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17 November 202119:16

Briefing by Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova, Moscow, November 17, 2021

2343-17-11-2021

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Table of contents

  1. The upcoming expanded meeting of the Russian Foreign Ministry Collegium with the President of Russia
  2. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s meeting with Foreign Minister of the Republic of Uzbekistan Abdulaziz Kamilov
  3. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's meeting with OSCE Chairperson-in-Office and Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde
  4. Sergey Lavrov’s upcoming talks with Minister of Foreign Affairs and Emigrants of the Lebanese Republic Abdallah Bou Habib 
  5. The 37th Meeting of the Council of the Heads of Constituent Entities of the Russian Federation at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs 
  6. The situation on the Azerbaijan-Armenia border
  7. Update on Afghanistan
  8. NATO Secretary General’s comments on Russia
  9. Anti-Russia statements by British Foreign Secretary Elizabeth Truss
  10. Signing of a British-Ukrainian agreement on building up military cooperation
  11. Die Welt’s article on the autumn 1941 Battle of Moscow 
  12. The 76th anniversary of the beginning of the Nuremberg trials 
  13. Completion of the Soviet offensive operation in the Baltics
  14. Vasilisa Pashchenko awarded the Gold Star Medal of Hero of the Russian Federation (posthumously) 
  15. Developments in Bosnia and Herzegovina 
  16. Developments involving the US diplomatic property in Yemen 
  17. UNESCO Recommendation on the Ethics of Artificial Intelligence
  18. 55 years of United Nations Industrial Development Organisation
  19. Russian food aid transfer to Laos
  20. Russia supplies Sputnik Light vaccine to Kyrgyzstan
  21. School of Real Journalism project continues in Kyrgyzstan

Answers to the questions:

  1. Migration crisis on Polish-Belarusian border
  2. Russia-Kazakhstan relations
  3. Update on Viktor Balashov case
  4. Suspension of Nord Stream 2 certification
  5. Calls for Russia to influence Belarus amid migration crisis
  6. Russian-US contacts in Geneva
  7. Western actions to artificially foment tensions in Black Sea
  8. Foreign military presence in Ukraine
  9. Afghanistan update
  10. “Charges” implicating Russia in migration crisis on Polish-Belarusian borderRussia’s humanitarian aid to Donbass
  11. Developments on Armenia-Azerbaijan border
  12. Russia’s actions to maintain ceasefire and protect civilians in Nagorno-Karabakh 

 

 

 

The upcoming expanded meeting of the Russian Foreign Ministry Collegium with the President of Russia

 

On November 18, Vladimir Putin will take part in an expanded meeting of the Russian Foreign Ministry Collegium.

Senior officials from the Russian Government, the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation, the Presidential Executive Office, as well as the ministries and agencies involved in the implementation of the country’s foreign policy are expected to attend the meeting.

Since the President of Russia’s previous in-person meeting with the leadership of the central office and foreign missions of the Foreign Ministry held in the summer of 2018, many important events have taken place in Russia and all over the world. Russia has adopted amendments to its Constitution, approved new national development goals, and updated its National Security Strategy.

The international situation is characterised by complex, contradictory trends. The shift in the balance of power has accelerated in the world, which has provoked increasing interstate disagreements on several occasions. At the same time, there are new opportunities for constructive international cooperation in various fields, such as countering the pandemic and other common challenges and threats.

Of course, all of the said factors impact the development and implementation of Russia’s foreign policy. We expect President of Russia Vladimir Putin to set new tasks for the diplomatic service in his keynote speech.

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Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s meeting with Foreign Minister of the Republic of Uzbekistan Abdulaziz Kamilov

 

On November 18, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will hold talks with Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Uzbekistan Abdulaziz Kamilov as part of his working visit to Moscow.

The ministers will coordinate the upcoming visit of Uzbekistan's President Shavkat Mirziyoyev to Russia and review the documents to be signed on the sidelines of the Russian-Uzbekistani summit.

A number of pressing issues in Russian-Uzbek relations, and on the international and regional agendas will be discussed.

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Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's meeting with OSCE Chairperson-in-Office and Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde

 

As reported during the last briefing, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will hold talks with OSCE Chairperson-in-Office and Foreign Minister of Sweden Ann Linde on November 19. The ministers will discuss a wide range of issues related to the OSCE’s current work with an emphasis on preparations for the OSCE Ministerial Council meetings scheduled for December 2-3 of this year. In addition, they will discuss the activities of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine and the Contact Group’s activities.

The foreign ministers will discuss current issues of bilateral relations and interaction in regional formats including Russia’s Chairmanship in the Arctic Council in 2021-2023.

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Sergey Lavrov’s upcoming talks with Minister of Foreign Affairs and Emigrants of the Lebanese Republic Abdallah Bou Habib 

 

On November 20-23, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Emigrants of the Lebanese Republic Abdallah Bou Habib will be in Moscow on a working visit. On November 22 (on this day Lebanon marks its national holiday – Independence Day), Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will hold talks with Mr Habib.  

The upcoming talks are expected to revolve around an in-depth discussion of current international and regional issues. Special attention will be given to the evolving situation in Lebanon. The two ministers plan to review in detail various aspects of the development of our traditionally friendly bilateral relationship, including trade and economic cooperation, as well as ties in culture and education.

We note with satisfaction that the Russian-Lebanese political dialogue has become regular, including contacts with both the Lebanese authorities and the country’s leading political forces, and that Moscow and Beirut remain committed to continuing to expand cooperation in various areas. 

Russia invariably speaks out in support of the sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity of the Lebanese Republic. We support the efforts of the newly formed Lebanese Government led by Prime Minister Najib Mikati to create the necessary conditions for overcoming the protracted socio-economic crisis Lebanon is going through and to ensure the effective functioning of state institutions in compliance with the constitution of the Lebanese Republic. We believe the pressing issues on Lebanon’s national agenda should be resolved on the basis of the law and the agreement between the country’s leading political factions, not dictated from abroad.

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The 37th Meeting of the Council of the Heads of Constituent Entities of the Russian Federation at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs 

 

On November 24, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will chair the 37th Meeting of the Council of the Heads of Constituent Entities of the Russian Federation at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The meeting will be attended by governors and top officials from the Presidential Executive Office and federal executive bodies who are members of the Council.  

The main topic on the agenda is promoting cultural ties between regions in Russia and their foreign partners. 

The growing importance of culture and, in general, education, healthcare and other related areas is a current trend in world politics. In terms of its cultural and spiritual potential and contribution to the advancement of human civilisation, Russia is one of the worlds’ leading countries of cultural influence in its own right. So, an active cultural policy is one of our country’s most important foreign policy resources. Russian regions are contributing a lot to tapping this potential.

The meeting participants will discuss the status and objectives of the constituent entities of the Russian Federation, as well as their prospects for international cultural ties. They will also develop recommendations for achieving practical results in this area.

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The situation on the Azerbaijan-Armenia border

 

It is clear from the statements made by the official spokesmen in Baku and Yerevan that the sides have diametrically opposite assessments of the situation and are blaming each other for what happened.

Russia is in contact with both Azerbaijan and Armenia to steer the situation into a peaceful course. 

President of Russia Vladimir Putin had a telephone conversation with Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan yesterday. Russian Defence Minister Sergey Shoigu spoke over the telephone with his Azerbaijani and Armenian counterparts. As a result of these mediatory efforts, the armed clashes stopped yesterday evening. 

Joint work is underway in order to deescalate tensions. We call on both sides to exercise restraint, prevent new incidents and resolve all disputes only by political and diplomatic means. 

We are ready to continue to assist the parties in the interests of maintaining peace and stability in the region. 

