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Old 1 Week Ago #81
Alex Him
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Press release on the donation of Russian coronavirus diagnostic test kits to North Korea



26 February 2020 - 11:26



Due to the persisting risk of the new COVID-19 infection, Russia has donated 1,500 coronavirus diagnostic test kits to Pyongyang at the request of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. We hope that this step will help North Korea prevent the infection from penetrating the country.




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4059498






Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Vershinin’s interview with the newspaper Izvestia, published February 26, 2020



26 February 2020 - 11:42



Question:

What does Moscow think about the new EU arms embargo mission? Will we see a rerun of the 2011 scenario?



Sergey Vershinin:

Libya is one of the most painful international problems. It is regularly discussed at the UN Security Council in New York. A crucial meeting has been held in Berlin at the level of the heads of state, which was attended by President Vladimir Putin. The relevant UN Security Council resolution was adopted following that event. The question you have asked proceeds from the efforts that have been taken recently to improve the situation in Libya.

We remember what happened in 2011, and we keep saying that the aggressive actions taken back then, primarily by NATO countries, led to the collapse of Libyan statehood. Soon after that, we received a major seat of tension on the Mediterranean coast in Africa close to Europe. No measure taken so far has helped us to ease the tension and stabilise the situation there. We support the efforts of the UN and the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Libya, Ghassan Salame, who is in charge. It is very important for us that all the UN Security Council resolutions on Libya point out that it should be a political process waged by Libyans themselves. Our position is that the Libyan sides’ views should be taken into account. It is also important that our efforts and those of the international community are based on the UN Security Council decisions.

I would like you to take note of two factors we consider crucial when it comes to Libya. The first is that Libyans themselves must determine their future and take part in the peacekeeping efforts to stop and settle the conflict. The second thing is that all these efforts must comply with the resolutions adopted by the UN Security Council. This also concerns the monitoring of the embargo and its violations, as well as the leading role played by the international community in the settlement of the conflict, in general.

It is from this position that we look at what happened during the preparations of the Berlin conference, as well as during and after it. The decisions taken by the regional organisations, including the EU, should strictly comply with the UNSC mandate and resolutions. Any decision that exceeds their framework is unacceptable and a cause for concern. I am once again referring to the leading role of the Security Council and its decisions. This also regards our views on the effectiveness of efforts in terms of the Libyan sides’ involvement in them. Trying to act without the Libyan sides’ involvement would be bad and ineffective; we must not take any decisions for them. This is why we are meeting with all the sides and invite them to come to Moscow. This is why we are insisting that any decisions must be taken with the involvement of the Libyan sides, because they will not be effective otherwise. We have come to realise this in the past few years, when all of us were trying, although to a different extent, to help settle the Libyan conflict.



Question:

In other words, Russia is waiting for additional information about the EU mission?



Sergey Vershinin:

As I already said, it is vital for us that the Europeans’ decisions on their actions towards Libya comply with the UNSC resolutions. They should not exceed the limits of the mandate approved for such actions by the Security Council on behalf of the international community.



Question:

Russia has time and again protested infringements on the rights of persons illegally arrested by Americans in other countries, in particular Konstantin Yaroshenko, Viktor Bout and Roman Seleznyov. Do you plan to raise this topic once again at international venues? Do you intend to sign more extradition agreements, possibly with the United States and Israel?



Sergey Vershinin:

The cases you have mentioned are a cause for indignation and concern. Regrettably, they all happened years ago. The arrest of Konstantin Yaroshenko was a shameless seizure of a Russian citizen in a third country. No other people have been seized in this manner recently, but Americans have mounted pressure on their allies to extradite several Russian citizens – you know their names – to the United States. Moreover, Americans do not even bother to behave in a civilised way towards them, but instead force them to make false confessions and the like. We do not accept this. We denounce this, and we believe that such actions run completely contrary to Americans’ attempts to pose as the advocates of democratic values, in particular in the fields of human rights and law enforcement.

I do not remember a single contact with Americans when we did not raise these questions absolutely aggressively. We will continue to do this on the international stage. We do this primarily at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, as well as in New York, making use of various international human rights protection procedures. We are doing all of this.

I believe that extradition agreements should be part of normal relations with normal countries. It is another matter that it should be a two-way street, but we do not see other countries putting forth equal efforts. Besides, such agreements obviously require a great deal of intradepartmental coordination in any country, including Russia and the United States. I can assure you that we are keeping our people under close supervision. Our consulates and embassies in these countries, first of all the United States, have been instructed to closely monitor the situation, press for meetings with our people and prevent any discrimination against Russian citizens.



Question:

The 43rd session of the UN Human Rights Council opened in Geneva on February 24. Russia plans to seek a seat at the council for 2021-2023. It has not had a seat at the council since 2015. When will this question be decided? What are our chances of getting a seat? What will we lose if Russia is not elected to this 47-member UN body?



Sergey Vershinin:

If Russia is elected, the biggest winners will be the international community and the Human Rights Council itself. Our position is that human rights in general – and there are very many of them – are very important and must be protected, but this should be done without any political bias or a desire, as we have seen happening in Geneva many times, to take any particular aspect of human rights and turn it into a political instrument for putting pressure on undesirable countries. Russia has developed balanced approaches, because human rights are an ocean of problems, including the rights of women and children, gender and minority problems, etc. I believe that our balanced approach is respected when it comes to all of these problems. This is why I say that if Russia is elected, this will be all the better for the council and the international community.

The vote has been set for October. We are working to make our arguments, or better still, the advantages of Russia’s council membership, known to everybody. Time will show, but considering what I have said, I take an optimistic view on the matter.



Question:

Do you think that the recent WADA decisions are part of political pressure on Russia? Does Moscow feel isolated on the international stage in this sense?



Sergey Vershinin:

I do not believe that high performance sports and that regional, let alone world, competitions are possible without Russia. I mean this. The history of Russian sports shows that no competition is what it should be without Russian athletes. We are acting transparently when it comes to protecting the interests of Russian athletes, as well as the interests of Russia.

I believe that the truth will ultimately prevail and the ongoing processes – arbitration proceedings and so on – will show that the Russian Federation honours all requirements of the Olympic movement and other international sports organisations, and that it has earned the well-deserved right to send its athletes to all international events. As for collusion and conspiracy rumours, I presume that someone may indeed try to make use of this background to damage Russia in sports or politics. But I see no reason why such plans and efforts should succeed.




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4059871






Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s statement and answer to a media question at a joint news conference following talks with Prime Minister and Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs of Albania and OSCE Chairperson-in-Office Edi Rama, Moscow, February 26, 2020



26 February 2020 - 15:59






Ladies and gentlemen,

I had productive talks with Prime Minister and Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Albania Edi Rama, who arrived in Russia on a visit as the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office.

We discussed the situation in Europe in the context of the OSCE’s goals. We share the belief that it can and should play a weightier role in resolving current international issues. The Organisation has the necessary tools for this, but the political will of the participating states is not always available. We both believe that in order to strengthen security on our shared continent, it is important to promote an equal dialogue, to take each other’s interests into account and generally promote a positive and unifying agenda. This will help restore the much-needed trust between the participating states.

Clearly, the Chairperson-in-Office has great responsibility. In a dialogue with our Albanian colleagues, we felt a desire to act as an “honest broker” and to stick to consensus approaches which will unite the OSCE member states, rather than ratchet up confrontation, of which, frankly, there is plenty there as it is.

We discussed our current goals in line with the three dimensions of the OSCE’s activities: security, socioeconomic development and humanitarian issues.

We confirmed Russia’s readiness to step up cooperation in areas such as fighting terrorism, drug trafficking, cyber threats, organised crime and human trafficking. We believe the OSCE can do more to harmonise integration processes in Eurasia, to ensure the rights of ethnic minorities, especially language and education rights, to counter anti-Semitism and Christiano- and Islamophobia. In light of the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II, we believe it is important to set aside political differences and to focus our joint efforts on curbing the glorification of Nazism and attempts to revive neo-Nazi sentiments in Europe. I believe this is in our common interest. We will strongly advocate such a position at the OSCE.

We reviewed in detail the situation in Ukraine. Clearly, Albania’s OSCE chairmanship sees promoting the implementation of the Minsk agreements among its priorities. We support this approach. We will do our best to use the Contact Group and the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) in Ukraine to move forward. We expect the SMM to provide a data summary about the casualties and destruction of civilian infrastructure over the entire period of the conflict, the manifestations of aggressive nationalism, neo-Nazism and xenophobia, as well as on the position of ethnic minorities. All this is part of the OSCE SMM mandate, which should operate, in addition to Donbass, in other regions of Ukraine as well.

We discussed the Organisation’s role in facilitating the settlement of conflicts within the OSCE space, including the Balkans, in particular, Kosovo. We discussed this matter in detail. We want to promote a dialogue that will help Belgrade and Pristina reach an agreement based on the principles laid down in UNSC Resolution 1244. The solution to the Kosovo issue, which we all want, must be consistent with international law and be approved by the UN Security Council. Of course, if we want to get there, we need the consent of the negotiators who are directly involved. We believe that implementing the agreements on creating a Community of Kosovo's Serbian Municipalities, which were reached a long time ago, would be the key to achieving progress.

Albania and Russia enjoy a certain level of bilateral relations. Last year, co-chairs of the Russian-Albanian Intergovernmental Commission on Trade, Economic, Scientific and Technical Cooperation met in Moscow. The meeting showed that the potential for expanding cooperation exists, but is held back by the fact that Albania had joined the EU sanctions policy. Of course, we don’t think it’s a good thing.

Cultural and people-to-people ties are expanding in addition to economic and trade ties. Prospective students in Albania are interested in studying in Russia, which we are very happy about. We are ready to provide more government funded quotas.

Overall, we are interested in promoting relations with Albania. We stand ready and willing to cooperate with Albania to whatever extent Albania wishes to cooperate with us. I want to thank my colleague for what I think were productive talks.







Question:

The Contact Group on Ukraine is holding a meeting in Minsk today. Foreign Minister of Ukraine Vadim Pristaiko said recently that “it is not simply possible but necessary” to revise the Minsk agreements because they cannot be carried out in their current version, and Ukraine will try to convince the sides to do this. What is Russia’s attitude to this demand and will it block it?

Mr Pristaiko has just announced that the foreign ministers of the Normandy format countries will hold a meeting in a month. Is that true? Can you confirm this?



Sergey Lavrov:

This is not the first time that we hear Mr Pristaiko and other top Ukrainian officials say that the Minsk agreements must be revised. This is not a new issue. The Ukrainian Government has been working on this for a long time – since the Petro Poroshenko regime. They demanded revision and did not implement in practice anything that was agreed upon. They completely distorted the gist of the Minsk agreements with their initiative to send a large contingent of 20,000-25,000 UN peacekeepers with heavy weapons to eastern Ukraine. All agencies formed in Donetsk and Lugansk, notably the police and administrative bodies were supposed to be dismissed and replaced with their UN counterparts. The entire perimeter was to be transferred under the control of this 20,000-strong contingent with heavy weapons. “Free and democratic” elections were supposed to be held afterwards. Those ideas are not new.

We keep urging our German and French colleagues as participants in the Normandy format to draw the attention of their Ukrainian partners to the fact that such actions completely destroy the UN Security Council resolution, which endorsed the Minsk Package of Measures. Among their arguments to buttress their initiatives to revise the Minsk agreements that we are now discussing and to support such military measures, our Ukrainian colleagues mention Eastern Slavonia, an area of Croatia where Serbs used to live there for centuries and where the operation was pulled off by the UN but, in point of fact, the UN supervised the process of ethnic cleansing. There are no more Serbs living there now. Our Ukrainian colleagues actively cite this example as a pattern for resolving the Donbass problem. I hope everyone understands that such initiatives are provocative, absolutely hopeless and unacceptable.

If Mr Pristaiko is going, as you said, “to try to convince the sides” to adopt some new decisions, we will be guided by the UN Security Council resolution that unanimously endorsed the Minsk agreements.

We hear many statements on Normandy format meetings at the foreign ministers level. The date and level are announced for such meetings on Ukraine and Syrian affairs. To be honest, this is news to us. We have clearly spoken about the need to work in the Normandy format to implement the decisions that were adopted earlier.

The leaders of the Normandy Four adopted several recommendations at their meeting in Paris in December 2019. They are being reviewed by the Contact Group because they can be primarily carried out via this group in which Kiev, Donetsk and Lugansk are all represented. Incidentally, speaking about the need to implement the agreements, let me remind you that a document was prepared for the Paris meeting. This document recommended that the sides disengage forces and weapons on the ground along the entire contact line. President of Ukraine Vladimir Zelensky refused point blank to support this idea. This is not the first time the Minsk agreements are being subverted because they provide for a full disengagement of forces and weapons. I hope the Ukrainian leaders will nevertheless fulfill Mr Zelensky’s election promises. He said then that he wanted to end the war and will not take cues from the radicals and neo-Nazis who want to wreck the entire settlement process in eastern Ukraine.

I have not heard from anyone but you that a meeting of the foreign ministers of the Normandy format countries is scheduled to take place in a month. Our colleagues are saying that a regular summit in the Normandy format should be planned for April. We made our position abundantly clear: we will discuss the dates of the next summit only after everything that was agreed upon in Paris is fulfilled, including a normalisation on the ground, mine clearing, political issues linked with the Steinmeier formula and permanent inclusion of all aspects of the Donbass special status in Ukrainian legislation. Moreover, it is necessary to sign a final document to prevent new attempts to destroy the reached agreements already during the summit. I am referring to the disengagement of forces and weapons that was supposed to take place along the entire contact line but Mr Zelensky made an about-face over the agreements that were reached with his associates. This position of ours is well known and we will be guided by it. This is the only way to ensure progress because the attempts to always take a step forward and two steps back, to quote Lenin, are beginning to obstruct the process.



Question:

From which angle did you discuss bilateral affairs between Russia and Albania?



Sergey Lavrov:

In my opening remarks I mentioned that we are open to develop relations as intensively as our Albanian colleagues feel happy with. The answer to this question primarily depends on Albania. Mr Prime Minister pointed out the obligations that Albania has to NATO, notably to their ally, the United States. We are aware that Albania would like to start the accession process to enter the European Union and we see that this is actually happening. There are masses of examples (I am sure Albania can be one of them) when no obligations that I mentioned prevent the development of normal, healthy relations that are above all mutually beneficial in spheres such as trade, investment and economic cooperation, and make it possible to promote people-to-people contacts in the humanitarian, cultural and educational fields, thereby facilitating good relations. I don’t see any reason that might prevent us from developing such relations.

(Adds after Edi Rama)

Mr Prime Minister,

The number of telephone calls that you mentioned reflects the reality. But as for personal meetings, soon after I was appointed foreign minister of Russia in 2004, I paid a visit to Tirana during which Foreign Minister of Albania Kastriot Islami and I initialed a Treaty on Friendship and Cooperation. It has not been signed up to this very day because Albania mothballed it and did not give it another thought. But it does exist and it is ready. We can bring this into effect and then we will have clear-cut principles when it comes to our relations.

We will regularly talk by telephone, at least this year. In addition to OSCE matters, we can discuss bilateral issues that are of interest to you as well as to us. We are quite ready for this.



Question:

At the beginning of this news conference you mentioned Kosovo. I would like to know if Russia does have any new reasons not to recognise the independence of Kosovo. You are a well-known diplomat, as the Prime Minister mentioned. Judging from your experience, could Russia one day recognise the independence of Kosovo?



Sergey Lavrov:

Replying to your question I would like to make a small correction. You are asking whether I can imagine that one day Russia might recognise Kosovo. This is not the point. The bottom line is what the Prime Minister said when he was commenting on the situation in Ukraine. He thinks that what was agreed upon should be carried out. Our position on Kosovo is exactly the same. There is UN Security Council Resolution 1244 on which every country agreed and which was adopted unanimously. There is a whole series of Belgrade-Pristina agreements that were reached with the EU’s mediation, including the formation of the community of Serb municipalities in Kosovo. This would be a great step towards ensuring human rights of those who live on the territory of the so-called “Serb enclaves” in Kosovo. This agreement was reached at least six years ago. However, Pristina is refusing to implement it. Therefore, we, as President Vladimir Putin said more than once, are ready to accept any solution that will be agreed upon by Belgrade and Pristina. We are active supporters of such a dialogue. Regrettably, our EU colleagues that volunteered to act as go-betweens in this dialogue and managed to produce some results, including what I already mentioned, have not yet persuaded the side to carry them out. We will insist on the resolution of the Kosovo issue exclusively on the basis of the agreements that will have to be subsequently endorsed by the UN Security Council.




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4060697






Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s opening remarks at the ceremony of signing a cooperation agreement between the Foreign Ministry, the Information Telegraph Agency of Russia (ITAR-TASS) and the Federal Archive Agency (Rosarkhiv) on information coverage of the 75th anniversary of Victory in the Great Patriotic War and the 75th anniversary of the United Nations, Moscow, February 26, 2020



26 February 2020 - 18:24






We have just signed a cooperation agreement with the Federal Archive Agency and ITAR-TASS on covering the events that will be devoted to and are already being held to honour the 75th anniversary of Victory in the Great Patriotic War.

Our Foreign Ministry has established very close, collaborative and friendly relations with our colleagues – the Federal Archive Agency and ITAR-TASS. We are combining the capabilities of federal executive bodies and our media on a very topical theme.

Today we are witnessing a vast number of attempts to call into doubt the outcome of World War II and to rewrite history and the decisions of the Nuremberg Trials. There is no need to talk about this at length. President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly made statements on this issue, for example, at the meeting with his CIS colleagues in December 2019. This work is very important and not only because we want to preserve the truth about history but also because this truth is directly linked with current practical policy. It would obviously be futile to try to lay the blame for unleashing WWII on this country and the people of the Soviet Union. Such attempts would not be acceptable to those who are honest about their past.







Our joint activities, aimed at opening archives and allowing anyone in any country to find out what really happened and to familiarise themselves with the historical facts, are of great importance today, in particular, in order to prevent any attempts to call into question the principles on which the United Nations was founded after WWII. The UN remains the main instrument for maintaining multilateral cooperation and overcoming any problems in interstate relations on the basis of political, diplomatic methods and without the use or threat of force. This work is directly related to the efforts to resolve current issues. President Putin suggested that the permanent members of the UN Security Council should realise their special responsibility for maintaining peace and security and should hold their first summit in the year of the 75th anniversary of Victory in the war and the 75th anniversary of the United Nations. This initiative enjoys broad support in the world. We can see what high hopes the countries of the world have for this initiative. We will translate it into reality.

The current agreement ensures increased cooperation with the Federal Archive Agency and our media, which will create an objective background that facilitates cooperation and is not conducive to the escalation of tension in which some of our colleagues are regrettably interested. I think today’s event indicates support for our efforts.

I am confident that the archives that will be opened on the basis of this agreement and the information that will be provided to the public worldwide will certainly help consolidate constructive trends in world affairs.




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4060877






Press release on Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s meeting with Hussein al-Sheikh, member of the Palestinian Fatah Movement’s Central Committee



27 February 2020 - 17:42



On February 27, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov received in Moscow Hussein al-Sheikh, a member of the Palestinian Fatah Movement’s Central Committee.

During the meeting the officials focused on further developing traditionally friendly relations between Russia and Palestine, with an emphasis on deepening the political dialogue on urgent problems of the Middle East.

The Russian minister confirmed Russia’s commitment to the two-state solution in settling the Palestinian-Israeli conflict on a universally recognised foundation of international law, including the relevant resolutions of the UN Security Council and General Assembly and the Arab Peace Initiative. Mr Lavrov also emphasised that there is no alternative to direct talks between the Palestinians and the Israelis under the aegis of the international Quartet. He laid emphasis on the importance of restoring Palestinian national unity based on the PLO’s political platform as soon as possible.

On the same day, Special Presidential Representative for the Middle East and Africa, Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov also had detailed consultations with Hussein al-Sheikh at the Russian Foreign Ministry.




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4061961
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Old 1 Week Ago #82
Alex Him
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Briefing by Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova, Moscow, February 27, 2020



27 February 2020 - 19:52







Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s meeting with Chairman of the Politburo of the HAMAS Palestinian Movement Ismail Haniyeh

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Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s visit to Finland

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Posting material about the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons on the Foreign Ministry’s website

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Update on the Covid-19 coronavirus epidemic

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Update on Syria

In Syria, the focus remains on Idlib, which has become a Hayat Tahrir al-Sham terrorist alliance stronghold. We believe that the failure to comply with the Russian-Turkish Memorandum of September 17, 2018 is a key factor that is contributing to a worsening situation.

Despite the ceasefire imposed on January 9, the militants continued shelling nearby towns and government military positions. Over 1,800 instances of shelling and more than 430 attacks involving heavy weapons have been recorded over this time period. More than 160 civilians have died and about 350 have been injured. The losses are even heavier in the Syrian army, with over 450 fatalities and over 1,100 injured. In addition, the militants have launched 10 attacks against Russian military sites, including two instances with multiple launch rocket systems against the Khmeimim airbase.

Syrian positions have come under Turkish attacks as well. Over 40 instances of shelling have been noted since February 3 killing nearly 20 and injuring over 40 Syrian troops. These attacks were carried out in the areas where terrorists have tried to attack the government positions.

Clearly, given the circumstances, the Syrian army has to fight back. With the support of the Russian Aerospace Forces, it is conducting the Dawn over Idlib operation which focuses exclusively on the terrorists who are holed up in the de-escalation zone.

The Russian interdepartmental delegation’s consultations with the Turkish representatives on a range of issues related to normalising the situation in Idlib started yesterday and will continue in Ankara today.

Thanks to the Syrian army’s effective actions against the terrorists in the Idlib de-escalation zone, civilian motor traffic on Motorway M5 (Damascus-Aleppo) has resumed for the first time in a long while. The Syrian authorities also expect to finish rebuilding the Homs-Hama-Aleppo railway soon.

In February, the Syrian army liberated the city of Aleppo and its suburbs which made it possible to immediately start rebuilding peaceful life there. The city's international airport took its first passenger flight from Damascus after an eight-year break. Air service between Aleppo and Cairo will resume soon.

We note Syria’s gradual reintegration into the international community. On February 21, the Syrian parliamentary delegation took part in the 14th plenary session of the Mediterranean Parliamentary Assembly in Athens. Over 20 Syrian companies took part in the international food industry exhibition in Abu Dhabi in mid-February.



African Union’s initiative to deploy military observers in Libya

We welcome the statement by the African Union (AU), following the organisation’s February 9-10, 2020 summit in Addis Ababa, on sending a group of military observers to Libya for monitoring the ceasefire if a respective agreement is reached with the parties to the intra-Libyan conflict.

We believe that AU military observer activity, which must be closely coordinated with the UN that has the lead role in a Libya settlement, could substantially contribute to the efforts of the international community to normalise the situation in Libya and highlight the full implementation of the principle “African solutions for African problems” by the African Union.

We expect that the AU’s close involvement in a peace settlement in Libya will serve its declared purpose of ending military conflicts on the African continent, promote the countering of terrorist threats, primarily in the Sahara-Sahel region, and will help provide favourable conditions for the development of the African countries.



Assessments of US talks with the Taliban movement and the possible implications for an intra-Afghan settlement

I would like to quote a statement by a high-ranking commander made a couple of years ago, in February 2017. I recall commenting on his statements, though it may not be on this particular one. The US and NATO commander in Afghanistan General John Nicholson said in an interview with the Afghan service of the Voice of America, this free, democratic, unbiased and non-propagandistic media outlet, "Russia has been legitimizing the Taliban and supporting the Taliban. The extent of that support is still unclear. But the fact is that by supporting the Taliban they are supporting a group which is connected with terrorism and enables terrorists," he said. "Meanwhile, the Taliban supports terrorists." He then went on in the same vein. This was from February 2017.

On February 29, the US and the Taliban are scheduled to sign an agreement on the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan. What was it that General Nicholson said about Russia’s attempts to legitimise the Taliban? Apparently, all this was said under the assumption that we either don’t have the internet or we don’t know how to use it. This is incorrect, of course.

Russia has repeatedly said that there is no alternative to political and diplomatic approaches to resolving the conflict in Afghanistan and launching the above-mentioned talks which should open the way to initiating a direct inclusive intra-Afghan dialogue on peace and political settlement. Not only were we criticised for this stance, but there were attempts to ridicule us, to present us as a state that does not support international law, that undermines it. Moreover, we were directly accused of virtually supporting international terrorism (which follows from the above quote). All that for holding a position that is now clearly a reality.

Special Presidential Representative for Afghanistan and Director of the Second Asian Department of the Russian Foreign Ministry Zamir Kabulov, who has been expressing our position and who has largely contributed to developing it over many years, will attend the ceremony of signing the US-Taliban agreement as an invited guest.

Of course, we will not stop reviewing US statements on the Taliban and Russia’s views on the subject. I want to make a special case of this because not only is it comical but it is also real evidence of:

1. The instability in the US political system;

2. Their permanent political partiality and focus on internal interests, the interests of its own political and possibly financial and economic groups;

3. The unpredictability of US foreign policy, which leads to direct threats to the existing international order.

The list may be continued.



Developments in Cameroon

Tension persists in the northwestern and southwestern provinces of the Republic of Cameroon. We conclude that this is due both to the unstable situation in the neighbouring areas of the African continent and to historical reasons. The division of the former colonial possessions, without taking into account the religious, linguistic and ethnic factors and traditions of the continent, of the region created many hotbeds of tension in Africa. In this case, Cameroon was no exception.

We call on the Cameroonian parties to conflict to show maximum restraint. We believe a solution to the internal problems of this state can be found through a substantive national dialogue while respecting human rights and ensuring the rule of law.

We are convinced that Cameroonians are able to cope with the aggravated problems on their own, or, if necessary, with the support of the African Union, as well as subregional organisations, in particular the Economic Community of Central African States.

The challenges and threats facing Central Africa are closely interlinked. Destabilisation in one country can potentially disrupt the entire subregion, affecting neighbouring states. In this regard, assessing the state of affairs in Cameroon, we consider it important not to cross the line between crisis prevention and external interference in the internal affairs of this sovereign state.



UN Office of Counter-Terrorism launches project to prevent the trafficking of weapons and their supply to terrorists

On February 21, in New York, the UN Office of Counter-Terrorism launched a new project to prevent the supply of weapons to terrorists. This project was initiated and is largely funded by Russia. A number of relevant UN agencies and UN member states actively participated in its development and support its successful implementation. At the inaugural event, several more countries expressed interest in joining this work. At the same time, the foreign partners noted the timeliness and relevance of the Russian initiative.

It is expected that at the initial stage, efforts will focus on providing targeted assistance to the Central Asian states. We are talking about holding thematic seminars and advanced training sessions for representatives of government agencies that deal with illegal arms trafficking and counter-terrorism. It is important that experienced SCO experts will be involved in the relevant events.

Judging by the first results, the project is likely to reach other regions of the world. We hope that it can also help shed light on the outrageous instances of providing weapons to terrorists in Syria and Iraq.



Possibility of arbitration proceedings over non-issuance of US visas to Russian delegations for UN activities

The situation concerning US visa issuance to Russian representatives for participation in the activities of various UN bodies and agencies remains critical. The latest meeting of the UN Committee on Relations with the Host Country on February 25 showed that there has been no progress in this matter.

As a reminder, last autumn 18 Russian representatives were denied visas to attend the 74th session of the UN General Assembly. To date, none of those visas has been issued. This has also happened to other Russian delegates who were supposed to take part in UN activities this year. Visas have also been denied to Russian representatives who are to become mission employees, Russian citizens who were selected for work at the UN Secretariat, and visas have not been extended to Russian diplomats working at the mission.

Visas non-issuance by the UN host country is practiced not only with respect to Russia, but other states as well. By all appearances, in this way Washington is trying to select delegates and experts for participation in UN activities thereby creating serious obstacles for the work of government delegations. This constitutes a gross violation of the US’s international commitments as the UN host country. This position is reflected in Resolution 17/195 (December 2019) of the UN General Assembly on the report of the Committee on Relations with the Host Country.

It also indicates that if the situation of visa non-issuance is not settled within a reasonable time the committee will look seriously at the possibility of resorting to arbitration as per Agreement between the United Nations and the United States of America regarding the Headquarters of the United Nations of 1947. The UN Secretary-General is vested with the right to initiate such arbitration.

Evidently, a “reasonable time” has expired. In view of this, we expect UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to take specific actions to initiate arbitration proceedings over the US violation of its international commitments stemming from its host country status with respect to the UN. I want to underscore that he has the legal grounds to do this.



Viktor Bout’s detention made more harsh

According to the Russian Embassy in the US, the reason for Viktor Bout’s transfer to the Marion prison special unit in the state of Illinois was not just because of his unsanctioned contact with a journalist, as he said, but also his alleged correspondence with an Iranian-born prisoner. According to Bout’s lawyer, prison authorities authorised his communication with a journalist whereas the Russian national’s legitimate correspondence was mistakenly delivered to the wrong convict which is prohibited by the prison’s regulations. The lawyer plans to file a complaint, including to court.

For our part, we are indignant at the strip and cavity search by prison authorities to allegedly find prohibited items or substances. This attitude towards Russian nationals, is a real abuse, and is characteristic of the US system.

Obviously, these actions will not go unanswered.



Update on Konstantin Yaroshenko

I would like to draw your attention to the recent reports on the condition of Konstantin Yaroshenko. He is not just a prisoner, he was kidnapped by US authorities who thus grossly perverted every possible international legal standard. He has been suffering from a number of illnesses for several years and receives no medical attention. Medical service is provided only after sending diplomatic notes, letters, and at times by publishing statements on the matter.

His wife noticed, once again, the deterioration of his health. We will be dealing with this issue. I mean our diplomatic missions abroad. We call on the US authorities to follow their obligations and do everything they can for a man who was virtually “walled-in” to a US prison based on no legal grounds, something we are more convinced of as we review other cases. Our Western partners like to identify systematic approaches and actions by other countries and reaching their own conclusions. But there are enough cases of kidnapping, illegal detention, arrest and abuse by the US to use the same methodology as the US to make this issue a case for the illegality of its actions.



Update on Julian Assange

This is, of course, beyond the pale. As you know, hearings on his extradition to the United States started in London on February 24. We are all well aware of what will happen after this extradition, if it is carried out. There are many examples. Let me recall what happened to Maria Butina – 117 days of solitary confinement practically without any legal grounds.

Assange’s condition evokes more than just concern. International experts described his condition as critical. This is not because of age or simply poor health but to the long-term influence of psychological torture. I am quoting a UN expert. We must understand this. After all, this is 2020. This man has been subjected to psychological torture for a long time.

Local observers (in Britain) predict that this trial will be protracted and that a ruling will only be issued after several months, probably in May. Thus, a journalist that has already been basically imprisoned for over seven years continues to be subjected to punishment. In the event of extradition he may be sentenced to life imprisonment – up to 175 years.

The whole world has already qualified Assange’s case as a blow to the institution of investigative journalism and free and independent media, as a catastrophic attack on basic human rights. Such punitive measures as regards a journalist in the 21st century are absolutely unacceptable and disgraceful for the Western countries involved in this, that consider themselves democratic and free.

Commenting on this situation, OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Harlem Desir directly urged the British authorities to not extradite the journalist in disgrace. As I said, a pattern has been established by the United States. The conveyor belt is running and will continue to roll. Human rights advocates have voiced concern over Assange’s health on numerous occasions. On February 17, Doctors4Assange published an open letter demanding an end to the psychological violence and medical negligence with regard to Assange. I am thinking that maybe William Browder should get involved. Perhaps it’s time for him to use his experience. All his power, influence and previous actions could be used to free Assange. Or, if this fails, he should demand that the involved countries, primarily Britain and the US impose sanctions against themselves.

It is amazing that everything that is happening to Julian Assange is his payment for conscientious journalism and for fulfilling his civic duty. He shared with society the information at his disposal. But the position of the “independent” British media is even more shocking: instead of a real protest the British press just issues laconic reports. The Guardian is the only exception. It openly writes that the US is behind this case.

Let me repeat that if we still remember, I hope you did not forget how the absolutely obscure, mysterious case of the Skripals was covered by the British media, how states and individuals have been accused, how inappropriate assumptions were made without any grounds. In the Assange case everything is clear. There is an individual who is still alive albeit in critical condition. Probably the British media should do all it can to prevent this crime.

We urge the human rights community and the related international organisations to firmly express their position and to do what they can to see justice triumph in his case. Julian Assange is the victim of many crimes but the worst has not yet happened.



Anniversary of the Dominican Republic’s independence

On this day 176 years ago the Dominican Republic, one of the oldest Caribbean countries about which many Russians have first-hand knowledge, gained independence.

One of the reasons we are recalling the history of that unique country is that it is a perfect example of the distinctive features and factors that determined the regional countries’ shift from colonial dependence to modern and truly independent states. Many generations of Dominicans faced numerous trials along that path, including the oppression of the European parent state, attempts to restore foreign domination and foreign invasions, in particular, two periods of US occupation 50 years apart. The achievements of Dominicans on the path towards a distinctive identity and independent development policy command respect when viewed against the background of these tribulations.

Today the Dominican Republic is firmly pursuing a policy, including as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council, in the interests of a fair and democratic international order where all states without exception and regardless of their political and economic weight have the right of voice. This is symbolic because in the past Santo Domingo was founded as the first European colony in the New World. That time is long past, and today the Dominican capital is not a monument to the colonial past but a bustling political centre of the Caribbean whose role in global affairs is growing, especially in light of the revival of the Monroe Doctrine.

I would like to join in the congratulations extended by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to his Dominican colleague and to wish the Dominican people welfare and prosperity on behalf of the Ministry.



A Consensus Proposal for a Revised Regional Order in Post-Soviet Europe and Eurasia

We have taken note of A Consensus Proposal for a Revised Regional Order in Post-Soviet Europe and Eurasia prepared by a multinational group of political analysts convened by the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung Foundation for Social Democracy, including Russian experts from IMEMO and MGIMO. The report was presented at the Institute of World Economy and International Relations (IMEMO) at the Russian Academy of Sciences on February 27.

This is a collective product of independent experts from the United States, Russia and several European countries who expressed their personal views that do not reflect the official position of any country. It is an independent, research-based private opinion of experts. Given the theme of the report, we believe that it has certain relevance, even though we cannot accept some of its basic provisions and conclusions.

I would like to say in this context that our theoretical considerations and practical efforts are based on the belief that the so-called in-between states – six former Soviet republics located on Russia’s southern and western borders – must not be viewed in terms of the geopolitical struggle and zones of influence.

We believe, and the Russian authorities have said this more than once, that these relatively young sovereign states are independent members of international relations and their distinctive features and the specifics of their development stage should be respected. Therefore, we do not consider it reasonable to serve them up with development scenarios without taking into account their opinions and position in the system of international relations.

As a matter of principle, we believe that we should take a broader perspective on the issues of security and development in Europe and Eurasia, with due regard for the historical context and the interests of all nations on our huge continent. Security in Eurasia must be common and indivisible.

A more optimal and promising scenario of a peaceful and neighbourly development in our common space was offered in President Putin’s initiative for a Greater Eurasian Partnership as a cooperation framework for the continent, which is aimed, in part, at creating a common security space without dividing lines that will be open to all countries.



The Hague-based Kosovo Specialist Chambers’ Specialist Prosecutor Jack Smith ready to initiate proceedings as part of the investigation into the crimes of Kosovo Albanians

This is the prosecutor’s investigation into the crimes of the Kosovo Liberation Army. In his notice, Specialist Prosecutor Jack Smith states his readiness to transfer the groundwork concerning a specific group of people for preliminary proceedings. After its approval by the competent chamber it will become possible to start full-fledged trials.

Russia believes that bringing charges in the case is a long overdue step. As you know, the Specialist Chambers were created in 2017 under the auspices of the European Union in order to bring to justice those guilty of such atrocities as kidnapping people for the purpose of harvesting and selling their organs in the black market. The establishment of the Chambers was prompted by a PACE report issued back in 2010.

We firmly believe that hushing up the brutal crimes in Kosovo and leaving them without an investigation and punishments is unacceptable. Illicit organ harvesting must remain a matter of scrutiny for the world community. What is at stake is the reputation of the international justice system, the European Union as a guarantor of the specialist court performing its duty and the general capability of European institutions to adequately assess the reality. All the individuals involved must suffer severe punishments, regardless of the positions they currently hold in Pristina.



6th World Folkloriada

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Russian Regions’ Maslenitsa at the Foreign Ministry

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Three Seas Initiative

The Three Seas Initiative was created in 2016. Our attitude towards this mechanism is that if some initiators see this as an opportunity to unite the region’s countries with the idea of containing Russia, of course, we cannot accept this. We hope that the activity of this mechanism, forum and platform will not result in creating new barriers in Europe. Russia will further watch the developments around this Central European summit.







Answers to media questions:



Question:

You have said that Russia and Turkey continue consultations on the situation in Idlib. President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan recently suggested holding a meeting of French, German, Russian and Turkish leaders on March 5. Did you discuss the possibility of this meeting with the Turkish side? And do you have any details about the prospects for concluding a peace deal?



Maria Zakharova:

Today, Presidential Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov commented on a similar question. “President Putin has no plans for such a meeting on March 5 so far,” he said. This is the exact wording of the Presidential Press Secretary’s statement.

Correspondents’ numerous questions link the resolution of the situation around Idlib and the holding of our bilateral consultations with existing or emerging multilateral formats, including the format that you mentioned while quoting Recep Tayyip Erdogan. To be honest, all this sounds rather strange. Bilateral issues should be resolved in line with bilateral formats. This is the purpose of the current consultations which, in my opinion, will last several days. Concerning the involvement of other countries, including those which did not play any significant role in resolving the situation on the ground, a question whether such involvement is needed arises. We are prepared for and remain open to various initiatives that should be explained, one way or another. We need to understand the purpose of new formats, their essence and the results that all of us will achieve, considering the fact that we have effective bilateral methods for resolving various matters, including complicated ones.

I would like to remind you once again that representatives of the Presidential Executive Office and the Presidential Press Secretary, first and foremost, are the ones who comment on such things as summits, meetings at the highest level and the work schedule of the President of the Russian Federation.



Question:

Could you please comment on a statement made by the US Department of State that accuses Russia of purposefully misinforming the world about US complicity in the coronavirus epidemic. Why did they decide to voice these accusations now?



Maria Zakharova:

Why are you asking me about this? Please ask them why they made such statements now. You see, I have just quoted statements made by a representative of the US Armed Forces, commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan who was well aware about what was taking place on the ground and who accused Russia of legitimising the Taliban. He made this official statement during an interview. No one caught him off guard or distorted his statement; nor did anyone refute this quotation. There are dozens of such quotations.

They signed an agreement the other day, notified everyone, to say the least, and invited them to attend the signing ceremony of the agreement with the Taliban. What are you talking about? Why are you asking me about the non-systematic US approach towards international matters? Why do you always address this question to me?

I was simply taken aback by two statements made within a few hours on one and the same day. On the one hand, top US officials say they know for sure that Russia did not meddle in the US elections. At the same time, the US Department of State says it knows for sure that Russia made cyberattacks against Georgia. Who is inventing all this? Who has an indicator showing alleged Russian intentions and desires to meddle in some processes and not to meddle in others? This sounds absurd, doesn’t it? In effect, we most certainly know that they meddled in this process, and we know for sure that they did not meddle in this one. Why are you so certain about all this? What material is there to prove this? We should ask the US Embassy to comment on all these questions and all this nonsense. Their press service employs about 100 people. Let them comment on this. By the way, I am not joking about its lineup.



Question:

Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova announced yesterday that flights between Russia and South Korea would be suspended, except for the flights operated by Aeroflot and Aurora. Will the restriction include Korean airlines, in particular, Korean Air?



Maria Zakharova:

This question is not within the purview of the Foreign Ministry. This is the competence of the Russian Government Operational Headquarters for Coronavirus Control and Monitoring. I suggest that you ask them. For my part, I can request information from them, which we will forward to you. Anyway, all questions pertaining to flights and checkpoints, including regular and additional ones, as well as those that are being closed, should be addressed to the Operational Headquarters, which coordinates the operations of various agencies, airlines and so on. The headquarters’ representatives are dealing with these questions and promptly issue comments.



Question:

As you know, the MH17 trial will begin at the District Court of The Hague on March 9. Will you recognise the legitimacy of the Hague court and its verdict?



Maria Zakharova:

This question is not appropriate. You have put me in an uncomfortable position, demanding that I recognise or refuse to recognise the legitimacy of court procedure in the Netherlands. How can I do that? Or are you referring to this particular trial?

We have commented on this more than once. I presume that you know this. And if you do, why are you asking this question again? It is a very complicated issue, which calls for a comprehensive comment. But if this is part of a political show, then the questions and answers are indeed expected at the level of “yes” and “no” or “choose one of the three pictures.” If you really want an embracing answer to the question of what happened many years ago, you should take a more serious approach.

We called for a full-scale international investigation that would include all the parties involved and all the data and information available to the states (or their competent services), as well as for exchanging this information on equal terms and for making use of specialised international institutions based on international law. I suspect that you don’t want to hear this, that you have no interest in this. You have your piece of the puzzle, and you want to focus on it alone. In my opinion, taking this path amounts to contributing to a huge global fake.

I would like to remind you that immediately following that tragedy the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 2166, which set out the path and the mechanism for a comprehensive investigation. There was nothing impossible there. Everything in that resolution was based on international law and the instruments available for conducting such an investigation. This is the path that should have been taken. It is the path that will lead to the answer.

A group of countries chose a different methodology, a different approach to this problem. Here is what we see in this case: secrecy, private exchange of data, discrimination against participants in the process, inclusion of some and exclusion of others, inclusion of others at a later stage, an information campaign, reluctance to take into account the data that is officially provided by the government and which constitutes factual information. We don’t have to agree with it but it cannot be ignored (for several years). Once again, we have commented on this matter so many times, published articles and other materials on the website; we did everything in order to demonstrate not only complete transparency on our part but also our determination to make sure the answers to the questions about what happened and who is to blame are found collectively, in an honest and genuine manner.

As a result, no matter what is happening, no matter what new data is revealed, we see the exact same approach − secrecy, privacy, non-transparency, selectiveness and so on. If you focus on individual details of this problem it will not get us anywhere. This issue requires a broader perspective based on international law. I understand that in our world today speaking about depolitisation of the process is basically like screaming into emptiness, or almost impossible. The media, political parties, democratic institutions – everything is geared towards using political tools for achieving goals in all areas, from the economy to, unfortunately, justice. We can see it. Even today, I have already given quite a few examples. This is not an issue of moving gas pipelines from one country to another or a matter of commercial gain (although nobody is deflating the importance of these issues). After all, it is about the international community being able, in the 21st century, to unite in the search for answers about how these people died.

Let’s start with the trivial, simplest thing, which is the exchange of radar data between the countries involved, one way or another, who had the ability and opportunity to have this data. And they have it. Let’s start with the basics. The second aspect is that I, as a person who is not connected with the legal profession and investigations, as a citizen and an ordinary person who has read and seen a lot in this life, still cannot answer the question of why the debris, large parts of the fuselage and the aircraft, has not been removed from the site to this day.

This is the second block of questions to address. This is not just unfair; it is outrageous. After a collision of cars on the road, debris is collected in order to conduct calculations. Here we are talking about an aircraft. Its huge parts have not been removed from the area by the team of investigators and have not been included in the case materials. They are not hard to access; they are not at the bottom of the ocean or in a jungle. It is possible to go there and collect them. Why has nobody done that?

How can I tell you if we find this trial just and legitimate before these two essential blocks of questions are worked through? If there is data that can help the probe (and these two blocks of data will, undoubtedly, have a critical impact on the entire investigation) and the global community does not receive it, everything else will depend on the lack of data covering these two major blocks.



Question:

Once the case has been opened, there must be an outcome. If a guilty verdict is passed, is there a chance that these people will serve their sentences in Russia?



