Briefing by Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova, Moscow, November 10, 2021
Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s forthcoming talks with Chairperson of the African Union Commission Moussa Mahamat and Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and European Integration of Moldova Nicolae Popescu
- Situation around Sputnik Media in Estonia
- Developments in the Gulf of Oman
- Migrant crisis on the Poland-Belarus border
- The 3+3 format in South Caucasus
- OSCE Minsk Group’s activity
- Russia and Belarus coordinating stances
- Incident involving employee of Russian Embassy in Berlin
- Black Sea security
- Russian humanitarian aid for Afghanistan
- New US Special Representative for Afghanistan’s visit to Russia
- Upcoming meeting of the Troika on Afghanistan
- Growing terrorist threat in Afghanistan
- China-US dialogue on strategic stability
- Mutual recognition of vaccination passports by Russia and Kazakhstan
- Russia’s stance at the Paris conference on Libya
- The 7th Congress of Compatriots Living Abroad
On November 12, the Russian-French Security Cooperation Council will hold a regular meeting in the 2+2 format in Paris. Russia will be represented by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Defence Minister Sergey Shoigu, and France by Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs Jean-Yves Le Drian and Minister of the Armed Forces Florence Parly.
The ministers will focus on the issues of strategic stability and European security, non-proliferation, arms control, preventing an arms race in space, and relations between Russia and the EU and Russia and NATO.
The ministers plan to exchange views on topical regional issues: Ukraine, Afghanistan, Iran and Libya. They will also discuss the Middle East settlement process, developments in the Asia-Pacific Region and the situation in Africa, including security in the Sahara-Sahel region.Back to top
On November 12, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will take part in the international conference on Libya convened by President of France Emmanuel Macron. The task of this forum, like that at the previous representative meetings in Palermo and Berlin is to further mobilise the efforts of the international community to facilitate a settlement in Libya, and clarify the goals related to ensuring comprehensive and sustainable normalisation in that country.
Russia has invariably taken part in all major multilateral meetings that were designed to help the Libyans resolve the problems they are facing through no fault of their own. Our country has tried to make a constructive contribution to the efforts to create this state. Now that Libya is at a turning point in its history, we hope the decisions that will be adopted in Paris will help quickly overcome the impact of the protracted destructive crisis in Libya and facilitate its return to the path of steady development for the benefit of all Libyans.
Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s forthcoming talks with Chairperson of the African Union Commission Moussa Mahamat and Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and European Integration of Moldova Nicolae Popescu
We have already announced events for November 16. On that day, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov plans to meet Chairperson of the African Union Commission Moussa Mahamat. On November 17, the foreign ministers of Russia and Moldova will meet in Moscow as well.
On November 19, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will meet with OSCE Chairperson-in-Office and Foreign Minister of Sweden Ann Linden in Moscow.
The ministers will discuss a broad range of issues related to the OSCE’s current work with emphasis on the preparations for its Ministerial Council meeting on December 2-3. They plan to pay special attention to the performance of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine and the Contact Group in which Russian and OSCE representatives are helping the parties to the conflict – Kiev, Donetsk and Lugansk – to implement the Minsk Package of Measures to settle the conflict in Donbass.
The ministers will also discuss ways of enhancing the efficiency of this organisation and the role of this largest regional organisation in responding to common challenges and threats, as well as promoting a unifying agenda in interstate affairs.
During the talks, the ministers will thoroughly discuss topical issues of bilateral relations between Russia and Sweden and their cooperation in regional formats, primarily, in the context of Russia’s Chairmanship of the Arctic Council in 2021-2023.
A general election was held in the Republic of Nicaragua on November 7. As officially reported, incumbent President Daniel Ortega won a landslide victory in the race for the presidential office with over 75 percent of votes.
The ruling party, the Sandinista National Liberation Front, won most of the seats in the parliamentary elections.
As is known, objective assessments of the results of the electoral process in Nicaragua were provided by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov during a Q&A with the media on November 8.
Notably, in recent years, especially after the attempted coup in Nicaragua in April 2018, that country has become an object of open and cynical interference in its internal affairs, pressure and illegitimate sanctions. The goal of the sanctions ̵ no one hid it ̵̵̵ was to create more problems for President Ortega’s Sandinista government which is pursuing an independent policy.
No consideration is given to the fact that these actions not only violate international law and contradict the assurances of commitment to the rule of law and democracy which we keep hearing from the West, but also have a detrimental effect on a politically stable and economically successful country located in the fairly turbulent Central American region. Destabilisation will exacerbate the already serious problems caused by growing regional migration and organised crime, and create another hotbed of tension in Latin America. The question remains unanswered: Who needs this? Nicaragua does not need this, its people don’t need this, and neighbouring countries don’t need this. Does the international community need this? Of course, not. But it fits someone’s political strategy. We provide regular updates on our assessment of this approach.
As a reminder, the Constitution of the Republic of Nicaragua defines any foreign interference in its internal affairs, or attempt to encroach on its independence, sovereignty or national self-determination as a crime against the Nicaraguan people.
