9 April 202118:11

Briefing by Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova, Moscow, April 9, 2021

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Table of contents

  1. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s upcoming talks with Foreign Minister of Serbia Nikola Selakovic
  2. Mutual support between Russia and Turkmenistan in infectious diseases response
  3. Opening of the 211th UNESCO Executive Board session
  4. Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko’s remarks at the 12th Northern Dimension Forum
  5. The 6th Eastern Economic Forum
  6. The Foreign Ministry opens a Rutube account
  7. Donbass update
  8. Russia begins vaccination of OSCE Observer Mission staff at Gukovo and Donetsk checkpoints on Russian-Ukrainian border
  9. Unfriendly moves by Ukrainian authorities
  10. United States’ biological warfare
  11. The Hague Court of Appeal once again confirms the legality of the decision to reject the return of Dutch citizens from Syria
  12. Inmate abuse in the United States
  13. Russia-ASEAN anti-drug cooperation
  14. New requirements for Japanese school textbooks
  15. The 60th anniversary of the first human space flight
  16. Roundtable discussion held by the Permanent Representation of the Russian Federation to the Council of Europe ahead of the 60th anniversary of Yuri Gagarin’s spaceflight
  17. Russia's presence in the Arctic

Answers to media questions:

  1. Plans to resume Moscow format talks on Afghanistan
  2. Ukraine’s statement on the possible relocation of the Trilateral Contact Group on Donbass
  3. Situation in Myanmar
  4. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s meeting with US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry
  5. The possible use of climate agenda and the need to protect the Earth from human activity for the US administration’s self-serving purposes
  6. On revising the Montreux Convention, and possible assignment of jihadists and mercenaries from Syria to Eastern Ukraine 
  7. Celebration of the 30th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Russia and Azerbaijan
  8. Situation concerning Russian vaccine Sputnik V
  9. Death of a child in Aleksandrovskoye, Donbass due to fire by the Ukrainian Army
  10. France and Germany’s joint statement on Donbass

 

 

 

At the previous briefing we announced Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s visits to Egypt and Iran. Today I have more information on his schedule.

 

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s upcoming talks with Foreign Minister of Serbia Nikola Selakovic

 

On April 16, Moscow will host talks between Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Foreign Minister of the Republic of Serbia Nikola Selakovic.

The ministers are expected to discuss all aspects of bilateral cooperation and exchange views on current international and regional issues. Additional information on the talks will be published on the Foreign Ministry’s official websites and social network accounts.

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Mutual support between Russia and Turkmenistan in infectious diseases response

 

We continue to provide information on Russia’s actions and steps to help various countries at this difficult moment in history in terms of combating the pandemic.

As part of Russian-Turkmen cooperation based on the principles of strategic partnership, on April 1, 2021, the Russian Emergencies Ministry’s plane delivered medical supplies to Turkmenistan in order to assist in the prevention of infectious diseases in this friendly state. Medicines, protective suits, masks and medical equipment (devices for ultrasound examinations and intensive care, etc.) were sent from Russia.

In turn, as a measure of mutual support, Turkmenistan donated another consignment of high-quality Turkmen goods to the Russian side, which arrived in Astrakhan on April 5. The delivered goods will be forwarded to medical institutions in the Astrakhan Region. We express our deep gratitude to the leaders of Turkmenistan for this gesture of goodwill in the spirit of friendship and neighbourliness, which is especially valuable in the difficult conditions of the global pandemic.

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Opening of the 211th UNESCO Executive Board session

 

On April 7, 2021, the 211th UNESCO Executive Board session opened in Paris. Due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, it will take place via videoconference with the exception of the human rights procedures of the Committee on Conventions and Recommendations.

The participants will review over 30 agenda items on implementing the decisions and resolutions adopted by the Executive Board and the General Conference at previous sessions, as well as financial, administrative and personnel issues.

They will focus on discussing the projects under the Medium-Term Strategy for 2022-2029 and the programme and budget for 2022-2025, as well as a personal interview with UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay as a candidate for re-election and preparations for the 41st UNESCO General Conference in November.

The participants will listen to reports on implementing the Futures of Education initiative, progress in mitigating the impact of climate change on cultural and natural heritage items, the outcome of the G20 culture ministers meeting last November, the reform of the Memory of the World programme, the Small Island Developing States Action Plan, the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity, the assessment of UNESCO’s performance in reviving and promoting the languages of indigenous people as part of the International Year of Indigenous Languages (2019) and the endorsement of new applications for the UNESCO Global Geopark designation.

The participants are expected to adopt a number of resolutions on Africa to develop the Slave Route Project, assess the operational strategy for the Priority Africa global project (2014-2021) and map out further ways of carrying out this project.

They also plan to endorse a list of commemorative days to be observed by UNESCO in 2022-2023, and to be submitted to the General Conference for consideration. It contains three anniversaries suggested by Russia: 200 years since the birth of playwright Alexander Ostrovsky (1823-1886); 150 years since the birth of pianist and composer Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873-1943); and 150 years since the birth of opera and chamber singer Feodor Chaliapin (1873-1938).

The Executive Board will also discuss draft resolutions initiated by the member countries, including a proposal to announce international days for biosphere reserves and geo-diversity, coauthored by Russia.

The session will come to a close on April 21.

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Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko’s remarks at the 12th Northern Dimension Forum

 

Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko spoke at the 12th Northern Dimension Forum, held via videoconference on April 8, 2021. This forum has been one of the major annual events for cooperative policy carried out by Russia, the EU, Iceland and Norway since 2007.

The forum was organised by the Northern Dimension Business Council in cooperation with the Association of European Businesses, the Graduate School of Management at St Petersburg State University and the Skolkovo Moscow School of Management.

This forum was devoted to the theme: “Connectivity now. Boosting flows of people, information, energy, goods and services.” It was attended by over 400 representatives of Russian and foreign business circles, government agencies and scientific, education and non-governmental organisations.

During the plenary meeting and the parallel sessions of the working groups of the forum, leading experts of the partnerships of the Northern Dimension, its Institute and the Association of European Businesses discussed topical issues and opportunities for promoting cooperation in environmental protection, the circular economy, energy efficiency, transport and logistics, healthcare digitisation, efforts to overcome the aftereffects of the coronavirus pandemic and creative industries.

They reaffirmed their willingness to broaden versatile and mutually beneficial cooperation for the sustainable development of Europe.

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The 6th Eastern Economic Forum

 

On September 2-4, Vladivostok will host the 6th Eastern Economic Forum (EEF) established by President Vladimir Putin in order to promote the economic growth of the Russian Far East and to expand international cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region.