Maria Zakharova:

Are you seriously saying now that “there must be an outcome”? Unfortunately, it is the Western community that shows that the most high-profile cases usually have no outcome. Don’t you know how many global catastrophes or high-profile killings have not been investigated to this day? At the risk of stating the obvious, well, the anniversary of John Kennedy’s assassination was recently marked around the world. And now you’re saying you hope this case will be investigated someday. It is a matter of approach. If the approach that I mentioned prevails, I have serious doubts that it will lead to anything.

Do you want me to participate in this absolutely anti-legal dialogue with you? Do you want us to act as the British do – accuse and pass a verdict right away without any evidence to support it? You are asking the wrong person. I can’t do that. I believe this kind of reasoning is simply criminal. I hope there are still some basic principles in the world that can’t be violated. There is a presumption of innocence that can’t be violated. One can’t talk about possible punishments or ways to enforce them before there is a strong case, evidence, and a due legal process. This kind of approach used to be condemned, and not only by Russia but even more so by the Western community.

How do you think I could answer this question? How could I maintain this dialogue with you – if these people are convicted, will they serve their sentences? Do you understand the monstrosity of phrasing this question like this? What if other people are convicted – do you think they will serve? Let’s now begin fantasising about how a trial will end.

I am ready to send you the content that we have published, and our requests that were never answered, not even taken into account – maybe not all of them, but the most fundamental ones. Let’s start with this, and not with who will serve sentences. This is a matter of establishing truth, and not a news opportunity for accusing people. The question to ask is what really happened there.



Question:

There were riots in Marseille during the UEFA Euro 2016 football championships. Two years later, two Russians were detained on suspicion of involvement in those riots. Now they are in France, but they have not yet been charged. Is there any way to help in this situation?



Maria Zakharova:

Our foreign missions are dealing with this problem. I have seen reports. The families of these people wrote to us. At the next briefing, I will be able to give you more details and talk about the steps that have been taken. We will do our best to step up our efforts on this.




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4062030
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Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s statement and answers to media questions at a joint news conference following talks with Minister for Foreign and European Affairs of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg Jean Asselborn, Moscow, February 28, 2020



28 February 2020 - 13:54






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Question (for Jean Asselborn, re-translated from French):

Turkey announced that it is opening its borders to Syrian refugees passing through to Europe. Today the situation in Syria will be discussed at the NATO−Turkey summit. Can you comment on these remarkable statements by Turkey? Did Ankara’s decision come as a surprise to the European Union and is it ready for a potential escalation of the migration crisis?



Sergey Lavrov (adding after Jean Asselborn):

I would like to support Jean Asselborn’s remarks on the importance of uniting efforts by all the external parties, cooperating for the purpose of de-escalating tensions – and, more to the point, for the purpose of preventing crises. This is exactly what we have been seeking in bilateral dialogues with our colleagues from the European Union, NATO and the United States. It is important that this understanding of the need to cooperate is evident at every stage and not just when lightning strikes.

In 2003, our American and British colleagues didn’t even think about cooperation when they bombed Iraq under the completely fabricated and contrived pretext that Iraq allegedly had weapons of mass destruction, which turned out to be completely false. Nobody consulted with anybody; they simply went in and bombed it. We are still paying for the consequences of this. Then there was Libya where NATO, without consulting anybody, flagrantly distorted a UN Security Council resolution and, instead of creating a no-fly zone, simply bombed the country. Libya has fallen apart and it is still impossible to put the pieces back together. We appreciate the efforts that our colleagues in Germany, France, Italy and other countries are taking; we value the efforts of the UN. But let’s be honest with each other: it is extremely difficult to put this country back together. And it will not happen in two or three sittings.

Therefore, I want to support Minister Asselborn’s call for cooperation, which is necessary throughout all the stages of addressing an issue like this. And ideally, we should be cooperating before the issue becomes a tragedy for the hundreds of thousands of people in countries like Iraq, Libya and Syria. According to schemes, Syria was destined to repeat the fate of Libya. Our Western partners must, of course, be guided by the interests of all the parties involved in a specific conflict rather than just their own geopolitical interests. Too often, these geopolitical interests can be reduced to the simplistic goal of containing Russia, China or Iran – and that is all the Western geopolitical “strategists” think about. They absolutely don’t care that these goals have nothing to do with relieving the suffering of the people in these countries. So, I confirm our willingness that our Western partners have known about all along: let’s agree on how we can help the countries in the region, how we can help each of these countries achieve peace and stability. Let’s put aside neocolonial or simply colonial approaches to operations in this region of the world.



Question:

The situation in Idlib province in Syria has deteriorated a lot recently. The Turkish military is openly referring to the Syrian army as enemy targets. Thirty-three Turkish troops were killed. The Turkish media and even the public in some cases are overtly blaming Russia for this. Calls for urgent consultations with NATO are coming from Ankara. Is there any room for dialogue? What is the future of the Astana format?



Sergey Lavrov:

We can confirm our full commitment to the agreements reached by President of Russia Vladimir Putin and President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan on actions in the Idlib de-escalation zone – to separate the normal opposition from the terrorists, to demilitarise the internal belt of the zone in order to prevent anyone from shelling Syrian military positions and the Russian military base, and to ensure the unhindered use of the roads in this zone. These are the common goals with our Turkish colleagues.

However, it is time to start working towards these goals because nothing has been achieved in the past 18 months. The Syrian army certainly has the right to respond to the continuous violations of the ceasefire in the Idlib zone and to suppress terrorists. We cannot stop it from meeting the requirements in UN Security Council resolutions on the merciless and uncompromising struggle against all forms and manifestations of terrorism.

An incident took place yesterday. Today, the Russian Defence Ministry published a detailed comment confirming that the Russian and Turkish militaries are maintaining continuous, daily real time contact on the ground, including through the 12 Turkish observation posts established in the Idlib de-escalation zone under the agreements. Every day (and sometimes several times a day) the Turkish military informs our centre for the reconciliation of the warring parties of the locations of Turkish soldiers in the Idlib de-escalation zone. Naturally, these coordinates are sent to the Syrian armed forces to enable them to ensure the safety of Turkish military personnel while responding to the terrorist attacks. As the Russian Defence Ministry reported today, the coordinates sent yesterday did not contain the locations of the Turkish soldiers that turned out to be among members of terrorist units that were killed. As soon as this incident was reported to the Russian Defence Ministry (as the ministry is explaining the situation), we asked our Syrian colleagues to suspend the hostilities and did everything we could for the safe evacuation of the wounded and delivery of the bodies to Turkey.

The problem is not that there is a certain plan that contradicts the initial agreement on the Idlib de-escalation zone. The problem is in the practical implementation of the agreements and the deconflicting that is broadly discussed in terms of developments in eastern Syria and the Idlib de-escalation zone.

Our militaries reached a number of agreements and if they were fully carried out, including the sending of precise location coordinates on Turkish soldiers, these kinds of tragedies could be avoided. We offer our sincere condolences. Let me repeat that we are doing everything we can to protect the Turkish soldiers that are enforcing the de-escalation regime in the Idlib zone, and our military is ready to continue this mission on the ground.

You mention Turkey’s request for consultations with NATO. This is the right of every member of the North Atlantic alliance. The Washington Treaty that regulates relations between NATO members provides for an opportunity to call for consultations if someone’s territorial integrity and political independence are threatened. Article 5 of the treaty is for a situation where a NATO member is attacked in Europe or North America. In this case, the mechanism of consultations and response actions comes into play. I don’t believe that the current situation in Syria falls under the articles of this treaty that fixes NATO as exclusively defensive in nature and that envisions measures in response to an attack on its members.

Now I’d like to say a few words about the future of the Astana format and room for dialogue. There is always room for dialogue. Today President of Russia Vladimir Putin had a telephone conversation with his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the latter’s request. Their detailed conversation centered on the need to do everything possible to implement the initial agreements on the Idlib de-escalation zone. They also discussed the need to meet at this level or another level in the near future. Literally 90 minutes ago it was reported that the Russian and Turkish negotiators that worked through yesterday and the day before in Ankara, agreed to continue working today. So I don’t think there are any formidable obstacles in the way of the Astana format. I am convinced that if the military, the diplomats and the security services of our two countries focus on the basic agreements on the Idlib de-escalation zone, they will be able to translate them into reality.

I would like to draw your attention to one more thing that we mentioned in our public comments. This is an important consideration if we want to correctly understand what is happening in Idlib.

US Special Representative for Syria Engagement James Jeffrey has said more than once that Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (the current version of Jabhat al-Nusra), which is qualified as a terrorist group by the UN Security Council, is changing its image. It is expelling unnecessary members and extremists and is becoming part of the settlement process in Syria since it is turning into a force that can oppose the Bashar Assad government – or the regime as our Western colleagues like to call it.

This assessment was picked up by political scientists in the US and other Western countries, in part, by the so-called International Crisis Group (a Brussels-based NGO). Commenting on the developments in Syria recently, this group deemed it possible to interview Hayat Tahrir al-Sham’s leader Abu Muhammad al-Julani. He repeated the ideas promoted by Jeffrey. He said this unit was acquiring a new image (or has already acquired it) and its primary goal was to counter the Syrian regime, not to commit acts of terror. More and more Western comments are being made in the same vein.

I would like to seriously warn my Western colleagues against repeating this mistake for the umpteenth time – using terrorists for the geopolitical goal of replacing regimes in various countries, whether it’s Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya or Syria. They place their bets on an alliance with terrorists in the hope that after reaching their geopolitical goal they will be able to control them later. This has never happened in history. I urge all of our colleagues to remember that any deal with terrorists is impossible, especially in resolving Syrian settlement issues.







Question:

A few days ago, US Vice President Mike Pence said: “It was freedom and not socialism that ended slavery, ended two world wars, [and] has made America a beacon of hope.” One can only guess what exactly Mr Pence had in mind. It sounds like he has virtually crossed the USSR off the list of victorious countries in World War II. Since Russia constantly talks about the inadmissibility of rewriting history, that we need to remember the leading role of the USSR in the victory in the Second World War, what do you make of this statement?



Sergey Lavrov:

This is not the first time that Mike Pence has shown such a careless, if not insulting, attitude to history.

On January 23 this year in Jerusalem, at the events in memory of the Holocaust victims, when describing the atrocities that the Nazis committed against Jews and citing the Auschwitz camp as an example, he recounted everything that happened there and then said that “when soldiers opened the gates of Auschwitz, they were horrified by what they saw.” A whisper ran through the audience at the time, and the main question was – soldiers of which army? Especially since President of Israel Reuven Rivlin, Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu, President of France Emmanuel Macron and a number of other speakers spoke before Mr Pence, and each of them emphasised the role of the Red Army in the liberation of Auschwitz and the role of the peoples of the USSR in the victory over Nazism. Mr Pence considered it necessary to avoid mentioning this.

As for his claim that it was freedom and not socialism that ended slavery – I agree with him. There was no slavery during socialism; slavery happened during a time of freedom and existed for several centuries, and it was abolished in the second half of the 19th century, in the 1860s.

The statement that freedom has turned America into a “beacon of hope” for all humankind – judging by how the United States behaves on the international stage, this beacon may well turn out to be the headlamp of a train that runs everyone else over. Let us leave these statements on the conscience of Mr Pence.

It seems to me that in the year of the 75th anniversary of the sacred Victory, our common Victory, to which our allies also made a huge contribution, and as a result of which the United Nations Organisation was formed, it is better not to comment arrogantly on history and what is happening in the world today, but to concentrate on the universality of mounting threats and the need for dialogue to search for a balance of interests in order to divert the world from the dangerous line. It is precisely such a dialogue that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s initiative is aimed at – to hold a summit of the heads of state of the UN Security Council permanent members.




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4062358






Comment by the Information and Press Department on the signing of the conditional peace agreement between the United States and the Taliban



2 March 2020 - 18:38



On February 29 in Doha, Qatar, the United States signed an agreement with the Taliban on the withdrawal of foreign troops and the establishment of peace in Afghanistan. The Russian side welcomes this event, which marks an important step towards ending the war and to an early launch of intra-Afghan negotiations on the post-conflict stabilisation.

Presidential Special Representative for Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov represented Russia at the signing ceremony.

On the sidelines of the event, Zamir Kabulov held separate meetings with the head of the Taliban political office in Doha, Abdul Ghani Baradar, and Zalmay Khalilzad, US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation, as part of the effort to promote Afghan national reconciliation.




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4067895






Comment by the Information and Press Department on statements made by US officials regarding the arms embargo on Iran



3 March 2020 - 11:18



We have taken note of media reports about the statements on extending the arms embargo on Iran made by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. A graphic display of this resolve is the countdown clock posted by the US Department of State on its website to show the time left until October 18, 2020, the expiry date for the special procedure set out in UN Security Council Resolution 2231 for the transfer of seven categories of weapons and military equipment to and from Iran under the relevant UN Register.

It is gratifying that Washington still has some respect left for decisions made by the UN Security Council, which are defined in Article 25 of the UN Charter as binding for all countries, including the United States. This is probably why US speakers at the above mentioned hearings at the House Committee on Foreign Affairs appealed to the international community to extend the provisions of UNSC Resolution 2231, concerning arms-related transfers to and from Iran. It is regrettable, however, that Washington continues to disregard the UN Security Council when it comes to US commitments and gross violations of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and UNSC Resolution 2231.

Furthermore, we categorically reject the US desire to force the international community to use UNSC resolutions selectively. In our opinion, this is part of the notorious “rules-based order.” It is not the expiry of provisions of UNSC Resolution 2231 but the US approach that is “poor diplomatic practice,” as they say at the US Department of State.

UNSC Resolution 2231 does not mention “arms embargo.” On the contrary, it sets out an authorisation-based procedure for such transfers during a specified period of time. It is only a temporary measure, just as any other restrictions stipulated in UNSC Resolution 2231. Isolating and putting pressure on Iran or depriving it of a legitimate right to develop its nuclear sector for peaceful purposes or the right to self-defence was never a goal. Otherwise Tehran would have never signed the nuclear deal, which has been and remains an equitable agreement. In May 2018, the United States announced a unilateral decision to withdraw from the agreement, thereby entering the path of international violation. But this has not changed the essence of Resolution 2231.

The attempts to inflate the military threat allegedly posed by Iran are being accompanied by the favourite US foreign policy method of complaining about Russia and China’s actions and unsubstantiated claims that their cooperation with Iran will undoubtedly provoke an arms race in the Middle East and play into the hands of terrorists. As usual, the United States presents its multibillion dollar arms deliveries to the Middle East, which have turned it into a powder keg, as “just business” and stabilising actions.

It has been said in Congress that the United States would try to convince Russia and China not to veto the draft UNSC resolution on extending the arms embargo on Iran. But it is no use raising this matter in the Security Council. There are no grounds for this. The timeframe and conditions coordinated in 2015 are not subject to revision. It is ridiculous that the country which has violated the resolution is now proposing to extend its provisions, while at the same time trying to prevent other countries from honouring it.

We would like to warn the US Department of State against entertaining any illusions or misleading Congress. The US maximum pressure policy towards Iran has isolated the United States from the rest of the world, which continues to respect and comply with UNSC Resolution 2231. The area of US legislation is limited to the US national territory. Instead of dreaming of the endless extension of the arms embargo against Iran, Washington should mend its violations of the JCPOA and resume strict compliance with UNSC Resolution 2231 in order to regain the status of a responsible member of the international community, which is its duty as a permanent member of the UN Security Council.




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4067949






Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks and answers to questions at a news conference following his talks with Foreign Minister of the Republic of Finland Pekka Haavisto, Helsinki, March 3, 2020



3 March 2020 - 18:35






.......................................................................

Question:

Yesterday, President of Finland Sauli Niinisto said that a second wave of the migration crisis is expected. Did you discuss this issue at your meeting today? How can Russia use its authority to prevent this crisis and put an end to hostilities in Syria?



Sergey Lavrov:

Russia has already done much in this context and explained in detail the motives behind its actions. Yes, we discussed the problem of Syria, in part, in connection with the events in the Idlib de-escalation zone, including issues of illegal migration and migration from this area to the EU in general.

Let me recall that the first large, unprecedented wave of migration from the Middle East and North Africa swept Europe in 2011 after NATO bombed Libya, having deprived it of statehood and turned it into a black hole through which weapons, drugs and people were smuggled to the south and migrants to the north, to Europe. In order to overthrow Muammar Qaddafi, the West did not shy away from direct cooperation with terrorists. The same plot was being prepared for Syria where a regime change was also planned.

In the same way the West encouraged radical, extremist and terrorist groups to take actions that almost brought about the downfall of the lawful government in Syria in 2015 when Russia sent its Aerospace Forces to curb the terrorist threat at the request of the legitimate Syrian Government.

We are fully aware of the complexity of the migrant problem for the EU. We are conducting a dialogue on migration with the European External Action Service (EEAS). We will continue this dialogue, and strive to help resolve this problem. However, we cannot facilitate a resolution of the migration issue by stopping the struggle against terrorism, as some politicians in Europe urge us to do.

The resolution of the problem lies in the full implementation of the agreements on the Idlib de-escalation zone reached by President of Russia Vladimir Putin and President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan in September 2018. Regrettably, they are not yet being carried out. I hope the upcoming meeting between President Putin and President Erdogan on March 5 will make it possible to change this situation and start implementing what was agreed upon.







Question:

Foreign Minister of Ukraine Vadim Prystaiko said Kiev is working on a new version of the Minsk agreements. What does Russia think about this? Does Ukraine have the right to change them without the participation of the other sides?



Sergey Lavrov:

The answer to your question is obvious – there is no alternative to the Minsk agreements. We again confirmed this at today’s talks. They were endorsed by UN Security Council Resolution 2202, thereby becoming part of international law.

We hear many specific ideas that clarify Prystaiko’s thoughts, including a statement on the need to disband government bodies in the self-proclaimed republics, introduce UN troops, establish control over the entire perimeter of these territories and only then hold elections. There have been other statements as well, including a statement from Ukraine’s leaders on its willingness to hold a dialogue with the residents of Donbass, but not with the residents who have chosen to organise everyday life.

Everything I mentioned directly contradicts the specific provisions of the Minsk agreements. I have already sent several messages to Foreign Minister of Germany Heiko Maas and Foreign Minister of France Jean-Yves Le Drian as participants in the Normandy format with an appeal to not ignore similar provocative statements from the authorities in Kiev. Regrettably, at this point our Normandy format partners have not taken any action.

At the same time, our French and German colleagues are not doing anything to persuade their Ukrainian partners to carry out what was agreed upon at the Normandy summit in Paris in December 2019. Instead, they are putting in the forefront as a goal in itself the convocation of yet another summit of the Normandy Four regardless of whether the previous agreements are fulfilled or not. We do not need empty summits for the sake of holding a summit. We have expressed this to our partners. They should concentrate on compelling the Ukrainian government to carry out the agreements on the disengagement of forces and weapons and mine clearance. Of course, Kiev must fulfil its part of the political reforms, primarily, permanently instate the special status of Donbass.


***


Sergey Lavrov (speaking after Pekka Haavisto):

The older women Mr Haavisto saw crossing the contact line to get food have to do this because three years ago former President of Ukraine Petr Poroshenko imposed a complete trade, economic and transport blockade on Donbass, and current President Vladimir Zelensky cannot lift it.




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4068903






Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks at a ceremony to award the 75th Anniversary of Victory in the 1941-1945 Great Patriotic War medals to residents of besieged Leningrad, Helsinki, March 3, 2020



3 March 2020 - 18:47






Friends,

Thank you for coming to the Russian Embassy today on this occasion, which is very important to us and, I hope, to you, a ceremony to award commemorative medals on the 75th Anniversary of Victory in the 1941-1945 Great Patriotic War.

You survived the horrors of the siege of Leningrad, working selflessly on the home front to help those who were fighting on the frontline. We will be forever grateful to you for this. It was your share of the contribution that our people, the people of the Soviet Union, made to the defeat of Nazism, a decisive contribution to this historical achievement. Of course, we will always remember the contribution of our World War II Allies, and we want to keep alive the spirit that helped us to defeat a terrible enemy.

It takes huge courage today to rise above our differences in order to fight common threats, of which there are many, including terrorism and other types of organised crime, epidemics and many other challenges. In this connection I would like to remind you of the initiative of President Vladimir Putin, who called on the permanent members of the UN Security Council to hold a meeting to demonstrate their responsibility for the duties and powers assigned to them under the UN Charter.







Regarding the events of the Great Patriotic War and World War II, I would like to say that we must not allow for that tragedy to happen again. We are doing everything in our power to ensure this. We reaffirm our proposals on addressing international affairs through dialogue rather than confrontation and rivalry.

The preservation of historical truth and memory is a matter of exceptional importance to us. It is inadmissible to try to rewrite history and to equate the liberators of Europe with those who attempted to enslave it for ages to come. We lay special emphasis on the preservation of memory in the form of memorials erected around Europe. A veritable war has been launched against them in some countries, a war on monuments. I see this as a complete loss of values which humankind created over thousands of years. I would like to point out, though, that the people of Finland are taking good care of such memorials, acting in accordance with the intergovernmental agreement our countries signed in 1992. We are acting likewise with regard to Finnish military cemeteries in the Russian Federation.

Today I would like to address once again those who experienced the horrors of that war yet preserved dignity and loyalty to your homeland and remained committed to the fight against that terrible enemy. I am delighted that you could come here today. I will now present you with these commemorative medals on behalf of President Vladimir Putin. I know that not all of those who are to receive these medals could come here today, and so Ambassador Pavel Kuznetsov will hold a second part of the awards ceremony in a few days. But now I will hold the first part of the ceremony.




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4068913






Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s answer to a media question, Helsinki, March 3, 2020



3 March 2020 - 18:55






Question:

Russian President Vladimir Putin suggested that the permanent members of the UN Security Council gather for a meeting. Has there been progress towards agreeing on the date and venue for this meeting? Is the nuclear disarmament issue likely to be discussed in this format?







Sergey Lavrov:

As you know, this initiative was put forward on January 23 this year while the President was speaking in Jerusalem at the World Holocaust Forum. French President Emmanuel Macron and Chinese President Xi Jinping supported the initiative. US President Donald Trump also supported and accepted this proposal recently.

According to our view of what the agenda for this meeting should include – and we have informed our partners, that is, the other permanent members of the UN Security Council – these five countries need to exercise their special responsibility for maintaining global peace and security, which is built into the UN Charter. This is not just about disarmament and arms control, it is much broader than that, as it includes regional conflicts, new challenges and threats, such as international terrorism, drug trafficking, human trafficking and other forms of organised crime, as well as migration issues and new technologies that could run out of control and be added to the list of deadly threats to humankind. All of the above requires consideration at the high level.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said many times that the five permanent members of the UN Security Council are not just an elite club that can resolve problems facing humankind on its own and impose its approaches on others. These are the countries that can play the role of leaders in spearheading the efforts of the entire international community to work collectively and come together rather than engage in confrontation. This is likely to be the main idea behind the proposal.

Of course, strategic stability is part of the agenda that requires urgent and creative actions but, in a broader sense, we are talking about the survival of humanity. For the first time in many years, experts have started contemplating the possibility of a nuclear war, and this is unacceptable. As you know, in Soviet times, USSR President Mikhail Gorbachev and US President Ronald Reagan approved a statement reading that there can be no winner in a nuclear war, so it must never be unleashed. We approached our American colleagues with a proposal to reaffirm this position under today’s circumstances. Now, 18 months later, we are still waiting for a reply. I believe the leaders of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council should discuss this issue as well.

Currently the date of and the venue for a meeting are being coordinated. Hopefully, we will be able to achieve an agreement before long and then we will announce our decision.




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4068927






Foreign Ministry Statement on the 50th anniversary of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons



5 March 2020 - 09:30



March 5 marks the 50th anniversary of the entry into force of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), which has made an invaluable contribution to ensuring international security and prosperity around the world.

For half a century, the NPT has restrained the threat of nuclear weapons proliferation, promoted international cooperation in the peaceful uses of atomic energy, and ensured gradual progress along the path of nuclear disarmament. The balance of these three components has been crucial to NPT’s viability.

Over this period of time, the NPT has become an almost universal international legal instrument, one of the pillars of the modern international order. An important milestone was its indefinite extension in 1995.

It is obvious that the NPT benefits the interests of all countries – both nuclear and non-nuclear. The treaty is extremely important for building confidence in the world and upholding stability on a global scale. Maintaining the treaty and enhancing its efficiency is the responsibility of all participating states regarding future generations.

As a state party to the NPT and one of its depositories, the Russian Federation strictly observes all the NPT requirements, consistently reducing its nuclear arsenal as well as the role of nuclear weapons in its national defence policy. It provides support to other states parties in peaceful nuclear development and shares its unique experience with them, and helps strengthen the IAEA safeguards system, which provides reliable verification of countries’ compliance with their NPT commitments.

The NPT Review Conference will set to work in New York on April 27. We are confident that its focal point should be all parties reaffirming their commitments to the NPT goals and their obligations under it. Russia is ready to intensively cooperate with all interested parties to ensure that the Conference is a success.




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4071905






Press release on the publication of materials related to the Non-Proliferation Treaty on the Foreign Ministry’s website



5 March 2020 - 10:43



Materials related to the history of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) have been posted on the Foreign Ministry’s website on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Treaty. The project is being implemented within the framework of the joint initiative of the depositary states.




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4072068






Additional Protocol to the Memorandum on Stabilization of the Situation in the Idlib De-Escalation Area



6 March 2020 - 12:11



The Republic of Turkey and the Russian Federation, as guarantors of the observance of the ceasefire regime in the Syrian Arab Republic (hereinafter referred to as the Parties),

Recalling the Memorandum on the Creation of De-Escalation Areas in the Syrian Arab Republic as of May 4, 2017 and the Memorandum on Stabilization of the Situation in the Idlib De-Escalation Area as of September 17, 2018,

Reaffirming their strong commitment to the sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of the Syrian Arab Republic,

Reaffirming their determination to combat all forms of terrorism, and to eliminate all terrorist groups in Syria as designated by the UNSC, while agreeing that targeting of civilians and civilian infrastructure cannot be justified under any pretext,

Highlighting that there can be no military solution to the Syrian conflict and that it can only be resolved through Syrian-led and Syrian-owned, UN facilitated political process in line with the UNSCR 2254,

Stressing the importance of prevention of further deterioration of humanitarian situation, protection of civilians and ensuring humanitarian assistance to all Syrians in need without preconditions and discrimination as well as prevention of displacement of people and facilitation of safe and voluntary return of refugees and internally displaced persons to their original places of residence in Syria;

Have agreed as follows,

1- Cease all military actions along the line of contact in the Idlib De-escalation area starting from 00:01 of March 6, 2020.

2- A security corridor will be established 6 km deep to the north and 6 km deep to the south from highway M4. Specific parameters of the functioning of the security corridor will be agreed between the Defense Ministries of the Turkish Republic and the Russian Federation within 7 days.

3- On March 15, 2020, joint Turkish-Russian patrolling will begin along highway M4 from the settlement of Trumba (2 km to the west from Saraqib) to the settlement of Ain-AI-Havr;

This additional protocol enters into force from the moment of signing.

Done in Moscow on 5 March, 2020, in three copies, in the Turkish, Russian and English languages, all texts having equal legal force.




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4072593






Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov’s interview with Kommersant, March 5, 2020



6 March 2020 - 12:22



Question:

What are your projections for the upcoming NPT Review Conference? Is there any chance of adopting a joint document? Has tension eased around the planned WMD-free zone in the Middle East? And is there anything the nuclear powers have to say on Article 6 of the Treaty?



Sergey Ryabkov:

We attach great importance to the upcoming Review Conference, not only because it is held every five years, but also because the situation is extremely complicated. There are difficulties on all tracks to be reviewed in New York.

We welcome the interest from a number of countries and the president-designate of this conference, Argentinean Ambassador Gustavo Zlauvinen, in focusing on the unifying agenda. There is a whole range of issues, such as the peaceful use of atomic energy viewed from various perspectives, which should enable a constructive discussion.

As for arms control and nuclear disarmament, as well as non-proliferation issues, I expect unavoidable sharp clashes and debates. Under the circumstances, the chances of adopting a substantive final document are probably not very high.

Yet, the Russian delegation, as always, intends to work for a positive result. Let me recall that during the last such conference, we were one step away from approving the final document. The Russian Federation then reaffirmed its readiness to join the consensus, but that did not work out due to well-known circumstances, primarily the WMD-free zone in the Middle East.

This year, the situation is different because of the conference on that zone held in New York in November 2019. We understand the position of the United States and Israel, which is not a party to the NPT; we do not share it, but we believe that the new background, the new situation will at least help us avoid exacerbating the atmosphere at the conference over the absence of any progress on the MENWFZ.

As for nuclear disarmament, let us look at it in retrospect. It was hard to imagine even a couple of decades ago what Russia and the US have achieved in this area by now. It is clear that for a number of NPT parties, this progress is insufficient, but we do have something to show, especially given that the Russian Federation has lately proposed several important initiatives specifically aimed to stabilise the process, to ensure its further development and to prevent a complete collapse of the system of agreements. Unfortunately, this may be a likely outcome of Washington’s current reckless policy of imposing its own approaches and priorities in this sphere.



Question:

Which initiatives are you talking about? Is it the proposal to extend the New START Treaty?



Sergey Ryabkov:

Yes, this is one of our main initiatives in this area; it is a way to gain time to keep progress going in controlling nuclear-missile weapons and their further reduction to the extent possible.



Question:

Can the permanent members of the UN Security Council adopt a joint statement in time for the NPT Review Conference on the inadmissibility of a nuclear war, similar to the Gorbachev-Reagan statement, if the United States refuses to respond to Russia’s proposal for doing this within the bilateral framework?



Sergey Ryabkov:

We are working on this. We have received concrete proposals when it comes to the wording of a statement we issued in the bilateral format some time ago. It is difficult to say if we can coordinate a text that will be acceptable to all the five countries. Regrettably, it appears that some countries would like to water down this formula. In our opinion, the principle of the inadmissibility of a nuclear war and the impossibility of achieving victory in it must be set out clearly and unambiguously and that it should be reinforced by adding that modern technology in this sphere makes such a war even more dangerous than ever before.

Unfortunately, our colleagues in Washington do not appear to accept this approach. Rather to the contrary. Moreover, they seem to accept the possibility of scenarios under which they can emerge victorious in a potential exchange of nuclear strikes. We reject this as a matter of principle. Neither do we accept this politically-wise, because this approach contradicts all of the previous Moscow-Washington agreements in this sphere, and in military terms this implies military planning and exercises designed to help the US military acquire the skills for “defeating Russia” in a situation when the nuclear button has been pressed.

We believe that this is an irresponsible formula and a dangerous position. We have said so behind closed doors and openly, urging our American colleagues to take a more realistic view on the outcome of this worst of all possible scenarios.



Question:

As far as can I see, Russia would like the five UN Security Council permanent members to adopt this statement before the NPT Review Conference?



Sergey Ryabkov:

No, we believe that it can also be made public during the conference. If somebody needs more time to finalise their approach, and there is little lime left before the start of the conference on April 27, we would be ready to issue the statement during the conference. However, signalling our intention before it would be better.



Question:

Since we are talking about the joint steps that can be possibly taken by the five countries, I would like to say that the United States has accepted Moscow’s proposal for the summit of UNSC permanent members. US President Donald Trump believes that the five leaders should discuss primarily arms control issues. Didn’t Moscow have a broader agenda in mind?



Sergey Ryabkov:

Indeed, we proceed from the assumption that the US side has agreed to hold a meeting with the other permanent members of the UN Security Council. We do not believe that any other permanent member would protest against this idea, the more so that France and China have publicly announced their support for it.

As for the agenda, the five countries will have to do some serious preliminary work. The initial proposal made by President of the Russian Federation who initiated the idea in the first place, provided for holding discussions on a very broad range of matters. Arms control issues, even though they are extremely important, cannot overshadow everything else.

You can see the numerous regional conflicts raging around the world. We are facing numerous new challenges, including some that we could not even imagine in the past. Therefore, we will try to coordinate an agenda that would enable the five leaders to conduct a clear and in-depth discussion on the top priorities. Arms control, although a top priority issue, is not more important than the other top priorities.



Question:

You mentioned the New START Treaty. This treaty will expire less than a year from now. Head of the Pentagon, Mark Esper, recently came up with three conditions for extending it: the treaty should cover Russia’s new strategic weapons, Russia’s non-strategic nuclear weapons should be made part of the treaty, and China should be a party to the treaty. How realistic is that?



Sergey Ryabkov:

If the US administration tells us that the treaty can only be extended if these three conditions are met, it’s a non-starter. This is simply impossible. Changing the wording of the treaty the way you just mentioned is not feasible.

The New START Treaty is drafted differently. Its raison d’etre is to limit the weapons systems which are listed in it. To cover other systems would require drafting a whole new treaty. That is, it would essentially involve rewriting the treaty in full and then ratifying it. Clearly, such a complex, multifaceted and controversial goal cannot be achieved even physically or technically within the time remaining before the treaty expires.

Therefore, we propose leaving everything as is for the New START Treaty and simply extending it. The entire international community needs it, not just Russia and the United States (American officials also mentioned that the treaty has important aspects for the United States). We need to extend the time frame, the period during which the document remains valid, thus providing a predictable and understandable course of action in this area and gaining time to continue the discussion about what to do next.

In particular, we could address some of our concerns, as Russia is concerned about many things going on in US military policy and planning. This, of course, includes the ongoing development of a global missile defence system by the United States, its plans to develop strike capability from outer space, and much more. Clearly, the Americans have questions about what we are doing. We are ready and willing to conduct a meaningful discussion on each issue, not just exchange mutual reproaches and accusations, or try to impose unilateral decisions on other parties as is often the case with the United States.



Question:

The American media are increasingly publishing conjecture as to what the United States is set to lose if New START is not renewed (primarily, it’s about transparency and predictability). What will Russia lose? Will it be able to compensate for these losses through national technical control means?



Sergey Ryabkov:

We, including the President, have repeatedly stated that Russia’s security is reliably ensured for decades to come. The United States and its NATO allies are aware of that. But the effectiveness of ensuring national security will only benefit from efficient and working mechanisms in the sphere of arms control. The amounts spent on this work can be streamlined, if we choose to use this language. In political and diplomatic terms, predictability and understanding of what we can expect from our opponents in terms of their capabilities will sharply decrease in the absence of the treaty. Of course, what the US analysts point out as positive aspects of the New START Treaty – transparency and predictability – is important for us as well. Truth be told, a treaty built on parity and a balance of interests will do the same for us.

Even without the treaty, we will work to strengthen security and address issues, including political and diplomatic issues, through other means. As I mentioned earlier, it will be harder to do without it.

The choice is essentially the same for Moscow and Washington with regard to how we will deal with arms control in the future.

We made our choice with regard to New START. We are ready to extend the treaty without preconditions and believe that this would be the best solution for everyone, including the United States.



Question:

Has any other country, in addition to France, responded to Vladimir Putin’s proposal to impose a moratorium on deploying medium- and shorter-range missiles? Have substantive consultations with France, which has shown a willingness to discuss this matter, begun?



Sergey Ryabkov:

The position of the NATO countries, including France, is based on the false premise that by creating and deploying the 9M729 missile, Russia has violated the now defunct INF Treaty. This is a dead-end position. We are convinced that it is flawed from the point of view of the interests of the NATO countries themselves, because even in the absence of the INF Treaty we are willing to work to stabilise the situation, whereas they are working to escalate military tensions and build up their potential, supposedly to provide a military-technical response to this Russian missile.

Instead of discussing the parameters of counter moratoria, as Vladimir Putin suggested back in September 2019 in his messages to NATO countries’ leaders, they are conveying to us their determination to take steps to “level out” the Russian threat. Our takeaway from this is that the United States and NATO need medium-range missile capabilities to meet their challenges in different parts of the world. It is likely that the United States is primarily focused on the Asia-Pacific region, but some of our opponents in Europe are not against testing our strength. It’s up to them.

France has adopted an open approach and expressed its willingness to discuss this subject, but we believe NATO’s general policy remains dominant. By and large, it is forming a security environment and the security architecture elements that NATO is seeking to build in the most convenient way for itself. This has absolutely nothing to do with Russian politics. This is yet another manifestation of geopolitical preferences, which have long been put at the forefront of their Russian policy by Washington and other NATO capitals. Of course, we have noted the French nuance for ourselves, but so far we don’t see the alliance’s willingness to take the necessary step and at least start a practical dialogue, using, among other things, the ideas put forward by the French president.



Question:

And what verification measures can Russia apply to remove the Western countries’ concern over its developments, specifically the above mentioned 9М729? You call NATO’s position with respect to this missile dead-end and flawed, but what is Moscow prepared to do to relieve the Western countries’ concerns?



Sergey Ryabkov:

During our bilateral contacts with our American colleagues in recent months, before Washington declared the start of its formal withdrawal from the treaty, we repeatedly proposed working out, at the negotiation table, the verification process and a transparency model that would satisfy the US in terms of its understanding what the 9М729 missile is and why it is not classified as a medium-range system. At the same time, we also said then that transparency should be reciprocal and the Americans could, in our opinion, give us a chance to alleviate some of our concerns related to their violations of the INF treaty.

However, that Russian package proposal was rejected, in a peremptory and rather firm way, and now, with the passage of time, it is clear why. The Americans just could not agree to transparency with respect to their weapons because in this case we would have seen and shown to everybody that the United States was actually in breach of the treaty. I am referring mainly to the Мk-41 universal vertical launcher used allegedly for purely anti-missile purposes, but it can also be used to launch intermediate-range cruise missiles, which was demonstrated 16 days after the invalidation of the treaty. If the United States had shown us the Мk-41 launcher when the treaty was still in effect, we would have caught them red-handed in violating the treaty, which of course they wanted to avoid.

At the same time, they were also not prepared to agree to our proposal on transparency because in this case they would see for themselves that Russia did not commit any violations and this would have upset their plans completely. And they needed to withdraw from the treaty, as finally happened, in order to quickly build up their own arsenal to deploy it in different parts of the world.

We have not formally rescinded our transparency and verification proposals, they are still on the table, but it is clear that now it would be a mistake to unilaterally spell out what we mean, when NATO has declared that they are preparing a military-technical response and will develop relevant systems and deploy them both to ward off the 9М729 quasi-threat and to build up their own potential. If one day we see signs that NATO is ready to discuss our proposals, that the United States understands our logic and wants to return to a detailed discussion of this subject, then we will be happy to cooperate. We will present our position. But either way, it will be done in the course of negotiations or consultations behind closed doors and not through the exchange of public statements.



Question:

US media reported that just over a year ago your then-counterpart from the State Department, Andrea Thompson, suggested Russia took certain 25 steps to advance transparency and Russia allegedly refused.



Sergey Ryabkov:

The US offered a framework on how Russia “must” destroy the 9М729 missile and all related equipment, and set out the parameters the United States could use to verify this, and verify regularly and intrusively. In fact, it looked like an ultimatum. There was no talk about mutual transparency or even Russia’s unilateral transparency. It was us, and not them, who suggested reciprocal transparency, which was rejected.



Question:

The Pentagon announced its plans to test the SM-3 Block IIA ballistic missile interceptor by the end of the year. Do these plans raise Russia’s concerns, considering that earlier the US authorities said that their BMD system was only aimed against Iran and North Korea, which had no similar missiles?



Sergey Ryabkov:

We are following with concern the way the United States continues to steadily, actively and intensively improve its BMD capacities, using huge funding and serious technological resources. In fact, Washington stopped saying that its system is designed to respond to limited missile threats from a small group of countries a long time ago.



Question:

North Korea and Iran?



Sergey Ryabkov:

Including them, yes. Nobody has been saying this for a long time. This issue is becoming more about countering rivals with equal potential, if we use Washington’s terminology, which means Beijing and Moscow. The upcoming tests of SM-3 Block IIA’s latest modification using targets equivalent to intercontinental ballistic missiles are consistent with this objective. Only a handful of countries have such missiles. This can only mean one thing: the United States has started to develop a system that is to be used against us and to build up a potential that can devalue the Russian means of nuclear deterrence.

I should note straightaway here that military buildup measures of recent years – our leadership has spoken about them many times – can reliably ensure this deterrence potential in the conditions of the further development of the US BMD system. But in fact what we have here is a classic scheme of escalating tensions and military standoff according to the logic of arms buildup. I don’t want to say an arms race, but it is a buildup of arms and their technical capabilities.

We still hope that it will be possible to deter the Americans from taking rash steps. However, by and large, there are all the prerequisites for destroying the nuclear arms control system. We believe this contradicts the intention, repeatedly stated by Washington, to limit defence spending and find ways to come to agreement and get along with Moscow, if we are to use the US phrasing.



Question:

Will Russia respond?



Sergey Ryabkov:

Of course, we will find a military-technical response. There is no doubt about that. The political and diplomatic answer has already been formulated, and we will not slacken efforts to promote our logic, our vision of why military buildup, including the development of the US BMD system, is a deeply destabilising step and a factor that affects global stability.



Question:

The United States held a headquarters exercise recently, and its participants launched a simulated nuclear strike against Russia, which had supposedly attacked first under the escalate-to-deescalate concept. What is the Russian side doing to convince Washington that the Russian Armed Forces do not adhere to this concept?



Sergey Ryabkov:

We are currently witnessing an interesting phenomenon in US foreign and domestic policy. First, high-ranking officials invent certain tall stories and start actively discussing them. Eventually they start believing their own tales. After they come to believe in these fake concepts, all this becomes an axiom not subject to critical analysis. And on this shaky, precarious and largely false foundation, they proceed to create entire structures and buildings from decisions, various practical policy aspects, etc. Claims about Russia’s meddling in the US election campaign are a classic example.



Question:

Or what Russia is allegedly doing under its Gerasimov Doctrine on conducting a war by non-military means.



Sergey Ryabkov:

This is also manifested in military development, when they claim that Russia uses the escalate-to-deescalate concept. We have repeatedly discussed this with our US colleagues. They cannot provide any specific evidence proving such insinuations apart from the fact that diagrams showing Moscow’s actions under such doctrines are hanging on the walls of their offices. We can draw up just about anything and hang this stuff on the wall, but it would not mean that we have acquired knowledge or an understanding of real-life developments.



Question:

But NATO is not guided by hypothetical considerations alone. For example, they noted the deployment of nuclear-capable Iskander-M short-range missile systems in the Kaliningrad Region and are speculating that Russia does not rule out a limited nuclear strike during some unsuccessful hypothetical conflict in the Baltics.



Sergey Ryabkov:

Since the early 1990s, the Russian Federation has been keeping its tactical nuclear warheads at centralised storage facilities. Our doctrinal approach towards this matter has not deviated by a millimetre or an inch, compared to the military doctrine’s 2010 and 2014 versions.

A focus on non-nuclear deterrence is a new aspect of our current doctrine.

We don’t believe that the limited use of nuclear weapons and a conflict’s subsequent cessation are possible. On the contrary, the use of any amount of nuclear weapons, regardless of their yield, opens the gateway to hell. It is hard to assess and simulate any further scenario. In any event, it would be irresponsible to say the least to hope that the conflict would peter out after such actions, and that one of the parties that used these weapons would win.

We see no reasons why the United States is ascribing such calculations or expectations to us. The US is unable to explain to us what particularly they don’t like in our doctrine. At the same time, we are witnessing certain alarming trends: the US arsenal is acquiring highly accurate low-yield munitions, Washington’s doctrine has become more vague and includes allusions to certain vitally important interests when nuclear weapons can be used to defend, without any specification or definition, etc.

The US realises that all this cannot but cause concern in Russia and other countries worldwide. But it deliberately tries to preserve a vague and equivocal context and a grey zone in this field because it believes that an incoherent approach towards these extremely serious matters serves as a certain deterrent per se. In our opinion, it is wrong to pose the issue this way, and we are ready to continue in-depth discussion of military doctrine issues, including their nuclear aspects, with the United States, so that the US eventually realises how wrong it is.




