Excerpts from Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s answers to questions from RT France, Paris Match and Figaro, Moscow, October 12, 2018 (Full text of the interview to be published on October 18, 2018)
Question: Russia has been constantly, especially recently, accused by Western countries, the media, and a number of organisations, such as the Anti-Doping Agency and the OPCW, of election meddling and cyber attacks. Most recently, the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, and the Netherlands came out with such accusations concurrently and provided the media with information dating back six months. What is that all about? A planned action to put pressure on Russia and impose more sanctions? What do you think about the evidence that has been produced?
Sergey Lavrov: I find it difficult to discuss this matter seriously, because the evidence is being provided to us through the media. With all due respect to the journalism trade, we, as serious people, cannot consider the specific allegations, and Russia stands accused of all the deadly sins, without making use of the legal norms that were created specifically for such cases.
However, our response is fairly straightforward. If you talk to us through the media, we will do the same but be specific and to the point in our statements.
If our Western colleagues seriously think they can rattle us with their hysterics, they must not be paying enough attention to the history books. If all this is just a momentary fit and this particular instance of “political madness” dissipates naturally, we, when they are done talking, will be expecting them to join us in the legal framework for a serious professional discussion that is not tainted by propaganda.
Question: The Ukrainian Patriarchate decided to turn its back on Moscow and become independent from the Russian Orthodox Church. Politically, this is considered an important decision. What do you think about the autocephaly of the Ukrainian Church?
We will be marking the 100th anniversary of the armistice in World War I on November 11. Many heads of European governments will attend the event. Do you think President Putin will also attend the celebrations?
Sergey Lavrov: The Ukrainian Patriarchate did not turn its back on the Russian Orthodox Church, because the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate opposes the provocations orchestrated by Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople with direct and open support from Washington.
The plan was to make use of two non-canonical schismatic churches in Ukraine (the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kiev Patriarchate and the Ukrainian Autocephalous Church), which were never recognised by any Orthodox Church, but which, in the interests of this provocation, Patriarch Bartholomew recognised as canonical, and lifted the anathema from the two hierarchs who head these schismatic churches during the Holy Synod which he convened in Constantinople the other day.
As for church matters in general, intervention in church activities is outlawed in Ukraine and in Russia, and I hope in any other civilised state as well. However, when the US special representative for church relations outwardly welcomes the decision by Patriarch Bartholomew, when Kurt Volker who must, on behalf of the United States, facilitate the Ukrainian settlement based on the Minsk agreements, says what he says about these processes, we, in such cases, have a saying that loosely translates as a guilty conscious betrays itself. People who are unable to come up with a single fact to back up their indiscriminate accusations that we are interfering in someone's internal affairs, behave as if this is normal.
I very much hope that these extremely negative examples of the culture of dialogue, talks and diplomacy being replaced with uncultured Diktats backed up by flagrant blackmail, will not go unnoticed by hosts of the Paris Peace Forum.
With regard to celebrations dedicated to the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I, we received invitations and will certainly be represented there.
Question: I would like to revisit the Idlib issue. President Assad said that the situation in Idlib is temporary. Do you think your Turkish partners under the Sochi agreement are capable of disarming the jihadists in Idlib? How can a solution be found to this final part of the Syrian war?
Sergey Lavrov: This is really a temporary agreement. This story will end only when the power of the Syrian people is restored in Syria, and all those who are now in Syria, especially those who were never invited there, will leave its territory. Everyone understands this.
I do not agree that Idlib is the only problem area in Syria. There are vast swathes of land to the east of the Euphrates River where absolutely unacceptable things are happening. The United States is trying to use this territory to create a quasi-state with their Syrian allies, particularly the Kurds.
The United States is trying absolutely illegally to create a quasi-state in this territory and to create proper living conditions there for their minions. They are creating alternative governing bodies to the legitimate Syrian government and are actively promoting the return and resettlement of the refugees. This is being done at a time where neither the United States, nor France, or other Western countries, want to create proper conditions for the return of the refugees in the territories controlled by the legitimate Syrian Government prior to, as the West keeps telling us, the beginning of a credible political process. The question is why no one has to wait for the beginning of a credible political process on the eastern bank of the Euphrates River controlled by the United States and their local supporters. There can be only one answer. They want to create a territory which will be a prototype of a new state, or start another dangerous game with Iraqi Kurdistan, the so-called idea of Greater Kurdistan. I do not rule out the possibility that the United States wants to keep the situation so heated that it never calms down. It is much easier for them to catch the fish they want in muddy waters. This approach has never led to anything good.