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Old 4 Weeks Ago #101
Alex Him
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Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks and answers to questions at a roundtable discussion with the participants of the Gorchakov Public Diplomacy Fund in the videoconference format, Moscow, April 21, 2020



21 April 2020 - 14:32






I am grateful to the Gorchakov Public Diplomacy Fund for inviting me to take part in the discussion that opens, as I understand it, a cycle of lectures the fund will hold online.

Life compels us to find creative ways to continue the discussion on the future of humankind. They are highly relevant under the current conditions.

The coronavirus pandemic has become a major challenge for all countries and many international organisations. It should certainly compel us to ponder over what is happening in the world, and also to understand how we should live in the future and how we should advance to ensure peaceful, safe and stable future for all humankind.

It has long been clear, and the pandemic has confirmed it definitively, that we live in an interdependent and intertwined world. In the age of the free movement of people, capital, services and goods in the whole world, threats also move freely. We have faced terrorism, drug trafficking, other forms of organised crime, the threat of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and now the threat of the pandemic that knows no borders and from which it is impossible to fence ourselves off.

It is clear that under these conditions we must adopt collective approaches to international relations. Concepts and practices of hegemony and domination are absolutely inappropriate in the 21st century. The world is confidently moving towards the formation of a new, more just and democratic system of international relations and a polycentric world order. This is not happening artificially; it is a result of a natural upsurge of many economies and financial centres. Economic and financial influence is naturally followed by influence in international politics. We are seeing these processes primarily in the Asia-Pacific Region, Latin America and also in Africa, whose resources are linked by many with the future of humanity in a very long-term perspective. The countries that are making strides in this way today and strengthening their national economies and financial opportunities also pursue an independent, nationally oriented foreign policy. And I must admit that many achieve quite positive and impressive results in this area.

The attempts we are seeing to impede this process are certainly doomed historically. Understandably, the countries that set the tune in international affairs for almost half a millennium want to preserve their privileged positions when they see their new competitors growing stronger. They are using different instruments, some of which are not absolutely honourable. Let me emphasise once again that the attempts to impede the objective process of the formation of a multipolar system are doomed historically. The understanding of this is reflected in many cases, in part, in the formation and functioning of the G20, where the G7 and BRICS countries are represented. Without their cooperation and consensus it is very difficult to resolve any serious problems in the global economy and finance, or in international politics, by and large.

Other associations in which the Russian Federation takes part also work under the principle of consensus. I would like to mention the SCO and other integration associations in the post-Soviet space – the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), the CSTO and the CIS.

I work under the premise that the current coronavirus crisis is compelling us to consider more seriously and probably more quickly the decisions that many international actors have postponed for various reasons. Unlawful unilateral sanctions and sanctions that were taken without regard for the UN Charter are doing tremendous damage to the people in many countries. I am primarily referring to countries like Iran, Syria and North Korea. Even now when these countries badly need equipment, medications and special protection gear to counter the pandemic, they cannot receive them because Western countries, primarily the US are categorically rejecting proposals to take a humanitarian pause and make an exception for goods that are essential for countering the pandemic. This is regrettable. An appeal to this affect has been forwarded by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet also made a similar appeal. At the online G20 summit, President of Russia Vladimir Putin proposed green corridors that would be free of trade wars and sanctions so the countries in need could receive medications, food, equipment and technology.

Before going over to interactive communication, I would like to draw your attention to an important conceptual issue that we have paid much attention to recently. I mean the trend of our Western partners to make fewer references to international law or even remove it from the international lexicon altogether. Instead of the well-established term “international law” they are attempting to use a new expression, “a rules-based order.” We see how this concept is taking shape and being used by our Western partners in practice. Their approach to issues goes beyond universal, multilateral institutions. They want to uphold their exclusive position on these issues and do not want to negotiate.

Note that when there is a problem in well-established and universally recognised mechanisms, on which the West is facing resistance, in many cases it stops seeking consensus and simply takes this problem beyond the framework of multilateral structures. I am referring to what is happening in the OPCW with attempts to initiate votes to change consensus-based Convention documents and many other things.

We will certainly uphold UN-centric universal institutions and the entire system of international ties that have been formed based on the UN Charter. The principles of the Charter, primarily, the sovereign equality of states, non-interference in each other’s internal affairs and peaceful settlement of disputes maintain and even enhance their importance today.

We are celebrating the 75th anniversary of Victory in World War II and the 75th anniversary of the UN. I think this is a good reason for all of us to unite and concentrate on consolidating universal mechanisms rather than on creating flawed alternative structures in order to replace multilateral diplomacy with different terms, such as “a rules-based order” or the newly coined expression, “the Alliance for Multilateralism.”

Those who want to support multilateralism must recognise that the only and true multilateralism is embodied in the UN which has unique legitimacy. Therefore, supporters of multilateralism must come to the UN and come to terms with all other countries there, instead of negotiating within the narrow circle of soulmates and imposing their opinion on others as universal and the only correct approach.

This is what worries us. I am very grateful to have this opportunity to discuss these issues. We are always trying to hear and consider the assessments made by Russian and foreign experts and political scientists.

Thank you very much for your attention. I am ready for more work.







Question:

A question on Libya. Every unbiased person has long recognised that it is owing to the assistance of the Russian Federation that Syria’s legitimate government and the country have been saved. There is another hotbed in the region apart from Syria, that is, Libya. Do you think Russia could build a similar initiative on a specific and efficient settlement of the situation in Libya by creating an international coalition with Egypt, Italy and other countries of the region?



Sergey Lavrov:

We are completely open to developing honest, well-balanced cooperation on any crisis issue, including the settlement of the conflict in Libya. You know this conflict started when our Western colleagues – NATO countries – crudely violated a resolution of the UN Security Council. The resolution was adopted in 2011 and provided for a no-fly zone over Libya. The resolution explained this provision: the air force of Colonel Gaddafi had no right to be in the air, and they did not fly. To secure the no fly zone, the UN Security Council authorised all interested countries to take the necessary measures to prevent Gaddafi’s air force from flying. Its aircraft did not fly. Meanwhile, the West flew NATO aircraft into the air, I believe crudely and brazenly, and started bombing Gaddafi’s army on the ground. In effect, the West acted on the side of the extremists (that were in the majority).

They decided to overthrow the Gaddafi regime, after which Libya turned into a black hole. Smuggled arms, militants and drugs streamed into black Africa, Africa to the south of the Sahara, the Sahara-Sahel region. Many terrorist manifestations that have struck root in Africa are linked with this period. Many illegal migrants moved northward via Libya. Europe is still suffering from this immigration pattern and finds it difficult to resolve the problem.

What can be done now? I am saying this not to continuously return to the question of who is to blame. But the question of what must be done is more important at this point. Russia, our Italian colleagues and many other European states and countries in the region have reached a fairly good understanding. We agree that this conflict does not have a military solution and that it is necessary to come to terms. Russia and many other countries, including Turkey, Egypt, the UAE and Qatar are working to launch a political dialogue. Let me recall that we actively supported the efforts of Ghassan Salame when he was UN special representative on a settlement in Libya. We tried to promote a settlement by proposing our own initiatives when we supported the Berlin process and tried to facilitate the success of the Berlin conference. At that time, we and our Turkish colleagues organised a meeting in Moscow for Marshal Khalifa Haftar, Fayez Mustafa al-Sarraj, head of the Presidential Council and the National Unity Government and Aguila Saleh, parliament speaker in Tobruk. Regrettably, at this meeting we did not sign any documents but at least we encouraged them to move towards compromise and consensus. We played the decisive role in persuading our German colleagues not to ignore the Libyan sides in preparing the Berlin conference. At first, they did not want to invite either Sarraj or Haftar, or any other Libyans and even their neighbours. We worked hard to convince them that this would have been a mistake. This is why the main protagonists – Sarraj and Haftar – attended the Berlin conference as well as Libya’s neighbours, including our Egyptian colleagues. To use a common phrase, our main message at the Berlin conference was that we were willing to support any solution if it was backed by Sarraj and Haftar. Regrettably, we did not receive a straight answer to this question in Berlin. So, we supported the ideas that were formulated in Berlin, but with the reservation that they must not be imposed on the sides, that it was necessary to persuade the sides to accept them. Unfortunately, we were right again because now the implementation of the decisions of the Berlin conference is stuck again and hostilities have resumed.

We have one simple initiative: let’s continue the political process once again. Ghassan Salame played an active, if not the main role in the Berlin process, but he resigned as the UN Secretary-General’s special representative on Libya. Now his duties are performed by Stephanie Williams from the US, who was his deputy. I believe it is necessary to appoint a permanent representative on Libya as soon as possible. We are convinced that this representative must come from an African country that is located in the same region as Libya.

Now the European Union has decided to help monitor the observance of the embargo on arms supplies to Libya. This is a noble cause but… we have discussed this issue with our European friends several times in the past few months. I spoke with Josep Borrell, Heiko Maas and Luigi Di Mayo. I think the European Union must go to the Security Council and say, “The Security Council has announced an arms embargo and it must be fulfilled. We, the EU, want to carry out one more special operation on monitoring compliance with this embargo. It consists of such and such parts. We would like to ask the Security Council to support our approach.”

The fact that the EU is doing everything it can to avoid presenting its ideas to the UN Security Council makes us wonder about its motives. I hope we will soon be informed as to what they are thinking.

To sum up my rather lengthy answer, I would like to emphasise again that we support the idea of creating a platform on which all external players can persuade the Libyan parties to come to terms. We have seen attempts to bet on one side or the other in the past. From the beginning of the UN’s efforts to reach a settlement on Libya, we have supported contact with literally all sides. All of them have come to Russia. We have met with each of these political leaders at various multilateral venues. We are now happy to say that our partners who tried initially to take sides with one Libyan leader or another, now understand that it is much more productive to compel all of them to sit at the negotiating table and come to an understanding. This is what I consider necessary for all of us to do on the Libyan crisis.



Question:

As you noted, we have been observing a perfect storm on a global scale since the beginning of 2020. How would you assess these trends’ impact on the EAEU countries in general and on Russia and Kazakhstan in particular? What must we do together?



Sergey Lavrov:

I am confident that only together can the countries in the post-Soviet space get through this time with minimal losses. It so happened that the crisis broke out when we were about to take – and I am sure that this will still happen – very important, new steps in the development of Eurasian integration, where we already have the free movement of people, goods, services and capital. In the next stages, we plan to lift the remaining barriers, including the establishment of a single energy market in a couple of years. I believe that all these plans remain in effect, which was reaffirmed at the recent online summit of the EAEU member countries. Online meetings between prime ministers and ministers of specific sectors are also in the pipeline. I believe that we must strengthen joint multilateral institutions, such as the Eurasian Development Bank and the corresponding Eurasian Fund, which exist, operate and address a lot of issues that are very important for the member countries. I don’t have anything surprising to say here. Meticulous work to strengthen joint institutions. And, of course, we must take into account the experience of other integration associations that were established much earlier than the EAEU, above all the EU. Right now the European Union, like all of us, is going through difficult times, but this crisis coincided with the growing debate about the balance between the functioning of supranational institutions and the responsibilities of national governments. This is a very important issue; we can see how actively Brussels and many capitals are discussing it, including regarding the rights the national governments should have and the rights that are or will be delegated to central, supranational institutions. Of course, we also discuss this issue within the EAEU. We should always learn something useful from a crisis, and the way these issues are solved in the EU will be very useful for us in finding ways to address similar tasks within the EAEU.



Question:

As you may know, some people in Poland believe that bad relations between Russia and the EU is a good thing. Do you think these relations, primarily economic, will normalise during the crisis following the pandemic? And if so, will the Polish government attempt to slow down this normalisation, or will Warsaw decide that the economy is more important than politics under the circumstances?



Sergey Lavrov:

Thank you, this is a very interesting question.

You said there are people in Poland who believe it is a good thing that the relations between Russia and the EU are bad. I can assure you that there are people in Russia who are happy that the relations between Poland and the EU are not so good either. If we keep looking for things to gloat over, then instead of politics we will be engaged in politicking and trying to satisfy our own or someone else’s ambitions.

I remember the time when I became foreign minister. Historically, we have always had very complicated relations with Poland but in that period we probably had more cooperation mechanisms with Poland than with any other European country. We had the Committee for the Russian-Polish Cooperation Strategy headed by foreign ministers with the participation of deputy ministers of the economy, finance, trade and culture. We had a group on difficult problems, where historians would get together to honestly discuss both regrettable and happy pages of the Polish and Russian peoples’ past.

Moreover, some remainder of those relations still remain. Fairly recently, definitely after 2014, a Russian-Polish textbook came out on the history of the period of a century ago. It is not much but it is something. The book had a number of joint articles. Wherever opinions differed, two standpoints were presented – a Russian and a Polish one. It is much better than accusing each other via microphones without a chance to communicate. We used to have a joint award presented by the foreign ministers of Russia and Poland to cultural figures. I remember that together with Polish Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski we presented awards to Barbara Brylska and Viktor Yerofeyev. It was in Warsaw. The ceremony was very heart-warming. There used to be a lot of useful things.

All that is now “frozen”, including visa-free travel between the Kaliningrad Region and the adjacent provinces of Poland. I consider it to be a sad fact. If we all support contacts between people and openness of societies (and I think the Polish leadership also advocates this), how can we shut down visa-free travel? They say it was largely related to commercial interests: some people bought cheaper things abroad and then sold them with a profit at home. But the important thing is that there was communication between people.

Regarding ways for us to get out of this situation. The European Union – and we see and hear this as it is declared publicly – is approaching the moment when it will have to decide whether to review the “five principles” invented by Federica Mogherini for relations with Russia or to leave them intact. I know that Poland stands for keeping them in place. Many other countries also speak in favour of making no changes. A number of other EU members believe that the situation should be considered realistically, basically proceeding from the interests of the EU nations and the EU economies.

We will be ready to speak with the European Union under any conditions. In fact, we are doing it now. But the “five principles” are being employed by some countries to block the resumption of sectoral dialogues, and we used to have over twenty of them: in energy, culture, human rights, transport, healthcare, finance, and so on. We used to have two annual summit meetings. We used to have the Permanent Partnership Council (it exists only on paper now) to review assessments of progress on agreements across the whole scope of our relations. All that is now frozen. We are being accused, including by Poland, that Russia is trying to undermine the EU authority and speaks with the capitals of member-countries – Rome, Paris, Budapest – rather than with Brussels. It is not our malicious intent, it is just the circumstances as they are. If Brussels froze all the channels while the capitals of the member countries advocate the development of bilateral relations, we will definitely respond.

I sincerely hope that we will also overcome the current period with our Polish neighbours and, I dare say, friends (I have many friends in Poland), and attempts to artificially create pretexts for dividing our nations will not prevail. I assure you that you will see a very positive response from us to any proposals that are de-ideologised and are based on the present vital interest of the citizens of Poland and Russia.



Question:

As you know, in the US, there has been a debate for several months about a possible withdrawal from the Open Skies Treaty (OST). It is believed that the United States may make an official statement in September. In your opinion, is Russia ready to remain a party to the Treaty in the event the US pulls out? If so, under what conditions is this possible? Can the European partners of the Treaty influence this decision?



Sergey Lavrov:

This issue is gaining relevance, given the timelines you mentioned. Experts who monitor the developments believe that Washington has already taken a decision. We believe that these assessments have a significant element of truth. We draw almost the same conclusions based on our contacts with the Americans, other members of NATO and the OST. Like in the case of the Intermediate-Range Missiles Treaty (INF Treaty) and the Open Skies Treaty, the Americans have already begun to actively (and have been doing so for a long time) advance the argument that Russia violates it. Although they do not have any reliable facts either in this situation or in the case of the INF Treaty. I will not go into details; if you follow this issue, then you know the compromises that have been reached regarding the main claim that the West presented to us. I mean flights over Russian territory near the borders with Abkhazia and South Ossetia. We were ready to settle these claims with the understanding that Georgia would also open its skies for such flights. Then we would have opened areas over the territory of the Russian Federation adjacent to Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Such a compromise was reached, but then the Georgian side rejected it and said that it would not allow our inspectors to fly over its territory. This is the only real claim that remains artificially. It was possible a long time ago to agree on this, as we actually did. But our colleagues did not keep their word.

By the way, the Americans use a similar trick regarding the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT). Although they officially stated that they would not ratify it, they nevertheless try to use its provisions to accuse us and, more recently, China of violating the CTBT. What is their purpose? As I understand it, the same as in the case of the INF Treaty. But as for the INF Treaty, it was necessary to justify the withdrawal from this Treaty, while in the case of the CTBT, it is necessary to justify why the Americans categorically and already officially stated that they would not join it. The same thing with the Open Skies Treaty. The current US administration conceptually and fundamentally objects to any kind of control over American military activity. Especially when such control is exercised on or over the US territory.

Will other countries follow the Americans? I doubt it. It seems to me that the Europeans understand that the OST has added value as an instrument of trust, predictability and transparency. We consider it as such. Our reaction to Washington’s possible decisions will depend on the wording of this decision, on what it exactly means. Of course, we will see whether any NATO allies will follow Washington, because the very added value that the Treaty now has will depend on it. But we will just have to see how it remains in the light of US plans.



Question:

As the events in recent years have shown, the people in Kyrgyzstan have demonstrated increasingly less support for the EAEU while being more critical, in particular, about the free movement of goods and capital. Russia is providing assistance to our migrant workers but meanwhile, it is the poor performance of our national authorities that has become the subject of such criticism and given rise to scepticism among the population regarding the EAEU’s prospects. Do you think it is time for Russia to adjust its policy in CIS countries, in particular, in Central Asia?



Sergey Lavrov:

What adjustments should be made?



Question:

Stepping up the work with political groups and forces.



Sergey Lavrov:

We are perfectly aware of the importance of our relations with our neighbours in Central Asia, South Caucasus and the European part of the CIS. We see the increased activity by the United States, the EU, Japan, China and Turkey in these regions, including Central Asia. There have been "5+1" formats, with five Central Asian countries and one being the USA, Japan or the EU. The Russian Federation proposed this format, and our Central Asian friends actively supported it. Two meetings have already taken place. This format may seem irrelevant as we have the CIS, the EAEU, the SCO and the CSTO - but none of these organisations allows Russia to directly communicate with all five Central Asian countries. I think that such a "5+1" informal association (Central Asia plus Russia) will be useful. We have already held two meetings of foreign ministers in this format.

As regards the EAEU meeting the expectations of its member states, you know that the organisation is receiving a lot of criticism; much of it comes from our Belarusian neighbours. The EAEU is a rather young association; it is much younger than the EU. Of course, we are making efforts to build on the EU's positive experience, while taking into consideration the mistakes made during the integration process - yet our foreign colleagues' experience will never be enough to solve all issues in the EAEU. We are slowly proceeding towards developing common markets, including energy markets, and this is going to be a crucial, gradual and qualitative stage in our relations. You should just take an objective look at the existing advantages and try not to take this for granted. Migrant workers were active prior to the establishment of the EAEU, and nothing bad happened. There were occasional problems, with an amnesty announced for migrant workers; this has taken place many times, including recently.

What does the EAEU have to do with it? Actually, the EAEU provided a legal framework for these efforts and now reaps the benefits of the movement of the labour force on a totally solid legal basis. We have provided substantial assistance to Kyrgyzstan in building the infrastructure required to ensure the free movement of goods, capital, services and the labour force; we also provide humanitarian support, including assistance to support the country's budget. The sky is the limit. But if there is an increasingly widespread opinion in Kyrgyzstan that something needs to be changed, it could be a reflection of a competitive process, competition for Central Asia in which our western partners have actively engaged. We believe that such competition is counterproductive. It is more efficient to cooperate in order to help Central Asian counties, including Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, which are particularly in need of such assistance, develop their economies, and ensure stability in the economic sector in general. We are ready to do this - but regrettably, our western colleagues are not. When the EU proposed its Central Asia strategy, no mention was made of the SCO, the EAEU and the CIS - the organisations in which Central Asian countries are involved in one way or other. They were just briefly mentioned as a warning which claimed that efforts should be made to prevent the EAEU, the SCO and the CSTO from hindering the EU's activities in Central Asia. Similarly, the EU's Eastern Partnership joint initiative for Caucasus and European countries in the CIS territory was aimed at competition and holding back Russia's efforts in these territories.

I would not necessarily see any need to take it into consideration if there is an opinion forming in Kyrgyzstan, due to such programmes and concepts, claiming that changes are needed in the country's relations with Russia. For instance, we are working jointly with China - both within the SCO and as part of cooperation that is developing between the EAEU and Chinese projects under the Belt and Road Initiative - to unite our resources and efforts in order to help Central Asian countries and ensure their national economies' concordant development and their becoming an essential part of the entire Central Asian economic complex. Currently, together with our Kyrgyz and Chinese colleagues, we are seeking a common approach to developing Kyrgyzstan's railway network, which will make the country not simply a point of transit to Uzbekistan but will run through its cities and towns and thus help create concurrent production facilities and economic opportunities.

If you, as a person who monitors these sentiments, have specific ideas as to how the EAEU bodies' activity could be adjusted in Kyrgyzstan or ideas regarding Russia's more efficient cooperation with Kyrgyzstan in stepping up bilateral relations, you can forward them to us; we will be pleased to consider them and then continue our dialogue.



Question:

I would like to thank you for the help Russia renders to Serbia at this difficult time. This year on April 24, the UN will mark the International Day of Multilateralism and Diplomacy for Peace for the first time. Do you think multilateralism can become relevant again while the status of Kosovo is being determined?



Sergey Lavrov:

I did not know about this day. In my opening remarks I mentioned the multilateralism development initiative proposed by Germany and France. I am following this initiative closely. If the UN General Assembly has decided to mark this day, which symbolises support for multilateralism and diplomacy for peace, then I am very glad about it. The French-German initiative on setting up a group of friends of multilateralism is developing outside the UN, thereby putting into question the universal nature of the Organisation. I believe that multilateralism is embodied in the UN Charter. Multilateralism based on the principles of sovereign equality of states, non-interference and cooperation for the sake of peaceful settlement of disputes – is an absolute requirement of our time.

Thank you for giving me the lead: I will certainly find out how this day will be marked. We will try to make sure it is marked as widely as possible and help convey the ideas of multilateralism to all nations, so that we use this holiday to strengthen the UN and not to create competitive private mechanisms for promoting dubious ideas.



Question:

Russia is Georgia’s third largest trade partner but the absence of embassy missions and trade offices has become an obstacle for large-scale movement of capital, goods, services and workforce between our countries. Is normalization of bilateral ties something that might be possible to speak about?



Sergey Lavrov:

I fully share your interest in developing cooperation between Russia and Georgia in a big way for the sake of our two nations. It was not us who were responsible for severing our diplomatic relations. By and large, we and you have embassies that are called interest sections. Georgia has an interest section at the Swiss Embassy in Moscow, while Russia has an interest section at the Swiss Embassy in Tbilisi. There are no ambassadors but as I understand, they are headed by minister counsellor level people in both countries. This allows us to maintain ties and not only through our Swiss friends. There are direct contacts both in Moscow and Tbilisi. Life takes over.

Needless to say, if we had proper working embassies, it would be possible to solve the issues concerning economic, trade and cultural cooperation not only faster but also in a better way too. This is why we are prepared to restore diplomatic relations. But since it was not us who were responsible for severing these ties, we will just have to wait for our Georgian colleagues to approach this issue. Trade offices also suggest the existence of some agreements. I don’t think that the opening of a trade mission will make much difference and be of a great benefit but should such an opportunity arise we will most certainly consider this offer.

You mentioned that Russia is Georgia’s third largest trade partner. Georgia receives gas from Gazprom, this is a well-known fact. Regrettably, flights for the time being have been put on hold but I hope we will soon resolve this problem. The most important thing for us is not to be subjected to a Russophobic campaign in Tbilisi. There were excesses during the Interparliamentary Assembly on Orthodoxy. They made us think about the security of Russian citizens although the Georgians told us later on that they would be safe.

I am closely following the statements by Georgian leaders, including those made by President Salome Zourabichvili. Recently, she came out with a rather crude and aggressive statement about Russia and its goals in the region. Naturally, when it comes to public opinion, such statements do not help create the right atmosphere. When Ms Zourabichvili moved from France and became the foreign minister of Georgia, she visited Moscow and I went to Tbilisi. We discussed the withdrawal of the two remaining Russian military bases from Georgia and finally achieved success. This agreement was later on approved by President of Russia Vladimir Putin and President of Georgia Mikheil Saakashvili. A legal document, an agreement with the participation of our defence ministers was drafted on the basis of our declaration. I’d like to recall one interesting moment that shows deal-making skills of the sides and our interest in preserving good relations at that particular time. Let me repeat: we talked about full withdrawal of Russian military bases from Georgia. Two bases were withdrawn under the 1999 agreement and two still remained there. A question was raised about them at a round of negotiations and President Putin decided that if Georgia did not want to keep them, we should withdraw them. This was done. Mutual consent to establish a Russia-Georgia anti-terrorist centre near one of these former bases became part of this agreement. Russian and Georgian specialists were supposed to work in it. This was a symbol of our partnership: we are withdrawing bases that have lost their topicality for bilateral relations but we are establishing a centre because terrorism is our common enemy (the situation in the Pankisi Gorge and the rest of the region was turbulent). So, we agreed to establish this centre. All the agreements were signed, the bases were withdrawn but Georgia simply refused to abide by its own decision to set up this Russia-Georgia anti-terrorist centre. I believe that if the achieved agreements were respected, the subsequent course of events could have been different. This would have been a gesture that would have created a foundation for confidence and cooperation in a very sensitive area. This always promotes rapprochement. We are ready to positively respond to all constructive steps made by our Georgian neighbours. We are sincerely interested in this.



Question:

Foreign Minister of Azerbaijan Elmar Mammadyarov said that Azerbaijan is waiting for the international community to take effective steps for implementing the UN Security Council’s resolution on resolving the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh. Do you think there are relevant international institutions capable of living up to these expectations, especially amid the current crisis? Which mechanisms are required to make the adopted but not executed resolutions work?



Sergey Lavrov:

The resolutions you are talking about are well-known documents. They were adopted at the height of the conflict and, above all, stipulated a complete cessation of hostilities and transition to a settlement. Indeed, they reaffirmed the territorial integrity of the Republic of Azerbaijan, but they also contained a demand to stop the war and proceed to talks. Since then, talks were launched many times. There were so called Key West agreements of 2001 and subsequent agreements in various formats reached with and without Karabakh’s participation. Now we have a firmly established format of the talks: Baku – Yerevan – OSCE Minsk Group on Nagorno-Karabakh settlement represented by three co-chairs – Russia, France and the United States – and a representative of the current OSCE Chair. It is a good and useful format. It was this format that fulfilled the UN Security Council’s demand to stop the war and begin talks.

There are the Madrid Principles as well as the documents drafted by the Russian Federation in 2010-2011, the so-called Kazan document. There are draft documents disseminated a year ago (April 2019) at the meeting of Russian, Armenian and Azerbaijani foreign ministers as well as the co-chairs in Moscow. They are being discussed now. These documents provide for movement toward a settlement using a stage by stage approach, with the resolution of the most pressing issues at the first stage, such as the liberation of a number of districts around Nagorno-Karabakh and relaunching the transport, economic and other communication lines.

I am sure that when we reach a decision to sign these documents it will be a very important step in implementing the UN Security Council resolution that we are talking about and that, I will say it again, stipulates a cessation of hostilities and the start of talks. The talks have begun. Now the parties need to reach an agreement. This is what we are seeking as co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group on the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.



Question:

I would like to ask you a question regarding Spitsbergen, I mean the famous Spitsbergen Treaty signed in Paris in 1920 and our tug-of-war with Norway. The Russian position is clear, as are the Norwegian interests. However, there are over 40 countries that signed the Treaty in addition to Russia and Norway. At present, the world media holds that only Russia is opposing Norway. But in fact there are many more dissatisfied parties. Do you think it is worth joining efforts with other countries and trying to form a coalition with them, given the Treaty violations by Norway?



Sergey Lavrov:

I agree. Actually, we have never rejected such a possibility. We acted in parallel: both within the framework of our relations with Norway and in the course of setting up a coalition in defence of the 1920 Treaty.

As you know, we have not yet established a constructive dialogue with the Norwegians. I have sent several letters to my counterpart, Norway’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Ine Marie Eriksen Soreide, including the latest one this past February in which I quoted specific facts to outline our concerns and named the Treaty’s articles which in our opinion should be observed more scrupulously, and suggested holding consultations. The fact that our Norwegian colleagues and neighbours, who have always been known for their respect for international law, are evading the very idea of consultations does not make their position more convincing.

I will not go into details, but the possibility that you mentioned is in our sights. Those who want to defend the Treaty more vigorously include the parties who are doing it for their own benefit based on the rights provided by the Treaty, and some would like to use the Russia-Norway situation to push us to the forefront and wait for the outcome. There is also a third category of people who very much want the Norwegians to infringe on our rights as much as possible and eventually create conditions for us to wind down our activities: to stop carrying out our tourism projects and producing coal through Arktikugol in Barentsburg. We understand this very well. We can see the entire set of these geopolitical games and the tasks for protecting the status of Spitsbergen based on international law.



Question:

In the context of the Union State, citizens of Russia and Belarus are concerned with the de facto resumption of border control by Russia during the pandemic. Rumours have been circulating that subsequently, there may be a fully-functional border between the two states, which is an apparent step towards disintegration of the union. What is your opinion on the issue?



Sergey Lavrov:

We do not see any grounds for introducing a border regime. Our interests lie in the Union State developing in full compliance with the principles, goals and vectors that were established by the 1999 Union State treaty. Among other principles, the treaty includes the parties’ obligations to create equal conditions for the citizens of Belarus and Russia in any field of activity – be it the economy, culture, legal relations, etc. In the majority of these areas, equal rights were formalised by separate agreements and treaties. Currently, several spheres remain that require equalisation – specifically, healthcare services for Russians in Belarus (conditions for them are slightly different) and hotel prices. But these are minor issues and will most probably be resolved.

As concerns crossing the border, about two and a half years ago, when our Belarusian neighbours unilaterally introduced visa-free entry to Belarus for nationals of around 80 countries, that decision was not agreed upon with us and thus created a situation when foreign nationals that must have a visa to travel to Russia entered Belarus without any visas. With no border control between Belarus and Russia, foreign nationals who must obtain visas to enter Russia, as per the agreement with their country of nationality, could freely and, therefore, illegally enter Russian territory. It was then that we proposed that Russia and Belarus agree on a common visa policy and share the lists of those individuals who are banned from entry, the lists compiled on a mutual and reciprocal basis. We needed a common approach to granting visa-free travel to nationals of respective states. We developed a relevant agreement. It was initialed in December 2018 and has been awaiting signing for almost a year and a half. The Russian Government granted us the power to sign the agreement back in December 2018. I think signing this agreement will, to a large extent, relieve the concerns that you mentioned and remove any remaining reasons for those who wish to create a full-fledged border between the Union State countries.

I think our Belarusian colleagues will, in the short run, somehow communicate their stance to us and confirm the fact that they are ready to sign the document that was initialed a year and a half ago. At any rate, quite recently, Belarus and the European Union (EU) signed an agreement relaxing their visa regime – a readmission agreement. It was a helpful move. We have a similar agreement with the EU. So, the solution to the problem you mentioned has been ready for a year and a half. We have the powers to sign it and hope that our Belarusian colleagues have the powers to do so as well.



Question:

If the European Union falls completely apart, do you think that its current members could be accepted in the EAEU?



Sergey Lavrov:

The Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) is open for accession to any country that shares the principles set forth in its core documents.

As for the future of the European Union, I cannot imagine such an outcome, even theoretically.

In this context, the best solution would be to establish contacts between the EAEU and the EU. We discussed proposals to this effect back in 2015, and Brussels is still exploring them. The Eurasian Economic Commission (EEC) has submitted the corresponding proposals on behalf of the EAEU to the European Commission several times. The response was initially outright negative, but Brussels became more receptive to dialogue with the EEC once it realised that EAEU member countries have delegated many of their functions to the supra-national level. So far this has been limited to technical matters, such as technical regulations, rules governing various sectors, etc. But this is already a start. These are practical steps that we can build upon to build up our cooperation. We stand for promoting a strategic partnership across the Eurasian continent.

After all, Eurasia covers a huge territory shared by the EU, the EAEU, the SCO and many ASEAN countries as well. It is also here that most of the projects as part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative are carried out. It is for this reason that back in May 2016 at the Russia-ASEAN Summit held in Sochi President of Russia Vladimir Putin proposed establishing the Greater Eurasian Partnership that would be open to member countries from all these associations, including the EAEU, the SCO, ASEAN, as well as European Union countries and the EU itself.

Sharing this vast territory gives us substantial comparative advantages. It would be strange for us not to benefit from these advantages and instead to continue down the road of confrontation (I have already mentioned the confrontational scenarios, including the Eastern Partnership and EU’s strategy on Central Asia). What we stand for is building a Greater Eurasian Partnership by gradually reaching mutual understanding in an increasing number of spheres with a clear benefit for all the parties involved. I think that moving in this direction would make it easier for the European Union to overcome its internal challenges, while the EAEU will be open to cooperation in the interests of its member countries.



Question:

In the beginning you talked about the common energy market and the need for EAEU countries to work together in order to overcome the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic. In this context, I have a question on the price of natural gas. We all know that pricing in this sector is not just a question of business, but largely a political matter. Armenia and Belarus have been watching Russia reduce prices for EU countries, even post factum, for example for Bulgaria. Friendly Moldova currently buys gas at a lower price than Armenia. This begs a question why Russia does not cut prices for EAEU countries first before extending this policy to other countries? After all, this would provide other countries with an incentive to join the EAEU and to work with it, because this would offer major economic benefits.



Sergey Lavrov:

I understand your question and I see your logic, but in this case we need to follow this logic all the way through. When the price for Armenia and the Republic of Belarus was two or three times below market prices it was regarded as a given, and no one treated it as a matter of politics. Everyone said that this is what they are entitled to. I believe that allies are definitely entitled to economic advantages. There is no doubt about this for me. However, considering the current price, there are contractual obligations that have to be honoured. I strongly believe that our allied relations will be taken into consideration when reviewing the recent requests from our Belarusian and Armenian friends. It would be probably unfair to bring this up only when the situation becomes the direct opposite to what was happening three or four years ago when we established this pricing mechanism with due regard for our obligations as allies.

As for Armenia’s case, Russia’s Energy Ministry and Gazprom oversee this matter. Armenia’s domestic tariffs have been one of the recurring problems for the past several years. These tariffs hinder the application of the most beneficial pricing mechanisms. I will not go into any details on this right now.

If we are talking about allied relations, it would be fair to suggest that they should cover all areas. As far as the economy is concerned, we have high hopes that the court proceedings that have been initiated in Armenia over the past few years against joint ventures, including the South Caucasus Railway, will be settled without mixing in things that are unworthy of allies. I am being completely open when mentioning this, since Russian companies faced a number of challenging situations. I hope that we will be able to resolve these matters to our mutual satisfaction.

President of Russia Vladimir Putin recently had a telephone conversation with Prime Minister of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan. They see a path for developing our allied relations and strategic partnership. Let me assure you that both sides are committed to resolving all issues along these lines.



Question:

On behalf of the Siberian branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, we would like to thank the Foreign Ministry for its assistance with returning our leading Siberian scientists from their business trips abroad, specifically, from the United States.

Currently, international research and technical cooperation projects and programmes are being curtailed. What measures and programmes does the Foreign Ministry plan to use to restore international research links after the coronavirus pandemic? What new opportunities in terms of science diplomacy are opening up for Russia in this situation?



Sergey Lavrov:

The Foreign Ministry is not responsible for orchestrating links in science. We always support scientific ties but they are established directly when a specific research community in our country or abroad asks for our help with finding a partner or communicating certain ideas and proposals to a partner that has already been designated. We always do this and will continue to do it. However, by definition our work does not cover the substantive nature of the contacts between our academic institutions and their partners abroad. It is not our turf, as they say.

If our colleagues in Novosibirsk or any other research centre need our assistance with restoring links or transferring information when this pandemic is over and all the restrictions are lifted (although communications are so developed these days that it should not be a problem at all), we will do our best to help.

Don’t get me wrong, we can’t physically say: “Go ahead, go to Italy or France tomorrow to start developing a vaccine or some new mechanism.” When you feel you are ready and your partners are ready but something is standing in your way, if we can help, we will be happy to do it.

Regarding the second part of your question, I think science diplomacy serves the interests of everybody without exception. During more peaceful times, before we were lumbered with this calamity, science diplomacy was put in the context of soft power: presumably, we can develop contacts and show how open and interesting we are, we can be partners in important matters – and in this way influence the general political situation. I think that now science diplomacy is becoming mainly a tool for creating antidotes for common problems that are threatening the whole of humanity. At the same time, science diplomacy has not lost its function of maintaining contacts between people. But now it is not so much a soft power with which one country can influence another as it has become an instrument for building good neighbourly relations in everyone’s interests. It is not a means of somebody achieving their goals at the expense of somebody else. Therefore, we will support science diplomacy in every possible way.

Once again, it is up to scientists to determine how it should develop and the areas where joint efforts need to be applied. If you keep us informed about your plans, it will be a great help to us when it comes to offering you assistance.



Question:

Thank you for this opportunity to ask a question. It concerns the issue of the Republic of Moldova’s constant neutrality which you are most likely aware of and have heard about in the course of your work. We are always very sensitive about and watching closely the relations between the Russian Federation and the European Union. Any tension between Russia and the EU countries directly affects the situation and sentiments in Moldova as well as Moldova’s relations with Russia. What do you think about the prospects of Moldova’s permanent neutrality? Can we count on Russia’s possible support in this matter, in strengthening this status and promoting it internationally?



Sergey Lavrov:

Not only can you count on our support but you already have it. Since the very beginning of the post-Soviet stage in the history of Moldova, when, thanks to Russia’s involvement, it was possible to settle a fierce conflict in Transnistria; when foundations for solving this problem were built on a steady long-lasting ground, the basic principles determining Russia’s policy were developed. According to these principles, we support resolving the issue of Transnistria’s special status within the framework of a united, territorially integral and sovereign Moldova that ensures respect for its neutrality. In other words, this stance means two very simple things. We will not support attempts to drag Moldova, along with Transnistria, into NATO. This is absolutely out of the question. And we will not support any attempts to take away Moldova’s statehood. Based on these two principles which, in my opinion, fully serve the core interests of Moldova as a state, I guarantee that we will always be able to find a solution to Transnistria’s problem. If all the participants in the 5+2 process acted based on this premise, I think the problem would have been resolved a long time ago. Unfortunately, it is not exactly the case. Some of our Western colleagues are still pursuing a slightly different agenda that is mainly determined by their overwhelming desire to reinforce and expand the North Atlantic Alliance.



Question:

Quite frequently, Russian journalists, scientists, scholars and other people are declared personae non grata in Central Asian countries. One example is Russian anthropologist Sergey Abashin whose stance differs from the official stance of Uzbekistani officials. There have been similar cases affecting French, Azerbaijani and other scholars in Iran, Pakistan as well as some other countries, too. The Russian Foreign Ministry’s response has been slightly different from that of your foreign colleagues. In your opinion, is the MFA limiting its work to consulting in these matters?



Sergey Lavrov:

Frankly speaking, I have not heard about it. If you send me backup material, we will be able to answer your question. Overall, international law and the Vienna conventions stipulate that any country has the right to declare anybody a persona non grata without providing an explanation. To be more specific, I will need more information. Please send me your material on this and we will make sure to give you a response.




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4103828






Press release on Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s video conference with Iranian Minister of Foreign Affairs Mohammad Javad Zarif and Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs Mevlüt Çavusoglu



22 April 2020 - 17:22



On April 22, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov held a video conference with Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Islamic Republic of Iran Mohammad Javad Zarif and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Turkish Republic Mevlüt Çavusoglu.

The foreign ministers of the Astana format guarantors discussed in detail developments in Syria.

The ministers reaffirmed Russia, Iran and Turkey’s commitment to the unconditional respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Syrian Arab Republic as per UN Security Council Resolution 2254.

They underscored the leading role of the Astana format in promoting the components of the Syrian settlement, including stabilisation on the ground, facilitating the return of the refugees and displaced persons, resolving the humanitarian problems of the civil population, and supporting the intra-Syrian dialogue under the Constitutional Committee in Geneva.

In discussing the Idlib situation, they noted that implementing the March 5 Russian-Turkish protocol made it possible to achieve important results in de-escalating the situation, although Hayat Tahrir al-Sham illegal armed units continue their attempts to obstruct them. They outlined the relevance of further efforts to separate the moderate opposition in the Idlib area from the terrorists.

The ministers agreed to the need to increase the activities of international organisations in rendering humanitarian assistance to the Syrian population, especially during the spread of the coronavirus. In this context, the appeal of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to mitigate and suspend the sanctions that undermine Syria’s ability to combat the epidemic are of special importance.

They welcomed the agreement between the government and the opposition on the agenda of the next meeting of the Constitutional Committee Editorial Team. The ministers of the Astana format expect the meeting to be held, as soon as the epidemiologic situation allows, with the assistance of Geir O. Pedersen, Special Envoy of the UN Secretary-General for Syria, under his mandate.

The parties reaffirmed their intent to continue their effective interaction under the Astana format and join the efforts of Russia, Iran and Turkey for the sake of attaining durable stability and security in Syria and the region in general. The date of the next Astana Three summit, which is to be held in the Islamic Republic of Iran, will be determined later.




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4104365






Commentary by the Information and Press Department (MFA of Russia) on Executive Summary of the 2020 Adherence to and Compliance with Arms Control, Nonproliferation, and Disarmament Agreements and Commitments (Compliance Report) – United States Department of State



23 April 2020 - 17:43



The Executive Summary of the 2020 Adherence to and Compliance with Arms Control, Nonproliferation, and Disarmament Agreements and Commitments (Compliance Report) graphically illustrates the fragmentary, utilitarian and selective approach by the United States to compliance with these commitments. In practical terms, this is the overt undermining of the foundations and logic of multilateral cooperation in this area.

The Department of State is declaring the US’s right to assess the violations or non-compliance with international commitments by other countries through its own criteria, as if it goes without saying. It follows from the text of the report that the Americans themselves do not owe anything to anyone, that they observe everything faultlessly, and if an error is pointed out, they review it and then convince themselves that everything has been done properly (based on US interpretation, of course).

To increase credibility, the US formally equates itself with the majority of other countries that are parties to the relevant treaties and agreements, which strictly observe their commitments and demonstrate their intention to continue discussing these issues. In reality, the US is ostentatiously putting itself in a special category, thereby denying the right of others to critically assess the US’s record. We understand that this is really an attempt to cover up a withdrawal from a treaty if the US considers it beneficial under internal circumstances or for any other subjective reason. As for selective compliance with the provisions of treaties and agreements to which the US remains formally a party, Russia has repeatedly emphasised that this has become common practice when commenting on similar reports by the Department of State in the past few years.

It is no surprise that the shortest section in the report is on the US. Listing the numerous legal instruments on which the world community had questions to the US, this year the authors of the report did not even mention one of the most important agreements of the past few years – the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on the Iranian nuclear programme and the UNSC Resolution 2231. During the two years after the US withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal, the US’s illegal actions have been resolutely denounced by the international community at many venues, including the UN Security Council. It is well known that the implementation of the JCPOA is primarily impeded by the US’s gross violation of this comprehensive agreement and the UNSC Resolution 2231. The United States has not only violated its own commitments but also threaten others with sanctions to prevent them from carrying out the decisions of the UN Security Council.

Instead of correcting its own behaviour and violations, US “evaluators” prefer to accuse Iran without any grounds and assiduously recreate the threat that supposedly emanates from Iran’s nuclear programme. Of course, the US experts cannot ignore the fact that Iran has long been the most intensively monitored IAEA member. However, as in many other cases, our American colleagues do not want to accept an inconvenient truth. They find it easier to accuse Tehran of non-existent violations: if Iran develops or acquires nuclear weapons in any way, it will violate its obligations under Article II of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. We hope that some politicians in Washington still realise that these attacks against Iran are far-fetched against the backdrop of the US’s widely known violations of the UNSC Resolution 2231.

We noted that the report contains an intricate reservation that “there can sometimes be legal or factual uncertainty as to whether a violation has occurred.” Such an approach allows the Americans to criticize other countries increasingly more often without bothering to support their accusations by actual facts or justified legal arguments. It’s clear that this disclaimer provides just an unlimited opportunity for «accusatory creativity».

This trick is used, in particular, with regard to the INF Treaty. All accusations against Russia are actually based on a simple assertion: “the US has determined.” As usual, the report does not provide any supporting evidence. By all accounts, the authors of the report proceed from the assumption that whatever Washington says should be automatically taken for granted and accepted as an axiom. That said, they preferred to ignore the fact that throughout the entire period of the US’s consecutive preparations to withdraw from the INF Treaty (the authors actually do not deny it was the US initiative to do so) absolutely no evidence was provided to support the US accusations regarding the Russian 9М729 missile that in fact has characteristics fully consistent with the Treaty, as we have repeatedly explained.

Nor did they mention Russia’s well-grounded claims concerning the US compliance – or rather non-compliance - with the Treaty. The report does not contain a single word on the deployment on land of Mk 41 launchers, capable of firing intermediate-range cruise missiles, or on the US’s development of technologies for prohibited classes of ballistic missiles using “missile defense targets”. The report neither contains references to the US armed UAVs that fully meet the Treaty’s definition of intermediate-range ground-based cruise missiles. The developments that followed the US withdrawal from the Treaty have fully confirmed that our concerns were justified and legally accurate. The fact that the US side almost immediately started testing previously banned weapon systems clearly indicates that they were in well-advanced stage of readiness. We have raised all these issues before our colleagues for many years, but our main priority was to preserve the Treaty and its regime. However, it is obvious that Washington had completely different goals.

Regarding the New START Treaty, it should be reminded that starting February 5, 2018 to date the US is exceeding by 101 pieces the aggregate Treaty numbers under the category of “deployed and non-deployed ICBM launchers, deployed and non-deployed SLBM launchers, and deployed and non-deployed heavy bombers.” The US has neither fulfilled a number of other Treaty provisions. Against this backdrop, Washington’s ambitions to lecture others and “evaluate” their actions are inappropriate, to say the least.

The US’s far-fetched baseless allegations concerning Russia’s approaches to the issues of non-strategic nuclear weapons (NSNW) with references to the “Presidential nuclear initiatives” of 1991-1992 look especially cynical. We remind our American colleagues once again that unlike the US, Russia has not only withdrawn all of its NSNW to its national territory, but also changed their operational status to non-deployed and moved them to centralized storage facilities. These Russian measures remain fully relevant.

Moreover, while implementing the “Presidential nuclear initiatives,” we have significantly reduced the stocks of NSNW – by 75 % as compared to the arsenal of the USSR in 1991.

It is noteworthy that the US’s grievances about Russia’s alleged “deviation” from the “Presidential nuclear initiatives” are being expressed against a backdrop of a consistent revision of US doctrinal principles towards increasing the role of nuclear weapons in various “escalation” scenarios and expanding possibilities of their combat use, which obviously lowers the “nuclear threshold” and increases the threat of a nuclear conflict. Meanwhile, the US has been actively modernizing and expanding its tactical nuclear arsenal, blurring the line between tactical and strategic weapons. A revealing step in this direction was the equipment of some Trident II SLBMs with “tactical-grade” nuclear warheads. Preparations are underway to re-introduce nuclear sea-launched cruise missiles into the US arsenal. The nuclear В61-12 bomb, which has an “adjustable yield” feature and is capable of performing a wide range of both tactical and strategic missions, that is also intended for use by US NATO allies, is about to enter operational service.

The US attempt to “evaluate” other States’ compliance with NPT, exercised in such a selective and manifestly politicized manner, appears to be rather dubious. Meanwhile it sort of goes without saying that the US itself is “above any suspicion” in this area, however, the US not only places its nuclear weapons in other countries, but also envisions using foreign delivery aircrafts and military personnel for combat employment of these weapons within the framework of NATO’s “nuclear sharing” policy. To that effect, the “nuclear sharing” participants provide corresponding technical means, create infrastructure, and hold drills and training. Such practices stand in flagrant violation of the basic provisions of the NPT enshrined in the Treaty’s Articles I and II.

The report also contains insinuations about Russia’s “non-compliance” with the obligations related to the ban on nuclear testing. The allegations revolve around the unsubstantiated claim that Russia “conducted nuclear weapons experiments that are not consistent with the zero-yield standard.” Contradicting themselves, the authors admit that the US does not know how many such tests were carried out and whether they were carried out at all, as well as what kind of tests they were. And despite the fact that this is nonsense, they still conclude that Russia allegedly violates the 1974 Treaty between the USSR and the US on the Limitation of Underground Nuclear Weapon Tests. They claim, that Russia did not notify Washington of such tests as stipulated by this treaty.

First, the US knows but deliberately hushes up the fact that the obligations under the 1974 bilateral treaty are completely overlapped by those of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) signed by both Russia and the US in 1996, which is practically ignored in the Department of State’s report.

Second, we have repeatedly made it known to the United States in various formats and again repeat that we do not intend to discuss compliance with the nuclear test ban with a state that has been delaying the ratification of the CTBT for 25 years, thereby calling into question its entry into force.

Three decades ago, the Russian Federation assumed a unilateral commitment to avoid conducting nuclear tests, and 20 years ago it ratified the CTBT. We do not conduct non-zero-yield tests. We, like the US and other nuclear states, carry out so-called subcritical tests, which in no way run counter to our obligations in this area.

US actions regarding the CTBT cause growing concern in Moscow. While earlier Washington sometimes recalled the possibility of taking a step towards ratifying the Treaty, the current administration has openly declared that there was no such intention. Moreover, the United States is apparently preparing the next destructive step. It is alarming, in particular, that the US Department of Defense’s Nuclear Matters Handbook 2020 directly mentions the possible termination of Washington’s obligations under the Treaty.

In an effort to build an unlawful order based on Washington’s rules rather than international law, the US wants to introduce an «American standard» for zero yield in nuclear testing, which only it can understand. We believe that Washington is seriously considering withdrawing from the CTBT. We would like to warn Washington against this step because it will not be limited to just the ruining of the CTBT. It could lead to very serious consequences for the nuclear non-proliferation regime in general.

We must consider a number of other items that the authors of the report deliberately avoid.

The US was the only P5 country that did not take part in the Conference on the Establishment of a Middle East Zone Free of Nuclear Weapons and Other Weapons of Mass Destruction in November 2019. The respective resolution was adopted in 1995 and approved by the US among others. However, there was no progress in this area because of Washington’s position. In other words, the US deliberately undermined the process that it had committed to sponsor.

The US ratified only one protocol out of five that it had signed, notably on granting Negative Security Assurances for treaties on nuclear weapons-free zones. This was a Protocol to the Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean (Treaty of Tlatelolco). The US security assurances to participants of other nuclear weapons-free zones treaties have not entered into force so far. Thus, they are fiction at this point.

Without offering any proof, the authors of the report accuse Russia of violating the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), of being involved in the Britain-inspired Skripal case, concealing information from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) on the facilities for the production, development and storage of chemical weapons, assisting Syria in the use of chloride in the city of Douma on April 7, 2018, and of developing chemicals for offensive purposes.

Indicatively, all of these false allegations are being worked out while the US itself delays the completion of its national chemical disarmament programme under far-fetched excuses (lack of funds and production and technological difficulties).

Thus, the US remains the only State possessor of declared stockpiles of chemical weapons. It also regularly reports the destruction of some unidentified chemical agents, in an effort to conceal its previously unannounced activity in this area.

The refusal of the US to dispose chemical weapons it left in Southeast Asia and Panama is a graphic example that Washington systematically breaches its obligation under the CWC. In addition, in 2003-2009 Washington (and London) secretly withdrew from Iraq or destroyed on site about 5,000 chemical agents from the Saddam Hussein ruling time without properly notifying the OPCW.

Since the 1980s, the US and a number of other NATO countries have been conducting research in nerve agents that are classified in the West as «Novichok», and the US alone has over 140 patents linked with the use of these chemical agents for military purposes.

The US continues to maintain reservations to the 1925 Geneva Protocol for the Prohibition of the Use in War of Asphyxiating, Poisonous or other Gases, and of Bacteriological Methods of Warfare preserving the possibility of retaliating with lethal or incapacitating agents, which is banned by the CWC. Moreover, the US allows, by law, the use of riot control agents for military purposes, which is also prohibited by the Convention. There are also serious questions linked with US’s systematic problems with the illegal use of psychotropic pharmaceuticals, such as the phentanyl group.

Assertions that Russia assisted the Syrian authorities on the use of chloride in the city of Douma on April 7, 2018 are unacceptable. Such crimes have been carried out by the Syrian armed opposition that is sponsored from the outside, and by affiliated NGOs like the White Helmets. They do not hide their goals. They want to discredit the legal government of Syria and provoke the US and its allies to attack this sovereign state in violation of the UN Charter and the universally recognized principles of international law.

The report replicates absurd accusations against Russia related to «violations» of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on their Destruction (BTWC). Those include an unproven reference to some sort of military biological programmes that our country allegedly continues to implement.

We consider such ungrounded speculations as an attempt by the US to divert the attention of the international community from its own non-transparent and improper practices in this sensitive area. Russia's activities in the biomedical area are exclusively peaceful and fully correspond to the BTWC provisions.

The position of Washington on the BTWC is inconsistent and controversial. On one hand, the US is formally in favour of strengthening the Convention and declare verification as a guarantee of effectiveness of any arms control and disarmament agreement. On the other hand, since 2001 the United States has been blocking efforts to develop a legally binding protocol to the BTWC with an effective verification mechanism.

Military biological activities of Pentagon in various regions of the world, including those in close proximity to Russia’s borders, raise serious questions. Particularly noteworthy are the activities at the Richard Lugar Centre for Public Health Research in Georgia, where the US military is carrying out dual-purpose programmes on which Washington does not provide any data under the BTWC confidence-building measures.

Given the fact that the US has not so far withdrawn its reservation to the 1925 Geneva Protocol, which, in particular, prohibits the use of bacteriological weapons, there is a logical question with regard to the real objectives of the Pentagon's biological activities on the territory of foreign states.

We urge the US to act responsibly and comply with its BTWC obligations and take concrete steps to address the above-mentioned issues. We expect Washington's support for Russia’s initiatives aimed at strengthening the BTWC regime.

With regard to the conventional arms control as well as confidence- and security-building measures, the published report hardly contains anything new compared to its last year’s extended version. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation has already commented on it in detail (https://www.mid.ru/ru/obycnye-vooruz...ent/id/3793171).

Concerning the two “novelties” that appeared in this report, we would like to note the following.

The Russian Federation did not violate Article VI of the Treaty on Open Skies (OST) by not letting the US-Canadian mission conduct one of the segments of the agreed mission plan in September 2019 during the “Center-2019” military exercise. This restriction was due to the difficulties in ensuring the OST flights safety amid rapidly changing situation during the active phase of the exercise. An alternative time for conducting the flight over the segment was proposed to the observing Party, in accordance with the Treaty. However, this proposal was rejected. Besides, during the recent hearings in the US Congress independent experts have disagreed with the description of Russia’s actions as “violations” of its commitments under the Treaty.

The United States deliberately remains silent on its own numerous OST compliance problems.

First. In 2016, the US failed to ensure the safe arrival of the Russian An-30B observation aircraft at the point of entry/exit, by refusing to provide the required number of intermediate airfields. The US position has not changed as of yet. This constitutes a violation of the Treaty on Open Skies by the United States.

Second. In 2017, the night-time rest stops for observation aircraft crews at the refuelling airfields Robins and Ellsworth were cancelled. This violates the observing Party’s right to conduct observation flights of the established maximum flight distance, taking into account the norms of the crew's workload limits, which directly affects the flight safety.

Third. In violation of the Treaty the United States established the maximum flight distance over the Hawaiian Islands from the Hickam refuelling airfield. However, according to the OST, the maximum flight distance is established only from Open Skies airfields and is calculated by specific rules. The distance limit of 900 kilometres established by the U.S. contrary to the provisions of the OST does not comply with the Treaty in any case as this distance must be at least 1,160 kilometres, if calculated correctly.

Fourth. The United States imposed restrictions on observation flights over the Aleutian Islands, according to which the aircraft of an observing Party always has to remain within the outer border of the adjacent zone, spanning 24 nautical miles from the coast. This restriction, which is not provided for by the Treaty, significantly reduces the effectiveness of the observation flights.

Fifth. The United States imposes restrictions on the altitude of the observation aircraft flights over its territory, which are not provided for by the OST and run contrary to the ICAO norms recommending the allocation of a safe airspace for the military aircraft flights.

Regarding the Vienna Document (VD), the US attempts to question Russia’s compliance with the VD, in particular with its Chapter III “Risk Reduction”, in connection with the incident that occurred near the settlement of Nenoksa in August 2019 are illegitimate. The facility, where the incident occurred, does not fall under the notion “military forces” in the VD context and is not subject to its provisions.

The issues of Russia’s “non-compliance” with the VD, which were included in the report, have never been raised by the United States neither in the OSCE Forum for Security Co-operation nor on other relevant platforms in Vienna, which demonstrates the glaring weakness of the claims made by the US.

The report makes no mention of Kiev’s non-compliance with the VD, or of several NATO Member States having problems with fulfilling their commitments, in particular of their refusal to ratify the Agreement on Adaptation of the CFE Treaty, of NATO Member States’ attempts to circumvent the CFE numerical limitations by admitting new members to the Alliance, etc.

We reserve the right to provide more detailed comments after the US Department of State’s full report is released.




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4104977
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Briefing by Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova, Moscow, April 23, 2020



23 April 2020 - 20:27






Coronavirus update

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Changes in procedure for paying pensions to Russian nationals permanently residing abroad

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Developments around Russian school pupils currently in the US

This issue is under the control of the Russian Foreign Ministry top officials. The Russian Embassy in Washington is taking further efforts to search for Russian school pupils in the United States amidst the grave situation with the spread of COVID-19 in the country. We are speaking about high school pupils who are visiting the US due to various American educational and learning programmes, which were not coordinated with the Russian authorities.

Regrettably, even the organisers themselves and the representatives of the organisations that should be responsible for the youngsters have failed to give a clear response as to how many of the concerned young people got to the US through these channels and also for what purpose. As we have mentioned, the US Department of State reported that some 80 Russian pupils have been in the US since last autumn under the programme (Secondary School Student Program) that invited them through the Department's website. Sadly, the list of the pupils and their contacts have not been provided to us over a period of the past half of this month. We have only received emails from seven US NGOs that accepted school children in different US states; however, not all of them have responded to the urgent requests made by the Russian Embassy.

As we understood, there are plenty of such programmes in the United States that work with Russian young people without any coordination with the Russian government authorities, and the number of Russian pupils currently in the US may be well over 80.

So far, the Embassy has managed to identify over 40 children. We know the names of 42, of whom eight have already returned to Russia and 34 remain all across the US; many of them are willing to travel back as soon as possible. Some of them consider themselves safe and plan to return to their home country as scheduled, in May or June with assistance from their parents.

The location of at least 38 pupils is still unknown. The US authorities are not providing us with any help with our search efforts and their return to Russia; even more, it appears that they are distancing themselves from solving this issue and ignoring the Embassy appeals. Russian diplomats in Washington and in the US on the whole have to act on their own to settle this issue.

Of course, we will make conclusions from such conduct by US officials. We hope that our schools and the families of the children will act more cautiously in the future when seeing ads of such US programmes, and be aware of the possible risks. We strongly believe that taking underage Russian citizens abroad without their parents or other legitimate representatives is unacceptable without proper coordination with relevant Russian agencies.

We would like to once more ask our educational institutions and families, which sent their children to the US who have not yet retuned back, to provide their contacts including mobile phone numbers to the Foreign Ministry.



World Book and Copyright Day

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International Day of Multilateralism and Diplomacy for Peace

International Day of Multilateralism and Diplomacy for Peace will be marked for the second time this year on April 24. This holiday was established on December 12, 2018, by UN General Assembly Resolution 127 drafted by Venezuela as the presiding country of the Non-Aligned Movement.

The task of establishing a truly polycentric world order, taking due account of the interests and approaches of all international community members as well as political and diplomatic settlement of armed conflicts are relevant today as never before, especially amid the coronavirus pandemic. Given this, the importance of the United Nations is growing because it remains an alternative-free mechanism for a just and equal interstate cooperation enjoying universal legitimacy. Undeviating observance of the UN Charter, including the sovereign equality of the states, non-interference in the internal affairs and renunciation of force or threat of force, is a guarantee of international peace and security, progressive socio-economic development and protection of human rights.

Meanwhile, a number of countries, above all in the West, do not stop their attempts to weaken the United Nations’ pivotal coordinating role in the world and to return their lost domination. To this end they are revising the agreed framework of international interaction and trying to replace it with a notorious “rules-based” global order, which implies in part establishing competing mechanisms for promoting dubious ideas. They preserve the destructive practice of unilateral sanctions. All this results only in the augmentation of the conflict potential and paves the way back to the times of confrontation and in no way corresponds to the spirit of multilateralism.

In this situation, it seems very important to intensify steps strengthening polycentric principles in world affairs and concentration of efforts aimed at peaceful dispute settlement and overcoming common challenges and threats based on the UN Charter and other provisions of international law. Russia, as a co-founder of the United Nations, a permanent member of the UN Security Council and a responsible member of the international community will continue working in this area together with all interested partners.



Russia’s assistance to Moldova

I would like to tell you about what we had promised to report in more detail, that is, Russia’s assistance to the post-Soviet countries. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov promised to share more information regarding this.

The past week saw notable developments in Russian-Moldovan relations.

On April 17, an intergovernmental agreement was signed in Moscow to provide a Russian state loan to Chisinau. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the agreement was signed via videoconference between Deputy Finance Minister of Russia Timur Maksimov and Moldovan Ambassador to Russia Andrei Neguta.

Russia’s support to Moldova during these difficult times is much needed and timely.

On April 19, Russia and China completed a joint operation to deliver humanitarian aid to Moldova. A Russian An-124 Ruslan military transport aircraft delivered over 50 tonnes of Chinese medical supplies needed to fight the coronavirus from Shanghai to Chisinau, including diagnostic and sanitising equipment, personal protective gear, respirators, etc.

We hope that this assistance will help Moldova to fight the new coronavirus infection and its consequences.



Outcome of the African Union Peace and Security Council’s meeting on the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on peace and security in Africa

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Update on Syria

Work is underway to stabilise the situation in Syria, primarily, on the basis of the guarantor countries’ existing agreements under the Astana format. The developments on the ground, as well as the need to provide the necessary humanitarian aid to the Syrians and to advance the political process were reviewed by the foreign ministers of Russia, Iran and Turkey in detail yesterday during a telephone conversation. A detailed press release was posted on the Ministry’s website.

In Idlib, the Russian and Turkish military are working to implement the Russian-Turkish Additional Protocol of March 5 to create a security corridor along the M-4 motorway and to establish regular joint patrols. However, this work has run into opposition by the radical units remaining in the de-escalation zone. In this regard, we note Ankara’s efforts to drive the militants out of the areas that are contiguous to the M-4 motorway and we hope that the so-called moderates will distance themselves from the terrorists and the latter will be neutralised.

The situation in northeastern Syria which is home to ISIS prisons and IDP camps with large masses of people and virtually no access from the outside is increasingly causing our concern. Should the coronavirus infection make its way there, the situation may degrade into a disaster and make unbearable the already harsh living conditions there.

Against this alarming background, we noted a number of publications that talk about US assistance to the Kurdish administration in northeastern Syria, which gives rise to a lot of questions. This help really looks weird. Reportedly, in addition to medical disinfection supplies, the Americans also provided the Kurds with means to suppress riots among prisoners, which can hardly be classified as humanitarian aid. In addition to this, there are reports about an explosive spread of coronavirus infection among US troops, and that this is being hushed up.

As is known, the US military presence in Syria is qualified as occupation in accordance with international humanitarian law. This means that Washington bears full responsibility for the civilian population and meeting its humanitarian needs in the areas controlled by it south of the Euphrates River and in ​​Al-Tanf, which is home to the notorious Rukban IDP camp. We have repeatedly voiced our principled position on Rukban, and I would like to reiterate it now. The Rukban problem cannot be resolved by humanitarian convoys. It is necessary to eliminate its root cause which is the 55-km security zone around Al-Tanf which was arbitrarily created by the United States. In addition, as we know from practice, the humanitarian aid never makes it to those who actually need it and is taken over by the militants who hold the refugees hostage.

Providing comprehensive humanitarian aid to all the Syrians who need it without discrimination or any preconditions is an absolute priority amid the pandemic. In this regard, we support UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ call to lift or to suspend unilateral sanctions which undermine the ability of many countries, including Syria, to effectively combat the spread of the coronavirus and block the supply of critical medicine and medical supplies. We hope that the UN specialised humanitarian agencies will step up their emergency assistance programmes throughout Syria, without exception or preferences shown to the areas not controlled by Damascus.



Update on Libya

The most recent events in Libya are causing us to be greatly concerned. The intensification of hostilities between the forces supporting the Government of National Accord and the Libyan National Army shows, in our opinion, that the truce declared in January is no longer observed by the warring parties.

This situation has become particularly dangerous amid the spreading coronavirus epidemic in Libya. Clearly, the government is unable to fight the infection amid the ongoing civil strife.

More than ever before, these developments call for the international community to promote the political settlement of the drawn-out Libya crisis. However, coordinating its efforts is complicated by the fact that the post of the UN Secretary-General’s special representative for Libya remains vacant after Ghassan Salame resigned in March.

We believe it is critically important for the UN Secretary-General to come up with a suitable candidate for this position as soon as possible. Without giving specific names, we believe that, given Libya’s geographical location and Arab affiliation, a representative of a North African country with good standing would be the best choice. That way, the African Union and the League of Arab States, whose mediation potential was not properly used during previous stages, would be closer involved in the process of a Libyan settlement.



Venezuela update

We are forced once again to respond to the developments in Venezuela. On March 31, the US Department of State announced the Democratic Transition Framework for Venezuela. During our previous briefings we spoke in detail about why we cannot take a positive attitude to Washington’s innovation, which can hardly be described as innovation because its goals have not changed and boil down to ensuring the removal of the legitimate president of Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro. We noted that Washington’s allegedly constructive proposal clashed with the US decisions to place a bounty on Nicolas Maduro, who has been accused of all the deadly sins, as well as to hold military exercises in the Caribbean in order to impose a naval blockade on that sovereign country.

As we saw, our objective, balanced, calm and substantive response based on facts has produced some irritation across the ocean. The numerous statements made there were a clear indication of an information war. They started to “interpret” our response.

They claimed that Russia is cutting ties with Nicolas Maduro and that it is only ready to support the Venezuelan leader at the UN while its interest for Caracas is based on purely geopolitical considerations.

All this, and much more has been stated openly but without quoting our response. As we see it, their objective remains to convince the Chavistas of President Maduro’s vulnerability and to encourage them to stand up against him. Their objective is to undermine and to disorganise the Venezuelan authorities at a time when they need to mobilise the response potential of the nation to the coronavirus challenge, as well as to show that the Venezuelan government allegedly has no external support.

We would like to ask our American colleagues to listen carefully to what we say and not to fake our words. Please use only direct quotations. We promptly publish all our statements on the Foreign Ministry’s website and social accounts, and we also provide an English translation of our statements.

I would like to say once again that it is not the United States but the Venezuelans themselves who can and must decide their future through an intra-Venezuelan dialogue without any foreign interference, preconditions and ultimatums. Diktat has never helped to create trust. By the way, the fact that the Democratic Transition Framework for Venezuela was announced by the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo rather than by the so-called Acting President Juan Guaido is proof that the Americans do not trust their puppet and have essentially decided to write him off.

