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Old February 22nd, 2019 #21
Alex Him
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Briefing by Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova, Moscow, February 14, 2019

14 February 2019 - 15:50

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s bilateral meetings on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference

On February 15-16, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, as head of the Russian delegation, will participate in the 55th meeting of the Munich Security Conference.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will deliver keynote remarks during the main session of the Conference on February 16, where he will focus on building cooperation across a wide region from Greater Europe to Greater Eurasia and outline Russia’s principled approach to ensuring international security and global stability.

A busy schedule of political contacts, bilateral and multilateral meetings is expected on the sidelines of the Conference. Specifically, the meetings currently under negotiation include Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s bilateral meetings with foreign ministers of Germany Heiko Maas, South Korea Kang Kyung-wha, Belgium Didier Reynders, Pakistan Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Mongolia Damdin Tsogtbaatar, Armenia Zohrab Mnatsakanyan, Croatia Marija Pejcinovic Buric, Japan Taro Kono; Yang Jiechi, member of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and the PRC State Council; NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Libya Ghassan Salame and High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini.

The meetings are subject to change based on the parties’ schedules and time available. We will notify you promptly in case of any changes.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s talks with Minister Responsible for Foreign Affairs of Oman Yusuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah

On February 18, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will hold talks with Minister Responsible for Foreign Affairs of the Sultanate of Oman Yusuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah who will pay a working visit to Moscow.

During the talks, the foreign ministers of our countries will thoroughly discuss topical aspects with respect to further strengthening the traditionally friendly Russia-Oman relations. We proceed from the premise that gradual and consistent development of the multifaceted links meets the long-term interests of Moscow and Muscat and serves the purpose of ensuring peace as well as stability in the Persian Gulf and the Middle East in general.

The ministers will carefully analyse their views of the current developments in the Middle East and North Africa focusing on the importance of resolving regional conflicts through political and diplomatic means, through a mutually respectful dialogue and consideration for the interests and concerns of all the parties involved. In particular, the ministers will discuss the Palestine-Israeli conflict, the situations in Syria, Yemen and in the Persian Gulf.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s talks with OSCE Chairman-in-Office and Minister of Foreign and European Affairs of Slovakia Miroslav Lajcak

On February 19, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will hold talks with OSCE Chairman-in-Office and Minister of Foreign and European Affairs of Slovakia Miroslav Lajcak in Moscow.

During the talks, there are plans to discuss at length topical European matters, current OSCE activities and the organisation’s work plans for 2019.

The ministers will also look at aspects of bilateral relations, including the development of trade, economic and inter-parliamentary ties, as well as energy, transport, military-technical and cultural cooperation. In addition, they will touch upon topical international matters.

Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Zambia Joe Malanji’s visit to the Russian Federation

Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Zambia Joe Malanji will make a working visit to Moscow on February 19-21.

On February 20, he will hold talks with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. There are plans to discuss the state and prospects of the further sustained development of the traditionally friendly political, economic, scientific, technological, cultural and other ties between both countries (that will mark the 55th anniversary of diplomatic relations this year) during these talks.

The ministers will also review topical matters on the international agenda, including efforts to ensure Africa’s sustained socioeconomic development and to prevent and resolve conflict situations on the African continent.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s participation in an international scientific and practical conference commemorating Vitaly Churkin

On February 20, the hall of ceremonies at the Foreign Ministry’s Diplomatic Academy (53/2 Building 1, Ostozhenka Street, second floor) will host an international scientific and practical conference commemorating Russia’s Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Vitaly Churkin. The event will be held in the form of a plenary meeting and a panel discussion dealing with new challenges and threats, as well as the potential of diplomacy.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, President of the Republic of South Ossetia Anatoly Bibilov, Chair of the Russian State Duma’s Committee on International Affairs Leonid Slutsky, Ambassador of the Republic of Serbia to Russia Slavenko Terzic, Chair of the Department of External Church Relations at the Moscow Patriarchate Metropolitan Hilarion, Acting Diplomatic Academy Rector Mikhail Troyansky, other state officials and public activists, as well as members of Vitaly Churkin’s family, will take part in the event.

A book on Vitaly Churkin, published by the Moscow Patriarchate, will be presented at the event.

We invite Russian and foreign media outlets to this event.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s talks with Foreign Minister of Cyprus Nikos Christodoulides

On February 21-22, Foreign Minister of the Republic of Cyprus Nikos Christodoulides will be in Russia on a working visit, during which he will hold talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

The officials will discuss the current state and prospects of cooperation between Russia and Cyprus, as well as some current issues of bilateral cooperation. The ministers will compare notes on a wide range of international and regional issues of mutual interest, including the Cyprus settlement and the situation in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s meeting with members of Association of European Businesses in the Russian Federation

On February 22, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will address members of the Association of European Businesses in the Russian Federation, which brings together over 500 companies and banks from the EU member states, the European Free Trade Association, and from other states operating in Russia. Meetings in such a format are held on a regular basis, with the most recent one held in October 2017, and have become a long-standing tradition.

The discussion will focus on the current state of relations between the Russian Federation and the European Union, as well as their prospects.

Following his address, the Foreign Minister will answer questions from the audience.

Syria update

Syria is an issue that remains relevant. At the same time, considering busy schedule of the Russian leadership and the talks with partners to be held in Sochi today, I will comment on this very briefly. The main updates on this issue will be released following the Astana Format summit.

New evidence that the incident in the Syrian town of Douma on April 7, 2018 was a staged event

I would like to draw your attention to the latest media and social media articles that are focusing on the events in the Syrian town of Douma on April 7, 2018, which have been making headlines since yesterday.

At that time, a fake event that took place in a sovereign state, the Syrian Arab Republic, an incident that was egregious and outlandish in nature and scope, led to the Western coalition delivering a massive missile attack. We debunked the falsification, explained how it was done and described the sad results. These materials are available on the Foreign Ministry’s official website.

Now even staunch proponents who promoted the justification and proportionality of the Western coalition’s actions, are no longer able to continue to play this role. The masks have been removed and continue to be removed.

Russia was persistent in its calls to look into the situation, to conduct a proper investigation using generally accepted and legitimate international mechanisms before taking any actual steps, but the West shamelessly hid behind "eyewitness accounts" that allegedly left no doubt that the Syrian government had used chemical weapons against its citizens. The fact that these “eyewitnesses” were, in fact, pseudo-humanitarian activists from the White Helmets, who collaborate with terrorist groups and are funded by quasi-government Western entities, as has always been the case, did not come as a surprise to anyone then. The facts of the matter were totally ignored. Instead, the information space was filled with bellicose rhetoric by the same politicians and officials who demanded, as always, to severely punish Bashar al-Assad and Russia which supports him.

Unfortunately, our prediction came true with respect to our statement that it would no longer be possible to hide the facts and it would turn out that it really was a staged event, and that everyone who, inadvertently or consciously, took part in it, would recognise this as fact.

Today's publications are precisely the elements that we mentioned last year. All of this suggests that, unfortunately, over the years we have been witnessing a tragic farce performed by the Western community and the media, which, on the one hand, talk about lofty democratic goals and allegedly care about the people of a sovereign state, but, on the other hand, spit on the law, international law and freedoms and the rights of an individual nation and specific persons.

I’ll give you several examples. Independent US reporters James Harkin conducted his own detailed investigation into what happened in Douma. We can’t say that his findings are totally unambiguous and that we just accept them as they are or endorse them. We simply draw attention to his key finding, which is that a potent chemical agent - the poisonous nerve agent sarin - was not used in Douma, and the footage from the Douma hospital that served as the basis for a military strike on Syria was fabricated.

This “theatre of the absurd” culminated in BBC producer Riam Dalati who, based on his research, confirmed the staged nature of the footage with the direct participation of White Helmets. We would like to hear what the BBC has to say about this, as it actively covered these events in its news. The materials were also unambiguously supportive of the US-led “coalition’s” actions in Syria. What is there to say, if BBC producers admit the staged nature of the incident based on their own investigation?

All of this not only reminds us of, but accurately reproduces the events surrounding Iraq before the aggression against a sovereign state, when Colin Powell, holding the notorious vial in his hand in the UN Security Council, similarly convinced the international community that it was necessary to save Iraq, the Iraqi people and democracy. And if not to save, then at least return it to the Iraqis. This is the same thing. Nothing new. One can only wonder how low these politicians can stoop.

I would like to reiterate that we have repeatedly, using the example of Douma and other events, pointed out that, as a rule, with the latest technology, the truth always emerges within a period of six to 12 months. However, one can accomplish much during this time. This, I think, is what the Western countries, that were plotting their schemes, this time in Syria, were counting on.

I would also like to remind everyone that, on April 26, 2018, Russia and Syria held a news conference at the OPCW with the participation of civilians who unwittingly became actors in a play staged by the White Helmets. Among them was a six-year-old boy named Hassan Diab. The victims of the provocation went to The Hague specifically to provide a firsthand account based on their experience, to tell everyone who was really interested in hearing the truth, what actually happened in Douma. In the presence of dozens of delegations from the OPCW member countries, they described in detail how the White Helmets recorded the video and what kind of equipment they used. The audience could ask questions, and they should have no doubt that it had been a staged event that was produced and directed with civilians.

I would also like to remind everyone that representatives of the United States, France, Great Britain, NATO and the overwhelming majority of the EU countries, as well as some Asian allies of the United States, did not come. We are well aware of this approach to addressing international issues.

Just look at Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov’s recent meeting with the diplomatic corps to discuss INF-related matters. It was a hands-on meeting, which lasted several hours and provided an opportunity to ask any question and get an exhaustive answer. This meeting was ignored by many leading countries that play a major part in these matters. This is classic. This in-your-face boycott is also part of a staged performance.

We are not done yet with this issue and will be revisiting it on a regular basis.

Update on Venezuela

The situation in Venezuela, which is trying to uphold its statehood, independence and sovereignty, continues to be aggravated by external pressure and a growing number of provocative statements. With Washington’s unprecedented obsession with the need to overthrow the legitimate government of a sovereign state, disregarding the norms and principles of international law, the range of the so-called options under consideration continues to shrink In effect, the matter comes down to acting on an idee fixe – a coup d’etat in a single country and the overthrow of its lawful leader that is supported by the people and the army. One gets the impression that the verdict “he must go” is permanently on Washington’s table. Only the names are different, but the principles and methods remain the same. They are simply used in new geographical locations of our planet.

The hasty formation of parallel government structures fails to achieve the desired effect. The number of participants in anti-government rallies is below the plan. The use of resources does not help consolidate the domestic opposition. The international support for the self-proclaimed authorities is rapidly taking on numerous nuances of the positions of sovereign states. There is every indication that the White House has opted in Venezuela for a scenario of an acute confrontation with the use of force.

All methods of information and psychological pressure are being used: from manipulation and provocative information attacks to the fanning of hatred. The main target is the armed forces of the Bolivarian Republic. Massive brainwashing of personnel continues. The Venezuelan military are openly urged to stage a rebellion. High-ranking officials from Washington are calling on the armed forces of another state to side with its new political leadership. What moral right does the US have after this to discourse about democracy and legal foundations either within an individual state or in the international arena? None at all.

Literally the other day (February 11) Senator Rubio presented a “personal ultimatum” to six Venezuelan generals, including the defence minister, and the commanders of the Ground Forces, the Army and the Navy. The US Senator promised the Venezuelan generals pardon and immunity from sanctions of the Venezuelan opposition parliament for “the surrender” of their supreme commander-in-chief. This is some kind of computer graphics. Puppets are real dolls that can be touched, but this is simply a virtual fairy tale that some politicians want to bring to life.

All this is taking place against the backdrop of toughening sanctions so as to explain inside and outside Venezuela that its people must be saved from hunger and cold. After all, it is necessary to explain to the democratic forces throughout the world why Washington is so concerned over the situation in Venezuela. People are suffering. Sophisticated unilateral restrictions are not only undermining the oil industry, which is the backbone of the Venezuelan economy, but are also leading to the rapid degradation of the financial and socioeconomic situation, marginalisation of society and eventually, the destruction of Venezuelan statehood. Could US economists, politicians, and, most important, journalists be unaware of this? Not in the least. They see all of this and cover it up.

What Washington wants to do with Venezuelan economic and financial assets, primarily with PDVSA in its sanctions frenzy could be described as “the seizure of the century.” This is not just the imposition of coercive unilateral measures in defiance of international law but a clear signal to everyone: the US can do what it feels like doing with the property and assets of any country at its own discretion. This is the market economy for you, free trade and opposition to protectionism. In this case we are seeing the raid of an entire state.

They went as far as to predict that Russia and some other countries will be denied the return of loans to Venezuela. Indicatively, these threats are made in Washington whereas Venezuelan opposition leaders emphasise in every way their willingness to honour their commitments to international creditors if they come to power. Russia is directly mentioned as one of the creditors.

I am bound to speak about the international humanitarian aid that is being imposed on Caracas. It would seem that helping people and providing humanitarian aid is a good thing. But it only seems like this at first glance to those who do not understand how it is being made up and supplied and what stands behind it. We are hearing that Russia is allegedly against humanitarian relief for Venezuela and that its draft resolution in the UN Security Council is ostensibly aimed at derailing the humanitarian actions planned by the US and its allies. This is not the case. This is a lie and an attempt to divert attention from the fact that the US draft resolution in the UN Security Council is aimed at covering up planned provocations that are obscured by humanitarian aid with a view to destabilising the situation in Venezuela and probably building a pretext for military interference. We have seen these scenarios at work in other countries. Recall the saga on the delivery of humanitarian relief, with supposed good intentions, to various other countries, including those in the Middle East and North Africa.

The Red Cross openly announced that the planned action has nothing in common with humanitarian aid and publicly distanced itself from participation in this more than dubious project. It has refused to take part in what it does not consider humanitarian aid.

Russia stands for a respectful attitude towards the UN mechanisms for providing humanitarian relief to Venezuela. All issues related to humanitarian aid should be resolved in accordance with universally accepted international procedures and via lawful channels, including the UN office in Caracas and other humanitarian organisations. The International Committee of the Red Cross has already announced its willingness to cooperate with Russia on the Venezuelan track.

We categorically object to any attempts to politicise the issue of humanitarian aid to Venezuela and to use it to cover up the manipulation of public opinion and to mobilise anti-government forces for a coup. We know what goals the Americans are pursuing in handing out their cookies and what tragic consequences this could lead to. There are many examples to this effect.

And yet, it would be interesting to ask the organisers of the US humanitarian mission about their goals. Is it to help the people of Venezuela? Are you serious? After all, this is yet another very dirty provocation. If you insist that this is aid it would be logical to provide it via specialized UN mechanisms dealing with humanitarian support, which follow principles of objectivity, neutrality, independence and humanity. But if this is what we are taking about, we have another confirmation of our version of this from the current events in the city of Cucuta. So, let’s not delude ourselves. A provocation with victims is being prepared under the cover of a humanitarian convoy to create a pretext for the use of outside force. Absolutely everyone should be in the know about this. It seems that the organisers have miscalculated again. Armed intervention is a red line for all of Latin America and the rest of the world that considers itself civilised.

We deem it necessary to abstain from any actions and statements that can provoke an escalation of tension in Venezuela, in part, from any appeals to the armed forces of Venezuela, which may involve them in a domestic civil confrontation.

We continue to repeat that the task of the international community is to help the various political forces in Venezuela find an understanding.

We have paid much attention to the formula of mediation suggested by Mexico, Uruguay and the CARICOM countries in the Montevideo Mechanism format that envisages a comprehensive and inclusive dialogue without ultimatums and preconditions. We believe this initiative and the form in which it was announced deserve broad international support. In this context, Russia would be ready to join any mediation efforts with a view to overcoming the crisis in Venezuela.

In conclusion, I would like to say a few words about Russia’s efforts in this area. We are maintaining the broadest possible contacts on the Venezuelan issue. We are consistently explaining our position to the US, among others. But these are not the consultations mentioned by the media in quoting Elliot Abrams’s speech in US Congress yesterday. Honestly, it is unclear what he meant. Please be more attentive when translating into Russian.

Let me recall that the day before yesterday Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov spoke over the telephone with US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo at the latter’s initiative. During the conversation he warned against any external interference in Venezuelan affairs. The question is what the US wants. If it wants Russia to change its position, this is not possible because it is not based on considerations of expediency. Russia proceeds from international law and state sovereignty based on the principles of the UN Charter. This is the vein in which we are ready to talk with anyone, including our US partners.

Report by Bundestag’s legal service on the situation in Venezuela

The legal service division of the Bundestag, the lower chamber of the German parliament that we referred to, released an expert opinion on Venezuela. The authors argue that matters related to choosing and appointing a head of state fall within the exclusive purview of domestic actors, while a decision by outside forces to recognise an individual as the head of state does not make the new government legitimate and cannot be used to determine whether the government is constitutional or unconstitutional.

This leads the authors to the firm conclusion that a foreign government’s recognition of an interim head of state constitutes interference in the country’s domestic affairs. Let me emphasise that this was the conclusion made not by individual politicians, but by the legal service of the German parliament’s lower chamber.

The authors explicitly equated the threat of military intervention to the threat of force against another country, which is a blatant violation of the UN Charter.

In addition, a threat against a head of state is regarded as a physical threat that undermines the political independence of a state, which runs counter to the principle of sovereign equality.

This report is telling. I believe there was no need to convene a meeting of some legal service to come to this conclusion, even though it is the sovereign right of any country to order and release reports of this kind. After all, there should be no doubt as to what is happening in Venezuela. At the same time, the developments in Iraq, Syria, Libya and Serbia could also have seemed quite obvious, but still the international community and many other countries that view themselves as civilised nations and that position themselves as “democracies” rather than “regimes” supported actions that were directly at odds with international law.

Tampered reports on Russia’s approach to upcoming trilateral consultations with Australia and the Netherlands on MH17 crash

Earlier this year, both during our briefings and on the Foreign Ministry’s website (comment of February 11), our ministry published materials on preparing tripartite consultations with Australia and the Netherlands on the MH17 crash. Many Russian and foreign media outlets ran reports which, unfortunately, distorted the point of our discussions (whether they did so deliberately or not is a question for those who wrote them). I have a feeling that it was possibly done deliberately because the authors never contacted us for comments.

One gets the impression that the commentators who wrote on this topic either missed the point of what we published, or loosely interpreted it, or worse, deliberately distorted our position.

Notably, the comment during the January 11 briefing was a reaction to earlier remarks from the Netherlands the about diplomatic contacts on tripartite consultations. In this regard, I believe that the statements by some journalists that Russia was the first to speak publicly about planning the talks, have nothing to do with reality. Actually, Australia and the Netherlands, without waiting for the end of the investigation, accused Russia of being involved in the crash and demanded a consultation in the form of an ultimatum. However, they wanted to discuss legal consequences for Russia arising from this unsubstantiated accusation.

I will go over this again, although it’s strange to do so, given the amount of related material and information that we have released. I really want to clarify this issue. Russia agreed to hold these consultations only after the Hague and Canberra officially confirmed in a diplomatic note their willingness to discuss the range of issues related to investigating the MH17 crash, including the question of the responsibility of the state in whose airspace the crash occurred, as well as the use of data transmitted by Russia to the Joint Investigation Team. To reiterate, this is not about some behind-the-scenes meeting, but a well-documented correspondence and the express consent of the two above states.

Loose interpretation of the statements by the Foreign Ministry that, allegedly, Russia, by agreeing to consultations, demonstrated its willingness to admit its responsibility for the Malaysian airliner crash, is a fantasy, and a far-fetched one at that. This also applies to the reasoning behind the possibility of discussing some kind of compensation as “atonement” during the consultations. This is all misleading news that is being reported to create a negative information environment.

It is also being reported that the “substantive and professional discussion” that our delegation plans to have in Vienna should have begun four years ago. Maybe interns can get away with this kind of reporting, but it is inadmissible for professional commentators, political analysts and reporters who are familiar with the subject to do their jobs like this.

Hold on, but what has Russia been doing for the past four years? All this time, we have tried to reach out to the other side, to offer our assistance in the investigations, both technical and criminal, that are being carried out now under the auspices of the Dutch Prosecutor's Office.

Russia has declassified technical data that was classified at a time, whereas the Netherlands, hiding behind its laws, is still in no hurry to share information with anyone, and declines to provide any information even to its own deputies or media.

For a long time now, we’ve been trying in vain to find out how the investigating authorities use the data files transmitted to them which were of fundamental importance in establishing the truth, and to what extent they took into account the comments provided by Russia regarding the methodology in the investigation. In response, there was either total silence, or statements to the effect that the materials had been examined, but that they had no value as they contradicted the investigation’s main known line with an accusatory bias towards the Donbass militia and Russia.

We consider the upcoming meeting with Australia and the Netherlands as an opportunity and another attempt to ask questions that we have and discuss the course of the investigation into the flight MH17 crash in a dialogue with direct communication between the parties. Please do not engage in manipulation or fake interpretation. We are ready to answer questions and provide clarifications online. However, when we publish anything on this subject, our materials are never analyzed or made available to the general public. On the contrary, details are being pulled out of the context, facts are distorted, and they are used to float some thought into the information space that has nothing to do with reality.

Head of Netherlands General Intelligence and Security Service, Dick Schoof’s hand in “editing” МН17 crash report

I would like to say a few words on a subject indirectly concerning the case of flight МН17.

An investigation by Dutch journalists has revealed that Dick Schoof abused his office on several occasions. Schoof is the current head of the Netherlands’ General Intelligence and Security Service, and was previously the National Coordinator for Security and Counterterrorism who was responsible for coordination between various government agencies.

Dutch journalists have established that in 2015 Schoof used his administrative influence for the government’s benefit to adjust the conclusions made in a report by University of Twente experts on the efficiency of the Dutch authorities’ response to the tragedy of 17 July 2014. What is surprising is that the survey had been ordered by the Netherlands’ cabinet with a view to identifying bottlenecks in the crisis reaction system and was supposed to be strictly independent and unbiased.

However, Schoof did not like the government being criticised, and thus interfered in the report by instructing the experts to edit the document and remove the negative conclusions from the final version of the document.

Although this story has no direct bearing on the МН17 crash investigation, it vividly demonstrates the credibility of the statements by the Dutch authorities on their noninterference in the independent investigation conducted by the Joint Investigative Team. The methodology is now clear.

Update on the investigation of organ trafficking in Kosovo

As is known, in 2017, a Special Court to investigate the Kosovo Liberation Army’s war crimes related, among other things, to the kidnapping of people in order to extract their organs to subsequently sell them on the black market, was established in The Hague under the auspices of the European Union. The idea of creating the court was prompted by PACE member Dick Marty’s report released in 2010.

However, there is no evidence that the court’s activities have produced any results. No charges whatsoever have been brought so far. At the same time, it transpired that former ICTY (International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia) prosecutor Geoffrey Nice has been invited to defend Kosovars in the Special Court. How does that look from an ethical viewpoint? In his recent interview, Dick Marty said he feared that the Albanian Kosovars’ leaders linked to the crimes might not be brought to justice.

We believe that it is unacceptable to keep silent about the cruel crimes committed in Kosovo. The international community must keep a close eye on illegal trafficking in human organs because it affects the reputation of international justice and the European Union as a guarantor for the fulfillment by the Special Court of its functions. All people involved [in the crimes] must be given severe sentences, regardless of the posts they are currently holding in Pristina.

Update on Roman Seleznyov

The situation evolving around Russian national Roman Seleznyov is giving rise to serious concern. He was kidnapped by American intelligence services in 2014 in the Maldives and was convicted and sentenced to 27 years in prison in the United States on charges of theft of funds via the internet.

Here I will make a comment that from the legal point of view might not sound absolutely correct. Of course, people should not be kidnapped, all the more so if legal boundaries are overstepped in doing so. If the US practices this, why don’t they kidnap suspects involved in human organ trafficking? Those are heinous crimes. Just imagine that people were kidnapped, their organs were extracted and then sold. These criminals have received, among others, quite a few orders from customers in Europe under the all-seeing eye of the democratic countries. There is no keen interest in this issue, in particular in Washington. At the same time, Russians are being hunted down on various fictitious, concocted charges that are obviously blown out of proportion and that do not deserve much attention.

Russian diplomats in Washington regularly visit our countryman. During the last visit it transpired that despite serious health problems, prison authorities are not providing medical aid. They have also refused to transfer him to another detention facility where he could undergo a comprehensive health check-up.

Roman Seleznyov must comply with special security requirements, say, he must appear at a security check-point every two hours from 6 am through 8 pm. This even prevents him from taking his meals normally. He is denied access to e-mail.

Of course, we have pointed out the unacceptability of the situation to US prison authorities and have demanded that things be promptly put straight. A diplomatic note was forwarded to the US State Department in this respect.

We must note with regret that not only Roman Seleznyov but also many other Russian nationals who remain in American prisons have experienced this cruel and discriminatory treatment. We also see this arbitrary behaviour regarding, in particular, Konstantin Yaroshenko, Viktor Bout and Maria Butina. As for us, we will continue taking all possible measures to defend their rights and legitimate interests.

Canadian Foreign Ministry’s refusal to provide accreditation to Sputnik and RIA Novosti correspondents for the Lima Group meeting in Ottawa

On February 4, the Canadian Foreign Ministry refused RIA Novosti and Sputnik correspondents accreditation to the extraordinary meeting of the Lima Group in Ottawa, where developments in Venezuela were discussed.

No reason was stated in the official letter sent from the Canadian Foreign Ministry to the Russian news agencies. Answering the additional question, Richard Walker, Foreign Ministry spokesman and Lima Group press service representative, based the accreditation denial to Sputnik’s correspondent on the claim that the agency “had not been amiable” with Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland in the past. No official comment was provided for the accreditation denial to RIA Novosti’s correspondent.

Canada’s actions towards Russian journalists are an act of open discrimination and a rude violation of common media rights and freedoms as well as violations of the principle of equal access to information for everyone. Once again we see how the democratic values that the West, including official Ottawa, values so highly, are forgotten for timeserving political interests.

We ask any interested international agencies and human rights non-government organisations to note this incident. Of course, we will send the relevant materials to international organisations.

19th Winter Diplomatic Games

On February 16, the 19th Winter Diplomatic Games will be held at the Moscow Country Club, a branch of the Foreign Ministry’s Main Administration for Service to the Diplomatic Corps (GlavUpDK).

Per tradition, the event will be attended by heads and staff of diplomatic missions accredited in Russia, senior officials from the Foreign Ministry and GlavUpDK, and famous Russian athletes and cultural figures.

First Deputy Chair of the State Duma Committee on International Affairs, Olympic champion Svetlana Zhurova, Olympic champion in sabre fencing Sofya Velikaya and the iconic Soviet fencer and Olympic champion Galina Gorokhova, and many others are expected to attend.

Almost 40 teams from diplomatic missions are expected to compete in the biathlon, hockey, skiing, table tennis, pool and futsal.

An interesting cultural programme that includes Russian cuisine food tasting has been prepared for guests at the Moscow Country Club.

We invite representatives of Russian and foreign media to cover the event.

Details are available on the GlavUpDK’s website.

Answers to media questions:


There have been no reports recently on any public contacts between Moscow and the National Transitional Council in Tripoli. Does this mean that Moscow currently prioritises contacts with Khalifa Haftar?

Maria Zakharova:

Regarding the peace process in Libya, Russia’s position is well known and remains unchanged as well as being extremely consistent. We proceed from the premise that efforts to restore the Libyan state must by based on a broad national dialogue, consensus and conciliation. Russia seeks to facilitate this process through mediation efforts, and maintains dialogue with all the interested structures that want this country to recover. I cannot say that our contacts are biased or imbalanced in any way. We regularly publish information on the Foreign Ministry’s website on corresponding discussions with representatives of the Libyan sides, as well as with international mediators, i.e. countries that care about the future of Libya. For this reason, I do not think that there is any imbalance in our contacts.


Could you please comment on the developments in the south of Libya where Khalifa Haftar’s forces restored control over oil fields, which resulted in the accusation against the head of the Libyan National Army in genocide?

Maria Zakharova:

The state has been dismantled, and the government agencies vested with authority to protect public order and security have yet to be restored. What you are asking is more of a rhetorical statement rather than an actual question. Of course, we hope that the moment comes when the Libyan statehood is restored, but there is still a long way to go.


The US Senate intends to slap new sanctions on Russia that deal with the country’s debt and finances related to the President of Russia Vladimir Putin. Could you comment on this situation?

Maria Zakharova:

We usually say in situations like this that it is a clinical case. From a more serious perspective, considering all the things the US did in recent years, just over one decade, and even without going deep into history, it is high time that the US Senate and Congress think about sanctioning themselves and their politicians. Just look at the extent of destruction they caused! Take the previous question on Libya. Was anyone, US politicians included, ever held accountable for what happened?

It was reported two weeks ago that a district judge somewhere in the US ordered the Syrian government to pay millions of dollars, about $300 million in fact, in damages for violating the rights of a US journalist when she worked in Syria. I have a question: could hundreds of thousands of people from Iraq and Syria also bring their cases to this judge and claim damages from the US government, maybe smaller sums of money, but at least several tens of thousands of dollars each, for destruction caused by US politicians in their countries? These new perorations by would-be US lawmakers are simply impossible to fathom. They can be hardly called lawmakers because people who draft laws must be well versed in international, as well as domestic law.

On a more serious note, the question that is pertinent when it comes to this situation is when and how the American society will look at the crimes committed by the US on the international arena. Just having a military presence in a sovereign state without its authorisation is already regarded as a crime in terms of international law. Senators and members of Congress should have started with this trivial legal matter before trying to address any questions that are beyond their reach anyway.


Would Russia accept a Turkey-controlled safe zone in Syria east of the Euphrates? On what condition would Russia approve this Turkish proposal?

Maria Zakharova:

I already asked you today to wait patiently for detailed comments on Syria. We are waiting for news from Sochi, including on the issue you mentioned. At the same time, I would like to remind you that the deployment of foreign troops and the activities of third countries in sovereign states, in this case, Syria, is the competence of the country’s government and must be decided by Damascus. This is our position of principle.


First Deputy Speaker of the Verkhovna Rada Irina Gerashchenko said at the latest round of talks on Donbass, which were held in Minsk yesterday, that Russia must withdraw from Debaltsevo together with military equipment and immediately invalidate the results of the “pseudo-elections” held in the Donetsk and Lugansk people’s republics. She said that Russia was behaving like a thug in a St Petersburg backstreet, claiming that Russia is not present there. According to OSCE Chairperson-in-Office Miroslav Lajcak, there are no Russian troops in Donbass. Can you comment on this statement by a Ukrainian official?

Maria Zakharova:

I can say that it is yet another case of offensive behaviour of the Kiev politicians who are unable to settle internal conflicts, consolidate society or move forward with their reforms. This insolent statement was made to justify their failure in all spheres to the Ukrainian people. This is the only possible explanation.

As for the second part of your question, it has become a trend to blame everything on Russia, but the Kiev regime is doing this more often, more insolently and more inventively than others.


The presidential election will be held in Ukraine on March 31. I have a technical question. If the Ukrainian people are allowed to freely make their choice and elect the president, and if Poroshenko loses his political and diplomatic immunity, can he be prosecuted for his crimes?

Maria Zakharova:

I believe that this question should be addressed to Ukraine as well. What does Russia have to do with this? You should ask Ukrainian officials. There are many law enforcement agencies and people who make bold statements, such as the ones you have cited. I believe they will be able to reply to this question.

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Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s opening remarks during talks with Minister Responsible for Foreign Affairs of Oman Yusuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah, Moscow, February 18, 2019

18 February 2019 - 12:34

Mr Minister, dear friend,


We welcome you to the Foreign Ministry.

We are traditionally linked by time-proven, mutually-friendly relations. Political dialogue is one of the integral parts of this. It has a constructive, confidential nature, allowing us to exchange views on a wide range of subjects of mutual interest, and to develop common approaches.

Today, we are planning to discuss future objectives in the sphere of developing our bilateral relations that are largely on the upswing. Of course, the situation in the Middle East calls for a thorough comparison of notes on key regional issues. I am sure that this will benefit us, and I look forward to having a productive discussion.

The source of information -

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks and answers to media questions at a joint news conference following talks with Minister Responsible for Foreign Affairs of the Sultanate of Oman Yousuf bin Alawi, Moscow, February 18, 2019

18 February 2019 - 14:11

Our talks were very good.

We discussed the entire range of topics related to Russian-Omani relations. We pointed out that our ties have been traditionally amicable and we spoke in favour of their further development.

We expressed a high opinion of the level of our political dialogue and expressed mutual interest in stimulating our inter-parliamentary cooperation. We noted that a visit to Moscow which Chairman of the Omani State Council Yahya bin Mahfoudh al-Mantheri plans to make this year at the invitation of Federation Council Speaker Valentina Matviyenko would be a big step towards this.

We noted the positive development of mutual trade, which increased by over 60 per cent in 2018, although there is still much to do in absolute figures. We agreed to give an impetus to our ties in the field of investment, energy, information technology, mining and agriculture.

We launched direct flights between Moscow and Muscat in October 2018. Together with Oman’s initiative to liberalise visa requirements for Russian citizens, this has certainly helped expand business and tourist exchanges. Today we reminded our Omani colleagues about our proposal for signing an intergovernmental agreement on visa-free travel for our citizens on a regular basis.

We are alarmed by the negative developments in the Middle East and North Africa. We believe that it is necessary to promote a constructive and unifying agenda in the region, to remove dividing lines and to join efforts for a consolidated response to threats and challenges. These are the underlying principles of the Russian concept of security in the Persian Gulf, which we advanced some time ago and which our Omani partners supported.

We have a common stand on Syria. There is no alternative to UN Security Council Resolution 2254. It should be implemented without exception. In this context, we updated our counterparts on the efforts taken towards this end by Russia, Turkey and Iran as the guarantor countries of the Astana format, including on the outcome of the fourth summit of the three countries held in Sochi on February 14. We believe that the attainment of this goal can be facilitated by the normalisation of Syria’s relations with the other Arab countries and its return to the Arab League.

We are concerned about the atmosphere at the talks on the Middle East settlement. We see obvious attempts to revise the accepted international legal principles of the peace process in the Middle East. We believe that it is of crucial importance that all the members of the international community confirm their commitment to the relevant resolutions of the UN General Assembly and Security Council, as well as to the Arab Peace Initiative. In light of these problems, it is extremely important for the Palestinians to show strength and responsibility in order to consolidate their forces. We are doing our best to facilitate this. In particular, we informed our Omani colleagues about last week’s consultations held in Moscow between the main Palestinian groups.

We confirmed our high assessment of the prudent and balanced position based on international law which the Sultanate of Oman has on the majority of regional topics, including the Yemeni settlement where Oman has an important conciliatory mission.

I am grateful to my colleague, Minister Responsible for Foreign Affairs of the Sultanate of Oman Yousuf bin Alawi, for our teamwork, which we will continue during a working breakfast.


What indicates the effectiveness of Russian-Omani cooperation on Yemen?

Sergey Lavrov:

Just like Oman, Russia has called for a political and diplomatic solution based on an inclusive dialogue between all the Yemeni forces since the very beginning of the conflict. We maintain contacts with all these political forces, trying to keep them away from the temptation of using armed force against each other and to convince them to launch talks under UN auspices and in keeping with the ideas proposed by UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths.

In particular, both sides welcomed the consultations held by the concerned parties in Stockholm in December 2018 and the agreements they reached. Russia helped the formalisation of these agreements at the UN Security Council. They stipulate that the conflicting parties withdraw their troops from the port of Hodeida so that the port’s facilities can be used for civilian purposes, as well as exchange hostages and prisoners.

We welcomed the offer made by Oman together with Kuwait to provide aircraft for the delivery of these persons to the exchange area.

Unfortunately, the implementation of the Stockholm agreements has faltered. Such things happened before. We are working together with our Omani colleagues and other countries taking part in the efforts to facilitate the political process, trying to convince the sides to resume the implementation of these agreements.

Whatever the situation, we must do our best to ensure the unhindered delivery of humanitarian aid to all those who are in need of it in Yemen.


US President Donald Trump has called on European countries to take back over 800 ISIS fighters captured east of the Euphrates, adding that the alternative is that the US will be forced to release them. Is it legal to demand that terrorists are returned to their home countries? Are we ready to take back Russian citizens if there are any among these 800 ISIS fighters?

Sergey Lavrov:

These people are suspected foreign terrorist fighters (FTFs). This is how they are defined in a relevant UN Security Council resolution, which provides a clear list of steps to be taken with regard to FTFs who are captured by the countries that are fighting terrorists. We must comply with these provisions. The first step that must be taken by all means is to ensure transparency and to provide the data for these persons.

In the past, the United States moved the suspected terrorists captured in the region, in particular, in Afghanistan and other countries, to the Guantanamo Bay detention facility in Cuba, where these persons were kept for years without trial (by the way, the US has not replied to our request about a Russian citizen kept there), or delivered them to secret CIA prisons in Eastern Europe. The latter led to a major scandal, which was quickly stifled, though. So, first we must analyse the matter, because the United States might take diametrically opposite steps in such a situation.

Overall, apart from setting up prisons for terrorists, the United States has done a lot of other damage east of the Euphrates, which we will have to clear up. It won’t be an easy job. The problem concerns military bases and the weapons delivered to the Kurds. For example, these bases and weapons cause serious concern in Turkey. But the biggest problem there, is the illegal de-confliction zone in al-Tanf, where the Americans train fighters for subsequent operations in Syria and where the notorious Rukban refugee camp is located. The refugees should have long been moved from Rukban, as the Syrian government and Russia have been urging. But the United States and the US-sponsored extremists who control the camp prohibit the refugees from leaving. I hope that the UN employees who recently accompanied the second UN aid convoy to Rukban and could see that something is very wrong there will provide the necessary information to the UN Security Council.

The source of information -

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s opening remarks at talks with OSCE Chairperson-in-Office and Minister of Foreign and European Affairs of the Slovak Republic Miroslav Lajcak, Moscow, February 19, 2019

19 February 2019 - 12:08

Mr Minister, my dear Miroslav,


I am delighted to welcome you to Moscow within the framework of Slovakia’s 2019 OSCE Chairmanship. We met in October 2018 when you were preparing to take over as the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office, and today we have met with you in your new capacity as the head of the world’s largest regional organisation by the number of member countries.

Slovakia assumed the OSCE chairmanship at a difficult time when many traditional instruments for ensuring strategic stability are being eroded. There are many unsettled conflicts, including in the OSCE area. Regrettably, we have not done away with the threat of terrorism, drug trafficking and illegal immigration. A serious battle is being waged in global trade, sometimes in violation of the accepted rules, and we see continued interference in the internal affairs of states, including European members of the OSCE.

We hope that your experience of government and international work, including at the UN, will help you rally the efforts of the OSCE member states towards finding the best solutions to the current problems and towards ensuring forward movement in all spheres where the member states have reached consensus, which is the fundamental OSCE principle.

You have a tight schedule. We know that you have recently visited Ukraine. We hope that you will share your opinion with us and that we will also discuss the initiatives you have advanced as the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office, which we support, in principle. Our talks will certainly be interesting and fruitful.

Once again, welcome to Moscow.

The source of information -

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's remarks and answers to media questions at a joint news conference following the talks with Slovakia's Foreign and European Affairs Minister and OSCE Chairperson-in-Office Miroslav Lajcak, Moscow, February 19, 2019

19 February 2019 - 13:23

Ladies and gentlemen,

I had substantive and useful talks with Slovakia’s Foreign Minister Miroslav Lajcak who arrived in Moscow as the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office.

The OSCE should actively facilitate the restoration of trust in the Euro-Atlantic area and the search for adequate answers to common challenges, and we are behind this. In this context, we support the consolidation of its unifying potential and enhancing its role in international affairs. We are convinced that “the building of a free, democratic, common and indivisible security community from Vancouver to Vladivostok” as set forth at the OSCE summit in Astana in 2010 should remain our common strategic goal.

We discussed in detail the main tasks in the three dimensions of OSCE activity and opportunities to streamline the functioning of its executive structures and field presence. We reviewed a number of OSCE administrative, budget and personnel issues.

For our part, we reaffirmed Russia’s interest in close cooperation with the current chairmanship in what are key areas for the OSCE, such as countering terrorism, drug trafficking and cyber threats, interconnecting integration processes, protecting traditional values, ensuring the rights of national minorities, primarily religious and language rights, fighting anti-Semitism, Christianophobia and Islamophobia and preventing manifestations of neo-Nazism. We supported Slovakia’s plans to conduct events on these and other issues this year.

Russia stands for the balanced and transparent character of the OSCE’s institutions for all of its members – the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, the High Commissioner on National Minorities, and the Representative for Freedom of the Media, as well as its missions and strict observance of established mandates.

We discussed in detail the situation in Ukraine, taking into account the role of the OSCE in facilitating the Minsk Package of Measures. There is no alternative to these measures for settling the Ukrainian crisis. Regrettably, the current Ukrainian authorities are stubbornly disrupting its implementation. We gave examples of this to our Slovakian colleagues. We rely on support from the current OSCE chairmanship to coordinate the work of the Contact Group and the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) to Ukraine. We hope the SMM will keep its reports as objective as possible and will not conceal facts about which OSCE members and the rest of the international community should be aware to make the right assessment of the events in Ukraine.

We also discussed the OSCE’s role in settling the conflicts in Transnistria and Nagorny Karabakh. We spoke about the course of the Geneva discussions on security in the South Caucasus and the OSCE’s work in the Balkans, mainly in Kosovo.

We support Bratislava’s efforts to develop OSCE partnerships with other international organisations, including the CSTO, the EAEU, the CIS and the SCO.

Russia reaffirmed its willingness to continue implementing major projects within the OSCE framework, including the training of drug enforcement officers from Afghanistan and law enforcement officers from Serbia at its Ministry of the Interior training centres.

We also reviewed major bilateral issues. We welcomed the growth of trade and cooperation in energy and transport and the invigoration of inter-parliamentary, cultural and humanitarian ties between Russia and Slovakia.

We are grateful to the authorities and citizens of Slovakia for their traditional respect for the memory of Soviet soldiers who gave up their lives for the liberation of the nations of Europe from Nazism.

We discussed a number of key issues on the global agenda beyond the OSCE.

Once again, I would like to wish Slovakia's Foreign and European Affairs Minister and OSCE Chairperson-in-Office Miroslav Lajcak and his team a successful OSCE Chairmanship.


Not long ago, OSCE Chairperson-in-Office and Minister of Foreign and European Affairs of Slovakia Miroslav Lajcak noted that he would use every opportunity created by positive impulses in his attempts to achieve a Nagorno-Karabakh settlement. Has any progress been made in this matter lately? How would you describe the current situation in the Karabakh process?

Sergey Lavrov:

We are grateful to the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office for his stance. The Minsk Group co-chairs − Russia, the United States and France – are working in close contact. Their representatives have already met with the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan and their foreign ministers. More meetings are in the making.

Considering that the new Armenian government was only formed recently, understanding how intensively and deeply the settlement process can go at this point will take some time. The co-chairs and the OSCE can only help create proper environment for a dialogue. The decisions should be made during direct dialogue and direct talks between the parties.


After CNN published its piece, Facebook blocked the RT-operated IntheNow project’s account allegedly for hiding its ties with Russia. However, even CNN is now saying that blocking the Facebook account is an unprecedented move. No other page has ever been blocked for that reason. Do you consider this situation in the context of pressure on Russian media and freedom of speech? Will Russia respond to this?

Sergey Lavrov:

The fact that, at the behest of CNN (and CNN did so on a tip from the Marshall Foundation), Facebook blocked RT IntheNow project’s account is another example of pressure on the Russian media and freedom of speech which is regrettable.

We have discussed this situation. During the talks, I drew my colleague’s attention to it. We have cited other examples of RT and Sputnik coming under overt discrimination such as not being allowed to attend a series of official events in France. Recently, the British media regulator, Ofcom, came up with complaints about RT’s activities on a subject, which, if covered by anyone else from any other country, would have hardly attracted much attention from the regulators.

With regard to our response, frankly, I’m strongly against that when it comes to restricting media. I believe that the fact that we have not done so thus far is indicative of our restraint and strength. We are an open society. We have Ukrainian journalists working here, including some who are quite aggressive in their coverage of what’s happening in Russia and Russia-Ukraine and Russia-West relations. I would not recommend that the decision-makers come up with “an eye for an eye” response and limit journalists from other countries just because our journalists are being limited elsewhere.

We should focus on preserving comfortable working conditions for foreign reporters in Russia and strongly defending the rights of our media abroad using all institutions that are called on to ensure the freedom of journalists, their professional activities and access to information. Of course, we are talking about the OSCE and its special Representative on Freedom of the Media. These functions are currently performed by Harlem Desir, whom we tend to keep busy. He has many complaints that we have filed. He has responded to some. I hope that the rest will be acted on and not just in the form of a written response, but also through concrete steps that he can and must take in respect of the countries that violate freedom of the media.


The Syrian Kurds have asked the European countries to establish an international force in the country’s northeast. At the same time, the US has announced that it does not support the Syrian government resuming control over this territory. What does Russia think of these positions?

Sergey Lavrov:

As you know, a regular, fourth summit of the presidents of Russia, Turkey and Iran took place recently in Sochi. They discussed the settlement in Syria, including the situation in Idlib and in the country’s northeast in the context of the US decision to withdraw from Syria, as well as humanitarian and political issues.

The situation in the country’s northeast was created by the illegal presence of US forces in this area. Using the struggle against terrorism as a pretext, having struck an alliance with the main Kurdish groups and taken some combat action against ISIS, the US was really after establishing a quasi-state on the Eastern bank of the Euphrates River. Now the US is declaring that its main task is to prevent the Syrian government from returning to this area. The Americans are saying that they will support the Kurds even after leaving Iraq (hard to imagine how) but only until the Kurds start cooperating with the Syrian government and the Russian Federation. In other words, the task of restoring Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity that was approved by the entire UN community, including the US, was just a diversion manoeuvre for Washington.

It is becoming increasingly clear that the US’s goal is to split Syria and create a quasi-state on the eastern bank of the Euphrates River. It is already investing in this state, in part, by compelling its allies to pay for the infrastructure development of this part of Syria. Indicatively, the US is prohibiting its allies from investing to restore the infrastructure in the rest of Syria that is under the control of the legitimate government.

Meanwhile the situation should be determined not by the whims of the US that is there illegally and is trying to preserve its influence in Syria, and dictate to a sovereign state what to do with its territory, and ban the legitimate government from exercising full control over its territory even despite its announced withdrawal (we are convinced that it will positively affect the situation if this withdrawal is completed). This is a bit too much even for the current US authorities that have already created a certain reputation with their audacious attitude towards international law.

The agreement in Sochi, which relies on international law, includes the following. There is indeed a terrorist threat on the Syrian-Turkish border. It has existed for some time. In 1998 Syria and Turkey signed the Adana Agreement on the joint elimination of terrorist threats. It allows Turkish security and military forces to perform operations along the border on Syrian territory. Now that the US is withdrawing from Syria it is necessary to prevent these threats from looming over the northeast of Turkey as well as to make the Kurds return to the places of their traditional residence. The Americans brought the Kurds to Arab lands, thereby provoking a conflict between them and the Arabs, which never happened in this part of the country or in Syria as a whole.

All these issues were discussed, and the decisions were included in the 1998 Syria-Turkey agreement. Talks between the Syrian and Russian militaries and through us with the Turks will be devoted to the implementation of this agreement. I don’t think the US will be able to decide by itself who will ensure security in the so-called buffer zone. Statements to this effect have no legal grounds. I sincerely advise all those whom the US may wish to send there to think twice before taking yet another illegal action.

Question (to both ministers):

Today, our colleague Kirill Vyshinsky is celebrating his birthday at a pre-trial detention facility in Ukraine, where he was placed under a contrived pretext. OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Harlem Desir has urged Kiev to release the journalist several times. Do you think Kiev will agree to that? What kind of leverage does the OSCE have to change Ukraine’s stance on this issue?

Sergey Lavrov (after Miroslav Lajcak):

In my turn, I would like to send Kirill Vyshinsky birthday greetings. He is turning 52 – he is now practically in his prime. I would like to wish him good health and strength and to say that he should keep his spirit up.

We will keep monitoring this issue, taking all the necessary measures and supporting the efforts of the OSCE that Mr Lajcak just mentioned. We will keep on working to resolve yet another outrageous display of utter disrespect to the profession of a journalist.

When people are charged with high treason for their professional activities as journalists – which is not a forbidden profession, by the way – it is just too much. The truth is, one can expect anything from the current Ukrainian leadership. Viktor Medvedchuk, by the way, was also charged with high treason for simply calling for compliance with the Minsk Agreements. I believe that objective observers see the essence of the current Kiev regime quite clearly.

We will continue to stand firmly behind Kirill Vyshinsky until we achieve a positive result.

The source of information -

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks during the opening of an international scientific-practical conference in memory of Vitaly Churkin, Moscow, February 20, 2019

20 February 2019 - 11:36

Esteemed Ms Churkin,


We have gathered here today to pay tribute once again to our comrade and colleague Vitaly Churkin, an outstanding Russian diplomat and a top-class professional who passed away in the line of duty two years ago. I am happy to see very many familiar faces in this conference room, people who personally knew Mr Churkin and who appreciated his multi-faceted talent and efforts to defend the interests of the Russian Federation. I avail myself of this opportunity to thank the managers of the Diplomatic Academy for organising this event which, as I understand it, is already becoming a tradition.

Mr Churkin had a long and glorious diplomatic career, starting out as an interpreter who was involved in the strategic arms limitation talks and who worked his way up through the ranks to the post of Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary. He worked fruitfully with the North American Department and contributed a lot towards the launch of the Foreign Ministry’s current information activities. He headed diplomatic missions in Belgium and Canada and successfully conducted difficult negotiations on cooperation within the Arctic Council’s framework.

Vitaly Churkin’s involvement as a Special Presidential Representative in settling the political crisis in the Balkans was a remarkable event in his biography. Churkin’s contribution to the efforts to reach the Dayton Agreement was very significant and concrete. Later, in 2015, the Russian delegation in the UN Security Council, led by Vitaly Churkin, vetoed Britain’s biased draft resolution on Srebrenica, which helped block the groundless accusations of genocide that were being leveled at Serbia. As a reminder of this event in the UN Security Council, a monument to Vitaly Churkin was put up in East Sarajevo [Istocno Sarajevo] with “Thank you for the Russian ‘No’” inscribed on it.

The pinnacle of his diplomatic career was his work as Permanent Representative of Russia to the UN. His vast knowledge, erudition, ability to work and remarkable knowledge of English and Russian, something also very important, allowed Vitaly Churkin, in his post in the Security Council, to energetically and effectively promote our priorities and simultaneously contribute to the expansion of broad international partnership. His impeccable reputation earned him the respect of his foreign colleagues, regardless of their political views and biases. It was not surprising that he was called the “maestro of diplomacy.” His role in enhancing the authority of the UN was greatly appreciated at a UN General Assembly special meeting on March 21, 2017.

No doubt, Vitaly Churkin’s achievements will be part of the history of international relations and diplomatic service. As for us, we will continue doing our best to perpetuate the memory of him. Secondary school No. 1522 to the northwest of Moscow, where he studied, bears his name, as well as the Moscow International Model United Nations that is held by the United Nations Association of Russia every year. Tomorrow, a monument to Vitaly Churkin will be unveiled in the village of Marinkino in the Kirzhach District, Vladimir Region, where his father was born. The monument was made in Serbia and given to Russia as a gift by the Serbian-Russian Brotherhood Society and the Srpski Krivak Society. A postal card dedicated to Vitaly Churkin is expected to be stamped during the ceremony.

We have received more proposals from Russian artists for perpetuating the memory of Vitaly Churkin. We will describe them as soon as they get underway.

Dear friends,

Of course, today’s conference is not limited to remembering Vitaly Churkin. The subject of the upcoming panel discussion has to do with diplomacy’s potential to ward off new challenges and threats. The efforts of our Permanent Mission to the UN at a time when it was headed by Vitaly Churkin were focused on finding a solution to this important issue. Today this approach certainly remains on our agenda.

I have expressed many times that in today’s world, when international relations are undergoing dramatic changes, becoming increasingly more complicated with many conflicting interests and less predictability, diplomacy plays a special, actually, a key role in developing the best solutions based on a balance of interests for various areas of inter-state relations. Clearly, only by joining forces under international law can we find adequate answers to the challenges posed by the modern world, including terrorism, drug-trafficking, other forms of organised crime and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Only if we come together can we find solutions to crises and conflicts, the number of which in the modern world is, pitifully, overwhelming.

There are quite a few examples of collective actions that are underpinned by international law, an indication of their effectiveness. For instance, the Russian-American top-level agreement of 2013 helped carry out the chemical demilitarisation of Syria and avoid the use-of-force scenario with respect to Damascus. I remember quite well how in September 2013 this agreement between the Russian and US presidents was formalised in New York – with the involvement of then US State Secretary John Kerry, your humble servant and the permanent representatives of Russia and the US to the UN – as a resolution by the UN Security Council on the chemical demilitarisation of Syria, which was unanimously approved. After that the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical was given the Nobel Prize for Peace.

The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on Iran’s nuclear programme, which was later approved by Resolution 2231 of the UN Security Council, was also coordinated through collective efforts. Vitaly Churkin was also directly involved in the discussion and drafting of that resolution. Unfortunately, the US decided to pull out of the JCPOA, threatening the agreements on the Iran nuclear deal, which may lead to higher tensions in the region and the erosion of the nuclear weapons non-proliferation regime.

Getting back to Syria: thanks to effective cooperation in the Astana format the country’s statehood has been preserved, a decisive blow was delivered to international terrorism and conditions were created for the social and economic restoration of the country and the return of the refugees. The Syrian National Dialogue Congress held in Sochi in January 2018 proved a major diplomatic success. Based on the decisions approved by the congress, the stage was set for launching a political process. To facilitate it, the creation of the Constitutional Committee with the involvement of the major Syrian political forces is near completion.

Of all regions, I will note the long-suffering Balkans, which are associated with some of the most remarkable events in Vitaly Churkin’s professional life. The West is pursuing an unscrupulous policy towards absorbing this region into NATO, caring neither about the will of the people living in these countries, nor the lessons of history or common diplomatic ethics.

Russia has long and consistently called for getting back to the beginning, that is, to the basic principles of international life that are built into the UN Charter and OCSE documents, including the sovereign equality of states, non-interference in other countries’ domestic affairs, non-use of force or the threat of force, and resolving disputes only through peaceful means. We will continue working to restore the culture of diplomacy and dialogue. It is increasingly in demand now as it serves the interests of making the situation in global affairs healthier and shaping a new promising international equal and indivisible security architecture and, ultimately, ensuring sustainable development and the well-being and prosperity of mankind.

I believe the upcoming discussions will produce significant practical results, thereby contributing to our joint efforts to preserve the memory of Vitaly Churkin and carry on the cause he dedicated his life to.

The source of information -

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s opening remarks at talks with Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Zambia Joe Malanji, Moscow, February 20, 2019

20 February 2019 - 15:57

Mr Minister,


We are glad to welcome you in Moscow.

Your visit comes in the year of the 55th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between our countries. Our relations have been defined by partnership throughout this period both in terms of our bilateral agenda and our cooperation at the UN and other international fora.

We attach special importance to the first meeting between President of Russia Vladimir Putin and President of the Republic of Zambia Edgar Lungu on the margins of the BRICS summit in Johannesburg in July 2018, which took place in a businesslike and friendly atmosphere. Today we have a good opportunity to build on that discussion and the understanding reached in the course of it, and to discuss current bilateral topics such as political dialogue and partnership in the field of peaceful nuclear energy, economic ties, security interaction and humanitarian contacts. No doubt that your assessment of the situation in Africa, where Zambia is playing a key role in integration and peacekeeping, is of special interest to us.

Once again, welcome.

The source of information -

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks and answer to a media question during the joint news conference following talks with Foreign Minister of the Republic of Zambia Joseph Malanji

20 February 2019 - 17:37

Ladies and gentlemen,

My Zambian colleague, Foreign Minister Joseph Malanji, and I have had useful, constructive talks.

We noted that our relations are invariably friendly and are based on the principles of equality and respect for each other’s interests, as well as shared views from the time of the struggle against colonialism and decolonisation under UN auspices.

It was emphasised that our Zambian friends remember our country’s contribution to the establishment of Zambian statehood and training personnel for the country’s key industries. This year marks the 55th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between our countries. We agreed to duly mark this anniversary.

We discussed issues on the bilateral agenda in view of the results of the meeting between President Vladimir Putin and President Edgar Lungu which took place in Johannesburg on the sidelines of the BRICS summit in July last year. We have a shared commitment to developing mutually beneficial cooperation in the political, economic, scientific, technological, legal and humanitarian fields. We also considered the prospects of simplifying visa requirements. Our colleagues pointed out Zambia’s good tourism potential. I hope our citizens will be interested.

We agreed to energetically promote the substantial potential of trade and investment cooperation and establish direct contacts between business circles, considering the interest which Russian companies show in cooperation with their Zambian colleagues in agriculture, construction, the supply of machinery and equipment, and information technology.

We spoke positively about the implementation of intergovernmental agreements to cooperate in the use of the nuclear energy for peaceful purposes and to build the Nuclear Science and Technology Centre in Zambia. This is one of the promising projects which could become a driving force of our cooperation.

We are dynamically promoting cooperation in the traditional sphere of educating Zambian students at Russian universities. Later they usually find jobs back home in fields requiring high qualifications. This academic year the Russian government has funded over 140 state scholarships, including 30 scholarships to train experts in the nuclear power industry. Currently 650 Zambian citizens are being trained in Russia.

On international and regional issues we hold shared views on respect for international law, the sovereignty and territorial integrity of states and their right to choose their own destiny. We agreed to continue maintaining close contacts, above all in the UN, in the interests of examining ways to manage challenges and threats facing all countries today, including terrorism, certainly. We are grateful to our Zambian friends for supporting Russian priorities in the UN.

In turn, we support Zambia and other African countries in the UN, promoting decisions aimed at supporting Africans in the settlement of various conflicts and crises on their continent. It is clear that these conflicts can only be resolved peacefully by political and diplomatic means. We support respective initiatives and approaches of the African Union and sub-regional African states.

On the whole, I believe the talks were quite useful. We expect Zambian representatives at the forums that are to take place in Russia this year, including the International Legal Forum in St Petersburg in May, the International Economic Forum in St Petersburg in June and at some other events. I am sure that their participation in these events will make it possible to flesh out the agreements that are taking shape between us to further advance our relations.


How do you assess US President Donald Trump’s latest threats to the Venezuelan military? Is there a danger of US military interference in Venezuela?

Sergey Lavrov:

We are concerned about what is happening with respect to Venezuela. Threats made by the US are actively supported and promoted by the Venezuelan opposition, which is directly encouraging outside interference. This is definitely a violation of the UN Charter and direct interference in that sovereign country’s internal affairs. If you listen to some representatives of the US Administration, you get the impression that diplomacy is completely discounted and all diplomatic propriety has been abandoned. Compared with some of these statements containing direct threats, the Monroe Doctrine looks almost like a paragon of diplomacy.

As for the feasibility of military interference in Venezuela’s internal affairs, even the countries of the region and the European states that joined the chorus demanding an early presidential election and even regime change in Venezuela, are still not willing to allow military interference. I do not know how much this will restrain those politicians in Washington who will stop at nothing to steer the resolution of the problem to their own benefit. We still hope that reason will prevail. There is a proposal under the so-called Montevideo Mechanism which is on the negotiating table now. We very much hope that opposition leader Juan Guaido will respond to initiatives based on inclusive dialogue between all political forces in Venezuela. Seeking victory in the political struggle by provoking an invasion, either direct or disguised as a humanitarian operation, will not bring the result he is expecting. That result can be achieved only through inclusive dialogue, compromise and agreements. Only in that case will it be durable. Any acts of violence will only entrench the problem. I hope that everyone understands this.

The source of information -
Where should they dig the Very Deep Pit?
Piglet said that the best place would be somewhere where a Heffalump was, just before he fell into it, only about a foot farther on.
(c) Alan Alexander Miln
Old February 25th, 2019 #23
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Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks and answers at a meeting with the Association of European Business in the Russian Federation, Moscow, February 21, 2019

21 February 2019 - 17:50

First of all I would like to thank you, members of the Association of European Business, for your understanding of the circumstances that led us to request that you relocate the meeting to this facility. I think it is no less comfortable here than at the Baltschug Hotel. Moreover, due to the circumstances it gave us an opportunity to respond to your hospitality at our previous meetings.

For me, it is sincere satisfaction to address the members of the Association of European Business again. I can see many familiar faces here. This means continuity is in place. Despite the challenges mentioned by Johan Vanderplaetse, there is an attitude to continue our cooperation.

Our dialogue with business from the European countries has become a good tradition. Last year, in November, President of Russia Vladimir Putin met with German business community leaders, and in October with Prime Minister of Italy Giuseppe Conte and the delegation of the heads of Italian companies accompanying him during his visit to Russia. Several days ago, in the margins of the Munich conference on security policy, Foreign Minister of Germany Heiko Josef Maas and I met with Russian and German business leaders at a very early business lunch.

Despite the current difficulties that nobody hides, there has been a feeling during these and other meetings that business circles are tired of the sanctions and of confrontation and are interested in resuming full cooperation. We support this attitude. By the way, this attitude is already producing practical results. Trade between Russia and the EU has increased for the second year running. Last year it increased 20 percent to almost $300 billion. This is certainly much less than the record $440 billion in 2013, but the trend towards a resumption of the growth in trade is obvious.

In principle, despite Brussels’s policy, we are seeing the revival of political dialogue as well. We continue cooperating on a number of sectoral issues. Contacts in science and technology and culture, as well as dialogues on migration and counterterrorism are making headway. Of course, these are one-time, sporadic contacts, but they are positive nonetheless. They confirm that there is no objective reason for the further degradation of relations, but we have to admit that conditions for a return to normal Russia-EU relations are not here yet.

Regrettably, not everyone in Europe supports the desire to normalise Russia-EU relations. As you know, the anti-Russia propaganda campaign is ongoing. Russia is being stubbornly presented as the main, “strategic” threat to European security. Unilateral restrictions are diligently extended. Literally just the other day, the EU again yielded to the pressure of its domestic Russophobes, as well as to the US and Ukraine.

Nevertheless, we see what’s behind this. We see that Russia’s demonisation in the eyes of the broad European public is aimed at creating a convenient cover-up for resolving geopolitical issues. NATO continues pursuing a course of building up its military activities and deploying its military infrastructure near Russian borders. Apart from Macedonia and other Balkan countries, NATO is stubbornly drawing Ukraine and Georgia into the alliance. The US’ withdrawal from the INF Treaty is not optimistic, either. This was obediently and unanimously supported by all NATO members although there are at least some discrepancies on this issue. Such actions lead to the escalation of military-political tensions, including in our common neighbourhood.

It is regrettable that the peace and security of the European nations have become hostage to the destructive policy of Washington and a small but extremely aggressive group of Russophobes in the EU. Mutual trust, on which we have worked so persistently for so long, has been seriously undermined. The system of multi-level Russia-EU cooperation – from summits to sectoral dialogues – has been suspended. I don’t need to tell you that European manufacturers are losing tens and maybe hundreds of billions of dollars. Is this all for the sake of giving the Kiev regime an opportunity to continue the war against its own people? I don’t think this is in the interests of the Europeans.

It is hardly worth speaking here in detail about the failure of the attempts to impede Russia’s economic and technological development. These attempts will not work. Our economy deals with this problem. It is flexibly reacting to the fluctuations in foreign economic markets. We are taking measures to enhance our investment appeal, in part, by establishing special economic zones and territories for accelerated socioeconomic development. The Foreign Investment Advisory Council (FIAC) headed by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has a good reputation. Indicatively, more than half of its members represent major European companies. Its work has improved the international investment position of this country. Russia has gone up by several positions in the World Bank’s “Doing Business” rankings.

In general, we want new, positive opportunities to open for foreign business. I believe Europe is coming to realise this, judging by the recently released position document of the German Committee on Eastern European Economic Relations, that we talked about not long ago at the meeting of Russian and German business in Munich. This document contains an appeal to revise EU strategy towards Russia and embark on full economic cooperation.

I heard what you said about the situation around Michael Calvey from Baring Vostok. In his address to the Federal Assembly yesterday President of Russia Vladimir Putin emphasised the existence of systematic problems in this area. The issue was in the centre of heated political debates. I think all circumstances of this case will be considered during court hearings in the near future. I have never met Mr Calvey. As I see it, in principle he was not a very prominent figure in the public space, but I have heard from people whom I deeply respect what was said about him and I am sure that many have heard this as well.


Today, the global geopolitical situation continues to change rapidly, first and foremost owing to the emergence and consolidation of the new centres of economic power. The Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) has come to play a tangible role. In a short span of time it has traversed a fairly long road – from elimination of customs barriers tо the formation of a common market for goods, services, capital and workforce. The EAEU’s aggregate GDP is about $2 trillion and the total number of consumers exceeds 183 million. The success of this integration effort is reflected not only in the growth of trade but also in the expansion of its foreign economic contacts – over 40 states and associations are working to sign trade liberalisation agreements with the EAEU.

China, which is carrying out its “One Road, One Belt” concept in close partnership with Russia and the EAEU, is also working to ensure peace, stability and prosperity in Eurasia. The foundations of a common market with reliance on universally recognised WTO standards are being laid in our vast area. This synergy – in the vein of President Vladimir Putin’s initiative on establishing the Greater Eurasian Partnership that implies large-scale economic integration free from all barriers – is beginning to produce results. Last year, Russia-China trade amounted to a record $100 billion. The two countries are successfully developing cooperation in energy, aircraft manufacturing, space and peaceful uses of nuclear energy. Success lies in the reliance on the values of equality, respect and consideration for each other’s interests. Imagine, these are values as well.

Russia is ready to build its relations with the EU along similar principles. The EU remains our important neighbour and major trade partner. We are united by many things in the historical, cultural and human plane since the times when values were truly common to all Europeans. As before, we are open to cooperation with our European partners on building a common economic space from Lisbon to Vladivostok, which can unite all states without exception in this vast and most competitive Eurasian region.

The EU should probably assess the prospects of creating an innovative model of cooperation in Eurasia, which could become the foundation for a system of equal and indivisible security that meets the realities of the 21st century. We could start with small steps – the development of stable contacts between the EAEU and the EU. There are obviously ideological obstacles in this respect. On a pragmatic basis, we welcome the contacts that have begun between the European Commission and the Eurasian Economic Commission. For now they are discussing issues of technical and standards regulation but probably this is not a bad thing. We are actively supporting them.

Russia is striving to enhance the coherence and complementarity of cooperation in Europe in actions rather than words. Energy cooperation is an obvious example. Last year Gazprom broke its record of gas distribution volume to the European market. We continue carrying out major infrastructure projects, including Nord Stream 2 that is designed to diversify gas supplies to European consumers using the shortest and least expensive route. The construction of the Turkish Stream continues according to schedule. Alternatives for extending a ground-based gas pipeline branch towards Europe are being discussed. Considering the sad experience of South Stream, rock solid legal guarantees on behalf of the European Commission will be required for a final decision.


We know that more and more people in Europe are coming to understand that the confrontation line with regard to Russia is simply pointless. They strive to implement a pragmatic policy and do not want to sacrifice their citizens’ well-being and future for the sake of dubious geopolitical projects. We are ready to expand cooperation with the EU to the extent that they want. We would like to perceive it as an integral, solid and independent partner that would become consolidated on the basis of every European nation’s genuine national interests, rather than on an artificially supported anti-Russia platform.

Business circles and business diplomacy can and should make a useful contribution to restoring mutual trust. This is what your Association is doing. We appreciate your readiness to expand cooperation and to implement mutually beneficial joint projects. In turn, we will continue to do our very best to create the most favourable working conditions for you here.

Thank you. I am ready to answer your questions.


On February 15, the media reported that the Customs Service would expand the list of imported goods. However, everyone opposed this initiative at a meeting with representatives of the Russian business community at the Ministry of Agriculture. But some foreign-made goods are very important and should not therefore be banned. What will eventually be done?

Sergey Lavrov:

This took place at another ministry, and this is not a political matter. This concerns market supplies, competition and consideration for our partners’ approaches towards trade with the Russian Federation. You know the origin of these reciprocal measures, and you also know how to eliminate their initial cause. All the rest stems from the initial situation, and we did not look forward to this development. It appears no one likes this situation, but you are affected by it. We are not happy about this either.


Yesterday President of Russia Vladimir Putin presented his Address to the Federal Assembly in which he mentioned many development vectors for Russia, including his proposal to think about streamlining visa procedures for foreign tourists, in particular, to make better use of electronic visas. Vladimir Putin also supported the idea of using electronic visas at the recent forum of Delovaya Rossiya business association where he talked about the experience of offering visa-free travel during the World Cup, when people could use their Fan IDs to enter the country. On February 11, there was a meeting with Presidential Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov, organised with the support of the Franco-Russian Chamber of Commerce and Industry. During the meeting our representative proposed introducing Expo IDs for people attending major international fairs and exhibitions, to replicate the Fan ID experience. What do you think about this proposal?

Sergey Lavrov:

We are currently carrying out a pilot project with electronic visas in Russia’s Far East, as well as in Kaliningrad. Considering the positive outcome there were decisions in principle to work out how this project can be expanded to cover other regions of the Russian Federation. However, there is an important aspect that we need to take into consideration. It is not uncommon that requests for electronic visas are filed by people who do not necessarily intend to visit the country and want to have a visa just in case. I may not remember the exact details, but I think that within a certain period of time less than half of the 50,000 visas that were requested were actually used in the Far East. This creates certain challenges that need to be addressed in terms of security at crossing points. We need to understand why people request a visa if they do not plan to come. So there are some particular aspects that we need to look into. In principle, we want ties and contacts to be as free and unhindered as possible.