Previous forums, in which the leaders of China, India, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Malaysia and Mongolia took part, clearly show that the forum has become a leading dialogue platform on pressing socioeconomic issues in the region. We see our partners’ genuine interest in deepening practical cooperation with the Russian Far East. Over 8,500 leading representatives of the government, expert and business circles from 65 countries of the Asia-Pacific and other regions of the world took part in the forum in 2019, resulting in the signing of 270 various agreements totalling 3.47 trillion roubles in industries such as the petrochemical, mining, timber and fishing industries, agriculture, transport, logistics, aircraft and shipbuilding, and tourism.

The upcoming Eastern Economic Forum’s agenda will be based on current developments and focus on identifying new solutions in the context of the post-pandemic economic recovery goals. The participants will focus on the potential for creating a wide integration contour in Greater Eurasia. The forum’s traditionally extensive programme is being drafted, which includes plenary and theme-based sessions, business dialogues, exhibitions and cultural functions.

We hope that the forum will help us take another major step forward in implementing our strategic course to make this part of Russia a centre of economic growth in the Asia-Pacific region.

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The Foreign Ministry opens a Rutube account

 

We continue to expand our online presence. As you are aware, our briefings are broadcast on the ministerial website, our social media accounts and online platforms.

As is known, many gigantic internet monopolies act dishonestly and unseemly towards online resources. I’m talking about mass media and official accounts operated by government organisations. We have heard a number of Western companies saying they are unwilling to work with Russian representatives. A lot has been done and said by representatives of the “progressive” Western community. We heard them, took note of that, and will now use Rutube for our broadcasts.

As you are aware, the Russian segment of the worldwide web marked its 27th birthday on April 7. The Foreign Ministry’s Information and Press Department has made its contribution to the development of Runet.

In 1998, we were among the first Russian federal agencies to register our website. We were among the first to embrace digital diplomacy. We were also among the first to broadcast live events online on social media.

We are trying to maintain and expand this wonderful tradition. We are now using Rutube video hosting, which is a pilot project. Today’s briefing is broadcast on the Rutube platform, among others.

The other day, Rutube overhauled its interface, added new functionality and made a huge step towards becoming an alternative to Western video hosting platforms. The only difference is, unlike well-known American platforms, it remains free from the IT monopolists’ censorship, rigged search queries and non-transparent algorithms.

I hope that our decision and a concrete practical step in this direction will help develop the Russian segment of the internet and a new generation of domestic resources and websites, which matters a lot to us.

We are tired of the internet monopolies’ censorship. This must be countered not only with statements and demands, but concrete actions as well, which we did.

Subscribe to our channel and follow current events in Russia’s foreign policy.

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Donbass update

 

We are closely following the situation in Donbass. Regretfully, the situation there remains complicated and is prone to escalation.

The reason for this is Kiev’s belligerent attitude, which is still based on the illusion that there can be a military solution to the conflict in the country’s southeast. Troops and military equipment are being deployed there. Reservist mobilisation plans are being updated. Ukrainian media are fanning hysteria about a mythical Russian threat and Moscow’s plans to attack Ukraine very soon. All this is happening at the prompting of Kiev’s Western sponsors, with overt public support.

We have also paid attention to the statement by Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky, who visited Donbass yesterday, that the country’s admission to NATO would allegedly put an end to the conflict in the region. The hypothetical membership in the alliance would, contrary to Kiev’s expectations, not bring peace to Ukraine but would result in a large-scale escalation in its southeast and may lead to irreversible consequences for Ukrainian statehood.

We are calling on the Kiev authorities yet again to act responsibly and start implementing their obligations under the Minsk Package of Measures. This package is the programme approved by the international community which should bring peace to Ukraine as a whole and to its Donbass region. No illusions, fantasies or provocations are needed. If Kiev declares its wish and desire to establish peaceful life, this should be done. The plan is on the table, and it has been there for a long time now. Instead of running around this table and making statements leading to nothing but provocations, and engaging in them, they just have to fulfil the Minsk Package of Measures.

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Russia begins vaccination of OSCE Observer Mission staff at Gukovo and Donetsk checkpoints on Russian-Ukrainian border

 

Last week, members of the OSCE Observer Mission received the first doses of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine at the Gukovo and Donetsk checkpoints on the Russian-Ukrainian border. The OSCE leadership addressed us with such a request, and it was granted. About 20 OSCE staff members from 15 countries who work in the Rostov Region will be vaccinated with the Russian vaccine.

This is one of the first instances where a team from this international organisation – the OSCE has field missions in 16 member states – has received the opportunity to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

As a reminder, the OSCE Observer Mission has been working in Russia since July 2014. It monitors and reports on the situation at two Russian checkpoints at the Russian-Ukrainian border, a section that is not controlled by Kiev.

Contrary to stories repeatedly planted by the Ukrainian authorities, the Observer Mission has not recorded any cases of Russian military units or equipment crossing into Ukraine over its entire tenure. It is a pet subject for the Kiev regime, Western media outlets and political figures. A paradoxical situation seems to have emerged after all these years – observers who have an official mandate there have observed no such cases, while Kiev promotes a propaganda campaign suggesting the opposite. Unsurprisingly, the observers’ work is barely covered by the media. It probably did not seem like anything newsworthy from Kiev’s perspective.

I would like to remind you that creating this mission in the summer of 2014, even before the Minsk Agreements were signed, was a goodwill gesture from Russia. The motive was to promote a peaceful political settlement in the internal Ukrainian conflict, to encourage the authorities in Kiev to end the punitive operation in the southeast of the country and begin a direct dialogue with Donetsk and Lugansk. Unfortunately, Kiev never properly reciprocated that decision. On the contrary, they chose armed escalation, which led to numerous casualties and destruction.

The Ukrainian authorities are still trying to evade, in every possible way, taking concrete steps to resolve the situation in Donbass peacefully. They continue to ignore the letter and spirit of the Minsk Package of Measures, which contains clear indications of the need to agree on various aspects of the settlement between representatives of the Ukrainian government and of certain parts of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions through a direct dialogue in the Contact Group. Instead, statements of a “Russian threat” are released increasingly more often by Kiev, while Ukrainian troops are building up their presence at the line of contact and continue firing, affecting civilians in Donbass.

In such circumstances, one starts wondering whether goodwill gestures from Russia – such as the OSCE observers’ presence on the Russian-Ukrainian border – actually have any positive effect on the peaceful resolution of this crisis.

