Briefing by Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova, Moscow, October 8, 2020
- Update on the coronavirus pandemic
- Russian specialists organise COVID-19 patient treatment in Uzbekistan
- Danish Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod’s upcoming visit to Russia
- Official visit to Russia by Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Armenia Zohrab Mnatsakanyan
- Upcoming visit to Russia by Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Italy Luigi Di Maio
- Sergey Lavrov’s participation in the Valdai Club event
- Appointment of Russian Foreign Minister’s Special Envoy for Syrian Settlement
- Russia’s contribution to multilateral cooperation in healthcare, Russian experts’ participation in the work of WHO expert bodies
- Increasing Russia’s contribution to the United Nations World Food Programme fund for humanitarian food assistance to African countries
- Russia’s candidate for the post of Secretary-General of the Organisation of Black Sea Economic Cooperation Vladimir Zayemsky
- Release of Russian crew members from hijacked Rio Mitong and Djibloho vessels
- Nagorno-Karabakh update
- UN Security Council meetings on the Syrian chemical dossier
- OPCW Technical Secretariat’s report following the examination of Alexey Navalny’s biomedical samples
- Alexey Navalny’s meeting with Human Rights Council special rapporteurs
- US plans to deploy strike weapons in outer space
- Anti-Russia statements by Pentagon chief Mark Esper
- US Department of Homeland Security report
- US Congress considers new act fighting foreign interference in US elections
- US interference in Nicaraguan elections
- Washington’s restrictive measures against certain countries due to insufficient efforts in countering human trafficking
- Instagram labelling the accounts of Russian media outlets as controlled by the state
- On the appeal process in Vilnius with regard to events of January 13, 1991
- The Nuremberg Lessons scientific and practical forum
- Afghan Peace Settlement
- Mali update
- Statement by the French Human Rights Ambassador and the German Human Rights Commissioner on the sentencing of Russian citizen Yury Dmitriyev
- The 20th anniversary of the Declaration of Strategic Partnership between Russia and India
- The 40th anniversary of the Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation with Syria
- The 58th anniversary of Uganda’s independence
- Independence Day of the Republic of Fiji
- The 52nd anniversary of independence of the Republic of Equatorial Guinea
- President Donald Trump’s statement on the upcoming withdrawal of most US troops from Afghanistan
- Regular meeting of the EAEU Intergovernmental Council in Armenia
- Update: Russian citizens Viktor Bout, Maria Lazareva (?) and Konstantin Yaroshenko
- Requests from Russian citizens living abroad
- Artsakh President’s proposal to create international anti-terrorist coalition as part of efforts to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict
- Accusations against Russian authorities of Zelimkhan Khangoshvili’s murder in Germany
- Polish antimonopoly regulator’s decision to fine companies involved in Nord Stream 2 construction
- New round of US-Russia talks on strategic stability and arms control
- New bill on historical Latvian lands submitted to the Latvian Seimas
- Russia's reaction to the possibility of Armenia applying to the CSTO to help in resolving Nagorno-Karabakh armed confrontation
The current global situation regarding the coronavirus infection continues to follow an alarming trajectory. As of October 7, the total number of infected people surpassed the 36 million mark. Pressure on public healthcare systems and socio-economic sectors is growing. Apparently, in the short-term perspective, the sanitary-epidemiological situation will be determined by a second wave of morbidity and a constant trend towards the spread of this extremely dangerous pathogen. The measures taken in different countries to counter the pandemic are acquiring a long-term character. They affect our normal lives to one extent or another.
In connection with the growing aggravation of the sanitary-epidemiological situation in the world, including at traditionally popular tourist destinations for the Russian people, we would like to address all Russian tourists with a strong request to carefully plan any foreign travel. As we have noted, in these conditions, the probability of tougher quarantine restrictions in foreign countries is growing. They may include partial or complete interruption of transport connections. I will give just a few examples: Poland has banned air travel with 29 countries for two weeks; Finland has toughened restrictions on its national borders, and many countries keep their skies closed. We note the growth of coronavirus cases among Russian citizens that are now vacationing in Turkey. Thus, deaths were recorded for the first time in early October. Regrettably, there are such examples and they are not sporadic. Fifty Russian citizens there have been hospitalised with COVID-19.
Under the circumstances, it is important for the world community to continue consolidating a response to this virus. The WHO plays a key, constructive role in coordinating international efforts, and the Russian Federation is a long-term recognised partner. We actively cooperate with the WHO in order to effectively counter the pandemic on a global scale and regularly provide them with our expertise, and financial, personnel, technical and other resources for resolving a broad range of urgent medical problems.
On October 2 of this year, four new letters of intent were signed with the WHO, one of them on Russia’s contribution of over $15 million to support priority healthcare actions, including the countering of the coronavirus. WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus expressed gratitude to Russia and noted that our country was and remains a state that renders valuable healthcare assistance to the WHO and the international community.
On October 2, a second group of Russian medical workers completed its two week mission to assist their Uzbek colleagues to counter the coronavirus infection (the first group worked in the republic from August 16 to September 16). Fifteen leading Moscow hospitals, as well as three children’s and two infectious disease clinics sent various specialists: infectious disease doctors, intensivists, X-ray specialists, pulmonologists, general practitioners and nurses specialising in anesthesia (35 people in all). The team was fully equipped with everything required for this mission, including personal protective gear.
In Uzbekistan, the Russian doctors met with leaders in Tashkent, and the Qashqadaryo, Surkhandarya, Namangan, Andijan, Fergana and Tashkent regions, as well as the leaders of local healthcare agencies with a view to drafting a package of measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus in the country. The Russian specialists evaluated the situation on site and consulted their Uzbek colleagues on the methods of treating coronavirus patients in Russia and reorienting medical facilities to treat COVID patients. They also inspected hospitals with coronavirus patients. In addition, Moscow doctors received patients, took part in daily rounds and worked in “red zones.” They were in touch with their Uzbek colleagues, adjusted treatment methods and advised them on medical therapy and pulmonary support for patients. A team of emergency physicians examined patients in serious condition in resuscitation units. In all, the Russian doctors examined about 5,000 people.
The activities of Russian specialists were highly praised in Uzbekistan. Their Uzbek colleagues noted their professionalism, working skills and efficient cooperation with local medical personnel. The head of the group, Konstantin Pokrovsky, and intensivist Irina Machulina were awarded the badge of Outstanding Health Worker of the Republic of Uzbekistan.
