Briefing by Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova, Moscow, November 21, 2019
- Sergey Lavrov’s attendance of the G20 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Japan
- Upcoming talks between Sergey Lavrov and Foreign Minister of Nepal Pradeep Kumar Gyawali
- First Vice Foreign Minister of China Le Yucheng’s working visit to Russia
- Icelandic Foreign Minister Gudlaugur Thor Thordarson’s upcoming visit to Russia
- Sergey Lavrov’s upcoming visit to Bishkek for a joint meeting of CSTO foreign and defence ministers and Security Council secretaries
- Syria update
- Developments in Venezuela
- Developments in Bolivia
- New York Conference on the Establishment of a Middle East Zone Free of Nuclear Weapons and Other Weapons of Mass Destruction
- Washington’s pressure on Egypt in light of Egypt’s plans to buy Sukhoi Su-35 fighters from Russia
- Recognising outer space as a sphere of NATO operations
- UNGA adopts a resolution on the Committee on Relations with the Host Country’s report
- Russian media in Latvia
- The stone-laying ceremony for a monument dedicated to the defenders of the siege of Leningrad
- Azerbaijani refugees’ participation in the Nagorno-Karabakh settlement
- Former President Evo Morales’s appeal to international mediators for return to Bolivia
- New video provocation in Serbian media
- Russian citizens’ problems getting British visas
- Igor Kolomoisky’s interview with the New York Times
- Russian Peace Foundation non-governmental organisation
- Serbian security service’s statement regarding the new video in the Serbian media
- US Vice President Mike Pence’s statements in Reykjavik
- Russian-Icelandic relations
- Federal law On the Prohibition of the Propaganda of Nazism in the Russian Federation
- Russia's position on developments in Lebanon and Iraq
- Iran update
- President of the Estonian Parliament Henn Polluaas’s publication on Facebook
- Statements by Commander of the Ukrainian Navy Igor Voronchenko and President of Ukraine Vladimir Zelensky
On November 22-23, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and his G20 colleagues will convene in Nagoya, Japan, for a foreign ministers’ meeting.
The event will be held as part of Japan’s year-long presidency of the group. The ministers will discuss the promotion of free trade and global governance, realising the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (SDGs) and multilateral partnership in the interests of Africa.
The G20 summit held in Japan on June 28-29 of this year, which President Vladimir Putin attended, has confirmed the importance and efficiency of this format amid the increasing risk of global economic fragmentation. This is especially important in light of the skidding of many other international platforms. The final declaration of the summit sealed the G20 leaders’ resolve to preserve and strengthen the system of global economic governance and to modernise its institutions – the WTO and the International Monetary Fund. The G20 leaders also adopted a statement on preventing exploitation of the internet and social media for terrorism and violent extremism conducive to terrorism.
The G20 has become a broad-based structure of global governance representing the interests of all the main players where decisions are taken on the principle of consensus. Its importance has been growing amid geopolitical confrontation and increasing protectionism. The G20 has achieved a great deal, including a thorough reform of the international tax system and banking oversight, as well as the mechanism of international cooperation against corruption. The group has been working on the digital economy, human potential, infrastructure investments, energy, trade, climate and environmental protection.
The G20 comprises two-thirds of the world’s population and some 80-85 percent of global output. Its decisions have a direct impact on the global markets and have the ability to boost their development. The group has become a byword for the ongoing changes in the lineup of global economic forces. Over the past 25 years, the share of industrialised countries in global GDP in terms of PPP has dropped from 58 to 40 percent, while the share of the emerging economies has been growing.
On December 1, Saudi Arabia will take over the G20 Presidency. Russia is resolved to work in close contact with its Saudi partners to ensure the group’s continuity.
Sergey Lavrov plans to hold a series of bilateral talks with his colleagues on the sidelines of the G20 ministerial meeting. He will hold the first of these with Foreign Minister of Japan Toshimitsu Motegi on November 22. On November 23, he will hold bilateral talks with our Chinese partners and will also have a number of other meetings, about which we will inform you later.
On November 25, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Nepal Pradeep Kumar Gyawali will pay a working visit to Moscow at the invitation of Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
The ministers plan to discuss topical issues of the Russia-Nepal relations, including intensifying political dialogue, expanding cooperation in trade and the economy, humanitarian and other ties – specifically, in tourism – as well as improving the bilateral treaty framework.
The international and regional agendas of the talks will particularly focus on closer interaction within international organisations – primarily, the UN and its specialised agencies.
On November 25, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will meet with First Vice Foreign Minister of China Le Yucheng. On the same day, First Deputy Foreign Minister Vladimir Titov will have consultations with his Chinese colleague in Moscow. Le Yucheng’s schedule also includes meetings with deputy foreign ministers Igor Morgulov and Andrey Rudenko.
During the upcoming contacts, the parties will exchange views on the current state of bilateral relations and ways to further extend coordinated efforts between Russia and China in foreign affairs. The meetings, talks and contacts will have an intensive agenda.
On November 26, Icelandic Minister for Foreign Affairs Gudlaugur Thor Thordarson will pay a working visit to Moscow.
During talks, the two countries’ foreign ministers will discuss the current state and prospects of the bilateral relations, opportunities for intensifying cooperation in trade and the economy, cultural and humanitarian areas. The parties also plan to exchange opinions on topical international issues.
Sergey Lavrov and Gudlaugur Thor Thordarson will particularly focus on cooperation within the Arctic Council, which both Russia and Iceland consider a key platform for adopting joint decisions on the matters related to the sustainable development of the Arctic.