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Unfriendly moves by Ukrainian authorities

 

The other day, after another bout of Russophobia, the Ukrainian authorities decided to impose sanctions on several organisations, including the Federal Agency for the Commonwealth of Independent States, Compatriots Living Abroad, and International Humanitarian Cooperation (Rossotrudnichestvo). The Agency is forbidden from engaging in any activities in Ukraine, even in activities that it has never carried out before. This openly unfriendly move will not allow the Rossotrudnichestvo Representative Office in Ukraine and the Russian Science and Culture Centre in Kiev to function normally.

The newly approved sanctions directly contradict the effective Agreement on the Establishment and the Terms of Functioning of Information and Cultural Centres signed by the Russian and Ukrainian governments on February 27, 1998. In this connection, we forwarded a note to the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry, demanding that an explanation be provided regarding the position of the Ukrainian authorities on this issue, as well as whether the Ukrainian side intends to deliver on its international law commitments under this agreement. 

There has been no reply so far, but we want to note that Ukraine also has its National Culture Centre in Moscow and that its activities are regulated by the same agreement. We are looking forward to receiving an answer that clarifies Ukraine’s position. 

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United States’ biological warfare

 

Prior to this briefing we have received many questions from the Russian and foreign media regarding the United States’ military-related biological activity, including near Russian borders.

Secretary of the Russian Security Council Nikolay Patrushev gave a detailed statement for the Russian media on this subject.

I would like to answer those questions and add that Russia is expressing serious concern again (we have pointed this out repeatedly over the past few years) about the US’ biological warfare both on its own territory and abroad. I would like to underscore that when we say “concern,” we mean not just a feeling, but a series of practical steps that we are taking. We contact our neighbours, meet to discuss this issue, raise questions at international organisations that specialise in this topic, and much more. Do not assume that our “concern” is just a bunch of letters and talk. This is not true. It is a set of systematic measures that our country is taking in this area.

Reasonable questions arise about the compliance of the activities being carried out in American biological laboratories with the requirements of the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC). In the absence of an effective verification mechanism within the BTWC, because the initiative was blocked by Washington in 2001, there is no legal requirement that the American side is to share information on the research these biological facilities are engaged in.

In this context, there have been truly indicative cases of American laboratories ending up in the centre of major international scandals. For example, an investigation into the 2001 terrorist attacks, when anthrax spores were put into letters, revealed that the scientist who mailed the poisoned envelopes through the US postal system was employed at Fort Detrick, the Pentagon’s top biodefence facility.

Russia has also repeatedly stated its position on US military biological activity in the post-Soviet countries. In particular, the activities at the Richard Lugar Centre for Public Health Research in Georgia, built with the Pentagon’s money, which houses the US Army Medical Research Directorate - Georgia, raises many well-grounded questions. This topic has been widely discussed, including publicly (1, 2, 3, 4).

In order to clear any concern about compliance with the BTWC, we consistently call for intensifying efforts to strengthen the convention regime, including through the adoption of a legally binding Protocol to the BTWC with an effective verification mechanism. This would also be facilitated by the implementation of Russia’s initiative to improve confidence-building measures within the BTWC by providing member states with information on military biological activity outside national territories. We also consider it possible to invoke Article V of the convention, which requires the member states to consult with each other in resolving any issues in relation to the BTWC.

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The Hague Court of Appeal once again confirms the legality of the decision to reject the return of Dutch citizens from Syria

 

Russia’s Western partners are mounting a real information attack against Russia on human rights issues. They find everything that Russia does unsuitable. They express concern bordering on hysterics over the destinies of people “dear to their hearts,” whom they consider “innocent victims.”

We have repeatedly told our Western partners that we are sincere participants in all mechanisms that protect human rights in the organisations of which we are members. We meticulously fulfill our commitments. We would like to repeat that the number of human rights problems that they have in their own countries deprives them of any right to criticise anyone else for human rights violations until they resolve these problems at home.

For instance, the Netherlands regularly lashes out at Russia at all levels (government agencies, NGOs and the media) for its allegedly bad human rights record. This has become a trend in the Netherlands. Let’s see what these authorities can do about human rights protection at home.

Last week, the Hague Court of Appeal ruled that the Dutch authorities rightfully refuse to repatriate a Dutch citizen from a refugee camp in the north of Syria. The court admits that the woman is gravely ill and seriously incapacitated and has to live in inhumane conditions without enough food or drinking water. However, the Dutch Themis does not see, or to be more precise, does not want to see, the “political and practical expediency” of helping her.

She is a Dutch citizen but the authorities in the Netherlands refuse to provide her with what she is asking for. This is an obvious human rights issue.

It is claimed that for this woman’s repatriation the Netherlands would have to send a mission of experts to Syria, which has been ruled out because of the risk to their lives and safety. Moreover, The Hague has no formal ties with either official Damascus or the groups that control the north of Syria. What kind of a “democratic approach” is this? So, if The Hague has no diplomatic relations with a country, the human rights issues in that country are simply ignored, even if the rights of its own citizen are violated.

This is not the first case. Earlier, Dutch justice issued a similar verdict on the lack of an obligation to return a group of women and children, which are also Dutch citizens, from a Syrian refugee camp.

Again, these people are Dutch citizens and they are abroad. They need help. They are not simply deprived of what they would like to have. They do not have what they need to sustain their lives. The Dutch Government does not see any human rights problem here and talks about “the lack of an obligation” to help them in any way. How can they be so cynical – denying help to its own citizens while expressing endless concern over the nationals of other states?  

Obviously, the repatriation of such citizens is a headache for many Western countries. However, the Dutch approach stands out even in this context. The leading propagandists of “democratic values” are closing their eyes to glaring human rights violations as regards their own citizens. Moreover, they try to deprive them of Dutch citizenship at every opportunity. Now The Hague has decided to justify this policy with the kingdom’s matching judicial practice. Such are the traditions of the world of law in one of central Western states.

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Inmate abuse in the United States

 

Literally every day, politicians, ministries and departments at different levels, and the US administration show their concern about human rights around the world. A noble cause, but first you need to take care of your own problems, and they do need your attention.

The inhuman treatment of inmates in US prisons raises questions. Violence has become commonplace, and has transformed prisons, many of which are run by private companies, almost into torture facilities ruled by arbitrariness and impunity. I’m talking about regular prisons, not Guantanamo or flying CIA prisons.

I’ll cite just one example that clearly illustrates how defenceless inmates in US prisons are against the sadists working there. On March 20, at the Washington, D.C. Central Detention Centre, inmate Ryan Samsel, who was taken into custody as a suspect and handcuffed, was severely beaten by two prison guards. They smashed his face, broke his nose, knocked out his jaw, injured his eye and brought the man to a state of mental disorder. He spent the night following the beating in a cell unconscious, without medical help.