On October 9, Danish Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod will pay a working visit to Moscow.
During talks the Russian and Danish foreign ministers will discuss the current state of Russian-Danish relations, prospects for their further development and opportunities for invigorating bilateral cooperation. They also plan to exchange views on current international and regional issues, including security in the Baltic Sea region and cooperation in the Arctic.
As previously agreed, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Armenia Zohrab Mnatsakanyan is planning to make an official visit to Moscow on October 11-13.
The agenda includes talks at the Foreign Ministry of Russia during which Sergey Lavrov and Zohrab Mnatsakanyan will discuss international issues and regional security.
It is obvious that they will focus on the alarming developments in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone. Russia as a nation and co-chair of the OSCE Minsk Group continues to make active mediation efforts towards the immediate cessation of hostilities in and around Nagorno-Karabakh and the creation of conditions for the resumption of the peace process.
The ministers will discuss a broad range of issues related to multifaceted bilateral cooperation, interaction in the EAEU, the CSTO and the CIS, as well as the coordination of positions in the UN, the OSCE, the Council of Europe, the Organisation of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation and other international agencies.
The programme of Mr Mnatsakanyan’s visit includes a wreath-laying at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and several other events aimed at promoting multifaceted Russian-Armenian cooperation.
Russian-Armenian allied relations include an intensive political dialogue held at the high and highest levels, fruitful interparliamentary contacts and constructive exchanges between ministries and agencies.
We hope that the official visit of the Armenian Foreign Minister to Moscow will further boost mutually beneficial bilateral interaction and will help strengthen security and stability in the South Caucasus.
On October 14, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will meet with Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Luigi Di Maio, who will come to Moscow for the 17th meeting of the Russian-Italian Council for Economic, Industrial and Financial Cooperation to be co-chaired by Minister of Industry and Trade Denis Manturov.
The foreign ministers will discuss a broad range of international issues of mutual interest, including security cooperation and with a primary focus on strategic stability and arms control. The talks will focus on Russia-EU relations, developments in Ukraine, Belarus and Nagorno-Karabakh, and settlement in Libya and Syria. The ministers will also talk about interaction within the framework of the G20 in light of Italy’s chairmanship of the group in 2021.
They will also exchange views on current issues of Russian-Italian political, economic, cultural and humanitarian relations, as well as ties between their civil societies.
On October 13, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will attend, via videoconference, the presentation of the Valdai Discussion Club’s analytical report, History, To Be Continued: The Utopia of a Diverse World.
The minister will speak about updated views on basic global development trends and answer questions from the event participants, including prominent Russian and international experts on foreign policy and international relations.
Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has appointed Director of the Middle East and North Africa Department Alexander Kinshchak his Special Envoy for Syrian Settlement.
The diplomat will represent Russia during bilateral and multilateral contacts on Syria, including as part of the Geneva and Astana formats for facilitating settlement in Syria under UNSC Resolution 2254.
For decades, the Russian Federation and the WHO have closely cooperated on major projects at the global, regional and national levels to build and develop stable healthcare systems in the world. Russia is a WHO donor in a number of areas. Key areas include combating infectious (tuberculosis) and non-infectious diseases, maternity and childhood protection, and promoting health-related information in the Russian language.
During his visit to Moscow in September 2020, WHO Regional Director for Europe Dr Hans Henri P. Kluge discussed new prospective areas of cooperation, such as digital medicine.
The WHO values the opinion of Russian experts highly. Our specialists have long and successfully been involved in the work of WHO expert bodies and special missions. These contacts have become more extensive due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Representatives of the Russian Healthcare Ministry and the Federal Supervision Service for Consumer Protection and Welfare have participated in several WHO missions across the world. Their professionalism was highly praised by WHO senior officials.
Following the outcome of the Russia-Africa Summit (October 23-24, 2019), the Government of the Russian Federation decided to increase Russia’s donation to the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) for humanitarian aid to African countries by $10 million starting in 2020.
Pursuant to the Government Directive No. 2382-r of September 18, 2020, this year Russia will provide humanitarian aid to the following five African countries in distress: Burundi, the Central African Republic, Djibouti, Sierra Leone and Somalia.
The countries listed above are among the world’s least developed states and are frequently affected by natural disasters (continuous droughts and torrential rain). The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic aggravates their economic situation even further. Disrupted supply chains, and difficulties with import-export limit these countries’ development capabilities. Large population groups are affected by undermined food security.
The WFP is an essential multilateral channel for Russia to provide food assistance to foreign nations in need. The WFP’s efficiency, authority and non-politicised activity determine our choice in favour of joint humanitarian work on the African continent under this programme.
Russia attaches great significance to the strengthening of the Black Sea region’s economic potential and the development of comprehensive interstate interaction on a broad range of industry-specific matters. We believe that the main mechanism in this sphere is the Organisation of Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC), which comprises 12 Black Sea nations.
The BSEC will mark its 30th anniversary in 2022. Throughout these years, it has proved its relevance. At the same time, inter-regional trade in the Black Sea region has declined over the past few years from 18 percent to 13 percent of the total trade turnover. In order to reverse this negative trend, we need to abandon political stereotypes and focus on promoting a unifying economic agenda, which can be a vital factor of strengthening general stability in the Black Sea region. We should start the implementation of our practical agreements, in particular, on the construction of a ring road around the Black Sea, sea transportation routes, one-shop-stop services and simplified trade procedures, as well as the implementation of business initiatives. These current objectives call for more energetic actions on the part of the BSEC Secretariat, which has slumped into inertia, especially amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.
As you are aware, the next three-year term of the BSEC Secretary General begins next June. Russia has nominated its candidate for the post, Ambassador Vladimir Zayemsky, an experienced diplomat with a long professional career and broad competencies in the fields of bilateral and multilateral relations, and a Vice-Rector of the Foreign Ministry’s Diplomatic Academy with a PhD in Political Science. When nominating a candidate for this post, we intentionally chose a person with practical knowledge of multilateral diplomacy and interstate integration. We believe that our candidate will be able to act without bias and to look at BSEC’s problems in a different light but also in a highly professional manner. We have no doubt that our candidate, if elected, will find effective solutions to the problems facing the organisation, enhance its functioning in a depoliticised manner and strengthen the spirit of cooperation in the interests of all BSEC member states.
We do hope that our BSEC partners will support our candidate.
As we have reported earlier, the dramatic story of the Russian crew members from the vessels hijacked by pirates in Nigeria has ended successfully after nearly five months in captivity.
