Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s interview with the newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda, Moscow, August 4, 2021
Question: Russia was not only the first country to register a vaccine – Sputnik V – but has also extended a helping hand to many countries that urgently needed it. Some of them accepted Russia’s assistance with gratitude. Tiny San Marino overcame the pandemic within just a matter of seven days. Thanks to Sputnik V, the number of new cases in Argentina is now down to less than one percent. Do other countries really appreciate our support, and should we continue helping them?
Sergey Lavrov: Indeed, we were not only the first to register a vaccine, but we also declared our readiness to supply it on a transparent and non-discriminating basis. I am quite sure that our partners appreciate what we are doing.
San Marino and Argentina are a case in point. As of this moment, over 70 percent of people have been vaccinated in the small European state. Sputnik V accounts for 88.6 percent of the approximately 42,000 jabs that have been given there and the coronavirus epidemic has petered out. At the same time, the Buenos Aires authorities believe that they did wisely to choose Sputnik V. We have dispatched about 11 million doses of the vaccine to that Latin American country. The broad use of our vaccine has indeed improved the situation for the people and has slowed down the spread of the disease.
The Russian vaccines and medicines are the result of hard work carried out by our scientists. Our research infrastructure, our approaches to epidemiology and our ways of managing the healthcare system have been developing over many decades. We owe the final result to the tremendous work contributed by many generations of professionals. And our current readiness to share these achievements is Russia’s contribution to protecting the health and well-being of humankind. I would just like to point out in this context that we have agreed to localise the manufacturing of Sputnik V outside the country, namely in Belarus, Brazil, India, Kazakhstan, China and also South Korea.
Likewise, our response measures to the pandemic have been adopted throughout the world. Specifically, I am referring to the creation of national response centres, the prompt drafting of relevant laws and the development of a network of diagnostic laboratories. Responding to the requests of our foreign partners, Russian doctors went to work in the CIS, as well as in Europe and Asia. We sent large batches of PPE, test kits, drugs and equipment to some of the countries.
Russia is taking an active part in global and regional measures against COVID-19. We are providing assistance to other countries on a bilateral basis and also through international organisations.
We have developed practical cooperation with the WHO for training medical personnel to deal with the pandemic. Russian specialists have joined a number of research and expert groups working under the auspices of that specialised UN agency.
However, double standards have been used against Russian scientific achievements from the very start. It is a fact that the absence of official EMA certification for several Western COVID-19 vaccines has not prevented Brussels from signing multi-billion contracts with their producers.
In addition to this, the European Commission has from the very beginning limited the list of “approved” suppliers to EU, US and UK companies. This is, obviously, unfair competition.
We are convinced that there must be no place for politics when people’s health and life are at stake. I really do hope that our EU partners will take this into account at the subsequent stages of considering Russia’s application.
Question: What is happening with the registration of Sputnik V in Europe? It looks as if they are trying to drag the process out for as long as possible. Are they protecting their own vaccine manufacturers?
Sergey Lavrov: Sputnik V is currently in undergoing a so-called rolling review at the European Medicines Agency (EMA). In April and May this year, EU experts visited the medical facilities in Moscow that took part in the clinical trials of the vaccine, as well as production facilities. EMA experts maintain direct working contact with the officials at the Russian Healthcare Ministry and the Ministry of Industry and Trade. According to available information, they have no complaints about our vaccine or its effectiveness. We hope that the process remains within the framework of a depoliticised, professional dialogue between the agencies concerned.
On the other hand, the rhetoric of some EU officials and states is becoming increasingly more aggressive as more countries start using Sputnik V. As of today, there are nearly 70 such countries, including eight in Europe – Hungary, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Moldova, San Marino, North Macedonia, Slovakia, Serbia and Montenegro. In the past, they spoke about being “careful,” whereas now they go as far as to call for closing the EU to Sputnik V and foreigners who have been vaccinated with it.
Question: Other countries responded to Russia’s help with political actions that are really reminiscent of the Cold War era and unfair competition. The French Foreign Ministry even urged other EU countries not to recognise the vaccines developed by Russia and China. Can you elaborate on what is going on and whether our Western partners will ever be able to change their political bias towards our country?