We condemn the comments made by the United States, the EU and a number of other countries regarding their refusal to recognise the election outcomes. Clearly, statements like this are legally inconsequential for Nicaragua.
We will continue to provide total support to the Nicaraguans as they uphold their right to a sovereign and independent development. We will build up and reinforce the Russian-Nicaraguan strategic partnership and work to implement socially oriented cooperation projects designed to improve the quality of life and prosperity of the citizens of the friendly nation of Nicaragua.
Free Nicaragua, we stand with you!
The Taliban’s ongoing efforts to normalise the functioning of socially important aspects of life in that country have come to our attention. With the assistance of UNICEF, a large-scale polio vaccination campaign has been launched, which should cover up to 10 million children (this is almost one third of the population of Afghanistan). Also, about 90,000 passports have been issued in one month. About 200 people who abused office were expelled from the Taliban. We took note of the fact that regional governance is being created with governors and deputies appointed in 17 out of 34 provinces of the country, and chiefs of police in 10 provinces.
The new Afghan authorities are deploying efforts to combat ISIS. Raids to strengthen security have been carried out as part of monitoring the developments near the region that is home to militant bases. We are talking about the Balkh province, where, in the wake of operations in the Nangarhar province, 25 ISIS militants were taken prisoner. The total number of ISIS militants who surrendered over the past two months is 250.
A statement by the US Special Representative for Afghanistan Thomas West about the need to establish close cooperation with Russia and China in order to stabilise the situation in Afghanistan has come to our attention. We take this as a positive signal and look forward to continuing productive interaction with the United States as part of the expanded troika mechanism and the Moscow format of consultations on Afghanistan.
We noted the German government’s plan to establish contacts with the Taliban and to resume its embassy’s work in Kabul, in order to, among other things, to provide humanitarian aid to Afghanistan, which was positively received by the new Afghan authorities.
We are seriously concerned about the aggravation on the contact line in Donbass. Over the past month since October 8, the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (OSCE SMM) has reported nearly 12,000 ceasefire violations. This is more than just a number: it means destroyed houses and killed and injured people. The observers noted dozens of armoured vehicles and artillery guns outside disengagement areas and designated storage sites, as well as at railway stations near the contact line. This is direct evidence of Kiev’s preparations to use military force to “liberate” Donbass.
The semblance of activity Kiev is creating in the Contact Group is another proof that it is not ready to settle the conflict through political and diplomatic means. The meetings of the group’s concerned subgroups held yesterday have not produced any result. We have no hopes for today’s plenary meeting either. Immediately after assuming her position in the Ukrainian delegation at the Contact Group, Deputy Prime Minister Irina Vereshchuk, who has been recently appointed Minister for Reintegration, indicated that Ukraine did not regard the Minsk Agreements as a roadmap for a settlement in Donbass. Her predecessor and Ukraine’s new Defence Minister, Alexey Reznikov, has made an absolutely shocking statement. He said that these agreements are not “a bridgehead for peace.” This phrase has disclosed Kiev’s true intentions. A bridgehead is an area used for military build-up ahead of or during preparations for invading the opponent’s territory. The words “bridgehead for peace” used by the Ukrainian representative in the Contact Group and other officials indicate their interpretation of the word “peace” and their real goals and objectives. A Freudian slip indeed.
We have to say that Kiev, instead of honouring its commitments under the Minsk Package of Measures to develop dialogue with Donbass representatives, is stubbornly refusing to interact with its citizens in southeastern Ukraine.
We do not see any explanation for Ukraine’s refusal to resume cooperation with Donetsk and Lugansk within the framework of the Joint Centre for Control and Coordination (JCCC). This is hindering the search for missing persons. It appears that Kiev is deliberately trying to avoid establishing the circumstances of their death. This is suggestive.
In this context, we would like to once again raise the matter of the kidnapping of JCCC observer Andrey Kosyak, a resident of the Lugansk Region who holds a Russian passport, by the Ukrainian military in the disengagement area near Zolotoye. Our consular personnel were unable to meet with Kosyak despite the Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba’s public promise to provide consular access to him. And now their request has been totally rejected. Several weeks after the abduction, Kiev has “found out” that Kosyak is a Ukrainian citizen. This is undoubtedly undermining the value of the Ukrainian officials’ statements and is evidence not just of their hypocrisy and lies, but of the uncontrollable chaos reigning in Ukraine.
It is notable that the OSCE SMM has not reported the fact of Kosyak’s abduction in its daily updates, although its mandate stipulates the obligation to “establish and report facts in response to specific incidents.” Mission observers meticulously report the instances of unavoidable delays down to a minute, for example, before crossing the contact line. But they are much less concerned about the time the Lugansk representative has spent in detention. We would like to receive an answer to our public request, including from the OSCE.