The comments made in the US refer to the West creating obstacles to foreign investment in the Venezuelan economy and to the conditions for the lifting of US sanctions. This sounds ominous, both overall and amid the coronavirus pandemic. Is the poorly disguised joy at creating problems for Venezuela and at depriving it of access to the international markets of goods and services amid the pandemic, which will target primarily the interests of common people, a responsible and humanitarian political approach? It is evidently not. It is clear to everyone that this approach has nothing to do with humaneness and human rights. Feeling satisfaction at problems created for others is evidence of low morals.

Here is what we suggest: allow Russia to speak for itself. Do not interpret our statements to suit your own or others’ interests. We have been acting consistently; we do not hide our views and we are ready to and will uphold them.

I believe that our American colleagues should learn one thing: It is important to speak for yourself. If you have something to say, then say it. Do not distort or interpret what we say. By the way, if you start speaking for yourself and do so honestly, people may start believing you. I believe that Washington should begin to be honest with the people of Venezuela. Maybe it should stop planning any campaigns to protect the national interests of Venezuela but instead put its cards on the table and act openly.

We are providing support to everyone who is working to contain the spread of the coronavirus infection, which is threatening the entire world, including Latin America. As we have said, the current situation in Venezuela does not appear to be critical, unlike in the neighbouring countries that are criticising Caracas – Brazil, Peru and Ecuador. This proceeds from the data of the Pan American Health Organisation. Evidence of this objective reality is the return of Venezuelan immigrants in Colombia back home.

To conclude, I would like to point out that we are not averse to discussing Venezuelan developments with Washington. But there can be no “deals” paid for with the health and welfare of common people.



Returning notes of protest to Ukrainian Foreign Ministry

This week, the Russian Foreign Ministry returned two notes to its Ukrainian colleagues. In the first note, Kiev expressed protest in relation to archaeological excavations and earthworks in Crimea. In the second one, it demanded that we provide a report on Russia’s measures to fight the coronavirus in Crimea and Donbass.

Such actions by Ukrainian diplomats never fail to amaze us. Against the backdrop of the pandemic in the country and fires in Chernobyl, when Russian planes are transporting Ukrainian citizens home from third countries, and Russian diplomats are providing them with assistance to return home, the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry spends all of its energy bombarding the ‘aggressor state’, as they call us, with menacing notes of protest.

I am addressing our Ukrainian colleagues, the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry: save paper. It seems that Kiev authorities live in a parallel universe. First, they cut Crimea off from water and electricity, launch a blockade of Donbass, and then they demand a report on how Russia protects the residents of these areas from the coronavirus. Let me remind you that Kiev can have a direct dialogue with Donetsk and Lugansk if it is really concerned about the lives and health of their residents. Russia is not a party to the conflict in southeastern Ukraine and does not control the Donbass territory.

We again remind you that the issue of Crimea’ being part of Russia is closed. In 2014, the Republic of Crimea and Sevastopol voluntarily re-unified with Russia. All notes of protest about the Russian authorities’ actions related to exercising sovereignty over the Crimean Peninsula, be it official visits, infrastructure development, including archaeological excavations, holding elections, and all other possible events will be again returned to the Ukrainian party due to the lack of grounds for their consideration.



Norway and US military cooperation aimed against Russia

The US RAND Corporation has published a report on the priorities in Norway’s defence policy. It is unremarkable by itself, just one more of the numerous similar documents where Russia is represented as a ‘most dangerous threat’ to counteract which they need, in particular, to strengthen the military coordination between the United States and Norway using, of course, American-made military equipment.

We noted something else here. In recent years, Norway has been assigned a major role in the US and NATO strategists’ foreign policy plans as the frontline for ‘containing Russia’. The country is building up its military potential, modernising relevant infrastructure, opening training centres for the allies’ military, expanding facilities to store American military equipment and marine equipment, and regularly holding major military exercises. Norway is actively engaged in involving non-aligned countries such as Finland and Sweden.

It is regrettable that Norway is enthusiastically participating in various transatlantic anti-Russia scenarios. The centuries old traditions of neighbourly relations have been sacrificed for the interests of the others, including financial interests. Against the backdrop of slowing bilateral interaction, the military flywheel of military preparations against Russia is gaining momentum.

We urge Oslo to reconsider its destructive approaches and build long-term cooperation with our country based on mutual respect and consideration of interests.



Russian-Iraqi cooperation in archaeology

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Paul Whelan’s espionage trial

US officials continue to spout critical statements about the ongoing Paul Whelan’s trial in Moscow on espionage charges. In particular, I am referring to the allegations that an innocent man is being prosecuted, as US Ambassador to Russia John Sullivan and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee put it.

I would like to remind you that during Maria Butina’s trial in Washington a year ago – she was sentenced to prison just for being a Russian citizen, as she had committed no other offences – US officials spoke of the ‘independence of the judiciary.’ This was how they answered all our questions. They said that they did not have the right to question any decisions of the American court. Now, for some reason, they are not embarrassed to give assessments to a Russian trial, and just as unfortunately, they are not embarrassed to distort reality.

Paul Whelan was not a tourist, as the US representatives are trying to assert; he arrived in Russia for intelligence purposes and was detained in Moscow on December 29, 2018 – caught red-handed while trying to obtain secret information. He travelled into Russia with an American passport, but prudently also had citizenship in a number of other countries including the UK, Ireland and Canada.

From the moment of his arrest, he has had regular visits – almost every week – from embassies of all the four countries, including ambassadors. They must be well aware that Paul Whelan is in good physical shape and, if necessary, immediately receives qualified medical care at the pre-trial detention centre’s medical unit. Furthermore, a medical examination organised at one of the regular city hospitals did not reveal any serious or dangerous health conditions. We are compelled to speak about this because we keep hearing statements from US representatives about his health condition and examinations. Also in connection with the American statements, I would like to note that he was offered for the option of having a minor surgery if he considered that he needed it. He refused it.

Therefore, the statements that Paul Whelan is denied medical care are not just completely groundless – they are not true.

The court has also allowed him to have telephone calls with members of his family in the United States. We presume that he will speak with his family in the near future.

As for his hearings being held behind closed doors and the US Ambassador not being allowed into the courthouse, well, there is nothing surprising here. In Russia, as in most other countries, restricted access to criminal hearings is common legal practice if the indictment contains classified information. The trial of Paul Whelan, who came to Russia precisely to obtain secret information, is just such a case.

By the way, the trial did not start until March 30 and was actually delayed by the holder of four passports, who took more than six months to study the charges after he was provided with a copy of the final version of the case on August 30, 2019 and had a qualified translator at his disposal. Apparently, as we understand it, he was in no hurry and well aware of the convincing evidence.

Now the coronavirus epidemic has made adjustments to the schedule of hearings, but again, the intervals are also being made at the request of Paul Whelan’s lawyers. Despite these delays, the proceedings are underway. Regular meetings were held on April 20 and 21. As far as we know, they will resume next week. The judge is making decisions. Legal proceedings are conducted in strict accordance with Russian laws, and in compliance with all the appropriate rules and procedures.



US concerns about media and journalists in Russia

We have noted the increasing attempts by our Western and, above all, American partners to cast a negative light on the situation with media freedom in Russia in the challenging times due to the coronavirus pandemic. These unrelated facts become correlated in a strange way. We view this assessment as obviously politicised and based on their own interpretation of articles, statements and interviews rather than on actual facts.

In this regard, we would suggest American partners refrain from any actions that could so easily be interpreted as interference in Russia’s internal affairs. Why don’t they focus on their own problems with media freedom in the United States instead, of which there are loads? They are not at all limited to the negative rhetoric of US officials regarding the press. For example, according to numerous testimonies of international human rights organisations, in particular the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists, cases of physical violence against media workers and the use of pressure on the media such as lawsuits for their critical statements continue to be practiced in the United States. The special search procedure for journalists crossing the American border along with pressure to disclose confidential sources of information, which undermines the principles of investigative journalism naturally causes concerns of human rights activists.

As a reminder, certain media outlets are being subjected to open discrimination in the United States, in particular, foreign media. An atmosphere of hostility and mistrust is being actively formed around the Russian news agencies RT and Sputnik. The Russian media are not the only targets; the whole world now knows how the Chinese media are treated in the US. The United States Foreign Agents Registration Act does not allow them or their American media partners to fully carry out their journalistic activities.

There is also an increase in censorship and prosecution of unwanted media online. Here is a fresh example – Google’s move to block the account of the Federal News Agency, a Russian online outlet, as unacceptable on April 17. The corporation also blocked its YouTube account, deleting tens of thousands of the agency’s reports and documentaries.

Paradoxical as it may seem, for some reason, Washington’s mop-ups of the media landscape are not affecting the extremist-aligned website Mirotvorets (Peacemaker), which continues to use American servers and poses a direct threat to all journalists included in its database. This seems to be a really special thing for the US. They see no threat in that; at least no action is being taken.

We expect the United States to move from making a show of concern for freedom of speech around the world, to specific actions to rectify the situation with the media rights and the situation of journalists, primarily in their own country.



Anti-Russia accusations in US Senate

It is mind-boggling that, despite the dire situation with the outbreak of the coronavirus in the US, instead of helping their voters, the senators in Washington find the time to concoct more anti-Russia libel. You have probably heard that the Senate Intelligence Committee on April 21 released the fourth volume of the Report on Russia’s so-called interference in the US election. In this part, the US lawmakers said they had reviewed and generally approved their special services’ methodology to identify Moscow’s destructive activities.

The “methodology” itself is beyond understanding because 90 percent of the report is classified. It predictably cites no evidence. The statements are linked by hackneyed pretty phrases already rammed into the minds of American voters. The only non-classified part of the report is the conclusions – each one more beautiful than the last. In particular, they argue that in the 2016 presidential election, Russia showed “unprecedented aggressiveness” of interference and escalated the “scope of effort.” They also discuss ways to respond to the “threat from future Russian influence operations.”

Reading this for the fourth year in a row is both sad but at the same time rather funny as well. The paranoid insinuations coming out of Washington are obviously a product of the political infighting in the US. With puzzling persistence, they are blaming Russia for their own failures and trying to get additional electoral dividends at our expense, again through an anti-Russia campaign.

I very much doubt that this will bring real dividends to anyone. America has other problems today. From the bottom of our hearts, we sincerely wish that they emerge from this difficult period. We also wish them to finally wake up and understand that no one else is to blame for their present and past problems. They need to take responsibility for their own economic, political and any other troubles. We sincerely hope that American politicians of all stripes and party affiliations will remember that American citizens are now preoccupied with other problems and that they are not even thinking about Russia, but are thinking about how to survive the pandemic.

Amid this new round of hysteria, it is becoming increasingly more difficult to conduct a productive, effective and constructive dialogue with our American partners, including in the interests of addressing real global problems. Let us hope that the American senators will yet come to realise that these actions are pointless as well as harmful.



Dismantling of monument to Marshal Ivan Konev in Prague

Another issue that we will be working on is the situation concerning the monument to Marshal Ivan Konev in Prague. The level and intensity of cynicism that we are seeing there keeps shocking us.

We are carefully analysing the developments around the dismantling of the monument to Marshal of the USSR, Hero of Czechoslovakia, Honorary Citizen of Prague Ivan Konev on April 3. Under his leadership, the troops of the 1st Ukrainian Front liberated Prague from the Nazi occupation in May 1945.

This act of political vandalism is an obvious violation of the 1993 Treaty on Friendly Relations and Cooperation between Russia and the Czech Republic, which is essential for bilateral relations. The agreement obliges the parties to preserve and to maintain military monuments, and also to provide access to them. In this case, there is no more talk about the fulfillment of these obligations by the Czech side.

The obligation to properly implement the above mentioned agreement that was ratified by the Czech Republic, lays on the Government of this country. According to the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, each existing treaty is mandatory for all participants and must be properly implemented. References to domestic law and the decisions of the local bodies of authority to justify the non-implementation of the agreement are not acceptable. The Czech authorities not only failed to take measures to prevent illegal actions of the Prague-6 district administration, but turned a blind eye to them. The question about who owns the monument is irrelevant in this case.

It is obvious that the arbitrary dismantling of the monument to Ivan Konev cannot be considered the scrupulous fulfillment of obligations to preserve and to maintain the monument. Given the need to provide access to it, the issue of its location could not be dealt with unilaterally. Article 5 of the agreement stipulates a mechanism of consultations at various levels. It could have been used here.

We urge our partners to return to fulfilling the agreement to the full extent.

We are ready for a meaningful dialogue with the Czech side on the issue which is aggravating bilateral relations.

We consider it overwhelmingly cynical also because we are sad to see that there are several information campaigns unfolding in the Czech Republic rather than one. These campaigns are obviously anti-Russian, political and aimed at striking a blow at bilateral relations. It seems that each factor of bilateral relations is reviewed by some forces in terms of how bilateral ties and contacts could be harmed even more. Even the less problematic subjects and technical issues are turned into political ones in order to complicate bilateral relations as much as possible.



Anti-Russian media campaign following cyberattacks in the Czech Republic

Today several Czech media outlets are promoting a completely ungrounded anti-Russian campaign, devoid of any facts, except the infamous anonymous “leaks” from special services, that accuses Russia of organising cyberattacks on energy and healthcare facilities in the Czech Republic.

We regard these fakes as another step in the dirty work to demonise Russia launched in the West. If there are any facts, first, show them to us. Second, why use leaks? Step up and speak about them. We have embassies, with ambassadors and diplomats, so give them the materials, set up consultations and send diplomatic notes. What is the problem? Why do you once again use the British tool of destroying bilateral relations in the media and endless leaks? As per tradition, those who staged this provocation used the “fake news generator” at full capacity.

It is sad to see that this idea is supported by certain Czech officials. They quickly seized this opportunity to practise their anti-Russian rhetoric and started speaking about cyberattacks from foreign states.

We would like to warn the campaign’s creators against further peddling the topic of mythical Russian hackers, which looks especially cynical during the spread of the coronavirus infection, weakening the united front created by all the countries to counter it.

We find it appropriate to note that according to the 2015 report of the Group of Governmental Experts approved by a consensus and UN General Assembly Resolution 70/237 that codifies its recommendations, any accusations of organising and conducting criminal activities against states must be substantiated.

Russia consistently speaks in favour of using information and communications technology only for peaceful purposes and establishing a professional expert dialogue to ensure international information security both bilaterally and multilaterally. This story has once again proved the inadequacy of such information campaigns without facts and the need to develop universal rules, norms and principles of states’ responsible behaviour in the information space as soon as possible.



Sierra Leone's 59th anniversary of independence

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Answers to media questions:



Question:

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has recently expressed hope that flight service with Georgia will resume soon. How are the talks on this matter proceeding? Are there any signals from Tbilisi?



Maria Zakharova:

I would like to note that Mr Lavrov gave a very detailed comment on the question he received during the roundtable discussion organised by the Alexander Gorchakov Public Diplomacy Fund, where he also spoke about the right atmosphere for resolving a range of existing problems.

You can read the transcript at https://www.mid.ru/ru/foreign_policy...ent/id/4103828, including his answer to the question in its entirety.



Question:

Would you comment on the health of Russian pilot Konstantin Yaroshenko, who is being held prisoner in the US? It was reported that his cellmate died from the coronavirus.



Maria Zakharova:

We continue to closely monitor the state of Konstantin Yaroshenko, who was sentenced to 20 years in prison in the US. He has serious health problems, including after the torture he endured during his arrest by officers of the Drug Enforcement Agency in Liberia in 2010.

After reports that the coronavirus epidemic reached the prison holding the Russian citizen, the Russian Embassy in Washington immediately contacted our compatriot. The US authorities have not yet confirmed that a prisoner detained with Konstantin Yaroshenko fell ill. However, the risk of infection remains very high considering that the number of confirmed cases in the US is quickly approaching 900,000.

The general level of medical services at US prisons also raises concern. As we know, there often are even difficulties with getting routine checkups, to say nothing about specific medicines and advanced treatment when necessary.

This is why on March 24 Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov sent a verbal message to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, urging him to release Konstantin Yaroshenko as well as other Russians under investigation or sentenced to prison terms in the US for humanitarian reasons. Moreover, on April 18, a diplomatic note was sent to the US Embassy in Moscow, which once again focuses on the need to resolve the issue of returning Russian nationals home as soon as possible. We hope that Washington will respond positively to our requests soon, which would save the Russians’ lives and health.

There is another topic related to the Czech Republic and promoted in the Czech information space in a very odd way.



Question:

Prague City Hall recently decided to rename what was known for decades as ‘Under the Chestnuts Square’ where the Russian Embassy in the Czech Republic is located. The Russian Embassy in turn issued a statement that it will use the address of its consular division, 36 Korunovacni, as the official one. Why was this decision made? And why does the website of the Russian Embassy in the Czech Republic still have the old name, Under the Chestnuts Square?



Maria Zakharova:

I would like to highlight that the Russian Embassy in the Czech Republic regularly and fully comments on everything that happens in bilateral relations or that concerns the Russian foreign mission’s work. News conferences are being held, and social media accounts updated. In addition to this, I can say for my part that changing the address of the Russian Embassy in Prague is a purely technical issue. Any allegations circulating in the media space about a possible transfer of the Russian diplomatic mission to its consular division building are not true.

The thing is that, according to the Prague cadastre, the Embassy officially has two locations – something the City Hall Department of Trade Licence and Civil Law Issues informed us of after renaming Under the Chestnuts Square, which we previously used as the official address of the diplomatic mission. Given the legal equivalence of the two addresses, the Embassy preferred to refrain from using the new name and decided to keep the tradition of using the name that had existed in Prague for years, which is 34 Korunovacni Street.

In accordance with the established practice, the diplomatic mission notified the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs with a note, and the ministry accepted this purely technical decision. Once the Czech Foreign Ministry sends confirmation, which, we expect, will not take long, the Embassy will post the valid official address on its website.

No need to look for politics where there is none. Better spot it where it really is.



Question:

On March 19, you answered my question about Russia helping Afghanistan in the coronavirus response. You said if there is a request, this possibility will be considered. Now that the official appeal has already been received through the interparliamentary exchange, can they expect a positive answer?



Maria Zakharova:

The Russian side indeed recently received an appeal from the Afghan parliament asking for assistance to Afghanistan in the coronavirus response.

Our country’s fundamental position is that none of the requests for help should be left unattended, and all available opportunities for assistance should be considered. We are confident that this request will be examined from the same perspective.

For our part, we would like to once again urge the warring Afghan parties to prevent the spread of the coronavirus infection in their territories, and the member states of the international coalition operating in Afghanistan, to maintain the volume of humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan, including supplies needed for combating the pandemic.



Question:

How can you comment on the United States obstructing medical deliveries to Iran?



Maria Zakharova:

We believe that Washington’s course of tightening illegitimate unilateral sanctions against Iran, which has been seriously affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, is unacceptable.

In this context we are guided by the position formulated by President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin at the G20 summit videoconference on March 26. He stressed the need to establish so-called green corridors and a moratorium on restrictions with regard to the supplies of medicines and essential goods as well as their purchases by the countries hit by the pandemic.

The Russian Federation has repeatedly pointed out the illegitimate nature of unilateral US sanctions against Iran and other countries. We strongly urge the United States to lift the restrictions and not to hinder a comprehensive response to the coronavirus.

Together with like-minded partners we have been campaigning against inhumane sanctions which the United States and some of its allies adopted as their main foreign policy tool. These efforts have brought about certain results. In his written address to the G20 leaders, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called on removing the existing sanctions against other countries in order to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic. A group of US Democratic senators sent a similar letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin, and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet made a critical statement on this subject from the human rights perspective.

The present difficult situation in the world has shown the true face of the Western countries, which often use the terms of humanitarian law. It turns out that most of them prefer a different approach. That is deplorable.



Question:

How would you comment on the fact that the United States is urging the UN Security Council to evaluate whether the launch of Iran’s military satellite, Noor, was consistent with Security Council Resolution 2231? US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said this at a briefing on Wednesday.



Maria Zakharova:

This is not the first time that a state which blatantly violates international law and UN Security Council Resolution 2231 tries to shield itself from international blame by groundlessly accusing Iran of non-compliance with Security Council requirements. Such unscrupulous tricks have long discredited themselves and proved their complete inadequacy, which is confirmed by the results of numerous discussions at the UN Security Council on the implementation of Resolution 2231. As you know, neither the resolution itself, nor the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) limit the rights and capabilities of Tehran in its civilian activities in space exploration and the development of relevant national programmes. The futile attempts of some analysts in Washington to present it like Iran’s space rockets can bear nuclear weapons are a pure manipulation that are smashed by reality: Iran has never had and, we hope, will never have nuclear weapons. Iran, as the resolution stipulates, does not develop, test, own or use ballistic missiles that can carry warheads. We want to emphasise that unlike the United States, which surprises the world every day with the news of plans to develop its nuclear potential. Let me remind you that in the past years since the JCPOA was signed, Iran has remained a state with the biggest number of IAEA inspections, who have never found any nuclear weapons there, despite the fact that inspectors are working tirelessly day and night regardless of the coronavirus risks. It seems that somebody in Washington is not very happy that despite unprecedented pressure and difficulties deliberately created by the US authorities Tehran has stubbornly complied with its non-proliferation obligations. Because in this case, the global attention is focused on the faults and violations of the United States itself, which, as always, claims its exceptional nature. In this case, exceptional is the presumptuousness with which the United States manipulates the clauses of UN Security Council Resolution 2231, and the infinitely cynical approach to international law that as our overseas colleagues believe, is mandatory for everyone but them.

This distorted logic became especially clear and vivid in the recent report by the State Department on the implementation of arms control agreements and treaties. Our American colleagues were too shy to mention the JCPOA and Resolution 2231 (apparently, so as not to remind the others about their own violations), but reprimanded Tehran, which, by their own admittance, has not violated anything yet, but in case it does, Washington condemns it beforehand. Unfortunately, US violations of Resolution 2231 are not a forecast, but a diagnosis. Intended for an unprepared audience, the deliberately false statements of high-ranking US officials cannot alter our resolve to continue fighting together with our partners for the preservation of the JCPOA and its implementation in accordance with the agreed goals in a timely manner.




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4105092
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Statement by Permanent Representative of Russia to the OSCE Alexander Lukashevich at the online meeting of the OSCE Permanent Council following periodic reports by Special Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office in Ukraine and the Trilateral Contact Group Heidi Grau and Chief Monitor of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine Yasar Halit Cevik, Vienna, April 23, 2020



23 April 2020 - 20:45



Mr Chairperson,

We are delighted to welcome Ambassadors Heidi Grau and Yasar Halit Cevik to this meeting. Much of what you have said shows that no serious progress has been made in the settlement of the crisis in Ukraine.

Of course, the prisoner exchange held on April 16 between Kiev, Donetsk and Lugansk was an important humanitarian event. Over 30 people were given a chance to reunite with their families ahead of the Orthodox Easter. However, it was not an “all for all” exchange as stipulated in Clause 6 of the Minsk Package of Measures signed on February 12, 2015, or even an “all identified for all identified”, as the Normandy format leaders agreed at their Paris meeting in December 2019. Regrettably, there has not been any build-up of trust between the parties to the internal Ukrainian conflict, as the results of the Contact Group meeting held yesterday and the situation on the ground showed. The continued ceasefire violations in Donbass claim more lives and result in more destruction. No major progress is evident in the political sphere or the settlement of the region’s socioeconomic problems.

In December 2019 in Paris, the Normandy Four leaders sent clear signals to the parties to the internal Ukrainian conflict regarding the need to take immediate stabilisation measures and the importance of moving forward when it comes to the political aspects of the Minsk agreements.

Four months later we see no progress in strengthening the ceasefire regime, coordinating the disengagement of forces and hardware in three pilot areas by late March and implementing the revised demining plan, or in opening additional checkpoints across the contact line. Ambassadors Grau and Cevik, we would like to hear your views on what prevents the achievement of these goals.

The Normandy Four leaders confirmed the need for Kiev to coordinate with the Donetsk and Lugansk representatives in the Trilateral Contact Group (TCG) all the legal aspects of the special status of certain areas in Donbass as per the Package of Measures to ensure its operation on a permanent basis. This includes, in part, the integration of the Steinmeier Formula into Ukrainian legislation. During the March 11 meeting of the TCG, the parties agreed, with the mediation of the OSCE and Russia, to establish an Advisory Board for this purpose. Kiev signed a protocol that includes its commitment to formalise this agreement, which has already been coordinated with Donetsk and Lugansk representatives, following consultations with the OSCE, France and Germany.

However, the Kiev representatives backed out at the very next TCG meeting on March 26. Next followed a public statement by Head of the Ukrainian Presidential Office Andrey Yermak according to which Kiev would never hold talks with representatives of the self-proclaimed republics. He said that Kiev would not interact with Donbass representatives but talk directly with “local residents.” It is notable that Deputy Prime Minister of Ukraine Alexey Reznikov explained the shift in Ukraine’s position by the absence of any response to the idea of establishing an Advisory Board in Paris and Berlin. We would like to hear what Ambassador Grau thinks about reasons for the failure to implement the decision regarding the Advisory Board and why the impetus provided at the top Normandy format level for progress on the political track has suddenly become insufficient.

This is the seventh year of the conflict in eastern Ukraine. In April 2014, the Maidan authorities dispatched the security forces and the army to Donbass and used weapons and military hardware against its cities. The so-called counterterrorist operation is camouflaging Kiev’s real intention to apply violence in order to suppress the dissenting opinion of those who refused to accept the results of the state coup in Kiev. Thousands of innocent civilians suffered in the shelling raids of this punitive operation. Later, Petr Poroshenko, hoping to gain power, promised to end the armed conflict in Donbass within a week. After he became president, he capitalised on this topic for five years but he did not deliver on his promises and did not bring Ukraine closer to peace.

A year ago, Vladimir Zelensky defeated Poroshenko at the presidential election, thanks to his promises of an early settlement and dialogue with people in Donbass and of “winning hearts and minds.” However, Kiev is still lacking political will to overcome the resistance of the “party of war”, which rejects compromise solutions on eastern Ukraine. Overall, the signals coming from Kiev and the actions of its representatives in the Contact Group and its military in Donbass have nothing in common with the logic of the Minsk agreements.

A recent proof of this is the April 17 televised address in which Vladimir Zelensky outlined his settlement priorities: first return the territory and reach the border, and only after that think about holding local elections. How does this plan line up with the Minsk Package of Measures and the decisions of the Normandy format summit in Paris? We would like to hear the opinions of our German and French colleagues, who are the co-sponsors of the Minsk process.

Ambassador Yasar Halit Cevik,

We appreciate your efforts and the work of all SMM staff to fulfil their mandate in the difficult situation caused by the coronavirus pandemic. We hope that, relying on the resources available, the Mission will be able to carry out effective monitoring throughout Ukraine. At the same time, we are observing with bewilderment the attempts to politicise the issue of the SMM observers’ movement across the contact line and to demonise the Donetsk and Lugansk authorities. Yet, there is not a word about Donbass fighting COVID-19 in this extremely difficult environment with the Kiev’s economic and transport blockade of the region.

According to the Donetsk and Lugansk representatives in the Trilateral Contact Group, observers are still allowed to travel across the contact line to certain areas of Donbass. Amid the tightened sanitary and epidemiological control worldwide, they are asked to observe a number of medical recommendations whenever they have a need for such travel. SMM paramedics have recently travelled to certain areas of Donbass with the observance of just these procedures, as follows from the report you submitted, Mr Cevik. As far as we know, observers are allowed to travel in the same way.

We strongly condemn any threats to the security of observers, wherever they come from. On April 13, not far from the Donetsk water filtration plant, an SMM patrol was attacked at the railway station in Yasinovataya. Fortunately, no one was hurt. According to the Mission, they were fired at from the west side. The forefront of the Ukrainian military is exactly to the west of the station in Yasinovataya, on the outskirts of Avdeyevka. The SMM reported that the attack damaged the railway station and an apartment building located at a considerable distance from the self-defence forces’ positions. All this confirms that the attack did not have any military targets, but was an act of intimidation of the Mission observers.

In its April 20 report, the Mission confirmed the death of a 25-year-old woman on April 9 in the village of Shirokaya Balka as a result of the shelling. This tragedy would not have happened if Kiev had heeded the March call of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres for a ceasefire in all conflicts during the coronavirus pandemic. It is noteworthy that Donetsk and Lugansk immediately said they were ready to comply with the UN Secretary-General’s request, while Kiev simply ignored it and continued the shelling. Information on the victims of the conflict in eastern Ukraine is regularly summarised by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). The most recent report was released on April 7. We would be grateful to Mr Cevik for information on when the SMM will release its next report on the victims and destruction in Donbass. The last such report was published by the Mission in September 2017. The pause has been too long.

We must also underscore the need for timely recording and reflecting this information in the Mission’s daily reports. For example, the OHCHR statistics for the first quarter of this year coincided with the data published by the representatives of Donbass. At the same time, the SMM reported lower numbers and the need to clarify the details on more than ten victims. We urge the Mission, in the interests of peace and security in Donbass, to develop contacts with local authorities, and respond more quickly to reports of shelling and record their consequences.

We also expect from the SMM a clear and objective recording of Kiev’s violations of the OSCE commitments in the other regions of Ukraine as well, including cases of language and education discrimination. It is also important to record attacks on the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. As such, for some reason, the arson in St Paraskeva church in the village of Lukavtsy, Vizhnitsa District, Chernovtsi Region on the night of April 15 went unnoticed; the church was burned to the ground.

Ambassador Heidi Grau and Ambassador Yasar Halit Cevik,

The current extraordinary situation caused by the coronavirus pandemic underscores the need for an early compromise between the parties to the intra-Ukrainian conflict. The main goal of the OSCE is to provide them with all-out assistance in this. Today, it is important as never before to overcome the inertia of thinking and abandon hackneyed confrontational narratives. Our common task in the OSCE is to completely eliminate the logic of war, and to achieve a fast implementation of the Minsk Package of Measures, which opens up the prospect of establishing a lasting peace in Ukraine.

Thank you.




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4105120






Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Pankin’s interview with Interfax News Agency, April 24, 2020



24 April 2020 - 11:00



Question:

Are the coronavirus pandemic and the related economic crisis threatening the existence and operation of the post-Soviet integration associations – the EAEU, the CIS and the CSTO? Can the EAEU play a role in minimising the crisis related losses, or do we need broader cooperation on a global scale? Which international organisation could become the locomotive of overcoming this crisis?



Alexander Pankin:

The coronavirus pandemic is a global challenge. There have been wars and deadly epidemics throughout global history, but hardly ever before did any disease paralyse the entire planet. This unprecedented situation is a survival test for the majority of integration associations all around the world. To minimise the losses from the crisis provoked by the spread of Covid-19, we should launch large-scale cooperation at regional and global levels. Solidarity, mutual support and overall cohesion are more important and needed now more than ever before.

Regarding the CIS, the current problem is threatening such aspects of integration cooperation as the free movement of workforce and free mutual trade in goods and services. Since the pandemic’s outbreak, the regional international organisations, acting within the scope of their competences delegated to them by the member states, have been doing their utmost towards fighting the coronavirus infection and helping to mitigate its consequences. Acting together with their CIS partners, the EAEU and the CSTO have mobilised their resources towards this goal.

A good instrument in this situation is the CIS countries’ dialogue held at various platforms within the organisation, primarily the CIS working group created on March 25 to monitor the COVID-19 developments. On a daily basis the group submits its conclusions to the CIS member states’ governments and foreign ministries.

The Coordination Council on the Sanitary Protection of the CIS Member States’ from the Import and Spread of Especially Dangerous Infections is contributing to these efforts. Its second, extraordinary meeting on COVID-19 was held several days ago on April 21, and the next meeting has been scheduled for May. We are exchanging experience and the best practices in the fields of medical and sanitary response. Russian specialists are providing consultative and methodological assistance to their CIS colleagues.

The subject of fighting the pandemic has been added to the agenda of the CIS Heads of Government Council meeting scheduled for May 29, which is expected to adopt a joint statement on this subject.

We are trying to make the best use possible of modern technology and to provide access to information updates to as many people as possible. The website of the Russian Foreign Ministry now has a banner on fighting the coronavirus in the CIS/EAEU, which offers links to the related resources of these integration associations.

During an extraordinary working meeting of the EAEU held on April 14, 2020 via a videoconference, the leaders of the five Eurasian states signed a joint statement. They called for preventing the disruption of cooperation ties and spoke about the importance of maintaining international trade, investment activities and cooperation, as well as about stopping the trade wars and unilateral financial and economic sanctions.

On April 10, the heads of government approved measures to create conditions for the recovery and the further development of the EAEU economies. The Eurasian Economic Commission is working routinely to adopt decisions within its competence regarding customs and tariff regulation aimed at ensuring the functioning of the common market of critically important goods during the pandemic.

As for the CSTO, it has been developing crisis management mechanisms for a long time now. The improvement of these mechanisms is among Russia’s priorities during its CSTO chairmanship in 2020. The capabilities of the CSTO Crisis Response Centre are being actively made use of.

Cooperation within the organisation is currently focused on finding effective joint responses to the arising medical and biological safety challenges. A positive example of practical cooperation was the videoconference held on April 16 by the heads of the CSTO countries’ military medical services, during which Russian experts shared their latest practices in the prevention and treatment of the COVID-19 patients based on the experience accumulated during Russia’s assistance to Italy and Serbia.

We are open to constructive cooperation with other countries in various formats. We have no doubt that solidarity and cooperation are essential for overcoming the sanitary and epidemiological, as well as the economic consequences of the coronavirus pandemic.



Question:

Can the coronavirus crisis affect the size of Russia’s financial quota in international organisations, including in the UN?



Alexander Pankin:

Despite the crisis caused by COVID-19, Russia will continue to pay its international organisation membership fees, since they are mandatory.

Our country is also financing international organisations by paying donations, the bulk of which is used to implement technical assistance projects in the developing countries. Russia’s voluntary participation as a donor in implementing technical projects is beneficial for the recipient countries and the donor country. It is likely that the donations for the projects undertaken by international organisations will need to be increased in the wake of the spreading coronavirus infection.



Question:

What global financial and economic scenarios is the Foreign Ministry using when it drafts Russia's economic diplomacy strategy? How deep and long-lasting may the crisis be in your expert judgment?



Alexander Pankin:

In its economic policy, the Foreign Ministry relies on forecasts and analysis by leading international economic organisations, banks, agencies and financial institutions, including the OECD, the WTO, the IMF and the OPEC, to name just a few.

Based on our analysis of the available data, the state of affairs in the global economy caused serious concerns even before the coronavirus pandemic broke out. According to the IMF, in 2019, the global GDP and international trade growth rates amounted to 2.9 percent and 0.3 percent, respectively, thus hitting their bottom levels in the past decade. The situation with global debt continued to deteriorate.

The pandemic led to disruptions in international and national supplies, as well as in global value chains, and caused a supply and demand imbalance. The systemic imbalance of the finance and commodity markets has worsened. In conjunction with the already accumulated trade differences and the introduction of various restrictive measures, the uncertainty in the global economy’s ability to function as an integrated system has increased.

As the pandemic spreads, the economic forecasts are being reviewed and key macroeconomic indicators are being revised down. In its January forecast, the IMF estimated the global economic growth rate at 3.3 percent for the year. Its April 14 report states that the world is plunging into the deepest economic crisis since the Great Depression, and global GDP will shrink by 3 percent. The developed economies will be hit the hardest. The United States will see its economy go down by 5.9 percent, the Eurozone countries – 7.5 percent, Great Britain – 6.5 percent, and Japan – 5.2 percent. According to this financial institution, in the best case scenario, that is if the pandemic will be curbed in the first half of the year, the global economy will recover from it only in 2021, losing about $9 trillion in the process. For Russia, the decline in prices for staple domestic exports, as well as the contraction of the respective markets, represent the greatest risk. Given the circumstances, Russia’s economic diplomacy is faced with a difficult task to counter the attempts to use the political tools to obtain competitive economic advantages.

It is now important to shift the emphasis on expanding international cooperation and coordinating the efforts in order to mitigate the pandemic’s harmful effects on the global economy.



Question:

It was reported that the Russian Government set the task of restoring relations with the ОECD. Have there been any practical steps in this area and does Russia want to renew its application for membership in the OECD? Will full-scale cooperation with it be required in the current complicated conditions?



Alexander Pankin:

Today, Russia is an integral part of the global economy that is functioning as an integrated mechanism based on transborder production and supply chains. We are interested in the existence of a common system of coordinates, strong interstate economic institutions and a solidary approach to resolving urgent issues. The coronavirus pandemic has confirmed the need for pooling efforts in responding to current challenges and the ineptitude of the course towards isolationism, trade wars, sanctions and other methods of power pressure.

Russia is an active G20 member, in the framework of which we are closely cooperating with the OECD, and jointly analysing many initiatives and decisions. Our relations with the OECS began in the 1990s. We have had the status of a signatory nation since 2007. We are taking an active part in its processes and are often initiating them. However, under the pressure from the Americans that have twisted the arms of all the others, the process of Russia’s accession to the OECS was temporarily suspended in 2014. Ukrainian events were used as a formal pretext. That said, the long-term vector on Russia’s rapprochement with the OECD remains the same. Russia is a too important economic player to be ignored without losses for any international organisation and the OECD Secretariat is well aware of this. This logic is followed by many influential OECD members that suggest doing away with this unhealthy situation.

The palette of our relations with the OECD in this respect is indicative. Russia has the rights of full-fledged membership in over 20 working bodies of the OECD, including those responsible for such key issues as the expansion of tax cooperation, transition to the digital economy, support for metallurgy, assistance to international development, countering of corruption, formation of macro-economic policy, financial regulation and scientific and technological advance. We are cooperating with our OECD partners on different venues functioning under its aegis: the IAEA, the International Energy Agency, the Financial Action Task Force (on Money Laundering) (FATF) and the Global Forum on Steel Excess Capacity.

The OECD has made certain achievements. In 2013, it developed large-scale tax cooperation at Russia’s initiative during its presidency in the G20. This process led to legally binding agreements on countering the erosion of the tax base and tax evasion. Russia is a leader in implementing the OECD’s anti-corruption convention, promoting the digital economy, artificial intelligence as well as trade, transport and energy policy.

We have recently noted a number of positive trends. Russia is maintaining useful contacts with the heads of the OECD Secretariat. Last December, the OECD Council launched a package of projects, for which Russia will pay a total of 3.4 million euros, in areas such as financial markets, insurance and social support, management of the municipal economy, modernisation of educational systems and efforts to upgrade the financial literacy of the population.

We intend to continue this policy and purposefully increase the practical effect of our cooperation with the OECD to our mutual benefit.



Question:

What will happen if President Trump follows through on his threat to withdraw from the WTO?



Alexander Pankin:

Leaving the WTO or staying is the sovereign right of any member of the organisation. However, this move is not likely to improve things for the United States. If the United States breaks off from the WTO, the multilateral rules and obligations to liberalise access to foreign markets that benefit US exporters will be no longer applicable to them. Other countries, though, will be entitled to apply the procedures and rules that they find necessary for US-made goods.

For Russia and most other countries, this multilateral trading system remains the foundation for regulating global trade. The WTO is the only platform for overcoming major trade and economic challenges and disputes worldwide. Largely thanks to the GATT/WTO’s efforts to remove barriers to the movement of goods, international trade over the past 70 years has averaged a 6 percent annual growth rate and has been one of the drivers of global development. It is no secret that the United States was one of the main beneficiaries of this progress.

The WTO recently published a global trade forecast through 2020. Analysts say trade could drop by as much as 32 percent in a worst case scenario amid the current COVID-19 crisis. Clearly, in order to make the more optimistic scenario a reality and see a trade decrease of only 13 percent, close cooperation and coordination of efforts are required. This is a difficult road to negotiate and it requires maintaining a dialogue and the ability to reach compromises, but in the long run it will help create the basis for future global economic recovery. Given the current crisis, a simpler option that involves putting up protectionist barriers, which is good for political popularity, adopting unilateral steps using the might of the strongest and waging trade wars has more appeal. Our American partners are the undisputable champion in this non-competitive battle.

To be sure, the WTO is living through difficult times marked by paralysis in multilateral trade talks, lack of consensus, and mutual allegations of failure to comply with the obligations. Nevertheless, an alternative to the WTO is unlikely to be created anytime in the coming decades. In terms of development goals, an increase in the number of regional arrangements or agreements with a limited number of participants cannot replace this respected organisation. They will not be in a position to provide favourable conditions for access to the global markets that are needed for modern value chains.

The vast majority of WTO members focus on the need to reform the organisation, to improve the effectiveness of its bodies and the legal framework, and to update the current negotiating agenda. Russia is actively participating in the collective efforts to find a way out of this situation. We are in favour of an open, transparent and inclusive trade architecture based on nondiscrimination, consideration and respect for each other’s interests as well as the specific development features of individual member countries. It is crucial for the WTO mechanisms not to be used by individual countries to exert economic or political pressure.

We are convinced that there are no winners in trade conflicts. Confrontation leads to fragmented global economic space, severed chains of cooperative ties between companies around the world, dented individual welfare and undermined prospects for economic growth. These consequences will affect not just individual countries or continents, but everyone without exception. Hopefully, our American partners will choose to be part of a joint effort to lead this ship of the multilateral trading system out of the storm, rather than abandon it at such a crucial junction.




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4105217






Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s answers to questions at Bolshaya Igra (Great Game) talk show on Channel One, Moscow, April 25, 2020



25 April 2020 - 15:18






Marina Kim:

You are watching the talk show "Great Game: Diplomacy During the Pandemic." Is there a place for international contacts in the world amid the global wave of self-isolation? How is foreign policy changing amidst the pandemic? Today we have a guest in our studio, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. Good afternoon!



Sergey Lavrov:

Good afternoon.



Vyacheslav Nikonov:

Mr Lavrov, today we are talking not just about the coronavirus but also remembering events that took place 75 years ago. History seemed to 'compress' on April 25, 1945, the day that saw many historical events. On that day, 75 years ago the first constituent meeting of the United Nations was held after its prior coordination in Yalta. On the same day, the historic meeting took place between the 1st Ukrainian Front troops led by Ivan Konev and the 12th US Army Group led by Omar Bradley on the Elbe River near Torgau in Germany. That was the time when the creation of the United Nations was underway.

Today, on the one hand, nations are celebrating this event, with preparations underway for the summit of the organisation's founding members. At the same time, a growing number of people are saying that the coronavirus pandemic is increasingly dividing humanity, with each state standing on its own and a current lack of efforts by the international community to tackle the pandemic. How do you assess the situation as regards the activities of the international community?



Sergey Lavrov:

This is a core issue for all the discussions unfolding in Russia and abroad, at the UN, and at centres for political science. I believe that we so far lack the facts that would allow us to reach a general and comprehensive conclusion about what has taken place and what lessons should be learnt. The only obvious thing is that the trends that have accumulated during the last couple of decades are becoming increasingly urgent and critical amidst the coronavirus pandemic. Contradictions have become more apparent between leading nations. Just look at what is occurring with the relations between the US and China. The UK, Australia and a number of European countries have joined the USA in its active efforts to claim compensation, threatening to seize property and accounts to make Beijing pay for imputed 'mistakes' during the first months of the spread of the infection.

And look what is happening in the EU, where fierce debates are going on about who will bear responsibility and assume the decisive role. These disagreements lead to the conclusion that we are observing a rapid strengthening of the role of nation states. Wherever integration associations are present or lacking in the world, nation states assume the main role in ensuring their citizens' security. This trend is not rock-solid as there is an urge towards collective efforts in the EU. I should also note the attention paid to our common tasks of battling this threat within the EAEU. Yet, the aspiration of nation states to fend for themselves still prevails. This probably reflects not only the current problem of fighting the pandemic but also a certain weariness - which is totally obvious in the EU – arising from the tenacious and obtrusive behaviour by supra-national bureaucrats at all levels. It is noteworthy that within the EAEU we have always tried to prevent this by seeking consensual and compromise approaches, yet we do not always succeed in this regard. This is the first trend I would like to emphasise.

The second one is the impact on the global economy and the erosion of numerous economic links (just sheer physical disruption in many areas), a fall in GDP, and the shock for many national economies (if not for most of them) and for the global economy in general. Of course we cannot but see that this is all occurring alongside increasing conflict and a credibility gap. We are seeing more attempts to resort to unscrupulous competition, settle scores, and use a zero-sum game policy as well as a dog-eat-dog approach. Yet, I believe that the harmfulness of such attempts is already becoming clear and apparent to all international players. I would like to hope that everyone will ultimately become aware that such trans-border and trans-national threats can be tackled only through collective efforts. The pandemic is spreading regardless of continents, climate, region’s temperature, a country's currency reserves or possession of its nuclear arms. That is why Russia's policy, which we have long pursued and which implies the protection of the equality of all nations as well as the principles and goals of the UN Charter that documents regulations for respecting the sovereign rights of all nations and settling disputes through peaceful means, should be highly relevant in the present situation where overcoming current and future crises is simply impossible without mutual assistance and respect for what we call the cultural and civilisational diversity of the modern world, without respect for the right of nations to independently choose their future and join forces on this foundation, and not on a master and slave basis, not based on anyone dominating. This may sound idealistic and romantic to some - yet I am confident this should become the basis of serious politics.



Vyacheslav Nikonov:

Dimitri Simes, with his finger on the pulse of the crucial events in international and US politics, is joining us from Washington in strict self-isolation amidst the global pandemic. Go ahead, please.



Dimitri Simes:

Of course, I’m isolated from your studio in Moscow, but I hope we can still maintain a constructive conversation. There’s not much isolation in Washington, D.C. This morning, I was anticipating the news about whether the US House of Representatives allocated $480 billion to help small- and medium-sized businesses, but this information remains unavailable. The House of Representatives was focused on a completely different kind of business as it tried to outline the parameters of investigation into new charges against President Trump, including misdemeanor and abuse of power. It turns out this time he’s fighting the pandemic the wrong way.

There’s good news as well. At the last minute, the House voted to allocate funds to support the US economy. As you may be aware, from the point of view of medicine and the economy, the situation in the United States is fairly grave. To date, 50,000 Americans have died, which is an important milestone. Every sixth American is unemployed with over 26 million people filing unemployment claims. Earlier this morning, the mayor of Washington said she completely disagrees with President Trump saying that he can see “light at the end of the tunnel.” She said that things would only get worse, and that the bulk of the impact would come to Washington only in mid-May.

I heard your definitions of what is happening around the world. I'd like to disagree, but it's hard to do so. We are living in a polarised world. If we want to confront the pandemic, we must come up with our own national measures, which is probably the only possible response. Russia is taking restrictive measures not only against Western countries (and the West against Russia), but Russia and China are forced to take corresponding restrictions as well. This is sad, but makes sense.

We witnessed the first reaction to the pandemic. It was like the first week of war. When the pandemic attacked, none of us was really prepared for it. So, people are confused, and the worst instincts often come to the fore. In your conversations (albeit informal ones) with the leaders of the United States and the EU, do you see any signs of interest in changing the rules and trying to identify common solutions? Or does everything still look fairly gloomy?



Sergey Lavrov:

If we take the pandemic as such and as the main subject of ongoing talks, there’s a serious and strong desire to establish international cooperation. The examples abound. Shortly after the pandemic broke out, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution expressing solidarity in fighting the coronavirus, and shortly after it adopted another one with specific goals to make sure that the achievements in developing antidotes for this scourge are made available to all countries. I consider this an important principle. Let’s not forget that the G20 (given the debate started by some of its members willing to find out who was to blame and whether it was necessary to point a finger at one or more countries, or the WHO) has made corresponding decisions. We believe these decisions nonetheless show the interest of the leading states and, I think, all other countries of the world, in joining efforts.

You are absolutely correct. The quarantine to prevent people from traveling far and wide is quite justified and should be taken, first of all, at the national level. Moreover, the borders between residential buildings and flats, streets and squares in each country are under control as are the borders between the countries. I would not consider this a trend that would last long. To reiterate, it has now become clear that the multilateral organisations’ capabilitiesas compared with the efficiency and decisiveness of national states are, of course, losing in this "competition."

However, I don’t want this willingness to see our efforts combined to become a hot-button issue. I can see signs of this politicisation in the attacks directed against the WHO, which, I believe, harbour the attempts to justify particular steps which were belated or inadequate. I believe the WHO, which, under its Charter, must act as the leading and coordinating body in healthcare matters, is fully coping with its role. Of course, nobody’s perfect, as a Some Like It Hot character famously said.

Let's keep in mind the fact that the WHO is an organisation the activities of which are defined and carried out by the states. Until recently, they didn’t have any complaints with regard to it. If the issue is about the WHO Secretariat, I’ll spend a moment discussing criticism of the United States, which is the key contributor to the WHO budget, as well as the budgets of the vast majority of other UN agencies. In this capacity, Washington is entitled to be represented at the secretariats, including that of the WHO, at a much higher level than the countries that make smaller contributions. So, if we look at the relative numbers, the decision makers at the WHO Secretariat are mostly US citizens, including in top positions. I doubt that the Americans have been working in complete isolation from their government all these years. Just like the citizens of any other country, they should act independently. However, not a single Secretariat employee, no matter what country he or she is a citizen of, has ever declined to contact the member countries’ delegations if they had any questions.

Instead of yelling “stop him” and looking for the guilty, I would rather concentrate on, first of all, the necessary measures to develop vaccines in parallel with taking precautions and enforcing self-isolation and quarantine. Only then would I start thinking about ways to improve global contacts and interaction in healthcare.

Speaking through my friend, French Minister of Europe and Foreign Affairs Jean-Yves Le Drian, our French colleagues are already talking about creating some high-level council on human and animal health, which will be assisting the WHO. The WHO already has a fairly deeply rooted practice of interacting with researchers. If this tip can be of any help, let's take a look at this proposal. I wouldn’t want the initiatives now being advanced to reassure those who are coming up with ungrounded accusations against a highly respected international organisation.



Vyacheslav Nikonov:

Mr Lavrov, Dimitri Simes has just said that you are having informal contacts with foreign partners, which sounds somewhat confusing to me. Are any informal contacts possible at the moment on an international level when contacts during this period of time are maintained solely online and everyone is perfectly aware that they cannot be confidential? How can they be informal?

It is true that diplomacy is, to some extent, an exchange of confidential information. But this is becoming simply impossible now. This is similar to holding talks and speaking through a loudspeaker in a square. Even if there are some secure communication channels, you never know what is happening on the other side. On the one hand, it is understood that the process is becoming easier, with more international contacts happening simultaneously. We observe them increasing, including in the multilateral online format. Obviously, you have more time to sleep enough at home now rather than on an aircraft. This is an advantage for the Russian diplomacy as well. On the other hand, it is impossible to talk eye to eye, which certainly has its effects. What does online diplomacy mean for you?



Sergey Lavrov:

Mr Nikonov, you have just mentioned virtually everything that characterises diplomatic contacts during their current period. This certainly allows for a better understanding of opportunities provided by modern technologies as well as their convenience for instant communication in case you have to urgently transfer something to your partners or receive information from them. You are absolutely right about it - and this is probably the reason they are called informal as they hardly can end up in some specific agreement, which would require more trust-based forms of communication, particularly, direct contacts between diplomats, including face-to-face meetings. It is unlikely that we will discuss some important secrets even in real life, neither will we make any conspiracy plots. But information that should be specified by partners is often not a subject to be made public. To develop a proper policy on a wide scope if issues that would meet international legal norms, we sometimes have to discuss certain matters that should not be handled online.



Dimitri Simes:

Mr Minister, I would like to ask you a non-diplomatic question. What you described today, your impressions and your analysis of the international situation are probably what you have long felt and thought. You and Russian President Vladimir Putin have repeatedly said that the role of sovereign states is underestimated. I don’t think it was a surprise for you that there is a shortage of “goodwill” resources and opportunities for international cooperation in the world, including in critical situations.

I have never heard you praise the idea of ​​a liberal international order, which implies that democracies are somehow more perfect, more humane and have some special rights in the international arena. You have said as much repeatedly, and we have seen much of this in recent weeks. But has anything actually come as a surprise for you? Has anything maybe struck you and, perhaps, reconfirmed that things are not just bad, but even worse than you thought? Or maybe some new opportunities?



Sergey Lavrov:

Thank you very much, Dimitri. You are absolutely right. I do not want to look entirely devoid of self-criticism, but now, by and large, we can see that those ideals and ideas that we had promoted before the outbreak of the coronavirus infection are becoming more relevant.

It is not that we ever criticised the principle of democracy. You were right that the traditional system of liberal democracy, liberal ideology, and the neoliberal approaches that imply the absolutisation of everything that is individual interest or property, has indeed exhausted and outlived itself in a context where the interdependence and interconnectedness of the modern world have broken down borders, including for threats such as terrorism, drug trafficking, organised crime, and now also contagious diseases (infectious and non-communicable diseases have long been a concern of the WHO and for all of us). We have pointed out that, if there is a need to combine efforts to address common threats, it is wrong to underestimate or downplay the role of sovereign states. However, supranational bureaucratic platforms were making attempts to overrule sovereign states. Those attempts (I mentioned this earlier) led to controversy within the EU a long time ago, long before the pandemic, and are now the subject of broad discussions, including a discussion initiated by French President Emmanuel Macron about the future, and what Europe is, and how will it further develop. You must be familiar with the concept of concentric circles.

I agree with what you said. Despite all the differences in democratic countries, even our American colleagues once tried to categorise states in terms of democracy: liberal democracies, less liberal democracies, authoritarian democracies and undemocratic authoritarian regimes, or something like that. Still, democracy is a broad enough term that covers many state systems, including those that some political scientists prefer to term ‘authoritarian’ or having ‘signs’ of authoritarianism.

There was a time when Madeleine Albright, who I had a chance to work with at the UN and then as US Secretary of State, put forward an initiative to make an alliance of democratic states. It still continues to be implemented in some form. The United States then proposed its own criteria and in fact single-handedly recruited members to join this alliance picking those they saw as eligible candidates for membership. That was actually an attempt to undermine the authority of multilateral universal organisations, primarily the UN-based system. The UN is a body with unique legitimacy and almost universal membership. Its Charter and principles fully retain their relevance. This is something very relevant to mention on the day when specific negotiations began on its Charter and later signed in San Francisco. In October 2020, we will mark the 75th anniversary of the fully functioning UN.

Now we are seeing another interesting trend that is linked with multilateral organisations. Last year, France and Britain suggested creating an alliance of multilateralists in which they invited some participants to ensure a “rules-based world order.” We have long known about this term and have tried to find out how it differs from international law which was protected by everyone until recently. We have not received a distinct answer.

However, judging by what we see, it is possible to reach some conclusions as regards those that are promoting a “rules-based multilateralism.”

When France and Britain made this initiative, they announced that the key role in implementing it would be played by European institutions and that the European Union (EU) was the cornerstone of this multilateral system. Some sectoral systems and alliances are already being based on this philosophy. The Paris Call for Trust and Security in Cyberspace was adopted. Over 60 states are taking part in it. This is being done against the backdrop of our persistent efforts to promote cyber security in a universal format rather than a narrow circle of supporters. All UN members are taking part in developing measures for responsible conduct in cyberspace. France and Germany have every right to take part in this work. Yet, a separate mechanism is being created on issues of trust and security in cyberspace. A Call for Action to bolster the respect for international humanitarian law in which a little over 40 countries are taking part has also been launched. But doesn’t international law rely on universal conventions in which all UN members take part? What’s the point of creating a parallel structure? A third example is the International Partnership on Information and Democracy powered by Reporters without Borders. Now 30 states have been included in it at France’s initiative. Does this imply that other states do not want to support freedom of information?

Let me recall that in the early 1990s, the last year of the USSR, the OSCE began to adopt a number of documents demanding that each participating country ensure full access to information for its journalists and the entire population. But at this point, Russia Today and Sputnik are not admitted into the Elysee Palace, are being fined in Britain and harassed in other countries. In Estonia, Sputnik was just shut down under the threat of criminal prosecution. Of source, we all want to have access to information and freedom of information but for some reason our Western colleagues want to do this in their narrow circle and do not want us to discuss the same principles in a universal format.

This is a serious problem. There is a difference between a “rules-based order” and universal international legal instruments, and also an attempt to create quasi-structures beyond universal organisations such as the UN. Our partners do not want to compromise. They want their approach to dominate and be perceived as multilateral and universal. But this is just substitution of notions.







Vyacheslav Nikonov:

But you must admit that previously these goals were achieved through conventional Euro-Atlantic organisations, such as NATO or the EU, but now they have gone beyond this format and, I believe, this is indicative of a crisis in what they call the liberal world order, which, in my opinion, was never liberal, since it was unipolar, or global, as it was geared to one camp or country, and was not an order per se, because it was a world of global chaos.

Now, pay attention to the following: the numbers show that the countries that were affected the most by the coronavirus, both in terms of the area covered and the number of fatalities, include the United States, Spain, Italy, France, Great Britain and Turkey, all NATO countries. Many are now saying that this is a certain manifestation (that’s a trend right there) of a crisis, including of the liberal order. However, there’s China and the East Asian countries that are waging a very successful war on the coronavirus. They are now saying there’s an even greater shift in the centre of gravity and power from the Euro-Atlantic to the Pacific and East Asia and the US-China confrontation. These global shifts are clearly taking place because the pandemic is like an earthquake that is sweeping away so many rickety structures, including the ones associated with the liberal world order. This global trend could lead to a major turnaround in the balance of power in the modern world, given that the economic fallout of the pandemic is most painfully felt in the West.



Sergey Lavrov:

I completely agree. Of course, I don’t want to gloat over the fact that the “teachers of democracy” are going through hard times. On the contrary, we are on the side of those who are bearing the brunt of the coronavirus outburst. We are helping as much as we can, and on a reciprocal basis, too. But in general, if we analyse the ability of the states to withstand this threat - yes, of course, the statistics are fairly convincing. Also notable is the fact that among the countries whose democratic basis is not questioned by any of our Western friends, the most effective are the regimes and governments that are not among the pioneers or ideals of liberalism. I am referring to Asian countries like South Korea, Japan and Singapore that are countries with a fairly strong state power vertical, although no one is talking about stripping them of the title of democracy.

With regard to the liberal order and it being consistent with the purported ideal of “everything for the people and for the sake of human rights,” long before current developments, we had the opportunity to see that liberal states and countries that profess liberal world order can act very illiberally when it comes to their vital mercenary interests. Remember how these “liberals” bombed the former Yugoslavia, or later Iraq under an absolutely false pretext, for which Tony Blair had to apologise when he acknowledged that there was no such thing as weapons of mass destruction. Of course, what happened to Libya, and what the United States is trying to do with Venezuela, are by no means liberal approaches aimed at promoting human well-being as a central criterion.

It is also sad that some neoliberal countries are now trying to take advantage of the pandemic and, when all that matters is saving lives, to provide patients with needed medicines and food, and to do other things that are called for by the sanitary requirements, they are still focused on geopolitics.

We are also well aware of the situation with Russia’s assistance to Italy, provided at its Prime Minister’s direct request. Some Italian media are bending over backwards as they try to portray this almost as a “military invasion of the Alliance.” We know from a variety of sources about another telling case. A number of European countries, EU and NATO members among them, wouldn’t mind following in Italy’s steps and asking us for certain types of help in areas, where we really enjoy strong comparative advantages. Their “senior comrades” just won’t let them do so.

Here is another example. I didn’t believe this when I heard about it, but I saw the original copies of the documents in question. A major European football club, one of the major European and world football clubs, contacted its friends in Russia, a non-governmental charity foundation which during the pandemic made arrangements for procuring and distributing equipment and medications necessary to fight the coronavirus. This internationally renowned football club just sent a letter to this foundation asking to look into the possibility of providing some basic items. I think it even offered to buy them, but that’s beside the point. When the club received a positive response from this Russian NGO, the club then suddenly sent another letter that explicitly stated, “We are sorry, but for some reasons beyond our understanding this deal will not go through, as we were not allowed to do so.”

When liberalism manifests itself in these kinds of things, it discredits itself even worse than any of its critics could ever hope to. To reiterate, I hope that when we are over and done with this situation, these countries will learn their lessons and voters will come to these conclusions as well. We need to think about it now. We will need to come to a place where multipolarity is no longer a slogan, but is instead implemented and embodied in concrete deeds before our eyes. It is important to fill it with proper content.

It is already impossible to turn a blind eye to the fact that there are more major powers and major centres of global growth and influence than one, two or three. We need to operate based on this understanding and be ready to face the fact that we will still need to strive to reach consensus and to work under those principles that are laid down in the UN Charter and that remain relevant. This is what President Putin’s proposal which he advanced in January aims to achieve. The point is to convene a summit of the UN Security Council permanent members so that the leaders of the Big Five become more aware of and realise the special responsibility assigned to them by the UN Charter for maintaining international peace and security. Of course, the summit participants (we are already discussing this with our colleagues) should focus on a broad-based approach to ensuring strategic stability and global security in all dimensions without exception. I hope this summit will be held this year and benefit the entire international community.



Marina Kim:

Will it be a face-to-face meeting of the leaders?



Sergey Lavrov:

Yes, we are talking about a face-to-face meeting. Now, in addition to this initiative, which was advanced without the coronavirus in mind, the possibility of a videoconference is being discussed so that the five leaders can state their approaches to the coronavirus in addition to what has already been said by the G20 and the UN General Assembly. The President of France came up with this proposal, and we agreed with it, as did the other G5 members. The date and the communiqué that we would like to release following this conversation are now being agreed upon. However, this is separate from President Putin’s proposal, which does not concern a specific, albeit rather acute, problem such as the coronavirus, but is about the need to conduct a face-to-face discussion about how we will go about building relations in the modern world in the interests of all states without exception based on international law. The role that the UN Charter entrusts to the permanent members of the UN Security Council, of course, requires them to show initiative and responsibility. This is what President Putin’s initiative is all about.



Dimitri Simes:

Minister, you mentioned the search for international consensus. To some extent, the entire concept of the UN was based on the idea that such a consensus is actually possible. But is it? I recently attended a meeting in Washington. Under the terms of that meeting, I can’t say who hosted it, but it was an official at your level. The meeting was serious enough. I had the opportunity to ask that person when he mentioned that China and Russia are behaving sort of inappropriately in this situation, creating problems for the United States – I asked him what exactly Beijing is doing and what Moscow is doing that Washington is unhappy with.

Regarding China, he gave what I would describe as a rather coherent answer. I am not saying that he would have convinced you, but it was clear what he meant. As for Russia, very little was said – basically, concerns that it might again intervene in the US election, because “what else can you expect from Russia.” After that I spoke with several other participants who were there, and asked for their opinion. What is the United States’ main problem with Russia? I think I got a fairly honest answer. The problem is not Ukraine, nor is it disagreements over Syria, not even any specific oil disputes or Venezuela. I am not saying these problems are not serious or non-existent, but still, they are mostly irritants. The main problem, and you have repeatedly talked about this in a slightly different context, is that Russia in recent years, after Vladimir Putin became President, decided to play an independent role in the international arena. The Russian definition of an independent role meant that the country would not follow the lead of the US or EU in foreign policy, but would seek a new international order. You actually mentioned something very similar today.

When you look at the situation before the First World War, there were as many specific disagreements as now. But basically, it was competition for a place in the world and about who was going to set the terms of that world. It was primarily a dispute between Germany and Great Britain. So don’t you think that today we have similar fundamental disagreements that manifest themselves in different ways and in different places? Russia’s choice to be a major global player that would not have the rules dictated to it explains what is happening now. I am not saying this should lead to a new world war. We are in a completely different situation, a different world with different threats. But doesn’t it seem to you that we need to forget for some time about global consensus and focus on asserting our sovereign interests and managing disagreements that we have no hope of eliminating altogether?



Sergey Lavrov:

When you talk about Russia not wanting others to formulate the rules alone, well, indeed, it does not want the rules of the game to be made by just one or two players. If this is a problem anyone has with Russia, then, in my opinion, it is high praise of our foreign policy. If, as you said, the French, the Americans and British are dissatisfied because we want the rules to be based on consensus, then yes, this is exactly what we want. Perhaps this is hardly achievable now, as you also acknowledge. But by no means should this goal be taken off the agenda. Otherwise, those who are now defining and formulating the rules will be reassured in their belief that they don’t have to listen to anyone else. But this will not happen because it is no longer possible: they face strong opposition from those who have every opportunity to assert their rights to participate in shaping the global agenda.

You mentioned the main thing that irritates our Western partners. This is not some specific crisis or a conflict in the world markets but an aspiration to pursue an independent policy that our Western colleagues discovered after Vladimir Putin became President of the Russian Federation. Mr Putin said this himself many times. He also recalled that the Soviet Union’s disappearance was perceived as the end of history. It was decided that the new Russia and the geopolitical space around it, that is, new independent countries were in the pocket of the Western liberals that we have just mentioned. Many Western political scientists including you, Dimitri, also said that Russia’s aspiration to be an equal – let me emphasise, an equal – part of the Western world was underestimated. We appreciate your analysis very much. But when all attempts to talk and deal amicably were interpreted as weakness, demand built up in our society for someone like Vladimir Putin. He fully justified and continues to justify these expectations.

You mentioned that they are irritated by Russia's reluctance to follow in the wake of the US or the EU. To carry on the metaphor, let me say that there are many more wakes, many more solid and powerful ships in the world oceans, which leave a very powerful trail. Different countries want to follow in their wake. But I would like to emphasise that we do not consider ideal a model consisting of many options because these ships may collide while sailing in different directions. Those that follow in their wake may also collide. Meanwhile, we want to harmonise interests. Yes, today these interests are expressed rather aggressively. It is very difficult to find a common denominator. This will be a very long process. But that is precisely why we have said that the formation of a multipolar world is objectively occurring but will take time. This will be an entire era in the history of the human race. We will hardly be able to complete this process that basically has not yet begun. It is necessary not just to think but also to insist and make specific proposals on how to make the world run better and how to be ready to elaborate new rules relying on the sovereign rights of states, respect for each other and non-interference in each other’s s affairs – the principles of the UN Charter. I would like to be mistaken about this, but if our Western partners put their signatures under these principles of the UN Charter in the hopes of preserving the more than half a millennium of domination of Western norms and rules for organising society, they were not sincere. I hope this is not the case and that the founding fathers believed in what they wrote and signed.

Now a few words about accusations. I won’t even go through the arguments on Ukraine, Syria, Venezuela and oil. We have spoken about this many times. If anyone has a specific question, I am willing to answer it. I will just mention that there are no grounds for our partners to speak about Russian interference in their election. From the very start, during the 2016 election campaign, the Obama administration began to accuse Russia of this, we proposed using three trusted Moscow-Washington closed channels to clear up problems that may lead to unintended incidents. We sent our proposals to the Americans via these channels, told them about our apprehensions and asked them about their concerns. There was no response at all. When in 2017 and later we continued to be accused of interfering in the election (and we are still being accused of this now), we suggested faithfully releasing what we sent via closed channels, offering in vain to give a professional, serious response to any apprehensions. We were told the US did not want to see it released. Literally the other day I spoke again with US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo following fairly intensive telephone conversations between US President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin on the coronavirus, oil and the importance of launching a new, serious dialogue on all strategic stability issues. Among other things, I reminded Mr Pompeo that we expect our American colleagues to put forward specific initiatives on when exactly we could resume. I also recalled that we put on the negotiating table one more proposal to resume the work of the bilateral group on cybersecurity, in the context of which we are ready to raise any questions and answer any concerns on a reciprocal basis. I said straightaway that we expect a new wave of accusations of interference in the current election campaign and suggested creating a mechanism that will be authorised by the presidents to review any issues that cause alarm on either side. These proposals are still on the table. I hope that this proposal will be analysed by professionals rather than the political operators behind the growing pandemic of Russophobia.



Vyacheslav Nikonov:

I think the American founding fathers were very sincere but most of them were slave owners.

The issue of Ukraine. Yes, this issue is an irritant, but it will always be raised in Russia-US relations. The ministerial meeting in the Normandy format next week has been announced. How are the decisions of the Paris summit going? What will be emphasised first? I believe there are some very serious changes in Ukraine: Mr Saakashvili received a proposal to be appointed vice prime minister on reform. The tragedy of Ukraine is that against the backdrop of the current Ukrainian team he really seems to be a great thinker despite all his failures and being a professional loser. How has Ukraine’s position and diplomacy changed with the new government? Vladimir Zelensky has been president for a year now. How has the style and content of Ukrainian diplomacy changed? Is it possible to come to terms with Kiev on anything?