Let me remind you what happened long before a government coup that was carried out in Ukraine with the support from some countries of the European Union and the US, and before neo-Nazis came to power and declared their intention to eliminate Russians in Crimea, which prompted people in Crimea to hold a referendum, and resulted in sanctions imposed by those who contributed to these developments and encouraged the government coup even though Germany, France and Poland signed, approved and acted as guarantors in the agreement between Viktor Yanukovych and the opposition, only to have these agreements trampled upon by the opposition the very next day. So before all this happened the West had very few pretexts to engage in Russophobe practices (I am not talking about the West as a whole, but some adopted this attitude a long time ago), and we completed talks with the European Union on visa-free travel that had lasted for many years.

This process unfolded in stages. It started in 2003 at the Russia-EU Summit when then-President of the European Commission Romano Prodi said that he did not see any reason that could prevent the visa-free arrangement from coming into force within five years, i.e. by 2008. However, this did not happen. It wasn’t until much later that we signed an agreement on easing the visa regime. It covered a number of categories of people in Russia and was designed to make a substantial contribution to promoting people-to-people contacts.

At the same time, we held talks on an agreement to introduce visa-free travel for all citizens, including tourism and sports exchanges, covering almost all possible contacts. It was ready for signing, but the European Union put forward a number of conditions, including offering visa-free travel only to people with biometric passports. We agreed. After that the European Union insisted that we limit the number of people entitled to travel with service passports to civil servants, since service passports are also used by military personnel in Russia. We did this too. The EU’s third request was to have Russia and the EU sign a readmission agreement along with implementing protocols with every EU member country. We agreed to that as well. And despite all this when everything was ready, and it was up to Brussels to decide whether to sign the agreement, it was blocked, primarily by the Baltic states. Everybody knows this, and there is no secret about it. Their position consisted of a very simple formula. They said that it would be unacceptable to grant Russia visa-free travel with the European Union before offering it to Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine. If these are not far-fetched obstacles to free contacts, I do not know what else can be said about this.

Let me emphasise once again that all this happened before our relations hit a roadblock after this government coup and the neo-Nazi aspirations of those who came to power in Kiev. Nevertheless, we are still ready to move toward a framework that would make contacts as convenient and people-friendly as possible. We will do this, but of course we want these efforts to be reciprocal. This is what the rules of diplomacy are all about.

This does not mean that there will be any restrictions. What this means is that we must have the same regulations for EU countries. By the way, we appreciate the position of those EU countries that have been as liberal as possible in their visa policy toward Russia within the framework of the Schengen principles, including by offering five-year Schengen visas. I do not want to offend anyone, but Italy, France and a number of other countries have used the potential of the Schengen rules quite extensively.

As for the experience of the World Cup, let’s agree on hosting the World Cup in Russia every four years. This would be really nice. Maybe in this case Russia would not lose to Croatia.


Mr Lavrov, this is the ninth time we have met. You are one of the wise men in foreign policy across the world.

As an American, I am worried that Russian-US relations have reached their lowest point. Can things fall any lower, or is there still a chance for us to improve our relations? What options do you see for restoring positive momentum?

Sergey Lavrov:

I believe that this problem is rooted in the domestic developments in the United States.

Frankly speaking, we are not enjoying the current developments, but we did not start it. It is stretching the truth to say that this is the punishment for Ukraine and Crimea. It all began back under President Barack Obama, long before Washington launched its “colour revolution” project in Ukraine. It began with Edward Snowden, who was stuck in Russia because he could not fly anywhere – his passport was cancelled. The US President, the Secretary of State and the FBI and CIA directors put pressure on us to surrender him without delay. We said we could not do so because all the accompanying information indicated that he was facing the death penalty. This is why Obama banned bilateral contacts and cancelled his visit ahead of the G20 summit in St Petersburg. By the way, we were preparing for that meeting an agreement on the further reduction of strategic offensive arms, which should have followed on the 2010 Prague Treaty, as well as a largely coordinated declaration that set out an agenda on strategic stability for many years to come. Obama’s inability to forgo personal resentment buried a very important document, which could have been put to very good use now.

Next, sanctions were imposed over the Magnitsky case. A closer look at the problem revealed that Bill Browder, who raised the ballyhoo, had problems with the law, and not only Russian law. The Prosecutor General’s Office of Russia brought charges against Browder in the United States. American courts had to accept numerous facts supporting our suspicions. However, the court’s operations were clearly interfered with by those who did not want to ease pressure on Russia, that is, by Browder himself and his supporters. In other words, Ukraine was just another pretext.

The US elite disliked the changes that took place in Russia after Vladimir Putin became our president, when we gradually got back on our feet and regained our independence. Most importantly, we started thinking independently and stopped listening to the advisers who were entrenched in our key ministries in the 1990s. We are not happy about the current situation. Some people say that Russia is wallowing in pride and is showing off its arrogance. Nothing of the kind! Only those who do not understand our thousands-year long history can say such a thing. This is sad.

One negative consequence of the 1990s is that American political scientist Francis Fukuyama declared “the end of history.” He was completely wrong, but many people took his writings as a signal to action. There were clever Sovietologists of the Cold War period, but no school of Russian studies has taken shape in the West. Few professionals shifted their views to Russia and the post-Soviet space after the demise of the Soviet Union. As for the current political scientists, I am at a loss to say who is really influential. There is Dimitri Simes and several other people I know personally, such as former ambassador to Russia Bill Burns. But they do not have any serious influence on decision-making, if at all. It is a lot simpler there [in the US].

The election defeat of the Democratic Party provided the pretext for preventing the normalisation of relations with Russia. Three weeks before leaving the White House, Barack Obama seized Russia’s diplomatic property. It happened in a country where this cannot be done for any reason, where private property is a sacred right and others’ property must never be taken. It was a time bomb, and its clock is still ticking. The Democrats have done their best to use the Russian card so as to do maximum damage to the current administration. When a great nation spends three years speculating about foreign interference that allegedly predetermined the outcome of its presidential elections, we see this as disrespect for the great American people.

Speaking about the election turbulence, I would like to refer to the Democratic Party. Contrary to what the investigation led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller is trying to prove, there are solid facts showing that the Democratic Party violated the law when illegal methods were used to force Bernie Sanders to quit the race. Everyone has forgotten about this, talking about Russia all the time rather than about what is happening in the United States.

I know American society, where no secrets are safe but are leaked to the public. If there was a single solid fact of Russia’s interference in US affairs, it would have been leaked during the more than two years of hearings and meetings held by Mueller’s office. But the only one to get in trouble was Paul Manafort. Moreover, it turned out that he worked for Ukraine, not Russia. But this fact is being forgotten as well.

The focus is now on Maria Butina, whose only sin is that she has joined the National Rifle Association of America. This has been presented as nearly an assault on the US Constitution.

We are open for dialogue as long as the United States is. President Vladimir Putin has said this more than once at his meeting with US President Donald Trump in Hamburg in 2017, in Helsinki last year, as well as during their contacts at the G20 summit in Buenos Aires. We do not want to interfere, and we do not want to give any reason for accusing us of interference in the internal fighting and conflicts in the United States. What we have is a constructive agenda. We have outlined a number of cooperation areas, including the establishment, upon our presidents’ approval, of a business council comprising five, six or seven top officials each from the largest Russian and US corporations. I am sure that such a high-level council could become a major stabilisation factor, at least for our business communities.

We have also proposed establishing, if our presidents approve this, a small council of leading Russian and US political scientists who can be charged with preparing a positive agenda. We have offered an extended programme for a dialogue on strategic stability, including on the INF Treaty and a future agreement on strategic offensive arms, as well as on cooperation in space and on ways to prevent its militarisation with unpredictable consequences. They have put all this on back burner. We have not received a clear or constructive response to these proposals. When the United States initiated the procedure to withdraw from the INF Treaty, President Putin said at a meeting with Defence Minister Sergey Shoigu and me that we had more than once told our American partners about all our initiatives, and that our partners surely know about them. If they opted for disregarding these initiatives, we will no longer knock on a locked door and will stop reminding our partners about our initiatives. Our American colleagues can tell us when they are ready. We will be willing to start the talks.


The reason why we are here today is business. It is something that still connects us and allows us to compensate for the deteriorating political relations. Representatives of companies who are here today spoke about the greatest damage having been caused, not by European sanctions but by the counter-sanctions that affected European businesses and Russian consumers.

The first speaker today expressed concern about the proposal of the Customs Service. I understand that it is not the Foreign Ministry’s responsibility but you are an influential member of the Russian Government and we hope that if such a proposal is discussed again you will take the comments of business representatives into consideration. This is more of a comment than a question.

Sergey Lavrov:

Thank you, I heard that the majority’s opinion is that the main cause of trouble comes, not from your sanctions but from our response. You want to say that your sanctions must remain in place while we have to learn to live with them.

Of course, there are negative consequences for the market and consumers. There were even shortages in the very beginning. But if you talk to Russian agricultural producers, they got a new lease of life. Our agricultural industry is experiencing an unprecedented boost. Maybe not in every category but the process is very healthy.

Speaking about retaliation, how were we supposed to act? You did not simply impose sanctions on certain categories of products but also sectoral sanctions against banks, including strict restrictions on lending to Russian banks, such as Rosselkhozbank, which lends money to Russian agricultural producers. Considering that the agricultural industry in the EU receives tremendous subsidies, such a drastic deterioration of the lending terms for our agriculture could have brought it down.

No measure is perfect. They say that the sanctions are not imposed against the Syrian people but against the “regime;” that the sanctions are not imposed against the Iranian people but against Iran. It is impossible to precisely calibrate this kind of restrictive measures. In any case, they will hit the people first and foremost (both in Syria, Iran and North Korea). Therefore, these sanctions should be abandoned altogether.

The EU has contracted the virus of American license (allow me to phrase it this way). Without giving it a second thought, the United States applies its legislation extraterritorially. In one of the cases, they found that a Paris bank had violated the US law, although there was no violation in terms of French or EU law (this bank carried out transactions with Iran). They made that bank pay eight or nine billion US dollars for nothing. Then something similar happened to a German company. It is becoming common practice. They introduce their own rules (in Russia, they would be called “terms”) and, instead of complying with the principles of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), they act according to their own terms.

Recently, the EU developed its own system of sanctions against those who use chemical weapons. It looked like a good idea. But it was not the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), which operates based on a universal convention, that was selected as a criterion for imposing sanctions, but a Paris initiative that has nothing to do either with the UN or the universal convention and states that it is necessary to create a partnership against impunity in the area of chemical weapon uses. This means that one country announces that it is creating a partnership that has nothing to do with universal structures and the EU says it is a good idea, and when this partnership appoints culprits, the EU will impose sanctions against them. All of this is beyond the scope of international as enshrined in the Chemical Weapons Convention. I could continue in the same vein for long.

The EU is also tempted to go beyond the frameworks where they have to come to terms with the entire world. It has no patience. Of course, it is much more difficult to talk about signing new universal conventions because they would have to be approved by 193 countries or the number of countries that are willing to participate. But all of them must be invited. It is much easier to come together with those who share the same values and engage in decision-making on who to punish and who to forgive within an inner circle. This is difficult to fight because you made the decision. Nobody will declare a war on you or the United States for that. But you need to think about the consequences. The universal foundations of international law are being eroded. This is lamentable. I hope this process will not be irreversible.


What do you think about the evolution of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline? What are your impressions? Will we manage to reach an agreement on this matter or not?

Sergey Lavrov:

I only read about various developments. They say this is a major victory for Germany, France and common sense. I would like to believe this. As they say, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. Let’s see how all this works out.

To be honest, it is quite surprising how this entire story has evolved. All the parties to this project proclaimed it as a purely commercial venture that would benefit the European business community and boost European energy security, including that of Germany and other countries that are beginning to renounce nuclear and coal-fired power generation. Everything appeared to be fine. Virtually all further objections to this project were politically motivated, including claims that Europe’s dependence on Russia would increase. German Chancellor Angela Merkel aptly noted in Munich not so long ago that the Soviet Union had virtually enjoyed monopoly rights, but that Europe had not felt any dependence or a need to follow in the wake of the Soviet policy. This is business only.

It is hardly surprising that the European Commission’s Special Committee on Legal Affairs was asked to provide a legal assessment of the project. The jurists wrote honestly that the project did not violate EU legislation in any way. Moreover, any attempts to bring this project in conformity with the gas directive post-factum would violate the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, because this Convention regulates matters linked with high-seas areas.

We believed that the European Commission would respect their own committee’s legal assessment, all the more so as member-countries whose companies were involved and are still involved in this project clearly stated their position. I don’t want to meddle in current intra-EU problems, but the European Commission persisted with its own line, rather than that of the member-countries whose opinion did not matter very much. The European Commission’s line eventually led to amending the gas directive. An assessment by many European, rather than Russian, lawyers shows that this amendment violates the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

I am not a lawyer. The project was launched when the current directive remained in force, and no one doubted its legality. The amendment that was specially passed today affects the project that was launched two years ago. I am not a lawyer, but, in my opinion, it is not right to change something post-factum.

In some situations, a lean compromise is better than a fat lawsuit. We are only too happy if this allowed the EU to preserve its unity. If this makes it possible to avoid an absurd situation where the pipeline, due to pump Russian gas alone, will be


Mr Lavrov, we, as representatives of business, are now observing exactly the trend you described at the beginning of your opening remarks. We can see an increase, compared with last year, which is largely ensured by replacement through Russian companies. We are organising exhibitions and conferences. At the same time, we have not yet reached the peak values ​​of 2013. We are certainly interested in expansion. We can see significant potential in attracting a larger number of Russian exhibitors, but there is also significant growth potential for foreign exhibitors. European companies are now cautious about the Russian market.

In your opinion what are the main growth drivers that will increase European companies’ interest in the Russian market as well as their willingness to invest and come here?

Sergey Lavrov:

I am not so deeply immersed in this topic. I am not a professional, but I understand what businesses generally need, so I would proceed from the fact that it is necessary for us to simplify the environment for starting and running a business, and the reporting system, as much as possible.

I know that the Government’s Foreign Investment Advisory Council deals with such matters. I thought your Association also regularly summarises various requests and sends them to the relevant ministries – the Ministry of Economic Development or the Ministry of Finance. This is probably the easiest and most reliable way – not to invent things for businesses, but to listen to them. This is actually the Foreign Investment Advisory Council’s mission; that is why regular meetings, such as the Sberbank forum, are held.


What are the prospects for developing relations and expanding cooperation with Japan?

Sergey Lavrov:

Investment cooperation is reasonably growing with Japan. Many Japanese companies, including automakers, open their units in Russia, and attain positive results. We have good cooperation in the energy sector. The Japanese are considering a number of projects along with Sakhalin, in which they would be willing to participate.

President Vladimir Putin agreed with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe that it is important for us to bring our relations up to a qualitatively new level. This is our number one priority when it comes to the economy, politics and security, where we have a lot of problems, given the importance of a military alliance with the US for Japan. The Americans declared Russia the main adversary, if not an enemy. This clearly creates difficulties in raising the relationship to a qualitatively new level. For the same reason – its alliance with the United States – Japan votes with them in all international organisations, including on issues where Russia votes the opposite way.

We have very good humanitarian ties. Japan regularly holds festivals of Russian culture, which are very popular there.

We have a very good dialogue between the foreign ministries. But, I repeat, there are not so many points of contact, considering Tokyo’s pro-American position.

We would like to achieve more in economic cooperation. As you know, our leaders have agreed on joint business activities on the four islands. Five areas have been indicated, but they are not very impressive: aquaculture, greenhouse farming, things like that. So far we have very few joint high-tech projects, partly due to Japan’s external partners hindering these spheres of cooperation, as far as we understand our Japanese neighbours. But we still hope to bring the relationship to the level of a true partnership.

The difficulties I have listed are important obstacles, but we are committed to reaching the level indicated by the Russian President and the Japanese Prime Minister. In this context, as has been said, we will be able to resolve any complex problems. Plus, as Vladimir Putin suggested at the Eastern Economic Forum last September, we could be ready to draw up and sign a peace treaty right now – but not a peace treaty in the sense in which such treaties are signed immediately after wars. The state of war between us has long ceased to exist, since the adoption of the 1956 Declaration. Rather, after so many decades of coexistence and cooperation in a wide range of fields, we would like to prepare an agreement that would lay the foundations for our good-neighbourly and friendly relations.

So far, our Japanese colleagues have a different approach to the peace treaty problem, although the 1956 Declaration provides for just that. First and foremost, signing a peace treaty. In this regard, I definitely have to repeat what I usually say. The signing of a peace treaty absolutely has to imply a confirmation of the WW2 outcome in the form it was codified in many documents and, most importantly, in the UN Charter. It stipulates that everything the victorious powers did is not negotiable. Therefore, it is simply impossible to get away from this statement.

I met with the Foreign Minister of Japan Taro Kono on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference on February 16. This was one of the highlights of our talks. So far, we do not see Japan’s readiness to confirm what it has signed up for following WW2, as it joined the UN.


I’m a representative of a Polish machine-building plant in Russia. We have been supplying road construction equipment to Russia for over 40 years now. A few years ago, Russia changed the status of the rail and road border crossing in Smolensk. Since then, we have been unable to use the shortest Smolensk - Minsk - Brest route to go to Poland. We cannot have our mechanics use this border crossing if they drive, because it is closed to Polish citizens and, possibly, other European citizens as well. Will this crossing be open any time soon? If so, when?

Sergey Lavrov:

Frankly, this is news to me. I’m going to ask my colleagues here to follow up on this and give me an update. I have not heard about such a problem, but usually this kind of a question regularly surfaces during contacts. Truth be told, we don’t have too many contacts with Poland now, so maybe that's why. But this is wrong. If you have been working in Russia for 40 years now and have no problems, it must make sense to you. I believe normal conditions must be put in place.

Maybe there’s something else to it? I don’t think that lowering the status of this border crossing has anything to do with Russia-Poland relations. Surely, there must be something else. Can it be a shortage of intersections? I will certainly look into this matter. I think this is only a small thing, but an important one.


In your remarks, you noted that progress was made in EAEU - EU cooperation. We are aware that such cooperation was earlier allowed in the sphere of technical regulation. What do you think should serve as a catalyst to promote such a dialogue and expand it to Greater Eurasia?

Sergey Lavrov:

I think life itself should be a catalyst. Many of our partners are already aware that a number of powers have been delegated from the national level to the Eurasian Economic Commission, and all inquiries should be sent there. You correctly noted that ​technical regulation was among the first areas in which contacts began. By the way, Germany has done a lot to overcome the ideological bias that has always been there. There will simply be no other options as the Commission continues to acquire its supranational powers.

Speaking of ideological bias, an interesting situation has shaped up around the multilateral organisations that include Russia as a member, such as the EAEU, the CSTO, the CIS, and even the SCO. As soon as we begin to promote projects involving the establishment of contacts between each of these organisations and, for example, the UN, mostly the Americans begin to get in the way and demand that the secretariat not sign particular documents. In June 2018, an anti-terrorism meeting was held at the UN office in New York, to which the Americans attempted not to admit representatives of the SCO regional anti-terrorism body. In the end, we overcame it. This bias is so far from the real needs of cooperation that discussing it at length makes no sense whatsoever. But the EAEU, albeit not without difficulty, including the anti-Russian sanctions, which impact our partners in this union as well, is looking for and effectively finds ways to improve things. The Union is developing progressively and the trade is growing quite steadily. The trend is quite good and will continue. Take a look at the specific EAEU competences – we cannot continue to work on a bilateral basis and to ignore this integration association.

The Greater Eurasia project is unlike the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership project. As I understand, the new US administration didn’t like the latter as it implied agreeing upon the entire package of rules and their subsequent entry into force from A to Z. The Trans-Pacific Trade Partnership was prepared in the same way, and also crumbled at this stage. They operate following their own processes. When President Putin talked about the practicality of discussing the Greater Eurasian space concept, he meant the EAEU and China’s Belt and Road Initiative. The EAEU and China have a cooperation agreement. Russia and China also have signed a separate agreement. There’s also the SCO, which (although it mainly deals with terrorism and security) also has economic and financial projects, which are expanding. There’s ASEAN, which is interested, among other things, in expanding economic contacts with the SCO and the EAEU. Vietnam has already concluded a free trade agreement with the EAEU. Singapore is in the process of talks. ASEAN is also thinking about starting such talks with the EAEU.

That is to say, life sprouts. Here’s how they make a path across a lawn in England. First, they create a lawn and then let people trample on it in order to make a path across it. Once they have done this, they make a permanent path. We would like to use this logic to promote the idea of ​​a Greater Eurasian project. Don’t forget that Eurasia is our shared continent, the world’s largest, and all residents of this continent will clearly benefit from this flexible combination of efforts and the space which was predicted by great Europeans, starting with Charles de Gaulle. As soon as ideological blinders and shackles fall off, the EU, I think, will also benefit from becoming part of these processes, while preserving its identity.


I would like to take this opportunity and say a few words about the issue mentioned by the representative of a Polish company because, since I moved here in 2016, I have been dealing with the problem of third country citizens’ not being able to cross the Russian-Belarusian border. This is a big obstacle for businesses, as well as cultural and humanitarian links. This has to do with the status of the border, border checkpoints and it is an issue we constantly address during our bilateral consultations and my contacts with the Foreign Ministry. What would be your comment?

Sergey Lavrov:

This issue has to do with our border regime with Belarus. We have never had any visa requirements with Belarus but then our Belarusian neighbours unilaterally cancelled their visa regime for 80 countries, some of which also needed a visa to travel to Russia. To ensure compliance with the Russian law, we had to take measures to prevent citizens of the countries that do not need a visa to travel to Belarus but need a visa to travel to Russia from entering our country without visas. In late 2018, we almost finished working on an agreement with Belarus on common visa regulations. This agreement is about to be signed. It will be a step that should help in resolving this problem. But it will be completely resolved when we sign an agreement on a common visa space. This agreement is also under negotiation but we need more time to finalise it.

Another problem is that we basically have no border with Belarus. It exists on the map but there are no border patrol or customs officers. Therefore, even diplomats do not require a visa. When you enter the country there is nobody to even stamp your passport.

But the situation you described does create certain inconvenience. We are dealing with it and I will make sure to review the progress.


I have a question about France-Russia relations. How good, do you believe, they are under President Macron? What kind of relationship exists between the presidents of our countries?

Sergey Lavrov:

Our relations are good and comradely. Quite recently, the presidents discussed over the phone Syria, Ukraine and our future cooperation.

I regularly meet with my colleague, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian. We maintain phone contacts. Our positions do not always coincide, but both sides are at least willing to look for things that we have in common.

Russia has Astana format partners – Turkey and Iran – which promote dialogue between the Syrian government and the armed opposition groups. There’s also a “smaller group,” which includes France. It was President Macron who came up with an initiative – with full understanding of the differences in the positions underlying these two frameworks *– to build bridges between them. President Putin backed this idea. The first meeting focusing on such “bridge building” took place in Istanbul in October 2018, where the leaders of Russia, Germany, France and Turkey held a meeting, which I consider quite auspicious. It advanced our common approaches towards promoting a political process. This is one such example.

We also cooperate with France in another quartet, the Normandy format. It was created at the initiative of President Hollande during the celebration, in 2014, of the 70th anniversary of Allied landings in Normandy. It is a no less complicated format than the one on Syria, but the Minsk Agreements provide a common basis. However, I’m not sure what to expect from Kiev in terms of implementing them.

The agreements approved by France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine say that economic ties must be restored without delay. However, instead, 18 months ago, Kiev adopted a law on reintegrating Donbass, which established a blockade of this territory.

The Minsk Agreements say that problems with the payment of pensions and other social benefits must be resolved. Instead, the Ukrainian authorities are saying that the retirees who are entitled to them should cross the contact line, which can take a day or two, in order to receive their pension payments in that territory. By the way, Germany and France volunteered to set up mobile banking to pay pensions and agree upon common procedures, but the Ukrainian authorities did not let them do so.

The Minsk Agreements state that this particular region should have a special status, including the right to use its mother tongue. However, the law On Education was passed in Ukraine, which makes it illegal. A law is being prepared on Ukrainian as the state language, which, in practice, will make it difficult to use all minority languages, not just Russian, in all spheres of life, including in shops, cinemas and libraries.

The Minsk Agreements say that this territory should be entitled to self-government, have a say in appointing judges and prosecutors, and have its own law enforcement authorities. Now, President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko is saying that bringing in the UN armed forces is the only way to resolve the Donbass problem. That is, in fact, occupying it along the perimeter, including the border with Russia, as he pointed out yesterday speaking in New York. However, according to the Minsk Agreements, the border with Russia will go under Ukraine’s control only after the region receives a special status and elections are held there. That is, at the very end. Meanwhile, he wants to do so at the very beginning.

How will then the Minsk Agreements be implemented, especially considering the fact that the birthdays of Stepan Bandera, Roman Shukhevych and Semyon Petlyura are now national holidays? They are national “heroes” now, and monuments have been built to commemorate them. The day the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA), which collaborated with Hitler, was established is also a national holiday now, the Ukrainian Army Day. How can anyone even begin to wrap their mind around the fact that people not only in Donbass, but eastern Ukraine in general, will celebrate these holidays? Meanwhile, celebrating May 9 as Victory Day was cancelled. It was given a different name. At the same time, I cannot imagine how people in Lvov and the rest of western Ukraine will celebrate the holidays that are sacred to those who live in Donbass and eastern Ukraine.

The pride and fanfare with which President Poroshenko signed the law obliging Ukraine to join NATO made me doubt even more whether he intends to comply with the Minsk Agreements at all. The people in Donbass who are not even considered human to begin with (remember former Prime Minister Yatsenyuk calling them “subhuman beings”?) are now required to reunite with the state and do so not on the basis of the Minsk Agreements, but the Constitution obliging the country to join NATO. This is a provocation outwardly directed at destroying the Minsk Agreements.

We would very much like our French and German Normandy format colleagues to take note of that and present all these absolutely obvious and legitimate concerns to the Ukrainian leadership. Clearly, this will have to be done after the presidential election now. Then, there will be parliamentary elections.

Poroshenko and his team are not looking to achieve any settlement. What they really want is to escalate and exacerbate the situation. Recently, he made a provocation near the Kerch Strait, connecting the Black Sea with the Sea of Azov. Now, they are preparing another "breach" also in violation of the rules of passage in this complex water area. In September, though, two Ukrainian naval boats followed all the procedures and requested a pilot who was provided to them. They were properly escorted and sent off with wishes of a good journey in the Sea of ​​Azov. Now, Kiev is preparing another unlawful breach without filing any formal requests, or observing security measures, or asking for pilot services. I was told that they are asking NATO countries to send their representatives to these ships in order to have them onboard as they make another illegal attempt to cross the Kerch Strait.

If such a provocateur doesn’t get his wrist slapped, then I do not understand how anyone in the Western world is still shaking hands with him.

We want to cooperate with France. This is by far not our only area of interest. We have many questions on other foreign policy topics, including almost the entire agenda of the UN Security Council, such as the Central African Republic. The attempts to take our positions to different corners of the “ring” failed. We enjoy good mutual understanding on other crises in Africa, in which France traditionally acted as the convening party at the UN Security Council, and also on issues that go beyond the UN Security Council’s agenda.

Our dialogue is strategic. There are special bodies which we use to discuss fighting terrorism and promoting strategic stability. There’s also a large block of cultural cooperation, the Trianon Dialogue, created at President Macron’s initiative. We have good prospects. At least, they meet the aspirations of the French and the Russian people.


There are many talented people in Russia. However, the personal data processing regulations make it difficult for us to search for the talents that could be useful outside your country. Do you see this as a challenge or is it simply a security issue?

Sergey Lavrov:

This is our self-preservation instinct at work. We just want our talents to work in Russia while you openly want to steal them from us.

As it is stated in our Constitution, we support our people’s choice (including young people’s choice) of a place, a country where they want to live and work. But this principle must stimulate us to create most comfortable and competitive conditions in the Russian Federation.

And we are doing a great deal to make this a reality. Not many, but some people have returned. It is important to us that people work here, visit their partners, have their partners visit them here and exchange experience. But we do not want other countries to steal our talents. Although perhaps this will never end. Business is business. Headhunters are tough everywhere. Still, we want to create a business environment that could compete with the West, with the Silicon Valley and other places. We will try to achieve that.


We have known you for a long time. We watch you closely and admire you for being tremendously hard-working. Have there been moments when you were in despair and wanted to give up everything? Or when you told yourself: “Good job, Lavrov, well done”?

Sergey Lavrov:

Did you want to say “you son of a bitch”?

You asked if at times I want to give up everything. It depends on what “everything” means.

Thank you for complimenting my hard work. Actually, I am very lazy. It is true. There is no contradiction here. I hate leaving something unfinished on my desk for the next morning. So I make sure I can finish the amount of work I have by midnight and get a good night’s sleep.

But seriously, this is an interesting job. If I want to give up something, it is not the job. But… not a word about our partners.

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Piglet said that the best place would be somewhere where a Heffalump was, just before he fell into it, only about a foot farther on.
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Old February 26th, 2019 #24
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Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s opening remarks during talks with Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Cyprus Nikos Christodoulides, Moscow, February 22, 2019

22 February 2019 - 11:04

Mr Minister, my dear Nikos,


We are delighted to welcome you to Moscow, and we are also happy about this opportunity to continue a detailed dialogue on the entire range of our longtime and very friendly relations.

Traditionally, we maintain a detailed and regular political dialogue. We greatly appreciate the attention that President of the Republic of Cyprus Nikos Anastasiadis personally devotes to our ties.

We are noting positive trends in trade, overall economic performance and investment. Members of the Russian-Cypriot Inter-Governmental Commission for Economic Cooperation and the Working Group for Trade and Economic Cooperation are to hold their regular meeting in late February. Quite likely, they will adopt decisions making it possible to expand our practical cooperation still further.

We highly appreciate our cultural, humanitarian and spiritual ties that are in high demand among the citizens of Cyprus and the Russian Federation.

We are interested in another exchange of opinions on international matters, problems that persist in our common region and in relations between Russia and the European Union. Your assessments of the situation regarding the Cypriot peace settlement (around which many events are currently taking place) will prove important.


The source of information -

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks at a joint news conference following talks with Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Cyprus Nikos Christodoulides, Moscow, February 22, 2019

22 February 2019 - 12:54

Ladies and gentlemen,

We have held good, detailed and candid talks with my colleague, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Cyprus Nikos Christodoulides.

Cyprus is Russia’s important and long-time partner in Europe. Our cooperation hinges on long-standing bonds of friendship and mutual sympathy, the spiritual and cultural affinity of our nations and serves to enhance security and stability in the East Mediterranean region and on the entire European continent.

We discussed a wide range of bilateral issues in great detail and focused on the implementation of top-level agreements reached during the visit of President of the Republic of Cyprus Nicos Anastasiades to the Russian Federation just over a year ago. We were satisfied to note positive trends in all areas of bilateral cooperation, including the economy, as well as cultural, humanitarian and educational ties. We agreed to speed up the coordination of a number of draft documents that are called on to enhance and strengthen our contractual-legal framework.

We compared our positions on all topical matters of international and regional agendas. We agreed to continue our close coordination at multilateral venues, primarily the UN and the OSCE.

We devoted much attention to the Cypriot peace settlement. Russia reaffirms its commitment to a comprehensive, equitable, long-lasting and viable solution to this problem. We believe that it is necessary to resume inter-community talks in line with the available resolutions of the UN Security Council, which can issue new decisions to approve any changes in the talks’ fundamental principles. Obviously, the current system of the island’s external security guarantees no longer meets modern realities and the Republic’s current international legal status. We firmly believe that the UN Security Council’s guarantees should become the most effective method for maintaining the security, sovereignty and territorial integrity of a united Cyprus. Today, we see no reasons for modifying the UN armed forces’ mandate in Cyprus, and we urge the concerned parties not to exploit this issue.

We exchanged views on the current status of relations between Russia and the European Union. We appreciate the constructive position of Cyprus in favour of normalising these relations, as well as the position of our Cypriot colleagues in favour of overcoming crises at the Council of Europe by reinstating fundamental principles of this organisation’s Statute, which states that all Council of Europe members enjoy equal rights at every CE body.

As usual, we also discussed with our Cypriot friends the most topical matters on the international agenda, including Syria and Ukraine. We believe that both of these crises must be resolved in full compliance with the UN Security Council’s resolutions, including Resolution 2254 on Syria and Resolution 2202 on Ukraine, which unanimously approved the Minsk Agreements and called for unfailing compliance with them.

In conclusion, my colleague, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Cyprus Nikos Christodoulides, invited me to visit Cyprus once again. I accept this invitation with pleasure.

The source of information -

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s interview with Vietnam Television and China’s CCTV and Phoenix TV, Moscow, February 24, 2019

24 February 2019 - 08:00


What do you think about relations between Vietnam and Russia at this stage? Do they have any overlapping interests in Southeast Asia?

Sergey Lavrov:

We are strategic partners. Vietnam is one of our closest neighbours. Our friendship is deeply rooted in history, the days when the Vietnamese people were fighting for their freedom. Subsequently, for nearly 70 years, we stood by our Vietnamese friends as they, in very difficult conditions, were rebuilding their post-war economy. Many modern Vietnamese industries were created with the direct participation of specialists from our country and still contribute to Vietnam’s economy. We very much appreciate the fact that our Vietnamese friends remember the Soviet Union’s contribution to what Vietnam has now become.

We enjoy a very good political dialogue. Last year, the General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, Nguyen Phu Trong, visited Russia, and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev visited Vietnam. We closely coordinate our approaches to international matters in the UN and various frameworks in the Asia-Pacific Region and as part of Russia's strategic partnership with ASEAN.

Our trade exceeded $6 billion last year. The increase of over 16 per cent was largely due to the fact that the Agreement on a Free Trade Area between Vietnam and the EAEU came into force. I consider the prospects for our economic relations to be quite promising. A high-level working group headed by the ministers of industry and trade has been established and is operating effectively. It is coordinating a host of major investment projects in the oil-and-gas and energy industries, the high-tech and telecom industries, digital economy and a number of other areas.

Traditionally, military-technical cooperation plays an important role in our relations. We are ready to continue to meet Vietnam’s needs in modern weapons to ensure its security and sovereignty.

Good cooperation has been established in the sphere of cyber security. We have special cooperation arrangements with Vietnam on this internationally important matter both on a bilateral basis and within the UN, where a special working group has been created at Russia’s initiative, in which all UN member states can participate, and which deals with rules of responsible behaviour in cyberspace. Vietnam strongly supported this initiative.

Cultural ties are something that has always united our peoples. Vietnam is one of the leaders in terms of the number of students studying in Russia. There are more than 6,000 of them, of which 2,000 study at the expense of our country's budget. If I’m not mistaken, about 950 students from Vietnam were admitted to Russian universities this year alone.

We are very satisfied with our relations and appreciate them, and we see that our Vietnamese friends respond to us in kind.


This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Treaty on Principles of Friendly Relations between Russia and Vietnam. The cross year of Russia and Vietnam will also be held in 2019. What kind of work are you doing in this regard?

Sergey Lavrov:

We agreed to hold cross years of Russia in Vietnam and Vietnam in Russia in 2019 and 2020. They will be devoted to the 25th anniversary of the Treaty on Principles of Friendly Relations and the 70th anniversary of diplomatic relations, which will be marked in January 2020. We are finishing forming the Organising Committee to be headed by Deputy Prime Minister Maxim Akimov. We expect Vietnam to be represented by an official of the same level. A draft action programme will be completed shortly which will include hundreds of events on both sides covering all areas of our cooperation from major investment projects to specific theatre tours. We expect the people of Russia and Vietnam to enjoy the cultural part of these cross years and to benefit from investment and other material projects which will be implemented in the future.


Next week, a second US-North Korean summit will take place. What do you think of relations between the two countries? What do you expect from the meeting and why was Hanoi chosen as a host city?

Sergey Lavrov:

Like elsewhere in the world, we welcomed the relations between the US and North Korea getting back to normal, as well as the summit held in Singapore last year and the announced agreements reached by US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un about the necessity of de-escalation, denuclearisation and the overall normalisation of the situation on the Korean Peninsula. The main thing is that these words are put into practice. As far as I understand, the US and North Korean negotiators in charge of the preparations of the summit to be held next week are involved precisely in this, working as they are to agree on how to finalise, at this summit, practical agreements that will specify concrete dates, schedules and commitments.

We are looking forward to the summit being a success and are trying to contribute to this. We are not making a secret of the fact that the US officials who are in charge of the preparations for the summit are consulting us. We are also maintaining regular contact with our North Korean friends. Motivated by a sincere desire to help, we are recommending ways which could push things along to help achieve results.

I would like to note that everything that took place in Singapore and afterwards and all the current efforts made by the involved parties have followed the logic that was built into the Russian-Chinese road map. In 2017, this road map was approved at a regular Russian-Chinese summit. It provides for an approach based on a phased and successive settlement of the Korean Peninsula issue: first, refusal from the rhetoric and actions annoying the other party and a switch to contacts in order to develop, at the next phases, mutually-acceptable approaches that will ensure the denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula and security of all countries in Northeast Asia taking into consideration the interests of North Korea’s development.

The annoying rhetoric and actions have actually been abandoned. North Korea has put its nuclear tests and missile launches on hold. The US and South Korea are restraining from holding any new military exercises near the North Korean coast. A dialogue is being launched.

We are interested in seeing further events develop in keeping with the Russian-Chinese road map’s logic. We will be prepared to consult with the involved parties about the details of the situation as it evolves, all the more so as the final agreement, according to what our Chinese colleagues and we wrote into our road map, has to be formalised in a multilateral format. This is because the Northeast Asia matters have to be coordinated with the agreements between all other participants, including South Korea, China, Russia and Japan.

Why was Hanoi chosen as the venue for the summit? I believe because Vietnam shows responsibility when it comes to its foreign policy. Vietnam is a country that is open to cooperation with all countries and it never forgets its friends but does not want an artificial confrontation with anyone.

Many countries see Vietnam as a comfortable country for holding political talks, as well as for visiting its hospitable capital. For instance, I always enjoy staying in Hanoi.


From Vietnam you will go to China for a meeting of the foreign ministers of Russia, India and China (RIC). How important are these ministerial meetings in the RIC format? What are your expectations for the upcoming trilateral meeting?

Sergey Lavrov:

RIC is a promising format, which has initiated many modern tendencies in politics. One of its founding fathers was Yevgeny Primakov when he held the post of foreign minister in 1996-1998. He proposed developing trilateral contacts between Moscow, Beijing and New Delhi. This initiative eventually reached the level of foreign ministers when we held the first unofficial contacts.

The first RIC summit was held in 2006. After that, our interaction gathered momentum at regular ministerial meetings, which were held once a year or every 18-24 months. The second RIC summit, which was held last year on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Buenos Aires, has reaffirmed the three countries’ role in the rising system of international relations, a system that is more democratic and fairer.

When Yevgeny Primakov advanced this idea, he foresaw that the growth of China and India and Russia’s ability to overcome the problems of the mid-1990s would ensure the three countries’ integral involvement in the development of a new system of international relations, not a unipolar or bipolar, but a multipolar world. The more there are poles – China, India and Russia are independent poles on the international stage – the greater the need to keep the system balanced. The development of contacts in this trilateral format is an attractive example for many other parts of the rising multipolar system.

RIC led to the creation of an important and rapidly developing group, BRICS. The addition of Brazil changed the abbreviation to BRIC, which turned into BRICS with the accession of South Africa. The group is well structured at the level of top leaders and regular meetings of foreign, economy and finance ministers. Moreover, this group is one of the poles within the G20, where it serves as a balancer. There is the Group of Seven (G7), which is promoting its own agenda, and there is BRICS, which the other G20 countries, including Argentina, Mexico, Saudi Arabia and Indonesia, support because they are focused on the positions which BRICS upholds and is promoting.

RIC is a member of the UN, the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM), the East Asia Summit and other organisations. The ability of our trilateral group to operate in all these formats serves as a stabilising factor of multilateral platforms. I hope that the ministerial meeting scheduled for next week will be very instructive. We are preparing a joint statement. Despite minor differences in the RIC states’ positions, we always manage to coordinate joint decisions. It is an example of how compromises can be reached.


This year marks the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China, as well as the 70th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Russia and China. Chinese-Russian relations, which have reached their historical high, have become a model of a new type of international relations. In early March, two sessions will be convened in Beijing, to discuss all the important issues of China’s development, including diplomatic aspects. How do you assess Chinese diplomacy in recent years? How do you see the future of our relationship? How should we comprehensively develop our strategic partnership and mutual cooperation?

Sergey Lavrov:

It seems to me that this is not an exaggeration. The leaders of Russia and China have more than once described the current stage in Russian-Chinese relations as friendly and close as never before, and as a strategic partnership. I believe that the intensity of the political dialogue between Moscow and Beijing is at a record level now. Last year, four meetings were held between President of Russia Vladimir Putin and President of China Xi Jinping. They exchanged state visits, then met twice on the sidelines of international events such as the BRICS and G20 conferences. Whenever our leaders participate in multilateral events, they always find time for a bilateral meeting. This way they keep in touch, frequently comparing notes, as we say, and understanding the nuances in each other’s positions. It is definitely easier to work out collective approaches.

In addition to summits, the Russian and Chinese prime ministers meet annually, following the established mechanism of regular meetings. Various official bodies work before such meetings, and there are special commissions for the preparations. There are five intergovernmental commissions headed by deputy prime ministers, which cover specific areas of our cooperation from investment to cultural and cross-border projects. They cover each and every format of cooperation, including industry and high technology.

Now we are holding cross years of Russia-China interregional cooperation, a project that holds enormous potential for adjacent regions on both sides of the border. By the way, there is a special intergovernmental commission on interaction between the Russian Far East and the Baikal region with Northeast China.

Indeed, this year marks 70 years of our diplomatic relations. We are celebrating this anniversary and our intensified cooperation. There are special events planned – the list is now being coordinated. Russia and China closely coordinate their approaches in the UN and other organisations I mentioned (the SCO, the East Asian BRICS summits, the G20), in many cases they are the drivers of these interstate groups.

I very much hope that the policy Moscow and Beijing are now pursuing will continue and gain traction. This policy is to take into account the approaches of all participants in various associations, not to impose one’s own point of view, as it sometimes happens in other organisations, to try to include in our collective position the requests of other members of BRICS, the SCO or other groups in which Russia and China interact. I think this is a good example of modern-day leadership.


I have participated in many panel discussions recently that have focused on Russia-US relations where analysts have reviewed the developments of the past two years since Donald Trump took office. Strangely, they are not counting on any improvement in Russia-US relations this year, either. Do you agree with their evaluations? When do you think Russia-US relations will be reset?

Sergey Lavrov:

I have already mentioned that we have contacts with US diplomats and military. A deconfliction channel was created in Syria which serves to reduce the risk of unintended incidents and is operating regularly. There are also consultations that are not publicly reported, but they continue in general on various aspects of the Syrian settlement. This is useful because the United States is there. Yes, they are there illegally and illegitimately. But in order to prevent unwanted incidents, communication is needed. It is all the more necessary now that the United States has announced that it will withdraw its troops from Syria. It is not clear, though, how and when. Many doubt whether it will do so at all. However, such a dialogue is useful. It is gratifying to know that the United States remains committed to implementing UN Security Council Resolution 2254, the key message of which is that the Syrians themselves should agree and decide on the future of Syria, without external pressure.

I have already mentioned the second issue with which we maintain contact. It is the Korean Peninsula. The Americans are interested in hearing our and Beijing’s advice and assessments. They conduct close consultations with China and the Republic of Korea.

Afghanistan is another foreign policy area where the Americans maintain and, moreover, initiate contact with us. Special Representative for the Afghan Reconciliation at the US State Department Zalmay Khalilzad has spoken several times with my deputy Igor Morgulov and publicly expressed his positive assessment of the efforts that Russia is making with regard to an Afghan settlement, including the Moscow format meeting representing China, Pakistan, Iran, India and the Central Asian countries. As you may be aware, the United States is regularly invited to attend this format, but, at least during the October meeting, they decided they could afford to decline the invitation. I am sure we will continue to invite US representatives to this format.

You can also look at other issues on the UN Security Council’s agenda on which we maintain contact. Unfortunately, they are important, but isolated. There is no dialogue that covers the entire range of our relations.

Yes, I met with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Helsinki last year. After that, we have talked over the phone a couple of times. We agreed that we will take an inventory of the entire range of Russia-US relations and do so without delay. We will do this keeping in mind that they are dragged down by lots of artificial irritants all the way down to limiting the scope of work of diplomatic missions or seizing diplomatic property, which the United States has stooped to. According to the convention of diplomacy, we were forced to respond in kind.

Our representatives met to discuss this bilateral agenda. The problems that were artificially created by the Americans were duly noted, but, unfortunately, remained without positive efforts aimed at untying these knots. Their position remains unchanged: Russia is the one who worsened relations, so, they say, it must change its ways. I can understand when they say this in Congress, because the internal political strife is ongoing there, and, as it turns out, anything goes. But when we hear the same figure of speech during closed consultations, there is nothing we can do but conclude that our US partners do not want to work constructively.

Probably, diplomats (they, too, are bureaucrats after all) see what happens between the “big people” who fight like dogs and cats, and believe that keeping it quiet and coming up with no initiatives is the right thing to do. However, it is sad that about the same fate befell strategic stability, which is the most important thing in terms of global security, and not just for Russia and the United States.

We have on several occasions - during the Hamburg meeting between President Putin and President Trump in 2017, their Helsinki summit in July 2018, my contacts with Mike Pompeo and visits to Russia by National Security Adviser John Bolton - suggested to our US colleagues that we begin a structured dialogue on strategic stability, which would include medium-range and shorter-range missiles, the Strategic Offensive Arms Limitation Treaty and outer space, which is now being considered a place where the United States would also like to deploy weapons, which will be a very sad development.

Unfortunately, the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva has needlessly put off consideration of the Russian-Chinese draft Treaty on Non-Deployment of Weapons in Outer Space for more than 10 years now. The draft is solid and well worked-through, and was duly presented. It has many supporters, including in Europe. However, the United States prefers not to have its hands tied. It has announced plans to deploy weapons in outer space. It is now clear why they kept refusing to support the draft Treaty that was submitted by Russia and China.

In any case, we issued an invitation to a dialogue. We were told that the time has not come yet. When the United States announced its withdrawal from the INF Treaty, we repeatedly suggested that the United States and us should sit down and discuss our mutual concerns. They had concerns about a missile, data about which they have been withholding for several years, and we seriously had to pry this information out of them. When they identified the missile, we told them that there was nothing secret about it, and suggested discussing it, since we have nothing to hide. The Americans refused to discuss this, or to participate in the demo launch of the missile, which we held in January, or to participate in the briefing, which provided clarification to the effect that the rocket complies with all the treaty provisions. The United States stuck to its position where it refuses to see anything, and Russia should go ahead and destroy this missile under US control. This is not a very polite thing to do even in US relations with smaller countries, let alone Russia. I could go on about Washington’s manners. Perhaps, we should focus on other things now.

We also had concerns about some things that the United States does which, we believe, violate the INF. In January, with great difficulty, we persuaded them to at least get together and hold talks. Perhaps, we’d be better off if we didn’t, because they adopted an absolutely unconstructive, I would even say destructive, position, which I mentioned. They do not want to listen to anything, they do not want to explain anything, or show, or watch what we have to show them, but they want us to destroy the missile, as well as all launchers and associated equipment, under their control, after which they will come to us four times a year and confirm these things.

Clearly, this has nothing to do with the treaty itself, or even elementary diplomatic culture, a culture of talks. During the Cold War, the Soviet Union and the United States were able to use this culture which allowed them to reach agreements.

Answering your question about when to expect changes, those in the United States who are now trying to dictate policies with regard to Russia, and do their best to prevent President Trump from fulfilling one of his election promises, namely, to normalise relations between Moscow and Washington, do not want improvement. The only thing they want is to see things get worse. They recently imposed more sanctions. Or, are just about to impose them, I stopped following.

They are imposing sanctions (in their understanding, to punish us) for the same thing over and over again. In particular, they imposed them several times for the fact that people in Crimea were horrified by the government that came to power in Kiev thanks to the support of the United States and the EU and by the fact that this government promised to eradicate Russians in Crimea, and voted to reunite with Russia. This is the purpose of these sanctions that are imposed “to punish and to edify.” This is sad.

We, as President Putin said, including in his address to the Federal Assembly on February 20, 2019, are open to constructive dialogue, of course, based on equality and mutual benefit, not like a teacher-student relation. You can’t talk like that to any country, let alone Russia.

The ball is in the United States’ court. I am not sure if this ball can get off the ground at all, or whether they want to throw it in our court in the first place; I am not sure how they would even go about throwing it if they do, or if the ball would travel far enough. To reiterate, we are open to constructive dialogue as soon as the United States is ready for a peer-to-peer dialogue and to address problems based on a balance of interests rather than ultimatums.


The annual International Arctic Forum will open soon. What projects will Russia offer to China?

Sergey Lavrov:

The Arctic: Territory of Dialogue forum will take place in St Petersburg on April 9-10, 2019. Invitations are traditionally sent to the member states of the Arctic Council and to the countries that display an active interest in the Arctic and want to contribute to cooperation in this promising region. We have developed close cooperation with China on Arctic matters.

I mentioned the commission that prepares meetings between prime ministers and is chaired by deputy prime ministers. This commission has several subcommissions, one of which focuses on trade and economic cooperation. This subcommission has a Russian-Chinese working group on Arctic cooperation based on practical projects. We are working together to build railway infrastructure in the subarctic zone of Russia and to modernise ports, in particular, the Sabetta seaport.

Our cooperation on the Northern Sea Route holds great promise just as interaction in tourism and research does. Our cooperation is developing in the framework of the working group I have mentioned and has yielded considerable results. China is an active contributor to the Yamal LNG project. Late last year, we launched the third train of this highly profitable project. I am sure that this is a very positive and forward thinking approach. By the way, we are working in the same spirit on the Arctic LNG-2 project, to which our Chinese partners are contributing and which they will likely join.

Overall, Russia and China are working together to prepare the necessary documents within the framework of multilateral cooperation. In October last year, [environment] ministers from the Arctic Council and other concerned states met in Greenland where they signed an agreement to prevent unregulated commercial fishing on the High Seas of the Central Arctic Ocean. Russia and China signed this agreement. It shows that although we are interested in developing the Arctic, we also want to preserve its environment and the biological resources. The foreign ministries of Russia and China maintain a regular dialogue on all aspects of cooperation in the Arctic.


Some media write that you have a very difficult job and that you are tired and would like to take a rest.

Sergey Lavrov:

I read reports like that two years ago. They write a great deal about me, but I prefer not to comment on this. Those who really want to know can ask me. Your question includes a reference to someone who has written something. There is a lot being written.


Can you comment on the statement by President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko that his country is ready to unite with Russia? Is Russia ready for this?

Sergey Lavrov:

Everybody is too emotional about this issue and journalists are overthinking it and assuming a lot. Our position is very simple, as is that of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko. There is an agreement on the creation of the Russia-Belarus Union State. This agreement includes all the arrangements that form the basis of the Union State. They are related to interaction in the economy and finance, and in the sphere of political and foreign policy coordination. In December, a decision was made to form a working group which is operating now. It should find out the extent to which the agreements that were made have been implemented and what needs to be done taking into consideration the current development of Russia and Belarus. So this is what we are talking about. We are ready to continue cooperation as much as Belarus, too, is ready to do this. Apparently, the Belarusian party proceeds from the same. So I am confident that we will come to an agreement.


When will the armed forces of Turkey, Russia and Iran conduct joint operations in Syria?

Sergey Lavrov:

Russia, Turkey and Iran are not planning any joint operations in Syria. Russia and Iran are operating in Syria at the invitation of the legitimate Government of the Syrian Arab Republic. Turkey has cited concerns over national security threats, and the Syrian Government is protesting the deployment of Turkish service personnel on its territory. Nevertheless, it has supported the establishment of the Astana format. This pragmatic decision has made it possible to achieve a goal that no one else has managed to achieve, that is, to guarantee a real ceasefire in most Syrian regions and to help launch direct dialogue between the government and the armed opposition. Previously, neither the UN, nor any other organisations or Western countries were able to involve it in dialogue. They supported the opposition, most of whom left Syria a long time ago and live abroad, in the Persian Gulf countries or Europe. So, they are emigrants. But the Astana format drastically changed the situation in that those opposing each other with weapons in hand on the battlefield sat down at the negotiating table. This is the main thing because developments on the ground eventually depend on these people - the Syrian army and the armed opposition.

As I said, a ceasefire is being observed in most Syrian regions. A problem persists in Idlib where it is necessary to disengage the constructive-minded armed opposition and terrorists, as well as in the northeast where the United States has created a lot of problems by backing the Kurds who have started settling on Arab territories, which is irritating them and causing Turkey to feel concerned. Perhaps, Washington wanted to create so many problems in order to supervise the process, as they like to do, later on.

At the latest summit on Syria in Sochi they also discussed the border between Syria and Turkey, as well as Ankara’s concern regarding the use of this border by extremist terrorist elements. We lack consensus as to what members of the Kurdish nation can be considered terrorists. Turkey has a special position. We understand its concern, but it is, nevertheless, necessary to separate the husk from the grain and to see which Kurdish unit is truly extremist and threatens the security of Turkey. They discussed the creation of a buffer zone under an agreement signed by Turkey and Syria as far back as 1998. This includes an agreement to cooperate on eradicating the terrorist threat along this common border, including the Turkish side’s ability to operate in certain border sections on Syrian territory. Today, the final format of this buffer zone is being coordinated with the help of military experts and, of course, with due consideration for the position of Damascus, as well as maximum possible consideration for Turkey’s interests. But we are not discussing any joint military measures. In principle, we know of situations where agreements on the ground regarding a ceasefire, compliance with security measures and the creation of de-escalation zones were accompanied by the deployment of Russian military police units. This opportunity still exists for the above-mentioned buffer zone. But I would like to note once again that military experts are currently completing the coordination of details, while heeding the positions of Damascus and Turkey.


On the one hand, Russia has to maintain partnership relations with Iran but, on the other, cooperate with Israel. How has Russia managed to achieve this?

Sergey Lavrov:

This is for you to judge if we are succeeding in achieving this. If you think we are, it means we are doing things right.


We heard yesterday that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had postponed his visit to Moscow. Will this meeting take place at all?

Sergey Lavrov:

As for the [postponing of the] visit, Israel has officially announced this – it is no secret. As I understand it, today is a decisive day for Israel getting ready for the elections. They asked that the visit be postponed and said they would suggest a later date. As soon as they do, we will agree on the new date.


Has the coincidence of Russia and Vietnam’s interests in Southeast Asia been included on the agenda for the Russian-Vietnamese conference to be held by the Valdai International Discussion Club in Ho Chi Minh City?

Sergey Lavrov:

We are looking forward to a very interesting discussion in Ho Chi Minh City at the conference to be held by the Valdai International Discussion Club, which I was pleased to be invited to attend. I accepted the invitation with pleasure.

Vietnam and we have a common position on the development of relations between the Russian Federation and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Vietnam was one of the main supporters of the efforts to reach an agreement – it was signed in Singapore – that gives relations between Russia and ASEAN the status of strategic partnership. Vietnam, among other Southeast Asian nations, was one of the initiators of holding Russia-ASEAN summits and creating a number of agencies to facilitate cooperation, including the ASEAN Centre at MGIMO University under the Foreign Ministry and programmes for economic and cultural cooperation between Russia and ASEAN. It is important that our approaches are 100 percent positive. We are seeking more cooperation and highly appreciate the position on the regional matters held by the ASEAN, which never gets involved in confrontation with anyone and always speaks in favour of dialogue on any issue that will make the involved parties sit down at the negotiating table.

Sometimes ASEAN is criticised for moving too slowly on some issues. This is something that we also have in common. Russian proverbs say: the slower you go, the farther you get, and measure seven times and cut once. This is much more reliable than trying to resolve all issues at once just because you have elections in the coming year. Everyone has elections but I believe it is irresponsible to sacrifice the quality of solutions to international matters for the urge to seize the moment and get additional votes at home.


Japan has expressed hope that during Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit in June, Russia and Japan will sign a framework agreement on a peace treaty. Do you think this plan can be implemented? Japan’s plans to deploy the US missile defence system are among the major problems for Russia. Do you think diplomatic efforts can remove this threat?

Sergey Lavrov:

Regarding Japan’s announcement of their plans for Russian President Vladimir Putin’s June visit to attend the G20 summit and to hold a regular meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, let this lie on their conscience. There were no agreements, and could not even be any, because we never support any artificial deadlines on any issue. We have repeatedly explained this to our Japanese colleagues. The last time I did this was recently in Munich, when we met with my colleague, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Japan Taro Kono. Moreover, no one has ever seen any framework draft. I do not know what our Japanese neighbours are talking about.

Secondly, our position is very simple. Dealing with complex issues requires not only the proper atmosphere, but some real content for relations in the economy, politics and international affairs. If we look at the real situation, Shinzo Abe told the Parliament he definitely planned to resolve the peace treaty problem on Japanese terms. Honestly, I don't know what makes him so confident. Neither President Vladimir Putin, nor I, nor anyone else involved in Russian-Japanese consultations gave our Japanese colleagues grounds for making such a statement. The fact that Vladimir Putin and Shinzo Abe announced the need to speed up work on a peace treaty based on the 1956 Declaration during a meeting on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Singapore suggests the opposite: the negotiations are based on this document, not on some Japanese conditions. It clearly states that first of all a peace treaty has to be signed. And, as I have said many times, this means our Japanese neighbours need to recognise the results of WWII in their entirety, including the Russian Federation’s sovereignty over all of the Kuril Islands, including the four islands of the Lesser Kuril Chain. It is strange that our Japanese colleagues do not want to agree with the results of WWII the way they are enshrined in the UN Charter. It says that everything that the victorious powers did is not to be discussed. Even if the Japanese have their own interpretation of the San Francisco Peace Treaty and other documents relating to this region, they have ratified the UN Charter. It would be wrong to withdraw ratification. This will not work.

In a broader context, we had an agreement primarily to create a new quality of relations. Japan joined a series of sanctions against the Russian Federation, although not all of them. This can hardly be considered a friendly move. In the UN, Japan votes with the United States on all resolutions directed against Russia, but opposes or abstains on projects proposed by Russia – that is, generally coordinates its position in the UN with Washington. We are not opposed to Japan cooperating with other countries, but the United States has declared Russia its main enemy – naturally, and China too.


Is there any tangible US influence on Japan?

Sergey Lavrov:

I do not know to what extent Japan is being influenced, but it is certainly being discussed. It was recently announced that at the end of May, US President Donald Trump is going to visit Japan, and one of the topics of the talks will be the peace treaty with the Russian Federation. If this is really so, it shows the extent of Japan’s dependence, and I have nothing to add to that. Japan having a military alliance with the United States is also an important factor. It gives the US the right to deploy its armed forces anywhere in Japan and they are already deploying their missile defence system there, which creates risks for both Russia and China (we have spoken about this many times). I repeat, this is happening in a situation where the US has declared Russia its main adversary. It would be a mistake to ignore the fact that, contrary to the declared goal, this actually worsens the quality of our relations.

We are ready to continue the dialogue with our neighbour. We can see good potential here. We have very good cultural and humanitarian cooperation: the Russian Seasons and the Russian Culture Festival are very popular in Japan. We have quite good economic projects.

And my last point: among the agreements on ways to improve the quality of bilateral relations, there is one about the need to create a positive public image of each other. As stipulated in previous Russian-Japanese agreements, the decision on a peace treaty must be supported by the peoples of both countries. In this respect, terms such as “northern territories” and “illegal occupation” used in Japan not only in textbooks, but also in many government documents that underlie the activities of ministries and departments, actually work against this.

Recently, as you know, the Japanese government has been talking a lot about being close to achieving a result. Looking at the response this sparks in Russia, public opinion polls show how wrong it is to act the way our Japanese colleagues do, trying to impose their own vision of a solution. And yes, they even promise not to ask for compensation...

As President of Russia Vladimir Putin said in his message to the Federal Assembly on February 20, we will continue to do our best to achieve agreements that will provide conditions for a solution to the peace treaty problem that will be acceptable to the peoples of both countries. So far, we see that such conditions are totally absent.

The source of information -

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s answer to a media question during the “Moscow. Kremlin. Putin” TV show, Moscow, February 24, 2019

24 February 2019 - 14:30


If, as President of Russia Vladimir Putin has said, the United States “makes all the calculations,” where will this lead? Will they give up the confrontation?

Sergey Lavrov:

It has become very difficult for me to assess the intellectual powers of some members of the US elite, who have been mentioned by the President.

The source of information -

The following events are not displayed in the English version.

18 February 2019

Opening Remarks by S. Lavrov at the D. Shakhovsky Award Ceremony with the Sign of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia “For Contribution to International Cooperation”, Moscow, February 18, 2019 -

19 February 2019

Greeting by S. Lavrov to the organizers and participants of the conference “The Middle East: A New Stage, Old Problems?”, Organized in the framework of the VIII Middle East Dialogue of the International Discussion Club “Valdai” -

20 February 2019

Meeting of S. Lavrov with the Governor of the Stavropol Territory V. Vladimirov -

21 February 2019

Meeting of S. Lavrov with political adviser to the President of the Syrian Arab Republic on political issues and the media B. Shaaban -
Where should they dig the Very Deep Pit?
Piglet said that the best place would be somewhere where a Heffalump was, just before he fell into it, only about a foot farther on.
(c) Alan Alexander Miln

Last edited by Alex Him; February 28th, 2019 at 12:34 AM.
Old February 26th, 2019 #25
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Most personal and non-personal events have not been translated to English.

Personal events:

Statement by Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova

18 February 2019 - 17:41

The situation in Venezuela is following an alarming trajectory. Encouraged by Washington, the opposition plans to hold, on February 23, events which, paraphrasing the great Latin American author Gabriel Garcia Marquez, could be called "the chronicle of a provocation foretold."

Notably, they are planned on the same day the term of the pseudo interim presidency formally expires. After February 23, his unauthorised activities will become illegitimate even within the framework of the “legal” model designed by him and his Washington handlers. Clearly, certain "actions" are required of him.

What specifically? The plan is to bring in cargo designated as “humanitarian aid” for the Venezuelan people from a neighbouring state. Considering the position taken on this issue by the legitimate authorities of Venezuela, the masterminds behind this action mean to “step into the breach”, provoking the border guards and the military into using force. They expect either to divide the military (it’s no accident that the “interim president” set an ultimatum for them to side with him within eight days), or to create token victims, a Venezuelan Maidan, a “heavenly hundred,” which would justify military intervention from outside the country.

In recent days, the Colombian city of Cucuta located at the Venezuelan border, has become internationally known, and the executive producers of the current anti-Venezuelan campaign from Washington, including Senator Marco Rubio and Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart, have already arrived there.

This begs the question: what do the people behind this scenario have in mind?

If they are truly motivated by a desire to help people with humanitarian aid, it would be reasonable to ask, first, wouldn’t it make more sense, instead of a hypocritical attempt to import "aid" to the tune of a couple hundred million dollars, to unlock the accounts of Venezuelan state enterprises in US banks in the amount of $11 billion (allocated by the government for purchasing medicine, food and essential supplies) or the PDVSA funds and assets in the amount of $7 billion? The total damage caused by the US sanctions on Venezuela since 2013 is estimated at $345 billion. It is hard to believe that such unlawful sanctions aimed at strangling the Venezuelan economy were designed to alleviate the situation of the ordinary citizens in that country.

Second, if the organisers really want to just deliver some kind of humanitarian aid to the needy, why not use the specialised UN agencies that have extensive and invaluable experience in carrying out such operations? Could it be because their operations are based on impartiality, neutrality, independence and humanity, and because all steps are necessarily coordinated with the legitimate authorities of a particular country or influential and trustworthy regional organisations, such as CARICOM?

Of course, these questions are irrelevant if we are talking about a staged provocation and the exploitation of a noble cause. Then, another question comes to mind, primarily, for Latin Americans. We are aware that the complicated history of the region has caused a persistent allergy to foreign military intervention, which came, as a rule, from the north, i.e. the United States. We are aware that all countries of Latin America and the Caribbean, regardless of the political hue of their governments, have spoken out against military intervention in Venezuela. The possibility is only discussed in the United States and, oddly enough (though, perhaps, it is not odd at all), by the "interim president of Venezuela" himself, in such strong terms in fact that sometimes his Washington handlers have to rein him in. Is anyone in the region prepared to allow a military scenario? The voice of Latin Americans against provocation and in defence of Latin America, once proclaimed an area of peace, would be especially important to hear now.

I would like to remind everyone of the events of 1986, when “humanitarian aid to Nicaragua” turned out to be a batch of weapons to the contras. By the way, the current US Special Envoy for Venezuela Elliott Abrams supervised that operation.

Again and again we emphasise that the resolution of Venezuela's problems is the exclusive right, competence and responsibility of the Venezuelans themselves, which they should exercise without provocative interference from the outside. International, primarily regional, assistance should be aimed at providing as much friendly assistance as possible. As such, we welcome the goals stated and pursued by the participants of the Montevideo Mechanism which includes Mexico, Uruguay, Bolivia, and the CARICOM countries. For our part, we are ready to assist in achieving such an understanding between all constructive and patriotic forces in Venezuela.

The source of information -

Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova’s response to a media question about Russia’s assessment of the outcome of the Ministerial to Promote a Future of Peace and Security in the Middle East

18 February 2019 - 20:15


Will you comment on the outcome of the Ministerial to Promote a Future of Peace and Security in the Middle East held in Warsaw on February 13-14?

Maria Zakharova:

We publicly expressed our attitude to this event many times back when it was at the preparation stage. In particular, we noted that the decisions on the format and agenda of this conference were taken hastily and secretively, without serious consultations with the UN and the main regional and non-regional players. We pointed out that this approach contradicted the organisers’ declared goal of developing a collective strategy in the Middle East. We said openly that we view this as yet another attempt to force unilateral solutions designed to promote the US geopolitical interests on the international community.

The outcome of this event has fully confirmed that this is so. It is clear that the conference was not intended for a serious discussion of Middle Eastern problems. The main achievement of this event is the establishment of several international working groups that will discuss solutions to a number of global threats and challenges, such as terrorism, non-proliferation, humanitarian issues and refugees. It is nothing other than an attempt to create a parallel format that will produce unilateral solutions. What is the special value of these groups if the majority of their competencies have long been a matter of serious discussion at the UN and its specialised bodies?

This looks like a US attempt to initiate and lead a long-term process so as to influence the Middle East policies of the countries which attended the Warsaw conference, changing them to benefit the United States. In this context, it is indicative that the final document adopted at this conference is not a collective paper but one that has been worded as a statement of the two co-chairs, the United States and Poland. Of course, a decision that is adopted without due regard for the opinions of the other invited countries, let alone many other influential states, including regional ones, that refused to attend this conference, is not acceptable as a comprehensive global strategy for peace and security in the Middle East.

Lastly, it is obvious that this conference is spearheaded against Iran, as can be seen from the politicised statement made by Vice-President Mike Pence. As expected, the main goal of the Warsaw conference was to consolidate the participating countries’ support for Washington’s destructive agenda focused on an all-round counteraction against Tehran, which was presented as the main driver of instability in the region.

We regret to say that the Warsaw conference was the latest evidence of the US policy of creating new dividing lines in the Middle East, which is an area of numerous conflicts and contradictions as it is. But this is the signature style of Washington, which has long opted for enforcing unilateral formulas on other countries, such as the notorious “deal of the century” [to end the decades-old Israel-Palestine conflict]. Another example of this policy is the establishment of interest-based coalitions, such as the anti-Iranian “Arab NATO.” These actions are diverting the international community from the path towards a lasting stability and are hampering the settlement of existing conflicts in the region.

We believe that it is necessary to coordinate the international community’s approach to the settlement of crises in the Middle East and North Africa. Any decisions must be truly collective and coordinated under the UN auspices and they should comply with the norms and principles of international law, such as respect for the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of all countries.

The source of information -

18 February 2019

Meeting of M. Bogdanov with the president of the international non-governmental organization “International Crisis Group” R. Mali -

Meeting of M. Bogdanov with Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Arab Republic of Egypt M. Elbadri -

19 February 2019

Meeting of M. Bogdanov with the former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Egypt N. Fahmi -

Meeting of V. Titov with Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Kingdom of Spain to the Russian Federation F. Valderrama Parej -

Meeting of M. Bogdanov with the Ambassador of Sudan in Moscow N. Babicker -

Meeting of M. Bogdanov with Advisor to the President of the Lebanese Republic Amal Abu-Zeid -

20 February 2019

Meeting of S. Ryabkov with Cuba's Ambassador to the Russian Federation H. Penalver Portale -

Meeting of M. Bogdanov with the adviser to the President of the State of Palestine on foreign policy issues and international relations, a member of the Central Council of the PLO, the co-chairman of the Russian-Palestinian working committee on the Middle East N. Shaas -

Meeting of M. Bogdanov with the Ambassador of Armenia in Moscow V. Toganyan -

Meeting of M. Bogdanov with the adviser to the President of Syria on political issues and the media B. Shaaban -

21 February 2019

The answer of the Secretary of State - Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russia Grigory Karasin to the question of RIA Novosti about the upcoming meeting with the Special Representative of the Prime Minister of Georgia Z. Abashidze -

Consultations of I. Morgulov with the Director General (Deputy Minister) for America and Europe of the Indonesian Foreign Ministry M. Anshor -

Meeting of O. Syromolotov with the Director of the Executive Committee of the Regional Antiterrorist Structure of the SCO J. Giesov -

Meeting of G. Karasin with the Ambassador of Uzbekistan to Russia B. Asadov -

Meeting of M. Bogdanov with the Ambassador of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia in Moscow to Alemayehu Tegen -

Political consultations of A. Grushko with the State Secretary (First Deputy Minister) of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Slovenia S. Leskovar -

Consultations of S. Ryabkov with Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Venezuela I. Gil -

Meeting of M. Bogdanov with the chairman of the Syrian opposition "Movement for a pluralistic society" R. Cassis -

22 February 2019

Answer by S. Gubarev, Ambassador at large, of the Russian Foreign Ministry to the media question about the situation in Transnistrian settlement -

Meeting of S. Vershinin with the Ambassador of China in Moscow, Li Huei -

Non-personal events:

Comment by the Information and Press Department on the suspension of a number of RT-related accounts on Facebook

18 February 2019 - 17:37

The US continues down the path of strict censorship and restrictions on freedom of speech on the internet. Today, we learned that Facebook has suspended without explanation a number of RT-related accounts, in particular Anissa Naouai’s In the Now project that had a total of 4 million subscribers.