Recent events confirm the importance of launching the process of delimitation and subsequent demarcation of the Azerbaijan-Armenia border as soon as possible. It is also important to start the work of the relevant joint commission based on the previously submitted Russian proposals. 

As for the activities of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs (Russia, the US, and France), you have probably seen their joint statement of November 15, 2021, in which they express deep concern over the recent border incidents. 

The Co-Chairs are continuing active mediatory efforts. On November 10, they had separate and joint meetings with the Azerbaijani and Armenian foreign ministers, Jeyhun Bayramov and Ararat Mirzoyan, in Paris on the sidelines of the UNESCO General Assembly. Now the Troika is in Vienna to discuss the current situation. 

Once again, we would like to stress the importance of organising the Co-Chairs’ trip to the region as soon as possible.

There were also questions about the possibility of using the provisions of the Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance between the Russian Federation and the Republic of Armenia of August 29, 1997, and also the CSTO mechanisms.

Russia takes both its bilateral and multilateral commitments seriously. Relevant bilateral consultations are already in progress. As for the Collective Security Treaty Organisation, according to our information, they are closely monitoring the situation on the Armenia-Azerbaijan border.

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Update on Afghanistan

 

We are concerned about the continued terrorist activity in Afghanistan. We strongly condemn the terrorist attacks that took place in that country in the Spin Ghar district of Nangarhar province on November 12 and in the Shiite district Dashte Barchi in Kabul on November 13. There are fatalities. Our hearts go out to the victims’ families and loved ones, and we wish the injured a speedy recovery.

Countering the terrorist threat emanating from Afghanistan was discussed at a regular meeting of the expanded troika on Afghanistan, which was held in Islamabad on November 11. In a joint statement, the participants called on the Taliban to sever ties with international terrorist organisations and reiterated the expectation that the Taliban will deliver on their promise to prevent Afghan territory from being used against neighbouring countries, other countries in the region and the world in general. The sides also expressed concern about the difficult humanitarian and socioeconomic situation in that country and stressed the importance of international humanitarian aid.

To compare notes on efforts to promote a settlement in Afghanistan, Special Presidential Envoy for Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov held consultations with US Special Representative for Afghanistan Thomas West on November 15 in Moscow to discuss the current situation in Afghanistan, as well as further coordination of international efforts to achieve sustainable peace and post-conflict reconstruction in that country.

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NATO Secretary General’s comments on Russia

 

A number of statements by our Western partners regarding the situation on the Polish-Belarusian border, which contain accusations against Russia, have come to our attention. I would like to comment on some of them in the context of these developments and anti-Russia rhetoric in general.

NATO continues its propaganda efforts targeting people in European countries as it tries to convince them that Russia and its “aggressive” behaviour are the source of instability on the continent. Recently, the NATO Secretary General used a meeting of the 73rd session of the Nordic Council to repeat accusations that our country has interfered in other states’ affairs, which has become a bad habit of his. As usual, he did not provide any evidence. He just used stock phrases and clichés to advocate stepping up NATO activities in northern latitudes, drawing Finland and Sweden into the process of militarising the Arctic and turning it into a space for geopolitical competition rather an area of cooperation.

I would like to mention those who are actually responsible for the mounting confrontation in Europe and in the region in question. Not Russia, but NATO allies are responsible for recreating dividing lines in Europe. There are facts to corroborate this. They destroyed key elements of European security (the INF Treaty and the Treaty on Open Skies). They downgraded the dialogue mechanisms with Russia. Through the fault of the alliance, the Russia-NATO Council has ceased to function as a platform for consultations and a mechanism for developing joint decisions and managing cooperation projects and is now a “stage” for political lectures in monologue. No response is expected. Unacceptable conditions for the work of Russian diplomats were consistently and deliberately fostered.

NATO is prepared to do anything except seriously consider ways to reduce military-political tensions. They are shunning discussions of measures to prevent military incidents and refusing to impose a moratorium on deploying intermediate and shorter-range missiles in Europe. They are turning a blind eye to the expansion of their contingents in Europe, which are moving closer to the borders of our country.

Speaking of its defensive nature, NATO is aggressively expanding the sphere of its interests. This is being done not in theory, but in practice. It is putting pressure on the Balkan countries to force their armed forces to transition to NATO standards. It is ramping up its arms supplies to Ukraine and Georgia. The plans include a programme for securing a foothold in Central Asia. A practical dream of sorts.

Everything is pointing to NATO no longer being a defence alliance but rather a tool for advancing geopolitical interests and ensuring, or so they think, the collective West’s dominant position in international affairs, which has nothing to do with the genuine interests of strengthening security in Europe and the Euro-Atlantic region. It has nothing to do with actual dominance that is based on leadership. It’s a colossus with feet of clay.

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Anti-Russia statements by British Foreign Secretary Elizabeth Truss

 

We noted the anti-Russia statements by British Foreign Secretary Elizabeth Truss, which were published by The Sunday Telegraph. She tried to pin the migration crisis on the Belarus-Poland border on Russia and urged European countries to oppose the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project in a united front. 

It would have been better if she had explained in this article how people are suffering from cold in her kingdom, what the statistics say about it and what warming-up measures are recommended to Her Majesty’s subjects, instead of verbally attacking Russia.

We consider these statements yet more proof of London’s unfriendly line towards Russia and a desire to consolidate its position as the leader of the faction that wishes our country ill. This is not a revelation, or even anything new. This is just a repetition of the past. What for? What is the goal? And it came off so awkward. I don’t get it. 

London is deliberately ignoring the humanitarian backstory of the crisis that is taking shape at the Belarus-Poland border. Nothing at all is said about the direct connection between the current events and the UK’s massive involvement in the armed interventions in Iraq, Afghanistan and events in Syria. These interventions not only killed people and destroyed the statehood of these countries, but also ruined their economies, forcing a substantial part of their population to go to other parts of the world, less in search of a better life than a chance of survival.

London’s bellicose rhetoric on Nord Stream 2 is perplexing as well. How do the appeals of Elizabeth Truss tally with the persistent crises in the British fuel market and the plans to de-carbonise the economy? This is an interesting question. Maybe it is worth discussing this in the British press as well? It is nothing but double standards and unfair competition.

It would be better if the British Foreign Office and its head tried to normalise relations with our country rather than repeat the sad experience of their predecessors who stubbornly sought to dismantle them.

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Signing of a British-Ukrainian agreement on building up military cooperation

 

It was announced on November 13 of this year that Britain and Ukraine signed an intergovernmental framework agreement on naval cooperation, which provides for the allocation to Kiev of a 10-year 1.7 billion-pound-sterling loan. These funds are supposed to be spent on purchasing or building ships and the construction of naval bases for the Ukrainian Navy in Ochakovo and Berdyansk. This is the legal formalisation of the bilateral accords on military and defence industry cooperation following the visit of Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky to the United Kingdom in 2020.

We consider this fact yet more practical evidence of the British military buildup on the territory of Russia’s neighbours, including Ukraine. It would be appropriate to mention at this point the last topic we touched on and the allegations by the British Foreign Secretary and the head of NATO about tensions in Europe being created by Russia. There is no evidence of this whereas I am relying on facts. I am citing specific documents with titles. These documents contain specific figures. It is beyond doubt that all of these actions are a contributing factor to Europe’s instability and destabilisation.

In the past, London helped Kiev train its military personnel (as part of Operation Orbital), while now their cooperation has extended to the naval area and arms supplies (according to available information, Ukraine plans to buy two missile boats and two trawlers in Britain).