Sergey Lavrov:

We really planned a video conference of the Normandy format foreign ministers next week. When the leaders of the four countries met in Paris last December they agreed that their foreign advisers and foreign ministers would monitor compliance with the agreements reached in Paris. Of all the agreements only one was carried out on a modest scale: the exchange of detainees. Fewer than 30 people were exchange by Kiev on the one side and Donetsk and Lugansk on the other side. To our huge regret, none of the other agreements reached in Paris have been carried out and not through the fault or lack of goodwill of Donetsk and Lugansk.

What am I referring to? The main issue, of course, is the security of the people, the cessation of shelling and violence. President of Ukraine Vladimir Zelensky has said more than once that for him the main goal is to save Ukrainian lives. Now our colleagues from Germany, France, the US and the OSCE regualrly ask us to influence the home guards to achieve a reduction or cessation of ceasefire violations. To do this reliably we simply need to ensure the disengagement of forces and weapons. We see the statistics on ceasefire violations presented by the OSCE.

These figures in no way confirm that these violations are made only by Donetsk and Lugansk while the Ukrainian military is just an innocent victim. It is, in reality, the other way around. But let me emphasise once again that to remove these threats, it is primarily necessary to disengage forces and weapons. The consensus on doing this along the entire contact line was the first item in the draft document agreed upon by the foreign policy advisors and foreign ministers from the Normandy format countries at the Paris summit. When this document was put on the negotiating table in Paris, President Zelensky said that as a responsible man, he could not sign a document on the disengagement of forces and weapons along the entire contact line. Germany and France were perplexed by this statement but Zelensky was adamant. The only thing he could agree on was to come to terms in the Contact Group framework on three additional sections on which forces and weapons would be disengaged. An agreement on this was reached for want of anything better. This was supposed to be done at least by the end of March but has still not been done because at each meeting of the Contact Group Ukraine plays tricks and makes new arguments to avoid coming to terms on the disengagement sections.

The same thing happens during the discussion of another item in the Paris agreements, in the Contact Group. It compels the sides to seriously deal with mine lifting and economic recovery. However, we are seeing overt subversion of the political part of the Paris agreements where President Zelensky finally committed himself to include the Steinmeier formula in Ukrainian legislation and to start discussing all aspects of ensuring the political status of Donbass in it on a permanent basis. Ukraine does not want to discuss any of these issues. Moreover, the sides agreed that by the next summit it was necessary to fulfil everything that was agreed to in Paris and at the same time to come to terms on the future Berlin summit at which our German colleagues are eager to pay primary attention to discussing an election in Donbass.

We recently heard a statement by Vladimir Zelensky who said that there will be no election until some mythical “mercenaries” are pulled out of eastern Ukraine and the Ukrainian authorities establish control over the entire border with the Russian Federation. Only after this is done will it be possible to talk about an election. A similar idea was expressed by Petr Poroshenko at one point. So, little has changed in this respect. President of Russia Vladimir Putin has reacted several times to these attempts to turn everything that was written in the Minsk agreements upside down. We have commented more than once on the desire to introduce UN occupational troops there. I have to say with regret that for all of our conviction that President Vladimir Zelensky wants peace, as he said during his election campaign, we have not seen that he is being allowed to move towards the honest implementation of the February 2015 Minsk Package of Measures so far. This is disappointing. We will certainly talk about this at the virtual foreign minister meeting.

We are particularly concerned that people who are not competent enough begin to start implementing the Minsk agreements. There is a deputy prime minister who is also the minister on the issues of “the temporarily occupied territories” who is beginning to make statements on Kiev’s approaches to a settlement in Donbass. He bluntly rejects the idea supported by the head of Zelensky’s Presidential Office, Andrey Yermak, at the talks with Deputy Chief of Staff of the Presidential Executive Office Dmitry Kozak. I am referring to the idea of creating a consultative council from representatives of the civil societies in Kiev and Donbass. Their task would be to create the appropriate atmosphere for implementing the Minsk agreements with public representation from Russia, Germany and France. Let me repeat that Mr Yermak added his signature to this but later the forces I mentioned, which do not want to allow the Ukrainian authorities to fulfil the Minsk agreements, balked and now all this is called into doubt. So, the Ukrainian initiators are once again “backing away” from the Minsk agreements.

But Deputy Prime Minister Alexey Reznikov who is in charge of the so-called “occupied territories” said that the Minsk agreements are not an international legal document, that they are at best political agreements and must be treated accordingly. In other words, they are not a “sacred cow” and are far from being the ultimate truth. It would be good if those that are well versed in foreign policy explain that the Minsk agreements have been approved by the UN Security Council and have thus become international law. Hence, they must be fulfilled as such.

I can anticipate what will probably be an important conversation at the ministerial level because we have spoken about this with our German and French colleagues many times. We asked them to persuade the Ukrainian authorities to conduct honest and constructive work but, to be honest I don’t expect any result from the video conference. I think our Ukrainian colleagues will again insist on meeting in Berlin as soon as possible. It is important for them to demonstrate that they are meeting in the Normandy format and at the same time to pay less and less attention to the Contract Group where they can directly resolve issues with Donetsk and Lugansk. They want to avoid this as much as possible and make the Normandy format the only channel of talks on the Minsk agreements. They believe that in this Normandy format Russia is an aggressor while France and Germany are helping Ukraine compel Russia to fulfil everything that Ukraine is supposed to fulfil via, let me emphasise this, a direct dialogue with Donetsk and Lugansk. This is a grave situation.

I will complete my replies with a single phrase. We will never agree to a new summit unless the decisions made in Paris are conscientiously carried out in full. There is no other way to fulfil them than to act appropriately in the Contact Group and come to terms with Donetsk and Lugansk. We will facilitate this in cooperation with the OSCE.



Marina Kim:

Mr Lavrov, thank you very much for taking part in our programme, for your honest and open conversation, and for the detailed explanations on the current situation in global diplomacy, which is also affected by the pandemic.




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4105593
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Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s greetings at the opening of the “Stalin-Churchill-Roosevelt: Joint Battle with Nazism” archival exhibition, Moscow, April 27, 2020



27 April 2020 - 10:08






Colleagues and friends,

We won the Great Victory 75 years ago. The passage of time has only emphasised the significance of that momentous event. Crushing Nazism has become a milestone in modern history that determined the present international order to a great extent.

Looking back on the tumultuous war years, we can confidently state the great significance of the lessons we all learned from the past. One of these lessons is that only united can we efficiently deal with the challenges and threats that are common for the entire humankind.

This was vividly demonstrated by the anti-Hitler coalition that was formed during WWII and whose concerted efforts brought the victory over our enemy ever closer. I will not stretch the truth if I say that building the coalition, which was an apparent achievement of Soviet diplomacy, was a unique accomplishment in its own way. The Big Three states managed to overcome a whole range of disagreements, including ideological discord, and unite in order to save civilisation from the horrors of the brown plague. Russia has always remembered the allies’ contribution to the common cause.

A constructive dialogue between the leaders of the Soviet Union, the United States and Great Britain became a core element of our brotherhood in arms. At that difficult time, trust-based contacts between Joseph Stalin, Franklin F. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill allowed the allies to promptly make important decisions regarding military strategy and politics – and, in essence, brought countries and nations together for the sake of exterminating a criminal ideology of hatred towards people.

The unique archival documents presented at the “Stalin-Churchill- Roosevelt: Joint Battle with Nazism” exhibition are compelling and vivid narratives about the hard work by the leaders of the three states. While thoroughly scrutinising almost every nuance, even if it seemed insignificant, they could single out crucial points and focus on the aspects that united them – pushing any points of difference to the background at the same time.

I am certain that this invaluable experience of cooperation goes beyond the years of war and remains relevant to this very day. Understandably, approaches of different countries to various global and regional problems may not be fully aligned. However, there are values that make momentary and opportunistic motives and calculations pale into insignificance. First of all, these values include ensuring peoples’ inalienable right to a peaceful and decent life. To achieve this goal, the entire global community must consolidate its efforts while relying on universal international legal norms secured by the UN Charter, and the principle of equal and indivisible security declared by resolutions of OSCE summits.

In conclusion, I would like to express my deep appreciation to the co-organisers of this exhibition, the Federal Archive Agency and the Russian Historical Society, representatives of the involved ministries and agencies, the research community and everybody who played an active part in such an important and meaningful initiative.




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4105720






Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks and answers during a video lecture at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO University), Moscow, April 27, 2020



27 April 2020 - 16:59






Mr Torkunov,

MGIMO University is rapidly making the switch to new technologies in the face of the real restrictions the coronavirus has placed on in-person interactions. I was told that you had managed to organise the switch very quickly without somehow losing the materials you have to impart, in addition to the knowledge. I am confident that MGIMO University will do a good job of holding its exam period, the defence of graduation theses and the state final certification. I hope that you will find a creative way to enroll new students. I don’t know how the campaign will be organised, but please ask if we can do anything to help you. We will try to be useful.

I do not regard this as a lecture, more like a seminar, perhaps, because I believe it important to focus mainly on the interactive part.

I won’t speak long about how the coronavirus fits into the dramatic changes that have swept across what we call the global geopolitical landscape or how it has affected numerous aspects of interstate relations and international affairs. The global economy has suffered a strong blow. According to most expert forecasts, the road to recovery will be long. Of course, all contacts between people, including humanitarian, educational, scientific and tourist exchanges, have been cancelled for the most part. Unfortunately, diplomatic opportunities have also narrowed. I have already had a chance to talk about how much online communication can really replace person-to-person interactions. This way of communicating can’t really compare with an in-person conversation, face to face. I think that all of my colleagues miss it, too; at least I regularly talk with many of them on the phone and get the sense that their views and feelings on this mirror my own.

At some point we will have to thoroughly assess and understand the ultimate impact of the pandemic on international affairs and develop comprehensive joint approaches to working in the post-pandemic period. I believe that at this stage and in subsequent ones we will have the support and contribution of MGIMO University’s academic and expert resources. We are interested in it.

We still do not fully understand the impact, but perhaps we can draw some conclusions at this stage already. I think that the main conclusion is that the crisis has clearly shown (if anyone still needed proof) how interconnected and interdependent all countries and all areas of life are in today’s world, without exception.

We have long warned of the danger of underestimating the cross-border nature of numerous threats, including new challenges like international terrorism, the risk of the uncontrolled proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and cybercrime. To these we can add not only the climate processes that have worried many countries for a long time, but also pandemics like the one the world is dealing with now. I think that one of the main conclusions at this stage is that even the most stubborn sceptics must realise now that nobody can wall off such threats. Trying to act only for yourself, to wait out the storm in your quiet port, so to speak, won’t work. Everyone can see this now. Countries that chose to isolate from the rest of the world and countries that decided to take a more philosophical approach, like Sweden, for example, have suffered to almost the same degree. No one was or will be able to guard against it. Long before the current events, we were calling on all countries to unite to address cross-border threats that spare no one. It was timely then and is even more so now, because there is clearly a growing demand for the entire world to act together in solidarity.

I hope that the crisis (as the saying goes “every cloud has a silver lining”) will motivate all global political actors, primarily the leading states, to put aside their fleeting differences and work together in a professional manner for the sake of securing a peaceful and prosperous future for all people. President of Russia Vladimir Putin and President of the United States Donald Trump have given a sign that there is cause for optimism. Yesterday they released a Joint Statement on the 75th anniversary of meeting on the Elbe, which was the focus. The Soviet Union and the United States managed to rise above their differences and join forces in a decisive war against a common enemy. Essentially, the challenge is the same now.

Naturally, we hate to see attempts, which are unfortunately being made, to use the present crisis to advance narrow, selfish and momentary interests, to squabble and settle scores with inconvenient governments or geopolitical rivals.

Again, we do see such attempts. Naturally, it’s paradoxical when the countries presenting themselves as defenders of human rights and the champions of democracy continue to use an illegitimate tool, the so-called sanctions, in circumvention of the UN Security Council, and are now trying to politicise humanitarian aid during the pandemic which hits especially hard the more vulnerable members of the population that need better access to food, medicine and medical assistance in general. We reject in principle the illegitimate methods that I am referring to, and moreover, such actions are unacceptable during a worldwide disaster.

As you know, at the G20 Summit, which was also held online, President of Russia Vladimir Putin put forward the initiative to create "green corridors" that would be free of trade wars and sanctions in order to freely supply all those in need the medicines, food, equipment and technology necessary to protect against the coronavirus and overcome this pandemic. We welcomed the relevant statements by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, who, inter alia, when commenting on the current developments in the world, advocated the lifting or easing of restrictions imposed on certain countries. First of all, we are talking about countries that are under unilateral sanctions, in addition to UN Security Council sanctions. I mean Syria, Venezuela and North Korea. A number of other countries also need such relief. Our Mission to the UN is actively forming a group of like-minded people to make this approach a reality.

We consider it extremely dangerous to try to use the current situation to undermine the UN basic principles and system as a whole, whose specialised agencies remain the only mechanisms of multilateral cooperation in relevant areas. This fully applies to the WHO activities. We consider the attacks on this Organisation, the attempts to blame it for everything that is happening absolutely counterproductive and unfair. According to our assessment and that of the overwhelming majority of states, the Organisation acted professionally at all stages of the crisis, taking proactive steps and distributing information and its recommendations to all states.

Let us hope that, when learning the lessons of the ongoing crisis, we will manage to strengthen the UN-centred nature of global architecture following the crisis. It is clear that there are other agencies, but they all rely on the principles set out in the UN Charter and do very useful work. I will give special mention to the G20, which includes the G7, BRICS and other large world economies. The creation and functioning of the G20, in fact, confirms that the Western countries associated with the G7 are simply no longer able to single-handedly address key global problems and reach any meaningful solutions.

This year we are marking the 75th anniversary of the Victory in the Great Patriotic War, in World War II. All the nations of the Soviet Union played an essential role in defeating Nazism. It is difficult to overestimate the importance of this event for all humankind. Today it is very important for us to not let this heroic deed be forgotten, to prevent young people from forgetting what national egotism, disunity and complicity in any manifestations of chauvinism and xenophobia can lead to.

Unfortunately, we continue to see attempts to rewrite history. The Foreign Ministry together with other Russian agencies, based on our archives, is doing everything necessary to counter these destructive ideas and to prevent the revision of the international legal results of World War II, including the rulings of the Nuremberg trials. An absolute majority of the international community shares our positions, which is reaffirmed annually by the UN General Assembly resolution on combating glorification of Nazism that is adopted by an overall majority.

The leaders of the CIS member states adopted a corresponding statement at the highest level, which was circulated at the UN. Work in this area is also underway at the CSTO.

I hope that MGIMO University, which has long and fruitfully taken part in our common efforts, will continue to make a contribution to our joint work to protect the historical truth and the good name of those who gave their lives to save the world.

The 75th anniversary of the Victory coincides with the 75th anniversary of the United Nations. It was possible to establish the organisation thanks to our common Victory and the spirit of cooperation and alliance between the members of the anti-Hitler coalition. Of course, today the great powers that made the key contribution to the defeat Nazism and the establishment of the UN have special responsibility, as reflected in the UN Charter. We are convinced that the contribution of the five [UNSC permanent members] at this crucial stage of world development is relevant to forming the direction for the further progress of interstate relations in the post-crisis era.

In general, in a situation when the world is going through tectonic changes, when the bipolar model, and especially unipolar models, are becoming obsolete, a polycentric international order is forming with several powerful centres of economic growth and financial power, and, of course, political influence comes with economic growth and financial capacities. This is a long historical era. This won’t happen over a month or two, or a year. This is an era when the world is changing, the world that has been developing according to Western models for more than five hundred years whereas now a wider cultural and civilisational diversity must be relied on and taken into account in the global policy. Considering the role of the five UN permanent members envisaged in its Charter, earlier this year President of Russia Vladimir Putin put forward an initiative to hold a summit of the heads of state and government of the UN Security Council permanent members in order to discuss the entire range of tasks that must be addressed at the highest level in the context of implementing the UN Charter’s principles and goals in today’s circumstances, first of all, to ensure the sovereign equality of states and non-interference in their domestic affairs, as well as a peaceful settlement to conflicts and disputes. All the other countries’ leaders supported the initiative: first China, then France, the US and finally the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Now we, for obvious reasons, are waiting for a time when it will be possible to begin the practical work to organise such a meeting, because it must be face-to-face. Everyone agrees on this. At the same time, the five states are thinking about their contribution to countering the coronavirus. It has been agreed to hold a videoconference in order to do this. We are deciding on the date now.

When working on establishing a new international order, we continue to rely on the potential of such organisations as the SCO and BRICS. Of course, we discuss ways to increase the effectiveness of joint efforts in all areas, including regarding the coronavirus, at the EAEU and within the CIS.

In conclusion, I would like to once again thank the MGIMO University management and the teaching staff for their contribution to taking practical steps in implementing Russia’s foreign policy course, as well as to the events to mark the Victory in the Great Patriotic War. I have listened to the beautiful song recorded by the MGIMO choir. It really evokes sincere respect and gratitude.

I am ready to answer your questions.







Question:

Although the Internet has been with us for a long time, it used to basically duplicate the offline media, whereas now it has become a door, not a window, and we need to build a fully developed interaction space and a new social architecture. How effectively do you think the Foreign Ministry is capable of responding within a short time? What changes will remain and take place in its structure or in your personal working procedure?



Sergey Lavrov:

It is very difficult to predict now what will happen to various organisations and how they will endure the crisis. NATO and the EU were mentioned earlier. Any organisation is facing the question how it should organise its work in the future. This is not only about the methods, which are sure to change due to a greater number of online meetings in our programme of events. And although meetings in person will certainly remain, there will be a great temptation, given the fairly successful online work, to hold many not too confidential discussions using the new technologies. But let me reiterate that the key importance of talks conducted in person will remain.

The way in which organisations work and the essence of their efforts will definitely change. There are disputes on what portion of responsibilities in this or that multilateral organisation should be delegated to supranational bodies and what portion should remain the duty of national governments. In addition, it is being debated if some responsibilities should be taken from the supranational bodies out of the ones that were delegated to them earlier. The argument is that not everything is as clear at the supranational level as it can be from the countries’ capitals. The pandemic (as publicly stated by many EU members) has clearly shown the need for greater reliance on national opinions and decisions. Countries understand better what is going in their territory and can take specific actions much quicker and more efficiently, and if need be, which is also very important, to adjust promptly some steps that prove to be ineffective in reality.

So, there will be a lot of debates but the main thing is for us to understand what I said in my opening remarks, namely that from now and until the end of time, the threats that are facing humanity will have absolutely no limits. Many people did not want to accept this, but now they will have to. They don’t know these limits; they don’t respect or observe them. This applies to terrorism, piracy and any other form of organised crime, including drug trafficking. It also has to do with the rapidly growing possibility that non-governmental entities will be able to get access to weapons of mass destruction. It has to do with natural disasters, industrial accidents, and, of course, infectious diseases. The BRICS heads of state adopted a decision a couple of years ago to expand cooperation in the fight against infections and the joint production and use of vaccines. This week we will have a video conference of the BRICS foreign ministers; among other things we will talk about accelerating the implementation of the mechanism created by the heads of state’ decision.

I will say it again, the most important thing is that these inevitable changes should be considered and agreed based on the logic of our shared destiny and the logic of the principles enshrined in the UN Charter, which implies collective security in all the dimensions of the international environment.



Question:

We have got used to the word 'self-isolation,' and use it while addressing people. Can we say that countries around the globe have self-isolated and that the virus is the sole reason for this? How can deglobalisation ideas advance in future global politics?



Sergey Lavrov:

As a term, the word 'self-isolation' was first used many years ago, even decades ago, when referring to a form of the US foreign policy. Normally, when the Democratic Party rules the US administration, its members always seek a global reach in their foreign policy actions, while members of the Republican Party often choose to tune out and not to spend funds, time or effort promoting different political priorities in remote regions.

The Donald Trump administration used this particular approach when it started its activities. During the election campaign, Trump claimed there was nothing to do for the United States in remote countries and regions, and useless wars should be stopped. Europeans quickly became aware that the US would not take much responsibility for what was taking place in Europe. The United States seeks tangible and pragmatic goals, such as selling its goods, services and arms. Donald Trump and his administration insist that all NATO member states should pay at least two percent of their GDP for purchasing armaments, primarily US-made ones. Currently, amidst the coronavirus pandemic, Germany has been obliged to buy US bombers, which will have to be replaced as their lifespan has expired, instead of European aircraft. But this time, they will be replaced not by European but by US-made aircraft, although the European industry, particularly the Airbus corporation and other companies, could benefit from such an order and receive dozens of billions of dollars. But Berlin is purchasing US bombers. This is probably the result of the policy that I have already mentioned. Germany will buy these bombers to install US nuclear weapons on them, which are currently stored in Europe (in four countries apart from Germany) and which we believe should be withdrawn from there. This could be a matter for discussion at the upcoming talks when our US colleagues are ready. We very much hope that statements on their interest in these talks are not just empty words.

Apart from this, the EU and NATO member states are making statements, and even somewhat annoyingly, saying that the US is increasingly speaking and doing things that prove Washington is not going to provide assistance to Europe in case anything happens. It is unclear what they mean but Russia is definitely not going to do any of the things we are accused of. Yet, with the US sending additional troops to the European territory and boosting NATO's presence in the eastern flank close to the Russian border, with efforts to increase the scope and quality of military drills, the Europeans still feel that the Americans isolate themselves from them and avoid taking too much responsibility for Europe's security. As soon as the physical and personal self-isolation is over, other countries will probably have an increasing trend for self-reliance and standing on their own.

Just look how the dialogue is proceeding between Hungary and the EU leading institutions. A number of other countries have also adopted laws that allow national governments to respond to crisis situations without looking back at EU central structures.

The discussion regarding an optimal balance of the authority delegated at the supranational level and a country's own authority is still ahead. We have repeatedly said - and this is our honest and sincere stance - that we are interested in a strong and united European Union, which will avoid living with past phobias and new imagined fears but which will be committed to fundamental agreements between Russia and the EU. The agreement on strategic partnership and cooperation between Russia and the EU is still in effect. Our European colleagues are not observing it at the moment as they have blocked all communication channels that were built under this document, and chose to act as if they were offended by the fact that we did not support the anti-constitutional coup in Ukraine, while they supported it. This was the main reason behind it. This is why we will see a dialectic development of events, with possibly stronger trends for self-isolation and self-reliance in many countries. At the same time, many will become increasingly aware that relying on their own resources is insufficient for tackling trans-border and transnational threats, as we have mentioned. Efforts should be made to seek a balance between strong nations - and it is these nations which are more successful in fighting the coronavirus in the current conditions - and serious, long-term and substantial international obligations that imply collective work. Specific boundaries and configurations of the post-coronavirus world will be obvious to us later.



Question:

In early April, Russia sent assistance to the US to help it fight the spread of the coronavirus. The personal contacts between Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump have become more frequent. The US President also mentioned their readiness to send aid to Russia, if it should be required. In addition to this, Russia and the US are working together to stabilise the oil market by agreeing on the development of joint measures. Can we now speak about the possible normalisation of Russia-US relations against the backdrop of the pandemic?



Sergey Lavrov:

Relations between the presidents have always been normal. They have been completely normal. Both telephone conversations and personal contacts between Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump in Hamburg on the sidelines of the G20 summit, and then in Helsinki and at another G20 summit in Asia, they have always been mutually respectful and aimed at continuous cooperation. These contacts have developed such agreements as the creation of the Business Council consisting of the heads of the largest Russian and American private companies, and the creation of the expert council, where current politicians and political scientists could brainstorm to deal with the issues of strategic stability, global security and develop recommendations for the leadership of the two countries in this regard in all aspects. These contacts also recreated interaction on the most pressing issue of cybersecurity, so that any fears and concerns that someone could use the cyber space to interfere in the domestic affairs of the other country were professionally and substantially reviewed by experts.

At the same level, during recent talks the readiness was confirmed and the need expressed to promptly reestablish complex dialogue on strategic stability in direct relation to strategic offensive weapons, given that the New START treaty expires in less than a year and that new kinds of weapons are appearing. We are ready to discuss them outside the New START. All this was agreed upon at the level of presidents. Unfortunately, almost nothing has been implemented yet; another round of strategic stability dialogue took place this January, but we have not seen any desire to begin searching for constructive solutions from the American delegation yet.

I mentioned Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump’s statement on the 75th anniversary of the Meeting on the Elbe made yesterday. It takes less than one page and commemorates those who fought and then shook each other’s hands on the Elbe. It commemorates those who, while working on the homefront, provided the front with the necessary weapons and did everything to win. It also contains a crucial political message that then, the USSR and the US could rise above their discrepancies and unite to win the decisive battle against the common enemy. The American press has attacked Donald Trump for that last phrase, accusing him of playing up to Vladimir Putin and trying to cover up the Russian President. So they had such a reaction to an obvious fact that should be welcomed and that normal people would greet with enthusiasm.

I hope that today we will rise above these discrepancies too, and will not waste any time on counteracting fakes, but will deal with the real threats. By the way, speaking of the WWII and the Great Patriotic War, in May 1943, at the initiative of the Soviet Union, the Communist International decided to self-dissolute. Josef Stalin said later in an interview to the Western media that it was necessary to do this in order to eliminate all ideological obstacles on the way to unite the efforts of the great powers in counteracting Nazism. It is one of the examples that came into my head. It is quite illustrative and helps us understand the spirit of cooperation that prevailed during the years when we fought the common enemy. I think to a large extent the contemporary threats require the same unity.



Question:

Your colleague, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, recently had the following to say about the future: “My fear is that the world afterwards will be very much like the world before, only worse.” Mr Lavrov, can the pandemic affect cooperation between the main international players not only in a negative way, but in a good way as well?



Sergey Lavrov:

I think the pandemic will certainly affect cooperation between the main international players. I hope the crisis will improve relations between the leading countries. I didn’t see this remark by Jean-Yves Le Drian, but I’m aware that he has been giving a lot of interviews lately, including about the new concept of multilateralism.

Some are saying the world after the pandemic will be a worse place to live in than it is now. We can already see some of these predictions come true. I’m talking about the relationship between the supranational and the national, and the temptation to shut oneself off from the world. This is an illusion; it can’t be done. Everyone understands this. But some politicians will definitely come up with such proposals in the run-up for elections in some countries.

Nevertheless, I believe we should rely on basic principles that no one questions, such as the UN Charter, sovereign equality of states, respect for territorial integrity, political independence, non-interference in domestic affairs, peaceful settlement of disputes and much more that was included in the Charter by the founding fathers of the UN. It was signed by 193 countries. It represents a unique legitimacy and a unique organisation in terms of its mandate and agenda ranging from peace and security to environmental protection, food, non-proliferation and much more.

If the pessimism that you mentioned and the prediction of poor interaction in the international system are coming from a country with a strong spirit, such as France, this is probably not very good news.

I mentioned that France and Germany have been promoting the concept of multilateralism for the second straight year now. They have advocated creating an alliance of its supporters. I asked questions, but have so far received no answer as to why Paris and Berlin, as well as those who have joined them on this path, believe that multilateralism lies elsewhere than the UN? Perhaps, for the purposes of clarity it then makes more sense to talk about comprehensiveness and to state clearly that all the countries should join the effort. Perhaps, some will be more active, some less. By definition, larger countries have more clout. Smaller countries traditionally follow larger states’ opinions, but this does not change the essence of the matter. You can be a leader, but you cannot leave anyone out. Even more so, this cannot be done for ideological reasons. If the European Union represented by France and Germany is responsibly declaring that multilateralism is the domain of the EU, and the EU is an example of multilateral behaviour and multilateral responsibility, then should everyone be looking up to Brussels? This is a little arrogant and not very polite, because the UN is the embodiment of genuine multilateralism.

The General Assembly is guided by the principle of democracy where one country is represented by one vote. The Security Council sticks to the principle of nuclear powers’ special responsibility, hence, their obligation in the form of a veto. The UN Charter is balanced and combines the need to reflect the roles of large countries and to give all counties their fair share of respect. To reiterate, the General Assembly operates on the basis of one country - one vote principle. So, building all sorts of alliances outside the framework of this unique and absolutely legitimate multilateral organisation invariably raises questions. We can see the attempts to take the topics that are uncomfortable for our Western colleagues outside the UN and resolve them in a restricted group, and then present their decisions as collective decisions. We can see this behaviour in the sphere of the proliferation of chemical weapons, the dissemination of information, the protection of cyberspace and a number of other areas. I hope we will do our best to explain the harmful nature of the scenarios based on any construct other than the UN Charter.



Question:

Good afternoon, Mr Lavrov. If I may, before asking my question, I would like on behalf of the students to express my gratitude to the MGIMO authorities for taking all the necessary measures at such a difficult and, what is more important, hardly predictable time, for distance learning. They listen to the students during such distance learning, and everything has been done to make such remote learning convenient yet still effective. Here is my question. It is about the prospects of formalising cooperation between the EU and the EAEU. It is known that such attempts were made on many occasions in 2016 and later on. It is also known that contacts are being maintained at the level of two commissions: the European and the Eurasian economic commissions. Successful cooperation continues at the level of the EEC and some EU member countries. Can you see any real progress in formalising the relations between the two integration associations and are there any signs of any change in their position regarding this matter under the new EU leadership? Indeed, new leaders were elected at the European Parliament as well as the European Commission last year.



Sergey Lavrov:

So far there is no special progress in addition to what you have already mentioned. The contacts between the two commissions were established, moreover on the initiative of the Eurasian Economic Commission. The relevant proposal was dispatched a fairly long time ago – five years. We did not get an answer for a long time. Then there was a response on the issues that could not remain unresolved and that could not be left unregulated. I mean technical regulation, phytosanitary standards. It was what had to be agreed upon to conduct trade in a normal manner and, both in our case and in case of the European Union those issues were delegated to the supranational level. Our European colleagues took a purely utilitarian approach. But we think that it was also beneficial. At least it was a recognition of the realities. It was a recognition that to continue trade – and everybody wants to trade – it was necessary to contact the organisations that were established by five countries in the post-Soviet area and that keep on developing.

No doubt, we would like to get what you have just mentioned, namely signing an agreement creating a political framework and thereby making trade and economic contacts more convenient and comfortable as well as the solution of some other matters related to the existence of a common market in the EU and the establishment of a common market in the EAEU.

So far the main obstacle is the political bias and stubborn adherence to the infamously known “five principles” formulated way back by Federica Mogherini when she was High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy actually making further development, improvement and normalisation of relations between Russia and the EU dependent on implementing the Minsk agreements on the Ukrainian crisis.

The trouble is that the Minsk agreements are to be implemented by Ukraine in direct dialogue with Donetsk and Lugansk. The position chosen by the European Union is wicked. They simply sent then to President Poroshenko and now to President Zelensky a very clear signal: do not do anything of what you should do under the Minsk agreements and the sanctions against Russia will be in place forever. If these “five principles” were translated into the language of normal people, it will be just what Brussels told Kiev. This message remains intact. Although the new High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and former Spanish Foreign Minister Josep Borrell declared many times his intention to begin a revision of the EU policy with respect to Russia, we have not seen anything yet. However, we are always open for dialogue with any EU bodies.

We used to hold summits twice a year. The Permanent Partnership Council at the level of High Representative and Russia’s Foreign Minister met yearly, and its participants reviewed the progress of all the joint projects, without exception, including the implementation of over 20 Sectoral Dialogues between Russia and the EU. All of that was frozen, though, and reduced to simply sporadic discussions related to international matters even prior to the unconstitutional coup in Ukraine committed in spite of the EU guarantees regarding the need to reach a compromise between the opposition and the then government. All of that was trampled upon. The EU guarantees were ignored, and the putschists in Kiev didn’t pay any attention to them. You are well aware of the state of relations between us since that moment in time.

To reiterate, we do not have any hurt feelings that we would base our relations with the EU on. Many EU countries are interested in expanding bilateral relations with Russia. Of course, we accommodate them. We have a simple answer for the conspiracy theorists in Brussels and elsewhere who accuse these countries and Russia of destroying European solidarity and the EU itself by promoting bilateral contacts with individual EU members. Our answer is fairly straightforward: how can we make you communicate with us if you are not willing to comply with the existing Strategic Partnership and Cooperation Agreement. But there are countries which, in full compliance with the powers reserved for them by the EU at the national level, are expanding cooperation with Russia, and are doing so rather successfully. These are not just some small countries, but France, Italy, Hungary and some others as well. This is an attempt to accuse us of breaking something up or driving in wedges. This is not an appropriate thing to do. Things are just the other way round. It was like the same situation when we were accused of turning away from Europe and looking to the East. First of all, we are not in a position where we can afford not to look to the East, or to the West, for that matter. Our geopolitical position dictates this. Failure to derive comparative advantages from this situation would be simply stupid and inefficient. We are promoting our relations with the West and the East with the same level of commitment to cooperation and partnership. Many joint projects are falling through when the West imposes sanctions on us thus proving its status of an unreliable partner, or when, due to resentment caused by our rejection of the coup in Ukraine (which the Western countries swallowed, and some of them even orchestrated), illegitimate restrictions are imposed on us. And then the West wants us to scale down our relations with the East. It’s just naive.

We have realised that we do not want to depend on the partners who have contributed to developing a number of our industries, but turned out to be unreliable partners, including in the EU. Hence, import substitutions. Accusing us of making a pivot to the East at a time when the West imposed sanctions, and we began to objectively expand our cooperation with China, India and other Asia-Pacific countries in relative terms, is also disingenuous.

Again, our position is not dictated by any hurt feelings. Speaking at the Russia-ASEAN Summit in Sochi in May 2016, President Putin put forward an initiative to form a Greater Eurasian Partnership with the participation of the EAEU, the SCO, ASEAN and other states of our common vast Eurasian continent, including, of course, the EU countries. We have never sought to create something that is off-limits to other countries that are interested in joining us and share the statutory principles of a particular organisation. Let me assure you, the Greater Eurasian Partnership, which covers what I mentioned above and perfectly correlates with China’s One Belt, One Road initiative, will increasingly determine the future of our continent.

So far, the EU has been anywhere from neutral to negative (saying “moderate” means not saying anything at all) with regard to these concepts and demonstrated suspicion, which we, unfortunately, observe our European colleagues do with regard to many other issues. But Great Britain left the EU. They are now facing major difficulties in negotiating an agreement between Brussels and London. It appears that a new agreement between the United States and the EU will be the next thing. Knowing the Trump Administration, these talks will be difficult. Not seeing the advantages provided by our common continent and not using them in these circumstances means depriving oneself, I mean the EU, of extra chances for competing in this highly competitive world. I can talk at length about this, but my point was to identify the main trends. All this will need to be discussed in detail. I am convinced these discussions should begin soon.



Question:

After the collapse of the prices of energy commodities because of the abortive attempt to extend the OPEC deal and some other factors, major oil producing countries, including the United States, were convinced of the necessity to set up a more comprehensive arrangement, along the lines of OPEC++. How realistic is this scenario? Are you considering the prospect of expanding the GECF format within the gas production industry, when there is also the possibility of an overproduction crisis?



Sergey Lavrov:

I would not say that the United States was certain that there was a need to establish a new organisation. They are strongly bound by antitrust laws. When they discussed, with Russia, Saudi Arabia and other OPEC members, the sharp drop in the demand for oil and as a result, the unprecedented fall in prices, in every possible sense, they took account of the need to honour the anti-monopoly standards. Strictly speaking, the United States will not be able to join any organisation or set up any organisation dealing with the oil, gas or any other commodity markets, because of its domestic legislation.

It’s another matter that they are actually working towards the same goal as OPEC, proceeding from the market situation. If the market is oversupplied, then limiting production is a normal market decision. In some form, perhaps, the exchange of information (not coordination, let alone a cartel agreement) is on its own a serious enough, new and reasonable step. I think that the exchange of information, the possibility of hearing each other and taking this into account in decision-making (be it within OPEC+ or in decision-making in view of the market conditions) – this mutual information process will continue.

As yet, we have not received any report indicating that the Gas Exporting Countries Forum is considering holding its next meeting or an extraordinary meeting. However, its member countries are in contact with one other via the leadership of its Secretariat. An exchange of information of this sort is underway. For understandable reasons I will not go into details, but I think that everybody understands that no one is interested in the collapse of this market.



Question:

I would like to ask a question about the intra-Libyan conflict.

Despite the fact that the fight against the coronavirus is now the most discussed issue and tops the agenda of both separate states and various international organisations, the clashes between Khalifa Haftar’s troops and the Government of National Accord, led by Fayez al-Sarraj, are still going on. Probably, the efforts of the international community aimed at settling the conflict will not be as intensive given the current developments. And taking into account that even with active mediation by various countries, first of all, Italy, France, Russia, Germany and Turkey, the parties to the conflict were unable to reach a consensus, the question arises: are there any prospects for settling this conflict in the near future? Or could it turn into a lingering problem, the search for a solution to which will torment yet another country of this long-suffering region?



Sergey Lavrov:

You absolutely correctly named the countries that came up with initiatives to assist at least the launch of negotiations to settle the Libyan crisis. Also, you were absolutely right about the need for the main protagonists of the conflicting parties to reach a consensus. They are represented by the head of the Presidential Council and the Government of National Accord Fayez al-Sarraj and General Khalifa Haftar, who commands the Libyan National Army and is supported by the Parliament, which operates in Tobruk in the east of the country.

In 2015, the Skhirat agreement was signed, but it remained on paper for a long time. France, Italy and the UAE made attempts to revive the direct dialogue and make the two protagonists return to the negotiations table. Always, when relevant conferences convened in Paris, Palermo, Abu Dhabi, the recent one in Berlin, at all stages, including the stage of announcing these initiatives and preparing them, we urged the participants to proceed from the most important thing: the parties themselves must develop solutions, and our role is to help them. Our main objective is to bring them to the negotiating table and make them reach agreement. Unfortunately, in most cases, such as the International Conference on Libya in Berlin, nobody was going to invite Fayez al-Sarraj or Khalifa Haftar. We insisted that the organisers took our recommendation into account, and so they did, eventually.

So they came; they were in rooms next to each other, but it was possible to talk to them via the conference chair, German Chancellor Angela Merkel. But our call to not accept and approve the Berlin documents without the express consent of Fayez al-Sarraj and Khalifa Haftar was not heeded. Therefore, it all ended with the adoption of another nicely worded document that calls for very good things and even outlines concrete steps, but it was not agreed upon by the parties. Another document, probably not stillborn, but definitely not healthy.

Now it is very important to return to the logic we called for, the logic of developing approaches that will be agreed upon by the conflicting parties themselves. This is the responsibility of, first of all, the UN Secretary-General special representative. Unfortunately, Ghassan Salame, who was in charge of this complex dossier until recently, resigned after the failure of the Berlin conference. His deputy, American Stephanie Williams, is currently the acting UN envoy to Libya. We believe that it is necessary to find a replacement for Ghassan Salame as soon as possible, and this should be a representative of a country of the region from the African Union, of which Libya is a member.

We will try to search for a settlement of this deep crisis that hit the country after NATO blatantly violated the UN Security Council resolution and bombed Libya in 2011, thus, in fact, breaking the Libyan state to serve their self-centered, mercenary objective of changing the regime of Muammar Gaddafi. Since then, Libya has been left behind. This country serves as a road to the south for terrorists, weapons, drug trafficking and other nasty things, and illegal migrants cross the country going north, to Europe. We are all now facing the consequences of the reckless scheme that NATO launched in 2011 in violation of the UN Security Council resolution. Nevertheless, we will keep trying. Libya needs assistance.



Question:

MGIMO University has opened a new programme – World Agrarian Markets - to train agricultural attaches. It unites agriculture and diplomacy.

The republican form of rule exists in the majority of independent African countries that inherited it from colonial powers. The elite educated in Europe were familiar with this system. However, the real influence of governments and parties is not strong. Not infrequently, even civilian governments are controlled by the military that often take the power in their own hands under the pretext of the need for stabilisation. Who is one is supposed to hold talks with in these countries in this situation?



Sergey Lavrov:

You want to get gratuitous advice that costs a lot. In reality, there is no universal answer. Talks must be conducted with those that have the relevant authority and opportunities to sell different kinds of goods. Generally speaking, every country has its own structures and personalities that are involved in foreign trade and economic development.

Agriculture in Africa has an interesting geopolitical aspect. We have just spoken about Libya to which migrants flee illegally. Probably, the number of those who want to escape the burdens of war is smaller than the number of economic migrants who wish to improve their living standards and arrive in Europe with mobile telephones and bank cards. These are not the refugees that we are used to perceive as victims of conflicts. During all these past years European countries have discussed, accepted or rejected different ideas that are being voiced on the influx of illegal migrants. They are even considering coercive measures when it is offered to compel all EU members to accept a certain quota but then they start discussing how to determine this quota. Some countries are saying that they do not want any migrants, they want to live as they used to and preserve their national traditions and their cultural code.

As far as I remember, during these discussions on how to reduce the influx of migrants nobody has offered to introduce zero duties on African agricultural imports to the EU. If you are involved in the economy, you understand that this will restrain the flows of migrants looking for a better life and better employment conditions. If agricultural goods from Africa arrive in the EU duty-free, their employment in the countries concerned will increase. They will improve their living standards and will be less tempted to “seek happiness” abroad. However, the EU countries are not doing this because a policy of agricultural subsidies for their industries is a “sacred cow” and nobody is going to change it. This is a very interesting point and it is not just commercial but also geopolitical and systemic.



Question:

Last week, it was announced that the Normandy Four foreign ministers were preparing for a meeting via videoconference. German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said he hopes for an opportunity to give new impetus to fulfilling the agreements reached in Paris in December 2019. What are Russia’s expectations for the upcoming meeting? What would be a way to fast-track resolution of the conflict? Is the pandemic affecting progress?



Sergey Lavrov:

Right now, we are exchanging suggestions on the agenda for this videoconference. Unfortunately, Mr Maas’s hopes to give impetus to the decisions of the Normandy Four summit in Paris on December 9, 2019, are not reflected in the agenda proposals Germany has submitted for this ministerial meeting. These proposals are entirely focused on another exchange of detainees, mine-clearing and ensuring the security of and access for the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (SMM) to the territory of the self-proclaimed republics, DPR and LPR. The proposals do not contain a single word about the agreements concerning political reform or the Steinmeier Formula that links granting Donbass a special status to holding elections. They do not contain a single word about the fact that Donbass’s special status must be incorporated into Ukrainian legislation on a permanent basis. And these things basically summarise the decision of the Normandy Four summit in Paris, almost word for word. The decision which, according to the Normandy format leaders, would have to be implemented literally within the next few weeks, as the deadline has already passed.

All the parties presumed that if the Paris decisions were fulfilled, including the political reform that I mentioned, the next summit would take place in Berlin in April, or around this time. But the next summit is out of question because everything that was achieved in Paris is being blocked by the Contact Group and the Ukrainian parliament and government thanks to Kiev’s position. Head of the Ukrainian President’s Office Andrey Yermak, in contact with Deputy Chief of Staff of the Russian Presidential Executive Office Dmitry Kozak, attempted to get matters off the ground in terms of the key political agreements and to calm people down on both sides of the contact line. His attempts have been derailed and Andrey Yermak himself has been accused of treason for daring to discuss the actual implementation of the Minsk Agreements that were signed by then President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko and which were approved by the UN Security Council. It is sad to watch.

Right now, our German and French colleagues want to discuss only those issues that concern security, demining, shelling and the SMM’s access to the territories outside of Kiev’s control, and they decidedly refuse to discuss political reforms where the actual problems lie.

As for security issues, the easiest way to ensure a ceasefire was rejected by Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky at the same Paris summit last December. Before the meeting in Paris, an agreement was pre-approved (and put down in writing) that reflected both the political aspects and security issues. As the core agreement, the Normandy format heads of state agreed to take actual steps within the framework of the Contact Group to withdraw forces and arms along the entire contact line. If there is no contact there is no ceasefire violation. Vladimir Zelensky expressly refused to sign the withdrawal of forces and arms along the entire line. He proposed selecting three or so points where the withdrawal could be discussed. They are still discussing it. Since December 9, 2019 through now, they still have been unable to agree on a single area to withdraw personnel and arms. Our Ukrainian colleagues’ whims can be blamed for this.

Something similar is happening with regard to mine clearing. Ukraine is behaving in a very unconstructive manner. And I mentioned the deadlocked political issues. There have been statements saying that the Contact Group is no longer necessary. There have been attempts to portray Russia as a party to this conflict and to completely remove the representatives of Donetsk and Lugansk from the talks. Alexey Reznikov, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister and minister for the so-called “temporarily occupied territories,” declared that the Contact Group consists of three members: Ukraine as the “victim,” Russia as the “aggressor” and the OSCE as “mediator” while Donetsk and Lugansk are either observers or not represented at all. For us the Contact Group does consist of three parties: Kiev, Donetsk and Lugansk. This is based on the Minsk Agreements. The overwhelming majority of the issues agreed upon in the Minsk documents have to be addressed through a direct dialogue between Kiev on one side and Donetsk and Lugansk on the other. So, the Contact Group has three members, Kiev, Donetsk and Lugansk. Russia and the OSCE are acting as mediators who are helping them negotiate and who, on a larger scale, are supposed to be encouraging Kiev to deliver on its obligations.

So, frankly, I am not expecting any breakthrough from this meeting, unfortunately. There is still a major battle ahead to force Kiev, Berlin and Paris to talk about how the political clauses of the French summit decisions are being implemented – or rather, why they are not.



Question:

Emergency services have been under more pressure with the spread of the coronavirus. This includes the Crisis Management Centre (Department) that helps Russian citizens abroad. Do you need more volunteers, for example in the call centre or technical support on consular issues? If you do need more people where can they apply as volunteers?



Sergey Lavrov:

From my position I cannot say whether the centre needs help. They have contact numbers, so ask them. I assume security issues could arise in this case, that is, access to information, but it is possible that there are certain levels of work that the centre could consider assigning to volunteers. The centre and the Foreign Ministry’s Consular Department have contact numbers. Contact them, and I will ask them to consider this opportunity, if there is a need.



Question:

There are many well-known historical quotes that are ascribed to Russian tsars to the effect that Russia has few or no friends or allies. Alexander III said Montenegrin Prince Nikola was Russia’s only friend. From a historical perspective, I would like to ask the following question: how did the two countries allow a cooling in bilateral relations and the development of a conflict linked with the return of Russian citizens home last March? What relations will the two countries have after the pandemic?



Sergey Lavrov:

I regret this very much because I am fond of Montenegro. It is very unfortunate that its current leader Milo Dukanovic, who has ruled that country for almost 20 years, has occupied an overtly Russophobic position, contrary to common sense and everything he has said about relations with the Russian Federation.

He had problems with justice in the West. Some European countries accused him of smuggling and some other transgressions. I cannot rule out that this could be behind the sharp change in policy. But if politicians are so vulnerable, it is easy to manipulate them. I say this with a very heavy heart. I met with him several times and even remember how he read verses by Vladimir Vysotsky. There is a wonderful monument to him in Podgorica. Vysotsky composed one of his best verses in one breath, and I think he did it with absolute sincerity as he opened his soul to the Montenegrin people. The verse ended in the following quatrain:

“One birth is not enough for me,

I wish I had two roots…

It’s a pity Montenegro

Has not become my second homeland.”

These words are inscribed on the monument. When I meet with my Montenegrin friends, they always talk enthusiastically about our spiritual affinity, the closeness of our people.

When someone is betrayed, not just an individual but a nation that was always close, it is sad. But I’m convinced that the feelings expressed by Vysotsky in his verse, which are shared by the overwhelming majority of Montenegrins, will eventually prevail and those who are serving time will eventually leave.



Question:

As a professional athlete who has defended the nation’s honour in hockey more than once, I root for Russian sports. As a sports diplomat I understand that today Russia’s sports integration into international sports associations must be achieved mostly through diplomatic means, so my question is very specific and important for us. Is the Russian Foreign Ministry considering offering practical training for those in our programmes so that as future sports diplomats we can gain experience in developing a strategy for Russian sports in the world arena?



Sergey Lavrov:

This issue has not been raised in our meetings with the Ministry of Sport, the Olympic Committee or in other sports federations, but the idea is a good one. We will try to do this. I think this would be very useful because what you said is correct: there is less sports and more diplomacy in sports diplomacy today, which is not very scrupulous at times. So, I think this is a good idea. We will try to do this.



Question:

Today, you said that a bipolar global structure would not meet the moment. During your meeting with the students from the Tashkent MGIMO branch on January 16, you also said that the era of Western countries dominating the global stage is becoming a thing of the past, and new significant actors are entering the global arena. In what way, do you think, has the coronavirus pandemic affected this process? How will the alignment of forces on the global stage change after the battle with the pandemic is over?



Sergey Lavrov:

I think the answers to these questions are now being discussed by political analysts. There are several lessons to be learned. I mentioned some of them. If we talk about the West and the non-West, we can see that the success of measures to combat coronavirus is not a function of being or not being part of the “civilised Western world.” The effectiveness of these measures depends, primarily, on how well the state machinery is organised. We know from practice that countries which, notwithstanding all their democratic traditions, try to maintain a strong top-down chain of command in government, are more effective in responding to unforeseen challenges when medicines, pharmaceuticals, personal protective equipment, and other equipment must be made, purchased or distributed quickly. They are also more efficient in promptly alerting the population of the rules to be followed and, most importantly, enforce these rules. This is not to say that the Western healthcare system is ineffective. Not at all. It simply means that there are far more effective states than the list of countries that make up the “historical West”.

The era of Western dominance in global affairs is vanishing not because it has become weak or for other reasons that depend only on it. It’s just the objective laws of economic development and, ultimately, the globalisation that the West has been energetically spreading throughout the globe that ultimately brought to the leading positions the economies, which were previously lagging, but now have learned to take full advantage of globalisation.

Now, the issue is about bringing manufacturing back to Western countries, including the United States. It’s time to engage, as you said, in deglobalisation. Although I don’t think it’s possible. After all, everything has become so interconnected and interdependent that it is unrealistic to change anything. They are also talking about denationalising and renationalising many industries that are essential to survival of the state. Major discussions are coming. As I said, I hope that MGIMO and the Diplomatic Academy (another research and education institution at our Ministry) will contribute to these discussions. Preventing the attempts to take advantage of the current situation and to advance unfounded accusations is coming to the fore. This will step up the confrontation, raise rates and increase the threat of new conflicts, this time between great powers.

One of the goals of the summit of the five UN Security Council permanent members initiated by President Putin, is precisely to prevent such a turn of events, regardless of what this may be connected with - coronavirus, fierce competition for the title of Number One global economy, or something else.

Preserving peace and the UN Charter principles is coming to the fore. To reiterate, the sovereign equality of states, free choice of their future, respect for the cultural and civilisational diversity of the modern world, the need to combine efforts and to rise above the things of secondary importance, which include almost all differences, and to put together our efforts to overcome global challenges, including challenges like coronavirus infection.



[No further text has been translated. I translated it - Alex Him.]


Question:

As you said, now for the world community the fight against coronavirus infection is a truly common goal, however, certain political and economic contradictions remain between states. Is it possible that certain aspects of cooperation between countries, for example, the decision of the Russian Federation to send its specialists to countries covered by the coronavirus, will be used to solve problems in other directions after the pandemic? In your opinion, will this accelerate the formation of a system of international relations based on the principles of multipolarity?



Sergey Lavrov:

We are not guided by this when we send our help. In the case of Italy, this was a direct request from Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte. And we had such the opportunity. In the case of the United States, the issue was discussed by Presidents Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump. Donald Trump said he would welcome such the opportunity. Then, during another telephone conversation last week, he noted that he was grateful and the United States would be ready, when they had such opportunities, to assist us. Probably, all this will create a more favorable atmosphere in order to cooperate normally and not try to blame each other for all mortal sins. But the goal, I emphasize once again, which faced the President of Russia Vladimir Putin when deciding on the direction of our assistance, was exclusively humanitarian, intended to solve the problem of helping people.



Question:

Against the backdrop of the pandemic, we are seeing disunity among EU member states. Their governments gave preference to national response measures, rather than measures taken at the pan-European level. In a situation where former unity between EU members is no longer observed, how do you see the future of Russian-European relations? Can they become more constructive? With which European countries can Russia manage to build cooperative relations? In what areas of interaction could such a relationship be the most productive?



Sergey Lavrov:

We do not see that all EU countries want to fight the coronavirus on their own. Not at all. They still have tense discussions there on whether to create a “corona-fund”. Many are for doing this. A number of countries believe that they should not pay for others. When money is distributed, serious contradictions always appear, and here we see just that.

I will not name the countries with which we would prefer to develop relations. Firstly, we are already developing relations with many of them. Secondly, we want to develop relations with everyone, so I don’t want to create a perverse impression of our plans by listing.

The areas of cooperation are unlimited. I gave an example: the agreement that is still in effect between Russia and the EU laid the foundations for dialogue in more than twenty sectoral areas. This covers almost all conceivable areas of interstate relations. We are for cooperating on the basis of reciprocity, to be friends with everyone who is ready for this, on an equal basis, on the basis of mutual benefit and interests.

Thank you very much.




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4106480
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Comment by Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova



27 April 2020 - 19:29



We are thankful for India’s assistance in returning Russians home during the spread of the novel coronavirus. In total, already 2,000 Russian citizens have been brought back from India. We regard New Delhi’s support as clear confirmation of the friendly ties and particularly privileged strategic partnership between our countries. We understand that the objective difficulties with evacuation are the result of strict restrictions on movement within and between Indian states imposed by the country’s government to fight the pandemic and mitigate its effects.

We are grateful to India for agreeing to supply a large consignment of medicines to Russia to combat COVID-19, including hydroxychloroquine and paracetamol. We expect to continue our constructive cooperation with India in this area at this difficult time for the entire world.




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4106645






Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova's answer to a media question on statements by President of the Libyan House of Representatives Aguila Saleh and commander of the Libyan National Army Khalifa Haftar on the Muslim month of Ramadan



28 April 2020 - 19:56



Question:

What does Moscow think of the latest statements by President of the Libyan House of Representatives Aguila Saleh and commander of the Libyan National Army (LNA) Khalifa Haftar on the developments in the country?



Maria Zakharova:

In his TV address to the nation, Head of the Libyan Parliament Aguila Saleh called for suspending hostilities for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. We note that this address contains a number of constructive proposals on leading Libya out of its lingering military and political crisis. Among them are proposals to establish unified bodies of authority while following the proportional geographic representation of the country’s three historical regions, drafting a new constitution and holding presidential and parliamentary elections under it.

We believe that the ideas voiced by the President of the Libyan House of Representatives could lay a foundation for political discussions within the process for a comprehensive settlement in Libya.

Against the background of Saleh’s conciliatory speech, the latest statements by the commander of the Libyan National Army Khalifa Haftar remained tough and were hardline in nature. Thus, he reaffirmed his commitment to continue the military operation, launched over a year ago, “to the bitter end” and “to liberate Tripoli and all of Libya from the terrorists.” He also announced a transition to military rule in the country.

We are confident that the continuation of this fratricidal feud is fraught with disastrous consequences for Libya and its long-suffering people. We call on all the parties to the conflict to show responsibility for their homeland, immediately stop hostilities and resume the dialogue under UN auspices along all the three settlement tracks – military, political and economic – in accordance with the decisions of the International Berlin Conference and endorsed in UNSC Resolution 2510.




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4107607






Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s opening remarks at the extraordinary meeting of the BRICS Ministers of Foreign Affairs/International Relations, Moscow, April 28, 2020



28 April 2020 - 21:18






Good afternoon, colleagues,

I am glad to welcome you in good mood and decent health. Thank you for your prompt response to our initiative to convene an extraordinary meeting of the BRICS foreign ministers via videoconference to discuss the problems caused by the coronavirus. During the pandemic the videoconference format is the only possible way of maintaining the dynamics of our cooperation. But I am convinced that soon, when the situation permits, we will resume meeting in person. In any event, I will be happy to see you at the next full-scale Foreign Ministers Council meeting in the Russian Federation.

Today, we have agreed to analyse the impact of the crisis underway on the system of international relations. It is testing global political institutions, economic patterns, international agencies and nation states themselves. This is a complex situation, and one videoconference will not suffice to find answers to all questions. However, this is the right time to start such a dialogue in BRICS. Today, our priority is dealing with the COVID-19 outbreak. This is about protecting people’s lives and health. The need to uphold multilateral principles and rely on international law in formulating solutions to current cross-border threats is a no less urgent challenge. We are convinced that it is very important today to announce the solidarity of the BRICS countries in support of the emerging democratic, multipolar international order based on mutual respect for the legitimate interests of all states, as well as all the norms and principles of the UN Charter. I believe that only by pooling our national efforts will we be able to effectively meet current challenges like this pandemic. I suggest that the BRICS countries closely coordinate their positions, including at international agencies, all the more so since there exist the required mechanisms and venues for this work, first of all, the UN and its agencies, the G20, the WHO and the WTO, to name a few.





We submit for your consideration several Russian initiatives aimed at more effectively responding to the challenges posed by the spread of the coronavirus. They concern not only safeguarding health but also financial, economic and social issues, labour markets, the welfare of the people and the goals of sustainable development. We hope we will start actively working together on these initiatives at the level of relevant departments of our five states.

Cooperation on countering infectious diseases has long been a priority for BRICS. As you remember, the final declaration of the 2015 BRICS summit in Ufa, Russia, contains instructions by the leaders to jointly work on managing the risk of outbreaks, including of new coronaviruses. Time has shown that we were on the right track. Today, we should look how our foreign ministries can help our states to develop practical cooperation between health ministries. Of course, the quarantine measures due to COVID-19 have adjusted the calendar of BRICS events in 2020. Some of these events that were scheduled for April and May were postponed but BRICS will continue its cooperation via videoconferences. We will tell you about the vision for our future work during the Russian chairmanship.




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4107646






Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s statement and answers to media questions at a news conference following an extraordinary meeting of the BRICS Ministers of Foreign Affairs/International Relations, Moscow, April 28, 2020



28 April 2020 - 22:06






Thank you for participating in our resumed meetings that are right now taking place online. It is in our interests to inform you about the work that we are continuing to do with our foreign partners under the current circumstances.

We have just finished a very constructive videoconference of the BRICS foreign ministers, held at the initiative of the Russian Federation. Russia holds the BRICS Chairmanship this year. Since a whole number of events had to be postponed due to the spread of the coronavirus, we decided to hold an extraordinary BRICS meeting and discuss how our five countries can contribute to the international efforts against this threat. This videoconference does not cancel the main full-scale Foreign Ministers Council meeting scheduled for June. These dates are still on the calendar but, of course, if required we may adjust them based on the epidemiological situation.

As I have already mentioned, today we spoke about our countries’ action to counter the outbreak of the coronavirus. Our partners acknowledged the fact that Russia’s initiative came at the right time. We had a productive conversation. Of course, the main focus of our discussion was on increasing the efficiency of our countries’ efforts in fighting the threat.

We covered the mechanisms for improving the exchange of experience and information, as well as providing mutual aid and deploying multilateral mechanisms.

In addition to the direct preventive action, we analysed the impact of the current crisis on international relations. We established that there is no other alternative but to seek collective responses to any related challenges and no other alternative but to take a multilateral approach and to pursue equal, non-politicised cooperation of sovereign states in addressing all topical issues on today’s agenda. These efforts (and we spoke about this at length during the meeting) are being obstructed by illegitimate, unilateral and coercive measures – the so-called sanctions that are being imposed in contravention of the UN Charter, the UN Security Council and contrary to international law. Under the current circumstances, these unilateral restrictions which, again, violate international law are holding back the measures against the coronavirus outbreak and are significantly damaging the socioeconomic development of the respective states.

We support the appeal by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet who are calling for the unilateral sanctions that were imposed bypassing the United Nations to be suspended at the least and ideally lifted, so that we could respond to the demands of our time more efficiently.

We have also discussed additional steps taken by BRICS to deepen the five-way partnership at international organisations, including the UN, the G20, the World Health Organisation (WHO), the World Trade Organisation (WTO), the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, to name just a few.

Our common position is that under these mechanisms, BRICS partnership should enhance the role and responsibility of the global governance institutions and their further democratisation. They should promote the interests of the majority of the countries, ideally, all of them.

Today, we also discussed the BRICS New Development Bank which made a principled decision to create a dedicated lending tool to finance economic recovery projects in the BRICS countries.Up to $15 billion will be allocated to this end. We believe this should help our economies overcome the crisis and resume full-fledged economic activity.

Russia has stated its specific joint crisis response measures to fight the coronavirus infection. This is a fairly large package of measures relating not only to the healthcare sector, but also to the economy, trade, financial stability and employment support. In the near future we will put these ideas down on paper. We agreed that we will submit them for substantive discussion at the upcoming meetings of the relevant departments of the five countries.

Overall, we believe that the changes experienced by the international community pose a threat of new dividing lines, more conflicts and a wider gap between the rich and poor countries. We are witnessing a rapid increase in the importance of innovative technology, especially in the IT sphere, which makes the well-known initiatives that Russia is promoting at the UN even more relevant. These initiatives concern ensuring international information security and developing a universal tool to combat cybercrime.

Overall, and we pointed this out today, multilateral institutions and the nation states themselves are taking a sort of a test for what we call professional aptitude. It is critically important not to try to focus on the fleeting electoral or any other interests in an attempt to politicise a particular issue, but to see the goal of our entire community in joining efforts in order to ensure the most positive outcome of our current efforts for our five countries and, above all, their citizens.







Question:

Will the BRICS countries work together to create a vaccine against the coronavirus? This was mentioned in the Ufa Declaration of 2015, but will any real work be done in this area now? Has India announced the time for its hydroxychloroquine supplies to Russia?



Sergey Lavrov:

In the declaration of the 2015 Ufa summit that you mentioned, the purported goal was to start working together on developing and using vaccines, including against coronavirus infections. This task was formulated back then politically and specified in 2018 during the BRICS summit held in Johannesburg. The Johannesburg summit documents contain an agreement to create an appropriate five-way mechanism.

Today we analysed this situation and decided to emphasise the need for the speedy implementation of this agreement and the creation of such a mechanism.

The Russian Ministry of Industry and Trade and the Ministry of Healthcare are involved in dealing with other issues, including the supply of vaccines. A videoconference of economic experts from the BRICS countries will be held tomorrow. On May 7, experts from healthcare ministries will hold a videoconference as well. I think they will discuss specific aspects of cooperation that you just mentioned. We will keep you posted.



Question:

Are the BRICS countries ready to take upon themselves the US contribution to the World Health Organisation after Washington decided to suspend its funding?



Sergey Lavrov:

We share the opinion that the WHO is a critically important tool which has now become an unparalleled platform for gathering information and facts from various states. This agency brings together top professionals from all countries, without exception, including the United States.

As the main contributor to the WHO budget, the United States had the largest quota of its specialists working at the WHO Secretariat. The WHO contributions come in two forms -mandatory and voluntary. As far as I understand, Washington has suspended the payment of voluntary contributions, but has retained and continues to pay the mandatory part that gives it the right to vote in this organisation.

With regard to compensation, since we are talking about voluntary contributions (the United States has suspended its voluntary contributions), it is hard to say who is going to support the WHO and how. China, for example, has announced an additional $30 million to be paid to the WHO budget. Regardless of the US decision, we have been traditionally supporting the WHO in various areas. Russia played a decisive role in developing the vaccine during the Ebola outbreak. Special institutes were created in African countries, which bore the brunt of this fever. We will continue to support the WHO regardless of what other countries might say about its activities.



Question:

Has the date for holding an online summit of the heads of the Group of Five - permanent members of the UN Security Council and the final statement of the leaders been agreed upon?



Sergey Lavrov:

The videoconference of the leaders of the countries - permanent members of the UN Security Council will be devoted to the coronavirus. So far, the date has not been set. We were ready to hold it this week. As far as I know, there are some countries that need more time to study the situation.



Question:

Recently, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov noted in an interview that back at the 2015 BRICS summit in Ufa, the final declaration included a statement that we need to pay attention to cooperation in combating novel coronavirus strains. What made Russia raise this issue five years ago? What can we do today?

What do you think about China and Russia’s interaction in combating the coronavirus?



Sergey Lavrov:

Are you saying Russia predicted the current epidemic before Bill Gates?

Seriously, though, in 2015, humanity was facing pandemic threats, including those associated with the coronavirus, such as MERS - the so-called Middle Eastern respiratory syndrome, and SARS - a severe acute respiratory syndrome. Not surprisingly, our researchers and specialists could tell back then that the coronaviruses could resurge.

As I already mentioned, today we reiterated our interest in creating, as soon as possible and in accordance with the decisions of the Ufa and Johannesburg summits, a mechanism for developing and using a vaccine against the coronaviruses.

As for our evaluation of the Russia-China interaction in fighting the coronavirus, we believe that it deserves high praise. From the outset, we provided assistance to Wuhan in China, and I hope we have made our contribution to China overcoming this threat fairly quickly. Now Beijing is helping everyone, including our country, to curb the spread of this infection.

As our respective leaders, President Putin and President Xi have repeatedly stated , we will continue our interaction and strategic partnership across all areas and pay special attention to the current important tasks in order to curb this global threat.



Question:

In almost every answer, you mention some kind of joint coronavirus response action – cooperation within BRICS or bilateral cooperation between Russia and China. This is one side, one opinion. The other is found in the new European External Action Service report that says China and Russia are responsible for spreading misinformation about the novel coronavirus. How is such a contrast even possible? What are your comments regarding this?



Sergey Lavrov:

When we talk about cooperation with China, we cite facts. There are many of them. We are not hiding them from anyone. They include specific forms of assistance: the delivery of humanitarian supplies, medicine and testing kits, medical specialists were dispatched, there were mutual consultations and many more things.

As for the EEAS statements about the coronavirus misinformation our two countries are allegedly disseminating, I cannot even give you any proper comments because they do not include a single fact confirming these allegations that I could mention.

Actually, we are not asking them for facts. We are already accustomed to our Western colleagues’ increasing attempts to find some unifying motives in pulp fiction about the Russian or some other threat. So far, we have not been confronted with one single fact confirming any allegations of our interference in the US elections, the Brexit referendum in the UK, the referendum in Catalonia, let alone the notorious Skripal case or the MH-17 crash investigation. Now they are accusing us of trying to poison someone in the Czech Republic with some substance that someone brought in a suitcase, and the concerned Czech authorities are aware of this, but for some reason no one yet has shown the suitcase.

I am taking these things now philosophically. If the EU needs this kind of insinuation to somehow cover up its internal problems, what can we do about it? The pure lack of any specific evidence behind this is obvious once you simply look at the facts that are regularly published covering each country’s coronavirus response actions.



Question:

In the wake of Libyan National Army Commander Marshal Khalifa Haftar’s recent remarks, does Russia have any leverage on him? Is it possible to develop collective measures to enforce peace and return to talks on the Libyan settlement? How dangerous are such remarks for the future of the Libyan settlement?



Sergey Lavrov:

I wouldn’t talk here about any leverage that Russia may have. We have contacts with all actors in the Libya conflict, without exception, including Marshal Khalifa Haftar, Chairman of the Presidential Council Fayez al-Sarraj, and President of the Libyan House of Representatives Aguila Saleh, as well as other figures, including the High Council of State’s senior officials. Many bodies have been created under the agreement concluded in Skhirat in December 2015.

At all stages of the settlement of the Libya crisis and in the course of all the initiatives advanced by our French and Italian colleagues, and the UAE at various points (an International Conference on Libya was held in Berlin), we warned about the need, first, to convince the conflicting parties to agree on the terms that they will use to resolve the problems in their country, the statehood of which was destroyed, as you may recall, in 2011 in the wake of absolutely unlawful NATO aggression. We have always warned against the attempts to impose on the Libyan parties any documents or agreements drafted without their direct involvement, since the non-viability of this approach has been proven on many occasions.