I would like to say a few words about the role of our Western colleagues, who have not just turned a blind eye to Kiev’s inactivity but are openly encouraging the Kiev officials’ aggressive rhetoric and militant sentiments. The guided-missile destroyer USS Porter entered the Black Sea on October 30, and the command-and-control ship USS Mount Whitney did so on November 4. On November 6, a pair of US B-1B strategic bombers flew over the Black Sea 100 km from the Russian border to train in the use of strategic bomber aviation. Such US actions are aimed at creating a multinational armed group and are destabilising the situation on the Black Sea in direct proximity to the Russian border. This reminds me of the Defence Minister Reznikov’s famous phrase. Are our Western partners doing this to create “a bridgehead for peace”? Kiev interprets this behaviour of its NATO sponsors as getting a free hand to conduct a military operation in Donbass. Nobody is attempting to hide this; moreover, such sentiments are being encouraged.
We are astonished by the commotion created by our German and French colleagues over the proposed Normandy format summit or ministerial meeting, although we have offered our arguments both via bilateral channels and publicly. Instead of stopping the militarisation of Ukraine and the Black Sea region, making it clear to Kiev that its aggression in Donbass and militant rhetoric are inadmissible, and, most importantly, that Ukraine must start full-scale talks with Donetsk and Lugansk without delay, Paris and Berlin seem to be thinking more about enhancing their own image on the international stage. Or do they want to provide an alibi for the Kiev regime?
We urge our Western partners, primarily Germany and France as the co-authors of the Minsk Package and as Normandy format mediators, to try to steer Kiev back to the path of political settlement via a direct dialogue with Donbass.
We continue to closely follow military and political developments in the friendly Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia. Clashes between the Ethiopian army and the Tigray Defence Forces, joined by the Oromo Liberation Army, continue unabated in the Tigray, Amhara and Afar regions, which is a matter of grave concern for us. Not only does this lead to more casualties in combat, but also among civilians, accompanied by the destruction of civilian infrastructure and a deteriorating humanitarian situation in the country.
According to the Russian Embassy in Addis Ababa, there were no casualties among Russians present in the country. At the same time, we do recommend Russian nationals to refrain from traveling to Ethiopia where a six-months state of emergency has been declared across the entire country.
We proceed from the premise that to preserve the country’s unity and territorial integrity, all parties to the internal conflict unfolding in Ethiopia must demonstrate political will and achieve a ceasefire. In our opinion, this would pave the way to a political settlement and restoring peace in the country.
On November 3, 2021, the First Committee of the UN General Assembly’s 76th session adopted by consensus a draft resolution on international information security initiated by Russia and the United States, and co-sponsored by 108 countries, a record number.
In our opinion, by working together with the United States on the original Russian draft we have been able to work out a well-balanced and impartial document summing up the positive outcomes of the first Open-Ended Working Group. It was established in 2018 at the initiative of Russia and the Group of Governmental Experts, which was created by the United States the same year. This draft resolution demonstrates that the international community is united on the idea of continuing talks on international information security under the UN auspices and within a single mechanism. In this context, the resolution welcomes the launch of a new open-ended working group on the security in the use of information and communications technologies for 2021–2025, and acknowledges its mandate in accordance with General Assembly Resolution 75/240.
This document sets forth incontestable and fundamental principles of international information security such as promoting the use of ICT for peaceful purposes, preventing their use for criminal or terrorist purposes, and preventing conflicts in the information space . The draft resolution provides for devising additional rules, norms, and principles of responsible behaviour by states, including binding obligations. Including this provision into the UNGA’s draft resolution was a matter of principle for Russia and like-minded countries, and the fact that this has been done is unprecedented.
The decision to draft a resolution together with the United States was an original political gesture on Russia’s behalf, considering the context surrounding our bilateral relations. In this connection, we can see that Russia and the United States are becoming closer in their positions on the prospects for further cooperation on international information security. The majority of UN member states welcomed the flexibility demonstrated by our countries, and view the adoption of a single document as ending the practice of adopting dual resolutions on this subject within the General Assembly’s First Committee. For them, this sends an important signal to the entire world that Moscow and Washington can and are ready to assume responsibility and agree on the most acute issues, including on this subject.
We hope that the UN General Assembly will adopt this draft resolution in December 2021, and that this adoption will be by consensus.
On November 3, 2021, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution extending the mandate of the Althea operation for one year. This is a European Union-led operation in Bosnia and Herzegovina, carried out in execution of the military aspects set forth in the 1995 General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina (Dayton Agreement).
It is no secret that drafting this resolution required an intense effort. We are glad that a responsible and constructive approach prevailed. The resolution is politics-free, well-balanced, and fully conforms to the vision of those who wanted to extend EUFOR’s mandate in Bosnia and Herzegovina, rather than promote an agenda that has nothing to do with this matter. We thank our partners for their cooperation.
The same day, the UN Security Council discussed the developments in Bosnia and Herzegovina in light of Article VII of the UN Charter. The exchange of views demonstrated that deep divisions persist among Council members as to the circumstances and causes of the internal political crisis in this country, as well as ways for overcoming it and the role the international community can play in this regard.