On October 5, three Russian crew members from the commercial vessel Rio Mitong and the research vessel Djibloho, which the pirates captured on May 9 at Malabo and Luba anchorage, respectively, in the territorial waters of Equatorial Guinea, were released.
On October 6, the Russian sailors plus the kidnapped citizens of Ukraine and Guinea were moved, thanks to the intervention of Russian businessman Oleg Deripaska, to a safe place from which they will return home.
They had been kept in a tent camp near Lagos on the ocean coast, without any medical assistance or even enough water and food, with little hope of returning back home alive. The Nigerian pirates threatened to kill them unless a ransom was paid to them.
The captives collected rainwater and also drew some water from a well. This dramatic story deserves to be staged. The inmates’ plight was videotaped and made public by the pirates themselves. In the video, the emaciated Russians say that they have nothing to eat, no water or medicine, that they are all suffering from malaria and are hanging on by their fingertips in the hope to be rescued.
Their relatives did their utmost to bring this happy end about. The pirates threatened to start killing the sailors one by one unless they received a ransom.
Our sailors have been released thanks to the persistent combined efforts of the Russian embassies in Abuja and Yaounde, the authorities of Nigeria and Equatorial Guinea and the shipowners’ representatives.
Russian businessman Oleg Deripaska, who knows African realities because he has companies functioning in Guinea and Nigeria, responded to the plea of the sailors’ relatives. During the many years Deripaska’s companies were working in Africa, they have come across large-scale epidemics, such as the Ebola virus epidemic in Guinea, other problems and even operations to release hostages.
We would like to express our deep gratitude to all those who have helped to release our compatriots from captivity. We hope that our sailors will return home already this week.
Russia, both in its national capacity and as a member of the OSCE Minsk Group, continues to undertake vigorous mediation efforts aimed at achieving the immediate cessation of hostilities in and around Nagorno-Karabakh as well as the resumption of the peace talks based on existing fundamental principles and relevant international documents.
The recent joint statements on October 1 by presidents of the three OSCE Minsk Group co-chairing countries and by those countries’ foreign ministers on October 5 have confirmed that Russia, the United States and France are unanimous in their approaches.
Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed the current situation with Prime Minister of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan; the same topic was touched upon during a telephone conversation with President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is in constant contact with his Azerbaijani and Armenian counterparts.
Various strategies are being considered. Among other things, we have offered to provide a Moscow venue for a meeting between the foreign ministers of Russia, Armenia and Azerbaijan with the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs also participating. We are holding consultations with the parties with regard to possible dates for the start of negotiations in this format.
We would like to highlight several events held at the UN Security Council where participants discussed the so-called Syrian chemical dossier, which was fabricated by Western countries. In particular, we are referring to the Arria-formula meeting held on September 28 by Russia’s Permanent Mission to the UN, where Ian Henderson, one of the most experienced OPCW inspectors, with 12 years on the job, Theodore Postol, professor emeritus at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Aaron Mate, an independent journalist, gave their expert assessments of the absolutely unacceptable situation that has recently developed at the OPCW. Their Western opponents were unable to make any defence against the well-grounded arguments presented by the speakers about the supplementary political agenda in the OPCW's work in Syria and the unsatisfactory methods used by its Technical Secretariat and special missions on Syria. So they opted to just slip into their favourite anti-Syria and anti-Russia rhetoric as per usual.
I have another example. As President of the UN Security Council, Russia invited the first Director General of the OPCW Technical Secretariat to the October 5 open meeting of the council on Syria’s chemical demilitarisation. Brazilian Jose Bustani had been ousted from his post under pressure from the United States and its allies for his independent position on important matters on the OPCW agenda. Yet, Western countries again showed reluctance to even listen to the unwanted assessments by this recognised professional and manipulated the situation procedurally to prevent those present from watching Jose Bustani's video address.
In a word, the political and legal nihilism the Euro-Atlantic allies in the OPCW are constantly resorting to has by now migrated to the UN Security Council platform. It's sad to watch.
The Russian Federation intends to request that Germany shares the OPCW Technical Secretariat’s full report, which it has at its disposal, on the results of the analysis of blogger Alexey Navalny’s biomedical samples by two OPCW designated laboratories. This information, together with the answers to four requests sent to Berlin by the Prosecutor-General’s Office of the Russian Federation, are needed to complete the pre-investigative inspections as required by Russian law and the generally recognised criminal procedure norms in order to understand whether the situation with Alexey Navalny contains any possible evidence of crime. It is only with such evidence that a criminal case can be instituted.
Taking this opportunity, we would like to reiterate the requests that we have already voiced on numerous occasions: to return physical evidence that was illegally taken out of the Russian Federation to the Russian law enforcement agencies, provide Russian law enforcement agencies access to Maria Pevchikh for interrogation as the immediate witness of what happened in Tomsk and Omsk, as well as enable Russian medics to collect biomedical samples from Alexey Navalny on their own.
As long as our requests remain unfulfilled, we will proceed from the premise that all this is merely a pretext for increasing pressure on Russia through sanctions. This is to say what is going on behind the scenes at the OPCW Technical Secretariat.
We have taken note of the reports in the foreign media on Alexey Navalny’s meeting with UN Human Rights Council Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions Agnes Callamard and Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of freedom of opinion and expression Irene Khan. During this meeting, the Russian national allegedly asked them to carry out an international investigation into his poisoning. Here is what we would like to say in this context.
In late August 2020, Russia received a request from the Human Rights Council special rapporteurs mentioned above to comment on the situation around Alexey Navalny. The Russian Federation requested information to this effect from the relevant Russian agencies, including the Prosecutor-General’s Office of the Russian Federation, despite the fact that assisting these subsidiary bodies of the Human Rights Council is a recommendation rather than a legal obligation for states.
The Russian investigative authorities have not been able to complete the procedural inspections, which is due to the fact that Germany, France and Sweden have not been willing to assist them in determining the circumstances of the events in a full, objective and comprehensive manner, as set forth in the European Convention on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters of April 20, 1959 and additional protocols to it dated March 17, 1978 and November 8, 2001. Russia has sent six requests for legal assistance to Germany, France and Sweden under the convention and its additional protocols, asking them to question Alexey Navalny, his doctors and accompanying persons, provide copies of medical records on his examination and on his treatment in Berlin, the results of the analysis of biomedical samples and other objects, as well as toxicological tests on biomedical samples carried out in France and Sweden.