We believe that instead of seeking to destabilie the situation on Russia’s borders, London should direct its zeal toward settling the conflict, primarily by encouraging Kiev to strictly observe the Package of Measures to implement the Minsk Agreements. Instead, Britain is actually pushing Kiev to pursue its revanchist plans, thereby creating real security risks in the region. This creates risks for the  civilian population living in the area as well.

We must certainly consider all these circumstances and take adequate measures.

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Die Welt’s article on the autumn 1941 Battle of Moscow 

 

We took note of a recent article in the German paper Die Welt under the title “78 Wehrmacht divisions were supposed to capture Moscow but then mud season started.”  I cited not the name of a film or the title of a chapter in a thesis. This is the title of a newspaper article. Probably its author wanted to sound like a history expert. However, he produced the opposite effect. His article proved to be pseudo-history.

It was written by the editor of Die Welt’s history section Sven Kellerhof. He is fairly well known but has a scandalous reputation. In 2019, he cast doubts on the importance of the battle near Prokhorovka and even claimed that the local monument to Soviet tank crewmen must be removed because it was allegedly historically inaccurate. This man is lecturing us, but we are descendants of the people who sacrificed their lives, whose futures were crushed, who did not spare anything, from their health to their interests, in order to have a hope for survival and then bestow it it on us by ensuring a peaceful, decent existence for generations to come. He is now telling us which monuments to remove and which to erect. He shouldn’t bother. We know. We remember the war’s lessons well. 

Kellerhof continued making crazy, heartless and illegal claims. He went even further and declared in Die Welt that in his opinion, rain and logistics problems were almost the only reasons for the Nazi defeat outside Moscow. He claims the Wehrmacht was stuck in the approaches to Moscow because of bad weather although the road to the capital was open. The author obviously sympathises with his ancestors and is upset about their failure. His ancestors were not those who defended their homeland against the enemy that was destroying every living thing. He feels empathy for those who were killing everything in their path. He did not say a word about the heroic and selfless resistance of Soviet soldiers whose last-ditch efforts made all the difference. Meanwhile, there are German historical accounts, some of which were written by Wehrmacht soldiers who described these events. He could have used them.

His approach is nothing new. Unfortunately, we are seeing increasingly frequent attempts recently (both in Germany and the rest of the West) to rewrite history and belittle the exploits of the Red Army that managed to stop and beat back the enemy in extreme conditions, to launch an offensive and free Europe from the Nazi scourge. We can only wonder how these essentially revanchist publications in German media, which are whitewashing the aggressor, correspond to Berlin’s official policy of repentance and historical reconciliation after World War II. Federal President of Germany Frank-Walter Steinmeier supported this policy in his statements on June 18 of this year in connection with the 80th anniversary of the Nazi attack on the USSR and during National Day of Mourning observed in Germany on November 14.

Usually, we invite to our country friends, guests, and partners, that is, people with whom we are developing relations and cooperation, whom we respect, love and appreciate. I will probably make an exception, though it won’t be easy for me. I don’t want to invite this author to visit our country, but he has an opportunity to correct his mistake (probably, his deliberate mistake) by coming and looking at the road traversed by Wehrmacht soldiers. He shouldn’t have written that they did not reach Moscow. They practically did. Let this German author see the number of monuments that are not just architectural but actual human graves. These are the graves of our soldiers who defended this city with their bodies, fates, lives, willpower and spirit. Maybe he will change his mind. These monuments are located at a distance of several kilometres. There are always wreaths and fresh flowers there. People hold commemorative events on May 9 near them. He will probably see our tradition – how newlyweds just starting their lives together visit these monuments. He is likely to consider this tradition strange, but there is only one explanation behind it: when starting a family and building a future, our people remember who gave them this opportunity.

It is not entirely clear what entitles German authors, not to mention the media, to write such pseudo-historical narratives.

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The 76th anniversary of the beginning of the Nuremberg trials 

 

Seventy-six years ago, on November 20, 1945, the trial of the major WWII criminals began in Nuremberg.

The Agreement for the Prosecution and Punishment of the Major War Criminals of the European Axis was signed by the USSR, the United States, the United Kingdom and France in London on August 8, 1945. The four countries also approved the Charter of the International Military Tribunal.

Twenty-four major Nazi war criminals were brought to trial. The Tribunal reviewed thousands of documents, questioned 116 witnesses and accepted hundreds of thousands of pieces of written evidence. The Nazis’ heinous crimes during World War II were exposed during 403 open Tribunal sessions. On October 1, 1946, the Tribunal trials concluded with the announcement of a severe but just verdict.

The democratic Russia of today has repeatedly reaffirmed its commitment to the principles declared at the Nuremberg trials. We expect all other members of the UN to honour these principles. The Nuremberg trials have shown that international justice must be based on the UN member states’ collective efforts. This is the only way to ensure that the rulings of the international judicial bodies enjoy due authority with the world community. It is completely unacceptable for any state or any military and political bloc to seize, under whatever pretext, the role of an “international judge”, without taking into account the opinions of other countries and international organisations. 

It would seem the inviolability of the verdicts issued in Nuremberg is obvious and indisputable. Today, however, we are increasingly hearing statements that amount to revising the Tribunal’s verdicts, distorting their essence and, one way or another, justifying the Nazis, their accomplices, and the atrocities they committed. The notions of a war victim and a war crime are being distorted. In response to these attempts, we believe it is as relevant today as ever to contribute, in every way possible, to preserving the principles of the Nuremberg trials and keeping the spirit of its just verdicts alive in order to strengthen the authority of international law as an inalienable and indispensable foundation of modern civilised society. 

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Completion of the Soviet offensive operation in the Baltics

 

On November 24, 1944, the Soviet Union’s Leningrad, 1st, 2nd and 3rd Baltic fronts completed a strategic offensive operation to liberate Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia from Nazi occupation. 

Germany regarded the Baltic states as a crucial area and a buffer zone between East Prussia and the Soviet Union, giving Berlin room for manoeuvre on the Baltic Sea. The Baltic states’ illusions regarding the occupation regime of the Third Reich vanished quickly, since the Nazis had no independence plans for them. German troops, supported by local collaborators, launched a policy of terror and genocide against civilians. The German group of forces included two Latvian and two Estonian infantry divisions.

The Soviet forces taking part in the Baltic Strategic Offensive, which lasted from September 14 to November 24, 1944, comprised 900,000 men and officers, some 17,500 artillery guns, 3,000 tanks and 2,600 warplanes. Taking part in the liberation of their homeland were the 16th Lithuanian Rifle Division and the 8th Estonian and 130th Latvian rifle corps. The Red Army lost 61,500 in dead and missing during the liberation of the Baltics.

Throughout the war, the Nazis and their accomplices killed over 300,000 civilians and approximately as many Soviet prisoners of war in Latvia, 61,000 civilians and 64,000 POWs in Estonia, and 150,000 civilians and 230,000 POWs in Lithuania. Nazi collaborators were directly involved in the Nazi policy of extermination of Jews.

It is regrettable that attempts are being made to obliterate the memory of heroism of the Soviet Army, which fought side by side with Latvians, Lithuanians and Estonians to liberate the Baltic states from Nazism, and that monuments to the liberators are being dismantled and demolished because they allegedly constitute elements of communist propaganda.

The West has recently been trying to glorify those who fought under the enemy banners but are now described as “independence fighters.” Increased attention is being given to the topic of “occupation” and the activities of those who closely collaborated with the Nazis. These actions are aimed at revising WWII results, glorifying Nazis and their accomplices, and providing grounds for material and territorial claims to modern Russia.