On November 1, 2021, Egyptian peacekeepers serving with the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) sustained gunshot wounds during an incident in Bangui. According to incoming reports, one of the buses deviated from the MINUSCA convoy’s route and drove in direct proximity to the Presidential Palace. The palace guards saw the approaching vehicle as a threat. The driver of the bus swerved and hit a woman, a citizen of the Central African Republic, who died as a result.
We would like to note that the Central African Republic’s authorities instantly stated their readiness to investigate all circumstances of the incident together with senior MINUSCA officials. We hope that this investigation will make it possible to establish the causes of the incident and to take exhaustive action to prevent similar incidents in the future.
On November 8, 2021, the Russian Direct Investment Fund delivered 2.8 million doses of both components of the Sputnik V vaccine against COVID-19. President of the Republic of the Philippines Rodrigo Duterte attended the official ceremony of receiving the Russian vaccine at the Colonel Jesus Villamor Air Base in the Filipino capital, which imparted special significance to the event.
Cooperation in COVID-19 response is carried out as part of implementing the agreements reached by our countries’ leaders. In March 2021, the Philippines approved the emergency use of Sputnik V, followed by Sputnik Light in August 2021. The country has already received over seven million doses of the Sputnik V vaccine.
We view the joint COVID-19 response effort as a priority aspect of the dynamically developing practical cooperation between our countries.
On November 15, the Intersputnik International Organisation of Space Communications marks its 50th anniversary. It was founded under the 1971 Intergovernmental Agreement on Establishment of the Intersputnik International System and Organisation of Space Communications. Headquartered in Moscow, this organisation brings together 26 countries across all continents and 25 national organisations. The Russian Federation is represented by the Ministry of Digital Development, Communications and Mass Media. The national participant on our behalf is the Russian Satellite Communications Company.
The organisation is focused on developing international cooperation in the area of satellite communications and peaceful space exploration in the interests of all its members, as well as creating favourable conditions for their achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals set by the United Nations. Intersputnik is a permanent observer in the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, a member of the Radiocommunication Sector within the International Telecommunications Union and a participant in the Regional Commonwealth in the Field of Communications.
Intersputnik’s unique status allows it to develop commercial activity based on cooperation with global and regional communications companies and international organisations. Intersputnik makes available geostationary and non-geostationary spacecraft facilities to interested users across the globe to provide the entire range of modern satellite communications and broadcasting services, including corporate and departmental satellite communications networks, broadband internet, mobile communications and satellite broadcasting distribution networks in any location. This year, Intersputnik has provided access to the facilities of 30 spacecraft and their ground-based infrastructure around the world, including offshore areas.
The organisation effectively deals with arising challenges and confidently forms its long-term policy. Congratulations on the 50th anniversary. We wish Intersputnik members new achievements across all areas of its productive and highly sought-after work, including its close cooperation with interested parties in Russia and abroad.
Earlier this year, the Association of Volunteer Centres, jointly with the Federal Agency for the Commonwealth of Independent States, Compatriots Living Abroad and International Humanitarian Cooperation (Rossotrudnichestvo) and the Russian Humanitarian Mission, launched the Missiya Dobro (Mission Good) International Programme.
The project is aimed at recruiting Russian nationals for participation in social projects abroad and foreign volunteers for participation in social projects in Russia.
Under the programme, the volunteers are involved in social initiatives, charities, emergency relief operations all over the world, and environmental projects, such as farm work, assistance to employees of specially protected nature conservation areas, as well as restoration and regeneration of natural landscapes. The volunteers will also join educational and cultural projects helping to teach people, preserve the traditions of small indigenous peoples, etc.
Both experienced volunteers and professionals from Russia or other countries, such as doctors, rescuers, builders and teachers, are eligible for participation in the programme. By helping to solve humanitarian problems, the Mission Good volunteers and professionals will be instrumental in creating an objective international image of Russia as a country prepared to contribute to development and help in challenging times. Regrettably, there are quite a few challenges facing the world today. Each mission is designed for about two or three weeks.
This year, 27 Russian volunteers – doctors, environmentalists, Russian language teachers, and psychologists – will work for the Mission. They will travel to Kazakhstan, Armenia, Moldova and Uzbekistan. The 2021 humanitarian missions will mostly focus on healthcare, education and environmental protection.
Rossotrudnichestvo, the Association of Volunteer Centres, and the Russian Humanitarian Mission call on Russian professionals, students, and everyone who cares to join the Mission Good programme.
Maria Zakharova: It seems that the West has developed a new mechanism to measure and evaluate the popularity of the Russian media. It is a simple thing: as soon as the media becomes popular, they immediately begin putting pressure on it in many and various ways.
The growing popularity of this Russian-language media portal that offers unbiased well-rounded news on a range of current issues weighs on the anti-Russia and Russophobic forces in Estonia and other countries. The best (or more specifically, the worst because of their ignoble deeds) minds of NATO and relevant structures surrounding this military block are contemplating how to harm Russian and Russian-language media. Using such totalitarian methods as intimidation, criminal prosecution and closing bank accounts, they blocked the activity of Sputnik Estonia in 2020.