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4072603
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Briefing by Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova, Moscow, March 6, 2020



6 March 2020 - 15:48






Meeting of the Board of Trustees of the Alexander Gorchakov Public Diplomacy Fund

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Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to attend presentation of Kemerovo Region

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COVID-19 update

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Update on Bolivia

The situation in Bolivia in the run-up to the presidential and parliamentary elections on May 3 remains uneasy. We are seeing that preparations for the elections are characterised by an open and in some cases behind-the-scenes struggle between different political forces, primarily related to the process of candidate registration.

Given this backdrop, several media outlets around the world have reported that, essentially, there were no legal grounds for the events that triggered the political instability in Bolivia, such as allegedly massive violations, forgery or tampering with the vote count during the [presidential] election on October 20, 2019. In other words, if we summarise the recent sensational reports, we can say that what happened last autumn was typical of a coup. I would also like to respond briefly: “Hello! Where were you in October 2019? Why did it take so much time to analyse or, at least, cite the facts that were obvious at the time?”

I would like to note that, probably, now we see positive dynamics in the sense that the truth always comes out, but this time we had to wait for a fairly long time to see this happen. I would like to draw your attention to all the comments made by the Russian Foreign Ministry. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov spoke about this, as well as the spokespersons for the ministry. Just read them again and draw your own conclusions.

Speaking of the news reports by the [world’s] leading media outlets, in particular, the American media, The Washington Post carried an article that caused quite a stir. We have ambiguous feelings after reading it. On the one hand, the material appears to be correct and conclusive. This was what observers from the EU and the Organisation of American States (OAS) reported earlier. But, on the other hand, as we have said many times, some activities [that took place during the election campaign] were based not on compliance with international law and Bolivian law but rather on the principles of political expediency that served the interests of certain political forces. As a result of these activities, the situation in the country was seriously destabilised. They had a negative impact on the country’s economic development and have led to a situation where the top priority now is to bring the country back to an effective lawful election process, so that leaders that have the trust of the majority of Bolivians could be elected.

I would like to note again that the situation has recurred. Unfortunately, in the heat of the events, the media are used as a mouthpiece and a tool for fighting or exerting external influence. It is only later that people realise what has really happened. I want to repeat that, as a rule, things get back on track roughly within six months because it is impossible not to see the obvious.

I would also like to note that the current Bolivian authorities have a very restricted mandate to prepare for the elections and form, based on the election results, a legitimate government. That is why we are greatly disappointed to read and see the groundless and sometimes false statements they promote about “Russian involvement” or some “Russian mafia” that is allegedly involved in the illegitimate processes taking place in Bolivia. In so doing, the Bolivian interim government cites no specific information, facts, evidence or proof of illegal actions committed by either Russian authorities or even Russian nationals, for that matter. The Russian Embassy has received no relevant requests or inquiries from the Bolivian authorities, nor have they been forwarded via any other channel.

If this is being done purposefully, I would like to tell everyone who is engaged in such activities that they will not succeed in making us quarrel with the Bolivians. If these are not willful actions but manifestation of stupidity, then everything is clear as it is.

Russia and the Russian people have kind and sincere feelings of friendship and respect for the Bolivians. We believe these feelings are mutual.

I want to draw your attention yet again to the huge amount of false information about Russia that, unfortunately, is currently being spread in Bolivia.



More aggressive US rhetoric against Russia on the Open Skies Treaty

I would like to inform you that as of today there have been no official statements on the US’ potential withdrawal from the Open Skies Treaty (OST).

Nevertheless, we are very concerned about statements by high-ranking US officials and Congresspeople that are trying to turn the OST into a bargaining chip in their domestic political games.

We consider the OST an important mechanism for ensuring European security and military transparency along with the 2011 Vienna Document on Confidence- and Security-Building Measures.

We openly state our position during our contacts with our partners and objectively describe the situation that has taken shape around the OST. We hope that common sense and a constructive approach from all participants in the treaty will make it possible to prevent its collapse.

In general, I would like to note that US attempts to undermine the contractual foundation of arms control in real terms will not be able to inflict irreparable damage on our common security. We hope it will still be possible to put this situation back on a legal track on a global scale.



The Pentagon’s next budget request

We have taken note that in their budget request for fiscal 2021 the Pentagon and the US Department of Energy (DOE) suggest building up allocations on budget items linked with nuclear weapons with a view to countering “threats” that are ostensibly emanating from Russia and China. This is being done against the backdrop of what I just mentioned – US withdrawal from all commitments. This trend was obvious long before now, tying Washington’s hands and somehow keeping it part of security and strategic stability agreements.

We would like to note in this context that Washington is not only upgrading its nuclear forces but is also trying to provide new capability, which substantially enhances the likelihood of using them. Special concern is evoked by US efforts to increase the range of small-yield nuclear arms, including the development of such ammunition and its deployment on strategic carriers. This obviously lowers the nuclear threshold.

One gets the impression that Washington has decided to purposefully view a nuclear conflict as a real political option and is creating a befitting potential for it. But to feign at least some legitimacy for these destructive actions, the United States traditionally refers to the alleged external threats from Russia and China.

We would like to emphasise that the United States is only threatened by its own attempts to revive the concept of the world based on power and reshape international relations in the spirit of “rivalry between the great powers,” in which America is naturally supposed to be the winner. This logic is flawed and very dangerous.

We consider such plans destabilising. Their implementation leads to the growth of armed confrontation, which is fraught with the most negative consequences. The relentless buildup of military power, especially without legal constraint, is a road to nowhere. Continued arms control and peaceful cooperation with other states, which we constantly urge Washington to opt for, is a much more effective way of ensuring national security.



Second anniversary of the Salisbury incident

It has been two years since the “Salisbury mystery,” which the British authorities purposely used to exacerbate bilateral relations, or, to say more, used to intimidate the international community. Despite Russia’s numerous requests for a responsible dialogue – and there have been a lot – Great Britain still refuses to have an in-depth discussion and conduct a joint investigation of what happened there. Let me remind you that Russians were victims there. And the leadership of the United Kingdom still uses the Skripal case as leverage against Russia, stirring up anti-Russian feelings in British society.

We strongly condemn all of London’s attempts to blame Moscow for the Salisbury incident. We insist on a professional, objective and unbiased investigation of what happened there. We reaffirm our readiness for substantive cooperation between our law enforcement agencies and relevant experts.

We believe it crucially important to provide immediate consulate access to the Russians. I would like to stress (I hope this information won’t be blocked and will somehow reach British society) that over these years (two years have passed since the incident), we have never stopped or dropped our pressing demands to organise a meeting with the Russian victims, as we and the entire world were told during this incident. We have sent diplomatic notes, made statements and raised this issue during our diplomatic contacts. There was no answer.

The British authorities ignore the relevant Russian demands for no reason and neglect their international legal obligations, including under the bilateral 1965 Consular Convention.

We believe that Great Britain’s approach does not comply with the norms of international law or any law. We are confident that only an open and mutually respectful dialogue between professionals based on the law and in the legal sphere will put an end to the British speculations and help find the truth, hence taking all the questions off the table and stopping fake news. And there have been a lot of them over these two years. I think that these events will go down in historical documents as an example of a large-scale information campaign based on disinformation.



Dutch authorities’ attempts to pressure The Hague District Court before the start of the MH17 trial

We are seeing the information campaign in the Netherlands gain new momentum as the trial for the July 2014 MH17 crash over eastern Ukraine approaches at The Hague District Court on March 9. All this is coming, in no small measure, from the Netherlands Prosecutor's Office, which is the lead in the work of the Joint Investigation Team (JIT MH17).

This is being done to shape public opinion in the right way, to prepare the ground in order to highlight and, perhaps, in some sense, secure the so-called achievements of nearly six years of work. This, of course, is far from the high standards that our Western partners refer to.

Due to the apparent lack of anything new beyond the repeated accusations, the JIT made a very strange move they probably see as spectacular (again, as part of the accelerating information campaign) in announcing they had witnesses whose names and identities were, predictably, classified. I can even remember questions to this effect, and more than once, and also during one of the briefings. This sounds like the same old magic formula, “we know for sure it was you who did this from secret sources we cannot disclose,” already a handy tool in a number of high-profile cases, events and incidents, now being applied on a larger scale.

I recognise this hallmark style, that of planted news citing some mythical “irrefutable” evidence, with witnesses’ details classified and links to sources that cannot be opened. At the same time, important matters of direct relevance to the tragedy – such as Ukraine’s failure to close its airspace to civilian aircraft due to the internal armed conflict in the summer 2014 – which the Dutch parliamentarians seemed interested in, have apparently slipped from public discourse. The huge package of information about the crash provided by Russia continues to be ignored. The investigators are not interested in why all the prosecutors involved in the MH17 inquiry were fired just before the start of the trial in Ukraine.

Yet, the media campaign is gaining unprecedented momentum, with a clear accusatory bias towards Russia and – something absolutely unacceptable – against its citizens. This has been unleashed in the last days before the trial in order to compensate for the gaps in the evidence, to hide the juggling of facts to fit the pre-selected version. Another reason is probably to inspire the idea that the probe was impeccable and predetermine the verdict in advance and prevent any deviation from the line drawn up six years ago.

I just have one question. Is it even acceptable practice to launch such an information campaign before a court trial? Have you seen a precedent for this anywhere?

We believe all of the above is a grossly apparent attempt to put pressure on the court.



Agenor naval operation

We see the situation in the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz as turbulent. Moreover, the clearly excessive presence of foreign ships in that area does little to deescalate tensions; it creates an additional irritant if anything. It is from this perspective that we are watching Operation Agenor, part of the European-led Maritime Situation Awareness in the Strait of Hormuz (EMASOH) initiative launched by France, Germany, Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands, Greece, Italy and Portugal.

We take it that the current situation is the result of an exacerbation of a chain of problems. We suggest all countries interested in detente and stronger regional stability consider the Russian proposal, which concerns establishing a dialogue on building a collective security system in the Persian Gulf.

Russia’s approach to addressing the situation is based on the equal interaction of all regional and other interested parties, and the strict observance of international law.



Israeli plans for the construction of new settlements on the West Bank

The announced Israeli Government's plans to build more settlements in zone E1 on the West Bank of the Jordan River are in conflict with the international legal framework of a Middle East Settlement. If implemented, this will disrupt the territorial continuity of the West Bank, which is an indispensable condition for the viability of a future Palestinian state.

We reaffirm Russia’s principled position, reflected in UN Security Council resolution 2334 (2016), which says Israel’s establishment of settlements in Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, had no legal validity, constituting a flagrant violation under international law and a major obstacle to the vision of two States living side-by-side in peace and security, within internationally recognised borders.

We urge all parties to refrain from any steps that could provoke a new and dangerous escalation in the region and impede the creation of conditions for the resumption of direct Palestinian-Israeli talks under international auspices.



Italian authorities’ provocation against Russian biathlete Alexander Loginov

An official protest was sent to the Italian side over a February 22 early morning search of the places where biathlete Alexander Loginov and his personal coach, Alexander Kasperovich, were staying for the IBU Biathlon World Cup in Anterselva, Italy. The Russian side declared such actions against Russian athletes unacceptable and disproportionate. That incident will have a negative impact on the development of sports cooperation between our countries.

Such investigative actions performed in the early hours on the day of one of the World Cup events naturally affected the state of our athletes. As you know, Alexander Loginov was compelled to cancel his participation in the mass start event on February 23.

In response to our request, the Italian authorities said the search took place at 6 am “to allow the Russian athlete to participate in the late morning competition.” In fact, the race was at 14:30. Such explanations by the Italian side are not credible.

I point out that representatives of the Italian carabinieri confirmed to our diplomats that their activities revealed no evidence incriminating Alexander Loginov.

Because a preliminary investigation regarding our athletes in Italy continues, we urge the Italian authorities to strictly observe the legitimate rights and interests of Russian athletes and representatives of our team. We hope that comprehensive measures will be taken to prevent such incidents in the future, and those responsible for abuses against athletes will be punished.



President of Ukraine Vladimir Zelensky’s executive order declaring February 26 in Ukraine a Day of Resistance to the Occupation of Crimea and Sevastopol

President of Ukraine Vladimir Zelensky recently signed an executive order declaring February 26 in Ukraine a Day of Resistance to the Occupation of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the City of Sevastopol. His actions can only be described as a show because this is ridiculous and pointless.

Despite the qualification that was given to what was again invented in Ukraine as regards Crimea and Sevastopol, the chosen date is the only understandable part. It is no accident that February 26 was somehow linked with Crimea and Sevastopol. Do you know why this was done? I doubt Mr Zelensky himself knows.

On February 25, 2014 one of the ringleaders of the Right Sector, a Ukrainian national radical movement, Igor Mosiychuk expressed his ideas on retaining Crimea (his mind was still racing):

“The attempts to violate Ukraine’s territorial integrity will be severely punished. If the authorities are unable to do this, the Right Sector will send a ‘friendship train.’ We will go to Crimea like UNSO (Ukrainian National Self-Defence) did in 1990. A public similar to this one ran away like rats as a column of UNSO representatives was entering Sevastopol…” Six years have passed and a new holiday has emerged – Day of Resistance to the Occupation of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the City of Sevastopol.

Knowing how Ukraine viewed “the liberation” of Crimea from occupation, is there any reason to be surprised that Crimean residents made a conscious choice in favour of reuniting with Russia at the March 16 referendum?

Here is one more piece of advice for those who invent new holidays and excuses for celebrations in Ukraine – recall and reread at least the recent history of the last few years, what was said by those who became the ideologists of building a so-called new Ukraine. Consider what you are doing from time to time and what this can lead to.



Anti-Russia statements by the President of Montenegro

In an interview with Reuters, President of Montenegro Milo Djukanovic, deemed it necessary to speak again about Russia’s alleged interference in the domestic political processes in this Balkan country.

We regularly remind the leaders in Podgorica that Russia is not in the habit of interfering in the internal affairs of other countries, and Montenegro is no exception in this respect. If Montenegrin leaders are seeking those that interfere in their affairs they should turn around and look in the opposite direction. Maybe they will see those that interfere in their home affairs. References to all kinds of “hybrid” encroachments on foreign sovereignty ascribed to Moscow are awkward attempts to resolve domestic problems by searching for a foreign enemy and to distract the public from understanding who is really interfering in Montenegro’s internal affairs.

Needless to say, the law on freedom of religion adopted in Montenegro in December 2019 raises serious concern. This issue was of global significance and destroyed the unity of the Orthodox world. This is the gist of the problem rather than the position of the forces that criticise new legislative proposals and that urge a respectable and equitable dialogue between the Montenegrin authorities and the Serbian Orthodox Church, which is upholding its legitimate centuries-old rights and interests.

As for Podgorica’s progress along the European integration road, this is its sovereign choice. We have never opposed the expansion of the EU. This issue concerns applicants for membership and Brussels and the development of relations between any specific country and integration structures.



Russian historian Alexey Umnov-Denisov denied entry to Romania

On March 2, the Romanian authorities denied entry to Russian historian Alexey Umnov-Denisov into Romania without explanation. As a result, academic events aimed at developing a constructive dialogue between the academic communities of Russia and Romania had to be cancelled. Later, the Romanian Foreign Ministry announced that this decision was ostensibly based on the current international norms and provisions of Romanian law.

Bucharest’s action causes perplexity and regret. We consider this demarche to be overtly unfriendly, and clearly not conducive to improving the general atmosphere of bilateral relations.



Update on Russian nationals Mikhail Ivkin and Pavel Kosov

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Update on Russian national Olesya Krasilova detained in Spain

On February 14, the Spanish authorities detained Russian national Olesya Krasilova on the Canary Island of Tenerife at the request of the United States. She is employed by a Russian government-funded agency and was in Spain on a business trip.

The detention of Olesya Krasilova is another example of how the United States tries to hunt down Russian nationals around the world. Hopefully, the Spanish authorities will take a principled and law-based position in this case – a case that will have direct implications for relations between the two countries. The Spanish Foreign Ministry has already received a Russian diplomatic note expressing Russia’s serious concern about the unprecedented detention and custody of a Russian national, and it calls on Spain to refuse to extradite her to the United States. We are taking the necessary measures to safeguard her rights and legitimate interests and we are urging Spain to not take measures that could further exacerbate the current situation, which defies the law as it is. We have firmly demanded that the American authorities revoke the request for the extradition of Olesya Krasilova to the United Sates.

We will continue to work to secure the release of the Russian national as soon as possible. A delegation from the relevant Russian government-funded agency visited Madrid to secure a lawyer to defend the woman. With support from the Russian Embassy, the organisation that employs the defendant and the Russian-speaking lawyer signed a contract.

An employee from the Russian Embassy’s consular division was sent to the Canary Island of Tenerife where he visited Olesya Krasilova at the Tenerife-2 jail. The woman is determined to fight to secure her release and return home.



Viktoria Ivanova’s case

In the context of an investigation against Russians that has been going on in France for two years, I would like to also comment on the investigation around a Russian journalist in France. The French prosecutor’s office stopped investigating a case of assault against a Russian journalist, Viktoria Ivanova. The pretext was very strange: “It is impossible to identify the persons responsible.”

This is strange. The investigation around the Russian citizens Mikhail Ivkin and Pavel Kosov has been going on for two years to find those responsible, but here it was decided to drop the case after just a couple months because it is impossible to identify the persons responsible. I understand that the issues are completely different; they are not connected and do not develop in parallel. But perhaps there are common approaches to the execution of law in France.

Let me remind you that Rossiya Segodnya correspondent Viktoria Ivanova was injured by the French police during the yellow vests rally on May 1, 2019. Despite the clear word “Press” on her helmet and armband, a police officer struck her with his baton twice, causing a bruise on her left arm and a concussion.

The case materials include extensive evidence that Ms Ivanova was a victim in this situation. In particular, there is footage from CCTV cameras showing the hits. Specialised agencies also checked photos and radio traffic data as well as questioned the commanders of the units who were on the scene: all the information was gathered and presented.

Without impugning the law enforcers’ responsibility, the French prosecutor’s office still decided to stop the investigation due to the fact that they were “not able to identify those responsible.” Ms Ivanova was notified about this in a letter on March 2.

A precedent has been set. It turns out that, even with all the information, technical equipment and the strict commitment to protecting journalists’ rights officially declared by Paris at public organisations and events, this does not work in practice.

We believe that the decision made in Ms Ivanova’s situation violates her rights as well as the principles of justice and inevitable punishment for the crime. We support the Russian journalist’s intention to try to bring those responsible for her injuries to justice. If French government bodies and public organisations hold forums under their auspices, such as the Paris Peace Forum, where all these problems are discussed in theory, then all of this must be implemented in practice there.

We will not overlook this case and will send all the materials to the OSCE and other international agencies.



Situation with Le Monde newspaper

Something strange is happening in journalism in France. If you remember, I spoke about how we are forced to publicly raise the issue of the French media refusing to publish materials refuting false information posted by them. I was talking about Le Monde newspaper.

Only after our public appeal did we receive a response from this newspaper. Let me remind you, we simply asked to publish a response to the false information that Russia is making it tougher for journalists to get visas. Dozens of foreign correspondents are present here today, and they probably have not faced tougher visa regulations in recent years.

We asked for the opportunity to publish a refutation article. The newspaper did not reply to us for several weeks. After a public appeal, we received a response. It is amazing. I am quoting: “We read your letter with interest, but do not wish to publish it.” Is this okay? This is the French media – world forums, discussing the fight against fake news, the global initiative of Champs-Elysees on how to deal with misinformation. We use legal methods to prevent the spread of fake news. We do this respectfully, based on French law – we sent a letter through the Russian mission asking to publish it. We did not even insist that it should be published in the newspaper; they could have just posted it on their website. But they tell us that they do not want to publish our answer. I have never seen anything of the sort.

Should we treat the French side the same way, concerning all the issues mentioned above? This is not our choice. By the way, let me remind you that the media’s obligation to publish a retraction or to provide the interested party with the opportunity to publish a comment on the pages of a publication in response to inaccuracies or distortions is a key principle of generally accepted international journalism ethics. The principles are professional and democratic. Whether the media leadership wants to apply these principles or not has nothing to do with democracy, freedom of speech and principles related to respect for the profession.

According to the Declaration of Principles on the Conduct of Journalists, adopted by the International Federation of Journalists in 1954 (hello to Le Monde), “the journalist shall do the utmost to rectify any published information which is found to be harmfully inaccurate.” We did not insist that Le Monde reporters do this work — we did it ourselves. We were ready to adjust the article together, reduce and simplify it. We translated it, provided it in French. The right to reciprocal, fair comments and criticism of one’s own publications, as well as to private criticism and opinion journalism, is also enshrined in the 2019 Global Charter of Ethics for Journalists. The same aspects are enshrined in the UNESCO International Principles of Professional Ethics in Journalism. Do you know where they were approved? In Paris, on November 20, 1983. They are also set out in the 1971 Declaration of Duties and Rights of Journalists of the European Federation of Journalists. If Le Monde is not committed to this, please let the public know. To make us aware of it.



Celebrations of Ghana’s Independence Day

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Answers to media questions:



Question:

My question is about the amendment to the Constitution of the Russian Federation regarding the prohibition of transferring territories of the Russian Federation. This amendment is known to have been approved by the respective State Duma committee. During the discussion, influential politicians said they wanted to put a lid on talks with Japan on the South Kuril Islands. President of Russia Vladimir Putin also expressed his stance. As a result, the amendment acquired the following wording: with the exceptions of demarcation and re-demarcation, actions towards the transfer of the territories of the Russian Federation and calls for such actions are not permitted. In this connection I have a question whether this amendment will affect further Russia-Japan talks on a peace treaty. Does the Russian Foreign Ministry consider these talks to be related to the transfer of Russian territories or to the demarcation procedures?



Maria Zakharova:

It is not accurate to say that the amendment will affect [the talks]. The amendments to the Constitution of the Russian Federation will influence all areas of our life. In this case I mean not my life or yours but life inside the Russian Federation. This is clear. The changes in the Constitution will have an effect on the different areas of life they refer to. This is number one. It is not proper to discuss the amendments and their effect or lack thereof. I do not think it corresponds to the legal aspects of the question asked. When changes are made, we will start discussing them as the existing Fundamental Law.

The second point concerns the negotiation process with Japan. You see, you phrased your question from an interesting perspective. I have no claims against you because it is, one way or another, a position held by many Japanese media outlets and many political forces, including those outside Japan. Will future actions or events affect the current talks? I have a counter question: Why do we (rather, you) pose a question in such a way that some future developments should affect talks that have been ongoing for more than a year? It has been two years since we intensified this dialogue with Japan on the peace treaty and took it to a new level. Why should we proceed from the future when we have present? Unfortunately, this present becomes the past each day. I think this question should be forwarded to the Japanese side, to Japanese diplomats, politicians and statesmen. What has been done over the years, especially the last two years, to reach the goals set? In this case we should not proceed from the future. We have to analyse the global and strategic approach and see how it is being pursued by the Japanese in practice. I have a question for you: What has been done to the Japanese Constitution in the context of holding talks with Moscow? Let me help you: nothing. This is why I think it is not worth talking about what will influence the talks in the future due to possible changes to the Russian Constitution when Japan throughout the years has done nothing of what could have been necessary and logical to do if it indeed wanted real progress on this issue. There must be a different philosophy. Actually, there must be any philosophy at all.



Question:

As you know, under the Sochi Memorandum, Turkey was to separate the armed opposition from the terrorists. It was emphasised yesterday that the terrorists would be eliminated. Is the agreement still in effect that Turkey will eliminate the terrorists on its own or will the Syrian army and Russian forces join in?



Maria Zakharova:

You see, I want to draw your attention to yesterday’s Joint Statement following the talks by the Russian and Turkish presidents, which was voiced by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and is available on our website. It lists the agreed upon steps to be taken by the parties. As to the elimination of the terrorists and militants, regardless of yesterday’s talks, if they are identified as such, they must be eliminated primarily by the Syrian armed forces and those forces, countries and contingents which legitimately interact with the Syrian authorities. This is our principled approach, and this has not changed. Obviously, there are different mechanisms for coordinating actions with the international community but it is basically not only the right but also the duty of the Syrian state to act and to engage, on legal grounds, those who are ready to render such help. This is a basic approach to proceed from, and we have not revised this.



Question:

The US and the Taliban movement recently signed a peace agreement. Two days later, the situation in Afghanistan only deteriorated. What does Russia think about this? How can peace and security be established in Afghanistan?



Maria Zakharova:

We have already given our evaluation of the agreements reached between the US and the Taliban. As you said, they led not to instant progress, but, unfortunately, to further deterioration. We hope that the agreement will be followed through on. We are confident that the aspiration for true peace against the backdrop of the current situation in Afghanistan should become a true priority for all forces, including socio-political forces. I understand that this is a very global, general solution. But you want an answer to a question that has not been answered for decades. Maybe there is a solution, but it is difficult to implement, as we see.

In short and without generalisation, these mutual controversies should not be seen as a global approach. They should be subordinate to the most important thing: the interests of the people of Afghanistan. And this move towards peace in the interests of the wellbeing and prosperity of the Afghan people should become an undisputable imperative. Again, I understand that this is a very global piece of advice and solution, but history tells us that it should be implemented one day. We need to combine our efforts, not suspend them over controversy, which of course, will always be there.



Question:

Through examples in Libya, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Kashmir and other countries we see that women and children are the people who are the most affected by war. What can you say to the women who will spend the holiday – International Women’s Day – in a refugee camp or other uncomfortable places?



Maria Zakharova:

If you are asking this question about the women who suffer from armed conflicts and are currently at refugee camps, I have holiday wishes, but not for them. I want to address the men, who, unfortunately, often forget about the obvious advantages of a peaceful life, the need to preserve peace as a global concept, a global imperative. So my holiday wish is that they should always remember that political ambition, the political environment, and various other interests should always proceed from the priorities of a peaceful life and the needs of civilians.

As for those women who are suffering from conflict, I wish them stamina and patience. Unfortunately, there are not hundreds of thousands, but millions of women in this position.

I would also wish for public organisations all over the world, non-governmental agencies, civil society, activists who are engaged in charity projects and women’s problems in various areas, to identify and outline the most important things. They should not focus on small, though important, but at the same time not crucial interests of their own. It is important to take a broader view, and remember that there are a huge number of civilian women and children in the world who have no idea of not only what human rights are, but what a normal human life is. So, when I see the numerous new civil initiatives, movements, campaigns that are supposed to deal with very crucial issues related to women, I often feel amused and sad at the same time, because their goals are so petty, and their objectives are so shallow, and all these resources could have been used to deal with truly global issues and problems.



Question:

Last January our colleague, a Channel 5 journalist, Andrey Zakharov, issued a report on Latvian legionnaires. In February, he released another report on Waffen-SS legionnaires that hold annual marches in Estonia. Under this excuse the Estonian authorities cancelled his Schengen visa for five years and expelled him from the EU. How can you comment on these actions of the Estonian authorities? Can they be interpreted as obstructing the professional activities of a correspondent, which runs counter to international agreements on the media and the freedom of speech?



Maria Zakharova:

We have already commented on this. Our comment is published on the Ministry’s website. It is current. We will follow up with a letter to the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Harlem Desir, in which we will describe in detail this situation. We will raise the issue in practical terms at international venues and will come back to it.

We will ask our EU partners, both in individual countries and as an integrated structure, about the rules and procedures of accreditation, the entry and exit of journalists and their ability to engage in professional activities. Some time ago we tried to understand whether the EU has common rules on this. It seems to be a progressive structure in this sense, as it were. It is endlessly talking about the horrors of propaganda and the struggle against disinformation. That said, we have repeatedly asked our EU colleagues about the rules for working there, which in the opinion of EU agencies must be fulfilled by those who want to be considered law-abiding journalists. Much to my surprise we were told that there are no common rules: state to state movement is common, the Schengen Zone is common, and decisions are made by consensus, including those on countering dishonest journalists. Nobody pursues any individual policy on a national basis. Everything is subordinated to tough discipline and there are no common rules that are understandable and accessible. We were told that we should address each country individually. We did this. Many countries did not reply at all, as if they have no accreditation rules of their own. What could be easier than this question? Please explain.

By the way, there was one shocking moment, although it does not concern your question directly. We found this out when Russian journalists faced this problem. It appears that applicants for being a journalist in Britain on a permanent basis must take an exam in English. They have to do this at special courses and pay no small fee for this. This requirement is applied selectively. In some cases it is required, and in others it may not be applied. This is an approach that can also be used for denying a visa to a journalist for political reasons, for one. We are fully aware of that. I am sure many journalists working in Britain have no idea about the need to take this exam and pay for courses or for taking this exam. Some journalists have to deal with this problem. Thus, journalists that applied for visas in Moscow were denied and told to bring a certificate. What does this mean? This means that the mechanism of issuing a visa, accreditation or work permit is being used as an instrument of political pressure on journalism and journalists.

As for the case you brought up, I promise you that we will do everything we can to get an appropriate international response because it is directly linked with politics. As we see it, there is no other explanation than the use of the visa and accreditation policy for some kind of political revenge for journalistic activity.



Question:

The Russian media do not report much about anti-corruption measures. This is even reflected in the departure of former officials that end up fairly wealthy upon their arrival abroad. Recently, there were reports that an ordinary colonel from the Ministry of the Interior, Sergey Terentyev, owns several mansions and flies to Monaco on his helicopter. Does the Foreign Ministry deal with the return of corrupt officials to their homeland and the seizing of their real estate? Has this process been stepped up in the past few years? Has it become more intense?



Maria Zakharova:

Several years ago we devoted a series of reports to how many of our Western partners resort to distorted rather than simply double standards in anticorruption cooperation with Russia.

We all participate in related agreements and international organisations, including those under the UN. We are subjected to criticism by our Western partners. However, many inquiries by Russian law enforcement agencies remain unanswered and are completely ignored even though they have a huge base of evidence.

In addition, many that Russia has inquired about officially were given asylum, the status of political refugees or other types of protection and almost patronage. Many of these people become exceptional representatives of the local political elite. They are regularly given time whereas we cannot publish our response to obvious fraud. Meanwhile, these people go from one programme to another on local television channels.

This attitude is creating a very strange, distorted idea of normal cooperation in this area. We have spoken about this problem more than once. In fact, we can update the statistics.

At the same time, Russian citizens against whom provocative claims are lodged are being caught, detained and taken (in general, this comes down to abduction). These claims are part of some planned campaign repeatedly waged against Russian citizens that are kept in US prisons, or they are far-fetched and completely false cases. Sometimes nobody even thinks of the need to somehow legitimise their capture and detention. They are simply kept in prison for months and even years without an explanation. They are called enemies of the Western world and that’s it.

The second part of the problem is lack of normal cooperation between law-enforcement bodies on corruption cases, the extradition of citizens charged with corruption and the creation of zero tolerance to manifestations of corruption. In this case, those that law enforcement bodies have a large evidence base on and those who have court decisions against them should understand from the very start that they will not be given any residence permit or any legal status, not to mention political refugee status, that they will not be sheltered. In this case, justice and international cooperation would work smoothly. If this concept prevailed this would be a major contribution to the anti-corruption struggle.

I can update our statistics on what countries have given us a negative reply to an inquiry or who have simply ignored it altogether. States that have an evidence base on people that are not clean, to put it mildly, allow them to use the benefits and opportunities granted by their governments.



Question:

According to the latest update, the Afghan Government has refused to release Taliban prisoners. It seems this historical deal will no longer survive. What do you say?



Maria Zakharova:

I have already partially dealt with this question. We hope that the agreements signed between the United States and the Taliban will be implemented in full.

Here are the statistics regarding the prisoners. We believe that all obstacles on the way to the implementation of the agreements will be lifted soon, including when it comes to the release of 5,000 Taliban prisoners and 1,000 Afghan government soldiers before the launch of direct intra-Afghan talks on peace and the post-conflict settlement in the country, as this is set out in the agreement.



Question:

Monuments are being destroyed, commemorative plaques removed and squares renamed in the Czech Republic. According to frequent statements made in Russia, this is not its concern. For example, Russian Ambassador to the Czech Republic is often invited to attend events such as the renaming of a square after Boris Nemtsov. Russian officials do not attend them, and the Czech media later have a field day reporting their absence. This is obviously being done under foreign orders, because the Czech Republic is following the example of the United States, Ukraine and Lithuania. It is not a purely Czech initiative. If it is an attempt to reform the Czech society, as it happened in Ukraine, will Russia revise its relations with the Czech Republic in light of the fact that its views on the outcome of WWII is changing? Czechs say now that the Soviet Union all but started WWII, and that Hitler attacked the Soviet Union to save the world from Bolshevism.



Maria Zakharova:

And it has slipped their memory about the occupation of Czechoslovakia?

I do not see exactly what we should take part in. At first I did not believe that it was really happening, but later I read a statement produced by Prague officials who had initiated the renaming of the square. The reasons they provided shocked me. I always thought that cities, streets and squares are named after people whose outstanding activities are viewed as a reason for commemorating them in the national history – we are talking about streets and squares in a sovereign state – so that this serves as an example and encouragement for the people in that country. I thought so because when you change something in your own home, you do it for yourself and not your neighbours. When I read the explanation provided by the Prague authorities, I thought that it was the most absurd thing I had ever read. They wrote that they did this to support the Russian opposition. This is pure nonsense.

First of all, actions aimed at influencing political processes in sovereign states fall within the province of international law. Of course, civil society, political parties and movements can express their support. But what we are talking about here is the official position of a state.

Second, do the Czech authorities intend to support only the Russian opposition? What about the opposition forces in Germany or Italy? Or maybe the French opposition needs the Czech authorities’ support? Do they plan to support the idea of a monument to the Yellow Vests? Why has Prague limited its support of internal political processes to Russia? This is rubbish. Moreover, this explanation – as I mentioned, it was an official explanation – is evidence of disrespect for the memory of the person whose name they chose in this particular case. It turns out that his name is being used not even in a political struggle but in a political horseplay. This is strange and bizarre.

Do the Czech authorities have similar feelings for the opposition in other countries? What are they planning to do in support of the American opposition? What about the opposition in Latin America or the Middle East? Why go so far? There are closer neighbours than Russia, which is located on the same continent but not in the direct proximity to the Czech Republic. What about Poland? The Polish opposition most likely needs support as well? What monument will be erected and which street will be named in honour of Polish opposition leaders? This is what I would like to understand. Furthermore, there are different kinds of opposition. For which part of the opposition have the Czech authorities demonstrated their respect? I think that several opposition movements in Russia might ask when monuments to Lenin would be rebuilt. The Communist movement is in opposition here.

So, this is absurd logic that shows a lack of good judgement. But we will not tell them this.




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4078184
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Comment by the Information and Press Department on a get-together of “Forest Brothers” devotees in Latvia



6 March 2020 - 19:30



On March 2, sympathisers of the Forest Brothers, members of an underground criminal group whose original adherents died when the territory was secured during operation by Soviet security agencies in 1945, held a regular get-together in Latvia’s Viljak region.

We view this meeting and its attendance by the deputy Prime Minister, the Justice Minister and the former President of Latvia as a sort of rehearsal for the annual march by the Latvian Waffen SS legion in Riga on March 16. It is no secret that many so-called partisans of the Forest Brothers loyally served Hitler during World War II and participated in bloody punitive acts against civilians on the territory of the former USSR.

We resolutely condemn such attempts to re-write history and present those who were in fact gross murderers and rapists as “heroes.”




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4078359






Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova’s answer to a media question about NATO exercises



7 March 2020 - 14:22



Question:

Could you comment on the reports about NATO plans to conduct military exercises in the immediate vicinity of Russia's borders?



Maria Zakharova:

In April-May 2020, the planned NATO Exercise Defender- Europe 20 will take place in a number of European countries along Russia’s western border. It is indicative that these manoeuvres, aimed at practicing the alliance’s combat operations, involving more than 20,000 US troops and tens of thousands of units of military equipment in addition to the European NATO troops, will be the largest since the end of the Cold War.

Citing their NATO commitments as a pretext, the United States is consistently expanding its armed forces group in Eastern Europe in the immediate vicinity of our country’s border and regularly increasing the funding of its military programmes. Neither NATO nor Washington is now hiding the fact that Russia is the “potential adversary” in the exercises.

This attitude was directly confirmed in a statement made by US Defenсe Secretary Mark Esper at a briefing held on March 5 that the goal of Defender-Europe 2020 is to send a signal to Russia to make it change its “bad behaviour.” He predictably failed to explain what the bad behaviour is. It is obvious that our country is not threatening anyone, and that NATO is the party that is gathering an assault force at the Russian border.

Also noteworthy is the decision to conduct these large-scale manoeuvres at a time when Russia will celebrate the 75th anniversary of Victory in the Great Patriotic War – a war unleashed by Nazi Germany under the pretext of some groundless accusations against the Soviet Union. Washington is using similar tactics at present trying to put pressure on Russia.

However, this sort of tactics will not force Russia to change the course of its foreign policy. All through its history, Russia has been threatened many times with such muscle flexing. All these attempts ended ingloriously.

Of course, the aggressive intentions of the United States and NATO will be taken into account in Russia’s military development. We recommend that NATO think about the consequences of their aggressive actions, which only increase international tensions.




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4080285






Joint Statement by the Foreign Ministers of China, France, Russia, UK and US on the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons



10 March 2020 - 15:00



On March 5, 1970, the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) entered into force. Today, 50 years later, we celebrate the immeasurable contributions this landmark treaty has made to the security and prosperity of the nations and peoples of the world. We reaffirm our commitment to the NPT in all its aspects.

The NPT has provided the essential foundation for international efforts to stem the looming threat – then and now – that nuclear weapons would proliferate across the globe. In so doing, it has served the interests of all its Parties.

We also celebrate the astonishingly diverse benefits of the peaceful uses of the atom, whether for electricity, medicine, agriculture, or industry. We reiterate our strong support for broadening access to the benefits of nuclear energy and its applications for peaceful purpose. This boon to humanity thrives because the NPT, and the nuclear nonproliferation regime built around the Treaty, has helped provide confidence that nuclear programs are and will remain entirely peaceful.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) plays a critical role in NPT implementation, both to promote the fullest possible cooperation on the peaceful uses of nuclear energy, and to apply safeguards and verify that nuclear programs are entirely peaceful. An IAEA comprehensive safeguards agreement together with an Additional Protocol provide credible assurances of the absence of undeclared nuclear activities and should become the universal standard for verifying the fulfillment of NPT obligations. We pledge our full and continued support to the IAEA and urge others to do the same.

We remain committed under the NPT to the pursuit of good faith negotiations on effective measures related to nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control. We support the ultimate goal of a world without nuclear weapons with undiminished security for all. By helping to ease international tensions and create conditions of stability, security and trust among nations, the NPT has made a vital contribution to nuclear disarmament. The NPT continues to help create conditions that would be essential for further progress on nuclear disarmament.

The success of the NPT was not foreordained, nor is its future success guaranteed. It depends on our concerted and sustained efforts to ensure compliance, to promote universalization, to ensure effective safeguards, and to respond to ongoing and emerging proliferation challenges, wherever they occur. Even at the height of the Cold War, our predecessors made this wise investment in our shared security and prosperity. Today, we pledge our unstinting commitment to preserving and deepening this legacy for future generations.


Wang Yi
State Councilor and Minister of Foreign Affairs, People’s Republic of China

Jean-Yves Le Drian
Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, French Republic

Sergey Lavrov
Minister of Foreign Affairs, Russian Federation

Dominic Raab
Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland

Michael R. Pompeo
Secretary of State, United States of America




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4080918






Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s speech at the meeting of the Board of Trustees of the Alexander Gorchakov Public Diplomacy Fund, Moscow, March 11, 2020



11 March 2020 - 13:17






Good afternoon, colleagues,

We are delighted to welcome you to a regular meeting of the Board of Trustees of the Alexander Gorchakov Public Diplomacy Fund.

As always, we have a busy agenda. We will review our performance last year and map out the main areas for the fund’s activity in the near future.

We must make a number of decisions on issues that are vital for the fund, in part, we will choose an executive director, and members of the Management Board and the Board of Trustees.

On February 2, the fund celebrated its tenth anniversary. I am happy to say that during this period it has achieved tangible success in supporting public diplomacy and has done much for expanding international contacts with domestic NGOs. I will quote just a few figures: the fund has supported 300 grant projects and conducted over 500 events. It is developing cooperation with Russian and foreign young people, something we focus on. The Gorchakov Club that brings together young participants from scientific and education programmes is functioning successfully. The Dialogue in the Name of the Future, an educational forum, has also shown good results.

The Russian-Georgian Public Center established with the fund’s support in Tbilisi is doing fairly well. The fund will soon open an affiliate in Minsk.

All these developments are encouraging. Naturally, we will have to do much this year as well, all the more so since the situation is tense and, as you know, many official channels for dialogue have been frozen or even eliminated by our Western partners and not at our initiative. So, the need for contact between civil societies, researchers, experts and political scientists is beyond doubt and is becoming increasingly obvious. This is an important component of maintaining trust and understanding in international communication as well. Of course, we hope our NGOs will continue promoting a unifying, future-oriented agenda at international venues, such as the UN, UNESCO, the OSCE and the Council of Europe.

Closer cooperation in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) should remain one of the top priorities. We are interested in the development of inter-societal dialogue, including the Eurasian integration format and would like to see experts from the EAEU countries and Russian regions involved in these efforts.

This year Russia chairs BRICS and the SCO. We hope the fund will be able to contribute to promoting partnership in these multilateral organisations with the potential of civil societies.







Colleagues,

This year we will celebrate the 75th anniversary of Victory in the Great Patriotic War and the 75th anniversary of the United Nations.

There is no need to speak about this at length but regrettably we are seeing intensifying unseemly attempts to politicise history and falsify facts. There is an obvious striving to subject to cardinal revision not only commonly known causes but also the universally recognised international legal results of that global conflict. The liberators are being smeared whereas the Nazis and their accomplices are whitewashed. The goal of such actions that nobody conceals is to cast aspersions on today’s Russia and push forward a distorted vision of the entire postwar system of interstate relations. The growth of dangerous trends in some European countries, such as freedom of speech violations, abuse of the rights of national minorities and mounting extremism and overtly neo-Nazi attitudes is a source of deep concern against this backdrop.

I believe that in this context we should pay special attention to the protection of historical truth, prevention of the revision of the results of victory and consolidation of global and regional security and stability, which rests on the UN Charter. The tone for these efforts has already been set by President of Russia Vladimir Putin. He did this in his remarks at the CIS informal summit last December and the forum held in Jerusalem on January 23 of this year under the slogan “Remembering the Holocaust, Fighting Antisemitism.” I am convinced that the Gorchakov fund can contribute to these efforts by using its tangible potential.

We will discuss in detail these and other issues at our meeting today. The Board of Trustees will endorse priority areas for 2021. I hope our work will be rewarding.

In conclusion, I would like to emphasise once again that our work would be impossible without charitable support. Using this opportunity I would like to thank members of the Board of Trustees Sergey Chemezov, Alexei Mordashov, Nikoilai Tokarev, Alisher Usmanov, Vladimir Yevtushenkov and Mikhail Prokhorov for supporting the fund in 2019.

Thank you for your attention. I now give the floor to the fund’s Executive Director Leonid Drachevsky.




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4081794






Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks at the presentation of the Kemerovo Region - Kuzbass, Moscow, March 12, 2020



12 March 2020 - 17:59






Mr Tsivilev,

Your Excellency, ladies and gentlemen,

Thank you for accepting our invitation to participate in a presentation of a Russian region – this time, the Kemerovo Region - Kuzbass. I would also like to welcome the representatives of federal and regional ministries and agencies, the diplomatic corps, Russian and foreign businesses, and the media.

The rich history of this region dates back to the time of Peter the Great, when industrial development began in the region. Kuzbass acquired strategic importance during World War II when it was the main supplier of coal and metal for the production of weapons and military equipment.