Gudlaugur Thor Thordarson’s visit is expected to facilitate progressive dynamic development of the Russia-Iceland cooperation and a closer dialogue between our countries regarding the regional and international agendas. More detailed information on the bilateral relations will be additionally published shortly before the visit.
On November 27, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will take part in a joint meeting of the Foreign Ministers Council, the Defence Ministers Council and the Security Council Secretaries Committee of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO). The event will be held in Bishkek ahead of the November 28 meeting of the organisation’s Collective Security Council.
The participants at the joint meeting, to be chaired by the Foreign Minister of Kyrgyzstan, will review the CSTO operations between the council’s meetings (2018-2019). They will exchange opinions on the military-political developments in the sphere of the CSTO collective security responsibility. The participants will discuss topics that are on the agenda of the CSTO Collective Security Council, including a statement on improving interaction and cooperation in the interests of stronger international and regional security and a plan of events for the celebration of the 75th anniversary of Victory in the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945.
The CSTO foreign ministers will coordinate a draft statement on the efforts taken to stabilise the Middle East and North Africa and will also adopt a list of topics for joint statements to be adopted in 2020.
One of the subjects on the agenda of the CSTO Collective Security Council meeting is the transfer of the CSTO Presidency from Kyrgyzstan to Russia. Sergey Lavrov will update his colleagues of the priorities of Russia’s CSTO Presidency.
We have taken note of an article published in The New York Times on November 14 and its very interesting headline, “UN Query on Syria Hospital Bombings May Be Undermined by Russia Pressure, Limited Scope.” The headline is a summary of the article.
To put it in a nutshell, the contributors are those who have tried before, using information collected online and via the social media, to prove Russia’s involvement in the hospital bombings in the north-west of Syria. In this article, they allege that Russia has put pressure on the UN group, allegedly set up to investigate hospital bombings, and on the organisation’s leader, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, not to release the conclusions of this inquiry.
This is fake news or shoddy work, whichever you choose. Of course, it is not the first example of a politicised and unprofessional article published in the Western media. Such articles are usually based on an astute manipulation of facts and include unsubstantiated accusations and information from “reliable sources.” The article in The New York Times is no exception.
First of all, the reporters of this piece should have started with learning that on August 1 the UN Secretary-General set up an internal UN Headquarters Board of Inquiry not to establish anyone’s guilt, as the above reporters would like, but actually to improve the verification and identification criteria used by various UN bodies to assess the damage done to civilian facilities in hostility zones. The de-confliction mechanism is far from perfect indeed. This is evident, and not only to us. Russian arguments regarding this have been presented more than once during the UN Security Council meetings on Syria and directly to the media. There have not been any secret pressure or attempts to direct experts in the wrong direction; we have here an open position of the country reinforced with arguments. During the September 16 news conference (the comment regarding it was published nearly two months later, on November 14), Vassily Nebenzya, Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the United Nations, once again provided comprehensive information and substantiated criticism of the de-confliction process.
We regret that The New York Times pretends not to notice and does not hold its own inquiries into the almost daily attacks by terrorists, including Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham and other affiliated terrorist groups and radicals, who are murdering innocent civilians and derailing the nascent peace process in the region by attacking schools, medical facilities, refugee camps and other civilian infrastructure facilities. It appears that this is of no interest to anyone at the newspaper. It is really sad…
Meanwhile, civilians residing in the non-government controlled areas, including in the north-west of Syria, continue to be abused by the terrorists, who are using the support of their foreign sponsors (I wonder if The New York Times journalists know these sponsors) so as to pose as representatives of moderate opposition and local administrations. They brutally suppress any local protests. For example, the people of Kafr Takharim, who held protests against the arbitrariness of the self-proclaimed authorities, have been under a terrorist siege for days, without any connection to the outside world.
These are facts, but who wants to know any facts if they clash with the tone set by the Washington establishment? There has been much talk about fake news and propaganda – The New York Times article is a perfect example. If you have any argument in response to this, we will be delighted to hear them. However, everything we say lands on deaf ears. But we will continue to talk so that we will eventually be heard.
The situation in Venezuela remains tense but there are encouraging signs. The opposing sides took to the streets not so long ago, but luckily no serious incidents occurred. We have also noticed a marked reduction in the number of opposition protesters. At the same time, the Government and the opposition continue their dialogue despite sanctions and Washington’s pressure. We are glad that regional forces are supporting these efforts.
On November 18, a meeting took place within the framework of the Montevideo Mechanism. Let me remind you that this format was created by Mexico, Uruguay and the Caribbean countries (CARICOM) to facilitate a settlement in Venezuela. A statement issued after the meeting noted the need for a peaceful and democratic solution to the complicated crisis [in Venezuela]. It also said that the Venezuelans themselves should decide on their future. We welcome the steps coordinated by the Government and the opposition, namely the return of the Socialist deputies to the National Assembly, the termination of the investigative activities against opposition activists, and the start of efforts to overhaul the National Election Council. Deserving a special mention is the fact that the regional forces are categorically against the reactivation of the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance (Rio Pact), which was created to prevent aggression between states rather than settle humanitarian crises.
We appreciate the Montevideo Mechanism countries’ balanced approach and respect for the principles of the UN Charter and standards of international law. We have repeatedly said that a peaceful resolution of the intra-Venezuelan contradictions can only be achieved by the Venezuelans themselves finding a dialogue-assisted inclusive political solution without preconditions or outside interference.