The current situation is beyond the basic democratic values and Tallinn’s international obligations to insure the unimpeded work of the media, freedom of expression and equal access to information.
The accusations brought against this news portal of laundering money and financing terrorism are not just absurd and unsubstantiated, they are null and void, not because there is no proof, which is obvious, but because the people who create such fake news, compilations and manipulations are humiliating themselves, demeaning the concept of freedom of the media and have a disparaging attitude to the profession.
Needless to say, such repressions cause irreparable damage to bilateral relations that are already in deep crisis, which our partners should keep in mind.
We urge the relevant international structures, first of all, the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, to condemn the attacks on the Russian-language media in Estonia and take proper measures to remedy this unacceptable situation.
Question: My question is about the confrontation between the US military and the Iranian navy in the Gulf of Oman. According to our information, the Iranian navy used speedboats as well as catamarans of the Shahid Nazeri class. Is the Russian Foreign Ministry going to ask relevant organisations to provide an assessment of this incident?
Maria Zakharova: We are against any escalation of tension in the Middle East. We urge all parties involved in conflicts to look for ways of settling their differences rather than aggravating them. To do this, they should hold a mutually respectful, equitable and constructive dialogue in line with international law and the UN Charter.
This is the goal of the Russia-drafted updated collective security concept for the Persian Gulf. Tehran, a key player in the region, is consistently supporting the Russian concept.
Tensions in the Persian Gulf are largely triggered by the irresponsible policy of Washington, which is continuously escalating tensions around Iran and the region in general by its provocative actions. Is its behaviour any different somewhere else? Are we seeing a different picture in other areas of the world?
Today, we talked about the situation in the Black Sea region and in a number of Latin American countries. Unfortunately, our Western partners are well known for creating provocations, fuelling tensions and using unacceptable methods in order to aggravate differences between states.
The recent incident in the Gulf of Oman must be thoroughly verified.
Maria Zakharova: The foreign ministers of Russia and Belarus have just held a news conference following the meeting of the joined collegium of our foreign ministries. They covered this problem in detail – both the migration crisis on the Polish-Belarusian border and our approaches to migration issues that were caused by the illegal, aggressive and ill-conceived actions of Western coalitions in the Middle East and North Africa and Afghanistan. They spoke about sanctions as well.
In our view, it is unacceptable to turn migration problems into an excuse for introducing new sanctions against Belarus and other countries, including the EU’s fifth sanctions package. They hardly needed to invent a reason if they wanted to impose new sanctions on some country, for example, Belarus.
When they started talking about sanctions, there was a cacophony of voices and views: from former President of Ukraine Petr Poroshenko to representatives of the EU countries. Maybe we should look at this situation in the following context: aren’t the repeated refusals by Poland and other counties, which Minsk invited to hold consultations on migration issues, part of the planned campaign that is unfolding before our eyes? Minsk (and now Moscow as well) are being accused of carrying out some “planned special operation.” If we think of who needs this and what is behind it, we could conclude that Minsk’s adversaries in the West have decided to invent another pretext for using sanctions pressure. It all points to this conclusion given that statements on the need to introduce new sanctions are a regular occurrence.
We have repeatedly said that the blame for yet another wave of the migration crisis in Europe should not be shifted to Minsk. This crisis did not start in November or in summer or spring of this year. This is an exodus of people from the countries that “developed democracies” decided to whip into shape. It has been in the active phase for several years now. This crisis was triggered by Western armed interference in the Middle East and North Africa and the aftermath of the failed operation in Afghanistan. What happened in that country led to new rounds of the migration crisis that has been in the making for years. This is news only for someone who has never heard of Afghanistan. If you know, even superficially, what has been going on in the world in the past few years you are bound to know about the root causes of this crisis.
Sanctions are a favourite political instrument of our Western partners. Instead of establishing direct contacts with the Belarusian authorities, the bordering EU states prefer to counter illegal migrants by stubbornly accusing Belarus of unleashing a “hybrid war.” Meanwhile, Belarus has been offering to the EU and its members to hold consultations on this issue since last April. We should ask these countries and their government agencies why they have failed to find at least one day and several people to respond to Minsk’s proposal in the past six months. One gets the impression that the Polish and Lithuanian authorities are doing their utmost to create a situation and punish Minsk once again instead of settling an acute humanitarian crisis.
I will not speak about all violations of humanitarian law or the conventions and agreements that Poland and Lithuania are part of. This is a separate story. We believe that unilateral sanctions of the West against sovereign states are inadmissible and illegal in the context of international law. We reaffirm our resolve to render all-round assistance to Belarus and its people.
Question: At present, the 3+3 platform is one of the important South Caucasus topics that the sides are actively broaching. But, as Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stated recently, there have been no positive steps on the part of Georgia. At what stage are the talks with that country? Are there any prospects for launching this format any time soon?