I know that today you will be able to see firsthand that the Kemerovo Region is a dynamically developing entity of the Russian Federation that makes a major contribution to the entire country’s economic growth. Although greatly supported by its convenient geographical location and a wealth of natural resources, this growth is largely the result of the consistent efforts of the region’s leaders to provide for its comprehensive modernisation and, of course, the efforts of the wonderful people living there.

The region is known for its minerals and its modern facilities for extracting and processing minerals. The most famous is the Kuznetsk coal basin, one of the world’s largest coal deposits. About 70 percent of all Russian coal reserves are concentrated in its soil; Kuzbass distributes coal to the Russian market as well as to dozens of countries in Asia and Europe.

The Kemerovo Region firmly holds a leading position in the production of metallurgy, in mechanical engineering, and in food processing. Growing dynamics can also be observed in agriculture, trade and services. I know the governor and members of his team will tell you more about it today.

A well-developed transport system is also one of the region’s strengths, including an extensive railway network with a link to Russia’s main railway corridor, the Trans-Siberian Railway, and the Siberia federal motorway. There are also two international airports, in Kemerovo and Novokuznetsk.







The regional government focuses on creating favourable conditions for doing business, for attracting foreign investment, improving employment, and the quality of life. There are four territories of priority social and economic development there – Anzhero-Sudzhensk, Novokuznetsk, Prokopyevsk, and Yurga. Several industrial clusters are being developed successfully – agri-industrial, biomedical, tourism and recreation, and coal chemical centres.

Efforts are being made to strengthen the region’s research potential. Given its most developed industries, the main emphasis is being made on the development and implementation of advanced technologies in the production of solid minerals, reducing impact on the environment, and increasing the level of safety and production efficiency.

We would like to specifically point out the successful progress in the region’s external relations, primarily in economic projects. The Kemerovo Region’s biggest trading partners include countries in both Asia and Europe. For many years, large foreign companies have been operating here successfully, and joint business projects have been implemented. The region has signed six agreements with foreign provinces.

Kuzbass is an integral part of Russia’s cultural and historical heritage, being the homeland of many prominent writers, scientists, public figures, and military leaders such as astronaut Alexey Leonov, the first man to take a spacewalk, the outstanding Russian physicist Sergey Korovin, and renowned Russian writer Viktor Likhonosov.

The Mountain Shoria economic preferential treatment zone for tourism and recreation is operating quite successfully. Its Sheregesh ski resort attracts tourists and athletes from around Russia and from abroad. The local natural highlights are rich in unique landmarks such as the rock pillars Spassky Palace and Alguy Tremolite, the Rocky Mountain Canyon and many others.

I am confident that the participants in today’s event will become interested in getting to know the multifaceted potential of Kuzbass, its glorious history, and rich cultural traditions.

And, of course, I cannot fail to congratulate Kemerovo residents on the excellent performance of your volleyball team yesterday. Congratulations on a well-deserved victory! We were enthusiastically rooting for you. In conclusion, I would like to wish Governor Sergey Tsivilev and his team, and all residents of the region all the best.




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4084786
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Briefing by Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova, Moscow, March 12, 2020



12 March 2020 - 19:42






Today we are conducting an unconventional briefing. We are conducting it now that the WHO has declared the spread of the novel coronavirus a pandemic. We, among others, are guided by the WHO’s recommendations to hold large, public events online via ICT whenever possible to prevent the spread of the disease. This is what we have done. Therefore, today the briefing for journalists will be held remotely. This briefing will be devoted to their questions, which are still coming in. I will reply to them during this briefing.



Opening of an exhibit on the 75th anniversary of diplomatic relations with Venezuela

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Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s participation in Government Hour at a State Duma plenary meeting

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Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s meeting with Hungarian Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Peter Szijjarto

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Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s talks with Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of Burkina Faso Alpha Barry

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Update on Covid-19

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Update on Syria

A dangerous escalation of tensions in the Idlib de-escalation zone was recently overcome thanks to the agreements reached by President of Russia Vladimir Putin and President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan at their meeting in Moscow on March 5.

In practical terms, the Additional Protocol to the Memorandum of September 17, 2018 made it possible to cease hostilities, as of March 6, along the existing line of contact in the de-escalation zone. The ceasefire is generally being observed, which promotes the stabilization in Idlib. In addition, the presidents made a decision on creating a security corridor along the M4 motor road and organise Russian-Turkish joint patrolling in this zone. According to reports, work on resuming traffic on the M4 is already underway.

The Russian and Turkish defence ministries are maintaining contact to ensure the implementation of the signed agreements. We hope this will help achieve sustainable stabilisation in Idlib, improve the humanitarian situation and allow IDPs to return home.

Importantly, the Additional Protocol contains provisions of principle on the commitment to Syria’s sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity. The sides also noted their resolve to continue the struggle against all terrorist groups recognised as such by the UN Security Council, up to and including their elimination.

The situation in the northeast of Syria generally remains stable as a result of the implementation of the Russia-Turkey Memorandum of October 22, 2019. We consider the invigoration of the so-called ISIS “sleeping cells” and the illegal presence of the US-led international coalition to be negative variables.

Washington’s policy of encouraging Kurdish separatism and stealing Syrian mineral resources does not help enhance security in northern Syria.

Serious apprehensions are caused by the lack of progress in resolving problems at the refugee camps in al-Howl and Rukban that are located on territories outside Damascus’s control. We are urging the sides controlling these areas to at least meet the basic needs of their IDPs and to prevent a humanitarian disaster.

We are concerned about Israel’s continuing practice of delivering unilateral air strikes at Syrian territory, violating the sovereignty of neighbouring Arab countries. The most recent attack came from Israeli aircraft from Lebanon’s air space on March 5. One Syrian army serviceman was killed and over ten were wounded as a result. We believe these arbitrary military actions undermine regional security and lead to the escalation of tensions.

At the same time, we believe it is necessary to step up humanitarian aid to Syria and help its refugees return home against the backdrop of the general stabilisation in the country. We note the coordination of efforts by Damascus and Beirut on these issues. Thus, last week Lebanese Minister of Social Affairs and Minister of Tourism Ramzi Musharrafia paid a working visit to Damascus to hold consultations with Head of the Syrian Coordinating Headquarters on Refugee Return Hussein Makhlouf.

In addition, we support the development of effective cooperation between the Syrian Government and international humanitarian agencies. Recently, Damascus was visited by ICRC President Peter Maurer, UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore and Executive Director of the UN WFP David Beasley. Syria is also receiving aid on a bilateral basis. According to reports, China is giving Syria its fifth humanitarian grant worth $14 million. Japan also announced its intention to give Syria humanitarian assistance of about $5 million via the agency of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the UN WFP.

We welcome the gradual normalisation of Syria’s contacts with the Arab countries. We believe this process helps enhance regional security and stability.



Update on Yemen

Moscow continues to watch closely the military, political and humanitarian situation in the Republic of Yemen.

Unfortunately, the relatively long period of time during which tensions have been easing across the board seems to have come to an end. According to incoming reports, there are fierce clashes in the Marib and Al Jawf governorates, while the aircraft of the [Saudi Arabia-led] Arab coalition that sided with Yemeni President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi have again started to bomb the positions of the Houthi Ansar Allah movement. In turn, the Houthis have resumed shelling areas in Saudi Arabia.

No progress has been made so far in implementing the Stockholm Agreement, which the parties to the conflict reached in December 2018. Many provisions of this agreement relating, in particular, to disengaging the troops in the area near the city of Hudaydah and lifting the siege of Taiz have remained only on paper.

It is still important to implement the Riyadh Agreement between President Hadi’s Government and the Southern Transitional Council of November 5, 2019. We believe not only the situation in the south of Yemen depends on this but also the prospects for ensuring stability across the country.

We reaffirm Russia’s principled stand on the need to end the armed conflict as soon as possible and begin inclusive intra-Yemen talks under the auspices of the UN. We also firmly believe that progress towards resolving numerous problems facing Yemen, including its administrative divisions and government structure, is only possible through a dialogue and respect for the interests of all of the country’s leading political forces.

We will further do all we can, in contact with involved and interested parties, to facilitate the efforts to achieve this objective.



Project to build Hidase hydroelectric dam on the Nile

Question from Egyptian Ten-TV Channel:

The dispute between Egypt and Ethiopia has worsened of late because of the Hidase dam project on the Nile River and Ethiopia’s refusal to sign an agreement to regulate the operation of the dam. At the Russia-Africa Summit in Sochi, Russia said it could mediate in resolving this dispute. Can Russia propose this initiative again, given that the situation has escalated?

Maria Zakharova:

First, I would like to note that relations between Russia and Egypt and Russia and Ethiopia have traditionally been friendly. We are keeping a close eye on the situation that is evolving around the construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (Hidase Dam) on the Blue Nile River. Russia is interested in that Cairo and Addis Ababa resolve their differences as soon as possible through negotiations and using existing mechanisms as equitable partners and in compliance with international law, and also taking into account the legitimate interests of each country.

We will further assist the efforts to seek a mutually acceptable compromise in contact with all relevant parties.



Questions on Afghanistan

Question from 92 News Pakistan:

The long-awaited truce between the Government of Afghanistan and the Taliban is at risk after the government showed its hand by refusing to release Taliban supporters that had been arrested. It decided to release only 1,500 of the 5,000 prisoners agreed on.

The country saw two presidential inauguration ceremonies and there is the impression that real peace is unlikely in the near future. What can you tell us about that?

Question from Asia News:

The US Department of State published a statement rejecting the establishment of parallel government authorities in Afghanistan after the recent elections. What is Russia’s position on this issue?

Maria Zakharova:

I would like to draw the attention of the journalists who submitted these questions, and the general public, to the commentary published on the Russian Foreign Ministry website on March 11. It is totally devoted to this topic.

It discusses the two inauguration ceremonies in Kabul on March 9, one each for the major rivals at the presidential election, Ashraf Ghani and Abdulah Abdulah.

We are concerned that the emerging controversy, particularly in the context of the latest developments mentioned above, is fraught with the further aggravation of an already complicated domestic political situation in the country and negative consequences for launching inclusive intra-Afghan talks which appeared possible following the US-Taliban agreement signed in Doha on February 29 this year.

Let me remind you that Russia welcomed the signing of this agreement and hopes it will be followed up on in full, something we also mentioned earlier. We expect any hurdles on the way to be cleared shortly, including resolving the issue of releasing 5,000 Taliban prisoners and 1,000 government service personnel ahead of the direct intra-Afghan talks on peace and the post-conflict configuration of the country as written in the above agreement.

We are urging all responsible political leaders in Afghanistan to be guided exclusively by national interests and to focus efforts on promoting the national reconciliation process which will lead to the end of the civil war and the revival of a peaceful, united and independent state free of terrorism and drug crime.

We are ready to further render all possible support to the friendly Afghan people in the interests of reaching these goals.



Fake media stories on the possibility of sending Russian troops to Afghanistan

We have noted an online publication about a statement made by Presidential Special Representative for Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov at a briefing at Rossiya Segodnya International Information Agency. He reportedly spoke about the possibility of sending Russian troops to Afghanistan to fight terrorism there should the Afghan authorities request it.

I would like to state with all responsibility and deliberately using such wording that this assertion is absolutely untrue, and that the Russian special representative never made it in any form. Not one single media outlet whose representatives attended the briefing, except this online publication, has published such headlines, stories or data. At best, we can perceive this as an extremely unsuccessful interpretation of the Russian diplomat’s words. I hope that we are not talking about a deliberate distortion or fake news. I am more convinced that those who prepared this story for the website had trouble choosing the appropriate wording.

Everyone knows the Russian position on this matter: Under no circumstances, has Russia planned to send its troops to Afghanistan nor does it intend to do this. One can only talk about the possibility of expanded cooperation with Afghanistan in the fight against terrorism and drug trafficking through current collaboration in the military-technical sphere and in the field of training skilled specialists. Everyone is well aware of the forms of such collaboration. We have regularly published material on this matter.

We are urging the media to be more professional and to fulfil their duties in a highly responsible manner because such interpretations and even distortions of data and statements can spell major problems during the interpretation of these stories in various countries. We are always ready to give answers to the issues of interest and to provide any additional explanations.



Start of the MH17 trial at the District Court of The Hague

The first session of the trial on the crash of flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine in July 2014 started in the District Court of The Hague on March 9-10.

During the previous briefing we gave detailed coverage of this issue on the eve of the trial. We said the Western media had launched an unprecedented accusatory media campaign that has become direct pressure on the court and an aggravation of anti-Russia sentiment.

Now that the first session has been held, it is clear that our evaluation was well grounded. Although the court dealt only with procedural issues in this session, like the schedule and the order of the sessions, and the presence of participants, the frenzy over the trial has not abated. On the contrary, it has been fueled by some Western politicians, investigators and prosecutors.

I noted the unceremonious approach of the prosecution that is openly precipitating the trial and demanding that the court formally sanction the only imposed version of the crash as soon as possible. I will offer only one fact by way of example. At this point, Dutch prosecutors are quoting the testimonies of some anonymous witnesses that ostensibly have indisputable evidence of the guilt of the defendants. As usual, the public is being influenced by the “highly likely” thrills of the activities of the Russian secret services. They are being accused of attempting to identify the witnesses, intimidate them and impede efforts to establish the real picture of the tragedy. A lot of fake news has been published during these days.

I would like to recall that Russia is not part of this trial. Moreover, the assertions of Russia’s involvement in this disaster are groundless and are based on questionable sources.

Charges have been brought against one Ukrainian and three Russian citizens. Attorneys represent one of them. They have already requested that the court carefully study all 30,000 pages of the trial materials. That, of course, will take them some time (this opinion is shared even by non-professionals). Legal counsel has justifiably raised questions that we and certain Dutch MPs have asked many times, notably, why Ukraine did not close its air space over the zone of the hostilities and why this issue has not been fully investigated. Up until now, dozens of well-grounded questions also remain unanswered. Questions have been raised not only by Russians but also by politicians, journalists and civil society representatives that have not accepted the mainstream version that was basically imposed on them.

We do not want to anticipate the court’s verdicts. We hope all accessible information, rather than the arguments of the prosecution alone, will be reviewed at the trial without bias. If the trial is truly independent and unbiased it will have to include a study of all the facts around this tragedy, require additional examinations (this is obvious), and question other witnesses and experts, not just those selected by the prosecutors. It will be necessary to analyse in detail the actions or inactions of the Ukrainian authorities, and to verify the authenticity of the photo, video and audio feeds presented by the prosecution. This is just the first look at what should be done at the trial if it is truly unbiased.



The ECHR ruling on the Polyakh and Others vs Ukraine case

We have taken note of the refusal by the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) to grant Ukraine’s appeal for a review of the ECHR ruling on the Polyakh and Others vs Ukraine case given by a Chamber of seven judges on October 17, 2019. The ECHR judges concluded that the dismissal of Ukrainian civil servants under the Government Cleansing (Lustration) Act of 2014 (GCA) led to violations of their rights. Therefore, the initial ECHR judgement, according to which Ukraine violated its commitments under the European Convention on Human Rights, has come into effect.

We hope that the Ukrainian authorities will abide by Article 46 of the Convention and will take all the necessary steps to honour the ECHR ruling, in particular, by stopping lustration practices in contradiction of the standards of the Council of Europe.



Continued discrimination against the Russian language in Ukraine

We have pointed out more than once that the Ukrainian authorities’ policy of forceful Ukrainisation not only violates the general international norms in the fight of minority rights, but is also splitting society and fomenting hatred in the already polarised Ukrainian society.

There are many examples of this. For example, just a matter of days ago, nationalists launched a hate campaign on Lvov Lyceum No. 45 for announcing the enrolment of primary school pupils in Russian-language classes. Some social media users even called for torching the school.

This uncivilised nationalism looks absurd in the 21st century in a country that claims to be committed to European values and seeks to join the European Union.

The Ukrainian authorities go to stupid lengths in their zealous fight against all things Russian. In late February, the notorious National Council of Television and Radio Broadcasting of Ukraine banned the retransmission of three Russian channels, citing “the protection of Ukraine’s information space from the audio, video and print propaganda of the aggressor country.” This serious wording could hint that the banned channels broadcast high-profile political or analytical programmes which can be perceived as promoting the Russian point of view, or talk shows, analytical and weekly programmes on Ukrainian agenda. Not at all, the shocking ban was imposed on Evrokino (EuroCinema), TopShop TV and Zoopark (Zoo) which are guilty of broadcasting in Russian.

The Ukrainian authorities’ actions show open disregard for the Ukrainian Constitution, whose Article 10 guarantees the protection of the Russian language. Moreover, Kiev is not honouring its commitments under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, the UN Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities, the Concluding Document of the CSCE meeting in Vienna (1986) and the Document of the Copenhagen Meeting of the Conference on the Human Dimension of the CSCE (1990). The list of international documents disregarded in Kiev is much longer.

We once again urge international human rights organisations to give a clear and appropriate assessment of Ukraine’s violation of the Russian speakers’ rights, and make Kiev abandon its policy of discrimination against the Russian language.



Trilateral Contact Group on the settlement in Donbass

In the context of Ukraine, I would like to also answer a question from the Federal News Agency which goes as follows: “The Trilateral Contact Group on the settlement in Donbass will be able to propose a new mechanism for a dialogue between the parties to the conflict in southeastern Ukraine as soon as March 25. How does the Foreign Ministry evaluate the current settlement process in Donbass? When will there be peace in Ukraine?”

Yesterday, Dmitry Kozak, Deputy Chief of Staff of the Russian Presidential Executive Office, spoke at length on this issue. Specifically, he noted that the agreements need to be “treated with due care to make sure they are not undercut.” On our part, we can only call on everybody to follow this wise advice.

Over the past few years, Kiev has made so many statements which, to a great extent, are mutually exclusive, contradicting the logic and meaning of both the adopted documents and the obligations Kiev took on, that it is high time they acted rather than just talked. If the present Ukrainian leadership demonstrates a constructive attitude, this approach as well as this attitude will certainly find a matching response from all the other parties involved, primarily within the framework of the Contact Group in Minsk.



Russia’s alleged interference with the elections in Guyana

I would like to also cover other topics and other regions. We noted publications in Guyana concerning Russia’s interference with the elections, now in this country. We have allegedly interfered with the elections all over the place, now it is Guyana’s turn. There have been not only media reports but also circulating statements by Guyanese officials about deportation of three people “of Russian origin” from the country due to their alleged interference with the elections in Guyana. I would like to confirm once again Russia’s principled approach that any form of interference with domestic affairs of other states is absolutely unacceptable.

Additionally, I would like to emphasise that we have not received any official inquiries regarding this issue from the Guyanese officials. We assume that if our partners had any actual concerns, before anything else they would address these inquiries to our country via the existing channels instead of engaging in this kind of self-initiated public activity in the media. I do not know why they are doing this, whether they are pursuing some political interests, it is hard to say. But in any case, we will, by all means, be paying attention to these events, issuing rebuttals, etc.

We wish the friendly state of Guyana, with which we are bound by strong time-tested ties of constructive cooperation, to successfully complete the election process within the boundaries of the law and with absolute respect for this country’s sovereignty and its nation’s right to determine the course of its own political and socioeconomic development independently and without any destructive external meddling.



Developments on Armenian-Azerbaijani border

We also received a question from the Public Television of Armenia. The question itself seems to contain the answer so I will allow myself to drop the opening part and focus on the essence of the issue concerning our Armenian colleagues: “How would you comment on Azerbaijan’s aggression on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border?”

Unfortunately, incidents of ceasefire violation continue on the border and on the contact line. There have been deaths and wounded victims. I would like to offer our condolences to the loved ones of those killed.

We are urging the parties to exercise restraint, refrain from using force and instead intensify the negotiation process aimed at reconciliation using political means.

I can assure you that we will continue to monitor the situation and make timely comments.



The 52nd anniversary of the declaration of independence of the Republic of Mauritius

On March 12, the Republic of Mauritius is celebrating the 52nd anniversary of the declaration of independence. It is common knowledge that Portuguese explorers discovered Mauritius Island in the early 16th century. The Dutch occupied it in 1598, in 1715 it was taken over by France, and the United Kingdom established control over the island from 1810. On March 12, 1968, Mauritius was declared an independent state, within the Commonwealth of Nations.

On March 17, 1968, several days after the liberation of Mauritius from colonial dependence, our two countries established diplomatic relations that continue to develop successfully.

Nevertheless, the process of Mauritius’ decolonisation cannot be considered absolutely complete. For many years, this country’s diplomacy has been prioritising the issue of restoring the sovereignty of Port Louis over territories, sequestrated by the United Kingdom in 1965, or the Chagos Archipelago. By the way, we have repeatedly commented on this matter.

London is unwilling to address this problem and to honour the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples (UN General Assembly Resolution 1514 of December 1960), as well as UN General Assembly Resolution 2066 of December 1965 that urges the United Kingdom to refrain from any action violating the sovereignty of Mauritius.

In June 2017, the UN General Assembly passed a resolution seeking the International Court of Justice’s advisory opinion on the issue. This launched the relevant court proceedings, and, in February 2019, the International Court ruled that the decolonisation of Mauritius was not duly completed as long as the disputed islands remained under British rule.

In May 2019, the majority of UN General Assembly members, including Russia, supported a new Mauritius draft resolution on the legal consequences of the Chagos Archipelago’s separation from the territory of Mauritius. Citing the International Court’s decision, the document demanded that London withdraw its colonial administration from Chagos no later than six months after the resolution’s approval. Unfortunately, the United Kingdom declined to fulfil the UN General Assembly’s resolution.

We welcome the friendly nature of relations between Russia and Mauritius. In November 2017, Vishnu Lutchmeenaraidoo, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Regional Integration and International Trade of Mauritius, paid a working visit to Moscow. He had very fond memories of various meetings and of Russia in general. Notably, he had talks with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. On March 17, 2018, the heads of both countries’ foreign policy agencies exchanged congratulatory messages in connection with the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations.

On October 24, 2019, President of Russia Vladimir Putin had a meeting with Acting President of the Republic of Mauritius Barlen Vyapoory on the sidelines of the Russia-Africa Summit in Sochi.

We would like to congratulate our friends on their national holiday and to voice confidence that the traditional relations of friendship and fruitful cooperation between our states will continue to develop successfully for the benefit of both nations and in the interests of peace and stability in the East African region.



The Foreign Ministry’s presentation of the UNOCT project on the exchange of air traveller data

..........................................................



The OSCE Permanent Council’s discussion of the Julian Assange case

The OSCE Permanent Council considered the Julian Assange case. On March 7, the Russian delegation lodged an initiative to discuss the continuing political persecution of the Wikileaks founder. To reiterate: this refers to an OSCE Permanent Council meeting.

We expressed our criticisms in connection with the journalist’s persecution and the violation of his rights. I think that this formula is far from reflecting the truth for the simple reason that we can already talk about the use of torture, direct victimisation, and driving a specific person, a journalist, writer and public figure to the brink. This is no longer a persecution or violation of his rights. The case in point is an on-camera crime that may have a fatal ending.

Let me remind you that this state of affairs was harshly criticised by both Reporters without Borders and Prof. Nils Melzer, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. The intention to extradite the prisoner to the United States was also denounced by OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Harlem Desir and Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Dunja Mijatovic. They stressed that he will face an inordinate prison term, if not capital punishment, in the United States.

During the meeting, Russia again pointed out the unacceptability of the journalist being deprived of adequate medical assistance (something that could lead to his death) and the fact that he was unable to freely contact his lawyers.

But the UK and the US have different ideas. In their opinion, the “Assange case” has nothing to do with freedom of speech or freedom of the media, while his dissemination of classified information allegedly “put many people’s lives at risk.”

In effect, London and Washington are accusing him of disseminating the truth, which they regard as a threat to life. I would like to remind you that the West’s military aggression against Iraq alone – and this is what, among other things, Julian Assange was focusing on – was palmed off as a case of “defending the truth,” given that the entire information campaign launched by Washington and London was based on sheer misinformation rather than just false imperatives. The ballyhoo surrounding Julian Assange and primarily the agendas promoted by Washington and London are an apotheosis of imperial logic, double standards and lies.

Look at these aggressors concerned with some imperilled lives, aggressors guilty of causing hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of civilian deaths in Iraq alone.

The world community has no doubt about the political underpinnings of the Assange persecution. We call on human rights activists and related international organisations to do all they can to ensure justice for Julian Assange or at least in order to prevent Washington and London from murdering him.







Answers to media questions:



Question:

Meetings with representatives of Palestinian movements have been held one after another at the Foreign Ministry in Moscow. What is their ultimate objective? Is Moscow planning an intra-Palestinian conference on national reconciliation?



Maria Zakharova:

Indeed, senior Ministry officials have been holding intensive contacts with representatives of various Palestinian movements since late February. Here are some of them: comprehensive consultations were held with Central Committee member of the Palestinian Fatah Movement Hussein al-Sheikh on February 27, with HAMAS Politburo Chairman Ismail Haniyeh on March 2, with head of the Palestinian National Initiative party Mustafa Barghouti on March 5, and with Secretary-General of the Islamic Jihad Movement in Palestine Ziyad al-Nakhalah on March 11. We expect other Palestinian political leaders to visit Moscow soon.

We hope that these contacts will lead to a new intra-Palestinian meeting in Moscow. In our opinion, it can help coordinate an agreement on the restoration of national unity on the PLO political platform. We believe that bridging the gap between Ramallah and Gaza is the main condition for developing direct and sustainable Palestinian-Israeli talks on a comprehensive settlement of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict based on the universally recognised international laws, including UN Security Council and General Assembly resolutions as well as the Arab Peace Initiative.

I have taken note of many reports that do write about these meetings, which should be considered comprehensively, out of context. I would like to ask you to take into account what I have already said, namely, to take a comprehensive view of Russia’s efforts to coordinate a meeting of various Palestinian political movements, as well as of Russia’s goals as I previously presented them.



Question:

Will the coronavirus affect Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s plans, in particular, his potential trip to Japan?



Maria Zakharova:

I began my briefing today by listing changes in the plans of Russian diplomats in Russia and abroad and reasons that can lead to such changes. Of course, we are acting in compliance with the WHO recommendations and the instructions and recommendations of the Operational Headquarters. We are also developing our own measures and recommendations, which the Ministry leadership quickly approves as binding on the Ministry staff.

As for Japan, I can tell you that the timeframe for the next meeting of the Russian and Japanese foreign ministers have not been coordinated, which means that the coronavirus will not affect the process. These two subjects are definitely not interconnected.



Question:

How did the situation change for French tourists after recent recommendations by the French diplomatic mission regarding cancellation of trips to Russia due to the coronavirus outbreak? What checks are French nationals subject to upon entry to Russia? Under what circumstances would they be quarantined? How is quarantine being organised in Russia? Is there a designated hospital or a hotel?



Maria Zakharova:

We have received many similar questions. I would like to stress once again that the issues concerning travelling to Russia are regulated by decisions of the Russian coronavirus Crisis Centre as well as regional officials.

First of all, please follow the updates from the Crisis Centre and secondly, use the hotlines and online communication tools provided by the centre to receive prompt replies to your questions.



Question:

Is Russia planning to suspend transport connections with the republics in South Caucasus due to the coronavirus epidemic?



Maria Zakharova:

These decisions are within the competence of the Crisis Centre. I want to emphasise once again that everything that has to do with the protocols, recommendations and legislation covering visits by tourists and delegations to our country from abroad has no political motivation. The main reasons and strategies behind the preventive measures are related to healthcare, medicine and safety. We are also taking due account of the recommendations from the World Health Organisation (WHO) and accumulating international experience in fighting this pandemic (a term we can now use) across the world.

It is not about politics. I can confidently say that in this case the Foreign Ministry is playing a secondary role and only repeating the recommendations developed by the Crisis Centre. Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov is representing the Foreign Ministry in the Crisis Centre.



Question:

Is the Foreign Ministry planning to offer additional recommendations regarding visits to countries with reported coronavirus cases given that there is an increasing number of these cases? Are there any changes in the schedule of foreign trips by Russian diplomats?



Maria Zakharova:

I have already answered the second part of this question.

Once again, any questions about recommendations regarding travel to the countries affected by the coronavirus are discussed by the Crisis Centre which is overseeing the prevention of the import and spread of the new coronavirus infection in Russia. It is the Crisis Centre, not the Foreign Ministry, that is responsible for decisions in this area. The Crisis Centre is working on these decisions in the inter-agency format, through collective and concerted action based on the main goals and objectives for which it was established.

As for the trip schedule, as I said, senior officials of the Foreign Ministry have decided to minimise short business trips by Russian diplomats. This decision took effect several days ago. And we are guided by this decision.



Question:

The developments throughout the world concerning the spread of the coronavirus are becoming ever more serious. There are more and more cases every day. In this connection, have foreign representatives notified the Russian Foreign Ministry via diplomatic channels that they would not be able to attend the Victory Day celebrations in Moscow? If so, which countries have done this?



Maria Zakharova:

Just two hours ago, the Presidential Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov commented on this issue. Please note that the organisation of summits and top-level events is the prerogative of the Presidential Executive Office and its representatives are entitled to comment. Mr Peskov has already answered this question.



Question:

Is Sergey Lavrov interested and ready to meet with his Polish counterpart? How does Russia feel about ​​resuming the work of the Russian-Polish group on the complex issues of common history?



Maria Zakharova:

I would like to point out that Russia, Moscow, Russian diplomats, and other officials have never avoided dialogue with Warsaw. Just a reminder, that there were high-level meetings on the sidelines of the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers’ session in Helsinki on May 17, 2019, in particular between the Foreign Minister and his Polish counterpart. We also maintain contacts between the Foreign Ministries and at other levels; they have not been disrupted. The problem is that such meetings need to produce results, because they are not meetings for meetings’ sake. And the expected result is obvious – the development of bilateral relations, not their disruption. Accordingly, if we take this case, Moscow cannot be blamed. We are always focused on dialogue, always assuming we need to develop bilateral relations in the interests of the peoples of our countries, and are careful and responsible with public statements on various matters, including sensitive ones.

As for the bilateral group on the complex issues of common history, as you are aware, this format was established in order to de-escalate political dialogue. In a situation where Warsaw blocked it at its initiative, suspended all cooperation mechanisms and terminated the agreement on visa-free travel between Russia’s Kaliningrad Region and the neighbouring regions of Poland, we believe that the selective approach to straightening out the dialogue meets the interest declared by the Polish Foreign Minister to improve relations with Russia. Again, we are open to a normal, equal dialogue with Warsaw on the clear conditions that I have already mentioned today. The goal should be obvious – it is the development of relations, not their disruption.



Question:

The French newspaper Le Monde has refused to publish a Russian Foreign Ministry letter refuting inaccurate information about the Ministry’s activities given in an article in the newspaper in January. What will the Ministry do in this connection? What steps could it take?



Maria Zakharova:

I have issued a detailed comment on the situation with Le Monde. We believe that the Foreign Ministry has taken all possible steps to settle the problem in a civilised manner or through methods that are in accordance with the internationally accepted standards, seeking to attract the said newspaper’s attention to the inaccurate information it published. We gave the newspaper an opportunity, or more precisely asked it to correct its mistake.

However, Le Monde has decided not only to ignore our request, but also to write and say openly that it had no desire to meet our request. We believe that such actions are self-explanatory: this policy is evidence of the newspaper’s attitude to its readers and professional ethics. We see this as a black mark on the newspaper’s reputation.

As we have pointed out, by refusing to publish our refutation, the French newspaper has violated the main principle of universally recognised journalistic ethics, that is, the obligation to give the concerned party an opportunity to reply to a newspaper report that contains inaccurate or distorted information. This commitment has been sealed in several international documents which the French journalistic community not only signed but actively helped to work out as part of the truly democratic processes that took place in the 1950s and 1960s.

We see Le Monde’s actions as a negative example of journalism, showing disregard for the democratic media standards and principles, which are so often spoken about in Paris. We will continue to write about this, citing this negative example at the relevant international venues, and we will forward pertinent materials to the OSCE.


***


Japanese journalists have asked numerous questions about measures taken to prevent the spread of the coronavirus that have affected them directly, and also about the activities of certain journalists. We will answer these questions individually.

I was struck in particular by one question: Does quarantine for journalists imply self-isolation or a forceful placement under quarantine? We have much to tell our Japanese colleagues about the difference between self-isolation and quarantine. We will answer all these questions individually because they concern specific aspects of the lives of those who asked them.




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4084884
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Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova’s statement in connection with temporary restrictions on the entry of foreign citizens and stateless persons into the Russian Federation



17 March 2020 - 15:35



On March 16, 2020, the Government of the Russian Federation issued its Directive No 635-r on temporarily restricting the entry of foreign citizens and stateless persons, including those arriving from the Republic of Belarus and citizens of the Republic of Belarus, into the Russian Federation from March 18, 2020 through May 1, 2020. This is being done to guarantee the security of the state, to protect the people’s health and to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus infection in the Russian Federation.

These restrictions do not apply to accredited or appointed officials of diplomatic missions and consular agencies of foreign states in the Russian Federation, international organisations and their offices, other official foreign representative offices in the Russian Federation, as well as members of the above-mentioned persons’ families, drivers of vehicles involved in international road traffic, the crews of aircraft, sea-going and river-going vessels, train and locomotive teams involved in international railway traffic, members of official delegations and persons having diplomatic, business and ordinary private visas issued in connection with the death of a close relative, persons permanently living in the Russian Federation and persons transiting local airports.

In this connection, as a temporary measure, diplomatic missions and consular agencies of the Russian Federation will stop accepting documents, and cease the processing and issuing all categories of visas, except visas for the above-mentioned persons. They will also suspend the processing of e-visas.

These absolutely temporary measures are motivated by extraordinary circumstances.




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4089464






Statement by the Foreign Ministry



17 March 2020 - 19:35



On March 17, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov chaired a meeting on securing the interests of Russian nationals who are currently facing a difficult situation due to the restrictive measures taken by foreign countries to tackle the spread of COVID-19.

The meeting participants stressed the need for Russian diplomatic missions abroad to take comprehensive measures to help Russian nationals who wish to return home to resolve their travel issues. A Coordinating Centre headed by Deputy Foreign Minister Oleg Syromolotov has been set up, with the Crisis Management Centre (Department) as its lead department.

All Russian nationals in a difficult situation should contact the nearest Russian embassy or consulate general as soon as possible and provide information about themselves and their situation, including their location and other necessary data. This can be done by calling emergency phone numbers or via the Russian foreign missions’ social networks pages.

In addition, you can contact the Crisis Management Centre (Department) 24/7 by calling +7 (495) 587 88 60, +7 (499) 244 19 77, +7 (499) 244 19 88, +7 (499) 244 28 47, or via WhatsApp at +7 985 046 52 97.

You can also leave messages on the Ministry’s pages on social networks (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and VKontakte).

If you have an opportunity to travel to Russia, we strongly recommend that you take it, regardless of the type of transport and transfers.




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4089621






Statement by Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova on the sixth anniversary of Crimea’s reunification with Russia



18 March 2020 - 11:00



The Agreement between the Russian Federation and the Republic of Crimea on the Accession of the Republic of Crimea in the Russian Federation and on Forming New Constituent Entities within the Russian Federation was signed six years ago, on March 18, 2014. The Crimean Spring and the free vote at the referendum in Crimea, which was a fine example of the right of peoples to self-determination sealed in the UN Charter and the Declaration on Principles of International Law, allowed Crimea to reunite with Russia.

After all these years, it is becoming increasingly clear that there was no alternative to the decision taken by the Crimean people through a free expression of their will, and that it was the only correct decision that could have been taken in the tense situation around the peninsula. As a result, Crimea has not succumbed to the radical nationalists and has avoided, together with Russia, the social and political upheavals which Ukraine suffered after the Maidan revolution. Neither has Crimea become a training range for NATO manoeuvres targeting Russia.

Geopolitically, the peninsula has always had huge strategic importance, which is why it was the site of numerous fierce and bloody battles. In this year of memory and glory, when we are preparing to celebrate the 75th anniversary of Victory, we also commemorate the heroic defence of Sevastopol, the liberation of Crimea and other dramatic events in the history of the Great Patriotic War, which provide vivid examples of selflessness, unity and love for one’s Fatherland.

Of all Russian regions, Crimea has been affected most severely by the destructive foreign actions. Standing up against the openly unfriendly and Russophobic actions calls for consolidated efforts and comprehensive political, legal, financial, economic, cultural and humanitarian measures, as well as information campaigns to raise public awareness. A great deal has been recently accomplished in this sphere by the Russian authorities and the Crimeans themselves.

As part of Russia, Crimea is overcoming economic problems, improving infrastructure and developing the energy sector, shipbuilding, science and culture. The socioeconomic development of the peninsula was boosted dramatically when the Crimean Bridge, which was built in a record short time, opened to automobile traffic. Passenger transportation across the Kerch Strait began with the opening of the bridge to railway traffic in December 2019. Rail freight transportation via the bridge will begin this year. The construction of the Tavrida Motorway, which will run through the peninsula from east to west, is nearing completion. Reliable connection to mainland Russia has catalysed the tourism sector: 7.4 million people spent their holidays in Crimea last year, compared to under 5.5 million before 2014.

New attempts are being taken to isolate Crimea, but it is becoming increasingly difficult for our opponents to pursue this course. In 2019, over 70 major international events were held in the Republic of Crimea and Sevastopol. The 5th Yalta International Economic Forum, which has become an attractive venue for demonstrating Crimea’s investment opportunities, rallied the largest ever number of participants, 4,500 people from 89 countries. The numerous foreign visitors can make an objective assessment of the federal and regional authorities’ efforts to improve the quality of life in Crimea, strengthen interfaith accord and protect the rights of ethnic minorities.

The September 8, 2019 elections to the State Council of Crimea, the Legislative Assembly of Sevastopol and 265 municipal councils ensured the continuity of power. The number of Crimean Tatars elected to the Crimean legislative bodies has increased by 150 percent. The polls held on the peninsula confirm the positive atmosphere in interethnic and interfaith relations. This means that any attempts to undermine sociopolitical stability in Crimea are doomed to failure.




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4089683






Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s opening remarks during a joint statement for the media with Foreign Minister of Hungary Peter Szijjarto, Moscow, March 18, 2020



18 March 2020 - 18:21







Ladies and gentlemen,

We have held some very useful talks. We have discussed a wide spectrum of our bilateral relations, primarily in the context of the efforts being made to implement the agreements reached on September 30, 2019, during President Vladimir Putin’s visit to Budapest and following his talks with Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

We have confirmed our shared interest in thoroughly developing our trade, economic, investment, cultural and humanitarian cooperation and we have mapped out specific steps to encourage the advancement in all these spheres.

We have discussed in detail our cooperation in the military memorial field, something that we regard as particularly important in the light of upcoming events dedicated to the 75th anniversary of Victory in WWII. Russia is consistently advocating – and President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly said as much – the preservation of historical memory and is opposing attempts to falsify history and international legal results of the WWII.

We have exchanged views on the measures being taken by our two countries in connection with the coronavirus pandemic.

We have spoken about relations between the Russian Federation and the EU. We see eye to eye on the fact that these ties are far from being rosy. There are numerous reasons for promoting mutually beneficial projects in a number of areas. Russia-NATO relations are of no small importance in the context of European affairs. We have invariably favoured them to be built on the principle of equal and indivisible security, as was repeatedly reaffirmed within the framework of the OSCE. Proclaimed at the top level in the OSCE, this objective is at odds with the eastern expansion of NATO’s military infrastructure and its attempts to view joint work as a zero-sum game. We value Hungary’s position with regard to the situation in the Euro-Atlantic region. Budapest has always advocated dialogue and is against an artificial confrontation. This, as I believe, is the only reasonable stance.

Russia and Hungary hold rather similar positions on the settlement of various crises in the Middle East and North Africa, including the Syrian settlement and the Libyan crisis. Today, we have agreed to invigorate our efforts with a view to implementing the joint initiative that was discussed during President Vladimir Putin’s visit last October. What I have in mind is rendering assistance to Christian communities in the Middle East.

In Ukraine, we are committed to implementing the Minsk Agreements approved by the UN Security Council and the decisions accepted by the Contact Group and the Normandy Four. Both our countries are concerned with Ukraine ensuring the rights of ethnic minorities, including educational and linguistic. This is required by the Ukrainian state’s international obligations and the Ukrainian Constitution.

On the whole, I regard this visit by my colleague and friend as quite timely and I am satisfied with how we have discussed the situation regarding bilateral relations and on the international arena.




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4090308
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Briefing by Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova, Moscow, March 19, 2020



19 March 2020 - 21:20






Measures on bringing Russian citizens home from abroad

The vast majority of foreign trips, visits or talks by the Foreign Ministry’s top- and mid-level officials, have either been cancelled or postponed.

The Foreign Ministry has focused its efforts on the main goal – assisting Russian citizens abroad with returning home.

I would like to reiterate what we have discussed. The other day, the Foreign Ministry has established a coordinating headquarters, managed by Deputy Foreign Minister Oleg Syromolotov, to coordinate its own work and to maintain cooperation with the interested federal executive bodies to help those Russian citizens abroad who wish to return to the Russian Federation during the spread of the coronavirus. The headquarters includes representatives from the Foreign Ministry’s territorial and functional departments. On-duty representatives from our departments are continuously in contact with the headquarters. The Crisis Management Cenre Department (CMCD) has the main responsibility for fulfilling these assignments. It will coordinate the work of the Foreign Ministry and our embassies and communications with our citizens.

The CMCD has a 24/7 multi-channel hotline. The telephone numbers are listed in the Foreign Ministry’s statement published on March 17. Duty officers receive and process messages from Russian citizens who find themselves in a predicament abroad in connection with the restrictions imposed by foreign countries for countering the spread of the coronavirus. In less than two days on high alert, the CMCD hotline has received over 6,000 telephone calls, as well as over 5,000 messages and calls through messengers. We are planning to increase our communication capacity because of the increasing number of calls. The Foreign Ministry and the CMCD websites have a section called, “Registration for Russian citizens wishing to return home.”

https://sos.midhelp.ru/users/login This page has a special e-registration form which provides for citizen’s identification and providing his/her contact information. The emergency telephone numbers for our foreign missions are also published on these websites.

In cooperation with the foreign missions, the Foreign Ministry and its coordinating headquarters are working to organise the return of Russian citizens from abroad as soon as possible, if they so desire. Lists of those who want to return home are being compiled. Currently, the CMCD has contact information on 5,500 Russian citizens. Our diplomats abroad are cooperating with the authorities in the host countries to receive permits for passing through their air space and resolve other related issues. In some case, they are helping people with accommodation and are taking them to departure areas whenever possible. They are also providing other assistance under the circumstances. That said, we know that we must do even more because everyone is in a very difficult situation.

We are working to bring people home from many countries. As of today, Aeroflot, S7, and other airlines have flown several hundred people to Russia from Montenegro, Uzbekistan, Latvia and Slovenia. We are planning ways to bring people back from the Philippines, Chile, Morocco, Peru and other Latin American countries. Considering the number of Russian citizens, the Canary Islands remain a problem. Aeroflot continues to fly to the capitals of 17 states to bring our citizens home to Russia.

I would also like to say that the increasing restrictions, primarily in the European countries, including the EU closing of its external borders and the imposition of bans on crossing national borders inside the Schengen zone, the suspension of movement inside a number of states, the large-scale cancellation of flights and the shutdown of land borders has turned a large number of our citizens into de facto hostages in many countries. In some places this can be explained by forced measures, whereas in others, a negative influence on resolving logistical issues is exerted sooner due to political considerations, or the sluggishness of the local authorities.

Importantly, the imposed additional quarantine restrictions have put many tourist routes, which are popular with our people, in semi-suspended and semi-siege conditions.