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Vasilisa Pashchenko awarded the Gold Star Medal of Hero of the Russian Federation (posthumously) 

 

A ceremony has been held at the Defence Ministry today to present the supreme state decoration to the family of Junior Sergeant Vasilisa Pashchenko, who died a heroic death during the liberation of Czechoslovakia in April 1945. She has been awarded the title of Hero of the Russian Federation (posthumously) under Executive Order No. 465 signed by President Vladimir Putin on August 16, 2021.

The initiative was put forth by the concerned citizens of the Czech Republic and supported by Czech municipal authorities and military history clubs. Russian diplomats, in particular the employees of the Russian Embassy in Prague, have greatly contributed to these efforts.

On April 19, 1945, the А-20 Boston bomber plane where Vasilisa Pashchenko was the air gunner, was shot down by enemy artillery fire near the Brno railway station. According to local witnesses, Pashchenko, who survived after the plane crashed in the enemy territory, continued fighting to the last bullet. When the Nazis sent in armoured vehicles, Vasilisa Pashchenko turned the gun on herself to avoid being taken prisoner. Local residents buried her in a common grave near the site of her death.

In 2012, a memorial plaque commemorating the bomber crew was unveiled on the Lodenice city council building with Russia’s assistance.

The presidential decision to award a state decoration to Vasilisa Pashchenko is part of the efforts to preserve the memory of the great feat and those who paid an extremely high price to defeat Nazism and liberate European countries, including the Czech Republic, from the Nazi plague.

Nobody is forgotten, nothing is forgotten.

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Developments in Bosnia and Herzegovina 

 

On November 11, Bosnia and Herzegovina’s media published an interview with German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas on a wide range of issues related to the developments in the country. 

We are surprised by how easily and without regard for the past, a seemingly experienced German politician blames Republika Srpska for the major internal political crisis in this country. In doing so, he, on behalf of Berlin as one of the key international participants in the peaceful settlement in Bosnia and Herzgovina, arbitrarily named the guilty party. Threats are already thundering to use various unilateral sanctions against legitimately elected leaders of the sovereign Bosnia and Herzegovina who are defending constitutional rights using legitimate political methods, trampled on by the external willful policies that increasingly resemble colonial politics. 

Paradoxically, Heiko Maas narrows down the implementation of the General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina (Dayton Agreement) of 1995 to strengthening administrative vertical structure, the role of illegitimate High Representative and his formidable instruments. The core of the Dayton Agreement – the equality of three peoples (Bosniaks, Serbs and Croats) and two entities (the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Republika Srpska) – has been forgotten completely, as if it were irrelevant. Moreover, there have been increasingly frequent instructions on how the peoples of Bosnia and Herzegovina should make changes to their country and in their own home, so that Germany and its associated would be satisfied.

We are confident that such biased assessments and instructions are harmful. This is plain disdain and disrespect for independent Bosnia and Herzegovina and its state-constituting people, the Dayton Agreement and multilateral efforts in the interest of interethnic accord and cooperation. Berlin’s position, given that we are speaking about its official representatives, can only destroy the longstanding positive developments, create new problems and dividing lines and deepen discord inside Bosnia and Herzegovina. We doubt that it can facilitate the strengthening of peace, stability and security in Western Balkans.

Once again, we urge our partners to abandon their self-seeking agenda and return to constructive multilateral interaction.

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Developments involving the US diplomatic property in Yemen 

 

We noted the statement about Ansar Allah breaking into the US embassy in Sana’a (which had ceased operations in 2015) and arresting local employees, who were at work on the premises. The statement was widely disseminated in the media and followed by indignant comments from prominent US senators and representatives, who made references to and drew parallels with the seizure of US diplomatic facilities in Tehran in 1979 and Benghazi in 2012.

We resolutely condemn any violations of the immunity and inviolability of diplomatic institutions and attacks on their staff, no matter in which country this happens.  We hope that the US diplomatic mission’s building in the Yemeni capital will be returned to its owners and that the local authorities will continue to safeguard it as they have done for the past six years.   

The US-invoked historical parallels have reminded us of two things.  One is related to our partners, primarily the Americans, working hard to oppose the approval of statements by the UN Security Council President denouncing terrorist attacks on Russian embassies in different countries. There were moments when we were indeed presenting a united front. They were supporting us. We supported these statements regularly. We determined our position long ago. We are against any attacks, seizures or violence in respect of diplomatic or consular staff.  But when it came to supporting us, the US partners, as we remember well, did not do this, for some reason. We have made a lot of statements on this score.

Starting from December 29, 2016, the US authorities seized six diplomatic facilities owned by the Russian Federation and duly registered at the US Department of State.  I am referring to the recreation facilities belonging to the Russian Embassy in Washington, the Permanent Mission of Russia to the UN in New York, the Russian Trade Mission mansion in Washington, two Russian buildings in San Francisco (the Consulate General and Consul General’s residence), and one building in Seattle (Consul General’s residence). Despite diplomatic immunity, they conducted illegitimate searches inside the buildings, breaking the doors and pulling down Russian flags. A lot was done in violation of the established procedures and rules.  

As of now, these properties are actually in unlawful possession. The State Department has dug its heels in and refuses to allow Russian diplomats to visit our property. It also prevents operational crews from inspecting essential services to see if they are functioning properly. At the same time, various US officials have repeatedly recommended that we sell this property, something that calls to mind direct associations with both hostile acquisition and extortion.  

I read certain US statements (I do not remember exactly whether they were official or some kind of leaks) to the effect that this state of affairs was linked to the impossibility of employing local personnel in Russia to look after their own diplomatic facilities, which were “endangered” by Russia because they contained equipment that needed supervision and maintenance since it ensured the functioning of the buildings themselves. Imagine hearing this from people, who have banned engineers and relevant specialists from visiting Russian facilities and compounds for five years, facilities that have survived several winters and climatic changes. I wonder why all this is not taken into consideration.

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UNESCO Recommendation on the Ethics of Artificial Intelligence

 

On November 16, 2021, the 41st session of the UNESCO General Conference in Paris approved the Recommendation on the Ethics of Artificial Intelligence. Russia has been actively involved in drafting this document from day one, making a significant contribution to its content.

This Recommendation is intended to lay universal foundations for the ethical use of AI-enabled systems for the benefit of each individual and the whole of society, and for the sake of humanity’s harmonious development. It reflects the principles that correspond to Russia’s approaches to this area: human rights and basic freedoms, safe use of self-learning algorithms, and the necessary transparency in their functioning.

We consider it especially important that this recommendation can be applied flexibly, taking into account the specific realities in each country and the level of technological development a country has achieved. As a result, countries can adapt the implementation of its provisions to the national mechanisms already created in this area, such as, for example, the Code of Ethics of Artificial Intelligence recently signed by Russia’s largest artificial intelligence developers.

We look forward to close cooperation with all interested states and the UNESCO Secretariat in the implementation of the Recommendation and its various aspects.

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55 years of United Nations Industrial Development Organisation

 

On November 17, 2021, the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO), approved by a resolution of the UN General Assembly, marks its 55th anniversary.

Our country stood at the origins of this organisation and its subsequent transformation into a special UN agency. We consider UNIDO our strategic partner in the field of sustainable and inclusive industrial development. We participate in its activities and sit on its governing bodies. Russia has been a donor country, sponsoring UNIDO projects in the CIS countries, Asia, Africa and Latin America. We value our interaction. We place a special emphasis on this UN agency’s work to promote the development of the real economy as well as women's economic leadership and entrepreneurship.

We support UNIDO's efforts to industrialise Africa, and its coordinating role in the implementation of the Third Industrial Development Decade for Africa.