Maria Zakharova: We have repeatedly commented on this at our latest briefings. Russia has supported this initiative. We think it is high time we put the plans to launch this format into practice.
As for the Georgian position, we are hearing controversial statements from Tbilisi concerning its participation in this consultative mechanism. But this is the position of a sovereign country. We proceed from the assumption that the 3+3 format is in the interests of all nations in the region.
Question: How does Russia as the key mediator in the settlement of Armenian-Azerbaijani relations see the functions of the OSCE Minsk Group in the context of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s statement published on November 9? In what postwar settlement areas can the Minsk Group be of use?
Maria Zakharova: There is a lot of international support for the format of the OSCE Minsk Group сo-сhairs. As pointed by the Russian Foreign Ministry Statement of November 9, 2021, we think it important for the Troika to continue its efforts, primarily in the context of addressing the socioeconomic and humanitarian tasks facing the region.
I would like to remind you that the OSCE Minsk Group сo-сhairs had a 3+2 meeting with the foreign ministers of Azerbaijan and Armenia on the sidelines of the 76th Session of the UN General Assembly on September 24 this year. Currently, the Troika is preparing for contacts in a number of European capitals. We think it important that the practice of the co-chairs paying full-scale visits to the region resumes as soon as possible.
Question: The Supreme State Council of the Union State held its meeting on November 4, and a Decree of the Supreme State Council was signed, along with the approval of the Union State’s Military Doctrine and a Migration Policy Concept.
Will Minsk and Moscow further coordinate their positions and initiatives at the level of foreign ministries, in particular on the issue of refugees on the border with Poland, relations with the EU and on Ukraine?
Maria Zakharova: We have always coordinated our positions and initiatives on international platforms in keeping with the Programme for Coordinated Action in the Foreign Policy of the State Parties to the Treaty on the Establishment of the Union State, which has been adopted every two years, in fact, since the signing of the treaty.
We hold consultations. Today, the collegiums of Russian and Belarusian foreign ministries held a joint meeting to sum up the performance under the programme for 2020-2021 and sign a new programme for 2022-2023. This document provides for supporting and accompanying, from the foreign policy and diplomacy perspectives, the implementation of the important package of integration documents approved by the Supreme State Council of the Union State on November 4, 2021, as you have said.
The programme pays special attention to devising a coordinated line of action when dealing with the European Union and coordinating our approaches to relations with specific EU member states. This document also provides for working together on fighting human trafficking and illegal migration, although the issue of refugees amassed on the border with Poland is much broader and multi-faceted, as I have already said. I would like to draw your attention once again to Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks during today’s news conference. The minister has also spoken on this issue on several occasions in recent days.
As for Ukraine, our foreign ministries also hold regular consultations.
Russia and Belarus are the closest strategic allies. It is for this reason that we are committed to continuing our work together in order to promote the interests of our countries on the international stage in a comprehensive way.
To answer your question on whether we will be coordinating our approaches, I have already said today that since April 2021, Belarus has been reaching out to the EU and some of its member states with proposals to hold talks on migration-related matters. We have also drawn the attention of our EU partners to this initiative by Minsk in our contacts with the European Union in various formats and tried to persuade the EU to take up this proposal in order to address the emerging and future problems that may evolve into a full-blown crisis. We do have this experience of engaging in practical cooperation with Minsk, as well as other countries, to address challenging matters. Not only do we coordinate our approaches but we support each other in practical terms.
This example is as relevant as ever. It is now on everyone’s lips, because people see frightening footage and hear monstrous statements by representatives of Poland, Lithuania and other EU countries, who engage in this rhetoric instead of focusing on settling the crisis. The people there include women, children, and the elderly who need practical, concrete assistance right now: medicines, clothing, and food. I am not even speaking about psychological support. They need help to survive.
Instead of focusing their efforts on specific matters, which is what is necessary now, we see that they are seeking to ratchet up tension, manipulate facts and information, and prevent the media from doing its job. This is horrendous. There are many things I expected them to do, but the way Poland treated journalists really shocked me. They staged an entire special operation to prevent the media on the Belarusian side of the border from covering these developments. They used acoustic devices, suppressed internet and radio signals and employed powerful searchlights to dazzle reporters. However, the way they treated their own Polish reporters was even more outrageous. When asked for permission to cover the developments from the Polish side of the border, the authorities suggested that journalists cross into Belarus and cover the situation from there. In fact, the Polish government denied Polish journalists the possibility of covering these developments, while Polish officials are talking about it to the entire world and expressing their point of view. At the same time, they are preventing their own journalists from covering this story. Furthermore, they went as far as to accuse us of distorting facts. Just let your journalists cover these developments and get to the bottom of the question of who is right, and who is wrong, and what is going on there.
I would have never believed that this could happen in 2021 when we have so many entities “guarding” the freedom of speech, democracy and all the principles that are supposed to protect journalists. That said, even the impossible is possible nowadays.