Many Russian citizens are still unable to return home, and some are being forced out of hotels practically into the street. This is also due to local quarantines. Many migration and visa difficulties are arising. The Foreign Ministry and our foreign missions are doing all they can to resolve these problems. I can assure you that we are working around the clock. Again, we will do everything we can to resolve these outstanding issues.

I would like to once again draw your attention to the fact that all contact telephone numbers are published on the Foreign Ministry website. It is extremely important for those who are abroad and want to return home to stay in contact with the Russian missions abroad. This is necessary to receive information on the status of resolving the issues of return flights.

I would like to mention that our diplomats are working hard to cooperate with the authorities and the governments in the host countries. This is required for receiving the necessary registration details, for helping people to gather for repatriation and for receiving permits for return flights clearance.

We would like to emphasise that in his statement of March 14, Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin advised Russian citizens to postpone or cancel any type of foreign trip. This recommendation is most urgent because every hour we hear more about new quarantine requirements, restrictions on movement, or cancelled or suspended flights in the majority of the world’s countries. It is simply impossible to predict what national authorities will do to resolve their domestic problems. It is also impossible to predict whether the situation with logistics abroad will improve soon. So we are repeating the recommendation made by the Prime Minister. We would like to advise against waiting until the end of a tour or a recreational activity, not to mention avoiding the purchase of new trips abroad for reduced prices or looking for other ways to travel abroad.

We have a paradoxical situation, for example, in the Philippines where over a hundred Russian citizens are waiting for a resolution to their departure problems. We have some information that tours to that country are still being sold. And unbelievably, these tours are still being purchased. This applies not only to the Philippines but also to a number of other destinations that are attractive to our citizens. This may become an absolutely imprudent decision that could lead to extremely serious consequences, including the impossibility of leaving the country later.

We are informing our people about their departure status via our embassies, websites and accounts. I mentioned some problem locations, but I will repeat them again so that people understand that they are not forgotten and that these questions are being addressed. These places include Latin America, Montenegro (the situation began to improve last evening but there are still problems), the Dominican Republic (logistics are a bit simpler and we hope to resolve the problems soon), Egypt, the Philippines, and the CIS states, for instance, Moldova. These are the most problem-prone places. We will continue to promptly update you with incoming information.



Declaration by the High Representative Josep Borrell Fontelles, on behalf of the European Union, on the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol

We have taken note of the March 16 declaration on the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol made by EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell Fontelles on behalf of the Union ahead of the 6th anniversary of the reunification of Crimea and Sevastopol with Russia.

In fact, this declaration is simply a repetition of complaints to Russia. It looks like a jigsaw puzzle hastily compiled out of old statements.

It is regrettable that the new Brussels authorities continue to entertain the illusions about the events that took place six years ago, refusing to take a sober look at the situation. They are simply ignoring the realities.

We view the EU comments as unfriendly. We believe it inadmissible that they address the matter of Russia’s territorial integrity within its current borders. The EU is doing itself no favours by demeaning the importance of the historical referendum held on March 16, 2014, when the Crimeans voted for reunification with their fatherland. It is yet another of the numerous facts showing our EU partners’ waning commitment to the universally recognised standards of democracy and human rights. If the EU really wants and also considers that it is important to talk about human rights, we can discuss respect for human rights and declarations on the example of the fight against the coronavirus infection. It looks as if many countries have forgotten about this. This is no time for honing democratic spears with dusty Crimean stones.

It is regrettable that the EU, which has proclaimed the goal of strategic autonomy, has proved unable to make an independent analysis of the facts about life in Crimea. Instead, it is repeating obscure insinuations about the deterioration of human rights and environmental conditions in Crimea, which, we presume, have been compiled with Ukraine’s assistance. Environmental challenges are a global issue. They receive priority attention in Russia, but the EU doesn’t seem to be aware of this.

We consider as totally absurd the allegation that Russia is “changing the demographic structure of the population by transferring its own civilian population to the peninsula.” They are forgetting that Article 27 of the Constitution declares the right of Russian citizens to free travel and free choice of place of stay or residence. The compilers of the declaration overlooked the statistics which shows that last year some 10,000 (9,674) people from post-Soviet countries, nearly 80 percent (7,734) of them from Ukraine, permanently settled in Crimea. The number of Ukrainians who have taken permanent residence on the peninsula increased by 17 percent in 2019.

Another biased statement in the declaration concerns the open provocation staged by Ukrainian warships in the Kerch Strait in November 2018. It is a fact that it was planned ahead of the presidential election on direct orders from Petro Poroshenko.

They are preparing a new provocation now, a march to Crimea scheduled for May 3. Its organisers from the so-called Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People plan on breaking through to the peninsula across the state border of Russia. We call on you to prevent this.

While fanning tension over Crimea, the EU continues its inhumane practice of denying visas to Crimeans, which runs contrary to the key international standards in the field of human rights and several fundamental documents of the European Union itself. I know that the time is not right for talking about visas now, at a time when the EU has closed its internal space and many EU members have closed their national borders in violation of the fundamental rules and principles of the Union. But we know that the Crimean people were openly discriminated back when EU visas were issued to other people freely.

The Declaration’s appeal to “UN Member States” to join the EU sanctions, which are designed to worsen living conditions for the Crimeans, sounds especially indecent at a time when the international community should be teaming up and fighting the coronavirus infection together.

We call on the EU to start listening to the people of Crimea. I would like to say that a special statement on the 6th anniversary of Crimea’s reunification with Russia was posted on the Foreign Ministry’s website yesterday. I invite everyone to read it. It is time to recognise the democratic choice made by the people of Crimea and Sevastopol and to take note of the positive changes that have taken place there since their reunification with Russia. By the way, many unbiased social and political representatives from Western countries have done this. The anniversary of Crimea’s reunification with Russia is a good reason for this, rather than for playing along with Kiev by throwing new accusations at Russia.



Russia responds to EU sanctions with expanded list of EU states’ and institutions’ representatives that are denied entry into the Russian Federation

We cannot ignore the EU Council’s March 13 decision to extend the restrictions on a number of Russian natural and legal persons for another six months. Of course, this is a disaster for the outward image as well as the self-image of EU institutions. The world is trying to keep afloat, pool its efforts and find points of contact in realising the consequences of current events. The expanded and extended restrictions will not result in any benefits for EU residents and are simply not smart. We have expressed our position many times. I will repeat that we consider the continuing expansion of these black lists to be unfriendly steps that limit the lawful rights of our citizens without grounds for doing so. We will definitely respond to this in kind.

As you know, on January 28 of this year the EU Council introduced unlawful unilateral restrictions on another seven Russian citizens. Let me recall that all of them are representatives of top officials and elected bodies, and of government bodies and election commissions in Crimea and Sevastopol. At that time we said that we regard this step by the EU as yet another abortive attempt to “punish” Crimeans for their free choice to reunite with Russia in March 2014. We warned the EU countries against using the instrument of unilateral sanctions, which is at variance with international law. Regrettably, our arguments have been ignored. I can speak about all this and repeat it but I would like to draw the attention of our European colleagues and partners to only one point. Do you realise at all what is happening in international politics? Do you know that at present the main goal of all sensible political forces, experts and politological communities is to find a proper and effective way out of the current situation? Why adopt something that will tie your hands in the future when you will deal with your own problems?

I would like to say that Russia has decided to expand its list (regrettably, we were forced to) of EU countries’ and institutions’ representatives that are to be denied entry into the Russian Federation. This is an issue of parity. Let me repeat that this is not our choice but we must respond. These restrictions are being introduced under Federal Law No. 114-FZ on the Procedure for Exit from the Russian Federation and Entry into the Russian Federation of August 15, 1996.

Let me repeat that today the world’s biggest question is how to counter the spread of the coronavirus, and more importantly, the consequences of the virus, something almost every country in the world is facing. What lessons can be learned? What answers will humankind have for future generations? But this is apparently not a big enough issue for the EU.



Venezuela update

I would also like to say that in principle, the situation with the coronavirus pandemic is a real test of humanity, including in international affairs. This is a test of our, yours and ours, ability to remain human in the hardest times. I mean not only the ability and readiness of each individual, but of countries too, to act responsibly and in solidarity when we face new global challenges that defy national borders.

Regretfully, in some cases solidarity is replaced by national or ideological motives and self-serving considerations of the forces and countries that claim world hegemony and exclusivity. At the very moment when the states presenting themselves as world leaders have the opportunity to display their leadership and show a worthy example of economic support, a worthy example of how one can counter the new challenge internally and externally, they are reluctant to use this opportunity for some reason. It seems that everything we have been hearing for so many years about their world leadership, about their additional functions that those countries assumed, which in their view entitle them to disregard rules and laws, all of that has turned out to be just illusion, a myth, a mirage.

I would say that the situation is quite the contrary. Their selfish interests make them forget about human rights and ignore the interests of other people, of ordinary people.

I cannot but note an absolutely outrageous case of Venezuela and its relations with the IMF. As everyone knows, the IMF has raised substantial funds (up to $1 trillion) to help countries deal with the coronavirus outbreak. Caracas submitted a $5 billion application signed by President Nicolas Maduro to the IMF Managing Director. And now the IMF representative says that the Fund “is not in a position to consider this request [...] There is no clarity on recognition at this time” regarding the Venezuelan government among some of the IMF member states.

For over a year or even several years we have been constantly hearing statements of concern about human rights and about the actions of the international community for the benefit of ordinary people in Venezuela. And so, just a couple of months ago the people of Venezuela requested help when they needed it, like a multitude of other countries.

I wanted to draw your attention again to the fact that all this is happening against the background of continuing US officials’ statements on their intention to further toughen sanctions against Venezuela. They are even discussing the possibility of a naval blockade. This seems unthinkable to us.

Who is going to be affected by this policy? The ordinary people, the ordinary Venezuelans. This is typical hypocrisy.

Global challenges call for global and non-politicalised responses. We have noted that in response to Nicolas Maduro’s appeal to South American neighbours to forget political differences, at least for some time, and establish interaction to prevent the spread of the infection across the borders, some first contacts have been made in the form of videoconferences. This is a good sign, although it is clearly insufficient. Expert coordination by the Pan-American Health Organisation, however important it can be, cannot reduce the importance of coordination at an interstate level. The coronavirus is unimpressed by countries’ political differences and their views on democracy. Discussions on these subjects can well be postponed until the lives and health of tens of thousands of Venezuelans, Columbians and citizens of other countries are saved.



The activities of the pseudo-humanitarian organisation White Helmets in Syria

We have regularly informed you about developments in Syria. I would like to say that today’s comment will be rather brief. At the same time, there are developments that must be mentioned.

We have noticed that US politicians have intensified their contacts with a Syria-based pseudo-humanitarian organisation known as White Helmets. It seems important to emphasise this fact, because these contacts normally end up causing big problems for the region, such as provocations and incendiary actions. On March 17, US Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun received the head of this organisation, Raed Al Saleh, this despite the State Department’s coronavirus-related restrictions on contacts with foreigners. On March 11, Saleh was invited to address the Senate. On March 3, US Special Representative for Syria Engagement James Jeffrey and US Ambassador to the UN Kelly Craft had contacts with White Helmets representatives on the Turkish-Syrian border. A good, fruity PR move it was!

These meetings took place against the background of yet another irresponsible anti-Russia propaganda campaign that Washington launched in connection with the developments in the Idlib de-escalation zone (IDZ). Let me remind you that the zone is controlled by the terrorists from Hayat Tahrir al-Sham. The stunning fact is that the White Helmets, who pose as a strictly humanitarian organisation, are again in the centre of Western information manipulations aimed at distorting the real state of affairs in Idlib. The main goal of these manipulations is to discredit the antiterrorist efforts of the Syrian Government and to hold Damascus and its allies responsible for the humanitarian situation in Northwestern Syria. To appear even more persuasive, but as usual lacking any proof, the campaigners put the “hero rescuers” themselves on the list of the “innocent victims” of the “Syrian regime,” Moscow and Tehran.

One has the impression that Washington is so outraged by the mere thought that the Russian-Turkish agreements on the IDZ may after all become implemented that it is ready to use any pretext to foster anti-Russia hysteria and undermine political settlement in Syria. Under these circumstances, the White Helmets, to whom the Americans have promised continued financial, political and organisational support, have no other option than to strictly follow their sponsors’ instructions and fulfill their political order. Now it is clear to everyone who and why established White Helmets and what quarters continue to support this organisation, whose main aim is to shape a false information environment and facilitate outside interference in Syria’s internal affairs for the benefit of the geopolitical interests of their customers.

I would like to add that if these activities and the renewed contacts with the White Helmets mean that the United States is trying to fill the vacuum of its foreign policy, then this is something we have been accustomed to. It is another matter that their contacts with the Western patrons are invariably followed by tragic events in the region. Putatively, they are given direct instructions as to how they should conduct subversive activities as well as fresh sponsor support, and so on.



First Baltic Channel stops broadcasting news programmes

As of today, the Baltic countries’ biggest Russian-language media outlet, the First Baltic Channel, is discontinuing the production and, accordingly, the airing of its own shows. Let me remind you that for several years, Latvia’s only non-governmental television news service broadcast the Latvian Time show and two authorial programmes, Offscreen and Five Kopecks. Latvian Time was one of the most popular news programmes with Latvian Russian speakers. There were no grievances about its information content.

This forced decision by the Baltic Media Alliance owner is a result of unprecedented pressure and actual harassment of the company by Riga and Tallinn. Let me remind you that on February 4, the Latvian State Security Service, acting together with the Estonian Security Police, searched the premises of the media holding.

The Latvian authorities followed the same scenario as their Estonian colleagues in the case of the Sputnik Agency bureau in Tallinn. They went on with the policy intended to cleanse the information space from alternative information sources through the imposition of political censorship, a policy that the Baltic countries have pursued on a systemic basis for a long time.

We regard this as a Latvian and Estonian aggression against the fundamental principles of freedom of speech and a targeted campaign to oust the Russian-language media from the information space, and discrimination of Russian speakers.

Along with the consistent process of squeezing out the Russian language from the education system, Latvia promotes legislative amendments prescribing an artificial increase in cable content in the official languages of the European Union and restricting the proportion of Russian programmes to 20 percent of the total volume of broadcasting. They are planning to do this by increasing the cost of the packages that include Russian channels.

We also noted that the attack on the First Baltic Channel was launched ahead of the elections to the Riga Duma scheduled for April 25. The ballot was postponed because of the coronavirus outbreak. In this context, the campaign against the media holding looks like an attempt by the local authorities to deprive the parties representing the interests of Russian speakers of their main media platform.

We regard the situation, where the ruling circles, engrossed in implementing their political interests, violate the fundamental principles of international law, principles that are actively propagated by Brussels, as absolutely unacceptable. What is at stake are democratic freedoms.

We call on the related international organisations and human rights NGOs to react. They have time to focus on a response. There are no forums and workshops sponsored by the OSCE. Visits have been postponed as well. They can afford to collect the online material and publish a clear-cut and extensive response. Everyone has gone online and, accordingly, we count on a full-scale reaction from the OSCE and its Representative on Freedom of the Media, Harlem Desir.



Republic of Tunisia Independence Day

On March 20, the Republic of Tunisia is marking Independence Day, its national holiday. On March 20, 1956, Habib Bourguiba, the leader of the Tunisian liberation movement and the French government signed a protocol annulling the French protectorate regime, and Tunisia became a sovereign state. That same year, the Soviet Union and Tunisia established diplomatic relations.

Today, Tunisia is Russia’s important partner in North Africa. Trade and economic relations between our countries are developing rapidly. Of course, I would like to say a few words about Tunisian resorts, but, in my opinion, it would be somewhat out of place to advertise them today. I believe that we will speak about them separately after the global situation improves.

We congratulate the people of Tunisia on their national holiday, and we wish them well-being and prosperity.



Celebrating Republic of Namibia Independence Day and the 30th anniversary of establishing Russian-Namibian diplomatic relations

March 21 marks the 30th anniversary of the independence of the Republic of Namibia. Europeans started developing its territory in the mid-19th century. In 1878, the United Kingdom established control over Walvis Bay and its vicinity. In the 1890s, Germany established its protectorate over the remaining territory of what is now Namibia. Named German South West Africa, the protectorate remained in force for 30 years. Between 1904 and 1907, the native population revolted against the German colonial administration. While suppressing the revolt, the Germans killed about 65,000 members of the Herero tribe or up to 80 percent of their population, and 10,000 members of the Nama tribe (50 percent).

In 1915, during the initial phase of WWI, South African forces commanded by the British military occupied this German colony. Five years later, the League of Nations gave the Union of South Africa, the Republic of South Africa since 1961, a mandate to administer this territory. In 1964, after the League of Nations ceased to exist, the government of South Africa was unable to incorporate South West Africa or to obtain a new UN mandate. However, Pretoria continued to retain control over this territory. In 1960, Namibian patriotic forces established the South West Africa People’s Organisation (SWAPO) that began to fight for the country’s independence. The UN recognised this struggle as legitimate. The UN Council for South West Africa was established in 1967 and it was renamed the UN Council for Namibia in 1968.

It may be symbolic, but the current 30th anniversary of this state’s independence coincides with another important date, the 30th anniversary of the establishment of Russian-Namibian diplomatic relations. This highlights solid bonds of friendship and solidarity between our countries. It should be recalled that Russia was among the first countries to extend a helping hand to the Namibian nation during the struggle for independence and self-determination. In the 1960s-1980s, the Soviet Union provided military, financial, information and organisational support. The country’s nationals were trained at the 165th centre for training foreign military personnel in Crimea. Namibia received special-purpose equipment, vehicles, small arms and ammunition as well as uniforms, petroleum, oil and lubricants.

Namibia held the first presidential and parliamentary elections in November 1989, and the leading SWAPO political party won. The Republic of Namibia proclaimed independence on March 21, 1990.

We congratulate our friends from this country on their national holiday and on the memorable date, the 30th anniversary of diplomatic relations between our countries. We sincerely wish further well-being as well as prosperity to the Namibian nation.







Answers to media questions:



Question:

How could you comment on the situation concerning Russian sailors arrested in Greece?



Maria Zakharova:

The Foreign Ministry is closely monitoring the developments following the arrest of Russian citizens in Greek waters on charges of facilitating the transport of illegal migrants. We are keeping in touch with their families and generally coordinating the consular support for them.

The Russian Embassy monitors the observance of all rights and legal interests of detained and convicted Russian citizens as stipulated by international and Greek legislation. Embassy staff members make every effort to contact the arrested Russians, keep their families in Russia informed, provide advisory assistance within their competence, and monitor the conditions of their detention, arrange consular visits to prisons in Athens and Nafplio, provide, if necessary, official statements certifying they have no criminal record in Russia, supply the Russian citizens with names of Greek lawyers known to the Embassy and reference materials on the procedure for extradition of persons convicted abroad to serve their sentence in the Russian Federation.

We were asked to provide information on specific steps we are taking, and that is why I am giving so many details. It seemed important to me to share this.


***

One more piece if good news came during the briefing. My colleagues report that as a result of the efforts by the Foreign Ministry and the Russian Embassy in Montenegro, an S7 aircraft left Podgorica with 176 people on board. We will continue to monitor the developments and provide the necessary assistance.

***



Question:

Is the Information and Press Department considering the possibility of requesting a waiver for foreign correspondents in regard to the ban on crossing the Russian border during the quarantine? Many of us, based in Moscow, also cover events in the CIS countries or neighbouring regions. We do not work for one company, but do an important job – hopefully – for the public opinion in our countries.



Maria Zakharova:

No, the Foreign Ministry does not intend to treat foreign journalists as a separate category, or exempt them from directives issued by the Government of the Russian Federation. This decision was made for a compelling reason: to reduce losses from the spread of the coronavirus infection as far as possible. We do not see this as Russia’s business only – it is our country’s contribution to the joint efforts to contain this pandemic. You need to understand this.

Answering the journalist’s question about correspondents based in Moscow who also cover events in the CIS countries and cite this as a reason to be exempt to the border restrictions – this thesis does not work. The CIS countries have also introduced measures restricting the arrival of people from other countries, whether they are journalists, tourists, even people with work visas, etc. Moreover, there is simply no transport service between some of the CIS countries: it is impossible to travel in or out, not only because of visa restrictions, but because of the lack of logistics. Flights are grounded, motorways are closed, trains and other services are cancelled. You just need to put up with it as a temporary measure and use the internet and the telephone. This is not about any one-sided measures Russia has taken outside the global context. These are the recommendations that we see, read and hear from international organisations such as the World Health Organisation. The exchange of data, the experience of the countries that are struggling to contain the COVID-19 infection, also show the effectiveness of such actions. Unfortunately, we must also do this and accept it as a given.

For our part, we are ready to help by providing information, if necessary. Our embassies are open and can provide data on various countries. Feel free to contact them.



Question:

The Russian citizens who cannot leave the Canaries claim that the Aeroflot flight scheduled for Friday will take aboard only Aeroflot passengers. There are also 250 passengers of S7 Airlines there and those who had tickets for foreign airline flights. Is the Foreign Ministry aware of this? Are you planning any measures to return the other Russian citizens home?



Maria Zakharova:

Yes, the Foreign Ministry is aware of this. The Russian Embassy in Madrid has a complete list of the Russian citizens staying on Tenerife who have tickets and have registered for the flight, as well as those who have tickets but have not registered for their flights because they have been cancelled or delayed. The Russian Embassy in Madrid has notified Moscow and the concerned agencies about this, and has given the number of citizens [waiting for their flights]. This subject is being actively coordinated by several agencies.

This is not the only problem at present. We also need to decide how to resettle tourists who had to leave their hotels for various reasons.

Our embassy has informed us that this resettlement problem has been largely solved. Our tourists on Tenerife have been offered places where they can live for the time being.

However, we know that we need to resolve this problem. The concerned agencies in Moscow have all the necessary information.



Question:

Can you comment on the media reports regarding the Kiev City Council’s decision to terminate the agreement with Russia on the lease of land in Kiev?



Maria Zakharova:

As far as we know, this decision by the Kiev authorities has not yet been published. Neither have we received any official notifications from the Ukrainian side. It is impossible to comment on a text that we do not have at our disposal. We are monitoring this situation. We will issue a comment as soon as we have official information.



Question:

Can you comment on the decision by the so-called Kosovo government to close the border to everyone excluding “Kosovo citizens” ostensibly as part of the effort to combat the coronavirus infection, considering the existing ties between central Serbia and the northern regions of Kosovo populated by Serbs?



Maria Zakharova:

We believe that this decision has endangered the delivery of supplies, including medicine, to the north of the Autonomous Province of Kosovo. Of course, the complicated epidemiological situation calls for taking relevant measures. However, it must not be used as a pretext for disrupting the region’s logistical ties with central Serbia, which took years to develop. It is absolutely inhumane to raise artificial obstacles to medical deliveries, including those sent to the healthcare facilities in Kosovska Mitrovica.

Life supplies to people on both sides of the administrative line were seen as the key priority during the signing of the 2013 and 2015 Agreements on the establishment of the Association/Community of Serb Majority Municipalities in Kosovo within the framework of the EU-led talks between Belgrade and Pristina. The Kosovar authorities signed these documents but have been sabotaging their implementation for the past few years. We view the new decisions taken by the Kosovo side, which are presented as part of the efforts against the coronavirus infection, as the latest abuse [of the agreements] for a purely political purpose.



Question:

Dozens of Chinese citizens have been detained in Moscow over the past few months for violating the self-isolation regime after returning from China and deported from Russia, and another few dozen are waiting to be deported. Is the Foreign Ministry aware of this? Do you not regard these measures as excessive?



Maria Zakharova:

Under Russian law, foreigners who violate the quarantine requirements can be deported.

As for the Foreign Ministry, we are monitoring the situation regarding the Chinese citizens and the citizens of other countries. I can cite numerous examples of foreigners encountering serious problems because of these measures, which have been introduced not only in Russia but also in the majority of other countries. We are essentially dealing with this problem online. We are cooperating with the Chinese side when it comes to this matter in the spirit of our friendly bilateral relations.



Question:

The EU has adopted a document accusing Moscow of launching a disinformation campaign aimed at exaggerating the real threat of the coronavirus in the West. How would you comment on these allegations?



Maria Zakharova:

I think the allegations that Russia is spreading disinformation and fake news about the coronavirus in Europe and the world are perfect examples of disinformation and fake news. By the way, we don’t even have to prove anything here. We can simply take advantage of the presumption of innocence. Any charges must be backed by evidence. If there is no evidence, then no charges can be pressed or used to conduct such an aggressive media campaign. We will comment on this matter, although the Russian President’s Press Service has provided a comment on March 18.

I would like to add that this is not the first time EU representatives are trying to explain away their real domestic problems as Moscow’s scheming. Let me remind you that earlier they blamed Russia for the migration crisis that hit the EU. According to the EU, Russia was also responsible for Brexit and the upsurge of Euroscepticism. And how could the Catalan separatism movement have ever emerged without the Kremlin’s involvement? We were accused of all these and many other things. Therefore, I believe that EU accusations of spreading disinformation about the coronavirus have come too late. They should have declared on the first day that Moscow was a priori responsible for everything, without waiting for the painful consequences of this crisis for the EU countries.

To be serious, we believe that this is an absolutely immoral attempt to camouflage the EU’s problems in combating the new infection using groundless anti-Russia statements. Instead of pooling efforts to fight the new global challenge in the EU and in collaboration with Russia, which is the EU’s partner and neighbour and a European country, they are making such reports and planting stories in order to divert the attention of their own people. All of this is deplorable and damaging to the European Union’s reputation. Our experts believe that the word “reputation” is appropriate here, but I disagree. To my mind, many EU bureaucrats lost their reputation long ago.

We suggest that our colleagues in Brussels stop using memes about an alleged Russian threat and focus on providing real assistance to Italy, Spain and other EU member countries that are the hardest hit by the coronavirus infection in this highly complicated situation. There is another element to the current absurd situation: Italy, which has fallen victim (in every meaning of this word) to the coronavirus, is reaching out to others for help, including Russia. It is disgraceful for Brussels to do this even as that country is asking Moscow for support and assistance.



Question:

Reports say that Russia provided China and Iran with medical protective gear as part of the coronavirus response assistance. The virus is also now spreading in Afghanistan. Given that country’s difficult financial situation, is there a chance that Russia will be able to provide medical assistance to Afghanistan in the event of a major outbreak?



Maria Zakharova:

I would like to note that Afghanistan, China or Iran are not the only countries seeking Russia’s or other countries’ help. All countries are trying to use good, friendly ties, channels of cooperation and interaction to deal with their challenges. They are acting as all states that want to help their own people would act.

Again, Russia is no exception here, being the country to which others turn for help. There are many such requests on various issues and aspects of preventing the spread of the coronavirus infection. All the decisions are considered and then taken at the national crisis centre that we are frequently mentioning. Each request coming from a country is considered in an interdepartmental format, and then a decision is made at the centre.



Question:

Concerning amendments to the Constitution that forbid officials and deputies to have dual citizenship, a number of experts note that 40 percent of students admitted to full-time programmes at MGIMO University (the main school, the alma mater producing diplomatic personnel in Russia) have a second or even third citizenship due to their influential parents. They are citizens of Britain, Switzerland, France, the US or Israel. Does the Foreign Ministry acknowledge this problem? Are any steps being taken to discourage this practice among Russian diplomats?



Maria Zakharova:

I would not focus so much on recent amendments to the Constitution. We have been guided by this rule and motivation for many years – we are members of the civil service and cannot have any other citizenship than Russian. This is part of our contractual obligations arising from the Russian law. This is what the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been sticking to for a long time now. This has always been taken into account when hiring workers, including interns, from among MGIMO students, and not only MGIMO, who would like to join the Ministry in the future.

Now I would like to get back to MGIMO University – as a reminder, if you want to use idioms, MGIMO is the “alma mater” that nurtures professionals not only for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but also for the flagships of Russian and foreign businesses, for various fields – economics, jurisprudence, and the media. MGIMO has produced quite a few outstanding journalists, we need to remember this.

I hope you are aware that every year MGIMO University turns out hundreds of graduates, hundreds of trained specialists who cannot all join the Foreign Ministry. Many of them are business-career-minded, or have a tendency to creative professions. Even during their student life they are fond of science and many other things and following that road after graduation. So I would say that for many years, we have definitely complied with the Russian law requiring government officials to have Russian citizenship only (not a recommendation, but a rule, a law). At the same time, the university provides an opportunity (as part of its curriculum) to train specialists for a variety of fields. Actually, for all fields ranging from jurisprudence and economics to creativity and journalism. I would also like to remind you that MGIMO trains foreign students in huge numbers. This is also part of the university’s policy and the Foreign Ministry’s policy towards its subordinate educational institution. I do not see any problem here.




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4090761
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Comment by the Information and Press Department on the political crisis in Afghanistan



20 March 2020 - 14:41



We are watching with alarm the political crisis unfolding around the results of the presidential election in Afghanistan. This is the result of a highly controversial election process, with numerous violations and record-low turnout. The current situation resembles the outcome of a similar election in 2014, when a contender was declared the winner without publishing the ballot-counting results, and when a compromise solution not stipulated by the provisions of the current national constitution was found.

The current standoff between the main presidential candidates has become more protracted and acute. It has escalated into the formation of parallel government structures as a response to the announced voting results. We deplore the fact that the deepening destabilisation in domestic politics hampers progress towards launching inclusive intra-Afghan talks that would lead to the long-awaited cessation of the civil war by achieving a comprehensive national reconciliation.

We are once again urging all responsible political forces in the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to set aside their differences and to establish a generally recognised administration in the name of the interests of the long-suffering Afghan nation. We see the fastest possible release of prisoners of war by the Government of Afghanistan and the Taliban movement under the Doha Agreement of February 29, 2020 as a top priority.

We are urging all involved foreign players to respect the sovereignty of Afghanistan, to not interfere in the country’s domestic affairs, and to abstain from attempts to impose their will on the Afghan people.

Russia is ready to continue providing all-out assistance to overcoming domestic political disagreements in the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and holding intra-Afghan peace talks as soon as possible in collaboration with China, Pakistan, Iran and other interested regional partners.

We would like to take this opportunity to offer the friendly people of Afghanistan Nowruz greetings and to sincerely wish them peace and prosperity.




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4091114






Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s interview with Saturday news show Vesti v Subbotu, Moscow, March 21, 2020



21 March 2020 - 12:00






Question:

For you, Sri Lanka is your youth. What did you feel when you came back here? We are now in the new Embassy building, while you worked in the old building. Still, what memories did it stir up from when you worked here?



Sergey Lavrov:

Of course, I mostly remember the old building where I worked for four years. I was an aide to Soviet Ambassador Rafik Nishanov, God bless him. We created a tight-knit group of MGIMO graduates and more experienced personnel, including first secretaries and councillors. We played football and volleyball. We had a club, which no longer exists. The leased building was returned to local authorities because the new Embassy has a club on its premises.

There is one thing that comes to mind first of all. A small viper crawled into my office in the old building. The air conditioners were installed in the wall and the snake crawled through a small gap between the air conditioner and the wall. We got rid of it very quickly, but after that all offices were inspected to see if any gaps in the walls needed to be closed.

In addition to the club where we met every weekend, I also have warm memories of our sports games. By the way, we also watched films at the club. It was a good tradition. Nowadays the embassies seldom hold film screenings. Everyone can watch what they like at home.



Question:

What films did you watch back then?



Sergey Lavrov:

We were sent good Soviet films, which are shown on television even now. We also liked to play beach football. Diplomatic couriers delivered mail and collected our mail once a month. Many of them were good athletes, including football players who held the title of merited athlete. For example, Dynamo player Vladimir Savdunin played football with us. Others included players from the Spartak club. It was fantastic: we were very young then and we had a chance to play football with world famous athletes.

I also remember the trips we made. Sri Lanka is a beautiful country. It takes a few hours’ drive to the mountains where people use wood-burning stoves, or tea plantations, the former British settlements which have been turned into recreation spots open to all.There is a place in Sri Lanka that is known as World’s End. It is believed that Adam lived there after he was expelled from Paradise. There are many interesting places on the island. I would recommend travelling there, if possible. It is a bit like Sochi, with both the sea and the mountains nearby. They don’t ski there, but the mountains are certainly good for hiking. Sri Lanka has a very interesting history. I also recommend visiting Sri Lanka’s old capital, Kandy.

We are developing bilateral tourism. I have held talks with President of Sri Lanka Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and my colleague, Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena, and it turned out that the number of Russian tourists in Sri Lanka increased by 30 percent to some 85,000 in 2019. Our colleagues are delighted, first by the increase itself and, second, because, apart from absolute figures, Russian tourists spend more money per capita than tourists from other countries. In short, tourism has good prospects. Our mutual trade is growing as well.

I remember that the idea of a new embassy building was aired back when I was working at the Soviet Embassy here in 1975-1976. In other words, things were not moving fast enough, but it is the result that matters. I believe the result is quite good. One can live and work here very well.



Question:

Do you still remember any behests or advice you received from Rafik Nishanov?



Sergey Lavrov:

He is a wise man. It is difficult to formulate his behests, but he showed what diplomacy was by his very behaviour and the way he worked and communicated with our foreign colleagues. Always courteous, he never offended anyone even with a hint and he always showed that he heard what his interlocutor was saying. When your response includes minor details your interlocutor used, it shows that you listen to and hear what is being said.

Rafik Nishanov also has a fine sense of humour. When he greeted me with “Hello, Marxist” upon his arrival at the embassy – I usually sat at my desk by that time – it meant that he was in a great mood and everything went very well that day. In general, he seldom lost his temper. Of course, there were some critical situations; we had our ups and downs. There were car accidents involving our personnel, which is a nervous situation, but he always settled any problems we had, bless him.



This interview was taped during Sergey Lavrov’s visit to Sri Lanka on January 14, 2020




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4091437






Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov’s answer to a media question on a series of unacceptable statements by US officials



21 March 2020 - 13:42



Question:

In the past few days, some high-ranking representatives of the US administration have voiced tough critical statements regarding Russia. They claimed that Russia was launching yet another misinformation campaign, resorting to energy weapons and trying to sow discord and uncertainty in Western countries. What is Moscow’s response to this?



Sergey Ryabkov:

We have urged and continue to urge the US to renounce the inhumane practice of using unilateral sanctions against Iran which faces a dire shortage of resources to address the urgent healthcare tasks arising in the current situation regarding the expanding coronavirus pandemic. I am confident that Washington comprehends the difference between one-off supplies of humanitarian relief consignments and the country’s inability to obtain export revenues for financing the relevant programmes due to long-term and unprecedentedly tough pressure from US sanctions. Nevertheless, US officials, including high-placed ones, are not squeamish about blatantly distorting this fact, as they pursue their well-known geopolitical goals.

Regarding allegations about Russian energy weapons, we have been hearing discourses on this subject time and again. Doubtless, our colleagues in Washington will continue to use this thesis in the future. By referring to an external enemy in the energy sector and in the area of military-technical cooperation, the United States has long been bolstering its policy of diktat against countries interested in launching and expanding equitable and mutually beneficial cooperation with Russia. The United States is openly trying to torpedo the Nord Stream 2 project, and it has now made a series of insinuations about Russia’s line on global energy markets at this time of highly volatile prices and drastically reduced fuel and energy demand which is, first of all, linked with the shock to the global transport industry caused by the coronavirus outbreak.

Actually, there is a noticeable degree of nervousness in Washington. Such nervousness is quite understandable in the human context. But, at this time of trial, it would probably be more appropriate to focus on expanding various areas of mutual understanding and collaboration, rather than the pointless squaring of political accounts.




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4091467






Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s interview with Novy Vek TV and Radio Company, Moscow, March 22, 2020



22 March 2020 - 19:30






Question:

Mr Lavrov, how do you estimate the effectiveness of the Republic of Tatarstan’s contacts with the outside world?



Sergey Lavrov:

The Republic of Tatarstan is perhaps one of the most pro-active regions of the Russian Federation in terms of its involvement in international and foreign economic ties of the Russian regions. We maintain very close collaboration. The republic, first, is itself highly active in promoting its presence abroad. If I am not mistaken, they have representative offices in 15 countries, where they operate in close contact with and under the guidance of Russian Federation embassies. The republic has ramified ties primarily with CIS partners, such as Belarus, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan, as well as with practically all the other former republics of the USSR, which are now members of the CIS. It also maintains close contacts with companies from the US, Europe, and other regions, too.

Over a period of the past few years, the republic won the first prize for creating a maximally favourable investment climate for foreign investors on three occasions. Last year, it came second, but it was the leader for the three previous years and I am sure that Tatarstan has preserved its leader ambition that will be manifested many times over. This is one of the most pro-active republics, one of the most advanced constituent entities of the Russian Federation, which has the taste and skill for operating on the foreign markets and for creating conditions enabling investments to come to the republic.



Question:

Russia has 85 regions. How great, in your opinion, is the Russian regions’ international role?



Sergey Lavrov:

As they said in the past, Russia will grow based on Siberia. Today, Russia is growing – in its activity, in politics, and in the economy – based on its regions, territories, republics and autonomous areas. What is happening today in our relations with the PRC, 70-80 percent of trade and investment is about ties encouraged by the Russian regions and China’s provinces. When Tatarstan or other Russian regions promote their goods abroad, when they court high technologies as investment in Russia, when they engage in humanitarian activities (Tatarstan regularly accompanies its economic events abroad with humanitarian meetings), they are strengthening, first, this country’s economic potential, and, second, its prestige in the eyes of international community. So, one can hardly overestimate the importance of this work.




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4091545






Comment by the Information and Press Department on the presidential election in Abkhazia



23 March 2020 - 18:42



The Republic of Abkhazia held a presidential election on March 22. According to the Central Election Commission of Abkhazia, a convincing victory was won by prominent politician and Deputy of the Abkhazian National Assembly Aslan Bzhania. Russian observers did not report any violations during the election and noted the efficient organisation.

Moscow welcomes the results of this honest and free expression of will by the Abkhazian people. We believe the results of the election testify to the support of the citizens of the republic for a path towards modernisation and expansion of the multifaceted cooperation between our states.

President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin congratulated Aslan Bzhania on his victory in the election. In his message of congratulations, the President reaffirmed his readiness for joint work to further consolidate allied Russia-Abkhazia relations.




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4091834






Statement by the Foreign Ministry



24 March 2020 - 14:46



We advise Russian citizens who are currently in countries where they need help to return home that the compilation of passenger lists for repatriation flights will be completed at 2 pm local time on March 26, 2020. Please submit the required data to Russian foreign missions without delay.

We ask all returnees from abroad to be ready for mandatory quarantine restrictions that will last for 14 days from the time of their entry to the territory of Russia, as per the sanitary and epidemiological requirements introduced by the Federal Service for the Oversight of Consumer Protection and Welfare (Rospotrebnadzor).




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4091991






Press release on Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s telephone conversation with Foreign Minister of Iran Mohammad Javad Zarif



24 March 2020 - 19:12







On March 24, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov had a telephone conversation with Foreign Minister of the Islamic Republic of Iran Mohammad Javad Zarif at the latter’s request.

The coronavirus pandemic was discussed. High praise was given to bilateral cooperation in countering this global challenge. Notes were compared regarding corresponding measures and initiatives at international organisations, including the UN.

The Russian minister reiterated Russia’s plans to continue to comprehensively promote Russian-Iranian trade and economic ties and investment projects, including increasing the supply of agricultural products, which our good neighbour badly needs, being among other things under the pressure of illegal unilateral US sanctions. Previously sent humanitarian aid from Russia to Iran was mentioned.

Sergey Lavrov pointed out that Russia continues to urge Washington to immediately lift its inhumane sanctions that prevent the respective governments from combating COVID-19.

The parties exchanged views on current items on the international agenda, including the Syrian settlement and the situation in Afghanistan.




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4092057






Foreign Ministry Statement



24 March 2020 - 21:17



In view of the worldwide spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus epidemic, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation is urging all parties to regional armed conflicts to immediately stop hostilities, secure a ceasefire, and introduce a humanitarian pause.

We support the respective statement by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres of March 23.

We proceed from the assumption that these developments could lead to a global humanitarian disaster, given that most people in the current hot spots lack access to medicines and skilled medical assistance.

Of special concern are the situations in Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Libya and Syria, as well in the Palestinian territories, including the Gaza Strip. We note separately the risks associated with the possible deterioration of the epidemiological situation in African countries, where there is a persisting armed confrontation. The localities with camps for refugees and internally displaced persons are particularly vulnerable.

Our call is primarily addressed to the nations, which illegally use military force outside of their national borders. We especially note that the current conditions offer no justification for unilateral coercive measures, including economic restrictions, which are a severe impediment on the authorities’ efforts to protect the health of their populations.

We are highly concerned over the situation on territories controlled by terrorist groups, who could not care less about people’s wellbeing. These zones might potentially become most prone to the spread of the infection. We are confident that counter-terrorist measures must be carried on.

We call on the international community to provide the countries in need with the necessary humanitarian support without any political preconditions. Such support should be intended for saving people in distress. The use of humanitarian aid as a tool to force internal political change is unacceptable, as is speculation on the fate of any victims.

The Russian Federation will continue its work at the UN Security Council to facilitate the political and diplomatic settlement of regional conflicts based on the UN Charter and the universal norms of international law, and is ready for pro-active cooperation in this area with all parties concerned.




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4092082






Comment by the Information and Press Department on a terrorist attack against a military camp in Mali



25 March 2020 - 18:28



A terrorist attack on March 19 by the Group to Support Islam and Muslims (GSIM) against a camp of the Mali armed forces near the village of Tarkint, Gao Region, left 29 Malian soldiers dead and five wounded, making it the worst attack on the country’s service members in 2020. GSIM leaders called the attack “retribution” for the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission (MINUSMA) and the Operation Barkhane French force’s presence in Mali.

We strongly condemn the latest crime committed by terrorist forces in an attempt to destabilise the situation in Mali and to undermine the efforts of that country’s government to implement the Algerian-brokered 2015 Agreement for Peace and Reconciliation. The ongoing challenging security situation in Mali calls for continued effective international support for the Malian government’s stabilisation efforts.

We express our condolences and sympathy to the surviving families and friends, wish a speedy recovery to the victims of this crime and reaffirm our continued support for the leadership and people of Mali in their fight against the terrorist threat.




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4092296






Comment by the Information and Press Department on the terrorist attack at a Sikh temple in Kabul



26 March 2020 - 12:36



On March 25 in Kabul, terrorists attacked a Sikh temple during a service. More than 20 people were killed and several people were injured. The ISIS terrorist organisation claimed responsibility for the attack.

We condemn this barbaric crime aimed at inciting religious strife in Afghanistan. The incident once again demonstrates the need for more effective measures to combat the threat posed by ISIS in Afghanistan and for measures to prevent the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan from being turned into a foothold for the spread of terrorism in the region. Once again, we are urging Afghan officials to take exhaustive action to ensure the security of their citizens and intensify the fight to destroy the ISIS bases in the country.




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4092530






Comment by the Information and Press Department on the Boko Haram terrorist attacks in Chad and Nigeria



26 March 2020 - 13:19



On March 23, large groups of fighters of the Boko Haram terrorist organisation attacked Chadian government troops on the island of Boma on Lake Chad, killing 92 and wounding 47 military personnel. The extremists’ resistance was only suppressed after hours of fierce fighting, and further efforts are being made to rout the surviving terrorists. President of Chad Idriss Deby Itno has declared three days of national mourning.

Later the same day, Boko Haram fighters ambushed the Nigerian military, killing 47 and wounding 15 of them near the village of Gorigi in the north-eastern region of Borno. The Nigerian troops were on a mopping-up and fighting patrol as part of the antiterrorist operation Lafiya Dole. The terrorists and their equipment have been destroyed in an air raid by the Nigerian Air Force.

The intensity of Boko Haram attacks remains very high. The latest attacks on Chadian and Nigerian soldiers were among the largest, providing evidence of the extremist organisation’s huge combat capability.

Moscow resolutely condemns the terrorists’ criminal attacks aimed at destabilising Nigeria and Chad. We express our deep condolences to the victims’ families and friends.