The responsible policy conducted by this group of states contrasts with the position upheld by Washington which is stubbornly ignoring the positive shifts in the negotiations between the Government and the opposition in Venezuela. Our US colleagues are continuing to call for the resignation of the legitimate president, thereby violating the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of sovereign states. We have regularly broached this matter; let me reiterate that the international community’s task is to facilitate mutual understanding between different political forces in Venezuela rather than play up to one of the opposing sides.
We see that the ulterior motive behind these activities is to destabilise Venezuela as part of the general policy directed at reformatting Latin America in the spirit of the resuscitated Monroe Doctrine. For lack of [fresh] ideas, the tools used to topple the legitimate government remain the same: increasingly tough unilateral illegal measures, persistent support for the increasingly unpopular Juan Guaido, the continued anti-Maduro propaganda campaign, and subversion inside the country that is coordinated from without.
We are particularly concerned over the double standards displayed by certain media outlets while covering the situation in Latin American countries. As far as Venezuela is concerned, we see, for example, that they peremptorily accuse the local authorities of committing all sorts of sins but hush up every single illegal action by the radical opposition. The majority of Western media continue to run stories about large-scale anti-government protests, while hushing up progress achieved at the talks between the Government and the opposition. At the same time the West, including the Western media, does not feel allergic to excessive use of force against protesters and violations of the constitutional order in other countries. This is eroding the principles of free and independent journalism. We would like to see more concern over the fate of real people and more objectivity in assessing events in the region. It is ordinary citizens and society as a whole that fall victim to the biased and self-seeking approach based on their indifference to being influenced.
Russia’s position on the recent events in Bolivia was clearly stated by President Vladimir Putin at a news conference in Brasilia on November 14, 2019. Its legal aspects were highlighted by the heads of the Foreign Ministry: Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov. In particular, Mr Ryabkov’s answer to the question by the Prensa Latina news agency, which is published on the Foreign Ministry website, is still relevant. We have repeatedly confirmed it, and I am doing this again now.
Unfortunately, the social and political environment in the country remains tense. The new government, which came to power through actions involving elements of a state coup, faces the issue of legitimacy, and this continues to have destabilising potential. I am not only talking about clashes between Evo Morales’s supporters and opponents, but also about the possibility of a confrontation on ethnic and social grounds.
We must not disregard a very important fact: Bolivia’s official name is the Plurinational State. We understand very well what consequences a conflict on ethnic grounds can have, especially if it is deliberately heated and encouraged from outside. This is a very sensitive and complex issue. It is very easy to do damage and very hard to repair. Bolivia is a multiethnic state dominated by the indigenous Indian people. There are 37 official languages with a population of 10.5 million people.
In this context, we are still concerned by the statements of certain Bolivian politicians who are currently playing the lead role and are known for their ultra-right sentiments. They are openly calling for a confrontation between races and classes.
At the same time, the interim President Jeanine Anez has issued a decree that shields military personnel and security agencies from responsibility for acts of violence while dispersing protests. This decision has led to a sharp increase in the number of victims and was condemned by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights as not corresponding to international human rights standards and also impinging on the law, truth, justice and international standards.
We consider it important to listen to the opinion of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (let me remind you that it is Michelle Bachelet, the former President of Chile, who knows this region and its problems very well). She warned that the situation in Bolivia could spin out of control because “in a situation like this, repressive actions by the authorities will simply stoke that anger even further and are likely to jeopardise any possible avenue for dialogue."
We urge the interim Bolivian authorities to promote uniting unifying agenda, facilitate the consolidation of society rather than focus on stirring up hatred. This is the only way for the country to overcome the ordeal it is facing.
Once again, we confirm that Russia is interested in a politically and economically stable Latin America, including Bolivia, with which we share historical ties of friendship and mutually beneficial cooperation.
So why do I repeat the same phrase about what Russia is interested in? There are certain reasons for that. The regional information space abounds in fake information about Russia’s position and interests in certain states or the region in general. There are materials and articles with alleged quotes and alleged facts, sometimes originating from the outside, and sometimes inside the region. There is a huge number of them. We can monitor and refute some of these materials, but some of them cannot even be verified because they are multiplying very quickly. You have the opportunity to listen to the primary source of information – the Russian Foreign Ministry – and ascertain again our interest in the kind of relations that we want to develop with the region as a whole as well as with concrete countries. This is a stable, politically and economically sustainable Latin America, with whom we are friends. We want to build mutually beneficial and respectful relations with this region in various spheres.
On November 18-22, New York is the venue of a Conference on the Establishment of a Middle East Zone Free of Nuclear Weapons and Other Weapons of Mass Destruction. The establishment of this zone is envisaged by the resolution of the Review and Extension Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) signed in 1995. Russia, the US and Great Britain as NPT depositaries co-authored this resolution.
A WMD-free zone is among the most important topics within the NPT review process. Its establishment would serve as a significant contribution in helping to strengthen the nuclear non-proliferation regime.
Unfortunately, the 1995 resolution remains unfulfilled due to the position of several states that play a key role in the establishment of a WMD-free zone.
The 2010 Review Conference instructed the UN Secretary-General in cooperation with Russia, the US and Great Britain to convene a conference on this issue. However, due to Israel not being ready to participate and following the changes in the positions of the US and Great Britain it did not happen. The parties also failed to reach the necessary agreements during the 2015 Review Conference due to the unconstructive position of the US, Great Britain and Canada, which, speaking plainly, torpedoed the adoption of the final document.
This year’s conference is held in accordance with the UN General Assembly’s resolution adopted in December 2018 at the initiative of the Arab states. Russia supported the decision.
