Sergey Lavrov’s answers to media questions following a visit to Leningrad region, St Petersburg, September 6, 2021
Question: The Taliban have announced that they sent out invitations to a number of countries, including Russia, to attend the government formation event. Can you confirm or refute the receipt of such an invitation? How will Russia reply to this?
Sergey Lavrov: They have pointed out publicly that they will send us such an invitation. Maybe it has arrived while we are talking. We are ready to support the formation of a government that will reflect the entire range of Afghan society, including the Taliban and other ethnic groups, which will not only include the Pashtuns but also Uzbeks, Hazara and Tajiks. Only such an inclusive government will be able to ensure a sustainable transition to a new life for our Afghan neighbours. If this is the goal of the ceremony, we will be delighted to attend it together with the other invited countries, which can influence the situation in Afghanistan.
Question: Is the Foreign Ministry holding talks on the reopening of the US Consulate General in St Petersburg? It worked here under Emperor Alexander I and during the Soviet era, but it was shut down in 2018.
Sergey Lavrov: As you have pointed out, it is a US Consulate General, and so it is for them to decide if they want to have this office here or not. They have not asked us to close the Consulate General in Vladivostok. Nobody forced the decision on them.
Back during the Obama administration, Washington flagrantly violated diplomatic law by depriving us of five properties in the United States, including consulates general in Seattle and San Francisco. We took response measures, but we never requested them to shut down their consulates general. It was their initiative entirely. I don’t know the reason for it.
A bilateral dialogue is underway regarding diplomatic personnel, but it has not produced any result; it is marking time. We have asked them to adjust the number of their personnel [in Russia] to the number of our diplomats [in the United States] and not to hire hundreds of Russians to do what actually amounts to diplomatic duties. We declared the principle of parity. They announced that they are short of personnel and so had to suspend the issuance of visas. This is yet another shameless attempt to put pressure on us so as to gain some unilateral advantages. It is for them to decide. We will not ask them to reopen the consulate. We have not prohibited the operation of this diplomatic office.
Question: Can you tell us about your favourite school teacher who has influenced you the most?
Sergey Lavrov: It was my physics teacher, Sergey Kuznetsov. His talent and charm encouraged me to enrol at the Moscow Engineering Physics Institute (MEPhI). I only sat for the MGIMO entrance exams because they were held a month earlier. Our physics teacher went hiking with us. He was a wonderful person everyone loved.
Question: Which questions have impressed or surprised you today? What makes a good teacher? What are the most important qualities now?
Sergey Lavrov: Everyone is concerned about the upbringing of the new generation. Considering the huge number of the current sources of information and disinformation (there are more of the latter), young people experience information overload and objective difficulties. It is sometimes challenging for them to sort out information without the necessary experience or advice. Overall, I can imagine how hard it is for teachers to work under these conditions, but the best thing is to use nothing but facts about our country’s history, traditions, forefathers and interests. There is simply no alternative to this.
Every possible effort must be taken to support teachers. If we offer a prosperous and dignified life to them (the process is underway, but it is not complete yet, as this has also been admitted in election video clips), our teachers will apply their talents even more effectively. They will not have to think about any other topics. They know better than anyone else how they should work with our children. We will do our best to support them.
Question: What books do you like to read? Not professionally, but personally?
Sergey Lavrov: I have little time for personal reading. I try to read modern writers, including Viktor Pelevin, Vladimir Sorokin and Dmitry Glukhovsky. When I read modern books, I see their degrading mood and a feeling of hopelessness. Russian literature has always been famous for a critical analysis of current developments, but I think Anton Chekhov did it better and at least in a more interesting manner. After flipping through a modern book, I sometimes return to reading classics.
Question: What features of young people do you like?
Sergey Lavrov: We talked a great deal about patriotism. It is a lofty word. I didn’t want it to be a mere waste of breath. In fact, patriotism comprises very simple things. During my trips around the country, I often meet with young people. Volunteers are working for a great cause by maintaining and restoring people’s memory of the heroes of the Great Patriotic War. The search movement has grown to a nationwide scale and went international. There are colleagues in foreign countries, primarily in Europe. We will support these efforts. I will not cite other examples of patriotism, but they include respect for one’s country, home, forefathers and parents.
Another thing we must encourage, is the ability to think independently. This is fundamentally important, but it implies huge difficulties which did not exist before. They have to do with the abundance of information, including a huge amount of fakes and especially on the social networks where many of our young people love to hang out. This is not bad at all. But they must be able to tell lies from the truth, which they can only learn to do if they read not only blogs but also communicate with their peers in different professions in real life.
Question: Which path will Afghanistan opt for?
Sergey Lavrov: This is for the Afghan people to decide. We are urging our neighbours to do this in an inclusive process, so that all ethnic and political groups in the country are involved. The Taliban, who came to power after President Ashraf Ghani fled the country, have announced that they will form such a government. We wholeheartedly support this intention. We really do hope that it will be implemented.
Question: Diplomats must always be buttoned up and keep their heads. What do you do when you want to express your emotions?
Sergey Lavrov: Many people are aware of this. You sometimes have to express your emotions without saying certain words. You get used to considerable personal discomforts in this profession, including during drawn-out and not very meaningful talks, which you have to bear out anyway. Yes, you get used to it.