Now, we are faced with a repetition of what has already been done in relation to the outcome of the Berlin Conference. When the final document was submitted for approval by the participants, President Putin specifically asked whether the conflicting parties, primarily, Khalifa Haftar and Fayez al-Sarraj, supported this document. We were told that this matter would be addressed later. We said that without the clearly expressed consent of the Libyan parties, there was little chance that the agreements reached among external players would be viable. Unfortunately, that is exactly what happened. But this does not mean that the conflicting parties should now make aggressive statements, announce unilateral decisions or refuse to conduct an intra-Libyan dialogue.

We did not approve recent statements by al-Sarraj who refused to talk with Khaftar. We do not approve of the statement to the effect that Khaftar will now single-handedly decide on how the Libyan people will live. Neither one of them is contributing to the achievement of a lasting compromise, which is crucial if we want to overcome this situation.

Here’s a statement made just the other day, which, for some reason, drew little attention from the media, but is in stark contrast to the above. President of the Libyan House of Representatives Aguila Saleh Issa called for a national dialogue. He wants this dialogue to be aimed at the formation of common government bodies which would represent evenly and equally Libya’s three key regions. This is exactly what we have been talking about all these years: the Libyans themselves must identify the approaches that they will find generally acceptable, develop a dialogue and then build their new state. External actors should support such approaches in every way. I hope that the lessons learned from previous attempts will be learned, and we will be encouraging the Libyans themselves to talk and find a compromise.

In this regard, I cannot neglect to mention the fact that the post of the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General Support Mission in Libya has been vacant for over a month now. Ghassan Salame put a lot of effort into fulfilling his mandate, but, unfortunately, they were not successful, and he resigned. I believe it is absolutely necessary for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to appoint a new special representative soon. Everyone thinks this should be a representative of Africa. There are such candidates, and we know them well. They are experienced people with good standing. We urge the UN Secretary-General to fill this vacancy as soon as possible and appoint a new special representative so that the process continues uninterrupted.




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4107702






Russian Ambassador to Syria Alexander Yefimov’s interview with Interfax News Agency, April 28, 2020



29 April 2020 - 17:18







Question:

The humanitarian situation in Syria was difficult even before the coronavirus pandemic. Is there risk that the spread of the disease to Syria will be catastrophic?



Alexander Yefimov:

As far as we can tell, the Syrian authorities are managing to keep the spread of the coronavirus under control. We believe that the Syrian government can manage this problem, even considering the fact that the country and its healthcare system have suffered a lot during the years of armed conflict. Moreover, Syria has already begun to receive the necessary aid from friendly countries, including Russia.

We can see that Damascus is actively mobilising its own resources and capabilities, too. The pandemic did not reach Syria at once, and it used this time to preventively adopt all the necessary medical and administrative measures.

We can also note the Syrian authorities’ active efforts to maintain socioeconomic stability in the country, despite the fact that Syria is going from the frying pan into the flame: first war, then severe western sanctions, and now the quarantine imposed because of the coronavirus, which, as we know, hit even prosperous countries hard. However, Syria is still standing. Moreover, it is ready to help Syrians abroad.

The main problem is the sanctions against Syria that I have already mentioned, which inject dangerous unpredictability into the fight against the coronavirus. Under these conditions, their impact has become even more severe, bringing the country to the brink of catastrophe.

Russia and several other countries have called for the full and immediate lifting or relaxing of unilateral sanctions preventing the efforts of countries, in particular, Syria, to effectively counter COVID-19. We have supported the corresponding initiatives of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and other representatives of the UN. Unfortunately, our calls go unheeded: well-known supporters of the aggressive sanctions policy are not going to do an about-face. On the contrary, they are willing to put even more pressure on Syria and other undesirable states.



Question:

Is Russia ready to support Syria’s efforts to counter the spread of the disease? Have test kits and medical equipment been sent there?



Alexander Yefimov:

Yes, of course, we are helping our Syrian friends. In April, 200 ventilators, 10,000 test kits and 2,000 single-use and reusable exposure suits were sent to the Syrian Healthcare Ministry.

We continue to monitor the developments there and will develop additional ways to help our Syrian friends if necessary.



Question:

How can the epidemic affect the Syrian settlement process? On the one hand, there is a chance that the common problem will help Russia and Turkey overcome their disagreements, but on the other, a different focus may allow terrorist groups to become more active. Are you observing any of these trends?



Alexander Yefimov:

The epidemic has already directly affected the Syrian settlement process. A meeting of the Constitutional Committee scheduled to take place in Geneva in late March was cancelled due to the quarantine. As you know, the parties agreed the agenda, but the coronavirus made its own adjustments. We believe that the process will resume once conditions allow for it.

As for Russian-Turkish cooperation, the pandemic doesn’t factor in. We have always found ways to come to agreement, and the Additional Protocol signed in Moscow on March 5 proves this. The main thing is that everyone complies with it without forgetting the main task: to fight terrorism in Syria without compromise and return all the Syrian territories under Damascus’s control.

I don’t think that terrorists’ activities may be connected to the spread of the coronavirus. The focus did not shift from the Idlib problem, because attacks and provocation from illegal military groups continue.

The Moscow agreements between Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan made it possible to overcome a dangerous escalation of tensions in Greater Idlib, but the terrorists do everything possible to undermine their implementation and then once again act like victims of the bloodthirsty regime. So, the Idlib problem remains in focus and still awaits a solution.



Question:

The humanitarian situation is particularly difficult in the Idlib region. Is there risk of a mass outbreak of the coronavirus among IDPs and people who have no access to healthcare in the areas beyond government control?



Alexander Yefimov:

In terms of the spread of the coronavirus, I would not single out Idlib as such, but would rather consider all the territories that are not controlled by the Syrian Government, including the eastern bank of the Euphrates and the Al-Tanf region. Those areas, which are full of overcrowded camps for displaced persons, as well as prisons, are controlled by all sorts of armed groups, including those officially regarded as terrorists, who are unlikely to take a lot of interest in the wellbeing and safety of the local population.

In other words, that is fertile soil for an epidemic. And if it does break out there, the antagonists of Syria’s lawful authorities – the same antagonists who are now trying to suffocate the country with sanctions – will most probably welcome the opportunity to make new accusations against Damascus and to spin the flywheel of economic war.

Against the background of the coronavirus threat, the Syrian Government is now being urged to stop military operations, release prisoners, and resume cross-border humanitarian supplies. Experience shows, however, that such demands have nothing to do with genuine concern for Syria’s ordinary people but are aimed mainly at holding up the ongoing anti-terrorist efforts, pursuing the course towards the country’s disintegration, and discrediting its leadership.

Needless to say, those who worry so much about the fate of Idlib or the territories to the east of the Euphrates, do not care at all about the situation in the areas controlled by Damascus, where the overwhelming majority of Syria’s population lives. What’s more, they take pride in not granting a single cent to Syria’s lawful authorities, not even from UN funds.

On our part, we proceed from the premise that it is totally unacceptable to hold a government responsible for whatever takes place in the areas that remain out of its reach. Syrian authorities, however, even under the current circumstances do their best to support their compatriots who live in those areas and to facilitate humanitarian access to them across the contact lines. As early as in February, the Syrian Government gave its official approval to the deliveries of humanitarian supplies from the UN and the Syrian Red Crescent to all parts of the country.

As to the responsibility for whatever is going on in those areas, it lies with those who carry on the unlawful occupation of Syrian territories, who put in jeopardy the sanitary and epidemiological safety of the local population and who do all they can to prevent the Syrian Government from restoring its sovereignty over all Syrian territories.



Question:

Has the pandemic had an impact on Russian specialists’ activities in Syria? Have infrastructure projects been suspended? Can military specialists fulfil their tasks?



Alexander Yefimov:

The pandemic certainly affects everything that is going on in Syria, just as it does in other countries. The measures that have been introduced there, including the curfew and other travel restrictions throughout the country, seriously hinder the functioning of practically all institutions and enterprises in the country, and the projects in which Russian companies take part are no exception.

Everyone has to adapt to the new complicated conditions and to take precautions. Nevertheless, even under such circumstances Russian economic projects are being carried out, while military and diplomatic tasks are being fulfilled as usual.

Our Syrian friends need our support now more than ever, and they are getting it without fail. Let us bear in mind that Russian economic operators support the functioning of a number of Syrian enterprises and infrastructure facilities, some of which are of vital importance for the country. Moreover, as I have already said, none of the military and economic challenges of the recent past have disappeared; they still call for our relentless attention and consistent efforts.




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4108194






Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s interview with TASS news agency, Moscow, April 29, 2020



29 April 2020 - 17:21






Question:

This is our first online interview. How familiar are you with this format by now? I know you are holding online meetings, and even met with your BRICS colleagues via this format. How much more time, do you think, will we have to work online?



Sergey Lavrov:

It’s anyone’s guess. It’s unusual, but fun. As we have repeatedly pointed out, online meetings will never replace face-to-face meetings, especially confidential meetings, but nevertheless, using modern technology in these circumstances is a convenient approach because people must continue to talk to each other. Indeed, in addition to telephone conversations, which have always been part of our diplomatic activity, we are now increasingly using video conferencing. A video conference with the BRICS foreign ministers took place yesterday. Russia chairs this association this year. Tomorrow, we will hold a Normandy format videoconference with foreign ministers, where we will discuss who is acting, or not acting, on the recommendations approved at the Normandy Four summit in Paris in December 2019, and how they are proceeding.

Next week, after the holidays, we will continue to use this format. I’m not sure how long this will last. The health authorities will decide on this based on the actual epidemiological situation. These evaluations are used to compile reports for international leaders. As you may be aware, governments around the world are thinking about the time when they will be able to start putting together measures to exit the crisis. Related instructions were issued yesterday by President Putin at a meeting with the governors. So we are now in the hands of Mother Nature and the efforts that people are making so nature does not cause too much harm.



Question:

Unfortunately, the pandemic is leaving its mark on our lives and, in some ways, has greatly darkened the upcoming Victory Day on May 9. We are ten days away from it. However, President Putin said an aerial parade would take place. Of course, there will be fireworks as well. Frankly, the holiday will look a little different. We were expecting many foreign guests to come here. Given the circumstances, how can Victory Day - a great holiday that no one will ever take away from us - be celebrated internationally?



Sergey Lavrov:

I completely agree with you. First, none of the foreign guests has yet said they will not come to Moscow for the parade when the new date is set. All foreign guests, including the heads of state and governments, as well as a large group of WWII foreign veterans, have shown understanding for President Putin’s decision, announced in mid-April, on the need to reschedule the parade, which will be held in full, as he emphasised, this year. We are proceeding from the premise that the guests who confirmed their participation for May 9 will, of course, consider the possibility of coming to Moscow on a new date.

Of course, one cannot ignore the international celebrations for the 75th anniversary of Victory in World War II, the Great Patriotic War. As you may be aware, the UN adopts a corresponding resolution every five years. Five years ago, to commemorate the 70th anniversary of Victory, the General Assembly adopted a resolution by consensus, which emphasised the enduring nature of this feat, and pointed out that the UN was created thanks to Victory. Its Charter says that saving future generations from the disasters of war is its main goal.

Just a few days ago, President Putin and President Trump marked another milestone in the march of the victors - a meeting on the Elbe River. I believe this was a very important and emotionally charged message telling us that we must put security interests and the interests of saving lives, rather than some geopolitical considerations, above all.

In addition to the functions and statements I mentioned, a draft resolution by the UN General Assembly is being prepared, this time on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of Victory in World War II. The CIS states, China and a number of other UN member countries co-authored it. We hoped to be able to time the adoption of this resolution to Victory Day. Like five years ago during the 70th anniversary, the plan was to have a special discussion at the plenary meeting of the UN General Assembly. Like other UN agencies, the General Assembly is now working remotely and isn’t holding large meetings, or small ones, for that matter.

We have reached an agreement with our partners who co-sponsored this resolution that we will be aiming for the time when the General Assembly resumes its normal work and then convene such a meeting. Exhibits and film screenings were planned, not only at the New York-based UN headquarters, but our foreign missions elsewhere as well. Of course, one way or another, there will be commemorative functions on Victory Day dedicated to those who fought against Nazism. We instructed our foreign missions, Ambassadors and Consul Generals to organise, with consideration for the requirements of the local epidemiological authorities and the epidemiological situation, visits to the memorial sites in commemoration of the Soviet soldiers who fell on WWII battlefields. The burial sites will, as always, be maintained in proper condition. A series of events with exhibits and media events will, of course, take place, but given the circumstances, most of them will most likely be held online. Rest assured that one way or another this date will be properly marked by all of our foreign missions.



Question:

More and more people are saying that this current global situation will change the world order, and that the world will be different. So as the head of the Russian Foreign Ministry, as a major diplomat, what do you think the new world order will be like? What specifically will be different?



Sergey Lavrov:

I do not think anyone can give a definite answer at this stage. There are at least two trends, but there may be more. The first trend is many countries, leaders, political scientists, politicians, and public figures advocating the need to combine efforts and in every way promote multilateral approaches to global problems because isolationism, attempts to maintain distance from global problems, hiding behind national ‘fences’, have failed. And the second trend suggests exactly the opposite: where it is impossible to rely on a government in a particular region, where the healthcare system is not well-developed, where agencies that must ensure order and monitor people’s movement are not doing too well, one had better fend for themselves. If my country is wealthier than many, I can just take care of my problems and let the rest struggle as they can. Of course, I am a supporter of the first approach, as is the Russian Federation. Russia has always advocated the need to combine efforts and use collective methods for solving any problems.

The biggest danger would probably be, when we emerge from this pandemic, still not having any agreement at all on how to act in case of a new global threat. In this sense, what is happening now is so important, including on platforms such as the UN, the WHO, and the G20. All of these organisations, represented by their leaders — UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and the leaders of G20 currently chaired by Saudi Arabia — have called for pooling efforts and launching a large multilateral programme. Firstly, the programme focuses on developing an antidote to such infections and threats. Secondly, on providing assistance to those who need it (substantial assistance, for that matter). And, thirdly, on organisational measures to quickly mobilise the international community, when, God forbid, something like this happens again. This programme has been launched. It was supported by the EU and Saudi Arabia as chair of the G20 and it is designed to run for years. The announced amount of investment is 7.5 billion dollars. The specifics are open to additional consideration and study in order to understand how such multilateral interaction could be arranged in the most convenient way for each country. But the fact that we need such a programme is not questioned by anyone.

As long as we are talking about multilateralism, I would like to emphasise something I spoke about quite recently. It must be understood that only combining efforts universally is the right answer, a system that takes into account the interests of all parties. Over the past couple of years, we have been observing attempts to present multilateralism in a slightly different way: as the right of a certain group of countries to formulate a policy on a particular global issue and then make everyone else join something that was not developed in a universal format.

Germany and France launched an initiative last year to create an alliance for multilateralism. And they did it outside the UN, outside its organisational structure. Subsequent developments showed that their initiative was in fact a proposal for everyone to look to the EU as an ideal of multilateralism in its foreign policy. Now we have a question: how can anything be established on Earth that would be more multilateral than the UN? Those attempts to promote the approaches I mentioned, to present the matter in a way that suggests multilateralism is determined by more advanced democracies (this is what they obviously say between the lines), mean only one thing. When these states come with their initiatives to the UN, they find out that they need to take into account other opinions, to modify their approaches and seek compromise and consensus, but this, apparently, is not what they want to invest effort in. All they want is to push for their unilateral approaches that do not take into account the position of others. Well, this is how these ideas emerge about creating some special interest alliances outside universal bodies such as the UN, and then present these alliances’ decisions as the ultimate truth. This is the approach that we take issue with. We tell our Western, including European, colleagues that any problems must be resolved fairly and opposition should not be feared. Like it or not, there are 193 UN members in the world. If we all annually reaffirm our loyalty to the ideals of the UN Charter, then let our work be based on its principles, the main one being the sovereign equality of states.



Question:

Do you think that behind these attempts to create such alliances and attacks on existing UN institutions, and the WHO (US President Donald Trump said it must be reformed in a conversation with President of France Emmanuel Macron), with statements about the inefficiency of the UN as a whole during the pandemic, “the new world order” (about which I spoke) that these are attempts to establish new international agencies under the pretext of reform? To what extent is the Russian Foreign Ministry and Russia as a whole committed to maintaining the existing institutions, of course with due consideration for new realities?



Sergey Lavrov:

We have always advocated a careful attitude towards the UN-centric world arrangement that was created after World War II. We have not invented anything more stable or reliable.

The UN system has unique legitimacy. It is also unique in embracing the problems that the UN itself, its specialised agencies, funds and programs are tackling. It would certainly be unforgivable to lose the wealth of its multilateral mechanisms that reflect the interests of all the member countries in this global organisation.

There is no doubt that nothing lasts forever under the Moon and nobody is perfect, as we all know. So, questions about reform and improving UN activity and its agencies are always on the agenda during the meetings of the inter-government and interstate bodies that run these structures and determine the work of their secretariats. This applies to the WHO that is continuously accumulating new experience. After each new epidemic and infectious disease it receives specialists and knowledge that are immediately put to use. New organisational units are established. This applies to any other international organisation, including the UN Security Council where the issues of reform are considered in a geopolitical context with a view to making it more representative. To achieve this, it is necessary to focus primarily on representation from the developing nations from all regions – Asia, Africa and Latin America.

The agenda of multilateral organisations is always aimed at improving their work. Any reform is not a one-time action. It is a continuous process because life goes on. New scientific and technological achievements, new technology and new cross-border phenomena are rapidly growing. It would be unwise and misguided to grow rigid and refuse to improve the opportunity for response from the international community to current challenges.

As for new organisations, there are no counter indications to any initiatives in this respect. But if an organisation is established based on its regional location or political affiliation as is the case with the alliances you mentioned, where Europeans and other Westerners create them outside the UN, this is a different story. Of course, we cannot accept their attempts to create a structure with a limited number of members (only those whom they consider democracies) but claim to resolve problems for the rest of humanity. With respect to your profession, there are quite a few examples of “an alliance being established for securing democracy” with the obvious message that there are “media and there are propaganda agencies.” Russia Today and Sputnik are obviously in the latter category. If the alliance that was declared assumes responsibility for resolving issues and assessing the activity of others, it will not be acceptable. UNESCO and different OSCE agencies deal with these issues. So, new organisations are okay if they are created without encroaching on the prerogatives of the existing universal structures that rely on the UN Charter that is approved by everyone.



Question:

In September, the United Nations will be 75 years old. I talked with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres about this. Large celebrations for this anniversary were planned for the traditional high level week of the UN General Assembly. Guests of honour were expected to attend. As you said, it is difficult to predict anything now. What if the situation does not allow the participants to meet face to face in the UN building? Are there any consultations on how this anniversary, which is important for the world, will be celebrated if it’s not possible to hold a full session in the UN Headquarters in New York?



Sergey Lavrov:

We still believe it is too early to make these forecasts. For the time being, we hope that our plans will be carried out (I am referring to a festive session during the high and top level week in New York in the last ten days of September). A declaration devoted to the 75th UN anniversary is being drafted; concerts, exhibitions and film shows are being planned. We are planning similar events in Moscow with the participation of the UN Information Centre and the UN Association of Russia.

Returning to planned UN events, I would like to emphasise again that for now we are all hoping that it will soon be clear whether it will be possible to hold UN General Assembly sessions, including the high-level week, in the usual format.







Question:

If you please, I would like to go back to a topic which is crucial for all of us – the pandemic. As the fight against this terrible epidemic unfolds, there is an increasing number of those who want to determine who is responsible, investigate its origin. Various commissions have been set up including in the US Senate, there are many journalist investigations. More and more fingers are pointing at China. There are different kinds of conspiratorial inquiries in the US, there are alleged eggheads who are looking for the origin of the pandemic in Russia of all places. Should we already begin thinking about how to study and investigate this situation after the pandemic? How could this be done? Or should we draw a line and focus on combating the pandemic, leaving the investigation for the distant future?



Sergey Lavrov:

First of all, I would like to say that we are sad about the rhetoric used, about attempts to point fingers at a certain country. You mentioned that the US is accusing China. Accusations against the People’s Republic of China are also heard in Europe, they were made in France and Germany. Statements are made that European countries are allegedly willing to demand tens or hundreds of billions dollars from China as compensation for failing to timely inform the world community. US President Donald Trump addressed this issue recently during a news conference and said that the US might also make such claims but much bigger than hundreds of billions US dollars.

We see all that. And it is certainly unfortunate. As you have just said, the key is to overcome the pandemic, and afterwards it is certainly necessary to investigate the causes of its emergence so as to work out an “antidote” to rely on in future. There are forecasts by scientists that this particular coronavirus may return and stay with us forever just like the flu or a number of seasonal diseases. And so it is certainly necessary to find out the causes. But not for the sake of being able to say “I was right. This is who is to blame. I did everything right, so go and vote for me” but for the sake of understanding of how to figure out the best approaches to overcoming this threat in future.

If we look at the actions being taken by the UN system, to be honest, I do not see anything blameworthy because the actions taken were fairly prompt and I think they were well-timed. One can always say, “You could have done something a day earlier.” Perhaps you could have. First, the UN system’s organisations are not something detached from its member states, they are set up and governed by the states, they have executive and managing bodies. The secretariats of these organisations are made up of citizens of the member states whereby the larger the country, its GDP and membership dues, the more citizens of that country make up the secretariat of that organisation. This is also true of the World Health Organisation. If we take the timeline of WHO action since January of this year, it convincingly shows that the Organisation was acting in full compliance with its Charter. And one more important consideration. The Organisation is not entitled to establish a certain regime in its member states. It issues recommendations. Even when the WHO declared the coronavirus emergency, it was a recommendation to the others. The Organisation could not have ordered everyone to declare a state of emergency. Each country, in view of the situation on the ground, either followed or disregarded this recommendation. This is a critical point that must be understood. The WHO is not alone in this work because there is also the UN Development Programme, UNICEF, UN Population Fund, Food and Agriculture (FAO), United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO). Each of them had and has programmes to support the needy in developing countries, programmes that help improve, even if slightly, the socioeconomic situation of people, especially the poorest ones. The impact on the developing countries without such support would have been much more destructive, as they have so far managed to keep the pandemic from striking deep in their societies.



Question:

You recently said that an online summit of the leaders of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, devoted to the coronavirus, was basically set. Is there a date or some hints when the five leaders of Russia, China, the USA, the UK and France will be able to go online and join forces in the fight against the coronavirus?



Sergey Lavrov:

I have already spoken on this subject. We are ready for such a conversation. We believe that for the five leaders it will be important to make a joint statement with assessments and tasks concerning how we see the interests of the world community in joining forces to fight the coronavirus. The draft of such a statement is almost finished. We were ready to gather last week, and this one too, but some of the five leaders asked for extra time to determine their policies.



Question:

So, the date has not yet been set, has it?



Sergey Lavrov:

No, it has not. I would like to emphasise once again that this video conference of the five leaders will be devoted exclusively to the fight against the coronavirus in furtherance and in support of the decisions taken by the UN General Assembly, the G20, and the World Health Organisation on a consensus basis.

At the same time, we continue to prepare for the main summit of the leaders of the UN Security Council permanent member states, which was proposed by Russian President Vladimir Putin in January 2020. This initiative was supported by all the leaders of the other UN Security Council permanent members. Now we are working on the conceptual content of this summit. There is agreement, an understanding that it should be devoted to all the key problems of the modern world, strategic stability and global security in all its dimensions, including military, political, economic and humanitarian. It will focus on all pressing tasks on the world community’s agenda today, on how the five permanent members of the UN Security Council can exercise in the present conditions the responsibility that the UN Charter has entrusted them with.



Question:

With the pandemic, the Foreign Ministry had to take on a new role, helping our compatriots return home and coordinating these efforts. On this front, the Ministry has gone to great lengths, working around the clock. TASS news agency covered these developments and saw that the Foreign Ministry has done a great deal, but has been facing criticism which I believe to be unjustified. Where are we at this point in time? How many people are still stranded abroad and are waiting to be repatriated? What could be the solution to this problem in the short term, in your opinion?



Sergey Lavrov:

This type of activity is not new to us. There have always been situations when our compatriots found themselves in challenging circumstances while abroad. Of course, this has never happened on such a scale. Still, supporting our compatriots experiencing difficulties abroad is one of the main tasks of our foreign missions.

We have been facing a tense situation with the coronavirus outbreak. Some people had left Russia for a long-term period, to study or as interns, while others were travelling as tourists. We are talking about hundreds of thousands of people.

This is a challenging situation, since it is not just about a Russian citizen who must return home, it is his constitutional right. There are also circumstances that are directly linked to the coronavirus outbreak in the Russian Federation. The country’s authorities and the Government Emergency Response Centre to Prevent the Spread of the Novel Coronavirus in the Russian Federation have adopted decisions primarily designed to minimise the negative implications from the ongoing pandemic. Preserving the life and health of the Russian people is the main priority. This vision underpinned the parameters for repatriating Russian nationals in terms of their numbers and the regions where they intended to return. This is extremely challenging work that requires multiple agencies to constantly coordinate their efforts in order to develop a special algorithm and improve it through trial and error, since mistakes are unavoidable in situations of this kind.

You mentioned that we have been facing some criticism. It is always useful and never one hundred percent unjustified or unfair. There is always a grain of truth in it. It is therefore essential for everyone to understand that when helping Russians we follow the government guidelines on countering this threat as well as measures taken at the federal level.

We can understand the feelings people have when they cannot board a plane home. But you also have to understand what I just said: there is a government policy whereby people have to submit the required information, while also taking into consideration specific factors on the ground. The Foreign Ministry advised the Government Emergency Response Centre to make important adjustments to the repatriation algorithm that guides our actions. The Ministry of Digital Development, Communications and Mass Media of the Russian Federation is in charge of approving repatriation lists based on the information submitted through the Government Services portal. Based on the experience from this scheme, as well as recommendations from our ambassadors and consuls general, we submitted a proposal to the Government whereby our ambassadors would be vested with the authority to add people to the repatriation lists regardless of whether they are on the list compiled by the Ministry of Digital Development, Communications and Mass Media, or face a dire humanitarian situation or not.

A repatriation flight has just returned from New York with 257 people on board, including 90 people from the so-called humanitarian list. It was the Russian Ambassador to the United States who put them on the plane. As I express my gratitude to our diplomats I cannot fail to mention that many ambassadors, embassy and consular staff members have come up with creative and unconventional solutions. For example, in Nepal the ambassador and his staff have set up a tent camp at the Russian Centre of Science and Culture in Kathmandu to provide accommodation for those who did not have any money left. In New York, Nepal and Argentina, and in almost all countries, embassy employees have been using their personal funds to buy basic necessities and provide food for our stranded compatriots.

The plane from New York finally brought home 19 school students who were taking part in some shady programmes in the United States, and no one actually knows how they got there in the first place. The Russian Government did not know anything about this. We have yet to receive a clear and detailed explanation to this effect from our US colleagues. The US Ambassador to Russia John J. Sullivan attempted an explanation, saying that there was no need to worry, since some students have already returned home, some no longer wanted to leave, some were with their host families, while others were transferred somewhere else. These explanations are unacceptable to us. We need to know the location of every underage citizen, of every school student, where they are and why they are there. We also have to understand how minors were able to get on an international flight. We have a lot of work ahead of us, and we are working on it together with the Russian Education Ministry.

There is one more point I wanted to make. The Government has promptly taken a decision regarding Russians who have so far been unable to board repatriation flights and have run out of money, since they did not plan to stay abroad for so long, and were unable to return home. The Government allocated funds, and the Foreign Ministry has been distributing them following the corresponding guidelines in order to support our compatriots as long as they are abroad. There are per diem payments for adults and children. This money really helps. Let me reiterate that nobody is perfect, and a lot of things had to be done without any preparations, in keeping with the decisions taken at the federal level and considering how many people we were able to take back to the Russian regions of their destination.

I would like to once again thank our colleagues from other agencies, and all those who work at the Emergency Response Centre for their constructive approach to dealing with the concerns raised by our foreign missions. I would also like to extend my special gratitude to our diplomats abroad. They have done everything to offer maximum comfort to Russian nationals stranded abroad, and have volunteered their personal time to do so.



Question:

I join you in your words of acknowledgement but I also would like to ask you about one very important thing. True, this is more about your forecasts and assumptions. The world is closed, borders are closed and there are no flights. I can only address this question to you. When will borders open? When will flights resume? When will people start to interact normally again? Proceeding from your forecasts, views, understanding and conversations with your colleagues, when and how will the world start opening back up? Borders are closed even between the CIS countries, not to mention farther abroad. How gradually or quickly will this happen in practical terms?



Sergey Lavrov:

We already spoke about this at the beginning of our conversation. In practical terms, whether this is fortunate or not, the Foreign Ministry is an executive body that is not obliged to make a decision on this score. It must be made on a collective basis. I would like to emphasise once again that during his regular meetings with the regions and government members and academia, President of Russia Vladimir Putin is continuously setting tasks the implementation of which will make it easier to decide on criteria, timeframe, phasing and speed of lifting the current strict stay-at-home orders. As you know, the President instructed his colleagues to submit proposals to this effect by May 5, 2020. They should take into account the collective views of the federal executive bodies and the specific situation in every region. We are hoping that these measures will set a timeframe that will make it possible to carry out most of what was planned for this year in Russian diplomacy.



Question:

You know the famous photo, the best photo of the 20th century, which was taken by TASS photo correspondent Yevgeny Khaldei. It is called “Victory Banner over Reichstag.” I am putting this question to you because you liked taking photos at one time. If you took a photo of the future victory over the pandemic, what would it depict?



Sergey Lavrov:

This is a very good question for a world contest. I suggest you patent this idea.



Question:

May I ask you straightaway to head the contest’s organising committee?



Sergey Lavrov:

We will see. If this idea gains traction and the organising committee is established, I will think about joining it. I know that this photo must not depict any building symbolising some country.



Question:

I recently bought an interesting photo album. It contains many of your photos. Since the pandemic victory contest will be international, which of your photos would you add to the future album? I mean expressly your photo.



Sergey Lavrov:

I would add a photo that has not yet been taken. We have a wonderful photographer in the ministry, Eduard Pesov. We will meet on the day of victory over the pandemic and will try to take photos of all our friends. We will see how they will look on this remarkable day.



Question:

I will take you at your word. Thank you!




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4108208
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Briefing by Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova, April 29, 2020



29 April 2020 - 20:35






Coronavirus update

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Russian school students in the US

There is another issue we are working on now that has evoked public interest and is monitored both by the media and society: Russian school students who remained in the United States. Just a couple of hours ago, an Aeroflot plane landed in Sheremetyevo and brought a large group of our children home. Let me speak more of that.

The Russian Embassy in Washington, despite the fact that a group of Russian school children arrived in Moscow today, continues searching for our children in the United States. We have already said how they got there: through various American education programmes whose implementation was not agreed upon with our authorities and was in fact conducted in secret. When the coronavirus pandemic broke out, some receiving organisations preferred to make an exit and relieve themselves of any responsibility for the Russian children in the United States, and asked to take them away as soon as possible.

The US Department of State was the first to make this request on April 6. It announced that the Secondary School Student Programme, which was advertised on the State Department website, was being closed. However, it did not provide us with a list of children, even the exact number of them. They only said that there were “approximately” 80 secondary school students from Russia.

Since last week, American diplomats have been saying that “fewer than 30” Russian teenagers remained in the United States as part of various programmes. It is hard to say where these numbers come from. The US authorities also cannot say when and how these children, who did not contact the Russian Embassy, left Russia. They never explained any of this, never gave us the contacts of these children despite our numerous official requests. The Russian Embassy itself found 35 school students in various states. It is clearly more than Washington claimed (30 children).

Most children left New York aboard Russian flights specially organised to bring them home. This is the information as of today. Some of the children, as agreed by their parents and given that they were from Russian regions, decided to stay in the United States until their planned leave in May-June. Actually, this decision was made together by the parents, children and with the assistance of diplomats. It was their choice. Nobody tried to convince them to stay or leave. We looked at each particular situation separately taking into account what would be best for a concrete child given all the circumstances.

So, as of today, we can say that some 40 children have returned to Russia; 19 children arrived today.

Given this confusion with the numbers and conflicting data provided to us by the US authorities, we will continue looking for the children.

In general, as of today, all the children we found and who contacted us themselves or whose parents contacted us have been either returned to Russia (most of them) or decided to wait for their US visas to expire. At the same time, we have not finished our work; we cannot finish it because we don’t have complete information about how many Russian school students are currently staying in the United States.

Therefore, we are grateful for any information and want to thank everyone who got involved in this effort and helped us.

So, that is how information was concealed from us. Deliberately or not, maybe it is the confusion and the mess in the US Department of State, or maybe it is someone’s malicious intent, I don’t want to talk about it now. All this makes us raise this issue again and ask Russian schools and relevant oversight agencies to be responsible. It is obvious that we must not let our children be exported abroad by anybody without the clearly stated responsibility of the receiving agencies, which also should be backed by government guarantees: where they go, for how long, what their contacts are, and who is responsible for their stay abroad. In fact, the problems that many people did not care about are seen very clearly against the backdrop of this pandemic crisis. Naturally, we will draw our conclusions.



Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s participation in a videoconference of the Normandy format countries’ foreign ministers

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The events to be held at Russian foreign missions on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of victory in the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945

Despite the current difficulties created by the spread of the coronavirus infection throughout the world and quarantines enforced in nearly all countries, the Russian diplomatic missions abroad continue working but have adjusted their operations to these conditions. The schedule and formats of the planned celebration events on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of Victory in the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945 have been revised. This primarily concerns mass events. In particular, it has been decided to postpone the formal events planned at the Russian diplomatic missions abroad, the public ceremonies of laying wreaths at Russian military memorials, exhibitions, concerts, meetings with compatriots and sports events.

In light of the epidemic, our foreign missions plan to focus on holding online and media events due to the coronavirus infection, such as photo exhibitions and special expositions, including war photo and video flashbacks, as well as the screening of Russian feature and documentary films and programmes about the Great Patriotic War.

As usual, representatives of the associations of Russian compatriots living abroad will attend the Victory Day celebrations we will organise. However, this year they will be held online, including the international Immortal Regiment march, the Candle of Memory and the St George’s Ribbon campaign. In addition to this, Russian diplomats will take part in the memorial events organised by the local authorities, including virtual ones.

The current situation has greatly complicated the planned presentation of commemoration medals for the 75th anniversary of Victory in the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945 to the war veterans who live abroad. Therefore, we plan to hold onsite presentation of the medals by members of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s missions abroad who will visit the veterans in person or mail their medals to them. This will be done in strict compliance with the epidemiological situation and instructions issued by local authorities. We will do everything in our power so that the veterans who live abroad celebrate Victory Day and know that it will be celebrated broadly, as usual, in Russia. They must know that they have not been forgotten and that the memory of their heroism is still alive in our hearts and is also part of our very lives. However, the focus will be on the veterans’ health.

Since it will be impossible to hold protocol and other major events on May 9, we are considering the possibility of postponing them to a later date. For example, Russia’s Permanent Mission to the UN in New York has provisionally decided to postpone until autumn a photo exhibition on the press in the war, which we are organising together with the TASS news agency, as well as a gala concert at the UN General Assembly hall with Russian music groups and individual performers.

The ministry’s Information and Press Department is providing information and advisory assistance to our missions abroad. We are working as a close-knit team, giving our foreign offices access to archival photographs and photo collections, including those prepared by the Federal Archive Agency (Rosarkhiv) and Russian news agencies, as well as plenty of other material.



Western support of White Helmets in Syria

We have noted on numerous occasions that Western countries and their allies are patronising the White Helmets, a pseudo humanitarian organisation affiliated with terrorist groups operating in Syria. I would like to draw your attention to an interview by TASS news agency with Deputy Foreign Minister Oleg Syromolotov who spoke at length on this subject.

Questionable foreign policy initiatives of this kind are not in short supply. Canada’s financial and political assistance to these would-be rescue workers is one such illustrative example. In 2016, the White Helmets leader, Raed Saleh, was invited to speak at the Canadian parliament, but instead of pleading for stepping up humanitarian efforts, he called for using military means to put pressure on official Damascus. According to the information we have, following his visit Ottawa allocated $4.5 million to this organisation and transferred these funds through intermediaries.

Western capitals placed their stakes on terrorists achieving a military victory over the legitimate Syrian Government, but when it did not work out this way, and the events took a different turn on the back of the successful operation carried out by the Syrian Armed Forces in the country’s south, it was also Ottawa, with the active backing of the United Kingdom, who engaged in proactive efforts to evacuate and save these would-be rescuers. They wanted to relocate their White Helmets clientele to Jordan, and after that to have them resettled in a number of Western countries. We are all well aware that at the July 2018 NATO Summit in Brussels, Canada’s Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland went to great lengths calling on her NATO partners to join this effort, citing the example of Canada relaxing its national laws in order to facilitate this resettlement initiative.

It turned out later that things did not go as smoothly as it seemed. First, the Western donors who had been so diligent in generously sponsoring these would-be rescue workers for several years, all of a sudden faced exacting demands, including instant citizenship, resettlement and employment. It seems that these people understood that these countries had to pay their dues for the work they carried out, including the information they could provide in exchange for a favourable living environment.

The patrons of the White Helmets in Ottawa, London and other patronising capitals are well aware of the fact that their clients have real experience in sabotage and terrorist activities. This gives these countries food for thought, and things to worry about, as they prepare resettlement plans for these White Helmets. This is the only way we can explain the fact that Ottawa has yet to complete the initiative that was initially expected to take just three or four weeks. On the other hand, the Western political elites may be tempted to support the White Helmets and keep them on standby in Syria, since their provocations and sabotage have blended into the tactics of the terrorists who have been losing ground and moral support in the country.



Incident with US warships off the coast of Iran in the Persian Gulf

We can understand Tehran’s sharp criticism of the American warships that were making dangerous and provocative manoeuvres close to Iran in the Persian Gulf on April 15.

We would like to point out that Moscow has always regarded stability and security in the Persian Gulf as a key factor in the broader situation in the region. This logic underlies our popular initiative on collective regional security.

We call on our partners to show maximum restraint and caution, to resist provocations and disregard aggressive rhetoric, and, of course, to act in strict compliance with the relevant international norms and rules.

We are convinced that illegal unilateral actions that are preventing many countries from saving the lives of their citizens should be suspended now for humanitarian reasons. Instead of making manoeuvres, it would be much better to create humanitarian aid corridors.



Postponement of the 2020 NPT Review Conference

The 2020 review conference for the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) was supposed to open at the UN headquarters in New York recently but has been postponed. The global pandemic, which has also affected the United States, has prevented it. The NPT member states have decided to postpone the review conference until April 2021 at the latest. The precise date will depend on the end of the epidemic and the schedule of international events. Russia has supported this decision.

We regard NPT review conference as a vital element of consolidated international efforts to strengthen the non-proliferation regime. We hope the next conference will be a success. It is of priority importance for all the signatories to reaffirm their commitment to the NPT goals and their obligations under it. Russia is ready to work actively together with all the countries concerned when it comes to all aspects of the NPT review.



Destabilising potential of the US low-yield W76-2 warhead

We have taken note of the material published by the US Department of State on April 24 concerning the creation of the US low-yield W76-2 warhead and the conversion of some of the Trident II submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBM) to this capability. The creation and deployment of low-yield nuclear weapons has been presented as a US response to the increasing global threat, primarily the growing nuclear capabilities of Russia and China.

As we said before, we consider this to be a dangerous move and an element of destabilisation. In our opinion, it is a deliberate attempt to muddy the difference between non-strategic and strategic nuclear weapons, which will inevitably lower the nuclear threshold and increase the risk if a nuclear conflict. We are not alone in thinking so. This opinion has been expressed, in part, by some respected members of the US academic community and even in US Congress.

It is vital that everyone understands this, which is why I would like to point out once again that any attack involving a US SLBM, regardless of its specifications, will be perceived as a nuclear aggression. Those who like to speculate about the “flexibility” of the US nuclear potential must understand that under the Russian military doctrine such actions are seen as warranting retaliatory use of nuclear weapons by Russia.



Norway’s assistance in training Ukrainian military

We have become aware of a report about the training of Ukrainian military personnel by Norwegian instructors. It is notable that the item published by the Donbass Insider online resource about nine Norwegians and three Swedes who were on a training tour in Kiev and its suburbs in April 2016 has been reposted by several Norwegian resources.

Norway has not refuted the facts published on the above mentioned website, according to which a group of instructors from the Norwegian Air Force Academy visited several training camps in Ukraine. The main objective of that visit was allegedly to collect information about the situation in Ukraine, its relations with Russia and methods of the hybrid war.

This is just one of the many examples of Norway’s systemic support to Kiev. It is a fact that the political authorities in Oslo unconditionally supported the anti-constitutional coup in Kiev and have since been actively helping Ukraine to strengthen its military capability.

We believe that Oslo, while pursuing this policy, is aware of its share of responsibility for Kiev’s actions towards the Donetsk and Lugansk republics. We hope that Norway, instead of pursuing this destructive line, will use its international standing and its influence on the Ukrainian authorities to convince them to honour the Minsk agreements.



Latvia passes a bill that prohibits wearing Soviet military uniform at public events

Latvia’s Saeima recently passed legislative amendments in the final reading that prohibit wearing Soviet military uniform at public events thus making it equivalent to a Nazi uniform in that country.

Official Riga’s relentless urge to rewrite the historical reality is no longer raising eyebrows. Of course, we realised all along that all this dirty and absolutely incongruous bustle will, unfortunately, continue and even then, it was hard to imagine that they would take it so far.

It was also predictable that the Latvian parliament would be so anxious to time their malicious initiatives to coincide with the 75th anniversary of the Victory in the Great Patriotic War over the brown plague.

What about wearing uniforms of other countries of the anti-Hitler coalition? Can people still do that or not any more?



A publication in the Respekt newspaper (Czech Republic)

There have been many questions regarding the publication of fake news and misinformation in the Czech media. Many publications like this have been circulating recently. Unfortunately, we have also found that they did not stop at planting false information. Last Monday, Respekt, a Czech media outlet, published some results of a journalistic investigation according to which Russia, acting through its Embassy in Prague, is allegedly intending to physically eliminate the initiators of the removal of the Marshal Ivan Konev monument, for which a Russian intelligence agent arrived in the Czech capital with poison in his suitcase.

Now, these are unhealthy fantasies. There is simply no point in criticising, describing or otherwise characterising them. This is yet another crude provocation by destructive forces in the Czech Republic and borderline delirium. They want to damage Russian-Czech relations at all costs and, as we understand, they will do anything to achieve this goal. We presume that Prague fully realises that using such methods and manipulation may lead to very serious consequences.



Publication on Crimea in the Foreign Affairs magazine and Ukraine’s remarks

On April 3, Foreign Affairs, an influential US media outlet, published an article with a title “To Russia With Love,” something very unusual for US media. What is this article about? Again, surprisingly, it was written by American academics and contains a very interesting sociological study which is more interesting to the American audience rather than for internal audience because the American public has long been lacking information on the issue that I will mention further. The article attracted our attention because of its evaluation of Crimea’s present reality and its perception by peninsula residents (what they think and how they live) that is not typical for the present period and the Western political science community. It turns out that “when Ukrainian activists and Western politicians claim that the residents of Crimea are ‘living under occupation,’ they mistake the experience of some for the experience of all.” This was compellingly confirmed by the surveys conducted among Russia’s Crimea residents in 2014 and 2019. The researchers ordered the survey from an independent polling company and received funding from the US National Science Foundation, which is sponsored by US Congress.

Apparently, the US academic community is showing a tendency for an objective analysis of the outcome of Crimea’s reunification with Russia. Through a blind screen of misrepresentation, blatant misinformation and propaganda clichés, we can see sprouts of some objective reality showing, a balanced and sensible outlook on the matter that has been bothering everybody in the West for many years. I really strongly recommend reading this article: https://www.foreignaffairs.com/artic...03/russia-love.

This re-evaluation could not but spark a furious response from Kiev. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba secured an alternate publication in the same magazine on April 21, which is traditionally brimming with accusations against Russia. And, despite the laws of reasoning, causes are misrepresented as effects; the origins and the evolution of the situation on the Crimean peninsula, its major political and legal aspects are completely ignored. For the sake of NATO’s and EU’s solidarity, the norms and principles of international law get a lopsided interpretation; people’s right to self-identification by means of a referendum is called into question.

The truth is that for Crimeans, who feel a strong sense of belonging to the heroic past of our nation, the Maidan pseudo-values forced on them from outside were alien. They did not want to be pawns in somebody else’s game and chose to be masters of their own fate and the fate of the peninsula. This is a direct quote from Foreign Affairs: “They are reasonably happy to be living in Russia.”

It is regrettable that Kiev officials, despite the historical, genetic and civilisational ties, and the economic, cultural and family links between our nations, let themselves be drawn into an openly anti-Russia project and fell into the traps carefully set up for them by their custodians. However, the moment of realisation must eventually come. Nobody in the European Union is waiting for Ukraine to become a full member. With respect to that country, the EU’s policy can be summed up as “the final goal is nothing; movement is everything” (as long as this movement is away from Russia). But the mirage is fading. Once again, the reality is so obvious it is no longer possible to overlook. I think as we go forward, more truth will be coming out about those events, including in US media.



Russia accused of misinformation

We have noticed some kind of new misinformation boom over the past couple of weeks, already known as the misinformation – or fake news – pandemic. And we can see that our country seems to occupy a central position in this strange misinformation campaign. Why is this being done? For many reasons, probably.

Motives are being attributed to our country – and some other countries too – such as an interest in dividing the Western community and its supranational bodies, NATO and the European Union. A stereotype is being imposed that all hazards come from Russia.

Many of the problems that Western – as well as some other – countries are facing today are systemic and deep-rooted. There has been much talk about the challenges that the digital revolution poses to democracy and to the market economy social model, the impact of globalisation on identity issues and its projection on international security. Some of our colleagues in the West do not bother to analyse the root causes of their own difficulties, but continue, out of habit, to write them off as the dealings of certain external forces. As a rule, they follow a well-trodden path and blame Russia. Although, again, new threats are also being mentioned – such as the WHO, China, and others. For us, a situation where our partners cite Russia’s interference whenever some election or referendum results are not to their liking is nothing out of the ordinary. Suppose the open door immigration policy isn’t working – Russia will be blamed for generating refugee flows to Europe. In an era of electoral processes and electronic technologies, our country is even being credited with “involvement” in stimulating separatist movements, supporting Euro-sceptic sentiments and cyber-attacks – predictably with no proof.

In this context, a new subject is now being vigorously explored – misinformation in connection with the coronavirus pandemic. NATO and EU agencies are launching rumours that Moscow is allegedly using the unfavourable situation in Western countries to discredit the transatlantic unity and ideas of European integration, and also supposedly trying to make the situation look as if the Western democracies have collectively and individually failed in their pandemic response and relief efforts.

Let’s look at some of the declarations by official representatives of Western countries.

The Prime Ministers of Spain, Pedro Sanchez, and of Italy, Giuseppe Conte, have long warned of the risk of the disintegration of the EU in their public statements – not behind the scenes or in some closed clubs. Amelie de Montchalin, French Foreign Ministry Secretary of State for European Affairs, has spoken about the same thing. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen apologised to Italy for the insufficient effectiveness of the European Commission measures at the initial stage of the pandemic. Where do representatives of Russia come in?

Former President of the European Council, now head of the European People’s Party, Donald Tusk (the man involved through and through with European integration, Brussels, the commonality of views of those who lead and rule the European Union) said in an interview with German Der Spiegel that he does not rule out the collapse of the European Union as a result of the “coronacrisis.” He described the situation in southern Europe as a disaster. I would like to emphasise once again that these are not Russian statements – these are assessments that our European colleagues have put forward themselves.

As for transatlantic ties, hardly anyone could have inflicted a greater blow on them than the United States itself, by making the decision in March to suspend air travel with Europe, and also, according to some information, seizing a batch of medical masks intended for German law enforcement services. This information needs to be double-checked of course, but some Western media outlets have run stories on this.

Concerning misinformation, the popular European resource Politico openly acknowledged in one of its articles that most of the fake news in the media about coronavirus in Europe was being generated by ordinary Europeans trying to find answers to their questions, advice or support on social media.

Representatives of the European Union or its member countries openly make statements that are much more drastic than anything Russian officials have ever said about them. Yet, no one seems to accuse them of wanting to “undermine the unity of democracies,” of spreading misinformation, using misinformation to undermine the unity of democracies. What is the question about? Is it about the real problems that these countries are facing or is it about who is making these statements? It appears that the liberal community does not want to hear the truth and know the real situation, and, perhaps, it can’t bear to hear it, and that’s why it is making drastic efforts to prevent this truth from being voiced. But there is a simpler way. The European Union just needs to determine who is authorised to speak in the EU, in Brussels voicing the one and only appropriate truth. Everyone else should just repeat their statements. Otherwise, if this is not the case, they need to stop blaming Russia, because harsh, critical and evaluative statements are being made by representatives of these very countries, and Russia has nothing to do with it.

The situation in the Western community that has been exposed amid the pandemic is being openly recognised as unsatisfactory by the official representatives of these very countries. And they are not using delicate language. Yet, it is Moscow that Western propagandists accuse of an alleged willingness to undermine the unity of democracies. And this, instead of learning the right lessons from this unprecedented crisis and focusing on finding ways out of it. All this is just astonishing.



Bogdana Osipova update

We were concerned to learn that the Danbury prison, where Russian national Bogdana Osipova is kept, reported that one of the inmates has tested positive for coronavirus. We immediately contacted Ms Osipova through various channels and received an update. Currently, her condition is normal.

Yet, this was the second COVID-19 case detected in that correctional institution in the past week. Therefore, our Embassy in Washington has forwarded a note to the US Department of State demanding that the Russian national should undergo a full medical examination, including the coronavirus test.

Obviously, the Danbury jail, where Russian pilot Konstantin Yaroshenko is also kept, is facing a critical situation amid the soaring number of detected COVID-19 cases in the United States. As we understand, a massive outbreak among the inmates could occur at any time. We request the information on the Russian citizens’ status from the US side on a daily basis.

Once again, we urge US authorities to immediately release Bogdana Osipova and Konstantin Yaroshenko on humanitarian grounds, as well as all Russian nationals currently under investigation or sentenced to jail terms in the United States.



Celebrations of 60th anniversary of Russia-Togo diplomatic relations

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Answers to media questions:



Question:

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov discussed ways to streamline the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission’s activities in Ukraine with OSCE Secretary General Thomas Greminger. How will the coronavirus affect the activities of the OSCE?



Maria Zakharova:

Given the pandemic, all OSCE field operations have imposed temporary restrictions on their programme activities and are following the sanitary instructions issued by local authorities. Most employees are working remotely.

As for the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine, more than 150 out of 729 international observers have been recalled to their respective countries of citizenship.

The DPR and LPR authorities have introduced sanitary and epidemiological rules regarding the SMM observers’ travel in order to preserve the health of the people in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions and the mission’s employees. During a telephone conversation with OSCE Secretary General Thomas Greminger on April 27, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov emphasised the validity of such measures and called on the mission’s senior officials to establish a proper dialogue with the sanitary authorities in Donetsk and Lugansk.

In general, we proceed from the fact (Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has repeatedly pointed this out) that the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine will continue to fulfill its mandate, which, by the decision of the OSCE Permanent Council dated March 19, was extended until March 31, 2021.



Question:

On April 23, The Hague District Court upheld the investigative authorities’ decision not to disclose the identities of 12 out of the 13 witnesses who will testify during the MH17 probe hearings. How may this affect the trial?



Maria Zakharova:

I would like to say that Russia is not part of this lawsuit, which we have already mentioned many times. However, charges were brought against three Russian citizens, so we are closely following the developments to make sure the rights of the accused are not violated.

To mete out justice, it is important for the process to remain truly open and legal, so that the hearings fully take into account the arguments of all parties, not just the prosecution. As far as we understand, it was decided to make the hearings public and broadcast them online to demonstrate the independence and impartiality of the process.

Does the above decision on the status of witnesses in this case meet the purported criteria? We doubt it.

I will explain why. As you may be aware, the Netherlands prosecutor’s office states, as part of the first stage of the hearings in March 2020, that it is concerned about the witnesses’ lives. Who specifically is threatening them remains unclear. However, such claims gave enough reason to the investigating judge to establish corresponding activities in 2018-2019 and to give them the status of “at risk,” in connection with which the witnesses’ identities have been classified.

The lawyers of one of the suspects, Oleg Pulatov, protested the lawfulness of the investigating judge’s actions. Such an additional veil of secrecy does not allow the defence to question the veracity of the witnesses’ testimonies. It is important to make sure that the witnesses are not interested in the outcome of the process or motivated by anything else. However, as we see, the court did not support the defence and rejected the lawyers’ demands to declassify the identities of 12 out of the 13 witnesses.

There’s an interesting detail, though. In its decision, the court does not even hide the fact that the Dutch Code of Criminal Procedure has been violated in 11 out of 13 instances. Under the law, it was first necessary to obtain the opinion of both parties, but, in fact, only the position of the prosecutor’s office was taken into account. Nonetheless, the judges thought such a violation of the law was possible in the name of higher considerations, as they said, “the seriousness of the crime and the gravity of the charges.” This is a strange interpretation of law by the Dutch judicial authorities.

As we see, conflicting decisions that are technical only at first glance were made from day one of the trial which the Netherlands believes to be highly important. It emphasises the high standards of its judicial system and the unquestionable legal proficiency of its judges.

In fact, the ruling on the witnesses’ anonymity may have far-reaching consequences, including in terms of credibility of the final court decision, whatever it may be.



Question:

What can you say about the forthcoming declaration on comprehensive partnership between Russia and Uzbekistan?



Maria Zakharova:

Indeed, thanks to Uzbekistan’s initiative, a declaration on a comprehensive strategic partnership between the Russian Federation and the Republic of Uzbekistan is being drafted. By mutual agreement, it was decided that this important document will consolidate significant progress in state-to-state interaction, promote cooperation in foreign policy and security, the economy, finance, energy, transport and cultural and people-to-people relations, including their multilateral integration aspect.

In fact, this document will open a new phase in implementing the fundamental principles of Russian-Uzbek relations laid down in the Strategic Partnership Treaty between the Russian Federation and the Republic of Uzbekistan of June 16, 2004, the Treaty on Allied Relations between Russia and Uzbekistan of November 14, 2005 and the Declaration on Promoting Strategic Partnership between the Russian Federation and the Republic of Uzbekistan of June 4, 2012

Everything related to adopting this declaration is a matter of competence of the heads of state. Accordingly, this information will be commented upon by the respective administrations as well.




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4108704
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Permanent Representative of Russia to International Organisations in Vienna Mikhail Ulyanov’s interview with the newspaper Kommersant, published on April 28, 2020



29 April 2020 - 21:02







Question:

Is it likely that the US will be able to implement its plan? What are the chances that it will succeed in getting the UN to re-impose its sanctions on Iran?



Mikhail Ulyanov:

The Western media have indeed been proactive in discussing this topic during the last few days. The current arrangement for arms supplies to Iran will expire on October 18. It is usually referred to as an “arms embargo,” although it is not actually an embargo in legal terms but rather an enabling supply regime. This means that supplies are possible, if only with the UN Security Council’s authorisation. But in practical terms, this means a total ban, of course, because the US will not allow any arms supplies. The current arrangement will expire in less than six months from now and this makes the Americans terribly nervous.



Question:

It is rumoured that they might submit to the UN Security Council a draft resolution extending the current arms supply regime.



Mikhail Ulyanov:

Yes, they might. But they are well aware of our negative attitude towards this step and allegedly are working on a fall-back option. Judging by the press leaks, it is about insisting that the US retain its JCPOA status. The Americans need this status so they can try and obtain a re-launch of the UN sanctions against Iran, as, in certain situations, this is allowed under UN Security Council Resolution 2231.



Question:

Can they really aspire to a JCPOA status, if they withdrew from the deal back in 2018?



Mikhail Ulyanov:

In fact, it is not easy, to say the least, to justify this about-face. The Americans hope to find a catch in Item 10 of the said resolution, which lists all parties to the JCPOA talks, including the United States and refers to all of them as the JCPOA participants. In all evidence, they will attempt to use this as a formal pretext for insisting that they still have their JCPOA participant status.

Their reasoning is ludicrous, of course. It is common knowledge that Washington officially announced its withdrawal from the nuclear deal on May 8, 2018. Moreover, the US went out of its way, during the last two years, to derail the deal.

The attempt to invoke Resolution 2231 looks cynical because it is this resolution that the US has been undermining. It is also absolutely unconvincing from the legal, political and moral points of view.

By the way, the absurdity of this stance is clear to many people in the United States itself. Even some administration members seem to be aware of the awkwardness of this approach and are putting out feelers in the public space.

It appears the US is out to regain its JCPOA participant status only to definitively dismantle the nuclear deal. I don’t think they will get away with this. But the attempt to implement this plan will cause a lot of harm and lead to stormy debates in the UN Security Council.



Question:

If I understand you correctly, the US slammed the door on the Iran nuclear deal in 2018 and is now trying to sneak back to blow up the entire house?



Mikhail Ulyanov:

In fact, yes.



Question:

And Russia, in effect, has no means to oppose this, has it? After all, the dispute settlement mechanism, if I am not mistaken, does allow a move of this kind. The Americans will say: “We have withdrawn from the JCPOA, but this was a political project, while the resolution remains what it is; we have never pulled out of the resolution and have the right to insist on employing this mechanism.”



Mikhail Ulyanov:

An old joke says, “He is sure to gobble it down, but no one will let him do it.”

Theoretically, an attempt of this sort is possible, but it will make the US appear in an extremely unattractive light. Everyone sees the absurdity of this formula. I don’t think that the UN Security Council members would be ready to support the US bid to remain a JCPOA participant. It is clear to everybody that this is preposterous. But it is certain that these attempts can create a lot of problems.



Question:

But what if some remaining JCPOA participants play up to the US and use this mechanism? The UK, for example? If the procedure is launched, its specifics, if I understand things correctly, are such that it will be rather easy for the opponents of the JCPOA’s continued operation to obtain a replay of the international sanctions. And Russia will be unable to stop it.



Mikhail Ulyanov:

I wouldn’t like to discuss the worst-case scenarios right now. I don’t see any reasons why the British would pull the chestnuts out of fire for the Americans and assume the responsibility for the demise of JCPOA.

The current JCPOA participants have never commented on this topic officially, but, judging by the available leaks, they are highly skeptical of these US overtures, since they realise that this is an attempt to finish off JCPOA.

The remaining participants are of the opinion that the deal is a masterpiece of diplomacy and a crucial contribution to the strengthening of global nuclear non-proliferation. Therefore, I am not enthusiastic towards the US plan on the part of the other JCPOA participants. In fact, there is none.



Question:

Are you saying that Russia hopes for their reasonableness?



Mikhail Ulyanov:

We will wait and see. But basically everyone knows that cynicism must have its limit. The Americans have not just pulled out of the deal; that would be half the trouble. They have been trying to torpedo the deal for two years now contrary to the interests of international security, those of the US allies in the Middle East, and the interests of the United States itself. This approach is totally irrational. Logically, it is not being supported by anyone. When the IAEA Board of Governors discusses this subject, the Americans are actually in total isolation.



Question:

But why did Russia agree to include this dispute settlement mechanism into the deal, if it actually allows it to be made null and void?



Mikhail Ulyanov:

The entire nuclear deal is a very fragile compromise, a hard-won balance of interests. The Iranians themselves, not only Russia, have accepted it. Each country had to compromise and make concessions during the talks to arrive at an outcome that suits everyone.

Moreover, no one at that time could suspect that the US would withdraw from the deal. This just couldn’t pop into anyone’s head, because the Obama administration had played a very important role in making this agreement. It was a diplomatic triumph for all the participants at the talks, including the United States.



Question:

To sum up: Is Russia hoping that the US will be unable to torpedo the deal on its own and that the rest of the participants will not waver?



Mikhail Ulyanov:

As far as JCPOA is concerned, we can use Mark Twain’s famous witticism: “The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.”

The deal’s demise was predicted two years ago, when the US made its walkout. Later, there were numerous speculations on this score, but the deal stands.

It has proved highly tenacious of life, although it is in a very poor condition now. For its part, Russia is doing and will continue doing its best to preserve the deal. There is an absolute consensus among the remaining participants that the deal must survive. We may diverge on certain specific issues, but all of us recognise the preciousness and exceptional importance of JCPOA and confirm that we are ready to work for its preservation.




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4108718






Press release on delivering Russian humanitarian aid to Djibouti



30 April 2020 - 16:30







On April 29, an official ceremony of transferring Russian humanitarian aid to the Ministry of Health of the Republic of Djibouti was held in the capital of that country as part of a joint project with the World Health Organisation, and financed by the Russian Government, to enhance Djibouti’s potential in the field of medical emergency readiness and response.

This humanitarian action comes in response to an official request from the Djiboutian authorities in view of the serious deterioration in the sanitary and epidemiological situation in the country caused by heavy floods and the spread of the novel COVID-19 infection. A consignment of humanitarian aid weighing a total of 13.5 tonnes and consisting of more than 20 multi-purpose medical modules to fight dangerous infectious diseases was delivered to Djibouti’s sea port. The shipment included tents and components to build two medical units for rendering skilled assistance to over 200,000 people.

The ceremony was attended by Russian Ambassador to Djibouti Mikhail Golovanov, WHO representative Dr Ahmed Zouiten and Djiboutian Minister of Health Mohamed Warsama Dirieh.

The Djiboutian leadership expressed its sincere appreciation to the Russian side for the assistance amid such a complicated epidemiological situation.




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4109251






Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova’s answer to a media question about the major terrorist attack in northern Syria



30 April 2020 - 17:48



Question:

The Turkish Defence Ministry announced that 40 civilians were killed and over 40 were injured as a result of yesterday’s explosion in Afrin. Terrorist attacks in this region continue unabated for a long time. What do you think of this latest terrorist attack, which was most likely committed by the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK)?



Maria Zakharova:

We received information that, on April 28, 2020, there was an explosion in a market in the city of Afrin, northwestern Aleppo, and according to recent reports, 40 people were killed, including 11 children, and 47 more were injured.

We strongly condemn terrorist attacks which claim the lives of civilians. In this regard, we emphasise once again that there is no alternative to continuing the fight against terrorists in Syria, recognised as such by the UN Security Council.

We are concerned about periodic flare-ups in the areas of the Syrian-Turkish border which are currently controlled by Ankara.At the same time, we consider it necessary to recall that we are talking about Syrian territory, which, ultimately, should return under the control of Damascus. We are convinced that establishing reliable and long-term stability and security in the Syrian-Turkish border area and in the country as a whole is only possible on the basis of restoring its sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity.




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4109358






Comment by the Information and Press Department on Moldova’s response to Russia’s easy loan



30 April 2020 - 19:24



The reaction of certain political circles in Chisinau to the agreement on Russia’s easy loan of 200 million euros to Moldova is puzzling. The loan has been discussed by the Moldovan and Russian media since the end of 2019. After the necessary approvals, the agreement was signed and then ratified by the Moldovan Parliament. However, now the future of the agreement is being decided by the Constitutional Court, which has suspended its entry into force.

We are surprised that some Moldovan politicians have seen hidden political motives in Russia’s sincere desire to help the Moldovan people during this challenging period of fighting the coronavirus pandemic and coping with socio-economic difficulties. They call this agreement non-transparent and enslaving.

We would like to point out that the talks on a Russian loan were initiated by Moldova. The request was motivated, in part, by the freezing of European and other international loans that had been promised to Chisinau by the relevant institutions and states.

In granting this loan, Russia has not set any conditions. For comparison, similar agreements between Moldova and the EU have included certain conditions. For example, the memorandum of November 23, 2017 on granting a 100 million euro loan to Chisinau required a commitment by Moldova to carry out certain reforms and incorporate EU standards into its national legislation.

Russia’s assistance to Moldova, which is an allied country, is open and sincere. Russia has completed all the domestic official procedures to transfer the funds. We hope this loan will help Moldova resolve its current problems, including its efforts to overcome the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4109546






Comment by the Information and Press Department on the appeal for national dialogue in Venezuela



30 April 2020 - 20:04



During the April 28 broadcast on national television of a session of the commission on COVID-19 prevention and control, President of Venezuela Nicolas Maduro appealed to all political forces in the country, including associates of Juan Guaido, to sign a “major humanitarian agreement for the sake of health and peace” and “take measures to help the people of Venezuela counter the coronavirus pandemic.”

We wholeheartedly subscribe to this approach. It reflects the vision of a responsible politician, a true national leader, who puts the health and life of his compatriots, rather than egotistic considerations, above all else, in contrast to some other politicians who are trying to reap some dubious foreign policy dividends from the current difficult situation in Venezuela, aggravated as it is by anti-human illegal sanctions and the pandemic.

We are urging all patriotic political forces of Venezuela to respond positively to this appeal. We are pleased to note that a number of political parties, including those critical of the Government, have expressed openness to constructive cooperation.

We are urging states and international agencies that are trying to influence the discussion of the domestic situation that the Venezuelans are having, to support this initiative for a major humanitarian agreement. Such a public step would make clear that Venezuela’s foreign partners will be taking a responsible approach and that their true motivation is concern for all of the country’s citizens.

Russia will continue doing all it can to afford Venezuelans the opportunity to resolve their problems independently, through peaceful negotiations and inclusive nationwide dialogue, and without dictates, ultimatums or destructive foreign interference.




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4109652






Press release on the Immortal Letters of Victory videoconference



30 April 2020 - 20:18



On April 29, the Foreign Ministry held a videoconference presentation of the Immortal Letters of Victory project organised by the Commission of the Russian Federation for UNESCO jointly with the national coordinator of the UNESCO Associated Schools Network in Russia. The project was presented by UNESCO Artist for Peace and member of the Commission of the Russian Federation for UNESCO Alsou Abramova (Alsou).

This long-term project, open to participation from other countries, involves collecting and digitising letters written during the Great Patriotic War, in particular those containing poems, songs and drawings, in order to preserve and publicise them.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, President of the Commission of the Russian Federation for UNESCO, sent his greetings to the participants in the event.




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4109662






Joint Article by Ambassador of Russia to the United States Anatoly Antonov and Former NATO's Deputy Secretary-General Rose Gottemoeller «Keeping Peace in the Nuclear Age. Why Washington and Moscow Must Extend the New START Treaty», published in «Kommersant» newspaper and «Foreign Affairs» journal on April 29, 2020



30 April 2020 - 20:52










Ten years ago, the United States and Russia signed the New START treaty - a nuclear arms control agreement that we, as the heads of our governments’ respective delegations, helped negotiate. Since then, New START has played a central role in keeping the peace and preventing a dangerous arms race between the two countries that together possess 90 percent of the world’s nuclear weapons.

Now, however, New START is in trouble: without action to extend it, the treaty will expire in February 2021. Its demise would have worrying implications for the security of the United States, of Russia, and of the world. It could bring a return to nuclear competition and spark mutual suspicion that would push the world to a level of nuclear risk unseen for decades.

The novel coronavirus pandemic should serve as a powerful reminder of the fragility of the international system. This is exactly the wrong moment to undermine or weaken other key components of that system, especially in the nuclear realm. Extending New START would demonstrate that the world’s powers are capable of working together to reduce shared threats. Letting it go would be a chilling sign of just how dangerous the world has become.


THE GOLD STANDARD

The Treaty on Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms, as it was officially labeled, is known as New START because it replaced START, the first Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty between Washington and Moscow, which was signed in 1991 and went out of force in 2009. (Intercontinental-range nuclear weapons and the treaties that constrain them are called “strategic” because with such weapons, each side can pose a direct risk to the other’s homeland, threatening its very existence.) Following more than a year of intense negotiations, New START was signed in April 2010 and went into force in February 2011. It offered a sensible political-military compromise that meets the interests not only of the United States and Russia but of the international community as a whole.

After a decade of implementation, the constructive role that New START plays in maintaining the bilateral nuclear balance is clear. The final document - rightfully referred to as the “gold standard” of disarmament treaties - has outlived every other bilateral arms control agreement. In fact, today it is the sole legal instrument that keeps a new strategic nuclear arms race at bay.