Unfortunately, instead of collaborating on establishing the truth and facts regarding what happened to a Russian citizen, officials in Paris and Berlin opted for adding political overtones to the case and focused on threats and blackmail, including through international platforms. We consider behaviour of this kind to be unacceptable and irresponsible.
For our part, we do hope that the Human Rights Council special rapporteurs will also send their requests regarding what happened to Alexey Navalny to Germany. I hope that they have all the information on this case that we have shared with the media, and they will carefully study it.
We will continue calling for the most extensive and objective effort to clarify the circumstances of this case.
Alexey Navalny has claimed that “no investigation is being carried out,” which was the main reason why he reached out to the special rapporteurs. We view this as yet another example of twisting the facts and an attempt to manipulate public opinion. In reality, pre-investigative inspections are continuing as per the current procedural norms, as confirmed today by the Russian Interior Ministry’s Criminal Investigation Division in Transport for the Siberian Federal District. By the way, this document presents a detailed account of how these inspections are being carried out and what is hindering their progress. They should definitely acquaint themselves with this information.
We have taken note of Washington’s latest statements on the possible deployment of strike weapons in outer space. These statements are fresh proof of the US’s aggressive policy in space, which is aimed at achieving military superiority and even total domination in space. Repeated US statements on plans to deploy weapons in outer space and use it as a theatre for combat operations are a direct continuation of the US doctrines in this sphere, which are set forth in the Defence Space Strategy and the Spacepower document of the US Space Command.
To justify its moves, Washington has used the traditional clichés about the alleged space threat from Russia and China. It is part of a deliberate US disinformation campaign aimed at discrediting Russia’s activities in outer space and our initiatives to prevent an arms race in space. Our American colleagues have again tried to misrepresent the situation so as to draw international attention away from the very real threats created in space by their own space militarisation efforts.
We reaffirm our commitment to the principles of non-discriminatory access to and use of outer space for peaceful purposes. Our activities are not threatening the space objects of other states and are not in violation of the norms and principles of international law.
Unlike the United States, we are not hatching plans to achieve superiority in space, whether by launching strike weapons into orbit or using outer space as a theatre for combat operations. Evidence of this is a number of proposals that Russia has advanced with support from a large group of like-minded nations. They include the drafting of a binding multilateral document to prevent an arms race in outer space, based on the Russian-Chinese Draft Treaty on the Prevention of the Placement of Weapons in Outer Space, the Threat or Use of Force against Outer Space Objects (PPWT), as well as the globalisation of the political commitment not to be the first to place weapons in outer space. We will continue our active and results-oriented work towards this objective.
We again call on Washington to be reasonable and avoid reckless moves fraught with extremely negative consequences for the entire international community, including the United States itself. A military confrontation in space would directly undermine international security and strategic stability.
We have to comment on the yet another anti-Russia statement made by Pentagon chief Mark Esper during a visit to the American military cemetery in Carthage, Tunisia, on September 30.
He claimed that Russia conducts “malign, coercive and predatory behaviour which undermines African institutions” meant to “exploit resources throughout the region” while “expanding its authoritarian influence.” He also urged African states to reorient their policies towards the United States, which can allegedly guarantee “a more secure, stable and prosperous Africa.”
The question is what stability and prosperity Washington has in mind. Is it the Libyan scenario, when NATO’s illegal military intervention plunged the country into chaos and made it a source of regional instability and a seat of terrorism and violent extremism?
We would like to remind Mr Esper that Russia never interferes in the internal affairs of other states. This is a fundamental difference between the policy of Russia and the United States, which is using force, economic instruments and propaganda to unceremoniously force its will on others, believing that it has a right to tell others how they must live and with whom to cooperate.
When the US policy towards other countries results in the destruction of their statehood and cultural traditions and ultimately their collapse, Washington tries to close this chapter and begin anew by erasing the results of its activities from the memory of its own people and the international community. There is a long list of such examples.
Our American colleagues must admit that their neocolonial efforts to force their will on sovereign states have been rejected by the absolute majority of states. We are sure that African countries can take decisions bearing on their future without external prompting. They know their own history very well, and they remember who supported them throughout the 20th century and who was plundering them in the 20th century and before that. We will never tire of reminding our colleagues, including in the US, about this.
We have noted a recent homeland threat assessment report released by the US Department of Homeland Security.
Russia is included in the list of threats that country faces at present. It is argued that we can allegedly use ICT capabilities we have to undermine critical electoral infrastructure in the US, as well as to try to influence voter preferences.
Why didn’t they add some figures in that same report, right next to these accusations, disclosing spending from the American budget, the money that has been allocated for decades for the protection and maintenance of information and communication technologies, critical American electoral infrastructure and so on? Where does this money go if, as they allege, one country can undermine all that? And a whole report has been written on this subject.
It is regrettable that the US Administration, for reasons of a purely opportunistic nature, spends significant human and material resources on stirring up anti-Russia sentiment among US citizens and the international community.
Instead of the dogged attempts to denigrate Russia and portray its approaches to security in the information landscape as anti-America policies, we would recommend that our colleagues in Washington re-read Russian President Vladimir Putin’s statement of September 25, in which he proposed resuming US-Russian cooperation on international cybersecurity. That statement says it all. Moscow is expecting a reaction. I do hope that it will be constructive.
A bill to “deter foreign interference” in United States elections was submitted to the US Congress House of Representatives on September 30.
So many reports, so many resolutions, documents, statements, and petitions in the United States are printed every day basically repeating the same thing over again: “Stop interfering in the elections. Let’s not allow other countries to interfere in the American elections.” If this has been the main topic on the agenda for the past few years, it is high time they just stopped wasting the paper it is printed on and saved their breath. Reading such statements, one clearly sees that serious people cannot write anything like this.
The sponsors of this new masterpiece propose imposing severe economic restrictions on our country, including a ban on transactions with government bonds, as well as new sanctions against leading banks and companies in the fuel and energy sector.
The question arises: Do you want to preserve and protect your electoral system from external interference or do you just need an excuse to further restrict Russia’s activities in certain areas that are unrelated to your elections, but you are persistently trying to link the two matters?
The topic of Russia’s alleged interference in the US elections has been kept afloat for years, and lawmakers in Washington have not calmed down. They never tire of producing more anti-Russia initiatives in attempts to “punish” our country and other states for some dreamed up influence on US electoral processes. We keep commenting on these claims. We note their fabricated and unsubstantiated nature.