The detainee’s lawyer has so far unsuccessfully asked the prison administration to provide his client’s medical record and to conduct a thorough investigation of the incident, which is by no means a one-time occurrence in this or most other US prisons. Thousands of other inmates complain about prison conditions and the guards who intimidate them.

Where is the State Department? Where is the presidential administration? Briefings are held daily. Why isn’t a word ever said about the inhuman conditions in American prisons for US citizens and foreign nationals?

Viktor Bout and Konstantin Yaroshenko were convicted on fabricated charges and are retained in custody as political prisoners.

Viktor Bout was kidnapped by US special services in Thailand and sentenced to 25 years after refusing to plead guilty on suspicion of arms trafficking. He is humiliated and subjected to psychological pressure on a daily basis. Konstantin Yaroshenko was illegally detained in Liberia in 2010 and subjected to brutal interrogation as a result of which he lost teeth and received major injuries to his internal organs. He was then taken to the United States and sentenced to 20 years in prison on charges based entirely on the testimony of sham agents.

Even basic medical help for the Russians, whose health has been seriously undermined, is provided only after numerous petitions by our diplomats; requests to conduct full medical exams mostly remain unanswered.

In our dealings with the US authorities at various levels, we constantly raise the question of releasing all unjustly convicted or detained Russian citizens and letting them return home for humanitarian reasons. However, Washington, always concerned about human rights across the world, but not at home, ignores our appeals. Instead, they fabricate stories about the prison conditions in Russia, in particular Alexey Navalny, who, by the way, receives unfettered visits by human rights activists (Washington pretends not to know about this), and engages in information activities. It is impossible to imagine anything like that in the United States.

We call on the US authorities to probe into all cases of the violation of inmates’ rights as soon as possible and as transparently as possible. Ongoing developments run counter not only to the US Constitution and criminal law, but fundamental international legal and humanitarian norms as well. We look forward to hearing a public report from US officials about actions to prevent this kind of arbitrariness in the future, as well as to ensure safety and access to necessary medical help in prisons.

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Russia-ASEAN anti-drug cooperation

 

Fighting drug crime is an important area of our joint efforts with ASEAN to counter new challenges and threats.  In coordination with the Association, we defend the inviolability of the current international legal regime of drug control at the specialised UN venues. Russian and ASEAN senior officials hold regular meetings on drug-related issues.

We have been providing assistance in training personnel for ASEAN law enforcement agencies since 2012.  Last year the Interior Ministry held a specialised course on detecting and investigating drug trafficking crimes. Despite the coronavirus pandemic, we managed to double the number of participants in the course due to the interest of the ASEAN members.

This is a real contribution to the Association in achieving its goal of Drug-Free ASEAN. In addition, Russia has already made a number of proposals to be implemented this year in expanding cooperation with the ASEAN G10 in the anti-drug sphere, including the exchange of operational information, joint operations and investigations, and countering the financing of drug trafficking.

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New requirements for Japanese school textbooks

 

We have noted the new requirement of the Japanese Ministry of Education, Science, Technology and Culture for school textbooks in geography, history and social studies for senior school students which must designate the southern Kuril Islands as “native Japanese territories.”

It is regrettable that the Japanese government instils false stereotypes in the younger generation that contradict the historical truth and the results of World War II, thereby inflating the campaign of groundless territorial claims against Russia. The Russian Federation’s sovereignty over the southern Kuril Islands is indisputable.

Japan’s actions have caused an outrage in Russian society and can have a negative impact on the atmosphere of bilateral relations.

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The 60th anniversary of the first human space flight

 

On April 12, all of humanity will mark the 60th anniversary of man’s first space flight. This is truly an epic event which largely shaped the world we are living in today. It went down in the annals of history not just as a great scientific and technological achievement but also as a show of goodwill and a desire for peaceful interaction expressed by a great power. This holiday has no borders; it unites all generations, peoples and continents.

On April 7, 2011, the UN General Assembly declared 12 April the International Day of Human Space Flight. This day is marked each year “to celebrate the beginning of the space era for mankind.”

On the eve of Cosmonautics Day, the Foreign Ministry recalls this historic event and works to provide information support for the day. Sergey Lavrov is to issue a video address on the occasion of man’s first space flight.
On April 5, the Messenger of Peace photo exhibition by the TASS news agency opened at the Foreign Ministry. You can see the exhibition on the Russian Foreign Ministry’s site.

We are most eagerly covering the upcoming anniversary on the ministry’s internet sites and, of course, on our social network pages. We have launched a series of publications on the so-called Peace Mission whereby we speak in detail of Yury Gagarin’s famous world tour, the most interesting episodes of his trip through different countries, where he was accompanied by, among others, Soviet diplomats.

We are preparing a number of other exciting projects for April 12, which include interactive presentations and a unique data resource on commemorative places around the world connected with Yury Gagarin.

It is important to underscore that the memory of our great compatriot is still alive today. Yury Gagarin is admired in all corners of the globe, and he continues to live in peoples’ hearts.

Enormous interest in the anniversary abroad is clear evidence of this. Our diplomats hold successful photo exhibitions and film viewings wherever the epidemic situation permits, whereas in other countries online conferences and roundtable discussions are held. Most Russian missions abroad publish historical notes in social media about the life of the Earth’s first cosmonaut. Some diplomatic missions even post video addresses on their newswires by foreign cosmonauts who speak about the significance that the anniversary of this milestone event carries for them personally.  

The Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the UN in New York and the Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to International Organisations in Vienna in collaboration with the Russian News Service and the Russian-language account at the UN have launched an interesting thematic project, First in Space, to run from April 8 through Aril 12. As part of the project, viewers can learn about Yury Gagarin and Valentina Tereshkova’s news conference at the UN Headquarters in October 1963, and watch and listen to unique photo and audio materials including those from the United Nations archives, which were recorded during their visit to New York, excerpts from memoirs of outstanding diplomats including Andrei Gromyko who accompanied the Soviet cosmonauts on their trip abroad. 

Over the past 60 years many dreams have come true – the first spacewalk, the first man on the Moon, long space flights and the launch of probes to other planets.

Russia confidently holds a leading position in space exploration, including the number of launches; it is actively expanding its satellite constellation and is working on new high-tech products.

We are committed to further cooperation with our partners and, as President Putin put it, we will choose “areas that will bring us closer. Perhaps space exploration can help us better understand each other here on Earth.” 

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Roundtable discussion held by the Permanent Representation of the Russian Federation to the Council of Europe ahead of the 60th anniversary of Yuri Gagarin’s spaceflight

 

On April 15, at 4.30 pm Moscow time, the Permanent Representation of the Russian Federation to the Council of Europe will hold a roundtable discussion to mark 60 years since the first human flight to space, as well as International Cosmonautics Day.