Once again, we are dealing with an act of direct and legally dubious pressure on information sources that are inconvenient for Washington. It is obvious that this trend toward censoring the internet is only gaining momentum despite constant calls from the West that we respect freedom in the digital and information spheres.

We believe it is unacceptable for Facebook administrators to block accounts in an authoritarian and non-transparent manner that violates generally recognised principles of freedom of expression and equal access to information.

We call on relevant international organisations to respond, above all, the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media. We would also ask international human rights organisations to give their assessment of the American interpretation of internet "freedom".

The source of information -

Comment by the Information and Press Department on developments in Donbass

19 February 2019 - 20:15

We are receiving alarming news from Donbass. Observers of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission have recently noted a sharp increase in fire attacks along the demarcation line. In the past two weeks alone, they have recorded about 10,000 violations of the ceasefire regime, and heavy artillery systems are being fired once again. Kiev is amassing equipment and ammunition in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions and redeploying units, including the notorious punitive battalions, in the area. The Armed Forces of Ukraine are using drones as artillery spotters in violation of the Minsk Agreements, and they are moving deep inside the “grey zones.”

Yesterday, another heinous crime was perpetrated in Donetsk, with three explosions rocking the city. Two bombs exploded in direct proximity to the residential quarters of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission observers. Fortunately, no one was hurt.

According to eyewitness accounts posted in the media and social networks, this incident appears to be similar to the August 2018 terrorist attack that killed Alexander Zakharchenko. Kiev deliberately continues to destabilise the region, trying to intimidate local residents. All this fits into the logic of Petr Poroshenko’s election campaign, which is picking up momentum. President Poroshenko wants to divert the voters’ attention from socio-economic problems, widespread poverty, the flight of the economically active population from the country, the persecution of priests and believers of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church to hostilities in Donbass and blame Russia for Kiev’s own political failures. While playing this game, Kiev resorts to the most malicious provocations, trying to involve OSCE observers in these provocations and targeting them.

We urge Ukraine’s Western sponsors to bring its leaders to order and to dissuade them from audacious military undertakings that are fraught with disastrous consequences.

The source of information -

Comment by the Information and Press Department on the 5th anniversary of the state coup in Ukraine and its consequences

19 February 2019 - 20:16

Following the 2014 state coup, which the United States and several other countries openly supported, Ukraine has been falling ever deeper into political chaos, corruption, lawlessness and aggressive nationalism.

Over the past five years, Ukraine has been engulfed in violence and crimes committed on political and ideological grounds. Most of these crimes were not followed by appropriate legal action. The case of the snipers who shot people on Maidan has not been objectively investigated, and the tragedy in Odessa in May 2014 has not been solved.

Contrary to their declarations of commitment to democracy and human rights and freedoms, the Ukrainian authorities are actually hunting down those whose views differ from the official position. Many independent Ukrainian media outlets and journalists, including editor-in-chief of RIA Novosti Ukraine Kirill Vyshinsky, have been victimised and persecuted.

Attacks on human rights activists and public figures have become regular. According to Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, over 50 crimes were committed in Ukraine against civil activists in 2018.

The notorious website Mirotvorets, which contains the personal data of some 120,000 people who do not accept Kiev’s policy, has not been suspended.

Kiev continues to promote the division of Ukrainian society on ethnic and ideological grounds. Militant chauvinism and xenophobia have become part of the official policy. Nazi henchmen and collaborators, in particular Stepan Bandera, Roman Shukhevich, Yevgeny Konovalets and Andrey Melnik, are glorified at the government level. According to the annual report of the Israeli Ministry of Diaspora Affairs, Ukraine is a leader in anti-Semitism and intolerance against Jews.

The discrimination against language, educational and cultural rights and freedoms of Russian speakers and other national minorities in Ukraine has reached an unprecedented level.

Kiev has heinously interfered in the country’s religious affairs, trampling the freedom of religion, the choice of confession and the mysteries of faith. By establishing the so-called Orthodox Church of Ukraine, the Kiev authorities have deepened the existing split of Orthodoxy in Ukraine and have divided Ukrainian citizens into “us” and “them.” The green light has been given to a violent re-division of church property and the liquidation of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church, whose clergy have been openly threatened with violence. Dmitry Yarosh, a member of the Ukrainian parliament and an adviser to the President of Ukraine, is openly calling for a “hunt for Moscow priests” who should be “destroyed with love” because “Ukrainians are merciful.” Such incitement can lead to grave consequences, including a bloody religious war.

All of this is taking place against the backdrop of a smouldering armed conflict in Donbass. Kiev is ready to rekindle it any day so as to regain control of the region, no matter how many people may suffer in the process. According to the UN, over 12,000 people have been killed, hundreds are missing and hundreds of thousands of people have become internally displaced. Meanwhile, the Ukrainian authorities maintain the trade, economic, energy and transport blockade of the southeastern regions, which is further aggravating humanitarian problems.

The legal arbitrariness and lawlessness in Ukraine have not been censured by its Western partners, which inspires the ruling regime to make new undemocratic moves violating moral principles and the norms of civilised behaviour. Kiev has no scruples about segregating Ukrainian citizens and denouncing those who have to seek employment in Russia. At the whim of the powers that be, millions of Ukrainians working in Russia have been denied the constitutional right to take part in presidential election at Ukraine’s diplomatic missions in Russia.

The Ukrainian authorities have shown a comparable lack of consideration for their international commitments at the OSCE by prohibiting Russian observers to monitor the election process in Ukraine as part of the ODIHR mission.

We again urge the UN, the OSCE and the Council of Europe to provide an unbiased assessment of the developments in Ukraine and to call on the Ukrainian authorities to resume compliance with the law and to faithfully honour their international obligations. Kiev’s refusal to comply with these norms can have irreversible consequences for Ukraine and Europe as a whole.

The source of information -

Information and Press Department’s answers to questions from Izvestia newspaper regarding the activity of the White Helmets in Idlib

20 February 2019 - 10:41


Will the Foreign Ministry propose that the UN ban the White Helmets?

Information and Press Department:

The Russian Federation uses all international platforms to dispel the myth created by Western special services whereby the White Helmets are an exclusively humanitarian organisation. In particular, in late December 2018, Russia’s Permanent Mission to the UN, along with Syria, held an event at the UN Headquarters to expose the true nature of this organisation, which is affiliated with terrorist groups. Maxim Grigoriev, Director at the Foundation for the Study of Democracy, a Russian NGO, and member of the Civic Chamber of the Russian Federation, was the keynote speaker at this seminar. He coordinated the drafting of a 250-page report containing convincing evidence of criminal activity by the White Helmets. The Russian Federation will maintain its efforts to raise awareness within the international community of the true face of these pseudo-humanitarian workers.


Can a planned chemical attack serve as a pretext for the US to delay the withdrawal of its troops from Syria?

Information and Press Department:

It has to be noted that unlike the terrorists, Damascus never had any reason or motive to use chemical weapons, having eliminated its stockpiles under international supervision. In addition to this, the UN Security Council and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical weapons have been keeping a close eye on Damascus from the very beginning of the crisis.

The Russian Federation takes very seriously reports that fighters operating in Syria are preparing new provocations using chemical warfare agents and toxic chemicals. They are clearly seeking to provoke foreign interference in the Syrian conflict. If history is any guide, this tactic works, unfortunately. The US and its allies used fabricated reports produced by the White Helmets as a pretext for carrying out missile strikes against Syrian government and military facilities. It should be recalled that the US used this terrorist provocation consisting of staging a chemical attack in Khan Shaykhun (Idlib Province, April 4, 2017) to carry out an act of aggression against a sovereign UN member state on April 7, 2017 by launching missile strikes against Shayrat Airbase. On April 14, 2018, the US, Great Britain and France bombed one of Syria’s leading research institutions in Barzeh as retribution for an alleged chemical attack in Douma, even though two inspections by the OPCW at the site concluded that this centre was not engaged in any prohibited activity under the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC).

In this connection, possible provocations using chemical weapons cannot be dismissed as a way to not only discredit Bashar Assad’s government, but also to maintain the illegal military presence of the US in Syria and justify possible military action against a UN member state.


How does Russia intend to counter these provocations?

Information and Press Department:

The Russian Federation is firm and consistent in its calls for creating a genuinely impartial and professional international mechanism under the auspices of the UN Security Council that can investigate incidents related to chemical terrorism in the Middle East while strictly keeping with international standards, which is something that the entity that existed under the same name until November 2017 was unable to achieve. However, our efforts were blocked by specific Western countries who are satisfied with a situation where organisations under their control stage one fake chemical weapons attack after another in order to blame the legitimate Syrian government for them.

The Fact-Finding Mission that was created within the OPCW to investigate chemical incidents is expected to play an important role in preventing crimes involving the use of chemical weapons. However, in order to do so it is essential that its system-wide shortcomings are addressed, which include the unbalanced geographical distribution of its membership, its selective approach to working with witness accounts and the failure to visit the sites of chemical incidents under the pretext of security risks, despite guarantees provided by the Syrian government. This lack of transparency results in the failure to comply with the OPCW’s fundamental principle of chain of custody when gathering evidence. It is obvious that it is high time that this mission undergo a radical makeover.

As for specific initiatives, together with our Syrian partners we are proactive in exposing fake chemical attacks staged by the White Helmets. In April 2018, we held a joint briefing at the OPCW with the participation of people who unwittingly became part of the chemical weapons provocation in Douma on April 7, 2018. More than 50 delegations from OPCW member states were at this event. It is telling that most NATO countries simply ignored the briefing.

In this connection it is also quite telling that just a few days ago BBC producer Riam Dalati confirmed that a video sequence on the White Helmets that was circulating online was actually staged. It would be interesting to know what the OPCW as a specialised organisation will say, considering that it has yet to release an investigative report on the events in question.

The source of information -

20 February 2019

About the Russia-ASEAN Senior Officials Meeting at the level of Deputy Foreign Ministers -

22 February 2019

Joint message for the media of the Ministry of Sports of the Russian Federation and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation about the XXIX World Winter Universiade 2019 in Krasnoyarsk -

Commentary of the Information and Press Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia in connection with the insinuations around the tragedy caused by the famine in the USSR in 1932-1933 -

Commentary of the Information and Press Department of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs regarding the launch of the 40th session of the UN Human Rights Council -
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Briefing by Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova, Moscow, February 22, 2019

22 February 2019 - 17:07

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s visit to the Socialist Republic of Vietnam

On February 24-25, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will visit the Socialist Republic of Vietnam to take part in the conference entitled “International Cooperation in a Troubled World” (Ho Chi Minh). This event is organised by the Valdai International Discussion Club and the Diplomatic Academy of the Vietnamese Foreign Ministry as part of a cross-year programme: the Year of Russia in Vietnam and the Year of Vietnam in Russia.

The participants will discuss the prospects of the Asia-Pacific Region with emphasis on integration and forming a system of security and cooperation аs well as further promoting the comprehensive strategic partnership between Russia and Vietnam.

Mr Lavrov and top officials of Vietnam’s Foreign Ministry may have a brief meeting on the sidelines of the conference.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s visit to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the PRC

On February 25-26, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will visit the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and hold talks with Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam.

During the meeting, the officials will exchange views on the current status and prospects of Russia-Hong Kong trade, economic and financial cooperation, as well as humanitarian cooperation. They will also discuss ways of further improving the bilateral contractual foundation

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s visit to the People’s Republic of China

On February 26, Mr Lavrov will hold talks with Member of the State Council and Foreign Minister of the PRC Wang Yi in Wuzhen, Zhejiang on the sidelines of the ministerial meeting in the Russia-India-China (RIC) format.

During the meeting the participants will focus on main political events in bilateral relations this year, primarily President Vladimir Putin’s participation in the One Belt, One Road second high-level forum on international cooperation in Beijing this April and Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to Russia this coming June. The foreign ministers will exchange views on the current status and prospects of Russia-China strategic cooperation.

The ministers will discuss ways of further deepening bilateral cooperation and coordination in world affairs with an emphasis on cooperation in the RIC format in view of the results of the second meeting of the leaders of the three states on November 30, 2018 on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Buenos Aires. In addition, they will review international issues, including arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation, developments around Venezuela, the situation on the Korean Peninsula, the settlement process in Syria, the state of affairs in Afghanistan, and the problem of preserving the multilateral agreements on the Iranian nuclear programme.

Meeting of foreign ministers of Russia, India and China

The 16th meeting of foreign ministers of Russia, India and China (RIC) will be held in Wuzhen (Zhejiang Province, China) on February 27 under China’s chairmanship.

The foreign ministers plan to exchange views on the most pressing international and regional matters, in particular, resolving the situation in Afghanistan, the Middle East, Syria, Libya and Yemen, the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula, and to discuss fighting terrorism, extremism and drug trafficking, as well as ensuring international information security.

Practical RIC cooperation with respect to the institutional and functional strengthening of this format will be prioritised in the discussion.

The agreed-upon approaches of the parties will be included in the final joint communiqué.

Update on Syria

Isolated hotbeds of tension remain in the province of Idlib and east of the Euphrates River against the background of continued stabilisation in Syria.

In the de-escalation zone, Idlib continues to show an increase in the number of ceasefire violations. Residential neighbourhoods in Aleppo and other towns come under shelling on a daily basis. The Syrian armed forces have to respond to these provocations.

On February 6-14, humanitarian aid from the UN and the Syrian Red Crescent Society was delivered to Rukban refugee camp located in the area outside the town of Al-Tanf, which is illegally occupied by the United States, and distributed among its residents. Upon Russia’s insistence, the UN Secretariat is preparing a detailed report on the delivery. However, even now it cannot be ruled out that some of the humanitarian supplies ended up in the hands of local illegal formations. Interestingly, according to available information, the majority of the camp residents seen by the humanitarian personnel did not look emaciated. No one among them had typical symptoms of diseases caused by extended exposure to desert conditions without means of subsistence (despite the gloomy picture provided to us at the stage of coordinating the convoy). Most importantly, most of the camp residents, as follows from preliminary estimates based on a survey, want to leave it.

That is why we consider it a top priority to start moving the people from the camp without delay. This is what Russia’s initiative says, according to which, two humanitarian corridors were opened on February 19 to provide a way out for the civilians in that camp. We are deeply concerned that the US troops are blocking the departure of IDPs from the camp along these corridors in violation of the well-established humanitarian principles of the UN.

Once again, we would like to draw everyone’s attention to the situation in another refugee camp, Al-Hawl, located in northeastern al-Hasakah Governorate. Dozens of people there have already succumbed to overcrowding, poor sanitary conditions and shortages of food and medicine. A case of leprosy in the camp was reported.

Update on Afghanistan

The military-political situation in Afghanistan remains tense. We noted increased activity of the armed opposition, including the Taliban and other extremist groups, as the number of areas controlled by the Afghan authorities continues to shrink. A forecast by US intelligence agencies has it that the stalemate on the “battlefield” will remain unchanged. Also, the US military acknowledged the serious nature of the threat posed by ISIS in Afghanistan. We have been talking about this for more than one year now, but our Western partners began to publicly admit it only recently.

In this regard, the need for a collective search for political and diplomatic solutions to the conflict in Afghanistan that has lasted for many years now is becoming even clearer.

We firmly believe that the positive results of the intra-Afghanistan dialogue in Moscow on February 5-6 with the participation of a broad range of political forces of Afghanistan and the Taliban movement, as well as the talks held by US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad with the Taliban delegation are opening the door to achieving the common goal of launching an inclusive peace process in Afghanistan.

In this context, we consider it important to coordinate the efforts of major international and regional partners. A meeting between Russian Special Presidential Envoy for Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov and Zalmay Khalilzad is scheduled to be held in Ankara today, February 22. We are convinced that the continued trend towards establishing interaction between our countries in Afghanistan can give an additional impetus to international efforts designed to resolve the conflict in that country.

Update on Venezuela

Developments in Venezuela have reached a critical point. A dangerous large-scale provocation is scheduled for February 23: the crossing of the border by the so-called “humanitarian convoy” that is being incited and led by Washington. It is fraught with a clash of the supporters and opponents of the current government and provides a convenient pretext for removing the current legitimate President from power by force.

Washington is preparing this provocation in line with the rules of military science. All information is available and you can find it online. It registers the transfer of US special forces and equipment closer to Venezuela.

There is information to the effect that companies from the US and its NATO allies are considering the purchase of a large consignment of weapons and ammunition for their subsequent transfer to the Venezuelan opposition forces. These include models and analogues of large-calibre machineguns, under-barrel and automatic grenade launchers, mobile air defence systems, and ammunition for small arms and artillery weapons of different designation. This is called preparations for the delivery of humanitarian aid. Under the plan, the cargo is to be delivered via the territory of a neighbouring country in several consignments in early March by transport aircraft of an international freight company.

Regrettably but not surprisingly, Ukraine is also going to take part in this unseemly operation. As far as we know, the Antonov state enterprise will be involved in it.

Special attention is paid to propaganda. No doubt, it is necessary to explain everything to the region’s residents but this is, of course, not a priority. It is also important to report to US voters on what is going on. Truly global forces are involved in these efforts. The US administration is deliberately escalating tensions everywhere. The world is being persistently told to believe that there is no way back. Once again, the same phrase is being used: “He must go.” As we see it, Washington is ready to go the whole way in its plans.

US President Donald Trump’s recent direct appeal to the Venezuelan military to ignore the orders of the legitimate head of state is extremely cynical. Imagine if someone appeals directly to the US Armed Forces not to obey their commander-in-chief? And this is against the background of quite a few US politicians and lawyers considering diplomatic contacts to be interference in the internal affairs of their country.

Let me repeat once again that the President of one country appeals to the Armed Forces of another independent state with a demand not to obey the legitimate leadership of that sovereign country. I think that after this the US, at least its politicians who approve of all this, either in public or tacitly, have no right whatsoever to speak about the legitimacy or the lack of legitimacy of anything in this life. The military of a foreign country have been blackmailed and, against any normal logic, threatened with the loss of everything if they do not break their oath.

On February 18, we explained in detail Russia’s attitude to such dangerous plans. The responses we are getting show that many have heard us and share our views. Some people are strong enough to say this out loud whereas others understand this but cannot openly express their views by virtue of many circumstances.

In our assessment of these plans, we speak frankly and do not conceal our concern. Naturally, this is all about Venezuela but there is more to it. This is not about the difference in assessments of the developments in the Bolivarian Republic but about responsibility for a choice between the preservation and violation of peace.

If the plans of the organisers of this provocation materialise, this would mean the rise of US aggressive foreign policy to a new level – the road of military venture. But this is downward path that will trigger a sharp escalation of tensions and confrontation in the world. What will come next?

We can see that even those who initially supported Washington’s line towards the formation of dual power in Venezuela understand the danger of this turn of events and the threat of direct involvement in them. Having recognised the self-appointed, so-called interim president as an option without any alternative, they have deprived themselves of the opportunity for a diplomatic manoeuvre. Our contacts point to the beginning of the understanding that the world as a whole, and primarily Latin America have much to lose as a result of following in the wake of this blunt and brazen policy of the United States.

This is reflected in the increasing number of ideas and international initiatives aimed at supporting what seemed immutable before: the UN Charter and its principles of international law, including respect for sovereignty, non-use or threat of force, and non-interference in internal affairs. The activities of a representative group of like-minded people from all continents in defence of peace, goals and principles of the UN Charter in the UN are of major importance in this respect.

As for those who are concerned about the humanitarian situation in Venezuela we could advise them to follow the example of the countries that are cooperating in implementing humanitarian programmes with the relevant UN bodies and agencies and the country’s government. A large consignment of medications and medical equipment has been delivered recently to Caracas Airport via WHO with Russia’s assistance.

Returning to the date of February 23, I would like to emphasise once again that we believe in the wisdom of the Venezuelan people. No matter how serious a split in society may be, it has only one country. And its future can only be built together. I would like to stress that Russia has been consistent in this position.

Our assessment of US President Donald Trump's remarks on Venezuela and US views on Latin America

On February 18, in Miami US President Donald Trump made a speech dedicated to Venezuela and US views on Latin America in general.

His speech was full of ideologically charged clichés. He talked about “the twilight hour of socialism,” and not only in Venezuela, but in Nicaragua and Cuba as well, and also about an impending, in his opinion, formation of a uniform political landscape in Latin America.

One got the impression that it wasn’t US President Donald Trump speaking but “President of the Western Hemisphere” James Monroe, and we are not in 2019 but in 1823.

“We will seek friendship and goodwill with the nations of the world – but we do so with the understanding that it is the right of all nations to put their own interests first. We do not seek to impose our way of life on anyone.” These are the words of US President Donald Trump, but he said this in his inaugural address. A legitimate question: when was he saying what he really thought and what does Washington believe now?

I would not like to comment on a speech that was full of disregard for the right of other nations to shape their destiny independently, without interference, sanctions and outside pressure, in conformity with the universally accepted norms of international law enshrined in the UN Charter. Such a gross disrespect for other nations’ rights certainly has nothing to do with peace, to paraphrase the great Mexican politician Benito Juárez.

And the point is not that US President Trump’s foreign policy narrative was meant primarily for the domestic audience in Florida representing those born to the south of the Rio Grande, whose votes are critical in all elections that are important for the White House. Regrettably, Washington’s Latin American agenda is also drawn up by an ultraconservative lobby in Miami.

We can see how arrogantly they attempt to devalue all the political achievements of Latin American and Caribbean countries in establishing a new style of interstate communication in the Western hemisphere.

Indeed, this region was the first nuclear-free area in the world and was just recently declared a Zone of Peace, where all its countries seek a harmonious coexistence combined with respect for the social and political systems chosen by them. The unique concept “unity in diversity” was formulated in Latin America and the Caribbean. How far it is from Washington’s concept of political uniformity! Just think, political uniformity or unity and diversity. There is a fundamental difference.

Now such unity is supposed to be replaced by what seemed to become a thing of the past: an unquestioning conformity with those who see themselves as the rulers of the region.

I hope that today’s politicians who are shaping the region’s destiny know that the façade of the Colombian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Bogota displays a quotation from another great Latin American, Simón Bolívar: “Each nation has the right to choose its government at its own discretion and the others must respect this choice.”

How relevant it is today.

The New Cuban Constitution and the Inter-American Democratic Charter conference at the headquarters of the Organisation of American States

We have noted the holding of an expert conference on the new draft Constitution of Cuba, which took place on February 12 at the Organisation of American States. On February 24, Cuba will hold a nationwide referendum on the draft Constitution.

Normally, such an event would not deserve any comment, since we are talking about a regular, almost routine “meeting” of anti-Cuban-minded experts, held at the organisation that suspended Cuba’s membership in 1962. In 2009, this decision was reversed, but Havana is not overeager to return to the OAS fold.

If, following the conference, the OAS Secretary General had not spoken about the “dictatorship” in Cuba, “the non-democratic nature of the constitutional process” in the Republic and had not called the draft Cuban Constitution “an ideological pamphlet”…

If this discussion had not taken place in parallel with the dramatic developments in Venezuela…

If US President Donald Trump had not openly declared on February 18 in Miami his wish to see a different political system in Cuba...

The whole set of factors testifies to the trends taking hold in the region. We see that a new model of colour revolutions is being tested in the Western Hemisphere. The cornerstone of this model is the external recognition, based on politically biased judgements, of some aspects of purely internal political processes contrary to the generally accepted norms of international law enshrined in the UN Charter, in particular, the principles of respect for sovereignty and non-interference in the internal affairs of states.

In this particular case, the OAS, pandering to Washington’s ideological beliefs, has unreasonably taken on additional functions of assessing legal and legislative processes that are exclusively the internal political competence of the Cuban state, thereby trying to discredit the Cubans, who were directly involved in drafting their Constitution, in the eyes of the international community and Cubans themselves.

We firmly believe that the holding of a referendum in Cuba and the adoption of the Basic Law are an inalienable sovereign right of the country and its people. The use of any pressure on the Cuban Government and Cuban citizens is absolutely unacceptable.

We hope that Latin America and the Caribbean will properly assess the danger of this precedent.

Developments in Haiti

Recently the media have been paying special attention to the situation in the Republic of Haiti, where an outbreak of social tensions has been accompanied by civilian riots resulting from people’s displeasure with the government policy and an aggravation of the social and economic situation in the country. According to available information, the current situation in Haiti is gradually improving and returning back to normal.

According to the Russian Embassy in Venezuela, which concurrently supervises Russia’s relations with Haiti, no Russian citizens were harmed during the above-mentioned manifestations, and the earlier reports about the detention of a Russian citizen in Port-au-Prince have received no confirmation.

We noted Washington’s call to settle the conflict by way of an inclusive dialogue between all political forces. As you can see, in respect of Haiti this is a good idea, which for some reason has a chance for success in Washington’s opinion, while in relation to other countries such recommendations are not made.

A reasonable question comes up in this connection: while calling on Haitian citizens not to go beyond peaceful protests and the Haitian government to take steps aimed at reaching a national consensus, why then do Americans deny this opportunity to the lawful Venezuelan authorities and the opposition? Most likely double standards and a desire to steamroll their own decision at all costs are at play here. In this situation, they are not bothered with standards. Instead it is necessary for them to prove that they will go through with their declared policy.

In addition, I would like to note that all necessary recommendations from the Foreign Ministry to Russian citizens currently staying in the Republic of Haiti are posted on the Crisis Management Centre information portal.

Implementation of the Minsk Agreements

February appears to be a somewhat fateful month in the history of present-day Ukraine. On February 21 and 22 of 2014, the country experienced a coup, which resulted in radicals and nationalist-minded forces taking over the government in Kiev, a development that was counter to agreements that had been guaranteed by the international community, represented by some European countries. Almost a year later, on February 12, 2015, the Contact Group agreed and signed a “Package of Measures for the Implementation of the Minsk Agreements,” which was endorsed by the Normandy Four leaders, UNSC Resolution 2202, and was supported by the June 6, 2018 statement of the Security Council President.

This document has global significance in the sense that the entire world, and not simply the parties involved in the settlement of the situation in Ukraine, says there is no alternative to it.

The document is acknowledged by all the parties in the conflict as the only way to settle the conflict in Donbass. It calls on Kiev, Donetsk and Lugansk to make reciprocal steps in politics and security, as well as in humanitarian and socioeconomic areas.

On the anniversary of the signing the Minsk Agreements, US Special Representative for Ukraine Negotiations Kurt Volker, a person who has absolutely nothing to do with the document’s drafting or its implementation and who is not a member of any group, published in his Twitter account a table of sorts to show how Russia has failed to meet its obligations. Stupidity alone is bad but stupidity coupled with initiative is even worse. This, I believe, is the case here. Because if Kurt Volker had placed the thing he was talking about in front of himself, he would have understood that it actually says nothing about Russia. It speaks of the obligations of the parties, Kiev on one side and Donetsk and Lugansk on the other. Apparently, this has been kept hidden from the US Representative. I think, we shall fill in the gaps for him.

There were very many questions from the media representatives regarding Washington’s announcement that it will launch an Internet resource that will track Russia’s non-compliance with its obligations and its violations. We understand the reason why this is being launched exactly now. We just saw a tour of presidential hopefuls across the US, and some elements of their election programmes. Please just give us a reason. We have plenty to say in response. Today we will also provide you with tables and other materials.

Russia does not bear any obligations under the Minsk Agreements. Attempts to juggle with the facts or to shift the blame on Russia for the lack of progress in the implementation of the Minsk Agreements do nothing but trigger off new shady undertakings on behalf of the Ukrainian leadership, making the prospect of an actual settlement even more distant, and dooming Donbass residents to new suffering.

1. Immediate and comprehensive ceasefire in certain areas of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions of Ukraine and its strict implementation starting from 00.00 AM (Kiev time) on the 15th of February, 2015.

While active combat activity has ceased, the ceasefire regime is not being complied with. The Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) reported over 29,000 ceasefire violations between January and February 10, 2019, including about 5,000 explosions. The Ukrainian Armed Forces “have taken the lead” in terms of the number of shelling incidents, whenever the side that opened fire can be determined according to SMM reports with 784 cases for the Ukrainian Armed Forces against 421 cases for militia fighters.

The Ukrainian security forces are carrying out a creeping offensive in the grey zone along the line of contact and are taking over settlements (in late December Yury Biryukov, Adviser to the President of Ukraine, reported that the Ukrainian Armed Forces occupied almost all of the grey zone). Since 2015, the Ukrainian Armed Forces have entered Shirokino, Vinogradnoye, Pavlopol, Pishchevik, Gnutovo, Travnevoye and Gladosovo. In 2018, they entered Novoluganskoye, Avdeyevskaya industrial zone, Zolotoye-4, Yuzhnoye and Rassadki. The Ukrainian side remains in breach of its ceasefire recommitments, as agreed within the Contact Group. There were a total of 14 ceasefire announcements, including the current New Year and Christmas ceasefire that was declared on December 29, 2018. Kiev balks at agreeing on additional de-escalation measures, including a ban on sabotage activity.

2. Withdrawal of heavy weapons by both sides on equal distances in order to create a security zone at least 50 km wide from each other for the artillery systems with caliber greater than 100mm and more, a security zone of 70 km wide for MLRS and 140 km wide for MLRS “Tornado-C”, “Uragan”, “Smerch” and Tactical missile systems “Tochka” (“Tochka U”):

- for the Ukrainian troops: from the de facto line of contact;

- for the armed formations from certain areas of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions of Ukraine from the line of contact according to the Minsk memorandum of September 19, 2014.

The withdrawal of the heavy weapons as specified above is to start on day 2 of the ceasefire at the latest and to be completed within 14 days.

The process shall be facilitated by the OSCE and supported by the Trilateral Contact Group.

Donetsk and Lugansk announced that they completed the withdrawal of heavy weapons ahead of schedule, and Kiev did so with a certain delay. However, they are often reported as missing from their storage facilities (in 2018, the Ukrainian Armed Forces accounted for a larger share of these incidents). It is Kiev’s fault that the Framework Agreement on the Disengagement of Forces and Weapons of September 21, 2016 was de facto derailed (the Normandy Four leaders unanimously supported this arrangement at the Berlin Summit on October 19, 2016). Having boycotted the obligation to disengage forces in Stanitsa Luganskaya, the Ukrainian Armed Forces returned and strengthened their positions in Petrovskoye and Zolotoye, where the disengagement had been successfully completed.

3. Ensure effective monitoring and verification of the ceasefire regime and the withdrawal of heavy weapons by the OSCE from day 1 of the withdrawal, using all technical equipment necessary, including satellites, UAVs, radar equipment, etc.

SMM monitors the developments in Donbass (with more than 600 monitors from the Mission on the ground). They face obstacles in their operations on both sides of the contact line. Between January and February 10, 2019, the Ukrainian Armed Forces accounted for more incidents when SMM UAVs were prevented from operating with 10 cases against five for militia fighters, including seven counts of jamming SMM long-range UAVs on territories controlled by the Ukrainian Armed Forces and three for militia fighters. The Ukrainian Armed Forces hinder the monitoring efforts near railway stations in Donbass that are used to deliver heavy weapons (Konstantinovka, Khlebodarovka). Entire districts within the territory controlled by Kiev where closed off to the SMM under the pretext of “mine contamination.” Since the beginning of 2019, the SMM visited checkpoints on the Russian border 31 times.

4. Launch a dialogue on day 1 of the withdrawal on modalities of local elections in accordance with Ukrainian legislation and the Law of Ukraine “On interim local self-government order in certain areas of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions” as well as on the future regime of these areas based on this Law.

Adopt promptly, by no later than 30 days after the date of signing of the document a resolution of the Parliament of Ukraine specifying the area enjoying the special regime, under the Law of Ukraine “On interim local self-government order in certain areas of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions,” based on the line of the Minsk Memorandum of September 19, 2014.

Kiev avoids direct dialogue on political matters with Donetsk and Lugansk within the Contact Group and refuses to compromise on election modalities in Donbass, insisting on favourable terms that would de facto grant Kiev control over political processes and their outcome in Donbass. Using various pretexts, Kiev and the West regularly raise the question of deploying international peacekeepers or police forces in certain districts of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions with the right to organise and administer local elections.

5. Ensure pardon and amnesty by enacting the law prohibiting the prosecution and punishment of persons in connection with the events that took place in certain areas of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions of Ukraine.

Ukraine’s Verkhovna Rada adopted on September 16, 2014 the law “On preventing persecution and punishment of participants of events on the territories of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions,” but it has yet to come into force. Kiev refuses to grant amnesty to Donbass militia fighters as was the case for Maidan “revolutionaries.”

6. Ensure release and exchange of all hostages and unlawfully detained persons, based on the principle “all for all.” This process is to be finished on day 5 after the withdrawal at the latest.

The exchange has yet to be completed. The last exchange that was also the biggest in scale took place on December 27, 2017 (231 people returned to Donetsk and Lugansk, and 73 people to Kiev). There were more people on the exchange list, but Kiev struck out more than 70 names at the last moment, including 23 Russian nationals (all these names were agreed directly with Petr Poroshenko), one of whom died from being tortured in December 2018 in a prison camp near Lvov. Ukrainian representatives are refusing to agree within the Contact Group on an exchange based on the principle “all identified persons for all identified persons.”

7. Ensure safe access, delivery, storage and distribution of humanitarian assistance to those in need, on the basis of an international mechanism.

This is prevented by the all-round transport, economic, food and social blockade of Donbass by Kiev. Russia delivers humanitarian assistance to the region to prevent a humanitarian disaster (humanitarian convoys of the Emergencies Ministry: 84 humanitarian convoys carrying a total of 78,000 tonnes were sent as of February 2019). Ukrainian border control and customs officers take part in inspecting these convoys, as confirmed by the OSCE monitors at the Russian checkpoints Gukovo and Donetsk, who were invited there by Russia as a goodwill gesture. The SMM monitors the movements of convoys and the distribution of humanitarian assistance in Donbass.

ICRC also delivers humanitarian cargo to the region from Ukrainian territory controlled by Kiev (through the Novotroitskoye checkpoint).

8. Definition of modalities of full resumption of socio-economic ties, including social transfers, such as pensions and other payments (incomes and revenues, timely payments of all utility bills, reinstating taxation within the legal framework of Ukraine). To this end, Ukraine shall reinstate control of the segment of its banking system in the conflict affected areas and possibly an international mechanism to facilitate such transfers shall be established.

On March 1, 2017, the Ukrainian authorities tightened the socioeconomic blockade of Donbass that was de facto installed back in 2014, and enshrined it into law. On March 15, 2017, Ukraine’s National Security and Defence Council imposed a transport blockade against Donbass. The region’s banking system is still not functioning. An international mechanism to facilitate such transfers was not created. The idea proposed by France and Germany to launch mobile banking services along the line of contact did not go any further.

Ukraine refuses to transfer pensions and social benefits to people living in Donbass. People can receive these payments only on territories controlled by Kiev subject to registering as internally-displaced persons (IDPs). Donbass residents are forced to wait in huge queues at the line of contact in order to visit branches of the Ukrainian Pension Fund. Since December 21, 2018, 13 senior citizens died while queuing in such lines.

9. Reinstatement of full control of the state border by the government of Ukraine throughout the conflict area, starting on day 1 after the local elections and ending after the comprehensive political settlement (local elections in certain areas of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions on the basis of the Law of Ukraine and constitutional reform) to be finalised by the end of 2015, provided that the paragraph has been implemented in consultation with and upon agreement by representatives of certain areas of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions in the framework of the Trilateral Contact Group.

Ukraine evades specific steps based on direct dialogue with Donetsk and Lugansk to achieve a comprehensive political settlement, thus undermining prospects for restoring full control over the border.

10. Withdrawal of all foreign armed formations, military equipment, as well as mercenaries from the territory of Ukraine under the monitoring of the OSCE. Disarmament of all illegal groups.

Ukraine has not ensured the withdrawal of foreign armed mercenaries and military equipment, and has not carried out the disarmament of the so-called nationalist battalions that were de facto legalised and incorporated into the Ukrainian Armed Forces and other security structures. In February 2019, a former battalion of this kind, now known as regiment Azov within Ukraine’s Interior Ministry, returned to the line of contact. Ukrainian Armed Forces use foreign military equipment it has purchased (in January-February 2019, SMM reported the presence of British armoured personnel carriers Saxon). NATO experts provide Ukrainian Armed Forces military training at centres in western, southern and central Ukraine.

11. Carrying out constitutional reform in Ukraine with a new Constitution entering into force by the end of 2015, providing for decentralisation as a key element (including a reference to the specificities of certain areas in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions, agreed with the representatives of these areas), as well as adopting permanent legislation on the special status of certain areas of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions in line with the measures as set out in the footnote until the end of 2015.

The special status of local self-government in Donbass (the special status of Donbass) has not been permanently implemented in legislation. Although a law to this effect was adopted in September 2014, it has a defined term that expires on December 31, 2019. Moreover, the law has not come into force and is not applied on a permanent basis.

Kiev has not honoured the agreement reached by the Normandy Four leaders at the summits in Paris on October 2, 2015 and in Berlin on October 19, 2016 on enacting the law on the special status for Donbass following the “Steinmeier formula” (temporarily on the day of local elections, and permanently after the publication of the final report by OSCE/ODIHR.

On February 24, 2018, Ukraine enacted the law on so-called reintegration of Donbass, recasting a security operation as a military operation, and all but making a political settlement impossible.

On January 22, 2019, Petr Poroshenko said that “there will be no autonomies or special statuses” in Ukraine.

Statutory instruments were adopted and enacted to limit the right to self-determination in terms of language (legal restrictions regarding the use of the Russian language, including the law On Education). The Verkhovna Rada is reviewing laws creating additional language-related restrictions (“Providing for the functioning of the Ukrainian language as the state language,” etc).

12. Based on the Law of Ukraine “On interim local self-government order in certain areas of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions”, questions related to local elections will be discussed and agreed upon with representatives of certain areas of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions in the framework of the Trilateral Contact Group. Elections will be held in accordance with relevant OSCE standards and monitored by OSCE/ODIHR.

Kiev avoids direct dialogue with Donbass representatives on the modalities for holding local elections, fails to take into consideration proposals made by Donetsk and Lugansk to this effect that were transferred to Ukraine within the relevant subgroup of the Contact Group.

13. Intensify the work of the Trilateral Contact Group including through the establishment of working groups on the implementation of relevant aspects of the Minsk agreements. They will reflect the composition of the Trilateral Contact Group.

Four subgroups have been created and are working (security, political, economic and humanitarian matters). At the same time, Ukraine is clearly seeking to marginalise mechanisms offered by the Contact Group and to undermine the work of its subgroups.

Persecution of the clergy and the congregation of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church

The assault on the canonical Orthodox Christian Church continues in Ukraine. News feeds contain almost daily accounts of the seizure of church buildings belonging to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. Over thirty such cases have been registered in 11 out of 24 regions of the country since the beginning of the year. Various nationalist and ultra-right organisations take an active part in these acts of violence. The militants, in the presence of the local administration and police, break open parish buildings, change locks on the doors and gates and throw out the priests and parishioners, depriving them of the right to conduct services and prayers. Many people are not allowed to enter their parish churches. As a result, people have to conduct services outdoors in any weather. This can only be described as humiliation. However, we cannot expect a different attitude to its citizens from the Kiev regime which showers praises on inhuman acts perpetrated by criminals like Stepan Bandera or Roman Shukhevich.

Apparently, the Kiev authorities decided to move beyond this. Recently, priests of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church have been frequently called to the Security Service of Ukraine for “persuasive talks” when pressure is put on them to “willingly” join the schismatic Orthodox Church of Ukraine, which was recently established by order of Ukrainian President Petr Poroshenko with support from the US and the Patriarch of Constantinople.

All attempts made by clergymen of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church to tell the world the truth about persecution of the canonical church trigger off a violent response from the authorities. Here is one example. On February 13, a Ukrainian citizen who is a vicar of the Metropolitan See of Kiev and Father Superior of the Monastery of the Tithes, Bishop Gedeon Makarovsky (Haron) was detained at Kiev Airport after his return from the US and later actually deported from the country. His “crime against his motherland” was taking the liberty to write a letter to US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo and to have several meetings at the US Capitol to discuss the religious situation in Ukraine. So this is a symptom of democracy. In the meantime, as you understand, all other public figures, received at the US Capitol and the Department of State, are Ukrainian patriots.

We would like to hope that another priest of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Bishop Viktor Baryshevsky (Kotsaba), head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church Representation to European International Organisations, will not get into trouble for posting an open address to officials from the UN, OSCE, EU and foreign countries on the Ukrainian Orthodox Church information portal on February 18, due to facts of mass violations of human rights in Ukraine and a real danger of escalating religious conflicts. This document emphasises that “persecutions of Christians never remained unpunished for the rulers who committed them, as we know that God cannot be abused.” I understand that this is a clergyman’s view and I repeat that he addressed devout people. In my opinion, these are very true and wise words. Those for whom these words are meant should stop to think about them.

Due to all these events, I have to read a lot on the subject. In one of the newspapers I saw an indirect quotation, already translated into Russian, of Metropolitan Christopher of Karpasia, who commenting on the situation in Ukraine said that “this can result in religious heresy which would take deep root in the life of the church.”

Ukraine outlaws more Russian books

Here comes another piece of shocking news. Unfortunately, there’s nothing new to it. This story fully fits into the logic of Russophobia which now prevails at all levels of the Ukrainian government. We are talking about Ukraine’s systematic ban on and the withdrawal from shops of books written by Russian authors. What is surprising is not the titles that were included on the fresh list, but why they were ordered to be immediately taken away from the shops.

I’ll give you some examples, such as a book by business consultant Sergey Bekhterev, How to Work During Business Hours: the Rules for Overcoming Office Chaos, or a book by Igor Namakonov, CrossFit Training for the Brain: How to Prep Yourself for Dealing with Unconventional Challenges. It appears that all things related to intellectual abilities are subject in the first place to being blocked out, because they will make their readers think analytically. Clearly, there’s no need for this. They accounted for this decision by claiming that, allegedly, the author used the analysis of work practices at the Russian government, and Namakonov’s book promotes the thesis that “Russia is an amazing and surprising country, and we, its citizens, are amazing people.” This can be more or less understood. But what's wrong with the cooking book by Nino Bilikhodze Georgian Cuisine. The Taste of Love. This is a mystery shrouded in darkness. There’s one more book that was included on this sad list. I find it hard to say it out loud, but I have to. It’s Notes by a Practicing Witch by Natalya Malinovskaya. I’m not sure what they are so concerned about. They have the Tomos of Autocephaly now, after all. Clearly, a jinx and an evil eye can get them spooked, if they don’t let such literature in.

A number of children's books were banned as well. Ukrainian experts are keeping close tabs on what children and young adults read. They are the future of the country. Before that, they banned chemistry textbooks. Not because there was any chance they contained a formula for making chemical warfare agents. They said that, even though formally, the textbook does not contain any hidden historical implications, the bibliographic data shows that it was printed in Russia. The Greater Encyclopaedia for Secondary School Pupils (Russian Grades 5 to 11), which replaced the Soviet Encyclopaedia, is not allowed in Ukraine even though Ukraine has nothing to replace it with, but this matters little.

By the way, the school curriculum has been mopped up as well. In particular, many Russian literature classics were withdrawn, such as Ivan Krylov’s fables. Even though back in 2016, in an open debate with People's Deputy and member of Petr Poroshenko’s Bloc in the Rada Sergey Leshchenko, who said that the Interior Minister could seize power using his subordinate security forces, Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov used a quote from Krylov’s fable to retort: “To bark at Elephant this Pug must be a real strong mug!” The leaders still remember Krylov’s work and use quotations from his fables, but children no longer need it, they believe. Then, they will probably tell their children that Krylov was a great ancient Ukrainian writer and poet. This is scary. The world has been there already. It is terrible to think that this is happening in Europe.

The Estonian Parliament denies entry to Federation Council Member Alexey Pushkov and three other Russian representatives

We consider the decision taken by the Estonian Parliament to deny entry to Estonia to Federation Council Member Alexey Pushkov and three other Russian representatives for being “involved in the Kerch Strait incident” is a hostile move which, courtesy of Estonian Russophobic politicians, has become another stitch on the canvas of anti-Russian politics.

Everyone is aware that such moves invariably trigger off corresponding countermoves.

New media plants regarding Salisbury and Amesbury incidents

In the run-up to the anniversary of the Salisbury and Amesbury provocation, which was inspired and hyped up by the British, we are witnessing the growth of new speculation about the story, through the efforts of UK spin doctors. Controlled leaks are a widespread practice. The media are publishing stories about some “Bulgarian connection” and alleged new “suspects” linked to the Skripal poisoning, unearthed in an investigation by the infamous Bellingcat.

Fantasy is out of control. All fake news is produced for quite definite political purposes and is based on the notorious “highly likely” principle.

We have seen a lot of such false reports aimed at misleading the public. We regard this as part of the general political line of the UK authorities, involving the classification of the information, which could shed some light on what really happened in Salisbury and Amesbury.

Despite our repeated requests, the UK authorities cannot provide us with any reliable and official information on the so-called Skripal case. By all appearances, the reason is simple: either there is something to hide, or there is no real evidence to support the accusations against us.

Attempts of US NGOs to intimidate Russian businesses interacting with Iran

We consider it necessary to draw your attention to the outrageous cases of pressure exerted on Russian companies by United Against Nuclear Iran, a US NGO.

The actions of this obviously biased and uninfluential structure that is nevertheless headed by a certain Ambassador Mark Wallace, go far beyond the usual view of what NGOs do and how they should behave abroad.

For some time the already mentioned Mr Wallace has been threatening Russian companies that are completely legitimately interacting with Iran in various fields. It is not our fault that the US position on Iran is constantly changing like the weather. One day it is allowed to cooperate, on another day it is not, and on still another day it is necessary to cooperate. It is very difficult to keep track of all these changes. People and businesses do not operate in this manner. There are notions of mid-term and long-term planning, as well as investments and projects. Moreover, he dares demand a written report on the character of their relations with their Iranian partners within a period of two weeks and threatens them with sanctions for their failure to abide by US law.

We consider such actions of the US NGO unacceptable and a cause of great concern for us.

The attempts to exert pressure and intimidate Russian businesses are nothing more than a continuation of the unseemly line started by the current US administration. In its anti-Iranian frenzy it has lost the perception of reality and started threatening the UN and IAEA and their member states due to the fact that they continue to comply with UN Security Council Resolution 2231. The fact that poison-pen letters sent out by United Against Nuclear Iran are signed by a man who calls himself an ambassador is only further aggravating the position of US diplomacy that in the JCPOA case (regrettably far from being the only one) demonstrated its opportunism and inability to fulfil the signed agreements and honour its international commitments.

I would like to recall that US laws and regulations are not valid on Russian territory. Russia is totally resolved to continue its mutually beneficial cooperation with Iran in full, including when it comes to using nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, regardless of Washington’s pressure and illegal sanctions.

We urge all countries to unite and prevent Washington from misappropriating the right to determine the expediency and parameters of international trade and economic cooperation and scientific and technical exchanges. The US is part of the international community but it is not above it. In turn, in its decisions and actions Russian businesses must be guided by the norms of domestic legislation rather than notorious goals of various political organisations and lobbyists from abroad.

Hiroshima and Nagasaki mayors’ statement on the INF Treaty

The United States’ deliberate action to bury the INF Treaty has engendered a series of appeals to Moscow and Washington to save the treaty. The public is coming to see that this treaty is necessary in order to maintain stability and prevent an arms race. There is general concern that the termination of the Treaty would create additional obstacles on the path towards nuclear disarmament.

For example, the mayors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki sent a letter of request along these lines. They wrote on behalf of the international organisation Mayors for Peace to express the hope that Russia and the United States would overcome their mutual distrust and resume a constructive dialogue aimed at achieving a world without nuclear weapons.

Everything is so complicated, though. You have probably read in the Japanese media that the country’s authorities have proposed nominating the US administration for the Nobel peace prize. It is hard to understand how these two different views can exist in one country and one political system.

We can well understand civil society’s concern. The demise of the INF Treaty could deliver a heavy blow to international security and global stability by drawing whole regions into a multilateral arms race. This would rapidly erode the arms control architecture and have a negative impact on the prospects for nuclear disarmament as well as possibly destabilising the NPT regime. We have made numerous efforts to draw the attention of the United States and its allies in Europe and the Asia Pacific, who unconditionally support Washington’s destructive policy, to this matter. We have proposed practical solutions that could allow the sides to resolve mutual concerns, to keep the INF Treaty and to continue dialogue on nuclear arms control and reduction. We deeply regret that all our initiatives have been either disregarded or categorically rejected under pretexts, some of which are really ridiculous. We would like the mayors and people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki to know this.

Washington is not willing to conduct an objective and equal dialogue on the INF Treaty. Moreover, no agreement has been reached on the resumption of a systemic bilateral dialogue on strategic armaments. Neither has Washington replied to our proposal to jointly reconfirm the commitment of Russia and the United States to preventing a nuclear war, which would give an important positive signal to the international community. Instead, the United States focused on making every possible effort to whitewash its intelligence services, which provided wrong or fake information about the Russian missile whose identification number is known across the world.

I would like to add that we have not withdrawn our proposals; they are still on the table. Russia is not going back on its proposals, which is very important. We hope that the United States will eventually come to see that dialogue is the best way and that it is futile to try to attain military superiority by destroying the fundamental structures that form the backbone of international security.

Statements by Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Albania Edi Rama on the Real Story show on Albanian television channel Vizion Plus

We have noted the statements made recently by Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Albania Edi Rama on the Kosovo settlement. Mr Rama said in an interview with an Albanian television channel that for him, “Kosovo is part of Albania” and that “the union between Albania and Kosovo is not Plan B, but Plan A.” Have his statements been translated incorrectly? No, we checked several times. The Albanian Prime Minister linked the implementation of “Plan A” with a revision of the province’s border within the framework of talks and with Belgrade and Pristina reaching an agreement to this effect.

We consider such rhetoric absolutely unacceptable. In fact, it amounts to an infringement of the territorial integrity of Serbia and the status of the Autonomous Province of Kosovo in violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1244. We hope that the West, including NATO and the EU, will respond accordingly to these statements and geopolitical plans.

Such statements undermine stability, erode the atmosphere of trust in the Balkans and complicate the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue.

Russian Book Days in Paris

On February 16-17, the 10th Russian Book Days traditional annual literary festival took place in Paris.

The event was very popular with the public and attracted the attention of both Russian and French publishing houses, industry professionals and the general public interested in Russia and Russian culture.

As in the previous years, the City Hall of the 5th arrondisment of Paris provided a free venue for the festival, for which we are grateful. Talks by Russian authors took place simultaneously at four different platforms. The public at large was impressed with the range of the writers’ opinions and was interested in hearing objective information about Russia.

Nineteen publishing houses and four book shops had stands. Former French ambassadors and diplomats, who used to work in Russia, participated in the festival.

The programme included meetings with publishers, Russian and French Slavonic scholars, philologists and teachers of Russian as a foreign language. There were presentations, exhibitions and translation workshops. The Russophony award was bestowed for the best French translation of contemporary Russian literature.

Nine young French translators received a special award on behalf of the Trianon Dialogue civil society forum. They will take a two-week trip to the Sirius educational centre in Sochi.

Over the two days of the festival that took place in one of the most visited student and tourist districts of Paris there were around 4,000 visitors.

The opening of the Imperial Orthodox Palestinian Society’s office in the United Kingdom

At one of the previous briefings, we told you about the Imperial Orthodox Palestinian Society (IOPS), our oldest international NGO, and the opening of its office in Jordan. We are delighted to inform you that yesterday another office of the Society opened, this time in London, UK. The London office will be involved in cultural and educational projects to eternalise the memory of Venerable Martyr Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna, Queen Victoria’s granddaughter, as well as to assist in the Orthodox Christians’ pilgrimage to the world’s Christian shrines.

Now that our partners have done everything to completely stall the political dialogue at the official level between London and Moscow, IOPS members are trying to prevent the erosion of cultural and spiritual relations between our peoples, which are based, among other things, on historical community.

The opening of the IOPS office will give British subjects an opportunity to become acquainted with the fundamental aspects of this country s and people’s spiritual life and get a better understanding of our basic principles, goals and aspirations.

Situation in Libya


In 2018, the Russian Defence Ministry officials received Khalifa Haftar’s delegation in Moscow. Palermo subsequently hosted a conference, with the Turkish delegation leaving it to protest alleged covert talks between a number of parties and Haftar’s representatives. As of late, we have not received any information about any public contacts between Moscow and representatives of the Government of National Accord. Does this mean that Russia now prioritises contacts with Khalifa Haftar?


I would like to note that Russia consistently establishes balanced relations with the current centres of power in eastern, western and southern Libya.

I would like to recall that Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev met with Prime Minister of the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord Fayez al-Sarraj in Palermo on the sidelines of the international conference, mentioned in your question, and presented him with an invitation to pay a working visit to Russia. In January, the Director General of the National Oil Corporation in Tripoli paid a working visit to Russia. The Minister of Economy and Industry and the Minister of Healthcare from the Government of National Accord are also expected to arrive. On the other hand, the Russian State Duma received Chairman of the Tobruk-based House of Representatives Chairman Aguila Saleh Issa in December 2018 in Moscow. Therefore it would be incorrect to speak about any biased attitude in our ties with the parties in the Libyan conflict.

One of our priorities consists of helping the UN Secretary General’s Special Representative and Head of the UN Support Mission in Libya Ghassan Salamé involve all the main Libyan protagonists in implementing the “roadmap” of the peace settlement and eventually establishing joint state-power agencies through nationwide electoral procedures.


Haftar’s forces recently established control over the El Sharara oil field in southern Libya. After that, a number of forces in Libya, including representatives of the Toubou ethnic group, accused the marshal of genocide. What is Moscow’s position on this matter? Does this operation aiming to establish control over El Sharara meet the spirit of the peace talks and the peace process?


We are receiving conflicting reports about the developments in southern Libya. However, one can say with all certainty that this region has been a source of dangerous challenges for a long time. As you know, ISIS and Al Qaeda fighters, crime rings specialising in illegal drug trafficking, arms and slave trade, as well as armed opposition groups from neighbouring Chad and Sudan operate there.

It goes without saying that it is necessary to rectify this deplorable situation. Obviously, it will be impossible to do without the use of military force. As we understand, the Libyan National Army has launched the current military operation in an effort to expel various gangs from this zone. We believe that this task meets the interests of all Libyans, regardless of their political sympathies.

Russian Gold in Japan

Russia has repeatedly raised the issue of Russian gold in Japan through diplomatic channels, relying on the available documents. In response, Japan said it had no Russian valuables ​​to return: “The gold was partially returned and partially used by the interested parties.”

Currently, the tsarist-era gold in Japan is not the subject of any diplomatic negotiations between the two countries. However, if any further relevant information comes to light, we will be ready to raise this topic again with the Japanese side.

Answers to media questions:


Last December, US President Donald Trump announced the withdrawal of US troops from Syria. However, we found out yesterday that the US is keeping 200 troops in Syria as a a so-called peacekeeping force. Frankly, it is not entirely clear what is meant here by the term peacekeeping force. Is there any information on this?

Maria Zakharova:

Yes. Such statements cannot be trusted, whoever issues them, because the next day other political forces will disprove them. It is a phase they are going through: some authorities make statements that are then refuted by others.

As far as we understand it, there is no unanimity among the various US government agencies as to how to act in that region. At least, there is no well-presented concept with a clear timeframe or quantitative indicators, goals or objectives.

We know perfectly well that even the most innocent issues have been debated in the US for months, let alone among the military, engaged in a mission very different from ensuring US national security. They are clearly getting very different tasks, considering that they are being pulled in and then pulled out. These issues, as we understand, also require a nationwide discussion.

In my opinion, building some protective barrier is a smaller-scale issue than deploying a large military contingent in a country so far from home. Yet, it occupies the minds of leading American politicians for over a year. Why aren't there the same heated debates about sending troops abroad? This is their internal affair of course but it also affects the internal affairs of other states. There is a serious reason to hold a real nationwide discussion, at least so that the people of the United States have an understanding of what their fellow citizens are doing in Syria, how long they will be there, how many of them are there, whose orders they obey, and whether they should be guided by Twitter or receive instructions from their generals.


In January 2019, Foreign Minister of Jordan Ayman Safadi spoke about the possibility of holding trilateral talks in the near future between representatives of Russia, the US and Jordan on the situation in the Rukban refugee camp in Syria. Have they been held or are preparations being made for them?

Maria Zakharova:

At the expert level, such contacts are maintained regularly. If you mean talks at the level of foreign or defence ministers, then, as you know, such information is always published on the website. There were no contacts in the format you mentioned.


What do the Americans say about Al-Tanf?

Maria Zakharova:

I see no point in commenting on the US representatives’ statements, especially if they are not directly related to Russia. We have enough to discuss that is addressed to us.

The US position has not been shaped as a global approach. It is impossible to comment on endless leaks, articles, Tweets, refutations, and reposts with comments.

In our opinion, if we are talking about the US global responsibility before the international community on maintaining peace and stability (as they defined their own global role), as Washington puts it, we would like them to introduce the world to their concept – which would, in particular, explain the continued presence of their troops on the territory of the sovereign state of Syria.


The leaders of the US and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea are to meet next week. The media has published information that Russia, China and South Korea are planning to send a joint proposal to the UN Security Council to lift some of the sanctions on North Korea. Could you comment on this? What are Russia’s expectations from the above-mentioned summit?

Maria Zakharova:

I would call them wishes, rather than expectations. We would like all the promises and ideas, expressed before the US partners approached athletic equipment, to come true. It was mentioned that the long-standing difficult international problem would be solved quickly and efficiently. Maybe it has not been resolved as quickly as we would like, but hopefully it will still be resolved. We can wish success to our US partners and all those involved in the negotiation process.

On the other hand, we remain realists and we know perfectly well that it is impossible to solve international problems at such a pace. In the past, people were also resolute, wise, capable and had resources in various fields but, for some reason, they still failed to achieve the goal. Not only because there was no political will but because any agreement is a search for a compromise. When you feel that you do not want a compromise but to use only the resources you have at your disposal, you do not necessarily reach the desired result.

Undoubtedly, we would appreciate implementation of everything that the US side in particular mentioned, namely a settlement of the situation on the Korean Peninsula. I believe that everyone will share this opinion. Everyone is eager for our world to have one less conflict, through dialogue and political talks.

For our part, we will assist in finding mutual understanding between the parties using diplomatic tools.

With regards to the Russian, Chinese and South Korean joint proposal, I will enquire about it.


It was reported that the UK, France and Germany will not keep their troops in Syria after the US pull-out. How will this complete or partial withdrawal of the coalition forces from Syria influence the settlement process?

Maria Zakharova:

Russia’s position is consistent and principled. When we learned from the social media that Washington plans to implement its decision to withdraw troops from Syria, we said that this is a step in the right direction, if the report is true and this decision is implemented. This would be returning to the legal framework that will help stabilise the situation and will also strengthen Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

I would like to remind you that Damascus did not consent to the deployment of US forces in the country.

We will react likewise if the other states, which have illegally deployed their troops in Syria, follow suit.

We would like very much all these endless “ifs” to be eradicated by a streamlined concept of the US-led coalition. We hope that this concept is eventually presented and we will learn about the US administration’s real plans for Syria.


Former NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the other day that Russia’s plans for Belarus include war and annexation and urged Belarus to launch democratic reforms to prevent such an attack. What can you say on this score? Does anyone among the NATO elite share Rasmussen’s opinion?

Maria Zakharova:

There are no words in the diplomatic vocabulary for commenting on such statements. The best option is trolling. As for those at NATO who share this opinion, they are not the elite.

Efforts are being taken to promote such sentiments, with a proper ideological and propaganda basis. Millions of dollars have been allocated for this purpose, and instruments have been created for psychological and other kinds of influence. The people are encouraged to see Russia as an aggressor. There are no examples to prove this, but the idea is being enforced. Everyone who thinks so and who makes such statements is involved in illegal activities that violate the UN Charter and international law, which provide definitions of such activities, starting with invasion and ending with interference in the internal affairs of states.

At the same time, they accuse Russia of such activities. Just take a look at the NATO position when it comes to Venezuela. Those who support the opposition forces led by Juan Guaido, who not only justify but also offer moral reasons for justifying this support, as well as the split of the country and dual power, have no right whatsoever to talk about international law or legitimacy. When somebody incites a situation in a foreign state that is damaging to the people, can we expect them to talk differently in other cases?


The Washington Post and Al-Jazeera have simultaneously reported that President Donald Trump intends to advance the sale of US nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia. How dangerous is this intention, considering what Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has said about Saudi Arabia’s desire to have nuclear weapons?

Maria Zakharova:

There is the global mechanism of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, from which the United States has not yet withdrawn. States must comply with their commitments under this treaty.

On the other hand, I have not seen these news items and so cannot say if they concern military technology or nuclear power generation. If the former is true, the guideline is the NPT. If it is civilian technologies they are discussing, there are proper mechanisms and solutions as well.

Question (retranslated):

Since it is the anniversary of Sergey and Yulia Skripal’s poisoning, I would like to ask you about your views on Russia-UK relations. What are the prospects of improving the situation? If Russia is ready to make steps in this direction, what steps should they be?

Maria Zakharova:

Unfortunately, we are witnessing the deterioration of the bilateral relations that was initiated by the United Kingdom. It did not start a year ago, nor did it start with Salisbury and Amesbury or the Skripals. It started a long time ago. Little by little the United Kingdom has been tearing the canvas of the bilateral relations in various fields, from political cooperation and contacts between security services to visa policies. Deterioration was obvious. We have publicised many incidents and demonstrated many examples. I think there is no other country with a similar case. Russian diplomats working in London cannot simply enter the country after obtaining visas through a regular procedure, after filling out forms and providing necessary documents. Instead, it takes months to have lists of their names approved by the UK. There is no other country in the world with which a similar practice would exist while the UK has been doing it for many years.

At the same time, recently all this went one step too far. I gave you just one example and there are plenty. And there is no case when it would be Russia trying to aggravate the relations. I would not be able to give you any examples because they do not exist.

Question (retranslated):

But it was because of the Salisbury incident that the relations with the UK were brought down to this level.

Maria Zakharova:

The British political establishment is among the parties behind the incident in Salisbury. Prime Minister Theresa May’s government is fully responsible for how it started and developed. This is an absolutely absurd story that developed without any transparency and was from the start designed and moderated by Downing Street. The entire arsenal of propaganda methods was employed despite the fact that London constantly denies propaganda and allegedly fights it abroad. But in their own country, the British clearly built propaganda based on anti-Russian sentiments. We heard constant accusations, aggressive statements and saw an anti-Russian coalition being forged. Therefore, Salisbury, Amesbury and the Skripals are all part of the UK’s bizarre attitude towards our country.

The question why the United Kingdom, unlike many other countries that are developing relations with us in many spheres (financial, economic, energy), constantly making these relations worse should not be addressed to us. We are not responsible for the deterioration of these relations. Why would we be? We have always been in favour of developing links with the EU in general and individual countries on a bilateral basis. We did not have any reason to completely ruin the bilateral relations. But on behalf of London, we see this approach in every action. The blocking of the bilateral relations, step by step, was initiated by London.

Question (retranslated):

If we compare Russia-UK and Russia-US relations, which are in a worse shape?

Maria Zakharova:

Why would I compare the relations between London and Moscow with the relations between Washington and Moscow? If we start with discussing the relations between London and Washington, many things will become clear.


Minister of Foreign Affairs of Serbia Ivica Dacic suggested delimitation of Kosovo the other day. How does this idea correlate with UN Security Council Resolution 1244, which we have already discussed today? Will Russia support any delimitation agreement? In that case, will Moscow change its attitude towards the resolution?

Maria Zakharova:

Our position remains unchanged and stands out among others because it is both permanent and logical. And this logic is very simple: The question as to how this situation will be resolved is primarily determined by the way in which the interests of this decision meet the interests of the people of Serbia. It should also unconditionally hinge on the framework of international law and meet domestic Serbian legislation. On the one hand, we voice a multi-component position; and, on the other hand, our position provides a clear and unequivocal approach towards resolving this matter.


According to our information, Moscow will host the second meeting of the Lazarevsky Club on March 5-6. First Deputy Chairman of the Russian State Duma’s Committee on CIS Affairs Konstantin Zatulin initiated this event. The forum will involve representatives of the Armenian and Russian public at large. The leaders of the separatist regime, established by Armenia in occupied Azerbaijani territories, are also expected to attend. Can you comment on the fact that this event is being held in the capital of Russia that co-chairs the OSCE’s Minsk Group?

Maria Zakharova:

What is the link between the fact that Russia co-chairs the OSCE’s Minsk Group and this forum? Your question combines things that should not be combined.

Certainly, Russia co-chairs the OSCE’s Minsk Group and officially complies with all its obligations. At the same time, as you have aptly noted, Moscow hosts hundreds of forums dealing with varied subjects every day. Civil society and NGOs hold these events; and I believe this is one of them.

If you have any information that officials are involved in some way in this forum, please give it to us. I have no such information.

I repeat, civil society and NGOs have the right to hold these events under Russian legislation. I will be ready to comment on specific data that representatives of state bodies are participating in any such event in an official capacity, but only if there is specific data.


Twelve Russian sailors, imprisoned in Cabo Verde for over three weeks now, are suspected of transporting and smuggling 9.5 tonnes of cocaine. As we know, their situation has deteriorated considerably in the past seven days. Without any explanation, they were put in cells alongside local inmates. It turned out that a private lawyer, rather than a state legal counsel, was defending their interests. The sailors’ relatives were told to pay a sum higher than a sailor’s annual wage. The Embassy explains that the sailors and their relatives were briefed on the matter and gave their consent. According to our data, this is not so. In any event, representatives of four sailors said they did not give such consent. Can they count on the Russian Embassy’s support? Can a state legal counsel be appointed if no agreement is reached on a private lawyer? Can the Russian side finance the services of a private lawyer, at least in part, all the more so as, according to the trade union of Russian sailors, the arrested persons have nothing to do with this contraband? Most likely, the charges are false.

Maria Zakharova:

The Russian Embassy is fully involved in giving assistance to Russian citizens who have found themselves in difficult situations. I hope that you are following the Russian Embassy’s comments. We have also repeatedly commented on this situation. Russian diplomats visit the sailors and actively help carry out their families’ requests. This includes, for example, the question of the sailors’ health, which you have just mentioned. Therefore, we are carrying out our official duties to the full.

If there are any complaints on the part of relatives or if anything has come to light during your investigative reporting and if there are any special requests, please give us the details. We will certainly look into them.

I can also say that Russian diplomats regularly inform the Foreign Ministry’s senior officials about the situation, virtually every day, because we prioritise any situation involving Russian citizens.

With regard to the lawyer and payments, I believe this is not within the Foreign Ministry’s remit. In this event, we are guided by Russian legislation.


President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev has signed an executive order that will remove all Russian text from future tenge banknotes, even though Russian is a state language in Kazakhstan. What does the Russian Foreign Ministry think about this de-Russification policy?

Maria Zakharova:

We believe that the decision you have mentioned is an internal affair. However, we do maintain contacts with our Kazakhstani partners on the civil rights of those citizens of Kazakhstan for whom Russian is the main language. We see that the Kazakhstani authorities are taking considerable efforts to preserve the Russian language. These are not just empty words, but words that are backed with practical actions.


Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on February 21 that Russia could be ready to draw up and sign a peace treaty with Japan right now. The 1956 Declaration stipulates that the islands of Shikotan and Habomai are to be turned over to Japan upon the signing of a peace treaty. In late 2018, our leaders agreed to accelerate talks on the peace treaty based on the 1956 Declaration. Does this mean that these two islands can be turned over to Japan if all the conditions set by Russia are met?

Maria Zakharova:

I will answer this question frankly: Don’t ask provocative questions when we know that what you want is not to receive answers or clarify anything, but to launch a new propaganda campaign. So much has been said on the question you have asked that there is nothing more to add. We provide detailed information on everything we discuss with our Japanese colleagues. You know Russia’s position on this subject. Any attempts to turn up the heat when nothing important is happening appear strange. On the other hand, I know about several statements recently made by Japanese officials. For example, Minister of State for Okinawa and Northern Territories Affairs Mitsuhiro Miyakoshi believes that there is no need to change the terms “original Japanese territories” and “illegal occupation” by Russia, which our Japanese partners use in certain official documents concerning these islands. I think that it is the Japanese side that is stirring up discontent. I believe they should comment on how such statements fit in with Tokyo’s plans for an early settlement of this problem. The Russian side has not given any reason for asking it to clarify its position.

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Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s opening remarks at the meeting with Member of the Politburo of the Communist Party of Vietnam and Secretary of the Ho Chi Minh City Party Committee Nguyen Thien Nhan, Ho Chi Minh City, February 25, 2019

25 February 2019 - 11:09

Comrade Nguyen Thien Nhan,

We are grateful for this opportunity to visit Ho Chi Minh City and for the fruitful and warm talks we have held.

We regularly exchange visits by top and high-level delegations. Last year, General Secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam Nguyen Phu Trong visited Russia, and Prime Minister of Russia Dmitry Medvedev as well as State Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin visited Vietnam. We look forward to a visit by Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc and Speaker of the National Assembly of Vietnam Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan this year.

When President of Vietnam Tran Dai Quang visited Russia in 2017, our leaders reached an agreement on holding the Year of Russia in Vietnam and the Year of Vietnam in Russia, which you have mentioned. The programme of this event includes dozens of undertakings, from cultural, academic and education exchanges to investment projects.

We are working hard to strengthen our trade and economic cooperation. Several Russian companies are working in Vietnam, and the Rusvietpetro Joint Venture is active in Russia. In addition to hydrocarbon projects, we are also implementing a promising project to build a nuclear science and technology centre in Dong Nai.