Unfortunately, such tools continue to be used in the ongoing political infighting in the United States. It has become a factor on the US domestic agenda. It is clear that someone is simply trying to earn themselves extra points in the election race. But in this context, it becomes more and more difficult to maintain a meaningful dialogue with Washington.
Nevertheless, we still hope that, once the sides are done with pre-election squabbles, common sense will prevail, and Capitol Hill will reach a consensus, not on the mythical threat of Russia’s interference, but on understanding the need to start tackling America’s own complex problems.
In simpler terms, so that you understand – it is not Russia that is interfering in your elections. It is you that deliberately drag the whole world into your electoral processes.
The forum, Nicaragua: Are Free and Fair Elections Possible? held by the State Department is a new egregious example of US interference in sovereign states’ internal affairs.
In particular, it was reported that the Secretary General of the Organisation of American States had received, from the Nicaraguan opposition, a draft electoral reform which they supposedly planned to present to the current government of Nicaragua for its consideration.
Why is the US so deeply interested in this topic? We do not even have to ask, given the attitude of the United States and its political establishment towards its neighbours in the region – the Latin American countries.
It appears that the new legislation was presented to a third party and the general public – for discussion and, apparently, approval – even before it was submitted to the interested party. That was exactly what happened. Moreover, it was accompanied by threats of new sanctions if the government in Managua did not comply with the demands.
I would like to ask our colleagues in Washington: Have you tried to imagine the same strategy applied to youself? Day after day you chase the spectre of external interference in your electoral process, while at the same time dictating your prescriptions to sovereign states, threatening to “punish” anyone who doesn’t suit you for some reason.
The United States is systematically undermining the internal political situation in many states, and Latin America is no exception – just another confirmation. We condemn this practice.
We believe conflict resolution should be approached on the basis of international law – in Nicaragua, Bolivia, Venezuela, Haiti or anywhere else – not on some “rules” someone invented, which are constantly changing, are not documented anywhere and are outside both legality and morality. We can see no alternative to reconciling internal political differences through an inclusive dialogue of all parties, regardless of their ideological frameworks.
We have noted an order of US President Donald Trump that is being disseminated among the US expert community on extending restrictions with respect to several governments due to their insufficient efforts in combating human trafficking. According to a document published on the website of the White House on October 1, the prohibition on funding cultural and educational exchanges with Cuba, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and Syria has been extended.
We confirm Russia’s principled opposition to the concept of “modern slavery” being promoted by a number of Western countries to the detriment of the fight against human trafficking. We find this concept clearly counterproductive and politicised. We consider that the attempts by the United States to promote this idea are a tool for unsubstantiated criticism of sovereign countries.
The Russian Federation is interested in a comprehensive and overarching discussion of the problem of human trafficking. We support a constructive and meaningful dialogue within the framework of various platforms, and promote a balanced approach, which means focusing on all aspects of this multidimensional phenomenon.
Developing tangible practical cooperation, well-functioning direct contacts between competent police departments, immigration services and border control agencies in the countries of origin and destination of “human commodity,” sharing experience and organising expert meetings on the most pressing unresolved issues constitute the primary components of international cooperation in the area of combating trafficking in persons.
We believe that any country-specific projects on combating human trafficking must be carried out only upon request of the countries in question. We believe that every state has the right to determine its own most suitable national mechanism for countering human trafficking.
Therefore, situations when a certain country proclaims its right to issue judgments on others while considering itself more or less advanced in the area of combating human trafficking, firstly, are not helping to solve this problem in general and, secondly, are not in line with the nature of modern international relations in a multi-polar world.
On October 6, following the example of Twitter and Facebook, Instagram joined the practice of arbitrarily labelling the accounts of and publications by Russian media outlets as “state-controlled.”
This coordinated discrimination by American monopolists of the social media market against the most popular Russian media outlets confirms their political bias in favour of official Washington’s foreign policy stances.
Currently, the label – or, if we call things for what they are, the stamp – which the Instagram administration hypocritically calls a “warning,” has been applied only to the accounts of RIA Novosti, RT and their news products. As it was the case with Twitter and Facebook, Western state-funded media outlets have not been subject to such labelling.
The social network’s administration tries to justify these apparent double standards by referring to the fact that it determines state affiliation of a specific media outlet based on “assessment against a set of criteria developed for this purpose.” Needless to say, the criteria used for such moderation remain anything but transparent to us.
However, the most striking thing is that, as seen from the clarification given by Instagram for its new labelling practice, its administration took it upon itself to make decisions not only about the degree of independence of any media outlet’s editorial policy but also about whether such media outlet serves public interests.
Of course, it could be suggested that the arrogant presumptuousness of the IT giant’s senior management, which allows them to see themselves as universal judges and guardians of common good, comes from the illusion of American “exceptionalism.” However, as experience has shown us, these measures have a much more trivial explanation. IT corporations have to take these unpopular and anti-democratic restrictive steps under the political pressure of the American establishment that forces them to follow its political course for discrediting Russian media outlets and pushing their content out of the global information space.
It is disappointing that on its tenth anniversary, Instagram chose to please American Russophobes by introducing censorship against Russian media, which is not nearly the best gift to its multi-million Russian – and global – audience.
We call on Instagram’s administration to revisit its policy restricting users’ right to free access to information. It should be reminded that any moderation of online content must be transparent and must not restrict access to any source of information based on its political or other beliefs and other characteristics that may lead to discriminative attitudes.
We hope that specialised international agencies and human rights organisations will respond in due course and give an impartial assessment of the activity of American social media.
The second round of the Lithuanian Court of Appeal’s sessions with regard to the tragic events that occurred in Vilnius on January 13, 1991 concluded in the Lithuanian capital last week.
Russia’s official position on this matter is well known. We see the statements that were made in this regard and the shameful trial initiated by Vilnius as a continuation of a flawed policy aimed at falsifying history and settling historical scores with Russia by the Lithuanian government.
We consider the ongoing trial, which grossly violates the fundamental principles of international justice, a serious blow to the image of Lithuania as an EU member and a party to the European Convention on Human Rights.
We are convinced that the dead-end approach chosen by the Lithuanian political establishment is at odds with the national interests of Lithuania and the Lithuanian people, who are interested in restoring neighbourly relations with Russia.
November 20 marks the 75th anniversary of the beginning of the International Military Tribunal in Nuremberg, which is the most important trial in the history of humankind. It resulted in the sentencing of the masterminds and perpetrators of such heinous crimes as mass terror and murder, genocide and the horrifying destruction and looting of vast territories.