We hope that this conference will serve as a starting point to implement the 1995 resolution as well as an important step towards settling the crisis and strengthening security in the Middle East, which we believe all the regional countries must be interested in.
We hope that the number of participants in the process will increase, and it will conclude in the adoption of the corresponding agreements on the establishment of a WMD-free zone in the Middle East. Russia is ready to provide its comprehensive support.
The Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to International Organisations in Vienna Mikhail Ulyanov spoke at the opening ceremony of the conference. His remarks are available on the official accounts of the Foreign Ministry and Russia’s Permanent Mission to the UN in Vienna.
We note the direct threats coming from US officials who promise to impose sanctions on Egypt because it is considering buying Russian Sukhoi Su-35 fighters. This is yet another example of very aggressive behaviour. Unfortunately, Washington has been using this mode of dealing with others for the past few years. Dozens of countries in Europe, Asia, Africa and Latin America – basically, all regions in the world – have experienced these American manners.
There is evidence that the United States is pulling out all the stops to obstruct Russia’s links with other countries. When the strategy and attempts to isolate Russia failed, the United States moved on to plan B and started to simply throw in obstacles using all their tools and mechanisms. This affects military and technical cooperation as well. They imposed sanctions on Russia and now they are threatening to do the same to our partners, who prefer topnotch Russian weapons.
As we understand it, the ideologists behind this concept in Washington are trying to kill two birds with one stone, or to do damage to us by undermining our deals and, while they are at it, forcing American weapons on foreign buyers. If they want to sell their arms, they should remember free competition based on benefit, freedom of decision-making and competitive advantages. By forgetting about the principles of the market economy they are stabbing the very product they are trying to sell. Political pressure and aggressive rhetoric will only backfire.
Why is this the case? Perhaps because the considerably more costly American weapons will not stand up to the competition as they often turn out to be outdated. In other words, these are efforts to promote one’s own geopolitical interests coupled with attempts to push ready-made solutions instead of following the principles of free competition to achieve one’s own commercial benefit.
The number of those who allow Washington to decide on their behalf where to buy and what, those who agree to barter away some of their sovereignty in favour of the United States and give up their own benefits, are shrinking in numbers. Just like our Egyptian friends, the majority of Russia’s partners in the world prefer to make their own independent decisions based on value for money. As you remember, even NATO members, including Turkey, tilted towards the Russian air defence system – despite the United States intimidating them, twisting their arms, issuing threats, etc.
As a matter of fact, threats have been completely discredited as a method, including thanks to the United States’ respective level of execution. By putting pressure on other countries, the United States is merely undermining its own credibility and once again making the world consider abandoning US dollars as a global trade currency because it is no longer an instrument of normal market relationships and exchanges. The US dollar has become leverage in Washington’s foreign policy. When it is only about politics, when the market economy and the principles of free trade are not just pushed to the background but essentially do not exist, it is impossible to operate.
Outer space was announced as another sphere of operations, along with land, air, water and cyberspace, during a NATO foreign ministers’ meeting in Brussels yesterday.
This is an alarming statement. NATO’s military planning aims to achieve supremacy in all environments with all the ensuing consequences in the form of militarisation and escalation of tension. The Alliance has made it to outer space.
We will be closely monitoring how NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg’s assurances about NATO not planning to deploy weapons in space will play out in real life. We urge NATO countries to support our efforts to prevent an arms race in outer space, which could adversely affect international security and strategic stability.
We believe that turning outer space into an arena of armed confrontation would be at odds with the security interests of any country, including NATO member states.
The UN General Assembly Sixth Committee adopted a resolution on the Committee on Relations with the Host Country’s report on November 20.
The resolution came in response to an unprecedented crisis triggered by the United States’ failure to comply with its obligations under the UN Headquarters Agreement of 1947. Never before have the US authorities so blatantly abused their status as host country for this international organisation. Visas were denied to 18 members of the Russian delegation and to delegates from other countries as well. Severe restrictions on movement were adopted with regard to diplomats from permanent missions to the UN and representatives of Iran and Cuba who came from their respective capitals. The premises of the Permanent Mission of Russia, which were blocked by the Americans in 2016, have not yet been returned.
The General Assembly expressed grave concern about the visa situation and issued a clear signal to Washington to immediately issue entry visas without exception to all delegates from the member states due in New York for UN meetings and to lift restrictions on the movement of permanent missions’ staff. The principle of reciprocity in relation to delegations accredited to the UN was recognised as unacceptable.
The resolution demands that Washington resolve all existing problems within a reasonable and limited timeframe. It further indicates that the General Assembly will otherwise seriously consider taking measures provided for in Section 21 of the UN Headquarters Agreement (arbitration proceedings involving the United States).
The adopted resolution calls on Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to intervene and to use available legal mechanisms to ensure the normal functioning of the UN Secretariat and permanent missions.
We hope that the Committee on Relations with the Host Country’s recommendations contained in its report and included in the resolution will be implemented without delay.
We would like to once again remind the US authorities that hosting the UN headquarters is a privilege given to the US Government in conjunction with guarantees of compliance with obligations to this international organisation and its members. We will push to have them implemented in full.
We have received news that does not make one feel optimistic when it comes to freedom of speech in Latvia. The news is about the Latvian government’s policy of repressions towards the media.