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4092557






Press release on a teleconference of special envoys to the Middle East Quartet of International Mediators



27 March 2020 - 13:23



On March 26, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Vershinin took part in a teleconference of special envoys to the Middle East Quartet of International Mediators (Russia, the US, the UN and the EU).

The participants held an in-depth discussion on the current lack of progress with the Palestinian-Israeli settlement and on the tasks of containing the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. They agreed that it was important to revitalise the work of the Quartet.

The Russian side reaffirmed the country’s consistent position in favour of the two-state solution to the conflict based on international law and pointed out the importance of restoring Palestinian national unity on the political platform of the Palestine Liberation Organisation.

The special envoys agreed to continue the discussion in the next few weeks.




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4092908






Press release on Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov’s telephone conversation with Secretary General of the PLO Executive Committee Saeb Erakat



27 March 2020 - 14:29



On March 27, Special Presidential Representative for the Middle East and Africa and Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov had a telephone conversation with Secretary General of the Palestine Liberation Organisation Executive Committee Saeb Erakat at the Palestinian side’s initiative.

The discussion focused on the developments in the West Bank and Gaza, including in the context of measures undertaken by the Palestinian leadership to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

While exchanging opinions on the Middle East agenda, Mikhail Bogdanov reaffirmed Russia’s continued readiness to facilitate the Palestinian-Israeli settlement on the established basis of international law, both in bilateral formats and as part of the Middle East quartet of international mediators.




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4092922






Comment by the Information and Press Department on the joint address to the UN Secretary-General urging the withdrawal of unilateral sanctions in view of the spread of the coronavirus



27 March 2020 - 21:38



On March 25, the Group of States for the Defense of the Principles of the UN Charter, including Russia, Venezuela, Iran, China, North Korea, Cuba, Nicaragua and Syria, sent a joint message to the UN Secretary-General with a strong request for the complete and prompt withdrawal of the unilateral sanctions that prevent the states’ efforts to effectively fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

Russia has consistently opposed the unilateral restrictions that run counter to international law and cause substantial harm to the affected countries’ socio-economic development. Our message is based on the fact that during the rapid spread of the coronavirus, the lifting of these barriers has become urgent, especially for the distribution of necessary medical supplies to the countries that are under restrictions.

During the G20 emergency summit on March 26, President of Russia Vladimir Putin initiated the organising of “green corridors” that would be free of trade wars and sanctions for the mutual supply of medicines, food, equipment and technology. With this in mind, the Russian President suggested imposing a collective moratorium on the restrictions that affect basic necessities and the financial transactions for purchasing them.

The international restrictions introduced by the UN Security Council should not be an impediment in the fight against the pandemic. The Security Council sanctions resolutions provide for exceptions and exemptions for humanitarian needs. These safety mechanisms should work without fail and be free of some countries’ politicised approaches. Only in this way can the harmful effects of the restrictions for the population be avoided. In general, it is time to review the Security Council’s sanctions to ensure that they are of a truly targeted nature and think in terms of classifying some types of assistance as humanitarian exceptions.




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4093009
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Briefing by Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova, Moscow, March 27, 2020



27 March 2020 - 23:52






Measures to bring back home Russian nationals from abroad

I would like to say “Good afternoon” but it is already evening in Moscow. We had to start the briefing late today, instead of yesterday, because the main issue the Foreign Ministry task force is facing currently is how to resolve the situation and render help to Russian nationals abroad. I would like to begin with this topic.

As you know, following a meeting of the Presidium of the Russian Government’s Coordination Council to control the spread of the novel coronavirus infection, decisions were taken that were published on March 26. They contain instructions to the Foreign Ministry and other executive agencies that coordinate our work in this area. In particular, the Foreign Ministry was instructed today to submit finalised lists to arrange the evacuation of Russian nationals from abroad. Due to the fact that globally regular air service is being delayed or cancelled, we are completing this work and, as per our respective instructions, a list will be submitted to the Russian agencies to arrange flights in order to evacuate Russian nationals who are willing to come back to Russia. In addition, by March 30 the Foreign Ministry was instructed to provide to the Ministry of Transport, Rospotrebnadzor, the Health Ministry, the Interior Ministry and Aeroflot Airlines information about Russian nationals willing to return to the Russian Federation. This part of the instructions is related to the fact that chartered round-trip flights from Russian airports to foreign countries have been terminated as of today. Exceptions have been made for flights to evacuate Russian citizens.

In this connection, our embassies in the respective countries – the UAE, Oman, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Thailand, the FRG, Kyrgyzstan, Belgium, the USA, the Netherlands, Cuba, Qatar, Ireland, Tajikistan, Armenia, Switzerland, Sri Lanka, the United Kingdom, Spain, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Italy, South Korea, Uzbekistan, Iran, Israel, France, China, Japan and Vietnam – have all posted relevant notices for Russian citizens informing them about the termination of chartered and regular flights and for them to prepare for so-called evacuation flights. This work is currently in full swing in those countries. We would like to draw the attention of our citizens in those countries that if they want to return to Russia, they must provide personal information by filling in the respective forms and answering the necessary questions before 2 pm on March 29.

I would also like to pass on an update that was released just an hour ago by the task force, which coordinates the evacuation of Russian nationals from abroad. The procedure for air flights by Russian airlines was considered in view of the Government’s decisions to terminate international air service. The schedule of evacuations is being actively worked on in consultations with our embassies. Also, following today’s meeting of the task force, data was released on the most difficult countries in terms of the number of evacuees and logistics: Indonesia, Thailand and India. Regarding Indonesia, Russian nationals are to be brought back on evacuation flights using Russian airlines within the next week. I want to stress again that this is the result of today’s work and meetings of the task force. As for Thailand, most of the passengers from there have air tickets. Their return will be arranged in accordance with tour agency and air company obligations. A significant number of Russian citizens are scheduled to leave that country by April 1. Also, the issue of evacuating Russian nationals from India was addressed today and has entered the practical stage. These passengers will be transported by regular and chartered flights. The air carriers have also been identified.

Options are being actively reviewed for evacuating Russians from several Latin American countries – Brazil, Chile, Peru. I can say the logistics are fairly complicated and decisions will be made when drafting a flight plan in close contact with the respective Russian embassies. The issues of evacuating Russians from India, Tunisia, Moldavia, Montenegro, Tanzania, Mauritius, the Seychelles and other countries were also discussed. Thus work is ongoing around the clock. I think this is evidenced by how we have also transformed our traditional afternoon briefing into an evening format.

Another Government instruction, Resolution No. 730-r of March 25, also adjusted our work and the work of Russian missions abroad and air carriers. It is available, and I think many of you have already read it. But I would focus your attention on one key part: a waiver has been introduced allowing entry into Russia by foreign nationals who are family members (spouses, parents, children, adoptive parents, adopted children, foster parents, caretakers) of Russian Federation citizens. Skipping legal details and subtleties, this resolution prevents families with one of the parents or children of non-Russian nationality from being separated and to be united upon their return to Russia during a period when restrictive measures at border crossings are in effect. This is a long-awaited decision, which families who had to experience what separation from loved ones and children means, even for a short time span, are happy to see. They now have this opportunity whereas our diplomatic missions abroad – both embassies and consulates – have the requisite instructions on how to implement this decision and assist those people who are family members. There were incidents when individuals were deplaned or other dramatic moments. We are receiving all applications and are trying to process them promptly.

There is one more thing I would like to say: our embassies have also received the necessary instructions on assisting Russian nationals who are in distress. First of all, I would like to note that our embassies are operating twenty-four hours a day. The same is true of Consulates General and permanent missions. All their efforts at the present stage are focused on resolving issues related to the stay of Russian citizens on the territories of various countries and who cannot go back to their homeland as of yet. Due to this, many of them are in very dire straits, about which we were made aware after receiving a great number of applications, letters, posts and articles that have already been published and sent.

Our embassies are helping Russian nationals in completing documents. This is one of the most common requests due to the extraordinary situations people have found themselves in. The embassies assist in extending visas where possible and in those countries where authorities have special requirements in this respect. Contact with Russian citizens is maintained on completing documents, and of course, they offer help in solving very many issues.

I am perfectly aware that not all issues can be resolved, however, many problems are being tackled on a case-by-case basis. I would like to draw your attention to the fact that this work is obviously integral to a diplomat’s activity abroad.

However, I would like to stress what many do not contemplate. Russian diplomats are under conditions, which can only be labelled as extraordinary, especially taking into account that many countries have imposed most rigid quarantines while others have declared a state of emergency. In some countries one has to pass through checkpoints to get to airports. In other countries it is impossible altogether due to a curfew, arrangements must be made to congregate people together. All possibilities are being used provided by the status of the diplomat.

Our diplomats are in the priority risk group since they work in airports without special protective gear, they work with large groups of people and continue travelling across the country. Sometimes they spend days without proper conveniences – an airport, a port, a railways station, hospitals, police stations etc. It does not make their work any easier. We are really trying to do our best to help Russian citizens as much as possible. I understand perfectly well that it is impossible to do it completely but we should strive for that, notwithstanding the difficult situation in which Russian tourists, those who worked in those countries and Russian diplomats found themselves in.

To complete the topic, I would like to draw your attention again to the mandatory quarantine to self-contain for 14 days upon arriving in Russia. Respective notices, reminders, messages are going to Russian citizens via our information resources, our missions abroad and the Foreign Ministry.



Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s telephone conversations

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s contacts are limited in terms of his trips abroad, but remain event-packed because the number of telephone calls has grown.

Today he spoke with the foreign ministers of the UAE and France. Press releases on these conversations are published on the official website of the Russian Federation’s Foreign Ministry.

A week ago, Sergey Lavrov spoke by telephone with Chinese Foreign Minister and State Councillor Wang Yi. The two diplomats discussed the situation caused by the pandemic and spoke highly about the state of bilateral cooperation, exchange of experience in fighting the pandemic and measures to stop the spread of the virus. They noted the efficiency of the measures taken by our countries and emphasised the importance of expanding contacts in order to protect the lives and wellbeing of both countries’ citizens.

The ministers stated that against the backdrop of the pandemic, Russia and China continue to boost strategic partnership, share a common approach to global affairs, including the implementation of Moscow and Beijing’s responsibilities as permanent members of the UN in maintaining international peace and security.



Developments in Syria

Overall, we consider the current situation in Syria stable.

The ceasefire, established in Idlib on March 6, seems to hold. The number of violations does not exceed 2-3 cases per day by each side. We continue to work with our Turkish partners on creating the so-called safety corridor along the M4 motorway and restoring traffic on it. On March 23, the second joint Russian-Turkish patrolling of a section of the road was successfully completed.

At the same time, it has to be noted that radical groups remaining near the M4 motorway have been interfering with the work of the Russian and Turkish military in every possible way by staging provocations, creating road obstructions and removing asphalt paving. All this proves again that Idlib is ruled not by moderate opposition forces, as some Western capitals want to present it, but by terrorists operating by violence and bloodshed. This is also proved by the capture of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent offices in Idlib and Ariha by militants on March 14. They looted the offices and detained the staff. UN humanitarian coordinators have condemned the attacks, calling them an inadmissible violation of humanitarian law. We join their call to provide unhindered humanitarian access to civilians in the Idlib de-escalation zone, who have become hostages of terrorist arbitrariness.

In this regard, we hope that our Turkish partners will continue their efforts to separate moderate opposition from extremists and take measures to neutralise the latter. At the same time, it is important to emphasise that the renaming of groups, changing their window dressing, does not change their essence as terrorists. There must be no illusions that we are talking about internationally acknowledged terrorists, regardless of whether they call themselves Al Qaeda, Jabhat al-Nusra or Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham.

ISIS militants continue their attacks on the east bank of the Euphrates, in areas beyond the control of the Syrian Government. According to our information, in the past few days, between March 20 and 24, ISIS has conducted over 20 terrorist attacks in the governorates Deir ez-Zor, Raqqa and Al-Hasakah, killing 50 people. In this regard, we noted the statement by the US Department of State on March 23, on the anniversary of ISIS defeat in northeast Syria. So, here is a question: which terrorists were defeated by the coalition if the number of ISIS members, according to the American representatives, has remained the same at over 10,000 people. It is obvious that these militants simply went into hiding and now continue their forays.

There is no doubt that the coalition led by the United States decimated, or more accurately, razed to the ground entire cities and communities east of the Euphrates . Thus, Raqqa had a population of 230,000 before the allies started their operation in 2016, leaving only 3,000 by the time it was completed. According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), there was not a single working clinic left in the city, and the entire civil infrastructure had to be rebuilt from scratch. Let alone the fact that Raqqa still has a huge amount of rubble and unexploded projectiles and landmines.

In 2018, the towns of Hajin and Al-Baghuz suffered the same fate. Their residents had to flee to the al-Hawl refugee camp. The number of people in the camp grew sevenfold in just three months, from 10,000 to 73,000. There is no permanent humanitarian access to the camp, whose residents have lived in atrocious conditions since the exodus from Hajin and Al-Baghuz.

The same can be said about another refugee camp, Rukban, which is located in an area illegally occupied by the United States near Al-Tanf. Due to the joint efforts of the Russian military and the Syrian Government, some 19,000 people were evacuated from the camp. All of them have returned to their homes. However, there are still several thousand people in the camp who cannot leave it because of the militants of the US-sponsored group Jaysh Maghawir al-Thawra. In this regard, I would like to emphasise Russia’s position that the United States as a country that has occupied this area bears full responsibility for the local civilians and providing g them with humanitarian aid.

The spread of the coronavirus in Syria can have the catastrophic consequences, considering the existence of large camps of internally displaced people in areas not controlled by Damascus, like Rukban and al-Hawl. In addition, it is necessary to help the Syrian Government provide everyone with protection and access to medical services.

Russia supports the call by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet on the urgent need to review sectoral sanctions that affect healthcare and human rights.

We noted the appeal of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres regarding some countries’ sanctions policy: unilateral sanctions are not a lifeline at a time when the whole world is facing a major problem, but an additional ‘anchor’ for those who need to stay afloat.

We consider it important that other UN representatives also speak up about the consequences of unilateral sanctions during the coronavirus pandemic.

We share the High Commissioner’s concerns about the spread of the epidemic to Cuba, North Korea, Venezuela and Zimbabwe, whose healthcare systems have been extremely weakened by the unilateral coercive measures, about which we have repeatedly spoken. We believe these concerns equally apply to Syria and Iran. We support the call to the world leaders to show cooperation and solidarity to ensure people’s safety and the implementation of human rights by everyone. We address those countries that are ready to use any pretext to enforce unilateral sanctions to reach their momentary economic and political goals: it is time to set selfish interests aside and fight the global threat together.



Venezuela update

I want to draw your attention again to the fact that the COVID-19 pandemic challenge to humankind makes us approach the existing crises, in particular the regional ones, from an absolutely new perspective. Their resolution, as we have already said, and perhaps the future of our civilisation, in general, will be determined by those who will be able to set aside their ideological convictions and, after giving up selfish interests, will act jointly for the benefit of all peoples in the world.

As for Venezuela, it is becoming increasingly clear who is actually assuming responsibility for that country. The government of Nicolas Maduro, notwithstanding extremely complex economic conditions, has been taking consistent and efficient measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. The President of Venezuela monitors this issue personally and regularly informs the public of recent developments and the steps being taken. The government is engaged in proactive contacts with international partners and organisations that are able and prepared (regretfully, unlike the IMF) to stop playing political games and actually help the Venezuelan people.

In this situation, the radical opposition’s criticism of the Government has receded deep into the virtual space. We can hear some irrelevant political slogans, calls to enhance the sanctions pressure against the country and organise some humanitarian aid on conditions that are known only to them. And this is happening at a time when all the forces should be consolidated to help Venezuelans, their own people. We all remember the outcome of the ‘humanitarian breakthrough’ attempt they initiated last February, and the reverberations of the corruption scandal related to that attempt can be heard to this day. Clearly, such actions can in no way help bring the situation in Venezuela back to normal, nor they can relieve international tensions around that country. Now, as never before, there is a great demand for the opposition to give up its petty political ambitions and find a way to jointly search for solution to the existing problems seeking to improve people’s lives and wellbeing.

And we will never tire of repeating our call for immediate lifting of the unilateral and unlawful sanctions, which in the given pandemic environment actually become a tool of genocide. Now, at a time when the Venezuelan economy is stifled by restrictions, it needs urgent assistance; blocking the deliveries of food and medicines and limiting access to state funds in foreign banks endangers thousands of lives. To note: just yesterday Russia, together with like-minded countries, sent a letter to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres asking him to request certain countries to lift their previously imposed unilateral and unlawful sanctions that impede the fight against the coronavirus.

As for Russia, it continues providing assistance to Venezuela, including in improving the epidemiological situation there. The first shipment of 10,000 test systems to diagnose the coronavirus was delivered to Caracas this week. We have received requests for help and they are being considered.

Once again, we urge the international community to set aside political aspirations and work together. We must pool our efforts in order to tackle this new and highly dangerous challenge.



The United States ratchets up its anti-Venezuelan policies

We were surprised to hear US Attorney General William Barr accuse Venezuelan leadership of direct involvement in international drug trafficking. In line with its design to overthrow the legitimate Venezuelan government (no one is hiding it), the US justice even promised a substantial reward for information leading to the arrest of President Maduro and other Venezuelan senior officials.

Such statements are absurd and outrageous. At a time when the entire world is joining efforts in fighting the coronavirus pandemic, Washington is carrying on its political bullying of a sovereign state.

Despite unprecedented political and economic pressure, President Maduro is taking the necessary steps to counter cross-border spread of the infection. By and large, he is providing practical proof that he has a moral right to be called the country’s sole legitimate leader.

The US Administration, including President Trump himself, has repeatedly mentioned their concern about the Venezuelan people’s future. We believe that now is the time to prove that and to abandon the counterproductive attacks on the government led by President Maduro and allow him to address in full the problems facing the country without being subjected to unlawful external interference.



Cuba's contribution to international efforts to combat the coronavirus pandemic

In the context of the current tough confrontation between humanity and the coronavirus pandemic, I would like to focus on the diametrically opposite characteristics of individual members of the international community.

On Wednesday, the Ambassador of the Republic of Cuba to Russia, Gerardo Penalver Portal, held an online news conference at the Russian Federation’s Foreign Ministry. He spoke about the measures taken by his country and the selfless aid provided by the Cubans to other countries. As you may be aware, of the many Caribbean countries, including members of the British Commonwealth of Nations, only Cuba agreed to allow the British cruise ship MS Braemar to dock 40 km from Cuban capital on March 18-19 with five confirmed COVID-19 cases on board and 52 passengers with symptoms of the illness. As a result of this humanitarian operation, over 1,000 passengers and crew members were transported to the UK.

Aware of the risks to its citizens, Havana nonetheless responded to Italy’s call for help and sent 52 doctors to the Lombardy region. In addition, Cuban doctors are working to save lives in Venezuela, Grenada, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Saint Kitts and Nevis, as well as Suriname and Jamaica. The medicines that proved their efficiency, in particular, in China, including the Cuban-made Interferon Alfa 2B, are being delivered to those in need.

However, not everyone is acting so nobly or contributing to this worthy cause. The Island of Freedom is lending a helping hand and showing impressive examples of magnanimity, but there are also those who do not seem to like these efforts. Washington was quick to come up with a response and warned about the alleged "dangers" of cooperating with Cuba in fighting the coronavirus. Clearly, this is part of the information war. All those myths and narratives about an alleged threat coming from Russia and Russia’s aggressive policy are just that – a myth. Now, with Russia providing humanitarian aid to Italy, and Cuba and China providing humanitarian aid to a number of countries, we can see what information aggression really looks like. Reports quoting unconfirmed sources appeared post-haste in various media to the effect that this assistance was ineffective, unneeded and unnecessary. What stands behind this? It’s politics. They claim that, in fact, the goals have not been achieved or completely different goals had been set. I think all these things have one thing in common: unnamed sources, which exposes the fact that this is nothing but propaganda. When there’s a principled position, some kind of resistance and rejection of certain steps, in particular, in the humanitarian sphere, it makes sense to talk about them without mentioning one’s name. It seems that taking a position and clearly outlining one’s approaches, on the contrary, would be a position worthy of respect. However, a vast amount of material in relation to a number of countries has become available. Russia is no exception with respect to the allegation that the humanitarian aid provided by it is ineffective, which, I think, caused a sense of pity, particularly among Italians. I saw all the statements made by the government of Italy, representatives of the regions and ordinary people who were disgusted to see fake reports and acts of information war.

I will not list all of Washington’s accusations against Cuba prompted by the fact that it is supplying humanitarian aid, because it would be unseemly to go over them again. It is humiliating even for those who are behind them. Clearly, someone has a bad taste in their mouth caused by the gratitude expressed by the British government for saving the people, although this is strange for humanity of the 21st century. As if on a cue coming from the capital, the central US media unanimously decided to ignore this fact, not to mention the assistance provided by the Cubans to their neighbours.

Unfortunately, there are heroes and antiheroes in any situation. We can see them today. It seems that we are really living in a period that has been shown in many films. These days, the phrase "all step out of the shadows" often comes to my mind.

Once again, we urge everyone to come to their senses and to take the side of unity for all of humanity in the face of the impending common threat. We urge those who, in this difficult global situation, are trying to make things looks even worse and are pursuing a policy of aggression and destabilisation to come to senses.



2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo postponed

Russia's stance regarding the decision made by the Japanese Government and the International Olympic Committee to postpone the 2020 Summer Olympics to 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic is presented in a statement made by Russian Minister of Sport Oleg Matytsin. Our country and the world accepted this decision with respect and understanding as it meets the interests of the athletes, the coaches, and also the sport fans. The health of humans has always been a universal top priority.

In this context, speculations on anti-doping issues and statements on the need to ban Russian athletes from the 2021 Olympics appear exceptionally cynical. It would seem that we could put this matter to rest and understand that this is an opportunity for everyone to get a real understanding of the current events to avoid the mistakes of the past. But actually not everyone understands this.

I am speaking about a statement made by USADA CEO Travis Tygart, who admitted that the athletes caught doping could use the current situation to their advantage. By his logic, the period of disqualification for many of them will expire by 2021, and the violators will actually remain unpunished by receiving the right to compete in the Olympic Games in Tokyo. This is just sheer speculation.

Sadly, such hoaxes and false information are spreading rather fast ahead of the end of consideration of the request for arbitration filed by World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) with the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Lausanne, Switzerland, to resolve the dispute related to the non-compliance case against the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA). This looks like yet another attempt to exert pressure on the court.

The US sports community is known to often ignore anti-doping rules and consider them a sort of unnecessary formality. This time, another doping-related scandal emerged when John Gleaves, a 36-year-old US cyclist, was banned for an anti-doping rule violation. Gleaves, an assistant professor at the Department of Kinesiology at California State University who specialises in the history and ethics of doping, also happens to be an expert whose research interest is listed as "doping in sport". But the most paradoxical thing is that Gleaves once served as a member a working group on the prevalence of doping for the World Anti-Doping Agency and worked on an anti-doping advisory board for USA Cycling, and even served in cyclist Lance Armstrong's legal team as an expert witness in the federal government's fraud case against Armstrong.

US mainstream media, while seeking even minor scandals in Russian sports, have totally ignored John Gleaves' case. It looks like US journalists intentionally fail to mention the most blatant situations, including the case over the 'respected anti-doping expert' who happens to be an obnoxious violator.

For our part, we oppose any forms of doping and any manipulations during competitions. We will further support the principles of Olympic values and honesty and transparency of sports competitions, with unacceptability of discrimination and national teams' collective responsibility for law violations by certain individuals.



Luis Almagro Lemes’ re-election as OAS Secretary General

On March 20, the Organisation of American States held the re-election of the Secretary General at its headquarters in Washington. Current Secretary General Luis Almagro Lemes of Uruguay was re-elected by majority vote.

Russia has been enjoying the permanent observer status there for almost three decades now. It has established a useful interaction with the OAS, including in combatting new challenges and threats, such as international terrorism and drugs trafficking. We maintain constructive relations with all the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean, which are OAS members, and always advocate political and economic stability in that region.

Given this, we could not overlook that for the first time over a long period of time the elections of OAS Secretary General were not a consensus by their nature but revealed serious differences among member states, which is evidenced by the diversity of votes cast for the candidates. In this respect we want to express the hope that during his second tenure Luis Almagro Lemes will assist peaceful and non-confrontational solutions of the western hemisphere problems, which unfortunately abide.

This is the basis that we are ready to use for establishing further relations with the OAS in the spirit of mutual respect.



Parliamentary elections and constitutional referendum in Guinea

.......................................................



The 60th anniversary of Senegal’s independence

On April 4, the Republic of Senegal, with which we maintain traditionally friendly relations, will mark the 60th anniversary of state independence. The people of this country have a centuries-old history and original customs and traditions. Senegal today is one of the fastest growing African economies. Of course, given the ongoing processes it’s quite difficult to talk about the growth rates, but they remained at the level of 6 percent to 7 percent. At some point, these territories, which were first accessed by the Portuguese (among the Europeans) in the 15th century, who were later replaced by the French, were a slave trade stronghold. The small island of Goree located several kilometres away from the modern capital of Dakar became notorious all over the world. This "island of the doomed" was a prison for millions of Africans for 300 years. They were taken there from the mainland and awaited their shipment to South and North America. Alas, every third slave died of hunger or from diseases, and many of them perished on that island.The independence movement led by Leopold Sedar Senghor intensified in that country after WWII. He was an outstanding personality, a sociologist and a philosopher, a poet and a doctor of sciences. Alongside a number of other intellectuals of African descent, he developed a concept that preached the originality and intrinsic value of the civilisation of the indigenous African population, which made a special contribution to the history of humankind and human civilisation. In 1960, he became the first president of independent Senegal.

Relying on the traditions of the past, and continuing to demonstrate an enviable domestic political stability, Senegal today is actively modernising its economy and is consistently expanding the number of foreign investors. A modern international airport has been built in Dakar; the construction of high-speed railways and motorways is also underway. The "city of the future" with a romantic name of Diamniadio is being created30 kilometers away from the capital. We would like to heartily congratulate this friendly nation on its national holiday and to wish it continued success in achieving their goals, as well as peace and prosperity.







Answers to media questions:



Question:

The pandemic in Europe is said to have escalated so fast because Europe was not ready for it. Today, as we witness the terrible spread of the virus from West to East, people would like to know how Russia is going to protect its citizens from this epidemic. How will the quarantine announced by President Vladimir Putin be enforced? There are jokes on social media that the Russian President will release tigers and lions onto city streets to enforce the quarantine.



Maria Zakharova:

Regarding the measures taken by the Russian authorities to combat the spread of the coronavirus. First, they are regularly supplemented as developments unfold. Second, all information resources provide this information online. It is also necessary to focus both on the decisions of our federal authorities and on the measures announced in the regions, which are extremely important for the people residing in those regions of the Russian Federation. There are also measures related to entering and exiting Russia, and appropriate restrictions have been introduced. I am not going to list them, but instead I direct your attention to the relevant information resources: the sites (run under the auspices of the government), resources and measures that are being taken in our regions.

I was not expecting any humor in your serious question. But the joke you quoted from the internet that Russian President Vladimir Putin will release tigers and lions on the streets is actually funny: not because it couldn’t happen, but because traditionally we set bears loose on the streets – they are more effective.



Question:

Due to sanctions and a shortage of doctors, a terrible situation has taken shape in Iran. The coronavirus has torn through the country. If today the world community does not pay attention to the developments in Iran, then this problem may expand to the whole region in the near future. Russia is Iran’s closest friend. How can Russia help Iran in the fight against the virus and in lifting sanctions so that the international community can help normalise the situation not only in Iran but also in the region as a whole?



Maria Zakharova:

International aid to Iran, Russia’s aid to Iran is not just a serious issue but a global regional problem. I think that it can be called a problem on the global agenda, because it was largely artificially created, given the unprecedented pressure exerted on Iran: economic and political pressure, as well as endless statements that go beyond the bounds not only of decency and ethics, but of legality.

I would like to draw your attention to the fact that on March 24, 2020, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov had a telephone conversation with his Iranian counterpart, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. The summary was posted on the Russian Foreign Ministry’s website (https://www.mid.ru/ru/foreign_policy...ent/id/4092057). The ministers discussed issues related to the coronavirus epidemic, praised bilateral cooperation in countering this global challenge and noted Russia’s humanitarian aid to Iran. For his part, Sergey Lavrov emphasised what we have repeatedly spoken about at all levels – Russia strongly urges Washington to immediately lift its inhumane sanctions that are preventing the targeted governments from focusing entirely on fighting the pandemic. This applies first and foremost to Iran.

I would also like to draw attention to the comment made by Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov on March 21 (https://www.mid.ru/ru/foreign_policy...ent/id/4091467). He also called on the United States to abandon the practice of unilateral sanctions against Iran which suffers from an acute shortage of funds to address urgent health challenges as the coronavirus spreads.



Question:

Following a meeting with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Afghanistan, a list of delegation members is being drawn up for talks with the Taliban. It appears that intra-Afghan talks will begin soon. What is Russia expecting from the upcoming talks? Are there plans to hold a meeting of special representatives of Russia, the United States and other countries based on the outcome of the intra-Afghan talks?



Maria Zakharova:

First of all, Russia hopes that the intra-Afghan talks will begin soon, as preparations for it are moving ahead with great difficulty. The situation is further complicated by the lack of a single government in Kabul, as well as the unresolved issue of exchanging prisoners. In this regard, we welcome the agreement reached between the Taliban and representatives of Afghanistan to begin the process of releasing Taliban militants in exchange for government military personnel starting March 31.

We believe the intra-Afghan talks themselves will be difficult and lengthy. During these contacts, the parties should agree on a road map for post-conflict Afghanistan. In conjunction with China, the United States and other international partners, Russia will assist the negotiating process, including through the expanded troika meetings, to achieve an agreement as quickly as possible that suits all Afghan parties and results in sustainable peace in the country.


***


There was a story online that garnered significant attention. I think that whenever there’s a high-profile story related to Russia’s activities on the foreign policy track, you can always expect a prompt comment from the Foreign Ministry. For some reason, instead, many discussed it among themselves on social media without contacting us. Those who turned to us promptly received the information they sought.

I am referring to Poland allegedly refusing to provide an air corridor for Russian planes with military medical aid heading for Italy. The Polish Embassy denied these allegations. We didn’t confirm them, either. I would like you to know that everyone who turned to us at that point was told that we had no such information. We double-checked and put out quite detailed statements.

Once again, I want to say that Russia did not ask the Polish authorities to provide right of passage for Russian aircraft with humanitarian aid across the territory of Poland. A different route was used to deliver the cargo to Italy. It’s much ado about nothing.



Question:

There have been suggestions in some foreign media that Italy does not need Russia’s help and Russia is once again interfering in another country’s affairs. What do you think about this? Why are they again trying to make Russia look like an aggressor?



Maria Zakharova:

First, because it is already a popular trend that does not require any new style rules or study – it is difficult to call it “intellectual,” but some kind of study. Second, because this is real, burning jealousy that a country that is not tied to Italy by any blocs or alliances is developing friendly relations with it against all odds and is ready to offer help during one of the most dramatic moments of recent Italian history, without regard for the political context or views on the development of international relations in Europe, but out of a recognition of how the Italians are suffering and the tragedy the Italian nation is enduring, and an understanding that unfortunately hardly anyone was ready to help Italy when it desperately needed help. Everything that has been said or written can only be looked down upon; not with arrogance but simply with disdain for this whole exercise in futility.

Today people all over the world, on every continent, are living through a difficult moment the likes of which humankind hasn’t seen for decades. At this moment, people are showing the best of themselves, what they are really capable of, but at the same time, unfortunately, some are losing face. This is a moment of truth: a real one, one that comes perhaps only once in life. Everyone will show what they are capable of. Russia could help another nation, feeling for it and understanding the pain of people in another country.

I would also like to add that the Italians’ comments and answers to this question, as I have already quoted, have been perfect. Please note what they have said.


***


We continue to provide assistance to Russians abroad who are facing difficulties. The Foreign Ministry Staff operates every day, at nearly all hours of the day, as do our embassies.

Thank you for your attention.




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4093042
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Every briefing delivered by Mrs. Zakharova is top-notch.
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Every briefing delivered by Mrs. Zakharova is top-notch.
I agree, Ray






Press release on Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s telephone conversation with Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi



28 March 2020 - 11:42







On March 27, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov spoke by phone with State Councilor and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China Wang Yi.

The parties discussed the coronavirus pandemic. They praised the bilateral cooperation and exchange of experience in countering the pandemic, noting the effectiveness of the measures taken by both countries. The officials pointed out the importance of further expanding contacts in order to protect lives and ensure the safety of the two nations.

The ministers stated that in the current conditions of the pandemic Russia and China continue to strengthen their strategic partnership. They have the same positions on global affairs and promote foreign policy coordination, including the implementation of Moscow and Beijing’s responsibility as permanent members of the UN Security Council to maintain international peace and security.




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4093137






Comment by the Information and Press Department on the continuing military and political crisis in Yemen



30 March 2020 - 16:02



Hostilities have not abated in the Republic of Yemen, where the severe military-political conflict involving the Arab coalition led by Saudi Arabia sadly entered its sixth year recently.

Fierce armed clashes continue in Yemen’s Ma'rib and Al Jawf provinces. There is no end to the exchange of air strikes, with coalition forces bombing areas of Yemen controlled by the Ansar Allah movement and Houthis using missiles and drones to attack targets inside Saudi territory. It has been reported that the coalition’s antiaircraft systems recently intercepted several missiles launched against Riyadh and the town of Jazan not far from the Yemeni border.

Earlier, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called on all the parties involved in the Yemeni conflict to put an end to the bloody multi-year crisis in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

Moscow wholeheartedly supports this initiative of the UN Secretary-General. We believe it is necessary for all the warring parties to renounce violence and begin to seek a political settlement of existing differences. For our part, we are determined to continue to do our utmost to facilitate the UN-led negotiation process, which is intended to provide a comprehensive and durable solution to the numerous problems that Yemen is facing and which are much felt by neighbouring countries.




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4093306






Press release on Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s telephone conversation with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo



30 March 2020 - 20:10







On March 30, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov had a telephone conversation with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at the US side’s initiative.

As a follow-up to the telephone conversation between the presidents of Russia and the United States that took place several hours earlier heads of foreign offices continued an exchange of views related to the situation in the world caused by the coronavirus pandemic. They reaffirmed their intention to assist in implementing the decisions of the G20 summit held during a video conference call on March 26.

They also touched upon other topical issues regarding the international agenda, including the situation in strategic stability, the Syrian settlement process and other questions concerning bilateral relations.




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4093373






Comment by the Information and Press Department on North Macedonia joining NATO



31 March 2020 - 16:12



On March 27, after depositing its instrument of accession to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation in Washington, North Macedonia officially became NATO’s 30th member. By necessity the event had a lower profile and less pomp than previous waves of the alliance’s expansion due to ongoing concerns over the coronavirus.

Despite the emergency declaration in North Macedonia, its leaders still took time out to rhapsodise on the historic nature of the country’s accession to NATO, which supposedly will ensure stability and security of Skopje. Foreign Minister Nikola Dimitrov even called the country’s NATO membership “the testament of our fathers and grandfathers.” What was not mentioned, however, was how close the formal date of accession was to the anniversary of the start of NATO’s bombing of Yugoslavia.

From the moment the Prespa Agreement was signed with Greece in June 2018, the process of North Macedonia’s integration into NATO – the self-proclaimed “alliance of democracies” – has been marked by a great many procedural and legislative irregularities. According to national law, turnout for the referendum on EU and NATO membership on September 30, 2018 was too low for the result to be valid. Various cases of interference in North Macedonia’s domestic affairs, even blackmail and intimidation, became known to the public. All of this went unnoticed by our Western partners, who are usually such sticklers for detail when it comes to legislative procedure.

It is evident that Skopje’s membership in the alliance yields no added value to European, regional or national security. This step certainly will not make it any easier to join efforts to counter common threats and challenges, including the coronavirus pandemic. It will only create new lines of separation.

A clear rationale for North Macedonia joining NATO has still yet to be given. Its people are promised economic growth, increased foreign investment and greater rule of law. But it is not necessary to join a military-political alliance for this. Now Skopje is required to immediately increase spending on defence and purchases of Western, primarily American, arms and equipment. This is the price the Macedonian nation will have to pay for ceding its sovereignty on military-political and other matters.

Regarding the promised security dividends, the alliance is not always able to reliably protect its members or even put an end to old disputes between them, instead mastering the art of sweeping such things under the rug.

According to procedure, Skopje is expected to confirm acceptance of its NATO obligations under documents signed with Russia, in particular the 1997 Founding Act and the 2002 Rome Declaration.




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4093913






Press release on signing the Joint Declaration of the Russian Federation and the Republic of Burundi on No First Placement of Weapons in Outer Space



1 April 2020 - 21:00



On February 18 in Bujumbura and on March 27 in Moscow, Sergey Lavrov and Foreign Minister of the Republic of Burundi Ezechiel Nibigira signed the Joint Declaration on No First Placement of Weapons in Outer Space.

The Joint Declaration was another step in globalising the international initiative on no first placement of weapons in space. This initiative, the only act of transparency and trust to prevent an arms race in outer space, has become a significant political factor enhancing international peace, ensuring equal and indivisible security for all, as well as stepping up predictability and stability in countries’ activities in peaceful research and exploration of outer space.

In their Joint Declaration, the Russian Federation and the Republic of Burundi call on countries that are not parties to the initiative to consider the possibility of full-scale accession to it.




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4094131
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Briefing by Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova, Moscow, April 2, 2020



2 April 2020 - 17:51






Bringing Russian citizens home from abroad

Fulfilling the decisions by the Presidium of the Government Coordination Council to control the incidence of the novel coronavirus infection and the Emergency Response Centre to prevent the importation and spread of the new coronavirus infection on the territory of the Russian Federation, the Foreign Ministry is facilitating the return of Russian citizens from foreign countries. In close coordination with the Ministry of Transport and Rosaviatsiya (Federal Air Transport Agency), and using the full potential of Russia’s foreign missions, the Foreign Ministry is organising the return of Russian citizens from foreign countries. In the process, the Foreign Ministry is being guided by decisions made in an interdepartmental format with consideration for the changing situation.

Further measures are of interest to many people that are now abroad and are still unable to return home but are in need: they have no money, cannot pay for accommodation, and have no means of communication. I would like to explain the measures and decisions that have been adopted, are being developed and that will be carried out.

Following a regular meeting of the Presidium of the Coordination Council on March 30, the Foreign Ministry has been instructed to provide access to information on Russian citizens who want to return home to the Ministry of Communications, the Social Insurance Fund and the working group of the State Council on countering the spread of the coronavirus. This information includes mobile telephone numbers that are required for preliminary SMS information on the need to fill out an e-form on the Government Services’ single portal. The Finance Ministry has also been instructed to provide the Foreign Ministry with 2020 federal budget allocations for the support of Russian citizens that are unable to return to the Russian Federation, need material assistance and have no housing in the country of their stay.

At present, Russian Foreign Ministry’s overseas agencies are providing aid to citizens exclusively within the scope of their capabilities. We believe that global systemic aid will be available soon based on the decisions made under the aegis of our Government.

I would also like to remind all those who are returning now, have returned or will return to the Russia Federation via the airports in Moscow and who live in Moscow, the Moscow Region or other regions, that you are required to follow the restrictions established in each region for preventing the spread of the coronavirus infection. I am referring to the 14-day period of self-isolation at home, if they live in Moscow or the Moscow Region. I would like to draw your attention, once again, to the fact that each region of the Russian Federation has adopted relevant decisions that must be carried out by all those who return home.



Humanitarian aid as part of common efforts against the coronavirus infection

I also want to say that these days all responsible participants in international relations are aware of the new threat and new reality, which requires pooling all resources, capabilities and efforts to lead the world out of this difficult situation.

Countries of the world have been rendering each other much needed assistance. We would like to thank China for sending a relief consignment to Russia. On April 1, medical devices provided by the Chinese Government on a gratuitous basis were delivered by a Russian Aerospace Forces plane from Beijing to Moscow. The humanitarian aid has been sent, and relevant explanations have already been given on its contents.

I would like to note that we are also responding to requests coming to us in this difficult time.

As you know, Russian-US cooperation to combat the spread of the coronavirus infection is proceeding on the basis of understandings reached by the presidents of the two countries during their telephone conversation on March 30.

Under the agreement, a shipment of medical equipment was delivered to the United States by a Russian Defence Ministry cargo plane. Relevant explanations have been offered in response to questions put to the Russian side by US and Russian media.

I would like to answer all these questions again. Half of the shipment’s cost was paid by the Russian Direct Investment Fund and the other half by the US side. As you all know, the Russian Direct Investment Fund plays a major role in Russian-American business cooperation and supports US businesses in Russia.

At the present moment, and I believe this warrants heightened attention, Russia can help fight a common threat. I would like to underscore that this is a common threat, as everybody agrees now. At the most acute stage of China’s fight against the spread of the coronavirus epidemic, Moscow was one of the first to come to the aid of its Chinese friends. Now we are getting assistance from Beijing. Currently the United States is redirecting its manufacturers to make items needed to contain the coronavirus pandemic. We are sure that, if need be, they will be able to assist Russia later, if required.

Of course, we took note of the statement by the US State Department regarding the importance of joint efforts in fighting the coronavirus. Specifically, it reads that “both countries have provided humanitarian assistance to each other in times of crisis in the past and will no doubt do so again in the future. This is a time to work together to overcome a common enemy that threatens the lives of all of us.” We fully share this approach. Now is the time to work together!



Russia’s aid to Italy in countering the spread of the coronavirus

The Italian nation welcomed Russia’s aid. The Russian Federation provides humanitarian aid to counter the spread of the coronavirus, and it has nothing to do with a political agenda.

The decision to send large-scale aid to the Apennines was made following the March 21 telephone conversation between President of Russia Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister of Italy Giuseppe Conte, when the latter asked the Russian president for assistance.

The fact that Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio and Chief of Staff of the Italian Armed Forces Enzo Vecciarelli met the first planes of the Russian Aerospace Forces at Pratica di Mare Airport on March 22 shows the gratitude of the Italian authorities for Russia’s aid. The Italians welcomed Russia’s aid warmheartedly. You have seen those pictures. The Russian Foreign Ministry and diplomatic missions receive dozens of letters of gratitude, hundreds and even thousands of messages from ordinary people and various Italian public organisations. People living in Bergamo welcomed the Russian column with applause and the Russian anthem. The entire world has seen these pictures.

Russia’s aid to Italy is very specific and practical. I will not list all the contents of the humanitarian cargo sent there; everything has already been distributed and widely commented online by official representatives of the agencies who worked to send this cargo. In general, I can say that in addition to the humanitarian shipment, civil and military specialists and special equipment are working there; the Russian Ministry of Industry and Trade also sends aid to Italy. We will elaborate on this topic on our social media accounts.

I would also like to mention another thing. These are examples of civilised humanitarian cooperation, of mutual help, which are the best evidence of what humankind has acquired over these years. However, there is the other side of the coin: the attempts to distort the true aim of this aid. All the mechanisms of propaganda and information war are being used to diminish the importance of these humanitarian efforts or simply distort them. Everything is used, including fake news and disinformation. Of course, all of this will never be able to diminish the importance of cooperation between countries and their mutual help, or stop the sincere and noble impulse of countries, nations and heads of state which offer a helping hand during this difficult period for all humankind, when it is necessary. I believe we should follow these honorable examples; there should be more of them. We must support each other in this difficult period for humankind.



Response to misleading article in Italy’s La Stampa newspaper on Russian humanitarian cargo with masks for Abruzzo region allegedly detained in Russia

The Italian newspaper La Stampa has distinguished itself with a number of articles that directly misrepresent Russia’s humanitarian aid to Italy. La Stampa recently published another fake news story in order to distort Russia’s actions in connection with the sanitary-epidemiological crisis in Italy.