New START has brought verifiable and transparent reductions in nuclear arms. By 2018, the total number of warheads had been reduced by one-third and the number of delivery vehicles - the missiles and bombers that carry warheads to their targets - by more than half. The treaty permits each side to hold up to 700 delivery vehicles and 1,550 warheads. It does not prevent the two countries from modernizing strategic nuclear weapons systems, but the total numbers must be kept within these limits. It thus maintains the strategic balance: neither side has more weapons with which it can directly threaten the other’s national territory. And it achieves this goal without undermining either side’s ability to maintain nuclear deterrence in the future.

New START also plays an important role in bolstering mutual transparency and predictability, since we built into the treaty principles of equality and a balance of interests. Its verification regime is reciprocal and highly effective. As of late March 2020, U.S. and Russian teams have carried out 328 on-site inspections, visiting each other’s missile, submarine, and bomber bases. The two sides have also exchanged 19,815 notifications about the status of weapons systems. (If, for example, a missile is going to a maintenance facility, a notification is sent.) Each side thereby has a grasp on the day-to-day posture of the other’s strategic nuclear forces.

As a check on these regular notifications, the two countries exchange complete data about their strategic nuclear forces twice a year, detailing how many missiles and warheads are deployed on those fixed dates. They also exchange telemetry from a selection of missiles launched on an annual basis, in order to provide transparency into missile test programs. And when Washington and Moscow have disagreed about issues during the treaty’s implementation, there is a Bilateral Consultative Commission in which those disagreements can be addressed.

Altogether, New START has proved itself to be an essential instrument for strengthening strategic stability and trust. And beyond U.S. and Russian national security objectives, it signals to the world that the two countries are resolved to bolster global peace and security and firmly support a vital international institution, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty regime. That support can pave the way to further nuclear reductions in line with the countries’ commitment to nuclear disarmament under that treaty’s Article VI.


A DIRE SIGNAL

Under the terms of New START, it can be extended for up to five years, to 2026. This step can be taken easily—in the United States, it would not require sending the treaty back to the Senate for another ratification process. Russian President Vladimir Putin has indicated that the Russian side is ready to extend New START without any preconditions. There is nothing stopping U.S. President Donald Trump from immediately announcing the same.

Like any treaty, New START cannot resolve every problem related to strategic stability. That was not its purpose. Other negotiations will be required in order to adapt the arms control regime for modern military-political and technological realities. The extension of New START would create time and space for such negotiations to play out.

If New START is not extended, 2021 will mark the start of a period of unpredictability. Most consequential, each side’s understanding of the other’s strategic nuclear arsenals will diminish, and a trust deficit will quickly grow. As each party understands less, the two powers will be forced into more worst-case planning. As nuclear numbers spiral upward as communication lines and transparency weaken, the risk of accidental nuclear use will grow, as will the chance that a crisis may escalate quickly to nuclear conflict.

New START’s demise would also send a dire signal to an international community reeling from a pandemic. Predictability in military affairs is of particular importance at this moment. As the world’s biggest nuclear powers, these two countries have led the way in constraining nuclear weapons and technology for five decades. Now more than ever, it is essential to ensure that a nuclear war that cannot be won will never be fought. At a time when the world needs strength, confidence, and a spirit of cooperation to recover from a pandemic, the United States and Russia can help lead the way. There would be no better way of conveying this message than the extension of New START.




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4109694






Remarks by acting head of the Russian Federation delegation Andrey Vorobyov at the plenary meeting of the OSCE Forum for Security Co-operation, delivered via video teleconference, April 29, 2020



30 April 2020 - 22:16



[Andrey Vorobyov on the left.]





Mr Chairman,

First of all, I would like to congratulate the Ukrainian delegation on the commencement of its Chairmanship at the OSCE Forum for Security Co-operation (FSC). We regret that Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba had to leave today’s meeting, and we hope that Deputy Foreign Minister of Ukraine Yegor Bozhok will inform him of our position, among other things.

We would like to agree with the positive assessment of the Turkish Chairmanship that has been voiced here. We ask Ambassador Rauf Engin Soysal and his professional team to accept our warm thanks for the good work done to promote fruitful dialogue on various, occasionally rather difficult, agenda items. A special thanks is due to the employees of the Turkish mission, who continued with their Chairmanship functions in a lockdown environment and coordinated an important letter on verification. We note the usefulness of the analytical document compiled to summarise the results of the Turkish Chairmanship.

We welcome the German delegation as a new member of the Troika and thank our Czech colleagues, who are leaving the Troika.

Mr Chairman,

The new, Ukrainian-chaired Forum session is starting against the backdrop of a COVID-19 outbreak, which has become a severe test for all countries. What is particularly needed today is a collective reflection on the direction to take in order to ensure a peaceful and safe future for all the OSCE member countries. It is important to keep calm and maintain an even-handed approach in the current highly emotional situation caused by the pandemic. It is time to promote mutual assistance and constructive cooperation, while avoiding any narrow-minded political agendas or preferences. Our historical experience also suggests that we should do this.

It is just a few days before the world celebrates a memorable date, the 75th anniversary of Victory in World War II. In this connection, we would like to emphasise that the idea of it being important to promote trust and cooperation in the name of a common goal, regardless of possible challenges, has become a central element in the joint statement by the presidents of Russia and the United States on the occasion of the anniversary of the meeting on the Elbe of Soviet and US troops. In our time and age, the Spirit of the Elbe is needed as never before in the context of the fight against the 21st-century challenges. We regret that today’s remarks by the US representative fell short of the spirit of the said statement by the two leaders.

Mr Chairman,

We listened with much attention to the Foreign Minister’s remarks on the concept for the Ukrainian Chairmanship. As mentioned by Mr Dmitry Kuleba, the plenary meetings will be held in an unusual digital format, for the first time in the Forum’s history. We are travelling in an unfamiliar terrain, while learning to work under totally new, unprecedented conditions. This is why, as long as we are holding our meetings via videoconference, it is so important to strictly abide by the current OSCE Rules of Procedure, because special rules for emergencies of this kind are yet to be developed. It cannot be ruled out that their violation or leaked videos will call the online format into question.

As of today, confrontational rhetoric prevails over constructive approaches within the Forum, as well as the OSCE. This enhances the role of Chairmanship, which should, by its neutrality, impartiality and commitment to compromise, with account taken of the interests of all member countries, facilitate the OSCE’s return to a culture of mutually respectful dialogue.

Regrettably, the Ukrainian Foreign Minister’s remarks give rise to continued concern about the tenor of further European security discussions. We have witnessed an attempt to peddle an opportunistic, nation-driven, rather than unifying, agenda. Mr Kuleba’s remarks abounded in non-consensual and politicised claims that are far removed from the real state of affairs. We think that any attempts to use the FSC Chairman status in order to undermine the consensual principles underlying the OSCE work are inappropriate. We call on the Ukrainian FSC Chairmanship and our partners to abide by the approaches to OSCE work that were coordinated by all member countries and to follow strictly the OSCE Rules of Procedure.

The statements regarding the situation in eastern Ukraine, which we have heard from the Foreign Minister, are not new. As before, they are used as a cover for Kiev’s continued war against the population in Donbass. The situation is made even more complicated by the fact that Kiev lacks the political will to implement the Minsk Package of Measures approved by UN Security Council Resolution 2202, which is the only internationally recognised basis for conflict settlement in Donbass. Regrettably, we did not hear Ukraine’s high representative say a single word about this document.

Despite all diplomatic efforts, the process of intra-Ukrainian settlement is still marking time. The main reason is that Kiev is stubbornly unwilling to hold a direct dialogue with representatives of Donetsk and Lugansk and encourages belligerent rhetoric, while shifting the blame for all its woes to the neighbouring state. Incidentally, certain Western OSCE members are actively pandering to this approach. Far from assisting the settlement, this only drives the situation further into an impasse.

Kiev continues to stir up tensions in Donbass. For example, they hold live firing exercises and step up the mine threat, including with the use of antipersonnel mines, something that has been confirmed by recent SMM reports. On April 24, for example, monitors found four crates inscribed DFM-90 (directional fragmentation mine) at a road block in Popasnaya manned by the Ukrainian army. At the OSCE, the Ukrainian delegation regularly makes the claim that their country does not produce or use antipersonnel mines (APM). It is an open question then, how the APM’s turned up in possession of Ukrainian service personnel in the armed conflict zone.

As far as the so-called “occupied territories” are concerned, the Ukrainian authorities, both old and new, have exploited this highly convenient myth for six years now. Allegedly, there is no civil conflict; there is just Russian “aggression” against Ukraine. It is a very comfortable stance that helps them to evade the implementation of the Minsk Agreements while posing as a victim rather than the aggressor that sent the army and nationalist battalions, in 2014, to crush the popular protests in the east of the country.

Mr Chairman,

I would like to say a few words about the Forum’s plan of activities for the summer session. Russia has always paid due attention to promoting meaningful and substantive, open and inclusive Security Dialogue on current military and political issues in the OSCE region. We intend to continue contributing to the discussion of the Forum’s traditional, unifying topics that are reflected in the agenda: matters related to small arms and light weapons (SALW) and stockpiles of conventional ammunition (SCA), and the implementation of the UN Security Council resolutions 1540 and 1325.

At the same time, we would like to remind all those concerned in connection with the meeting on the Vienna Document 2011 that our position on prospects for its modernisation under the current circumstances is well known and remains unchanged. We believe that instead of a modernisation that many regard as a panacea, it is necessary to focus on upgrading the implementation of the VD and on concrete efforts to reduce military tensions. Guided by precisely this approach, Russia suggested to NATO countries, in late March, that all military exercises should be suspended in Europe for the duration of the pandemic and that military restraint should be observed.

The plan of activities presented by the Chairmanship includes a discussion of matters related to WMD non-proliferation. The importance of this topic is obvious and determined by both the need to prepare the OSCE’s sizable contribution to the review process under the 1540 Committee, something that we mentioned at the Forum in February, and by the 50th anniversary of the coming into force of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, on the occasion of which a joint statement was made not so long ago by the foreign ministers of China, France, Russia, the UK, and the USA. In this connection, we would like to ask the Chairmanship to specify what issues it is proposing to consider during the upcoming meeting.

We were surprised to learn about the plans to hold a Forum meeting dedicated to security issues in the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov, which, according to proposals, should be discussed from the point of view of some “obstacles” to the freedom of navigation and an alleged “militarisation.” We fundamentally disagree with this approach and believe that the upcoming discussion, frankly speaking, makes no sense, if this is its main goal.

It is important to take into account, while considering the expediency of including matters related to private military and security companies in the programme of activities, which matters do not fall within the Forum’s purview (this topic is being considered at other multilateral venues), the persisting wide discrepancy of views among the OSCE member countries and the lack of a legal definition of or common approaches to regulating their activities. For our part, we do not see much practical sense in the Forum shifting its focus on these minor topics, the importance of which is being artificially blown out of proportion. This may only lead to further disagreement.

As we have ascertained, the joint meeting of the Forum and the OSCE Permanent Council on “hybrid” threats is among the highlights of the Chairmanship’s programme. Our Ukrainian partners are well aware that this topic is highly confrontational and falls short of the mandate of the autonomous decision-making bodies like the Forum for Security Co-operation. Its main aim is to promote constructive dialogue, exchange best practices, and look for points of contact in the approaches adopted by member countries. As demonstrated by repeated attempts to discuss hybrid-related topics on various OSCE venues, a professional consideration of this matter always failed, while its discussion degenerated into verbal duels that eventually produced no “added value.” As participants in a “structured dialogue,” we have repeatedly stated that the potential for discussion of this topic has been fully exhausted. This being so, we call on our Ukrainian colleagues to consider the possibility of removing it from the Chairmanship’s programme. For our part, we cannot guarantee that we will take part in this meeting.

We would like to stress that our assessments of the Forum’s plan of activities are primarily aimed at boosting the efficiency and constructiveness of collaboration between the delegations and at freeing the dialogue from outdated and politicised clichés.

Mr Chairman,

We regret that the sense of diplomatic proportion has failed the colleagues from the delegations of the United States, European Union, the United Kingdom, Canada and Georgia, who spoke in the discussion earlier today. It is as futile to try to reassure them as to debate with supporters of the “flat Earth” theory. Their outpourings could be stopped neither by the ceremony inaugurating the Ukrainian Chairmanship, nor by the need to create a positive atmosphere ahead of the consultations of the Normandy Four foreign ministers, which are scheduled for tomorrow.

As regards the military-political situation in Ukraine, which was addressed by the said delegations, we would like to note that Moscow welcomes yet another stage in the release of detainees by the parties to the conflict that took place before the Orthodox Easter. At the same time, Kiev is yet to implement the rest of the resolutions adopted by the Normandy Four at the Paris summit on December 9, 2019. We are convinced that the granting of a special status to Donbass on a permanent and constitutionally guaranteed basis, as prescribed by the Minsk Agreements, will lead to positive shifts in the settlement of the intra-Ukrainian crisis.

Mr Chairman,

We hope that the upcoming Ukraine-chaired plenary meetings will be held within the current FSC mandate and OSCE Rules and will help strengthen the FSC’s role as a platform for a mutually respectful dialogue in the interests of all member countries without exception.

In conclusion, let me reiterate a hope that our Ukrainian colleagues will display a responsible approach to performing their chairmanship functions at the FSC. We count on constructive cooperation with you and the Troika members.

Thank you, Mr Chairman.




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4109736






Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks and answers to media questions at a news conference following the Normandy format videoconference meeting of foreign ministers, Moscow, April 30, 2020



30 April 2020 - 22:40






We have just completed a meeting of foreign ministers from the Normandy format countries, specifically Russia, Ukraine, Germany and France, held via videoconference. German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas initiated the meeting and acted as the nominal host. We are grateful to our German colleagues for organising this important conversation.

According to the agenda, we reviewed the implementation, item by item, of the agreements reached by Normandy format leaders at their December 9, 2019 summit in Paris, whereby the Contact Group was expected to step up its efforts on a number of specific tracks related to security, humanitarian matters and the need to make progress on the political aspects of the settlement under the February 2015 Minsk Agreements.

We noted that only one of nine points set forth in the outcome document of the Normandy format Paris summit was fulfilled, and even this one point was only partially carried out: that is, the exchange of detainees. Two exchanges took place, one in December and one in April, during which Kiev, Donetsk and Lugansk exchanged a total of 230 people. Today, we pointed to the need to continue efforts aimed at agreeing on criteria and coordinating lists with the ultimate objective to free and exchange detained persons following the “all for all” principle, as set forth in the Package of Measures. I noted the importance for Kiev to resolve the amnesty issue in strictly keeping with the Minsk Agreements without trying to change any terms in this regard.

As for the other items discussed today, we pointed out that granting Donbass special status within the Ukrainian state was definitely the key provision of the Minsk Agreements. This is the ultimate goal that could also serve as the foundation for settling the conflict. We strongly believe that moving in this direction would create conditions for achieving progress along the other tracks, including security, socioeconomic as well as humanitarian matters. Unfortunately, there has been little to report so far. The authorities in Kiev have been avoiding direct dialogue with Donetsk and Lugansk, while it is direct dialogue of this kind that must provide a framework for agreeing on the legal aspects regarding this special status in order for it to become permanent. There has been no progress in agreeing with Donetsk and Lugansk on specific aspects of implementing the Steinmeier Formula in Ukrainian law. Let me remind you that the Steinmeier Formula links the granting of special status to Donbass with holding an election there.

In this context, once again we called on our colleagues to influence the efforts undertaken by the Contract Group so that it fulfils the provisions set forth in the outcome documents of the Paris summit.

In Paris, our leaders also expressed a commitment to achieving a comprehensive ceasefire. Unfortunately, we have not been able to achieve any meaningful progress on this front so far. An indefinite truce was proclaimed in July 2019, but it has not been observed. There have been civilian casualties. We cited statistics provided by the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) whereby Ukrainian Armed Forces shelled communities within territories controlled by the self-proclaimed republics 20 times between December 2019 when the Paris summit took place and April 28, 2020. However, there were no shelling incidents reported during the same period for communities within territories controlled by Ukrainian Armed Forces. I believe that these statistics speak for themselves.

Today, we called on Kiev, Donetsk and Lugansk to take additional steps within the Contact Group to support the truce. We shared facts showing that the OSCE SMM had proposed measures to this effect some time ago. These included issuing orders prohibiting firing incidents, offensive, reconnaissance and sabotage operations, or the deployment of heavy weapons near civilian structures. The republics agreed to most of these proposals, while Kiev has so far been reluctant to subscribe to these OSCE proposals.

We also discussed the need to step up efforts in order to agree on new disengagement areas along the line of contact. Let me remind you that ahead of the Paris summit aides to the heads of state and foreign ministries agreed on a draft statement in which the Normandy Four leaders called on the parties to launch the disengagement of forces and weapons along the entire line of contact. For some reason, probably under pressure, the president of Ukraine flatly refused to commit to the call for a total and comprehensive disengagement of forces along the entire line of contact, and insisted that only three new locations for the disengagement of forces and weapons be included in the Paris agreements. Unfortunately, the Contact Group has so far been unable to agree on any of these three areas. We see that the Kiev authorities object to any proposal from the republics, while the republics refuse to support those made by Kiev. Each side probably can make its own case.

It is sad that the Paris summit did not result in an agreement on the complete disengagement of forces and weapons along the entire line of contact. Had this been the case, the outcome we have today would have been somewhat different.

We hope that Kiev will lift the blockade it imposed on Donbass as soon as possible. We also hope that disrupted socioeconomic, financial and transport ties will be restored. Today, we discussed humanitarian matters. At the proposal of our German and French colleagues, we called on the Contact Group to be more proactive and effective in reviewing matters related to resuming pension payments in Donbass, as well as dealing with other humanitarian issues in these territories.

We also pointed out that problems related to the enactment of Ukrainian laws on language, education, as well as the draft law governing mass media that was submitted to the Verkhovna Rada, were among the humanitarian concerns, primarily regarding Donbass, since we were discussing these territories, but also for all people in Ukraine. This law restricts the use of minority languages, specifically the Russian language, which explicitly contradicts the Minsk Agreements and makes it impossible to fulfil the provisions in the Minsk Agreements that set forth in detail the special status for specific territories within the Donetsk and Lugansk regions.

During the videoconference, we also heard a report on the operations of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission in Ukraine, as well as a report by Swiss Ambassador Heidi Grau, who coordinates the work of the Contact Group. We called on OSCE representatives within the Contact Group, as well as the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to do everything they could to perform their mandate in good faith, acting in the spirit of impartiality and objectiveness. This is all essential for enabling Ukraine to settle its internal conflict. Of course, we stressed once again the need to strictly abide by all the provisions set forth in the Minsk Agreements, to respect the sequence of the required steps, and primarily to ensure direct dialogue between Kiev, Donetsk and Lugansk.

We hope that today’s talks were useful, and that the Contact Group heeds the calls we made and responds to them in a constructive manner.







Question:

With the quarantine in place, does Russia see any prospects for political progress in the Normandy format talks? Can a meeting at the highest level be expected, and could the pandemic facilitate the settlement of the conflict in Donbass or bring about changes in the Minsk format?



Sergey Lavrov:

In order to factor the coronavirus into the political processes, we need to understand how the pandemic is affecting developments around the world on a global scale, including various crises and conflict situations.

Today, in our discussion we touched on the fact that the coronavirus is affecting the developments on the ground in terms of the threats people are facing in this region and in Ukraine in general, as well as in terms of the international presence in Ukraine, including the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), UNICEF and other international organisations. Of course, the pandemic’s effect on all the people I mentioned is a matter of concern for us. At the same time, we also pointed out that the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission reports strongly criticise the decision by Donetsk and Lugansk to introduce a special procedure for OSCE SMM staff crossing the contact line. Today, we were asked to influence this situation. The rules are quite straightforward. They require monitors to undergo a basic test in order to prove that they are crossing the line of contact in good health, as well as stay in quarantine for a brief period after crossing the line of contact before starting to fulfil their duties in DPR and LPR. The Ukrainian authorities have introduced similar requirements for those crossing the line of contact from Donbass into the rest of Ukrainian territory. The measures imposed by European countries to control crossings at their borders have been much stricter. Moreover, the OSCE has virtually suspended its field operations in the vast majority of regions where it is present, including Kosovo, Skopje, Nagorno-Karabakh and Central Asia. It suspended its presence and trips on the ground. However, for some reason someone probably insisted that SMM executives focus on this access issue.

I believe that making a political issue out of coronavirus-related developments is unacceptable. Furthermore, today I asked our friends whether the reports alleging that Germany and Denmark had recalled their monitors from the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission in Ukraine were true, and that many other EU countries were actively considering this option. If so, attempts to present access to DPR and LPR territory for the OSCE SMM as the main obstacle to achieving a settlement at this stage seem ignominious.

Most importantly, there is no need to sit there and wait for a global disaster to occur. People have to understand that they need to reach agreements and abide by the Minsk Agreements in good faith. We see problems on both sides, but the main problem, as I said at the meeting today, is the lack of a clear answer to the question of whether Kiev is ready to engage in direct dialogue with Donetsk and Lugansk in good faith, as required under the Minsk Agreements. In this connection, I asked my French and German colleagues, whether Paris and Berlin were ready to use their responsibility as parties to the Minsk Agreements and as the co-authors to influence Kiev and encourage it to stop avoiding requests to establish direct dialogue for resolving all the issues it has with Donetsk and Lugansk.



Question:

Today’s Normandy format meeting at the level of foreign ministers was held after a long pause. In fact, several months have passed since the meeting in Paris. Since then President of Russia Vladimir Putin has said that countries sympathising with the “occupation administrations” were sending tanks and artillery to Donbass. Did you discuss this matter today from a security standpoint? Under the Minsk Agreements, the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine must enjoy access to all parts of Donbass, including the border between Ukraine and Russia. Why are you using the pandemic to block this access?



Sergey Lavrov:

I believe that you heard my answer to the previous question. I said that the OSCE SMM is not prevented in any way from accessing Donbass. These allegations were conjured out of thin air and politicised.

Let me reiterate that confirmation that these missions do not face any restrictions in their operation can be found in the OSCE rules for its field missions and the decisions by countries that delegated their nationals to the SMM and are now recalling them. The SMM enjoyed and continues to enjoy access to any territory in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions, subject to abiding by sanitary norms and requirements, just like anywhere else in the world, as well as subject to approval from the leadership of these republics, as set forth in the Minsk Agreements.

If you are referring to a section of the Russia-Ukraine border in this part of Ukraine, they regularly travel there with the agreement of the DPR and LPR, in full compliance with the Special Monitoring Mission’s mandate. There is the resolution of the OSCE Permanent Council, as well as a UN Security Council resolution approving the Minsk Agreements. All the provisions from all these documents are observed in an extremely scrupulous manner.

As for tanks and artillery, we have been saying this for a long time, and regarding any conflict. Whenever there is a conflict, there is arms trafficking.



Question:

Who engages in arms trafficking, apart from Russia?



Sergey Lavrov:

Who told you that Russia supplies weapons?



Question:

This is what Vladimir Putin said.



Sergey Lavrov:

Russian weapons can be found around the world. A number of countries, including in Eastern Europe, make AK-47s and artillery systems. You can easily buy these weapons anywhere in the world.



Question:

What are the prospects for a new prisoner exchange between Kiev, on the one hand, and Donetsk and Lugansk on the other? Ukraine claims that the fact that the ICRC is unable to access prisoners in the DPR and LPR complicates this process. Is a compromise possible?



Sergey Lavrov:

Russia supports the principle whereby the International Committee of the Red Cross is granted access to prisoners. I had a telephone conversation with ICRC President Peter Maurer just a few days ago, and we discussed this topic. He has a clear understanding that access is subject to approval by the corresponding authorities. We call for this access to be granted. However, let me repeat that in practical terms these matters have to be discussed directly with the corresponding authorities.

Today, we discussed preparations for the next exchange of detainees. A sequence of steps towards this is about to be worked out, since the Minsk Agreements provide for an all-for-all exchange. In practical terms, it turns out that before exchanging detainees they need to be identified. After that it has to be determined whether those who were identified want to take part in the exchange. There are cases where people prefer to stay where they are. This is a technical matter, but of course there is a political side to it. Still, we do hope that the sides represented in the Contact Group make progress on this exclusively humanitarian issue. There are reasons to believe that this progress will materialise.



Question:

I have a question on a topic that you mentioned two days ago. You talked about a publication by Czech journalists alleging that Czech politicians who initiated the removal of the Marshal Ivan Konev monument could be targeted in an assignation attempt. Do you believe it is a mere coincidence that this scandal has erupted just as the world is preparing to celebrate the 75th anniversary of Victory? What do you expect in terms of Prague’s official response? Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova said that if the Czech authorities follow in the footsteps of these journalists, this could affect Moscow’s relations with Prague. What is this all about, specifically?



Sergey Lavrov:

You already know how these events unfolded. I cannot affirm that the removal of the Marshal Ivan Konev monument was intentionally timed to coincide with the anniversary of Victory in the Great Patriotic War. We have already made statements regarding the person who heads the corresponding municipality (Prague 6), so I will not waste your time, as well as mine, and avoid giving this person too much publicity.

It is true that the “ricin story” is quite puzzling. I am amazed how some Russian media outlets are publishing articles hoping that opinions copied from the Czech press or a number of other Western publications will have an effect on public opinion. Prime Minister Andrej Babis said that it would be unacceptable if another country were to carry out an operation against Czech nationals on Czech territory, adding “if this is the case.” But you are prime minister, after all! If you do not know whether this is true, why even mention it?

This raises the following question: if they are so sure that someone brought ricin, the first thing you need to know is that no embassy employee was involved, contrary to what they claim. There were no embassy employees arriving. If you found a deadly toxic agent in a passenger’s suitcase, why did you let this person into the country? And why would you allow this person to remain on your territory? It is simply unthinkable.

Your colleague from Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty claims that the ricin was detected as a result of new strict control measures introduced as part of the coronavirus response. Very well, you found it. And then what? You just let this deadly substance into the country? Would anyone in their right mind believe these far-fetched allegations?

As for the outcome of this campaign, I do not know. I noticed that when the Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova commented on these allegations on ricin for the Czech press, including on the statements by politicians and local residents, the spokesperson for the Czech Foreign Ministry Zuzana Stichova said that they would not tolerate this kind of interference in the domestic sovereign affairs of the Czech Republic, and that the country had its own laws. In saying so she referred to the 1993 Treaty on the Principles of Friendly Relations. This is the very treaty whereby the Czech Republic undertakes to safeguard and provide access to monuments, including the Marshal Ivan Konev monument. If our Czech colleagues reaffirm that this treaty and all its provisions remain binding, we expect them to respond to our recurrent proposals to start a meaningful conversation on what caused the flagrant violation of its clause and how this can be remedied. We made a proposal to this effect, and are waiting for a reply.




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4109746
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Comment by the Information and Press Department on the sixth anniversary of the tragic events in Odessa



2 May 2020 - 09:30



May 2 is the sixth anniversary of the Odessa tragedy. On that day in 2014, with the collusion of the “Maidan authorities” – many facts speak to their direct involvement – enraged radical nationalists wreaked havoc and committed mass murder as they burned dozens of people alive in the city’s House of Unions only because they peacefully stood up for their rights.

This barbaric crime committed with utter cynicism and extreme brutality caused a massive public and international outcry. However, the investigation into the circumstances of the incident has yet to reach a conclusion and none of the perpetrators of this mass murder have been brought to justice despite many videos and eye-witness testimony.

The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the International Advisory Panel of the Council of Europe have expressed concern over the course of the investigation. These human rights group’s main conclusion was that the court hearing did not include the goal to identify the guilty in this tragedy since the state could not guarantee an independent and fast investigation and could not provide proper protection from duress for those in the trial or for the judges.

The change in leadership in Ukraine in 2019 has not improved the situation. The UN was forced once again to release a statement on the lack of progress in the investigation of the Odessa tragedy. The OHCHR’s recent Report on the Human Rights Situation in Ukraine from 16 November 2019 to 15 February 2020 notes complete impunity in this case and stresses that the victims’ families are still seeking justice.

The Ukrainian putschists who seized power in the anti-constitutional coup in February 2014, the Poroshenko regime, and the current authorities are eager to avoid honest clarification and the disclosure of the circumstances surrounding the events of May 2014, which testifies as to their complicity in those crimes and direct responsibility for the Odessa tragedy.

We call on international public and human rights organisations to continue to pressure the authorities in Ukraine to produce a full and transparent account of the the circumstances of the Odessa tragedy and other high-profile crimes including the Maidan shootings and the killing of journalists.




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4113547






Speech by Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Alexander Lukashevich at the online session of the OSCE Permanent Council on the situation in Ukraine and the need to fulfil the Minsk Agreements, Vienna, April 30, 2020



2 May 2020 - 11:30







Mr Chairman,

The dynamics of the situation in Ukraine remains disappointing. Human rights continue to be crudely violated in Ukraine against the backdrop of the ongoing conflict in the east of the country.

The coronavirus epidemic and the appeals, in part, by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to stop the violence and armed confrontation, at least proceeding from humanitarian considerations have not, regrettably, brought any change to the attitude of the Ukrainian leaders towards Donbass. The number of ceasefire violations on the contact line has increased in the past few days. In its recent reports the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) listed the latest victims and destruction. The Ukrainian military continues to keep the same civilian facilities in their gunsights. The situation in the Donetsk village of Signalnoye is indicative: one local resident was killed and another wounded as a result of the shelling of residential buildings by the armed forces of Ukraine.

Instead of de-escalation, Ukraine’s army raises tensions. On April 21, the SMM observed exercises with battle shooting in the security zone by the Ukrainian army near the contact line in the area of Trekhizbenka in the Lugansk region, during which over 700 ceasefire violations were recorded. This is a direct violation of the decision of the Contact Group on the full cessation of exercises with shooting of March 3, 2016.

The increased activity of the Ukrainian army at the disengagement section in Petrovskoye is bound to cause concern. Thus, SMM cameras recorded people near former Ukrainian military positions in the evenings and at night during the past week 23 times. It is no surprise that ceasefire violations have increased. The SMM recorded about two hundred violations in this section.

Speaking in the Permanent Council, the Permanent Representative of Ukraine said more than once that the Ukrainian armed forces do use anti-personnel mines and that in general Kiev honestly abides by its commitments in this context. However, SMM reports show that reality is different. On April 24, SMM observers noticed four boxes with MON-90 antipersonnel mines at the Ukrainian army checkpoint in the outskirts of Popasnaya in the Lugansk region. It is becoming clear why the Ukrainian negotiators are impeding the drafting of an updated mine clearance plan, thereby ignoring the decision of the Normandy summit in Paris on December 9, 2019. Donetsk and Lugansk have long presented their proposals in this context. The analysis of the information in SMM reports shows that Ukraine’s formal participation in the 1997 AP Mine Ban Convention has not prevented Kiev from using them in Donbass. Incidentally, the parties to the convention have repeatedly pointed out Kiev’s failure to fulfil its commitments on destroying these mines.

On the whole, there is no progress in the implementation of the Paris package, the agreed upon resolutions of the Normandy format December summit. The standstill on the political track continues – since then, the Ukrainian authorities have not started practical, substantive discussions with representatives of Donetsk and Lugansk on reconciliation of the legal aspects of Donbass’ special status. Against this backdrop, Kiev and in part, President Zelensky, makes statements on the need to basically acquire physical control over the territory of Donbass by force without making the political changes that must precede this in accordance with item 11 of the Minsk Package of Measures. We also recall a statement by Deputy Secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defence Council Sergey Krivonos last January that the Ukrainian armed forces “must be ready for the liberation of Donbass by force.”

Unfortunately, our Normandy format partners have not responded appropriately to Kiev’s continued evasions of its commitments under the Minsk Agreements. Tacit connivance with the Ukrainian authorities is a destructive indicator that undermines Kiev’s motivation to establish peace in its dialogue with Donbass. This dialogue must be conducted by the sides in this domestic conflict via the Contact Group in Minsk. Instead, the conflict is presented in the distorted paradigm of an “armed aggression,” with continuing proposals to discuss it in these terms in the Normandy format.

We hope that today’s videoconference with the Normandy Four foreign ministers will allow Kiev to better understand that it is impossible to decide the destiny of Donbass without taking into account the opinion of its people. Any progress in a settlement depends not on the number of Normandy summits and other international events but on Kiev’s willingness to hold a respectful and direct dialogue with representatives of Donetsk and Lugansk with a view to reaching actual results, and the implementation of the assumed commitments.

We noted last week that the SMM continued to release reports on the obstacles to its monitoring efforts in the second half of 2019. We hope that it will soon publish a long overdue report on civilian victims and the destruction of infrastructure in Donbass.

As for the free movement of SMM representatives during the coronavirus epidemic, we would like to warn our partners against politicising this issue. The SMM can determine the modalities of its work during its contacts with the local authorities, which it is called on to expand under its mandate in the interests of peace and security in the region.

The OSCE member states have given the SMM the directive to monitor the situation not only in Donbass but also throughout Ukraine. We hope the SMM will not ignore violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms or Ukraine’s commitments in the OSCE. This applies to continued attacks against the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. In the past few weeks, Ukraine has been swept by a wave of arson attacks on churches and church property. These are obvious attempts to incite religious strife. In April alone, churches and monasteries were seriously damaged in the Rovno (village of Lipky in the Goshcha area), Chernovtsy (village of Lukavtsy in the Vizhnitsa area) and Sumy (village of Gamaleyevka in the Shostka area) regions as well as in Odessa where unidentified persons threw Molotov cocktails at the Dormition Monastery. The police have managed to identify the bombers in only one case. We expect the SMM to reflect these facts in its reports.

On May 2, it will be six years since the tragedy in Odessa. On that day in 2014, radical nationalists committed a mass murder with the knowledge of and in the presence of representatives of the Maidan authorities. They burned dozens of people alive who were peacefully defending their rights. This crime, committed with cynicism and cruelty, brought a wide public and international response. However, investigators have not established the circumstances of this crime and those guilty of this mass murder have not been held responsible. Earlier, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the consultative group of the Council of Europe expressed concern over the course of the investigation. The main conclusion of human rights activists is that the judicial process was not really aimed at identifying the guilty because the state failed to guarantee an independent and quick investigation or to provide proper protection against local pressure for the officials in the process including the judges.

Despite the change of power in Ukraine in 2019, the UN has again noted the absence of any progress in the investigation. In its recent report on human rights for the period from November 16, 2019 to February 15, 2020, the OHCHR noted complete impunity in this case and emphasised that the families of the dead are still seeking justice. We urge our partners to compel the Ukrainian authorities to fully and transparently clarify the circumstances of high-profile crimes, including the Odessa tragedy, the Maidan shootings and the murder of journalists.

Thank you for your attention.




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4113562






Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Pankin’s interview with Rossiya Segodnya International Information Agency, May 4, 2020



4 May 2020 - 11:30







Question:

The WTO has forecast that global trade could fall by up to one-third this year. What is your opinion of the measures the EU and the G20 are taking to support their economies?



Alexander Pankin:

We believe it would be premature to try to assess the measures that are being taken to support the economy. We will learn about their effectiveness from future reports by the concerned international institutions and agencies.

In reality, the current situation is complicated indeed. It is probably the first time in modern history that the world has seen all at once an actual freeze in some of the key economic sectors, a supply and demand imbalance, disrupted global supply chains, a dramatic plunge in the main commodity markets, primarily energy as well as financial markets, plus the largest ever outflow of capital from the emerging economies.

The problem has been further complicated by the plummeting domestic sales. Warehouses, including fuel storage facilities, are bursting with unsold goods, further disrupting economic activity. All the national economies have been hit very hard by a rapid growth of state and business debts, as well as growing unemployment.

International trade can help resume a positive economic trend. However, WTO experts have forecast that global trade could decline by up to 32 percent in 2020 due to Covid-19. More problems have been created by the protectionist moves taken in some countries to score political points at home, the unilateral “might is right” actions and the escalation of trade wars. The adoption of additional restrictions and isolationist policies are only increasing risks, disrupting the operation of the global economy as a single organism and complicating post-crisis recovery.

In this situation, the governments of all countries affected by the pandemic are taking prompt and targeted measures to mitigate the effects of the coronavirus infection on the economy. Most governments have opted for stimulating internal demand through direct payments and low-interest loans for people, plus large investment projects. The focus is on helping the backbone enterprises and small and medium-sized businesses, coordinating the activities of central and regional authorities, as well as eliminating disruptions on the stock market. Spending on medical services has increased considerably in most countries, where measures are being taken to strengthen the national healthcare system and social protection.

At the same time, solidarity and cooperation are what is needed more than ever before. The most optimistic scenario, according to which global trade will fall only by 13 percent, calls for close cooperation and tightly coordinated efforts. This path involves difficulties and calls for dialogue and readiness for compromise, but ultimately this will help us create the basis for the future recovery of the global economy.

The G20 could take the initiative to develop a common crisis management policy and relaunch the global economy. During an emergency videoconference summit of the Group on March 26, President of Russia Vladimir Putin proposed creating “green corridors” that would be free of trade wars and sanctions and used for mutual deliveries of medicine, food, equipment and technology.

As you know, the EU has announced a EUR 2.8 trillion package to support the member states’ economies, including 1 trillion euros the European Central Bank will use to buy euro area sovereign and corporate bonds so as to provide bank liquidity. The funds for this project will come largely from the member states’ budgets. At the same time, the European Commission has approved temporary relief from the common EU budgetary rules and dedicated credit lines of the European Investment Bank (EIB), as well as established a special relief package of around EUR 240 billion for the countries hit hardest by the pandemic

These support measures are impressive, but it is impossible to assess their economic effect so far.



Question:

Is Russia ready to increase its contribution to the WTO, and by how much, in light of the US decision regarding this organisation?



Alexander Pankin:

Under the WTO financial rules, contributions are calculated annually based on a given country’s share of international trade or jurisdiction. Russia’s share is currently 2.014 percent. Therefore, it would be premature to raise the question of increasing contributions to the WTO budget, including voluntary ones, until corresponding amendments to the organisation’s financial rules are approved by a consensus decision of all participants in the multilateral trade system.



Question:

Are the financial measures being taken by the IMF and the World Bank sufficient? Which countries will be hit the hardest by the economic consequences of the pandemic?



Alexander Pankin:

At this stage, it is hardly possible to assess the sufficiency and effectiveness of measures being taken by the IMF and the World Bank to mitigate the negative consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic.

First of all, these financial institutions have only started implementing the relief programmes they have announced for the member states, and besides, many of their projects are only at the planning stage.

Second, we have not yet fully analysed the potential scale of economic recession, although it is clear already that we are facing the largest ever economic crisis in our modern history.

According to the IMF, the cumulative loss to global GDP over 2020 and 2021 from the pandemic crisis could be around $9 trillion. Experts expect GDP to shrink by 5.9 percent in the US, 7.5 percent in the eurozone, 6.5 percent in the UK, 5.2 percent in Japan, 6.2 percent in Canada, 5.5 percent in Russia, 5.2 percent in Latin America and 2.8 percent in the Middle East. Moderate growth has been projected for the largest emerging economies in Asia, including by 1.2 percent in China and 1.9 percent in India. This forecast is based on the baseline scenario of the pandemic, provided most countries pass the peak by summer.

On the other hand, industrialised countries have sufficient resources for stimulating their national economies, unlike low-income countries. Growing uncertainty, liquidity problems, limited access to the international financial markets and large debts are increasing pressure on the low-income countries and hence limiting their capability to implement social programmes and take economic recovery measures.

Therefore, the most vulnerable countries definitely need international attention and coordinated support, including at the leading international financial institutions. Many of these countries have requested support from the IMF, which has expressed readiness to provide rapid financial assistance to the impacted emerging market and developing economies, just as in 2008-2010.

We welcome the positive IMF and World Bank measures, such as increased funding within the framework of emergency pandemic response mechanisms, debt relief for the poorest countries and priority assistance to healthcare and the most impacted economic sectors. We believe that this assistance should be provided to the poorest and most impacted countries in a transparent and non-discriminatory manner.

At the same time, it is unacceptable that the leading stakeholders of these organisations (the United States and its allies) have the ability to block the allocation of loans, including emergency financing, for political reasons even despite severe humanitarian crises (in particular, to Iran and Syria) under technical pretexts, such as debts and overdue payments.



Question:

What consequences could the US decision to halt funding the WHO may have? Is it possible that the US will withdraw from the WHO, considering that US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Washington may never restore WHO funding?



Alexander Pankin:

Detailed answers to these questions have been provided by my colleagues Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Vershinin and Permanent Representative of Russia to the UN Office and Other International Organisations in Geneva Gennady Gatilov.

It is quite difficult at this stage to assess possible losses to the World Health Organisation (WHO) from the US decision. The organisation will be certainly affected, but the damage to its budget is unlikely to be irremediable.

It appears that the announced halt to funding will concern US voluntary government contributions. In 2018 and 2019, such contributions reached some $656 million or 15 percent of the WHO funding in that period.

As for US membership dues, which amount to approximately $120 million in 2020 or 22 percent of all obligatory payments, under the WHO constitution, non-payers have no voting right at the World Health Assembly, the organisation’s supreme decision-making body. The United States has not announced its withdrawal from the organisation, and losing its influence there is definitely not in its interests.

The United States has the largest arrears in the payment of its contributions to the WHO, some $200 million, which is enough for penalties. We can expect Washington to clarify its position at the upcoming World Health Assembly on May 18.



Question:

How will the potential US withdrawal from the WTO, announced by President Donald Trump, affect the organisation? Could this destabilise it?



Alexander Pankin:

Any WTO member has the sovereign right to withdraw from it. But will withdrawal benefit Washington? After withdrawal the United States will be unable to make use of the numerous rules and commitments on liberalised access to international markets, which benefited American exporters. At the same time, other countries will be able to use their own discretion when applying trade rules to American products.

Of course, this is a difficult time for the WTO due to suspended trade talks, lack of consensus and mutual complaints about compliance with requirements. However, a critical majority of WTO members are not thinking about abandoning ship but are mobilising their resources to address WTO reform, enhance the efficiency of its bodies, improve its legal framework and update the negotiation agenda.

Russia is actively contributing to the collective effort to find a solution to the current situation. We are advocating an open, transparent and inclusive trade architecture based on the accepted principles of non-discrimination and mutual respect for the member states’ interests and individual features. It is crucial that no country use WTO mechanisms for economic or political pressure.

The coronavirus pandemic, like any other crisis, not only poses risks but also offers new opportunities. In terms of trade, it offers the international community a chance to look more energetically for compromise solutions to its current problems. This has increased the desire of all but a very few WTO member states to maintain and strengthen the benefits of the existing multilateral trade regulation mechanism.



Question:

Does the Foreign Ministry see any signs of cartel collusion in the current global oil crisis? When might the demand for oil rebound? What are Russia’s losses from falling oil prices? Is the take-or-pay principle enforceable in the oil market?



Alexander Pankin:

The reasons for the current oil market crisis have been discussed in detail by the heads of the Russian energy sector and large companies, as well as by respected Russian experts. The coronavirus pandemic has obviously influenced the situation as well by reducing economic activity and hence the demand for energy around the world. There are also speculations with futures contracts and other financial instruments.

In light of the above, we can hardly speak about any cartel collusion. Market volatility and dramatic price fluctuations have taken place in recent months against the backdrop of multidirectional signals, with significant discounts on quoted prices and fluctuating demand for various oil brands.

As a result, the market dropped and became unbalanced, which has also affected other sectors, production chains and overall economic and financial stability. This has seriously alarmed all countries.

Seeking to settle the problem, the energy ministers of the 23 OPEC+ countries met on April 9 and 12, and the G20 energy ministers on April 10, to discuss measures to balance the supply and demand in the global oil market. It should be noted that these countries include both major oil producers and major oil consumers. A vital role in reaching agreements at these meetings was played by President Vladimir Putin, who discussed possible solutions directly with US President Donald Trump and King of Saudi Arabia Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud.

The statement adopted by the G20 energy ministers formalised their countries’ readiness to act in the spirit of solidarity to ensure the balance of interests between producers and consumers and the security of their energy systems. A new factor is that other states, including Brazil, Norway, the United States and Canada have joined the efforts of the OPEC+ countries.

The fact that such a broad coalition has reached an agreement shows that its members understand that responsible behaviour is crucial for stabilisation and for creating conditions for economic recovery and global trade.

It is not clear when the demand for energy will rebound, because it will only begin along with economic recovery in the leading countries and with the resumption of growth after the pandemic restrictions are lifted. The Foreign Ministry is not in a position to assess Russia’s losses from plunging oil prices. Statistics and forecasts are the purview of the economic departments.

As for the specifics of the oil market and its operating principles, this is a question for those involved in the market, including sellers/producers, insurance, financial and transport organisations.



Question:

Which gas pricing mechanisms are being considered in the EAEU? Can gas prices be lowered for Belarus and Armenia? What does Moscow think about the Minsk idea of buying certain amounts of natural gas via commodity exchanges at competitive prices?



Alexander Pankin:

One of the main mid-term objectives of the Eurasian Economic Union is to create common electricity, gas, oil and petrochemical markets. Comprehensive phased work is underway to attain this objective for each of these markets by the approved date, that is, by 2025.

The question of gas transport prices is one of many being discussed at the EAEU in the appropriate form.

Gas prices are currently based on bilateral agreements which take into account a number of factors, such as gas market trends. In particular, we maintain contact on this issue with our Belarusian and Armenian colleagues at various levels, primarily through the Energy Ministry and Gazprom.



Question:

Uzbekistan has announced that it is working with Russia on a comprehensive strategic partnership declaration. What does this partnership involve, and is it seen as one more move by Uzbekistan towards joining the EAEU?



Alexander Pankin:

The draft declaration on comprehensive strategic partnership between the Russian Federation and the Republic of Uzbekistan, which was initiated by our Uzbek partners, is not limited to economic cooperation. It is aimed at formalising the substantial progress made in our interstate interaction and at promoting our cooperation in foreign policy, security, finance, energy, transport as well as in culture and humanitarian ties, including multilateral integration processes.

The declaration will open a new stage in the implementation of the fundamental principles of Russian-Uzbek relations sealed in the basic bilateral international treaties signed between our countries.

The history of the EAEU has shown that a solid foundation of bilateral relations definitely helps promote cooperation in a broader format within the framework of international organisations, as well as offers new opportunities for finding solutions to difficult problems.

As for practical moves regarding the involvement of Uzbekistan in the EAEU, we believe that many steps have been taken recently. We know that the other day the lower house of Uzbekistan’s parliament took a majority decision to seek observer status at the EAEU. We welcome this decision and hope it will be finalised so that we can carry on our mutually beneficial cooperation.




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4113681






Comment by the Information and Press Department on the situation related to the dismantling of the monument to Marshal Ivan Konev in Prague



4 May 2020 - 12:41



We would like to stress the following in connection with Prague’s media campaign against Russia following the district authorities’ arbitrary move to dismantle the monument to Soviet Marshal Ivan Konev.

The allegations to the effect that by emphasising the importance for the other contracting party to perform its commitments under the interstate Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation of August 26, 1993, Russia is interfering in the Czech Republic’s internal affairs are untenable and groundless. The independence of local governments is not something that can relieve states of the duty to implement their international legal obligations.

We insist that the Czech side must observe the provisions of Article 21 of the said Treaty, which provide for the maintenance of, among other things, military monuments, one of which is certainly the monument to Ivan Konev, as well as for its preservation and accessibility. All these clauses of the said Article in the Treaty have been violated by the Czech side.

We suggest that our Czech partners use the mechanisms of bilateral dialogue (including based on Article 5 of the Treaty) to ensure the implementation the official obligations to protect monuments. Prague’s refusal to comply will only aggravate our already strained bilateral relations.




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4113704






Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s welcome speech for the participants in the ceremony to hand over document copies from the German Federal Archives as part of the Russian-German project on searching for and digitising archival materials on Soviet and German POWs and internees



6 May 2020 - 15:04



Allow me to welcome the participants in the ceremony to hand over document copies from the Federal Archives of Germany and all those who made a decisive contribution to the Russian-German project on searching for and digitising archival materials on Soviet and German POWs and internees. We have resumed this project jointly with former Foreign Minister and current Federal President of Germany Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

Symbolically, the first concrete results of this ambitious initiative, which is being carried out under the patronage of Foreign Minister of Germany Heiko Maas and me, are being presented to the public on the eve of the 75th anniversary of Victory and Europe’s liberation from Nazism. Owing to the long-standing meticulous work of Russian and German historians, archivists and technical experts, we will learn about the destinies of about 8 million people. The attention paid to this issue in both Russian and German societies once again shows the importance of continuous efforts to reveal and remove blank spots in the difficult history of our countries in the 20th century.

Importantly, the digitisation of documents throwing light on the destinies of the wartime generation, which will make them generally available, is becoming yet another reminder of the tragedy of captivity both for the current and future generations.

I am convinced that the development of productive historical and archive cooperation between Russia and Germany and consistent promotion of studies under this and new joint projects will help us save the historical truth and become a tangible contribution to the reconciliation of our nations.

Let me thank you and all participants in the project for their excellent work, and wish you success in implementing it.


SERGEY LAVROV

Moscow, May 6, 2020




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4114588






Comment by the Information and Press Department on the attack on Cuba's Embassy in US



6 May 2020 - 20:19



We feel outraged by the armed attack on the Embassy of the Republic of Cuba in Washington, DC on April 30.

It is obvious that this criminal act has taken place amidst the US's consistently cultivated atmosphere of threats against the Cuban government, which are ongoing even during the current COVID-19 pandemic. It is no wonder that the US media portray the attacker as almost a victim of the “Cuban regime,” although it is clear he has committed a criminal act.

We expect that the US authorities will make a prompt and comprehensive investigation. We believe it should be mandatory for the receiving party to ensure security of other countries' diplomatic missions on its territory in accordance with the US' corresponding international obligations.




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4114762






Comment by the Information and Press Department on statements by US Ambassador to the OSCE James Gilmore



6 May 2020 - 20:23



We are puzzled by the provocative statements made by US Ambassador to the OSCE James Gilmore during a discussion at the Forum for Security Cooperation (FSC) in Vienna on April 29.

It is no news that US representatives use this platform for aggressive anti-Russia attacks and innuendos. But at the recent meeting on the beginning of Ukraine’s presidency in the FSC, James Gilmore could not get a handle on his emotions. He got so carried away by a tirade against Russia regarding Ukraine and Crimea that he raised his voice and even tried to downplay the importance of the recent joint statement by Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump on the 75th anniversary of the meeting on the Elbe.

In this statement, the presidents pay tribute to the courage of everyone who fought Nazism and point to the “spirit of the Elbe” as an example of cooperation between our nations towards a common goal. In Gilmore’s loose interpretation of the statement, the objective here was to ‘demand’ that Russia fulfil a series of conditions in order to gain the United States’ favour. These include abandoning the “Ukrainian intervention” and other far-fetched demands the inadequacy of which we have made clear many times.

Of course, we do not challenge the right of our American colleagues to state their opinions on various subjects within the OSCE. On our part, we will continue to explain our position consistently and calmly. At the same time, we urge US representatives not to forget about the basic diplomatic norms, as well as elementary ethics, and refrain from admonitions in their professional activities.




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4114777
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Comment by the Information and Press Department on the developments in and around Venezuela



6 May 2020 - 20:25



We were appalled by the reports on an attempt by a group of mercenaries to land on Venezuelan territory to perpetrate terror attacks against the representatives of this country’s legitimate government and its leaders. The terrorists, among whom, according to law enforcement agencies, there were people linked to foreign secret services (US services, to be more precise) were neutralised on time.

The masterminds of this operation did nothing to conceal their undertaking, giving a detailed account of it to journalists. An article on these developments appeared on May 3 in The New York Times, which is known to have little sympathy for the current Venezuelan government.

The actions by these mercenaries have to be condemned in an unconditional and resolute manner, especially now that all countries, including Venezuela, face the global and merciless threat of the coronavirus pandemic that requires everyone to work together. Only those who are indifferent to the fate of the people of Venezuela and the future of this country can ignore this challenge.

It is no longer surprising that some countries are unable to have a clear-eyed perspective on the new global landscape due to their political narrow-mindedness, obsession with removing the legitimate president of Venezuela from power and the “all options on the table” approach. Therefore, Washington’s statement claiming that the US Government was not involved in the developments that unfolded in Venezuela over the past several days, is unconvincing.

Russia has clearly stated its position according to which using force to resolve political differences is unacceptable. We need direct dialogue between the people of Venezuela who have to take ownership of their destiny and reach an agreement. What Venezuela needs right now is solidarity, trust and dialogue. We support the proposal by President Nicolas Maduro to have all the political forces in Venezuela, including those siding with Juan Guaido, conclude a “far-reaching humanitarian agreement” for the sake of “health and peace.” The country’s leader called for “action to be taken to help the people of Venezuela fight the coronavirus pandemic.” We support this call, and have no doubt that all patriotic Venezuelans understand and identify with it.

We remain committed to doing everything to ensure that the people of Venezuela can resolve the problems they are facing by peaceful means, through an inclusive national dialogue, free from pressure, ultimatums or sanctions. Of course, there is no place for mercenaries sent from abroad onto Venezuelan soil.




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4114787






Press release on Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s telephone conversation with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo



6 May 2020 - 20:26







On May 6, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov had a telephone conversation with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at the US request.

The two officials discussed the interaction between the two countries against the backdrop of the coronavirus pandemic with regard to the need to combine efforts of all members of the international community in accordance with the calls by the UN leadership and other multilateral organisations.

Mr Lavrov and Mr Pompeo also exchanged opinions on global security. The Russian Foreign Minister again spoke in favour of extending the New START Treaty, which is to expire in February 2021. They also discussed ways to boost the Russia-US dialogue on arms limitations and non-proliferation with regard to the factors that affect strategic stability.

The officials also touched upon other current issues on the global agenda, including the activity of the UN Security Council and the prospects for the development of interaction in the economy, counter-terrorism and cybersecurity.

The Foreign Minister and the Secretary of State confirmed the importance of the upcoming 75th anniversary of Victory in the Second World War in preserving the historical memory of the heroism of the anti-Hitler coalition countries.




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4114797






Press release on Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s telephone conversation with UK Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Dominic Raab



6 May 2020 - 20:37







On May 6, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov had a telephone conversation with UK Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Dominic Raab at the latter's initiative.

The two officials exchanged greetings in connection with the upcoming 75th anniversary of the victory in WWII. They noted the contribution of the members of the anti-Hitler coalition in the fight against Nazism, and emphasised the importance of using the alliance's experience in mobilising the international community's efforts to counteract today's global challenges. Particular attention was paid to discussing the efforts being taken to tackle the spread of the novel coronavirus infection and to overcome its effects.

Mr Lavrov and Mr Raab also discussed urgent matters regarding the international agenda, including the Syrian settlement and the Ukrainian crisis, as well as the work of the UN Security Council.

During their conversation, the officials stated a poor status of Russia-UK relations, and expressed mutual commitment to solving the accumulated problems through pragmatic approaches and to developing cooperation in the areas of mutual interest. Mr Lavrov called for considering any arising concerns without politicisation and solely through a professional dialogue on the basis of facts.




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4114812






Press release on the publication of history album “On the Fronts of Diplomacy. 1941-1945”



7 May 2020 - 15:32



The Foreign Ministry has published a history album titled “On the Fronts of Diplomacy. 1941-1945” to mark the 75th anniversary of Victory in the Great Patriotic War. This is a commemorative publication that includes some of the key original documents from the Ministry’s archives depicting the contribution of the Soviet diplomacy to defeating Nazi Germany and militarist Japan.

Copies of treaties and agreements, encrypted telegrams, memorandums, reports and orders issued within the People’s Commissariat for Foreign Affairs along with other materials presented in the album offer an objective take on the important work carried out by our diplomats. A number of documents, including rare war-time photo images, were published for the first time.

The album covers the key events that took place during the Great Patriotic War, from the address by First Deputy Premier and head of the People’s Commissariat for Foreign Affairs Vyacheslav Molotov to the citizens of the USSR on June 22, 1941, to the efforts of the Soviet Union to form the Allied coalition against Nazi Germany and open the second front, stages in the creation of the United Nations, and the signing of the Act of Military Surrender by Germany.

In his message to the readers, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov highlighted the decisive contribution of the Soviet Union to defeating the Nazi war machine, and its fundamental importance for the future of the world. “Our diplomats also played their part in achieving Victory and fulfilled their patriotic and professional duty to their Homeland with honour,” the Minister pointed out.




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4115297






Statement by the permanent representatives of the Republic of Armenia, the Republic of Belarus, the Republic of Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, the Republic of Moldova, the Russian Federation, the Republic of Serbia, the Republic of Tajikistan, the Republic of Turkmenistan and the Republic of Uzbekistan to the OSCE on the 75th anniversary of Victory in World War II, announced at the OSCE Permanent Council online session, Vienna, May 7, 2020



7 May 2020 - 16:04



This year we are celebrating a remarkable anniversary – 75th anniversary of Victory in World War II. The topicality of this important theme on the OSCE agenda was confirmed by the adoption of a joint statement by the foreign ministers of the Republic of Azerbaijan, the Republic of Armenia, the Republic of Belarus, the Republic of Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, the Republic of Moldova, the Russian Federation, the Republic of Serbia, the Republic of Tajikistan, the Republic of Turkmenistan and the Republic of Uzbekistan at the 26th OSCE Ministerial Council meeting in Bratislava on December 6, 2019 .

World War II was a horrible tragedy that took tens of millions of lives in many parts of the world and a major humanitarian disaster in human history.

We are paying tribute to the memory of all those who died in the struggle against the Nazis, their allies and accomplices, which committed heinous crimes. We are referring to those who took part in the warfare, the member-states of the anti-Hitler coalition, the guerrillas, the members of the underground, the victims of the Holocaust and the Nazi plan Ost on destroying the population of Eastern Europe and the USSR.

The victory over Nazism symbolises the selfless and heroic struggle to protect the freedom and independence of our people. It is a triumph of justice, humanism and the general good. The more time passes after the war, the more obvious it is becoming that the Great Victory has an enormous historical significance for drafting the principles of international law, preventing serious threats and challenges to security and curbing the growing manifestations of Nazi ideology, extremism and xenophobia.

We consider it particularly important to cherish the historical truth about World War II and prevent the revision of its legal results, in particular, with due consideration for the goals and principles of the UN Charter and the decisions of the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg. We recognise the importance of the 1948 UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide as a major international instrument.

At the same time, this truth is beginning to be forgotten and often distorted for political considerations. Monuments to soldiers-liberators are being destroyed and neo-Nazi views and right-wing radical ideas are being forced on the public.

We would like to recall that celebrations in honour of the heroes that worked for victory on the battlefields and on the home front are a common contribution to preserving the historical truth of the feat of our peoples and the price all of us paid for peace and progress. Therefore, it is important to display responsibility as regards commitments on preserving war memorials, monuments, memorial signs and cemeteries with soldiers who died for the liberation of European and Asian countries.

We urge the international community to resolutely oppose the reinstitution of Nazi ideology, the propaganda of racism, extremism, ethnic, racial and religious hatred, xenophobia and related intolerance in all manifestations and forms.

The lessons of this horrible war must remain a moral guide and the driving force for all progressive humanity. This is also a warning that the outbreak of a new world war is unacceptable since it could be the last battle for humanity.

We note the unifying potential of this theme and the need to further confirm its presence on the OSCE agenda. We advocate a broad international dialogue based on equality and mutual respect with a view to strengthening international security and trust.




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4115327






Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s greetings to online concert Facing Challenging Times Together, Moscow, May 7, 2020



7 May 2020 - 23:45






Veterans, witnesses of the terrible war years, and spectators of all ages, ethnic backgrounds and political affiliation,

Today, you will see a unique international musical project, Facing Challenging Times Together, initiated by Russia and Germany. The line-up for this concert includes both celebrated and novice musicians from the two countries, as well as from France, Great Britain and the United States.

The purpose of this initiative is to use art in these challenging times, when the coronavirus pandemic has been drawing people apart, to commemorate the Victory over Nazism, which is the 20th century milestone that determined the course of world history.

For us, just as for many other nations, Victory Day and the liberation of Europe from Nazism is one of the most important and revered dates. In our country, not a single family was spared by the war, taking the lives of millions of our citizens, and leaving in ruin a great number of cities and villages. Today, it is our sacred duty to safeguard the truth about what happened during those years, and remember the grim lessons of war in order to prevent this tragedy from repeating itself.

I would like to convey my sincere gratitude to the organisers and participants in today’s online concert. I strongly believe that with your talent and the warmth of your hearts we will mark this memorable date with dignity.

I do hope that this musical initiative will carry on not only in the virtual space, but also offline when Russian and German performers hold joint concerts at the top venues of Berlin, Moscow, St Petersburg and other cities.

I wish everyone good health, every success and a peaceful sky above your heads. Congratulations on Victory Day!




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4115469






Joint article by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Foreign Minister of Cuba Bruno Rodriguez Parrilla on the 60th anniversary of restoring Russian-Cuban diplomatic relations, published by Rossiiskaya Gazeta and Cuba’s Granma, May 8, 2020



8 May 2020 - 07:00



Russia and Cuba share long-standing fraternal ties. The contacts between our people are rooted in the 18th century, when in 1782 Russian doctor Fyodor Karzhavin arrived in the Cuban capital and having spent two years there embraced the ideas that would later lead Cubans to fight for independence from the Spanish colonial rule.

In the essays he wrote for the Russian press, Karzhavin not only extolled Cuba’s rich nature and fascinating culture, but also spoke out against harsh treatment of slaves. It was during the War of Independence that three Russian volunteers joined the Liberation Army Corps becoming the first time when Russians and Cubans spilled blood together in the name of freedom.

Russia and the Republic of Cuba established official contacts in 1902, laying the groundwork for bilateral relations between the two countries.

In the 20th century with its geopolitical shocks and upheavals the two countries traced the path of their shared history. At all times, mutual sympathy between our peoples, their commitment to achieving justice and equality and follow their sovereign development path dominated our relations at all times. We share common fundamental values and understanding of history.

This month, as we mark the 75th anniversary of Victory in the Great Patriotic War, we need to remember that the Soviet-Cuban relations were first established in October 1942, at a time of a powerful anti-fascist movement on the island, where over 100 committees were established in support of the USSR. We honour the memory of immortal heroes who sacrificed their lives to save our civilisation from fascism, including Cubans who fought far from home on the frontlines of the Second World War: Red Army fighter Aldo Vivó Laurent who died on the Neva Bridgehead, and his brother, Jorge Vivó Laurent who joined a guerrilla unit near Leningrad, as well as Enrique Vilar Figueredo who fell in combat during the liberation of Poland.

In 1952, in an international environment marked by the Cold War, dictator Fulgencio Batista decided to sever ties with the Soviet Union, owing to his political dependence on the United States. This move ran counter to the will of the Cuban people, and was made despite the long-standing track record of friendly ties that our countries shared in many spheres.

This history was marked by a number of remarkable events, including the famous competition between Alexander Alekhin and Jose Raul Capablanca, who fought for the title of world chess champion in 1927. Cultural ties included visits to Cuba by legendary ballerinas Anna Pavlova and Maya Plisetskaya, the true ambassadors of art, as well as performances by Alberto Alonso on Bolshoi Theatre’s stage.

The victory of the Cuban Revolution in 1959 lay the groundwork for establishing brotherly ties between our countries. Commander-in-Chief Fidel Castro Ruz pioneered the restoration of diplomatic relations, sealed on May 8, 1960 as a testimony to the sincere friendship between our peoples, mutual respect for their sovereign interests and the fact that the two countries shared common views on social and economic development.

These ties consistently strengthened, evolving into a strategic partnership that we have been able to consolidate through proactive political dialogue at the highest level, and guided by common positions on the main issues on the international agenda.

The contemporary history of our countries was written by world-class personalities. The leader of the Cuban Revolution, Fidel Castro Ruz, paid his first visit to Russia in 1963, as part of his historical tour of the Soviet republics, preceded in 1960 and 1962 by Army General Raul Castro Ruz, then Minister of Revolutionary Armed Forces, First Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba’s Central Committee. People from both countries cherish the memories of these visits that paved the way to stepping up exchanges at all levels for years to come.

The founders of the USSR-Cuba Friendship Society, first Soviet cosmonaut Yury Gagarin and Comandante Ernesto “Che” Guevara played an important role in strengthening ties between the two peoples.

Russia and Cuba are satisfied with the results achieved during regular contacts at the highest level, exemplified recently by the visit to Moscow in 2019 by President of Cuba Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez, who held a brotherly meeting with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, as well as with other senior officials on matters of politics, trade and the economy. It is also worth noting the visit by Prime Minister of Russia Dmitry Medvedev to Havana in October 2019.

In addition, our two countries maintain regular ties at the parliamentary level. In this regard, it is worth highlighting the recent visit to Cuba by Speaker of the Federation Council, Valentina Matviyenko, who headed the Russian delegation at the celebrations of Havana’s 500th anniversary.

Our states are working on a bilateral economic agenda, primarily by way of interacting within the Intergovernmental Russian-Cuban Commission on Trade, Economic, Scientific and Technical Cooperation. Much is being done to stimulate joint projects in energy, metallurgy, transport, IT and telecommunications, space research, combating climate change, biotechnology, healthcare and the pharmaceutical industry. These projects are also contributing to Russia’s effective participation in implementing the 2030 National Plan for Social and Economic Development of the Republic of Cuba. These ties rely on a mutually advantageous interaction and seek to improve the quality of life.

In addition to the above bilateral projects, cultural and humanitarian ties, as well as the people-to-people contacts, are expanding. The renovation of the Havana National Capitol’s dome timed to the 500th anniversary of the Cuban capital is a case in point. Russia and Cuba are implementing projects such as using Heberprot-P for treating diabetic foot ulcer. The Russian-Cuban Medical Centre in Nizhny Novgorod, as well as joint projects in other regions, in particular, St Petersburg, Tula and Chelyabinsk, feature prominently in these efforts.

In recent years, Russians have become increasingly interested in Cuba’s spectacular beauty, and the number of Russian tourists visiting the island annually exceeded 100,000.

The governments of our countries consider political consultations between the two foreign ministries highly beneficial. They regularly exchange views on the most pressing issues of the international agenda. We use joint efforts to advocate respect for international law enshrined in the UN Charter, as well as respect for sovereignty and non-interference in the internal affairs of other states. We are working shoulder to shoulder to build a more just and democratic system of international relations that provides all states with equal opportunities for sustainable development.

The joint statement on common approaches to international affairs signed by Vladimir Putin and Miguel Diaz-Canel during the Cuban President’s visit to Moscow in 2018 reaffirms our commitment to creating a multilateral and multipolar international order which would reflect the plurality of political, socioeconomic and cultural models, guarantee international peace and security, global and regional stability, sovereign equality of states, justice, as well as respect for human rights and freedoms.

Our countries resolutely reject attempts to rewrite history or to drive a wedge between nations, to provoke colour revolutions or to topple undesirable governments. We condemn the attempts to impose foreign ideologies or to distort the truth in order to interfere in the domestic affairs of other nations.

The Russian people invariably supports Cuba in its fight for an immediate and unconditional lifting of the 60-plus-year-long US embargo of Cuba. We condemn the practice of unilateral sanctions, claims to exceptionality and global domination, or disrespect for international law.

The adoption of the resolution “Necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the United States of America against Cuba" at the 74th session of the UN General Assembly corroborated the almost unanimous rejection by the international community of this criminal and unjust policy.

In turn, the government and people of Cuba condemn Washington’s aggressive policy against the Russian Federation, support its calls for a dialogue as a means of overcoming disagreements, and reject the use of subversive measures that run counter to the Russian people’s interests.

In the new international environment in the wake of the SARS-COV-2/COVID-19 pandemic, Russia and Cuba are convinced that the current situation calls for cooperation and solidarity. International depoliticised efforts to promote and share the results of scientific research and the experience of different countries in preventing the spread of the coronavirus and protecting the most vulnerable groups of the population as well as social assistance measures will help reduce the duration of the pandemic and cut the dynamics of mortality. Promoting and sharing social security measures will be helpful in attaining this goal as well. The governments of both countries firmly believe that the UN and the WHO should play a leading role in this effort.