On November 20, the Latvian National Electronic Mass Media Council decided to cancel the broadcasts of nine Russian-language television channels in the republic. Among them are Peterburg – 5 Kanal, Dom Kino, Dom Kino Premium, Vremya: Dalyokoe and Blizkoye, Muzyka Pervogo, and others. The pretense is that their final beneficiary is Yury Kovalchuk, who is under EU sanctions.
Thus, official Riga has found yet another reason to continue its illegal practice aimed at limiting the access of Russian-speaking citizens to the alternative sources of information. Let me remind you that earlier the Latvian regulator already prohibited the retransmission of Russian television channels, in particular, Rossiya-RTR, and this summer it blocked the access to the website Baltnews.lv, which belongs to Rossiya Segodnya International Information Agency. This decision was not connected to any particular person. There are different pretenses, but the result is the same: the blocking of the media. It is not even the creation of conditions that are impossible to implement, but the creation of an environment where the media simply cannot work.
Such discriminative steps of the Latvian authorities against Russian media resources and blatant attempts to cleanse the information space of alternative and maybe undesirable points of view, are a serious violation of international law related to the freedom of expression and equal access to information.
We urge the relevant international structures and NGOs to react. We have already sent documents to the relevant agencies, first of all, the OSCE, and will also add new facts. We are waiting for their reaction and we will keep monitoring this matter.
On November 12, in Jerusalem, the stone-laying ceremony for the Memorial Candle Monument took place. This is a memorial complex devoted to the heroism of the defenders of Leningrad and its residents during the siege in the 1941-1945 Great Patriotic War. The event was attended by Russian Ambassador to Israel Anatoly Viktorov, a delegation of the St Petersburg administration, Knesset members, the Mayor of Jerusalem, representatives of the Israeli Foreign Ministry, as well as Israeli and Russian veteran associations, philanthropists and benefactors. Plans call for unveiling the monument during the Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to Israel.
There are 1,308 Leningrad siege survivors and some 7,000 veterans living in Israel. To them, the memory of the events of the Great Patriotic War is sacred. The Piskaryovskoye Memorial Cemetery in St Petersburg has the graves of 40,000 Jews; therefore the monument in Jerusalem will unite our understanding of the tragic period of our common history, and will also teach the youth and the next generations the true essence of heroism and the truth about the tragedy of the war and the blockade.
This memorial will reflect the common history of Russia and Israel, because during the Great Patriotic War, representatives of all peoples and ethnic groups of the Soviet Union fought in the Red Army. The Red Army soldiers made the decisive contribution to the defeat of Nazism and the liberation of Europe from it; they saved the Jewish people and the peoples of Europe.
The stone-laying ceremony has a symbolic meaning: it not only connects the stones of the monument, but also strengthens Russia-Israel relations and ties between our peoples. We value the special attitude towards the memory of the Great Patriotic War in our two countries. People are ready to defend the historical truth and counteract attempts to rewrite the events and results of the WWII.
We received a question about whether it was possible for Azerbaijani displaced persons and refugees to participate in the Nagorno-Karabakh settlement on par with the Karabakh Armenians and whether they could return to Nagorno-Karabakh and live alongside the Armenian population, the way it was before the conflict.
Representatives of the countries co-chairing the OSCE Minsk Group have repeatedly stated that the peaceful settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict must provide all internally displaced persons (IDP) and refugees with the right to return to their previous places of residence.
As concerns the negotiation format, this question should be addressed to the parties in charge of determining and approving the list of participants. The negotiations are currently being conducted at the level of the Azerbaijani and Armenian leadership. Should the two countries reach an agreement, we will support them.
Question: Ex-president of Bolivia Evo Morales asked for assistance from international mediators regarding his return to Bolivia from Mexico where he was granted political asylum. He also claims that Russia might act as a mediator. Can you comment on this?
Maria Zakharova: As you know, on a global scale we are open to peacemaking activity. There are a number of examples of Russia playing an active part in political and diplomatic peacemaking. These are well-known examples. This characterises Russian diplomacy and foreign policy. But there must be prerequisites, and there are certain procedures to follow. We abide by international law as well as diplomatic rules and mechanisms. The international legal framework is our priority in this case.
First of all, Russia’s policy in the region itself is based on mutual respect, international law, mutual benefit and everything outlined in the UN Charter, which is in itself a very important factor both for stabilising the situation and for preventing potentially simmering conflicts. When at some point Russia began to intensify its relations with Latin America in all directions, both bilaterally and in the context of regional associations, that became a very important example of how relations should be built in general. Russia has no borders with Latin America; however, it enjoys very good relations with this region in terms of economic, political and cultural links. Second, there are many examples of our efforts in mediation but they must be in compliance with international law. But in principle, we are always open to mediation.
I have already mentioned fake news but today something out of this world happened. It has nothing to do with Latin America and came from another region that is also infested with fake stories. Libyan media published an article that included a screenshot allegedly of Izvestia’s front page. Unfortunately, the publication went viral on the Libyan internet. The reports of allegedly secret talks between Fayez al-Sarraj and Khalifa Haftar were served up as an article allegedly published by a Russian media outlet. This is how the material was presented in the Libyan media. And this is what today’s issue of Izvestia looks like. We got a copy specifically for this briefing. The two pages have nothing in common. Izvestia’s representatives called us in horror because even we have never seen such impudence and such explicit, custom-made fake news. This is a specific example of how the media is used in this horrible global information war. This material will be a brilliant exhibit for our column giving examples of bogus stories but, unfortunately, this is a widespread, daily occurrence. This is not just a distorted or made-up quote attributed to a source. This is one of the top five Russian newspapers being used as a ‘source’ of misinformation. This is fake news about fake news. I could not help but show you this.