The source of information -

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks and answers to media questions during the Russian-Vietnamese conference of the Valdai International Discussion Club, Ho Chi Minh City, February 25, 2019

25 February 2019 - 12:48



Thank you for the invitation. The Valdai Club has earned a reputation as a respected platform. We support the interest of the Russian and Vietnamese expert communities in researching topical security issues in Asia.

These discussions are particularly relevant today when the world has entered the post-bipolar stage in its development. At this stage, a more just polycentric, stable and democratic system is being established. I am aware of the disputes regarding whether this is good or bad. A unipolar or bipolar world was far more reliable as everything was clear and there was no room for improvisation. Now the world is a mess with everybody protecting their own interests, and there is no new understanding of how to proceed from here. Still, I agree with those who say that this is a period of perturbation which will eventually end. It will be lengthy. It is the beginning of a new era. These stages are never short. I have no doubt that as a result, we will get a more reliable and secure system that allows countries to use its opportunities for their economic and social development. Although I do not know who will be around to check to see that it is so, since it will happen in several decades.

However, it appears to me that the most important thing now is to watch the re-configuration of the global geopolitical landscape, which is happening in two ways. One is natural as new centres of economic growth and financial power emerge, bringing political influence. These centres are starting to see the benefit in unifying based on the demands of the present and future, their people and countries. This is how the RIC association (Russia, India and China) started. The next RIC ministerial meeting will be held in China the day after tomorrow. BRICS also emerged naturally. The SCO was also created in response to demands of the time when, after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, it was necessary to provide some understanding of border security in Central Asia, Russia and China. Subsequently, the SCO expanded to other forms of cooperation. But once again, it was a response to demands of the time. This is also how ASEAN was formed by ten countries (it started with less than ten) that realised their mutual interest was in working together and promoting economic and security cooperation.

Unlike these natural processes, there are attempts to reconfigure the geopolitical landscape in order to prevent the natural course of things and the emergence of new centres of growth. For example, the Middle East Strategic Alliance, the so-called Middle Eastern NATO which US President Donald Trump’s administration, working to overcome the serious doubts of potential participants, is trying to impose on the countries of the Persian Gulf, Jordan and Egypt. Of course, Israel is also guarding its interests when it comes to this initiative.

The Indo-Pacific region is another artificially imposed construct which I just discussed with the Deputy Foreign Minister of Vietnam. The United States, along with Japan and Australia, has begun to promote this within the far-reaching context of containing China. This is a clear attempt to get India involved in military-political and naval processes. This concept undermines the ASEAN-centricity of the formats that have been created in that region. So, ASEAN is now thinking about how to respond to these developments.

In this portion of my remarks, I would like to contradistinguish natural processes that integrate countries based on coinciding interests, from artificial ones which try to force countries into some kind of cooperation in the interest of one geopolitically driven power. We would like our respect for peoples’ determining their own future to manifest itself in our approaches to the processes unfolding in this region and the rest of the world.

So, we prefer to call it the Asia-Pacific Region (APR), which has become the driver of global growth. It is distinguished by unprecedented integration processes, accelerated economic growth and, of course, extensive experience, which, primarily, thanks to ASEAN, has been gained in cooperation and constructive partnerships between countries with different political and socioeconomic systems.

Russia is part of the APR. I believe there is no need to prove anything to anybody here. We have traditions of cooperation, friendship and alliance with the states of the region, like Vietnam, which go way back.

Clearly, the future of this region directly depends on our ability to take on multiplying challenges and threats, including the nuclear problem on the Korean Peninsula, which has seen positive shifts, but remains largely unresolved. I think professionals know what I am talking about. This also includes terrorism, drug trafficking, cybercrime and other types of cross-border crime, such as piracy, illegal migration and territorial disputes. So, a reliable architecture of equal and indivisible security here needs to be built by joint efforts, taking into account the balance of interests of all countries in that region and on the basis of the UN Charter and other principles of international law, including, of course, exclusively peaceful settlements for disputes and the non-use of force or threat of force.

ASEAN is a solid foundation for building such security and cooperation architecture, which has created many useful mechanisms around itself. Our Vietnamese friends initiated the creation of the ASEAN Council of Defence Ministers and Dialogue Partners (ADMM-Plus). A very useful format, indeed. In conjunction with Cambodia, we are now chairing the Mine Action Centre. We proposed to Vietnam jointly heading the ADMM-Plus working group on peacekeeping in 2020-2022. We hope that such a group will be created and help promote efficient and practical forms of cooperation.

I believe that the East Asian Summit is one of the most progressive decisions ever made by ASEAN, where key regional players are invited to participate in annual meetings and discussions, which, including at Russia’s initiative, have been used in recent years to discuss matters such as creating and forming an architecture of equal and indivisible security.

I mentioned the Indo-Pacific region concept, which clearly competes with the central role of ASEAN. We do not welcome these kinds of concepts, partly because we consider it wrong to undermine ASEAN’s pro-active role. Today, the Russia-ASEAN strategic cluster has become a key factor in ensuring regional security. Statements adopted at Russia’s initiative by leaders of the countries participating in the East Asian Summit on countering ideological challenges of terrorism (2017) and countering the threat of foreign terrorist fighters (2018) reiterated the commitment to work substantively and intensively in this critical anti-terrorist area. We run regular refresher courses on counter-terrorism and countering radicalisation and extremism for ASEAN law enforcement agencies.

We focus particularly on foreign terrorist fighters at the ASEAN Regional Security Forum as part of Intersessional Meetings on Counter-Terrorism and Transnational Crime, which we co-chair with Indonesia. We have invited ASEAN countries to join the Foreign Terrorist Fighter Databank created by Russia’s FSB, which contains corresponding information, and then use it to track these people as they move, say, from Syria or Iraq to Asia Minor, Indonesia, Central Asia or Russia. They were quite responsive to this idea. These are not just some paper decisions, but a series of solutions that are implemented and bring concrete results for all participants.

Another important area of ​​our collaboration with ASEAN is cybersecurity, or international information security (IIS). We are launching the Russia-ASEAN dialogue on the safe use of ICT. We know that there is a growing understanding in ASEAN and the international community of the need to develop universal rules for responsible behaviour in cyberspace. In December last year, the UN General Assembly adopted a Russia-initiated resolution which moved the matter of IIS from conceptual definitions to the level of harmonising the rules of responsible behaviour in cyberspace. A working group is being created for this, open to all UN members.

Dealing with infectious diseases is another important sphere of cooperation with ASEAN. The East Asia Summit in Singapore last November supported Russia’s idea to organise a meeting of the heads of the respective agencies that deal with infectious diseases this year, and also, more importantly, to hold an exercise in EAS countries on how to respond to challenges of infectious diseases.

The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) is a good emerging ASEAN partner. This partnership is already anchored in the interaction between the two secretariats. It is one of the organisations that was developed based on reality, in a natural way. Its agenda is very broad. It all began, as I already said, before it was an Organisation yet (the Shanghai Agreement was signed), with border security cooperation. Now security issues are being interpreted more widely – a regional antiterrorist structure has been created. The agenda now includes economic, cultural, and education matters. But none of this makes the SCO a military bloc trying to bring anyone to heel, of course. The “Shanghai Spirit” philosophy, as we say, implies the same thing as the “ASEAN Way” – a path of cooperation, mutual benefit, balance of interests, equality, and respect for diversity.

In Northeast Asia, the situation is not simple, primarily due to the Korean Peninsula nuclear issues. But our goal is much broader, in the context of long-term stabilisation – to develop a mechanism of peace and security in Northeast Asia. This is one of the goals that was agreed upon during the six-party talks on the Korean nuclear issue, when they still worked. Now they are frozen, but their potential should certainly be kept in mind. I hope that if there is progress via bilateral channels between the United States and North Korea, the six-party format can become very useful, primarily when it comes to the subject of peace and security. This is exactly what the Russian-Chinese roadmap is about, the one we proposed in summer 2017 during Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to the Russian Federation. We proposed a step-by-step movement – first build confidence and avoid provocative actions such as nuclear tests, missile launches from North Korea, or large-scale disproportionate naval and air exercises the US and South Korea resorted to. Then, as confidence grows, time will come to make contacts, put offers on the table, search for a balance of interests and act synchronously, action for action – your partner has met you halfway, now it’s your turn to take a step towards the partner. At the last stage, the Russian-Chinese roadmap should turn into a security mechanism for Northeast Asia so that all six countries in and around the region feel secure knowing there is a reliable agreement. This “action for action” logic is now beginning to catch on in Washington, at least, our Deputy Foreign Minister’s contacts with his American counterpart show that the Americans even ask us for advice or opinions on various scenarios of what will happen in a couple of days in Hanoi.

The regional security system is growing stronger thanks to the efforts taken by ASEAN and China to draft a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea. As far as I know, they are working on it. We welcome these efforts. We believe that this is how concerned countries should address such problems, without interference from beyond.

We have said more than once that the notion of indivisibility should be applied not only to security but also to economic development if we want it to be inclusive and not to threaten security through poverty, misery and other problems. Russia and its partners in the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) are advocating the idea of harmonising integration processes, and these efforts have already yielded fruit. As you know, the EAEU and Vietnam have signed a free trade agreement. A similar agreement is being drafted with Singapore, and discussions on this matter are being held with Indonesia, Thailand, Cambodia and Brunei. ASEAN as an organisation has shown interest in the EAEU. Last year, ASEAN and the Eurasian Economic Commission signed a Memorandum of Understanding on Economic Cooperation.

One more step forward was taken in May 2018, when the EAEU and China signed an agreement on trade and economic cooperation in the context of efforts to align Eurasian economic integration and China’s Belt and Road Initiative.

The SCO, which is well placed to create transit economic corridors between the East and the West, is working to promote ASEAN’s vision of connectivity. As I have already said, the EAEU and the SCO are doing their best to expand cooperation with ASEAN.

President Vladimir Putin said at the Russia-ASEAN summit held in Sochi in 2016 that plans should be based on practical work and called for looking at the processes underway in the EAEU, the SCO and ASEAN, which have common aspects that can be fruitfully applied in collective work. He described it as a Greater Eurasian Partnership, to which all members of the EAEU, the SCO and ASEAN can contribute, as well as all the other states of this huge and highly competitive Eurasian space, which is our common continent.

We want to promote a common security and economic agenda in Asia Pacific that can bring nations together in the pursuit of such goals as peace, sustainable development and stronger foundations of interstate relations.

It is on these foundations that we are developing relations with Vietnam, strengthening our comprehensive strategic partnership that is working effectively in all spheres, from politics and the economy to military-technical cooperation, military interaction, education and tourism. Our strategic partnership is playing a major role in creating a multifaceted and effective architecture of regional cooperation.

Our positions on the key international topics coincide or are very close. We are committed to international law, the key role of the UN and the principles of the UN Charter. We are closely cooperating and coordinating our moves at the main multifaceted platforms such as the UN and the venues inspired by ASEAN, including APEC, the Asia-Europe Meeting and regional inter-parliamentary conferences.

In the context of unacceptable Western actions at the OPCW last year, Russia and Vietnam, together with many other countries, mounted resistance against the attempts to hold a vote on amendments to the Chemical Weapons Convention, which by definition is based on consensus, just as any amendments to it. Russia and Vietnam keep up their resistance to the efforts to give the OPCW Technical Secretariat new powers to identify the perpetrators [of chemical attacks]. This amounts to a direct gross violation of the UN Security Council prerogatives.

I know that our Vietnamese friends would like their country to become a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council. The five permanent members have a “gentleman’s agreement,” even though there are no gentlemen there any more, under which we do not disclose our candidates for non-permanent seats at the council. We honour this agreement, and Vietnam is a good candidate.


You have mentioned the Indo-Pacific idea and clearly outlined your attitude to it. This idea is very popular nowadays and I think there is no one in this room and elsewhere who does not understand why this is being done or that “balancing” China is, mildly speaking, a very important task. You have defined this format as unnatural. Why this definition? In the multipolar world we are speaking about, a counterbalance is formed to a rising state in order to achieve stability. This may be against someone’s interests – for example, those of China or Russia – but, as I see it, this is not unnatural. Why do you think this?

Sergey Lavrov:

Given that in some countries things unnatural, at a certain moment, have become natural, this is perhaps indeed so (naturally, we are speaking about political phenomena).

There is the Russia-India-China format (RIC). The late Yevgeny Primakov suggested the idea of this “threesome” just to see what would come out of it. But it did work and now we are planning to hold the thirteenth meeting of foreign ministers. The heads of state met last year and agreed to hold meetings in this format every year. None of the states in this triple format suggested being against the US, Japan or anyone else. We simply see the mutually complementary potentials, including internationally. In the utilitarian and economic sense, these are three big neighbours.

In a situation where they say that a rising India is a good counterbalance to China and could be “taken in one’s embrace,” just like Japan that has no love lost with India but they are ready for everything, I can see an artificially imposed format.


What is Russia’s role in settling the nuclear problem on the Korean Peninsula? What efforts are being made in this field?

Sergey Lavrov:

In 2005, a concrete understanding was reached, under which the DPRK pledged to stop testing and launches. In exchange, North Korea was offered a programme of peaceful uses of its nuclear energy and economic things it was interested in. The parties also came to terms that there would be no more sanctions.

Many say that this understanding would have collapsed anyway, but it was eventually frozen by Pyongyang because after everything was agreed upon, including the non-imposition of new sanctions, the Americans did announce sanctions against a Macao bank that had undertaken something to do with handling North Korea’s transactions. This was in excess of what had been agreed. But the package that was formed at that time is very topical – perhaps not so much with regard to each of its concrete components as to its logic. This logic consisted in that it was impossible to unilaterally demand that Pyongyang fully implement everything and only later start to think whether or not to ease the pressure of sanctions and how to do it.

The Singapore summit has shown that this problem cannot be solved “at one fell swoop.” The preparations for the Hanoi summit are again demonstrating this as well. We insisted and continue to insist on starting to encourage Pyongyang to make further headway and do this right now. Pyongyang has announced and abides by a moratorium on nuclear testing and ballistic missile launches. We believe that the Security Council could at least make certain gestures by easing or lifting the sanctions where they impede the implementation of joint South Korean-North Korean projects. At their recent meeting, South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Chairman of the DPRK State Council Kim Jong-un agreed to restore the railway link [between the two countries]. Why shouldn’t the Security Council analyse how the sanctions regime could be modified in such a way as to incentivise the railway reunification of the two Koreas?

As I said, China and Russia have drawn up a roadmap and are currently working to specify each of its stages. I will discuss this with PRC Foreign Minister Wang Yi tomorrow.


What is your assessment of the ongoing developments related to resolving the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula? How are they expected to unfold?

Sergey Lavrov:

From the outset it was our firm belief that firmness and ultimatums with which Washington embarked on these talks would not yield results. Until recently the demand as articulated by the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was the following: eliminate everything related to the DPRK’s nuclear programme first, and the question of whether to ease sanctions will be considered only once the DPRK completes denuclearisation. Only then will all the economic benefits materialise. However, ultimatums of this kind do not work. I think that the US has already understood this. How can people be forced to disarm? And what will happen after that? They disarmed Saddam Hussein using con tricks, and it took 15 years before former British Prime Minister Tony Blair acknowledged this. They disarmed Qaddafi, and we all know how it ended. All these examples are in full view, they are obvious.

Only a stage-by-stage approach will work, consisting of positive actions in response to positive moves made by the DPRK. Judging by our contacts with the US negotiating team, we get the impression that they understand this. Nevertheless, the US leadership continues to claim in public statements that only the DPRK’s full denuclearisation would bring about certain positive steps.

By the way, denuclearisation is quite a broad notion. There is no doubt that the DPRK interprets it as the denuclearisation of the entire Korean Peninsula with the US and South Korea assuming the corresponding commitments.

The process in itself and the fact that US President Donald Trump and DPRK Leader Kim Jong-un will meet for the second time are positive developments. The same goes for the meetings between the South and North Korean leaders, which are becoming regular. We very much wish that more attention is paid to the understandings reached at the North-South meetings, meaning more respect and taking them into consideration in the efforts by the US and DPRK that we all want to succeed.


Could you comment on Russia’s position regarding territorial disputes in the South China Sea?

Sergey Lavrov:

We have commented on our position on numerous occasions, including at East Asia summits, as well as in other frameworks involving ASEAN and China. We proceed from the premise that all the disputes must be resolved by the countries involved. The situation is far from being hopeless. It is my understanding that ASEAN and China have agreed to hold talks based on the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. There is also a 2002 document (Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea) signed by ASEAN and China whereby the parties undertake to move toward resolving the matter through political means. Talks are currently underway to draft a legally binding code of conduct in the South China Sea.

When our US colleagues use every opportunity to make public statements in the presence of China and ASEAN demanding that this dispute be resolved by China making concessions, this constitutes an overt attempt to once again drive a wedge between China and its neighbours. Division is in no short supply even without it. At the end of the day, what we need is to build bridges and find mutually acceptable solutions. Our Japanese neighbours also have territorial disputes with a number of countries, but for some reason they talk exclusively about the Russian Federation.

We are not parties to these disputes in any way.

As for the relations between Vietnam and China, we have explained on numerous occasions that Russian companies are working on the shelf. When we get inquiries from our Chinese friends, we say that we have been working on the shelf for forty years now, if not more, and have been doing so in strict compliance with the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, squarely within the continental shelf zone and within Vietnam’s 200-mile exclusive economic zone.

As for finding final arrangements, there are many sayings that deal with advice-givers. After all, it is always better that matters of this kind are settled directly.


You were right in saying it is time to update the roadmap for the Korean settlement. Today, South Korean representatives unexpectedly said that a bilateral peace declaration by North Korea and the US would suffice while all multilateral formats were only optional. This means they might have received some command from Washington. What is the role of our multilateral initiatives in these circumstances? What are we seeking to achieve? Is our objective a multilateral declaration, a treaty or a set of bilateral agreements?

Lifting economic sanctions on North Korea will primarily lead to American and South Korean companies being given a free hand in this country. I do not believe the Americans will be creating conditions for our trilateral projects involving the two Koreas. What formula could be recommended for what steps to take next?

Sergey Lavrov:

It is very difficult to come up with formulas in this situation. There are many factors involved here, some of which you have named. Like any expert, you must know about such a factor as China, as this country is not indifferent to what will happen to North Korea. Nor are we indifferent, sharing as we do a border with North Korea.

Presumably, the Americans have warned South Korea against any multilateral agreements, meaning they would take decisions on their own. They have ignored China and have even further backtracked, having tried to turn North Korea into a sort of buffer against China. And everybody has shown their readiness to deliver. The same goes for trilateral electricity, gas, railways and many other projects. Then we are getting back to the matter which Sergey Afontsev has just elaborated on about the US simply forcing everyone to toe the line.

Should everyone be ready to comply, scenarios like the above might become quite realistic. However, I do not believe the People’s Republic of China will put up with this. China is keen to reach a trade agreement with the US – one can see this – but I doubt that China will tolerate anyone doing whatever one deems fit in its region and right on its border. Nor do I think we will be meeting US requirements without demur.

Sergey Afontsev mentioned the GATT and the WTO. Both mechanisms are part of international law. What the Americans are doing means new rules. It is not for nothing that today one can seldom come across the phrase “we support the supremacy of international law” during talks or the drafting of documents with the West’s involvement. They write that it is important to support the “rules-based order.” Incidentally, even some documents signed by China and the European Union contain this term. What does this mean? They say this is the same thing as international law. However, this zeal in preaching the virtues of “the same thing” while refusing to mention international law cannot but suggest something very definite.

I mentioned the Chemical Weapons Convention. It is part of international law. It was emasculated by vote, which is not acceptable in respect of such documents. This is how they apply their own rules instead of international law. They acted in the same way on the Iran nuclear deal, which was “blessed” by the relevant resolution of the UN Security Council and was made part of international law. The same happened to the Middle East settlement: instead of the UN Security Council’s resolutions, which the Americans have thrown away, Washington is “brokering” the “deal of the century” based on its own rules. It has been promising to present it for two years now but nobody has seen it so far, although we more or less understand that it will put paid to all UN decisions.

The same goes for Ukraine. The Minsk Agreements were approved by the UN Security Council and the sequence of steps was specified. But nothing is happening. The US special representative for the Ukraine settlement says that, first, UN occupation troops should be deployed to bring the entire perimeter [of the border] under control, the Donbass authorities and police be dismissed, international forces introduced and only then will they put things straight.

Everything depends on how long the Europeans will be put up with what they are being faced with when it comes to trade and economic cooperation. The same is true for the answer to your question. This is why there is no formula whatsoever.

I believe that at the end of the day, the multilateral format will prove to be indispensable. Safety guarantees that must be given to North Korea, should full denuclearisation take place, must be absolutely reliable, although this will not guarantee anything – excuse me for tautology. I have cited the examples of UN Security Council decisions being simply put aside and new rules, on which nobody had ever agreed with anyone, invented.


We are now saying that the world is changing and the interdependence of states is growing. Do you think international regulation, for instance, in communications, can be radically improved in perspective? Because of fake news navigation in the sea of information leaves much to be desired. Is it possible to regulate a host of other things related to migration flows and capital management? Is it possible to raise international regulation to a new level or is this altogether impossible? Will countries continue to strike unstable alliances for shorter or longer periods of time or are there grounds to hope for an improvement of this situation?

Sergey Lavrov:

This question is fairly controversial. In brief, currently this regulation that should be ideally based on universal principles of international law is being replaced with narrowly interpreted rules elaborated in a narrow circle of states.

As for fake news, France, for example, adopted a law that filters the media space the way it wants. The Russian media Russia Today and Sputnik are political outcasts. They are not allowed to visit the Elysee Palace or attend any special events. When we address French officials in this context, they tell us that everything is correct because in their view these are propaganda instruments rather than news agencies. This is what regulation is all about. When we suggest turning to universally approved OSCE documents that reject as unacceptable any obstacles standing in the way of the public or journalists getting access to information, we are told that this was the case in 1990 and should remain there.

There are other examples as well. When France failed to use the OPCW exclusively for passing remotely a verdict on who is guilty and who is not in violation of all conceivable norms of the Chemical Weapons Convention, it took the initiative to establish an International Partnership against Impunity for the Use of Chemical Weapons that was not linked with any international structures. A few months later the EU made a decision to the effect that if the new structure reveals violators, Brussels will impose sanctions on them. This is, of course, regulation but this regulation is based on the narrow interpretation of broad interests by an individual group of countries.

As for the internet, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) has been talking for years, if not decades, about the way the internet should function so as to not offend anyone. No results have been produced and there will not be any in the foreseeable future for obvious-to-all reasons. I have practically no doubts about this. Likewise, for the same reason virtually not a single Western country supported our proposals that were endorsed by the UN General Assembly at the onset of work on the rules of responsible conduct in cyberspace.

You mentioned migration. There is the Global Compact for Migration that was adopted last year. The West was fighting for it to include a provision on the equal and divided responsibility for the migration crisis. Russia and other countries objected. It wasn’t us that bombed Libya and turned it into a “black hole.” It still remains such and through it bandits, terrorists and arms traffickers travel to the Sahara-Sahel zone whereas migrants are heading to the north. Therefore, we leave it up to them to deal with those who are responsible for this.

We are now talking about the formation of the multipolar international order. Its development was preceded by a whole historical era. Apparently, the international legal space is being fragmented – the US is doing this all along the way while the EU is isolating itself when it comes to a number of issues. The processes that are taking place in Eurasia may also be interpreted as isolation at some point but in reality we want to launch something that will become all-embracing.

Maybe, there is a rational idea in everything that is taking place. As Vladimir Lenin used to say, “before uniting it is necessary resolutely to draw lines of demarcation.” Maybe, we should be fragmented to understand who the main global players are. Not those that established the UN in 1945 but those that are playing today, in the middle of the 21st century. Only after this we should think what to do next, for instance, with the UN. It is absolutely clear that the UN Security Council requires a reform because the world’s developing regions of Asia, Africa and Latin America are not properly represented in it. Today, up to one third of the UN Security Council is represented by EU countries. I don’t think that if more countries from the historical West are added to this structure, it will gain the diversity we want to see in it.

The source of information -
Where should they dig the Very Deep Pit?
Piglet said that the best place would be somewhere where a Heffalump was, just before he fell into it, only about a foot farther on.
(c) Alan Alexander Miln
Old March 5th, 2019 #28
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Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s opening remarks during a meeting with Wang Yi, member of the State Council, Minister of Foreign Affairs of China, Wuzhen, February 26, 2019

26 February 2019 - 14:31

Mr Minister, dear friend, colleagues,

Thank you very much for your hospitality, for the invitation to come to this beautiful city for the trilateral meeting of the foreign ministers of Russia, India and China. We very much appreciate the opportunity to hold full-format talks on the state of our bilateral relations today.

We have clear goals defined by our leaders, President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin and President of the People’s Republic of China Xi Jinping. We are preparing for Vladimir Putin’s participation in the second Belt and Road forum, and Xi Jinping’s visit to Russia when he will attend the St Petersburg International Economic Forum as the guest of honour. I must also note the successful implementation of the cross years of Russia-China interregional cooperation project in 2018-2019.

I fully agree with you, Mr Minister, that our cooperation in the international arena is acquiring special significance in the current difficult conditions. I am confident that the exchange of views on key issues on the international agenda will be useful and will help us further coordinate our steps in the interests of peace, security and stability in the international arena.

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Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s opening remarks at a meeting of the foreign ministers of Russia, India and China, Wuzhen, February 27, 2019

27 February 2019 - 09:10


First of all, I would like to say how grateful I am to our Chinese friends for their traditional hospitality and excellent organisation of our meeting today in this wonderful, unique place.

Three months ago in Argentina, our leaders held an informal meeting that gave a powerful impetus to the activities of Russia, India and China (RIC). They demonstrated a common resolve to intensify our trilateral cooperation.

We are delighted that the RIC format continues to improve, moving with the times and confirming its position as a popular venue for discussing solutions to the current challenges, the number of which is not decreasing. Our interaction rests on the solid foundation of international law. We are firmly committed to the UN Charter principles of the sovereign equality of states, non-interference in their internal affairs, a peaceful settlement of disputes and equal and indivisible security.

The ongoing formation t of a fairer and more democratic polycentric world order is a process that makes it necessary for us to closely coordinate our efforts and evolve consolidated positions. It is important to continue promoting a positive, unifying international agenda focused on ensuring global and regional security and stability, attaining sustainable development goals and improving the architecture of international relations, including in the Asia Pacific region. The effort to create a broad integration contour in Eurasia remains fully relevant as well.

Overall, our states and the international community as a whole are facing goals of scope. I am confident that our discussion today will be held in a constructive spirit and will give us a better understanding of how to move towards their implementation.

I hope our work today will be fruitful.

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Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks and answers to media questions at a joint news conference following talks between RIC foreign ministers, Wuzhen, February 27, 2019

27 February 2019 - 09:55

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is the 16th time that the foreign ministers of Russia, India and China (RIC) have held this meeting. Today we met in this wonderful part of China, where we enjoyed a warm welcome and hospitality of our hosts, to exchange opinions on the current global and regional topics, following on the results of an informal meeting the leaders of Russia, India and China held on November 30, 2018, on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Buenos Aires.

We note with satisfaction that our positions are similar or identical on the most important and fundamental topics.

We hold similar views on the global developments that are related to the rise of a more democratic and fairer polycentric world order based on mutual regard for each other’s interests, broad international partnership and respect for the specific cultural and civilisational features of the world’s nations.

We spoke out in favour of strict compliance by all countries without exception with the fundamental principles of the UN Charter, including respect for the sovereign equality of states, non-interference in the internal affairs of others and non-use or threat of force. We expressed our grave concern about the striving of some countries to undermine the existing system of multilateral institutions and to replace international law with a “rules-based order.” We pointed out the counterproductive nature of the attempts to destroy basic agreements in the field of global security and strategic stability and to call into question the internationally recognised framework for settling crises and conflicts.

We agree with our Chinese and Indian partners that our efforts within the framework of RIC to formulate and promote a constructive international agenda are especially important in the light of current global developments.

We have agreed to continue to coordinate our positions at the UN, G20, BRICS and the SCO, as well at the multilateral platforms in the Asia Pacific that are taking shape around the ASEAN nations.

We expressed our concern over the current dangerous trends that are unbalancing the multilateral system of global trade, the increased application of protectionist measures, trade wars and an increasing practice of illegal unilateral economic sanctions adopted in circumvention of the UN Security Council. We believe that all states must have equal opportunities as well as fair conditions to take part in global economic activities.

We pointed out the need to step up the common efforts of the RIC countries in the fight against the terrorist threat and the proliferation of the extremist ideology and drug trafficking. We held an in-depth discussion on international cybersecurity, highlighting the special importance of two resolutions adopted at the 73rd UN General Assembly: Developments in the Field of Information and Telecommunications in the Context of International Security and Countering the Use of Information and Communications Technologies for Criminal Purposes. Talks are to be held at the UN on these resolutions, which were initiated by a group of countries, including Russia.

We talked at length about the crises in Afghanistan, the Korean Peninsula and Venezuela, as well as about the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, including in the context of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on the Iranian nuclear issue. We exchanged opinions on the situation in the Middle East and North Africa, including the Palestinian problem, Syria, Libya, Iraq and Yemen. I updated my colleagues on the Sochi summit of the guarantor countries of the Astana Process on Syria held on February 14. We are grateful to our Indian and Chinese friends for the high appreciation of that event.

We have agreed to discuss the expansion of our trilateral cooperation to new cooperation spheres and avenues that are of mutual interest. In particular, we spoke about the merits of contacts between the secretariats of the national security councils and financial intelligence services, regular meetings of the members of our academic communities and youth forums. The next RIC youth forum will be held in Russia in 2019.

As Member of the State Council and Foreign Minister of China Wang Yi has said, we also discussed the possibility of initiating the meetings of our defence ministers.

All the results of our consultations and talks have been incorporated and expanded upon in the Joint Communique, which will be posted later.

We will report to our leaders on the work we have done today. We will propose holding another informal meeting of the RIC leaders on the sidelines of one of the upcoming multilateral events.

It has been already announced that Russia will host the next meeting of the foreign ministers of Russia, India and China.


The Russian Security Council reported that American military equipment and special forces have been sent to countries bordering on Venezuela. What steps is Russia taking or planning in response? According to the Security Council, that could potentially mean an upcoming intervention. What comments would you make on Washington’s reaction to Moscow’s warnings about a military intervention being unacceptable?

Sergey Lavrov:

We are closely following the reports on what is really going on there. We see some completely shameless attempts to artificially create a pretext for a military intervention; we can hear direct threats from Washington that all the options remain “on the table.” There is a confirmation to the threats you have just mentioned – military equipment sent and special forces exercising. At the same time, we also note the continuing provocations aimed at breaking through the border under the pretext of delivering humanitarian aid and on the expectation of casualties. That, in keeping with a well-tested scenario, will be followed by hysterical screams and an attempt at a militarily intervention.

We are actively working with all countries that are concerned as we are over the prospect of a military solution. It is no accident that the leadership of Brazil declared that they would neither participate in nor provide their territory for an American aggression against Venezuela. I have not heard similar statements from the leadership of Colombia yet, but maybe I have missed something. I proceed from the assumption that not a single South American country, including all members of the Lima Group, who actively support the holding of early presidential elections in Venezuela and support the head of the National Assembly, Juan Guaido, has expressed support for a potential military intervention.

It seems to me that the US should heed the opinion of the region’s countries. First of all, we recommend concentrating on the ideas contained in the Montevideo Mechanism formulated by Uruguay, Mexico, and the Caribbean Community countries, which implies holding a nationwide dialogue with the participation of all political forces. President Nicolas Maduro has repeatedly expressed his readiness for such a dialogue. Unfortunately, Juan Guaido and his entourage reject such proposals and demand that their ultimatum on holding early presidential elections be met.

Yet another disturbing circumstance is that Washington, encouraging members of the country’s leadership to state in public that the days of President Maduro are counted, says directly that Cuba and Nicaragua will be next. That is, the Monroe Doctrine, which implies that the Americans should not allow anyone to sneak into South America, is paling before the doctrine that is taking shape right before our eyes. This doctrine means that the Americans are arrogating the right to use force wherever they please to overthrow regimes that for some reason they are not happy with. It goes without saying that international law will be undermined. The Americans are trying to replace it with the notorious “rules-based order.” You can guess what rules the United States has in store for the Latin American region.

I really hope that all countries committed to the UN Charter will raise their voice to say that such an approach is unacceptable and will insist on the necessity of a nationwide inclusive dialogue. Venezuela’s problems can be solved solely on the basis of the principles enshrined in the UN Charter, such as the sovereign equality of states, respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, inadmissibility of interference in internal affairs, or just everything stipulated in this crucial international legal document. It is not accidental that the Venezuela section of the statement we have formulated today demands that this problem be solved on the basis of the UN Charter, which must be respected by all countries without exception, including the United States.


You have long made it a rule to meet in this trilateral format. Are there any plans to organise a meeting of heads of state or defence ministers in the same format?

Sergey Lavrov:

We have already released information that we have agreed to consider the possibility of developing mechanisms for meetings of the three countries’ defence ministers. We will recommend that our leaders hold another informal summit on the sidelines of one of the upcoming multilateral events, where all the three leaders will be present.

The source of information -
Where should they dig the Very Deep Pit?
Piglet said that the best place would be somewhere where a Heffalump was, just before he fell into it, only about a foot farther on.
(c) Alan Alexander Miln

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Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s opening remarks during talks with Foreign Minister of Angola Manuel Domingos Augusto, Moscow, February 28, 2019

28 February 2019 - 19:35

Foreign Minister, my dear friend,

I am delighted to return the hospitality you showed me during my visit to Angola last year here in Moscow.

I remember our detailed, substantive talks very well, as well as my reception by President of Angola Joao Lourenco. All of this made an important contribution to the continued progress of our relations. Let me particularly note the meeting between the presidents of Russia and Angola in July 2018, on the sidelines of the BRICS summit in Johannesburg.

We value our relations going back many decades and based on the firm ties of friendship and mutual affection between Russians and Angolans, the roots of which can be found in the history of the joint fight against colonialism.

Today we have a good opportunity to build on the agreements reached by our presidents by discussing the entire range of bilateral relations and our close cooperation at international organisations.

I am very glad to see you.

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Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s opening remarks during talks with Acting Vice President of Venezuela Delcy Rodriguez, Moscow, March 1, 2019

1 March 2019 - 13:05

Ms Acting Vice President,


We are glad to welcome you to Moscow.

Venezuela is a strategic partner of the Russian Federation. Last December in Moscow, the presidents of our countries, Vladimir Putin and Nicolas Maduro, discussed the further development of our cooperation. In the current circumstances, I would like to emphasise in particular that President Vladimir Putin has sent his words of support and solidarity to his colleague and friend, President of Venezuela Nicolas Maduro.

We work in close collaboration with your country and coordinate our actions at the international arena. Right now, when Venezuela is subjected to a frontal attack and impudent interference in its domestic affairs, this is gaining particular significance. We will strongly resist such attempts and protect the ideals, norms and principles of the UN Charter.

We support the steps of President Nicolas Maduro’s government aimed at resolving social and economic issues. We are certain that the upcoming meeting of the Russian-Venezuelan High-Level Intergovernmental Commission will also be helpful in this context.


The source of information -

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s statement and answers to media questions during a joint news conference following talks with Acting Vice President of Venezuela Delcy Rodriguez, Moscow, March 1, 2019

1 March 2019 - 13:52

Ladies and gentlemen,

We have held detailed and substantive talks on the full range of our relations and, of course, the situation in and around Venezuela today.

Venezuela is an old and reliable partner of ours. Today we have reaffirmed our solidarity with the people and the legitimate government of the country and also supported its efforts to protect its sovereignty and independence.

We are in complete agreement on the need for unconditional adherence to the fundamental principles envisaged in the UN Charter by all states without exception – non-interference in other countries’ domestic affairs above all. It is especially important today when the entire world can see the cynical campaign that aims to topple the legitimate Venezuelan government, including by threating it with direct military intervention.

Russia has consistently spoken in support of the exclusively peaceful resolution of internal Venezuelan problems. It is obvious that Venezuelans must independently take steps to fix the current situation without instructions, pressure or ultimatums from the outside.

We have expressed our solidarity with the friendly Venezuelan people and our support for the measures taken by Nicolas Maduro’s government to prevent further destabilisation. We have reaffirmed our readiness to join in the efforts of regional and international mediators calling for an inclusive national dialogue. As I have said, we will be ready to join in given the consent of the main political forces in Venezuela.

Executive Vice President Delcy Rodriguez confirmed what President Nicolas Maduro has said repeatedly: that the Venezuelan leadership is ready for such a dialogue. Of course, it is unfortunate that the opposition has consistently rejected dialogue – upon direct instructions from Washington, as we all know very well.

Ms Rodriguez also informed us about the developments in Venezuela’s domestic politics and told us about the efforts to stabilise the socioeconomic situation that has deteriorated, as we all know, as a result of illegitimate unilateral sanctions imposed by the United States on the leading sectors of the Venezuelan economy and the freezing of Venezuela’s state assets abroad, above all in the United States and Great Britain.

For our part, we noted that it is unacceptable to politicise the issue of humanitarian aid to Venezuela. Decisions regarding the provision of humanitarian aid must comply with established international procedures rather than be an excuse for manipulating public opinion, mobilising anti-government forces and justifying intervention plots.

Also, I would like to note that today Executive Vice President Delcy Rodriguez confirmed that the Venezuelan government is ready to cooperate with competent UN bodies on the issue of humanitarian aid.

Russia will continue to support the Venezuelan authorities in resolving its socioeconomic problems, including through provision of legitimate humanitarian assistance. We proceed from the premise that the best way to help the Venezuelans is to expand practical, pragmatic, mutually beneficial cooperation. In this context we mapped out steps towards strengthening links in trade, investment, industrial production and finances, pursuant to the agreements reached by presidents Vladimir Putin and Nicolas Maduro last December in Moscow.

We also discussed preparations for the 14th meeting of the Russian-Venezuelan High-Level Inter-Governmental Commission that is scheduled for early April in Moscow. We agreed to use this meeting for a detailed discussion of the prospects for the implementation of large projects in geological exploration and upstream operations, joint initiatives in the pharmaceuticals industry, information technology, nuclear medicine, peaceful uses of outer space and defence industry cooperation.

We agreed to continue our close dialogue. We noted our shared commitment to continuing close coordination of our delegations’ moves in the UN, the UNSC and other international bodies.


What do you think about the US plans to establish an illegal armed unit in Venezuela with a view to creating the same situation there as in Syria?

Sergey Lavrov:

We are certainly worried about the US plans to arm militants in order to destabilise the situation in Venezuela and, frankly speaking, invade this sovereign country. The US is not embarrassed to speak openly about it. According to incoming reports, the US plans to buy small arms, mortars, portable air defence systems and a number of other types of weapons in an East European country, and move them closer to Venezuela by an airline of a regime that is the most, or rather absolutely obedient to Washington in the post-Soviet space.

Naturally, we see these intentions. Many other countries, including Venezuela’s next door neighbours, see them, too. Brazil and Columbia, for one, announced their intention not to support plans for a military invasion of Venezuela in any way. If they keep their promise and firmly adhere to this position, the US plans are unlikely to materialise. I hope the absolute, universal rejection of military scenarios by the world will cool down the hotheads in Washington, although some of them are truly unstoppable. But we will work on the basis of international law and demand that the US respect the UN Charter.


Is Russia supplying Venezuela with any humanitarian aid currently? If so, does it plan to continue doing this and on what terms?

Sergey Lavrov:

I have already said in my opening remarks that today we discussed the humanitarian aspects of the situation in Venezuela. Needless to say, the situation is affected by the humanitarian crisis that is being artificially triggered by the imposition of illegal unilateral sanctions and by the freezing and de facto seizure of Venezuelan assets abroad. The Venezuelan government is perfectly aware of this and is interested in resolving these matters, including through the relevant UN agencies. This is an absolutely legal and legitimate position that fully conforms to the norms of international humanitarian law and rules that the UN has for such situations.

Let me note that by contrast US Special Representative for Venezuela Elliott Abrams declared that the US will not cooperate with UN agencies in delivering humanitarian aid to Venezuela because they cooperate with the Maduro government. This is the position of a country that professes concern over the humanitarian situation in Venezuela but is prepared to stage provocations on the border as was the case on February 23. In reality the US seeks only to delegitimise the lawful government of the rightful President Nicolas Maduro.

As for the Russian position, responding to the wishes of our Venezuelan friends, we recently sent to them the first consignment of medications (7.5 tonnes) at the expense of our WHO contribution under the project that is being carried out by the Pan American Health Organisation. Now we have received an additional list of medications and medical compounds that the Venezuelan government would like to receive. We are looking into it, specifying organisational and logistical details.

Speaking about the humanitarian situation in Venezuela, a considerable role in its normalisation is played by massive supplies of Russian grain, which greatly helps the Venezuelan government deal with its current challenges.


How likely is direct US military intervention in Venezuela? US President Donald Trump has said, and his cabinet members have repeated, that all options are on the table.

Sergey Lavrov:

I have already said that there is no country, except one or two of the closest US allies, that would support or allow military intervention in Venezuela. Everyone, including Venezuela’s neighbours, has already stated that they do not share or support this approach.

Having said this, I should add that everything is possible, considering the current approaches of the US administration. I cannot rule out that Washington may decide to once again act in a way that would violate all possible norms of international law. In addition, Elliott Abrams, who was appointed US Special Representative for Venezuela, says directly that his responsibilities do not include searching for a peaceful solution but raising tensions and creating a situation that would provoke, as the US wants, an explosion and bloodshed in Venezuela, and justify a military intervention. Nobody hides this fact in Washington. This is why I would like to repeat that I cannot rule out that these statements will serve as a prelude to such a reckless act.

It is also evident that if Washington does act against the regional countries’ clearly stated policy in this situation and invades Venezuela, it will bring to light the true goals and motives of US policy in Latin America. It is not about democracy, as they try to tell us, but about bringing everyone who disobeys to heel. The talk about how this is not just about Venezuela, and Cuba and Nicaragua will be next, is no coincidence. What if tomorrow someone else falls out with the US? They will say the results of an election in the county do not meet democratic standards.

I do not think that this position, which is clearly insulting to Latin American countries, will score Washington any points in the region. I am sure that in this case Latin Americans, who have healthy and long-standing democratic traditions as well as traditions of cooperation within regional organisations, will state their position explicitly, like most members of the international community. We hope very much that reason will prevail in the US leadership.


The Russian resolution on Venezuela received fewer votes in the UN Security Council than the American one. Had it not been for the veto of Russia and China, the US resolution would have been adopted. As Russia’s Permanent Representative to the UN Vasily Nebenzya put it, in this case the UN Security Council would have ousted the legitimate leader of a sovereign country for the first time. What options for action are there left now that the Security Council has all but turned into an instrument for coups? Are there ways of letting Venezuelans decide their destiny themselves?

Sergey Lavrov:

As for yesterday’s vote in the UN Security Council, there is no point in counting how many votes were received by one resolution and how many by the other. The bottom line is that none of them passed. This does not mean that one draft was more legitimate than the other. This decision-making procedure is enshrined in the UN Charter and is binding for all members of the international community. It requires the absence of a veto of any Security Council member. If a resolution was vetoed it did not have legitimate grounds. Nor was it likely to be presented as something more legitimate than the other. Such are the rules and they form the foundation of modern international law and the UN itself.

Let me recall that when the UN was established it was the US that insisted on the right of veto of the permanent members of the UN Security Council. So there is no point in saying some are abusing the right to veto and others are not. The issue is very simple: the founding fathers of the UN proceeded from the premise that it is unacceptable to ignore the position of a country that is a permanent member of the Security Council. Relying on historical experience, they realised full well that in this case the adopted decisions would be unstable and maybe even be subversive and destructive.

As for the question about what options remain and how to let Venezuelans decide their destiny themselves, today we mentioned the Montevideo Mechanism that was created at the initiative of Uruguay, Mexico and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM). This mechanism implies organisation of an inclusive dialogue between all political forces of Venezuela. President Maduro has already expressed his readiness to take part in this dialogue without any preconditions. Regrettably, Juan Guaido whom the US appointed to be “leader” of Venezuela categorically rejected this opportunity.

This is how the different forces are arrayed: there is a group of countries that favours an agreement on starting dialogue and has the support from the legitimate President, and there is the opposing party that is fully under Washington’s influence and categorically rejects this.

There is also the International Contact Group (ICG) that was established by the EU countries. They pondered this idea at the end of last year. At that time their thoughts were constructive – to facilitate nationwide dialogue in Venezuela. However, later on this position evolved in a different direction. As you know, the leading EU countries gave President Maduro an ultimatum. They demanded that he announce an early presidential election and then fixed the ICG position in a document adopted at the meeting in Uruguay. This document does not even mention the word “dialogue” but contains appeals that sound like demands to immediately set the date of the early presidential election.

This is a counterproductive, neocolonial position. Habits die hard when they have developed over centuries. I understand this, but let me note that the legitimate government of Venezuela is also ready to work with this entity, the ICG. This is an excellent example of constructive behaviour by President Maduro and his government and of the destructive and confrontational conduct of a man who was appointed from overseas as “the leader of the state” in violation of all norms and principles of the UN Charter.

The source of information -

Telephone conversation of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation Sergey Lavrov with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo

2 March 2019 - 20:31

At the US’s initiative, Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke by telephone on March 2.

The situation around Venezuela topped their agenda. Sergey Lavrov condemned the threats the US has made toward the country’s lawful leadership, which is an overt interference in the internal affairs of a sovereign state and a severe violation of the international law. This incitement and destructive external influence, imposed under the hypocritical pretense of rendering humanitarian aid, has nothing to do with the democratic process. In connection with Washington’s proposal to hold bilateral consultations on the Venezuelan topic, it was stated that Russia is ready to participate in this, but it is vital to be strictly guided by the principles of the UN Charter since only the Venezuelan people have the right to determine their future.

When discussing other international issues, the parties stipulated that expert contacts would continue regarding Syria, Afghanistan and the Korean Peninsula.

The source of information -

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s interview with Kuwait News Agency (Kuna), Moscow, March 3, 2019

3 March 2019 - 10:00


In March you are going on a business trip to the Arab countries of the Gulf. What states do you plan to visit and what are the goals of your trip?

Sergey Lavrov:

On March 3-7, I will be paying working visits to Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates.

The Middle East has a special place in Russia's foreign policy. We have long-standing and strong bonds of friendship and fruitful cooperation with the region’s countries. We are firmly committed to building a fairer and democratic polycentric world order, in which all peoples can independently determine models for their socio-economic development while preserving their cultural and civilisational identity.

It is on these principles, those of respect and consideration of each other’s interests, that Russia is building relations with the Gulf states. We believe that the strengthening of mutually beneficial relations meets our long-term interests and serves the cause of ensuring peace and stability in the Middle East.

During the planned meetings, we plan to substantively discuss the state and prospects of bilateral cooperation, primarily the agreements reached at the top level. We expect to thoroughly consider ways of increasing mutual trade, and developing an inventory of promising joint projects in various areas. We will certainly talk about intensifying humanitarian ties, including cultural exchanges and tourism.

We attach great importance to further strengthening our foreign policy coordination and plan to compare notes on the developments in Syria, the Palestinian-Israeli settlement and other hotspots in the region, emphasing the prospects for resolving the remaining conflicts there through political and diplomatic means based on international law and through the establishment of a truly inclusive interethnic dialogue.


How do you plan to expand relations with the Gulf countries?

Sergey Lavrov:

We regularly conduct the relevant comprehensive systemic work with all the above-mentioned countries. In this connection, it is hard to overestimate the significance of productive and trust-based top-level dialogue. Not only do our leaders maintain intensive contacts, but they personally oversee the most important matters on the bilateral agenda.

Intergovernmental commissions on trade, economic, scientific and technological cooperation, involving all the above-mentioned Gulf states, remain an effective mechanism for coordinating efforts to expand business-like collaboration. They are scheduled to hold regular sessions throughout 2019. The sixth session of the Russian-Kuwaiti intergovernmental commission will take place in El Kuwait on the same day as my talks with your country’s leaders.

Various business missions, as well as direct contacts between representatives of business circles, play an important role. For example, on April 8-10, Moscow will host the 4th International Exhibition Arabia-EXPO 2019 and the 12th session of the Russian-Arab Business Council. This is a unique opportunity for conducting informed debate on various matters related to expanded practical trade and economic cooperation between Russia and regional countries in the bilateral and collective formats.

We are looking closely at how to facilitate transport links between Russia and members of the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf and simplify procedures for issuing visas. We believe that this will help further intensify business exchanges and expand tourist, cultural and humanitarian ties.


What is your opinion of Russian-Kuwaiti relations, and what can you say about their development prospects?

Sergey Lavrov:

Russia and Kuwait are linked by traditionally friendly relations, we celebrated the 55th anniversary of our diplomatic ties last year. These relations hinge on principles of equality, mutual respect and constructive cooperation. At the same time, we do not rest on our laurels, and we try to move ahead together, so as to make our ties more dynamic and to elevate them to an entirely new level.

In November 2015, Emir of Kuwait Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah was on a working visit in Sochi and held talks with President of Russia Vladimir Putin; this highlighted the impressive potential of our cooperation. It is important to exert joint efforts towards a rise in bilateral trade volumes and a broader product range, the further expansion of investment cooperation and the implementation of long-term joint projects in other areas. We hope that the results of this work, carried out by both countries’ concerned agencies and organisations, will soon become apparent.


What is Russia’s strategy in Syria after the defeat of ISIS, and how will the problem in Idlib be solved? Do you think the Astana format has exhausted its potential, and is there a need to create a wider format to further advance the political process in Syria?

Sergey Lavrov:

The situation on the ground has noticeably stabilised after a series of successful operations by Syria’s government forces with the support of the Russian aerospace force. ISIS, an organisation claiming some quasi-statehood, has been defeated. However, it is premature to talk about the total elimination of the terrorist threat in Syria. Much remains to be done to neutralise the sleeper cells of radical groups, as individual pockets remain where terrorists are present. First of all, we are talking about the Idlib de-escalation zone, most of which is controlled by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham militants carrying out raids against civilians, as well as Russian and Syrian military forces, that are intended to provoke.

Under these conditions, it is necessary to continue to fight terrorism effectively. We are encouraging our Turkish partners to fulfill their obligations under the Memorandum on Stabilisation of the Situation in Idlib of September 17, 2018. It is important that observing the cessation of hostilities agreed with Turkey not be used as a pretext for further strengthening of the terrorist presence. So far, this document stipulating, in particular, the creation of a demilitarised zone and withdrawal of all radical forces and heavy weapons from it, is not being fully observed.

As for the Astana format, it has proved effective in practice. As a reminder –the decisions taken at the International Meetings on Syria in Astana have led to the creation of de-escalation zones, a significant reduction in the level of violence, and conditions for the return of internally displaced persons and refugees. The Syrian National Dialogue Congress in Sochi, also initiated by the Astana format three members, gave a start to the intra-Syrian political process.

We are now energetically working with our Iranian and Turkish partners on the implementation of the results of the Congress. Issues related to the further stabilisation of Syria, the promotion of a political settlement, including the formation of the Constitutional Committee, were discussed during the summit of Astana guarantors held in Sochi on February 14.


Can Russia influence the sides to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict to put an end to this drawn-out problem? Can this conflict be settled given the imbalance of forces in the region?

Sergey Lavrov:

The settlement of the Palestinian problem is an integral element of stabilisation in the Middle East and North Africa. Consolidation in the region is hardly possible without a settlement of this chronic crisis, which is generating instability and extremism.

It is therefore regrettable that the Palestinian-Israeli settlement is taking so long. The sides are not holding talks, and international efforts in this sphere have not been consolidated. The situation on the ground is rapidly worsening in this context.

Russia has been working consistently, including at the UN Security Council and within the framework of the Middle East Quartet of international intermediaries, to create conditions for the resumption of contacts between the Palestinians and the Israelis.

We are also closely working with the sides to the conflict. I would like to remind you that back in the autumn of 2016 President Vladimir Putin proposed holding a Palestinian-Israeli summit in Moscow without any preliminary conditions. Mahmoud Abbas and Benjamin Netanyahu agreed, in principle, to hold such a meeting. However, the meeting has not yet been held. We are still ready to hold a meeting of the Palestinian and Israeli leaders. We are convinced that such direct contacts can help find a way out of the current dead-end.

We are doing our best to help the sides overcome the intra-Palestinian split. On February 11-13, the third meeting of the leaders of the 12 basic Palestinian parties and movements was held in Moscow. For the first time in 10 months, we have brought together representatives from the main political forces of Palestine to resume dialogue on reuniting Palestinian forces based on a common platform. A joint statement, known as the Moscow Declaration, was adopted following that meeting, confirming the sides’ resolve to overcome the split and to unite around the national idea of an independent and viable Palestinian state based on UN decisions and the Arab Peace Initiative, a state that will live at peace with its neighbours in the region.

The United States’ unilateral moves are having a grave negative influence on the Middle East settlement. At some point, US President Donald Trump promised to do his best to help settle the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. We welcomed that noble intention and encouraged our partners to work together constructively, primarily within the framework of the Quartet. We succeeded in holding several meetings at the level of special envoys. But then Washington openly opted for implementing unilateral schemes with the US as the only intermediary.

It has been said for the past two years that a new Middle East initiative was in the making, the so-called deal of the century that would restore peace between the Arabs and Israel. Its announcement has been postponed yet again, until the formation of a new Israeli government. However, it is rumoured that this initiative provides for a questionable trade-off contrary to the internationally approved basis of the Middle East settlement. The Palestinians are unlikely to accept such a trade-off.

We believe that the international community should take collective efforts to launch direct talks between the conflicting sides in order to defuse tension in the region and relaunch the Palestinian-Israeli settlement process on the internationally accepted legal basis. We still believe that the Middle East Quartet is a useful format.

The source of information -

The following events are not displayed in the English version.

26 February 2019

On the negotiations of S. Lavrov with the Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China, Carrie Lam -

27 February 2019

Meeting of S. Lavrov with Indian Foreign Minister S. Swaraj -

28 February 2019

Meeting of S. Lavrov with the chairman of the Greek party "New Democracy" K. Mitsotakis -

Telephone conversation of S. Lavrov with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Turkey M. Cavusoglu -

1 March 2019

Meeting of S. Lavrov with the co-chairs of the Russian-American Dartmouth dialogue -

Telephone conversation of S. Lavrov with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Pakistan Sh. Kureishi -
Where should they dig the Very Deep Pit?
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Most personal and non-personal events have not been translated to English.

Personal events:

25 February 2019

Meeting of M. Bogdanov with the Ambassador of Egypt in Moscow I. Nasr -

Interview of I. Rogachev, Director of the Department for New Challenges and Threats, to the TASS news agency, February 19, 2019 -

Meeting of I. Morgulov with the Ambassador of India to Russia V. Varma -

26 February 2019

Consultations of A. Pankin with the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Turkey F. Kaymakji -

Speech by S. Vershinin during the high-level segment of the 40th session of the UN Human Rights Council, Geneva, February 25, 2019 -

Meeting of I. Morgulov with the Ambassador of China to Russia, Li Huei -

Meeting of S. Vershinin with UN Secretary-General A. Guterres -

Meeting of M. Bogdanov with the adviser to the Prime Minister of Iraq on issues of national security F. Fayad -

Meeting of M. Bogdanov with the Ambassador of Jordan in Moscow A. Adayle -

Meetings of V. Titov with the leadership of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Cuba -

Meeting of M. Bogdanov with a delegation of Syrian Kurdish public and political figures -

27 February 2019

Meeting of S. Vershinin with Yemeni Prime Minister M. Said -

Meetings of S. Vershinin in Geneva -

On the press conference of A. Shulgin, Permanent Representative of Russia to the OPCW, and V. Kholstov, Head of the Center for Analytical Research on the CWC and BTWC at the Ministry of Industry and Trade of Russia -

Meeting of G. Karasin with the special representative of the Prime Minister of Georgia Z. Abashidze -

28 February 2019

Meeting of S. Vershinin with Venezuelan Foreign Minister H. Arreasa -

Meeting of I. Morgulov with M. Bakhand, appointed Ambassador of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to Russia -

Meeting of M. Bogdanov with a member of the Politburo of the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party H. Isa -

1 March 2019

Speech by D. Balakin at a meeting of the OSCE Permanent Council on the situation in Ukraine and the need to implement the Minsk agreements, Vienna, February 28, 2019 -

Interview of V. Chizhov, Permanent Representative of Russia to the European Union, to the Trud weekly published on February 22, 2019 -

Speech by D. Balakin at the meeting of the OSCE Permanent Council on the fifth anniversary of the reunification of Crimea with Russia, Vienna, February 28, 2019 -

Meeting of M. Bogdanov with the Ambassador of Iran in Moscow M. Sanai -

Non-personal events:

Comment by the Information and Press Department on escalating tensions in India-Pakistan relations

27 February 2019 - 14:35

We express grave concern over the escalating situation along the Line of Control between India and Pakistan and the surge in tensions in relations between the two states which are Russia’s friends.

We call on both sides to show restraint and redouble efforts to resolve existing problems by political and diplomatic means.

We are ready to continue support for strengthening the counter-terrorism capacity of New Delhi and Islamabad.

The source of information -

25 February 2019

On the presidential election in Senegal -

26 February 2019

Russian-US Consultations on Afghanistan -

27 February 2019

On Presidential Elections in the Federal Republic of Nigeria -

28 February 2019

On the results of the 81st session of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (ECE) Committee on Inland Transport (ITC) -

Comment by the Information and Press Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia in connection with the American-North Korean summit in Hanoi -

On the meeting of the leadership of the Department for work with compatriots with representatives of relevant Russian NGOs -

1 March 2019

Comment by the Information and Press Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia on the Presidential Election in Senegal -

On the mutual reduction of the cost of visas for Russian and US citizens -

On the meeting of the Russian Foreign Ministry Board -

Russian-French consultations -
Where should they dig the Very Deep Pit?
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Old March 5th, 2019 #31
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Briefing by Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova, Moscow, February 28, 2019

28 February 2019 - 17:12

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s meeting with Foreign Minister of Angola Manuel Domingos Augusto

Today, on February 28, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will hold a meeting with Foreign Minister of Angola Manuel Domingos Augusto, who is in Moscow on a working visit.

During the meeting, the ministers will discuss topical issues related to Russian-Angolan political, trade and economic cooperation.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s talks with Acting Vice President of Venezuela Delcy Rodriguez

On March 1, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will hold talks with Acting Vice President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela Delcy Rodriguez.

The officials will discuss current issues of bilateral relations related to the implementation of large joint projects in energy, industry, agriculture, medicine, pharmaceutics and modern technology.

The officials are also expected to discuss ways to further coordinate positions on the global stage as well as the situation in and around Venezuela and reaffirm the support for the peaceful settlement of political discrepancies in the country.

Sergey Lavrov’s working visits to Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the UAE

On March 3-7, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will be on working visits to Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the UAE to meet with the heads of state and foreign ministers of these countries.

The upcoming meetings will include in-depth discussions of the state of bilateral relations and prospects for their further steady development as well as a review of the progress in implementing top-level agreements achieved earlier. Considerable attention will be paid to ways of stepping up multilateral cooperation, coordinating mutually-beneficial projects in various areas and encouraging cultural and humanitarian ties.

The officials will thoroughly compare notes on the state of affairs in the Middle East and North Africa with an emphasis on the need to resolve ongoing crises in this region through political and diplomatic means, by mutually taking into consideration the interests and concerns of all involved parties based on international law and the UN Charter. The situations in Syria, Yemen, Libya, the Gulf countries, as well as the status of a Palestinian-Israeli settlement continue to be the focus of attention.

Important aspects of cooperation between Russia and the above countries in the UN and other international forums will also be discussed, including preparations for a regular Russian-Arab Cooperation Forum ministerial session that will be held in Moscow on April 17 and the resumption of joint work as part of the Russia – Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) strategic dialogue.

Syria update

One of the biggest threats to security and stability in Syria comes from the Nusra-linked group Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), which controls nearly the whole of the Idlib de-escalation zone. Field commanders are reforming the groups that have allied with the HTS so as to strengthen their offensive capability in the vicinity of Aleppo, Hama and the mountain regions of Latakia. The terrorists’ goal is to expand the sphere of their influence until they control the whole of Idlib. The number of ceasefire violations has not decreased, but, on the contrary, has grown considerably. Some 40 such violations in which people were killed and wounded were reported over the past four days.

The UN Secretary-General drew attention to the deplorable situation in the Idlib de-escalation zone in a recent report on the humanitarian situation in Syria. Apart from expressing concern over the strengthening of the HTS in Idlib, the report enumerates the terrorists’ atrocities against civilians, including infringements against ethnic and religious minorities, the arbitrary detention of civilians and cases when people went missing after criticizing the HTS.

Last week we presented our views on the possibility of organising a second humanitarian convoy to the Rukban camp for internally displaced persons, which is located in the US-occupied area around al-Tanf. We would like to say the following on this score. During the operation of the UN and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent between February 5 and 14, the humanitarian personnel polled Rukban residents about the possibility of their resettlement. Here is what this poll has shown. The majority of the respondents, or more precisely 95 percent, said they would like to leave the camp. The overwhelming number of these people (80 percent) expressed a desire to move to the government-controlled regions. You probably remember that we were told that the people do not want to and will not live with the al-Assad government.

We are not surprised that people want to leave Rukban, and that they want to live in the peaceful government-controlled regions. But it is surprising that the Western mainstream media do not see the inhuman conditions in the camp. People do not want to live there, but it is impossible for them to leave because they do not have basic things, such as food and medicine as well as normal living conditions. There are no doctors directly in the camp. Painkillers are the only kind of medication used to treat every type of ailment in the nearby clinic. But there are masses of armed people and the ever-present fear for one’s health and life. We believe that in this situation the people should be evacuated from the camp as soon as possible and the camp itself should be shut down. We have been working together with the Syrian government towards this. Over 200 people have left the camp after we opened the humanitarian corridors near Jleb and Jabal al-Ghurab on February 19.

We would also like to draw your attention to the joint statement by the Russian and Syrian interdepartmental coordination centres on returning refugees, which was posted on the Russian Defence Ministry website. The statement reads that the United States is preventing Syrian citizens from leaving the Rukban camp and calls on the international community to promote the implementation of the Syrian government initiative for returning Syrians to their native parts, closing down the camp and liquidating the al-Tanf security zone. Buses will be provided starting on March 1 for the voluntary movement of people from Rukban.

We are alarmed by the reports saying that the US side is hampering the movement of people from Rukban, hoping to preserve the camp by organising international humanitarian convoys under the pretext that the camp residents need to be assured of their safety after they leave it. In other words, the camp residents want to leave, but they are told that they are not ready for this and that you can allegedly see in their eyes that they are concerned about their safety.

We would like to say once again that humanitarian aid will not settle the problem of the Rukban camp. This is humiliating, a form of modern genocide. What we need to do is eliminate the root cause of this problem, that is, the illegal US presence in the 55-km security zone around the camp. We have clearly expressed our position at a UN Security Council meeting on the Rukban camp, which was held at our initiative, as well as at the Geneva meeting of the Humanitarian Task Force of the International Syria Support Group.

We have taken note of the steady return of Syrian refugees from foreign countries. Some 1,000 people enter Syria every day, primarily from Lebanon and Jordan, and this number can grow when winter ends. Overall, around 150,000 refugees have returned to Syria since July 2018, when Russia launched the initiative on facilitating the return of Syrian refugees.

Update on Venezuela

Several events took place last week with respect to Venezuela, including some dramatic events. However, as a result, even some in the international community that were echoing Washington, or to use the new foreign policy term “squealed along,” even those who gave complete carte blanche to US statements that “all options are on the table,” are now maintaining meaningful silence. Apparently, they have found the strength to agree in public that there is no alternative to a peaceful solution to the Venezuela issue. Why did this happen? Apparently, it was easy to predict the consequences. Apart from anything else, Washington’s actions in this context were so crude and poorly thought out that even those who supported its policy without a word decided to give it some thought.

I would like to recall that the Russian Federation has constantly and consistently spoke about this at various venues for many months. Let us repeat that there should be no interference by force!

The illegal attempt to break through the Venezuelan border under the pretext of bringing “humanitarian relief” undertaken by the radical part of the Venezuelan opposition with US prompting and support of extremist groups with Molotov cocktails in hand on February 23, was doomed to failure from the very start. Its organisers realised that any violation of the state border must and will always be curbed because this is direct encroachment on national sovereignty. Nevertheless, this did not stop those who have killed and wounded people as a result of this US-provoked adventure. How will the organisers of this bloody farce look into the eyes of those whom they planned to use as a “live shield”? Luckily, the dirty plan of the providers of fake humanitarian aid ran aground.

I will not describe in detail the events of last Saturday or say what the trucks with so-called “humanitarian aid” really carried. Owing to the photos given to us we know what was in them. Relevant evidence was presented at the February 26 session of the UN Security Council. It is still necessary to figure all this out. Even a cursory analysis of the photos and footage points to the futility of the attempts to present these planned open provocations as “atrocities of the Nicolas Maduro regime.” Take, for instance, the burning of trucks before they even crossed the border. We have commented on this repeatedly because these kinds of things happened in various parts of the world. Let me recall the images of other completely false scenarios that were presented as foundations for making far-reaching decisions. We have seen this everywhere including Maidan and Syria.

I advise you to carefully read the speech at this meeting by Russia’s Permanent Representative at the UN Vasily Nebenzya. The text is accessible on the website of our Permanent Mission and is very easy to understand.

These events are a source of grave concern. The US sticks to a policy of taking down “objectionable governments” in Latin America and elsewhere. We urge all our Latin American friends to give serious thought to this, regardless of what position they now hold towards the Nicolas Maduro government. Today, it is best to remember the pages of history that can be very informative in the context of the current situation.

The February 26 session of the UN Security Council graphically demonstrated that an interventionist scenario is unacceptable for the international community. Exactly a month has passed since the previous session on the Venezuelan issue. And what do we see? The confidence of those who stand on guard of the UN Charter and the principles of international law has become even stronger whereas the positions of those who favour ultimatums and threats continue to be eroded. In effect, only the US representative, who remained alone, never expressed the renunciation of the option to use external armed interference.

Today, the US will try to take revenge at the UN Security Council. Its draft resolution on Venezuela will be put to a vote. There is nothing new in it, just the same mixture of high-flown demagogy, accusatory clichés and ultimatums. Needless to say, Russia will not be able to back this draft. The Russian delegation worked hard and suggested in its draft resolution an approach that is much more constructive and based on respect for the UN Charter and the principles of international law. This approach implies the use of various mechanisms of dialogue and mediation on a broad international scale, as well as the order of coordinating and delivering international relief and putting forth other initiatives on Venezuela. I will not predict the results of today’s session but I will say that we have no illusions as regards US willingness to heed the voice of reason and display a constructive approach. We take a realistic view of the situation.

Russia will continue its constructive explanatory work to eradicate the very idea of resolving Venezuelan problems by force from the international public consciousness. We will continue rendering effective support to constructive international mechanisms and initiatives aimed at an internal political settlement in Venezuela. Haven’t we already seen things like this in Syria? There was intimidation, accusation, direct threats, including those addressed to this country. We saw a blackmail of the entire international community and arguments that amounted to propaganda. Will we have enough patience for all this? We will. We have been through many things and managed to prevent many of the bloody scenarios that have been offered to the world.

We are convinced that it is only possible to reach peace in Venezuela through an internal comprehensive and respectful dialogue. All those who are not indifferent to the peaceful future of Venezuela and Latin America as a whole can and must facilitate this as soon as possible. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Executive Vice President of Venezuela Delcy Rodriguez, who is arriving in Moscow, will talk about these and other issues tomorrow.

Developments in Donbass

The intensity and number of fire attacks launched by the Armed Forces of Ukraine have increased considerably over the past seven days. According to members of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission, 11 communities in the Donetsk and Lugansk people’s republics came under fire. The fire attacks killed two and wounded one civilian, also damaging ten residential buildings.

I would like to make a lyrical digression. When I hear the European Union’s statements about developments in Venezuela with various prescriptions and equivocal wording, I am always tempted to ask: And has the Ukrainian matter been closed already? Has everything been resolved? Has Brussels accomplished anything with regard to Ukraine that can be used to convince the international community that the EU’s opinions and practical proposals can be applied in other regions of the world? Just look at what is going on there. There is no answer to this obviously rhetorical question.

One would like to note the fact that increased fire attacks by the Ukrainian security agencies against civilian facilities in the self-proclaimed republics have coincided with the deployment of nationalist units of the Ukrainian National Guard’s Azov Regiment. The Kiev regime has repeatedly used this formation, whose representatives are known for their far-right radical views, to conduct punitive operations against the civilian population in Donbass. So some members of the US Congress have called it a neo-Nazi element.

One gets the impression that Kiev is preparing another provocation in Donbass; this aims to create conditions for declaring martial law in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions. Quite possibly, the aim of this provocation might be to call off the elections in these Ukrainian regions where, as is well known, President of Ukraine Petr Poroshenko does not enjoy popular support, to put it mildly.

I would like to recall that the Kiev-approved provocation involving three Ukrainian warships in the Kerch Strait served as a pretext for declaring martial law in ten Ukrainian regions, including Donbass, on November 28, 2018.

Current developments along the Line of Control between India and Pakistan

We are worried about the escalation of tension in relations between India and Pakistan and dangerous manoeuvres of both states’ armed forces along the Line of Control that are fraught with a direct military clash.

We are urging the sides to display maximum restraint. We continue to assume that contentious matters should be resolved by political-diplomatic methods on a bilateral basis in line with the provisions of the 1972 Simla Agreement and the 1999 Lahore Declaration.

We reaffirm our readiness to provide all-out support to the Indian and Pakistani efforts in countering terrorism.

Parliamentary elections in Moldova

Elections to the Parliament of Moldova took place on February 24, with about 3,000 observers from various international organisations, including the CIS Inter-Parliamentary Assembly and the CIS Executive Committee, monitoring the election process. Despite certain setbacks, they believe that the election process mostly met generally accepted standards.