In this regard, on November 20-21, the Victory Museum on Poklonnaya Gora will host the Nuremberg Lessons International Scientific and Practical Forum, which will be one of the key events of the Year of Memory and Glory.
The topics of panel discussions will bring together, at the interdisciplinary level, matters of preserving the historical memory of the importance and the role of the Nuremberg process in building modern world order, addressing national security issues and the patriotic and moral education of younger generations.
The panel discussions will be used to summarise the experience that brought to justice those who initially escaped retribution for their war crimes, and the practical use of international criminal law provisions formulated by the Nuremberg Tribunal.
Round table discussions will be held as part of theme-based panels and will focus on rationalising the historical importance of the Nuremberg trials and the role the Soviet Union played in bringing war criminals to justice, as well as on the exchange of views on critical historical and modern aspects for using the Nuremberg Tribunal rulings. How the historical memory of the Nuremberg Trials in modern museum and media space is represented and reflected in works of art, and their inclusion in educational programmes and modules of moral and patriotic education of our youth will be part of the discussion.
Ministries and departments, leading research institutes and non-government associations will organise theme-based sessions and discussion panels. In conjunction with the Ministry of Justice and the General Prosecutor’s Office, the Foreign Ministry will host a theme-based panel entitled “Nuremberg’s Legacy in International and National Law,” which will bring together renowned Russian and foreign international lawyers with extensive scientific and practical experience.
Everyone interested in this matter, primarily, representatives of Russian and foreign media are encouraged to cover this scientific and practical forum. For accreditation, please contact the press service of the Central Museum of the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945.
(Yu. Grigoreva is the contact person, phone: +7 (499) 449-81-07, email: email@example.com).
Unfortunately, almost a month after the opening ceremony for the intra-Afghan negotiating process in Doha, the parties are still embroiled in consultations on procedural issues. It appears that the situation has reached a dead end, which cannot but cause concern for us. With dialogue in Qatar treading water, hostilities continue in Afghanistan and dozens of people die every day.
We reiterate our call to the delegations of Kabul and the Taliban to coordinate technical procedures as soon as possible and start substantive talks. We look forward to a reduction in violence in Afghanistan in the context of the ongoing peace process.
We continue to closely follow the developments in Mali, and note the following in this regard.
At the end of September, in accordance with the requirement of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), which is carrying out a mediation mission in Mali to transfer power from the National Committee for the Salvation of the People (CNSP), established by the military, to a civilian government, former Defence Minister Bah Ndaw and former Foreign Minister Moctar Ouane were appointed, respectively, transitional President and Prime Minister of the republic. The head of the CNSP, Colonel Assimi Goita, took over as Vice President. On October 5, a transitional government was formed, to include, in addition to the military, representatives of all major Malian political parties and movements.
We believe those recent appointments to be a step in the right direction, and evidence of the country’s gradual return to a constitutional track. In this context, we welcome the lifting of previously imposed ECOWAS sanctions against Bamako on October 6.
We hope that the interim Malian government will take all necessary measures to attain the main objective – to reinstate, as soon as possible, a civilian government in Mali on the basis of an inclusive national dialogue and after a short transitional period, to hold free and democratic elections assisted by ECOWAS and the African Union.
We do hope that the people of Mali, with whom we have a long-standing relationship of friendship and solidarity, will be able to successfully overcome this difficult period in their history. We are interested in the further progressive expansion of the entire range of mutually beneficial Russian-Malian ties.
We have noted the September 30 joint statement by Germany’s Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Assistance Bärbel Kofler and France’s Ambassador at large for Human Rights François Croquette in connection with the guilty verdict by the Supreme Court of Karelia against Russian citizen Yury Dmitriyev. His sentence was increased as per the Criminal Code article on sexual violence for a crime committed against his underage adopted daughter.
We regard this German-French demarche as an act of interference in the internal affairs of the Russian Federation and an attempt to cast doubt on independent Russian court rulings.
We would also like to point out that Berlin and Paris have no grounds whatsoever to consider the sentence brought against Dmitriyev solely through the lens of his prior human rights activities. This has absolutely nothing to do with it. His merits in the study of political repression in the former Soviet Union are not being questioned by anyone.
All issues regarding his conviction lie exclusively in the sphere of criminal law. In this regard, we consider Bärbel Kofler’s and François Croquette’s calls for the release of Mr Dmitriyev, who was convicted on pedophilia charges, as unethical and immoral. We cannot accept the fact that official representatives of countries in which, as in the entire civilised world, the protection of children and minors from sexual crimes should be a legal and value priority, can make such statements.
We have heard similar inappropriate comments not only from Berlin and Paris, but also from other countries where foreign ministers and other officials have taken the liberty of uttering such fabrications. In this regard, in the near future, we will invite representatives of those countries’ embassies to the Russian Foreign Ministry. Invitations will be sent to the ambassadors of those states that make such inappropriate statements alleging that the case is politicised and expressing support for Dmitriyev, trying to protect him from law-enforcement overreach. We will invite them to ask questions. Perhaps they simply lack the relevant information. We will fill this gap.
On October 3, we marked a landmark event, the 20th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Strategic Partnership between Russia and India. The document laid a solid foundation for the contemporary development of the entire array of bilateral relations in the polycentric world, in which our countries share common stances. One of the world’s first partnership initiatives of our countries has been included in the vocabulary of contemporary diplomacy and is now widely popular in the international practice.
We prioritise the close coordination of Russia and India’s foreign policy efforts, as well as boosting trade, economic, investment and financial interaction, deepening high-tech cooperation, including in the military and technical sector, plus expanding cultural and humanitarian ties.
This anniversary year is marked by the challenging fight against the novel coronavirus infection, which dictates us to search for innovative ways of cooperation, including in medicine and pharmaceuticals. Our active interaction as regards the prospective joint production of the coronavirus vaccine reflects the strategic nature of our relations. We intend to improve cooperation in the traditional areas such as energy and space exploration, and also focus on such promising areas as cooperation in the Far East and the Arctic, as well as infrastructure construction and interconnection.
It is believed that a country cannot have eternal allies and permanent enemies. Only interests can be eternal and permanent. Russia-India relations disprove this approach, being a unique example of century-long friendship based on equality, mutual benefit and unwavering consideration for each other’s national interests.
On October 8, the Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation with Syria will mark its 40th anniversary. This agreement is among the few such documents signed by the USSR that retains its relevance today because it is recognised both by the Russian Federation and the Syrian Arab Republic.