Russia and Cuba are optimistic about the future of bilateral relations and continue to work to fully protect their sovereignty and independence, as well as the right to ensure security and to control their own future. To do so, we have all the means and resources, and the certainty that the chosen path is correct.




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4115447






Press release on the joint exhibition of archival documents and photos for the 75th anniversary of Victory in the 1941-1945 Great Patriotic War held as part of Russia’s CSTO chairmanship



8 May 2020 - 17:01



The exhibition of archival documents and photos for the 75th anniversary of Victory in the 1941-1945 Great Patriotic War is based on the Foreign Policy Archives of the Russian Federation and national archives of the CSTO member-countries.

This project is published on the official website of Russia’s chairmanship of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (cstorussia2020.mid.ru).




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4116600
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Briefing by Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova, Moscow, May 8, 2020



8 May 2020 - 19:21






Coronavirus update

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Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's participation in the CIS Foreign Ministers Council meeting

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Videoconference meeting of the SCO Council of Ministers of Foreign Affairs

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Foreign Ministry archive materials on the 75th anniversary of Victory in the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945

At our previous briefing we spoke in detail about the events scheduled by Russia’s Foreign Ministry and our diplomatic missions abroad. Unfortunately, most of them will be held in an online format. Nevertheless, quite a bit of work is underway. This format will not and cannot be an obstacle or an impediment to remembering those events and relating them to today’s reality.

The Russian Foreign Ministry and the Federal Archive Agency are preparing the largest digital collection of documents on the Great Patriotic War and World War II.

The exhibition “Stalin-Churchill-Roosevelt: Joint Battle with Nazism” is confirmation of how greatly the Soviet Union appreciated cooperation with the leading powers of the anti-Hitler coalition. A similarly-named internet project was launched on April 27.

Materials on the liberation of Europe from Nazism from the ministry’s archives have been presented in an exhibition at the State Central Museum of Contemporary Russian History. The name of the exhibition is The Road to Victory: Evidence from Historical Sources. This exhibition was translated into 11 languages to be shown abroad.

Documents from the Great Patriotic War were included in the album, On the Diplomatic Front. It is being published in time for the 75th anniversary of Victory. Press release on this was published on the ministry’s website yesterday.

The Russian Foreign Ministry archive was the source for several unique documents in the exhibition and for the corresponding internet project, 1939: The Beginning of World War II. Authentic archival documents, newsreels, photos and museum pieces, 300 in all, narrate the events which led to this massive global conflict and help viewers understand the reasons for the failure to create a broad anti-Hitler coalition together with the USSR as well as the logic of Soviet leaders in the international context of the times.

The Russian Foreign Ministry also participated in the long-term historical documentary project, In the Headquarters of Victory, which has been ongoing since 2015. The exhibits were on display at the Small Manege Exhibition Hall.

Materials from our archives that show Soviet foreign policy and diplomacy during the Great Patriotic War and World War II are also presented in themed collections on our official website and the websites of Russian missions abroad.

The project, The USSR and the Allies, has enduring value as it provides free access to 4,000 archived files totalling 370,000 pages of unique documents. This project is becoming part of the presidential documentary project on the history of World War II.

Pursuant to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s instruction, a massive project is underway on compiling a comprehensive digital collection (database) of information resources on the Second World War. This is an unparalleled project in the world. The coordination group for this project includes the Federal Archive Agency’s top officials as well as the heads of the history and archive services at the Presidential Executive Office, defence, security and law enforcement agencies and the Foreign Ministry of Russia.

To mark the 75th anniversary of Victory, our site has published a series of themed document sets under this category on the major diplomatic events of the war years. It opens with materials on the Yalta Conference and the diplomatic side of the liberation of Central and Eastern Europe by the Red Army. Materials on the end of the war in Europe, the Potsdam Conference, the creation of the UN and the USSR’s contribution to the defeat of Japanese militarism are to be posted shortly.

Let me note that these types of documentary exhibits, in the digital format, are playing a bigger part in world archive practice. The Russian Foreign Ministry is in the mainstream of the general trends in this respect, especially in view of the current situation. The majority of these projects are available in Russian and English, which greatly expands the number of users.

So, even in these times of quarantine and self-isolation, we offer an opportunity for those who are interested in history to get an unbiased view of past events based on authentic archival documents, from the comfort of home.



Article by German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas and Director of the Institute of Contemporary History Andreas Wirsching for Der Spiegel magazine

The other day, the Pentagon published a post on the history of World War II, entitled “Victory in Europe Day: Time of Celebration, Reflection”.

According to this new version of history from the US Department of Defense, the “conflict” began when “Germany and the Soviet Union invaded Poland.” That is, according to the American side, the USSR is just as guilty of unleashing the Second World War as the Third Reich. At the same time, it says nothing about how it was our country that broke the back of the fascist military machine and that the largest number of Nazis were killed on the Eastern Front. But it does say that less than a year after the landing of the United States and its allies in Normandy, the war ended. Apparently, nothing much happened in the previous years. The “Second Front” in Normandy was opened when the Americans realised that the Third Reich was losing the war, and they hastened to land in order to prevent the USSR from spreading its influence throughout Europe after the war was won.

And here is the view of German officials on these events, the 75th anniversary of which we are celebrating this year.

Foreign Minister of Germany Heiko Maas and Director of the Institute of Contemporary History Andreas Wirsching wrote the following in an article for Der Spiegel magazine: “Only Germany is responsible for World War II and the Holocaust. Those who sow doubts about this and foist the role of criminal on other nations commit an injustice towards the victims of this war.”

This probably says it better than any additional definitions, explanations and comments could. These words put on exclamation point on our efforts to clarify something to our Western partners. Many of them, even on such days and dates that are special for all humankind, do not stop searching for ways to distort history and, in pursuit of current political aims, level accusations at our country that are monstrous in their falsehood and hypocrisy.



Update on Syria

In general, the situation in Syria remains stable. In Idlib, the Russian and Turkish militaries continue efforts to implement the March 5 additional protocol, with a focus on unblocking the M-4 highway and creating a “security corridor” adjacent to it. The scheduled, ninth, joint patrolling of part of the road took place on May 7. We note Ankara’s efforts to resist the provocations staged by the radicals and their attempts to destabilise the situation in the de-escalation zone. We believe that, in the long run, sustainable security can only be achieved in Idlib after separating “the moderate opposition” from the terrorists, the latter of which must be neutralised.

The situation remains complicated in the south of Syria, in the 55 km area around Al Tanf, which is illegally occupied by the United States. Rukban, an IDP camp, is located in this zone. According to incoming reports, the sanitary-epidemiological situation continues to degrade there. After the closing of the Syria-Jordan border as part of measures to counter the spread of the coronavirus infection, the refugees lost any opportunity to receive qualified medical aid. Meanwhile, UN humanitarian agencies are failing to find alternative channels for providing medical aid, for lack of security guarantees. Militants from illegal armed units, in this US occupied zone, are attacking the convoys and stealing humanitarian cargo. Moreover, they are destroying efforts to create proper conditions for medical personnel in the camp. They are also blocking refugees from leaving Rukban, having basically turned them into hostages. All this is taking place with the knowledge of the US that bears full responsibility for the civilians in the controlled territories as the occupying power.

For our part, we continue to provide humanitarian aid to all the Syrians who need it without discrimination or preconditions. A total of 850 tonnes of food were recently delivered to the port of Tartus. It will be distributed throughout the entire territory of Syria. In addition, Russian specialists continue mine lifting and are providing medical assistance.

The Syrian authorities continue helping refugees that want to return home during the pandemic. Thus, the Syrian Foreign Ministry announced its decision to cancel the deadlines for the submission of applications from citizens who want to return home but cannot do it due to the suspension of international transit.



The Advisory Opinion of the Office of the Procurator General of the Supreme Court of the Netherlands regarding the repatriation of women and children from “Syrian Kurdistan”

We are compelled to comment on the advisory opinion provided by the Office of the Procurator General of the Supreme Court of the Netherlands regarding the repatriation of women and children from “Syrian Kurdistan.” There are 23 women with Dutch citizenship that moved to Syria and Iraq (which were controlled by ISIS at the time) and who are now being kept along with their children in “Syrian Kurdistan” (56 people in all). This document indicates that the Office of the Procurator General has stated expressly that the Netherlands is under no obligation to repatriate its citizens to their homeland. This advisory opinion is perfectly clear.

We believe that Dutch law-enforcement bodies are obligated to at least check on the potential involvement of these people in terrorist activities. If their involvement is confirmed the Netherlands would have to follow the universally recognised principle of international law, “either extradite or try them,” something that is fixed in UN Security Council resolutions 1566 and 1624. They should either repatriate these people for a trial in their national court or hand them over to official Syrian justice. If their involvement cannot be established (which is likely for the children), the Netherlands that positions itself as a responsible state and a model of observing human rights and the principles of the supremacy of law and justice, should help its citizens return home rather than reject them under the cover of pseudo-legal casuistry.



ISIS terrorist attack in Mozambique

Last month, ISIS terrorists massacred over 50 locals in Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado province after young people there refused to join the ranks of terrorist fighters. This act of terror, since this is how is must be described, induced the country’s authorities to acknowledge for the very first time the presence of ISIS on its territory.

In keeping with its obligations arising inter alia from corresponding UN Security Council counter-terrorism resolutions, the Russian Federation strongly condemns the terrorists’ barbarous acts that cannot be justified.

It was striking that the Western media failed to provide any extensive coverage of the terrorist attack, as was the case when it came to most other attacks of this kind in Africa, and unlike attacks in Western Europe that attracted a lot of media attention. It is not really clear what caused them to make this exception.

As far as Russia is concerned, we strongly believe that the value of human life does not depend on geography, while victims of any terrorist attack must be mourned regardless of the part of the world, where the attack takes place. We believe that any outrage of this kind must unite all countries around the world in their efforts to completely eliminate the global terrorist threat.



Celebrations of the 60th anniversary of restoring diplomatic relations between Russia and Cuba

Today we mark the 60th anniversary of restoring diplomatic relations with the Republic of Cuba, our strategic partner.

Russia and Cuba are linked by historical ties of friendship, mutual sympathy, respect, solidarity and support, as well as productive cooperation. We have come a long way together. The Russian consulate opened in Havana, then the capital of a Spanish colony, in 1829. After the Republic of Cuba won independence in 1898, it opened a diplomatic mission in St Petersburg in 1902.

It is symbolic to note that on the eve of the 75th anniversary of the Great Victory that the Soviet Union and Cuba established their relations in October 1942 against the backdrop of a powerful anti-fascist movement on the island, where more than 100 committees were formed to support the USSR. In addition, immortal heroes who sacrificed their lives to save our civilization from fascism included Cubans who fought in the Red Army: Aldo Vivo Laurent died on the Neva Bridgehead, his brother, Jorge Vivo Laurent joined a guerrilla regiment near Leningrad, and Enrique Vilar Figueredo fell in combat during the liberation of Poland.

Today, Russia and Cuba are proactively expanding their strategic partnership. Our countries maintain an intensive and meaningful political dialogue, undertake major joint projects in trade and the economy, science and technology, as well as cultural and humanitarian spheres.

We note the comradely and allied cooperation between our countries on the international arena, underpinned by a near-complete convergence of positions on the overwhelming majority of key international matters. Moscow and Havana share a strong commitment to the principles of international law enshrined in the UN Charter, the respect for sovereignty and non-interference in domestic affairs. Together, we stand up against any attempts to distort history and the desire of some countries to erase from memory the role of the USSR in defeating Nazism and consign to oblivion the sacrifice and heroic deeds of the Red Army and millions of Soviet people in the fight for liberation.

Russia has showed unwavering solidarity with the people of Cuba in fighting for the immediate and unconditional lifting of the almost 60-year-long economic, trade and financial embargo imposed by the US against Cuba.

We have every reason to believe that Russia-Cuba relations have a bright future. We will persist in our efforts to defend to the fullest extent the sovereignty and independence of our countries and peoples, as well as their right to provide for their security and determine their own destiny. To do so, we have all the means and resources we need, along with a conviction that our cause is right.







Answer to a question:



Question:

The Armenian Foreign Ministry, when commenting on admitting Russian experts to biological laboratories in the republic, said that the Armenian side has repeatedly stated that the laboratories only employ Armenian nationals and the presence of foreign experts there is out of the question. How can the Russian Foreign Ministry comment on this statement? Is Russia ready to support China’s urge to close American biological labs in former USSR countries?



Maria Zakharova:

We keep working with Yerevan on the project of a bilateral intergovernmental memorandum of understanding on providing biological security. We are confident that the signing of such a document and its implementation will facilitate the development of cooperation in providing the sanitary and epidemiological wellbeing of people not only between our countries, but also within the entire post-Soviet space.

In accordance with the established practice, the details of agreements that have not been finalised yet, especially on such sensitive matters as biological security, are not subject to disclosure in the public space. We hope for the soonest completion of the talks on the memorandum.




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4116624
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Deputy Foreign Minister Andrey Rudenko’s answer to a media question about the failed ratification of a Russian-Moldovan credit agreement



8 May 2020 - 19:28







Question:

What comments could you make on the Moldovan Constitutional Court’s ruling declaring non-constitutional a Russian-Moldovan intergovernmental agreement on the Russian Federation granting the Republic of Moldova a loan for 200 million euros?



Andrey Rudenko:

This is a puzzling and regrettable decision.

We are puzzled because it was the Moldovan side that asked for the loan; Russia was not imposing anything on anyone. Second, the talks on the agreement, which started in November 2019, were open and transparent, with the Moldovan media covering them for a year. At that stage, for some reason, no one called into question their constitutional status.

We regret that the attitude to the Russian credit is highly politicised. For fairness’ sake, it makes sense to compare the terms, on which Chisinau gets loans from Russia and from other countries or organisations. Our desire to help Moldova, a country that we are on close terms with, is a sincere one, particularly at a time when Moldova is facing economic challenges exacerbated by the COVID-19 situation. It is a great pity that there are Moldovan politicians, who – obviously not without prompting from outside – put their own political ambitions above the real needs of Moldovan citizens.




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4116634






Remarks by acting head of the Russian Federation delegation Andrey Vorobyov at a plenary meeting of the OSCE Forum for Security Co-operation, delivered via video teleconference, May 6, 2020



8 May 2020 - 21:06



[Andrey Vorobyov on the left.]




Mr Chairperson,

We join our colleagues in expressing appreciation for the Ukrainian Chairmanship’s proposal to discuss the influence of COVID-19 on the military and security situation in the OSCE region at a meeting of the Forum for Security Co-operation. We would like to welcome OSCE Secretary General Thomas Greminger and thank him for his statement.

Mr Chairperson,

First of all, I would like to say how grateful we are to all the delegations for their solidarity in the fight against the coronavirus infection.

The pandemic is an exceptional test of strength for all the OSCE member states. The point at issue is not only our ability to efficiently stop the proliferation of the infection but also to do so in a dignified and correct manner while demonstrating our resolve for cooperation and the other positive features of the international community.

In our opinion, it would be expedient for today’s meeting not only to exchange information about the national efforts against the pandemic, but also to focus on developing a positive and unifying agenda for the OSCE countries, expanding the existing spheres and mapping out new venues of cooperation. This would demonstrate the organisation’s maturity and serve as an example of a responsible attitude to an extremely complicated problem. Overall, it was in this spirit that our discussion has been held.

Regrettably, some statements were dispiriting. We cannot but be shocked by the cynicism with which these delegations are using the coronavirus infection in the information war. We would like to point out that the main feature of their statements is a desire to shift the burden of responsibility onto others and to turn the attention of their people and the international community to search for an external enemy.

It is amazing that some media resources and senior officials of the OSCE member states have accused Russia of spreading disinformation about the new coronavirus outbreak and attempting to cause a rift or take some other destructive action. We have sent a message to the US Department of State demanding that they provide factual proof of these statements. However, we have not yet received any reasonable response, not to mention factual evidence.

It is evident that some of these campaigns originate in the Western governments and media. A case in point is disinformation about Russia’s coronavirus assistance to Italy and the United States and a campaign launched as soon as China demonstrated its ability to effectively combat the virus and started to build up its assistance to many countries.

The decisions of the Russian authorities to help other countries were based on a clear logic. For example, assistance was provided to the United States, or more specifically New York, when it was reaching the peak of its coronavirus cases. Consequently, the patients, doctors and the other medical personnel badly needed more medical products, including equipment and sanitary items. We believed that it was time for extending a helping hand and dispatched a considerable amount of such items. It was a selfless gesture that was not burdened with any reciprocal demands or requests. We gratefully took note of the US proposal to help us out if we would ever need such support.

Regrettably, some countries are trying to apply geopolitics to the pandemic at a time when their priority should be saving people, providing them with medicine and food, as well as taking measures that are necessary in the current sanitary conditions. What is happening globally is unprecedented, what with deaths and broken lives. During such a situation, we are surprised by some OSCE member states’ reaction and negative response to the purely peaceful humanitarian assistance provided by Russia. I would like to point out that our assistance to people does not affect NATO unity in any way. We believe it irresponsible and disgraceful to discuss in this manner the actions that are absolutely logical and correct amid a global tragedy.

Mr Chairperson,

My country is actively involved in collective efforts to fight the pandemic and its consequences. Today, it is clear to everyone that mankind can cope with this challenge, which is unprecedented in modern history, only by joining hands. We are doing a lot at home and trying to render reasonable aid to other countries.

We consider the attempts to blame Russia for what it had never done as an irrelevant continuation of Russophobia professed by certain political forces. They are concerned with something totally different from what is needed at this difficult moment for the whole world.

Regrettably, today’s discussion, particularly the remarks by the Ukrainian delegation in its national quality (we will reply to these in detail, when the next item on the agenda comes in for consideration), has revealed a dangerous intention to bring these moods to the Forum venue. In this connection we once again have to express concern over the further course of discussions on European security. We insistently call on our colleagues to resume a professional discussion and to free it from politicised and time-serving evaluations.

A constructive approach to the situation regarding the pandemic and its impact on the military and political aspects of the security situation has been demonstrated by Chief of Russian General Staff General Valery Gerasimov and NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Europe General Tod D. Wolters in a telephone conversation just a few days ago. The business-like nature of their discussion leaves no room for such notions as “propaganda” or “disinformation.”

Mr Chairperson,

Today, the world is worried about the threat of an epidemic that has affected more than 180 states. As estimated by international health organisations, the total number of people infected by COVID-19 in the world is nearing four million. We are clearly aware that it is only by combined efforts that we can reliably protect the population from the pandemic. The armed forces are also employed to address this problem.

A difficult situation is emerging in Russia, but its authorities are taking all the necessary measures. On March 12, the Russian Armed Forces established an emergency response centre tasked to avert the spread of the coronavirus infection to the units. Before May 15, the Defence Ministry is planning to commission, in two stages, 16 new module-type communicable disease centres for a total of 1,600 beds in different areas of Russia. It has also organised continuous health monitoring at its military universities and organisations, as well as in line units. The necessary stocks of medicine, individual protective gear and medical supplies have been created.

The sudden outbreak of COVID-19 around the world and the unpredictability of its consequences in terms of their scale determine the need for boosting the armed forces’ readiness to implement the entire gamut of anti-epidemic measures, including lockdowns, therapy, decontamination of terrain and various facilities in areas with masses of infected people.

In this connection, the Supreme Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Armed Forces ordered a snap inspection to be carried out between March 25 and 28 to test units’ readiness to localise virus-related emergencies.

The exercises involved the military command and control echelon, combined units and military units of the Western and Central Military Districts, the Aerospace Forces (ASF), the Strategic Missile Forces (SMF), the NBC Defence Troops, the Engineering Troops, as well as the central medical support organisations.

We would like to stress that the snap inspection did not involve field gunnery or missile launches. The exercise was purely medical and humanitarian and did not fall within the purview of the Vienna Document 2011. Nevertheless, our country displayed transparency and circulated a relevant notification via the OSCE Communications Network (CBM/RU/20/0025/F41/О). It should be noted in particular that the military attaches of all states were informed about the exercises and that each day of the drills was minutely covered on the Defence Ministry’s official website.

With this in mind, we would like to respond to the remarks by the UK representative, who used his debut at the Forum for a confrontational and politicised attack, coming up with allegations to the effect that Russia, despite the pandemic, continued what he called its provocative military activities; it was testing NATO’s readiness in the period of crisis and thus forcing its members to remain on combat alert. The absurdity of these insinuations needs no comment. We are alarmed by other things, namely the undisguised and aggressive nature of the claim that the alliance has to maintain its combat readiness against Russia. This rhetoric is absolutely unacceptable at the OSCE, an organisation designed to promote cooperation and dialogue in the interests of a stronger trust and security. We hope that the UK representative will change his confrontational tone and will not forget about the OSCE’s basic principles.

Mr Chairperson,

Russia feels sympathy for all those who have been hit hard by the coronavirus and is providing assistance to them as far as possible. Following the requests from several countries, we have provided practical assistance in fighting the coronavirus infection to people in Italy, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Armenia, Belarus and many other countries across the world.

By decision of the President of Russia, joint groups of Russian military personnel were quickly set up, including doctors and other medical staff, as well as biological protection specialists. The transport aircraft of the Russian Aerospace Forces have flown them to these countries where they are contributing to humanitarian efforts.

The work of Russian epidemiologists in Italy is a bright and effective example of Russia’s assistance at a critical stage of the epidemic that was noted for numerous deaths. Russia has provided this selfless support in good faith and with humanitarian interests in mind.

Russian specialists also made a practical contribution to improving the epidemiological situation in Serbia, where the epidemic has started decreasing, according to the country’s authorities. Belgrade also appreciated the fact that Russia also provided assistance to Republika Srpska of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The member states of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) are looking for effective mechanisms to prevent and to fight the coronavirus infection. The CSTO Crisis Response Centre has launched teleconference consultations for the heads of military medical services to discuss preventive measures in the armed forces and cooperation with civilian healthcare authorities, including in the treatment of serious cases.

On March 23, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called on warring parties in regional conflicts across the world to immediately pull back from hostilities and announce a ceasefire and a humanitarian pause in light of the rapid spread of COVID-19. Russia supported this appeal. Since the global epidemiological situation continued to deteriorate, the warring parties heeded the Secretary-General’s appeal. The intensity of hostilities has decreased in Cameroun, Colombia, Myanmar, Sudan and South Sudan, Afghanistan and the Philippines. The situation in Syria is stabilising. At the same time, hostilities remained intensive in a number of countries. In some cases, the pandemic has been used as a pretext for new armed actions. In particular, the Ukrainian armed forces continue large-scale artillery shelling of certain areas in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions, which has resulted in civilian casualties.

Regarding the freedom of movement of the Special Monitoring Mission in Donbass during the epidemic, we would like to caution against politicising this matter. The SMM can determine the modalities of its work through contact with the local authorities, which it should develop in accordance with its mandate in the interests of peace and security in the region.

We would like to point out that the OSCE has suspended the field activities of the majority of its field operations. The SMM continues working, but over 150 members of the SMM have been called from Ukraine back to their home countries due to the pandemic. It is obvious that measures are being taken everywhere to protect the field staff from the infection. In this connection, we warn against escalating emotion over the preventive measures being taken by the authorities of certain areas in Donbass at checkpoints on the contact line in the zone of hostilities.

We also note that the SMM should pay closer attention to the developments behind the lines of the Ukrainian Armed Forces. During the pandemic it is particularly important for an early prevention of aggravations to monitor the routes by which Kiev delivers armaments to the contact line in order to preclude new casualties and destruction.

Mr Chairperson,

The discussion we held today has shown that the national governments of the OSCE member states are actively using their armed forces against COVID-19. Of course, the key priority is now to provide practical assistance to the civilian population. In this connection, the Russian Federation has called on several NATO countries to suspend their military exercises and military activities for the duration of the pandemic. We have submitted this proposal because we believe that it is important to create a favourable atmosphere for fighting the very real threat of the ever spreading coronavirus infection, as well as to release the means and forces the countries need to address more immediate tasks. It should be also remembered that the pandemic has reaffirmed the importance of all instruments of international cooperation, including in the military sphere.

Mr Chairperson,

This May we celebrate the 75th anniversary of Victory in WWII, which came as the culmination of the colossal efforts of many nations and claimed millions of military and civilian lives. We respect and will never forget their valour and courage.

Regrettably, we have to say that the statement made by the US ambassador to the OSCE James Gilmore at the forum’s discussion on April 29 was a negative example of diplomacy. By giving a loose interpretation of the Joint Statement by the presidents of Russia and the United States on the 75th anniversary of the historic meeting between Soviet and American soldiers on the Elbe River, he has downgraded the importance of that document and neglected the basic norms of diplomacy and elementary ethics and instead resorted to lecturing. In this connection, the Foreign Ministry of Russia issued a comment on May 6.

We call on US representatives to “put aside differences, build trust, and cooperate in pursuit of a greater cause,” as this is said in the Joint Statement. This also has a bearing on the discussion being held at the forum today.

Thank you, Mr Chairperson. I kindly ask you to attach this statement to the journal of the day.




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4116732






Remarks by the Russian delegation at the talks in Vienna on military security and arms control, held as part of the 945th plenary session of the OSCE Forum for Security Co-operation, May 6, 2020



8 May 2020 - 21:08



Mr Chairperson,

Last week, after holding talks via videoconference, the Normandy Four foreign ministers emphasised the importance of the parties to Ukraine’s internal crisis reaffirming their commitment to the ceasefire. We regret to note that Kiev seems to have failed to convey this message to its armed forces that have ramped up the shelling of residential neighbourhoods in Donbass. According to the OSCE’s Special Monitoring Mission (SMM), the number of truce violations has increased along the contact line in recent days.

Civilians once again suffered as a result of the shelling by the Ukrainian Armed Forces. On May 1, a woman succumbed to a gunshot wound in Spartak, a settlement outside government control, and a residential building was destroyed in Golmovsky (May 4 report). On May 2, firing impacts were reported in Yasinovataya (May 5 report). On Monday, the Donetsk media reported that the armed forces used guns mounted on mechanised infantry combat vehicles (BMP-2) against a residential neighbourhood in Alexandrovka, where three girls, as well as a 55-year-old man were wounded. The SMM confirmed these reports.

We have drawn the Forum’s attention to SMM’s 2016 thematic report on civilian casualties in eastern Ukraine, whereby areas not controlled by Kiev sustained most of the suffering. Four years have passed, but the situation on the ground remains unchanged. A review of the data compiled by the Mission between December 9, when the Paris summit took place, and April 27 showed that the Ukrainian Armed Forces fired 20 times at the villages controlled by militias, while there were no reported casualties in villages controlled by the Ukrainian Armed Forces. It is also worth noting the recent publication by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) whereby in the first quarter of 2020 the self-proclaimed republics accounted for over 85 percent of the wounded civilians. Unfortunately, our Western partners prefer to turn a blind eye to these alarming statistics, offering a carte-blanche to Kiev for subverting its commitments under the Minsk agreements.

Mr Chairperson,

The Ukrainian military continued to deploy heavy weapons in Donbass, despite the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres’ call for a ceasefire in all conflicts in the context of the coronavirus pandemic. Since March 11, the SMM found over 70 tanks at the railway station in Konstantinovka, more than 40 tanks and 18 Nona-S gun mortars in Rubezhnoye. On May 2 and 3, 11 Gvozdika self-propelled howitzers and 10 Akatsiya howitzers with 122 mm and 152 mm calibre guns, respectively, were in Druzhkovka. In addition, observers saw 30 armoured vehicles belonging to the Ukrainian Armed forces (March 20 report), and reported 22 tanks in the same location on Monday (May 5 report) near the railway station in Bakhmut, just 30 kilometres from the contact line. This brings to mind the words of Deputy Secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defence Council Sergey Krivonos, who said that the Ukrainian Armed Forces “must be ready for the liberation of Donbass by force.” This begs the question: how does all this relate to the Minsk agreements?

The Ukrainian Armed Forces continued to deploy weapons in violation of the withdrawal terms, which in no way facilitated de-escalation. This can be illustrated by what happened on April 29, when the Mission found an antitank missile system in Popasnaya’s residential neighbourhood, with four security personnel from the Ukrainian Armed Forces establishing a new position nearby. It is telling that the observers reported the highest number of ceasefire violations and explosions in Popasnaya on that same day (May 1 report).

We hope that the outcome of the Normandy Four foreign ministers’ videoconference will encourage Kiev to take additional measures in support of the truce. The OSCE SMM proposed these measures within the Contact Group back in July, including orders prohibiting firing, offensive, reconnaissance and sabotage operations, sniper fire and the deployment of heavy weapons near civilian buildings. The Ukrainian Armed Forces regularly engage in activity of this kind, as confirmed by reports. Approving these measures would be a meaningful contribution to de-escalating the military situation. By the way, the representatives of the self-proclaimed republics have long supported these measures.

Mr Chairperson,

The SMM has once again reported on attempts to impede the operation of its UAVs, with a dozen attempts to fire at them reported since March 11 in territories controlled by Kiev. It is clear that in some cases by interfering with the operation of the SMM’s technical means the Ukrainian Armed Forces are seeking to conceal their actions. For example, on April 5 the Ukrainian Armed Forces targeted the Mission’s drone near Taramchuk, and the next day monitors found Bukovel AD, a Ukrainian electronic warfare system in this village ( April 6 and 7 reports).

As for the SMM’s freedom of movement in Donbass in the context of the coronavirus pandemic, we reiterate our call not to politicise this issue. The Mission can determine the modalities for its operation in contact with the local authorities and is expected to nurture these contacts as per its mandate for the sake of peace and security in the region.

In the context of the global trend to reinforce sanitary and epidemiological control, Mission staff members are asked to comply with specific medical recommendations as a condition for gaining access. This scheme has been used recently by SMM paramedics travelling to specific parts of Donbass. This means that monitors can also cross the contact line.

At the same time, we would like to highlight the need for the SMM to pay more attention to the developments behind the lines of the Ukrainian Armed Forces. During the pandemic, the monitoring of weapons delivery routes to the contact line acquires special importance in order to ensure that an early warning system is in place for any escalation and to avoid new casualties and destruction.

Mr Chairperson,

The armed conflict in Donbass brought about a surge in arms trafficking in Ukraine. Last week, the Ukrainian law enforcement agencies found an arms and military equipment depot in the east of the country, the biggest one they have seen since the beginning of the crisis (Slide 1). Our colleagues can find more information in the original language by using the link given on the slide. It turns out that until recently, this depot was controlled by the Ukrainian Volunteer Army (banned in Russia) that maintains close ties with the Right Sector (banned in Russia), a nationalist far right radical movement. The Ukrainian Volunteer Army is a de-facto illegal armed group that is not part of the official army and is not bound by military discipline (Slide 2).

(Slide 3) According to Ukraine’s Prosecutor General’s Office, this operation led to the discovery of armoured vehicles, guns, (Slide 4) as well as mortar guns, explosives and about 100 metric tonnes of munitions. A criminal investigation is underway (Slide 5).

At the Forum sessions, the Ukrainian delegation has repeatedly claimed that no antipersonnel landmines are used on the territories under Kiev’s control (Slide 6), while the country abides by its commitments under the Ottawa Convention transparently and in good faith. Data from Ukraine’s Prosecutor General’s Office show that these statements are at odds with reality. The depot that I just mentioned contained antipersonnel directional fragmentation mines of various modifications (Slide 7), despite the fact that Ukraine reported under Article 7 of the Ottawa Convention that it did not have any antipersonnel directional fragmentation mines (Slide 8). This is made worse by the fact that the arms, munitions and mines that can be found in abundance and are not controlled by the army could spread out across the crisis zone and beyond unchecked.

Mr Chairperson,

All this once again demonstrates the urgent need to resolve Ukraine’s internal crisis by implementing the Minsk Package of Measures in good faith through dialogue between Kiev, Donetsk and Lugansk. A recent opinion poll by the Ilko Kucheriv Democratic Initiatives Foundation showed that almost 50 percent of respondents in districts of the Lugansk Region controlled by the government, and 71 percent of people living in the Donetsk Region support direct elections in self-proclaimed republics. We call on Kiev to heed their voices.

Thank you, Mr Chairperson.




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4116742






Comment by the Information and Press Department on the May 6 article in the Japanese newspaper Asahi



8 May 2020 - 22:20



Regarding the article published in the Japanese newspaper Asahi on May 6, 2020, allegedly revealing the content of a recorded “top secret” conversation between General Secretary of the CPSU Central Committee Leonid Brezhnev and Prime Minister of Japan Kakuei Tanaka in October 1973, we would like to state the following.

This is far from the first pseudo-bombshell in the media concerning the problems with the peace treaty between Russia and Japan, planted with an obvious purpose of trying to strengthen the Japanese position in the negotiations using some new wild speculations. We are forced to point out that the initiators of this publication, and we cannot rule out the involvement of Japanese officials, are engaged in wishful thinking.

As a reminder, at this stage, the priority is the development of the whole range of Russian-Japanese cooperation in order to raise bilateral relations to a qualitatively new level. Only if we achieve this result, visible to people in both countries, it will enable the conditions for substantive dialogue on a number of sensitive issues.

We would also like to underscore that our country has maintained a consistent position throughout the post-war period: the peace treaty is contingent on Japan fully recognising the outcome of WWII, including the undeniable sovereignty of the Russian Federation over all the southern Kuril Islands. Any insinuations on this subject, especially citing some former Japanese leaders’ “private archives,” are inappropriate.




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4116799






Remarks by Alexander Lukashevich, Russia’s Permanent Representative to the OSCE, at the online meeting of the OSCE Permanent Council on Ukraine and the need to implement the Minsk agreements, Vienna, May 7, 2020



8 May 2020 - 22:43







Mr Chairman,

The events of recent days have again made us shudder at the price Donbass residents have had to pay for Kiev’s ongoing military operations.

Who is the Ukrainian army fighting there? The sad statistics of victims and destruction in Donbass clearly answer this question. Over the past week, all the devastating consequences of the shelling including casualties were recorded in specific areas in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions. Civilians and their homes, as well as social facilities, were again hit by bullets and shells fired by the Ukrainian armed forces.

On April 30, the SMM recorded the consequences of another shelling of the school in Zolotoye-5 / Mikhailovka – it was hit by 120-mm mortar and heavy machine gun fire.

On May 1, a woman died after an attack on the Donetsk village of Spartak. According to media reports, not yet reflected in the Mission’s statistics, a residential building with five underage children in it was shelled on May 2 in Zolotoye-5 / Mikhailovka near Lugansk. A seven-year-old girl was wounded as a result of this barbaric attack. An SMM patrol, which arrived to record the consequences, was reportedly forced to leave the village for security reasons when the shelling resumed because it could also threaten the lives of the observers.

According to data already confirmed by the Mission, on May 4 in Aleksandrovka, Donetsk Region, four civilians were injured including children – two girls aged seven, and a ten-year-old. All of them required hospital treatment. Finally, this morning information was received about the shelling of the village of Sakhanka located in the south, in one of the specifically targeted areas of the Donetsk Region, which resulted in injuries to five people, including two underage children, a boy and a girl.

The village of Signalnoye near Donetsk is being subjected to repeated shelling by the Ukrainian military. Over the past few weeks, the SMM has reported two victims there, including the death of one civilian. According to reports, five residential buildings in the village were damaged in a new shelling on May 5.

We consider these aggressive actions aimed at the escalation of tension and the intimidation of the civilian population in Donbass, as well as SMM observers, totally unacceptable.

We hope that the Mission will be able to fully and promptly clarify all these facts related to the aforementioned shelling, including the direction of the fire and the type of weapons used, in order to reflect them in its reports. We urge the SMM to intensify its efforts to help protect the civilian population in Donbass from the consequences of the Ukrainian army’s aggressive actions. This is also important for the OSCE’s own authority. It is advisable that the Mission resume the practice of publishing thematic reports on civilian casualties, as a necessary step and an important preventive measure.

The new casualties are the result of a lack of progress in the Minsk Contact Group’s efforts to have the parties reaffirm their commitment to the ceasefire and to introduce measures to support it. Donetsk and Lugansk have long expressed their readiness to comply, but Kiev has continued to delay and set more conditions for the ceasefire.

On May 5, Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky issued an executive order introducing changes to the negotiating team representing Ukraine in the Contact Group appointing the well-known Alexey Reznikov, Deputy Prime Minister for Reintegration, to one of its leading positions; in January, Reznikov publicly called for a revision of the Minsk agreements. The move was allegedly made to strengthen Kiev’s position within the Contact Group. Yet, it is obvious that the key to the success of any negotiations is not the regalia of their participants, but substantive work and a willingness to find acceptable solutions.

In particular, it is unclear how the changes in the Ukrainian side’s representation correlate with the idea of ​​establishing an Advisory Council within the Contact Group to discuss the political and legal aspects of the settlement with Donbass. As a reminder, this idea was written down in the minutes of the Contact Group meeting on March 11, 2020, signed by Head of the Office of the President of Ukraine Andrey Yermak along with the representatives of Donetsk and Lugansk. The document was also signed by Special Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office in Ukraine and in the Contact Group, Ambassador Heidi Grau. However, Kiev actually disavowed it later, refusing to approve an already agreed decision.

We are quite alarmed by the resumption of Ukrainian officials’ attempts to both undo the agreements reached at the Contact Group with the participation of Donbass representatives and squeeze out Donetsk and Lugansk from the negotiating process. Quite telling in this respect are the May 4 remarks made by Andrey Yermak, who acknowledged that the current representatives of Donetsk and Lugansk were “the only representatives” of the individual regions of Donbass during the entire six years of the negotiating process in Minsk. But in the same breath he declared that Ukraine would “never negotiate” with them. Moreover, he voiced certain criteria that were being put forward by Kiev, based on which he expected that the Donbass representatives at the Contact Group would be replaced with more convenient figures. This poses the following reasonable question: Whom did the Ukrainian official representatives negotiate and coordinate decisions with in Minsk during all this time? And why have these speculations surfaced precisely now, when Kiev’s inconsistent policies have driven almost the entire negotiating process into an impasse? How should we receive such declarations? As a statement on the withdrawal from the negotiating process with Donbass, a process envisaged by the Minsk agreements? Should we remind them that the representatives of the self-proclaimed republics of Donbass are signatories of the Minsk agreements, specifically the Minsk Package of Measures of February 12, 2015, approved by the UN Security Council?

It is not surprising that the participants in the April 30 videoconference of the Normandy Four foreign ministers stated that the situation was unsatisfactory on practically all the tracks of crisis settlement in Ukraine. This also refers to the implementation of the Paris package of instructions issued by the Normandy format summit of December 9, 2019. The sides managed to carry out just one of several assignments and only partially at that. I am referring to the exchange of detainees. Incidentally, the Humanitarian Working Group at the Minsk Contact Group is almost the only body that has achieved at least some progress in recent time. But, as confirmed by yesterday’s briefing of its coordinator, Toni Frisch, the Kiev representatives demonstrate a lack of political will to advance further in a number of areas at this Working Group as well.

Against this background, the situation in the country as a whole is also uncomforting. The Ukrainian Orthodox Church is still confronted with grave problems. Its clergy and parishioners have to endure unprecedented pressure. Apart from a wave of arsons at churches and monasteries that swept the country in April, there are unending attempts to seize parishes by force. On May 4, for example, about forty radicals, many of them wearing balaclavas, attempted to take over the Archistratigus Michael Church in the village of Zadubrovka, Zastavnovsky District, Chernovtsy Region. They beat up and tried to intimidate peaceful parishioners. As a result, at least three of them were taken to hospital and one was stabbed in the head. Despite this, the police, who arrived at the scene of the incident, failed to detain the attackers. We expect the SMM to monitor these incidents and reflect them in its reports. It is also necessary to make the Ukrainian authorities respond promptly to these outrages and investigate them efficiently.

Besides, it looks like the former authorities’ policy of concealing the truth about high-profile political crimes has not changed since the new authorities took over in 2019. An indicative fact is a recent interview by one Vladimir Parasyuk, an active participant in the Kiev coup in February 2014. He openly admitted that jointly with a team of accomplices he had committed a collective crime by firing at the riot police in Kiev. Moreover, he confessed that the former Ukrainian Prosecutor General, Yury Lutsenko, had helped all of them to avoid criminal liability and “hid the files.” It is also highly telling that the current Ukrainian law enforcement system has no questions to ask him either. Judging by all appearances, Kiev is not concerned with establishing the truth about the events on the Maidan that involved mass-scale executions.

One more tragedy took place six years ago on May 2 – the heinous crime in the House of Trade Unions in Odessa. Instead of commemorating those who were killed in the radicals’ rampage under the slogan of Ukrainian national exceptionalism, the Kiev diplomats have launched a demagogical campaign to shift the responsibility for that carnage onto Russia. We are not going to comment on these unhealthy allegations. But the fact is that the crime has not been properly investigated despite the numerous video evidence and eyewitness testimonies that put the blame directly on the radicals. Nobody has been called to account. Needless to say, the low politicking, which is being used to divert attention from the failure of the Ukrainian authorities and law enforcers to investigate the Odessa tragedy, cannot make up for the pain of loss suffered by the victims’ families and friends or satisfy their craving to know the truth about the tragedy.

Mr Chairperson,

Our meeting is being held ahead of the 75th anniversary of Victory in WWII. This date is an opportunity to think about the lessons of history, in particular, the unacceptability of the revival of the man-hating ideology based on national exceptionalism. Regrettably, the current realities in Ukraine include numerous examples of aggressive nationalism and neo-Nazism. At the same time, history shows that lasting peace and social accord can only be based on the rejection of radical nationalism and on social development based on equal respect for the rights and interests of all social and ethnic groups in these societies. We hope that the Ukrainian authorities will choose this path for their country’s development.

Thank you.




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4116809






Permanent Representative of Russia to the Council of Europe Ivan Soltanovsky’s interview with Izvestia newspaper, published on May 8, 2020



8 May 2020 - 22:46







Question:

The 75th anniversary of Victory is one of this year’s key topics that has become the focus point for the Russian diplomacy over the past months. The Council of Europe was among the multilateral institutions that were brought to life by the idea of creating the “United States of Europe.” It was designed to promote a “closer union” of its members. Has the 75th anniversary offered an occasion for CE members to review the current state of the Organisation and change the way it works?



Ivan Soltanovsky:

The Council of Europe was established in 1949, shortly after the end of WWII. Those who stood at its origins believed that creating a common legal space with strong human rights protection mechanisms would provide a path toward averting similar tragedies from occurring in the future. The Organisation had noble ideas at its core. If we look at what the Council achieved since then, and ask ourselves whether it attained unity among its member countries, my answer would be yes and no at the same time. In the Council of Europe’s vision, human beings and their rights and freedoms reign supreme. This is a valid idea, and we subscribed to it. The Council of Europe drafted dozens of useful conventions that we joined. In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, we see that countries have been committed to these values, as many CE members took painful measures in order to save lives, which resulted in major economic damage.

At the same time, we have seen attempts to highjack the human rights agenda for political purposes. We believe that using human rights as a pretext for casting discredit on countries (including ours) with an independent foreign policy is unacceptable. Of course, we also oppose those who focus exclusively on political human rights, even if they are also important. The global pandemic has aggravated many other challenges as well related to healthcare, social safety and education. We need to make these matters a priority for the Council of Europe.

At this point, the Organisation faces the following question: Will it become a venue for settling political scores or will it offer a positive agenda? I believe that this will test the Council of Europe’s capacity to reinvent itself on a sound basis.



Question:

Do your colleagues from other permanent missions share this view?



Ivan Soltanovsky:

We made this call at the first meeting of permanent representatives that was held via videoconference. As a result, despite some challenges, on April 22 we agreed on a declaration on fighting the pandemic. It is a framework document, but its significance is related to the fact that the Council of Europe supported the efforts being made by all its member states to fight this novel infection and, even more importantly, stated the need for member states to combine their efforts in fighting the coronavirus. While this may be self-evident for us, issuing this collective call on behalf of the Council of Europe is vitalconsidering the atomisation of Europe, while Russia is under pressure from sanctions, which is especially outrageous against the backdrop of the global pandemic threat that is far from being behind us.



Question:

Does this mean that lifting sanctions against Russia is not on the agenda?



Ivan Soltanovsky:

No, this is not something that is being discussed. Let me remind you that the Council of Europe did not impose any sanctions on Russia so far.



Question:

Pyotr Tolstoi, who heads the Russian delegation to PACE, asked the Council of Europe to carry out a review of what its members had done during the pandemic. As far as I can see, this includes both measures to fight COVID, as well as what the countries will do once the epidemic subsides. Are there any discussions within the Council of Europe on the gradual lifting of quarantine restrictions and measures to promote economic recovery?



Ivan Soltanovsky:

Mr Tolstoi made a very reasonable proposal. We need to share our best practices. This is the kind of a positive agenda I have been talking about. The economic factor is not a priority for the Council of Europe, since most of its conventions are related to human rights and legal matters. There is, however, the European Social Charter, a very important document without question. Quite a few of my colleagues want to place a bigger emphasis on social matters.



Question:

PACE was scheduled to hold its summer session between June 22 and 26, but as far as I am aware there was a decision to postpone it.



Ivan Soltanovsky:

The decision to postpone the session until better days, i.e., until the autumn, was adopted on April 30. However, everything will depend on how quickly the epidemiological situation improves. It is absolutely essential for us that all 47 national delegations attend the session.



Question:

Is there a threat that someone will refuse to attend, for example as was the case with the Ukrainian delegation last autumn?



Ivan Soltanovsky:

In the case of the Ukrainian delegation it was the choice of this country that found itself in a tight spot. They were campaigning against discrimination they were allegedly facing, while no one discriminated against them. This is simply a question of getting delegations to Strasbourg despite the closed borders and suspended air service.



Question:

You said that the summer session was postponed. Does this mean that there will be two sessions in the autumn?



Ivan Soltanovsky:

So far we are talking about two sessions: the summer session has been tentatively scheduled to take place in September, and there will also be an October session. But things are changing quickly over here. It remains to be seen whether national delegations agree to this.



Question:

During PACE’s winter meetings we saw repercussions of the conflict that unfolded over the past years on Russia’s participation. It became clear at the time that the Russian delegation has recovered its rights for good. Will this fact, together with the pandemic, automatically remove this conflict from the agenda?



Ivan Soltanovsky:

I very much hope so, but to be quite honest with you, I doubt it. Radicals from the Ukrainian, British and Baltic delegations can get publicity only by exploiting the topic of confirming the credentials of the Russian parliamentarians. Unfortunately, this did not go anywhere. So far I have not seen any signs that the most radical PACE members were ready to give up on this approach, even in the context of the pandemic. We have to be realistic about this.



Question:

The pandemic broke out during Georgia’s Council presidency. The May meeting of the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers had to be held in Strasbourg rather than in Tbilisi due to the complicated Russia-Georgia relations. Now it has been postponed until November altogether, and will take place in Athens under the Greek presidency. Does this mean that Georgia’s presidency failed?



Ivan Soltanovsky:

It is true that there was a decision to hold the Committee of Ministers in Athens on November 4, but I would not go as far as to say that the Georgian presidency was a failure. The pandemic prevented Tbilisi from carrying out its programme. The decision to transfer the May meeting from Tbilisi to Strasbourg was caused by Georgia’s internal disputes rather than the state of our bilateral relations. This aspect played a key role.



Question:

So the Russian factor did not give rise to these disputes?



Ivan Soltanovsky:

It is up to the Georgian society and leadership to find a way to overcome the country’s internal differences. As a country that assumed the presidency of the Council of Europe, Georgia said from the outset that it intended to host the ministerial meeting in Tbilisi and was consistently pushing for having its own way. As we have seen, this brought about an intense political debate within the country with all kinds of speculation regarding the Russian factor. Of course, we had nothing to do with this, and will never become involved. In the end, the Georgian authorities withdrew their invitation.



Question:

Will Georgia get a chance to make up for it by hosting events that were cancelled due to the pandemic without waiting for its next turn? Or will it have to wait for 20 years until it gets the rotating presidency once again?



Ivan Soltanovsky:

The presidency will be handed over to Greece on May 15. Georgia is carrying out some of its initiatives, and will try to complete its presidency on a positive note. After that the rotational mechanisms come into play and they will have to wait for their turn.



Question:

In early April, Council of Europe Secretary General Marija Pejcinovic Buric said that the Organisation was engaged in a dialogue with Russia on the amendments to the Constitution regarding the supremacy of national law over international norms. How are these consultations unfolding, and why do both sides need them?



Ivan Soltanovsky:

Let me begin by specifying that this is not a question of prioritising national law to the detriment of international law. This refers to Article 15 of the Constitution whereby universally-recognised principles and norms of international law and international treaties and agreements of the Russian Federation are part of its legal system. If an international treaty or agreement of the Russian Federation establishes other rules than those envisaged by law, the rules of the international agreement are applied. There are no plans to amend this article. At the same time, we are seeing that international bodies are increasingly inclined to follow a broad interpretation of their mandate and to adopt politicised decisions. We want to defend ourselves from this kind of abuse.

Within the Council of Europe, the Commission for Democracy through Law, often referred to as the Venice Commission, is the main expert body in this dialogue. It is composed of one international law expert from each member country. So far, the Commission has been requested to prepare an opinion on the new wording for Article 79, and is not working on any other amendments to the Russian Constitution.

In March 2020, the Venice Commission representatives visited Moscow and met with the co-chairs of the working group tasked with drafting constitutional amendments. As far as we are aware, they were satisfied with this dialogue. The report was scheduled to be discussed at the Commission’s March session, but it was cancelled. So far, the June meeting is on the calendar, but it remains to be seen whether it will actually take place.



Question:

Does this mean that if a decision taken in Russia is at odds with the recommendations issued by the Council of Europe, Russia’s internal position will take precedence over the Council’s point of view?



Ivan Soltanovsky:

I would not put it this way. Of course, we will proceed from the premise that our national interests have priority. The fact that it will be the people of Russia who will decide on amending the Constitution in a national vote is a matter of principle for us. However, we are committed to using dialogue in order to make our position quite clear to Council of Europe bodies. These contacts regarding the Constitution are fundamentally important not only for us, but also for the Council of Europe that must respect the national law of its member countries, especially when it comes to constitutional norms.



Question:

Russia had to postpone the May 9 Victory parade due to the pandemic. How did the Council of Europe intend to mark this day, and what will be done with the lockdown in place?



Ivan Soltanovsky:

The coronavirus has certainly changed the way this day will be marked in Strasbourg. During the spring sessions of PACE and the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities we wanted to have the Kaliningrad History and Arts Museum’s photo exhibitions Girls Go to War and Flying the Same Skies. In late April Strasbourg was to have been the venue of concert given by the Tavrichesky symphonic orchestra from the Leningrad Region who were to have performed Dmitry Shostakovich’s Leningrad Symphony. We also have a tradition of holding the Immortal Regiment march here, and I always take part in it with a portrait of my grandfather, also Ivan Soltanovsky, who fought throughout the war and was in Prague at the time of Victory. For PACE’s June session we worked with the Museum of Contemporary History of the Russian Historical Society to prepare an exhibition on anti-Nazi resistance in Europe. We will definitely hold all these events later on, once the coronavirus is behind us.

Until then, I will join my colleagues, including Russia’s Consul General in Strasbourg Yury Solovyov and permanent representatives of the CIS countries, to visit the Southern Cemetery in Strasbourg to pay tribute to Red Army soldiers who died in captivity. We also launched a hashtag #CoEWeRemember and asked our colleagues to share their thoughts on the 75th anniversary of Victory and family memories about the war. Everyone is welcome to join this initiative.



Question:

The topic of WWII is essential for Russian diplomacy and for the Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation in particular. How important is it for your colleagues among German and French diplomats?



Ivan Soltanovsky:

The vision of the WWII lessons varies from one country to another. Of course, our positions are very close with those of Azerbaijan, Armenia, Belarus and Kazakhstan, who all have their permanent representatives here in Strasbourg. Other permanent representatives also take part in our initiatives. There are quite a few people here whose relatives experienced the tragedy of WWII. Our efforts resonate with the Youth Centre of the Council of Europe that works with Russia’s National Council of Children’s and Young People’s Associations on holding workshops on preserving the historical memory. In addition to this, efforts are now underway to draft a partial agreement on teaching history in Europe, initiated by France and supported by 23 countries. We would like to create a platform not only for expert discussions, but also for enabling secondary school teachers to exchange best practices on teaching history.



Question:

Russian MPs opened the Declaration on WWII for signing during PACE’s winter session. How many people signed this document and why does it matter?



Ivan Soltanovsky:

As far as I know, 77 parliamentarians signed this declaration, and the signature list has not been finalised. It will be open for signing until the next session. In this document, we articulated a common approach to WWII based on the verdicts of the Nuremberg trials. This is the only way we can overcome pan-continental challenges. Otherwise, there is a risk that the East-West and North-South divides will remain in place in the future.




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4116819
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Statement by the Foreign Ministry concerning US attempts to rewrite the history of the Victory over Nazism



10 May 2020 - 16:22



Attempts to distort the results of the defeat of Nazism and the decisive contribution our country made, which are continuing in Washington even during these days of universal celebration of the 75th anniversary of Victory, cause utter indignation.

In this context we cannot neglect the commentary posted on the White House pages in social networks where the victory over Nazi Germany is credited exclusively to “America and Great Britain.” On the eve of this sacred holiday US officials could not garner the courage and will to even in passing pay tribute to the indisputable role and incomparable colossal losses suffered back then by the Red Army and the Soviet people for the sake of the humankind. Remarks by US official representatives turned out to be extremely restrained.

Regretfully, such an attitude is in apparent contrast with the statement made Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump on April 25 on the occasion of the historic meeting of Soviet and US soldiers on the Elbe in 1945.

The document stresses the joint efforts of our nations in the fight against a common enemy.

We proceed from the assumption that real historical facts may not be ignored, regardless of feelings towards both the Soviet Union, which liberated the world from the brown plague, and our country of today. This is evidenced not only by the numerous grounded responses to the White House tweets from Russians and also from Americans who know their history and people from around the world. It is indicative that their reasonable and fact-based comments are being regularly deleted. And this is being done in the “most democratic country,” which tirelessly proclaims its “adherence to freedom of speech”!

The topic of the scared deeds of the older generation in that war must not turn into another problem in bilateral relations, which are going through hard times as it is. Russia and the US, despite disagreements, can counter ever-increasing present-day challenges on the basis of trust, mutual respect and while taking into account each other’s interests.

We intend to have a serious conversation on this issue with US officials.




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4117753






Press release on Turkmenistan’s humanitarian aid to Russia



10 May 2020 - 16:52



As part of the cooperation between the Russian Federation and Turkmenistan based on the principles of strategic partnership, the Turkmenistan authorities have delivered 1,000 tonnes of humanitarian cargo to the Russian side. The donation includes high-quality Turkmen goods, including textiles, construction material and food.

The Russian side greatly appreciates this gesture of friendship and neighbourliness, which is especially valuable during such a difficult situation caused by the global pandemic of the novel coronavirus.

Turkmenistan’s aid will be transferred to medical facilities, first of all those that are counteracting the spread of the coronavirus, as well as to the organisations that provide social support to citizens from the COVID-19 risk groups.




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4117763






Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova’s answer to a media question about the EU-Western Balkans summit



12 May 2020 - 15:57



Question:

Can you comment please on the outcome of the EU-Western Balkans summit, which took place on May 6, 2020 via video conference? In particular, President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen said during a press conference following the summit that “the Western Balkans belong in the EU,” while Andrej Plenkovic, the Prime Minister of Croatia, which currently holds the rotating presidency of the Council of the European Union, said: “If we look at geography, there is nowhere else they [the Balkan countries] can go.”



Maria Zakharova:

The essence and tone of these comments have reaffirmed once again that the EU continues to look at the Western Balkans as an exclusive zone of its geopolitical responsibility, something of which it accused others before.

Another piece of evidence regarding this are some of the formulas sealed in the so-called Zagreb Declaration adopted following the video summit. It is difficult to understand the reasons for including certain phrases into the declaration, which the Western Balkan countries were invited to sign, according to which the support and cooperation provided by the EU in the fight against the coronavirus goes far beyond what any other partner has provided. In our opinion, the politicisation of the international efforts against the pandemic is unacceptable and is making one wonder about the selflessness of the EU support.

It is also alarming that EU conditions for progress at the accession talks with the candidate countries include an increasingly open demand that they strictly comply with the EU foreign policy recommendations, even though these recommendations are developed without these countries’ involvement and therefore cannot ensure full respect for their legitimate interests. The Western Balkan countries are expected to actively contribute to the EU campaign against “disinformation” and other “hybrid activities.” The Western Balkan countries’ adherence to EU values, rules and standards is unambiguously presented as a condition for their further rapprochement, including the provision of pre-accession assistance. This can hardly be seen as anything other than open blackmail. This also makes one wonder about the EU’s commitment to the Copenhagen criteria of accession, adopted in 1993, which prioritise the stability of institutions guaranteeing democracy in the candidate countries rather than their foreign policies.

We call on the EU to respect the Balkan countries and not to usurp their right to determine their development vector, policy and cooperation with other countries.




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4119995






Article by the Permanent Representative of Russia to the EU Vladimir Chizhov "The choice is always yours" on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the Victory, abridged version published in the "EUobserver" on May 8, 2020



12 May 2020 - 20:31







Recently, on the eve of the approaching 75th anniversary of the Great Victory in the Second World War, one can often hear the EU Brussels talking about the need and importance of historical truth. We could not agree more – should such cardboard shield not hide every now and then unworthy attempts to downplay the role of the Soviet Union and its nations who sacrificed 27 million lives for Victory, to equate Nazism to Communism and furthermore to accuse the USSR of having unleashed this appalling tragedy of the 20th century. Thereby I am sure that Europeans deserve the genuine truth based on actual documented facts of history and should have the choice of a free person – either to remain victims of endless brainwashing, or to formulate their own critical position on hows and whys of the modern world order. In January 2020 Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that our country will open a Centre of Archive Documents related to the history of the Second World War that will certainly enable all those interested in understanding historical processes to see documents with their own eyes, including in English, French and German. It will start operation soon. In the meantime, an unprecedented avalanche of open lies about my country and its history sweeping over the European public opinion on the eve of the sacred date of 9 May makes me remove my pen-lid today.

Our Anglo-Saxon partners were immediately dissatisfied with the architecture of international relations established following the Second World War and, without even waiting for the smoke of battle fires to disperse, started reframing the fragile balance in the world in their own favour, thus marking the end to the alliance spirit between powers of the anti-Hitler coalition forged, in spite of all the political differences and ideological incompatibilities of its members, in fighting together the Axis countries united by ideas of hatred towards mankind.

The accepted story is that the speech given on 5 March 1946 by the then former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri, the home state of US President Harry Truman, heralded the beginning of the Cold War. But it is a misconception. It was preceded by Operation Unthinkable elaborated by the UK back in 1945 which envisaged plans of a war to be waged by the US and Great Britain against the USSR, and American Plan Totality developed on the personal order of Harry Truman after the atomic bombings of Japanese Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945, to carry out nuclear attacks against 17 major Soviet cities and industrial centres.

Winston Churchill’s programme statement requires a review within today’s context for yet another reason – its templates are still used in attempts to build a world order enlisting new recruits to confront “totalitarian and authoritarian regimes” and defend the achievements of Western democracy whose forbidden fruits citizens of many countries remain deprived of. The blood and death flavour of the latter are well known to people of former Yugoslavia, Iraq, Syria and Libya who were actively encouraged to acquire the notorious values with the help of NATO air attacks – this way they are probably better digested.

In the above-mentioned speech Winston Churchill named the USSR the main source of international difficulties and today the West applies it to Russia with an ease it is used to. Take, for instance, the blatant disinformation campaign launched in connection with unification of Crimea with Russia, the fabricated “Scripals case”, pseudo-proceedings on causes of downing of Malaysian Boeing MH-17 flight with culprits defined in advance, horror stories of alleged Russian interference in democratic processes either in the US, or in Europe that have not been confirmed. But the bitter pill prepared for my country would have been absolutely inedible had it not been sweetened time and again by an invitation “to establish people-to-people contacts and take its rightful place among the leading nations of the world”. Actually, the exact nature of that place was not precised. Yet, the dramatic experience of the 1990s does not leave room to any doubt – it would have been a carefully prepared comfortable one. A small thing would have been required in return – a total surrender of national interests. Well, we had previous experience of falling into the trap naïve by listening to assurances of non-enlargement of NATO and then of its non-eastwards character.

In the 1990s, the same way as on the eve of the Second World War when it had been busy appeasing the aggressor and diligently retargeting Hitler’s war machine against the USSR, the collective West missed its historic chance to establish a transparent system of equal and indivisible security in Europe and undermined the key asset – trust that just started to reappear after long years of the Cold War. Quite the opposite, notions continued to be actively substituted. A “rules – based world order” was invented to replace international law. The warning issued by Vladimir Putin in his Munich speech of 10 February 2007 that unilateral world order cannot exist was ignored. Instead, mankind was served a concept of “multilaterality” – a kind of surrogate for multipolarity promoted by key world powers, including BRICS members – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

Denying the existence of a multipolar world with equal and responsible actors building their relations on the basis of trust and respect for sovereignty is already costing the European Union dearly. On the one hand, the EU tries to become a centre of global power, while on the other, for the sake of maintaining loyalty to trans-Atlantic bonds, multiplies unilateral sanctions destructive to its own economy and revenues of many European producers. And by the way, one can barely hear the truth that the US unlike the EU, Russia’s trading partner number one, did not suffer too much from the restrictions and continues to invest in Russian economy. Playing with sanctions has already boomeranged on the EU when Washington punished European businesses for participating in implementing a project aimed at ensuring European energy security – "Nord Stream 2". Russia, by contrast, is obviously interested in having the EU as a powerful and independent player on the international arena, capable of acting on its own and promoting mutually beneficial cooperation for the benefit of the population of its Member States. An EU capable of developing its own security guarantees based on trust – instead of ones rented from NATO. An EU capable of healing its own wounds rather than picking those of others around the world. An EU that would not be senselessly searching for a “fifth column” and imaginary foreign enemies. An EU capable of stopping interference in third countries’ affairs that triggers outbursts of terrorism and catastrophic migration problems for Europe. So, basically an EU that would live according to its own agenda rather than an imposed one. In today’s world it is the only way to regain one’s sovereignty and lost values that are in a deep crisis, as Europeans themselves acknowledge. So, there is room for reflection for the EU that often portrays its set of values as a “golden standard” for others.

Russia, for its part, recently managed to successfully exit a painful period of its history when it was lacking self-assurance, learned the necessary lessons and thus is again able to act as a leading world power. This is also the source of much needed changes in the Russian Constitution aimed at strengthening social guaranties and the family institution, as well as providing, like in many countries of the world, for the priority of its Basic Law over arbitrary interpretation of international treaties.

Russia is not acting against anyone on the international stage. My country defends its own sovereignty and interests, building trustworthy relations of mutual respect with its partners. It is our choice that makes a significant contribution to reviving collective security in Europe and beyond. We expect the EU, as a responsible and important actor in international relations, to make its own sovereign choice. It is simply our duty to provide next generations of Europeans with a safe world free of the danger of new military conflicts. I find it crucial to reiterate this point on the eve of a glorious anniversary – 75 years of the Great Victory. Therefore, we need to trust each other and cooperate. The choice always remains with every responsible participant of international relations. And Russia always leaves the doors open to dialogue on an equal footing.




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4120409






Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s opening remarks and answers to questions at a news conference following the meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers of the Commonwealth of Independent States via video conference, Moscow, May 12, 2020



12 May 2020 - 20:53






We have just concluded a meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). It took place via video conference for the first time because of the coronavirus pandemic. It was chaired by Foreign Minister of Uzbekistan Abdulaziz Kamilov.

We noted, and this was the first item on our agenda, that this year is special. It is the 75th anniversary of Victory in the Great Patriotic War. In the CIS, it has been declared the Year of the Great Victory. We paid particular attention to this theme. All of our partners spoke about the importance of maintaining the memory of our fathers and grandfathers, and the need to resist attempts to falsify and rewrite history. After the Address by the CIS Heads of State on the Victory in the 1941 ̶ 1945 Great Patriotic War, which was adopted at the summit in Ashgabat last year, our permanent representatives to the CIS issued a statement on preserving the historical memory and historical legacy. In Vienna on May 7, a joint statement was released by a number of OSCE countries on the 75th anniversary of Victory in the Great Patriotic War.

It is very important that the ceremony of awarding the anniversary medal “75 years of victory in the 1941 ̶ 1945 Great Patriotic War” was timed to Victory Day as a sign of gratitude and respect for our veterans. Despite the coronavirus related circumstances, awards ceremonies for veterans took place in all CIS countries in one form or another.

The spread of the coronavirus infection was another item on our agenda. The situation is seriously affecting many aspects of international relations and the activities of multilateral and regional organisations. By and large, in geopolitical terms, this situation is testing the ability of states and their associations to pool their efforts during a crisis. We noted that generally the CIS is responding promptly to changing realities and is developing coordinated steps to counter the pandemic. The Coordinating Council on the Sanitary Protection of Territories of the CIS Member States from the Import and Spread of Particularly Dangerous Infectious Diseases established by the CIS some time ago, before the coronavirus infection, is operating as designed. Two Coordinating Council meetings have been held in March and April of this year and another regular meeting is planned for this month. The Coordinating Council has set up a working group on monitoring the current situation.

Today, we agreed to continue upgrading these mechanisms and improving CIS rules and regulations on preventing and countering infectious diseases. In this context, we agreed to expedite the work on two draft agreements proposed by Rospotrebnadzor: on cooperation between the CIS member countries in sanitary protection of territories of the CIS member states and on preventing and responding to sanitary-epidemiological emergencies in public healthcare.

We supported the Republic of Uzbekistan’s proposal to submit our document on further steps to counter the spread of the coronavirus infection and overcoming the consequences of the pandemic to the CIS Heads of Government meeting scheduled for May 29.

We certainly need to assess the total effects of the pandemic on international life, but one conclusion is evident even now – the crisis has shown yet again that we are interconnected and interdependent.

An increasing number of transborder threats are spreading around the world regardless of any measures taken nationally. This is why it is necessary to join efforts and search for collective approaches to relationship building to be able to combat threats that defy borders, with this kind of a pandemic among them now. In this context we spoke in a fairly detailed manner of the role played by the UN system and its specialised agencies including the World Health Organisation (WHO). A proposal was put forward to hold a meeting sometime soon of CIS countries and respective WHO departments in order to analyse the latest experience gained in fighting this threat.

We once again pointed out – and our partners agreed – the need to arrange collaboration and to rise above fleeting opportunistic differences and above zero-sum geopolitical games. We talked about this with regard to the global threats of terrorism, drug trafficking and other forms of organised crime, and the threat of WMD proliferation. Now we also have the pandemic. By the way, climate change is also a transborder challenge. This is the reason all our CIS partners support the need to unite rather than to try using situations like the current disaster for furthering geopolitical goals. We will continue analysing the current situation and agree on approaches that will make it possible for us to tackle cross-border threats in the CIS space more effectively in future.

We reviewed the interaction of our foreign ministries in the last year and approved a schedule for meetings between the CIS foreign ministries in 2020. These meetings are likely to begin soon, initially via video conference. We approved a number of documents on enhancing integration relations in different areas: cultural and humanitarian, education, youth, tourism, defence and security, and cooperation between law enforcement agencies. They will be submitted for consideration by the CIS Heads of Government Council. As I mentioned, the council is to meet on May 29 of this year, also via video conference. Some of these documents will be submitted to the CIS Heads of State Council scheduled for October 16 in Tashkent. We will hold the next meeting of the CIS Council of Foreign Ministers a day earlier, on October 15.