Judging by preliminary results, three political parties and one election bloc will make it into the new Moldovan Parliament, and the official results will be announced in the next few days. We hope that the future government of Moldova will represent the interests of the country’s entire population.

There were some questions regarding the development of bilateral relations after the elections. I would like to note once again that this should remain in the context in any case. The results will be announced in the near future. Certainly, we always assume that a constructive line will prevail in relations with the Russian Federation. As I see it, this approach is mutually beneficial.

Referendum in Cuba

On February 24, a referendum took place in the Republic of Cuba, with over 85 percent of the voters approving the new national Constitution. The approval of the Fundamental Law, drafted with due consideration for proposals formulated during the preliminary three-month nationwide discussion took place in conditions of a democratic process and through the free expression of Cuban citizens’ will.

Therefore the people of Cuba have formalised their independent choice in favour of an optimal and most preferable modern development model, state and socio-political system meeting the requirements of current national socio-economic transformations.

The new Constitution reaffirms the continuity of Havana’s foreign policy objectives based on a commitment to unfailingly honour norms and principles of international law, including respect for the sovereignty of other state and non-interference in their domestic affairs. We are confident that our continued shared approaches on the international arena will further enhance strategic partnership between Russia and Cuba in various forms and manifestations.

US-North Korea summit in Hanoi

We positively assess the commitment of US President Donald Trump and Chairman Kim Jong-un of North Korea to continue their dialogue in connection with the second US-North Korea summit held on February 27–28 in Hanoi. We believe it should be backed up with real and practical steps towards each other and proceed on the basis of compromise approaches with an emphasis on creating an atmosphere of trust. It is obvious that time and maximum patience of all the participants are required to solve the full range of problems on the Korean Peninsula, including the nuclear one.

We believe it extremely important to maintain the positive dynamics in political and diplomatic processes in the subregion in the spirit of the well-known Russian-Chinese initiatives. We reaffirm Russia’s readiness to strengthen multilateral cooperation with all the parties involved and to join efforts in the interest of a comprehensive settlement on the Korean Peninsula.

Anniversary of the poisoning of Skripals

March 4 marks a year since the date of the poisoning of former Russian intelligence colonel Sergey Skripal and his daughter. It is difficult to find the right word for the story – it is tragic, and kind of tragicomic at the same time. So far, no one can say what really happened. One thing is obvious, and we can assert with confidence that the UK has launched an essentially unprecedented anti-Russia information campaign, equally astounding in its cynicism and paradoxical nature. It would seem that many facts have been cited to confirm that, historically, a certain part of the British establishment is capable of everything, including bluffing, forgery, and provocation, also internationally. There are plenty of examples of such actions in the history of that country. But, regarding the so-called Skripal case, Theresa May’s government seems to have gone even further, surpassing all previous historical precedents and all its famous predecessors. One gets the feeling that the British authorities have decided to test several of their techniques to create and promote international provocations.

The world remembers all too well the famous test tube with samples of allegedly Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, which US Secretary of State Colin Powell brought to the UN in 2003 and the ex-British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s interview with CNN in 2015 in which he apologised for the invasion of Iraq on the basis of erroneous intelligence. We all know this. Now we know more about all kinds of staged videos, we know how these fakes are made. But there is hardly a case in recent history when high-ranking officials would render a guilty verdict against another state for an alleged crime without even bothering to give the public at least some kind of reasoning or evidence for it. Perhaps they were wary of any fakes that they show would be refuted. The so called verdict on our country, brought without the right of appeal, was issued using a new technique, a new international legal concept that has forever entered the history of international relations - “highly likely”. Now, no evidence is needed, and verification mechanisms developed under existing international law do not have to be activated – it suffices to use words like “likely,” “probably,” or “maybe” to have anyone believe anything. And most importantly, this belief will be followed by very specific measures, unwinding of the sanctions spiral, mass expulsion of diplomats, and international stigmatisation. All this was tested in the context of our country and in relation to our state.

If we look at the statistics of the British media content over the past year, including the number of official statements on the so-called Skripal case, it will immediately become clear that this topic was almost central in their national information space, competing, and occasionally eclipsing Brexit.

Systematically and regularly, in close coordination with each other, British media resources, special services, and officials released portions of information on this subject, always keeping it afloat. This way the British person-in-the-street had a daily opportunity to watch the series imposed on them. If it became boring, new juicy details were thrown in, like the last story where some “third poisoner” emerged. Despite the abundance of information, what do we have as the bottom line? We have a lot of unconfirmed, even ominously mysterious facts, as, for example, the new details around Porton Down laboratory, but no specifics and zero substance. No one can answer the main questions: what about the Skripals? Where are they? Recently, Sergey Skripal's niece, Viktoria, said she doubted that her uncle was alive, and also announced her intention to ask the Russian law enforcement agencies to recognize her cousin, Yulia, as missing. This was not followed by any officially confirmed documentary material, except for a statement made by the British Ambassador to Russia that Skripal was alive. Of course, this person can be trusted with the word. As Viktoria said in an interview with reporters, in February, it was half a year since she last spoke with Yulia. She probably has reason to say so, as much as we do – despite the numerous requests the Russian Embassy sent last year about consular access to the Russian citizen, the British side does not allow us to see her. Indeed, the situation is paradoxical – the newswires are full of news about the Skripals, but the world does not know anything about them or about what happened. It is a fact. If you actually try to extract facts from what was written, the situation is as follows – the animals were killed and cremated, the house was isolated and, according to reports, is being dismantled, while the Skripals themselves were hidden from the public at best, but even that we cannot be sure of.

What other irrefutable facts do we have? The topic of the Skripals, Salisbury and Amesbury became the only unifying agenda in the UK – the very consensus around which Theresa May’s government is unified, including the political establishment.

The British media behaviour is also indicative, knowing their love of investigative journalism. We have often caught them on fraud and falsification, but, as a rule, they at least try to create the appearance of a professional approach. However, this time, in the context of the so-called Skripal poisoning, they did not even bother with that. No specialist has yet been willing to delve into the numerous inconsistencies that are issued by the media. Apparently, this job is not worth it, as it is not going to bring any political dividends. So they continue planting information, which is also somehow mystically linked to the developments around Brexit.

USSTRATCOM Commander General John E. Hyten’s strategic arms comments

We took note of the remarks by Commander of US Strategic Command Gen. John E. Hyten on new Russian armaments in the context of the New START Treaty, made on February 26, when he was speaking before the Senate Committee on Armed Services.

I would like to remind you that this Treaty covers only intercontinental ballistic missiles, submarine-based ballistic missiles and heavy bombers, which, by the way, was acknowledged by Gen. Hyten himself.

We proceed from the assumption that the issue of armaments other than IBM, SLBM or heavy bombers that are outside the purview of the New START Treaty could be considered in the context of a strategic dialogue with the US. We have repeatedly pointed this out to the US side, including at the meetings of the Bilateral Consultative Commission under the US-Russia New START Treaty. But Washington stubbornly avoids this dialogue and prefers to whip up hysteria in the public space.

We believe that this approach cannot make our discussion any more constructive. What is needed for this is a detailed expert analysis of the existing mutual concerns and a search for mutually acceptable solutions aimed at enhancing trust as well as strengthening international security and stability.

Results of the 63rd Special Session of the OPCW Executive Council

The OPCW Executive Council convened in The Hague on February 25 to discuss Russia’s proposal on additions to the lists of chemicals covered by the Chemical Weapons Convention. Ahead of the event, experts from Moscow held a number of briefings for CWC member countries. The Russian initiative was explained in minute detail. It is of a comprehensive nature, carefully worded and based on a wealth of facts. Its main aim is to strengthen the CWC non-proliferation regime by including onto the lists the most dangerous new-generation toxic chemicals that could be used for the reproduction of chemical weapons.

We must state that the Western countries were violently opposed to our approach and engineered a vote. Taking advantage of the numerical superiority that the NATO countries and their close allies have in the Executive Council, they have blocked the Russian proposal. The reason is simple: the proposed lists of chemicals would include nerve agents that are being developed by a number of Western countries.

We proceed from the assumption that the last word on this matter will belong to the 193 CWC member states. In keeping with the CWC, a 90-day “silence procedure” has been launched. If at least one country opposes the Executive Committee decision and supports the Russian initiative within this period, the issue will be submitted to the CWC Conference of the States Parties, the organisation’s top organ.

Recent cyber attack on NTV-MIR

We are deeply concerned about some Western countries’ statements regarding their readiness for aggressive actions in cyberspace, including by using pre-emptive measures, allegedly aimed at counteracting hybrid threats from the outside and containing other states in their alleged attempts to launch cyber attacks on Western countries’ infrastructure. Furthermore, Russia is considered the main object for such containment.

In this context, we cannot help but notice the increased cases of hacker attacks on the Russian segment of the internet and the websites of some Russian media. In particular, a massive DDoS attack was launched recently on NTV-MIR with over three million IP addresses, most of which are registered in the US.

We will continue to monitor the situation and draw conclusions about the scale of cyber attacks. We will submit this data to the relevant international organisations because we are talking about attacks on Russia’s information space. We are very concerned about the sources of these attacks.

Sputnik stops radio broadcasting in Berlin and Brandenburg

Starting March 1, SNA radio, part of the Sputnik international news agency and radio will have to stop broadcasting in Berlin and Brandenburg. The radio broadcast earlier in Berlin and Brandenburg at the frequencies of MEGA Radio, which had a temporary license on transmitting digital signal. At the end of 2018, its application for a permanent license was denied by the regulator because, in particular, MEGA Radio is financially dependent on Rossiya Segodnya International Information Agency as it broadcasts its content 12 hours a day. The German authorities were also concerned with the fact that the owner of the frequencies “does not control the content of the channel.” At the same time, the regulator has not filed any official complaints regarding the content of the radio programmes. Do they contain propaganda, fake news, distorted information, misinformation, or maybe disrespect for the main principles that Germany advocates? In my opinion, there is nothing to talk about. We have recently been lectured by the German professional community about how Germany treats the freedom of the media and freedom of speech with respect. There were numerous publications on this subject. Russia could never even dream of such “freedom of speech.”

Given the charged atmosphere around the Russian media in Germany, it is difficult not to notice the political component of the situation with Sputnik. We urge the German authorities, including the professional community which said it was proud of their freedom of speech, to apply this principle of the freedom of speech to regulating media activity.

We will be keeping a close watch on this situation.

The role of propaganda in the preparation of NATO’s attack on Yugoslavia

I would like to cite the example of what the Russian media are being accused of in the West today to show what real propaganda is, getting back to the illegal, bloody and criminal operation carried out by NATO in Yugoslavia.

Propaganda played a decisive role in the preparation of NATO’s aggression against Yugoslavia. Over the course of many months, the Western media was reporting on the alleged mass repressions against Albanians, kicking a truly hysterical campaign into high gear. At the same time, every effort was made to hush Kosovo Albanian militants’ extensive terrorist activities, their heinous crimes, including kidnapping of people for human organ trafficking.

I would like to say that, as can be seen from the investigation documents, not a single thriller showing similar horrors can compare with what was happening there in reality.

The immediate pretext for the beginning of bombing, as you know, was the so-called “massacre of innocent civilians” in the village of Racak, which was under the control of Serbian law-enforcers. This was reported by absolutely all Western media, as well as the official NATO and EU agencies. As it transpired later, an autopsy carried out by Finnish pathologists revealed that it was a provocation, while the “innocent civilians” turned out to be Albanian militants dressed as civilians who had been killed in the fighting. Of course, this was hushed up.

The outcome of this propaganda campaign was an armed aggression against a European country and the use of force to seize part of its territory – the Kosovo Autonomous Area. So it was in the spring of 1999 that NATO put paid to international law in Europe. Since then, we have perceived any and all speculations in Western capitals about someone violating international law or about respect for the freedom of speech, as well as their references to anything as propaganda as nothing short of outright hypocrisy.

New acts of vandalism and revision of history in Poland

All sorts of revisionists and hooligans in Poland continue defaming our memorial heritage in that country.

Another act of vandalism on the graves of Soviet soldiers was carried out in the city of Nowy Sacz, Malopolskie Province. This time, the vandals attacked the graves of Red Army soldiers at the city cemetery: they stole the sickles and hammers from the obelisk and, instead, drew the emblems of the so-called struggling Poland and inscribed the words “down with the commune.”

In Kielce, Swietokrzyskie Province, members of the local legislative assembly resolved to take 29 Red Army soldiers off the list of the city’s honorary citizens. They explained their decision, as has become the custom in recent years, by the need to “restore historical justice.”

A monument to those who liberated Poland from the Nazi invaders has been demolished in the city of Slawno, West Pomerania Province, through the efforts of the local authorities. A legendary T-34 tank was taken off the base: according to local history experts, a Polish crew fought in this tank in the 3rd Guards Armoured Corps led by General Alexey Panfilov.

We consider all these acts to be immoral, through and through. If removing the threat of total annihilation of a whole nation does not deserve to be perpetuated, any discussion of “historical justice” is useless. The masterminds of the Polish national policy should remember that in memorial matters every new wild escapade of this sort is a direct insult to the memory of World War II heroes and their descendants and it is also the re-writing of history. It is time you stopped.

Answers to media questions:


Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in January that a trilateral meeting of the presidents of Russia, Azerbaijan and Iran will be definitely held in Russia this year. Is there any information at the ministry level on the preparations of this event? Is this format effective in light of the anti-Iran sanctions? Does it meet Russia’s interests?

Maria Zakharova:

Any format on which states agree is constructive if it is not spearheaded against other countries but is designed to address internal matters or to promote the settlement of international problems. The sides have the right to hold such meetings if they satisfy the abovementioned conditions. It is a normal international practice.

As for the preparations for the summit, you should ask the concerned bodies of authority.


An event was held in Baku this week that can be described as a fresh manifestation of anti-Armenia hysterics. But the strangest part of it is that a large delegation from the Russian parliament took part in that internal Azerbaijani propaganda event. Speaker of the Armenian National Assembly Ararat Mirzoyan, who was in Moscow at that time, expressed his consternation. The Armenian Embassy also expressed its objections. Who organised that visit by the Russian delegation? I would like to hear your assessment of this awkward story involving Russian MPs.

Maria Zakharova:

First of all, I would like to say that the horrible, bloody Karabakh conflict has claimed the lives of very many innocent people, both Azerbaijanis and Armenians. Russia has always considered it a terrible tragedy. Our position is well known, but I wanted to confirm it once again.

Russia has been doing a great deal to help the conflicting sides find a peaceful solution. We will continue to give priority attention to this in the context of our policy and our views on the Russian policy in the region.

You said that Russian MPs took part in this event. I believe that the question of who organised that visit should be addressed to those who went on that trip. We have already said that the Foreign Ministry was not among its organisers.


Is Moscow dissociating itself from the initiatives which my Armenian colleague has mentioned? After all, the State Duma is not a hobby club but the supreme legislative authority of Russia.

Maria Zakharova:

It is a good remark coming from an Armenian journalist. I would like to remind you that in a democratic society the legislative assembly is elected by the people who hold different political views. The authorities in Russia are divided into the executive, legislative and judicial branches. This is the official position of the Russian Federation. At the same time, individual politicians have their own views, which is normal.


Are we promoting the truth through such films as The Balkan Line, which has been recently shown on the sidelines of the Berlin film festival?

Maria Zakharova:

First, I have not seen this film yet. And second, we are talking about the official position. I would like to avoid giving comments on artistic works at a Foreign Ministry event. However, artistic works must contain at least a grain of truth as well. On the other hand, artistic works and the media must not become the instruments of propaganda, especially for attaining the goals that the Alliance had back then.

If this film attempted to provide an objective analysis of the events in question, it can be described as a constructive contribution. The events of that period showed how dishonest people can use the media and all other instruments of bringing information to the general public, and what results this can have.

It is a matter for discussion, and I have talked about it many times, including with journalists, but my opinion is that all aspects of the proliferation of information have to do with responsibility, including the responsibility of creative people to the audiences. Of course, in the case of historical events this implies working with documents, checking and verifying information so as to tell people the historical truth.


Today, a resolution on Venezuela which is partially based on the so-called Montevideo Mechanism (supported by Mexico and Uruguay) will be submitted to the UN Security Council. Can Russia become directly involved in the work of this cooperation mechanism?

Maria Zakharova:

Senior Foreign Ministry officials have repeatedly stated that we support this mechanism at the current stage. We proceed from the need to involve mediators (naturally, by agreement with Venezuela), provided that this country accepts mediatory services that should aim precisely to search for a constructive solution of the crisis in and around Venezuela, with due respect for the main international law principles, the UN Charter. We perceive our role in supporting the Montevideo Mechanism in this context.

We will study this matter if it becomes necessary to use our capacities more vigorously. Russia is actively helping to normalise the situation in Venezuela and to uphold international law. We are confident that there is no alternative to resolving the situation by peaceful political-diplomatic means, and that it would be unacceptable to use military force, all the more so resort to military intervention, in resolving the domestic crisis in this state.

We have repeatedly noted that, apart from all the above-mentioned aspects, it is very important to create normal conditions, rather than aggravate current manifestations of crisis with regard to Venezuela, and later claim that its people are suffering from food shortages and declining economic indicators.

We have always suspected that certain countries played a part in these events, but now we are sure that a number of states stand behind and provoke the domestic crisis in Venezuela. This should not happen.


The Washington Post published a story the other day, quoting anonymous sources from among senior officials and claiming that the US Cyber Command disrupted Internet access of an alleged Russian “troll factory” on the day of the 2018 midterm elections to the US Congress. The most interesting thing is that this story claimed this was the first offensive against Russia. Therefore this is not the last attack, and it will probably be followed by others. Do you know anything about this? What is the Foreign Ministry’s response? Do you perceive this as a direct attack against the Russian state and a security risk?

Maria Zakharova:

In my opinion, you should ask US officials and the concerned agencies as to whether this attack took place or not. They know all too well whom and when we had allegedly attacked. At the same time, we would very much like to hear any confirmation or denial of this information from them. We would then have the necessary data. First, we are talking about a newspaper publication; second, about an attack on an NGO. How can we make any comments on this information? We have already discussed confirmed attacks during today’s briefing. We learn about them from companies sending this information to us, as is the case with NTV, or we share information about hacker attacks on Russian government agencies.

We regularly report the number of attacks on the Foreign Ministry’s website, as well as on other government agencies and organisations. Of course, we record aggressive attacks on Russia in cyber space, and their number is growing. At the same time, this no longer implies radio hams engaged in petty hooliganism. The scale and nature of these attacks indicate planned and well-coordinated activities. This is not about radio hams. This concerns global and purposeful efforts to disrupt a number of mechanisms, organisations and resources of Russian government agencies or major companies.

Today, I have cited information provided to us by the NTV television company. Why did they send this to us? This is because it is precisely the Foreign Ministry’s Information and Press Department that accumulates all information linked with the violation of Russian media outlets’ rights abroad, including attacks, aggression, inappropriate conduct, etc., and sends it to international organisations. This is exactly what we are going to do.

I would like to say once again that it would be nice to receive an official response from the United States, all the more so as we are talking about a story in a US newspaper that has mentioned the actions of the US side.

By the way, here is something for you to think about: In early February, the Foreign Ministry requested the US side’s consent to publish correspondence dating from late 2016 to early 2017 via a special channel and dealing with US concerns about the unauthorised accessing of its online networks. If you remember, the Obama administration sent an official inquiry to Moscow, elaborating on their public accusations with regard to Russia. We replied willingly. You may not remember the gist of that inquiry, but you remember our statements about maintaining such contacts with the Obama administration, about our regular inquiries regarding their concerns and our willingness to reply to all their appropriate inquiries. The Americans turned down our proposal to publish the contents of that correspondence.

This brief discourse shows that we are dealing will all-out and, unfortunately, protracted cheating. On the one hand, Russia is being accused; and, on the other hand, it is being attacked. The above mentioned NTV channel shows that these attacks are also being conducted from the United States; in any event, numerous attacks originate from there. Unfortunately, a striving to hush up the correspondence, without making it public, highlights obviously weak positions, although these documents did not contain any particularly sensitive matters. Those who want to know what is going on inside cyberspace between Moscow and Washington would be most interested in reading them. But, I repeat, the Americans prevented us from making this document public.


ISIS terrorists, many of whom are foreign nationals, including from Russia, are surrendered en masse to the Kurds in Baghuz within the framework of the operations to do away with the last ISIS stronghold east of the Euphrates. The Kurds have asked European countries and all other concerned states to create conditions for passing judgement on these terrorists or to take them over. What will Russia do?

Maria Zakharova:

This is for the law enforcement to decide. Such information should be checked before initiating proceedings, which involves the use of measures based on Russian legislation. But the first thing to do is authenticate the information. If these people are citizens of Russia, their future will be decided by the law enforcement based on the law.

Regrettably, many of those who are fighting for terrorist organisations come from Russia or are connected with the post-Soviet space in one way or another; they have a dark or troubled past and do not have a clear and understandable citizenship record. Many of them destroyed their documents or changed them illegally. Therefore, it will take a long time to determine if they are Russian citizens or not, considering the geopolitical changes in the post-Soviet space. The matter will be decided traditionally; there are no innovations in this respect.


Is this the matter for the Russian Reconciliation Centre for Syria?

Maria Zakharova:

First of all, it is a matter for the Russian law enforcement agencies. Competent agencies will check the information.


Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in an interview with Vietnamese and Chinese television channels that Moscow is considering the possibility of deploying Russian military police on the Syrian-Turkish border. Have any practical steps been taken towards this? Are you holding talks with the Kurds and Damascus?

Maria Zakharova:

Of course, this statement stems from practice rather than theory. The Russian Foreign Minister has said this based on concrete information. But only our military know all the details.


What can Russia together with the OSCE do to stop the latest round of violence, which Ukraine has launched in connection with the election campaign?

Maria Zakharova:

I have already spoken on this issue today. Your question has confirmed my belief that, regrettably, we cannot rule out any provocations in the context of the elections and the election campaign in Ukraine.

What is Russia doing to prevent a bloody scenario? First of all, we have been talking about this openly and making facts public. This is quite a lot. Second, we relay the information at our disposal to the concerned OSCE bodies. And lastly, we maintain bilateral contacts with those who are protecting the Kiev regime and can directly influence Kiev’s actions.


The Serbian media write that Tony Blair is giving free advice to the Serbian government regarding Serbia’s new borders. Russia has been criticised for adjusting all its actions only to UN Security Council Resolution 1244. What is Russia’s position on this matter?

Maria Zakharova:

We support all solutions to this problem if they meet the interests of Serbia and the Serbs. We are talking about the people and the state. In such cases one should avoid hackneyed phrases but express oneself very clearly. We have said more than once that there is a large number of international documents concerning this situation. Of course, we believe that they must be respected because they have not been invalidated, in particular, the UN Security Council resolution you have just mentioned. At the same time, we see that Serbia is trying to resolve this problem, including through talks, and we understand this position. We will support any decision that meets the interests of Serbian people and Serbia. The Russian position rests on the integrity of these principles. It is consistent and has not changed. But the problem is periodically aggravated, for example, when Kosovo starts acting with regard to Belgrade, the Serbs and Serbia, in particular in trade and the economy, in a barbaric manner that completely disagrees with the European values or, in general, the modern narrative.


You have said that the Jabhat al-Nusra terrorists continue their attacks on civilians in Aleppo. Does this mean that the Idlib agreements have failed?

Maria Zakharova:

I would say more diplomatically that these agreements are not being implemented in full.


How does Russia see the prospects for peace in Afghanistan arising from the contacts between US representatives and Taliban leaders?

Maria Zakharova:

It is difficult to evaluate the prospects prior to the contacts. Globally, we expect that the parties will reach agreement in the interests of the intra-Afghan settlement. This position of our country is very well known. I still assume that we should comment on the outcome of such meetings if they achieve any results. If you ask me about any specific meeting, I will be glad to comment.

We have received questions regarding this issue, specifically, concerning initiatives in this area. For example, there was a question on Russia’s views regarding the Afghan government’s initiative to hold a meeting in Kabul on a peaceful settlement. On March 7, the Afghan government plans to hold the third meeting of the Kabul Process in the country’s capital. The meeting will concern establishing a peaceful dialogue and countering terrorism on the territory of Afghanistan. Russia received an invitation to take part in this meeting. Our principled approach is that we support the Afghan government’s efforts to organise direct talks with the armed opposition and resolve the issues related to this process. Specifically, these issues include a ceasefire, the liberation of prisoners, an intra-Afghan dialogue on the country’s future political order, and a few other matters. However, unfortunately, at this stage, these efforts are not bringing any noticeable results. We are certain that in the current circumstances, the Moscow format of consultations on Afghanistan would be the best platform for international assistance in establishing the intra-Afghan dialogue. We believe that within this format it is possible to coordinate the efforts of the major world powers, regional actors and belligerent Afghan parties in search of the solution to the Afghan crisis.

The meetings in the Intra-Afghan Dialogue format also have great potential. The first meeting took place in Moscow on February 5−6, 2019. The Afghans themselves conducted a thorough dialogue regarding the prospects of a peace process in Afghanistan that would take into account the interests of all the members of Afghan society, regardless of their faith and ethnicity. The next meeting will take place in Doha on March 25−26, 2019.

We also noted the initiative by the Afghan leadership to convene an expanded intra-Afghan meeting this March under the auspices of the Afghan government. It should be noted that a number of powerful political figures in Afghanistan and the Taliban expressed reservations about this event and claimed that it appeared to be an attempt by current President of Afghanistan Ashraf Ghani to postpone the upcoming presidential election and prolong his term. The majority of Afghans demand a fully-fledged loya jirga rather than consultations in order to resolve the issues of a peace process in the country.


My colleague from Serbia has quoted Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic as saying that a demarcation option is being discussed for Kosovo. How would Russia conduct itself if this happened?

Maria Zakharova:

Russia already conducts itself as Serbia’s true and time-tested friend. It defends the interests of this state which is being subjected to colossal pressure by the same Western partners who promise huge preferences to Belgrade and who, at the same time, basically stifle the country. Russia can and must talk about its behaviour with regard to Serbia in the present, rather than the future, tense. This involves assistance, political, moral, economic and infrastructural support that really has something to do with Serbia’s development as a state and the wellbeing of the Serbian nation. All this already exists. Why should we talk about how things will work out in the future? We have already clearly outlined the future in our position by saying that Russia will certainly support the resolution of the highly complicated matter that will meet the interests of the Serbs and Serbia as a state. There are no other approaches towards this matter. But we should not formulate our position as pending future action. This proactive position aims to defend the rights of the Serbs. Unfortunately, our Western partners have been neglecting the rights of that nation for quite some time and are doing this rather aggressively.


In its letters to the Federal News Agency’s staff, internet company Google Inc. admitted spying on them via the Google mail service. Google employees analysed confidential materials and correspondence and submitted their findings to US government agencies as part of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. Is it in fact normal for the United States to conduct surveillance without feeling ashamed to admit it? Is there any risk that US agencies are spying on others, and not only journalists, along the same lines?

Maria Zakharova:

First, the problem is that we are using the word “normal” less often in this context. Second, I will be happy to comment on this. But, first, I would like to read these wonderful confessions, if you can hand them over to us officially. We will look through them, and we will certainly offer our comment. This is a unique know-how; I have never seen or read anything like this before.


You have mentioned the so-called Skripal poisoning that happened a year ago. Today nobody knows what is happening to them. The propaganda campaign the UK launched has not ended yet. What do you think about London’s intention to expand the investigation to Bulgaria?

Maria Zakharova:

I have already said that this is a new element of the propaganda campaign. One can move from one element to another again and again, but we would still like to receive basic answers to the key questions. But they are trying to lead us away from the truth, creating new equations with new unknowns. But there is a basic question which requires an answer: Exactly what happened in Salisbury a year ago – time, place, circumstances, characters and actions? It is a simple question, but any forward movement would be unproductive without an answer to it. Nobody has provided an official answer to this question. We do not even have an official timeline. Meanwhile, major evidence has been destroyed or is being destroyed.


How can the report by Special Counsel Mueller influence Russian-US relations?

Maria Zakharova:

I don’t think we need to comment on this report as a factor of bilateral relations, because the events that take place in Russian-US relations every day now are trivial compared to a decade ago when they could have turned things upside down. We see Washington do this every day: statements, actions, sanctions, lists, threats, slander, fakes and misinformation.

The report itself and the developments around it fit in with the history of our bilateral relations. Not that this is influencing the unfolding situation. Similar events with a varying information effect take place every day. This deterioration in our relations is initiated by Washington.


Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has said that Moscow can provide a venue to Islamabad and New Delhi for settling their dispute. Will they support this idea?

Maria Zakharova:

We are ready to do our best towards this, if the conflicting parties want us to.

The source of information -
Where should they dig the Very Deep Pit?
Piglet said that the best place would be somewhere where a Heffalump was, just before he fell into it, only about a foot farther on.
(c) Alan Alexander Miln
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Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks and answers to media questions at a joint news conference following talks with Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of the State of Qatar Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, Doha, March 4, 2019

4 March 2019 - 12:56

Ladies and gentlemen,

First of all, I would like to express gratitude to our hosts for their hospitality and warm welcome.

Today we held substantive talks with Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of the State of Qatar Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani. Before that, in the morning, I met with Emir of Qatar Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, to whom I brought the warmest greetings and best regards from President of Russia Vladimir Putin.

Our talks have confirmed our mutual interest in maintaining a regular political dialogue based on trust and mutual benefit and in expanding practical Russian-Qatari interaction in a variety of fields.

We agree with our Qatari friends that we should continue to increase our trade and economic cooperation and promote bilateral trade.

We expressed our appreciation for the efforts taken by the Joint Intergovernmental Commission on Trade, Economic and Technical Cooperation, which will convene for its next meeting in Moscow on April 10, when Moscow will also host the 4th International Exhibition Arabia EXPO and the 12th session of the Russian-Arab Business Council.

We also praised the high level of interaction between the Russian Direct Investment Fund and the Qatar Investment Authority (QIA), as well as QIA’s shareholding in Rosneft.

We pointed out that Russian oil and gas companies LUKoil, Zarubezhneft, Gazprom and Novatek are interested in launching joint projects with Qatari partners.

We agreed to continue to coordinate our efforts on the global energy market, including at the Gas Exporting Countries Forum (GECF), which is headquartered in Doha. I hope to be able to visit the GECF headquarters after we complete our talks and to meet with GECF Secretary General Yury Sentyurin.

We noted that our countries also launched cooperation in sport after the FIFA World Cup was held successfully in Russia. The next World Cup will be held in Qatar in 2022. We pointed out that our concerned agencies maintain close contacts. We are ready to share our experience and to recommend to our Qatari friends the best way to hold this global tournament in light of the decisions that were taken and proved worthwhile during preparations for the World Cup in Russia.

Naturally, our discussions on international matters focused on the Middle East and North Africa, primarily Syria, Libya and Somalia. We agree with our Qatari partners that the situation there should be stabilised without delay based on international law and an inclusive political process, from which the extremists, no matter how fine their slogans may sound, must be excluded.

We also talked at length about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. We believe that this conflict should be settled on the basis of universally recognised international law and that all-round assistance should be provided for the restoration of Palestinian unity as a key prerequisite for the resumption of effective direct talks with Israel.

We discussed the situation in the Persian Gulf. It is Russia’s wholehearted desire to see all aspects of this situation settled, including with due regard for the ideas which Russia has advanced in the past few years within the framework of a collective security concept for the Persian Gulf as a strategic part of the world.

I would like to once again express gratitude to our Qatari friends for their hospitality and to invite my colleague to visit Russia at his convenience.


Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu has visited Russia at the invitation of President Vladimir Putin. Did they discuss a settlement solution for the Palestinian territory?

Sergey Lavrov:

The visit of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Russia included discussions on the Palestinian-Israeli settlement. We reaffirmed our long-standing interest in overcoming the stalemate in this matter as soon as possible. We also confirmed our readiness to host a meeting between Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas in Russia, so that they will be able to resume direct dialogue without any preconditions. Our Israeli colleagues, including Mr Netanyahu, asked us about this. Mr Abbas expressed his agreement on this matter. Our proposal is still on the table. We believe that such a meeting would mark a major move towards the revival of trust, at the least. Any progress in the Palestinian-Israeli settlement would be impossible without this.


Russia’s Ambassador to Qatar said Vladimir Putin may pay a visit to the region, in particular, to Qatar. Have the dates been set for this visit?

Sergey Lavrov:

President of Russia Vladimir Putin was invited by His Royal Highness, the Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, to visit your country. He accepted this invitation, as well as invitations to visit a number of neighbouring countries. The protocol services of the heads of state will decide when this visit will take place.


Mr Lavrov, during your talks with the Qatar side did you touch upon the idea of establishing a working group for normalising the situation in Syria? What are the prospects for launching the work of this group in the context of continued provocations by the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham coalition of groups, which controls most of Idlib, Latakia and also northern districts of Hama? What role will Doha play if this group starts working in the near future?

Sergey Lavrov:

We did not discuss this subject during our talks. I don’t think there is any need to establish such groups for Syria. There is the generally accepted Astana process, where the Government of the Syrian Arab Republic and the armed opposition are conducting a sufficiently successful dialogue with the mediation of Russia, Turkey and Iran. We have already attained tangible results. UN and Jordanian representatives are involved as observers in this process. Earlier, the United States also took part in this process but later decided not to attend the meetings in Astana. Quite possibly, additional observers may join this process. There is also the institution of the UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy for Syria, as well as regional countries interested in resolving the crisis as soon as possible.

We maintain contacts with all our regional partners, and we work not only in line with the Astana format but also with all countries of this important region that can influence the Syrian peace process one way or another, and we will continue these efforts. We are in contact with representatives of the so-called small group on Syria, namely, its Western participants. Together with our Turkish colleagues, we have worked with French and German representatives. On October 27, 2018, Istanbul hosted this four-sided summit. We also discuss the situation in Syria with our US colleagues, including service personnel and foreign policy agencies, via another channel.

Therefore this ramified network of contacts can and must eventually yield results. And it hardly makes any sense to set up some new group. Bear in mind that the International Syria Support Group, established by Russia and the United States with UN support, still formally exists. Members of this group have not gathered in the plenary format for a long time. But members of two specialised groups (for maintaining the ceasefire regime and for humanitarian issues) meet regularly, two to three times a month, in Geneva. These groups involve representatives of over 20 countries, including countries of the Middle East, Western countries, the Russian Federation, the People’s Republic of China, Iran and others. So, there is no shortage of mechanisms. It is only important that everyone is guided by UN Security Council Resolution 2254, just like we are doing in the Astana format, so that the people of Syria themselves address matters of the Syrian peace process, so that no one hampers their efforts, like some of our Western partners tried to do in December 2018, when they saw to it that the establishment of the Constitutional Committee was called off. We perceive this calmly and rationally, and we intend to complete the work launched in the Astana format. I am confident that our UN colleagues comprehend their responsibility for convening this mechanism as soon as possible.


According to the media, last year, Qatar was planning to buy the S-400 air defence system from Russia, which prompted a negative reaction from Saudi Arabia. What is the status of this deal and are new ones being planned?

Sergey Lavrov:

I can only reiterate what my colleague and friend said regarding our military-technical cooperation. It is regulated within a bilateral format. Eighteen months ago, we signed an intergovernmental agreement on military-technical cooperation and we have renewed our commitment to abide by this document today. We will consider our Qatari partners’ requests for Russian military equipment as they come in.


Currently, talks with the Taliban are underway in Doha. Prior to that, meetings with the participation of the Afghan opposition groups were held in Russia. Do you count on these talks bringing favourable outcomes, on both tracks?

Sergey Lavrov:

We are following the Doha talks between the Americans and the Taliban.

The Taliban also came to Moscow as part of our efforts to mobilise the international community, primarily, Afghanistan’s neighbours, to give the Afghans a hand as they are about to begin a meaningful political process.. It’s a good thing that no one is looking askance at these efforts now. At the beginning of this process, our US colleagues tried to accuse us, more or less, of violating UN Security Council resolutions, although everyone was well aware that at that time the Americans themselves had regular meetings with the Taliban.

Now, this nervousness in Washington is subsiding. Washington’s Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad periodically meets with my Deputy, Igor Morgulov, and Special Presidential Envoy for Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov. They maintain close contacts. I believe that it is a good thing to avoid trying to compete artificially, but instead to unite efforts, because Russia, the United States, Afghanistan’s neighbours and other countries can help the Afghans start a national dialogue to end this conflict.


US National Security Advisor John Bolton said that Washington is not afraid to use the word Monroe Doctrine regarding Venezuela. Do you believe that it is legitimate to evoke this 19th century doctrine?

Sergey Lavrov:

Since the UN was established in 1945, international law has been governed by the Charter of this universal and most legitimate Organisation. The "backyard" theory and practice is, by and large, offensive. I assume that Latin American countries will respond to this arrogant statement by Mr Bolton. He referred to the applicability of the Monroe Doctrine to Venezuela, but insulted the whole of Latin America. Several days ago, Washington followed up with an official threat that Venezuela was not the end of the story, and Cuba and Nicaragua were next. So, it’s up to the countries of that region to think about this philosophy and politics.

John Bolton has made a name for himself with his statements. We’ve known each other for quite a while now. He recently tweeted that President of Venezuela Nicolas Maduro lied when he said that Russia had sent him a batch of medical supplies. I’m not sure where he gets his information from, but some time ago we did supply 7.5 tonnes of medications to the Venezuelan state, the people of Venezuela, through the World Health Organisation and the Pan American Health Organisation. So, no one misled anyone. It appears that Mr Bolton got incorrect information from someone and chose to immediately spread it across the world.

I would still stick to the need to monitor specific actions. In this sense, we are concerned about what the United States is planning to do in Venezuela. I pointed this out clearly to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo when he called me 36 hours ago to express his concern that the Venezuelan leadership was threatening Juan Guaido. I said that no one should be threatening anyone to begin with, because the Americans are actually threatening the entire Venezuelan nation as they demand that the army break the oath and incite it to stage an insurrection. If there’s anyone who should be concerned about not resorting to a policy of threats, it is the United States itself.

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Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks and answers to media questions at a joint news conference following talks with Minister of State for Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Adel al-Jubeir, Riyadh, March 4, 2019

4 March 2019 - 20:25

Ladies and gentlemen,

First of all, I would like to thank my colleague and friend, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom Adel al-Jubeir for his hospitality and all our Saudi friends for close cooperation and determination to develop bilateral relations in full accordance with the agreements reached in October 2017 during King Salman’s state visit to Moscow for talks with President Vladimir Putin and also the agreements reached between the Russian leadership and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman during his numerous meetings with the Russian President.

We positively assessed the development of our trade and investment cooperation. Trade is growing but we would like to step up its pace. Today we discussed a number of specific steps in this direction, including in the context of preparing for the next meeting of the Joint Intergovernmental Russian-Saudi Commission for Trade, Economic, Scientific and Technological Cooperation, which is to be held in Moscow in the near future.

We discussed the steps that our respective departments are taking to coordinate large new projects in various fields, including the energy industry, the peaceful use of nuclear energy, industry, agriculture and transport infrastructure.

We agreed to continue coordinating steps in the world oil market in the OPEC + format, which has developed and is operating successfully in many ways thanks to the initiatives of Russia and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

We have a shared interest in expanding humanitarian contacts and cultural exchanges and establishing more active and large-scale cooperation in education.

We are grateful to our Saudi friends for their unfailing attention to Russian pilgrims during the Hajj. The number of reservations for pilgrims has grown to 22,500. The attention paid to providing their security undoubtedly deserves our gratitude.

We came to an agreement that Saudi Arabia will take an active part in the work of the Russia – Islamic World Strategic Vision Group, established between Russia and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation. This Group holds regular meetings every year. We will welcome Saudi Arabia’s more active involvement in its work.

We also talked about regional matters, of course. We focused on the Middle East and North Africa in light of the priority goals of combating terrorism and the proliferation of the extremist ideology.

We discussed the settlement in Syria, Yemen and other areas in this important region.

We highlighted the need to ensure progress in the Palestinian-Israeli settlement. The situation has reached a stalemate. We believe that it can only be overcome on the basis of UN-approved principles of a peaceful settlement based on a two-state solution. We will do our best to ensure that any steps taken in this sphere are based on UN Security Council resolutions and the Arab Peace Initiative, which was initiated by the late King of Saudi Arabia Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud.

I am sure that our talks will move relations between Russia and Saudi Arabia forward and will help us achieve the goals set by President of Russia Vladimir Putin and His Majesty the King of Saudi Arabia Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud.


How long will it take to finalise the list of members of the Syrian Constitutional Committee?

Sergey Lavrov:

Regarding our efforts to help the Syrian sides finalise the list of members of the Constitutional Committee, I will point out the obvious: the final say belongs to the Syrian sides – the Government and the opposition. We nearly completed the work we were doing together with our Turkish and Iranian partners to encourage the Syrian Government and opposition to coordinate the list when obstacles that had nothing to do with the task at hand were created by some of our Western colleagues, hindering the approval of the agreements reached by the Syrian Government and opposition at the UN. We take this in our stride, and we will stay on course to implement UN Security Council Resolution 2254 and to help launch the talks that will be conducted by the Syrians themselves.

I am not sure about the timeframe, but work is proceeding apace. I hope we will see its completion very soon.

I would like to use this occasion to express our gratitude to our Saudi friends. Minister of State for Foreign Affairs of Saudi Arabia Adel al-Jubeir has today confirmed the resolve to encourage the Syrian opposition in Saudi Arabia to act constructively to facilitate the political process.


What do you think about the French initiative on amending the Syrian Constitution and holding early elections there?

Sergey Lavrov:

It is our understanding, which has been supported by all the main players that can influence the Syrian settlement in any way, that the key priority is establishing the Constitutional Committee. If the countries that tried to slow or hinder this process now have alternative ideas, it is on them. I do not think this will promote the interests of the Syrian people or help launch an inclusive UN-led political process.


Russia has proposed holding Palestinian-Israeli talks in Moscow without any preconditions. Is there any progress towards this or other changes in the Palestinian-Israeli settlement?

Sergey Lavrov:

Acting at the request of Israeli authorities we received several years ago, we have come to an agreement with Palestinian authorities on holding a meeting of the Israeli and Palestinian leaders in Russia without any preliminary conditions. Palestinian leaders are ready for this meeting. Israel has confirmed its interest in such a meeting but is not sure about the timeframe. We are ready to implement this initiative, which is not our initiative but has been proposed by our Israeli colleagues, as soon as both sides coordinate the date.

As for the new elements in the Palestinian-Israeli settlement you have asked about, I regret to say that any new elements can only be described as negative developments. An attempt has been made to invalidate everything we have achieved in this sphere, such as UN Security Council and General Assembly resolutions, the accords reached in Madrid and Oslo, and, last but not the least, the Arab Peace Initiative.

The Arab Peace Initiative stipulates the settlement of the Palestinian problem through the establishment of two states, Palestine and Israel, living safely and at peace with each other and cooperating with their neighbours. Following that the Arab League countries and member states of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) said they would be ready to fully normalise relations with Israel.

I view this as a principled approach. We actively supported the Arab Peace Initiative, which was proposed by the late King of Saudi Arabia Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud. Today attempts are being made to turn this initiative upside down by first insisting on the normalisation of relations between the Arab countries and Israel and only then looking at what can be done for the Palestinians.

We have noticed that our American colleagues, who are preparing the widely publicised “deal of the century” that is taking too long, reply to direct questions on the matter by saying that they are not trying to undermine the two-state solution. We would like to see the practical implementation of these statements. We’ll see what kind of initiative will eventually be advanced.

We believe – we talked about this with our Saudi friends today – that the Arab Peace Initiative must be preserved in its initial form. Playing fast and loose with the Palestinian problem is unacceptable and contrary to all the agreements reached at the UN and during the previous direct contacts between the sides. A fair settlement of the Palestinian problem is also needed to prevent the growth of radical trends in the Arab street, as they say. It is a very serious matter. I hope that those who are trying to deal with this matter directly are aware of their responsibility for the solution they propose and its potential consequences.


You have said that you discussed Russian-Saudi cooperation in the sphere of nuclear power. Can you speak about it in more detail? Have you reached any agreements?

Sergey Lavrov:

Saudi Arabia has a programme for the peaceful use of nuclear energy and has announced tenders for the construction of such facilities. Russian state corporation Rosatom is taking part in these tenders. It acted successfully at the first stage and has been shortlisted for the second stage. I hope that our Saudi friends will appreciate the Russian nuclear companies’ experience and the safety standards of nuclear facilities built by Rosatom around the world.

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Sergey Lavrov’s opening remarks during a meeting with Syrian High Negotiations Committee Head Nasr al-Hariri, Riyadh, March 5, 2019

5 March 2019 - 13:29

Mr Nasr al-Hariri,

I am glad to welcome you and your colleagues.

This meeting is an opportunity for another contact in the interest of finding a solution to the Syrian conflict as soon as possible.

We are determined to search for settlement options. We hope that you and other representatives of the Syrian opposition will contribute to the early formation of the Constitutional Committee. We will probably discuss this in more detail today. And we certainly hope that the responsible opposition members will stand up for rendering assistance to the Syrians from the international community, not only in terms of humanitarian aid, but also in creating the most basic conditions for heat and electricity supply to people’s homes, provision of educational and medical services, which would allow refugees and displaced persons to return to their homes.

We discussed these issues in detail with our Saudi colleagues both yesterday and today, and found mutual understanding on all major topics.

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Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s opening remarks at a meeting with Emir of Kuwait Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, Kuwait City, March 6, 2019

6 March 2019 - 11:31

Your Majesty, thank you for your hospitality.

I am delighted to convey cordial greetings and best regards from President of Russia Vladimir Putin. He has warm recollections of the talks you held in Sochi three years ago. Everything you agreed on that day is being implemented.

Russia values the high level of bilateral relations between our countries, as well as Kuwait’s balanced and constructive position on regional issues and our close cooperation at the UN Security Council.

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Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s statement and answers to media questions during a joint news conference following talks with Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of the State of Kuwait Sabah Al-Khalid Al-Sabah, Kuwait City, March 6, 2019

6 March 2019 - 14:08

Minister, my dear friend, ladies and gentlemen,

This morning, there was an audience with His Highness the Emir of the State of Kuwait Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, during which we touched upon bilateral cooperation and regional issues.

Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of the State of Kuwait Sabah Al-Khaled Al-Sabah and I had very good and extensive talks, and reviewed in more detail the implementation of the agreements in principle reached during the visit of His Highness Emir Sabah Al-Ahmed Al-Jaber Al-Sabah to the Russian Federation in 2015.

We reiterated our mutual commitment to strengthen our friendly relations across all areas. We focused particularly on upcoming contacts between our economic departments. Today, the sixth meeting of the Intergovernmental Russia-Kuwait Commission on Trade, Economic, Scientific and Technical Cooperation is taking place in Kuwait, the participants of which will review ways to ​​expand trade and investment.

The Russian Direct Investment Fund and the Kuwaiti Investment Agency are developing joint projects, of which there are already several dozen, totaling nearly $200 million. Russian companies, such as Gazprom, Novatek, Zarubezhneft and Inter RAO-Engineering have specific plans, some of which are already being implemented in cooperation with our Kuwaiti partners. We strongly support such relations.

It is gratifying to know that our military relations are strong as well. Kuwait participates in the annual international Army-2018 defence industry forums. Kuwait is a traditional participant in the Tank Biathlon event hosted by the Russian Defence Ministry. This improves contacts between our militaries, including in such sporting "battles."

Cultural and educational contacts, performance group tours and film festivals are quite popular. We will continue to cooperate in these areas. Last year, Russian Cinema Week took place here in Kuwait. An art exhibition will open here next month. Both countries are interested in enriching our relations with such formats.

We support the promotion of interaction between our parliaments. Soon, the Speaker of the National Assembly of Kuwait, Marzouq Al-Ghanim, will visit Russia at the invitation of the Speaker of the Federation Council of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation, Valentina Matviyenko.

With regard to contacts between our respective foreign ministries, they have traditionally been extensive and trust-based and remain so, and cover the entire range of matters that are important for the region and international relations. We pay special attention to interaction with the State of Kuwait in the UN Security Council, where it is now a non-permanent member. We agreed to conduct additional expert consultations on the UNSC agenda.

We enjoy overlapping or very close views on current international issues. We paid special attention to the situation in the Middle East and North Africa, including Syria, Yemen, Libya and Iraq. We see eye to eye on the need to settle all conflicts exclusively by political and peaceful means in strict accordance with the norms of international law through inclusive national dialogue.

We stressed the need to resume as soon as possible direct Palestinian-Israeli talks as part of the existing international legal framework, which includes resolutions of the UN Security Council, the UNGA and the Arab Peace Initiative. We are committed to these principles. We believe it is extremely important to uphold them in our further efforts to achieve a Palestinian-Israeli settlement.

We also agreed on the need to help the Palestinians restore unity in their ranks, which, we hope, we did by hosting the third intra-Palestinian meeting with the participation of the 12 most prominent Palestinian groups held in Moscow last month.

We touched upon the situation in the Persian Gulf in view of the long-standing Russian proposal to establish dialogue, strengthen trust and increase security with the participation of all littoral countries. This includes the GCC countries and the Islamic Republic of Iran. Of course, we are interested in promoting a constructive and unifying agenda in this region that would involve all countries of the region in joint efforts.

In closing, I would like to thank our Kuwaiti friends for the atmosphere of geniality and hospitality that we felt immediately upon our arrival in this beautiful country.


At yesterday’s meeting with representatives of Syria's High Negotiations Committee (HNC) you said that Moscow and Riyadh have reached an understanding on all the main issues of Syrian settlement. Does that mean there has been progress on disputed issues? How far is the Syrian opposition that took part in yesterday’s meeting from starting direct negotiations with Damascus?

Sergey Lavrov:

In Riyadh I had a very detailed discussion on Syria with Saudi representatives, primarily Minister of State for Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Adel Al-Jubeir. This issue was also covered at an audience with His Majesty King of Saudi Arabia Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud.

When we say that our positions on Syrian settlement coincide, we mean the following. First, Saudi Arabia, like the Russian Federation and many other responsible countries, is working rigorously for the eradication of the terrorist threat on Syrian territory and regards this task a priority. Second, like Russia, Saudi Arabia considers it important not only to send humanitarian relief to Syria but also to provide assistance by creating conditions for the return of refugees. I’m referring to elementary living conditions, electricity and water supply and basic social and educational services. Many countries, above all in the West, believe that this assistance is excessive and insist on making it conditional on the progress in political talks. We are convinced that the aim of creating these basic conditions for the return of refugees is strictly humanitarian. We heard the same opinion in Riyadh yesterday. Third, like Russia, Saudi Arabia deems it necessary to establish a Constitutional Committee as soon as possible and stop looking for excuses for artificially dragging out this work.

As for the Syrian opposition with which we held talks at the airport before our departure for Kuwait, conversation with its leader Nasr al-Hariri, who heads the HNC, was fairly constructive. We urged their representatives to act in line with UN Security Council Resolution 2254, which determines intra-Syrian dialogue as the main road to settlement.

As for the question of how far the Syrian opposition is from starting direct talks with Damascus, I can say the following. The Constitutional Committee, the formation of which is being completed, includes 50 representatives of the Syrian Government and the same number of members of the Syrian opposition. Our interlocutors yesterday took a direct part in forming the Committee’s opposition bloc. So their interests will be duly represented.


During your visits to Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates, will you propose any Russian initiatives for overcoming the crisis in the Gulf considering that Kuwait is a mediator there? Do you know any details of the US “deal of the century” on the Middle East? We would like to hear more details about it.

Sergey Lavrov:

We would also like to hear more details about this deal because the rumours and speculations circulating at the moment sound very alarming. If what we hear from our friends who heard something from the Americans is the truth, the deal is about erasing everything that was done to build the foundations of Palestinian-Israeli settlement and for the formation of the state of Palestine that would have territorial integrity and sovereignty and would safely live side by side with Israel and all other neighbours. Another source of concern are attacks on the Arab Peace Initiative, which was set forth by Saudi Arabia and supported by all members of the Arab League and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation. It envisaged the normalisation of relations between the Arab world and the State of Israel after a two-state approach to the Palestinian issue is carried out. It is rumoured that this pattern is about to be abandoned. It will be possible to judge about this deal only after Washington makes its proposal public. I hope that US representatives who are involved in drafting this initiative will listen to the signals send to them by the region’s countries, Security Council members and all UN member states.

As for the current visits to the region’s countries – we started in Qatar, then went to Saudi Arabia, now we are in Kuwait and will fly to the UAE in the evening – this is a regular cycle of our consultations. We visit each other in turn and exchange our views, assessments and forecasts on the developments in the region that worry the countries located there and affect the general international situation, including the work of the UN.

Naturally, we discussed the situation in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). Russia does not have any initiatives as regards this issue. We support long-term efforts of Kuwait and other countries that favour the unity of the Council. This is in the interests of each of these countries, the Council itself, as well as the Russian Federation because we have a stable format of ministerial dialogue with that organisation. We have not met in this lineup for a fairly long time. Today the Minister and I discussed the expediency of holding such a ministerial forum in the foreseeable future.


Did you raise the question at the talks about Russian citizen Maria Lazareva who was detained in Kuwait?

Sergey Lavrov:

Yes, we discussed this question. Naturally, we are worried about the fate of any Russian citizen who is in a predicament. We expressed the hope that during the review of her case under the legislation of Kuwait, all her legal rights will be guaranteed, including those stemming from international conventions signed by Kuwait. I voiced this request and it seemed to me that it was heard.


Could you comment on the statement by the Russian Defence Ministry that residents of the Rukban camp are being prevented from returning home by tough resistence from the US? Has Russia-US cooperation on the Syrian file stopped and has there been any progress in ending the crisis in Syria?

Sergey Lavrov:

We still have contacts with the US on Syria. Contact through the military, that is, the deconfliction channel is fairly useful. We also communicate on broader issues, which is also useful considering that the US is illegally but still de facto present in Syria and is implementing some of its plans there that are not always transparent. So when we have an opportunity to ask them direct questions on their real goals, this is always important for our own understanding of what is going on.

As for the Rukban camp, it is located within the 55-kilometre Al-Tanf security zone that the Americans established illegally and unilaterally. Certain things are taking place there: the American special forces are consolidating their positions in the area while extremist militants are taking a break and replenishing their supplies nearby, under their cover. The Rukban refugee camp is located on the same territory.

We have long supported the Syrian government’s appeals for this camp to be disbanded, allowing the refugees and internally displaced persons to return home. In response, we were told that this is a complicated task for the time being and that first, it is necessary to provide them with food and water and all essentials in the Rukban camp. For this reason, with our support, the Syrian government organised a humanitarian convoy but the militants did not let it pass into the Al-Tanf zone, saying that they themselves would give humanitarian aid to the refugees in need. It is impossible to take their word for it. When Western countries and UN officials asked us to send a second convoy via the Syrian government we demanded that it be accompanied by UN officials and representatives of the Syrian Red Crescent Society. We wanted them to monitor how this aid is distributed and to whom. Following the second humanitarian convoy, a poll of the refugees was held and 95 percent of them said they wanted to return home on their own free will. The Syrian government announced that it is actively facilitating the construction of facilities for the returning refugees. The Russian military who work in Syria arranged, alongside the Syrian government, the creation of two humanitarian corridors to enable refugees to leave this horrible camp on specially-provided buses. The camp is notorious for its anti-sanitary conditions and lack of food. Now the US has started declaring that it won’t let the refugees leave the camp.

When they insisted on the humanitarian convoy we asked them: “And who provides all the necessities for your military who are on the same territory?” It turned out that they were supplied from abroad – Iraq and Jordan. If they are so concerned about the civilians who are in a very difficult situation in the Rukban camp, they could no doubt supply them with basic necessities from abroad, bypassing the bandits that control a large part of the Al-Tanf zone. The Americans were reluctant to do this though, and they insisted on humanitarian convoys from Damascus alone and kept the refugees in the camp as hostages. This gives rise to the unpleasant thought that the Americans need this camp in order to justify their illegal presence there. This, and other matters, confirm the suspicion of many experts that the Americans are going to establish a quasi-state on the Eastern Bank of the Euphrates River and do not want these territories to go back under the control of the legitimate Syrian authorities.

We will, as the Russian Defence Ministry firmly put it, insist that people should no longer be kept in this camp against their will.

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Sergey Lavrov’s opening remarks at a meeting with UAE Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, Abu Dhabi, March 6, 2019

6 March 2019 - 19:30

My friend,

Indeed it is a pleasure to keep very close relations and to promote the strategic partnership which was proclaimed when the Crown Prince visited last June to promote it in the atmosphere which is also very friendly and human.

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Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks and answers to media questions at a joint news conference following talks with UAE Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, Abu Dhabi, March 6, 2019

6 March 2019 - 20:43

Mr Minister, my dear friend,

Ladies and gentlemen,

We have had very productive talks.

We highly value the current level of Russia-UAE interaction, which is marked by intensive contacts at every level, including between our governments and parliaments. Of course, the tone for our cooperation has been set by our leaders, President of Russia Vladimir Putin and Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces Mohammed bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan.

When the Crown Prince visited Russia in June last year, we signed a seminal document – the Declaration of Strategic Partnership between Russia and the United Arab Emirates, which provided a solid basis for the further development of our cooperation in all spheres without exception.

We held in-depth discussions on current trade, economic and investment issues and the possibility of implementing joint projects in the future, including in the fields of hydrocarbons, nuclear energy and the peaceful use of outer space.

We noted the efficient work of the Russian Direct Investment Fund and the UAE Mubadala Investment Company, which have implemented some 40 projects worth $2 billion in total. We have agreed to increase investments in new projects.

Our trade is growing, as my colleague Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan has said. The Russia-UAE Intergovernmental Commission on Trade, Economic and Technical Cooperation, which is co-chaired by Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed and Industry and Trade Minister Denis Manturov, is playing a major role in promoting our trade and economic ties.

Military ties and military-technical cooperation are developing dynamically. Last month, this country hosted the IDEX 2019 International Defence Exhibition and Conference, and a large Russian delegation took part in the event. During the talks, we discussed numerous applied and highly promising projects which, as I hope, will be implemented.

As has just been said, we are satisfied that tourist, cultural, humanitarian and education exchanges have received powerful support since the inter-governmental agreement on lifting visa requirements for the citizens of both countries came into effect on February 17, 2019. The rapid influx of tourists from Russia to the United Arab Emirates confirms the fact that the people of Russia have duly appreciated this decision of both governments. In turn, we hope that the citizens of the United Arab Emirates will visit the Russian Federation more frequently, all the more so as they had a very good impression of the country while attending the FIFA World Cup in the summer of 2018. We also had time to discuss this matter today.

We reaffirmed our invitation for our UAE partners to take part in the 5th ministerial meeting of the Russian-Arab Cooperation Forum, the 4th International Exhibition Arabia EXPO 2019, as well as a meeting of the Russian-Arab Business Council, which are scheduled to be held in April 2019 in Moscow.

With regard to the international agenda, we traditionally focus on the situation in the Middle East and North Africa. We agree that it is necessary to continue an uncompromising struggle against terrorism, illegal drug trafficking, illegal arms sales and all forms of organised crime. We also voiced a common approach towards resolving numerous conflicts in this region. We are confident that it will be impossible to restore and strengthen security unless these conflicts and crises are overcome solely through political and diplomatic efforts and in line with international law. This is how our countries view the situation in Syria, Yemen and Libya. Regarding Libya, we noted the special positive role of the UAE in our common efforts to create optimal conditions for the people of Libya to overcome this protracted crisis.

Of course, I must also mention a serious concern in connection with the current impasse in the Palestinian-Israeli peace process. We agree that it is necessary to continue efforts to overcome this impasse, with complete respect for the international legal framework that was coordinated for the purpose of conducting talks and resolving the oldest crisis in the region.

Russia is also interested in normalising the situation in the Gulf region. We have drafted our own initiative on this score, which we have offered to our partners and friends. This initiative stipulates confidence-building measures and aims to establish cooperation in this highly important region with the participation of all states.

We will continue to closely coordinate our foreign policy actions.

I am very grateful to our friends for their hospitality. Today, I have invited my colleague and friend to pay another visit to the Russian Federation.


US rhetoric against Russia is becoming increasingly aggressive. The US European Command has recently proposed increasing the European contingent of forces, on the pretext of safeguarding against the “Russian threat.” Russian Ambassador to the United States Anatoly Antonov said that in such circumstances, Russia would position its missiles to cover the entire territory of Europe. Will Russia really do this, considering Moscow’s statements on preventing a new arms race?

Sergey Lavrov:

I don’t think you have quoted Ambassador Antonov correctly. Russian President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly outlined how we will respond to the threats to our security, in which the US plays the leading role. He has said that we will not be involved in a new arms race. Over the past few years, we have been implementing the State Armament Programme to modernise all the arms and services of the national armed forces. We have created new types of weapons, as you and our Western partners know.

We have never refused to hold consultations and talks on strengthening strategic stability in the new conditions. We are not to blame that all our numerous initiatives, including those we submitted in writing, have been disregarded. President Putin has said that all these proposals remain on the table but we will not bother our Western partners any more. They know what we have proposed. We will wait until our partners are ready.

As for the missiles that, as you said, will cover the entire territory of Europe, I suggest that you pay more heed to what President Putin has said on this issue. When the United States announced its decision to suspend its obligations under the INF Treaty and launched the official procedure of withdrawal from it, Vladimir Putin said that we would respond in kind, that we would suspend our obligations under the INF Treaty as well. When the process of withdrawing from the INF Treaty is completed in six months, the treaty will disappear from the international legal framework. President Putin has pointed out that if the United States, breaking free from the treaty’s obligations, started deploying missiles that are currently prohibited by the treaty in this or that part of the world, we reserve the right to act likewise by deploying our missiles in the given part of the world.

It is not our choice. It is the choice of the United States, which probably feels uncomfortable about the objective trends of world development, such as the rise of a new non-colonial, non-imperial system of international relations where diktat and ultimatums are not acceptable instruments, where new economic growth centres are emerging and where all the main countries involved should seek for a balance of interests, without disregarding the other members of the international community.

This process will take a long time, but we must launch it anyway. We have started doing this within the framework of the SCO, BRICS and other formats that are based on mutual respect and consideration for one another’s interests, not on the diktat that currently constitutes the basis of Washington’s foreign policy.


At your meeting yesterday with the Syrian opposition, did you discuss disengagement of armed groups in Idlib? If so, is there any progress?

Sergey Lavrov:

We did not discuss disengagement between the armed opposition and Jabhat al-Nusra at the meeting with representatives of the High Negotiations Committee. We consider this issue solely within the framework of our interaction with the Syrian Government and the Republic of Turkey, which has pledged to organise this disengagement. Our military, jointly with colleagues from Syria and Turkey, are engaged in the practical steps that would make it possible to implement this decision.


President of Syria Bashar al-Assad said that he regarded the sending of Turkish troops to Syria as an act of aggression. What is the Russian and Arab position on foreign armed presence, specifically Turkish presence, in Syria? What do you think about Turkey’s interference in Syrian affairs, given that Turkey is penetrating more deeply into certain Syrian provinces and consolidating its positions there?

Sergey Lavrov:

We approach the presence of foreign troops in any state strictly from the standpoint of international law, which allows this solely with the consent of the government of the relevant country. In this case, we understand Turkey’s security concerns, given the historical and other circumstances. As pragmatists and stakeholders seeking to find concrete ways of exiting from the Syrian crisis with an eye to complete restoration of Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, we have launched the Astana process jointly with Iran and Turkey. To date, this is the only process that has brought real results in terms of the cessation of hostilities, the expansion of humanitarian aid deliveries, to no small degree, confidence-building, exchange of prisoners, joint search for those missing in action, and last but not least, creating conditions for the start of a clear political process in full conformity with UN Security Council Resolution 2254, under which the Syrians themselves would decide their country’s future.

The Syrian Government has supported the Astana process. SAR government representatives are actively involved in it, as is the armed opposition. For the first time, it became possible to bring to the negotiating table both the government and the opposition, who represent armed people opposing each other on the ground. The Syrian Government and Bashar al-Assad supported the outcome of the Syrian National Dialogue Congress in Sochi, which had also been organised at the initiative of the Astana Three and led to significant results by approving the UN’s 12 principles for the Syrian settlement and the idea of setting up a Constitutional Committee.

Together with Iran and Turkey, we are working with both the Syrian Government and the opposition, as well as with our UN colleagues, to finalise the formation of the Committee and allow the Syrians to launch this body’s activities in Geneva, as stipulated by the relevant agreements. The final goal – and the Turkish colleagues have repeatedly confirmed as much – is the full restoration of the Syrian Arab Republic’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. Given the multiplicity of factors that affect the Syrian crisis and the great number of outside players that have some or other interests in this situation, the process will certainly take time. But we have no doubt that this is the direction we should be moving in. Our Turkish friends, too, share this approach. And the SAR leaders know this.


Yesterday, the US declared that it was ready to use sanctions against any country supporting the Nicolas Maduro regime. What is Russia’s attitude to such threats?

Sergey Lavrov:

To be honest, I have not heard about this. Even on a tour of the Gulf region, I do my best to follow what is going on in the world, but I lack both the time and the desire to monitor all of Washington’s arrogant and unlawful statements. If it was announced that all those supporting the legitimate president of Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro, will face sanctions, it confirms yet again that US diplomacy is rapidly losing the taste for diplomatic methods and tools, losing its ability to use them and switching over to a language that was never typical of diplomacy.

I hope that this example will not be contagious.

The source of information -
Where should they dig the Very Deep Pit?
Piglet said that the best place would be somewhere where a Heffalump was, just before he fell into it, only about a foot farther on.
(c) Alan Alexander Miln
Old March 17th, 2019 #33
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Most personal and non-personal events have not been translated to English.

Personal events:

Remarks by the Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the European Union Ambassador Vladimir Chizhov at the Delphi IV Economic Forum, Delphi, 1 March 2019

4 March 2019 - 14:24

Russia’s View of the International Order

I would suggest that we start from the beginning and try to contemplate what the international world order is per se. For centuries the world lived within the Westphalian sovereignty, then the First World War brought us the system of Versailles, and in 1945 in the Russian city of Yalta countries of the anti-Hitler coalition agreed on how they would coexist taking into account the results of the Second World War. However, those agreements were soon swept away by the waves of a new confrontation, namely the Cold War.

But the moment came when the Cold War with its concept of mutual assured destruction was gone too. What did then come to replace it? Alas, while a part of our Eurasian continent was going through painful political and economic transformations in pursuit of an optimal democratic organisation and a fair market model that would suit it most, the so-called “enlightened” West, professing its alleged experience and wisdom, proclaimed “the end of history” and defined the triumph of an arbitrary set of liberal values and globalisation as the world development vector with no alternative, as a new formula of “bright future for all mankind”.

However, failure awaited the authors of social, economic and political engineering at this turn as well. The basically objective globalisation process did not follow the path they had marked. It became obvious that other continents and centres of power, rather than traditional West, were starting to play a key role in it. Thereby, the world entered an era of multipolarity.

It is not a coincidence that at the current stage we witness the widest ever plurality of opinions on what the international world order is, and more importantly, what it should be. It is common knowledge that modern system of international law was formed within the institutions that had been established following the Second World War, first of all the UN, but also the European Union, the Council of Europe, the OSCE and, no matter how paradoxical it may sound, NATO (the latter, I would note, continuing to spasmodically enlarge rather out of necessity than choice). However, today the very notion of “international law” is subject to revision and dilution. For a number of years now our European and American partners, instead of adhering to this well-known and clear-cut term, have been implanting in their vocabulary and official documents the formula “internationally recognised rules and norms”. Moreover, they are trying to accustom their interlocutors around the world to it. Meanwhile, inventors of this novelty find it difficult to explain what the difference between law and these “rules and norms” is and who and when had actually recognised the latter.

It is natural that Russia, being a responsible international player, a nuclear power and Permanent Member of the UN Security Council, should be concerned with this situation. We have felt this threat long enough and, as, I would repeat, a responsible power, have generated quite a few far-reaching initiatives throughout the last two decades that are aimed at strengthening the world order on the basis of international law and establishing such a security system, first and foremost in Europe, that would provide equal guarantees to all. Besides, Russia has never tried to monopolise this work, was always open to cooperation with those who were ready to take part in it.

Neither did we refuse initiatives suggested by others. For instance, when in 2010 NATO published its Strategic Concept we positively assessed well formulated principles of “security guarantees” and suggested extending them to all countries of Europe. The answer we got was: our proposal is for Alliance members only, so please, be content with second class security. It is clear that with such an approach talking about equal distribution of security guarantees over Eurasian space was pointless.

Against this background some European countries opted for a simplified way – gave up and rushed to join NATO without thinking that the day would come when they would be requested to incur unbearable and unjustified expenses, participate in missions and operations far from their borders and interests, as well as deploy foreign military bases on their territories. And the Russian proposal to sign a European Security Treaty that would have provided for making legally binding the well-known principle that no one shall enhance one’s security at the expense of security of others (enshrined, by the way, as a political commitment in the OSCE Charter for European Security signed by 54 Heads of State and Government) remained unaddressed.

However, even under such circumstances we do not give up and continue upholding the above-mentioned principles. Meanwhile, given particular aspects of Russian mentality, political culture and perhaps old-fashioned, as it may seem to many, concept of decency, Moscow never imposes anything on anyone and does not interfere in internal affairs of other states – contrary to statements certain capitals consider it possible to make following the fashion of blaming “omnipotent” Russia for all the troubles in the world.

At the same time some of our “prosecutors” feel free to impose on other countries their own views on how the latter should live in such a cynical manner that can be described as absolute disregard for all norms of inter-state behaviour. One does not need to go far to find examples: right now we are witnessing Washington’s unprecedented interference in domestic affairs of Venezuela. The US openly calls on the military of the country to defect to a self-proclaimed political leader and threaten with persecution those who will remain faithful to their oath. Genuine economic terror is unleashed, sinister extra-territorial sanctions are introduced. Washington managed to “wear down” EU Member States – except, I would particularly stress, Greece, Cyprus, Slovakia and Italy, as well as the Vatican – resulting in the fact that the “International Contact Group” formed by the EU took a biased stance, and thereby deprived itself of the opportunity to act as an impartial mediator.