Sergey Lavrov: Like I mentioned, we have witnessed unjustified attacks made by a number of Western countries against Russian-made vaccines. At the same time, I would just like to point out the fact that the Russian Direct Investment Fund and experts from the Gamaleya National Centre of Epidemiology and Microbiology are promptly providing detailed answers to any specific questions.
Speaking of our French partners, they are addressing this exclusively scientific and humanitarian issue as a political matter. This position is starkly at odds with the approach that Paris stated earlier. We recall President Macron saying that the decision to register the Russian vaccine “will be based on scientific rather than political considerations.” My counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian stated that “if Sputnik V gets approved and certified by the European Medicines Agency and the French National Authority for Health, there will be no obstacles to rolling it out.”
Let me remind you that France was among the first countries with which we started a dialogue on this matter. In late November 2020, a delegation of French experts visited Russia and held talks with the RDIF and Gamaleya Centre’s top officials. They had an opportunity to learn more about Russia’s results concerning the coronavirus vaccines.
Question: The coronavirus epidemic has seriously affected not only people’s health but also the international situation and relations between countries. Have the basic partnership principles developed by Russia undergone any changes?
Sergey Lavrov: In the past 18 months, the epidemiological situation has affected all spheres of activity, without exception, including international affairs. However, in and of itself, the pandemic has catalysed global processes rather than changed the nature of relations between the countries. Primarily, it has catalysed the redistribution of forces on the international arena. In addition to this, non-Western centres of economic growth and political influence have boosted their profiles as part of the emerging multipolar order.
This turn of events does not suit everyone. Unwilling to recognise the new reality, the historical West is doing its best − often in a rude manner − to retain its leadership in global affairs. The new US administration has revivified the ideas of widespread dissemination of “democracy” and “liberal values.” The concept of the “rules-based order” which is, in fact, a new formula for building a unipolar, American-centric world, has gained currency.
We find this kind of confrontational and selfish behaviour, which has nothing in common with normal international communications, unacceptable. For its part, Russia has consistently advocated achieving broad-based agreements on peaceful and pragmatic cooperation between states based of generally recognised norms of international law with the central coordinating role of the UN and its Security Council.
Our diplomacy’s strategic goal is to ensure a favourable external environment for Russia’s dynamic development and improvement of our citizens’ well-being. Protecting the country’s sovereignty and national interests and ensuring its security from external challenges and threats is an integral part of this approach.
Our partnership principles have remained unchanged. Russia continues to pursue a peaceful, responsible and multi-vector foreign policy. In our actions, we rely on rational and objective analysis of the international situation. Based on this, we are developing mutually beneficial equal cooperation with most foreign countries and are open to a dialogue with any country that is interested in cooperating with us.
By the way, the success of the annual events held as part of the St Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) in June is an example of the steady high interest shown by the international business community in long-term operation in Russia. Despite the COVID-19 restrictions, 13,500 guests from 141 countries joined the SPIEF-2021 both in person and online. The most representative business delegations came from the United States, Germany, Italy and Finland. I believe that the statistics I have cited reflect the strategic commitment of foreign businesses towards mutually beneficial interaction with their Russian counterparts. It also clearly shows the vast potential for international cooperation which our country intends to fulfill on a pragmatic basis for the benefit of domestic development and global stability.
Question: You were nominated by the President as one of the top five leaders on the United Russia party’s electoral list. Elections are coming soon. Can you update us on the foreign observers’ status? Do you think the proposal of the Central Election Committee (CEC) and the Federal Service for the Oversight of Consumer Protection and Welfare (Rospotrebnadzor) to admit only vaccinated foreign observers is justified?
Sergey Lavrov: The matter of international observers’ presence at the State Duma elections is already in the works. Invitations are being sent out by various Russian agencies, including the CEC, the Foreign Ministry and the Federal Assembly, to name just a few.
Unfortunately, the pandemic has taken its toll on this area of cooperation between the states as well. It is my deeply held belief that health and safety of all the participants in this electoral process, including foreign observers, are of paramount importance. I would rely on Rospotrebnadzor’s professional opinion in matters of sanitary and epidemiological measures and restrictions.