The event will be attended by Secretary General of the Council of Europe Marija Pejcinovic Buric; cosmonaut Sergey Krikalyov, Executive Director for Manned Space Programmes at the Roscosmos State Corporation; and the ambassadors of some of the Council of Europe member countries taking part in space exploration.

The roundtable discussion is expected to highlight the outstanding role of Soviet space pioneers in the development of human civilisation, the development of cosmonautics in Council of Europe member countries, and the history of and prospects for international cooperation in space, including the use of the Council of Europe’s potential. 

The event will be broadcast on the social media pages of the Permanent Representation and the Foreign Ministry.

We invite everyone to watch the event. It will be exciting.

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Russia's presence in the Arctic

 

We have received many questions about Russia's presence in the Arctic, in particular, from CNN, Euronews, the Mezhdunarodnaya Zhizn magazine and a number of other media outlets. Since this is an important, interesting and pressing issue, I will share some information about Russia’s activities in this region with a wide audience.

Question (CNN): Speaking to CNN, US officials have expressed concern about Russia building military bases and accumulating resources to the north of the Arctic Circle. Even though this is Russia’s territory, as Russia often states, the United States is concerned that this buildup of capacity is designed to impose Russia’s rules on the Northern Sea Route and impose Moscow's grip on this increasingly ice-free region. Norwegian officials have also expressed concern about the potential environmental damage that the upcoming Poseidon 2M39 tests could cause. Do you have any comments regarding these concerns?

Maria Zakharova: Russia is not doing anything in the Arctic that is at odds with international law or puts other countries in harm’s way. Speaking about potential sources of mounting tensions in the region, it would be logical to consider the United States and its allies’ military activities in the Arctic that go hand-in-hand with belligerent rhetoric. In fact, NATO and NATO member states, including non-Arctic countries, are carrying out provocations there and are doing so on an increasingly regular basis. They have carried out several such operations in the Arctic Ocean lately in close proximity to Russia. This desire to militarise the Arctic and use the region for implementing the notorious policy of containing Russia causes legitimate concerns. Unfortunately, the facts of the Arctic Council member states’ participation in these military actions are piling up. We believe that this conduct does little to maintain an atmosphere of trust and cooperation between the Arctic countries.

We would also like to let you know that we are not aware of Norway expressing concern about possible environmental damage from new Russian weapons’ tests.

Upon receipt of an official request from Norway, we will be ready to use the existing communication channels through our defence departments to provide clarifications.

Question (Mezhdunarodnaya Zhizn): In a story that it ran recently, CNN said that Russia has been building up its military presence in the Arctic for several years at an unprecedented pace now and is testing the latest weapons there in an attempt to establish control over the region as a whole and the Northern Sea Route, in particular. What do you have to say about this?

Maria Zakharova: The Northern Sea Route (NSR) is a historically established national unified transport corridor operated by the Russian Federation, which plays a major role in Arctic maritime traffic off its coast. It goes through maritime areas with different legal statuses, such as internal sea waters, territorial sea and an exclusive economic zone. The NSR connects the Russian Far East with Western Russia and also has a major potential for international sea shipping.

The NSR navigation rules were established a long time ago. They were developed and adopted in accordance with applicable norms of the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. As it regulates navigation in this region, Russia is acting on the basis of international law. These clear and easy-to-follow rules make it possible, in particular, to provide conditions for efficient and safe navigation along the Northern Sea Route, which is known for its harsh climate and ice, as well as to prevent incidents involving major and long-term damage to the particularly fragile Arctic environment. All the while, hundreds of ships use the Northern Sea Route annually, including the ones flying foreign countries’ flags with the number of such states reaching 45 in recent years. The traffic amounts to tens of millions of tonnes per year and is growing steadily. Given these circumstances, there are no real grounds for having any “concerns” in this regard.

Russia and the United States hold different positions regarding the legal status and regulations governing the use of several Russian Arctic straits. These differences are not new. They were there in the days of the Soviet Union and, fortunately, did not result in incidents over the past decades. We urge everyone to continue to refrain from the dangerous use of this subject for purposes of provocation.

It’s a known fact that, at various times, Washington issued dozens of protests regarding the regulations governing maritime spaces under the jurisdiction of other states, including US allies, such as Canada. However, the biased theses about an allegedly impending threat in the Arctic are being persistently thrown into the public space. This is unsettling. We are clearly looking at certain dynamics here.

Overall, not being a party to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, the United States is positioning itself as a consistent champion of the freedoms of the high seas, which all states can enjoy. It is so like them not to be part of an international process, but call on everyone to implement their vision of certain “rules.” These freedoms undoubtedly include not only the freedom of navigation, but, in particular, the freedom to lay pipelines. It would be nice if the United States set an example of observing the corresponding norms of international law and finally stopped creating illegal barriers to implementing this freedom within the framework of the Nord Stream 2 project.

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Answers to media questions:

Question: In a recent interview, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov announced the plans to resume the Moscow Format for Afghanistan, should the peace process make progress, i.e. if the agreements between the United States and the Taliban are implemented. Is it possible to speak now of the timeframe for resuming the mechanism’s operation, given that neither the United States nor the Taliban have fulfilled the terms of their deal in full, and Taliban officials recently said that they are ready to cancel it?

Maria Zakharova:The plans for holding the next consultations on Afghanistan in the Moscow Format are still relevant. We will advise you on the specific time later.

As for the agreement signed between the United States and the Taliban movement in Doha in February 2020, as far as we know, neither party has declared its plans to pull out. Furthermore, notwithstanding the existing difficulties about its implementation, we can see the parties’ interest in preserving the effect of the document, which made it possible to move forward in achieving a peaceful settlement in Afghanistan.

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Question: I have a question about Ukraine’s statement on the possible transfer of the venue for the meetings of the Trilateral Contact Group on Donbass from Minsk to Sweden. Have Ukrainian officials told the Russian representatives about this idea? Has the Contact Group discussed it? Where could this venue be moved hypothetically?

Maria Zakharova: This this kind of “hypothetical” foolishness, I am sorry to say, we hear from Kiev officials on a variety of issues. Take, for example, a statement by Press Secretary of the Ukrainian President Yulia Mendel about some “Ukrainian Russian language.” These things are in the same category.

We have heard nothing new in a statement by Deputy Prime Minister of Ukraine Alexey Reznikov. Representatives of Ukraine’s political establishment expressed this idea as well. Head of the Ukrainian delegation Leonid Kravchuk voiced it too. Both Sweden and Poland were suggested as possible venues. Maybe, they wanted to broaden the geography of tourism. It’s hard to tell.