The situation around Venezuela is obviously a manifestation of a consistent systemic line to ruin the current architecture of world legal order, rather than a solitary case or unremarkable episode. Planting across the information sphere unsupported accusations against certain countries of carrying out hideous chemical attacks and immediately, without any judicial proceedings, imposing sanctions or even launching airstrikes are considered to be almost the norm today. It is particularly alarming that this line is also adopted in the military sphere, in non-proliferation of nuclear weapons. We have to acknowledge that today’s situation is in a way much more dangerous than the one of the Cold War years – then, for all the depth of ideological differences, common sense and responsibility for the world’s fate pushed antagonistic powers to take wise decisions in the area of arms control and disarmament.

Today we are virtually on the edge of the last line. Its crossing will mean complete dismantling of checks and balances in the nuclear field. And it is not about passions or whims of particular leaders, it is rather about a consistent policy that was formed 17 years ago, at the times of another US Administration – the one that derailed the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. And each time Washington denounced another treaty with Russia it was done under an absolutely invented pretext. As a result the New START Treaty is in fact the only one left, its lifespan stretching only until 5 February 2021.

A similar situation is observed in the field of economy. It is worth noting that the system of pipelines ensuring European energy security was created when the Cold War was at its height. In those days there existed, of course, forces that tried to hinder the development of these projects, but the then leaders of countries of Western Europe managed to find the strength not to submit to this pressure. We can only hope that the current generation of European leaders will inherit their courage.

Speaking about economy I need to emphasise that attempts to influence Russia’s policy via sanctions are ridiculous. Events of recent years demonstrated that such efforts are vain and, by the way, make interests of European business also suffer a lot, as well as our relations in general, including with our largest trade and economic partner – the European Union.

Against this backdrop the easiest thing for Russia would be to follow a trend that is in fashion today and to “pivot to Asia”, especially since it is there that the bigger part of my country’s territory lies. Actually we are increasingly active in developing mutually beneficial cooperation with the PRC, ASEAN countries and other Asian partners, but we are not doing it to undermine or punish Europe. We do not make friends “against Europe” or the West as a whole. Figuratively speaking, we are implementing the concept projected by the Russian coat of arms whose double-headed eagle (though admittedly inherited from our common ancestral homeland with Greece, Byzantium) looks at the same time to the West and to the East. I would add that Russia as a country located on two continents and thereby uniting Eurasia by virtue of its geography, history and cultural tradition is genuinely interested in maintaining equally friendly relations on the West and on the East.

Currently leaders of major EU countries are more and more often thinking of a new configuration of cooperation in Europe and more outspoken about the need to take their fate in their hands. I believe it is important that EU Member States remember that they will not be able to uphold their positions against rising economic giants – in Asia today, in Latin America tomorrow, in Africa the day after tomorrow – unless they listen closely to Russia’s words about establishing a common economic and humanitarian space in Eurasia. Defending what we call “European civilisation” is only possible if one of its supporting pillars, Russia, is fully engaged.

Meanwhile the world is witnessing a deficit of mutual responsibility of nation states, including those the UN Charter assigns with special responsibility for maintaining global peace and security. Aspiring in no way to the laurels of the Oracle of Delphi, I would nevertheless take the courage to predict: unless Russia’s partners in the UN Security Council shoulder this responsibility, a “legal jungle” will emerge on our planet faster than we may assume. In my view, it would be an extremely lamentable outcome of reflecting on the heritage of the first democrats in the history of mankind, those who lived in Ancient Greece and, I am sure, put much brighter hopes on their descendants.

The source of information -

4 March 2019

Meeting of G. Karasin with the President of the Billy Graham Evangelical Association U. F. Graham -

Meeting of S. Ryabkov with Australian Ambassador to Russia P. Tesh -

Speech by D. Balakin at a meeting of the OSCE Permanent Council on Kiev’s violations of religious rights and persecutions of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Ukraine, Vienna, February 28, 2019 -

5 March 2019

Meeting of I. Morgulov with Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Japan T. Mori -

6 March 2019

Speech by M. Ulyanov on item 4 of the agenda [Verification and monitoring in the Islamic Republic of Iran in the light of UN Security Council resolution 2231 (2015)] of the session of the IAEA Board of Governors, Vienna, March 5, 2019 -

Meeting of I. Morgulov with the Ambassador of Iran in Moscow M. Sanai -

On the participation of A. Pankin in the meeting of senior officials of the Northern Dimension (ND) Initiative -

7 March 2019

Meeting of I. Morgulov with the Special Envoy of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Indonesia, Febriane A. Ruddiard -

Meeting of G. Karasin with Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Kingdom of Spain to the Russian Federation F. Valderrama Parej -

Answers of V. Yermakov, Director of the Department for Non-Proliferation and Arms Control, to Russian media questions -

8 March 2019

Telephone conversation M. Bogdanov with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Cooperation and African Integration of the Togolese Republic R. Dusse -

Speech by A. Lukashevich at a meeting of the OSCE Permanent Council on the situation in Ukraine and the need to implement the Minsk agreements, Vienna, March 7, 2019 -

Non-personal events:

4 March 2019

Russian-American Consultations on the Situation on the Korean Peninsula -

5 March 2019

Commentary of the Information and Press Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia in connection with the publication by the Technical Secretariat of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) of the report of the Mission on the Establishment of the Use of Chemical Weapons in Syria (IWFS) following an investigation into the alleged use of chemical weapons in the City of Duma (Syrian Arab Republic) -

On the publication of the report of the European Commission on combating racism and intolerance on the situation in Russia -

6 March 2019

Meeting of the Subgroup on the Non-Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction and Arms Control of the Russian-German High Level Working Group on Security Policy -
Where should they dig the Very Deep Pit?
Piglet said that the best place would be somewhere where a Heffalump was, just before he fell into it, only about a foot farther on.
(c) Alan Alexander Miln
Old March 17th, 2019 #34
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Briefing by Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova, Moscow, March 7, 2019

7 March 2019 - 17:25

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to take part in the opening ceremony for the exhibition, To the Shores of Latin America

The grand opening for the exhibition of rare books and manuscripts, To the Shores of Latin America, ​​from the collection of the main national library will be held in the Greater Hall of the Pashkov House on March 11. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Director-General of the Russian State Library Vadim Duda are expected to take part in it.

The exhibition features about 60 book artefacts, a series of engravings and manuscripts devoted to expeditions to Latin America by Russian and Soviet researchers, explorers, diplomats, travelers, poets, journalists and artists in the 18th-20th centuries.

The memoirs and diaries of outstanding Russian figures who visited Latin America over the span of 150 years are precious as historical sources and evidence of Russia's many years of cultural and scientific interest in these countries.

Heads of the Latin American diplomatic corps stationed in Moscow and representatives of government, academic and cultural circles will attend the opening ceremony.

Russian and foreign media are welcome to attend.

For accreditation contact Daria Khokhlova, press service of the Russian State Library + 7 916 828 24 07, [email protected]

Accreditation will last until 10 am, March 11.

Foreign Minister of the Republic of Austria Karin Kneissl’s working visit to Russia

Austrian Federal Minister for Europe, Integration and Foreign Affairs, Karin Kneissl, will come to Moscow on a working visit on March 11-12.

During the talks with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov scheduled for March 12, the officials will have a substantive discussion on a wide range of bilateral issues, analyse the state of and prospects for promoting practical bilateral cooperation, and exchange views on pressing international matters of mutual interest.

The ministers will focus on the schedule of their political dialogue in 2019, the promotion of diverse cooperation projects in the trade, economic and cultural spheres, in particular, the Year of Youth Exchanges-2019, which has just started.

A Joint Ministerial Statement on creating the Sochi Dialogue Russian-Austrian Public Forum will be signed as part of the meeting. It’s a new mechanism for civil society interaction, which is being established in accordance with the agreements reached by Russian President Vladimir Putin and Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen in Vienna in June 2018.

There will be an exchange of views on the most important foreign policy issues, in particular, the Syrian settlement, including humanitarian aspects, conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa, countering international terrorism, and prospects for resolving the domestic Ukraine crisis.

The ministers will touch upon the current state of the Russia-EU dialogue, coordination of interaction within the OSCE and other international platforms. They will also compare notes on disarmament, the formation of new European security arrangements, in particular, in light of the United States withdrawing from the INF Treaty, the preservation of the multilateral agreements on the Iranian nuclear programme, and the situation surrounding Venezuela.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s visit to Turkey

On March 12-13, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will pay a working visit to Turkey (Antalya) to take part in the seventh meeting of the Strategic Planning Joint Group (SPJG) chaired by the foreign ministers of the two countries. The group is acting under the High-Level Cooperation Council (HLCC) headed by the Russian and Turkish presidents. The previous, sixth meeting of the SPJG took part in Moscow on March 14, 2018.

The participants plan to verify their positions on all issues of the bilateral agenda with a view to preparing for another meeting of the leaders of our countries and the forthcoming HLCC session. They will focus on the further expansion of Russia-Turkey trade and economic cooperation in various areas, consular issues and promotion of cultural and humanitarian cooperation in the context of conducting a cross year of culture and tourism in our countries this year.

During forthcoming contacts the sides plan to conduct an extensive exchange of views on a broad range of international and regional issues, including settlement in Syria, cooperation in countering terrorism and organised crime, and the developments in the Middle East and North Africa, the South Caucasus, Central Asia, Ukraine and the Black Sea region. They will also discuss ways of enhancing the efficiency of cooperation at international venues.

The sides plan to sign a plan for foreign ministry consultations in 2019-2020 within the SPJG framework.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to take part in the 62nd session of the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs

On March 14, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is expected to take part in the ministerial segment of the upcoming 62nd session of the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs in Vienna. This event represents a landmark because the results will help shape the future of the interstate drug control system. The Russian delegation intends to take a clear line on the need to consistently implement the provisions of the three UN anti-drug conventions and on preventing the legalisation of so-called light drugs. As before, special attention will be paid to the drug situation in Afghanistan that does not seem to improve.

Mr Lavrov intends to urge the international community to pool efforts in countering modern challenges such as drug distribution via the internet, the appearance of new psychoactive substances, and the funding of terrorism by drug trafficking. Proceeding from the relevant provisions of President Vladimir Putin’s Address to the Federal Assembly, the Foreign Minister will inform the international community about Russia’s efforts to improve the palliative care system, including the access of patients to pain killers.

The consolidation of the status of the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) will require special attention. The board is monitoring compliance of states with their anti-drug commitments under the relevant conventions. In this context, the Russian delegation is going to submit a draft resolution that, we hope, will receive broad support.

The participants plan to hold an event on the sidelines of the commission’s session under the auspices of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in order to further consolidate their efforts in countering narcotic drugs.

Syria update

Overall, the situation in Syria can be described as stable. Tension persists in Idlib and in Syria’s north-eastern and southern regions.

The situation in the Idlib de-escalation zone is especially alarming. I would like to remind you that early this year terrorists from the Nusra-linked group Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) seized control over the de-escalation zone. They have intensified the shelling of the government forces and are building up strike groups in the vicinity of Aleppo, Hama and the mountain regions of Latakia (Khmeimim). Some 370 such incidents, in which 25 people lost their lives and 70 were wounded, have been reported this year.

In this context, representatives from the Russian and Turkish defence ministries continued working to coordinate a package of measures for the implementation of the memorandum on the Idlib de-escalation zone signed in Sochi on September 17, 2018. We hope that the implementation of the arrangements reached by our militaries will help turn the tide and stabilise the situation in Idlib and around it, as well as neutralise the terrorist threat coming from it.

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), supported by the international anti-ISIS coalition, are fighting to liberate the town of Baghuz on the eastern bank of the Euphrates. The situation in northeast Syria is complicated because the local residents, mostly Sunni Arabs, are protesting against the activities of the local Kurdish administrations. This leads to bloody skirmishes between the Arabs and the Kurds. Some 200 people have died and hundreds have been wounded in a hundred terrorist attacks staged in the past two months.

While the international coalition is conducting counterterrorist operations east of the Euphrates, we have taken note and are seriously alarmed by the United States and its allies’ disregard for the civilians’ safety in violation of the fundamental principles of the international humanitarian law. Evidence of this is the dramatic plight of the inmates of the al-Hol camp for internally displaced persons in the al-Hasakah Governorate. People continue to arrive in the overcrowded al-Hol camp from the Deir ez-Zor Governorate, where the coalition is not only bombing ISIS positions but is also delivering random airstrikes at the civilian infrastructure. The inflow of people from the towns of Baghuz and Hajin has contributed to the increase of the population at the al-Hol camp from 10,000 to 47,000. The refugees who spent several days travelling across the desert are made to settle in the open and are not offered tents, bedding, warm clothes or any other basic necessities. Over 80 people, most of them children aged below 12 months, have died at the camp this year. Many of them froze to death. There is a dire lack of food, drinking water and medicine at the camp. There are also respiratory diseases and stomach infections, leishmaniosis and even tuberculosis, poliomyelitis and leprosy.

The international community seems to be looking only at the Rukban camp and is completely indifferent to the critical situation and suffering at the al-Hol camp. Ignoring the plight of people at al-Hol and at other refugee camps in Syria appears cynical at best.

As for the Rukban camp, Russia intends to do its best to help settle this problem. We believe that efforts must be taken to close down the camp and resettle its inmates in accordance with their desire, which they have clearly expressed during a UN poll.

On February 28, the Foreign Ministry of Syria expressed readiness to help Rukban inmates return back to their homes in the liberated regions and to provide safe transportation for them. Conditions have been created for the refugees in specially equipped places. In particular, such places in the provinces of Homs and Aleppo, as well as in the suburbs of Damascus have stored food, water, medicine and basic necessities for up to 35,000 people. On March 1, Syrian authorities, acting jointly with Russian military personnel, formed a bus convoy for the evacuation of the internally displaced persons. However, the planned humanitarian operation failed because the Americans refused to guarantee the safety of the convoy inside the illegal 55-mile security zone around the US base in al-Tanf.

However, we are resolved to continue dialogue on Rukban with all the interested parties, including the UN, the United States and Jordan, without any preliminary conditions and without politicising the humanitarian aspects of the problem. We believe that the right of Syrian refugees and internally displaced persons to return back to their places of residence must be guaranteed and realised.

We see positive changes in the political efforts to normalise relations between Damascus and the Arab countries. On March 3 and 4, a Syrian delegation led by Speaker of the People’s Council of Syria Hammouda Sabbagh attended the 29th Conference of the Arab Inter-Parliamentary Union held in Amman. According to media reports, Hammouda Sabbagh has met with Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies (Council of Representatives) of Iraq ‎Mohamed al-Halbousi‎ and Chairman of Foreign and Cooperation Affairs Committee at the Algerian National Popular Council Afif Abul-Hamid. Hammouda Sabbagh also held talks with Secretary General of the Inter-Parliamentary Union Martin Chungong on the sidelines of the conference. Martin Chungong expressed readiness to visit Damascus.

Moscow welcomes and supports this objective process of normalisation around Syria. We believe that the return of Damascus to the lap of the Arab family and its reinstatement as a member of the Arab League will promote stabilisation and help improve the situation in the Middle East.

We have taken note of the UN debates on the OPSCW Fact-Finding Mission’s report on chemical weapons use allegation in Syria and statements made by UK Permanent Representative to the UN Karen Pierce to the effect that the Russians’ dislike for the report is another example of Russia’s “earth is flat” science. I would like to say a few words about Ms Pierce’s poor British education. The trouble is that the idea of a flat earth was most actively upheld in Britain, where the first flat earth society was established in the 19th century and moved over to the United States in the 20th century. I suggest that you learn about history first and then we’ll talk.

Developments in Venezuela

As before, the main destabilising impulses continue to come from outside the country. After recovering from the abortive “humanitarian breakthrough” with a “false bottom” (all of us remember very well what the media wrote about it: The so-called “humanitarian relief aid” included outdated food products and medication, as well as barbed wire and building material for barricades), Washington began to stage another ploy. First, they extensively covered the first foreign tour of the so-called acting president on which he embarked in violation of the Venezuelan Supreme Court’s ban. And this extensive media coverage was worthy of a better cause. After that, they started energetically threatening Venezuela with serious repercussions if something happened to the acting president after his return home. As we can see, the government of Nicolas Maduro did not yield to this provocation, and he went through passport control unhindered, just like anyone else, while entering the country. The show continued in the presence of camera crews. Let’s not try and guess how this staged show will develop, but, of course, it will not last forever.

And now, let’s talk about more serious matters that far transcend the conduct of a certain individual and the entire Venezuelan domestic political standoff. After even the closest Latin American allies rejected Washington’s militarist plans with regard to Venezuela and firmly noted the unacceptability of foreign military involvement, the US political establishment, nevertheless, does not remove a possible military invasion from the agenda. A statement was made about establishing a coalition that would change the regime in Venezuela. US reconnaissance aircraft have been spotted near Venezuelan borders more often of late. The administration has invigorated military contacts with Venezuela’s neighbours. Admiral Craig S. Faller in charge of the US Southern Command has been frequenting the region lately.

Washington is also working on Plan B; some regional countries and those located far away know this plan all too well. This implies efforts to train illegal paramilitary units (we discussed this matter at the previous briefing), to deploy them in Venezuela where they would conduct subversive activity and acts of sabotage and to create hotbeds of resistance. The country might eventually plunge into a large-scale domestic armed conflict. It is impossible to predict the scale of emigration if this scenario is implemented. Countries studying the possibility of accommodating militant training camps and arms depots on their territory ought to think about this. After that, it would be pointless to convene international conferences for dealing with emigration flows in Latin America and to try to answer a rhetorical question: How can we save the Latin American region?

It appears that subversive activities are now underway. The leaders of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela are openly talking about the radical opposition’s plans to conduct acts of sabotage in the country with foreign support. These acts would involve mercenary units consisting of soldiers who have deserted from the Venezuelan armed forces among others. More and more incidents are currently being registered at facilities of the national energy and communications infrastructure. The United States continues to ratchet up sanctions against Venezuela. Everything is being done to stifle the Venezuelan economy and to bleed it white. In effect, this is nothing more than an attempt to impose a complete financial blockade on the country. The United Kingdom has already robbed the people of Venezuela by simply stealing their money. Executive Vice President of Venezuela Delcy Rodríguez noted this at a news conference on the results of her talks with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. Tougher sanctions are also being imposed. In effect, this is nothing more than an attempt to impose a complete financial blockade on the country. Washington openly threatens to impose the so-called secondary sanctions for cooperation between non-American citizens and companies with the government of Nicolas Maduro. The United States hopes that a gradual decline in living standards and the blocking of state mechanisms will eventually lead to anarchy and chaos. Washington’s current job is to prevent the stabilisation of the Venezuelan domestic political situation, no matter what, to prevent the realisation of the Venezuelan nation’s aspirations, as well as the long-term desires of Venezuela’s regional neighbours.

During her talks in Moscow, Executive Vice President of Venezuela Delcy Rodríguez once again reaffirmed President Nicolas Maduro’s readiness to launch a constructive dialogue with the opposition. We wholeheartedly support the wise position of the legitimate government, we hope that the Venezuelan opposition will adequately perceive this goodwill gesture, that it will, at long last, stop trying to obtain foreign support for dubious from the legal point of view steps that are dangerous in essence, and that it will resume active domestic political activities in line with the Venezuelan Constitution and in cooperation with the country’s official authorities. Russia and many other countries would praise exactly such a scenario for resolving the situation.

Building up sanctions pressure on Cuba

We note with concern that the US has decided to act “on all fronts.” Not only does it have a stranglehold on Venezuela, in parallel it is bearing down on Cuba in its characteristic pushy style. They seemed to have become friends two years ago, with the US bringing two aircraft full of business people to Havana and outlining rosy prospects for friendship with America. They promised everything under the sun and enlisted Europe that was allowed to cooperate with Cuba. There was a lot of handshaking, backslapping and photographing… But as usual, something went wrong. It is clear that Washington is building up pressure on the closest allies of Caracas. Havana is listed among the “last dictatorships in the region” and accused of undermining democracy in Venezuela.

A few days ago, they demonstrated yet another notorious example of toughening the embargo against Cuba. The US State Department announced its decision to allow US citizens to sue, as of March 19, about 200 Cuban public companies and businesses on Washington’s sanctions list. This step is motivated by the partial lifting of the moratorium on Section 3 of the Helms-Burton Act providing for exterritorial coercion with regard to foreign legal entities and individuals using nationalised property in Cuba.

The Helms-Burton Act was approved in 1996 at the height of yet another anti-Cuban campaign. It was named after its Republican sponsors known for their radical right-wing conservative views. But for more than 20 years, successive US administrations did not think it necessary to put Section 3 into force, foreseeing an extremely negative response to this step from the business communities in Europe, Latin America and elsewhere.

Now, judging by all appearances, Washington has changed its mind. We are witnessing yet another illegitimate US attempt to “seal off” Cuba economically and create additional barriers to the republic’s socioeconomic development in the context of transformations that are in full swing there.

It is funny to hear and read analytical surveys on how the Cuban or Venezuelan economy is developing and what problems these two countries have to tackle. I have just one question to ask: How would the US economy develop if it had to cope with at least 10 per cent of sanctions, restrictions and embargoes, which are being applied to these nations? There would be no economy left in the United States. We must understand under what conditions these nations are living and trying to survive.

It is old good “double standards” all over again. We hear Washington say again and again that Cuba needs reforms. If so, don’t put obstacles in its way! They will sort it out on their own and implement the kind of reforms they need.

The overwhelming majority of international community members, including our country, have repeatedly expressed solidarity in their opposition to the US blockade of Cuba. This is a Cold War relic and a sign of an imperial mode of doing things being revived in Washington. They are implementing a regime change policy in Latin America by interfering in their internal affairs and using diktat in the spirit of Monroe Doctrine. But in the modern realities, its employment or even a mere reference to it are simply out of place.

Nicaragua update

We are closely monitoring the developments in Nicaragua.

We welcome the resumption on February 27 of the national dialogue the parties to the process are building under the roadmap for the negotiations aimed at creating a sustainable algorithm for resolving the country’s problems. We positively assess the constructive efforts of the Sandinista government aimed at finding effective ways to stabilise the domestic political situation. One of the practical steps in this direction was the recent release of more than 100 prisoners detained earlier for participating in riots and armed clashes.

We strongly believe that any internal disagreements should be resolved by the Nicaraguans themselves through negotiations, without any external interference. We call upon the responsible members of the international community to help achieve mutual understanding between various political forces in Nicaragua, to avoid threats to Nicaraguan statehood and sovereignty and renounce pseudo-democratiser rhetoric.

Donbass update

The situation in Ukraine continues to deteriorate. The Kiev leadership, struggling to hold on to power, continues to pretend to be the victim of an imaginary “Russian aggression” amid an outright sabotage of the Minsk Package of Measures, which naturally causes great concern on our part. At the same time, Western politicians have recently become a fixture in Donbass, supporting the Kiev regime: 10 foreign delegations visited the region in February, and as many as three in the first ten days of March.

It is impossible to overlook the aggravation of tension in Donbass ahead of each such visit as if on cue. The OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) noted a decrease in the number of ceasefire violations on the disengagement line from February 8 to 12. However, shortly before Norwegian Ambassador Ole Terje Horpestad’s arrival in the so-called Joint Forces Operation zone (February 13) and French Ambassador Isabelle Dumont’s visit (February 14), the situation changed dramatically. On the morning of February 13, international observers recorded a surge in the number of attacks. The number of explosions in the vicinity of Donetsk alone increased from 30 to 430 compared with the previous day.

A similar situation was observed during US Senator Joni Ernst’s ‘fact-finding’ trip to southeastern Ukraine on February 20.

Whereas two days before her arrival in Donbass, on February 18, the mission reported a decrease in the number of attacks, from February 19, the Donetsk region suffered a more than fivefold increase, from 90 to 475 on February 20.

The situation was aggravated by the March 4 visit to Mariupol of by Colonel Thomas Wofford, Defence Attache at the US Embassy in Ukraine. On that day, the 79th brigade of the Ukrainian Armed Forces bombarded the village of Sakhanka, 24 km from Mariupol, killing one civilian. That was not even the only attack Sakhanka was subjected to over the past week. On March 1, a school area was shelled from mortars; it was pure luck that none of the children suffered any injuries.

It seems that the Ukrainian military command deliberately provokes tension in Donbass for propaganda purposes before the arrival of foreign “guests.” Kiev’s attempts to demonstrate the evidence of the alleged “Russian aggression” put at risk the lives of civilians and destroy civilian facilities.

An eloquent example is the village of Kominternovo, which in March alone was shelled 10 times by the mortar units of the 79th brigade. Nine residential and one administrative building were destroyed. This information is confirmed by the OSCE SMM observers who recorded the damage to the civilian infrastructure in Kominternovo on March 3 following the shelling by the Ukrainian artillery. On March 5, the power transmission line in the area of ​​Kominternovo was damaged by another artillery attack, leaving more than 1,500 civilians without any electricity.

Purposeful shelling of the Donetsk filtering station also continues. On March 3, the OSCE SMM recorded 51 artillery hits in the immediate vicinity of the station, which supplies drinking water not only to the population of the DPR, but also to the parts of the Donetsk Region controlled by Kiev.

We urge the OSCE SMM to intensify observational activities in Donbass. What is needed is not fragmentary information, but a comprehensive overview of the Ukrainian Armed Forces’ military preparations; it is necessary to clearly define the party that provokes the aggravation of tension and the shelling, their consequences in terms of civilian casualties and the destruction of civilian infrastructure. We demand from the SMM a detailed thematic report to this effect.

Attempts to falsify history in Ukraine

Kiev officials continue to pursue a deliberate policy of falsifying the country’s history.

We noted a recently published annual report by the Ukrainian Institute of National Memory, the main agency in Ukraine which, while promoting the slogans of restoring Ukrainian spirituality, is in fact engaged in frantic anti-Russian propaganda and the creation of historical fiction. The report reveals that the institute’s main areas of activity in 2018 included the publication and distribution of numerous brochures with nationalist and Russophobic content, the organisation of events to honour the memory of the “Holodomor” victims, and measures to glorify the henchmen of Nazi murderers from the Organisation of Ukrainian Nationalists and the Ukrainian Insurgent Army, as well as the development of legal acts and regulations regarding de-Communisation.

In 2019, the institute plans, among other things, to fight against Russia’s “historical fiction” and to honour the memory of so-called victims of the Russian-Ukrainian war, invented by the current Kiev officials.

In this context, the already familiar state of clinical Russophobia appears to have become the norm for the Ukrainian leadership. Instead of dealing with the country’s accumulated problems, President Petr Poroshenko shouts about phantom Russian aggression and urges people to “read about Stepan Bandera and the Ukrainian Insurgent Army.” Foreign Minister Pavel Klimkin is spreading his made-up tales about the “Ukrainian origin” of Russia and Belarus.

Overall, the historical revisionism adopted as the foundation of Ukraine’s state policy facilitates the rapid dissemination of aggressive nationalism, xenophobia and neo-Nazism in Ukraine. The consequences of these processes are obvious: supporters of fascism are freely marching around Ukrainian cities and glorifying the Ukrainian Insurgent Army; they desecrate military memorials and bully war veterans. Senior officials of the Ukrainian Interior Ministry force their subordinates to publicly sing the praises of Stepan Bandera instead of standing up to the hooligans.

Meanwhile, the attempts to glorify Nazi accomplices and foster followers of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army butchers are still failing to provoke an appropriate reaction among Kiev’s curators. It appears that the line on transforming Ukraine into a multiethnic state with a “purged” memory has won their direct support. However, both the West and Kiev apparently prefer to ignore the danger of these attempts to turn history into a political and ideological weapon, which only aggravates the divide in Ukrainian society and delay the prospects for a peaceful resolution of the intra-Ukrainian conflict in the southeast.

Developments concerning the INF Treaty

On March 4, President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin signed an executive order on suspending the implementation of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty by our country, in response to Washington’s decision to withdraw from this treaty after the US either virtually blocked or openly rejected all Russian efforts to save it.

Instead of conducting a professional and detailed discussion of the treaty’s problem issues, as suggested by the Russian side, the United States launched a completely unjustified and aggressive propaganda campaign against Russia. This campaign is based on unfair interpretations and open lies. Unfortunately, we don’t see any signs that Washington is modifying this unconstructive position.

Against this backdrop, we would like to state that the United States has failed to take any necessary actions to eliminate its violations of the INF Treaty’s obligations. First of all, this refers to the deployment of ground-based Mk-41 systems for launching attack cruise missiles which is expressly banned by the treaty. There is also no headway on the so-called target drones being used by the US; their specifications are similar to medium-range and shorter-range ground-based ballistic missiles. The same concerns the use of strike drones covered by the definition of ground-launched cruise missiles.

In the long run, proceeding from the need to take urgent action in connection with Washington’s violation of the treaty, Russia suspended its implementation in the interests of maintaining its national security, pending the elimination of exposed violations made by the US side or pending the treaty’s expiry. On March 5, the Foreign Ministry sent the relevant official notification to all states, parties to the INF Treaty, namely, the United States, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine.

In the future, as stated by the Russian President on February 2, Russia will respond symmetrically to all US actions linked with medium-range and shorter-range missiles. At the same time, we remain open for a detailed dialogue, if Washington revises its counter-productive line and starts honouring the INF Treaty once again.

US incites public discussion for resuming nuclear tests

We have noted US media publications regarding the need to resume nuclear tests by the United States. For example, the journal Issues in Science and Technology recently carried an article written by former top managers of the Los Alamos National Laboratory John C. Hopkins and David H. Sharp on this matter. Additionally, Robert R. Monroe, the former director of the Defence Nuclear Agency, has published a number of similar articles. All this material notes that it is impossible to guarantee the efficiency and reliability of the US strategic nuclear potential without nuclear tests.

We perceive these publications as efforts to prepare US public opinion for the fact that nuclear tests are allegedly inevitable, and that US national security might be jeopardised without them. This logic meets Washington’s line to purposefully recreate favourable conditions for a possible resumption of nuclear tests. In this context, it is possible to understand US motives to refuse to ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty and to decide to increase the readiness of the Nevada National Security Site.

These actions are making us feel less confident that the United States will continue to honour the 1992 moratorium on nuclear tests. Not only does this US line undermine international efforts to enact the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, but it also opens up an opportunity for unleashing another spiral of the nuclear arms race.

Czech authorities’ unfriendly actions towards Russian Foreign Ministry official

On March 4, a high-ranking official of the Russian Foreign Ministry who arrived in Prague for bilateral expert consultations on issues of real estate was told at the airport that he was prohibited from entering the Czech Republic without giving reasons and hence would not be allowed to cross the border. The Russian diplomat had to fly back to Moscow.

We regard this as a glaring example of the Czech authorities’ unfriendliness and disregard for the elementary rules of diplomatic convenience. Worse still, this looks like a pre-planned action by the Czech Foreign Ministry against a Russian colleague responsible for bilateral relations. Moreover, it happened ahead of the Prague meeting of the Russian-Czech Intergovernmental Commission on Economic, Industrial, Scientific and Technical Cooperation with a positive agenda.

It is regrettable that the Czech authorities, anxious to please the anti-Russia forces in the republic and beyond, have started to increasingly often use “visa wars” instruments against Russian diplomats.

Of course, we will provide an adequate response to such confrontational actions. Responsibility for the possible negative consequences of this policy towards Russia rests squarely with the initiators of such actions.

Fake media reports on Russian property in the Czech Republic

All kinds of allegations about Russian property in the Czech Republic have been published over the past few days. These reports cite “local sources” which have twisted the facts and distorted the information.

Here are the real facts. There are four buildings in Prague the status of which is being discussed by Czech and Russian experts. Our Czech partners have not notified us of any complaints regarding our use of these buildings. The experts are looking for a balanced solution based on the principle of reciprocity with regard to comparable Czech property in Moscow.

Czech journalists have written many things about Russian property in the Czech Republic. We invite them to investigate the matter of Czech property in Russia. They will find this subject very interesting.

On March 4 and 5, Prague hosted the latest round of talks on property during which the sides have brought their positions closer together on the topic of the legal status and legal framework for the operation and use of these buildings.

Why a constructive agenda and a diplomatic discussion on disputable matters held in the traditionally legal framework were presented by journalists in a distorted manner remains a puzzle. We do not understand the reason for distorting constructive results and misinforming the public.

Latest French attacks on Russian media

We have taken note of an interview with French government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux for Le Parisien, in which he again attacked RT and Sputnik. In addition to traditional allegations of Russian media interference in other countries’ elections and other domestic political events and accusations of publishing fake news, we have noticed some absolutely unacceptable things. First, if you are fighting fake news – and we know that France is in the first ranks of this campaign – you should provide at least one solid fact proving that RT, Sputnik or any other Russian media outlet provided distorted coverage or published unreliable information, or that they neglected to publish a refutation when the information they had published was proved incorrect. Do you have such facts? Or will we continue to listen to the twice-told tales by French officials?

When asked if they should fear foreign interference in European elections, the representative of the French Government as good as compared RT and Sputnik to fasciosphere and patriosphere movements. He said: “Everything depends on what you describe as interference. What we saw during the 2017 presidential campaign was [attempted] influence of social media from the patriosphere and fasciosphere. Both movements have very close ties to Sputnik and RT, which are financed by the Kremlin and emerged largely thanks to fasciosphere.”

I would like to remind you that we have been waiting for over a month for a French response to our diplomatic note in which we asked our French colleagues to confirm or refute what President Emmanuel Macron has said in an interview with Le Point, in which he described RT and Sputnik as pro-Kremlin media outlets and compared them to radical political movements, including far right ones. Similar statements made by a government official may show that the French President hardly misspoke during the interview with Le Point. This looks like an institutional campaign against Russian media outlets in France. It is impossible to fight fakes and misinformation with one hand and harass media outlets with the other hand. This just doesn’t happen.

Worse still, French officials do not limit themselves to allegations. We have learned that the French media regulator CSA has requested that cooperation between the Paris-based radio station Aligre FM and Sputnik France be terminated. The CSA has called for accelerating the process, which was planned to be concluded in late 2019. It is an example of hands-on control of the media implemented by an allegedly independent organisation on orders from the French establishment. If not for these interviews and statements, or reports on meetings held behind closed doors, we could think that independent media outlets really want to cut short their cooperation with their Russian partners. We do not think so now. It is a political put-up job.

We see yet again that the French authorities are doing their utmost to restrict the operations of the Russian media outlets by putting direct pressure on their French partners and by creating a situation in which Russian media are viewed as toxic and not to be trusted.

We would like to see comments on these developments by the concerned international organisations and human rights NGOs. We will forward the material at our disposal to the OSCE. We want to see a conclusion on the acceptability of direct pressure put on an independent Paris-based radio station to accelerate the termination of its partner ties with a Russian media outlet and whether these actions comply with the principles of freedom of the media and respect for independent media outlets.

I would like to say again that we take note of such discriminating acts and forward information about them to the concerned international organisations. As we said before, we would not like to take response measures against the French media outlets which continue to conduct their professional activities in Russia without the slightest restrictions, even though they sometimes publish absurd material that contains fake data or misinformation. We have always tried to avoid using administrative leverage or bans; instead, we preferred giving public answers, publishing refutations, sending notes and publishing articles and interviews. We wonder why they don’t act likewise in France. Are they afraid of something?

I liked an item on Euronews according to which the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on Wednesday urged the French government to conduct a “full investigation of all reported cases of excessive use of force” by French police during the Yellow Vest protests. Commissioner Michelle Bachelet added that the Yellow Vests “have been protesting what they see as exclusion from economic rights and participation in public affairs.”

French government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux said in response that any conclusion on possible [police] abuses and any decision on changing the mechanism can only be taken when the investigation is over.

I wonder why a full investigation is necessary before a decision is made in one case, and why no investigation is conducted and no results or any other material is required in cases such as those of RT and Sputnik?

Experiments with legalising non-medical cannabis use in the Netherlands

The Parliament of the Netherlands recently launched a procedure to approve the legalisation of the production and distribution of non-medical cannabis on an “experimental” basis over a four-year period.

We believe that such action will have a number of serious consequences. It will weaken state control over the sale of narcotic drugs. Following irresponsible action by Uruguay, Canada and Georgia, the Netherlands’ drug enforcement policy could become another challenge for the international community advocating an ideal of a drug-free world. The practical implementation of these ideas will erode international law in this sphere, also putting in doubt the pacta sunt servanda principle, a key concept of international relations. International counter-narcotics cooperation will become less effective. There will be increased illegal drug traffic to other countries, including those which unfailingly honour the provisions of the three fundamental drug control conventions.

According to the International Narcotics Control Board, the legalisation of the non-medical and recreational use of cannabis seriously threatens people’s health, mostly that of the younger generation. It also undermines the international legal framework for drug control and creates another dangerous precedent, in the context of maintaining global law and order, by inviting other countries to follow this example.

We believe that The Hague’s arguments that the draft document, now being discussed, fits into the framework of drug control conventions on combatting crime and efforts to strengthen the relevant research framework are groundless. In our opinion, these experiments with the health and safety of the population could result in the country’s authorities losing control over the commercial drug market. We have reason to believe that such measures are aimed primarily at launching the commercial manufacture of cannabis and turning the drug industry into an important source of state revenue.

In this connection, we would like to urge the authorities of the Netherlands to examine all arguments against this policy and to renounce this liberal drug-promotion experiment that runs counter to the norms of international law. A constructive decision by The Hague is particularly topical on the threshold of the upcoming March 14-15 High-Level Ministerial Segment of the 62nd Session of the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs that is called on to reaffirm the commitment of all states to the principle of common and joint responsibility in addressing the global drug issue.

Answers to media questions:


Will Russia take any practical action to protect its investments in Venezuela?

Maria Zakharova:

Thank you for your concern for Russian investments. It should be said that it is something you have in common with American journalists. One of the most popular questions from the American media concerns Russian investments in Venezuela. We are grateful to all of you for this concern. We are taking the necessary steps to protect our investments.

I would like to say that we are mostly acting to protect the state of Venezuela and trying to prevent a full-scale civil war in that country, as well as to preserve the institutes of state power in keeping with the Venezuelan Constitution. We are taking political steps towards this end, including through negotiations. We are working together with our colleagues and partners.

We are also providing humanitarian aid, as Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has recently told his Western colleagues at news conferences. Russia has said that humanitarian aid is needed to reduce tension and to prevent a negative scenario in Venezuela. But it must be real humanitarian aid, such as food, medicine and everything else the people need to overcome the crisis and to resume development, not barbed wire or other equipment intended for barricades. We have issued statements at international organisations on the unacceptability of implementing or even planning a military scenario in that country.


Russian-Japanese talks have been recently held at the level of deputy foreign ministers. I would like to ask in this connection if Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov plans to visit Japan in March.

Maria Zakharova:

Such a visit is not on Sergey Lavrov’s agenda at this point. We will duly notify you if there is a change of plans.


This week we marked 10 years of the so-called Russian-US reset policy, which was actually overload. What event can really reset bilateral relations?

Maria Zakharova:

Despite the temptation to use such publicity stunts, which sometimes only look attractive but are actually no good for anything, we must look at the essence of the matter. The development of media and PR technologies has shown that attempts to deal with global problems and crises, or even relatively simple matters, hastily and without giving them a second thought, by posting an attractive picture and adding a nice caption, usually fail. There are very many examples of this. The last few weeks have also shown that a simple reshuffling of flags and a large-scale information campaign are not enough to settle global problems. Therefore, the goal is not to conduct yet another PR campaign with buttons and words written on them, but rather to encourage the United States to return to the legal framework. Acting within the legal framework and in strict compliance with international law and the UN Charter, no matter how boring or unfashionable this may be, is the only correct prescription for Washington. If this is done, not only the full-scale Russian-US dialogue will regain momentum, but many other global issues that have been stalled will get off the ground.


Can the UN act more resolutely to help settle the problem of the Rukban refugee camp?

Maria Zakharova:

The UN can certainly do this. We believe that not only the UN but also all its agencies charged with humanitarian issues, refugees and internally displaced persons can actively contribute to the settlement of this problem. We have no doubt about this. We maintain contact and we use this mechanism not only to make our position known but also to accomplish what we are talking about.


You have partially touched upon the issue of a refugee camp in Al-Hasakah Governorate. Although this zone falls into the remit of the international coalition, Russia is also a legitimate country there. In this connection, I would like to ask whether Russia is taking any specific steps in this direction.

Maria Zakharova:

What do you mean by “specific steps?” We are talking about an entire programme we offer to our partners and which is being implemented. We manage to accomplish a lot, and we also fail to achieve many goals because, as you have noted correctly, all this remains under the control of the so-called US-led coalition on the ground. We have much to offer, both in terms of theory, and in the context of ground operations involving UN agencies.


Chief of the Russian Armed Forces General Staff Valery Gerasimov met with Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph F. Dunford, and they agreed to coordinate operations in Syria. For example, they discussed the situation after the withdrawal of US troops from the eastern bank of the Euphrates River. Is there any danger that a third party, such as Turkey or government forces, might establish control over this area after the US pullout?

Maria Zakharova:

First, we believe that all armed contingents and forces remaining on the ground in Syria will be deployed there with the consent of the Syrian government alone. This is our traditional position. If Damascus wants this to happen, then so be it. Therefore, it is necessary to directly address these issues to Damascus. Regarding the wording of your question, I believe that if there is any reason for apprehension, it would be linked with the prospect of Washington changing its mind again. Unfortunately, all the promises, assurances and explanations made are often modified very quickly. Therefore we assume that, if Washington provides any guarantees or explanations for its manoeuvres on the ground, then these guarantees will remain relevant in the medium term, to say the least, and that some new official in Washington will not change the concept. Quite possibly, this is one of the main concerns.


On March 3, Bulgaria is celebrating the anniversary of its liberation from Turkish slavery. What is Russia’s current opinion of the contribution made by people who died for the sake of Bulgaria’s freedom?

Maria Zakharova:

Russia has never voiced any opportunistic assessments of the heroic feats by Russian soldiers during the Russo-Turkish war of 1877-1878 that liberated the people of Bulgaria from the Ottoman yoke and gave hope that they would establish their own state.

There has always been a consensus on this matter in Russian society. This is proved graphically by annual official ceremonies commemorating Russian soldiers who were killed in Bulgaria near the Chapel of the Sign of the Icon of Our Lady and the Most Orthodox Prince Alexander Nevsky in Moscow. These events take place every March 3 and every December 10, that is, on National Liberation Day and on the day when Pleven was taken, and they bring together representatives of the public at large, political circles, military agencies, the clergy and the diplomatic corps. Those involved pay tribute to Russian heroes, an estimated 200,000 ordinary officers and soldiers who sacrificed their lives for the sake of victory.

We are grateful for the fact that Bulgarian society still honours the memory of Russian soldiers, that it does not forget about their heroic feat and the combat fraternity of that period, and that it does not falsify it, in line with the current trendy speculations.


People in Russia say the Bulgarians are ungrateful. But Bulgarian priests pray for the souls of the deceased every day. In all, 3,400 Russian soldiers who fought for freedom are buried in Pleven.

Maria Zakharova:

As I see it, the matter of gratitude or ingratitude amounts not only to remembering the deceased but also to efforts to establish relations with the living. This is always important on the basis of both nations’ historical experience. Instead of answering your question, I took the liberty of launching into a brief philosophical discourse.


What is the outcome of Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev’s visit to Bulgaria?

Maria Zakharova:

One can safely say that this third encounter between both countries’ heads of government in the past 12 months shows that Russian-Bulgarian cooperation remains in high demand and continues to expand despite the complicated international context. Apart from important symbolic aspects (the visit took place during celebrations of the 141st anniversary of Bulgaria’s liberation), the sides conducted a detailed and focused exchange of opinion on the entire range of topical matters and problems. We hope that the discussion and implementation of joint projects, primarily in fuel and energy, will help expand bilateral relations and further strengthen European energy security.

Regarding certain items on the bilateral agenda, as well as developments in Southeastern Europe, I suggest that you read materials posted on the Russian Government’s website, as well as Dmitry Medvedev’s statements.


President of the Chamber of Deputies of the Italian Parliament Roberto Fico visited Moscow two days ago. In his speech at the plenary session of the State Duma of the Russian Federation, he said that Russia’s participation in the work the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) is essential for resolving problems facing European countries. He said that otherwise the principle of inter-parliamentary dialogue will be rejected as such. Do you think Italy can help Russia under the circumstances?

Maria Zakharova:

It is great that he spoke about this in Russia, but it is necessary to talk about this in the European countries, directly with the deputies of those states whose MPs objected to Russia’s participation the work of PACE. This is obvious to us and not because we support the Russian delegation exclusively from patriotic considerations. The main word is “essential.” This is essential for PACE’s work to be productive. If it is necessary to assess the processes taking place in the common European space, how is it possible to do so without Russia and its delegation?

Blocking the work and the opportunity to make statements and reply to remarks by colleagues in parliament is absurd, and all the more so when it comes to a pan-European parliament in which at least the modern concept of parliamentarism was outlined. This is even more ridiculous when we talk about the early 21st century, when everyone is fighting for the freedom of speech and against fake information. Yet, the delegation of a whole country is being denied an opportunity to take part in the discussion of its conduct. There is no need to convince Russia of this. It is necessary to convince those countries that objected to Russia’s participation in PACE.


After the recent election, President of Moldova Igor Dodon spoke about the possibility of a rapid solution to the Transnistrian issue. What do experts of the Russian Foreign Ministry think about the post-election situation? How close is the 5+2 format to a constructive compromise?

Maria Zakharova:

When upon coming to power some political forces announce that conflicts and problems that have been lingering on for decades should be resolved quickly, that raises the following question – do they really believe their predecessors failed to realise this? Obviously, the need to resolve this problem was clear to all. Nobody objected to a fair and respectful solution for all residents, a solution that must be legal and, naturally, achieved by political and diplomatic methods. In effect, all mechanisms that were created for resolving this issue proceeded from exactly this premise. So, on the one hand, there is nothing bad in the intentions of politicians to resolve issues quickly. The main point is that they should reflect reality rather than be a theoretical thesis. They should be linked with background history and real possibilities. As Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said more than once, diplomats should have the same approach as doctors. It is very important for them “to do no harm,” and this should always be remembered.


What are the details of the meeting between Fayez al-Sarraj and Khalifa Haftar in Abu Dhabi?

Maria Zakharova:

Owing to the UN and UAE efforts, representatives of the two opposing camps – Chairman of the Presidential Council of Libya and Prime Minister of the Government of National Accord (GNA) of Libya Fayez al-Sarraj and Commander of the Libyan National Army Khalifa Haftar met in Abu Dhabi. Their meeting was attended by Special Representative of the Secretary-General to Libya Ghassan Salame. According to incoming reports, they discussed key issues of a peace settlement in Libya, including completing the transition period by holding a general election and forming common state institutions.

Moscow is positive about these contacts in Abu Dhabi. We consider it important for Libyan leaders to continue a UN-supported search for ways of reaching mutually acceptable agreements in the interests of national reconciliation and stabilisation.


Currently, the Lebanese public is discussing the Russian initiative to bring Syrian refugees back home. The problem of the Rukban camp for internally displaced persons (IDP) is also on the agenda of the Russian-Jordanian talks. Refugees are also being discussed with Turkey. Could these problems be resolved in a comprehensive way, at one go?

Maria Zakharova:

A one-go solution that you have mentioned will not work because these problems have many components related to both refugees, who are now outside of Syria, and the IDP - there are many split families. These matters are also related to Syria’s territorial problems that are yet to be solved and to foreign military presence on its territory. All these matters cannot be dealt with at one go. Neither will the migration issue be resolved at one go. We hope that at best this can be done in stages, in a pinpoint manner, with the use of different methods and in different areas.


The US is planning to publish the Mueller report on “Russian interference.” Will Russia respond in any way? What is to be expected from this report?

Maria Zakharova:

What does Russia have to do with all this? This is a strictly domestic political story in the US. We have repeatedly said as much. Each time, scandals like this one help, in some way or other, to decide the outcome of domestic political battles between the political parties. The case in point now is more likely to be some inter-clan squabbles. The 2016 presidential campaign was based on an “external threat” factor, or even a “foreign enemy,” as they said. Properly speaking, the “Russian theme” is the pivot of the entire domestic political stand-off in the US. This is a very hot topic, for understandable reasons. One of the candidates, a Democrat, focused on the international agenda and specifically Russia for years. In fact, this became the campaign’s “trump card.” Therefore, the subsequent internal political confrontation in the US was also permeated with the “external influence” logic. These domestic political games certainly relate to our country, including the sanctions, the monstrous statements we hear, and the groundless accusations that “cover” our country and bilateral relations, leaving nothing but cinders. This story can in no way drop from the integrated picture of US domestic political confrontation either.


There were expectations that the problem of Syria returning to the League of Arab States would be resolved within weeks at the Tunisia summit in March. But this is unlikely to happen. What are the obstacles?

Maria Zakharova:

Can’t you guess why, being as you are a Bloomberg representative? I think there is just one obstacle. I am referring to an attempt by our Western partners, who represent and head the relevant coalition, to thwart by any means possible what will be yet another manifestation of their failed policy in the region. Damascus’ return to the LAS will be proof of this. In general, the normalisation of relations, which is in full swing, demonstrates the entire untenable nature of the concept that only a regime change enables a country to develop within and outside its borders. And this is the obstacle for you. Honestly speaking, no one sees any other obstacles.

There is an intention to hamper, if not frustrate, Syria’s return to the LAS. Any journalist representing regional media can tell you why Syria needs to return to the LAS and why the LAS needs to reinstate Syria’s rights in the organisation. The region as a whole, as well as Syria and its neighbours, need this process.


Is Syria’s return to the LAS inevitable?

Maria Zakharova:

In the historical context, yes, no doubt about it. That country is part of that region. How can an organisation be fully functional if a vast country representing an entire gamut of challenges and prospects is not among its members? After all, this is not just a club but rather an entity that governs the life of the region. It is clearly so.

International organisations are created not only among like-minded members. Do not hold everything to the NATO matrix. Not all organisations are living or should live according to this arrangement. In principle, international entities and organisations are created not according to a model where one party controls the others, or any other model where all member countries think in exactly the same way about all matters. International organisations exist based on points of contact and in order to be able to address issues that are on the agenda of these countries and the region in general. This does not mean that all countries should have the same approach. As a matter of fact, the forms of the political structure of the states that belong to the Arab League are so different that it is simply impossible to talk about completely overlapping the approaches of all states. So, the organisation was created not as a club of people sharing the same interests or as a club of like-minded people, but as a framework for discussing pressing problems of the region. In this context, it is simply impossible to address the regional issues without Syria, especially in today's context which is chockablock with issues related precisely to Syria. This is clearly so, at least, from the political point of view.


As reported by TASS, a Russian Deputy Foreign Minister will meet with his North Korean colleague on March 14. Can you confirm this?

Maria Zakharova:

I’m pleased to confirm the information provided by TASS, especially so as it cited the Foreign Ministry. Scheduled consultations will indeed be held between Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov and Deputy Foreign Minister of the DPRK Im Chon Il on March 14.


What issues will be discussed at this meeting? Will they touch upon the visit by Chairman of the State Council of the DPRK Kim Jong-un?

Maria Zakharova:

I will not anticipate the events or announce the agenda. We will disclose this information closer to the meeting. Of course, the main issues related to bilateral relations, political contacts and, of course, the situation in the region in the context of a settlement will be part of the discussion.


Relatively recently, information appeared in the Albanian-language Kosovo press citing the German media about an alleged behind-the-scenes agreement between Moscow, Paris and Washington on the actual surrender of Kosovo by Belgrade. It is already being discussed by the experts. Is this true?

Maria Zakharova:

Your question contains the answer, “Albanian-language Kosovo press citing the German media.” This cannot be seriously discussed. Everything related to Serbia’s position on the Kosovo settlement is commented on by President of Serbia Aleksandar Vucic almost daily. The issue is about a full-fledged assessment of the negotiations process and the difficulties that the Serbian leadership faces during these talks. In this context, everything that you said does not leave the slightest hope for the accuracy of this information.

I gave you an expert assessment. However, this question should be addressed primarily to Serbia.


Prime Minister of Luxembourg Xavier Bettel said disarmament is the only way of maintaining peace, while security in Europe cannot be ensured without Russia. To what extent is this understanding shared by Europe’s top echelons? Is Europe taking steps to create a joint security system with Russia?

Maria Zakharova:

Disarmament is very controversial and extensive issue. It is better to address it to the Council on Foreign and Defence Policy, our leading agencies that elaborate foreign policy concepts. This is an interesting subject.

It is obviously impossible to ensure security without Russia. Some experts speak about this in a negative vein, saying that Russia is a source of some threat, whereas others consider Russia one of the guarantors of stability. But both groups admit that it is impossible to ensure security in Europe without Russia.

This country has repeatedly reaffirmed its role in history as a state that is a guarantor of stability and security and that it brings peace rather than aggression to others. World War II and the Soviet Union’s role in it is a global example. Subsequently this point was supported in peaceful life by our initiatives put forward during negotiations at international venues.

Does everyone share this position? Everyone understands it, but not everyone can speak about it in a constructive vein. (I’m referring to European politicians.)


What would you wish mothers and simply women of the confronting sides in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict on the eve of March 8?

Maria Zakharova:

I would wish them only one thing: a settlement and peace as soon as possible.


The elections for the heads of republic were held in the DPR and the LPR on November 11. They were attended by observers from Russia and Western countries. Observers made no critical remarks about them. Ukraine will soon hold presidential elections to which observers from Russia will not be admitted. Could the heads of the republics become the only recognised Ukrainian leaders in Russia? After all, legally, their territory is part of Ukraine.

Maria Zakharova:

This is a complicated, dialectical issue. Literally today I read Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev’s remarks on the election campaign in Ukraine. I recommend you to read them too. He says this is a dirty campaign. The methods of preparing for the elections without discussing the campaigns of nominees is unprecedented for the European country that welcomed and signed the majority of fundamental documents regulating political life in various associations or countries in Europe.

The decision not to admit observers, who would be sent there officially through relevant international agencies, is also unprecedented.

If there were no discrepancies between what is happening and how people would like to live in the DPR, the LPR and the rest of Ukraine, there would be no problem. The point is that people have different views on basic issues. It is the Kiev regime that does not abide by the Minsk Agreements that legally embody the attempts to bring closer the sides’ positions.


Could you mention the names of the US citizens detained in Novorossiysk?

Maria Zakharova:

I can confirm that US citizens were detained for violating migration legislation. Four Americans were detained, including two that were deported by court decision. Law enforcement bodies are dealing with this issue and have all the details.

As for the first question, in particular concerning UNICEF, we will check this information and comment on it.

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Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks at the opening ceremony for the exhibition To the Shores of Latin America, Moscow, March 11, 2019

11 March 2019 - 18:07

Mr Duda, ladies and gentlemen, your excellencies, friends,

I am pleased to have this opportunity to speak at the opening ceremony for the exhibition of rare books and manuscripts from the Russian State Library, an exhibition that reiterates the strength of the ties that connect our country with Latin America.

To begin with, I would like to express my sincere gratitude to Mr Duda, Director General of the Library, for supporting the Foreign Ministry’s initiative to make today's event possible. This exposition is truly unique.

The foundation for Russia-Latin America cooperation, which today continues to expand and deepen, was laid more than two centuries ago, and the exhibition is evidence of that. Geographical distance has never been a problem for building up multifaceted human ties. Russia has always respected the sovereignty and independence of Latin American countries. Back in the late 19th - early 20th centuries, we, I mean the Russian Empire, established and maintained diplomatic relations with all the states in that region. Importantly, in 1907, Russia was the first to invite Latin Americans to the Peace Conference in The Hague for participation in the discussion of the then pressing issues on the international agenda.

Of course, many Russian travellers and diplomats noted the cultural and spiritual affinity of our peoples. Here are some examples: Ambassador Alexander Ionin, who became head of our diplomatic mission in Brazil in 1883, wrote the renowned three volumes of notes, Across South America.

Russian seafarers, researchers and writers were drawn to Latin America not by expansionist or colonial plans, but by love for research and exploration, and a genuine interest in the culture and traditions of this unique region, its people, and the desire to find ways for developing mutually beneficial trade. People of amazing destinies, they were inspired by the desire to see, understand and explore this unique and remarkable region.

In the 19th century, a Russian explorer, Pyotr Chikhachev, crossed Mexico on horseback, travelled from Acapulco to Guayaquil by sea and was the first Russian to cross the Andes. Years later, his compatriot wrote that in Mexico he had heard "about a guards officer, Chikhachev, who had a cheerful personality, spoke Spanish, and was popular with the ladies." In the early 20th century, translator and publicist Lydia Lasheyeva travelled all over South America on a bike. Our kind of woman!

Expeditions by Soviet geneticist Nikolay Vavilov made it possible to determine the centres of origin of cultivated plants in the New World and to create the world's first seed bank.

Outstanding Russian poets and artists, Konstantin Balmont, Vladimir Mayakovsky and Vasily Vereshchagin described the beauty of Latin America in their works. In his book, In the Land of Love and Earthquakes, published in 1915, writer Vladimir Krymov wrote that “it is always sunny and warm, and there is great passion and love” in the Caribbean countries. Today, as the carnival in Rio de Janeiro is drawing to a close, I believe this is an apt observation.

In the 19th and the 20th centuries, during the first and second waves of Russian emigration, specialists in various fields from science and industry to agriculture and military science came to Latin America. They have all contributed to the comprehensive development of the Latin American states and, in the case of Paraguay, played a crucial role in the political life of that country. I have been to Asuncion and I’m aware that 17 streets there are named after Russians dating back to the bloody Chaco War, the outcome of which, as the Paraguayans themselves emphasise, was largely determined by the military talent of Russian General Ivan Belyaev.

Today, there are communities of our compatriots in many countries of the region. They preserve the Russian language and culture and serve as an important link in strengthening the dialogue between what we now call civil societies.

I’m convinced that relying on rich traditions that took shape over the centuries and cultural cooperation between Russia and Latin American countries, we will be able to continue to promote our relations. Events such as today's exhibition make a major contribution to the overall efforts to build confidence and mutual understanding.

Once again, I would like to express my gratitude to all those who made this exhibition possible. I hope you will have the opportunity today to get familiarised with unique books and manuscripts.

The source of information -

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s opening remarks at talks with Austrian Federal Minister for Europe, Integration and Foreign Affairs Karin Kneissl, Moscow, March 12, 2019

12 March 2019 - 12:31

Ms Minister, colleagues,

We are delighted to welcome you to Moscow.

Our meeting today is evidence of an intense political dialogue, including at the top level. Last year, President of Russia Vladimir Putin held several meetings with Federal President of the Republic of Austria Alexander Van der Bellen and Federal Chancellor Sebastian Kurz. Our ministers also meet very often, just as members of our parliaments, business community and civil societies.

Apart from discussing bilateral topics as well as regional and international matters today, we will sign a statement on the establishment of the Sochi Dialogue Public Forum. It was an Austrian initiative, which we wholeheartedly support.

We have a busy agenda. I look forward to our fruitful talks.

The source of information -

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks and answers to media questions at a joint news conference following talks with Austrian Federal Minister for Europe, Integration and Foreign Affairs Karin Kneissl, Moscow, March 12, 2019

12 March 2019 - 14:48

Ladies and gentlemen,

We had very good, detailed and intensive discussions on a wide range of issues of mutual interest.

Relations between Russia and Austria are consistently developing in many spheres, despite the complicated situation in Europe. Of great importance for our common efforts is a regular and intensive dialogue at the top level. We exchanged positive views on exchanges between our parliaments, departments and regions and spoke out in favour of deepening our cooperation based on the tried and tested, as well as new forms of interaction.

We focused on our trade, economic and investment ties. Austria has been a major economic partner of Russia. We expressed appreciation at the stable growth of mutual trade, which increased by 42.7 percent to nearly $6 billion last year. Despite the adverse circumstances, including sanctions, Austrian entrepreneurs have not withdrawn from the Russian market. Mutual investments continue to grow.

We pointed out the positive and effective role of the Joint Russian-Austrian Commission on Trade and Economic Cooperation, which has resumed its full-scale meetings, as well as the productive and concerned activities of the Russian-Austrian Business Council.

We also discussed the implementation of our largest joint projects, including the extension of the broad-gauge railway line from the city of Kosice in Slovakia to Vienna. We highly praised our cooperation in the field of energy, where Gazprom and OMV have been working together to implement a number of infrastructure projects.

Humanitarian exchanges are making rapid headway. The Cross Year of Music and Cultural Routes was a success in 2018. The bilateral Commission of Historians is productively working on historical and commemorative projects. We discussed the programme of the 2019 Russia-Austria Year of Youth Exchanges during which numerous concerts, exhibitions and artistic festivals will be held. We agreed to coordinate reciprocal issuance of free visas on the easiest terms for participants and organisers of events in the Year of Youth Exchanges.

The joint statement on establishing the Sochi Dialogue Russia-Austria Public Forum that we signed today testifies to our shared interest in expanding contacts between our scientific and business circles and civil societies. Let me recall that the decision to establish this venue was made by the presidents of Russia and Austria during President Vladimir Putin’s visit to Vienna in June 2018. The forum is co-chaired by Russian Presidential Aide Andrei Fursenko and President of the Association of European Chambers of Commerce and Industry Christoph Leitl. Its Coordinating Committee will include public figures of both countries. The first session is expected to be held this year. We agreed to facilitate its productive work.

During our exchange on key international issues, we focused on the situation on our common continent. We reviewed the prospects of Russia-EU relations. Both sides are interested in putting them back on a normal trajectory. We expressed concern over the current crisis in the Council of Europe, which is linked with the decision to deprive the Russian delegation of what are its lawful rights in PACE under the Council of Europe Charter.

We spoke about settlement efforts in eastern Ukraine. We favour full and consistent implementation of the Minsk Package of Measures. For our part, we emphasised that the actions of the Ukrainian authorities are leading to the disruption of this important document that was approved by the UN Security Council.

We spoke at length about the situation in the Middle East and North Africa, including the Syrian settlement process. We want to see it move forward on the basis of UN Security Council Resolution 2254. For our part, we described what Russia is doing in this respect, primarily in the Astana format. We agreed on the need to render aid to the Syrian people and rebuild the destroyed infrastructure to enable Syrians to return home. Another humanitarian task, mine clearing, will certainly play a major role here. Russia is actively supporting this Austrian initiative.

We also reviewed the problems that are emerging in the sphere of strategic stability now that the US has taken the course of withdrawing from vital agreements in this critical area. We hope that the discussions that continue in the OSCE and in the context of our relations with Western partners will prevent the collapse of the mechanism of strategic stability that has ensured security in Europe for many decades.

In general, we are satisfied with the results of the talks and will continue our close contacts.


Just recently, President Trump asked Congress to allocate half a billion dollars for Europe to counter Russia's malign influence in that region. Do you think Europe alone will cope with what they call your “influence?” Doesn’t what the Americans are doing represent outside interference in and of itself?

Sergey Lavrov:

What we see in the US administration’s budget request for the next year is, of course, not diplomacy, but, rather, modern American diplomacy, which boils down either to threats or sanctions, or, as we are seeing, to an attempt to purchase allies. It’s up to US legislators and taxpayers to decide whether it is in their interest. Of course, it is also up to the countries that are the recipients of this generous aid designed to fight “Russia's malign influence” – clearly, in order to exert their “well-intentioned” influence instead of our “malign” influence.

By the way, I am not sure whether the recipient countries will like the fact that someone wants to buy them. However, knowing the manners that now prevail in Washington, I cannot rule out that if they refuse to accept this aid that is imposed on them, they will see sanctions imposed on them, so they need to make up their mind.


Last year, certain tensions and misunderstandings arose between Russia and Austria following a spy scandal. Then, both sides said that it significantly undermined their relations. Do you think these negative factors are out of the picture now?

Sergey Lavrov:

I already spoke on this subject back when our Austrian colleagues suddenly decided to publicly accuse Russia of something instead of making the appropriate inquiry, if they had such concerns, via channels that exist specifically for these purposes. I remain convinced that every profession has its own genre, and there is no need to mix them up. This has never led to anything good either in art or in life.

Question (for both ministers):

The other day, US Secretary of Energy Rick Perry confirmed to journalists that Washington is considering the possibility of imposing sanctions on the Nord Stream 2 project and all companies associated with it, including the Austrian one. What will the Austrian government do if the United States really goes that far in unfair competition and imposes more expensive gas supplies on Europe? How will Russia respond?

Sergey Lavrov (speaking after Karin Kneissl):

I will pick up where Ms Kneissl left off, namely, international law. This contradicts all tenets and norms of international law. It is not for nothing that our American and some other Western colleagues no longer use the phrase “international law,” but urge everyone to respect the rules-based order.

Under international law, there must be elementary competition of economic approaches and proposals. This, by the way, is consistent with WTO rules. The rules invented by a small group of countries which they are trying to impose on everyone else solely in their own interest fit into the logic currently promoted by the United States. Calling the Nord Stream 2 project purely political, Washington issued a demand to abandon it and to buy American gas instead which is 20% to 30% more expensive. So, it will be not a political but an economic project. Indeed, it will be purely commercial for the United States, which will be receiving additional revenue. For those whom they are trying to force to abandon Nord Stream 2 and to switch to more expensive American gas, this decision will be political, even though they will come under pressure in the form of all kinds of illegitimate unilateral economic sanctions. I have already mentioned that Washington’s diplomacy comes down to sanctions. This applies to Nord Stream 2 and a number of other areas.

Recently, US Secretary of State Pompeo accused Rosneft of violating US sanctions against the Venezuelan oil company and demanded an end to the purchase of oil from PDVSA. How can this be explained?

By the way, a bad example is contagious. Juan Guaido, whom US Vice President Mike Pence proclaimed interim President of Venezuela, has already announced that his country should stop selling oil to Cuba. How does this fit with international law? It doesn’t.

Competition must be fair. We are witnessing the gross violation of all ethical and legal norms, when the United States demands, in fact, that all countries in the world not buy raw materials and energy resources from Russia, but instead buy them from the United States, not buy Russian-made products as part of their defence industry cooperation, but buy more expensive US-made products. Unfair competition in sports has already become proverbial.

Dictating everything to everyone will not bring any good. We have already warned our American colleagues that, perhaps, in a very short historical period (18 to 36 months), they may receive some kind of benefits, but in the strategic, long-term perspective, they are undermining trust in the dollar-based international system. This will not end well for them.


Is there still a chance to overcome the systemic crisis in the Council of Europe?

Sergey Lavrov:

We remain willing to constructively search for ways to overcome this crisis through a return to the basics, namely, all the provisions of the Statute of the Council of Europe without exception. The Statute implies equality of all CE members in all bodies of this pan-European organisation. Of course, the resolution of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe contradicts this principle which is enshrined in the Statute of the organisation.

We appreciate the commitment of a number of European countries, including Austria, as well as Finland, which currently chairs the Council of Europe, with the significant support of the majority of the CE members, to find a solution based on reaffirming the basic principle of the Statute and adopting a corresponding resolution stating that the Statute remains inviolable.

I heard that the minority, which is now trying to block such an outcome and demanding that Russia continue to be punished, is trying to get away with handouts in the form of allowing us to vote as an exception to the rule without returning full rights under the Charter of the Council of Europe to our parliamentarians. I heard that this Russophobic minority is trying to convince everyone that Russia has already given up on the Council of Europe and firmly decided to leave it. This is not true. This is a provocation. We have seen similar provocations in a number of other instances. We know that our British colleagues, our Ukrainian neighbours, and another three or four countries that traditionally follow the Russophobic policy of Washington are behind this. Once again, I can say with authority that the things that they are spreading in European capitals are not true. Russia did not make a decision to withdraw from the Council of Europe. Russia is doing everything to find a way out of the current artificially engineered crisis on the firm basis of the CE Statute.


Returning to the Sochi Dialogue, could you clarify why Sochi? Are all civil society groups invited to participate? Will there be more such dialogue formats, which, in general, should improve relations between Russia and the EU?

Sergey Lavrov (speaking after Karin Kneissl):

I believe the point of the question was somewhat different. I think the lady wanted to find out whether the journalists would participate in the Sochi Dialogue as well, and you (addressing Karin Kneissl) did not list them. But I think we can issue a personal invitation to the AP-PA representative.

The source of information -

Press release on Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s meeting with the EU Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship Dimitris Avramopoulos

14 March 2019 - 13:53

On March 14, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov met with the EU Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship Dimitris Avramopoulos on the sidelines of the 62nd session of the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs.

During the conversation, the officials discussed topical matters of cooperation between Russia and the European Union in the area of freedom, security, justice and the fight against drug trafficking. The Russian Foreign Minister noted that the resumption of full-fledged cooperation in the law enforcement sphere could make a significant contribution to improving relations between Moscow and the EU.

Mr Lavrov pointed out that the EU’s continued visa discrimination against the citizens of Crimea and Sevastopol was unacceptable and noted that it was important to create favourable conditions for the safe return of Syrian refugees to their home country.

The source of information -

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s address at the Ministerial Segment of the 62nd session of the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs, Vienna, March 14, 2019

14 March 2019 - 14:25

Mr President, colleagues, ladies and gentlemen,

Today we will take stock of the efforts taken over the decade to counter the world drug problem. It is possible to make different assessments of the efforts to implement the Political Declaration and the Plan of Action, which were approved by the UN General Assembly in 2009. However, it is obvious that the task of ridding humanity of drug dependence set in these documents remains fully topical. Drug business continues to feed organised crime and corruption and provokes violence. New psychoactive substances are being produced. New high-tech threats like DarkNet and electronic payment instruments, so-called contactless drug trafficking, evoke serious concern.

Nobody can cope single-handedly with the multiplying challenges. The entire international community should make collective steps to move consistently towards reaching a strategic goal – the shaping of the drug-free world. This goal is sealed in the final document of the UN General Assembly 30th Special Session, which declared that “the world drug problem remains a common and shared responsibility…”

Regrettably, attempts are being made to erode this responsibility or distort its essence. The legalisation of cannabis in a number of countries, ostensibly for “recreational” or “medical” purposes evokes serious concern. This road leads straight to drug hell. Attempts to justify the use of drugs by human rights arguments do not stand up to criticism. It is necessary to strictly abide by the three relevant UN conventions that are the cornerstone of the entire anti-drug system and must remain unshakeable.