Question: Could you comment on a video in the Serbian press, where someone alleged to be a Russian intelligence operative or a Russian diplomat is seen handing over money to a Serbian officer?
Maria Zakharova: This is what we are talking about – the use of technologies for some purposes. Both countries are to hold top-level contacts shortly. We are used to certain interesting stories that are palmed off as sensations appearing ahead of high-level contacts. After a period of time, all of this is repudiated or turns out to be a hastily concocted provocation. All matters arousing concerns of this kind are addressed through the relevant interstate channels. This one should be regarded as a provocative story. This video should be analysed by those who are assigned to do so. As far as the public at large is concerned, the obvious task pursued by the so-called “film-makers” was to stage a provocation and to influence people in an appropriate manner ahead of a number of talks, meetings and visits. We see this done over and over again with an enviable regularity. There is a big question for the media: to what extent will we be aware of provocations and to what extent will we treat them as provocations? Perhaps the answer is “never” and this will always be of interest.
I can name dozens of similar occurrences which have been happening in the course of this year alone, with similar provocative stories, hybrids, fakes, impositions, and so on, preceding or following directly on visits, talks, or summits.
If there are any questions or concerns in these spheres, each state has appropriate tools for dealing with these matters in a civilised manner. A provocation at this level is designed for a totally different effect. We are all grown-up people and know this only too well.
Question: The media reported the other day that Russian citizens were having problems with British visas. In this case, the reports were referring to journalists, our colleagues. The comment made by the UK embassy was to the effect that they were not actually journalists and hence the denial of visas. How would you comment on this? Is Russia planning to retaliate?
Maria Zakharova: Right, and the real journalists are probably those who make fakes. I did not see the comment saying they were not actually journalists. I saw the British Embassy’s comment that said “no comment.” They do not usually comment on such things. They love real journalists and help them in every possible way. They do issue journalist visas in 99.9 percent of cases. Fine information! Either you don’t comment, or you do comment. If you give the percentage points, you could have disclosed the figure itself. We will then understand what one-hundredth of a percentage point is all about in terms of human beings – half a person, fifteen people, or perhaps twenty-five people. It is a classical subterfuge on which they would like us to focus. We don’t need percentage points. Give us some real figures! What figure do we really proceed from? Then we will understand everything: to how many journalists (later they will have to specify from what countries they were) the British system failed to issue visas. In this case, the percentage points say nothing. We need real figures.
Second, we do confirm that the British authorities did not issue visas to Russian journalists. One of them is a permanently London-based correspondent. They did not extend his visa and so he was unable to work. The other journalist was denied entry visas and he could not go to London as our own correspondent and work there on a long-term basis. It is a big question why the British side does not comment on this fact but keeps commenting on everything related to journalism, freedom of speech and the like. I think that if you comment on everything related to the protection of journalists’ rights, if you hold a freedom of speech and journalists’ safety conference in your capital, if you make this the pivot of your foreign policy, then you should comment on this particular case. Why don’t you issue visas? Why is this a system-wide problem?
We were asked, among other things, about our possible response. You know well that this principle has not been abolished. Please do not complain later that Russia has failed to issue visas to UK journalists, or cancelled their visas, or began putting obstacles in their path. No one threw obstacles in their way or planned to do so. But the principle of reciprocity is still in force. If the British Embassy or British journalists conceive any questions, we will be pleased to answer them in the usual course of business.
Question: On November 13, Ukrainian oligarch Igor Kolomoisky gave an interview to The New York Times. In this interview, he made several quite upfront comments. He said that the US betrayed Ukraine and made it go to war against Russia without even giving it money. They won’t be allowed into NATO or the EU; they will go to Russia and borrow $100 billion. Russia will give them the money and they will solve their problems. In addition, several experts note that Ukraine is falling into a debt pit and serves as an example of how a state should not be run.
Maria Zakharova: This is very interesting. Russia is constantly a theme in the US media: television, radio, the internet, social networks and, of course, the newspapers. When Russian officials want to talk about something that the Americans are concerned about, they, in particular, The New York Times, have no possibility of publishing their articles. They say there is little space for your articles. And suddenly you open a newspaper and there is an oligarch there. And, naturally, nobody is against businesses or the fact that business shares its views and thoughts. This is very interesting. How can these double standards exist at the same time: it so happens that Russia is mentioned dozens and hundreds of times in the newspaper, and when Russian officials, representatives and senior diplomats want to come and answer questions that, as we can see, concern American society, there is suddenly no space. This is a fact. At the same time, we get an offer to place the material somewhere nearby, perhaps commercially, in a commercial section. This is an interesting trend. Absurd. I cannot help but share this interesting trend with you, after you’ve mentioned The New York Times.
Now to Ukraine falling into a debt pit. Do you know how much debt the US has?
Question: More than $22 trillion.
Maria Zakharova: These numbers are real, not made up. We live in the world of platitudes, of talking points we repeat without even thinking. I would like to ask who else is in the debt pit and whose pit is deeper?
Question: Is it likely that if this trend continues for a little longer, the Ukrainian regime, being under such internal pressure, will be ready to adopt the Minsk Agreements and launch talks with the DPR and the LPR leaders?
Maria Zakharova: We do not regard the Minsk Agreements from the financial or economic point of view. We see the Minsk Agreements as Ukraine’s chance to reintegrate (although this word is difficult for Donbass, which is already allergic to it) and, one way or another, return to the principles of true statehood: not endless political hysteria or cheap political games, but the platform, the foundation, the level of true statehood. I believe it is much more important to regard the Minsk Agreements and the entire range of issues related to their implementation from this point of view.
