urged it to prevent this kind of segregation.

We noted the payments made under an instruction by President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin.

We urged the German party to heed all historical facts. It is unacceptable to divide people along ethnic lines, to support some of them and to overlook the fact that everyone had suffered. One can discuss this subject for eternity. However, we have learned the lessons of the 20th century, including those with which these payments are linked. They should have taught us that there is no place for national and religious segregation on our planet. It is necessary to exert all possible efforts in the areas where there are the slightest suspicions that such a division is taking place.

We spoke with the German side for a long time. We conducted lengthy talks. They have done what has been done. We have provided our own assessment of this, and our statement and comments contain this assessment. You can read it. But it is necessary to draw the relevant conclusions from the tragic lessons of the past, so as to avoid repeating these mistakes.

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Question: This week, President of Russia Vladimir Putin had a meeting with Prime Minister of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan. The Armenian prime minister called the meeting “productive.” He said at the talks that the Karabakh conflict remained unresolved, and that it was still too early to say that the situation has been stabilised. How can the Foreign Ministry comment on the meeting’s results? How, in your opinion, will relations between countries develop, so as to attain a full-fledged settlement of the regional situation?

Maria Zakharova: The Presidential Executive Office makes principled assessments of various highest-level meetings. This is about allotting our functional duties.

Regarding the overall situation, Russia consistently advocates unfailing compliance with all the provisions of trilateral agreements between the leaders of Russia, Azerbaijan and Armenia of November 9, 2020 and January 11, 2021.

We really hope that this will help create the required conditions for normalising relations between Baku and Yerevan, including in the context of current complicated bilateral matters.

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Question: What is Russia’s assessment of the meeting between Patriarch Kirill, Sheikh ul-Islam Allahshukur Pashazadeh and Catholicos Karekin II and its importance in terms of promoting post-war settlement between Azerbaijan and Armenia?

Maria Zakharova: As you know, this is not the first meeting between the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Kirill, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians Karekin II and Chairman of the Caucasus Muslims' Board Sheikh ul-Islam Allahshukur Pashazadeh. Religious leaders have been staying in touch with one another for decades, and have established trust-based relations, judging by their statements. We believe that this is a unique format. There is no doubt that this contributes to deepening mutual understanding between the sides and promoting inter-religious dialogue.

We proceed from the premise that the meeting, held on October 13, 2021, in Moscow will help normalise relations between Armenia and Azerbaijan and improve the overall situation in the South Caucasus, including confidence building, resolving urgent humanitarian matters, as well as preserving cultural and religious heritage. This is a very important format for overcoming problems and creating an atmosphere of trust and dialogue.

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Question: Just a few days ago in Nagorno-Karabakh, an Azerbaijani sniper shot a civilian working in his garden, virtually right in front of the eyes of Russian peacekeepers. How will Russia call on Azerbaijan to comply with the November 9, 2020, statement as part of its peacekeeping mission and to ensure the safety of the people living in Nagorno-Karabakh?

Maria Zakharova: It is true that on October 9, 2021, a civilian from Magadiz, Mardakert District, was shot to death in a firing incident coming from the Azerbaijani side. We express our deep condolences to the victim’s relatives and friends.

The command of the Russian peacekeeping force is investigating this incident and has reached out to both parties. Russian peacekeepers remain constantly in touch with the Armenian and Azerbaijani general staffs to coordinate the efforts and prevent incidents within their zone of responsibility.

This tragic event confirms the importance of rigorously complying with all the provisions of the November 9, 2020, and January 11, 2021, statements made by the leaders of Russia, Azerbaijan and Armenia. We call on both sides to remove the existing mutual irritants on humanitarian matters without further delay, exchange prisoners of war under the all-for-all formula and share all the available maps of landmines.

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Question: On September 12, 2021, a citizen of the Russian Federation, Alexander Franchetti, was detained at the Prague airport on charges of terrorism put forward by Ukraine. Does the Foreign Ministry have an update on this situation?

Maria Zakharova: We are closely monitoring this situation and all matters related to detention, arrest and similar difficulties faced by Russian citizens. The corresponding instructions have been issued to the Russian Embassy in Prague. The diplomats have established working interaction with the defence lawyers and Czech law enforcement agencies, as well as Mr Franchetti's daughter, who is in the Czech Republic now.

In connection with the September 14, 2021, Prague City Court’s ruling to place Mr Franchetti in custody, special attention is paid to his legal rights, including with regard to his current health situation.

In addition, the Foreign Ministry’s officials are in contact with his sister, who lives in Voronezh.

We are working to have this Russian citizen released as soon as possible. The defence of the detainee is also committed to this goal.

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Question: As a follow-up on the Women's Forum, one of today's sessions is titled The Mission of Women in International Diplomacy. Do you think women have a special mission in diplomacy? What is it about? Which of those “blazing fires” that you mentioned earlier today, can this “soft power” (if, of course, it is soft) help douse?

Maria Zakharova: Just go to the session to learn about the women’s role and special mission and whether it exists in the context of international relations. Why would I speculate on this topic which I believe will be the subject of a fascinating discussion?

If you are asking for my personal opinion, I have talked about it many times. Of course, we, women, have our own perception of the world which I think can make an important contribution to the discussion of multiple pressing issues, such as social protection, in particular, families, motherhood and childhood.

This does not mean at all that the contribution made by male diplomats, experts or specialists is not important. Much of what has been accomplished was developed and suggested by men. But women’s insights and experiences are truly invaluable. That includes humanitarian issues, equality of men and women, as well as new challenges and how they affect the lives of females of all ages.

We work side by side at the Foreign Ministry. There are no female or male teams. We work as one team united by common goals and objectives. This is the kind of unity that is based on a harmonious variety of opinions. I believe this makes our common work more effective.

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