The International Narcotics Control Board (INCB), which last year marked its 50th anniversary, is responsible for the implementation of these conventions. The decades-long operations of the INCB have earned great appreciation from the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND). We hope the Russian initiative, which we have submitted to this meeting of the commission, will be approved. In late 2017, we held a meaningful dialogue on all aspects of the drug situation in Russia with the INCB senior officials who visited Russia. We will continue to constructively cooperate with the INCB, and we will strictly comply with all our international legal obligations in the field of drug enforcement.

We firmly believe that only the states that faithfully comply with the provisions of the UN anti-drug conventions have a moral right to take part in the work of the CND. Any other approach can undermine the prestige of the commission, which is the main policy-making agency in the UN drug control system.

The fight against the drug threat is a vital element of global security, including in the regional dimension. The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation is contributing to these efforts. At its summit in Qingdao last year, the member states approved the Anti-Drug Strategy and the Action Plan for its implementation. Their priorities include breaking the link between terrorism and drug trafficking and thereby weakening the financial basis of terrorism.

Russia is implementing a number of anti-drug training programmes. We are working together with Japan and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime to train drug enforcement personnel for Afghanistan, Central Asian countries and Pakistan. We are also establishing an anti-drug police dog training centre in Kabul.

We reaffirm our commitment to the Paris Pact Initiative, a major framework for combatting illicit traffic in opiates originating in Afghanistan.

It is clear that international efforts should be combined with national measures. Russia has started drafting its strategy of state anti-drug policy up to 2030 to elaborate effective responses to new challenges in this area.

While continuing uncompromising efforts against drug crime, it is necessary to make controlled substances used to relieve pain and suffering more accessible. On March 6, 2019, President of Russia Vladimir Putin signed a federal law on palliative care, which has become a contribution to implementing the UN Sustainable Development Goals in Russia.

The fight against drugs should become part and parcel of the activities of all UN agencies that are dealing with ensuring the rights of the child. I would like to draw your attention to the scientific research that confirms the hereditary nature of drug-related diseases. Last year the commission adopted a Russia-initiated resolution on protecting children against narcotic drugs. We urge you to continue working to this end.

Civil society has a major role to play in countering the drug threat. We are delighted to welcome representatives of non-profit organisations to Vienna. In December 2017, Moscow hosted a representative international conference “Parliamentarians Against Drugs.” Its participants supported the consolidation of MPs’ lawmaking efforts to enhance counteraction against this evil. Russian MPs plan to continue anti-drug cooperation with their foreign partners.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Drug addiction is one of the worst forms of suppressing a person’s personality. The eradication of this “plague” will make our world more just, humane and free. Russia will continue actively contributing to resolving this large-scale task.

I am confident that in our joint work we will continue to rely on the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, which is demonstrating its great competence and efficiency.

The source of information -

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks at a joint SCO-UNODC meeting on drug trafficking, Vienna, March 14, 2019

14 March 2019 - 16:19

Mr Secretary-General,

Mr Under-Secretary-General,

Colleagues, friends,

First of all, I would like to express my gratitude for inviting me to this meeting and, in general, for making it happen.

We note with satisfaction that the dialogue between the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime is sustainable. A joint group of experts started working as part of the Paris Pact initiative in the interest of more effectively combatting Afghan drug trafficking at the SCO site in Beijing in November 2018. We consider this the first important practical step and support expanding the areas of cooperation.

The Organisation’s Anti-Drug Strategy and Action Programme were adopted at the SCO summit in Qingdao in June 2018, giving the SCO a reliable international legal toolkit to counter the drug challenge, primarily in light of the continuing plight in Afghanistan. At the SCO summit, President Putin stressed that "it is important to jointly combat the terrorist threat coming from Afghanistan and to stop the production and transit of drugs." Russia is convinced that the destruction of the Afghan narco-terrorist alliance and its foreign accomplices will help strengthen security and stability throughout Eurasia.

I would also like to note that we consider the drug and terrorist threats as inseparable in accordance with the basic documents of the international community. In this regard, I would like to draw attention once again to President Putin’s initiative to expand the powers and scope of the SCO Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure and ultimately turn it into a comprehensive mechanism for countering new challenges and threats. As a first step, we proposed creating a working group within this regional antiterrorist entity to curb the fueling of terrorism through drug-related crime.

Today, at a meeting of the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs, many have already mentioned that the attempts of a number of states to rewrite the provisions of international anti-drug law and thus “open the floodgates” for legalising narcotic substances are alarming. We will strongly and consistently oppose such "experiments." We will continue to defend the inviolability of the three fundamental UN anti-drug conventions. Russia is submitting to the 62nd session of the CND a draft resolution in support of the activities of the International Narcotics Control Board which, I hope, will receive broad support from our partners, including in the SCO.

During the current session of the Commission, a special joint statement of the SCO member states will be circulated which will outline a collective position in favour of an uncompromising fight against the global drug challenge.

In the context of the emerging new narcotic threats, there is a demand for qualitatively improving international mechanisms, enhancing their efficiency, and bolstering their personnel, including at the national level. Russia is actively working in this area as it carries out jointly with Japan, under the auspices of the UNODC, a project to train highly qualified personnel for our partners from Central Asia, Afghanistan and Pakistan at the educational institutions of the Interior Ministry of Russia. This is a real contribution to the strengthening of the anti-drug interaction within the SCO space.

I’m positive that deeper cooperation between the SCO and the UNODC will make a useful contribution to achieving our common strategic goal which is building a drug-free world. Overcoming this scourge is fully consistent with the values ​​of the UN and the Shanghai spirit of cooperation.

In closing, I would like to once again emphasise our support for the UNODC headed by UN Under-Secretary-General Yury Fedotov and to express gratitude to the SCO Secretary-General Vladimir Norov for the continued and close attention which he, as the head of the Organisation, pays to anti-drug and anti-terrorism tasks.

The source of information -

Press release on Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s telephone conversation with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres

15 March 2019 - 18:58

On March 15, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov spoke over the telephone with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. The officials exchanged views on major international issues.

Mr Lavrov expressed condolences to Mr Guterres over the death of UN employees in the air crash in Ethiopia on March 10 of this year.

The source of information -

The following events are not displayed in the English version.

11 March 2019

On postponing S. Lavrov's visit to Turkey -

12 March 2019

Joint statement [Lavrov and Kneissl] on the creation of the Russian-Austrian Public Forum "Sochi Dialogue" -

14 March 2019

Meeting of S. Lavrov with the Director General of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization Lee Yong -

Meeting of S. Lavrov with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, H. Arreasa, on the sidelines of the 62nd session of the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs -

Meeting of S. Lavrov with Austrian Federal President A. van der Bellen -

15 March 2019

Meeting of S. Lavrov with the heads of diplomatic missions of Latin American and Caribbean states accredited in Moscow -

16 March 2019

On the exchange of congratulatory telegrams between the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Russia and the Republic of the Congo -
Where should they dig the Very Deep Pit?
Piglet said that the best place would be somewhere where a Heffalump was, just before he fell into it, only about a foot farther on.
(c) Alan Alexander Miln
Old March 20th, 2019 #36
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Most personal and non-personal events have not been translated to English.

Personal events:

Statement of Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation Amb.Sergey Vershinin at the ministerial meeting of the conference "Supporting the future of Syria and the region", Brussels, 14 March 2019

15 March 2019 - 12:23

Distinguished Co-chairs,

Dear ladies and gentlemen,

I am glad to greet the participants of the Third Brussels Conference on ''Supporting the future of Syria and the region".

When talking about the support of Syria, first of all, I would like to emphasize the main point: Russia strongly and firmly supports the restoration of sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of Syria. During all these years we have confirmed this principle position by concrete deeds. We are also convinced on the lack of alternatives to the political settlement of the Syrian crises within the framework of Syrian-led and Syrian-owned, UN-facilitated process in line with the UN Security Council resolution 2254 and in full respect of the principles of the UN Charter. In this regard, it is regrettable that the delegation of the Syrian government, full-fledged representative of its country to the UN, is not present at this important meeting, that contradicts the universally recognized provisions of the international law on the imperative to interact with legitimate authorities of the country.

Today, as the wide-scale hostilities have been ended and the situation in the major parts of the Syrian territories has stabilized, the first priority is to deliver aid to the Syrians in line with basic humanitarian principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence. It is necessary to provide assistance to all Syrian territories, help all those in need, without putting preconditions and politization. Consequently, I would like again to point out the destructive effect of the unilateral economic sanctions that make ordinary people suffer. Such restrictions, for example, hinder the purchase of medicines and materials for their production, medical equipment and expendables as well as block the provision of engineering technical equipment necessary for the reconstruction. 

At the same time Russia continues to provide wide-range assistance to Syria in terms of reconstruction of infrastructure and humanitarian aid delivery. Starting from July last year more than 800 educational and 150 medical facilities have been rebuilt, 1000 lcm roads repaired, 1000 km electric transmission lines laid, 130 water facilities launched. Besides, more than 2000 humanitarian actions have been earned out, delivering and spreading 3300 tons of food, water and essential supplies. Russian doctors have also provided aid to 105 thousand people. Therefore, we call upon all responsible members of the international community to follow our suit.

With Syria coming back to normal peaceful life, the issues of ensuring the right of all Syrians to return become very important. In July last year Russia put forward an initiative on facilitating the return of Syrian refugees and IDPs to the places of their permanent residence. Consequently, the Refugee Migration Monitoring Center was established in Damascus and operational cells were formed in Amman and Beirut. Effective interaction is also maintained with main hosting countries - Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, as well as the specialized international agencies, first and foremost the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). As a result of the efforts made, more than 150 thousand refugees and 1,2 million IDPs have been able to return to their homes during the last six months. Around 1000 refugees arrive in Syria daily. According to the UNHCR data, 76% of refugees are willing to come back to Syria. It is, therefore, necessary to help and support the realization of this legitimate aspiration of Syrians.

The return of the Syrians to their homeland is of crucial importance in terms of irreversible transition of the country from war to peace and reconstruction of the demolitions caused during the years of the armed conflict and fight against terrorism. It also helps ease the socio-economic pressure on the hosting countries and reduce the related internal political risks. What is even more important, is that the Syrian refugees and IDPs have the right not only to return, but also to be supported once they decide to return, and both these rights should be fully  guaranteed and ensured. We highlight in this regard the efforts made by Damascus aimed at facilitating safe and dignified return, in particular introduction of amendments to the laws regulating property rights, military amnesty and status settlement procedure within the framework of the process of national reconciliation.

Distinguished Co-chairs,

In conformity with the information of the international humanitarian agencies, today in Syria more than 2 million children are out of school and 15,5 million people require water assistance. It is therefore surprising and concerning why the responsible international community is unable to help these people now without putting preconditions and artificial obstacles to delivering such aid. I would also like to remind here that the necessity of humanitarian assistance, including water, electricity, health and social services, was underlined in the joint statement by the leaders of Russia, Turkey, Germany and France adopted during the summit in Istanbul, in October 2018.

The other dangerous consequence of the protracted conflict in Syria and wave of terror - is dense mining of the vast territories and contamination of explosive hazards. As estimated by the UN and other international organizations, more than 10 million Syrians are living in areas affected by hostilities and explosive hazards, meaning under constant threat of being injured or killed. Russia has made and makes considerable efforts in the field of mine action - around 2000 hectares of land, 3300 buildings, 280 km of roads have been cleared from mines, more than 19 thousand explosive hazards found and eliminated. In addition to this, the decision to allocate 1 million USD as a voluntary contribution to the UN Mine Action Service has been recently taken. And here too we call upon responsible members of the international community to follow our suit.

It goes without saying that Russia apart from providing humanitarian assistance and reducing violence on the ground, takes active measures to advance the political process and build trust between the conflicting Syrian parties. Within the framework of the Astana format together with Iran and Turkey, in interaction  with the UN Secretary-General" s Special Envoy for Syria Geir Pedersen and in close coordination with the Syrian government and opposition, we work on the launch of the Constitutional Committee in Geneva as soon as possible. This will help to give a start to the lasting and viable process of the Syrian crises settlement. At the same time we are convinced that the Syrians themselves as well as, frankly speaking, other peoples in the Middle East and North Africa are able to decide on their future themselves via broad national dialogue and generally acceptable agreements. It is clear that dictate and ultimatums from abroad, blackmailing with humanitarian assistance and its politization - no matter where it takes place in Syria, Venezuela, African or Asian countries, - insult and humiliate people, provoke resentment and rejection. Finally, it violates basic principles of humanitarian assistance, respect for sovereignty and independence of Syria as well as other UN member-states, the commitments to which has already been and, I am sure, will be reaffirmed many times during this conference.

We also continue our efforts to release detainees and search for missing persons within the framework of the Working Group with the participation of Astana troika, the UN and International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) experts. As a result of two mutual releases that took place in November last year and in February this year all in all 60 persons were released that is a unique and important contribution to restoring trust between the Syrian parties.

In conclusion, I would like to emphasize that today, when it has become crystal clear that the war in Syria is over, and the process of normalization in and around the country has started, Syria restores natural ties with other regional states and returns to the Arab family. In light of this it is extremely important to support this natural process, or at least not to hinder it, in order to finally arrive to a point in history when there is plus one example of peaceful conflict settlement and minus one hot spot on the map of the Middle East.

Thank you!

The source of information -

11 March 2019

Consultations of O. Syromolotov with the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Kazakhstan E. Ashikbayev -

On the working visit of M. Bogdanov to the Union of the Comoros -

Meeting of A. Grushko with the public and political figures of Europe and the USA -

Consultations of S. Ryabkov with the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Brazil R. de Almeida Salgado -

12 March 2019

Conversation of G. Karasin with the Ambassador of Kyrgyzstan to Russia A. Jackshenkulov -

Consultations of V. Yermakov with the Director for Security and Disarmament of the Political Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Italy D. Brasioli -

M. Zakharova's answer to the question of the Kommersant newspaper regarding recent events in Algeria -

13 March 2019

Meeting of G. Karasin with the Ambassador of the Republic of Moldova to Russia A. Negutz -

On the working visit of M. Bogdanov to the United Republic of Tanzania -

Press conference of A. Shulgin on the theme “Report of the OPCW on the incident in the Duma on April 7, 2018: the view of Russian experts”, The Hague, March 11, 2019 -

Speech by G. Karasin at the presentation of the book by P. Tolochko “Ukraine between Russia and the West” in the Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow, March 13, 2019 -

14 March 2019

Consultations A. Grushko with the Director-General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Belgium on bilateral relations A. Van Calster -

Meeting of G. Karasin with Transnistria’s leader V. Krasnoselsky -

Consultations of I. Morgulov with the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the DPRK Im Cheon Il -

15 March 2019

Meeting of G. Karasin with the Ambassador of the Republic of Belarus to Russia V. Semashko -

On bilateral contacts of S. Vershinin on the sidelines of the third Brussels conference "The Future of Syria and the Region" -

Meeting of S. Ryabkov with the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Spain to Russia F. Valderrama Pareha -

On the working visit of M. Bogdanov to the Republic of Kenya -

Meeting of I. Morgulov with the Ambassador of the Republic of Indonesia to Russia Mohamad Vahid Supriyadi -

Speech by A. Lukashevich at a meeting of the OSCE Permanent Council on the situation in Ukraine and the need to implement the Minsk agreements, Vienna, March 14, 2019 -

16 March 2019

On the meetings of V. Titov in Stockholm -

Meeting of S. Vershinin with the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the DPRK Im Chong Il -

17 March 2019

On the working visit of M. Bogdanov to the Central African Republic -

On the working visit of M. Bogdanov to the Republic of Sudan -

Non-personal events:

Comment by the Information and Press Department on the expiry of the Russian-Ukrainian Friendship Treaty of 1997

12 March 2019 - 10:20

The Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation, and Partnership between the Russian Federation and Ukraine signed on May 31, 1997, will be terminated on April 1, 2019 at Ukraine’s initiative.

Ukraine has announced its decision in a manner that has become typical in the past few years: by placing the blame on Russia. Russia allegedly violated the treaty, which “has become an anachronism through Moscow’s fault,” as Poroshenko has written on Twitter.

The treaty may admittedly have become somewhat outdated, since it was signed over 20 years ago. But that is clearly not the fault of Moscow, which has declared readiness to hold talks on concrete proposals to upgrade the bilateral legal framework, including the 1997 Friendship Treaty.

We will not analyse all the treaty articles, which is a job for legal experts, but there are several things we would like to point out.

For example, Article 6 of the Friendship Treaty says that the parties pledge “not to enter into any agreements with any countries directed against the other party” or “permit its territory to be used to the detriment of the security of the other party.” Has Ukraine complied with these provisions? No, in violation of these provisions Ukraine ratified the Memorandum of Understanding between Ukraine and the Alliance on Host Nation Support for NATO Operations (2004), amended its Military Doctrine (2005) to proclaim the strategic goal of joining NATO and adopted a law amending the Constitution to formalise Ukraine’s strategic goal of becoming a full member of NATO. While doing this, Ukraine did not make use of the mechanism of consultations, which is stipulated in the 1997 Treaty, to discuss these topics with Moscow.

Ukraine has grossly and systematically violated Article 12 of the Treaty, under which “the High Contracting Parties shall ensure the protection of the ethnic, cultural, linguistic, and religious identity of national minorities on their territory, and create conditions for the encouragement of that identity” and also pledge to “promote the creation of equal opportunities and conditions for the study of the Ukrainian language in the Russian Federation and the Russian language in Ukraine.”

Instead, the Maidan authorities have been waging a consistent offensive against the Russian language and the rights of Russian speakers in Ukraine for a number of years. The relevant examples include the Law on State Support for Cinema, which bans Russian films and TV series about Russian security services, as well as all Russian television productions and films made after 2014; the Law on Language Quotas for Television, which sets the quota for Ukrainian-language productions at 75 percent at the least; the Law Amending Ukrainian Legislation to Restrict the Entry of Anti-Ukrainian Foreign Print Products, which cut short the entry of Russian print products and, consequently, greatly restricted the right of Russian speakers in Ukraine to receive objective information in their native tongue; restrictions imposed on Russian websites; amendments to the Law on Touring Events in Ukraine, under which Russian performers can enter the country only by permission of the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU); and the notorious Law on Education, which has not only provoked indignation in Russia and several other countries with large ethnic minorities in Ukraine, but has also been sharply criticised by the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe. The Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine is now discussing a draft law on Ukrainian as the state language, which is fully in keeping with the policy of Ukrainisation and infringement on the rights of Russian speakers in Ukraine.

Since we anticipate the usual complaints about Crimea, it should be said that Article 3 of the 1997 Treaty says that the “High Contracting Parties shall construct their relations with each other on the basis of principles of mutual respect for sovereign equality, territorial integrity, the inviolability of borders, the peaceful settlement of disputes, the non-application of force, including economic and other means of pressure, the right of peoples to decide their own fates freely, non-intervention in internal affairs, the upholding of human rights and basic freedoms, collaboration among nations, and the conscientious fulfilment of international obligations assumed, as well as other generally accepted norms of international law.”

However, Ukraine continues to deny Crimeans the right to freely decide their future. When the anti-constitutional coup took place in 2014 and radical nationalist forces, the proponents of violence and intimidation, came to power in Ukraine, Crimeans, seeing a palpable threat to their safety, resorted to the right of nations to self-determination, which is guaranteed not only in the Russian-Ukrainian treaty but also in the UN Charter and the majority of fundamental international laws.

We believe that the above information is sufficient for making an objective conclusion on who and when started violating the 1997 Treaty. We included all of these arguments in a note we have forwarded to the Foreign Ministry of Ukraine. We urge Ukraine to respect its bilateral and international obligations in deed, not in word. The anti-national actions of the Maidan authorities, which are violating the fundamental rights of their own people and are trying to destroy the traditional multifaceted ties between the people of Russia and Ukraine under the pretext of war against the “aggressor”, will undoubtedly become a bad memory, and history will ultimately pass a harsh sentence on them.

The source of information -

Comment by the Information and Press Department regarding new US sanctions

13 March 2019 - 09:30

Washington has decided to impose new sanctions on Russia, adding to the list a Russian bank that helps the Venezuelan government work with its foreign partners. The United States, which claims that Nicolas Maduro is an illegitimate leader, forgets that he is the democratically elected president of a sovereign state and that it is illegal to adopt sanctions outside the framework of the UN Security Council.

It is hardly worthwhile to speak about the effectiveness of the US ban on that bank’s dollar-denominated transactions, because so much has been said before about the meagre results of the numerous restrictions imposed on Russia. On the other hand, this ban has delivered yet another blow to the US national currency, to global trust in it and to its status as a tool of international settlements. Washington seems to be doing its utmost to destroy the global trust in the US dollar and to encourage the world to stop using the US currency.

The threats subsequently made by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo against Rosneft for its cooperation with Venezuela are pointless as well. Sanctions were imposed on the Russian oil company back in 2014, but it continued to work productively nevertheless, whereas its former American partners, which Washington forced to curtail their relations with Rosneft, have suffered huge losses.

We urge the United States to rethink this policy, to stop imposing bans on foreign companies and banks and to start working together under UN leadership to help stabilise Venezuela on the basis of international law.

The source of information -

Comment by the Information and Press Department on statements regarding New START Treaty made by a US State Department official

13 March 2019 - 13:25

We have taken note of statements on the Russian-US New START Treaty made by US Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Andrea Thompson at the Carnegie International Nuclear Policy Conference held on March 11. She reportedly said that the United States still had two years to take a decision on the extension of this treaty.

We would like to remind our American colleagues that the extension of the New START Treaty is not a mere formality that will take several weeks or even days, as they want the public to believe. Before the parties start discussing this possibility, the United States must fulfil all its obligations under the treaty, reducing its strategic offensive arms to the limits set out in the treaty.

We have to say that although Washington claims to have done so, in actual fact it only achieved the reduction levels by juggling figures. It has achieved the agreed reduction levels not only by reducing arms but also through the illegal and unilateral reclassification of about a hundred strategic offensive systems. That is a serious problem, which must be settled before any discussions on the extension of the treaty are held.

For the fourth year now Russia has been working consistently with its American counterparts to settle this problem, which is growing in scale as the treaty is approaching its expiry. But the Americans are playing for time, avoiding a concrete discussion on this matter.

We sincerely hope that Washington will eventually see the huge scope of the problem with New START and will take measures to ensure the viability of this crucial international treaty on the reduction and limitation of nuclear missile systems.

The source of information -

Response by the Information and Press Department to a question from RBC news agency on the allocation of funds to counter “Russian malign influence” in the US draft budget

14 March 2019 - 14:13


Please comment on the allocation of funds to counter “Russian malign influence” in the US draft budget.


The draft budget for fiscal 2020 was published on the White House website on March 11. It provides for allocating $500 million to counter “Russian malign influence” in many parts of the world. In this connection, the following should be noted:

The stated goals of this funding are nothing new. They also include the need to “advance shared security” and “safeguard the territorial integrity of US allies”, as well as “support partner countries’ efforts to transition away from Russian military equipment, particularly through Foreign Military Finance lending; and address weaknesses in the macro-economic environment that the government of Russia seeks to exploit, such as dependence on energy and trade.”

Even a cursory look at these areas of focus reveals that Washington is using all manner of excuses to justify its active attempts to weaken Russia’s international influence and re-orient other countries toward cooperation with the United States. In addition, this is yet another graphic example of dishonest competition. The Americans are openly trying to undermine our mutually beneficial cooperation with various partners in the economic, energy and military-technical spheres, instead promoting their own companies.

The US administration largely continues the policy of its predecessors. The US budget has long provided for annual spending “to help” East European states and former Soviet republics. In reality, the aim of this funding was to tie them closer to the US. As part of its Russophobic campaign in the last few years, Washington has presented this “help” as part of the efforts against the alleged “Russian threat.”

It is important to understand that usually the Americans spend these funds themselves. They are used to pay for trips of US experts to the countries for which they are formally designated. These experts rent offices and stay in hotels, whereas the governments of these countries naturally see no actual money.

In principle, it is up to the US how to spend its money, although maybe it is time for US citizens to inquire about the efficiency of such spending on patently false aims. At the same time, the public of the countries allegedly being “helped” should recall the tragic results of US hypocrisy in Iraq and Libya, the war in Syria that was provoked and fueled by Washington, and its attempts to stage a coup in Venezuela. All this shows where the malign influence really comes from.

The source of information -

Comment by the Information and Press Department on the US Department of State Human Rights Reports

14 March 2019 - 21:04

We have taken note of the annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2018 published by the US Department of State. As before, the report is noted for a patronising attitude and total disregard for the notions of sovereignty and non-interference in the internal affairs of states, which is a fundamental principle of international law that is sealed in the UN Charter.

The attempt to present this document as an unbiased study allegedly based on an objective analysis of numerous criteria looks unconvincing. The same list of questions offered to all countries is clearly not enough to claim objectivity.

In essence, this report is further evidence that the US position in the field of human rights is based on an open use of double standards depending on whether a country in question complies with Washington’s strategic recommendations or not.

The United States is probably the only leading global power that still labours under the illusion of its own exceptionalism. Washington has usurped the right to set the criteria of truth and to judge, persecute and punish others. These US claims are designed to camouflage its geopolitical and economic interests, its ambition to rule the world and its lack of respect for other countries.

As for the section devoted to Russia, we regret to say that the authors have again failed, or more likely, refused to abandon anti-Russia stereotypes. They again used a traditional list of accusations, which hardly differs from the previous reports, in order to maintain a negative attitude towards Russia. The United States is using pseudo-documentary information and hackneyed anti-Russia banalities and clichés to accuse us of disregard for human rights, harassment of NGOs and human rights activists and “deficient” democracy. Moreover, in addition to these ungrounded accusations, the authors also attempted to blame Russia for the human rights situation in Ukraine.

On the other hand, the report traditionally does not analyse the far from ideal human rights situation in the United States. The authors yet again closed their eyes to the system-wide problems in the United States, such as racism, discrimination against immigrants, the sway of xenophobia and the growing activities of extremist organisations, restrictions on the rights and freedoms under the pretext of combating terrorism, strict regulation and suppression of the media, abuse of power and arbitrariness of the country’s security and law enforcement agencies, which routinely use cruel and inhuman treatment and torture, abduction, large-scale spying on US citizens, as well as grave threats to personal security. Moreover, there is evidence of the United States violating human rights in other countries within the framework of the so-called counterterrorism operations, which has resulted in a large-scale loss of civilian life.

We again urge the US side to redress its own failures in protecting human rights.

The source of information -

Comment by the Information and Press Department regarding new anti-Russia sanctions adopted by the United States and Canada

15 March 2019 - 22:05

The United States and Canada have adopted a new package of sanctions against Russia today, which they have coordinated with their European allies. There is nothing new or unexpected about this. For the past few years, Washington and Ottawa periodically impose restrictions on Russian citizens and organisations under far-fetched pretexts. The goal of these actions is to bring more pressure to bear on Russia.

The reasons given for these restrictions include Russia’s alleged aggression against Ukraine and the illegal “annexation” of Crimea. The new element this time is “the unjustified attack near the Kerch Strait.” However, it is obvious to everyone, except probably those who were responsible for such decisions, that none of the sanctions against Russia, no matter how numerous, have produced the results the United States and Canada wanted. Hobbled by the belief in their infallibility, they probably think that Russia will succumb to their orders if only a bit more pressure is put on it. This will never happen.

A few words about Canada: It would seem more logical for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s team to focus on the challenging domestic political problems instead of playing their Russo-phobic card. Judging by all appearances, however, the Canadian authorities are suffering from a pathological “sanctions addiction,” which they are unable to overcome. It is also obvious that, while expanding its anti-Russia blacklists, the northern neighbour of the United States is even attempting to outdo its Big Brother in some respects.

We regret that Washington and Ottawa continue on their pernicious course towards complete destruction of their bilateral relations with Russia, which are in a deplorable state as it is because of their crass Russia-hate policies.

As for our practical response, it will certainly follow.

The source of information -

Comment by the Information and Press Department regarding individual restrictive measures adopted by the EU Council over “escalation” in the Kerch Strait

16 March 2019 - 12:13

On March 15, the Council of the European Union adopted individual restrictive measures against Russian citizens.

The hypocrisy and shamelessness of the pretext cited for adding Russian citizens to the illegitimate EU sanctions list are stunning. The restrictions have been imposed mostly on members of the FSB Border Service who courageously do their duty of protecting the state border of Russia. They are only “guilty” of taking resolute action to cut short a flagrant provocation staged by the Kiev authorities in the Kerch Strait on November 25, 2018.

The EU claims that Russia violated international law and “used military force with no justification” do not bear ground. On that day, two warships of the Ukrainian Navy with members of the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) on board attempted to move from the Black Sea to the Sea of Azov in violation of the procedure set for peaceful movement across the Russian territorial waters. They carried out a dangerous manoeuvre, posing a threat to regular shipping traffic in these waters, and refused to heed the orders of the Russian coast guards. It is notable that the Ukrainian ships violated the Russian naval border in the area that was Russian territory even before the reunification of Crimea with Russia in March 2014. The Ukrainian warships and their crews were detained by our coast guards in strict compliance with international law and the Constitution and legislation of Russia. The Ukrainian seamen later publicly admitted to the provocative nature of the incident that had been organised with their involvement.

It is regrettable that the European Union has almost aligned itself with the Kiev authorities, which turned the incident in the Kerch Strait upside down. It is also notable that the EU Council has adopted this decision in the run-up to the presidential election in Ukraine.

This decision by the EU Council is evidence of disregard for the right of Russia to defend its state border. It is an irresponsible course that will only encourage Kiev to carry on its policy of provocations, threatening the security of Russia and other Black Sea countries, including members of the European Union.

Of course, this unfriendly EU action will not go unanswered.

The source of information -

11 March 2019

About the Russian-Norwegian Inter-MFA Consultation Plan -

12 March 2019

On the meeting of the working group to coordinate the preparation and conduct of activities dedicated to the 90th anniversary of the birth of E. Primakov -

Commentary of the Information and Press Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia in connection with cases of non-admission of Russian citizens to the territory of Azerbaijan -

14 March 2019

Comment by the Information and Press Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia regarding the Waffen-SS legionnaire procession planned for March 16 in the center of Riga -

Statement of the Permanent Representatives of the Member States of the Collective Security Treaty Organization at the UN "On measures to increase mutual trust aimed at achieving peace goals and maintaining the global security architecture" -

Statement of the Permanent Representatives of the Member States of the Collective Security Treaty Organization at the UN “On the Non-Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction in the Context of the Implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1540” -

Statement of the Permanent Representatives of the Member States of the Collective Security Treaty Organization at the UN “On Strengthening the CSTO Contribution to the Formation of a Global System of Countering International Terrorism” -

Statement by the Permanent Representatives of the Member States of the Collective Security Treaty Organization at the UN “On Strengthening the Convention on the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and the Depolitization of the Work of the OPCW” -

Statement of the Permanent Representatives of the Member States of the Collective Security Treaty Organization at the UN “On Supporting the Multilateral Initiative of the First Non-deployment of Weapons in Outer Space” -

15 March 2019

Comment by the Information and Press Department of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs on the regular report of the UN Observer Mission on Human Rights in Ukraine -

On the publication of the "White Book of violations of human rights standards by Western states under the pretext of combating terrorism and other criminal challenges and threats" -
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Briefing by Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova, Moscow, March 15, 2019

15 March 2019 - 16:35

Act of terror in New Zealand

An act of terror in which dozens of people were killed was committed in a mosque in New Zealand.

President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin sent condolences to the leaders of New Zealand.

We are shocked by this horrific crime. On behalf of the Foreign Ministry of the Russian Federation we also express our deep sorrow and support for the people of New Zealand.

According to reports received in the last hour, the victims did not include any Russian citizens. As for the Foreign Ministry, our diplomats continue monitoring the situation in New Zealand. We will pass on any additional information as it becomes available.

Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Algeria Ramtane Lamamra’s visit to Moscow

On March 19, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will hold talks with Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of the People's Democratic Republic of Algeria Ramtane Lamamra.

Algeria is a key partner in Africa and the Arab world. The approaches of Russia and Algeria to most international and regional issues are close or identical, which was again confirmed during Mr Lavrov’s talks with representatives of the Algerian leadership, which took place during his working visit to Algeria at the end of this January. Our countries are united by a commitment to the peaceful settlement of conflicts, non-interference in the affairs of other states, and promoting stability and a balance of interests in international relations, while always respecting the UN's central role and the norms and principles of international law, including the right of nations to decide their destiny themselves without any outside interference.

We have developed mutually beneficial bilateral ties on a large scale, including trade and economic ties, as well as defence industry and humanitarian ties, which we intend to further consolidate in line with the letter and spirit of the 2001 Declaration on Strategic Partnership.

We hope to continue our engaged and productive discussion of all major issues related to the development of our bilateral cooperation in various fields.

We also hope to receive first-hand information on potential developments in the friendly nation of Algeria in the context of the recent decision to change the date of the presidential election in that country.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s participation in the Conference on Disarmament

On March 20, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will take part in the plenary session of the Conference on Disarmament (CD) in Geneva. In his address to this major forum on disarmament talks he will set forth Russia’s approaches to the key issues of arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation in the context of recent developments in this area. Mr Lavrov will pay significant attention to the work of the conference itself and the task of resuming its negotiating activities.

The Russian Federation is making a major contribution to breaking the stalemate in the work of the CD. In 2016, Russia initiated the drafting at this venue of an international convention on countering acts of chemical and biological terror. This idea received broad international support. It does not impinge on the interests of any country and its implementation would help close the gaps in international law on countering terrorism involving the use of weapons of mass destruction. We hope that all interested states will join the practical work on the Russian initiative.

The elaboration of a legally binding multilateral instrument on preventing an arms race in outer space remains Russia’s priority at the CD. It should be based on the Russia-China draft treaty on preventing the deployment of weapons in outer space and the use of force or its threat as regards space vehicles.

The purposeful steps the United States has taken recently toward deploying weapons in space, including the formation of a space-based missile defence array, confirm the increasing urgency and importance of international efforts to counter such irresponsible plans. We hope for an early start of talks on this issue at the CD since it is vital for maintaining international security and strategic stability.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s visit to San Marino

On March 21, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will pay an official visit to the Republic of San Marino at the invitation of the receiving side. Mr Lavrov is scheduled to meet with Secretary of State (Minister) for Foreign Affairs, Political Affairs and Justice Nicola Renzi and to address the Grand and General Council (parliament) of San Marino.

The parties will share their views on the current state of bilateral cooperation and prospects for its further development as well as some topical international issues. They will also discuss their interaction within the UN and European organisations of which both countries are members.

A meeting of the Government Commission on Compatriots Living Abroad

On March 25, the Government Commission on Compatriots Living Abroad will hold a regular meeting at the Russian Foreign Ministry. The meeting will be chaired by Sergey Lavrov.

Meeting participants will discuss progress in the implementation of the state programme to assist voluntary resettlement to the Russian Federation of compatriots living abroad.

The discussion will also include an analysis of the practices of the executive bodies of the Russian regions in 2018 in implementing the state policy regarding compatriots living abroad.

The Russian World Foundation will share information on its activities in supporting compatriots in 2017-2018 and its priorities for 2019.

The commission members will approve a concept for holding the world thematic conference of compatriots to be held in Moscow next October-November.

A meeting of the Board of Trustees of the Alexander Gorchakov Public Diplomacy Fund

On March 27, the Board of Trustees of the Alexander Gorchakov Public Diplomacy Fund will hold its annual meeting, chaired by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, to take stock of the organisation’s performance in 2018, discuss its plans for the future and outline a list of priority activities for 2020.

The Gorchakov Fund was established in 2010, following the Russian President’s directive to support public diplomacy, involve NGOs in international cooperation and engage civil society institutions in foreign policy processes.

Fifth anniversary of Crimea’s reunification with Russia

On March 18, 2014 Crimea was accepted as an inalienable part of the Russian Federation. For us, the issue of Crimea has been settled once and for all because its reunification with Russia was the result of the free expression of the will of the population at the referendum that was held in line with international legal standards and was a great triumph of democracy.

The strategic line of the so-called “collective West”, which consists of undermining Russia’s growing might and standing on foreign policy matters, has fully revealed itself in the situation around Crimea. Having supported the unconstitutional seizure of power by force in Kiev, our Western “partners” were obviously dispirited by their failure to draw Crimea in their orbit of influence, along with Ukraine, turning it into a kind of NATO aircraft carrier in the Black Sea. The patriotic feelings of the Crimeans did not allow these plans to materialise. Illegal sanctions were imposed in revenge – sectoral, individual and political sanctions, as well as other restrictions, including “visa discrimination.” I’m referring to the EU restrictions on Crimeans who made their choice in 2014. This is, of course, a graphic illustration of the policy of double standards and discrimination.

However, despite all attempts to isolate it, Crimea is one of Russia’s most dynamically developing regions with one of the highest growth rates in the country. The federal targeted programme for the socio-economic development of the Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol to 2022 is being successfully carried out. One of its main aims is to raise the standard of living of Crimeans to the national average. Key sectors of the Crimean economy are developing dynamically, the regional budget is steadily growing, the construction industry is on the upswing, infrastructure is being upgraded. The potential of the spa, resort and tourist sector, which is the trademark of the peninsula, is being revived – Crimea is the leading domestic destination for tourism.

Special attention is paid to social issues, supporting harmonious ethnic and religious relations and ensuring human rights, including the rights of minorities. Crimeans have seen for themselves that their right to speak their native tongue (be it Russian, Crimean Tatar or Ukrainian) has not just been avowed but is enshrined in the Constitution and, most important, it is possible in practice.

Crimea is being steadily integrated into the Russian economic space. The problem of electricity supply has been resolved. To end energy dependence on Ukraine, Russia built and put into service high capacity thermal power stations. Transport links with Russia’s mainland have been created and logistics opportunities have substantially increased: last year auto traffic was launched on the Crimean Bridge built in record time and regular railway service across the bridge will begin before the end of the year. Passenger traffic has grown with the introduction of the new terminal of Simferopol International Airport. The Tavrida motorway of federal significance is under construction.

Active steps are being taken to involve Crimea in projects of international cooperation. Contacts with representatives of foreign political and business circles and public organisations are expanding. The Yalta annual international economic forum testifies to the development of Crimea’s foreign economic ties. This year the forum will gather hundreds of domestic and foreign entrepreneurs. Alongside the St Petersburg, Eastern and Sochi forums, the Yalta forum is one of Russia’s top four international economic and business venues.

An unbiased observer who really wants to know the truth about Crimea can see for himself what achievements the peninsula has made and what problems it still has to resolve. This stands in stark contrast with the situation in the Ukrainian period when many socio-economic problems of Crimea went unresolved for decades or were sometimes simply ignored, while the entire infrastructure was inexorably falling into decline.

The important changes that have happened, the stable socio-economic progress and durable peace in multi-ethnic Crimea confirm that the Crimeans were right when they made a historic choice to return to their home port five years ago.

Ukrainian authorities raise obstacles to visiting some districts in Donetsk and Lugansk regions

We took notice of the interest displayed recently by many European politicians, MPs and representatives of international organisations in visiting certain districts in Ukraine’s Donetsk and Lugansk regions so as to have a personal perspective of the situation in the region.

However, as far as we know, the Ukrainian authorities impede such trips under the pretext of security concerns, among other things. Meanwhile, they willingly take foreign visitors to the Ukrainian-controlled side of the contact line. The same applies to most media representatives: they have not been allowed to the DPR and LPR for a long time.

In essence, reports by the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) are the only source of information for the international community about the situation in the Donetsk and Lugansk people’s republics. With due respect for this agency, this monopolistic view does not encourage objectivity. For example, we have been pressing the SMM for some time to publish a report on civilian casualties in the Donbass conflict starting from 2014. We are confident that the Mission does have the data, however, it prefers to release reports on gender and other issues.

Obstacles created by Kiev to impede visiting certain areas in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions keep the true situation in the DPR and LPR off the radar. In fact, we are watching another manifestation of the blockade of Donbass, the sabotage of the implementation of the Package of Measures and attempts to conceal the real situation in the region, where civilians continue to die due to the conflict that has been ongoing for several years.

We call on the parties to the conflict – Kiev, Donetsk and Lugansk – to ensure proper conditions for SMM activities on both sides of the contact line and also to provide opportunities to foreign politicians, MPs, international agencies and the media for visiting the region. We are confident that this will contribute to obtaining a true picture of the situation on the ground and of the progress, if any, in implementing the Minsk Package of Measures.

Update on Kirill Vyshinsky

I am often asked why we single out the Vyshinsky case among many others. We do not. But I think this symbolises the lawlessness currently reigning in Ukraine. This is not “a particular case,” from the point of view that we talk about some individuals and not about others. It is an illustration of what can be done to a person who never participated in combat actions and was never complicit in any illegal activity.

The Ukrainian court once again extended the detention of the head of the RIA Novosti-Ukraine website Kirill Vyshinsky, who was arrested on the absurd and false charges of high treason and other criminal offences.

A country that aspires to a worthy place among the European family of nations is persecuting a journalist for the sole reason of being a journalist, reviving classical totalitarian practices.

We stress again that the Kiev regime openly and malignantly violates Ukraine’s international commitments regarding freedom of the media. We call once again on relevant international agencies and NGOs to step up pressure on the Ukrainian authorities in this regard.

For our part, we will continue to monitor developments regarding Kirill Vyshinsky as well as other Russian nationals who are being illegally detained in Ukraine, and we will use all means available to us for their prompt release and return home.

Syria update

We continue to closely monitor developments in the Idlib de-escalation zone. Terrorist fighters from Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham, an alliance affiliated with al-Nusra, persist with their provocative attacks against government troops. More than 460 incidents of this kind were reported since the beginning of the year, leaving more than 30 people killed and some 100 wounded. On March 12, terrorists carried out a massive attack involving suicide bombers against the positions held by the Syrian army in northern Hama province. In addition to this, several civilians have been killed recently after communities in northern Latakia and in western Aleppo were shelled. The Syrian army returned fire, destroying Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham’s strongholds in northern Hama and in southern Idlib. We are concerned with the incoming reports of Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham fighters, together with the infamous White Helmets, preparing new stage-managed incidents involving toxic agents in order to blame the government forces for using chemical weapons. Terrorists are hiding ordnances for these attacks in arms caches across Aleppo, Idlib, Latakia and Hama provinces.

Kurdish units of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) operating on the east bank of the Euphrates have resumed their efforts to take over the last ISIS stronghold in Baghuz, Deir ez-Zor province. The SDF is getting air support from the so-called international anti-ISIS coalition led by the US. According to media reports, on March 11, about 50 civilians were killed and dozens sustained wounds of varying degrees of severity in an indiscriminate air strike against Baghuz, when these people, mostly women and children, were trying to get out of the so-called Baghuz pocket.

Apart from casualties among local civilians, carpet bombing of Baghuz has also resulted in more people arriving to camps of internally displaced persons (IDPs) located on the east bank of the Euphrates. In particular, according to UN data, there are already more than 65,000 people in al-Hawl camp that we mentioned on a number of occasions during our briefings. It has to be mentioned that this facility is designed for temporary accommodation and lacks the resources to satisfy the needs of people arriving there. As a result, the al-Hawl camp is overcrowded, and suffers from poor sanitation. More than 100 people died there due to unsatisfactory conditions, and two-thirds of these people were children, many of whom died from hypothermia. All in all, we note further deterioration of the already complicated humanitarian situation in this camp.

The third Brussels Conference, Supporting the Future of Syria and the Region, was held yesterday March 14) under the EU and UN auspices.

Russia used the Brussels conference as a platform for explaining to all responsible members of the international community the damage caused by unilateral sanctions imposed by a number of Western countries against Damascus. These sanctions did nothing except worsen the humanitarian situation in Syria.

I would like to point out that in our contacts with our Western partners, including representatives of pan-European international organisations, Russia repeatedly asked about their motives in imposing sanctions against Syria. What data led to the decision to introduce these sanctions? The sanctions were imposed legitimately was the only reply we got. It remains a big question what underpins these sanctions and what served as a justification for imposing them. It would be fine if someone really made an effort to reveal the legal and humanitarian foundations of these sanctions. This is an absurdity at its finest. On the one hand, they are raising millions of dollars to help Syria and its people, talking about their plight and setting up non-governmental foundations, while, on the other hand, imposing blocking sanctions. These two lines of conduct are totally at odds with each other. It is hard to understand how they can coexist in the minds of those promoting policies of this kind.

Unfortunately, organisers of this relatively representative forum once again failed to invite representatives of the legitimate Syrian government to this event. Our Western partners continue to turn a blind eye on the positive changes taking place in the country, in part on the back of the efforts made by the Syrian government. Let me remind you that the central government restored its control over most of Syria during the past year, significantly reducing violence levels. Proactive efforts are underway to promote the political process, including the establishment of a Constitutional Committee, and more and more Syrian refuges are returning to places of their permanent residence in Syria.

Regarding the refugees, I would like to mention the visit by a delegation headed by UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, to Syria in early March. Apart from contacts with the Syrian leadership in Damascus, the UN delegation also visited accommodation facilities for Syrian returnees in Homs and Hama provinces. It is noteworthy that during this exploratory trip UN humanitarian officials were able to talk to Syrians and saw with their own eyes that the returnees lived in decent conditions and did not complain about returning to their homeland.

The Syrian government guarantees the same decent conditions to citizens seeking to leave the Rukban camp that is located in the US-occupied zone near Al-Tanf. But they are not having much luck as they are being prevented from doing so by the US-backed militant group Mahavir as-Saura, whose fighters require people leaving the camp to pay a stiff fee. Washington abets these criminals in their arbitrary outrage by fomenting fears that people leaving the “reservation” will be immediately arrested. Few are willing to challenge the doubts expressed by the US. Still, UN representatives who visited Rukban last month saw with their own eyes that people there really wanted to leave this nightmare behind.

Child deaths at the Rukban refugee camp in Syria

At the previous briefing, I was asked to comment on the reports on deaths of children at the Rukban camp for refugees and internally displaced persons.

Indeed, according to information from UNICEF, 12 children, including five newborn babies, have died at the Rukban refugee camp since the beginning of 2019.

We can confirm this data. We have no information about mass graves of children at the camp. The situation as described certainly is a cause for grave concern.

Russia has repeatedly drawn public attention to the root of the problem, which is the illegal 55-kilometre so-called security zone set up by the US on sovereign Syrian territory, where the camp is located. We would like to stress the point again that the only solution to the Rukban problem is its speedy disbandment and resettlement of its inhabitants.

We are convinced that stopgap measures, primarily the sending of convoys with food and medications there, will not solve the humanitarian problem in Rukban, where 95 percent of the refugees want to leave the camp as soon as possible. However, the US and the armed gangs it supports control the area around the camp and actually block exits from it. As such, they take full responsibility for the developments there, including deaths of children. The Americans provide their troops with everyday necessities, so making an issue out of food deliveries to the refugees in the camp is nothing but political games.

Amid the artificially fueled media hysteria around the humanitarian situation at Rukban, we are concerned by the fact that so-called humanitarian activists are actually hushing up the critical situation at another refugee camp in Syria, the al-Hol camp, where the living conditions continue to deteriorate. The death toll has exceeded 80 people there, most of whom are children.

Foreign terrorist fighters remaining in Syria and Iraq

The topic of foreign terrorist fighters (FTFs) returning from Syria and Iraq has long been on the international agenda. The world is discussing measures to bring the so-called “jihadi tourists” to account and to prevent their further involvement in terrorism, including by cutting short the terrorist and extremist propaganda. Another topic is the fate of the fighters’ families (women and children), who were subjected to radical views and are therefore compromised.

Western officials are actively promoting the idea of the rehabilitation and reintegration of the FTFs and their families, focusing on human rights and the importance of preventing any impairment of the rights of those who are guilty of terrorist crimes.

This is nice and correct in word, but in practice the Western countries are doing their best to prevent the return of their citizens from the conflict zones in the Middle East to their home countries. For example, they more often deprive these people of citizenship. It turns out that the Western democracies, which supported the armed thugs when they fought against the legitimate Syrian government and President Bashar al-Assad in the past, are now trying to get rid of them in any way possible. It is difficult to prove before a court that these jihadi tourists are guilty, and leaving the returning terrorists at large carries risks for the security of American and European citizens. I would like to remind the politicians and officials involved in these debates that they had a very good way out of this situation in the past, for example, when Russia said they supported terrorists and they argued that these people were not terrorists but “moderate rebels.” Now they can add the word “moderate” to the evaluation of the activities of their citizens who fought in the territory held by the extremists and on this ground allow them to return back home.

It is a fact that there are over 800 FTFs which US forces have closed off in the camps in Syria, including many Western citizens. What should be done about them?

It is possible that the United States and its allies believe it is expedient to keep these FTFs in a legally undetermined situation, similar to those who are kept at Guantanamo and the infamous secret “flying” prisons, where interrogation methods that are unacceptable in states governed by the rule of law were used.

An even better solution for them is to wait until someone else “neutralises” these fighters. The Western countries used this method in Iraq, when they shut their eyes to the arbitrary execution of hundreds of those found guilty of terrorism, including foreign citizens, and to the possible legal drawbacks of the Iraqi judicial bodies’ actions taken in extreme circumstances, for which they would have been criticised in a different situation.

I would like to point out the differences in the Western camp on the subject of the future of the FTFs remaining in Syria and Iraq. Judging by the statements made by American leaders, the United States, knowing that there are few American citizens there, are mounting pressure on the bewildered Europeans to deal with their jihadists.

The West is only united when it comes to rejecting the legally correct solution advocated by Russia: that the remaining FTFs and their detention centres are turned over to the Syrian government. Of course, this solution entails an indirect recognition of the legitimacy of Bashar al-Assad as the Syrian president legally elected by the Syrians, which is unacceptable to many “old democracies.” At the same time, the Western authorities refuse to take their citizens out of Syria in order to put them on trial for their crimes.

Does the anti-ISIS coalition continue the de facto and de jure illegal occupation of a sovereign state and does it keep battle tested FTFs there so as to have an opportunity to use these fighters in some future political and geopolitical projects? There have been such cases in the region before, for example in Libya. The West armed those whom it hailed as pro-democratic Libyans and later it held combat operations to destroy them. Those the West was fighting there used the very weapons the West had supplied them with. It happened relatively recently. Yes, we have seen this before.

Presentations by Maxim Grigoriev, director of the Foundation for the Study of Democracy, a Russian NGO

Independent journalists and civil society activists continue to expose the White Helmets’ pseudo-humanitarian activities in Syria by revealing the truth about their links with terrorist groups.

On March 11, Foundation for the Study of Democracy Director Maxim Grigoriev made a presentation at the OPCW headquarters at The Hague titled “Chemical Weapons in Syria: Information and Disinformation.” On March 12, Mr Grigoriev held a presentation “The Syrian Humanitarian Dossier: Eyewitness Reports” on the sidelines of the 40th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva.

Based on evidence collected on the ground in Syria, he presented an objective and convincing view on what the White Helmets had been doing in Syria, specifically their contribution to staging fake chemical attacks and shelling residential areas. I would like once again to draw your attention to the fact that this is not the official Russian position, but we believe that this evidence must be studied, verified and analysed. It is a very serious and thorough facts-based analysis.

The presentations by Mr Grigoriev were accompanied by photo and video materials with dozens of eyewitness reports made by civilians, former members of illegal armed groups and individuals who were formerly affiliated with the notorious White Helmets.

On March 11, The Hague hosted yet another important event, i.e. a news briefing sponsored by the Permanent Representation of Russia to the OPCW on the report compiled by the OPCW Fact-Finding Mission in Syria (FFM) regarding the April 7, 2018 incident in Douma.

Venezuela update

The situation in and around Venezuela continues to be extremely tense. Following the failed “humanitarian” invasion at the end of February and the ongoing provocative activity of the self-proclaimed “acting president,” another major disaster hit Venezuela this week that cost tens of lives. Unfortunately, the new problem came the way we talked about during our previous briefing on March 7 – through sabotage, just a few hours after our warning. Like the absolute majority of the troubles that have befallen independent Venezuela in recent years, this trouble also came from outside.

According to the legitimate Government of the country led by President Nicolas Maduro, as well as other reliable sources confirming this information, the Venezuelan power sector has been attacked from abroad. The case in point is an integrated remote impact on the controlling and monitoring systems of the country’s main power distribution stations, which use equipment produced in one of the Western countries. Naturally, all the algorithms and vulnerabilities of that equipment and systems were known perfectly well to the masterminds of the aggression. It is these people and those who ordered this act of sabotage who are responsible for the deaths of people, including hospital patients cut off from the electric supply. We hope that this responsibility will sooner or later translate into a court sentence. The incident is being investigated. Anticipating possible questions about President Maduro’s recent statement on this subject, I will answer right now. If we receive a formal request for our specialists to assist in the investigation, it will be considered very carefully.

I would like to note that this kind of malicious impact on infrastructure facilities is being increasingly used as a method of so-called hybrid warfare.

An obvious analogy to the situation in Venezuela offers itself. I mean the Kherson Region in Ukraine in autumn 2015. As a reminder, Ukrainian right-wing radicals, despairing of breaking the will of people in Crimea, imposed the so-called water blockade of Crimea and blew up pylons of power transmission lines supplying electricity to the peninsula, thus intentionally jeopardizing the lives and health of hundreds of thousands of people. The so-called heroes of Maidan did not think the dirtiest tricks as too low for themselves in order to achieve their own goals supported by the United States and a number of its allies. In particular, Mustafa Dzhemilev, sued in absentia in Russia, called for completely cutting off the electricity supply to the peninsula during the energy blockade he supported, and wondered why food products still continued to be supplied there. That is, he called for a food blockade, a repeat of the most terrible and tragic episodes of world wars. Apparently, inhumanity and neglect of the elementary norms of human morality are the hallmarks of those who put themselves above international law, be it in relation to people in Crimea or Venezuela.

In its truly manic desire to overthrow the legitimate government of a sovereign state, Venezuela, by any means, Washington is not hesitating to use any scenarios, doing that sequentially or in parallel.

Let's go point by point. ‘A’ is for external Aggression. The US attempts, having declared that “all options are on the table,” to secure even the slightest understanding from the countries of the region and the international community have predictably failed. It was also unable to hide from the international community attempts to create combat Brigades (illegal armed units) – that is point ‘B.’ We have already discussed plans to purchase large quantities of weapons in Eastern Europe and illegally supply them to Venezuela. By the way, it came out recently that the US intelligence agencies are working to establish contacts with smugglers and drug traffickers for information on illegal border crossings.

The next point is ‘C’ for relying on a military Coup. That failed too.

Point ‘H’ [according to the Russian alphabet]. The “Humanitarian” invasion collapsed. There is a remarkable detail. Another example of the White House’s double standards policy was to reject Havana’s proposals to provide humanitarian aid to the United States after Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, US, in 2005 and Hurricane Maria's landfall in Puerto Rico in 2017. The Cuban leadership at the time notified Washington that it was ready to provide assistance. It was about sending teams of Cuban doctors, dozens of tonnes of medicine and medical equipment, as well as the deployment of field hospitals. Both George Bush’s and Donald Trump’s administrations refused, although under different pretexts. They refused even though Cuba emphasised its willingness to help without preconditions, without in any way linking this move with any demands that Washington lift the financial and economic blockade of the island. I would especially like to emphasise that in both cases the Cuban leadership acted in strict accordance with international norms and rules for the provision of humanitarian assistance. They respected Washington’s refusal to accept the proposed assistance, did not impose it by force and did not use it for propaganda purposes. After that, it sounds absurd for American politicians to lament the fact that the humanitarian aid offered to the suffering people of Venezuela is not being accepted and to claim it is a clear sign the government should go, forgetting to mention that the people of that country are actually suffering from Washington-imposed sanctions.

Point ‘D’ is for Diversion. In recent years, evidence of a criminal plot has become increasingly frequent. Acts of subversion targeting civilian facilities always follow the same vicious logic: the worse, the better. I think everyone understands whose situation becomes worse (the target is the Venezuelan people), and who is better for it. At this point, we will stop with the alphabetical list, since it is getting hard to sustain. On a more serious note, we recommend to those adding points and sub-points to these illegal plans that are contrary to international law, to think where this would lead to.

In the meantime, the news about Washington’s decision to evacuate all the remaining personnel from its diplomatic mission in Caracas was alarming. Although the intention was not extraordinary – not after American diplomats were shown the door minutes after diplomatic relations between Venezuela and the United States were severed – the alarming thing was that US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the presence of personnel restricted US actions. What actions did he mean?

Back to the so-called humanitarian crisis in Venezuela, we would like to point out another one of Pompeo’s statements, claiming that the United States is not connected in any way with the decline in agricultural production in Venezuela. The US administration is diligently stepping up economic sanctions against Venezuela; their direct damage is comparable with Nicolas Maduro’s legitimate Government’s annual spending on imported raw produce for the local food industry (more than $800 million). In the meantime, according to US National Security Advisor John Bolton, new sanctions are being considered “to tighten [the] grip on Maduro's financial wherewithal,” to deny his regime money. What else is there to say? Maybe this would not have sounded crazy 100-200 years ago, when the world was not used to appeals to international law, human rights and humanitarian efforts. But it is 2019. How is this even possible? All this is aggravated by how fast information is disseminated, when everything becomes known to everyone literally in a second. How can these things exist side by side in countries that call themselves civilised, open, free and democratic?

Apparently, Washington prefers to entertain illusions. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s words that “the international community sharply rebuked Russia” and that “54 of the world’s democratic nations recognise” the so-called interim president’s cabinet “as a legitimate government” do not correspond to reality. It looks like the foreign Friends of Venezuelan Democracy are failing to notice, in the heat of persecution, the simple fact that more than two thirds of the UN member states still refrain from recognising Washington’s illegitimate protege, who, by the way, recently said that he will continue to fulfill his presidential duties to realise the Venezuelans’ newfound hopes.

When the media commented on this politician’s return to his home country, there was evidence that he arrived on a regular flight. Many noted that he did not check in for the flight. It is a big question how an ordinary regular flight transported him without registration.

Current developments in Afghanistan

We have noted a considerable aggravation of the military-political situation in Afghanistan lately. Taliban members have staged a number of large-scale attacks on the military bases and checkpoints of the government forces. In another sensational terrorist attack, the ISIS terrorist group has fired a barrage of mortar rounds against participants in a commemorative event in Kabul on March 7 and wounded presidential candidate Latif Pedram.

In turn, aviation units of the international coalition and Afghan government forces are trying not to reduce the intensity of air strikes in areas controlled by the armed opposition, and efforts are being made to maintain military pressure on the ground.

We emphasise that all this is taking place in conditions of continued talks between the United States and the Taliban on ways to end the armed standoff and to establish a peace settlement in Afghanistan. The media has even reported the conclusion of a preliminary agreement on the terms for withdrawing foreign troops from Afghanistan; however, this document’s paper version should yet be coordinated as well as approved.

Quite possibly, the warring parties are trying to bolster their arguments at the talks by stepping up military pressure. We believe that this option has no future, and that it does not facilitate the attainment of agreements. In our opinion, it directly serves to torpedo them, not to mention the fact that the continued war inflicts untold suffering on ordinary Afghans.

We are urging the warring parties in Afghanistan to cease the hostilities and to display their goodwill to the people of Afghanistan and their striving to achieve genuine peace.

Rising tension in northern Kosovo

Tension continues to increase in Serbian-populated northern Kosovo. Kosovar authorities are toughening control along the administrative line motivating this by the need to stop what they consider allegedly illegal goods deliveries from Serbia in circumvention of the 100 per cent trade barriers, introduced by Pristina in November 2018. The situation with supplying some vitally important resources, including certain food products, continues to deteriorate. Pristina has put some influential activists of the Serbian community on the wanted list and is deploying security forces close to the areas where Serbs live.

On March 7, members of the Kosovo Assembly passed a categorical “platform” that makes any further dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina pointless. In addition, Kosovar authorities recently tried to establish control over the Serbian section of the Trepca mining complex and to virtually deprive several thousand employees who have families of their work. All these measures of Kosovar authorities are nothing else but efforts to tighten the noose, to methodically expel the Serbs from the territory by creating unbearable conditions for them and to intimidate them in the spirit of ethnic cleansing campaigns. Where are all those European human rights organisations, and where are all those people who deal with human rights issues and who are well-versed in regional matters?

The Kosovo Force (KFOR) must fulfil its UN mandate and prevent violence against Kosovo’s Serbs. We note that the KFOR did not hamper earlier aggressive Kosovar actions in the north, and that it remains passive and indifferent today.

The crisis situation in northern Kosovo is the consequence of the long-time pandering to Pristina on behalf of external patrons, namely, the US and the EU. This serves to explain the current excessive appetites of Kosovo’s Albanians and their irreconcilable line during dialogue with Belgrade. Washington and Brussels must rein in Pristina’s radicals who have been nurtured under the West’s patronage. I want to recall that main US television channels broadcast a commercial noting that Kosovo is a country of opportunities for several years after the so-called recognition of Kosovo’s independence. We can now see what opportunities this implies. Pristina’s radicals purposefully undermine peace and security in Kosovo and serve as a source of conflict in the entire Balkan region.

The publication of the White Book of Western States’ Violations of Human Rights Standards under the Pretext of Fighting Terrorism and Other Criminal Challenges and Threats

The Foreign Ministry has drafted the White Book of Western States’ Violations of Human Rights Standards under the Pretext of Fighting Terrorism and Other Criminal Challenges and Threats (

A situation has arisen today, where the world community has to toughen the controlling functions of law enforcement and special services to fight the threat of terrorism and crime. But protecting the human right to life and physical security often clashes with other human rights principles.

As long as the universal dilemma – human rights vs. security – remains unresolved, Western countries pursue a very tough policy of strengthening the state agencies’ law enforcement functions and expanding their powers, something that often has the side effect of restricting individual rights and freedoms. At the same time, the Americans and certain Europeans take every opportunity to criticise the Russian Federation and accuse it of violating human rights standards, when it resorts to similar, if much milder, measures than those in the West.

The document we are presenting is packed with facts showing that in practice the Western secret services have ample opportunity to exercise an almost total control over the public and the tendency we are witnessing is towards an increase in their powers. To monitor Internet traffic and, if need be, censor the web, they impose cooperation terms on private IT companies or providers, and spy on the users of information and communications systems both domestically and internationally, including in allied countries, as well as on international organisations. As a result, they systematically violate the right to privacy of both their own and foreign citizens.

Using antiterrorism as a cover, Western states often trample on people’s rights to personal integrity and a fair trial, resulting in illegitimate arrests or detentions, torture and extrajudicial executions.

The White Book also cites facts proving that Western countries violate the right to freedom of expression. The publication exposes attempts to restrict media freedom and introduce censorship. It also lists cases of Western law enforcement agencies and secret services collecting personal data in circumvention of the law of other states.

In addition, The White Book dwells on the West’s use of racial, ethnic, or religious controls and highlights the so-called racial (or other) profiling practiced by the secret services as they fight terrorism.

We think that these approaches, aggravated by the Western countries’ use of double standards, pose a threat to much of the international community which is sincerely advocating the supremacy of international law in foreign policy and bona fide respect for fundamental human rights.

Meeting of the Joint Commission of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action regarding Iran’s nuclear programme

On March 5-6, the Joint Commission of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) regarding Iran’s nuclear programme convened for a meeting in Vienna at the level of Political Directors/Deputy Foreign Ministers. The meeting was preceded by a complicated period of preparations, including expert consultations held in various formats and also meetings of the JCPOA working groups in all the key areas.

It can be stated confidently that despite the US refusal to comply with its obligations under the 2015 agreements sealed in UN Security Council Resolution 2231, the JCPOA has survived, is workable and is being implemented as planned. Of course, these positive developments were due to the major efforts taken by the other JCPOA signatories, who have to make up for the damage done by Washington so as to restore, from the ground up, the initial balance that underlies the agreements.

The results of the Joint Commission’s meeting show that the remaining JCPOA signatories remain loyal to their commitments.

Iran is strictly abiding by all the requirements, as the IAEA regularly confirms. Iran’s nuclear activities are regularly monitored by the Agency and are a shining example of transparency. We point this out for those who continue to criticise “the nuclear deal” and are trying to nullify it.

The Joint Commission has reviewed the attainment of the practical tasks set forth in the JCPOA, in particular, the conversion of the Fordow facility from uranium enrichment to stable isotope enrichment (Russian nuclear experts are doing this), the modernisation of the Arak research reactor, international assistance to Iran’s peaceful nuclear projects and nuclear security, as well as the transfer of controlled goods and technology to Iran in keeping with the JCPOA procedures.

The Commission paid special attention to the lifting of international and unilateral sanctions imposed on Tehran over its nuclear programme, which was a major condition for signing the JCPOA. A straightforward discussion on this subject showed that the participants do not approve of the US decision to reinstitute unilateral sanctions against Iran in violation of the JCPOA.

The US deliberate and demonstrative non-compliance with the JCPOA, UN Security Council Resolution 2231 and Article 25 of the UN Charter, which obliges the member states to accept and carry out the decisions of the Security Council, is cause for growing concern. Another cause for shared concern is the US actions taken to prevent the consistent implementation of the JCPOA after Washington had decided to jump the ship and was being relegated to a diplomatic side track.

The Commission members are resolved to use all the resources at their disposal to counter the US sanctions attack and to prevent the failure of the projects that are an integral part of the 2015 agreements.

A major step towards this was the establishment of the Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges (INSTEX) with Iran, created by the European trio. We hope INSTEX will be used very soon to support the JCPOA. This will be above all in the interests of the European countries and their companies, which are directly involved in the implementation of the nuclear deal and which continue to maintain contacts as well as business ties with their Iranian colleagues during this difficult situation. We hope that INSTEX will also be open to other countries.

One of the main results of the meeting is a firm agreement to build up practical interaction in the fields that were set forth in the ministerial statements of the JCPOA signatories in July and September 2018. These documents focus on the strengthening of trade and economic cooperation with Iran. This is the shared answer to Washington, whose actions are forcing the international community to form a global front of struggle against the US sanctions policy.

Russia will continue to do everything within its power to maintain the efficiency and stability of the JCPOA and to help attain the noble goals for the sake of which these comprehensive agreements were signed.

Aggravating persecution of Russian community representatives in Lithuania

Once again, we are expressing serious concern over the toughening pressure against Russian residents of the Lithuanian Republic amidst the anti-Russian hysteria instigated by Vilnius, demonstrative persecution and the atmosphere of fear building up among the Russian-speaking population.

This time, there were attempts to label Ela Kanaite, history teacher, respected public figure and Chair of Lithuania’s Russian School Teachers Association, as “disloyal” and “a Kremlin agent.” As a result of the organised bullying on behalf of the local media and the Lithuanian security services, the teacher suffered a heart attack.

Russian-speaking young people are being ostracised under contrived excuses. The methods of repressive pressure in the form of “preventive talks” and searches without any grounds were recently used against Pavel Zhevzhikov, a participant of a conference of Russian compatriots that took place in Vilnius.

We strongly condemn despotism of the police against the Russian community that is being practiced in order to please the political forces. We are calling for respective international bodies to pay utmost attention to the increasingly disturbing situation with human rights in this European country.

Demolition of a monument in Sarnice (Poland)

Polish officials continue the profane practice of consistently desecrating memorials dedicated to Soviet soldiers who were killed in WWII liberating the country from the Nazi occupation.

It was reported that another monument was demolished, this time in Sarnice (Greater Poland Voivodeship). The monument was erected in 1969 at the site where in 1944 three Soviet reconnaissance officers died heroic deaths while performing an assignment during which they blew themselves up together with the approaching Nazis.

Unfortunately, it has long become a state policy in Poland to defy the memory of the heroes and their feats accomplished for the sake of saving the Polish people from extermination. It is shocking for any civilised society to see such displays of forgetfulness and hostile revisionism.

Once again, we are calling for the officials in Warsaw and their local subordinates to come to their senses and stop this disgrace under the guise of a national law on so-called ‘de-communisation,’ and remember their international obligations to Russia concerning memorials, the performance of which cannot depend on selective ‘historical amnesia’ of the Polish administration.

Update on Konstantin Yaroshenko

Once again, we want to draw attention to the situation with Russian citizen Konstantin Yaroshenko who is serving a 20-year sentence in the United States.

In 2010, he was abducted in Liberia by officers of the US Drug Enforcement Administration. The charges were based solely on testimonials of undercover agents who claimed they had been negotiating a deal to transport drugs to the United States with Yaroshenko although at the time he did not even speak English. During the first interrogations, our fellow citizen was subjected to physical pressure. Almost all his teeth were knocked out. Konstantin Yaroshenko flatly refused to admit that he was guilty. Nevertheless, on September 7, 2011, a New York court issued a guilty verdict.

Konstantin Yaroshenko, who did not have any health issues before the arrest, is now suffering from a range of serious conditions which were caused by torturing. They include acute dental problems as a result of his losing his teeth and inflammation of damaged internal organs. Despite multiple attempts to request qualified medical help with US officials, the Russian citizen has not been provided with it.

The situation is getting worse due to the harsh conditions of the Danbury prison in Connecticut where Yaroshenko was transferred in June 2018. Parcels with food, medication and other things are not allowed in this penitentiary institution. Visits are extremely limited. Between October and April, walks after 3 pm are forbidden. The medical office at the prison often lacks the medication that Yaroshenko needs. All these factors are having an additional negative impact on his health.

In other words, Konstantin Yaroshenko was first kidnapped from a third country, subjected to sadistic beating, then convicted on very dubious grounds and now he continues to suffer in prison without medical treatment. This has been going on for nine years.

We believe this is a grave violation of international law and humanitarian regulations. We are calling for US officials to take immediate measures in order to observe Konstantin Yaroshenko’s legal rights. We demand that this abuse be stopped and Yaroshenko be returned back to his home country.

Update on Russian sailors detained in Cabo Verde

We continue to receive questions about the circumstances surrounding the Russian sailors detained in Cabo Verde. I would like to say the following.

The Foreign Ministry and diplomats are monitoring the situation. The sailors have not voiced any substantial claims or complaints about their prison conditions or anything else. In view of the fact that there are people from various countries among the inmates, representatives of international organisations specialising in human rights matters, including the UN, often inspect the prison.