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Russian food aid transfer to Laos

 

On November 9, 2021, Vientiane hosted a ceremony to transfer a batch of Russian food aid, 118 tonnes of fortified vegetable oil, to the Lao People's Democratic Republic as Russia’s one-time targeted contribution to the UN World Food Programme (WFP).

The donation continued our country's efforts to assist Laos in solving its food security problems using the UN WFP potential.

The vegetable oil delivered to Lao PDR will be distributed among its citizens, primarily to victims of the devastating floods in Pakse and Oudomxay provinces.

During the event, WFP Representative in Laos Jan Delbaere noted the importance and timeliness of the assistance provided by Russia.

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Russia supplies Sputnik Light vaccine to Kyrgyzstan

 

On November 12, 2021, 200,000 doses of the Russian coronavirus vaccine, Sputnik Light, worth $1.2 million, were delivered to the Kyrgyz Republic. Russia supplied the vaccine free of charge under the Government’s resolution on humanitarian assistance to Kyrgyzstan in the fight against COVID-19.

Earlier this year, in April, May and June, Russia supplied Kyrgyzstan with 60,000 two-dose sets of the Russian two-component vaccine Sputnik V, including 5,000 free of charge.

The move continued Russia's efforts to provide assistance to Kyrgyzstan and its other CIS partners in the pandemic response and relief effort.

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School of Real Journalism project continues in Kyrgyzstan

 

On November 12-13, 2021, the School of Real Journalism international project held workshops for Kyrgyzstan’s bloggers and media representatives, for the third time in Bishkek. The organisers of the project, which is aimed at improving the professional skills of Russian-speaking journalists in post-Soviet countries, include the Russian Reporters autonomous non-profit organisation, the Rossotrudnichestvo federal agency and the Russian Presidential Grant Foundation.

More than 170 people attended the events in person and online, including representatives of the leading mass media in Kyrgyzstan, employees of the press services of Kyrgyz ministries and departments, bloggers, as well as journalism students.

For our part, we welcome such initiatives to expand cooperation between the professional journalistic communities in Russia and Kyrgyzstan.

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Answers to the questions:

Question: EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell said earlier that the EU would not allow migrants in and suggested making arrangements for repatriating them. What does Moscow think about this statement? With the EU strongly refusing to accept migrants, will Russia help Belarus send them back home? Is Moscow concerned that having failed to get to the EU, desperate migrants may try to head for Russia? You said earlier that Russia is concerned about extremists and terrorists who may be among the Afghan migrants who rushed to Central Asian countries in the wake of the destabilisation in Afghanistan. Do you think similar risks may exist with regard to migrants in Belarus?

Maria Zakharova: The statement by the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell at a news conference following the meeting of the EU Foreign Affairs Council on November 15 was covered widely. But it is not complete, and was quoted incorrectly. In the original - "they will not be able to go into Europe, but they should not be dying frozen ….we have to do something." For the sake of fairness, it should be noted that this statement should be considered in the broad context of the EU's position on the migration crisis on the Belarusian-EU border outlined by Mr Borrell, which we have commented upon several times at various levels. We need to be guided by this.

Speaking about the position of Western countries and the EU (even at the level of representatives of this regional association), we are talking about two-facedness. These are not even double standards. Double standards are something comparable that can be stacked up against each other in some way. The measuring device has enough marks to measure different approaches, but there are incommensurable and incomparable things. Approaches, statements, conceptual vision of the situation are so different among Western countries in relation to similar, close, or identical situations that it is impossible to compare them.

The first bloc is the lack of a sense of responsibility for the life of specific people or regions in connection with their own mistakes, miscalculations or crimes. As if this issue does not exist, including everything that happened in Iraq in the early 2000s and lasted for many years, Libya, Syria, Afghanistan, and in the entire region during the Arab Spring which was supported by the West. As if the collective West had no role to play in this, and everything was done by other people who are not connected with "their" countries.

Second, as if historically these situations, the current situation, crises, invasions and occupations have nothing in common. This is two-facedness, deception, a lie, misleading and manipulation of facts.

Third, fundamental human rights issues. The West did all kinds of things under the banner of protecting human rights. There was even a concept whereby human rights concerns made it possible to invade a particular state. If the collective West believes that people are suffering, and it assesses this suffering as large-scale, this gives it an opportunity to violate every rule, not only international law, but all the rules, norms and boundaries and engage in outright interventions and indirect influence on the situation in a sovereign state. We were told that human rights are so important that all other rules, norms, laws and traditions are dwarfed by them.

What do we see today? Not a single trace has been left of the position of the human rights advocates. There is a cold, somewhat primitive, and in many ways even inhuman, consideration of how to resolve a situation in their favour in a more profitable way that suits them best. Where did the human rights go? It is no longer about them, but about human life and health. These people have been there for a long time now. They ended up in that spot not because they had a good life back where they came from. On top of that, they are being hosed down with water in the cold (with women and children among them) and some kind of gas was used on them; they are threatened with the use of weapons and physical force is being used against them. Probably, this is of secondary importance if compared with other suffering. But if human rights are all that the West cares about, then this is also important.

An actual psychological pressure campaign is being carried out against them with the use of loudspeakers, intimidation and an information campaign in the media, which does not allow these people to talk directly and uphold their positions. It is aimed at only one thing which is to confirm the approaches and to protect the correctness of the actions of the authorities that are carrying out the antihuman measures which we are observing. I could go on and on discussing this topic. Sometimes, it seems that we have commented on everything. But then you watch another video and think: again? Everything has already been done: barbed wire, water cannons, yelling, blinding spotlights, loudspeakers, batons and battery with thousands of soldiers pulled closer to the border. Every time you hope they will stop there. But they come up with something new, which is even more cruel.

Minsk has already made statements regarding the return of migrants to their home countries, as well as about ways out of this situation. There were proposals regarding transport and logistics. The parties should sit down and talk or establish virtual contacts and do their best to resolve the situation and make sure it does not get any worse.

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Question:  Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov wrote in a recent article titled “Russia and Kazakhstan: Cooperation without Borders” that acts of xenophobia against Russian-speaking citizens of Kazakhstan are largely the product of outside actors. On a larger scale, is there a concrete answer as to what the Foreign Ministry is doing to settle this problem? For example, will you use soft power?

Maria Zakharova: You have asked about concrete measures, which implies the existing instruments and mechanisms. We will therefore not talk about the elements that have not been created yet.

We have been consistently upholding the legitimate rights and interest of Russian citizens and compatriots. I have spoken about this in great detail during my briefings.  The issue was also addressed during the recent World Congress of Compatriots. Information about this has been published and is available. We are supporting the Russian language, encouraging public awareness of the achievements of Russian culture and education, as well as promoting an objective image of Russia abroad.

As for Kazakhstan, we are maintaining close contacts with the republican authorities, which have reaffirmed, publicly and during our meetings, their resolve cut short any manifestations of nationalism in everyday communication and – this is very important – their readiness to work together to prevent them. Doing this on their national territory is part of their right to conduct a sovereign policy, including in this sphere.

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Question: The trial of Russian businessman Viktor Balashov has recently ended in Kazakhstan. The prosecutor requested an 11-year prison sentence for him. Will the ministry take any action if Balashov is sent to prison?

Maria Zakharova: I have read widely different information in the media. We have received requests regarding this case. I would like to repeat that representatives of the Russian Consulate General in Almaty maintain contact with Viktor Balashov, his family and lawyer.

During one of such meetings, he spoke with appreciation about the Consulate General’s assistance and thanked Russian diplomats for their attention. On November 12, representatives of the Consulate General attended a court hearing of Balashov’s case.

We are monitoring the situation. Russian diplomatic representatives are working energetically.