Let’s discuss this idea in practical terms and look at what stands behind these statements. I would like to emphasise that the Contact Group has not discussed this idea in detail and the prospect of offline meetings remains vague primarily due to the Covid restrictions. Belarus has not raised this issue, either. In principle, it is ready, as before, to host all participants of the Contact Group in accordance with top international standards, as it has been doing for the past six years now.

What is behind this idea? Why is it planted in the public space? The answer is obvious. This is not because of the loss of confidence in Belarus, which is under Russia’s influence (as the proponents of the idea wanted to sell it to us). This idea reflects Kiev’s purposeful efforts to wreck its commitments under the Minsk Package of Measures to settle the domestic conflict in Ukraine through a direct dialogue with Donetsk and Lugansk. It is easier to express permanent dissatisfaction with what is happening, to engage in continuous information provocations and to endlessly accuse everyone of wrecking the agreements than to explain what Kiev is doing to implement the Minsk Package. This is an open subversion of the adopted agreements and this policy has lead the negotiations into a blind alley.

There is more to it. Such statements reflect Kiev’s desire to demonstrate its mythical commitment to democracy by slandering and accusing Belarus, which is done, in part, to please those who are in charge of the external administration of Ukraine. We are well aware of what “democracy” means in Ukraine. This is a special phenomenon. Recent events have shown what it is all about. I am referring to the extra-judicial cleanup of Ukraine’s information space, the prosecution of dissidents, excesses of ultra-radical nationalists and absolute impunity for turning people into outcasts in their own country.

We would like to hope that the Ukrainian ruling political class will eventually realise the need to be guided by fundamental long-term national interests. These interests consist of restoring peace and tranquility in Donbass in line with the Minsk Agreements and returning to good, friendly relations. These interests primarily lie in a positive, normal attitude to their own citizens rather than the transient benefits derived by the Kiev regime from servicing foreign geopolitical ambitions.

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Question: Could you comment on the situation in Myanmar? Does Russia intend to optimise the structure of the Russian Embassy in Myanmar due to the situation in that country? Are any additional security measures being taken?

Maria Zakharova: We are closely following the developments in Myanmar in connection with the state of emergency declared on February 1, including from the perspective of ensuring the security of our Embassy and its staff.

In light of the increased tensions, primarily as a result of clashes between the Myanmar law enforcement agencies and the irreconcilable opposition, which has moved from civil disobedience to more radical forms of protest, we have taken additional measures to strengthen the security of the Russian foreign mission. In particular, in coordination with the local authorities, the number of police personnel protecting the perimeter of the Embassy grounds has been increased, temporary barriers has been installed on access roads and other measures have also been taken.

At the same time, analysis of the current situation in major cities in Myanmar, including Yangon, where the Russian Embassy is located, shows that the situation has begun to normalise. Therefore, the Russian diplomatic mission is functioning normally.

We believe that at this stage there is no need to reduce the number of Embassy staff or evacuate Russian citizens from Myanmar. At the same time, we continue to closely monitor the situation and conduct regular assessment of possible threats against our foreign mission and compatriots. Appropriate measures will be taken if necessary.

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Question: Several days ago an amusing report surfaced in the media on a “chance” meeting in a hotel between Sergey Lavrov and US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry. I can just imagine their chance encounter during breakfast. Still, my experience suggests that such encounters don’t happen by “chance.” The minister’s security must have checked out other guests in the hotel. Could it really have been a lucky chance?

Maria Zakharova: Can there be chance occurrences that lead to meetings? Yes, of course, they can. This is the way it often happens at major forums, the agendas for which are approved in advance.  

Sometimes a meeting is held on the sidelines of an event because there is a need for it or the parties find out that they are staying in the same hotel and this is also considered normal diplomatic practice. Meetings like this are quite frequent. For example, during a UN General Assembly, which is normally attended by a huge number of delegations, the Russian minister’s schedule, as you know, includes 50 to 60 meetings within several days. Some meetings can be cancelled because of accidental circumstances, such as mismatched schedules, as well as changes to schedules, the situation, or logistics while other meetings are added for the same chance reasons, as you said, when people meet during negotiations or on the sidelines. They can talk on the go or change the format of talks to a more thorough one. So, my answer is affirmative: this is also part of the job in diplomatic practice.  

We have commented on this issue. This is the way it happened. It had not been planned that the two delegations stayed in a third country – India – in the same hotel and at the same time. The meeting did take place.

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Question: A number of Russian experts express concern about the new US administration using the climate agenda and the need to protect the Earth from human impact for promoting globalisation under their own rules so as to push their mandatory agenda. Does Russia distinguish between the climate agenda and environmental protection? Which diverging and overlapping points do you see in the Russian and US approaches?

Maria Zakharova: The issues of environmental protection and climate change are closely interconnected and have become priority issues on the global agenda in the past decades. It is not a single country’s agenda, but a global agenda. We are currently facing unprecedented environmental challenges, and the ways of tackling them open up opportunities for both balanced national development and prospects for equitable international cooperation.

Nature preservation issues are one of the areas where Russia and the United States have common interests. Indeed, the new US administration is adapting its socioeconomic policy to the environmental agenda. We infer that from the information emerging in the public domain and from official statements. So far the policy is being shaped and has not begun to be implemented. And one of the first decisions made by the new US administration was a return to the Paris Agreement.

I have to note that Russia has repeatedly voiced its readiness for a dialogue in this area. We have proceeded from the fact that addressing environmental problems and climate change should exclude politicisation. This is our principled approach. We adhere to this approach regardless of which administration is in the White House. We believe that joint efforts must be made on specialised international platforms.

We are completely committed to complying with our obligations under environmental agreements. All of us, and not just the United States, bear responsibility for preserving the diversity of the planet’s ecosystems. And we believe that not only governments but also private businesses and civil society carry the responsibility for the implementation of the environmental agenda. Mechanisms including private-public partnerships are already in place to engage business in nature preservation projects.

To be brief, should environmental issues avoid politicisation? Absolutely. Not just avoid but also root it out. Can environmental issues and politics be unrelated?  Hardly. Usually, it is political leaders that lead the way, like icebreakers, to promote a certain agenda.  Environmental issues are addressed by international organisations, politicians, political leaders, and public and political organisations. That is normal in this context. However, politicisation, when opportunistic and occasionally illegitimate tasks are resolved under the guise of concern for environmental issues, is unacceptable.