Referring to dubious sources (if any), the outlet reported completely inaccurate information on a shipment from Russia that had allegedly been sequestered.

Of course, we responded at the Russian Embassy level and will continue to respond.

We have managed to identify the intermediary – Giosar LTD, registered in London, whose representative flatly refused to provide any information on the transaction mentioned in the article, or to answer any questions on the location, the cost and nature of the cargo, or on the specific sender or recipient.

After we cut through the haze, it turned out that this was a purely commercial transaction that some foreign intermediaries tried to carry out through a non-transparent scheme. At the same time, Russian authorities were not informed in advance about this shipment and had nothing to do with it. But all of this is described by La Stampa in the context of Russia’s humanitarian efforts.

I think it has become clear to many that some traders, out of their greed for profit, are apparently trying to take advantage of the problems, and in this case, the tragedy in Italy.

We will continue to counter this kind of misinformation toughly and regularly.



Developments in and around Venezuela

The global situation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic is helping to peel away the husk to reveal what matters most: our world is really small and interdependent. This is why humanity in relations between people and between countries as well as solidarity in the face of a common threat are vital today.

This view is what motivated Russia’s proposal at the extraordinary G20 summit on March 26 to establish so-called green corridors free from trade wars and sanctions to exchange supplies of medicine, food, equipment and technologies. Ideally we should also introduce a common moratorium on restrictions on essential goods and financial transactions to purchase them. Why? The answer is obvious: to give humankind a chance at life, at a new life, a life built on truly humanistic values. President of Russia Vladimir Putin stressed that this was a matter of life and death for people; a humanitarian issue that must be free from any political husk.

Other global leaders echoed Russia, in particular, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and President of Argentina Alberto Fernandez. We are promoting a corresponding initiative at the UN together with a group of like-minded countries.

Venezuela is among the countries where sanctions must be lifted, especially in this tough situation. I would like to stress once again that this situation is tough for all countries without exceptions. Many powerful international figures speak about this publically, including UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet and UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food Hilal Elver. Even a group of American senators asked US President Donald Trump to suspend sanctions on the import of essential goods to Venezuela.

Important figures in the Venezuelan opposition also spoke in favour of this. Fighting the coronavirus is a unifying factor for a majority of the leading political forces in Caracas and the entire Venezuelan nation.

Unfortunately, we can see that a whole range of political groups in different countries are still guided by the logic of fleeting political interests, trying to use the difficult conditions in the world and the epidemiological situation in Venezuela, in particular, to achieve their political ends. These political forces intend to really crush the country and its people, because the idea of a coup to topple the legitimately elected President Nicolas Maduro still lives in some Western minds.

We are against blocking IMF aid to Caracas; and we condemn the fact that the US has put the head of a sovereign state on a wanted list based on a fabricated drug trafficking charge. At the same time, as if in mockery, Washington has announced its improvised “settlement” plan based on establishing some transitional government in Venezuela. For example, today we have received information that the largest “antidrug” operation in 30 years involving the US Navy has been launched in Latin America.

In this context the words of the US State Department representatives sound completely absurd.

A commonplace truth must be repeated, as we have already said many times. Only the Venezuelans as a sovereign nation have the right to determine their future based on their own laws, without destructive interference from outside the country. I would like to remind those who have forgotten: this is a cornerstone of democracy in international relations.

If we analyse the absurd American plan in the current context of the pandemic, there is no humanity or democracy in it.

Unfortunately, a whole panoply of political forces are trying to advance their agenda in a situation where every day counts to prevent the uncontrollable spread of this infection. We believe that in this situation aggravated by foreign sanctions the Venezuelan leadership headed by Nicolas Maduro is acting quite effectively.

Next, at a time when the world has in fact introduced a moratorium on all significant political and public events, it was suggested that some schedule for national elections in Venezuela be developed and approved with an emphasis on the re-election of the president. We believe that all thoughts must be, above all, about the Venezuelans and ways to help the country overcome this pandemic. We can talk about the unrealistic US plans for Venezuela for a long time, but I think we have said enough. We will continue to monitor this.



Human Rights Watch’s criticism of the “incredibly harsh conditions” of detainees in Russian pretrial prisons due to the lack of adequate medical care amid the coronavirus pandemic

We noticed the Human Rights Watch’s article claiming that Russian detainees allegedly suffer from incredibly harsh conditions in custody due to the lack of proper medical care.

I would like to emphasise that the Federal Penitentiary Service of Russia, together with the relevant sanitary and epidemiological departments, is taking the necessary measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. We believe that using the developments in any countries in a political context today is inappropriate and unworthy.

As for Human Rights Watch, the situation in their home country requires much more attention than the situation in our country. It would be worthwhile to pay attention to the situation in prisons and not only there, where this NGO has the opportunity to fully use its response potential based on real facts. They have such an opportunity in the United States.

I think the NGO is aware of the fact that 1.5 million people are kept in US prisons as of 2017. There are also Russian citizens among them. It would be good if Human Rights Watch drew attention at this difficult time to the fact that there are Russian citizens who have been kept in US prisons for many years and who really need medical care because they are in poor health, including due to the illegal actions of local authorities. There is such a problem, and we are talking about it. Therefore, Human Rights Watch has every opportunity to use its resources to this effect.

For a long time, we have been urging Washington to free Konstantin Yaroshenko, Viktor Bout, Bogdana Osipova, Roman Seleznev and many others. Over a week ago, on March 24, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov sent US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo another message on this subject, calling for humanity amid the real danger to their health. It would be nice if our efforts, given the vigilance of Human Rights Watch, would be supported by the actions of this non-governmental organisation.



Statements by EU Ambassador to Russia Markus Ederer

We have taken note of the surprising comment on Russia’s aid to Italy by EU Ambassador to Russia Markus Ederer.

Having properly thanked Russia for its assistance to friendly Italy, Mr Ederer repeated the groundless words of those who are in charge of propaganda in the EU. They are accusing Russia of a disinformation campaign. This is inexcusable behavior. If the EU Delegation to Russia has questions or facts showing clear informational errors, incongruities or even disinformation, we are always ready to reply and discuss materials like this. You have not submitted such materials because they do not exist. It is you who are involved in disinformation efforts. It is a shame to engage in this behaviour during these hard times for the entire humanity, including the EU.



The Netherlands’ admission of civilian deaths in bombing of Iraq in 2015

The news coming from the Netherlands provides an opportunity to revisit the bombing of Hawija (Iraq) by the Dutch Air Force in June 2015. The Foreign Ministry released an assessment of this event last December but at that time The Hague stubbornly rejected any involvement in killing several dozen civilians.

Apparently, under pressure from the public and certain MPs, Dutch Defence Minister Ank Bijleveld finally admitted that 70 civilians were killed during this operation by the Dutch Air Force. She tried to offer an excuse for this. She said that nobody in the Netherlands knew about the real scale of the accident until recently because the United States did not present the final figures on the victims of the air attack.

This is an interesting story. Having been pinned to the wall by hard facts, The Hague suddenly decided who was to blame, notably, the United States. Meanwhile, in the last five years, the Dutch authorities have tried to teach everyone how to observe human rights, to ensure information openness, to counter disinformation, how to sentence criminals to a fair punishment and put them behind bars. Sort it out! Five years were not enough to discover the fate of the people who were simply bombed and killed in a foreign country. Someone ordered this, and not by mistake. Someone gave an order and 70 innocent people were killed. These 70 civilian deaths have been counted in the total statistics of the anti-ISIS coalition since April 2017.

The conclusion is simple. The Dutch authorities were fully aware of the consequences of this operation by the Dutch Air Force and simply concealed the fact of mass killing of Iraqi civilians from the Dutch public. Keep this in mind when these authorities tell you the so-called truth next time.



Europe’s first deal with Iran via INSTEX

The delivery of medical supplies to Iran has been reported in the media. This is the first such shipment through a new mechanism, the Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges (INSTEX), that the EU established in 2019.Of course, we can only welcome the progress with INSTEX that facilitates normal business transactions and lawful trade and economic cooperation with Iran despite US sanctions. In fact, we did so while INSTEX was still being developed. At the same time, there is no getting around the fact that the preparations, some of which were really needed and others were more like tilting at windmills, took almost a year, with the first news of the upcoming transactions dating to June 2019.

We understand that effective tools to offset the impact of illegal unilateral US sanctions is a new, labour-intensive undertaking for the European Union. Still, it has yielded some results. What needs to happen now is further efforts in this area. The procedures already established need to be improved and stepped up. If INSEX is to be a success, it needs to include US-sanctioned goods and non-EU countries that are Iran’s major trade partners. Then, INSTEX will be a fully fledged tool, fulfilling expectation as a powerful element of the global response to sanctions.

We will comment and provide information on later developments. The need for such tools usually becomes especially apparent in times of challenge such as the coronavirus pandemic. Unilateral sanctions in times like these are unacceptable, cynical and immoral.



Facebook ban of Serbian news group

It has come to our attention that Facebook has blocked the account of Vostok.rs, a Serbian news group that is known for publishing stories from the Russian media.

The reason is unclear. Officially, the ban was due to a violation of the “community standards,” but it was imposed after the publication of materials about the anniversary of the NATO aggression against Yugoslavia in 1999, which begs the question of whether it was indeed a coincidence.

It seems that an administrator or staff member responsible for moderation and censorship of social media, including Facebook, did not like being reminded about the tragic events that took place 20 years ago and the unsavory role played by the countries complicit in the aggression against a sovereign nation. The ban was introduced silently, taking advantage of the fact that everyone’s attention is now focused on the coronavirus and combatting the pandemic.

It is of course another violation of the freedom of speech, an act of political censorship with a clear anti-Russian subtext. Even in times of severe hardships when humanity is fighting a common enemy, which is the pandemic, some politically biased parties, including the media, resort to dirty tricks by censoring news, even though the times demand a different kind of action.







Answers to media questions:



Question:

It was decided that embassies must use their own budgets to help Russian citizens in difficult situations. How will the embassies be compensated for these costs considering that it is impossible to send additional funds to some countries due to the sanctions, and that diplomatic post will not be delivered? What is the plan for embassy operations?



Maria Zakharova:

I am starting with this because it is the main issue on the Foreign Ministry’s agenda today: how to help Russian citizens. I have also said that efforts are underway in two areas: to bring Russians home and to develop systematic measures (the Government is working on this; and the Foreign Ministry will implement it). Again, that’s global systematic measures to help those abroad who desperately need money.

First, all of these measures will be carried out online. Once this mechanism is developed in detail (this should happen in a couple of days), our embassies will be given corresponding instructions. So far, the foreign missions are using their own capacities to help those in need with logistics, paperwork, transfers to airports and help with accommodation. There are examples of informal, personal responses: diplomats at some embassies sympathise with certain people and help them with their own money. This is a good example, because now they are mostly working within a given situation instead of simply implementing instructions.

We are often told that it is impossible to reach the Foreign Ministry on the telephone. The peak load is about 200 calls per minute: no institution has that kind of capacity. The number of calls can reach 10,000–15,000 daily. I would like to note that in some countries the number of people wanting to return home is a hundred times more than the number of diplomatic mission employees, who still have to answer phone calls and messages. They still need to do the practical work: fill out the paperwork for flights, update lists and send them (because they are constantly changing with new people and the people that leave), prepare these lists based on the quotas; prepare documents for people (letters on visa extensions and requests for copies – any paperwork); and logistics. All this while trying to take so many calls and messages.



Question:

At what stage is the organisation of commemorative events to mark the 10th anniversary of the crash of the Tu-154M aircraft carrying Polish leadership, and the 80th anniversary of the Katyn massacre? Has been there a concrete request from the Polish side? Will the Polish delegation visit given the current situation?



Maria Zakharova:

The Polish party filed a formal request for assistance in organising a visit by the delegation of the Republic of Poland led by Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki to Smolensk and Katyn on April 10, 2020, to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the presidential plane crash and the 80th anniversary of the Katyn events.

We are working on this issue in close contact with our Polish partners with regard to the global development of the COVID-19 situation.



Question:

At 7 pm on March 30, Azerbaijan again violated the ceasefire regime. They shelled Armenia’s Tavush Province, wounding Armenian military personnel and a child who is now in the ICU. How can you comment on it?



Maria Zakharova:

According to our information, there have been cases of ceasefire violation on the border. Attacks are being made on civil facilities and personal automobiles. There are wounded people, including civilians.

We urge the parties to show restraint, refrain from using force and come back to the negotiating table as soon as the objective conditions allow it.


***


We will continue to hold briefings, answer questions and provide prompt comments on the website of the Foreign Ministry and on its social network accounts. Our priority is to assist Russian citizens who are currently abroad. The Ministry’s central and foreign offices have devoted all efforts to this purpose. I want our citizens to know this.




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4094236
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Comment by the Information and Press Department on the Donbass settlement process



2 April 2020 - 20:41



A videoconference of the Contact Group for a settlement in Donbass was held on March 26. Regrettably, it ended in failure, as Russia’s representative in the Contact Group Boris Gryzlov described in detail. We would like to discuss some important aspects of this teleconference.

Russia takes seriously its role under the Minsk Package of Measures and the decisions of the summit in the Normandy format that was held in Paris last December. We are actively working with all sides of the conflict – Donetsk, Lugansk and Kiev. We are coordinating our actions with Germany and France as members of the Normandy Quartet.

Owing to direct contacts with the Ukrainians, it became possible to launch a settlement process. In February-March of this year, the sides narrowed the gap in their positions on the disengagement of forces and exchange of detainees, began drafting a roadmap and decided in principle to set up a Consultative Council and record the decisions of the Contact Group in written protocols.

The first written protocol with clear-cut tasks for the future was signed by Donetsk, Lugansk, Kiev and the OSCE on March 11 with the personal participation of the Deputy Chief of Staff of the Russian Presidential Executive Office Dmitry Kozak and Head of the Ukrainian Presidential Office Andrei Yermak.

Regrettably, strange things began to happen after the initial breakthrough. During telephone conversations, Berlin and Paris offered different excuses to hedge its support for the Kiev-Donbass agreements. Kiev also renounced these agreements at the Contact Group meeting on March 26. One gets the impression that the Ukrainian negotiators were put up to it. This rollback destroys the initial positive momentum.

Four days later, on March 30, the foreign ministers of German and France made an extensive statement with yet another helping of unfounded accusations against Donbass. They blamed it for slowing down the talks and taking an unconstructive position. All else aside, the ministers demanded that Donetsk and Lugansk grant the OSCE Special Monitoring Group unlimited freedom of movement on their territory. The right of the republics to introduce restrictions due to the coronavirus like Ukraine and other European countries is rejected out of hand. These are dubious democratic values.

All but simultaneously with this statement, Ukrainian representatives in some international organisations, including the UN, OSCE and the Council of Europe, accused Russia of ostensibly using the pandemic to get anti-Russian sanctions lifted, for propaganda purposes.

All these events look like a well-orchestrated effort. We hope this is not an attempt to torpedo progress at the talks on overcoming the domestic crisis in Ukraine while blaming Russia and Donbass for the deadlock.

We are urging our Normandy partners to stop the political games and start serious talks on reaching a settlement in Donbass in line with the Minsk Package of Measures and the decisions of the Paris summit of the Normandy Four last December.




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4094286






Comment by the Information and Press Department on rescheduling the Polish delegation’s visit to Smolensk and Katyn



3 April 2020 - 16:22



On April 3, the Polish side announced its decision to postpone the visit of the official Polish delegation led by Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki to Smolensk and Katyn slated for April 10 to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the presidential plane crash and the 80th anniversary of the Katyn events.

However, we were perplexed that Head of the Prime Minister's Office Minister Michal Dworczyk justified the decision by claiming that Russia had not given an unambiguous written reply to the proposed logistic plans of the visit.

We are surprised by the new provocative invective of the Polish authorities, all the more so that the note from the Polish Embassy we received today mentioned threats pertaining to the coronavirus pandemic as reasons for postponing the visit.

I want to remind you that after receiving the relevant request from Warsaw on February 14, the Russian Foreign Ministry immediately replied in a note saying that the Russian side was ready to assist in arranging the visit and asking our Polish colleagues to provide all the information necessary for preparing the event. The advance party that arrived in Moscow on March 4 said that it would be a visit by the Prime Minister and promised to provide the requested information promptly. Complete information on the delegation members and the event programme was received only on March 25. After that, the delegation lineup and numbers changed many times, which required additional approvals. 

Nevertheless, despite the difficulties caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the short notice, the Russian side displayed full readiness to cooperate. The Russian Foreign Ministry and the Russian Embassy in Warsaw were in close contact with the Polish side all that time. On March 30, the Russian Federal Guard Service and the Polish State Protection Service discussed specific aspects of organising the visit during a video conference call. We have done considerable preparatory work involving many Russian agencies. We have taken difficult decisions on opening Russian borders for the Polish delegation. We informed the Poles that Russia would send a high-ranking delegation to Smolensk, confirming our readiness for bilateral contacts. Throughout our contacts with the Poles, Warsaw expressed satisfaction with the level of cooperation.

Now, instead of appreciation, we meet with defiant ingratitude, which lies at the door of Polish politicians, who go on speculating about the holy theme of the air crash victims, their citizens. We have made the relevant conclusions.




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4094520






Deputy Foreign Minister Andrey Rudenko’s interview with news agency Moscow-Baku, April 3, 2020



3 April 2020 - 16:38



Question:

Russia and Azerbaijan have had diplomatic relations for 28 years. What is the main achievement of these relations?



Andrey Rudenko:

Traditionally, we celebrate the anniversary of diplomatic relations between the Russian Federation and the Republic of Azerbaijan on April 4. During this historically short span of time we have managed to create a firm foundation for Russian-Azerbaijani strategic partnership, which promotes the development of mutually beneficial cooperation. Relations between Moscow and Baku are based on the principles of sovereign equality, non-interference in internal affairs, genuine respect for each other’s interests, as well as the preservation and consolidation of the traditions of friendship and neighbourly ties.

Today, Russia and Azerbaijan maintain close and vigorous cooperation in the political, trade, economic, cultural and other areas. The open and trust-based dialogue between President of Russia Vladimir Putin and President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev provides a powerful impetus for this (in 2019 they met twice and had five telephone conversations). Last November, First Vice President of Azerbaijan Mehriban Aliyeva paid a successful visit to Russia.

Russia is one of Azerbaijan’s main trade partners. In 2019, bilateral trade reached $3.2 billion, which is a 27.4 percent increase over 2018. A total of 950 joint ventures are operating in Azerbaijan. Russia’s investment in Azerbaijan is $4.5 billion, and Azerbaijan’s investment in Russia is $1.5 billion.

We are successfully carrying out a five-track Action Plan through 2024, which is aimed at raising the Russian-Azerbaijani strategic partnership to a new level. The two countries are drafting a new (sixth) roadmap on cooperation in innovation development and in the digital economy.

Our countries also focus on cultural, humanitarian and educational cooperation. About 11,000 students from Azerbaijan are studying at Russian universities. State grants have been awarded to about a thousand of them. Every year, students from Azerbaijan receive over 200 scholarships. A Moscow State University branch has been operating successfully in Baku for over a decade. A branch of Sechenov First Moscow Medical University has been operating in Baku since 2015, and other universities are considering opening branches in Azerbaijan. Days of Russian Culture were held in Azerbaijan last year. There was much interest in the events. This year, Days of Azerbaijani Culture are scheduled in Russia. A representative Azerbaijani delegation is expected to take part in the 9th St Petersburg International Cultural Forum on November 12-14, 2020.



Question:

During the past six months, similar processes – the full or partial change of government and socio-economic reforms – have taken place in both Russia and Azerbaijan. Do you think this shows that they are marching in step, being aware of current challenges?



Andrey Rudenko:

As an official, I find it difficult to evaluate the domestic processes in Azerbaijan and draw parallels with what is happening in our country; this is for political scientists and analysts. I will only make one point. Obviously, the changes taking place in Russia and Azerbaijan are primarily aimed at improving the economic situation and living standards and enhancing the social support of the people. These are the priority goals of the leaders of our countries, which meet the needs of the time.



Question:

The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is the most sensitive issue for Azerbaijan year after year. We regularly see completely opposite positions from the two sides to this conflict, including how to settle it. Does Russia see any opportunity for practical steps on settling this crisis? What measures does Russia consider effective to bring peace to the people in this region?



Andrey Rudenko:

We share the concerns of both sides over the lack of progress in this conflict. Russia is far from indifferent to the destiny of the people of Azerbaijan and Armenia, both of whom are close to us, and we have strong relations based on deep historical roots with both. We want people to stop dying and we are interested in the return of peace and stability in this neighbouring region.

A settlement can only be achieved through peaceful diplomatic means. It is necessary to show political will and avoid a dead-end scenario based on an all-or-nothing policy. Both sides need to start coming to terms based on the premise that the road to settling the conflict is a two-way street rather than unilateral concessions. Real steps aimed at reaching compromise will be the best way to prepare the people for peace. As for Russia, we will provide the necessary mediation in cooperation with the other co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk group.



Question:

In the past few years, Azerbaijan has regularly hosted meetings with the militaries from Russia and NATO and from Russia and the United States. Does this testify to the sides’ special trust in Baku and the recognition of its role as a go-between to a certain extent?



Andrey Rudenko:

Indeed, Chief of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces, First Deputy Minister of Defence of the Russian Federation Valery Gerasimov has had several meetings with NATO leaders in Baku. The city was chosen as a venue due to its convenient location and, of course, traditional Azerbaijani hospitality. It should be noted that in each case the choice of venue is determined during bilateral contacts between respective military departments.



Question:

This year, our countries will celebrate a very important date – the 75th anniversary of Victory in the Great Patriotic War. What do you think about Azerbaijan’s position on the issue of preserving the memory of the Great Patriotic War and its contribution to countering attempts at rewriting the history of this war and glorifying Nazism? Can you also talk about Azerbaijan’s contribution to the Victory?



Andrey Rudenko:

Victory Day in the Great Patriotic War brings our people and countries together and reminds us of the need to appreciate our common historical past.

We all remember the priceless contributions of the former Soviet republics, including, of course, Azerbaijan, to the victory over Nazi Germany. About 600,000 Azerbaijanis fought on the fronts of the Great Patriotic War, and more than half of them were killed or reported missing. The title of Hero of the Soviet Union was conferred on 121 Azerbaijanis. Azerbaijanis showed valour and dedication both on the battlefields and on the home front. From 1941 to 1945, Baku sent 75 million tonnes of oil and 22 million tonnes of petrol to the front lines, as well as 500,000 tonnes of cotton and other strategic raw materials. Over 440,000 wounded soldiers received medical treatment in evacuation hospitals in Azerbaijan.

Azerbaijan traditionally supports Russia, and in 2019, it co-authored the Russian draft of the UN General Assembly resolution “Combating glorification of Nazism, neo-Nazism and other practices that contribute to fuelling contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.” This confirms that we have consonant approaches to interpreting the events and assessing the results of the Great Patriotic War.

Russia has planned large-scale festivities on the 75th anniversary of Victory in the Great Patriotic War. The May 9 parade on Red Square will be the highlight of these events. We are looking forward to the arrival of many high-ranking foreign guests, including President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev.




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4094557






Deputy Foreign Minister Andrey Rudenko's interview with the Armenian newspaper Novoye Vremya (New Times), April 3, 2020



3 April 2020 - 22:16



Question:

Mr Rudenko, the most urgent subject on today's international agenda is the situation unfolding in connection with the COVID-19 pandemic. Countries have to self-isolate, and traditional links between them that seemed indestructible are breaking down. Russia and Armenia are connected with close and highly comprehensive defence, economic, geopolitical and cultural ties. How is the current state of affairs affecting the bilateral cooperation as well as the interaction within the EAEU? Are the two countries jointly seeking ways out of the situation as well as ways to minimise the inevitable losses?



Andrey Rudenko:

Russia and Armenia have always joined forces when it comes to handling challenges and threats they have faced, and the current COVID-19 pandemic is no exception. From day one, the heads of government together with their deputies, as well as the heads of the health ministries and related departments and organisations, including foreign ministries and our countries' embassies, have been in constant contact with one another.

Speaking of the medical aspect, the Russian side immediately responded to the request from its Armenian friends and provided Yerevan with the necessary Russian-manufactured products. Those include the much required test kits, Reverta-L reagents, RIBO samples, and other such things. Russian companies operating on the Armenian market have joined the efforts as well by taking part in raising funds for preventing and combating the spread of coronavirus in the republic.

We are aware that given Armenia's geopolitical location, export and import deliveries are crucially important for the country, particularly the deliveries of essential commodities and food. Despite the Russian-Georgian and Armenian-Georgian borders being closed, we have managed to maintain a traffic flow between our countries via the Verkhny Lars checkpoint. We appreciate Yerevan's assistance in bringing Russian tourists back [to their homeland], including those who wanted to return to Russia via Georgia.

Bilateral efforts are naturally enhanced by the joint work within the EAEU, which is particularly relevant under the current conditions, with coordinated steps needed to fight the pandemic. Such formats as the Council of Heads of Authorised Bodies in the Field of Sanitary and Epidemiological Welfare of the Population of the EAEU Member States, as well as the Eurasian Economic Commission's Interim Coordinating Council to Monitor the Situation, have proven efficient. Within these structures, we established a regular exchange of data on anti-pandemic efforts, and we implement a coordination of mutual assistance and exchange information on national measures to secure macroeconomic stability and commodity trade.

Emergency response measures cannot but affect business activities and human contacts. However, as one Armenian proverb goes, "every bit of trouble serves as a lesson." We must learn a lesson from the current unprecedented situation.



Question:

There has recently been a series of incidents on the Armenia-Azerbaijan border that resulted in casualties. The Russian Foreign Ministry urged the parties to the conflict to show restraint. Of course, as a co-chair of the OSCE Minsk Group on Nagorno-Karabakh, Russia has to take a balanced and neutral position. But in this case, these incidents are not directly related to the Karabakh conflict, and part of Armenian society wonders if Moscow remembers that our countries are allies in the CSTO and moreover, are members of a mutual defence treaty.



Andrey Rudenko:

The Russian Foreign Ministry has repeatedly asked Armenia and Azerbaijan to refrain from using force, take effective measures to stabilise the situation and to continue settlement negotiations. This is our firm and unchanging position.

It is extremely important for Russia that peace should be established in Nagorno-Karabakh, that people should not be killed there and the borders should be opened. All disputes should be resolved in a peaceful way between the parties to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The settlement of such a complicated issue requires, as Sergey Lavrov has repeatedly said, a search for a well-reasoned compromise. We, as a co-chair of the OSCE Minsk Group, are striving to make it reflect the real and just balance of interests.

As for the OSCE, the organisation continues to make a significant contribution to the strengthening of peacekeeping potential and the systems of regional security and stability in the South Caucasus.



Question:

Information appears from time to time that after the change of government in Armenia two years ago, relations between Yerevan and Moscow lost their high degree of trust and depth. Moreover, as it was recently said in one of Estonia’s intelligence documents, Moscow “can barely tolerate the current authorities of Armenia.” How would you comment on such statements?



Andrey Rudenko:

I suggest you ask Tallinn; it seems that the “Estonian guys” know more about it than anyone. May it weigh on their conscience. I can assure you – and the statistics of the past year confirms it – that the dynamics of cooperation and the intensity of bilateral contacts have not diminished and, in fact, have significantly grown.



Question:

With understandable interest and sympathy, Armenia is following Russia’s actions in Syria aimed at the total coercion of terrorist groups entrenched there, the preservation of the country’s territorial integrity and the restoration of the Syrian economy. Armenia was the only CSTO country that sent its sappers and military doctors to assist the Russian contingent in Syria. Are you considering the possibility of expanding our cooperation there to strengthen the region’s stability and security? And on a more general note – how is Russia-Armenia interaction, including diplomatic ties, progressing on international platforms?



Andrey Rudenko:

Russia and Armenia, like other CSTO members, call for a prompt settlement of the Syrian conflict by a political process that is led and realised by the Syrians themselves with the assistance of the UN, in accordance with Resolution 2254 of the UN Security Council. An entire section of the joint ministerial statement of the CSTO Council of Foreign Ministers in Bishkek of November 27, 2019, is devoted to the situation in Syria.

Our countries speak for achieving a reliable and long-term stability and security in Syria with the continued fight against terrorists recognised as such by the UN Security Council, down to their elimination. Moscow and Yerevan stand for sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of the Syrian Arab Republic.

At the same time, our two countries attach great importance to humanitarian assistance to all Syrians who need it, without discrimination or any prerequisites; assistance to a voluntary, safe and proper return of refugees and displaced persons to their homes. We highly value the contribution of the Armenian side, which provides humanitarian aid to Syria, in particular, in the Aleppo area, clears mines and eliminates explosive substances, and provides medical aid.

We are overall satisfied by the Russia-Armenia interaction on international platforms. It means that the two countries respect each other’s interests and needs, be it a vote on documents or mutual support of candidates to the UN system. Regular consultations between our countries’ foreign ministries based on two-year plans promote the efficiency of the joint format and coordination of foreign policy measures on the global stage.



Question:

There is no doubt that the current difficult situation caused by the coronavirus pandemic will end one day and the restoration of disrupted relations and contacts will begin. Our nations will celebrate together a very important anniversary: 75 years of Victory in the Great Patriotic War. Given this, do our countries have plans to expand, deepen and improve cooperation? Can we expect any breakthroughs or actions that may further promote the mutually beneficial rapprochement between Armenia and Russia?



Andrey Rudenko:

Indeed, very soon we will celebrate, together with our Armenian friends, the 75th anniversary of Victory in the Great Patriotic War. Prime Minister of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan has accepted the invitation to the celebrations on Red Square. Armenian servicemen and servicewomen will also arrive. We know that Armenia is preparing for this important date. You are proud of the heroic deeds of your fathers and grandfathers: all in all over 600,000 Armenians served in the Red Army, 70,000 of whom were decorated with orders and medals and 103 became Heroes of the Soviet Union. This shows that Russia and Armenia are united in their assessment of WWII results and its lessons, which guarantees the preservation of our collective historic memory and spiritual traditions.

As for the current state and prospects of bilateral relations, our multidimensional dialogue is based on a solid contractual foundation: since the establishment of diplomatic relations on April 3, 1992, we have entered into over 200 interstate and intergovernmental treaties and agreements.

Substantial dialogue at the highest and high levels gives the required impetus to our joint work. All Russian government agencies have established close contacts with their Armenian counterparts, which enables us to promote cooperation in a variety of areas.

Tangible results have been achieved in trade and the economy. Russia remains Armenia’s leading trade and investment partner. In 2019, our trade reached a record figure of $2.5 billion. Total Russian investments account for about 45 percent of all foreign investments in Armenia. Major joint projects are being implemented in industry, energy, transport and agriculture, as well as in the financial and banking sector. Interaction in the high-tech area also has good prospects.

Inter-regional ties encompassing about 70 Russian regions and practically all Armenian marzes (regions) are developing dynamically. Inter-regional forums are held on a regular basis, and the next one is scheduled for 2021. Humanitarian exchanges are broadening, including in education, science, information, sports, culture and art. About 9,000 Armenian citizens are studying at Russian universities and colleges.

Naturally, this does not mean that we can rest on our laurels. We must continue our work on the implementation of long-term agreements and instructions agreed by our countries and seek higher efficiency of the existing mechanisms. We expect the next meeting of the intergovernmental commission on economic cooperation to be held before the end of this year.

It is my deep conviction that the potential of Russian-Armenian interaction is far from exhausted and through joint efforts we will be able to strengthen our allied relations even more for the benefit of our two nations.




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4094581






Comment by the Information and Press Department on the CoE leaders’ participation in the Coronavirus Laws global online forum



3 April 2020 - 22:20



On April 2, the Council of Europe (CoE) said on its website that Secretary General Marija Pejcinovic Buric and Deputy Chairman of Russia’s Security Council Dmitry Medvedev will speak at a plenary session of the global online forum, The Coronavirus Laws, held as part of the St Petersburg International Legal Forum. CoE’s Human Rights and Rule of Law Directorate will co-chair the discussion during the Human Rights under the Quarantine panel.

As you may be aware, in connection with the ever spreading coronavirus infection, the 10th St Petersburg International Legal Forum will be held on May 18-22, 2021 instead of May 2020.

At the same time, it was decided to use its interactive platform and hold a special 9½: International Coronavirus Laws forum dedicated to the legal aspects of social life during the pandemic on April 10-12. This event will be used to discuss, in particular, human rights, public administration, lawmaking, the judicial system, the information space, sanitary restrictions and business as well as other aspects of the economy, the society and the state during the pandemic. Heads of public authorities, international organisations, courts and law and notary public associations, as well as corporate heads, lawyers and researchers from a variety of countries are all welcome to attend.

In this regard, we welcome the CoE Secretary General Marija Pejcinovic Buric agreeing to speak at the opening of the global online forum, as well as the willingness of CoE’s Director General of Human Rights and Rule of Law Christos Giakoumopoulos to co-chair the panel, “Human Rights under the Quarantine.” We also expect representatives of the European Court of Human Rights to attend the forum.

Of course, the effective response to the coronavirus pandemic’s fallout tops the global agenda. It is gratifying to know that Russia’s proposal to hold an online discussion on the legal aspects of this matter was widely approved by leading experts from all around the world.

We believe that the Council of Europe should more than ever before use its vast potential as a multifaceted pan-European organisation to promote international cooperation on providing rapid response to a variety of the pandemic challenges ranging from protecting human rights, primarily, those of the vulnerable groups of the population to sharing best practices in healthcare, education and relief work. We are convinced that amid the current challenging circumstances, the CoE should stop being a place for settling political scores and it should become a platform for uniting the efforts of the European countries as they combat common problems. We believe this is the key to successfully achieving the organisation’s main statutory goal which is to promote unity of its member countries.




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4094591






Comment by the Information and Press Department of the Russian MFA on the Launch of Military Operation «Irini» by the European Union



4 April 2020 - 12:25



We took note of the decision of the European Union to launch a new military operation “Irini” in the Mediterranean, with its main goal defined as supporting implementation of the UN arms embargo imposed on Libya.

We would recall that “arms sanctions” were introduced by the UN Security Council as a measure that would contribute to the settlement of the Libyan conflict. In order to enhance the control, the UN Security Council established by its Resolution 2292 in 2016 a special procedure for inspections on the high seas off the coast of Libya. During this time, only individual inspections of suspicious vessels were carried out under the established regime by the EU military operation “Sophia”, the predecessor of “Irini”. In general, the effectiveness of “Sophia” in this field has been low, and last year saw indeed a suspension of the work of its maritime component.

We will closely follow how effective “Irini” will be, especially against the backdrop of escalation of the conflict in Libya and reports of increased violations of the UN arms embargo. We have warned our European partners that the operation should be in full compliance with international law, as well as the framework established by Resolution 2292. Any other steps would require consent of the UN Security Council. We assume that operation “Irini” will cover the entire Libyan coast. Imbalance in the matter could negatively affect international efforts to promote dialogue between the opposing Libyan parties. We will take the above aspects into account while considering another extension of the inspection regime on the high seas off the coast of Libya in June 2020.

Meanwhile, we reaffirm the central role of the UN in the Libyan settlement and look forward to early appointment of a special envoy of the UN Secretary General who would enjoy confidence of the parties to the conflict.




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4094613






Comment by the Information and Press Department on the UN General Assembly reviewing the Declaration of Solidarity on Combating the Coronavirus Pandemic



4 April 2020 - 12:28



Russia insists on promoting international solidarity in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. We emphasise the unique role of the UN in this effort. We welcome the UN General Assembly’s resolution on this matter, spearheaded by Ghana, Indonesia, Liechtenstein, Norway, Singapore and Switzerland. We were supportive of its adoption by consensus.

However, admittedly, the above document ignores a number of important aspects related to the pandemic which the UN Secretary-General and other senior UN officials are urging everyone to address.

In this regard, Russia submitted a draft Declaration of Solidarity in Combating the Coronavirus Pandemic to the General Assembly to reiterate the international community’s commitment to the UN Charter principle of cooperation between states. The text put an emphasis on the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) coordinating role in combating the pandemic and focused on the principle of cooperation in developing a strategy to curb the spread and treatment of the coronavirus infection. It contained a call to provide assistance to the most affected states, especially developing economies, and to stop trade wars. It also called for the lifting of unilateral sanctions imposed in circumvention of the UN Security Council and for immediate access to food and medicine to be ensured. Also, the draft declaration pointed out the need to counter the practice of reselling essential goods at inflated prices.

Twenty-eight states co-sponsored this declaration.

The United States, Great Britain and the EU, with Ukraine and Georgia tagging along, were against the consensus-based adoption of this absolutely humanistic document. Regrettably, even in the face of a pandemic, they chose to stick to their politicised stances. The unwillingness of a number of international actors to drop their sanctions policies, which put ordinary people in the most vulnerable states on the brink of survival, appears particularly outrageous. We believe that, in these emergency circumstances, the UN Secretary-General should raise his voice in favour of lifting discriminatory restrictions.

We will continue coordinating the efforts to promote our declaration with like-minded people. We hope all interested countries will join it. We remain convinced that amid the current challenging sanitary and epidemiological situation, the politicisation of discussions on the viral infection will adversely affect the global efforts to contain the pandemic. We call upon states to closely coordinate their efforts to respond to the new threat in order to minimise the loss of life and alleviate the ramifications for the global economy.

Guided by the principle of solidarity, Russia continues to provide bilateral and WHO-related assistance to the countries that are most in need as they continue to fight the coronavirus infection.




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4094623






Comment by the Information and Press Department on tariff barriers on Serbian goods in Kosovo



6 April 2020 - 14:37



Authorities in Pristina continue to manipulate the topic of lifting the 100 per cent customs tariffs on goods from the central part of Serbia, which were imposed in November 2018 and resulted in the Kosovo settlement process coming to a halt.

Kosovo’s “acting prime minister” Albin Kurti, in another gesture of demagoguery, announced the lifting of the tariffs as of April 1, but temporarily and with restrictions that contain many preconditions. First, Kosovo is insisting on a “reciprocity principle” forcing Belgrade to mark the goods under Pristina’s standards, which means to agree to insert the self-proclaimed “Republic of Kosovo” into documents which would imply the indirect recognition of this quasi-state.

Thus, the Kosovars have not softened their stand as had been demanded by their Western patrons but rather tightened their preconditions instead. It is telling that even Washington, which thoroughly supports Kosovo’s “independence,” was critical of Pristina’s latest move which deliberately delays the prospect of resuming the dialogue with Belgrade. In this context, the EU’s ecstatic reaction seems odd since, as one of the mediators the EU should respond with a sober assessment of the situation without favouring either party.

We believe these anti-Serbia steps by Kosovo’s authorities need to be completely and unconditionally reversed.




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4096385
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Interview by Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the EU Ambassador Vladimir Chizhov for International News Agency «Russia Today» 3 April 2020



7 April 2020 - 10:13



Question:

Three German members of the Greens / European Free Alliance Group of the European Parliament have called upon EU leaders to tackle a suggested COVID-19 disinformation campaign allegedly waged by Russia. How would you comment the letter that contained the call?



Vladimir Chizhov:

This document would not have deserved reaction had it not been for the moment when it appeared. The current situation of the coronavirus pandemic clearly requires all states and nations to unite forces. And at this point getting obsessed with such narratives and accusations – obviously groundless – is more than odd.



Question:

And don’t you feel any additional pressure from the European Union in view of the words “Russian disinformation”?



Vladimir Chizhov:

And also “disinformation” from China, by the way. You know, I believe that obsession with so-called “Russian disinformation” is due to intellectual poverty of those dealing with it. Probably, there is an instinctive inclination to shift to others all the problems brought by the current pandemic.

Western Europe has enough of these problems. We see the numbers shown by certain EU countries regarding those infected, we know the extent of mutual grievances between member states, the problems European institutions are facing in their attempts to find common solutions and a common way out of the situation. There can be diverse opinions on these matters. But at this stage, as the famous Chinese proverb goes, distracting public attention to searching for a black cat in a dark room, especially when it is not there, is shameful, to say the least.



Question:

You have mentioned internal problems the European Union has faced due to the coronavirus. How timely has the EU leaders’ response been to them?



Vladimir Chizhov:

I would not like to resemble the actors I have just criticised and comment on this subject at such a delicate moment. Although an unbiased observer may notice that the EU leadership has been a bit late in its response. But let us attribute it to the fact that it is still “young” – rotation on key posts took place just a few months ago.

EU economic problems caused by the current pandemic will by no way disappear. They are here to stay. Cash is being massively injected to support certain sectors of the economy – not only in the European Union, but also in the US, China and in my country, Russia. European Union leaders discussed the situation on 26 March, but did not manage to achieve full unity on all points. For instance, they postponed their own decision by instructing the Eurogroup to elaborate response measures to the crisis caused by COVID-19 in two weeks’ time: the next meeting of the Eurogroup is scheduled for 7 April only. There may be contacts in between though.

By the way, all this is happening now in videoconference format. And how effective such communication is remains a big question. This format of negotiations will probably stay popular after the crisis. As it is certainly cheaper than meetings in person. But there arises the issue of confidentiality, as well as that of elaborating legally binding decisions. How are they supposed to be signed? Of course, the so-called written procedure for signing decisions has long been applied in EU countries. But it can protract the process.

For the time being, it would be obviously premature to talk about the modalities of European Union’s exit from the crisis. However, the statistics of recent days indicate that those European countries that were the first to sink deeper into it will probably be among the first to start coming out. I am referring to Italy, first of all.



Question:

How will the European Union endure this crisis?



Vladimir Chizhov:

One should not embrace all sorts of theories that this is the beginning of the end of the European Union. In my personal opinion, it is not the case. I believe that the European Union has the potential of resilience against external challenges. We have witnessed it before. Take the global financial crisis of 2008-2009, the eurozone crisis that followed. There was also the migration crisis with its peak in 2015, and recent years saw the epic Brexit unfolding before everybody’s eyes. And every time there were those who thought the European Union would fall apart. But it did not.

I do not want to fall into extremes. The EU, as well as the rest of the world, will certainly suffer from calamities caused by the current pandemic, and it is difficult to predict in detail yet in what state the European Union will emerge from the crisis. But it will.



Question:

Do you think we will see in the future the strengthening of pan-European anti-crisis measures to counter the consequences of coronavirus?



Vladimir Chizhov:

Probably yes. But it is too early to talk about it.



Question:

What lessons can the EU learn from the current situation?



Vladimir Chizhov:

One of them may be that the ideologues of continued European integration will start thinking more pragmatically. I mean they may have fewer illusions and, I would say, make fewer attempts to run ahead of the caravan. Let us recall the situation of 2004 when an “explosive” expansion of the European Union occurred. Then, 10 countries – the Czech Republic, Poland, Cyprus, Malta, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Slovakia and Slovenia – joined the EU. Prior to that the EU had a choice of path to make – mechanical expansion of the union or deepening integration within the previous composition. Choosing the first path resulted in considerable difficulties both within the EU itself and in its relations with external partners, including my country. By the way, Russian representatives had warned their colleagues in the EU of this danger.



Question:

Can the current situation stall the EU enlargement process – even though member countries have finally approved the launch of accession negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia?



Vladimir Chizhov:

From my point of view, the political decision on Albania and North Macedonia to launch negotiations without specifying the date of their real start, let alone their end, makes little difference in practical terms. However, it sends a powerful political message not only to those countries, but also to other applicants, as well as to the rest of the world, that the European Union is alive and still attractive. It is also a signal to itself: despite the current crisis, representatives of EU countries managed to agree on an issue that had been the subject of their lengthy and serious disputes.



Question:

I have a question on sanctions. Against the backdrop of the global pandemic and the need to combat it, there were statements that sanctions are inappropriate at the present time.



Vladimir Chizhov:

That is what UN Secretary General António Guterres was saying, and his appeal was supported by many countries. Russia also backed it, and at the highest level.