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Question: Do you think there is a political component in the decision of the German energy regulator to suspend the certification process for Nord Stream 2? Is the Foreign Ministry planning any contacts with Germany regarding this?

Maria Zakharova: According to the November 16 press release published by the Federal Network Agency and the subsequent explanations by the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy, the certification of Nord Stream 2 has been suspended due to regulatory factors. Project operator Nord Stream 2 AG, which is registered in Switzerland, must comply with several legal provisions, in particular, establish a subsidiary under German law that will own and govern the German part of the pipeline. Work on this is already underway. We hope that upon its completion the certification of Nord Stream 2 will be resumed, and the certification deadline will be met.

As for contacts, I can only tell you about the contacts that are maintained by the Foreign Ministry. We maintain a regular dialogue with our partners, including on energy issues.

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Question: White House press secretary Jen Psaki, in one of her reports, called on Russia to influence Belarus to resolve the migrant crisis. Can you comment on that call? Can Russia help resolve the situation on the Polish-Belarusian border?

Maria Zakharova: I feel an urge to answer our partners in their own style. We call on the White House, as well as on their NATO and coalition partners, to review their own mistakes, blunders, and downright criminal actions taken as part of US foreign policy that influenced the migration crisis now affecting the European continent. Without such an analysis, it is impossible for them to understand the current situation or estimate the future. The crisis has not ended; in recent months, migrants have appeared not only at the Polish-Belarusian border, but also at other borders with the EU countries, and more places besides. How can you not see the true reasons for what is happening there?

I would like to remind my colleagues, including the White House press service, that a similar drama has been unfolding for a long time on the US-Mexican border, with people storming that border. They often face an attitude that is not exactly based on the human rights documents the United States is committed to. That situation is not showing a steady trend towards resolution. It keeps changing. The doctrines are changing; the officials who saw the onset of the crisis on the US-Mexican border or were involved in addressing it are constantly changing their approaches to resolving it. Our American partners have plenty to do without calling on us and urging us to analyse things, put pressure or give explanations on this score. The White House is not the only one making such statements.

My first point refers to an analysis of the true causes. Secondly, I would like to recommend they closely follow the statements made in Russia. Just yesterday, Sergey Lavrov told a news conference, “Russia is doing its best to help overcome this crisis. Representatives of a number of EU countries, including Germany and France, spoke with President Putin (a telephone call with French President Emmanuel Macron took place yesterday). We are asked to provide assistance in that matter.

Russia is willing to provide assistance, but most importantly direct dialogue between representatives of the EU and the leadership of Belarus must be established. It is good that acting Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel had a telephone conversation with President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko. They agreed, as I understand it (of course, I am not aware of the details), that contacts would continue in order to find solutions. Hopefully common sense will prevail on the Polish side of the border.”

All the statements have long since been made. I would like to point out an important fact again, as it seems to have escaped the attention of the White House press service. Since April, official Minsk has invited EU partners to start a dialogue, negotiations, contacts in order to settle the escalating situation at the borders caused by the flow of migrants. More than six months later, the EU as well as specific countries have finally paid attention – unfortunately, because the situation has become critical. The White House only just saw this. The crisis could have been settled long ago by finding or working out common approaches. This should be done primarily for the benefit of the people the West cares about in theory, but for some reason forgets about when it comes to real life.

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Question: Is Russia continuing its dialogue with US National Security Council Coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa Brett McGurk in Geneva? Which agreements have already been reached? Are there expectations for another round of talks?

Maria Zakharova: The summit has demonstrated potential for a bilateral dialogue in the future and made it possible to start joint work on strategic stability and cybersecurity. Though we have differences in our approaches to many issues, and we do not hide this, we will continue an active discussion in order to normalise Russian-American cooperation.

Russia proceeds from the premise that both the Russian Federation and the United States, as the two largest nuclear powers, bear special responsibility for maintaining strategic stability and international security. Without a comprehensive Russian-US dialogue, it would be difficult for the international community to counter cross-border threats and challenges or try to settle regional conflicts.

I would like to add that apart from statements and rounds of talks, there are certain results that have already been achieved following practical efforts after the Geneva summit, including on cybersecurity.

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Question: NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has said that NATO will continue to provide support to Ukraine in light of the unusual concentration of Russian forces close to Ukraine’s border. At the same time, the US Embassy in Ukraine has reaffirmed the delivery of 80 tonnes of ammunition to the Ukrainian military. What does the Foreign Ministry think about the connection between these statements and events?

Maria Zakharova: It appears that statements on “the military build-up” are being made to cover up or justify their own actions or preparations.

Here are the facts. The OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine has reported a considerable increase in the number of ceasefire violations from around 6,000 throughout October to over 8,000 in the first weeks of November. Who is responsible for this? Which side is to blame?

The Armed Forces of Ukraine have been methodically shelling the civilian infrastructure of Donbass, primarily gas, electricity and water supply facilities and educational establishments. Civilians, including children, have been killed and injured. Military drones are making many more flights. Taken together, this shows that the Ukrainian authorities are preparing to use military force to settle the conflict in the eastern regions.

We regret to say that the United States and its NATO allies are supporting Kiev’s militarist aspirations (you may recall the Freudian slip about “a bridgehead for peace,” which has disclosed Kiev’s true intentions). They are building up their efforts towards the military development of the Ukrainian territory and are increasing their presence in the Black Sea region. Today I have provided concrete figures on this cooperation between Kiev and London. The sides continue to develop interaction and what they describe as “cooperation.” In fact, we can see that this amounts to a military build-up in Ukraine by other countries. Statements on readiness to deploy additional contingents have been made in European capitals, although the Minsk Package of Measures (Paragraph 10) directly stipulates the “withdrawal of all foreign armed formations, military equipment, as well as mercenaries from the territory of Ukraine under monitoring of the OSCE.” This means that not only Kiev, but also Western countries are violating the Minsk agreements.

Last week, the United States and its allies held unscheduled military drills in the Black Sea region, the scenario of which included flights by strategic aircraft close to the Russian border. The goal of that provocation is clear: to show Kiev that they are supporting its aggressive policy. By doing this, NATO is openly and very actively, using any means available, trying to involve Ukraine in the implementation of their “containment” plans regarding Russia. Regrettably, Kiev does not seem to understand that Ukraine is being taken advantage of. The West does not view Ukraine as a sovereign state but rather as an instrument.

We once again urge our Western partners to refrain from actions that could artificially increase tensions and are fraught with serious consequences for regional security and stability.

I would like to say in this context that we have taken note of the statements by the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry regarding the recent executive order by the President of Russia On Humanitarian Assistance to People in Certain Areas of the Donetsk and Lugansk Regions of Ukraine. It appears that Kiev has not read the document thoroughly before accusing Moscow of violating the Minsk agreements. I would like to point out that under Paragraph 11 Donbass may engage in “cross-border cooperation with districts of the Russian Federation” within the framework of the law on the special status of the certain areas of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions.

While sabotaging the implementation of the Minsk agreements, the Ukrainian authorities are advancing initiatives and taking decisions without consulting Donetsk and Lugansk, which is further complicating the stalled settlement process. I am referring, in particular, to the draft law On the Principles of State Policy of the Transition Period, which the Ukrainian government forwarded to the Verkhovna Rada on August 9, 2021. That bill does not mention a special status, language norms or amnesty for the Donbass residents, although all of these are stipulated in the relevant agreements. Instead of defining the status and powers of local authorities and organising elections in accordance with the Minsk Package and the results of the 2019 Paris summit of the Normandy format countries, the draft law stipulates the establishment of military-civilian and international administrations and restrictions on the right of local residents to be elected in local elections and hold office (lustration). They will also be denied the right to amnesty. This cannot be interpreted as anything other than a “cleansing policy” for Donbass and its military occupation and possibly (in light of the international component) intervention. This draft law, if adopted, will actually bury the Minsk agreements and will result in Ukraine’s withdrawal from and termination of the negotiations process. Kiev should be aware of what it is doing and what this could lead to.