Question: Reuters reported several hours ago that the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund are planning to link debt relief with investments to combat climate change. According to a source familiar with the initiative, which Reuters cited, this will focus on systematically changing whole economies on the basis of expert advice, presumably mostly by Western experts. Considering the climate agenda of the new US administration, it would be interesting to see where the climate agenda is fully international and coordinated with all parties, and where it fully depends on market factors, as you said, expressing the interests of not just one particular country but also of transnational corporations. For example, US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry, with whom Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has met recently, said that this target cannot be achieved by countries alone and that success depends in large part on leadership from the private sector and transnational companies.

Maria Zakharova: The solution is very simple, theoretically, but it is very difficult to apply in practice. You are asking about the line between normal cooperation, including in politics, and politically motivated actions. The answer is simple:  this line is set out in the law. If we are speaking about cooperation based on legal agreements, or the charters and principles of international organisations, or bilateral treaties and agreements, the focus is on mutually beneficial and equal partnership, cooperation and joint efforts to solve problems. But if we are speaking about the domination of any one state and the use of tools outside the “legal” array, there is a big chance that these activities are politically loaded.

Until recently, we have been taught to believe that the West, in particular the flagship countries of the collective West, has the right answers to all questions, including those related to healthcare, human rights, science and technology. We were told that these countries are leading the “Western community” and all other countries into a bright future, because they know how to reach this goal and to make life beautiful for everyone. We know now that this is a myth, an illusion. There are really important and much needed achievements in this sphere, but they are not a cure-all to be applied around the world or even for treating complex problems in these “flagship” countries themselves.

Therefore, domination by any one country or its efforts to enforce its vision or solutions, including in the field of climate change, on other countries, international organisations or transnational corporations is an example of a path that is leading or can lead to time-serving politicisation of the problem at hand. As of today, no state is capable of assuming responsibility for the environmental future of the world. The world is made up of widely different regions, countries, economies, objectives, problems and targets. The domination of any one viewpoint is an indicator of the risk of politicisation. This is something that is better avoided.

Progress in addressing many current problems and finding solutions to them will be complicated without the political element, without politicians and a close relation between political efforts and issues such as climate change and healthcare.

Take the coronavirus pandemic, which is a global problem. Regrettably, is has spread across all parts of the world. The search for a solution to this problem should be conducted at the highest state political level. It is one thing to look for solutions and move forward together in the interests of nations, and it is quite another matter to put spokes in other’s wheels and to advertise, without any substantiation, one’s own exceptionalism and leadership qualities in any sphere.

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Question: Many countries in the region and in particular Turkey are actively discussing an idea proposed by Turkey’s leaders concerning the so-called revision of the Montreux Convention. How much does this decision affect Russia? What is Russia’s stand regarding these plans, including the building of an alternative canal joining the Black Sea with the Mediterranean? 

Reports are coming in, with the latest one from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, that Jihadists and mercenaries in Syria were issued orders and are being sent to Eastern Ukraine. Does Russia have any information on this? Are Jihadists engaged in fighting in Eastern Ukraine?

Maria Zakharova: As you know, the Russian Federation is a party to the 1936 Convention Regarding the Regime of the Straits (Montreux Convention). Apparently, any attempts to revise it would concern our country’s interests.

We regard this convention as a key factor of stability and security in the Black Sea, especially when it comes to naval navigation.

The Montreux Convention envisages total tonnage limitations on naval ships of non-coastal states, the terms of their stay and the type of weapons allowed on certain categories of ships. It also prescribes the order for their notifying others about planning to enter the straits. The mechanism established on the basis of the Convention has proved its efficiency with regard to sustaining stability and ensuring security in the region and has passed the test of time.

We do not see any alternatives to the international law regime established under the Monteux Convention. We expect all respective states to assume a responsible approach toward observing it. Turkey has a special role in this respect.  

As to the second part of your question, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has long discredited itself. The White Helmets and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights are located in the United Kingdom as is much of NATO’s disinformation arsenal. These are the structures that have totally discredited themselves. This “observatory” released such a great number of fakes and was so actively engaged in information aggression against international law and Syria proper that I see no sense in referring to it. 

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Question: Last Sunday Russia and Azerbaijan marked the 29th anniversary of diplomatic relations, correspondingly, next year they will be 30. We are certainly ahead of ourselves but does the Foreign Ministry have any plans yet to celebrate that anniversary? Will there be something special to mark the anniversary of diplomatic relations with Azerbaijan? 

Maria Zakharova: I would like to once again draw your attention to the expanded interviews that took place with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Andrey Rudenko on April 2. They were timed to coincide with the 29th anniversary of establishing diplomatic relations with Armenia and Azerbaijan. The interviews offer a detailed assessment of our bilateral relations.

As to the upcoming anniversary, I’d rather we do not jump so far ahead into the future. There is plenty of time ahead of the 30th anniversary you mentioned. I can only say that the issue is being worked on. Such a momentous event will be dully celebrated with various exciting activities. 

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Question: The situation with the Russian vaccine sent to Slovakia is unfolding quickly but, unfortunately, according to the worst-case and predictable scenario. The world media outlets and social networks report the most contradictory information and statements that are polar opposite to each other. The Russian media are also mistaken when they claim that the Sputnik V vaccine was registered in Slovakia. The point is that the vaccine hasn’t been registered there. And it was an unwise step by Russia to sell it there against a backdrop of EU’s demands concerning the vaccine’s registration. As a result, Russia’s goodwill is being interpreted as its desire to make money while neglecting quality, and some persons have gone even further in their statements. A sort of a paradoxical situation is emerging. On the one hand there is tremendous demand with which the producer cannot cope, while on the other hand 200,000 vaccine doses for 100,000 people were sent in the wrong direction. Broadly speaking, the vaccines delivered to Slovakia as of yet have not been used to inoculate people but rather for vaccinating mice and guinea pigs, that is, in order to build up a substantial documentary base to discredit the Russian Sputnik V vaccine. Is it just coincidence, foolishness, or is there a targeted attempt to compromise the Russian vaccine, and Slovakia has been specially selected for that?

Maria Zakharova: Why do you treat coincidence, foolishness, pre-planned actions and disinformation separately, while in fact they are just different facets of the same – a destructive policy? If we mean that this is self-destructive policy that is not focused on national interests and is dictated from abroad. Much of what you have listed are its components.