Another angle on the Minsk Agreements is also very important. I mean the human dimension, related to people’s lives, because statehood is also about the lives of individuals. This is why we regard the Minsk Agreements as a means to bring people’s lives back to normal. Not survival, not existence, but life.
The financial and economic element is also very important, but I think the two aspects I have mentioned are the priority. We not only regard the Minsk Agreements from this angle, but also had this in mind when drafting them: both the first package of the Minsk Agreements and the second one, which is discussed so often.
Question: The media reported several days ago now that the Russian Peace Foundation had invited three prominent members of the Yellow Vest protests to Russia. These media outlets have concluded that the Russian authorities are connected with the French protest movement. What can you say to this?
Maria Zakharova: The Russian Peace Foundation is an NGO, one of our oldest NGOs. Its representatives take an active part in the forums and platforms that bring together NGO delegates from all around the world, for example, the numerous events held at the UN. The foundation’s representatives attend the events held in Europe and in other parts of the world precisely as delegates from a non-governmental organisation. I don’t see why any activities of an NGO should be connected with the position of the state. I regard this simply as a misinterpretation of events and facts. I have not seen the reports you mentioned, but if they exist they are completely untrue. There are masses of NGOs and civil society representatives in Russia. Their positions may differ from one another. We often have to make excuses for the attention-grabbing political actions staged by some of the NGOs, but we also say every time that they are not government agencies.
Question: The video showing Georgy Kleban, a former assistant military attaché at Russia’s Embassy to Serbia, has been declared authentic by the Serbian security service. The government of Serbia described the situation as serious and said it would launch an inquiry.
Maria Zakharova: Has the Serbian security service identified all the persons in that video?
Question: Our security services have so far identified only the Russian citizen. There is no information about the other person in the video so far.
Maria Zakharova: And why is this? I believe that all the facts need to be authenticated, including the date when the video was made, the persons in the video, the person who edited it and when this was done. Only then will I comment on this. I cannot comment on all the videos. I am not evading your question. I will certainly speak about this when I have the facts. As of now, I cannot tell you anything because I don’t have the facts, and you don’t have them either, as we can see. We need key facts if we are going to make comments. First of all, experts must provide their opinion regarding this material. If we start commenting now, either confirming or refuting this news, we will become a source of unreliable information. I don’t want this.
Question: What can you say about the Serbian government’s statement to the effect that the “situation is serious”? How can this affect Russia-Serbia relations?
Maria Zakharova: I have already provided a detailed answer to this question. Do you expect me to make a political statement? Political statements must be based on facts. I have asked you if you as a journalist have any additional information that can shed light on the situation. You replied that you don’t have any information. Had you provided such information, I would have commented on it. I don’t have it, and inventing things is not my job. My job is to comment on facts. Unlike a lot of countries, we always make comments on such cases when we receive all the facts and these are verified facts. I am not going to comment on anything that is clearly designed to be a provocation. I will not play into the hands of those who have orchestrated this provocation. How many times did sensational footage turn out to have been made 15 years ago? How many times did the photographs allegedly picturing some country turn out to have been shot on a different continent entirely? How many times did it turn out that information in such videos had nothing in common with the people, countries or historical period they claimed to show? I would say, regularly. We have never refused to make comments on these subjects. But I will provide a comment only when we have the necessary information. I don’t have it today. I am not an expert or a forensic specialist. I use facts and I comment on facts. As for my personal guess about this case, you have heard it.
Question: How would you comment on the Serbian government’s statement to the effect that it is a serious situation?
Maria Zakharova: Calling a situation serious is a very serious thing to say. There is nothing more I can say. It is one of the most serious statements for a serious situation. Is everything else we do not serious?
We will comment on this subject when we have facts. There are some basic things one should know and understand, primarily you, as I see it.
Question: Minister for Foreign Affairs of Iceland Gudlaugur Thor Thordarson, who has not been in Russia for a long time, is coming to Moscow. Iceland is growing in importance with the opening of the Northern Sea Route. US Vice President Mike Pence visited Reykjavik in mid-September and told the local media that he was grateful to Mr Thordarson for Iceland’s rejection of the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative and refusal to buy Huawei products. The Chinese Ambassador to Iceland expressed his indignation at the fact that Mike Pence commented on Iceland’s relations with a third country, in that case with China. Could you comment on the US diplomatic actions?
Maria Zakharova: Do you want to add a fourth country to the indignation expressed by a third country over the fact that a second country comments on its relations with the first one?
Question: What can you say about Russian-Icelandic relations?
Maria Zakharova: As I have already said, we have a long list of subjects for discussion with our partners. We will consider global affairs as well as the regional agenda, primarily concerning our two countries. Relations with third countries, given the great number of world crises and conflicts and the unstable situation in the world, will certainly be brought up too, but first of all we will focus on our bilateral relations. Our contacts are regular, but not frequent enough to waive the right to deal with bilateral relations first.
Question: What is Iceland doing to have anti-Russian sanctions lifted?
Maria Zakharova: You know our position. We did nothing to raise the question of lifting sanctions because we did not impose them. They were imposed not even by the EU or the countries that directly supported their European colleagues in this impulse, but they were imposed at the US’ behest with direct pressure from the Obama administration and former Vice President Biden. This scheme was carried out, and the EU imposed the sanctions, which were supported by a number of countries that are not EU members but are European countries. For this reason we do not discuss sanctions or raise this question. Russia’s leadership and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov have said this. If a country is interested in discussing this issue, we are ready to listen.