The October 18 opinion of the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission openly disregarded all these violations of Ukraine’s international obligations and the fact that this draft law contradicts the Ukrainian Constitution and existing legislation. The commission experts have actually given “the green light” to its adoption.

I would like to note that the Minsk Package is not a mere arrangement made by its parties. It is an international legal document binding on the international community as a whole. This is the essence of the relevant UN Security Council resolution. It is binding on all, and this must be taken into account during the assessment of the legal aspects of any and all decisions taken within the Ukrainian legal framework. That resolution was adopted, in part, with the support of Ukraine expressed in the form of political statements and intentions. Kiev was a party to the agreements, and it supported their discussion at the UN Security Council. Once again, it is a binding document.

The Venice Commission’s recommendations mostly concern the legal improvement of the draft law to make it less open to criticism. Is this expert work? Kiev has already announced that it will take into account all the recommendations made in Strasbourg.

On October 28, we commented in detail on the draft law and the conclusion of the Venice Commission. All our arguments remain valid. I would like to add that we are disappointed by the unexpected short-sightedness of the Venice Commission, which, contrary to its charter goals and principles, permitted itself to be drawn into a dirty political game around the Minsk Package as the only internationally recognised legal framework for the settlement of the conflict in Ukraine. As I have said, these are not mere arrangements between two parties. The Minsk agreements became binding on all after the resolution was adopted by the UN Security Council.

We are convinced that it would be in the Venice Commission’s interests to avoid situations where its expert and legal potential would be used as an instrument for attaining purely political goals. The future of our relations with this consultative body of the Council of Europe depends on this.

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Question: US Congressman Michael Turner spoke about US military presence in Ukraine. The Mirror, a British newspaper, said that the United Kingdom was ready to deploy 600 troops in Ukraine for the eventuality of a Russian “invasion.” How would you comment on these statements? 

Maria Zakharova: They are trying to create a nonexistent fact and pass it off for an existing one. And they are responding to this nonexistent fact as if it were in existence. It is a classic story found in any old propaganda textbook. Today, it has been included in counterpropaganda manuals.  

As we have repeatedly said, the US and NATO policies are behind the growing militaristic sentiment and military escalation in Ukraine. They claim they are in favour of a political settlement of the conflict in Donbass, but actually they supply weapons to those waging warfare against their own people, hold joint military exercises with the Ukrainian Armed Forces, and continue to expand their military infrastructure in Ukraine. They are neglecting the Minsk agreements and the human rights aspect. All of this seems insignificant when it comes to arms supplies, tied loans for the purchase of their weapons, and the chance to equip Ukraine with a range of lethal weaponry used against its own population rather than an external enemy. (All claims to the contrary are just empty verbiage and a smokescreen.) The Kiev regime makes aggressive statements against Russia, while Washington directly encourages Kiev’s revanchism and keeps afloat the myth of an imagined “Russian threat.” It is a vicious circle. 

It is the US and its NATO allies that have just held unscheduled exercises involving a powerful naval task force and strategic aviation in the Black Sea. This was a clear attempt to test the Russian reaction and foment tensions in the Black Sea area, an attempt that fits in well with the concept of “containment.” They are creating pretexts for aggression and destabilising the situation as a whole, something fraught with less predictability and higher escalation risks. We would like to hope that there is common sense in Washington and that (if so) it will prevail over the irresponsible plans to achieve domination in the Black Sea and in other respects.

As for Russian armed forces, their deployments, unlike those of US armed units, take place on Russian territory. Even taking this as “basic” information, there is no excessive concentration of forces and weapons in the vicinity of Ukraine. On November 6 of this year, Ukrainian Chief of the General Staff Sergei Shaptala refuted reports in the Washington Post and Politico about Russian forces being redeployed towards Ukrainian borders. According to him, “there is no build-up of forces.”

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Question: The media have announced that Zamir Kabulov and Thomas West discussed the entire range of Afghanistan-related issues at their meeting in Moscow. In Afghanistan, the armed confrontation between the Taliban and the opposition continues. What is Russia’s position on this matter? To what extent is it in accord with the US position?  

Maria Zakharova: On November 15, Special Presidential Representative for Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov and his US counterpart, Thomas West, discussed in Moscow the key issues on the Afghan agenda. It was noted that on the whole the military-political situation in Afghanistan was tending towards stabilisation. There is no talk of an armed confrontation between the opposition and the Taliban. Moreover, both sides think it important to facilitate the formation of an inclusive Afghan government reflecting the interests of all ethnic and political forces in the country. 

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Question: How do you assess the attempts to link Russia to the migrant situation on the Belarus border with the European Union? What can be done to avoid human losses among migrants and an escalation of the conflict with the EU? Poland seems to want to involve NATO in this, too.

Maria Zakharova: First things first, there is no need to “link” Russia to anything. There are objective facts. Those who want to analyse the reasons need to have the courage to acknowledge that the picture is much wider. This story did not begin yesterday or even in spring 2021. It has been unfolding for more than a year or even a decade.

The next aspect is what can be done to avoid loss of life. The answer is: start negotiations. This is what any textbook on international relations, diplomacy and conflicts says. Again, Minsk has been ready to talk since April. What is probably lacking is some political will from the EU and its members, so that, instead of idle chatter about how to arrange life in Belarus, they deal with the practical issues and problems that have flourished on their borders. It’s not a matter of talking with Svetlana Tikhanovskaya over the phone. Here they need to engage in applied, practical diplomacy, know the legal aspects and the history of the issue, find solutions, and uphold human rights in real life. They have talked so much about human rights yet have done so little. This is hard work, and probably not the most rewarding work, for that matter, because it involves multiple components. The situation has been badly neglected.

They need to act on the basis of the human rights, humanitarian norms and rules they champion, to apply them in practice. They should bring to mind all their manuals, statements, remarks at the Human Rights Council. With a Google search, they will find tweets on “protests in Russia,” “Poland’s position.” They can review how they have treated us, how they have criticised us, and our law enforcement agencies. Then they should make a copy, change the names of the countries and use the new document to instruct themselves on how to behave according to the criteria they have applied to our country.

Regarding an escalation of the conflict with the EU, we have nothing to do with this. Why are we being dragged into this in the information landscape? We know why – they need to continue inventing non-existent facts to support the myth about Russia’s aggressive policy. This situation has nothing to do with us. But they still mention Russia after a comma, fit it in whenever they have a chance. Just drop the word, and perhaps, it will stick in someone’s mind. These things are being said to a wide audience.

Any attempts to blame our country for this are groundless. Responsible journalists should handle this false information appropriately. In fact, they are trying to do just that – to cover this crisis from Belarus as well as from Poland. On the part of Belarus, they are succeeding. As for Poland, we can see what is happening there. In particular, on November 15, Polish police officers detained an RT France correspondent and a camera operator who were on an editorial assignment near ​​ Usnarz Górny. The journalists were taken to the police station in handcuffs, their equipment and passports were confiscated, they were interrogated for many hours and issued a large fine.

They were not trying to reach an area where a secret facility is located, which has to be hidden from prying eyes because of “Poland’s national security concerns.” They went to a place the Polish government has been mentioning every day for a long time, accusing others of creating tensions there. They were doing their journalistic work. They wanted to objectively report on what was going on there.