As you are aware, RDIF made a statement to that respect. I have read and followed everything concerning the developments around the Russian vaccine in Slovakia. I only have one question and I don’t think I am the only one who wants to ask it. What do Slovakia’s leaders, its political establishment and officials actually want? What goal are they pursuing? We thought they were willing to help their citizens overcome the pandemic’s aftermath, to do everything to protect the health of their population and take part in global efforts to this end. We viewed it exactly in this way. It is logical, normal, and the right thing to do. This is what leaders and politicians in all the countries do. What we see makes us ask exactly this question – what is it that they really want? We would like to hear an answer to this question before making any political conclusions. When they answer, we will make further comments. Otherwise, it will be hard to assess such actions without an answer to this basic question.

The Russian side did exactly what should have been done under the assumption that goals and tasks of Slovakia’s leaders include the points I mentioned – protecting the population, overcoming the aftermath of the pandemic, health protection, etc. On our part, we did everything necessary for civilised, normal, mutually beneficial and equitable interaction.

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Question: It has been reported that the Russian Investigative Committee has launched criminal proceedings regarding the heinous murder of Vladik, a five-year boy who was killed in an air raid by a Ukrainian drone in Aleksandrovskoye in Donbass. The prosecutor’s office of the Donetsk People’s Republic has qualified the crime as a terrorist attack. Who can be held responsible for the death of an innocent child, according to international and human law? Is this a war crime?

Maria Zakharova: The legal aspect of your question is for lawyers. As you have correctly mentioned, the Russian Investigative Committee has opened a criminal case. It will cover all the legal aspects. The conclusions will be made during the relevant actions to be taken by our law enforcement authorities.

As for this being a heinous crime, as you have already noted, I would like to go beyond this particular crime. Heinous crimes have been committed not just against this particular child, but against hundreds of children, who have been killed by militants in the centre of Europe in the first quarter of the 21st century with information and moral support of their Western “curators,” including the EU and, more precisely, Brussels, as well as many other international organisations, which do not see or refuse to see the humanitarian tragedy unfolding in this part of Europe. They declare their commitment to human rights every day and their concern for human rights, the rights of adult people who are not the victims of violence or any other form of inhumane treatment. Why don’t they see then what is happening to children in Donbass, in Donetsk and Lugansk?  How many youngsters have been killed there? How many have been maimed? How many have acquired chronical diseases as the result of the war?

Isn’t the injury inflicted on an entire generation of children there a major problem from the viewpoint of the Western mentality, which has been going on about tolerance, human rights, and concern for each and all? Don’t they see this as a problem? We have become aware of this attitude in Syria, where the life of one child can be used as a symbol of the struggle against the allegedly “bloodthirsty regime,” whereas the plight of tens of thousands Syrian and other children is not regarded by the international community as a sufficient reason for lifting the sanctions against Syria at least for the duration of the pandemic. Lies and hypocrisy.

We see the same attitude to Donbass, although in a different situation and with different factors. The plight of the Donbass children doesn’t seem to concern those in the West and at international organisations who are exploiting these platforms for speaking about the future of humanity or the plight of a particular individual. They are not interested. We see and are aware of this, and we are fighting against this attitude. How are we doing this? You know this all too well: by supplying humanitarian aid. We have not done this once, and we are not doing this for show or as a way of reporting to international organisations.  We are doing this voluntarily, systematically and regularly. We are supplying everything so that children can live, receive education and medical assistance, and, ultimately, survive in those conditions. This is our protection for the Donbass people in all meanings of the word, including in the political and humanitarian sense.

Everything we have been doing has prevented the situation in Donbass from being forgotten. This would have suited everyone in the West, first of all, the Kiev regime. Nobody would have spoken about the problem, and it would not been regarded as a problem. And ultimately they would have settled it without much ado.  We are well aware how they “settle” problems, leaving an ocean of blood in their wake. The point at issue is that this is not one heinous crime but a series of heinous crimes. We are talking about children now, but what about young people, old men and women suffering from serious diseases? Don’t they deserve our concern as well in the context of these situations?

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Question: I have a question about a joint French-German statement on Donbass. According to the document, “France and Germany are concerned by the growing number of ceasefire violations in eastern Ukraine, which come after the situation had stabilised since July 2020. We are closely monitoring the situation and in particular Russian troop movements, and call on all sides to show restraint and to work towards the immediate de-escalation of tensions. We reaffirm our support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine within its internationally recognised borders.”

What does the Russian Foreign Ministry think about this statement highlighting the concern of Germany and France, which are watching Russian troop movements, but which do not notice the murder of children in Donbass by the Armed Forces of Ukraine?

Maria Zakharova: We have already stated our opinion regarding such approaches and the confrontationist atmosphere now being imposed on this region. We perceive the position of Berlin and Paris as helpless. I don’t even want to make a negative or emotional assessments here. I will just point out  that such statements show their inability to influence Kiev, which is duty-bound (there can be no  “must” or “can” about it) to fulfil the provisions of documents that it has signed and which have been approved by a UN Security Council resolution.

Over the past few years, it has become largely obvious that all attempts to influence Kiev have failed to produce the desired result. I don’t know whether these attempts were full-fledged or half-hearted. The Minsk Agreements have not been fulfilled. It is pointless to monitor Russian troop movements in Russia. Every country has its own armed forces that move according to the particular state’s plans and strategy. Therefore, Paris and Berlin should focus on Kiev’s failure to fulfil its obligations, rather than on monitoring Russian troop movements in Russia. This would make it possible to avoid many problems.

I commented on the situation with children in great detail earlier. We are not just talking about a tragedy involving one child. It is impossible to compensate for, undo or alleviate a tragedy with one child, but we are talking about an all-encompassing tragedy involving an entire generation of children who live there. This is true of many regions, including Donbass, Syria and Libya, and not just one region. Many countries facing a dire humanitarian situation due to the Western world’s “experiments” cannot do anything about it. The biggest victims are the civilians and children. Unfortunately, many foreign countries, primarily Western countries, are doing all they can to aggravate their suffering and through this to influence the leaders of these countries. This is as an illegitimate and unacceptable approach. Most importantly, numerous international organisations have now been established, including within the UN, such as UNICEF and supra-national socio-political organisations bringing together the public, the people who care all over the world. Naturally, they are unable to influence legally binding state decisions, but they certainly exert a media impact. Their work has social significance. How can we explain that, instead of addressing specific issues, the international community does not even care about the destiny of children in these conflicts? What should be done to convert these verbal concerns into practical actions? I cannot answer this question. This all-out hypocrisy is manifested very often, and not in just these aspects.

We can see how the Western mainstream, including the presidents of these countries and media outlets, can launch media campaigns to support a single adult using digital diplomacy, social media accounts and other platforms. At the same time, it overlooks the destiny of children who need medical assistance, as well as those who were killed because they and their parents were unable to protect themselves in any way.

This is not a subject for discussion; it is a tragedy.

 

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