Question:

You spoke about collective action and the importance of coordinating the CIS countries’ efforts against the coronavirus. At a glance, they seem to be all at sixes and sevens. Turkmenistan has not admitted having any coronavirus cases at all, and the Belarusian authorities refuse to take any serious measures against the infection. The EU has been criticised over its failure to effectively take even joint action. How would you describe the CIS countries’ actions? Have you coordinated any joint efforts to create a vaccine?



Sergey Lavrov:

It is mostly the EU itself that claims it is being criticised without good reason. The EU has created the East StratCom Task Force, which is focused on finding external enemies, those who have tried to question the EU’s ability to respond to such challenges. The finger has been pointed, quite logically, at Russia, China and several other countries.

I cannot recall – and you probably cannot either – any Russian official saying that the EU has been inefficient in the fight against the pandemic. We stand together with the EU, as well as with all the other countries in this battle, and we are providing support to the EU countries that have demonstrated their interest in this. We have also accepted assistance from other countries, including EU members. You may be aware that we have also accepted assistance and support from the United States.

I believe it would be wrong at this time, when we are facing a common enemy and should help and support each other, to attempt to use the situation for settling any scores or to use unfair methods to secure better conditions for oneself in the post-virus period.

As for the CIS, I would not describe the situation as confusing and being at sixes and sevens. Yes, there are some specific features, which you mentioned. However, I would like to note that the CIS has the Coordinating Council on the Sanitary Protection of Territories from the Import and Spread of Particularly Dangerous Infectious Diseases. It has brought together all the CIS countries, which have access to its information. The council met twice in March and April to discuss the coronavirus infection. The next meeting has been scheduled for May, and special task groups have been established at the council.

I would like to point out that the council was set up several years ago now, because we traditionally pay considerable attention to preventing the spread and overcoming the consequences of infectious diseases. It was back during the Ebola outbreak. Russia is one the countries at the UN and WHO that proposed a proactive approach against infectious as well as non-infectious diseases. Acting at the initiative of Rospotrebnadzor, we have submitted two draft agreements, which we hope will be discussed at a meeting of the CIS Heads of Government Council on May 29: an agreement on cooperation in the sanitary protection of the CIS territories and an agreement on cooperation of the CIS member states to prevent and respond to sanitary and epidemiological emergencies.

I believe these are serious moves. Our colleagues in the related ministries and agencies could tell you more about their efforts, but in my opinion, it is not press coverage but the real efforts that matter.



Question:

Will the borders, primarily with the CIS countries, be opened?



Sergey Lavrov:

It is the purview of the sanitary authorities, not the Foreign Ministry.

Today we held in-depth discussions on the assistance we are providing to each other. Russia has supplied test kits and equipment for detecting the coronavirus, while our partners have made vital support proposals, including for the delivery of humanitarian aid which some Russian regions may need. We are working closely together on bringing our citizens back home. We are helping our partners, who are also helping us. For example, Belarusian air carriers have brought Russian citizens back to Russia. Russian air carriers are bringing Russian, Belarusian and Ukrainian citizens back to their home countries.

Yesterday we decided on the question of bringing a five-year old Russian citizen, who was in an awkward situation, back from Tashkent. Six hours before departure – the aircraft took off at 7 in the morning, Foreign Minister of Uzbekistan Abdulaziz Kamilov and I coordinated the matter with our aviation authorities and the Russian Embassy, so that this Russian citizen, who actually lives in the Tula Region, could return to his home country.

Maybe we should tell the public more about all this, but we are now focused on practical action so that fewer of our citizens endure any further inconvenience.



Question:

Much has been said about the tweet by the White House that caused quite a stir by alleging that the United States and Great Britain won victory in WWII, while failing to mention the Soviet Union. How would you comment on this? The Foreign Ministry has already promised to have a serious talk with its US colleagues. What would this be like? What do you expect? Is there any end to this?



Sergey Lavrov:

This is a sad story, especially considering the fact that just a few weeks ago, on April 25, President of Russia Vladimir Putin and US President Donald Trump issued a joint statement commemorating the 75th anniversary of the Meeting on the Elbe. It set forth their principled vision of Victory and the way it shaped today’s world. In the statement, the two presidents also recognised the need to maintain close ties (ideally allied relations) to confront the challenges that transcend borders and nations.

You have mentioned serious processes that have been unfolding in the international media space for some time now, if not years. When the ceremony to commemorate Holocaust victims took place in Jerusalem on January 27, 2020, all the speakers (President of Russia Vladimir Putin, as well as President of France Emmanuel Macron, President of Israel Reuven Rivlin and Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu) talked about the Soviet Union making a decisive contribution to Victory in WWII, and specifically to the liberation of Auschwitz. In fact, it was the day when the Red Army freed Auschwitz that became International Holocaust Remembrance Day. With several thousand people present at this touching and solemn ceremony, US Vice-President Mike Pence astonished everyone. He did not mention the Soviet Union even once in his emotional and pretentious remarks. Speaking about the liberation of Auschwitz, he said that when soldiers opened the gates of Auschwitz on January 27, 1945, they were horrified by what they saw. All he said was “soldiers,” without saying a single word where these soldiers came from, from what army.

I am not surprised by statements like this. It is not that we suspect anyone among US politicians of intentionally obscuring history. As it turns out, this results from brainwashing that did not spare politicians. They did not develop immunity from propaganda that seeks to equate Nazis with those who liberated Europe from fascism, and claims that the Soviet Union bears as much responsibility for unleashing WWII as Nazi Germany.

I will mention only what has been heard or seen in the public space. Not so long ago, our French partners initiated a new project within the Council of Europe, tentatively calling it the “Observatory of history teaching in Europe.” They said (both President of France Emmanuel Macron and Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian have raised this topic) that the purpose of this project was not to develop a single vision of history but rather to create a common European memory or develop a common European sense of history. If we look at France’s position as the country that initiated this project, we can point to quite a few official statements made by the French Foreign Minister and President saying that the Nazi and Soviet occupation first coincided in some European countries, and then succeeded to one another.

In February 2020, President of France Emmanuel Macron attended a ceremony in Krakow commemorating the liberation of Auschwitz, a Nazi concentration camp. In his remarks, he went through the tragic pages of Polish history, starting with the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact. This is a separate topic. I will not go into reaffirming our position on this matter. Later in his remarks, Emmanuel Macron talked about the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, the Warsaw Uprising, Auschwitz, Majdanek and Treblinka. As he listed the sufferings of the people of Poland, he suddenly mentioned the April 2010 tragic plane crash near Smolensk. I will spare you my comments or analysis on this. This is what our European colleagues are saying without any qualms. What kind of a signal are the leaders of this great country, France, sending, considering France’s own ambiguous history during WWII? What signal does this send to the young generation in Poland, in France and other countries?

We are all for shaping a European sense of history. However, if this boils down to the EU setting norms and principles, while others are expected to take their cues from them, this will not work, just as in many other cases when our European partners proposed initiatives for developing pan-European approaches, be it in cyber security, countering the spread of chemical weapons, or freedom of the media .

We are interested in devising a genuinely pan-European approach. After all, the OSCE shaped the post-war borders. We can hear official statements coming from France and a number of other European countries that these European capitals have never recognised “the illegal occupation of the Baltic republics by the USSR.” But how could Valery Giscard d’Estaing and other European leaders sign the Helsinki Final Act proclaiming that there was no alternative to the post-war order and the inviolability of post-war frontiers in Europe, and recognised the immutable nature of the political and territorial outcomes of WWII?

We will work closely with our French colleagues and all other partners in order to ensure that the very useful project that they initiated within the Council of Europe becomes truly unifying instead of exploiting the historical past for achieving today’s geopolitical objectives.



Question:

What will this MFA-announced “serious talk with its US colleagues” on this issue be like?



Sergey Lavrov:

It will be approximately what I am talking about now, and approximately what President of Russia Vladimir Putin told our CIS partners in December. He said that it was necessary to protect and safeguard the historical truth and historical memory, as well as to rule out a situation where young people in countries that had gone through WWII would be brought up in a spirit of betrayal of the heroic feat of valour committed by our fathers and our grandfathers.

Of course, we will not avoid discussing these topics. We will hold this conversation with the Americans. Regrettably, we do not have a joint entity that would tackle historical issues, a structure like the one we have created with Germany, Poland and Lithuania.

At today’s meeting of the CIS Council of Foreign Ministers, we said that it would be worthwhile to start encouraging contacts between historians not only on the bilateral basis (such contacts do exist) but also in the format of research institutes established in all the CIS countries. We will find a format [for conversing] with the Americans, where we will be able to pose these questions and listen to how they assess the current situation.

What we see is about very simple assertions, like [those intended] for CNN: just one liners that will easily sink into consciousness. As Mike Pence said in Jerusalem, “…Soldiers opened the gates of Auschwitz on January 27, 1945,” or as a White House tweet claimed, “On May 8, 1945, America and Great Britain had victory over the Nazis!” This is all, just one line! It lacks the text that would enable us to understand their train of thought. “Said this way, it should be this way.”

We will find a form [for talking to] our US colleagues. A few contacts with them are upcoming soon, including as regards strategic stability and global security. It will do us no harm to recall how these global problems and global security issues were addressed during WWII.



Question:

We would like to ask you about some of the Western media reports that appeared over the last week. They claim that Russian military have come to Venezuela to participate in a drone-assisted operation and that they have been flown in by a Russian aircraft that has delivered cargo with medicine to Venezuela. Are these reports true to fact? Are we prepared to help Caracas investigate the recent invasion involving militants from Colombia and, in general, to assist them in preventing similar illegal incursions into the country?



Sergey Lavrov:

All our contacts with Venezuela, with its legitimate government, are based on intergovernmental documents and agreements that have been ratified by the Venezuelan and Russian parliaments and have the force of law. This also refers to our military-technical cooperation (MTC) and the need to service the items that are delivered there as part of the MTC agreements. I am referring to our contractual obligations. Any other agreements between the related Russian and Venezuelan agencies are also sealed in an intergovernmental format and are also fully legitimate.

It goes without saying that we are helping Caracas, including by delivering humanitarian aid. There are cynical attempts to stifle Venezuela with sanctions; they are accusing President Nicolas Maduro’s government of being unable to feed their people. This is already beyond good and evil. Along with other countries, we are rendering humanitarian aid to Venezuela, including by supplying medicine. As far as other forms of collaboration are concerned, including the question you asked about conducting an investigation into the invasion of mercenaries in Venezuela, where they were supposed to stage acts of sabotage and terrorist attacks and to topple the legitimate president, Nicolas Maduro, our secret services are in contact regarding this matter. If a request for this sort of assistance, one based on relevant agreements, comes in, it will certainly be considered.



Question:

The UN Security Council has been mentioned several times today. Therefore, my question is, what is the main problem with the preparations for the video summit of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council? Do you know when approximately the summit may take place?



Sergey Lavrov:

Russia has been ready for this summit since late April. I have already commented on this topic. We supported French President Emmanuel Macron’s initiative who suggested that the five leaders must urgently discuss mobilising efforts of the global community to fight the coronavirus and to fight it more efficiently.

It was clarified that the initiative is not in any way competing with or replacing President Vladimir Putin’s initiative announced in January on holding a full-fledged full-scale summit of the five UN Security Council permanent members to cover all the global security and strategic stability issues. This summit may only be held in person. Right now, the logistics, organisational matters and the essence of the summit agenda are being discussed. As soon as we have a better understanding of how long it will be until the coronavirus problem is resolved, we will start making more specific plans with our partners. The matter of immediate urgency right now is, of course, mobilising the global community to fight the coronavirus more efficiently. We agree with French President Emmanuel Macron that, considering the authority of its members and, particularly, the responsibility vested in it by the UN Charter when it comes to combating and preventing global threats, of course, the five could, to the benefit of solving this problem and to the benefit of all the states in the world, gather and give an extra impetus to the decisions that were previously made by the UN General Assembly, G20 and the World Health Organisation. We presumed that all the five members are ready for this and understand that, before this videoconference opens, experts will approve a draft final statement by the five world leaders. Once again, Russia is ready to join this meeting any time. It was not us who had an issue with specific dates for these contacts. We are ready to offer our partners from the five every possible assistance with reaching consensus if it is all about specific wording of the draft final document. So far nobody in particular has told us about any such issues. But everybody agrees that the document must be adopted. If tomorrow the dates are announced, I am certain that President Vladimir Putin will find an opportunity to participate in this video conference. So, I would like to repeat that there is no problem on our part.




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4120428






Statement by the SCO Foreign Ministers Concerning the Spread of the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19)



13 May 2020 - 15:07



Foreign ministers of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation member states are deeply concerned about the dangerous spread of the novel coronavirus in the world, which continues to cause more human losses and significant socioeconomic damage. While stressing the responsibility of every state to ensure the sanitary and epidemiological wellbeing of the population, the ministers believe that fighting the COVID-19 pandemic requires decisive, well-coordinated and inclusive multilateral action with the United Nations system retaining its central role. In this context, the ministers noted efficient cooperation between the SCO and the WHO and other international organisations and associations fighting the coronavirus.

The ministers underscore the importance of the outcome of the emergency G20 summit aimed at protecting lives, restoring the stability of the global economy and stimulating its further sustainable growth. While relying on the UN General Assembly resolutions, adopted by consensus, on global solidarity and international cooperation against COVID-19, it is important to insist on UN-developed universal approaches to solving the above-stated tasks in accordance with international law, including creating free, just, non-discriminatory, transparent and stable conditions for trade and investment. The serious economic problems in developing countries caused by the pandemic require special attention.

The ministers note the efforts of the Session of Heads of Sanitary and Epidemiological Welfare Services of the SCO Member States aimed at implementing the June 10, 2018, Statement by the Heads of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation Member States on Joint Efforts Against the Threat of Epidemics in the SCO Space. They welcome the efficient mutual support which, on the basis of the Shanghai spirit, the SCO member states are offering each other during the COVID-19 pandemic with respect to providing their citizens with medical, social and other protection.

In order to ensure sanitary and epidemiological wellbeing and biological security in the region, the ministers find it reasonable to adopt a comprehensive action plan for the SCO member states at the upcoming SCO summit in St Petersburg which will, among other things, provide for increasing the capacity of laboratories, improving the qualifications of specialists, conducting joint scientific research, and developing vaccines and efficient medical treatments.

May 13, 2020




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4121386






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



13 May 2020 - 15:39



A terrorist attack on a hospital was committed in Kabul on May 12 killing 14 people, including two newborn infants, and injuring many others.

We strongly condemn this barbaric crime. It is hardly possible to call those who committed this act human. We express our condolences to the families and friends of the victims, and wish a speedy recovery to the injured.

We note that the Taliban’s leaders vehemently denied any involvement in this terrorist attack. Judging by how this act was carried out, there is a high degree of probability it was committed by the international terrorist group ISIS, which has repeatedly committed similar inhuman acts in the Shiite neighbourhoods of Afghanistan’s capital.

We urge all warring parties in the Afghan conflict and the international coalition to find the perpetrators and hold them responsible. Every effort must be made to stop the pain and suffering that ISIS brings with it and to prevent the creation of a terrorist stronghold in Afghanistan.




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4121532






Minister Sergey Lavrov’s statement and answers to media questions at a news conference following a video conference of foreign ministers of the SCO Member States, May 13, 2020



13 May 2020 - 19:02






We have just completed the SCO Member States foreign ministers’ video conference where we discussed the general state of affairs in the region and the world and the SCO priority goals in connection with the spread and consequences of the novel coronavirus infection. We thanked our colleagues for supporting the Russian chairmanship’s proposal to hold this SCO foreign minister extraordinary meeting on this sensitive and important topic.

Today, we noted that the pandemic had dramatically changed the daily routines of the people and had significantly impacted the entire international relations system. Of course, the current situation is a major challenge for every country and international organisations and relations, including the SCO.

The SCO Member States reaffirmed their focus on the collective search for answers to this challenge and their commitment to put forth decisive joint efforts to overcome COVID-19. We are talking about coordinated universal actions under the auspices of the UN based on the WHO’s achievements and, of course, decisions and recommendations made by the G20 and other associations. The participants focused particularly on overcoming the negative trade, economic and social ramifications of the pandemic and stated the importance of making sure that measures aimed at protecting people’s lives, restoring global economic stability, and stimulating sustainable growth are based on international legal norms and principles, and rejection of unfair competition and unilateral economic and financial sanctions that are imposed in violation of the UN Charter and the UN Security Council’s prerogatives.

We reviewed priority steps to give additional momentum to SCO cooperation on a bilateral and multilateral basis. We highlighted the role of the Meeting of Heads of SCO Member States Services in Charge of Ensuring Sanitary and Epidemiological Wellbeing. This mechanism is developing a single regional infection alert system based on coordinated approaches and algorithms. The participants in today's videoconference spoke in favour of drafting and approving an action plan to promote and deepen cooperation in this area during the upcoming SCO summit in St Petersburg. The common approaches of the SCO Member States’ foreign ministers are included in the statement adopted today in connection with the spread of the coronavirus infection.

We also discussed the general situation in the territory of SCO responsibility in terms of maintaining security and stability, and reiterated our commitment to energetic assistance to promote a settlement in Afghanistan using the capabilities of the successfully functioning SCO-Afghanistan Contact Group.

The Member States are set to further strengthen coordination within the UN and other multilateral platforms, and to strengthen the SCO position and role in global and regional affairs. We agreed to pay particular attention this year to events related to the 75th anniversary of Victory in WWII and the 75th anniversary of the United Nations. Today, we discussed promoting a draft resolution at the UN dedicated to the 75th anniversary of the organisation, as well as matters related to preparing and holding the 75th session of the General Assembly scheduled for autumn 2020 in connection with the anniversary.

We also informed our colleagues about implementing the action plan, as part of Russia’s SCO chairmanship, that has been adjusted due to the coronavirus infection. We hope to hold all scheduled events. Some will inevitably be held as video conferences. We plan to hold full face-to-face key meetings, including the Council of Foreign Ministers, and of course, the SCO Summit.







Question:

The Secretary of the Russian Federation Security Council, Nikolai Patrushev, noted that the United States has put into service over 200 laboratories all over the world, including in SCO countries. What do you think about this situation? What measures will be taken to ensure biological security in the region?



Sergey Lavrov:

We have repeatedly drawn public attention to the establishment and development of biological laboratories. The majority of them are under Pentagon aegis. The US is creating them all over the world, including SCO, post-Soviet states. There is a fairly dense network of these laboratories along the perimeter of the Russian Federation and near Chinese borders.

We believe that the need to ensure transparency and verify the research at these laboratories has always been vital for biological security. We have long advocated the creation of a verification mechanism in the framework of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on their Destruction. This would make it possible to control and ensure the transparency of the efforts of all countries on preventing the development of biological and toxin weapons.

Since 2001 (almost 20 years), Russia and the majority of other countries, including China, have advocated an agreement on drafting a relevant protocol to the said convention, which would create a mechanism for verifying the commitment to not develop biological weapons. The US is just about the only country to categorically oppose this proposal. Now the problem has been aggravated. Washington’s reluctance to ensure the transparency of its military biological activities in various regions of the world suggests many questions: what is taking place in reality there and what goals are being pursued? We are conducting an active dialogue on this subject with all of our partners and have raised these questions in the SCO as well.

We have some positive progress. We have signed a memorandum of understanding between the Government of Russia and the Government of Tajikistan on ensuring biological security. We are drafting a similar document with our colleagues from Uzbekistan and holding talks with Kazakhstan, Armenia and our other neighbours in the post-Soviet space. I consider this work to be very practical. It would remove any concern over the emergence of such infectious diseases.

I am deeply convinced that all countries must approach this issue on a universal basis. Let me repeat that an agreement on creating a verification mechanism for the universal Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on their Destruction would be the optimal approach for everyone in the international community. Needless to say, we will continue working at this.

As for the SCO, a special set of documents is being drafted for the summit in St Petersburg this year. This package is aimed at ensuring sanitary and epidemiological security. A special section will be reserved for the issues of biological security. I am sure our experts will do a good job and help the SCO leaders adopt decisions that will promote the transparency of activities for biological security on a universal scale.



Question:

Several accusations have been leveled against China recently, in particular, that the coronavirus leaked from a laboratory in Wuhan or that the coronavirus was somehow beneficial to Beijing. Were these issues discussed within the SCO?



Sergey Lavrov:

We discuss the objective situation and facts within the SCO space. The organisation is not authorised to conduct investigations. It aims to ensure open, fair and effective cooperation on issues related to overcoming the consequences of the coronavirus infection. This is what we discussed.

The SCO hosted a series of events. I have already mentioned the mechanism within which the heads of sanitary and epidemiological services meet. The Federal Service for the Oversight of Consumer Protection and Welfare (Rospotrebnadzor) has developed an action plan on epidemic response. It is based on a statement made by our leaders two years ago at the SCO Summit in Qingdao on the need to increase cooperation on epidemic response mechanisms. This action plan will be submitted to the upcoming SCO Summit this year.

Moreover, a video conference for SCO medical experts was held on April 1, 2020. They agreed to draft a consolidated document summarising the experience of COVID-19 response actions in our countries. I have no doubt that our Chinese colleagues will actively cooperate and provide the information gained in overcoming the outbreak of the coronavirus in their country.

On May 28 of this year, the SCO Healthcare Ministers’ video conference will be held. There will also be a very substantive discussion based on the above expert opinions being developed in the appropriate formats. The SCO Secretariat has proposed establishing a coordination council to focus on coronavirus response efforts.

When we talk about the need to clarify the causes of the coronavirus infection, I believe that this is a justified question. But we need to address the problem from the point of view of the need to save as many people’s lives as possible and to understand how we can control this pandemic in the future. According to medical evaluations, it could stay with us for a long time, if not forever, like other infectious diseases (such as the flu). So it is important to understand the causes of the infection from this point of view. As far as I know, Chinese officials have expressed a willingness to collaborate with the WHO on this. I believe that every country in the world would be interested in this. We are against the fact that this scientific and humanistic approach, aimed at the reliable protection of humanity in the future, has become politicised and used for unscrupulous competition.



Question:

Earlier today, you mentioned that the Afghan settlement situation is deteriorating and, as far as we can understand, the implementation of the agreement between the United States and the Taliban is barely afloat. What is Russia’s vision for a way out of this situation? Given that, perhaps, the efforts of the United States alone are nor enough, would it make sense to undertake a collective effort to move this process along? Is Russia planning any meetings with the countries in the region to discuss the situation in Afghanistan?



Sergey Lavrov:

We have no doubt that an Afghan settlement is possible solely if the interests of the Afghans themselves are taken into account, as well as the legitimate interests of the countries in the region, including Afghanistan’s closest neighbours. We believe that this approach offers the best way for moving towards a settlement. To this end, several years ago, we formed a group of countries and invited their representatives to Moscow, where we established what is now called the Moscow format of consultations on Afghanistan. They include Afghanistan’s neighbours and all, without exception, countries which, in one way or another, have a decisive influence on the Afghan parties’ positions, including the United States.

The Moscow format was convened several times. The participants reiterated the need to work in this direction to develop sustainable and reliable approaches to a settlement. This does not mean that we were against other avenues to promote fair agreements between Afghan society’s major groups. In order to facilitate the search for approaches that would be acceptable to everyone, including Afghanistan’s neighbours, we began to work in a Russia-US-China format, with Pakistan joining at some points. This was not a separate or exclusive settlement format. We have always pointed out that we would move only along lines that are acceptable to Afghanistan and its neighbours.

These efforts ̶̶̶ ̶ which are diverse, as you can see – have led to approaches that allowed us to move forward. At some point, the United States decided to almost entirely focus on bilateral talks with the Taliban. We have nothing against that with the understanding that the talks be based on the criteria I mentioned and do not contain any secret agreements that do not take into account the interests of the Afghans and all of Afghanistan’s neighbours.

We welcomed the agreement between the United States and the Taliban, although we warned that it was important to engage the neighbouring countries more actively so that they could also have their interests taken into account.

We are not happy with the fact that the agreements between the United States and the Taliban are stalling. We can see the reasons this is happening and are willing to help overcome them. To do so, we need to return to the original understandings that were achieved within the Moscow format and the work of Russia, the United States and China, which consist of ensuring what we call the “inclusiveness of the intra-Afghan dialogue.”

The SCO-Afghanistan Contact Group became operational awhile back. A roadmap was developed at the Bishkek summit in 2019, within which the SCO can actively promote the settlement interests in Afghanistan. Today, we agreed that this roadmap would be adapted to current circumstances, including the ones that have taken shape after the agreement was reached between the United States and the Taliban, which has not been acted upon yet. I hope that the SCO will be able to make a constructive contribution to overcoming the dead end at hand. For this, it is necessary for our US colleagues return to this collective effort.



Question:

The European countries have developed and are using a system for labour migration during the coronavirus pandemic. Charter flights from Ukraine and Romania are arranged to deliver seasonal workers to Germany and Finland, Austria and other more prosperous European countries. Will a labour migration system be opened in the SCO space, perhaps between Russia, China and the Central Asian countries? Flights between these countries are now suspended and workers cannot leave their countries. Could this affect the most important branches of the economy?



Sergey Lavrov:

We have not introduced any restrictions on labour migration either in the SCO or any other organisation. The only group of migrants that we would like to send home are those that have violated the rules of their stay on the territory of the Russian Federation, but this group is not too big. Nobody is asking the overwhelming majority of migrants to leave Russia. Also, the government has adopted decisions that allow them to postpone applying for their permits, to extend their work permits, and to resolve other bureaucratic issues that have been made more complicated by the restrictions and self-isolation.

We are not planning any changes in the policy on labour migration. I have not heard about any changes in the legislation or position of our SCO partners, either.



Question:

Considering the essential identity of the SCO countries’ views on the results of World War II, does it make sense to work together on preventing attempts to falsify history by glorifying Nazism? In what formats can this be done? What measures on celebrating the 75th anniversary can be held by the SCO?



Sergey Lavrov:

Indeed, we have common approaches to assessing the events of the war. The leaders of the SCO member countries and foreign ministers have repeatedly expressed these views in their joint statements.

The 75th anniversary is yet another occasion to recall wartime events. Needless to say, this task is becoming even more topical due to the sharp increase in attempts to revise the results of WWII and the commonly known causes of the war. Of course, this is becoming more important.

Within the SCO framework we have bilateral intergovernment and non-government mechanisms with many countries for discussing issues linked with the assessment and analysis of the historical events of WWII. We don’t yet have a collective mechanism for discussing these issues but interest in establishing one is growing.

Yesterday we held a meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers of the CIS member states via video conference. We agreed to support informal meetings, seminars and conferences for historians in the CIS. I think this format will be useful in the SCO. At any rate, the SCO scientific community is obviously interested. I think it will be helpful to make this proposal. We will certainly inform you about any progress in our efforts in this area.

I already mentioned some specific SCO events. During the summit in St Petersburg this year, the SCO leaders will make a relevant statement. Our countries are co-authors of the resolution on the 75th anniversary of creating the UN. This event became possible due to the allied victory in WWII. Every SCO country will hold its own events, and some are already being held. Most SCO countries, primarily the CIS states, conducted events devoted to Victory Day on May 9. Today, we exchanged our impressions of how actively and sincerely our citizens took part in them. There will also be collective events, including some timed to the end of WWII in September.




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4121622






Press release on Russia’s anti-infection aid for the Democratic Republic of the Congo



14 May 2020 - 17:52



On May 11, at the request of President Felix Tshisekedi of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DR Congo), the Russian Federation provided material support for the DR Congo’s efforts to counter the Ebola virus. The first shipment of materials and technical support from the Federal Service for Supervision of Consumer Protection and Welfare (Rospotrebnadzor) was delivered to Kinshasa. The Russian Embassy helped provide the Congolese Healthcare Ministry with over 28,000 items of laboratory consumables and over 8,000 units of personal protective equipment, including respirators, protective clothing, reusable face masks with filtres, gloves and other medical gear. This assistance was symbolically transferred at a special ceremony. The event was widely covered by the Congolese media, which noted that this friendly gesture was timely and very important to the DR Congo, where COVID-19, Ebola, cholera and measles have broken out at the same time.

Two mobile microbiological rapid-test laboratories are expected to arrive at the port of Matadi before the end of the month under an agreement signed by Rospotrebnadzor and the Congolese Healthcare Ministry on the sidelines of the Russia-Africa Summit held in Sochi in October 2019. Congolese specialists will be trained to work with the equipment. This equipment is very important to the DR Congo considering its multitask capabilites and application in the battle against the novel coronavirus infection.




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4122468
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Briefing by Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova, Moscow, May 14, 2020



14 May 2020 - 20:02






Coronavirus update and helping Russians return home

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Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s participation in the ministerial session of the Council of the Baltic Sea States

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Compatriots’ activities to mark the 75th anniversary of Victory in the Great Patriotic War

Celebrations of the 75th anniversary of Victory in the Great Patriotic War were held in over 100 countries. The most notable were in Belarus, Bulgaria, Germany, Kazakhstan, Cyprus, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Slovakia, the United States, Turkmenistan and France. Given the public health risks and the ban on large gatherings, our compatriots together with Russian agencies abroad concentrated their efforts on online projects, primarily on the Immortal Regiment event. Thanks to the capabilities of internet resources, many activities enjoyed greater geographical reach and better creative content.

According to preliminary estimates, the holiday events attracted hundreds of thousands of participants, including local residents and officials (Abkhazia, Albania, Belgium, Brazil, Germany, Cuba, Croatia, Switzerland, Ethiopia, etc.). The Immortal Regiment march was also held for the first time in the Republic of Mali and in the Seychelles (in the new “maritime” format together with the Russian Navy research ship Admiral Vladimirsky).

In addition, about 150 other festive activities and events were organised, including “The Ribbon of St George”, “Memory Candle”, video conferences, online concerts, festivals of wartime songs, photo exhibitions, tree planting, lessons of memory, various contests and flash mobs. Notwithstanding the current restrictions, our compatriots individually took part in laying flowers at war memorials and burial sites. They even managed to carry out some projects in the sky: a plane with a 30-meter long St George ribbon flew for several hours over Chicago and Lake Michigan, and a copy of the Victory Banner was raised in the skies over Berlin by a helicopter.

In some countries they managed to hold limited versions of events on the ground. I will say it again, this format was determined by the current quarantine standards. Our compatriots took portraits of relatives who took part in the Great Patriotic War to the events that occurred in person (in Angola, Georgia, Cambodia, Luxemburg, Slovakia, Tajikistan, Czechia, Sweden, Ukraine, etc.). In some countries local authorities participated in the commemorative actions, including at the presidential level (Serbia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Moldova). The anniversary of the Great Victory was widely celebrated in Belarus and Turkmenia.

In some countries our compatriots held car and motorcycle rallies (Canada, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Israel, etc.). It’s worth noting the courage and inventiveness of those who observed the holiday in Ukraine. Despite the current ban on wearing the St George ribbon, they pinned ribbons to their clothes with the colours written out in words.

Meanwhile, as soon as the epidemiological situation permits, our compatriots still intend to hold the Immortal Regiment event in its traditional format, synchronising it with the Victory Parade and marches in Russia. It still has to be worked out and finalised after we get through this terrible disaster, the coronavirus pandemic that befell the entire world.



UNSC Arria-Formula videoconference

On May 8, the UN headquarters in New York hosted a UNSC Arria-Formula informal videoconference on the 75th anniversary of the end of the Second World War in Europe.

Discussing this subject is a good occasion to recall the goals and objectives of the UN. The organisation was established to save future generations from new wars. To see this happen, it is necessary to follow the UN Charter and the principles that were laid down in it by the founders. Dialogue based on these principles is also important for combating new challenges and threats, such as terrorism, cybercrime and drug trafficking. Against this background, it is easy to see the problems that the world is facing 75 years after the Great Victory: neo-Nazism, attempts to whitewash the activities of criminals and the rewriting of history.

Unfortunately, some delegations, including the videoconference organisers, decided to use this platform to impose a distorted vision of the causes and results of World War II, which have little to do with the real history of those years.

Russia will continue to work within the UN and other international platforms to strengthen cooperation and confront new challenges and threats. The whole world has a common goal – to prevent new tragedies. This is the best way to honour the memory of the fallen in the struggle for peace and freedom.



“Syrian chemistry” in New York City

In accordance with the approved Programme of Work of the UN Security Council, a video conference was scheduled to be held on the so-called Syrian “chemical dossier” on May 12. The Western nations’ representatives suggested the participation of the Director-General of the OPCW Technical Secretariat Fernando Arias. The intent was obvious – to continue feeding the UN Security Council the falsified findings of the first report by the “attributive” Investigation and Identification Team (IIT) which the Western countries set up through political and legal manipulations in violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention. The report states that allegedly “there are reasonable grounds to believe” that chemical weapons were used in Ltamenah on 24, 25 and 30 March 2017 by the Syrian Arab Air Force, and the relevant orders had come directly from Syria’s military and political leaders.

Being aware of the urgency of the issue of chemical weapons use in Syria (though not by government forces but by terrorists), we were prepared for a substantive and frank conversation. We demanded that the meeting be open as this would have made it possible to ask Fernando Arias to publicly clear up the key issues regarding the IIT’s performance and OPCW fact-finding missions in general.

The Western nations declined the proposal. Despite their own musings on the “need to increase transparency” in the work of the UN Security Council, they just refused to publicly consider issues they didn’t want to.

All this is evidence that both the OPCW Technical Secretariat leadership and our Western colleagues, who keep expressing their full and unconditional confidence in the IIT, fear an open, substantive and professional talk about the activities, major goals and tasks of the so-called “attributive” mechanism they created, since the reality is that its investigative findings are predetermined to yield anti-Syrian conclusions.

The Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the UN held a news conference to inform the international community of the real situation and to debunk the Western countries’ attempts to conceal the essentially self-defeating nature of the IIT’s performance and system-wide flaws in the OPCW fact-finding missions’ activities. You can read the transcript of the news conference on the Russian Foreign Ministry’s website and on the website of our Permanent Mission in New York.

Several issues can be highlighted among those raised there.

We would like to get clarifications from the OPCW Technical Secretariat on the fairly controversial circumstances surrounding the taking of samples and their storage before they were passed on to the Fact-Finding Mission in Syria (FFM), since the basis for the IIT’s work is the FFM’s reports. It is crucial to find out the true, not fabricated, reasons for the refusal of the Technical Secretariat to accept an invitation from the Syrian side to send FFM experts to Ltamenah. It is amazing that the IIT report conceals the very fact of the OPCW Technical Secretariat’s refusal to respond to Damascus’s request to send inspectors to the Shayrat airbase where, according to the IIT, the chemical attack originated. The report clearly demonstrates that “double standards” are applied to Damascus: it stands accused of refusing to cooperate, while information pointing to the staged character of the chemical incidents is willfully disregarded. The Technical Secretariat, in fact, ignored the information regularly sent by the Syrians to the UNSC and the OPCW on chemical provocations being planned by militants.

Systemic flaws in the FFM’s performance must be rectified:

– remote investigations instead of mandatory visits to the scenes of alleged incidents;

– violations of the key principle of chain of custody;

– using data mainly from forces which oppose the Syrian government.

The very composition of the IIT experts (the overwhelming majority are from the Western camp) has been crafted in such a way that any views that are inconvenient to the Western countries are easily suppressed. It all runs contrary to the claims by the OPCW Technical Secretariat of fair geographical representation and “objective and impartial” investigations. The IIT’s premise of allegedly unique markers of Syrian sarin has been met with deep scepticism. It is a well-known fact that the precursors of this chemical agent were destroyed by Western specialists outside Syria. It is clear that they recorded its detailed formula back then.

We are gravely concerned about the OPCW Technical Secretariat’s unwillingness to provide documentary evidence for the conclusions drawn from the investigations by the entities set up within the Secretariat. References to unsubstantiated intelligence data and unknown “outside experts” cannot be accepted as evidence. Saying “take our word for it” is absolutely unacceptable in such a sensitive area.

This list of questions will be expanded upon further study of the report by the illegitimate IIT.



Statements by US Special Presidential Envoy for Arms Control Marshall Billingslea on the New START Treaty

We took note of US Special Presidential Envoy for Arms Control Marshall Billingslea’s interview with the Washington Times, in which he speaks about the Russian-US New START Treaty and the prospects of its extension. The high-ranking American diplomat discourses, or rather fantasises, about certain drawbacks of the treaty’s verification mechanism and accuses Russia of deliberately and maliciously exploiting them to the detriment of the Treaty’s normal implementation.

The unmistakable impression is that the official nominated recently by Donald Trump as Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Affairs, who mostly dealt with sanctions prior to that appointment, has not been brought up to speed on his new job. For example, he clearly has not found the time to read his department’s report on the compliance of foreign states, including Russia, with international treaties and agreements.

We have already had an opportunity to comment on this heavily biased document. But even its authors had to admit that Russia is in full compliance with the provisions of the New START Treaty. Now Mr Billingslea has essentially disavowed the work of his own colleagues and representatives of other US departments that are involved in the implementation of this Treaty.

Against the backdrop of this revision of values, Mr Billingslea pointedly asks the question: Why are the Russians so eager to extend the Treaty and what is in it for the US?

The answer is simple. Apparently, Washington does not want to accept it, but on this issue Moscow is primarily guided by a sense of responsibility for the fate of peace, stability and security, which the US constantly works to undermine. We believe now that the current administration has already upended the steady process of nuclear arms control that took shape over decades and mostly consisted of various treaties with the Americans, it is important to preserve at least some elements of mutual transparency and predictability in this area. The extension of the New START Treaty would buy some time to jointly assess current challenges and threats to international security and to search for the optimal political and diplomatic means of halting the alarming trends in this area.

This is exactly why Russia officially offered to extend the New START Treaty before it is too late, and to do so promptly and without preconditions. We are against any artificial linkages that would call into question whether this increasingly important goal is achievable. This is in reference to the completely far-fetched attempt to involve China in bilateral Russian-US mechanisms, as we have already said more than once.

Our position is well known and remains unchanged. We are ready to support any multilateral initiatives that can enhance international security and stability. However, they must be based on the free will of their potential participants. No country may be coerced into them. And the interests and concerns of all the potential participants must be taken into account. The involvement of the closest US “nuclear allies” – Great Britain and France – in talks on such initiatives remains our priority.

More broadly, we do not think that the bilateral Russian-US agenda for promoting international security and arms control has exhausted itself. On this basis, we are ready to engage in strategic dialogue with Washington, as the leaders of our states have been pushing for.



Abduction of Russian sailors off the coast of the Republic of Equatorial Guinea

According to the Russian Embassy in Cameroon, which also represents the interests of our country in Equatorial Guinea, on the night of May 9, pirates attacked the Rio Mitong ship flying the flag of the Comoros, which was stationed at the port of Malabo. As a result of this pirate attack, two Russian citizens received moderate injuries and are staying in a Malabo hospital. Another Russian national was kidnapped and taken to an unknown location.

At the same time, pirates attacked the Djibloho vessel, owned by the Government of Equatorial Guinea, at the port of Luba (40 km from Equatorial Guinea’s capital). Two Russian crew members were kidnapped.

So far, the pirates have not made contact with anyone and have not put forward any demands.

The Russian Embassy in Cameroon is actively working with the authorities of Equatorial Guinea and the shipowner company in order to help locate the abducted Russian nationals and secure their speedy release. We are paying special attention to this topic.



Desecration of a Soviet tomb in Poland

I would like to talk about the alarming trend of rewriting history. Unfortunately, we have been talking a lot about this in recent time. It is especially sad that this is happening in this milestone anniversary year. This rewriting is connected precisely with the Second World War and the Great Patriotic War. Again we are forced to draw attention to the topic of the war against Soviet memorials in Poland. The developments we are witnessing cannot be separated from rewriting history – these are parts of one chain. On the eve of Victory Day, we learned that a gravestone on the tomb of 79 Red Army soldiers had been overturned at the Milostowo cemetery in Poznan. Considering that the act of desecration was committed on the eve of our sacred day, when the whole world celebrates the anniversary of Victory over fascism, the actions of the vandals look especially cynical.

Despite all the demagogy about Warsaw’s commitment to the relevant traditions and obligations of properly preserving the memory of those killed on the territory of the Republic of Poland, the country’s authorities create an atmosphere of permissiveness and connivance with their efforts to rewrite history. This is the motivation behind these disgusting acts against Soviet memorial sites. Under these conditions, the vandals, who were confident in their impunity, fearlessly acted at the largest city cemetery of one of the largest Polish cities.

We call on the Polish authorities to give up memory wars against the fallen Soviet heroes and finally take real steps to fight the vandals.



Situation around labour migrants from Central Asian countries in Russia

According to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, the world is going not only through the coronavirus pandemic but has also had to confront an infodemic, with a vast amount of fake news, disinformation and false reports on the coronavirus and related issues.

Lately, a number of US and US-funded media outlets, such as Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, have been actively spreading biased material on Russia’s allegedly discriminating policy towards labour migrants from Central Asian countries and the Russian authorities’ unwillingness to support them during this difficult period of time amid the coronavirus pandemic.

These reports are simply not true.

In accordance with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s Executive Order No. 274 of April 18, 2020 regulating the legal status of foreign nationals and stateless persons in the Russian Federation in connection with the threat of an increase in the incidence of COVID-19, the period from March 15 to June 15 shall not be included in the period of temporary stay or temporary or permanent residence in Russia for foreign nationals if it expires in the specified 90-day period. The provision also applies to the time limit set for permits for recruiting and using foreign workers as well as work permits and licenses.

The Russian Interior Ministry’s territorial divisions have received instructions ordering them to refrain from taking decisions concerning foreign nationals as regards administrative expulsion from Russia, deportation or readmission for violating migration laws, as well as raise awareness among foreign nationals regarding the need to obtain legal status in the Russian Federation.

Our country utilises a careful and flexible approach to these matters, with due account of all circumstances and based on the regulatory framework. A number of social protection measures is stipulated for labour migrants from the CIS and EAEU member states, including assistance in providing them with free urgent and emergency medical care.

We should note that during the lockdown large numbers of labour migrants were involved in working in critical infrastructure facilities, including the housing and utility companies which have continued operating during the restrictive measures introduced across Russia.

On May 12, Moscow and the Moscow Region resumed activities at construction sites, where the largest number of labour migrants from Central Asian countries are employed. In this connection, we expect prompt normalisation of Russia's labour market, which is equally important for us as well as our Central Asian partners.



Western media’s anti-Russia allegations over coronavirus statistics

Unfortunately, we believe that there will be increasingly more such fake news. As UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has said, this is a real infodemic.

We have taken note of some Western media publications, in particular, The New York Times and Financial Times, about Russia undercounting and underreporting coronavirus deaths.

The concerned Russian establishments and the Emergency Response Centre have published refutations of these allegations. We would like to say in addition to this that these publications are incorrect, biased and provide an unacceptably lop-sided picture. I would like to say once again that comments regarding these publications have been promptly issued by a great number of authorised Russian experts and officials.

It was pointed out that this is not an honest mistake by the journalists who failed to see the whole picture but apparent unwillingness to do so, as can be concluded from the fact that they did not cite Russia’s official position regarding these allegations. If these journalists really did want to present the truth correctly and objectively, they would have checked their “discoveries” twice, requested additional information and included it in their publications. This approach is in line with the Western media traditions. But they have not done this, even though everyone knows how important it is during the pandemic to act ethically, to double-check information and to compare it to other sources, as well as to do everything else to prevent publications from doing harm and from becoming a piece of misinformation.

It is alarming that the above-mentioned items were published simultaneously and were also very similar in essence. We have no doubt about these items’ real objective. We can see – and evidence is growing – that some forces in the West have attempted to use the global crisis to discredit and destabilise the situation and some governments. We are shocked by the double standards of our Western partners and the media outlets they patronise, who call for combating fake news, including about the pandemic, while waging a real misinformation campaign against other countries and presenting claims that cannot be described as factual information, analysis or opinion. There are certain standards journalists must comply with during crises, and we believe that Russia is providing more than enough information which can be used and updated. All our information is freely available and open to the public, and our press services, where journalists can request more information, are working. At the very least, even if journalists believe that they are absolutely right they should give the other side an opportunity to present its position.

In this connection, we have prepared letters to the editorial boards of the above-mentioned newspapers, in which we have put forth our explanations and ask them to publish the refutations provided by the Russian authorities and the Emergency Response Centre. They should be included in the publications of these media outlets. The letters will be forwarded via the Russian embassies in the United States and Great Britain. As I already mentioned, they contain comments refuting the information published in these newspapers.

We will also call on the concerned international agencies, primarily OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Harlem Desir and UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay, to provide their opinions about this incident. Of course, we will notify the UN Secretariat about this, considering the urgency of the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ appeal to the world to combat not only the coronavirus infection but also the infodemic of misinformation.



Republic of Paraguay’s independence anniversary

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Answers to questions:



Question:

Czech Foreign Minister Tomas Petricek stated that Prague expects to hold consultations with Russia at the level of foreign ministers based on the treaty governing relations between our countries. The statement came after a disagreement caused by the demolition of a monument to Soviet Marshal Ivan Konev in Prague as well as Czech media reports claiming that an employee of the Russian diplomatic mission allegedly brought ricin to Prague. Does the Foreign Ministry plan on holding consultations with its Czech counterparts? What issues will be discussed?



Maria Zakharova:

There have been many statements from the Czech Foreign Minister but, unfortunately, few indicate an actual intention to build a constructive environment for our relations.

As concerns arranging a meeting between the two foreign ministers, discussion of unresolved problems usually begins with preparations at an appropriate level, in order to provide a strong foundation for a subsequent conversation between the heads of the foreign ministries. It is vital to make quite sure that our Czech colleagues are indeed willing to improve the unhealthy developments regarding our bilateral affairs that they created.

The Russian Embassy in Prague recently sent a note concerning this matter to the Czech Foreign Ministry. The Russian Ambassador received instructions to hold consultations with the senior officials of the Czech Foreign Ministry as per Article 5 of the 1993 treaty on the friendly relations and cooperation between our countries that allows for such consultations regarding our bilateral agenda. As of the time of this briefing, there has been no response from our Czech counterparts. Foreign Minister Tomas Petricek also mentioned lately that he plans to meet with our ambassador to discuss the situation.

We will share further steps with you once there are results.



Question:

Foreign Minister of Iran Mohammad Javad Zarif recently sent a letter to the UN Secretary General to remind him of the second anniversary of the unilateral withdrawal by the United States from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on the Iranian nuclear programme, and also called on the United Nations to speak out against the unilateral sanctions imposed by the US. What would be your comment on this matter?



Maria Zakharova:

May 8 marks the second anniversary of the signing by the President of the United States of the memorandum Ceasing U.S. Participation in the JCPOA and Taking Additional Action to Counter Iran’s Malign Influence and Deny Iran All Paths to a Nuclear Weapon.

This rather catchy name created an environment in which the US administration could create confusion within the international community regarding its decision to renounce its obligations under UN Security Council Resolution 2231 whereby the JCPOA became an integral part of international law. For the first time in history, a founding member of the United Nations openly challenged the Security Council by refusing to abide by its resolutions. There is no question about it. They should not get away with this, or with the legislative and executive action by the United States, undertaken as a follow-up to the memorandum I just mentioned and in violation of the JCPOA and UNSC Resolution 2231. We strongly believe that UN member states will come up with a reasonable response to this outrageous handling of the law by Washington. We cannot allow these actions to corrode the foundations of the United Nations.

What did the United States achieve with its ill-conceived decisions to withdraw from the JCPOA and re-impose sanctions against Iran, as well as by constantly threatening other countries and international organisations and subjecting them to all kinds of retribution for complying with UNCS Resolution 2231? In all objectivity, the Americans have nothing to write home about. The US leadership did not achieve a single one of its goals, but at the same time Washington completely undermined its reputation of a responsible contributor to global processes able to make deals on equitable and mutually beneficial terms and answer for its words.

It may be ironic that two years after Washington slammed the door on the deal, the Department of State recalled UNSC Resolution 2231 in what can be regarded as an attempt to use its provisions for its own destructive ends, as we can see. It is astonishing that the same people can refuse to abide by the JCPOA while asserting their rights as parties to the “nuclear deal” under UNSC Resolution 2231. American lawyers are famous for their extraordinary sophistication and prowess, but in this case we have to understand that the JCPOA and UNSC Resolution 2231 are inseparably linked and form a single whole.

Washington’s unilateral withdrawal from the JCPOA and its other actions that followed constitute a grave violation of the comprehensive agreements, as well as UNSC Resolution 2231. A country that fails to comply with the requirements set forth in a resolution cannot enjoy the rights arising from it. This is quite obvious. It has to be noted that the United States decided to go down the road of violation, thus removing itself from the list of parties to the JCPOA and depriving itself of the right to weigh in on matters related to fulfilling these agreements. It has no one to blame for the fact that its current aspirations to make use of the mechanisms set forth in UNSC Resolution 2231 are met with firm opposition around the world.

That said, there is no doubt that the United States must immediately stop its policy of undermining the JCPOA and ensure strict compliance with all requirements as per UNSC Resolution 2231 by reviewing all illegal legislative and executive action it had taken. Persistent efforts to erode the JCPOA with new anti-Iranian ideas, including the proposal to impose a permanent arms embargo against Iran, do no credit to the United States. It is quite clear that this policy has no future.

Parties to the JCPOA that have maintained their genuine commitment to all aspects of the nuclear deal and continue to fight for its preservation and steady implementation will persist in their efforts. There should be no doubt in Washington about this, just as about the fact that together with other parties to the JCPOA we will counter any attempts to substitute the objectives set forth in the UNSC resolution with the false impulses that the United States is trying to push through.



Question:

During Russian representatives’ visits to Uzbekistan in 2019 and 2020, there was information about the intent of Uzbekistan to expand the possibilities of teaching the Russian language and using it, including in order to improve the competitiveness of the national economy and to create a regional educational hub in the country. However, there has also been information about a draft law developed by Uzbekistan’s Ministry of Justice that includes fines for officials who do not use the state language, Uzbek, in their jobs. So it seems that in case this law is adopted, officials will be fined for using Russian when it comes to state matters?



Maria Zakharova:

In accordance with the existing requests made by the Uzbek side, active joint work is underway to create a full-scale programme regarding the teaching of Russian in Uzbekistan. We are talking about increasing the deliveries of textbooks, methodological and fiction literature, the opening of additional Russian language centres, sending Russian language experts to training centres, raising the budget quotas in Russian universities for Uzbek students in the Russian Philology specialty, and so on.

We noted the debates in the media caused by the draft law. It seems so far that its supporters are outnumbered. Most comments show that the preservation of the Russian language in formal matters fully corresponds to the spirit of the history and current quality of our relations, and most importantly, to the interests of the Uzbek nationals who often choose to study and work in Russia.



Question:

Just the other day, Azerbaijan urged Armenia to exchange prisoners of war and hostages in the all for all format. What does Russia think of this initiative?



Maria Zakharova:

The issues of prisoner exchanges and improving the conditions of people who were detained in the parties’ countries are always on the agenda of Nagorno-Karabakh settlement negotiations. Last year, in Moscow it was decided to allow relatives of prisoners to visit them. Then Azerbaijan and Armenia swapped one prisoner each. With assistance of co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group, consultations are being held regarding the fate of other prisoners. We will be monitoring the situation.



Question:

How did Moscow regard the formation of a new government in Bagdad? Have you had any contact with them?



Maria Zakharova:

We welcome the approval of the country’s new government by the Iraqi Council of Representatives (Parliament) on May 7. After the complex consultations that lasted over five months, Iraq’s leading political forces managed to achieve the much needed consensus agreements. On this occasion congratulation messages were forwarded to Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi on behalf of President of Russia Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin.

We expect the new Iraqi government to live up to the confidence bestowed on it and to be able to ensure effective solutions to the key problems on the national agenda for the sake of stabilising the situation, strengthening the sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity of Iraq during this difficult period of time for the country.

We intend to continue our considerable effort to promote the progressive development of friendly Russian-Iraqi relations and to expand our mutually beneficial and multifaceted cooperation.



Question:

Will Russia resume its military-technical cooperation with Iran after the embargo expires this October and will it exercise its right of veto against the US resolution providing for the embargo extension?



Maria Zakharova:

First of all, I want to remind you that UN Security Council Resolution 2231 did not impose any arms embargo on Iran. It was a temporary ban for Iran on exporting or importing certain types of weapons. The ban expires on October 18, 2020.

The second thing is that Iran is our neighbour and traditional partner in the military-technical sphere. Why should we abstain from working with Iran? We do have such a right and Teheran has the legitimate right to provide for its security and defence needs.

As for some US ideas in the context of UN Security Council Resolution 2231, the Americans missed this opportunity when they made their bombastic formal withdrawal from the JCPOA in May 2018.




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4122532
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Comment by Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova on a briefing at the US Department of State, during which remarks were made about Russia’s “destructive role” in Libyan affairs



14 May 2020 - 20:19



We noted a briefing by Henry Wooster, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for the Maghreb and Egypt, Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, and Christopher Robinson, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs, on May 7, during which critical remarks were made about Russia’s “destructive role” in Libyan affairs. Russia was accused of deliberately “fomenting the Libyan conflict” and using “hybrid tactics,” specifically, combining military force and disinformation. However, the remark that Moscow allegedly interferes with Washington’s “peacekeeping efforts” in Libya came as a real surprise.

In this regard, we would like to note that the United States is directly responsible for the Libya crisis which continues to this day. In 2011, in flagrant violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1973, the United States, in conjunction with its NATO allies, launched an armed aggression against the Libyan Jamahiriya which included destroying state institutions and security agencies in the country while unbalancing interregional and tribe-to-tribe relations.

After the Gaddafi government was toppled, the United States, in fact, disassociated itself from Libyan issues and the collective efforts to promote a comprehensive political settlement of the situation in that country. Washington’s passive approach towards preparing and holding the International Conference on Libya held in Berlin in January is the latest manifestation of this policy.

As you may know, Russia was against NATO’s reckless venture in Libya and was not involved in the country’s destruction. Nevertheless, from the outset of the dramatic events in Libya, we have been taking energetic steps to normalise the situation both within the multilateral formats under UN auspices and on a bilateral basis. We maintain constructive contact with all Libyan parties and try to convince them of the futility of attempts to resolve the existing differences through military means. We encourage them to hold a dialogue and to consider compromises. As you may recall, the truce announced by the participants of the intra-Libyan conflict at the initiative of the presidents of Russia and Turkey on January 12 created a favourable background for holding the above Berlin conference.

The briefing by the US State Department’s representatives is bewildering not only in its blatantly biased accusations against us, but also in its disrespect for elementary diplomatic ethics. We would like to note that on December 10, 2019, during Sergey Lavrov’s working visit to Washington, Russia proposed holding an expert dialogue with the United States on the range of issues of mutual interest with a view to reaching a political settlement in the Libya crisis. We did not receive a clear response at that time or later. We do not want to think that the above briefing was a kind of “response” to our proposal.




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4122542






Deputy Foreign Minister Oleg Syromolotov’s interview with Rossiya Segodnya International Information Agency, May 15, 2020



15 May 2020 - 13:51







Question:

Some time ago the United States proposed fighting the Islamic State terrorist group in south-western Syria. Has the US made any specific proposal to Moscow regarding this? How does Washington intend to fight ISIS in that part of Syria?



Oleg Syromolotov:

I would like to remind you that the fundamentals of Russian-US understanding regarding the war on ISIS were put forth in the joint statement adopted by President Vladimir Putin and US President Donald Trump on the sidelines of the APEC summit in Danang, Vietnam on November 11, 2017. The document said, in part, that Russia and the United States “confirmed their determination to defeat ISIS in Syria” and would continue to cooperate there “until the final defeat of ISIS is achieved.” The presidents also agreed to maintain open military channels of communication between military professionals (de-confliction efforts) to help ensure the safety of both US and Russian forces. Russia and the United States have maintained this cooperation, which has allowed them to effectively prevent dangerous incidents and helped Russia, on the one hand, and the United States and its allies, on the other, to continue fighting ISIS.

As for south-western Syria, a de-escalation zone was established there some time ago, in 2017. The guarantor countries were Russia, Jordan and the United States. It was a breakthrough in the efforts to reduce violence on the ground, introduce a ceasefire and improve humanitarian access to the region. In summer 2018, the zone was eliminated thanks to a successful operation by the Syrian government forces with the support of Russia’s Aerospace Forces. Damascus resumed control of the south-western region, liquidated the terrorist hotbed there, including ISIS units, and restored the status quo in the Golan Heights where the UN peacekeeping force (UNDOF) resumed operations.

The terrorist raids launched by ISIS there have been cut short by the Syrian army, which has sufficient resources for this.



Question:

Are counterterrorism consultations between Russia and the United States continuing, or have all such contacts been put on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic?



Oleg Syromolotov:

Over the past few years we have relaunched our counterterrorism cooperation mechanisms with many Western countries, including the key players in this field, in particular the United States. Our dialogue with the United States was resumed at the order of our leaders back in December 2018. I hope to meet my American counterpart, Stephen Biegun, in this format when the international pandemic restrictions are lifted.

The global developments indicate the task of counterterrorism cannot be removed from the agenda, not even because of the pandemic, and hence putting cooperation on hold is out of the question.

Our law enforcement and security services continue to exchange information that can help to thwart potential terrorist attacks. As you know, there are examples of constructive and, most importantly, effective cooperation in this sphere. A good example is the Moscow-Washington partnership during the preparation of the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi or the information American security services provided about the potential terrorist attacks in St Petersburg in 2017 and in December 2019, which helped us to prevent terrible tragedies. Our counterterrorism partnership is a two-way street. Here is an example that received much public attention: We alerted our American colleagues to suspicions about the Tsarnaev brothers, who were responsible for the Boston Marathon bombing in April 2013.

The auxiliary UN bodies – the UN Counter-Terrorism Committee, the 1267/1989/2253 ISIS and Al-Qaida Sanctions Committees plus the 1988 Taliban Sanctions Committee – are a vital platform for interaction with our American colleagues.



Question:

The Russian side has stated on several occasions that Russia will certainly be accused of hacker attacks and other things ahead of the US presidential elections. Is Russia still willing to create a joint Russian-US mechanism to discuss these matters? Are we negotiating this issue with the US?



Oleg Syromolotov:

As far as the so-called meddling with the US elections is concerned, we regard our overseas partners’ position as untenable.

Moscow and Washington maintain confidential channels of communication to promote a trust-based dialogue and to clarify matters of concern. Specifically, these were very successfully used during the 2016 election campaign. We provided detailed answers to US requests. Back in 2017, we suggested that the details of the correspondence that flowed via the channels be divulged, but the US refused to cooperate, referring to the “sensitive nature” of the information exchange.

Washington invariably fails to respond to our repeated attempts to revive cooperation on this track. Having no expert, depoliticised dialogue between Russia and the US in the field of international information security (IIS) is both self-defeating and dangerous, because in this way we can only aggravate any misunderstandings.

During a recent telephone conversation with his US counterpart Mike Pompeo, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov reminded him of the Russian proposal to resume operations of the bilateral group on cyber security. To avoid yet another torrent of accusations to the effect that we are already interfering in the current election campaign, accusations of which we are sick and tired of, we suggested reviving a mechanism empowered to consider any issues of concern to this or that side.

All our proposals on energising the Russian-US IIS dialogue are still on the table. We hope that this time the US side will be guided by rational considerations and will at long last make constructive use of its efforts.



Question:

The National Cyber Security Centre in the UK has accused Russia of hacker attacks on UK universities and research organisations working on a coronavirus vaccine. Has the UK come up yet with any proof of this?



Oleg Syromolotov:

We must state with regret that this is yet another spiral in the anti-Russian campaign that seeks to accuse our country, without providing any proof, of masterminding cyber attacks against the UK. The same scenario was used in cases involving Georgia and the Czech Republic. Now it seems to be the UK’s turn. Each time we have to deal with increasingly more sophisticated cavils aimed at tarnishing Russia’s image in the world information space.

We think it appropriate to remind all those concerned that under the 2015 consensus-approved report by the UN Group of Governmental Experts on Cyber Security and UN General Assembly Resolution 70/237 that sealed its recommendations, any accusations against states of organising or perpetrating criminal actions must be well grounded.

In the specific case that you are referring to, the UK has sent no official inquiries to Russia. Neither have they provided any intelligible evidence of cyber attacks being launched on British universities and research organisations by Russia or from its territory. We regret that our Western partners are again looking for confirmation of Russia’s involvement to start demonising Russia in the usual highly likely style.



Question:

Has the coronavirus pandemic affected cyber security and the ability of the international community to combat cyber terrorism? Do we need any new rules in this area?



Oleg Syromolotov:

The coronavirus pandemic has cast a bright light on all countries’ vulnerability to global challenges regardless of their policies or the level of economic development. But as they say, trouble never comes alone. The measures taken by many countries against the coronavirus have strengthened humankind’s total dependence on information and communication technology (ICT). The volume of cybercrime grew dramatically when companies, businesses and government agencies started working remotely. An increase in terrorist activity in cyberspace cannot be ruled out either. Other strategic challenges that have increased in this situation include the risk of interstate confrontation in the digital space, which is difficult to localise due to the cross-border nature of ICT and the interconnection of national economies and lifestyles. All of this could be described as a man-made cyber-pandemic the fight against which is being hindered by large-scale politicization of this matter.

Russia, for its part, has consistently called for developing constructive professional cooperation in the field of information security. It has become especially clear in these times that without universal agreements the world can be plunged into cyberchaos the consequences of which would be truly catastrophic. We insist on the urgent development of rules for every country with standards and principles for responsible behaviour in the information space, as well as a global international convention for combating ICT crime.

It is fundamentally important for all countries without exception plus other concerned parties – business, civil societies and science – to join the search for mutually acceptable formulas against a cyber-pandemic. A truly inclusive discussion on this topic can only be ensured at the only universal organisation, the United Nations. I am referring, in part, to the bodies that have been established at Russia’s initiative, the UN Open-Ended Working Group on developments in ICTs in the context of international security, as well as an open-ended ad hoc intergovernmental committee to elaborate a comprehensive international convention on countering the use of ICTs for criminal purposes. We call on all countries to take a responsible part in the work of these bodies.



Question:

Has the pandemic weakened the countries’ ability to counter terrorism? Has it affected the efforts against ISIS, Jabhat al-Nusra and other terrorist groups?



Oleg Syromolotov:

You are aware that the coronavirus, like terrorism, has had a different effect on different countries. But the situation is changing rapidly and often unpredictably. Some countries, including Russia, have taken unprecedented measures to protect their borders and public order, which has actually reduced the likelihood of terrorist attacks. At the same time, developments in some traditionally troubled regions are alarming.

Of special concern in this respect is the situation in some African regions, although it cannot be said that the terrorist threat has subsided in other countries either. For example, terrorist organisations, attempting to gain attention amid the pandemic, have dramatically increased their activities in the Middle East, primarily in Syria and Iraq. The terrorist threat has not subsided in Europe either despite the social isolation rules due to the coronavirus and a ban on public events. The sleeper cells of international terrorist groups in these countries have not been eliminated.

We hope that the coronavirus pandemic will not erode the unity and resolve of the international community to fight terrorism. Of course, counterterrorism is a sphere with many delicate questions, and not all of them can be taken up at open platforms such as videoconferences. However, we continue to maintain all the existing contacts with our international partners, to prepare for important international meetings, including at the UN, and to coordinate new joint moves in this area. Abandoning previous initiatives or negotiation formats is not an option, even though some events have to be postponed. Overall, despite the growing unpredictability due to the pandemic, we continue to work consistently on and will further increase attention to new global challenges and threats. It is our common task to fight ISIS and all other terrorist organisations until their final defeat.




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4129283






Comment by the Information and Press Department on the extension of restrictions imposed by Ukraine on Russian online resources and several IT companies



15 May 2020 - 18:19



It came to light today that President of Ukraine Vladimir Zelensky signed an executive order to extend the ban on access to Russian websites and social media platforms in Ukraine for another three years. We are talking about unilateral restrictions imposed by Kiev in 2017 against more than 1,228 individuals, the vast majority of whom are Russian citizens, as well as 468 Russian online resources, social media and IT companies, including Yandex, Yandex.Ukraine, Mail.ru, Vkontakte, Odnoklassniki, Kaspersky Lab and Doctor Web, to name a few.

Once again, the Ukrainian leaders have shown in practice that they do not plan to revise their discriminatory and illegal policies regarding Russian media resources.

We regard this step as an act of outright censorship aimed at mopping up the country's information space in order to remove alternative points of view. Such actions constitute a gross violation of the fundamental principles of international law such as freedom of expression and equal access to information.

The blocking of Russian online resources is only a small fraction of the arbitrary actions in Ukraine regarding the media. Journalistic activities have long been associated with risk to life and freedom in Ukraine. Kiev is pursuing a policy of reprisals against the media as it tightens legislation and state regulation of the media space, as well as applying administrative and other forms of pressure on journalists. In addition, the murders of a number of media representatives in that country, including the crimes in 2014, which took the lives of Andrey Stenin, Anton Voloshin, Igor Kornelyuk and Anatoly Klyan, remain without investigation.

We also consider Kiev’s continued pandering to the unlawful activities of the extremist website Myrotvorets unacceptable; this poses a direct threat to the safety of journalists.

We urge the relevant international organisations and human rights NGOs, including the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Harlem Desir, to respond appropriately to this, and we urge Kiev’s European and overseas partners to explain in what way the Ukrainian authorities’ policy is consistent with democratic values ​​and principles.




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4129727






Remarks by acting head of the Russian Federation delegation Andrey Vorobyov at the 946th plenary meeting of the OSCE Forum for Security Co-operation, Vienna, May 13, 2020



15 May 2020 - 19:12



[Andrey Vorobyov on the left.]




Topic: Small arms and light weapons (SALW) and stockpiles of conventional ammunition (SCA)/Mine action



Mr Chairman,

We thank the Ukrainian chairmanship for choosing small arms and light weapons (SALW), stockpiles of conventional ammunition (SCA) and demining as topics for the Security Dialogue. We commend the keynote speakers and thank them for their remarks.

Engaging in wide-ranging efforts to help OSCE member countries in the sphere of SALW and SCA makes a concrete and practical contribution to strengthening security in the OSCE area. We note that the process of updating handbooks on best practices on SALW and SCA has started, and are counting on effective cooperation in this regard. This work has gained much importance and prominence for the Forum in the current context, including as a factor of shaping a positive agenda.

We support the discussion’s trajectory whereby efforts to prevent the uncontrolled spread of SALW/SCA and reducing the threat posed by land mines, as well as resolving the humanitarian aspects of this problem have principled importance and have to be continued in a consistent manner. In doing so, we need to take into consideration the OSCE’s nature and the actual capabilities it has, since it has traditionally focused on furthering the UN’s global commitments and assisting member states.

We would like to draw special attention of our distinguished colleagues to the need to abandon confrontational rhetoric, stop promoting a non-consensual agenda and revive a constructive, mutually respectful dialogue.

Mr Chairman,

Just as the preceding speakers, we would like to offer a brief overview of Russia’s contribution to mine action.

We are proactively engaged on this matter. Suffice to say that mine clearance efforts have been going on for many years on the territories where World War II combat action took place. Every year, specialised units within Russia’s Emergencies Ministry destroy about 40,000 explosive remnants dating back to 1941 ̶ 1945.

Russia helps the interested countries carry out humanitarian demining operations, including by sending teams of mine clearance and ordnance technicians, as well as the necessary equipment. Let me share some examples with you.

Through its Emergencies Ministry, Russia has carried out humanitarian demining operations in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, the province of Kosovo, Nicaragua, Lebanon and Sri-Lanka.

We remain proactively engaged with Serbia. Since 2008, we have carried out 16 major projects, cleared about 7 million square metres, located and disposed of over 13,000 unexploded ordnances, including air bombs, projectiles and cluster ammunition. The programme to assist Belgrade with humanitarian demining is based on international development assistance mechanisms through the International Civil Defence Organisation (ICDO).

Russia takes proper care of training mine clearance specialists, including from abroad. This is the purpose of the International Mine Action Centre (IMAC), which was established within Russia’s Armed Forces in 2014. Since that time, the centre has trained over 1,300 military experts from Armenia, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Serbia, Syria and Laos.