We can say safely that Russia-Syria relations have survived the test of time, including thanks to the careful approach to their contractual legal framework that was manifested during the steep turns of history. This gives us grounds, despite the current complex developments in and around Syria, to feel optimistic about the future and see broad opportunities for maintaining and improving our fruitful interaction with this friendly country in all areas of our interested partnership.
On October 9, the Republic of Uganda marks the 58th anniversary of the declaration of its independence. In the 15th-17th centuries, the first large state formations appeared on the territory of the modern Uganda. However, in 1894, as a result of the colonial division of the Ugandan territory, the area became a protectorate of the British Empire. Only in 1962, the people of Uganda achieved independence. The diplomatic relations between our countries were established on October 13, 1962.
We highly value the traditionally friendly nature of Russia-Uganda interstate relations. We note the dynamic development of the political dialogue at the high and highest levels. In October 2019, President of Uganda Yoweri Museveni took part in the Russia-Africa Summit and Economic Forum in Sochi. He also met with Russian President Vladimir Putin. These talks gave a boost to the expansion of Russia-Uganda interaction in various spheres, including energy, mining, agriculture, medicine and pharmaceuticals, as well as research and education cooperation.
We continue to improve the bilateral contractual legal framework. The Intergovernmental Russian-Ugandan Commission for Economic, Scientific and Technical Cooperation has been working successfully since 2015.
We are happy to congratulate our Uganda friends on their national holiday and express confidence that the traditional friendship and fruitful cooperation between Moscow and Kampala will continue to develop to the benefit of the people of Russia and Uganda, and in the interests of peace and stability in East Africa.
On October 10, the Republic of Fiji celebrates the 50th anniversary of its independence. The country was a British colony for almost one hundred years. Liberation from foreign domination became a turning point in its history, having paved the way to establishing its own statehood and nation-building.
We reaffirm our unwavering commitment to further strengthening diverse mutually beneficial ties with Fiji and deepening our interaction in regional and international affairs, including as part of regular high-level meetings on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly sessions in the Russia - developing South Pacific island states format.
Ahead of the anniversary, we would like to wish the friendly Fijian people good health, happiness and prosperity.
On October 12, the Republic of Equatorial Guinea (REG) celebrates the 52nd anniversary of its independence. During this time, the country has achieved significant success in advancing along the path of democratic development and the formation of a stable political system and economy.
Achieving freedom was not easy for the Equatoguinean people. The country was under colonial yoke from the moment the first settlers from Portugal appeared in its territory in the 16th century, and at the end of the 18th century it came under Spanish control. The local tribes resisted the new order established by the Europeans.
After the proclamation of independence of Equatorial Guinea, our country provided diverse assistance in the establishment of the young Equatoguinean state. At present, bilateral ties between the Russian Federation and the Republic of Equatorial Guinea are distinguished by the spirit of friendship, trust and mutual respect. Our countries maintain a dynamic political dialogue, promote trade and economic partnership, and expand humanitarian and cultural contacts. A powerful impetus to the development of Russian-Equatoguinean relations was given by the meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and President of Equatorial Guinea Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo on October 24, 2019, on the sidelines of the Russia-Africa Summit in Sochi, during which the leaders discussed ways of further expanding the mutually beneficial cooperation between Moscow and Malabo.
We sincerely congratulate our Equatoguinean friends on their national holiday and wish them peace, prosperity and wellbeing.
Question: How would you comment on the statement by US President Donald Trump on the upcoming withdrawal of the majority of US troops from Afghanistan? How can this influence the course of intra-Afghan talks in Doha?
Maria Zakharova: I have already commented today on the standstill in intra-Afghan talks.
As for the statements by US President Donald Trump about the withdrawal of the troops from Afghanistan, the deployment of additional troops, or replacement, I think we should judge by specific facts and not by statements. If the troops are withdrawn, we will comment on this. We are already accustomed to the fact that for decades statements are made, which are then either cancelled, or not implemented, or implemented in a different way. As soon as they start taking real steps, we will comment on this.
Question: The EAEU Intergovernmental Council meets in Yerevan on October 9, despite the martial law imposed in that country. Won’t these talks thwart the Foreign Ministry’s efforts to stop the hostilities?
Maria Zakharova: As you may be aware, the upcoming meeting of the Eurasian Intergovernmental Council is a scheduled event and will be the fifth meeting of the major EAEU body this year. The participants will review the current Union’s operations (the discussion of these issues can hardly be postponed to a later date) and the association’s strategic development. The Nagorno-Karabakh settlement was not included on the agenda.
Question: In connection with the change of political leaders in the United States and Kuwait, will Russia try to resume, with renewed vigour, consideration of the exchange or release of Russian citizens held abroad, such as Viktor Bout, Maria Lazareva and Konstantin Yaroshenko?
Maria Zakharova: I don’t think we should speculate on the outcome of the US elections. First, they need to effectively take place, then (based on the statements made by US politicians, representatives of various parties, including officials) we will need to wait for them to accept the outcome. Only then can we deal with bilateral relations. I think it’s simply impossible to talk about this before the actual fact.
Question: In connection with the hostilities in Nagorno-Karabakh involving Armenia and Azerbaijan, as well as the protests in Kyrgyzstan, did the Russian citizens who reside in these countries turn to the Russian embassies or directly to the Foreign Ministry for help? Will anything be done in this regard?
Maria Zakharova: In connection with the pandemic, our embassies around the world have been in contact with the Russian citizens in many countries for six months now, as they were dealing with their problems, such as repatriation, assistance in returning to their homeland and resolving a large number of relevant issues such as issuing papers, helping to solve family matters, and financial issues. Our foreign missions remain in permanent contact with our people on as-needed basis in all countries around the world. We deal with these matters every day.
If someone needs to contact a foreign mission, they can do so. Many of our foreign missions – embassies, consulates, consular departments – are open during the hours the local authorities are open in connection with the pandemic, lockdown and restrictions. Our citizens write, call and come in person to our embassies in various countries every day.
Of course, the number of calls and inquiries increased as the above conflict aggravated.
Question: On October 7, Head of Artsakh Arayik Harutyunyan sent a proposal to the OSCE about creating an international anti-terrorist coalition in connection with the efforts to settle the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh. Has Russia received it? Did you have a chance to read it?
Maria Zakharova: If this proposal was sent to the OSCE, then this international organisation is the one who should receive it. But I will check with our experts who are dealing with this matter.