Question: For several days now, the German media have been discussing the death of an employee of the Russian Embassy in Berlin. Journalists are claiming that the deceased was either a son of an FSB general or an undercover FSB officer himself. In the meantime, the media have been reporting on Russia’s “suspicious” behaviour regarding this case such as opting out of an autopsy and investigation. Earlier, the Russian Embassy refused to comment on the incident on ethical grounds. But could you comment on the speculations concerning the deceased diplomat’s involvement with Russian security services? Overall, what does the Foreign Ministry think about the German media’s sudden interest in this incident more than three weeks after it happened?
Maria Zakharova: I would like to point out that all the information that the Foreign Ministry was able to provide was included in the statement by the Russian Embassy in Berlin. I have nothing more to add.
As for the allegations and conspiracy theories in the German media, as well as their timing, apparently, they needed time to concoct this toxic potion of a report. It is not a case of professional media coverage.
Allow me to correct you. The Russian Embassy in Berlin did not refuse to comment. The statement was, in fact, issued.
Question: A US media outlet The Hill published an article by US Navy officer Brian Harrington, who proposes measures to counter Russia’s dominance in the Black Sea. Among other things, the officer suggests deploying additional coastal defence missile systems in Romania, Bulgaria and Turkey. A day before, the foreign ministers of Romania and the United States discussed security in the Black Sea, including some “containment measures.” What does the Foreign Ministry think about the attempts made by the United States to engage Black Sea littoral states in confrontation with Russia and the deployment of US weapons there? How does Moscow plan to respond to this kind of risks?
Maria Zakharova: You know, they tried to isolate us and failed. They wanted to contain us and also failed. They wanted to punish us with sanctions and they could not. They wanted to sabotage a whole lot of our economic projects but it did not work out. There was so much harm they wanted to cause us but something went wrong. I have a tip: if they really want to succeed, why not do something good? Maybe that will work.
Maria Zakharova: Indeed, we are preparing to ship humanitarian aid to Afghanistan. The relief supplies will consist of food, medications and essentials.
Maria Zakharova: I can confirm that on November 15, 2021, US Special Representative for Afghanistan Thomas West and Russian Special Presidential Representative for Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov will have a meeting in Moscow. They plan to discuss the current situation in Afghanistan and compare approaches to the main issues on the Afghan agenda.
Maria Zakharova: On November 11, 2021, a meeting of the Troika Plus group on Afghanistan will be held in Islamabad. The parties will discuss practical cooperation and coordinating efforts to promote sustainable and long-term peace and stability in Afghanistan.
Question: The actions of ISIS in Afghanistan undermine the Taliban’s statements that their government will maintain public safety. We also have information about the alleged interference of neighbouring countries in Afghan developments. What steps will Russia take with regard to Afghanistan?
Maria Zakharova: We are particularly concerned over the threat of the spread of terrorism and ISIS activities in Afghanistan, and we regularly discuss these matters. We underscore the importance of coordinating international and regional efforts to counter the threat of terrorism emanating from Afghanistan. In order to maintain regional stability and security, we coordinate our actions in this field, including with our partners, members of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) and also with the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO).
Question: China and the United States are engaged in heated debates after the United States accused China of building up its nuclear potential. A hypothetical nuclear war seems possible. How will Russia respond to these statements?
Maria Zakharova: Russia can directly discuss international security and strategic stability matters with both the United States and China. We have established close and trustful contacts on these subjects with our Chinese friends. We have also launched a comprehensive strategic dialogue with the United States, as agreed by the presidents of our two countries. Obviously, the situation regarding our relations with Washington is fundamentally different from our relations with Beijing. Moscow and Beijing are linked by close neighbourly relations of all-round partnership and strategic interaction. For its part, Washington, both at the theoretical level and in terms of political analysis, perceives Russia and the People’s Republic of China as potential enemies. We are ready to discuss international security matters within the framework of the five nuclear powers that also include the People’s Republic of China and the United States.
In principle, the United States should pay more attention to its own domestic problems, and give proper assessment to its own behaviour on the international scene.
Question: I would like to ask about the mutual recognition of vaccination certificates between Russia and Kazakhstan. This concerns Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine. An overwhelming majority of Kazakhstani citizens have been jabbed with the Sputnik V vaccine, and the percentage of vaccinated is quite high. However, Kazakhstani citizens entering Russia complain that the local authorities do not accept their certificates. At the same time, President of Russia Vladimir Putin addressed the G20 summit and called for clarification on the mutual recognition of national vaccination certificates as soon as possible. To what extent do debates on the mutual recognition of vaccination certificates between Russia and Kazakhstan run counter to this position?
Maria Zakharova: We are conducting active and consistent work in this field with all the concerned agencies of both countries. On November 2, 2021, another meeting on this matter was held via videoconference, with the participation of representatives from Rospotrebnadzor, the Ministry of Digital Development, Communications and Mass Media and the Foreign Ministry.