You also know our approaches to the sanctions policy. We hold that sanctions go beyond the legal framework, that they are ineffective instruments. We have cited figures and expert opinions. We stated the enormous amounts of money lost primarily by the EU and the countries that sided with it as a result of anti-Russian sanctions and countermeasures. I will say it again: if our partners raise this issue themselves, we will be ready to listen to them. You know our fundamental assessment.
Question: Is the Russian Foreign Ministry guided by the Federal Law On Prohibiting the Propaganda of Nazism in the Russian Federation in its assessment of the glorification of the Armenian and Azerbaijani followers of Hitler, Garegin Nzhdeh and Mammad Amin Rasulzadeh?
Maria Zakharova: Of course, regarding this issue and others, we are guided by Russian law in our international contacts and when developing our positions at international organisations. This is a general answer to your general question. What exactly do you mean?
Question: There is consistent glorification of these figures in Armenia and Azerbaijan. Information waves have an impact on Russian media and ethnic organisations. How does the Foreign Ministry regard these information campaigns?
Maria Zakharova: Whose information campaigns? Please specify, and I will gladly answer you or your media outlet. I would like to draw your attention to the reviews prepared by human rights experts and experts on the problems related to zero tolerance of all the practices involving the glorification and reincarnation of everything related to Nazism. Relevant reports have been published, which give an international legal assessment of the trends in a range of countries. This was an international legal assessment of this situation in various countries, including those you have mentioned. These reports are available on the Foreign Ministry’s website.
Question: Could you remind us what Russia’s position is on the developments in Lebanon and Iraq?
Maria Zakharova: I provided an in-depth analysis of Iraq and Lebanon at the last briefing. The video and text are available on the Foreign Ministry’s official website. Over the past few days, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has commented extensively on Iraq.
Question: What does Russia think about the situation in Iran in the context of the events that occurred between Friday and Monday?
Maria Zakharova: We are following the developments. We understand that the situation is complicated considering the international context. We see how many external parties are trying to influence the climate in Iran.
We noted a statement by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo who expressed support for the Iranian people. That was baffling to us. A lot of things that are causing all the uproar and events currently happening in Iran are rooted in the actions of the United States. I think you as a regional channel are well aware of this.
When the Iranian leadership decided to raise petrol prices in the country, a wave of protests surged in Iran. However, this outcome was provoked by the unlawful and overwhelming sanction pressure exerted by the United States on this country. Because of Washington’s actions the fundamental human rights and legal interests of the Iranian population are being violated, including their right to an unobstructed supply of food, medicine and other essential items. This was the goal of the United States when they engaged in the policy of the harshest sanction pressure on Iran.
On the one hand, Washington allegedly supports the hopes of the Iranian people – at least vocally. At the same time, it is doing everything it can to make the population of Iran suffer and find itself in the most uncomfortable conditions, to put it mildly. Americans practise this hypocritical scheme across all continents. Iran plunged into its current circumstances right after Washington torpedoed the nuclear deal. We understand how these events unfolded and comment on them regularly. We said that it was illegitimate on the behalf of the United States to abandon an agreement which not only contains a signature but also represents years of work of a high-ranking American delegation. The deal passed through the UN Security Council and was internationally recognised as legitimate. We are also watching the response from our European colleagues who, unfortunately, seem to be lacking assertiveness when it comes to this matter.
In the context of the Iranian situation, Western media are also showing themselves in an unflattering light. They are looking for any excuses to interfere with Iran’s domestic affairs. British media are particularly visible in this respect.
We have been asked to comment on Iran in the context of any effect on the Russian nationals in the country. To the best of our knowledge, the situation in Iran is slowly getting back to normal. We have not received any reports of victims among Russian nationals.
Question: Speaker of the Estonian parliament Henn Polluaas wrote on Facebook that Russia must return the five percent of the Estonian territory that it annexed. In your opinion, are certain Estonian politicians trying to block the positive signals in the Russian-Estonian relations?
Maria Zakharova: I have absolutely no doubt about this. We pointed this out before and mentioned similar tendencies in the answers to the questions about Serbia. As soon as there is a positive development (negotiations, a high-level meeting, big contracts and deals, breaking of a long diplomatic silence, interesting humanitarian and cultural initiatives, etc.) something counterbalances it, be it a provocation or a statement as if meant to damage those tendencies.
There is no doubt that the statement which has no historical or legal grounds was supposed to be a provocation. I think you do not have to be an expert to see this. The question is why and why now? What caused this? There is only one answer: it was a provocation.
Unfortunately, this is not something new. Similar things happen not only in our relations with the Baltic states but also with a whole number of other countries too. Today I mentioned Izvestia and the fake news that involved this Russian newspaper. It happens every day and has already become mundane. Time passes and the truth comes out. Everybody understands this. Still, it happened and left a bad aftertaste.
Question: Commander of the Ukrainian Navy Igor Voronchenko and President of Ukraine Vladimir Zelensky claim that Russia stole toilets from Ukrainian ships. The Russian Federal Security Service released a video that shows that all the equipment is intact. Apparently, the Ukrainian officials came up with these accusations to stir up another conflict with Russia. Did they not pass the test by Russia’s goodwill? What does this say about President Zelensky personally?
Maria Zakharova: I will not be able to use the same high tone in my response. One thing I do not understand is how the combat power of Ukrainian warships depends on plumbing.