Question: The trial of a Russian citizen accused of killing Zelimkhan Khangoshvili has started in Berlin. The prosecution continues to insist that the murder was ordered by the Russian authorities. What is Russia’s position on this?
Maria Zakharova: We are led to believe that a certain political decision has been made in Berlin regarding the verdict that will be passed by a German court on Russian citizen Vadim Sokolov accused of the murder, in 2019, of Shamil Basayev’s close associate and one of the terrorist leaders in the North Caucasus Zelimkhan Khangoshvili, who lived in Germany under a fake name, and special services of the Federal Republic of Germany were aware of it. It is naive to count on independence and objectivity of the German justice, which previously granted a refugee status to that person. All roles in this staged process have been assigned. There’s no doubt that the blame for the fatal attack on Khangoshvili – a man who made himself many enemies during his criminal career, including in the criminal world of different countries – will be laid, as already stated in the press, on the Russian government agencies. For more than a year now, this idea has been methodically implanted in the German society with the help of a targeted media campaign reinforced by the German political elite’s regular statements.
Germany’s unfounded accusations of the Russian state agencies’ involvement in the murder of Khangoshvili are based, according to the German media, on pseudo-probes conducted by the notorious online publication Bellingcat, which was repeatedly caught red-handed when distributing false information which was later refuted.
The fact that the Khangoshvili case was political from day one is unambiguously corroborated by the decision of the Government of the Federal Republic of Germany to expel two diplomatic employees of the Russian Embassy in Berlin in December 2019 under the far-fetched pretext of alleged failure of the Russian law enforcement agencies to cooperate in investigating the crime committed in the German capital. As you may be aware, the Russian competent agencies have been in close contact with their German colleagues since August 2019. They have responded to a request for international legal assistance and are willing, despite the aggressive politicisation of the case by official Berlin, to continue to provide the German police with the necessary assistance. Comprehensive clarifications on this matter were given repeatedly through diplomatic channels, as well as within the framework of a bilateral political dialogue, in particular, during the Russian President’s meeting with the Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany in Paris on the sidelines of the summit of the Normandy Four leaders on December 9, 2019, as well as during Vladimir Putin’s news conference on its outcome.
In principle, the Khangoshvili case fits into a whole series of crude anti-Russian provocations, which also include the story revived a few months ago with so-called Russian involvement in the cyberattack on the Bundestag in 2015 (there were different opinions on this development, but we regularly covered this issue and provided our arguments), as well as the events related to Russian blogger Alexey Navalny, promoted purposefully by the Government of the Federal Republic of Germany as part of the policy of confrontation with our country. Berlin’s further adherence to this policy is fraught with the collapse of Russian-German relations, as well as exacerbation of tensions in Europe, which Russia’s leaders repeatedly pointed out.
Question: Will you please comment on the decision of the Polish anti-monopoly regulator to fine Gazprom and five other countries involved in the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project?
Maria Zakharova: This gas pipeline project is nagging at our partners, including the Americans with whom Warsaw is closely connected.
This is obviously another politically driven attempt to put pressure on the Russian gas exporter, which has been reliably supplying natural gas to European clients for many years. It is not at all surprising that Warsaw is using questionable methods, including those that fall outside Poland’s jurisdiction, to hamper the construction of Nord Stream 2.
This decision of the Office of Competition and Consumer Protection (UOKiK), which is intended to please Washington and which is using EU funds to put pressure on other countries’ companies, is apparently rooted in a desire to create an alternative gas hub for reselling US LNG to Eastern Europe.
It is regrettable that Warsaw (in contrast with the name of the body that made the decision) is acting in its own mercenary interests, which have nothing to do with competition or consumer protection, and acting contrary to the principle of fair competition and the interests of European consumers. In fact, it is undermining Europe’s energy and environmental safety.
Question: I have a question about the Russian-US talks on strategic stability and arms control held in Helsinki. The US negotiator has said that the meeting has yielded “important progress.” Can you tell us about the essence of that progress?
Maria Zakharova: We have already commented on this subject. As we said, a regular meeting was held in Helsinki on October 5 within the framework of the Russian-US strategic dialogue. Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov represented Russia, and his American counterpart was US Special Presidential Envoy for Arms Control Marshall Billingslea.
They continued the discussion of the current stage of bilateral interaction in the sphere of arms control and its prospects. The Russian side informed its American colleagues about our views on a new strategic equation that would take into account the most important aspects of national security and strategic stability. We again called on the United States to extend the New START Treaty without any preconditions while we are coordinating such an equation. We believe that this should be done for the longest possible period, that is, five years.
In our opinion, Russia’s position presented in Helsinki constitutes a balanced foundation for further efforts. We hope that the American side will analyse our proposals in a constructive manner and will accept them.
However, it would be premature to say that we have made a big step towards a tangible result. There is still much to be done to bring our positions closer together and to find possible points of agreement. We are ready to do this. At the same time, I would like to say that our American partners may see the fact that we are talking as “important progress.” It is indeed possible, if we look at the matter from this angle.
Question: Several days ago, President of Latvia Egils Levits submitted to the Saeima (parliament) a draft law on historical Latvian lands, which has a provision on the “preservation of the cultural and historical heritage and the historical memory of the former Abrenes County,” that is, part of the Pytalovo District in Russia’s Pskov Region. What does the Foreign Ministry have to say on this matter?
Maria Zakharova: The President of Latvia has indeed come forward with this initiative in parliament. Citing the invalid Russian-Latvian Peace Treaty of 1920, Clause 25 of the annotation to this draft law states that this county is “the legitimate territory of the Latvian state” and that the Latvian state was illegally deprived of the county during the so-called Soviet occupation.
Our position on this subject is well known. All border questions between the Russian Federation and the Republic of Latvia were settled once and for all in the Treaty on the Russian-Latvian State Border, which came into effect on December 18, 2007.
I would like to remind you that before signing the treaty the Latvian government adopted the so-called “explanatory declaration” that contained a reference to the 1920 Peace Treaty, which we interpreted as a territorial claim to the above mentioned Russian lands. The revocation of that declaration by Riga was our condition for signing the border treaty.
Therefore, we regard the Latvian president’s attempt to question the existing legal realities in a legislative initiative as strange and, to all practical purposes, provocative.
Question: Can you comment on the idea that Armenia has the right to appeal to the CSTO for assistance in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict?
Maria Zakharova: Exhaustive comments on this topic have already been provided by the Russian leadership.