In principle, Russia supports the Kazakhstani partners’ initiative on the mutual recognition of vaccination certificates. The Travel without COVID-19 mobile app could become a potential platform for implementing this initiative. We have informed you about this app in great detail, and the app was unveiled at the Foreign Ministry.
Russia has established an inter-departmental working group on the mutual recognition of vaccination certificates. We have drafted the relevant agreement which is currently being coordinated with the concerned federal agencies and departments of our country. There are plans to streamline the mutual recognition of vaccination certificates with a group of countries.
I would like to emphasise that this comprehensive inter-departmental work is now in full swing.
Maria Zakharova: I cannot say anything definite. I know nothing about a specific time frame. I can only assure you that this highly intensive work is in progress.
Question: What is Russia’s stance in the run-up to the conference on Libya in Paris, regarding the withdrawal of foreign troops, and is Russia willing to cooperate with the key international players in order to get this process underway as soon as possible?
Maria Zakharova: Our position remains unchanged. We consistently advocate a synchronised, balanced, gradual and phased-in withdrawal of all non-Libyan armed units and groups and paramilitary units from the country. A different approach may upset the balance, which has made the cessation of hostilities possible for over a year now.
We are interacting on all aspects of the Libyan settlement with regional and international stakeholders such as Turkey, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, France, and Italy. We will participate in every collective effort aimed at promoting a comprehensive settlement in Libya, both through targeted work with the Libyan parties and as part of multilateral formats, in particular, within the framework of the upcoming International Conference on Libya in Paris on November 12. Russia will be represented by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
Question: The most recently held 7th World Congress of Compatriots will play an important role in the lives of many of our compatriots. You, too, have shared valuable ideas in your remarks. Will the Congress materials be published and will Russian foreign missions participate in informing the multimillion-strong Russian expat community about the decisions, recommendations and activities of the Congress?
Do you think our compatriots living abroad have become more involved in social and political life and in addressing challenges faced by Russia, as well as in clarifying Russia’s policy and spreading the truth about Russia?
Maria Zakharova: The 7th World Congress of Compatriots Living Abroad was held on October 15-16 and became the first major forum with the participation of the expat community in the post-COVID period and the first since a provision on protecting the rights and interests of our compatriots living abroad and preserving their Russian cultural identity was introduced into the Constitution of the Russian Federation in 2020. The forum brought together about 400 leaders and activists from public expat community associations in 102 countries, officials from federal executive and legislative authorities, executive authorities of the regions of the Russian Federation, Russian foundations, non-governmental organisations and the media.
The participants summed up the accomplishments achieved since the previous forum, held in 2018, and identified goals for the next period. The plenary sessions and five panels were used to hold in-depth discussions on the pressing issues at hand, such as the role of the multi-ethnic and multi-religious Russian world, the preservation of historical truth (which we often talk about in this audience) and identity, the protection of the rights and legitimate interests of our compatriots living abroad, the role of the Russian language in consolidating the expat community, the part played by our compatriots in the Russian regions’ economic cooperation with foreign countries, the media of the Russian expat community in an era of digitalisation, and ways to promote the youth movement among our compatriots residing in foreign countries.
All of the above was reflected in the final resolution of the congress and the recommendations issued by the panels, which will soon be posted on the website of the World Coordinating Council of Russian Compatriots Living Abroad.
I would like to highlight President Vladimir Putin’s address to the forum participants and the speech by Foreign Minister and Chairman of the Government Commission on Compatriots Living Abroad Sergey Lavrov at the opening of the Congress. They both said Russia would continue to help and support Russian compatriots living abroad, which is one of the critical national priorities and goals.
Russia’s foreign missions have all the information about the Congress’s outcomes and decisions. They have begun acting on them. Of course, efforts are being made to spread this information. We hope that the participants will share their impressions of the forum, and that the media resources of the Russian compatriots’ organisations will fully engage in this process.
You have rightfully pointed out that the expat community has stepped up its activities lately. Probably, the broad participation of the Russian compatriots in the elections to the State Duma in September is the best example of this (this is the most prominent recent event, and there have been many of them) as well as the information support for these elections.
Numerous events held by the associations of our compatriots which are, among other things, designed to consolidate the movement and to implement the decisions adopted by the Congress, are another sign of this trend. These events include a recently held regional conference of compatriots living in Europe and country conferences in Armenia and Turkey. In November, youth forums will be held in Kazakhstan and Bulgaria, and country conferences in Serbia, Egypt, Tunisia, the Netherlands and Bulgaria.
We see our compatriots’ commitment and desire to act as representatives of the people’s diplomacy and serve the Fatherland. This covers not just a single point in history, but our entire history and culture, as well as our achievements, losses and victories, and our mistakes – all of it. Our compatriots show their selfless love and service to the Fatherland in the true meaning of this word in their altruistic daily work. Can you call it work? Probably not. Service transcends work. This is, in fact, fate. We value this highly. For our part, we will always be there to provide them with our comprehensive support.