I have great respect for the rules, laws, and the procedures for accrediting journalists in various countries. I respect and understand that each country has its own rules and regulations. We always recommend that our journalists contact the local authorities for clarification. But this situation is urgent, and it does not affect journalists’ safety – they are not visiting an armed conflict zone, a terror attack site, or an ammunition depot on fire. It is a humanitarian situation. Journalists want to cover it. With all due respect for national legislation, what about the lofty words we hear about freedom of speech, independence of journalism, assisting journalists and not hindering their work? We have also heard this from Warsaw and from Brussels, which leads the EU in this sphere. They ought to act on this, or, another option is to say that they are no longer going to act on this, because with their internal politics, national security interests, and new approaches they no longer feel committed to their previous principles. They could do that. But they need to say it and define their criteria. If they live according to their own criteria, they should not impose them on others; let others act according to their criteria.

One of their goals is to divert attention from the real situation and from the extremely harsh treatment of migrants by the Polish authorities, in violation of their international humanitarian obligations. If they say Moscow is to blame, it makes it appear that they are no longer responsible for this. They pretend that they are using force not so much against the migrants as against those who “created” this situation as they put it. And they name other countries.

As for Poland’s appeals to NATO to interfere in resolving the crisis on the Belarusian-Polish border, we consider them provocative and very dangerous. This could lead to an unnecessary escalation of the situation. As a reminder, the NATO’s campaign to bombard Libya once led to an influx of North African migrants to Europe on a scale that exceeded all current examples. The number of refugees who left the aforementioned countries in the Middle East and North Africa was many times higher than the number of asylum seekers gathered at the Polish border.

The present situation has given the EU countries an opportunity to demonstrate in practice their commitment to high humanistic ideals and international law. They refer to themselves as developed, full-fledged and perfect democracies, which are based on very specific and many times reaffirmed principles of human rights, freedom of speech, independence of the media, etc. Instead, the Polish border guards, with tacit approval from Brussels (I have not seen a single tweet expressing concern or condemning what they are doing), are using water cannons, batons and tear gas on unarmed people who have fled countries destroyed by Western interventions (in Iraq alone, more than 2,000 Polish soldiers were stationed at various periods). The fact that the Polish authorities do not allow human rights activists or journalists onto the scene speaks for itself. Apparently, there is something to hide. What other explanations are there? Security concerns? No, it is a humanitarian situation. What does security have to do with it? But, once you mention “the long arm of the Kremlin” or “Moscow’s intrigues,” security concerns can be immediately brought up, too.

There is only one way out of this situation, and it is though negotiations, contacts, and a dialogue with the countries that are now at the forefront of this crisis. The Belarusian authorities have not just declared their readiness, they even have concrete proposals. They are not trying to draw others into some undefined format for maintaining relations. They have specifically announced the measures they are ready to implement. At the same time, we note the careful steps taken by Germany and the EU towards contacts and a dialogue. We believe that in dealing with this matter, the European Union will rely on its rich experience in solving problems on the southern migration routes.

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Question: Russia has adopted an important presidential executive order on assistance to Donbass and, hence my question. Does this mean that Russia will only help Russian citizens, Russian compatriots or all residents of Donbass regardless of their citizenship? Does Russia have influence over the principles of distributing humanitarian aid? What will it supply Donbass with and in what amounts? Will medications and COVID-19 vaccines be part of humanitarian aid?

Maria Zakharova: I would like to draw your attention to the fact that we helped Donbass by sending humanitarian aid to it practically from the first months of the Kiev regime’s armed aggression against the civilians in the east of Ukraine. The need became even greater after the so-called Maidan authorities introduced an outrageous socioeconomic blockade of this region in November 2014. Let’s not count how many lives this aid has saved. The main point is that we know we stand together in difficult times and always offer a helping hand. We realise that Donbass residents receive this aid that they badly need. It is really saving their lives. Frankly, it is impossible to count how many buildings and critical civilian facilities have been repaired after being destroyed by shelling by the Ukrainian armed forces. This is also humanitarian assistance, because you can send medications but there will be no place for medical treatment.

The Emergencies Ministry plans to send another humanitarian consignment on November 25, about which the Foreign Ministry has informed Ukraine, the relevant agencies of the UN and the OSCE and the International Committee of the Red Cross in accordance with the established procedures. This will be Russia’s 104th humanitarian convoy sent to the districts of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions of Ukraine that are suffering from Kiev’s aggression. Do you remember how it all began? At first, Western media called these white trucks with humanitarian aid vehicles carrying Russian tanks. There were articles in the British press and tweets by American and British journalists about the start of the “intervention.” Importantly, this happened more than once, so it wasn’t done by accident. I believe they could not even imagine that this wouldn’t be a one-off event, that this aid would be ongoing, substantial and large-scale. 

Now I will tell you what it consists of. By tradition, this aid includes medications, medical devices, basic necessities, food, and goods for children, such as toys and the like. You mentioned the November 15 Presidential Executive Order On Humanitarian Assistance to People in Certain Areas of the Donetsk and Lugansk Regions of Ukraine. This order also eased the terms of access to our market for the goods produced by local manufacturers and enterprises. We will continue helping civilians in the southeast of Ukraine, which have been exposed to many burdens and hardships. They have been suffering from the Kiev’s regime civil war against the residents of Donbass, which has already been going on for over seven years. 

Once again, we urge the Ukrainian authorities to immediately stop the military operation in the southeast against their own population, fully lift the blockade of the region and start resolving pressing socioeconomic and humanitarian problems through direct dialogue with Donetsk and Ligansk in line with the Minsk agreements.

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Question: I have two questions. The first question deals with the position of Turkey, the Turkish Foreign Minister and the Turkish Defence Minister. They have already spoken with their Azerbaijani counterparts, and they have expressed their full support for Azerbaijan’s actions on the border with Armenia. I would like to find out Moscow’s attitude towards this rhetoric on the part of Turkey, and whether Azerbaijan’s aggressive actions with regard to Armenia, Russia’s ally, are motivated by the fact that Turkey, Azerbaijan’s ally, completely supports them and provides Baku with a carte blanche?    

Maria Zakharova: We act as a mediator country, and our work aims to attain regional peace. We know that each country has its own interests. Some of these interests run counter to our perception of the evolving situation, and some coincide with it. In this particular event, we realised that it was necessary to act quickly, so as to avoid aggravating the situation and to resume its peaceful development. We focused on this aspect. Quite possibly, an analysis will be conducted, but this is a secondary matter. Specific measures to stabilise the situation are of primary importance. This is what our specialised agencies and first and foremost, the President of Russia, are doing, in the first place.

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Question: My second question deals with the recent incidents in Artsakh, or Nagorno-Karabakh. On November 8, an Azerbaijani service member used a pistol to shoot at a group of civilians repairing a water pipeline. One person was killed, and three more wounded. The absence of any coherent response to the murder of a tractor driver on October 9 led to a new tragedy, and the residents of Nagorno-Karabakh themselves are eager to bring Azerbaijani service personnel to account. It would be interesting to learn how Russia and the Russian peacekeeping force are planning to uphold the ceasefire regime and to protect the civilian population of Nagorno-Karabakh, without bringing those guilty of killing peaceful civilians to account?

Maria Zakharova: Your question is linked with the practical activity of the peacekeeping force, and its representatives can provide you with their own comment. We are working with each specific country via bilateral channels and at such collective meetings, so to speak. We are urging the parties to exercise restraint and to prevent these dangerous developments. We give our assessments which are not always public. Many statements are directly addressed to the parties. We proceed from what will prove more effective in any particular situation.

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