Question:

Is anything changing on this track in the EU?



Vladimir Chizhov:

To be honest, I do not know for sure. We are still not discussing the issue of so-called sanctions with the EU. As we were not the ones who imposed them, it is not up for us to initiate their lifting. In March the European Union extended once more individual restrictive measures without special pomp. How will Brussels proceed further? Let us see what their conscience tells them.




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4096533






Comment by the Information and Press Department on the US President’s executive order on encouraging international support for the recovery and use of space resources



7 April 2020 - 20:59



We are closely watching statements and other actions by various states, including the US, that have recently demonstrated a much higher interest in the recovery, exploration and use of the resources on the Moon and other celestial bodies.

Thus, we have noted the April 6 executive order by the US President.

First, the timing of this statement is indicative. It was released at a time when all of humanity is using all of its political, material and intellectual resources to resolve one of the most urgent problems today, the COVID-19 pandemic.

Second, it is unclear why the US administration wants to assume the leading role in creating a global agenda on this sensitive international issue. We believe that all states are equal in exploring and using outer space for peaceful purposes.

We will consider the current trend in the policies that certain states have adopted (outside the UN framework) on the exploration and use of resources in outer space. A continuation of this approach is fraught with serious risks for international cooperation and understanding, including in outer space.

We would like to emphasise that universally recognised principles and standards of international space law are the immutable foundation of this discussion. They are codified, in part, in the Outer Space Treaty of January 27, 1967, which holds that outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies, cannot be subject to national appropriation in any way.

We are convinced that clarity which meets the interests of the entire international community and which is necessary for implementing major programmes and projects on the exploration and use of outer space can only be created by the purposeful and consistent efforts of the states, which are responsible for the activities of their business entities.

We believe there is an urgent need for the international community to make a collective effort to prevent outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies, from becoming an arena for international discord and conflict.

We reaffirm our interest and willingness to hold a practical and open discussion on this issue with due observance of the norms and principles of international law, including the UN and its Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space. We also confirm our commitment to large-scale international cooperation on both the scientific and judicial aspects of the exploration and use of outer space for peaceful purposes.

This is how we will cooperate with the United States, based on our experience of joint space exploration over many decades.




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4096701






Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s message to Executive Secretary of the Southern African Development Community Stergomena Tax on the occasion of the organisation’s 40th anniversary



8 April 2020 - 13:23



Madam Executive Secretary,

On behalf of the Foreign Ministry and on my own behalf, I congratulate you on the 40th anniversary of the founding of the Southern African Development Community, which is one of Africa’s largest and most respected associations.

We commend the community’s successes in advancing political and economic integration, and in maintaining peace and security in southern Africa. We note their importance and relevance in the context of the goals and objectives of the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the African Union Agenda 2063.

Taking into account the memorandums of understanding signed between Russia and SADC on the basic principles of relations and cooperation and on military-technical cooperation, Russia is committed to strengthening political dialogue and cooperation with SADC in a number of priority areas, including trade, the economy, investment, research, technology and culture.

I would like to express my confidence that the existing format of partnership between Russia and SADC will be beneficial for promoting the entire range of our ties.

Allow me to wish your influential organisation further success in its work in the interests of ensuring peace and stability, well-being and prosperity of the peoples of southern Africa.


SERGEY LAVROV

Moscow, April 1, 2020




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4096787






Statement by the Foreign Ministry concerning the 10th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty between the Russian Federation and the United States of America on Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms



8 April 2020 - 14:40



On April 8, 2010, the Russian Federation and the United States of America signed the Treaty on Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms (New START Treaty). The Treaty was an important new step in developing Russia-US interaction to control nuclear weapons in the interests of strengthening international security and strategic stability. It reduced the strategic arsenals of the two countries to unprecedented levels and formed an effective mechanism of mutual transparency and predictability. Since the New START Treaty came into effect, the parties have conducted over 300 reciprocal inspections at each other's strategic facilities and have exchanged nearly 20,000 notifications. Matters related to the implementation of the Treaty are regularly reviewed by the Bilateral Consultative Commission established for this purpose.

The role and importance of the Treaty are growing significantly in today's difficult international conditions, as it remains virtually the only mechanism of arms control and limitation in relation to the strategic weapons of our two countries. We believe it is necessary to maintain this proven mechanism and to ensure that it remains viable. We are convinced that this would meet the interests of both Russia and the United States, as well as those of the entire international community, guarantee predictability in the nuclear weapons sphere, and help maintain strategic stability.

At the initiative of Russian President Vladimir Putin, in December 2019, an official offer was made to the American side to extend, without preconditions, the New START Treaty and to begin working through related practical issues. We look forward to a speedy response in the affirmative from the United States.




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4096810






Deputy Foreign Minister Andrey Rudenko’s interview with the TASS news agency, April 9, 2020



9 April 2020 - 18:02



Question:

What is the status of the formation of the Advisory Council that the sides tentatively agreed to in Minsk to discuss the political aspects of a settlement of the conflict in Donbass?



Andrey Rudenko:

The idea to establish the Advisory Council was needed to reach a compromise. As you known, the Minsk Package of Measures instructs Kiev, Donetsk and Lugansk to jointly determine the political and legal aspects of a future co-existence in a single state. The Normandy summit held in Paris last December reaffirmed this goal.

Since Kiev has been avoiding any talks with Donetsk and Lugansk (although it has been doing this de facto in the Contact Group for five years now), it was suggested that various aspects of the special status of Donbass should be settled by the public, by representatives of civil society rather than the authorities.

This is the option that was discussed in Minsk. On March 11, the sides reached an OSCE-backed agreement to create an Advisory Council consisting of public representatives within the Contact Group’s political subgroup.

Kiev, Donetsk and Lugansk were expected to negotiate and agree on the procedure for establishing this council in time for the Contact Group meeting on March 26. Regrettably, this did not happen on March 26 or at its next meeting on April 8. We have not been told why the Ukrainian negotiators backed out. It is perplexing and regrettable.



Question:

According to Russian plenipotentiary representative in the Contact Group, Boris Gryzlov, Kiev refused to negotiate new sections for the disengagement of forces or take additional ceasefire measures, with the connivance of the OSCE representative. Is there hope that the sides will be able to agree on new sections for the disengagement of forces at least by the end of spring? Where is the discussion of this issue at now?



Andrey Rudenko:

Based on the decisions of the Normandy summit in Paris, the sides were supposed to decide on the new sections and carry out the disengagement of forces and equipment by the end of March. Unfortunately, the sides have not even determined the coordinates for new sections, let alone carrying out the process of the disengagement itself. We are doing everything we can to bring the positions of the sides closer and we hope they will come to a mutually acceptable compromise.

Incidentally, the disengagement of forces and equipment has not been fully completed even in the three previous sections in Zolotoye, Petrovskoye and Stanitsa Luganskaya. I am referring to mine clearance and de-fortification. The OSCE SMM has not yet verified the disengagement of forces and weapons.



Question:

A new Normandy formant meeting was expected to be held in April. But the terms for holding it have not been observed because the Paris agreements have not been carried out. Will a decision to cancel it be announced? Is it possible to hold it in a video format like the G20 did?



Andrey Rudenko:

You are correct that the agreements of the Paris summit have not been fulfilled yet. I am referring to agreements on a ceasefire, the disengagement of forces, the opening of new check points, mine clearance, the implementation of the Steinmeier formula and the reconciliation of the positions on all aspects of the special status of Donbass.

It only makes sense to hold this summit when these agreements are carried out. Incidentally, the decisions of the previous Normandy meeting were fulfilled before the Paris summit, primarily because the new government in Kiev showed political will. Moreover, the final documents of the new summit must be coordinated in advance.

Of course, the coronavirus pandemic is changing the schedules and the meeting formats of all international agencies. The Normandy format is no exception.



Question:

What does Moscow think about the adoption of the law on land in Ukraine?



Andrey Rudenko:

I do not think it is appropriate for me to comment on this issue. I advise you to address our Ukrainian colleagues, those who have insisted on adopting this law over the years.



Question:

Have there been difficulties in talks with Ukraine on organising special trains for the repatriation of citizens during the pandemic?



Andrey Rudenko:

There has only been one train so far. On March 28, the Ukrzaliznitsa train took 710 Russian citizens to Moscow and carried 710 Ukrainian citizens to Kiev. There were no organisational problems at all. Everything was done promptly and in a businesslike manner. Using this opportunity, I would like to thank the Russian and Ukrainian participants for this.



Question:

Has Belarus asked Russia to help counter the coronavirus? Are there plans to do this? Is Russia ready to help other CIS countries?



Andrey Rudenko:

Yes, Russia has received relevant requests from Belarus. We are considering them in the spirit of the allied and fraternal relations between our countries.

A total of 10,000 tests for the coronavirus with reagents were delivered to Minsk gratis on April 4. There are also requests for other things. They are all being reviewed now.

In March and early April, Russia sent over 1,500 test kit sets for laboratory diagnostics to CIS states. Each set can be used for 100 tests for the coronavirus. In April and May we will supply them with over 3,000 kit sets.

Russian kits will allow the CIS countries to test nearly 450,000 people.



Question:

What events are being planned by the CIS and in what format?



Andrey Rudenko:

The CIS Heads of Government Council plans to meet in Tashkent on May 29. The issue of countering the coronavirus infection has been included on the agenda at the initiative of Uzbekistan.

The CIS Coordinating Council is doing a lot to protect national territories from the import and spread of the most dangerous diseases. On March 19, it held an emergency meeting in a video format. The next meeting will take place on April 21.

The EAEU agenda is even more intensive. The Eurasian Intergovernmental Council will meet soon at the level of heads of government, while the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council will meet at the level of heads of state. These meetings will be held in video conference format due to the epidemiological situation. This format has proven useful for the Eurasian Economic Commission Council meetings at the deputy prime minister level, which are now being held on a weekly basis.




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4097427






Comment by the Information and Press Department on the Release of the first report by the OPCW Investigation and Identification Team (“Syrian Chemical Dossier”)



9 April 2020 - 20:16



Established by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) as a result of targeted political and legal manipulations by Western countries, the “attributive” Investigation and Identification Team (IIT) released, on April 8, the findings of its first, pilot report on the three alleged chemical incidents in the Syrian village of Ltamenah on March 24, 25 and 30, 2017. The main conclusion in this document, compiled as the Western countries’ political put-up job, is that “there are reasonable grounds to believe” that in all three instances, chemical weapons were used by the Syrian Arab Air Force, and the relevant orders had come directly from the higher authorities of the Syrian Arab Republic military command.

It was difficult to expect anything else from an entity that was heavily imposed by a narrow circle of “interested” states upon a purely technical body like the OPCW. They insisted on the creation of the IIT contrary to the fundamental provisions of the relevant Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) and the generally recognised precepts of international law. The IIT’s “powers,” as we have repeatedly noted, infringe on the sphere of exclusive prerogatives of the UN Security Council, as enshrined in the UN Charter.

The experts recruited for the IIT, mainly from Western countries, have carried out an impressive amount of work, as the OPCW Technical Secretariat leaders stated in their “presentation” of the report. They produced an 80-page document, predictably based on the already known and quite dubious “insights” of the OPCW Fact Finding Mission to investigate chemical incidents in Syria. It also includes the noticeable “signature” of the former OPCW-UN Joint Investigative Mechanism, which completely discredited itself with its anti-Assad bias.

The authors of the report, and consequently the leaders of the OPCW Technical Secretariat, have thus become accomplices in the consistent violation of the basic principles and procedures of objective and unbiased investigations stipulated in the CWC, which requires the mandatory dispatch of experts directly to the sites of alleged incidents. The information gathered by the IIT mostly came from anti-government armed groups and pseudo-humanitarian NGOs affiliated with them, including the notorious White Helmets.

We have also noted that the report contains references to certain secret services data – apparently from the same states obsessed with a change of power in Damascus. There is no other word for it but misinformation. One example is the correlation drawn between two incidents in Ltamenah involving aerial bombs allegedly charged with sarin and the ​​Syrian Air Force’s actions in the same area – the Su-22 front-line bombers departing from Shayrat airbase, previously attacked by American missiles in a wrongful act of aggression. They motivated that attack, which violated the UN Charter, with Syria’s use of aviation over the nearby town of Khan Shaykhun on April 4, 2017. We have repeatedly pointed out that the Su-22 military airplane flying across Khan Shaykhun simply could not have delivered a conventional payload to the opposite suburb several kilometers away, as was alleged. The rules of ballistics and the laws of physics cannot be overruled even by experienced specialists in “geopolitical engineering.” By the way, at some point the American military also recognised this, albeit through gritted teeth, when they published the data of their own objective control.

Russian experts will carefully study the IIT’s pilot report and give it a comprehensive analysis. We have no doubt that numerous international independent experts will do the same, those who have repeatedly proved the questionable nature of the never-ending accusations against the Syrian authorities of using toxic chemicals and high-grade chemical warfare agents. The scandalous story with the OPCW Technical Secretariat falsifying an investigation report of a high-profile incident in the Syrian city of Douma on April 7, 2018, which turned out to be a staged provocation by the White Helmets, was as good a proof as the IIT report that all those “attributors” actually have nothing else to offer but lies and falsifications. This is confirmed by the lightning-speed approval of the IIT report by Washington and some other Western capitals where anti-Syrian findings had been “programmed” in advance, as reality has shown.




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4097437
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Briefing by Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova, Moscow, April 9, 2020



9 April 2020 - 23:22






Russian nationals who wish to return home during the coronavirus pandemic

..................................................................



US insinuations about Russia spreading disinformation

We never cease to be amazed by the western countries' cynicism in using the coronavirus in their information war.

We are perplexed and surprised to see attempts made by certain US media and top officials to accuse Russia of conducting an alleged "disinformation campaign" against the United States in the context of the coronavirus pandemic. We addressed the US Department of State specifically to demand factual evidence that could prove such claims, given the fact that they were made by officials as well. We received neither reasonable explanations nor facts on this issue. It turns out that the Americans are spreading false information themselves.

We are observing the way the internet's US segment users are actively promoting various conspiracy theories claiming the virus could be man-made – and naturally, blaming Russia and other countries. Obviously, attempts are being made to hammer this idea into people's minds and spread it as if it was part of some information attack. We have information that clearly proves US government structures are coordinating these attempts.

Amidst the current global efforts to tackle the pandemic, with 1.5 million confirmed cases including 400,000 in the United States, these accusations against Russia are not only groundless but they are also unscrupulous. It is true that many Americans are scared and they write different things online – yet, fuelling speculations and playing on people's fears for political ends is unacceptable and dangerous.

Russia is actively engaged in joint efforts to counter the pandemic and curb its consequences. We understand that the humankind can cope with this challenge, which is unprecedented in the contemporary world, only through collective efforts. This is what is crystal clear now. We are doing much in our country and making every effort to provide assistance to other states, including the United States.

We deem these attempts to fabricate such accusations against Russia as further efforts to pursue a misguided anti-Russia practices favoured by certain political circles in the Washington establishment. They are not concerned about the current global needs during these trying times, including what the United States needs, with its immense number of the infected people and deaths. We express solidarity with the American people during this tough period and urge responsible US politicians to give their objective assessment of these insinuations.



Statement by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Washington's plans to reconsider its financial contribution to the WHO

We noted a statement by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Washington's plans to reconsider its financial contribution to the World Health Organisation (WHO). US President Donald Trump has also made statements in this regard.

We deem this stance as ineffective and such statement as inappropriate and counterproductive amidst the increasing global spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. It should be noted that the final statement by the G20 online summit, as well as the recent consensus-adopted resolution by the UN General Assembly on global solidarity in tackling the coronavirus, acknowledge the WHO's crucial coordinating role in curbing the spread of COVID-19. The United States previously supported the above documents, and such an abrupt change in its stance is perplexing. Why support everything adopted recently and then start blaming the WHO for everything?

We support a call by WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom to avoid politicising the situation with the pandemic. We are confident that COVID-19 is a challenge to the entire international community, and stepping up the struggle against it is possible only through coordinated efforts by all nations.

In this connection, I would like to recall that Russia has made a decision to allocate significant funding to support the WHO efforts in battling the coronavirus pandemic. Additional decisions may follow. We urge all countries that can do it to follow suit.



UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’s call for global ceasefire against the backdrop of the spread of coronavirus

On March 23, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called on parties to the regional armed conflicts to immediately cease hostilities, establish a ceasefire and a humanitarian pause against the backdrop of the rapid spread of the coronavirus throughout the world. The Foreign Ministry supported the call by publishing a respective statement.

The parties to conflicts in many countries have heeded the UN Secretary-General’s appeal in the past two weeks in the context of the deteriorating global pandemic. The intensity of the hostilities is reported to have decreased in Cameroon, Columbia, Myanmar, Sudan, South Sudan and the Philippines.

The situation in Syria is becoming more stable. Russian-Turkish agreements on Idlib are being implemented.

There is a certain trend toward normalisation in Afghanistan where interaction is being stepped up by Kabul and the Taliban on a peaceful settlement despite a high level of violence.

However, intensive fighting continues in a number of countries while in some cases the pandemic serves as a pretext for new aggressive belligerent moves.

Thus, the Ukrainian army continues mass shelling of the Donetsk and Lugansk people’s republics which causes civilian casualties.

Washington’s decision to launch a military operation on curbing drug trafficking in Latin America which is accompanied with a military build-up around Venezuela, can result in utterly unpredictable and negative consequences under the current circumstances.

Unfortunately, the intensity of hostilities in Yemen is not subsiding. The “Arabian coalition” and Houthis exchanged air strikes in March.

We are alarmed to see over the past few days the escalation of the intra-Lybian conflict, including in the context of ratcheted-up military activities by the forces loyal to the Government of National Accord.

We expect that Guterres’s call will be heeded by the parties to all armed conflicts. Otherwise the international community faces the risk of a humanitarian catastrophe of a global dimension. Meanwhile, we hold that the counter-terrorist efforts should be continued whatever the case might be.



Syria update

Overall, we believe that the situation on the ground is stable. The spread of the coronavirus is currently the main threat for the entire world, as well as for Syria too. However, the territories that are not controlled by Damascus, i.e., in Idlib, Al-Tanf and in the country’s northeast, cause special concern.

The implementation of the Additional Protocol signed by Russia and Turkey on March 5, 2020, continues in the Idlib de-escalation zone. The ceasefire regime that has been introduced is being observed, in general, although fighters persist in their attempts to derail our efforts. In particular, they are doing everything to prevent Russia and Turkey from undertaking joint patrols within the security corridor that runs along the M4 main road. This proves yet again that terrorists, as designated by the UN Security Council, hold sway in Idlib. They are committed to perpetuating bloodshed and violence. Therefore, it would be unacceptable to use the ceasefire regime as a pretext for whitewashing these terrorists or shielding them from legitimate counter-terrorist efforts.

Areas east of the Euphrates and around Al-Tanf are facing the most challenging and potentially explosive situation in terms of the coronavirus outbreak. Let me remind you that these are precisely the parts of Syria that were illegally occupied by the United States and its allies. There is no humanitarian access to these regions. According to the United Nations, these areas are still highly infested with landmines and unexploded ordnances with only two hospitals and four first aid stations in operation. These territories are home to a number of potential infection outbreak zones, which could pose the greatest threat, including overcrowded prisons with over 10,000 imprisoned ISIS fighters, as well as IDPs camps with about 67,000 living in the Al-Hawl camp alone.

Rukban is another infamous camp for IDPs within the 55-kilometre safety zone arbitrarily established by the United States around Al-Tanf. With the support from the Russian military, the Syrian authorities have evacuated and relocated over 19,000 refugees between March and July 2019. However, in August 2019 the operation to dismantle the camp stalled after illegal armed groups controlled by the United States refused to grant security guarantees to UN staff members who joined the effort to evacuate people. As a result, some 12,000 people became Rukban’s hostages. Fighters use them to blackmail the international community by asking for humanitarian aid and then appropriating it.

There is no doubt about the causes of the current dire situation in these parts of Syria. It results from the massive presence of terrorists, recognised as such by the UN Security Council, as well as the illegal presence of the United States and its allies. They are the ones responsible for what is taking place in the territories under their control.

Against the backdrop of these challenges, working together to prevent and neutralise the threat we are all facing has special importance. Russia supports the call made by UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet and other UN officials for lifting or easing the unilateral sanctions against Syria. In this context, we call on the relevant international organisations as well as the financial institutions such as the World Bank to reject the calamitous practice of politicising humanitarian efforts and help vulnerable countries, such as Syria, to deliver every necessary assistance to their populations in the heat of the coronavirus outbreak without discrimination or preconditions.



OPCW Investigation and Identification Team releases report (the so-called Syrian Chemical Dossier)

Established by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) as a result of targeted political and legal manipulations by Western countries, the Investigation and Identification Team (IIT) that is responsible for identifying the perpetrators of the use of chemical weapons released, on April 8, the findings of its first, pilot report on the three alleged chemical incidents in the Syrian village of Ltamenah on March 24, 25 and 30, 2017. The main conclusion in this document, apparently drafted under political pressure from Western countries, is that “there are reasonable grounds to believe” that in all three instances, chemical weapons were used by the Syrian Arab Air Force, and the relevant orders had come directly from its command. It is an outrage to see a statement of this kind in a document released by an international organisation following an investigation that took several years. What have you been up to in the OPCW, if two years after the investigated events you are saying “there are reasonable grounds to believe”? Since you went as far as to release a report, you have to go all the way, and if you make any assertions, you must show the facts.

It was difficult to expect anything else from an entity imposed by a narrow circle of “interested” states upon a purely technical body like the OPCW. They insisted on the creation of the IIT contrary to the fundamental provisions of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) and the generally recognised tenets of international law. The IIT’s “mandate,” as we have repeatedly noted, infringes upon the exclusive authority of the UN Security Council, as enshrined in the UN Charter.

The experts recruited for the IIT, mainly from Western countries, have carried out an impressive amount of work, as the OPCW Technical Secretariat senior executives stated in their “presentation” of the report. They produced an 80-page document, predictably based on the already known and quite dubious “insights” of the OPCW Fact Finding Mission to investigate chemical incidents in Syria. It also includes the noticeable “signature” of the former OPCW-UN Joint Investigative Mechanism, which completely discredited itself with its anti-Assad bias.

The authors of the report, and consequently the leaders of the OPCW Technical Secretariat, have thus become accomplices in the consistent violation of the basic principles and procedures of objective and unbiased investigations stipulated in the CWC, which requires the mandatory dispatch of experts directly to the sites of alleged incidents. When experts are working on the ground and collect evidence, the reports they produce do not refer to any “reasonable grounds to believe.” This is what this problem is all about. The information gathered by the IIT mostly came from anti-government armed groups and pseudo-humanitarian NGOs affiliated with them, including the notorious White Helmets.

We have also noted that the report contains references to data from certain secret services – apparently from the same states obsessed with regime change in Damascus. How can an international organisation rely on data from secret services? Every country has structures of this kind. If an international body relies on data from secret services, it might just be worth telling us which countries they represent. This would make many things much clearer. There is no other word for it but misinformation. One example is the attempt to find a link between two incidents in Ltamenah involving aerial bombs allegedly charged with sarin and the Syrian Air Force’s actions in the same area – the Su-22 front-line bombers departing from Shayrat airbase, previously attacked by American missiles in an illegal and misguided act of aggression. They motivated that attack, carried out in violation of the UN Charter, with Syria’s use of aviation over the nearby town of Khan Shaykhun on April 4, 2017. We have repeatedly pointed out that the Su-22 military aircraft flying across Khan Shaykhun simply could not have delivered a conventional payload to the opposite suburb several kilometres away, as was alleged. The rules of ballistics and the laws of physics cannot be overruled. No matter how serious your document is, it has to go beyond political considerations and be based on scientific data. By the way, at some point the American military also recognised this, albeit through gritted teeth, when they published the data of their own objective control.

Russian experts will carefully study the IIT’s pilot report and give it a comprehensive, fact-based analysis. We have no doubt that numerous international independent experts will do the same, those who have repeatedly proved the questionable nature of the never-ending accusations against the Syrian authorities of using toxic chemicals and high-grade chemical warfare agents. The scandalous story with the OPCW Technical Secretariat falsifying an investigation report of a high-profile incident in the Syrian city of Douma on April 7, 2018, which turned out to be yet another staged provocation by the White Helmets, was as good a proof as the IIT report that all those “attributors” actually have nothing else to offer but lies and falsifications. They are guided by political interests, while relegating to the background considerations of legality, international law and statutory instructions issued to experts, who derive their mandate from the relevant international organisations. This is confirmed by the lightning-speed approval of the IIT report by Washington and some other Western capitals where anti-Syrian findings had been “programmed” in advance, as reality has shown.



Arab coalition’s ceasefire declaration in Yemen

Late at night on April 8, the command of the Arab coalition led by Saudi Arabia that supports President of the Republic of Yemen Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi announced that as of 12 noon today, April 9, it will unilaterally stop all combat operations. The ceasefire in Yemen will be in force over a period of the next two weeks and may be extended.

Arab coalition spokesperson Turki al-Maliki said in a statement that the decision was made in response to the recent call made by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to introduce a humanitarian ceasefire in Yemen, which would facilitate the necessary measures to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus infection in the country.

It was noted that the leadership of the coalition also intended to support the initiative of UN Special Envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths who suggested organising talks between representatives of Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi, the Ansar Allah Houthi movement and the Arab coalition under the auspices of the UN to discuss a lasting ceasefire and the launch of a comprehensive political process in Yemen.

Moscow praises the decision of the Arab coalition. We hope that all parties to the Yemen crisis will appreciate the UN’s efforts aimed at de-escalating the conflict and the beginning of inclusive talks. We believe that the participants in this dialogue will be finally able to start a constructive discussion of the important matters of the termination of the lingering armed confrontation and the establishment of peaceful life in Yemen.



Afghanistan update

The situation is Afghanistan remains unstable despite the deal signed by the US and the Taliban in Doha on February 29 on the withdrawal of foreign troops from the country and the creation of conditions to start a peace process. The parties to the conflict continue hostilities resulting in the deaths of civilians.

We are especially concerned over the lasting internal political crisis in Kabul due to which an inclusive government of Afghanistan that would be accepted by the Afghan people and recognised by the international community was not formed. The direct result of it was the delay of the direct intra-Afghan peace talks due to the lack of agreements between the acting Afghan authorities and the Taliban on prisoner exchange. The world hopes that these talks, which should consider the interests of all strata of the Afghan society, will bring a comprehensive settlement of the Afghan problem.

Once again, we urge all interested political forces of Afghanistan to use every possibility to settle the internal political conflicts and remove all obstacles to the peaceful dialogue.



Venezuela update

Going back to the situation in Venezuela. The country and its legitimate government are fighting the coronavirus pandemic along with the rest of the world. Quarantine was introduced pre-emptively. Despite tough inhumane US sanctions, the sick rate and mortality is fairly low compared to other Latin American countries, according to the dry statistics of the Pan American Health Organisation.

Venezuela is not facing this challenge alone. Cuba and China are providing assistance. This week Russia sent another batch of diagnostic kits.

Regrettably, we note that not everyone is ready to follow the principles of solidarity and humanity. At our last briefing we gave a detailed assessment of the US Administration’s actions and statements designed to step up pressure on Caracas, including military pressure.

Despite objective limitations brought about by sanitary epidemiological conditions, we consistently put forward the Russian point of view to our partners in Europe, Latin America and Asia last week, and we received positive feedback from many of them.

I think we are on the same wavelength with them on major issues.

First. Venezuela’s problems should be resolved peacefully and by Venezuela itself through dialogue between different political forces inside the country. The solution must not be imposed from outside.

This applies to the entire situation. It is even more true now that we are facing the pandemic.

Given this, we believe that the US State Department’s initiative on the “democratisation” of Venezuela must have been drafted in a different era. If viewed in conjunction with other recent steps taken by Washington – open persecution of the Venezuelan leaders on the absurd charges of every sin imaginable, the start of large-scale US Navy manoeuvres near the Venezuelan coast, etc. – the ideas voiced by the United States look more like an ultimatum to the legitimate authorities of an independent sovereign state than a move towards national accord. After looking into the US initiative, we do not think it deserves a serious response.

Second. Despite that, we see a unique opportunity emerging in Venezuela for launching a truly nationwide dialogue. The country has a unifying agenda – fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. It is important to get rid of any divisive political ambitions and join efforts in countering a truly global threat. This is a universal recipe now, by the way.

We call on all responsible Venezuelans to do that. We support the position taken on this issue by President Maduro and those opposition members who place the interests of people’s safety and health above all, even if they disagree with the Government’s policies.

Third. We urge the external actors – both in Latin America and outside it – to support this process, to move away from ideological dogmas and stereotypes, and to prioritise the ideas of solidarity and cooperation. We address the same appeal to the heads of the leading international agencies and organisations involved in rendering assistance.

One more remark. We have heard from Washington recently that they are ready to discuss the Venezuela agenda with us as well. I would like to say to the US diplomats, looking straight into the camera, that we are not avoiding such contacts. But this does not mean that we are ready to alter our principled policy and our position on these developments, including on the ruinous effect of the unilateral US sanctions, which are viewed as absolutely inhumane, on the socioeconomic situation in Venezuela.



Document by UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine on investigation into 2013-2014 Maidan events

We have noted a briefing note, Accountability for Killings and Violent Deaths During the Maidan Protests, by the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine (HRMMU), whose summary was made public on March 12 during the presentation of the mission's report on the human rights situation in Ukraine between November 16, 2019 and February 15, 2020.

In particular, the HRMMU concluded that the prosecution of criminal cases over the Maidan events is hindered by a number of persisting ailments related to the Ukrainian law enforcement system, such as shortcomings in investigative procedure, lack of resources for forensic examination, and others. It was also noted that “the fact that a number of senior police officers suspected of committing crimes against Maidan protestors retained their positions had a chilling effect on their subordinates. The resulting reluctance of police officers to testify about police involvement in the killings ... poses a serious challenge to identifying the perpetrators” as well as to learning the truth about actual events that took place during those tragic days – and this is what the world is eager to know. It was particularly emphasised that the law on the prevention of prosecution and punishment of individuals who took part in “peaceful protest actions,” adopted by the Verkhovna Rada on February 21, 2014, largely complicates the “prosecution of protestors for crimes they committed during the Maidan protests, including the killing of law enforcement officers.”

The HRMMU recommended that the Ukrainian Government ensure an independent and impartial investigation into all acts of killing; amend the procedure of in absentia prosecution in a way that it would envisage a full retrial after the perpetrator has been located; repeal the amnesty law, and ensure the appearance for trial of the defendants who were released pending trial.

I would like to remind you why this is so important and relevant. These events took place back in 2013-2014 – yet, they triggered the subsequent events that happened during that period in Ukraine and in Europe, as well as the domestic conflict in Ukraine, which, sadly, grew into its active hot phase. The public opinion was also formed largely on the basis of the media interpretation of the events. Isn't it time to finally find out what actually happened? The more time passes, the more difficult it will be to determine the truth – and this is crucially important.

Kiev has made no clear response to the UN Mission's document. The unit to investigate crimes committed during mass protests in 2013-2014, which was set up at the State Bureau of Investigations, released only a press statement that briefly mentioned that the document has been reviewed.

This provides further evidence that Kiev is unwilling to shed light on this “Revolution of Dignity” and its backstage events, and will make every effort to prevent the truth from being made public – but we would like their plans to fail. This is all done despite the fact that a year ago those who were seeking power promised to Ukrainian votes that an objective investigation will be conducted into the events that had the most dramatic consequences for the country.

Of course, everyone is concerned about different things at the moment, and we are perfectly aware of this. Yet, this issue should not be ignored or overlooked; facts must be made known and inscribed in history.



Dismantling of the monument to Marshal Konev in Prague

I cannot but touch on an issue that has caused a great stir among the Russian public. The municipal authorities of the Prague-6 district took an unprecedented and barbaric step by dismantling the monument to Marshal of the Soviet Union Ivan Konev erected at the initiative of Prague residents in 1980. Marshal Konev was the commander of the 1st Ukrainian Front, which liberated the Czech capital from Nazi occupation in May 1945. What makes this act of political vandalism so outrageous is that it was committed ahead of the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II, which was finished in the European theatre with the Red Army’s operation in Prague.

The inability of the central government to call municipal officials to order and to stop malicious activity that violates the country’s international obligations is perplexing.

The crime committed in Prague can become a long-term irritant in our bilateral relations and undoubtedly will not go unanswered. I want to clarify that when I said “crime” now, it was a political assessment. But I have no doubt that the action will also be assessed similarly in legal terms. As for the response, we told the Czech Ambassador in Moscow about it and urged Prague to observe the provisions on military memorials of the bilateral Agreement on Friendly Relations and Cooperation of 1993 and to stop provocations.



Act of vandalism against a war grave of Soviet soldiers in Dobrich citypark

Another act of vandalism, now against a war grave of Soviet soldiers in the city park in Dobrich. The Russian Embassy in Bulgaria expressed its indignation over that sacrilegious action. It was not just a memorial site but a war grave of Soviet soldiers in a city park. This travesty against the memory of the servicemen who sacrificed their lives for the liberation of Europe and the entire world from the Nazi plague is simply monstrous.

It is not correct to speak and connect our appraisal with an anniversary. It is not so important as a matter of principle which year we are talking about: an anniversary year or not. You just cannot insult the memory of the people who voluntarily sacrificed their lives for the humankind to have a future.

We expect the city authorities to take necessary measures to restore the monuments, to prevent such acts in the future and to bring those who committed this crime to justice.



CNN report on Russia’s alleged interference in US election through Ghana-based organisations

There is yet another bit of unbelievable news. I totally understand that we are going through tough times at the moment – and I am eager to amuse you by sharing yet another “gem” of research by CNN about Russia’s alleged interference in the US election process. Apparently, this is the only issue we are currently concerned about. This time, it is about the alleged use of some NGOs, registered in a foreign country, by serious Russian entities. To cut a long story short, according to a report by CNN, under-cover Russian trolls may have been active in the Republic of Ghana, sowing discord among African-American voters in the United States.

This is far from being the first – and the last – case of highly far-fetched pseudo reports devoid of common sense, but highly amusing. There is a reason behind all this. Such provocative false stories are targeted at a certain kind of audience, and their authors are paid handsomely by the paymasters. It is not difficult to identify these people. This is today’s reality, it should be clear to everyone.

Russia’ position on Moscow’s alleged interference in the US election – previous, current and future altogether – has been stated thoroughly and clearly by the Russian President and the Russian Foreign Minister. There is nothing I can add to this. I wonder whether such “research” made by one of the major international media companies is still relevant during these tough times, when the entire world, including the Americans, is trying so hard to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. Why should one engage in inventing ludicrous threats and set them against real and global threats, and mix them all up together? This is what I just cannot understand. If this is being done to distract public attention from urgent problems, then you would better find topics that are more optimistic. I can recommend a couple of them to CNN right now – for instance, a story could be made on how good democratic and liberal values are in the US today amid the current efforts to battle COVID-19. This could be an excellent report. Colleagues, you can approach me for ideas anytime.







Answers to media questions:



Question:

The Italian newspaper La Stampa has published an article saying that the Russian aid is useless. How would you comment on it?



Maria Zakharova:

We have already said what we think about these or similar articles in La Stampa. We wish Italians good health and prosperity, and we hope that they overcome these difficult times. We hope that they see better times, when we will be able to come to Italy and they will be able to visit Russia. We love you very much, dear Italians. We know your culture and love your cuisine. Please do not pay attention to these provocative articles. Please know that Russians love you and for this, not some other, reason sent you that aid. This is all that I want to say about La Stampa. I hope they will hear me.



Question:

There is information that the Americans are trying to use pressure in their attempts to lobby for their producers of medical goods that can be used in coronavirus treatment in Europe. Would you comment on it?



Maria Zakharova:

We can confirm this information. The US officials do not hesitate to put pressure on their European partners when it comes to the business interests of American companies, be it the sale of energy, technology, arms or medical devices. For instance, Lithuania is now a target of this political pressure. They are trying to make Vilnius purchase diagnostic test kits and protective gear for the coronavirus that are produced by the American company Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc., despite the company’s failure to abide by the contract it had with Lithuania this year. We are not surprised by this approach and believe that you should not be surprised either. Cynicism has become the norm. Washington is ready to take advantage of the tragedy that many world countries are facing now (I provided you with some facts today), while defying the basic principles of international cooperation, as well as the feeling of solidarity with their smaller allies in the North Atlantic Alliance.



Question:

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has warned the government of Afghanistan that if it refuses to make a deal with the Taliban, Washington may withdraw US troops from the country. What can you say about it?



Maria Zakharova:

We can say the following: some media have reported that Washington threatened the acting Afghan authorities with the pullout of its troops if they continue to hinder the launch of direct intra-Afghan peace talks. It seems that they are talking about Kabul’s refusal to abide by the requirements of the US-Taliban agreement signed in Doha on February 29, 2020, which included the release of 5,000 Taliban members and 1,000 Afghan military personnel before the beginning of the talks. We can neither confirm nor deny this information, but it again means that there is a need to promptly remove all obstacles to the inclusive peace process, and Russia has repeatedly urged all political forces in Afghanistan to do so. We are repeating our call.



Question:

The United States is receiving humanitarian aid from Russia and China and at the same time doing everything it can to prevent this aid from reaching Cuba. This has already happened. Humanitarian cargo was not delivered to Cuba because Washington threatened to impose sanctions on the chartered transport company. During the past year, the US has introduced over 300 restrictions against Cuba. What do you think about this?



Maria Zakharova:

We have to say again that in this complicated period when the whole world is countering the coronavirus pandemic, some states are displaying their typical egotism and complete rejection of humanism and humanitarian values instead of promoting international solidarity and cooperation.

At a time when Cuba is helping other countries by sending doctors to Italy, Venezuela, Nicaragua, El Salvador and other states in the Caribbean, it is being denied medical equipment that is so badly needed. This is beyond understanding. Due to the US embargo introduced almost 60 years ago, Havana cannot receive humanitarian supplies (2 million face masks, 400,000 express tests and 104 lung ventilators) that were prepared by Chinese philanthropist and founder of the Alibaba Group Jack Ma for 24 Latin American and Caribbean countries, including Cuba. This businessman prepared this large humanitarian cargo and wanted to deliver it. But politics interfered. The chartered American transport company refused to deliver it to Cuba. This fact is yet further evidence of the criminal character of the unilateral sanctions in general and the US sanctions in particular that are affecting the life and health of millions of people, depriving them of the right to assistance in such difficult conditions in their countries.

I would also like to note that all this is taking place at a time when the world community and the World Health Organisation (WHO) that we have mentioned several times, are urging support for the states that have been hit hard by the pandemic and for the renunciation of trade wars and unilateral sanctions taken in circumvention of the UN Security Council in order to provide immediate access to food and medications. Regrettably, not all countries are listening to our appeals.

I remember how former US President Barack Obama visited Cuba with entrepreneurs and talked about the need to be friends with Cuba. Where is this lobbying now? We know that the Democrats are very good at international lobbying in America. Why not show love for Cuba and bring bilateral relations to a new level in this specific situation. Why don’t they work for the removal of these unilateral sanctions in their legislative bodies in this situation (and we know how the Americans lobby for their laws when they want to). I understand that it is easier to fight Russian trolls. It is possible to count them endlessly and allocate money for this. But there is a specific task for American lobbyists. Resolve it, help people in the region to which you are paying so much attention. Or is this not written in the Monroe Doctrine?

We urge them again to correctly correlate their own geopolitical ideas with the real needs of millions of people.



Question:

This question is about the election in Nagorno-Karabakh on March 31.

On March 31, the self-proclaimed Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh held a so-called “presidential election” at a time when the whole world is countering the coronavirus pandemic. The second round of “the election” is schedules for April 14. What is the Foreign Ministry’s response to this “election”?



Maria Zakharova:

A statement was released by the co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group on the election that took place in Nagorno-Karabakh on March 31. The OSCE Minsk Group for the settlement of this conflict includes Russia, the United States and France. You can read this statement on the official OSCE website (www.osce.org).

We believe the election is necessary for the normal life of the population. At the same time, the Russian Federation does not recognise Nagorno-Karabakh as an independent state. Its status must be determined through political talks. This is what the OSCE Minsk Group is trying to do (the entire package of issues).

That said, we don’t believe further steps in the process of a peaceful settlement depend on this event in any way.

This is what I have to say in this context. Let me emphasise that this was not my initiative but simply a reply to your question.



Question:

Can you comment on media reports that President Donald Trump’s administration intends to designate the nationalist Russian Imperial Movement in Russia as a terrorist group? The US authorities plan to announce that the movement and three of its supposed leaders are advocating ideas of white supremacy.



Maria Zakharova:

We read this statement by the US Department of State. Apparently, the Americans have been working hard on this for a long time since there are no other items on the agenda. They want to include this group and its leaders on a national terrorist list. Since Washington has not substantiated its decision with convincing and detailed information, we have the impression that it was made primarily for propaganda purposes and has little to do with cooperation in countering international terrorism. There is another argument that points to this. The US is reluctant to use the well-established mechanisms for a bilateral counterterrorism dialogue and cooperation between secret services, in this case. Considering the Russophobia of the US establishment (or at least part of it) it is no surprise that the Department of State is designating the Russian Imperial Movement – also known as RIM – as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist. This little-known group received the status of the first foreign terrorist group of white supremacy advocates, and will be punished by restrictions.

I would like to suggest that US officials pay more attention to the situation in their own country. In this case, the slogan “Let the whole world wait” is highly topical. International human rights champions have sounded an alarm over the spread of neo-Nazi ideas in the United States for several years now. There are no legal bans on this in the US. They have noted the growing manifestations of racism, xenophobia, ethnic and religious intolerance. The authorities are turning a blind eye to this. Every year Washington and Kiev vote against broadly supported Russia-initiated UN General Assembly draft resolution on fighting the glorification of Nazism, which has already received global support.

The Ku Klux Klan and over a thousand other misanthropic organisations are openly operating in the US. Moreover, their number has increased by one third since 2014. The number of murders and violent hate crimes is growing. The detailed and, in fact, shocking statistics provided by human rights NGOs and the UN Human Rights Council are quoted in the American section of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s report on the human rights situation in individual countries, which was published on February 7 of this year.

For our part, we have been urging our US colleagues for many years to conduct a constructive dialogue, like equal partners, in order to prevent manifestations of extremism and xenophobia. We are also motivated to engage in the most effective cooperation to fight international terrorism. However, we have long wondered what prompts the US to include certain organisations on its black lists. As is known, Washington refused to blacklist ISIS for a long time. But it seems to me that this group was worth paying attention to. Maybe, Washington hoped that this organisation would be useful for fighting the lawful authorities of Syria. They had relevant experience in Afghanistan – they know how to establish, lure and use terrorist groups. However, the mistakes of the past are not dogma, Washington doesn’t seem to analyse them. Meanwhile, these “lured-in” organisations can turn and strike at their founders if they are extremist or terrorist groups.

We believe there is no room for double standards in countering terrorism but, regrettably, US policy is built on them.

I would like to thank The Financial Times for this question. You are welcome to ask more questions.



Question:

When will bilateral inspections under New START begin, and when is a meeting of the bilateral consultative commission expected to take place in 2020? Is it possible they will be postponed due to the coronavirus epidemic?



Maria Zakharova:

Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov has already commented on this.

Specifically, he said: “The decision to suspend inspections under New START, as well as the decision to postpone the bilateral consultative commission meeting that was scheduled for the second half of March, was made upon agreement by the parties. The corresponding agreements were fully formalised, and were political in nature. Once the situation normalises, regular institutional activities will resume.

The regular meeting of the bilateral consultative commission is scheduled for the autumn. It will be the last meeting if the treaty is not extended.

I would like to use this opportunity to remind the US administration of the need to finally get down to extending the New START treaty.”




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4097482
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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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