Officials from the Consular Department of the Russian Embassy in Praia are maintaining contact with the sailors, their relatives, the Russian Trade Union of Sailors and the Foreign Ministry’s territorial offices in Murmansk, St Petersburg and Nizhny Novgorod.

Apart from making direct telephone calls, the sailors can contact the Embassy and their lawyer promptly via security guards under an agreement between the Embassy and the prison administration. They are able to take a walk every day inside a fairly large prison courtyard; media reports about an alleged prison corridor are not true. And they are also able to use sports equipment and to visit shops.

They receive essential medical treatment.

At this stage, attention is focused on the more active provision of material assistance to the Russian sailors, with the Embassy coordinating this process. Acting on the initiative of State Duma Deputy from the Murmansk Region Alexey Veller, who maintains close contact with the Foreign Ministry, the Murmansk Region Administration is set to hold a meeting of sailors’ wives, representatives of the business community and regional public organisations and to raise funding to pay for the services of a lawyer and a translator.

The diplomats did not and could not advise the relatives of the sailors against speaking with journalists. On the contrary, the Embassy perceives information work regarding the detained Russian citizens as one of its priorities. The Embassy regularly updates its website and maintains direct contact with representatives of Russian media outlets and public organisations, as well as sailors’ relatives and friends.

Answers to media questions:


You have mentioned the fifth anniversary of Crimea’s reunification with Russia. I would like you to comment on the international relations that have developed following that event. Do you agree that it has closed a whole chapter that lasted since the late 1980s and was noted for the striving of Russia and the West towards cooperation? Do you agree that Crimea’s reunification with Russia has given rise to an era that is being described as a new cold war?

Maria Zakharova:

Have you read any statement by a Russian official, the President of Russia or different Russian ministers to the effect that Russia is not interested in strengthening cooperation with Western countries? I have not. We hold a huge number of various forums to promote this cooperation.

Let us begin not with a full stop but with a question which President Vladimir Putin set forth at the Munich Security Conference in 2007 when he asked how these relations can be developed. We were open for the development of equal cooperation and for dialogue in all spheres. But what we see in return is a deliberate striving – it was a covert striving initially, and now it is an open desire – to isolate Russia one way or another, to violate some arrangements and to withdraw from the agreements that ensured stability and security in this region, on our continent.

It could be a question that ended with an ellipsis. There is such a punctuation mark in the Russian language. But we have not received any answer to it anyway.

We tried to attract the attention of the Western community to the existing problems. We thought that the problems concerning bilateral relations were not Russia’s fault, and they existed long before 2014.

We saw that a number of Western countries and institutions were losing interest in bilateral interaction with Russia. We saw the erosion of trust that is needed for developing cooperation, such as the withdrawal from the ABM Treaty, a tidal wave of criticism against Russia, as well as many other factors.

I would like to remind you that the planned Russian-US summit was cancelled before 2014 at Washington’s, not Russia’s initiative. This happened before Crimea and Maidan. Why then?

I believe this has to do with a new stage in our relations. But Russia has never indicated a desire to stop cooperating with any region across the world. This is certainly not so. It is another matter that interaction and cooperation must be between equal partners. Dialogue must be based on international law, because there is no other acceptable system of coordinates now. Dialogue must be mutually beneficial and based on respect of the partners’ interests. Russia has tried many times to make its Western partners see this.

I believe that these developments certainly cannot be described as you did in your question.

A major feature of this new era is an open demonstration of the West’s disregard for international law and the very norms that were developed in the West, such as the humanitarian aspects and human rights.

I believe this shows not so much that we have entered a new era but that these sentiments also existed before, only under a cover. Everyone thought it necessary to observe proprieties and to keep up appearances. This has become obvious now. Nobody thinks it possible or wants to observe the proprieties without which interaction becomes extremely difficult.


Can you comment on the statements by EU representatives maintaining that there should be no prerequisites for talks on Nagorno-Karabakh and that it is necessary to maintain the current bilateral format of talks?

Maria Zakharova:

The Russian Federation, being the co-chair of the OSCE Minsk Group, has repeatedly spoken about the format of negotiations, which can be changed only with the agreement of the parties. If they agree that Nagorno-Karabakh should again be present at talks, it would be their decision and we will respect it. We share this approach with other members of the trio. I would also like to draw your attention to the latest statement by the Minsk Group co-chairs, dated March 9, which quite clearly outlines the approaches of Russia, the US and France to this issue.


On April 5, Moscow will host a meeting of the CIS Council of Foreign Ministers. Is Moscow ready to provide a platform for a meeting if the Azerbaijani and Armenian foreign ministers come up with a similar initiative?

Maria Zakharova:

Let us not get so far ahead given how sensitive and pressing this issue is, taking into account that it is sometimes inaccurately covered by the media. When parties address the Russian side with such requests – to provide a platform and to be a mediator – Moscow always treats such requests with respect.


Some time ago, Russia used to officially return adult Russian citizens, women in particular, using Defence Ministry aircraft. It has recently abandoned this practice, and now only assists in returning children. Has the Russian stance on this issue changed?

Maria Zakharova:

We have talked a lot today about Russian citizens who have been detained in various parts of the world. There has been no global change in our approach. First, this depends on the law enforcement agencies and the court procedures in the countries where individuals involved in terrorism, or family members of terrorists are detained. Second, this is a matter of international interaction between law enforcement agencies. Our diplomats, embassies, consulates and the Foreign Ministry’s central office provide support to the competent agencies in establishing relevant contacts. Each case is different. There have been cases where whole families were affiliated with terrorist activity in some countries in one way or another and then arrested or detained. Investigation is either underway or the court has already passed a verdict. Or there can be a reciprocal extradition agreement. So, each case is different.


The Foreign Ministry has recently issued a warning stating the need for a balanced approach to travelling to Azerbaijan because there have been cases of mistreatment of Russian citizens who were considered to be of Armenian ethnicity. Has Baku responded or reacted to this statement?

Maria Zakharova:

I am not aware of the official response of Azerbaijan. The media, however, reported an unofficial response: comments, interviews and statements alleging that there is a similar problem for Russian citizens who have Azerbaijani roots, when they enter Armenia. This morning, I read an interview with a well-known personality on this issue, and I was quite surprised that that person blamed the Foreign Ministry for not dealing with it. Our experts have never heard of any such cases and neither have I. If there are such cases, please send us the relevant information and we will examine it. The Foreign Ministry responds to all cases of mistreatment of our citizens, regardless of country or region.

I can show this interview to those interested. It surprised us too. It might contain unsupported allegations, but it is definitely not a fake, we checked.

Let us not deprive the Armenian Foreign Ministry of its duties, let them comment on their part. I commented on what directly relates to the Russian Foreign Ministry. Again, if there are cases of such treatment of Russian citizens who cross the Armenian border or arrive at Yerevan Airport, we would appreciate if we could receive the dates, places, flight numbers and other supporting information, at least something, to avoid unconfirmed allegations in the media.


Are the Russian and Azerbaijani foreign ministries holding consultations on this matter?

Maria Zakharova:

The message on the Foreign Ministry website mentions the Russian party’s concern of which our Azerbaijani colleagues have been repeatedly notified. We have not received a response yet.


Several days ago, we marked the eighth anniversary since the beginning of the war in Syria. After the mass scale surrender of ISIS militants, one can say that a new post-ISIS stage is getting underway. Is Russia trying to resolve the Kurdish issue, now that the military phase is over?

Maria Zakharova:

Such wordings as “resolving the Kurdish issue” are very dangerous.

We have repeatedly noted that most of Syria has been liberated, and that Damascus controls these parts of the country. However, the ISIS problem still exists. We should talk about the region in a broad context, rather than just Syria. Today, I cited data on an ISIS terrorist attack in Afghanistan.

This problem should not be divided, and no demarcation lines should be drawn. The global ISIS problem exists as a phenomenon. Although the problem has been minimised in Syria, it remains on the agenda.

As for intensifying the political process, we regularly deal with this matter via various channels. I have received questions about upcoming meetings in the Astana format. There are plans to hold a meeting at the level of deputy foreign ministers this coming April. The date and venue are being determined. Work is underway, and experts are in close contact.


Russia proposed a draft constitution for Syria, stipulating autonomy for the country’s Kurds. Is this issue on the current agenda, and is work in progress in this area?

Maria Zakharova:

Russia did everything possible when a sustained trend for establishing peace on the ground began to manifest itself, and it started building political bridges for restoring peaceful life. A political settlement was needed for this purpose. A lot was accomplished, including the Syrian National Dialogue Congress in Sochi, the launching of the Astana format and efforts to facilitate the Geneva talks.

You remember our proposals to discuss the future constitution of Syria. We believe that Russia should not model the legal framework and the new law. We can provide assistance, invite the parties to take part in a dialogue and share our views, but these matters concern the domestic political process in Syria.

I believe you are aware that Russia advocates active dialogue and efforts to engage the Kurdish population in discussing the future Syrian political system.


Does Russia plan to evacuate imprisoned terrorists, their families and children? Is it negotiating this matter with the Kurdish side?

Maria Zakharova:

Speaking of the official level, we are in talks with states where the Kurdish population lives. Certainly, we take advantage of various opportunities and meetings, but, speaking of the negotiating mechanism, this implies efforts to maintain interstate contacts between capitals and specialised agencies.


In the introduction, you spoke about Russian citizens who are being held in Ukrainian prisons. Why is the Russian Federation refusing to exchange them for the Ukrainian citizens who are being held in Russian prisons? Ukraine has repeatedly suggested doing this, including exchanging Kirill Vyshinsky for Roman Sushchenko.

Maria Zakharova:

As I understand it, you are cooperating with Novaya Gazeta. We have seen your publications. I would like to once again refute what you have written and what was reported by Novaya Gazeta.

Protecting the rights and interests of Russian citizens, our compatriots (regardless of their location), including those persecuted by the current regime in Kiev, is a priority. The Foreign Ministry pays special attention to this task.

Despite the fact that the Russian Embassy in Kiev and consulates general of our country are operating (I hope you know it) in, to put it mildly, rather peculiar conditions and with limited staff (because of last year’s campaign to expel Russian diplomats which Kiev decided to join for some reason), they are trying to provide necessary assistance to Russian nationals while overcoming sometimes very harsh resistance.

At the same time, unlike such people as Lyudmila Denisova who is working, it seems to me, more in the media environment, Russia prefers not to build its PR on human fates. This is what many officials and journalists are doing, as it seems to us. Not to mention the election campaign in Ukraine and how exactly this factor is involved in it now.

We are actually trying to solve the problem of bringing home Russian nationals who are being unlawfully held in the territory of Ukraine. The fate of Valery Ivanov who was tortured to death in a Lvov penal colony demonstrates Ukraine’s actual attitude to persecuted Russian nationals. We cannot help but recall Kiev’s last-minute refusal to exchange the Russian nationals in its custody in December 2017, despite the fact that all the lists had been approved, including by the President of Ukraine. By the way, Yevgeny Mefedov, who was mentioned in a Novaya Gazeta article, was also among those people who were taken to the exchange site and later returned to prison (I hope you know about that). These actions are nothing but sheer mockery.

In his testimony, Yevgeny Mefedov gives examples that demonstrate the nature of the law enforcement, judicial and entire government system in Ukraine which is run by nationalist radicals, including street hooligans who break into courtrooms during hearings. We respect Yevgeny Mefedov’s ability to stay optimistic and not to lose hope for a successful outcome to his case despite the difficulties.

Once again, I would like to tell everybody who builds their careers and PR campaigns on the fact that Russia allegedly ignores the fate of its citizens held in Ukraine: as before, Russia will continue to fight for Russian nationals’ interests, including at various international platforms. At the same time, unfortunately, we have to state that, because of considerations of the moment, among other things, our foreign counterparts often turn a blind eye to the existing problems in this area. I’m asking you to be objective when reporting on these issues and to draw conclusions based on facts. For my part, I have given you some facts today.


Today, the US Embassy in Moscow issued a statement saying that Russia has failed to provide any evidence of detained US citizen Paul Whelan’s guilt for two months. Why has no evidence been provided yet?

Maria Zakharova:

Is two months too long from the US Embassy’s point of view? Ask them, since you are quoting their statement. How does the US Embassy establish the timescale? A huge number of Russian citizens who are convicted on trumped-up charges are in prison. For example, I talked about Konstantin Yaroshenko today. He was abducted from Liberia and has spent nine years in custody. That is almost a whole life, and who knows what his condition is at the moment. According to the interviews and statements given by his family, his condition is appalling. I have already told you what our diplomats found out.

Here you are – two months and the US Embassy is already in a fit of hysteria. Russian law enforcement authorities are working. The man was caught red-handed, and it was stated overtly. I see no reason why American diplomats should be indignant.


Have Russian diplomats got access to Maria Butina as of late?

Maria Zakharova:

I have no information about any recent problems with getting access to that Russian citizen. I can find out and tell you.

I sincerely hope that access to her is not in any way connected with Paul Whelan’s situation. I hope that is not what the US Embassy is hinting at with this question.


I want to explain why I asked about Butina. According to some US media reports, she may be deported in the next few weeks.

Maria Zakharova:

It’s difficult for me to dwell on this issue because Butina is in the United States now awaiting relevant decisions. There is nothing to comment on for now in this case. We have regularly reported on our diplomats’ contacts with her. I don’t know of any problems with that as of late, but I will find out.

It was you, not me, who drew the parallel, and based on your question, it turns out that after two months the US Embassy is asking questions about Whelan, and Butina was arrested eight months ago under a pretext which is unclear even to those who know the ins and outs of US laws. What has she done to be kept in such conditions for eight months already? It is impossible to understand it even logically. There is an obvious connection to US domestic politics, but it is hard to conceal anything in such a case. We don’t see any special response, either by officials or otherwise, from the US side. This situation is for some reason taken for granted. Although, as you should know, there was not a single briefing for more than six months when we did not mention the case of Butina. We are doing everything possible to draw attention to the unacceptable situation that defies everything: logic, law, ethics, human rights, etc.


Several hours ago, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea Choe Son-hui said North Korea may suspend talks with the United States. What does the Russian Foreign Ministry think about this decision? So far, this does not amount to an official North Korean statement, and everyone is waiting for Kim Jong-un to make his address. Yesterday, Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov met with his North Korean colleague Im Cheon-il. According to a Foreign Ministry press release, the sides discussed the schedule of political contacts. Did they reach any agreements in this connection? Or perhaps they managed to agree on the leader’s visit?

Maria Zakharova:

You know that you should contact the Presidential Executive Office about the visits of leaders; its officials always comment on these matters.

Regarding statements of the North Korean Foreign Ministry’s representatives that Pyongyang might break off talks with the United States, I would like to say that Russia is committed to resolving the situation on the Korean Peninsula by political-diplomatic methods. Moscow consistently advocates continued dialogue between Pyongyang and Washington on the basis of gradually meeting each other halfway and without any overstated expectations.

We praised the organisation of the summits and the attitude of the sides after the talks, although there were no results. We formulated our position and noted that, in our opinion, both capitals hold the key to a political-diplomatic solution, and that they realise that there is no alternative to this.


Russia calls for easing sanctions against the DPRK. Will Russia still advocate this approach if the DPRK resumes nuclear tests and missile launches?

Maria Zakharova:

If you are talking about unilateral sanctions, we do not support them. We believe that they are illegal. If you are talking about sanctions that have been declared by the relevant UN Security Council agencies in line with international law, then this is a matter of discussing a response to an improved situation or to specific steps, due to be taken by Pyongyang with regard to the international community’s concerns. These matters are interlinked. Legitimate sanctions, being imposed by the UN Security Council, are meant to incentivise the resolution of matters of concern to the international community. If specific improvements are achieved and formalised, this would influence decisions on sanctions.


What is Russia’s attitude towards protests against President of Algeria Abdelaziz Bouteflika, an elderly political “heavyweight” in the region? Is there any danger for democracy in connection with a possible Muslim Brotherhood takeover?

Maria Zakharova:

We believe that this is a domestic situation in an independent sovereign state. The people of Algeria themselves should resolve this situation inside the country without any foreign influence. As I have said, it is our opinion that, during the upcoming tour of official talks and meetings, we will hear the position of this state’s representative and a first-hand update on the current situation, as well as upcoming steps that should be taken for the benefit of Algeria.


The current US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, is a former CIA chief. During this briefing, you mentioned what the US is doing in Syria, Venezuela and Ukraine, as well as the developments regarding humanitarian aid, etc. It is hard to imagine a former head of Russia’s Federal Security Service becoming the country’s top diplomat. How strong is the CIA’s grip on US foreign policy? What are its methods and practices?

Maria Zakharova:

It is not uncommon for our US partners to use dreadful measures and practices to achieve their foreign policy goals. As far as I know, there are a myriad of historical books and academic research on this subject. Quite often we have to give examples and explain the historical context considering the absolutely apocalyptical accusations we hear against Russia. However, I believe this is something historians, observers and journalists have to delve into.


Can it be said that Russia and the US differ in terms of the nature of their respective foreign policy?

Maria Zakharova:

I would rather you avoid comparisons of this kind. We proceed from the premise that international law provides the primary foundation for Russia’s foreign policy, which should not be regarded as a mere coincidence or our only available option. This is not the way things are, and I can back this up with various examples, including from our country’s past. Russia’s foreign policy is designed this way because this approach offers a genuine opportunity to avoid global shocks such as the Second World War.

We also believe that the existing foundation is sufficient, subject to some tweaking and fine-tuning, for shaping international relations in general and taking into consideration the often contradictory interests of various countries large and small. Russia rejects in its foreign policy anything that has to do with relying on military force, illegal methods, including economic pressure, unilateral sanctions, sabotage, etc. Russia not only rejects all this conceptually, but also acts accordingly day in and day out.

As for the assessment of US foreign policy, if you allow me I would prefer not to elaborate on this matter. I think that the materials that I presented today contain quite a few examples that clearly show the difference between the approaches adopted by Washington and Moscow. This relates in particular to the situation in Venezuela.


Ambassador of Great Britain to Russia Laurie Bristow gave an interview to a Russian newspaper, in which he literally scapegoated Russia. Could you comment on this?

Maria Zakharova:

This was a suicidal interview for the British ambassador. He has done a lot of strange things, but even I did not expect so much nonsense from him, especially considering that he is rumoured to be leaving soon. I mean this in a good way, since he could be heading back to London.

We could not fail to read this interview. It shocked us by its strange, opinionated and aggressive nature. In the interview, he mentioned the very stereotypes, accusations and nonsense on Russia that can regularly be heard from Theresa May’s representatives. This is yet another manifestation of the choice by London to keep up tension in the relations between our two countries.

We believe that the ambassador could have followed statements by a number of high-ranking British officials who declared their intention to search for ways to put bilateral relations back on track and restore trust. After all, the interview was timed to coincide with the opening of the cross years of music between Russia and Great Britain. However, these were not the tunes that we expected to hear. Although there are clear attempts to begin the interview on a positive note, this is not the way it went and the interview ended in the worst traditions of our time. The ambassador once again could not help but distort facts and whip up anti-Russia hysteria. It will suffice to mention the list of what he referred to as Russia’s “sins”: attacks against Georgia and Ukraine, supporting Bashar al-Assad when he used chemical weapons in Syria and carrying out killings on British soil!

This would be shocking to any person reading this for the first time. For us, this is not so much shocking as it is nonsense. It may be that this interview targets those unaware of London’s position. We know it all too well, and we have learned our lesson. The reality has little in common with what Mr Bristow said. It would be sufficient to mention topics that we discussed today, including fake incidents staged by the infamous White Helmets. Their undertakings were possible only because of support from Western sponsors, including London. Just look at the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which has come to symbolise inconsistencies among Western powers regarding human rights and humanitarian matters, as well as the approach consisting of reaffirming the inviolability of human rights and the special role played by NGOs, on the one hand, while inventing mock structures such as the White Helmets or the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, on the other. They have nothing to do with real Syrians, while serving as a source of information that London relies on. Take, for example, the government coup that was carried out in Ukraine with the personal contribution of some of our Western partners in Great Britain, and with the connivance of those who only a day earlier guaranteed a peaceful settlement to the intra-Ukrainian conflict. What about the unscrupulous methods used by British secret services that we exposed on numerous occasions? This topic even found its way into documentary films. I remember how the British embassy denied that UK secret services used these methods, including in Moscow, when they ridiculed claims made by Russia, calling them “lies” made up by Moscow. By the way, the claims we made turned out to be true.

The British Ambassador mentioned the so-called Alexander Litvinenko case. Her Majesty's Envoy believes that the matter has been decided once and for all and that Russia is to blame. In fact, he completely ignores the fact that London turned down all of Russia’s requests to share information on the case without providing any reasonable explanation, keeping the information under the veil of secrecy.

Let me pick up this topic where Laurie Bristow left it. We have called on numerous occasions for an objective and impartial investigation into the death of Russian nationals in Great Britain. This is evidenced by the fact Russia’s Investigative Committee was a proactive participant in the coroner’s inquest into the death of Alexander Litvinenko, which was carried out under UK laws in Great Britain. However, it seems as if it had failed to produce the outcome expected by the British government, prompting it to close the inquest and replace it with a public inquiry, a quasi-judicial process replete with closed hearings to review “secret” materials from secret services and testimony by secret witnesses. Russia’s Investigative Committee had no choice but to withdraw from this show due to the lack of transparency in this so-called investigation. It was clear that it would be inevitably politicised. The goal of this performance, played out in London, was also clear, to confirm what was already said and to pin everything on Russia.

The Skripal case is following the same scenario with Britain refraining from sharing any information, refusing inter-agency cooperation and blaming Russia for the whole thing. They also rely on the “highly likely” principle, feeding what they refer to as “irrefutable evidence” to their allies. I am referring to the five or six slides that could have been prepared by a middle-school student. Laurie Bristow distributed them at a closed briefing, and this presentation literally shocked the entire world, when Kommersant newspaper published it. No one expected to see anything as absurd as this. How can five images with an unsophisticated explanation of the historical background serve as irrefutable evidence of Russia’s responsibility? Everything is built around this document. There was nothing but five or six slides with images taking most of the space that were intended to be shown at a distance. Nothing else.

A single phrase reflects the hypocrisy of Britain’s anti-Russia policy. Answering a question on the Skripal case, Laurie Bristow said that he had to refrain from making any statements so as not to influence the investigation. Mr Bristow, are you serious? Maybe this was just fake news? Maybe you were not the one who said this? Just four questions prior to that you accused Russia of organising a murder on British soil. Or was it not you? Let me share with you some statements and phrases by Mr Bristow’s superiors who were not as tactful as their Ambassador to Russia, who claimed that he had to make sure that his statements did not affect the investigation.

– On March 12, 2018 Theresa May said in Parliament: “The Government has concluded that it is highly likely that Russia was responsible for the act against Sergei and Yulia Skripal … And we will not tolerate such a brazen attempt to murder innocent civilians on our soil.”

So you say that you cannot influence the investigation with your statements. But Theresa May can do it, for whatever reason. Please remind her, that she should not behave like this.

– On March 14, 2018 UK Chargé d’Affairs at the UN, Jonathan Allen, spoke during a UN Security Council briefing on the Salisbury nerve agent attack:

“Mr President, we therefore have no alternative but to conclude that the Russian State was responsible for the attempted murder of Mr Skripal and his daughter, and Police Officer Nick Bailey, and for threatening the lives of other British citizens in Salisbury.”

Is this OK? Why not say this to the British press? Why didn’t you send a cable to London saying that influencing the investigation was inappropriate?

– On March 15, 2018 during a visit to a west London military museum with the Polish foreign minister, Boris Johnson said that it was overwhelmingly likely that it was Putin’s decision to direct the use of the nerve agent (“It is overwhelmingly likely that it was his (Putin’s) decision to direct the use”).

– On March 22, 2018, Laurie Bristow himself, speaking at a briefing for the international diplomatic community in Moscow, said: “Based on the information we had, we concluded that there were only 2 plausible explanations for how this material had been used in the United Kingdom. Either it was a direct act by the Russian state against our country or the Russian government lost control of this catastrophically damaging nerve agent and allowed it to get into the hands of others.”

What is going on in the British Embassy in Moscow? Why are you contradicting your own words?

It has to be mentioned that the British press published links to leaked information, clearly with help from the officials, as they always do.

- March 8, 2018. From The Sun:

…Anti-terror cops are investigating the possibility that Kremlin-linked assassins slipped deadly sarin nerve gas into Sergei Skripal's present as daughter Yulia prepared to fly over from Moscow days earlier.

So how is the investigation going?

– The Sun wrote on March 6, 2018:

Was the daughter of an ex-Russian spy poisoned for a one-word Facebook comment calling for Putin to be jailed?

There were no disclaimers afterwards.

– Daily Telegraph, March 28, 2018:

Russian hit squad put poison on Sergei Skripal's front door, police believe.

- Sunday Mirror, April 7, 2018:

Russian who planned spy nerve agent attack 'runs hit squad known as The Cleaners and is a sleeper agent STILL in UK.'

– Sunday People, April 22, 2018:

Is this the Salisbury poisonings hitman? Former KGB captain codenamed 'Gordon' is Russian assassin suspect.

Does His Excellency Mr Ambassador actually believe that neither high-ranking British officials nor major media outlets influenced the investigation? How can one remain impartial when all you hear from all the screens, at all levels and literally everywhere, be it online, on television, on the radio, in Parliament or from newspaper headlines reports about the vicious Russian threat and the outrage committed by Russians? This seems to suggest that these developments have nothing to do with an impartial investigation. There is no way the investigation can remain impartial when everyone from the Prime Minister to the tabloids point fingers in the same direction without a single piece of evidence.

Going back to Laurie Bristow’s disastrous interview, I am also perplexed by his statement that Britain did not initiate sanctions against Russia. I read this statement several times. This is what it said. But we know all too well that London literally twisted the arms of its allies so they expelled Russian diplomats without any reason in March 2018. We also hear regular calls by British officials to increase pressure on Russia through sanctions.

The overall message His Excellency Mr Ambassador wanted to convey in this interview was that Russia needs to acknowledge these sins even though it didn’t commit any of them, and then it will be “highly likely” that everything will be all right. This approach covers bilateral relations between Russia and Great Britain, as well as the international agenda. There is no way this policy can become a platform for putting Russia-UK cooperation back on track and promoting constructive ties. It is time that we learn to be professional and treat each other with mutual respect as befits serious and responsible countries. We monitor statements by British officials, save them and compare them with what was said in the past. This is very interesting.

There was an incident at a Moscow airport recently when a US Embassy employee tried to sneak an old landmine out the country. It contained remnants and traces of explosives in it. What does Great Britain have to do with this? Well, a number of experts argue that the incident was an outright provocation rather than negligence or lack of responsibility on behalf of an embassy employee. We have said this. Looking at the whole picture it could be argued that London may have been involved. In fact, the American had to change planes in London, although there are quite a few regular direct flights from Moscow to the US. Could it be that once this Marine from the US Embassy in Moscow managed to take an old landmine out of the country, the landmine could have ended up in Great Britain so that we would be told that anything can be taken out of Russia, even a landmine, let alone Novichok. The landmine would have probably been found near the residence of a Russian national or compatriot as new “evidence” of an attack by the “bloody” Kremlin against its citizens. This scenario exists and experts are looking into it.


Today you devoted much of your time to Russian citizens serving time in prison abroad. I would like to ask about Marsha Lazareva, who has been sentenced to a prison term in Kuwait. Can you influence the Kuwaiti authorities on her behalf? Can the Kremlin do anything to save this Russian citizen?

Maria Zakharova:

Regarding the Kremlin, you should ask the Kremlin press service. I can only comment on the actions of Russian diplomats and the Foreign Ministry as a whole. We are providing multifaceted assistance to this Russian citizen. There are many examples of how such matters are decided. This is certainly done within the framework of the law, as we always point out. There are also foreign policy factors to take into account. This is all I can say in regard to this case.


A parliamentary election was held in Moldova in late February. Political coalitions and a new cabinet are being formed there now. According to the Moldovan media, politician Vladimir Plahotniuc can be elected prime minister or parliament speaker. The trouble is that he is a suspect in two criminal cases launched in Russia, where an arrest warrant has been issued against him in absentia, for attempted murder and the other for the criminal withdrawal of tens of billions of dollars from Russia. Can this affect Russia-Moldova relations? What can Russia’s Investigative Committee do?

Maria Zakharova:

First of all, let’s leave internal political matters underway in a sovereign state to its people. Elections have been recently held there. International organisations have a positive view of the procedure. We have expressed our opinion of this matter as well. When it comes to new appointments, they will be decided on the basis of national procedures.

As for ties between out law enforcement agencies, you should address this question to them. I cannot make any judgement on this matter.

We believe that the further development of relations with Moldova and the Moldovan people is a foreign policy priority for Russia. We have had close historical and cultural ties, share a common past and have good prospects for the further development of bilateral ties in many spheres.


Does the Foreign Ministry believe that the mine found [in the luggage of a US Embassy official] at a Moscow airport is proof of the US involvement in the terrorist attack at Domodedovo Airport in 2011 and other attacks?

Maria Zakharova:

We believe that it was a provocation. It could have a variety of goals. Our experts [on the United States] can tell you more on this matter. We only shared with you our opinions based on the views of experts. I have no reason to speak on this subject in the terms you have suggested.


US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph F. Dunford said the US should not relinquish its right to be the first to use nuclear weapons during a possible conflict with an adversary. What does Russian think about this US policy and the related risks of a nuclear war?

Maria Zakharova:

The most frightening thing is that discourse about nuclear strikes is conducted with an ease that in my opinion demonstrates absolute incompetence in this issue. When people start juggling with things that may put an end to our common world with all its good and evil for political or PR purposes, they apparently do not realise what they are saying.

Of course, there are public issues and military doctrines whereby nuclear powers express their approaches. However, the frequency with which many politicians toss about and discuss these issues (regrettably, there are too many of them in the West) compels us to question their competence and responsibility.

I think we should be more grateful and attentive to the productions of “the dream factory” on this subject. One way or another many directors act like futurists trying to comprehend the future in the context of this scenario, among others. Why not see these movies again to understand that political discourse on issues that threaten the existence of the entire human race is unacceptable?

I could have given a shorter answer but I wanted you to think about it like this – are these ill-considered statements and the endless exploitation of the nuclear weapons issue as a political argument apocalyptic or not?


Today many conflicts are being settled on the basis of two principles – territorial integrity and the right of nations to self-determination. What principle does Russia prefer to adhere to in its foreign policy?

Maria Zakharova:

Some issues are inseparably connected. Much is written about this in documents of title that form the foundation of modern international law. These principles cannot be viewed in isolation or separately. It is impossible to make a global choice in favour of one without understanding the situation, specific analysis of what is going “on the ground,” historical background and all related circumstances. Importantly, the circumstances should not completely prevail over law. I am not a lawyer and have never dealt with the law, but what I have read on this subject shows that these principles can only work in combination with each other. Otherwise, they can become a weapon aimed against you, your state and your nation.

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Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s opening remarks during talks with Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of the People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria Ramtane Lamamra, Moscow, March 19, 2019

19 March 2019 - 12:52

Mr Lamamra,

Dear friend,

We are delighted to see you in Moscow again, in your new capacity as not only the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Algeria, but also, Deputy Prime Minister.

We are interested in continuing our trustful dialogue in line with the principles stipulated in the Strategic Partnership Declaration between our countries. Based on this Declaration, we are intensively developing relations in all areas: trade, economic, investment, humanitarian and military technical cooperation.

We are closely coordinating our actions on various foreign policy issues, including at the UN and at other multilateral platforms.

We are concerned about the developments in your country. We can see attempts to shatter the balance and are strongly opposed to any intervention in these processes. We are confident that the Algerian people, the Algerian leadership will resolve all the problems that arise on the basis of the Constitution of Algeria.

We have an extensive bilateral, regional and international agenda, so I am looking forward to very productive negotiations.

Again, welcome.

The source of information -

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s statement and answers to media questions during the joint news conference following talks with Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of the People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria Ramtane Lamamra, Moscow, March 19, 2019

19 March 2019 - 14:14

Ladies and Gentlemen,

My colleague and friend, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of the People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria Ramtane Lamamra, and I had very productive talks. We have known each other for a long time, dating back to the days when we both worked at the UN.

We are pleased that the Russian Federation was one of the first countries visited by Mr Lamamra after his appointment to the new position of Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs.

Our colleague updated us on the developments in Algeria, and shared the plans of his country’s leadership for the near future. We support their undertakings, hoping that they help stabilise the situation in this friendly country through national dialogue and based on Algeria’s Constitution, and of course with due respect by all interested parties for international law and the UN Charter.

Russia has a positive view of interaction between our countries in all areas, including political, trade, economic, investment, military-technical and humanitarian cooperation, in line with the goals stated by our presidents in the 2001 Declaration of Strategic Partnership.

We praised the performance of the Intergovernmental Commission on Trade, Economic, Scientific and Technical Cooperation that held a meeting in Moscow in January 2019, as well as the Intergovernmental Commission on Military Technical Cooperation that met in Tula in October 2018.

We view international problems through the prism of the need to ensure that all states abide by the principles set forth in the UN Charter, including sovereignty, territorial integrity, non-interference in each other’s internal affairs, as well as settling crises through peaceful political and diplomatic means. We emphasised Russia’s unconditional commitment to the right of the people to determine the future of their countries on their own.

It is in this context that we discussed the developments in the Middle East and North Africa, as well as in the Sahara-Sahel region.

Regarding Syria, we shared information about Russia’s efforts together with Turkey and Iran to facilitate implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 2254, including preparations for launching the political dialogue by setting up a Constitutional Committee.

We also discussed the situation in Libya, Mali and in a number of other countries. We welcomed Algeria’s diplomatic efforts to facilitate national reconciliation in the countries from where threats continue to emanate following NATO’s 2011 adventure, from terrorism and drug trafficking to organised crime and illegal migration.

Russia and Algeria are united in their position regarding the need to step up collective efforts to overcome, within the existing international legal framework, long-standing crises, such as the Arab–Israeli conflict and the Western Sahara conflict. In addition, we are committed to collective action to implement UN Security Council resolutions that have been adopted. We have spoken out against attempts to promote questionable schemes that were developed unilaterally.

All in all, I believe that our talks were quite useful, enabling us to promote our strategic partnership, primarily our foreign policy cooperation between our respective foreign ministries.


Some media are comparing the current events in Algeria to the Arab Spring. Do you think it is possible to draw such parallels?

Sergey Lavrov:

As for the similarity of assessments of the events in Algeria and the processes of the Arab Spring, I understand you are referring to the attempts to destabilise the situation from the outside. The beautiful-sounding term “Arab Spring” proved to mean interference in the internal affairs of sovereign states, be it Libya or Syria in this case. In this sense I am convinced that the main point was expressed by my colleague and friend in his opening remarks: the people of Algeria will resolve their domestic problems themselves based on the Constitution of their country and with full respect for the norms of international law.

That said, it is very important that all other countries strictly abide by the requirements of the UN Charter, including that interference in the domestic affairs of sovereign states is absolutely unacceptable.

As for the role of our relations with Algeria in supporting stability in North Africa, it should be primarily maintained by the countries of the region themselves. We urge them in every possible way to do this.

We are ready to facilitate the efforts of the region’s countries to resolve their problems. I have already spoken about our high assessment of Algeria’s efforts to facilitate settlements in Libya, Mali and some other countries. We have common approaches actually to all persisting problems in this region. We coordinate our actions in the UN and in the framework of the partnerships between Russia and the African Union, and Russia and the Arab League.

We have developed strategic dialogue between our security councils and have functioning working groups on cyber security. Speaking about the contribution to stability in North Africa, I should mention the large-scale and deeply-rooted military-technical cooperation between Russia and the People's Democratic Republic of Algeria.

In addition to the existing mechanisms of cooperation we agreed, as my colleague Ramtane Lamamra announced, to establish a high-level working group that will coordinate our approaches to international issues in general.


Juan Guaido appointed the ambassador to the US from his “government.” What does this mean in the context of international law?

Sergey Lavrov:

Ambassadors are appointed by the governments of UN member countries. This is the government of Nicolas Maduro.


US Department of State Special Representative for Ukraine Kurt Volker said Russia benefits from NATO’s expansion. By way of example he quoted the prosperity of the Baltic countries neighboring on Russia. These countries enjoy peace and economic progress. What could you say about this statement considering that NATO is a military bloc?

Sergey Lavrov:

Leaving aside the fact that Mr Volker keeps making statements on broader issues than reaching a settlement in Ukraine, I can say the following. As I understand, he said Russia derives benefit from the NATO membership of the Baltic states because of their prosperous economies and durable peace. The economic development is revealed by specific statistics showing the basis of economic growth, how the industrial and, generally, the economic foundations of the three Baltic states were established, what influence their current membership in the EU had on their economic progress and how citizens of these countries feel in economic terms.

Speaking about the second part of his statement about how Russia benefits from the enduring peace in the Baltic states, it is necessary to understand what this really means. If by enduring peace they mean Estonia and Latvia's policy of perpetuating statelessness, the ousting of the Russian language from education and virtually all areas of social life in Latvia, regular neo-Nazi processions, support for radical-nationalists and the division of society into radicals, neo-Nazis and anti-fascists, I doubt very much that such a “peace” benefits the Russian Federation.

Moreover, I am convinced that such a “peace” does not benefit Russia or any other state, including the Baltic republics.

As for the notion of benefit, I would like to make a short historical digression. When another stage of NATO’s expansion was being planned in the early 2000s, we asked our Western partners why they were doing this, why they needed to move eastward the dividing lines on our common continent. We were told that the Baltic countries were haunted by historical phobias and security concerns, so by joining NATO, they will calm down and live side by side with us as good neighbours, in peace and friendship.

However, when Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia joined NATO, they not only did not temper their anti-Russian statements and anti-Russian policy but joined the ranks of Russophobic leaders in the West. Now NATO and the European Union largely take their anti-Russian actions based on the position imposed on them by the three Baltic countries. So it would be better if Volker were silent about any benefit for the Russian Federation. We will benefit from a situation that brings all the countries of our common continent together.

The source of information -

Statement by H.E. Mr. Sergey Lavrov, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation at the Plenary Session of the Conference on Disarmament, Geneva, March 20, 2019

20 March 2019 - 14:01

Unofficial translation

Distinguished Mr. President,

Distinguished Mr. Secretary-General


Ladies and Gentlemen,

A year has passed since I last addressed this audience. By historical standards, this is a miniscule amount of time. Yet the events that have taken place over the year have brought us to the edge of a new era in arms control.

A year ago, you and us still hoped that, by means of constructive dialogue, we altogether could overcome differences, find compromise solutions and give new impetus to the joint effort aimed at strengthening peace and maintaining global stability.

But today we face aggressive foreign-policy egocentrism fueled by claims for an exclusive right to determine the "rules" of world order and the destinies of nations, countries and entire regions. We are witnessing more and more attempts to destroy fundamental agreements and reshape the whole multilateral arms control architecture according to own narrow opportunistic interests. In pursuit of dominance the instruments that for decades have been preserving the stability and predictability of international relations are being carelessly taken down.

Most recent example is a deliberate destruction of the INF Treaty by the US coupled with their categorical rejection of our persistent proposals to jointly and professionally analyze real problems accumulated in the context of this Treaty. Washington never made secret of the reason for its withdrawal from the INF Treaty: the US prefer to have their hands free in order to build up unrestricted missile capabilities in the regions where the US intend to push through their own interests.

This pushes us 30 years back in nuclear and missile disarmament but that is not the most pressing issue.

The US withdrawal from the ABM Treaty first, and then from the INF Treaty paves a way to a large-scale arms race with unpredictable consequences. Unlike the 1950s-1970s of the past century, when strategic arsenals of the two superpowers were involved, the new arms race would be provoked by perceptions of many other States that are left with no other choice but to have nuclear and missile capability as the only effective means to guarantee their national security. Dozens of countries have science, technology and industry advanced enough to do so.

We have been particularly concerned about the pattern of behavior by almost all Western States under the current circumstances and the extent of the indifference and irresponsibility they demonstrated to the Treaty's future including collective vote at the UN against Russian-sponsored resolution in support of the INF Treaty. NATO members openly supported its dismantling, thus giving "green light*' to the US nuclear missile ambitions. Groundless far*fetched claims by the US on alleged violation of the INF Treaty prohibitions by Russia's 9M729 missile were readily accepted. However, after we had demonstrated the system, independent exerts began to point out to obvious inconsistencies in the US position. Notably, the US representatives in Moscow did not only ignore our invitation to attend the 9M729 missile presentation themselves but forced most of their allies to follow suit. Thus, Washington showed its unwillingness to pursue a constructive dialogue. This once again proved the lack of any argument in support of the US allegations.

The fact that we have already announced a moratorium on deployment of land-based intermediate-range and shorter-range missiles in those regions where no similar American systems will be placed is being deliberately ignored. As President Vladimir Putin stated, we will be forced to respond with "mirror actions" and only as reaction to the US steps. We will act in a way that would exclude our engagement in a costly arms race.

We are disappointed with the position of the European countries which in the INF context have de-facto given up their independent role in ensuring their own and European security.

We do not want the New START Treaty with its ten-year term set to expire on February 5, 2021, to repeat the fate of the INF Treaty. Russia stands for the Treaty's extension for five years. This would allow us to prevent further degradation of strategic stability and buy us some extra time to consider possible approaches towards new weapons emerging now throughout the world and possible ways to subjugate them to arms control measures, since not all such armaments fall under the START Treaty. Contrary to what has been recently articulated in this Chamber Russia is ready for such a dialogue.

But first we have to solve the problem related to US unilateral removal from accountability under the New START Treaty of their strategic offensive arms that have allegedly been converted though we cannot certify it as provided for by the Treaty. This complicated issue can be resolved if appropriate Treaty provisions are applied. We have discussed possible solutions with the US. It is a question of political will in Washington.

Russia has been a responsible party to the existing agreements. As we fully comply with our obligations, we share the responsibility for preserving peace and strengthening global security with other States. Yet our efforts go beyond. Russia has put forward and promoted a number of new important initiatives. Regrettably, our Western counterparts do not come up with any meaningful initiatives of their own, they either remain deaf to our proposals or deliberately seek to discredit them.

We are not trying to impose anything on anyone. However, we believe that our proposals could serve as a basis for negotiations. We have repeatedly urged all the States concerned about the future of humankind to work together to build common ground, address problems at hand and seek compromises.

As President Vladimir Putin pointed out all our proposals are well-known to counterparts, all our proposals remain on the table, and when the West is ready we are open for responsible and professional interaction. Meanwhile, instead of constructive response we hear speculations about resumption of nuclear testing, placement of strike combat systems in outer space, and even about feasibility of a limited nuclear conflict. Such developments would be unacceptable for Russia, and, I hope, for most States represented here. But it may become a reality if we fail to find together a reasonable alternative to the trend leading to further destabilization of international environment, exacerbation of contradictions between States, undermining of the established system of international arms control agreements.

Responsible consistent collective efforts are essential in order to ensure international security and stability. The crisis around the INF Treaty clearly shows that progress in the nuclear arms reductions can no longer be sustained in the bilateral Russia-US format. It is time that we seriously reflect on how to launch a multilateral process on nuclear arms control based on the principle of common and indivisible security. There is no point in approaching nuclear disarmament in isolation from a combination of factors that negatively impact strategic stability.

We consider it of utmost importance to take all necessary measures to both maintain the viability and ensure the effectiveness of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Regrettably, here as well, we face mounting difficulties. Disagreements between nuclear and non-nuclear weapon States are growing. Another destabilizing factor is the US decision not to ratify the CTBT and to start preparing its national test site for resuming nuclear tests. The situation with the implementation of the 1995 resolution on establishing a WMD-free zone (WMDFZ) in the Middle East remains uncertain. Being one of the three со-sponsors of the resolution and fully aware of its responsibility for the NPT future, Russia supported the UNGA decision to convene a conference on the WMDFZ this November. We intend to contribute to its success taking into account the interests of all the States in the region.

A few remarks with regard to the UN disarmament machinery and its three components. Clearly, it is impossible to make the work of the Conference on Disarmament, the UNGA First Committee and the UNDC completely immune from politicization. However, certain States have persisted in using these fora to raise issues that help them settle scores with States they dislike. Over-politicization is becoming one of the major factors that obstruct the activities of the UN disarmament triad. Reasonable and meaningful proposals aimed at ensuring equal and indivisible security for all by launching substantive, constructive and professional dialogue are rejected.

As a result, the work of the Conference on Disarmament is being blocked, the decisions of the UNGA First Committee are being devalued, and the UN Disarmament Commission is losing its credibility. The ongoing difficulties, however, do not mean that the mechanism set up by our predecessors back in 1978 is intrinsically flawed and, therefore, should be dismantled as proposed by a number of radically minded delegations. Russia stands against it.

The state of the UN disarmament machinery is indicative of the overall deterioration of international environment, refusal by the collective West to engage in a dialogue on improving the current and elaborating new arms control instruments acceptable to all. The examples are plentiful. Let us take the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention negotiated here at the CD. Instead of a legally binding efficient verification mechanism of this Convention that is blocked by Washington, Western countries now propose so-called "peer review missions". By doing so, they intend to allegedly "prove" that activities and research carried out at the biological facilities are in compliance with the provisions of the Convention.

Another example is refusal to negotiate the prevention of placement of weapons in outer space. There is a relevant Russian-Chinese draft treaty with no other document on the table in this regard. However, the CD Member States are still unable to reach consensus to at least launch negotiations. For the second decade already, we have been hearing just excuses that the elaboration of an agreement would be a "time-consuming exercise", and that it is premature to begin talks before a real threat of space weaponization emerges. So it allegedly makes no sense at all to introduce a comprehensive ban in this respect.

In the meantime, the US has allocated funds for developing a missile defense (MD) space segment and deployment of strike capabilities in the Earth orbit. This MD segment would be capable of striking among others space-based objects. Thus, an operational combat structure would be built which would be ready to "cleanse" outer space from orbital property of the countries Washington dislikes. It opens the "Pandora box" for many States intensively participate in outer space activities and not so few of them are either already developing combat systems to be placed in outer space, or have the necessary capabilities to do that. So, the issue is becoming increasingly relevant. We expect that the UN GGE on PAROS established by the UNGA resolution which is at the moment in its final session could give additional impetus to the work of the CD.

Once again, I would like to draw your attention to the Russian initiative to elaborate an international convention for the suppression of acts of chemical and biological terrorism (ICCBT) that I had the honour to present here in March 2016. One of the key provisions of this draft convention is the criminalization of the use of chemical substances and biological agents for terrorist purposes. This issue is extremely topical. After all, according to various estimates, in Syria alone, there has been between 300 and 400 terrorist attacks in which chemical agents were used.

We believe that the restraint towards our ICCBT initiative and the willingness to ignore multiple cases of chemical terrorism in Syria go hand in hand. Despite their stated concerns about the increasing threat of WMD terrorism, our opponents make the case against strengthening international legal framework to counter this evil.

Instead of working collectively, the Western countries have exerted all their efforts to establish and use an attribution mechanism within the OPCW, also by manipulating the Organization's Technical Secretariat as a tool for political pressure on the States they dislike. Such a brazen intrusion into the UNSC competence has already deeply divided the OPCW and will undoubtedly affect the CWC future.

Dear colleagues, I have to disagree with those who highlighting the continued stalemate at the Geneva Conference on Disarmament call for its eventual dissolution. Given that certain countries and groups of countries refuse to substantially discuss the matters that are critical, including to their own security, and make propagandists noise around them, it is extremely important to preserve the Conference as a single forum for negotiations on a wide range of the most pressing issues of arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation. There is no other format that indeed offers prospects for launching real multilateral negotiations. And it would be impossible to set up a truly inclusive one under the current circumstances.

We consider the discussions held in 2018 within the subsidiary bodies of the CD quite useful. We were ready to join the consensus on the UK's draft decision on their re-establishment based on all the agenda items. We regret that the draft did not enjoy necessary support. We are particularly frustrated with the unwillingness of the US delegation discuss this proposal in a substantive manner.

I am confident that we all have enough wisdom and strength to overcome this crisis, to preserve and consolidate the existing system of international instruments of arms control and non-proliferation, and to complement it with new arrangements. Regrettably, the statement made by the US representative yesterday so far proved the opposite. I do believe that our Western colleagues will be in a position to adequately assess the situation, set their priorities in a responsible way and rejoin our collective efforts to maintain peace and security including arms control architecture.

Thank you for your attention. I wish you to succeed.

The source of information -

Sergey Lavrov’s opening remarks at the expanded-format meeting with San Marino Secretary of State for Foreign and Political Affairs and Justice Nicola Renzi, San Marino, March 21, 2019

21 March 2019 - 15:49

Mr Minister,

We have just exchanged opinions in a one-on-one format. In 2017 in New York we agreed to make our bilateral relations more substantive and that understanding is being implemented today.

Indeed, for the first time in history, the Foreign Minister of the Russian Federation, and Russia generally, is visiting San Marino. I think we can announce that the next step will be a visit to Russia by the San Marino Foreign Minister. We will be looking forward to it. I promise that the reception will be warm and hospitable.

Thank you again for arranging this meeting.

The source of information -

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s statement and responses to media questions during a joint news conference following talks with Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Political Affairs and Justice Nicola Renzi of the Republic of San Marino, March 21, 2019

21 March 2019 - 15:51

Mr Minister,

I would like to thank you once again for the hospitality with which you met our delegation.

Indeed, this is the first official visit of the Foreign Minister of Russia to the Republic of San Marino. As you emphasized, it is timed to the 25th anniversary of establishing diplomatic relations between our countries. I hope that your visit to the Russian Federation at my invitation that you kindly accepted will also be crowned with specific results.

Today, we signed an important memorandum that will further develop our contractual foundation. We are happy that our relations are making steady headway in all areas without exception. This mutual interest in stepping up the political dialogue is confirmed by my visit to San Marino and your future visit to the Russian Federation at your convenience. This is also reaffirmed by the increasing exchanges between our parliaments, including the recently established Russia-San Marino Friendship Group.

Our trade is not very impressive for now, but it has been growing steadily for several years. We want to maintain and encourage this trend. As we discussed in our talks, this will be facilitated by the participation of the San Marino government and business representatives in the St Petersburg International Economic Forum next June and other investment and economic events in the Russian Federation.

We welcome your interest in promoting humanitarian, tourism and education related contacts. About 150,000 Russian tourists visit San Marino every year. We are interested in seeing this figure grow and will be happy if Sammarinese also choose to spend their holidays in Russia.

We agreed to establish contacts between the University of the Republic of San Marino and a university in Russia, something that will facilitate language exchanges and contacts between teachers and students. We are grateful for the assistance of the San Marino authorities in unveiling a bust of Yury Gagarin at the University of San Marino last autumn.

We respect the pragmatic and balanced foreign policy of the republic and its independent decision-making on international issues. We appreciate that San Marino did not join the unilateral and illegal sanctions against the Russian Federation. This will create additional opportunities for consolidating mutually beneficial and practical cooperation, and we will take advantage of this. Today we discussed various options for expanding our cooperation in marketing agricultural produce in the Russian market and in the banking sphere where we plan to implement many initiatives.

We paid serious attention to the situation in Europe. We agreed to cooperate within the OSCE, including as regards the implementation of decisions on enhancing security and cooperation in the Mediterranean, and on settling the Ukrainian crisis based on the UN Security Council resolution that approved the Minsk agreements.

We spoke about the situation in the Council of Europe that has been hit by a crisis. We share concern over the failure to overcome this crisis for the time being. We believe that the discrimination against Russian deputies in PACE should come to an end. We appreciate the support of our friends from San Marino. We unanimously favour a return to the basic principles of the Charter of the Council of Europe that gives equal right to all members in all agencies of this pan-European organisation.

We discussed a number of other current issues, including those on the UN agenda. We unanimously favour the need to pool efforts in countering terrorism. We value San Marino’s solidarity with Russia. A monument to the victims of the heinous act of terror in Beslan was erected here. I hope I will have an opportunity to visit it today and lay flowers in memory of these victims.

I am very grateful to our friends for organising today’s talks. I know they will allow us to move our relations forward in many important areas.


Recently, Ukraine’s Central Election Committee refused to register 24 Russian citizens for the short-term OSCE monitoring mission during the presidential election. Will Russia consider the election legitimate in this case?

Sergey Lavrov:

The problem with the Ukrainian election is known. The refusal of the Ukrainian authorities to give access to Russian observers that have already been endorsed by the OSCE is illegitimate. This was already admitted by OSCE leaders, including those from the ODIHR, which is in charge of monitoring the election.

As for our assessments of this election, we will review the specific results and duly evaluate them.


The banking system of San Marino is in a predicament now. What cooperation can Russia and San Marino conduct in finance and banking?

Sergey Lavrov:

We discussed this area of our relations. We know that San Marino reformed its baking sector and tax legislation about a decade ago. Today we discussed the prospects for contacts between the central banks of Russia and San Marino, during which we will be able to coordinate the specific parameters of our cooperation. There are some issues that our Finance Ministry would like to clear up with its colleagues before coming to terms on full-scale cooperation without any restrictions.

I am sure we will find a solution. This won’t take much time.

The source of information -

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks at the Grand and General Council of the Republic of San Marino, San Marino, March 21, 2019

21 March 2019 - 15:54

Esteemed Captains Regent,

Ladies and gentlemen,

I appreciate this opportunity to speak in the Public Palace that hosts the Parliament and the most important official ceremonies of the Republic of San Marino. We know that the state traditions of San Marino are already over 1,700 years old. We treat them with great respect.

I see today’s meeting as graphic evidence of the high level of mutual trust between our countries. Russia invariably conducts a peaceful foreign policy that relies on international law and the UN Charter. Russia is open to the broadest possible international cooperation in all geographical areas and in all formats based on the principles of honesty, equality, respect and consideration for each other’s interests. We value good relations with all states without exception, both large and small.

We see our ties with the Republic of San Marino as unique and valuable. As my colleague has said, we have jointly marked the 25th anniversary of establishing diplomatic relations, a landmark date, not long ago. The heads of foreign policy departments exchanged congratulatory messages in connection with this anniversary. My colleague, Nicola Renzi, and I reviewed the results that have been achieved and charted guidelines for the future.

I am confident that we can present our countries’ people with numerous achievements. In the past 25 years, we have accumulated substantial cooperation experience in the most diverse fields, from the economy to education; and this experience continues to be enriched through our new joint undertakings, such as the September 2018 agreement on establishing an interparliamentary Friendship Group and the launching of a dialogue between our legislatures’ committees on foreign affairs.

Our cooperation in tourism goes particularly well with about 150,000 Russians visiting your hospitable country. In turn, we invite the Sammarinese people to come and see today's Russia and its citizens – open, modern and friendly people – with their own eyes. They should see how the real picture differs from what our country is occasionally portrayed as in certain media. We will encourage people-to-people contacts and make every effort to ease visa regulations.

A monument to the children of Beslan in the historical centre of San Marino is a true symbol of the bonds of friendship and solidarity that unite us. This is one of the few monuments like this outside of Russia. Solemnly unveiled in the presence of the Captains Regent in 2006, it is an outstanding sign of solidarity with the victims of the terrible Beslan tragedy and an appeal to do our best to prevent such tragedies in the future. We are convinced that eradicating terrorism, which is the real scourge of modern times, can only be achieved through combining the efforts of the entire international community on a solid basis of international law. The initiative put forward by President Putin to form a broad antiterrorist front under the auspices of the UN serves this goal.

Another signature monument – the bust of the first cosmonaut Yury Gagarin – was unveiled in San Marino on October 1, 2018. Symbolically, the unveiling on the grounds of the university, which was timed to coincide with the 25th anniversary of diplomatic relations, took place on the day when the Captains-Regent, present in this hall now, were sworn in. We are grateful to the San Marino authorities for assisting us in implementing this important joint cultural project.

We appreciate that despite the external pressure that San Marino was under, the republic did not become part of the anti-Russia sanctions promoted by Brussels at the behest of Washington. The independent and pragmatic approach of your country, which is conducive to promoting our trade, economic and investment ties, deserves the deepest respect. We highly appreciate the San Marino leadership’s firm commitment to preserving the neutrality of your country.

Russia is interested in strengthening the traditionally high level of interaction at various multilateral platforms, including the mutual support of candidates in elections to UN institutions.

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is no secret that the atmosphere on our common continent remains tense. We see the continued policy of beefing up NATO’s military-political activity: the alliance is bringing its military infrastructure ever closer to the Russian border. We see the erosion of the principle of indivisible security, although the pledge not to strengthen one’s security at the expense of others has been sealed in the OSCE and the Russia-NATO Council documents adopted by consensus at the top level.

I believe that in such a situation when many forms of dialogue, primarily between Russia and the EU and between Russia and NATO, remain suspended not through our own fault, the OSCE can and should take action to improve the atmosphere. This is reasonable, because the organisation was established to promote a positive and unifying political, economic and humanitarian European agenda. The OSCE’s potential must be used more energetically to bring about a military-political de-escalation, to align various integration processes and, of course, to protect the rights of ethnic minorities and to uncompromisingly struggle against any forms of racism, xenophobia, aggressive nationalism and chauvinism. We hope to be able to continue constructive interaction with our San Marino friends within the OSCE framework in these and other fields.

Another pan-European organisation with an important mission is the Council of Europe. We must make broader use of the potential of this organisation as a humanitarian foundation whose aim is, according to its Statute, “to achieve a greater unity between its members.”

Regrettably, the Council of Europe is amid a deep crisis that is linked to the illegal infringement on the rights of the Russian delegation in the Parliamentary Assembly, although the CoE Statute stipulates “an equitable representation” of the member states in the organisation’s bodies. We know that most European countries do not want Russia to withdraw from the Council of Europe. We hope that common sense will eventually prevail. We appreciate San Marino’s position in favour of settling this problem in strict compliance with the CoE Statute.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Our common European home needs major repairs. At the same time, any efforts to improve the current unhealthy situation will only succeed if based on the fundamental principles of international law. I am referring primarily to the sovereign equality of states, non-interference in their internal affairs, the non-use of force or the threat of force, a peaceful settlement of disputes and the right of nations to determine their own future. We have long called for launching practical work to turn Europe and the Eurasian continent as a whole into a common space of peace, security and broad economic cooperation based on the values of equality, mutual respect, neighbourliness and openness. I am sure that we see eye to eye when it comes to this.

I would like to express gratitude to you for receiving our delegation at such a high level.

The source of information -

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s interview for a Vladimir Kobyakov documentary, “A U-Turn over the Atlantic”, to be screened by NTV Channel, Moscow, March 22, 2019

22 March 2019 - 09:00


Mr Lavrov, the bombing of Yugoslavia was carried out 20 years ago. What were, in your opinion, the main geopolitical reasons why the United States launched this large-scale military operation?

Sergey Lavrov:

As I see it, it was the beginning of the period when Washington decided that they had won the Cold War. The Soviet Union had disappeared, Russia was weak and sought to convince everyone that it wanted to join the Western democratic processes and become part of the civilised world, as the Russian leaders of the time said. Obviously, they thought we were uncivilised in the Soviet era. But Washington felt tempted to take the situation in the entire world under its full control, to abandon the principles of coordinating approaches to international problems based on the UN Charter, and to address all arising issues in such a manner as to dominate in all regions of the world. It goes without saying that the Yugoslav story also had to do with the desire to promote NATO’s eastward expansion closer to the Russian Federation’s borders. There is no doubt about that. The subsequent developments prove this to be generally the case.


How was this accepted in Moscow at the time? Wasn’t the political elite split down the middle? Did you feel that we could enter into a military confrontation with NATO on this account?

Sergey Lavrov:

No. At that moment, we were discussing, including at the UN, the possibility of sending a peacekeeping mission to prevent clashes and reduce tensions around Kosovo. The West, primarily the United States, was categorically against this.


Why didn’t they want our peacekeepers?

Sergey Lavrov:

Because they wanted to address the issues on their own. They were not interested in reducing tensions. They needed a situation where Yugoslavia would break up. By that time, Yugoslavia had already disintegrated, but obviously not until the end, the end that the West desired. The Kosovo gamble was aimed precisely at this. In the end, we had a paratroopers contingent on the ground that had entered the territory at our initiative, in line with a decision by the Russian leadership, rather than in the context of some grand international peacekeeping mission. I remember well how the Western representatives grew pensive when it took the Slatina airport under its control. Thank God, the hotheads in Washington and other capitals, specifically London, who were urging that the Russians be reined in, did not prevail. What did prevail was the professionalism of the Western military, including British soldiers, who were deployed on the ground. There was an incident where our contingent had a close encounter with the British but, I repeat, the top professionalism of the military on both sides prevailed.


Yes, that was really something.

Sergey Lavrov:

It could have been very bad indeed. I repeat, the military acted to the best of their abilities.


Let’s go back to early 1999. In her memoirs, Madeleine Albright writes that “Serbs out, NATO in, refugees back” became the US diplomats’ mantra in January 1999. Do you think Russian diplomats had any other options that they had not used to convince Washington to renounce the idea of air strikes?

Sergey Lavrov:

Ms Albright personally phoned all the ministers of NATO member countries, persuading them, urging them and even forcing some of them to support the air strikes. Greece became the only NATO country that did not take part in this reckless undertaking and which denounced it.

Regarding the opportunities for averting this disaster, we did everything in our power. An OSCE mission was established largely on our initiative; it was deployed in Kosovo, for the most part, and also in adjacent areas. In early 1999, a conference went on for several weeks in Rambouillet near Paris, where the Americans tried to railroad President of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia Slobodan Milosevic with their ultimatum, to persuade him to resign and to cede power to some unspecified person. They tried to formalise that ultimatum as a demand of the entire international community. We prevented them from using the Rambouillet conference for these purposes and defended the norms of international law that called for resolving any disputes by peaceful methods. Of course, they later did the same at the UN Security Council.


You were working there at that time. What did people say behind the scenes?

Sergey Lavrov:

It wasn’t just behind the scenes activities: meetings and public discussions also took place. It goes without saying that all Western countries, permanent members of the UN Security Council, namely, the United States, the United Kingdom and France, staunchly advocated the use of force. They were supported by the then rotating UN Security Council members, Canada and the Netherlands. Russia, China and two other rotating UN Security Council members, Argentina and Brazil, vehemently opposed this scenario and the demands to either use force or approve the use of force.

You know how it ended. It was no longer possible to stop the Americans. They made their decision long ago and tried to formalise it at the UN Security Council. After realising that their plans failed, the Americans launched a unilateral aggression against a sovereign state in violation of the UN Charter, principles of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the entire world order that was established after World War II.

This trend also continues to manifest itself today. At that time, the process of replacing various concepts got underway, and the Americans moved to wreck international law and to replace it with certain rules for maintaining this order. Today, instead of advocating compliance with international law, Western countries are increasingly using the concept of “rules-based order.” The difference is clear: international law is the result of consensus-based talks, whereas the rules are invented by the West itself, which then demands that everyone else follow them. All this began at the time we are talking about, 20 years ago.


The then pretext for a war, for punishing the Serbs, was the Račak massacre. At least this was what US diplomats were saying.

Sergey Lavrov:

This was not a pretext but an artificially created excuse. That it was a provocation was known all along. People spoke and wrote about it, and provided evidence time and again. The victims, allegedly peaceful civilians, were in fact Albanian Liberation Army fighters, I mean the so-called Kosovo Liberation Army, who had been disguised as civilians. It has long been known that it was a “frame-up.” Regrettably, this provocation was arranged by an American, William Walker, the then head of the OSCE mission, who arrived on the scene of the event, found the bodies that, as I say, were neatly disguised as civilians, and said right there on the spot that an act of genocide had been committed. Regardless of what he saw – and he saw a provocative stitch-up – he had no right, in terms of his powers, to make such a declaration. It was only the OSCE Permanent Council, to which he was accountable and obliged to report, that had the authority to draw conclusions about what was going on. By and large, he played the same role as the so-called White Helmets are playing in Syria today by constantly staging fake incidents that give the West a pretext for launching attacks on a sovereign state.


There was a report with an expert analysis by Finnish forensic experts. You were attempting to gain access to it. Was it lost or classified?

Sergey Lavrov:

With support from many of my colleagues, I urged the UN Security Council to have this report published. Regrettably, it was not provided to us in full. The former prosecutor of the International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, Carla Del Ponte, circulated in the UN Security Council a maximally cleaned-up summary that on the whole sounded neutral. But the full text was never provided.


In the early 2000s, the International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in The Hague made an attempt to bring charges against the NATO command for civilian deaths, attacks on civilian facilities and the use of munitions with [depleted] uranium. At that time, this mechanism faltered. Is there any hope that an international investigation will be resumed?

Sergey Lavrov:

I think the West has done and will continue to do all it can to prevent this from happening.

As for the banned munitions, the Serbs have been conducting an investigation of their own. As soon as we have the results, we will see what can be done so as not to leave this crime unpunished. To reiterate: I see practically no chance of this being approved by the international institutions, where the West is present and where Western votes are counted. They will do their best to prevent this from happening.

Let me give you an example. In 2010, a Swiss MP, Dick Marty, published a report exposing monstrous crimes committed by the Kosovo Liberation Army thugs, who kidnapped people and used them for illegal trafficking in human organs. With the report on the table, we did not allow this problem to be swept under the carpet. A high-profile campaign was launched that called for an investigation and punishment for those who had committed these crimes. After protracted disputes and altercations, the West had to agree to make the Kosovo government give its consent to establishing a special court to investigate the crimes described in the Marty report. Formally, the court was created but it has been out of business for several years. A prosecutor, a US citizen by the way, was appointed. The Americans did their best to have this post fall to a US citizen. Two prosecutors have been replaced since then, with a third one (again an American) filling the position now. But no charges have been brought. I even doubt that the investigation is proceeding in any coherent way. So, the West will hush up the facts that lay open the crimes against humanity committed by itself and its charges.

The operation itself, when they were bombing Serbia, was carried out with gross violations of all principles of international humanitarian law, because they were bombing purely civilian facilities. For example, there is a case on record, where NATO aircraft attacked a passenger train that was passing across a bridge. And it was an absolute outrage when they bombed the TV Centre. Today we hear the echoes of that attack in situations where claims are made that certain media are “propaganda tools” rather than sources of information. This is how, incidentally, RT and Sputnik are branded in France. Their correspondents are banned from public events, where other media are accredited. It was then that a number of media outlets took to accusing journalists of being “propaganda mouthpieces,” a claim that explained the reason why the TV Centre in Belgrade had to be attacked.


But the Chinese Embassy was also hit in that attack…

Sergey Lavrov:

I think it was some error, but I am not quite sure.


How did the 1999 bombing of Yugoslavia influence further developments in international politics?

Sergey Lavrov:

By and large, it did not teach the West anything, if, of course, it wanted to learn, which I doubt. If they learned a lesson after all, it was a negative one, because soon after 1999, in 2003, a decision was taken to invade Iraq under a far-fetched pretext that Iraq possessed chemical and biological weapons. As for nuclear weapons, there were also attempts to call into question the report that confirmed the absence of these weapons in Iraq. Here is an aggression against yet another sovereign country. The country is in tatters. Currently, it is being pieced together with great difficulty, but problems remain. Several hundred thousand people have been killed since 2003; there is no doubt about that.

After that, in 2008, the West, following the same line and in a bid to justify its aggression against Yugoslavia, recognised unilaterally Kosovo’s independence, although there was no reason whatsoever for disrupting the UN-sponsored negotiations between Belgrade and Pristina. There were no attacks from either side, and the West’s claims that they had to unilaterally recognise Kosovo’s independence because the Albanians in Kosovo were threatened by the Serbs, were absolutely far-fetched and groundless. The line for undermining international law persisted into 2011, when NATO carried out an aggression against Libya after grossly distorting a UN Security Council resolution. In this case, the country ended up in ruins the way Iraq had, and it is still a tall order to piece it together, because there are too many problems.

All these gambles resulted, among other things, in an unprecedented surge of international terrorism, organised crime and illegal migration…


Do you mean Kosovo?

Sergey Lavrov:

No, I am talking about the results of all these gambles, including in the Middle East. Kosovo is being ruled by the people who care nothing about even the timid advice, which the West is attempting to offer, on the need to normalise relations with Belgrade. The EU has been trying to act as a mediator for years. But Pristina ignores all agreements that in some way or other, as a first step, were aimed at guaranteeing the Serbs’ rights in Kosovo. In response, the EU displays absolute helplessness.

A few days ago, in early March, Pristina published its negotiating platform, which amounts to an ultimatum. It says that Kosovo’s independence should be fully recognised without any preconditions and that Serbs neither have, nor are entitled to any right to influence the solution of this problem. Washington has swallowed this. I even think that more likely than not Washington itself is behind Pristina’s unacceptable step. Europe is still keeping silent, but I think that it is unlikely to make Pristina-based leaders change their absolutely arrogant position.

The string of gambles that started in 1999 continues to this day. We can see the strengthening of the line for replacing universal international law by the rules invented in the interests of the United States and its allies alone. This line must be opposed.

The source of information -

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s answer to a media question for Saturday News with Sergey Brilev on Rossiya 1 Television Channel, San Marino, March 23, 2019

23 March 2019 - 09:00


San Marino is not an EU member, but it is a European country. The motto over its gate is Libertas, which shows that they are different. Is it the air?

Sergey Lavrov:

You have a special feeling here, a feeling that it is a small nation with a rich history, which the people honour alongside their traditions and roots. They are independent people. We respect their decision not to join the sanctions and that they take an independent stand on many other subjects. There are few countries like this one.

The source of information -

The following events are not displayed in the English version.

18 March 2019

Telephone conversation of S. Lavrov with Armenian Foreign Minister Z. Mnatsakanyan -

19 March 2019

Telephone conversation of S. Lavrov with Iranian Foreign Minister M. Zarif -

20 March 2019

About lunch of S. Lavrov with heads of international organizations located in Geneva -
Where should they dig the Very Deep Pit?
Piglet said that the best place would be somewhere where a Heffalump was, just before he fell into it, only about a foot farther on.
(c) Alan Alexander Miln