One special aspect of the demining efforts outside the OSCE area is assistance to Syria. In 2016 and 2017, Russian experts were clearing the Palmyra history and architecture landmark as well as the cities of Aleppo and Deir ez-Zor. In all, they found and destroyed over 100,000 explosive remnants of war. To share our advanced experience in this sphere, we opened a branch of the International Mine Action Centre in Homs in 2017, where training is offered in Arabic.

In March 2020, IMAC experts completed a humanitarian mine action in Phonsavan, Laos, having cleared over 10 hectares of land and defused over 830 explosive devices, including anti-personnel mines, artillery shells and US-made aerial cluster bombs. That mission was noted for a large amount of unexploded munitions and their components. Our experts had to respond to every electromagnetic signal, unearth and identify them to determine the risk level.

We provide the details of Russia’s mine clearing operations every year in our answers to the OSCE Questionnaire on Anti-Personnel Mines and Explosive Remnants of War.

Mr Chairman,

A great deal has been said today about dealing with explosive hazards in south-eastern Ukraine. According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, it is one of the world’s most mine-contaminated areas. Since the start of the military confrontation there, over 1,000 civilians in Donbass have been killed by mines and more than 2 million are exposed to the mine hazard, with children as the most affected age group.

We would like to draw attention to the important efforts of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (SMM) to promote mine awareness in Donbass. Indicative in this respect is the SMM’s latest thematic report, according to which mines and other explosive objects are responsible for a higher number of fatalities than shelling and small-arms fire combined.

We have a legitimate concern over the fact that large Ukrainian government-controlled areas remain closed to comprehensive SMM monitoring under the pretext of mine hazards amid Kiev’s ongoing military operation against Donbass civilians. As a result of this, Kiev’s military activities cannot be properly assessed. The SMM’s daily updates have reported newly installed mines, noting that new mines are being installed by the Ukrainian Armed Forces in large numbers, sometimes running to hundreds.

Since January 2020, SMM observers have detected more than 1,000 mines installed by the Ukrainian Armed Forces in the Ukrainian government-controlled areas of Donbass, including over 600 mines near Rassadki (see SMM updates of March 11 and 26, April 2), 200 new mines near Troitsky (April 2 update) and as many near Pishchevik (January 22). According to SMM updates, large minefields have been laid by the Ukrainian Armed Forces near Vodyanoye, Maryinka and Popasnaya. On May 4 and 9, 2019, SMM observers for the first time detected some 3,000 anti-tank mines near Pishchevik (May 14, 2019 update). The list is much longer. We would like to point out that while presenting unsubstantiated and pointless claims to others, the Ukrainian delegation should remember that the activities of the Ukrainian Armed Forces are hindering the mine clearance efforts of international organisations in Donbass and endangering civilians.

We hope to see progress in the implementation of the December 9, 2019 decisions of the Normandy Four summit to implement an updated demining plan based on the 2016 Decision of the Trilateral Contact Group on Mine Action, and to coordinate three additional disengagement areas with Kiev, Donetsk and Lugansk, which should help the efforts to clear Donbass of explosive objects. Regrettably, no progress has been achieved in this sphere so far. We are doing our best to facilitate the sides’ rapprochement within the framework of the Minsk Contact Group and hoping that they will coordinate mutually acceptable decisions.

We appreciate the efforts of the Mine Action Outreach Coordinator in Ukraine to reduce mine risks and promote mine awareness among civilians. We hope that these activities, including extra-budgetary ones, will remain transparent and accountable to the OSCE member states, comply with the mandate and take into account the agreements reached within the Contact Group.

Mr Chairman,

Addressing the Forum’s meetings, members of the Ukrainian delegation have repeatedly stated that anti-personnel mines are not used on Kiev-controlled territories, and that the country fulfils, in a transparent and conscientious manner, its obligations under the Ottawa Convention on Anti-Personnel Mines. However, the reality is quite different from these statements.

We would like to point out that on April 24, members of the Special Monitoring Mission located four boxes marked MON-90 at the Popasnaya checkpoint of the Ukrainian Armed Forces . One of the boxes contained an anti-personnel mine. This fact was recorded by the members of the Special Monitoring Mission in their report. Members of the Ukrainian delegation regularly claim at the OSCE that their country does not manufacture or use anti-personnel mines. That prompts the question of how, in that case, Ukrainian service personnel, stationed in the armed confrontation zone, acquired anti-personnel mines?

One more example. In April 2017, the Security Service of Ukraine said that the POM-2 anti-personnel mines found in the Lugansk Region were not used by the Ukrainian Armed Forces. Nevertheless, according to the 2018 Ukrainian report regarding the Ottawa Convention on Anti-Personnel Mines, the country had stockpiled 149,000 mines of this type. Indicatively, the 2019 report stated that there were no mines of this category in the country. The following question remains: how did Ukraine manage to destroy a considerable number of anti-personnel mines over such a short time period?

Contrary to Kiev’s claims, there are serious doubts that they were destroyed. For example, in late April, Ukrainian law enforcement agencies located the largest weapons and military equipment depot since the crisis began. Until recently, the depot was under control of the Ukrainian Volunteer Army, which is banned in Russia and which is closely linked with the radical nationalist association The Right Sector, also banned in Russia).

During an investigation conducted on behalf of the Prosecutor General of Ukraine, explosives and about 100 tonnes of ammunition were found at this depot, and a criminal investigation was launched into this matter.

Various versions of MON anti-personnel mines were found at the depot. As has been noted, Ukrainian reports on Article 7 of the Ottawa Convention show that Kiev has no MON mines. The situation is aggravated by the fact that numerous types of weapons, ammunition and mines, not controlled by official agencies, may have spread throughout the crisis zone and beyond.

One should also recall the fact that Ukraine continues to import ammunition, explosives and mines from European Union countries. Obviously, this does not facilitate a de-escalation of the military and political situation in south-eastern Ukraine.

Mr Chairman,

In conclusion, I would like to note that we perceive a certain benefit only from that part of the meeting whose participants reviewed OSCE activities in the area of SALW and mine clearance operations.

At the same time, I regret to note that the report of the high-ranking Ukrainian representatives and speeches by members of a number of delegations leave a deplorable impression. They contained confrontational rhetoric, groundless accusations and were dominated by a striving to shift the responsibility onto others. We urge our partners to resume a constructive and professional discussion during the Forum.

We are concerned about the future of discussions on military and political aspects of common European security, and we doubt the ability of Ukraine to chair the Forum for Security Cooperation in a neutral and unbiased manner.

I request that this statement be appended to the Journal of the Day.

Thank you, Mr Chairman.




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4129764






Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s interview with the RBC media holding on current international issues, Moscow, May 15, 2020



15 May 2020 - 19:22






Question:

The coronavirus pandemic has already closed many countries. Do you think the world will be again as open and mobile as it was before the pandemic?



Sergey Lavrov:

Many discussions are being held on this issue today. Indeed, many COVID-19 response measures are being taken at random because nobody knows for sure how to effectively counter this infection. Decisions are made in response to immediate epidemiological challenges. These measures are seriously restricting the usual life of states, societies, every individual and every family.

We couldn’t even imagine that we would need a special pass to leave our homes, our flats. But experts are assuring us that these measures are helping curb the spread of the pandemic. Many countries have shut entry and exit. We have also taken such decisions. Exceptions are made for Russian citizens and their families who happened to be abroad and want to return home, foreign diplomats and those who provide cargo shipments by ground, air, railway and vehicle transport. But foreign travel is banned for the majority of people. This is not just our idea. The majority of states are doing the same.

Now these restrictions will be gradually lifted depending on the developments in various countries. In all countries that have announced such an easing of restrictions, the governments and epidemiological authorities intend to monitor the situation in order to adjust their policy if need be. But there is a consensus opinion that full-scale recovery of global economic and cultural ties, as well as simply people-to-people contacts, will take a long time.

The overwhelming majority of analysts agree that even when all threats of the pandemic are eliminated, vaccines are approved and universal vaccination is introduced, we will have to live with this infection like with other biological diseases for which vaccines have long been available. That said, as you know, there are forecasts that the infection will stay with us for a long time: a second wave and annual outbreaks are likely. Most experts believe that an absolutely open system of interaction that existed before the pandemic will no longer exist, and that defensive medical measures will be taken, in particular, in transport.

You know how airports are going to start operating. Much is being said today about plans to ensure biological safety inside aircraft, trains, cars and restaurants. I don’t think very tough precautions will be considered appropriate, but nonetheless I don’t expect the freedom we had before. Measures will be based on conclusions from the current situation.



Question:

You mentioned precautions. Do you think Russia is interested in retaining greater control over its citizens abroad after the quarantines are lifted? Maybe through introducing exit visas? This is being discussed even on social media networks.



Sergey Lavrov:

I don’t know who is talking about this. If people yearn for the Soviet Union, it’s probably their right. I don’t see any need and have not heard of any plans like this among those who might somehow be engaged in adopting relevant decisions.



Question:

Do you have any misgivings that the epidemiological situation might be used as an excuse by unfriendly countries to ban Russian citizens from entering these countries?



Sergey Lavrov:

We already have enough examples of unfriendly steps being taken against Russians for no reason. I cannot foresee what else our Western partners will come up with. They already know how to invent sanctions out of the blue, as has happened repeatedly: for example, in connection with the poisoning in Salisbury (the so-called Skripal case) or the Malaysia Airlines plane crash.

But they never provide hard evidence. They proclaim “highly likely,” and then sanctions are imposed. So, I really hope that a sense of proportion and common sense will prevail in the West, as well as the need to follow international law in any of its actions, which requires credible evidence and clear facts to support any accusations, in court or in international agencies. We have not seen this approach from the West with respect to the groundless charges against us so far.

Are we expecting any new unfriendly moves? I hope not. But, I assure you, we are ready for any developments.



Question:

When can Russia begin to open its borders with its CIS neighbours? Will statements from the leaders of the CIS countries about a victory over the coronavirus be enough? Can Russia just believe these statements? We have already had a bit of conflict, for example, with the Republic of Belarus.



Sergey Lavrov:

I am not the one to answer this question, but rather the state agencies that are responsible under the law for the sanitary-epidemiological and biological safety of our country, and for public health in general. In my opinion, these are obvious things for any person who understands how a state works, Russia or any country. Everything that is done to combat the coronavirus is subordinated to the main task – to ensure the safety of the population, the state, including from epidemiological threats. These decisions are made by interdepartmental agencies under the Government and the State Council of Russia: the Emergency Response Centre and the Coordination Council. The Russian Foreign Ministry is among the members, but it is solely responsible for issues within its competence. They are secondary to the strategy chosen for coronavirus response and for a smooth, painless exit from the current restrictive measures.



Question:

Regarding the situation with the Financial Times and The New York Times. As we see it, and Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova said something similar yesterday, they could be stripped of their accreditation unless they retract their stories (Note: Maria Zakharova basically said the opposite – “This is not our way: stripping accreditation, deporting journalists or any other repressive measures"). We had a similar situation with Belarus. What is the difference between this case and that of Channel One in Belarus? Why such a harsh reaction to allegations that official Russian statistics might not be absolutely correct?



Sergey Lavrov:

I have heard of no suggestion or expectation that they will be stripped of their accreditation unless they respond. We have not discussed this with Maria Zakharova. I do not believe that either of us would suggest this.

As to the essence of the question, it should be dealt with basically by the Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media (Roskomnadzor). Under the Russian law On Information, Information Technologies and the Protection of Information, Roskomnadzor has taken relevant legal actions. Let’s wait for a response.

I am essentially against ostracising journalists but they definitely should bear responsibility for their reports. You know what measures have been taken against the RT channel in London by Ofcom, their version of our Roskomnadzor, for covering events in Syria exclusively from the Russian viewpoint. RT’s requests to provide any materials showing the outlet’s bias in covering the developments in Syria were left unanswered. But the channel was fined 200,000 pounds.

I think the issue of information reliability deserves special attention and a universal approach. Today the situation is like this. The Group of Friends on the Safety of Journalists was established at UNESCO some time ago. Suddenly they set up some sort of movement which declares itself to be the creator of traditions and the keeper of standards of freedom of the press. I don’t think this is quite right. Journalists can and should set up associations and promote certain concepts, but it is a bit too much when they claim to be possessors of the ultimate truth and that everyone should follow these standards. The same is true of France’s initiative to consider issues of freedom of cyberspace and information reliability within some movement set up outside universal structures.

There are problems of course. Accusations based on “highly likely” arguments now haunt many newsworthy events, whether it’s the Skripal case, the Malaysia Airlines crash, Brexit, or the Catalonia referendum. We were accused of interference in all these processes and of organising some of them. Now in Prague: “A Russian diplomat carried deadly poison in his suitcase.” The secret services knew about it but they let him in. Any authority who knows of someone carrying deadly poison and lets him enter their country should be in prison. Where is the poison now, according to the Czech special services? I don’t know.

Another case in point from the same “highly likely” category. Suddenly, the Bundestag announced that five years ago the German special services discovered, while conducting an investigation, that a hacker attack had been launched against the Bundestag and against German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s personal email. This was allegedly done by Russians. Five years have passed, and we have not been given a single concrete fact. Let’s look across the Atlantic. In 2013, Edward Snowden published classified documents from the US National Security Agency. They absolutely and unequivocally showed that this agency wiretapped, through its representatives in Germany, Angela Merkel among others. This fact was established and acknowledged by the German authorities. The head of the NSA office in Germany was deported. A year later, the Office of the German Federal Public Prosecutor announced that the case was closed since the charges could not be proved in court. There are facts but they are impossible to prove. In Russia’s case there are no facts but everything is “proved” very easily. This is the problem with the information space when it comes to facts.

Regarding the coronavirus statistics. I assure you that the Russian authorities are less interested in hiding the truth than anyone. This is no joke, it is a matter of people’s lives. I think it is inadmissible to play with them just as it is inadmissible to use the situation to slander a certain country. Bloomberg, which picked up the Financial Times and The New York Times stories wrote in their headline that there is no answer as to “why the coronavirus hasn’t killed more Russians.” We are now in a situation where journalists working for the media are trying to use even the most serious and tragic events for geopolitical games. They want to please someone and to infuriate someone else. But one needs to be very careful in terms of abiding by the law and the code of journalism ethics.



Question:

Do you know exactly how many Russian nationals are still waiting to return to their home country? When do you expect to bring this work to an end?



Sergey Lavrov:

Since the beginning of this pandemic, we have secured the return of over 250,000 people to Russia. According to our estimates, about 30,000 are still waiting to come back to Russia.

Twice as many people have registered with the Government Services website, however, the verification that we constantly carry out jointly with the Interior Ministry and the Communications Ministry shows that the majority of those who have registered do not plan to return to Russia. These are people living abroad who decided to register just in case.

There are about 30,000 people who really want to get back to Russia. This is a large group, if you know how many people on average an aircraft can carry. This requires serious effort, and by now we have largely learnt to address this task. However, extraordinary situations still occur, although they are far fewer. We cooperate with the Emergency Response Centre, the Communications Ministry, the Interior Ministry, the Federal Agency for Aviation, Aeroflot and our other airlines. There is good coordination at the official and personal levels that helps us deal with the questions of the moment. The decision taken by Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin has helped us a lot. About a month ago, in addition to the criteria which were developed as part of the algorithm to determine who has the priority right to return home and which were used to make up the lists of passengers, Russian ambassadors abroad were allowed to include on them people from the so-called humanitarian lists. These are people who for some reason do not meet all the criteria set at the Emergency Response Centre but have ended up in a predicament that requires prompt intervention.

This work is far from complete, as 30,000 is quite a large group of people. But we already have experience, and there is every reason to believe that now our response to uncommon situations is much more effective.



Question:

Do you think Russian citizens should change their attitude to foreign travel? Should they be more responsible in this regard and consider it a privilege?



Sergey Lavrov:

This is not a privilege but a constitutional right.



Question:

Is foreign travel a serious issue?



Sergey Lavrov:

I think a tourist trip at home is a serious issue. For instance, I like adventure holidays – rafting down mountain rivers. A trip to Lake Baikal or some place in the Far East like Kamchatka requires serious preparations. That said, in this case you are in your home country. But extreme situations can also happen abroad, and in ordinary resorts, not just an adventure journey. Do you remember the horrible tsunami in Southeast Asia several years ago? Everyone fled from Thailand when 12- metre high waves swept hotels and villages from the face of the Earth. In the meantime, charter flights were taking more Russian tourists to Thailand. This was followed by a difficult evacuation. But this was one country and a specific group of people. When this has to be done all over the world, it’s a completely different story.

In preparing to go abroad, every person must make his or her own decision. Probably, it is worth paying for insurance when buying a tour, but this is not mandatory today. I believe the tourism industry will make its own conclusions following this situation. We will be ready to take part in this.

But there is no reason to talk about a ban on foreign travel.







Question:

Let’s finish the tourism questions and move on to bigger foreign policy issues. On which side is Russia and why in the conflict between the US and China over possible contradictory data on the emergence and spread of the coronavirus?



Sergey Lavrov:

We are on the side of justice and common sense. Justice implies that it is wrong to accuse someone of something without the facts. I have given examples of the attitude of our Western partners who base their accusations on the declaration “highly likely,” which is how they accuse us of many things. I think the same applies to any situation where a country is being blamed for serious actions that affect lives but no facts are given. This attitude cannot be taken lightly.

A few words of common sense. This is not a time to be crying “stop thief!” and pointing fingers, it’s a time to cooperate and to develop a vaccine as soon as possible. Institutions in Europe, China, Russia, the US and many other countries are working on this. A kind of “prestigious race” is taking place – who will be the first? There are already manifestations of “national egotism” where the competition for being the first with a vaccine is not entirely scrupulous. There is information that the US has bought Sanofi, a French company, in the hope that it will be the first to develop the vaccine and that the US will get it. However, there are proposals from France and other European countries (which we share) that any positive result in this regard must be instantly made available internationally and the vaccine must be accessible to all. This is common sense without any selfish aspirations or attempts to derive a political benefit from this tragic situation.

I would like to recall that it was in late December that we learned from our Chinese colleagues about what was happening there (when they became convinced that this was really an epidemic). In January, specialists were already talking about it, in part, under the aegis of the World Health Organisation (WHO). In February WHO experts visited Wuhan. By the way, there was a Russian specialist in this delegation. So, it is at least inappropriate to say that the Chinese were concealing information from the WHO, or that the WHO did not know some things, or that it knew about the coronavirus but held back information. Needless to say, nobody could imagine the developments that led to this pandemic but it’s an unprecedented situation. Doctors were acting under conditions where the experience gained from other pandemics was not enough. This pandemic proved to be much more serious.

I think WHO experts must be supported and encouraged in every way rather than accused without grounds. This is especially true since the overwhelming majority of WHO Secretariat employees come from the countries that are the strongest critics of the WHO. They are demanding a drastic reform of the organisation, everything short of closing it down. Representatives of the US, France, Italy, Ireland, Spain, Australia, Portugal and Britain amount to over 30 percent of the WHO specialists, that is, people who deal professionally with epidemics and healthcare in general. The majority of Western countries have many more specialists there than they are entitled to by their quota. Out of about 2,100 specialists, one third come from Western countries. Italy, Canada and Australia have about 60 employees each. China has fewer than 40 and Russia has 20. Even if China or any other non-Western country had a malicious plan to use the WHO for its narrow interests, how can 40 people do this if they are confronted by over 700 specialists from Western countries, which are united by allied commitments in NATO and the European Union? I believe it is important to focus now on helping the experts and professionals to develop a vaccine instead of trying to derive some geopolitical, electoral or other advantages.



Question:

When the pandemic is over and the vaccine is created, will Russia support the idea of investigating how everything began and why this happened? Or are there no grounds for this based on what you have said?



Sergey Lavrov:

I have already talked about this. I would not call this an investigation but the need to understand what exactly caused the coronavirus. Most experts agree that it is of natural origin. But, of course, it is necessary to find out how this natural process began and how the virus started to spread between people. Scientists are working on this. Their findings will be key in order to develop a remedy to this threat and to try as hard as possible to insure against similar threats in the future, not to say “I was right, and the virus emerged at this market, so we have to impose sanctions against this country.”



Question:

President of France Emmanuel Macron suggested to his colleagues at the UN Security Council holding a meeting via videoconference and discussing the developments around the coronavirus. Why hasn’t this meeting happened yet?



Sergey Lavrov:

I don’t know. It was President Emmanuel Macron’s initiative. His explanation was that the UN Security Council permanent members needed to raise their voice among other members of the international community, calling on them to unite and show solidarity in countering the coronavirus, helping everyone in need and providing medical assistance, including to develop the vaccine. We supported this. By this time, the UN General Assembly had adopted a resolution in this context. The G20 had adopted statements, which Russia was involved in preparing. The G-77 (a group of developing countries) and China also put out a statement, which we supported. President of France Emmanuel Macron suggested that the five UN Security Council permanent members should also speak about this. We agreed to do so if it was acceptable for all the council members. Everyone agreed that the meeting had to be held via videoconference with the final document drafted in advance. We saw all the versions of the final document. We completely accept the latest draft. Several other members have counterproposals that have not been agreed upon yet. We are ready to hold this conference at any moment.



Question:

You said Russia also expects to hold a face-to-face meeting of the leaders of the UN Security Council’s five permanent members. The meeting was proposed by President of Russia Vladimir Putin. When he first made the proposal, it was compared to the Yalta Conference, that is, a meeting that might establish a new international order. Is this meeting still needed amid the coronavirus pandemic?



Sergey Lavrov:

We do not just expect to hold this meeting, we will hold it. This initiative was promptly supported by China, France, then by US President Donald Trump and later by the British Prime Minister. You remember that President of Russia Vladimir Putin put forward the idea in January of this year. He emphasised that the agenda should be carefully worked out. We are now doing it. All the Security Council permanent members share an understanding that the agenda must encompass key problems of today’s world, primarily from the perspective of strategic stability and global security. This is due to the fact that the five permanent members of the Security Council, under the UN Charter, bear a special responsibility for maintaining international peace and security. We would like to propose that the five leaders consider in a succinct and interconnected manner all the topics that fall within this competence. This meeting is needed even more during the coronavirus pandemic. The coronavirus infection, apart from what we spoke about earlier in our conversation (meaning its effect on everyday life and the organisation of international relations), also revealed problems that require a more systemic review and that relate to how states, their associations, international communities and the international order as a whole will cope with this challenge. It will have an impact, obviously, in security, as well as in the military-political, economic, environmental and humanitarian areas. But humanitarian and economic issues are not among the UN Security Council’s responsibilities. I don’t think it would be appropriate for the five leaders to encroach on the area of competence of the UN General Assembly and other bodies with universal membership. But military, political and security issues must be discussed. Our partners – France, the US, the UK and China – reaffirm in each conversation and at all levels that the initiative remains significant and is becoming even more so in the current conditions. As soon as the epidemiological situation allows, we will consider the logistical issues of preparing for this forum, whereas now we are dealing with its substantive content remotely.



Question:

Could it be that you have already started drafting the final documents of that meeting?



Sergey Lavrov:

As I said, we are working on the substantive content of that meeting, which requires further consultations with our partners.



Question:

Victory Day is over, but historical disputes still continue. In a recent interview with RBC, Czech Foreign Minister Tomas Petricek said his taxpayers are paying him for building current and future relations with Russia not for historical disputes. He suggests they should be left to historians. Why isn’t history left to historians in relations with the Czech Republic and Poland? You and your ministry have to make statements in this regard almost every day.



Sergey Lavrov:

I would advise those who make such statements to look at the recent archives. In the past few years, we have emphasised many times the need to deal with practical policy and leave history to historians. It’s good that after many years this idea has been accepted by those to whom it was addressed, although not by all.

This is how it should be for all those who defend justice and international law. But the problem is that our colleagues who suggest dealing with current policy rather than history see “current policy” as the promotion of ideas on rewriting history. They are suggesting approaches that are making null and void the results of World War II, the verdicts of the Nuremberg Trials and interstate agreements based on the results of WWII, including our agreements with the Czech Republic, Poland, and other European countries, including the former Warsaw Pact members that we are now discussing.

Our approach is based on the need to respect history that is fixed in international law. As for discourse about different historical events, it must be left for historians. We have quite a few commissions of historians that discussed these issues, for instance, joint commissions with Poland, Lithuania and Germany. The commission with Poland is cooperating with the Institute of History at the Russian Academy of Sciences. They are co-authors of textbooks. There are jointly written chapters on some episodes of our common history. On other episodes, Russian and Polish historians express their different views in the same publications.

If our partners interpret the appeal to leave history to historians as their right not to abide by international legal commitments stemming from the UN Charter, the decisions of the Nuremberg Trials or the 1993 agreements in the case of the Czech Republic (the Treaty on Friendly Relations and Cooperation), they are not going to succeed.

Speaking about the Czech Republic, after the revolting actions of the head of a Prague district council, Foreign Minister Tomas Petricek expressed willingness to start the consultations we proposed with a view to monitoring how the sides fulfil the 1993 treaty, including the requirement to preserve and make accessible military graves and memorials, which was signed and ratified by Moscow and Prague. In the case of the monument to Marshal Ivan Konev, this commitment was crudely violated. We were given some childish explanations to the effect that the Czech government had nothing to do with this decision because the monument belonged to this particular district, that is, its head. I consider this explanation childish because the commitment to preserve this monument was a responsibility of the Czech Republic. Moreover, until recently we knew (and the Czech side has confirmed it) that this monument was in the register of the Czech Defence Ministry. And then, all of a sudden, after its demolition, they are telling us bashfully that this monument did not belong to them. I consider this unacceptable. I think that our Czech colleagues will have to give us very serious explanations at the forthcoming consultations and will tell us how they will rectify this situation. The commitment has not disappeared, and the monument must be restored.



Question:

You have mentioned the archives. In his recent article, Permanent Representative of Russia to the European Union Vladimir Chizhov wrote about Dulles’ Plan. Are their grounds to mention it in official documents, considering that its existence is a conspiracy theory?



Sergey Lavrov:

The Russian Mission to the EU has already commented on this and thanked journalists for their attentiveness to the article written by our Permanent Representative Vladimir Chizhov. It explained that this figure was mentioned not in connection with a document for conspiracy purposes, but as a person that expressed the spirit of that time. We all know what plans our allies discussed immediately after the victory over Nazism. It is in this context that his name came up.



Question:

You have mentioned that the final document of the meeting suggested by French President Emmanuel Macron for mapping out joint actions on countering the coronavirus infection is virtually ready. Can you describe in broad terms what it will be about, without revealing secrets of others?



Sergey Lavrov:

I don’t think you will find any surprises in this document. I won’t specify its contents. But by and large, if you read the already published resolution of the UN General Assembly and the G20, you will get an impression about what is being done at this stage of the preparations for the French-proposed video conference of the UN Security Council permanent members.




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4129782






Press release on plans to provide medical and humanitarian aid to Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina



15 May 2020 - 19:53



In late April, Bosnia and Herzegovina asked Russia for assistance in disinfecting the University Clinical Hospital building in the city of Mostar and for medical consultations with the hospital. Essentially, this region, in fighting the coronavirus outbreak, wanted to use the experience of the specialised teams of Russian army medical personnel who had been helping Serbia cope with the coronavirus outbreak since April 3 and performed the same mission in April 9–23 in the Republika Srpska of Bosnia and Herzegovina and before that had assisted Italy based on a related agreement.

This request was considered and, in keeping with the instructions of our country’s top leaders, the group of military medical specialists from the Defence Ministry with the proper equipment was ready to fly to Mostar in early May this year. Unfortunately, this plan was hampered either by a lack of preparedness or by a lack of coordination of actions by the administration of Bosnia and Herzegovina: the Russian military healthcare workers were not issued the necessary permits. As a result, people in Bosnia and Herzegovina were left without this needed assistance.

We would like to believe that in fighting the coronavirus, saving people’s lives would be the main consideration that all interested parties and political circles are guided by when taking critically important decisions. This objective cannot be achieved without consolidating resources. There is no place for unscrupulous geopolitical games in this situation. On more than one occasion, Russia has shown that it is willing to take part in cooperative efforts, and it remains committed to this principled position in the face of this still dangerous infection that threatens us all.




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4129810






Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s answer to a question by the Novy Vek TV and Radio Company as part of the Tatarstan Today. Open to the World project, Moscow, May 16



16 May 2020 - 19:30






Question:

2020 has been announced the year of the 100th anniversary of the foundation of the Tatar Autonomous Socialist Soviet Republic within the recently formed Russian Federated Socialist Soviet Republic (RSFSR). In your opinion, what does the Republic have to show for this round anniversary?



Sergey Lavrov:

I think we should assess what it has to show as quite considerable, strong and positive. The Republic is conspicuous and recognisable internationally. Russian federal ministries cooperate with the authorities of Tatarstan very closely, and not only in our everyday work, where President Rustam Minnikhanov, other officials and we deal with current issues, but also in system terms, because Tatarstan is a pro-active member of the Government Commission on Compatriots Living Abroad. The World Congress of Tatars is an important soft power tool that helps to promote the interests of compatriots of all peoples of the Russian Federation in foreign countries. Kazan is invariably represented as a very active member on the Government Commission on Compatriots Living Abroad, and our friends from Tatarstan are active at the Council of Heads of the Russian Regions under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation. Tatarstan’s experience is quite promising and in demand with other Russian regions in practically every format, where the Foreign Ministry collaborates with the regions.

Let me congratulate from the bottom of my heart all my friends in Tatarstan and the people of your Republic on this special anniversary.




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4129906
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Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s answer to a question by the Novy Vek TV and Radio Company as part of the Tatarstan Today. Open to the World project, Moscow, May 18



18 May 2020 - 08:00






Question:

The Group of Strategic Vision “Russia – Islamic world” was established in the 2000s. Today, this group is headed by President Rustam Minnikhanov. Do you think it is efficient? What objectives is it pursuing in the face of new challenges?



Sergey Lavrov:

My ministry is collaborating with Tatarstan most actively to ensure a rhythmic and effective operation of the Group of Strategic Vision “Russia – Islamic world.” It was created when Yevgeny Primakov was in office as an intellectual club, where political scientists, experts and representatives from relevant countries would analyse the paths of the world’s strategic development from the point of view of relations between Russia and the Muslims. Since then, the Group has evolved into a very important forum. Five meetings have been held; in recent years, the meetings take place in Kazan. President of Tatarstan Rustam Minnikhanov is the irreplaceable head of this Group from Russia.

In parallel to strategic and political debates, an international economic forum, Russia – Islamic World: KazanSummit, has been created and is functioning successfully. It is an economic dimension of the Group of Strategic Vision and of our relations with the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). We are not forgetting about the humanitarian track either. The Aitmatov Readings for the Dialogue of Cultures is an established format for contacts between intellectuals, scientists, writers and humanitarians in the broadest sense of the word; it is also a subdivision of sorts of the Group of Strategic Vision. This is a very useful format that we have been promoting in every way. Its importance for Russia’s foreign policy is illustrated by the fact that Saudi Arabia has volunteered to host the next, sixth, summit of the Group of Strategic Vision “Russia – Islamic world.” So, I think that this is a very promising initiative that has emerged as an inalienable part of our agenda in relations with the Islamic world.




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4129952






Press release on detention of Russian citizens in Sri Lanka on charges of causing environmental damage



18 May 2020 - 15:13



On February 26, 2020, three Russian citizens were detained in the city of Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka, on charges of environmental damage caused by inflicting death on insects (beetles) and certain small species of animals, the number of which is being ascertained by the investigation.

On April 4 of this year, the Russian Embassy in Colombo managed to obtain the three suspects’ release on recognisance from custody in the city of Badulla. On May 28 of this year, a court hearing is to take place to examine the case on its merits. According to preliminary information, the Russian citizens may be fined, with the amount of the fine to be determined after the extent of damage is identified.

The said citizens of Russia are using the services of a local attorney. The Embassy is helping to find an interpreter for them and is doing what is needed to secure their rights.




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4130348






Joint Statement by the Special Representatives on Afghanistan Affairs of Russia, China, Iran and Pakistan



18 May 2020 - 18:19



On 18 May 2020, the Special Representatives on Afghanistan Affairs of the Russian Federation, People’s Republic of China, Islamic Republic of Iran and Islamic Republic of Pakistan held a virtual meeting, and exchanged views on the current situation in Afghanistan and the peace and reconciliation process thereof.

The Special Representatives on Afghanistan Affairs of the four sides:

1. Reiterate their respect for the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Afghanistan, and the decision of its people on their future and development path;

2. Welcome the Agreement between two main political leaders and hope that this important event will expedite start of Intra-Afgan negotiations;

3. Support the “Afghan-led, Afghan-owned” peace and reconciliation process, believe that the inclusive Intra-Afghan negotiations is the only way to realize the Afghan national reconciliation, leading to prompt end of the prolonged conflict;

4. Call on all Afghan ethnic groups and parties, including Taliban to act upon the opportunities preparing the situation to launch the Intra-Afghan negotiations as soon as possible;

5. Support Afghanistan to achieve comprehensive and sustainable peace at an early date [reservation of the Iranian side: “respecting the constitution of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, and the constitutional rights of women as well as ethnic and religious groups”];

6. Pay close attention to the follow-up developments resulting in exit of foreign troops from Afghanistan. Call on foreign troops withdraw in an orderly and responsible way so that the situation in Afghanistan will experience a steady transition;

7. Support release of prisoners and detainees held by all parties to the conflict in Afghanistan;

8. Hope the Resolution 2513(2020) of the UN Security Council can be observed and implemented;

9. Support the initiative of the UN Secretary General António Guterres for universal ceasefire and call for a simultaneous declaration of a comprehensive ceasefire throughout Afghanistan as agreed among parties to the conflict;

10. Concerned with the serious terrorism threat existing in Afghanistan, urge all sides in Afghanistan to take decisive action against Al-Qaeda, ISIL, ETIM, TTP and other international terrorist organizations operating against regional countries, and to completely eradicate the production and trafficking of narcotics in the country;

11. Reaffirm their support to Afghanistan to overcome the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, welcome the international community to continue providing humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan;

12. Underscore that repatriation and reintegration of Afghan refugees should be part of any peace and reconciliation process, call upon the international community to support time bound return of Afghan refugees with dignity and honour;

13. Agree to maintain the contact on the Afghanistan issue, and work together to advance the Afghan peace reconciliation and reconstruction process.

This Statement was issued on 18 May 2020 in Moscow, Beijing, Tehran and Islamabad in Russian, Chinese, Persian and English respectively.




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4130492






Comment by the Information and Press Department on the start of the Greek Chairmanship in the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe



18 May 2020 - 20:40



The Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe was handed over from Georgia to Greece on May 15, 2020. Athens assumes the six-month chairmanship at an extremely challenging time, as all the European countries are struggling against the coronavirus infection, a treacherous enemy that transcends borders and nations. It is at this tense moment that mechanisms of international and pan-European cooperation are crucial like never before for making a real contribution to stabilising the epidemiological situation and overcoming its consequences. The Council of Europe is definitely one such mechanism.

The main theme of the Greek Chairmanship is “Protection of human life and public health in the context of a pandemic – Effectively responding to a sanitary crisis in full respect for human rights and the principles of democracy and the rule of law.” We fully support our Greek partners in their commitment to make maximum use of the Council of Europe, its principal bodies and conventions to these ends.

Russia strongly believes that the Council of Europe has the potential to be more than just a defender of values limited in its role to making sure that the restrictions governments impose are consistent with their human rights obligations. Offering a constructive agenda is equally important: reviewing best national practices in fighting the pandemic and its consequences, facilitating joint efforts by countries, be it in healthcare, on social matters, economy or education. In fact, the Council of Europe has extensive experience in working on the legal and practical aspects of public health. In particular, there is the Council of Europe Convention on the counterfeiting of medical products and similar crimes involving threats to public health (MEDICRIME), also known as the Moscow Convention. In the current context, the Council of Europe could benefit from the framework offered by the Partial Agreement for the prevention of, protection against, and organisation of relief in major natural and technological disasters.

Strasbourg is known for putting too much emphasis on petty issues that are relevant only to small fractions of the population. The tragic lessons of the pandemic are forcing us to rethink many things, shifting the focus toward the vital necessities of a vast majority of Europeans, primarily their social and economic rights. The Council of Europe has a European Social Charter, and the European Social Cohesion Platform. However, over the past years the policy of contracting the Council of Europe’s social dimension has prevailed. Russia has repeatedly warned that it would be a mistake to go down that road. We will now have to make up lost ground.

Russia continues to insist that turning a blind eye to statelessness, mass ethnic and language discrimination is unacceptable for today’s Europe. We are hopeful that as we mark the 75th anniversary of Victory over Nazism Strasbourg and Athens will not fail to offer an adequate response to the attempts to glorify Nazi collaborators, desecrate monuments to the liberators, and in general review the outcomes of WWII. Let us not forget that these outcomes form the foundation of the Council of Europe.

The Greek Chairmanship also coincides with another memorable date for our continent – 70 years since the signing of the European Convention on Human Rights. Russia will remain a guarantor of effective and good faith performance under the Convention, which has become a pillar of the European architecture rooted in international law rather than the much-hyped rules-based order.

We wish our Greek colleagues every success in implementing their priorities and advancing toward the Council of Europe’s main statutory objective of strengthening unity among its members. Russia stands ready to offer the Greek Chairmanship the necessary assistance and support.




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4130535






Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova’s answer to a Russian media question regarding US Ambassador to Poland Georgette Mosbacher’s statement on the possibility of relocating US nuclear weapons based in Germany to Poland



19 May 2020 - 15:12



Question:

On May 15, US Ambassador to Poland Georgette Mosbacher presumed in her Twitter account that Poland could house the US nuclear capabilities currently based in Germany. Will you comment on this idea?



Maria Zakharova:

Of course, we noted Madam Mosbacher’s tweet posted in response to an article by her counterpart in Germany, Richard Grenell, about the contribution Berlin is expected to make to NATO’s nuclear policy. In light of the growing debates in Germany regarding the expediency of the continued presence of non-strategic US nuclear weapons in Germany, the US Ambassador to Germany actually presented an ultimatum, saying that Berlin, instead of eroding the trans-Atlantic solidarity, should be more responsible about its obligations – specifically, according to Grenell, clearly confirm its commitments to sustaining the US nuclear weapons in Europe, and through increased and continued investments in NATO’s nuclear potential.

The US ambassador’s article provided a clear picture of the state of trans-Atlantic solidarity, when the main partner takes the liberty to openly put pressure on and even blackmail its allies. The goal is to force them into increasing contributions to military programmes and buying US-made weapons, including dual-capable aircraft. On the other hand, it is for the allies themselves to choose the form of their relationship.

However, the scale of the problem has broken out of the limits of internal NATO discussions. Russia’s position on NATO’s nuclear sharing is well known. We believe that it directly violates Articles I and II of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Madam Mosbacher went even further in her tweet, suggesting that nuclear weapons and infrastructure (“capabilities”) could be moved closer to the Russian border. Now, this is a clear violation of one of the main provisions of the Founding Act on Mutual Relations, Cooperation and Security between the Russian Federation and NATO signed on May 27, 1997. It runs as follows: “The member States of NATO reiterate that they have no intention, no plan and no reason to deploy nuclear weapons on the territory of new members, nor any need to change any aspect of NATO’s nuclear posture or nuclear policy – and do not foresee any future need to do so.”

The leaders of all the bloc’s countries signed those guarantees.

We do hope that Washington and Warsaw are aware of the dangerous nature of such statements, which can only aggravate the far from positive Russia-NATO relations and even erode the material basis of European security, which has been undermined by US unilateral moves, primarily the withdrawal from the INF Treaty.

What can really strengthen European security is the withdrawal of US warheads to the United States. Russia returned its nuclear weapons to its national territory long time ago.




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4130873






Comment by the Information and Press Department on the procedure for providing humanitarian aid to Syria by EU member states amid the coronavirus pandemic



19 May 2020 - 18:05



We noted the “clarifications” on the procedure for providing humanitarian aid to Syria amid the efforts to counter the coronavirus pandemic that were released by the European Commission on May 12. As you know, Syria has for many years been under illegal unilateral EU sanctions in circumvention of the UN Security Council, a fact that has substantially complicated the provision of humanitarian aid to Syria. Now, amid the pandemic, these sanctions appear absolutely inhumane. It is starkly at odds with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ call to soften and suspend the international restrictions that impede the battle against the coronavirus infection.

A closer look at the EU’s "instructions" reveals a blatantly political motive. While recognising the fact that sanctions can affect the countries’ ability to counteract the coronavirus infection, the prospects for sending relief and medical supplies to Syria through the EU have, in fact, been reduced to zero by a number of restrictions.

More than 300 Syrian individuals and legal entities included on the EU sanctions lists are almost entirely cut off from humanitarian aid. Before establishing direct interaction with those on the list, EU businesses will have to provide their respective national authorities with exhaustive evidence that the medical products in question will not allow the above individuals or organisations to profit from reselling them or using them for other purposes. In addition, without prior EU permission, it is illegal to open accounts with Syrian banks in order to accept payments for medical supplies.

The “cleared” medical supplies nomenclature also comes with a set of conditions. In particular, regarding common personal protective equipment, which the WHO classifies as vital, like medical masks, gloves, protective suits, as well as ventilation devices and disinfectants, delivering them to Syria appears perfectly legal. However, the European Commission’s clarifications on this come with alarming reservations such as “in principle” and “as a rule.” In order not to be charged with selling “dual-purpose” products, suppliers are advised to coordinate their activity in advance with the national authorities. The European Commission has doubts even about the basic components of the most common alcohol-based antiseptics, such as ethanol and isopropyl alcohol. European officials’ concerns that some internal reprisals, including chemical attacks, can be carried out with the use of these substances are overtly absurd.

Clearly, “clarifications” like this are designed to avoid providing humanitarian aid to the Syrians, and are being used to demotivate EU businesses by outlining, in detail, the bureaucratic hurdles that stand in the way of potential distribution. In other words, this is another attempt to portray the EU sanctions as “humane” which in practice comes down to a collective punishment for the Syrians living in the neighbourhoods controlled by the government.

The fact that the Syrian opposition, as well as the country’s regions that are not controlled by the legitimate Syrian government, are still not affected by any kind of restrictions is absolutely cynical. This is a direct violation of the international principles of impartiality and neutrality of humanitarian aid which are included, among other things, in the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (Art. 214).

We urge the EU to abandon the practice of imposing unilateral sanctions on Syria. We invite Brussels to show solidarity with the long-suffering people of that country and jointly confront the dangerous challenge that has affected everyone without exception.




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4131353






Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the UN Vassily Nebenzya’s interview published in the Kommersant newspaper on May 19, 2020



19 May 2020 - 19:14







Question:

Has Russia drafted its own resolution on cross-border aid deliveries to Syria? On what conditions is Moscow ready to observe it and in which regions? In particular, will cross-border aid be delivered to Idlib and the other Turkey-controlled regions?



Vassily Nebenzya:

It is not who drafted the resolution but its essence that matters. Our delegation has ideas and proposals on all issues under discussion. As usual, it is important for us to promote consensus. This is only possible if all concerned parties, primarily the injured parties, take part in the discussion and are able to present their views in an atmosphere of attention and respect, especially when the issue concerns a state with effective bodies of power. As for cross-border aid deliveries, our preparations for discussions at the UN Security Council are based on the fact that this mechanism was proposed in 2014 as an emergency and temporary measure. All Security Council members agreed on this. When discussing cross-border aid parameters, we will take into account the concrete humanitarian needs of the people, as well as realities on the ground, which have changed considerably since 2014.



Question:

Why does the West insist on extending the resolution on cross-border aid and on reopening the border crossings that have since been closed? Has the reduction of aid delivery corridors really worsened the delivery conditions?



Vassily Nebenzya:

The West is insisting on extending the cross-border aid regime because it wants to maintain the status quo. This would suit it for a number of reasons. Some regions in Syria are held by terrorists, others have been occupied by the United States, and still others are governed by the administrations which the Syrian Government does not control. If there is a will, aid can be delivered to all those who need it via ordinary rather than emergency routes. We have great many questions about the determination to preserve the cross-border aid regime at all costs. The heads of the Interdepartmental Coordination Centres of Russia and Syria commented on this in great detail on May 13.



Question:

Why is it so important for Russia to ensure aid deliveries through Damascus that Moscow is ready to tolerate the allegations that it is responsible for the deaths of civilians from hunger and disease?



Vassily Nebenzya:

The issue concerns the real situation and the fundamental principle of humanitarian assistance sealed in UN Security Council and General Assembly resolutions, according to which any such activities must be coordinated with the legitimate authorities of the recipient country. Some humanitarian agencies, such as the respected World Health Organisation, UNICEF, the ICRC, the UN Population Fund and several Western NGOs are cooperating with the authorities when working in Syria. A large part of humanitarian aid is delivered through dialogue with the Syrian authorities.

However, we knew that conditions in Idlib were harsh in winter and that people there could perish without cross-border aid deliveries. We were guided by humanitarian considerations when we agreed to extend the mechanism in the north-western regions of Syria in January 2020. Therefore, the blame is not on Russia. We will look at the situation objectively. I would like to say a few words about objectivity. Our partners prefer to close their eyes to the fact that their sanctions against Damascus prevent the Syrian Government from buying the medical equipment it needs, while NGOs cannot make use of their capabilities for fear of sanctions.



Question:

Russia is being accused of the deaths of civilians in Idlib. The Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic has openly accused Russia of war crimes. Moscow is denying this. Can you provide proof [of our innocence] in each particular case that has been blamed on Russia?



Vassily Nebenzya:

The Foreign Ministry and the Defence Ministry of Russia have refuted these accusations many times because these accusations are mostly based on evidence from unidentified sources. In actual fact, these sources are well known: they are the White Helmets and other such masters of deception. We have no fear of an open discussion, and we explain to our partners in detail how carefully the targets of counterterrorism operations are chosen. We have even held a special news conference at the UN during which we provided photo and video evidence that laid bare all allegations. Some things, such as the alleged intercepts of communication between Russian Aerospace Forces’ pilots, are so absurd that it would be ridiculous even to comment on them. We have been accused of many sins, and not only in Syria. Regrettably, this is part of the war, the information war.




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4133279






Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s statement and answers to media questions at a news conference following a ministerial video session of the Council of the Baltic Sea States, Moscow, May 19, 2020



19 May 2020 - 20:50






A ministerial session of the Council of the Baltic Sea States (CBSS) was just held. The participants reviewed their performance during the 2019-2020 Denmark’s CBSS Presidency.

The main results are as follows. Everyone confirmed the role of the CBSS as a key mechanism for multilateral intergovernmental cooperation among the Baltic Sea states, which contributes to forming a space of trust, stability and sustainable development in the region. We stated that political dialogue and practical cooperation, as well as the implementation of specific projects, remain the two fundamental elements of interaction within the Council.

We focused on the impact of the crisis on multilateral interaction in our common region caused by the coronavirus. The participants agreed that the current situation is having a major impact on many aspects of international relations and requires a rethinking of the approaches to various activities, including multilateral organisations.

We called on our partners to consider system-wide steps that would help consolidate the efforts to find regional answers to the global challenges that are emerging in the region. We came up with a package of specific measures to strengthen Baltic cooperation as part of the CBSS mechanism. For example, we emphasised the importance of drafting a new strategic document for the Baltic region to define the goals and objectives of cooperation for the decade starting in 2021, when the current Vilnius Declaration expires.

We called for resuming the CBSS Heads of Government meetings which were quite useful and which made it possible to more thoroughly and specifically consider various aspects of cooperation. We also suggested returning to the practice of holding northern regional council coordination meetings at the political level, like the CBSS, the Arctic Council, the Barents Euro-Arctic Council and the Nordic Council of Ministers, with the participation of partnerships created as part of the Northern Dimension which is a cooperation mechanism for the EU, Russia, Iceland and Norway.

We put forward initiatives aimed at strengthening the financial position of the CBSS in order to increase project work, as well as promoting cooperation in a number of specific industries. We emphasised the importance of projects that improve the daily lives of people.

We spoke in favour of building a well-balanced vertical of Baltic interaction by way of strengthening the coordination of its bodies at the national, regional and municipal levels. In addition to the CBSS, there are Baltic Sea state subregional cooperation organisations, of which individual regions in our countries are members. There is also the Union of the Baltic Cities. Establishing coordination between them would, of course, help avoid overlapping and realise our common interests more effectively.

We focused on fighting cross-border organised crime and emphasised that the corresponding Baltic Sea Task Force on Organised Crime made up of personal representatives of the Heads of Government of the Baltic Sea Region remains an effective mechanism for overcoming this dangerous challenge. This is important not only in terms of exchanging opinions and information about joint opposition to criminal threats, but also in terms of organising and conducting joint operational initiatives that provide practical results and are set up at the police, border and customs services.

We spoke in favour of extending the mandate of the Task Force to countering terrorism, given that money for terrorist and extremist groups often comes from criminal proceeds.

We also discussed the pressing challenges posed by the environment and climate change, pointing to the topicality of goal-oriented environmental activities and the introduction of green economy principles. We emphasised the importance of the Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission (HELCOM) and the initiatives based on private-public partnership. As we talked about this, we drew attention to the St Petersburg Initiative project.

Issues relating to youth cooperation were important in our discussion. We hailed the launch of the new Baltic Sea Youth Platform under the auspices of the Council of the Baltic Sea States (CBSS). We believe this could become a useful integrated communications forum for youth organisations and authorities from the CBSS member countries that will allow them to transact business, exchange information and cooperate in implementing specific projects, including the Baltic Artek annual youth education forum, which we have held in Kaliningrad since 2010. We suggested that this forum be given a regional dimension in the context of CBSS activity.

In conclusion, we approved the new version of the CBSS’ constituent documents, thereby completing the process of formalising the organisational reform carried out in 2018 ̶ 2020. The reform offers a set of measures to boost the effectiveness of its activities while adding flexibility to our efforts and improving cooperation with other multilateral formats.

Towards the end of the session, a detailed Joint Declaration was adopted. It provides a strong impetus for us all to continue working together to promote comprehensive, depoliticised and substantive cooperation in the Baltic Sea area in the interests of our peoples.







Question:

Was Baltic cooperation discussed during today’s meeting, and specifically the Nord Stream 2 project? If so, what was this discussion about? Do you have any information on whether pipelaying operations have resumed in the Baltic Sea? What are the projections for completing this project?

As we know, it took Denmark quite a while before it granted a permit to Nord Stream 2 partners, including Russia, but in the end it did issue the permit. Has this situation affected Russia’s relations with Denmark?



Sergey Lavrov:

Nord Stream 2 was not on the agenda, and no one mentioned it.

Everyone can follow developments around this project. The media covered this matter quite extensively with plenty of comments in the Russian press, as well as in the European media. The United States has also been following this issue with special attention. Yesterday US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had a telephone conversation with German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, who I also intend to talk to on the phone. The statement issued by the Department of State following their telephone call said that Mike Pompeo directly called on Germany not to take part in the Nord Stream 2 project.

This topic is on everyone’s lips, and remains open. It is our firm belief that the solution to this issue lies in the legal dimension. There has been much politicised agitation around this project. The decision by the European Union to apply the Third Energy Package (the so-called Gas Directive) has already raised eyebrows. It was a retroactive measure that worsened the terms offered to investors at the time when the corresponding documents on the Nord Stream 2 project were signed.

The company has taken this issue to courts, as has been reported. It will file appeals in Germany, as well as with structures of the European Union and the European Commission. I would not try to find a political underpinning in what the company is doing. It is, however, a fact that the project faces insistent attempts to undermine it.

Denmark granted the permit. However I have read recently that Denmark wanted to raise this issue once again, since there will be a new pipelaying vessel. It has been reported that the Danish government is weighing the possibility of raising new concerns regarding this project.

I do not think that this project can be stopped, and I am confident that it will be carried out. Germany, other European countries whose companies are involved and all of Europe in the end are interested in completing the project since it will enhance Europe’s energy security.

I will not go over scenarios mentioned by experts in the media regarding the legal avenues for resolving this situation. There are quite a few options, but all experts agree (this is their opinion, not mine) that no matter how this legal conflict is resolved, it will lead to higher gas prices for end users, i.e., people in the European Union. At the same time, the same experts also note that making EU countries pay a higher price for Russian gas will make liquefied natural gas from the United States more competitive.

There is no getting away from geopolitical games. There will be competition, involving questionable methods. I do believe, however, that if all parties stick with the legal norms, including EU rules (Nord Stream 2 has been committed to fully complying with them despite their ambiguity), this matter will be resolved to the satisfaction of all project participants and most importantly consumers.

This situation has not affected Russia’s relations with Denmark in any way. They have long been in a state where they are today. Developments around Nord Stream 2 have not changed our vision of relations with Copenhagen, as far as I can see. Moreover we are ready to have an open discussion with Denmark on any matters of concern, represent interests and voice concerns on developments within the purview of the Danish government.

Denmark’s Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod planned to visit the Russian Federation, but the trip had to be delayed due to the coronavirus epidemic.

To be honest, the relations between the two countries are not perfect. We see that Denmark has been less constructive on a number of issues related to Russia’s interactions with the EU and NATO, compared to some other members of these organisations. We do not make too much drama about it. We are ready to talk to anyone, including to our colleagues from Denmark.



Question:

Are you planning to discuss with German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas the German regulator’s decision not to withdraw Nord Stream 2 from the purview of the EU gas directive?



Sergey Lavrov:

This German decision takes into account the interests of the German state, the German Government and the German business community. Perhaps it is also necessary to take into account Germany’s EU obligations. I am not going to mention this matter during my conversation with Heiko Maas. We have arranged to discuss other things. Neither will I try to force the German Government to adopt this or that decision, as our US partners are attempting to do, specifically during a telephone conversation between Heiko Maas and Mike Pompeo, about which the US Department of State has reported with so much pomp.



Question:

We would like to ask you about statements made by US representatives, who have announced that the first batch of 50 ALV machines will be supplied to Russia on Wednesday and that the next delivery is scheduled for the beginning of next week. Is this really a good-will gesture and will this equipment really be supplied gratis? Are we planning to continue the reciprocal anti-virus collaboration with Washington, including by sharing medicine and information on efforts to develop a vaccine. Could you comment on a statement made by President Donald Trump, who has actually presented the WHO with an ultimatum to the effect that the US will withdraw from the organisation unless it is modernised in some way or other within 30 days?



Sergey Lavrov:

As you may know, President Vladimir Putin and President Donald Trump repeatedly discussed Russian-US collaboration in fighting the coronavirus infection during their direct telephone contacts. At a previous stage, President Putin offered to help the US by supplying certain types of medical equipment. This assistance was rendered. During one of their latest telephone conversations, President Trump said that the United States had built up the production of ALV machines and that they would like to support the Russian Government’s efforts to fight the coronavirus. This was a sincere offer that came from the bottom of his heart. And we accepted it as such. President Putin has agreed with it. Currently, this offer is taking on a practical dimension and is being implemented. You were right in saying that our US partners are planning two flights that will deliver these machines for medical institutions in the Russian Federation. I hope they will help to cope with the situation that has taken shape in this country.

Both our aid to the US and the US aid to Russia is complementary. We have paid for the supplies to them, and the US is paying for the ALV machines for us. Of course, we are ready for further cooperation. We are open to collaboration with all countries. We think it of fundamental importance to organise transparent collaboration with regard to the development of a vaccine. This is one of the key tasks, with many countries and many laboratories working hard to accomplish it.

We would like this work to involve mutual assistance, transparency, and joint efforts, rather than become a purely commercial undertaking motivated by the desire to be the first to make a killing while solving this problem. Stable contacts have been established between the relevant institutions in Russia, the US, China, all European countries, and states in other regions. We are promoting all possible forms of collaboration, while being guided by WHO recommendations.

The World Health Assembly’s session is coming to a close today. I have not yet seen its final results, but its Declaration has been approved. It is highly pragmatic and aimed at solving specific problems. It also seeks to avoid any politicisation. It has declared the need to establish professional and impartial facts with the exclusive aim to understand how the pandemic has come into being and what measures the WHO must take to prevent this experience from being wasted and to use it if similar pandemics emerge in the future (regrettably, specialists believe that this is quite likely). The Declaration focuses on the task of developing a vaccine and making it available to all countries throughout the world without any hindrance.

I am confident that the WHO, like any other organisation, needs to be streamlined. But this cannot be done in one go that will solve all the problems within thirty days or identify all the sticking points arising at this stage, as well as the ways to overcome them. What is needed is a sober-minded analysis of the situation, primarily the facts. Regrettably, we have become accustomed to our Western colleagues paying, in a number of cases, the least attention to the facts. To be more precise, they disregard them altogether as they promote their political initiatives internationally.

We would not like the fight against the coronavirus to fall victim to this sort of geopolitical games and ambitions. I hope that the understandings incorporated in the WHA Declaration will help international cooperation to assume precisely this trajectory.



Question:

US President Donald Trump has recently announced the development of a ‘super-duper’ missile that would be the fastest hypersonic missile, three times faster than Russian or Chinese missiles, and 17 times faster than what the US has right now. Donald Trump said that the US had no choice and had to face up to strong adversaries. What do you think about statements of this kind and missile development during the pandemic?



Sergey Lavrov:

I am not particularly versed in technical questions to measure hypersonic speeds and their number for any given device. Professional experts who have a far better understanding of the subject have already commented on the suggestion that the missile will travel 17 times the speed of sound.

I will not get into this discussion. My job is to make sure that there are no new problems in our relations with the United States. It is quite clear that we need to substantially improve our relations on matters like the strategic stability dialogue and arms controls. Our US colleagues have been consistently dismantling all the treaties and restrictions that existed in this sphere, starting with the ABM Treaty. The INF Treaty has recently ceased to exist. We have been trying to revive talks and to agree on a moratorium, but our efforts have not yielded any results, which is due to NATO’s position. The Open Skies Treaty is now under threat. The United States has officially refused to ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. All there is left is the Treaty on Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms (New START). We want it to remain in force for at least another five-year term so that we can review all the new ideas on today’s strategic stability without haste and involving all those who are ready to take part in these talks.

During a telephone conversation back in early April, President of Russia Vladimir Putin and US President Donald Trump discussed the need to fight the coronavirus, the situation on the global oil market, our bilateral affairs, as well as strategic stability talks. They instructed US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the Russian Foreign Minister to agree on ways to revive the strategic stability dialogue. Mike Pompeo and I had a conversation on this topic. We agreed that Marshall Billingslea, who will be the US point of contact on this matter, will contact Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov, who is in charge of these questions within the Foreign Ministry. The two had a preliminary, introductory telephone conversation on May 8. The Americans promised to offer a specific timeframe for arranging a videoconference to have a meaningful conversation on strategic stability matters in an inter-agency format (including ‘super-duper’ matters, and everything relating to nuclear arms control), with the participation of the corresponding representatives from defence ministries and security services. We are still waiting for the proposal on the timeframe for our consultations via videoconference.

You have mentioned US President Donald Trump saying that Washington had “no choice” and referred to strong “adversaries” to justify the need to develop the missile. The very notion of “strategic stability” is disappearing from the vocabulary of the current US administration. Instead of strategic stability as the desired objective in our relations and in relations between all major powers, they use the new notion of “strategic competition” among major powers. This means that they now emphasise competition rather than efforts to bring about stability. This could be a subject for a philosophical debate. In order to understand the true causes of this conceptual shift, we need direct dialogue, but unfortunately we do not have it so far.



Question:

Could you please comment on the statement made by US Ambassador to Poland Georgette Mosbacher that considered the possibility of the deployment of US nuclear weapons in Poland instead of Germany. The Foreign Ministry already said this would be a violation of the Russia-NATO Founding Act. Do you think this hypothetical step would have any practical consequences?

A clarifier on security – some time ago, Russia proposed to countries in the Baltic region to reduce the number and scale of military exercises. Have you had any response from the states on the other side of the line?



Sergey Lavrov:

Regarding the statements made by US Ambassador to Poland Georgette Mosbacher, indeed, our Ministry has made a detailed comment. As you understand, we are talking about US nuclear weapons deployed on the territory of European countries including Germany (one of the five host countries of such weapons). This in itself does little to stabilise the situation, because stabilisation would require moving the nuclear weapons to their national territories, as the Russian Federation has long done.

The United States not only keeps its weapons deployed in the five NATO countries, but it is vigorously implementing the so-called NATO nuclear sharing arrangements. Under those arrangements, service members from the armies of non-nuclear states are being trained in handling nuclear weapons. This is a direct violation of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, the one that marks its anniversary this year.

As for the possibility of transferring American nuclear weapons from Germany to Poland, as you rightly noted, this would be a direct violation of the Russia-NATO Founding Act, whereby NATO pledged not to deploy nuclear weapons on the territories of its new members either at that moment or in the future.

I doubt that these procedures will be actually launched. For me, what warrants attention in this story is not exactly nuclear weapons, but the way the US ambassadors to European countries unreservedly spell out their country's position and even dictate their position to the host country. Everyone knows that US Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell is never at a loss for words, nor does he hesitate to use a microphone to publicly lecture German officials and the German government.

When this topic came up in the context of a proposal to stop hosting American nuclear weapons in Germany, made by one of the parties on Germany’s coalition Government, US Ambassador to Poland Georgette Mosbacher immediately said, in that case, Poland would take it. It sounds like two large European countries – Germany and Poland, are the subject of discussion of further steps that actually concern the sovereign competence of these countries. US ambassadors are openly discussing these and other possible steps in real time through public statements. This fact is more eloquent in showing what is happening with strategic stability than the hypothetical probability of some relocation of US nuclear weapons from Germany to Poland.



Question:

What do you think of the proposal to cut the military exercises?



Sergey Lavrov:

This proposal was made last year when Chief of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces Valery Gerasimov met with his NATO counterpart. He presented a draft package of confidence-building measures including the proposal to move the exercises away from the line of contact between NATO countries and the Russian Federation. An additional confidence-building measure was also proposed, to agree on the minimum distance for rapprochement of military aircraft and warships.

Following up on the initiative of Finnish President Sauli Niinisto on aviation security in the Baltic, we proposed an agreement for military aircraft to fly with their transponders on. So far, no clear answer has been given to these proposals (a year after they were made). Valery Gerasimov not so long ago met with General Tod Walters in Baku and reminded him that we are still waiting for an answer. There has been no response either.

Our military said they are reducing the scale of their exercises and are not planning any exercises close to the line of contact with the North Atlantic Alliance for the period of the coronavirus infection that we are all going through. But the main problem is a lack of former useful and effective mechanisms for direct contact between the military of Russia and NATO. Our NATO colleagues only agree to meetings at the Chief of the General Staff level, but the former mechanisms for practical cooperation between members of the military are completely frozen, to our utmost regret.




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4133375
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Comment by the Information and Press Department on Vladimir Zelensky’s first anniversary of assuming office as President of Ukraine



20 May 2020 - 11:53



On May 20 a year ago, Vladimir Zelensky was inaugurated as President of Ukraine. It is a good occasion to look at the results Ukraine has achieved under his leadership. During his election campaign, Vladimir Zelensky promised to overcome the legacy of Petr Poroshenko, to launch serious reforms, to restore peace in Donbass and to improve life in the country. He said a great deal about the need to bridge the gap in society and “live happily with each other, despite any differences.”

The past year has shown that this declaration of good intentions has not materialised. It has become a tradition in Ukraine that its presidents’ intentions are not backed by action. Corruption has not diminished, and neither have the oligarchs eased their grip on power. Promises to investigate the financial machinations and embezzlement schemes of Poroshenko and his team, the events on Maidan in 2013 and 2014, as well as political assassinations and other crimes of the previous government never came to pass.

Economic problems and social tension are growing in Ukraine. The land reform is being promoted at foreign prompting contrary to the opinion of the overwhelming majority of society. Human rights and freedoms are being violated. Zelensky has not delivered on his election promise to examine the discriminatory law on the state language for compliance with the Constitution. Quite to the contrary, the implementation of the law is in full swing. Kiev has refused to take note of international criticism and the Council of Europe’s recommendation to honour its international commitments. The educational standards adopted under Poroshenko, which infringe on the interests of many ethnic groups, have been complemented by the offensive law on general secondary education after Zelensky became president. The information space is being “cleaned up” and dissent is being suppressed in Ukraine, as stipulated in the draft law on media which has been adopted by the Verkhovna Rada in the first reading.

The current president of Ukraine has inherited from his predecessor a panic fear of the aggressive radically-nationalist minority who is behaving like the master of Ukraine and dictating their will to the authorities.

In his inaugural address, Vladimir Zelensky declared a ceasefire in Donbass as his “first task.” He said he was “definitely not afraid to make difficult decisions” and “ready to lose [his] position to bring peace.” We have not seen any cardinal changes in Ukraine since then, although the new president’s first steps were inspiring indeed. But it appears that he took them to ensure the holding of a Normandy format meeting in Paris. The subsequent events have shown that the current Kiev authorities do not have the political will to implement the Minsk Agreements. It is being said in Kiev now that these agreements are “void,” that there must be an alternative solution, and that they have a Plan B. Zelensky’s administration is not eager to implement the decisions of the Paris summit either.

The only unshakeable part of Kiev’s policy is its focus on confrontation and on fostering tension in relations with Russia. Kiev continues to attack everything that connects our peoples, including the Russian language and culture, distorting our shared history, glorifying Nazism and desecrating memorials to Soviet soldiers.

New sanctions are introduced against Russian citizens and companies. Kiev’s desire to “punish” Russia has taken on absurd proportions. Zelensky, who ridiculed Poroshenko for his restrictions against Russian social media a year ago, has extended them. In fact, he is being even more creative than his predecessor when it comes to sanctions. It is difficult to see any reason in Kiev’s decision to add the Hermitage and the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts to the sanctions list. Will the Ukrainian authorities persecute people for visiting these treasure houses? What will happen to the Ukrainian citizens who received or are receiving education at Moscow State University, which Kiev has designated as a threat to Ukraine’s national security? Apart from MSU, the list includes the Russian Geographical Society, the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Oriental Studies, the Academy of Sciences of Tatarstan, and other research and educational establishments. All of them have been prohibited from contacting their Ukrainian colleagues.

It is not enough for radical nationalists in Kiev that the Russian language and literature, films and media outlets have been prohibited in Ukraine. They want more. It will come as no surprise if books by Tolstoy, Chekhov, Dostoyevsky and Gogol are burned and the remaining monuments to the great figures of the common Russian and Ukrainian culture are destroyed in Ukraine by the end of Zelensky’s term in office.

Regrettably, Russophobia has been given a new lease on life and has become part of the state policy in Ukraine, just as under Poroshenko. That policy was rejected by the majority of Ukrainians a year ago, which helped Zelensky to assume power. It is highly regrettable that the grip on power can gradually change the attitude of “servants of the people” to the interests of the people who elected them.




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4133577






Press release on 73rd session of the World Health Assembly



20 May 2020 - 15:41



The virtual 73rd session of the World Health Assembly, the main governing body of the World Health Organisation (WHO) took place on May 18-19. It was devoted to countering the pandemic of the novel coronavirus infection (COVID-19) and its consequences.

The event was attended by the Russian interdepartmental delegation headed by Health Minister Mikhail Murashko.

Russia was unanimously elected to the WHO Executive Board.

During the session the Russian delegation supported the WHO efforts to counter the pandemic and expressed itself for depoliticised international cooperation for the global resistance to this common threat. The delegation presented information on the comprehensive measures taken by Russia to suppress the spread of the infection, which allowed it to achieve one of the world’s lowest death rates.

Following the session, the WHO participants approved by consensus the resolution “COVID-19 Response.” Russia has co-authored this document. The resolution notes the WHO’s key role in preparing and coordinating the global response to the pandemic. It gave priority to the need to ensure universal, timely and equitable access to the fair distribution of efficacious and health products and the urgent removal of unjustified obstacles thereto. It emphasises the importance of enhancing the WHO potential and its sustainable funding. The resolution suggests that the WHO should assess the international response to the COVID-19 pandemic in line with its standards, which it is coordinating.

We are pleased to note that during the session the WHO member countries demonstrated solidarity and readiness to cooperate in countering the crisis in healthcare and its consequences. The session took place in a constructive manner, thereby showing the willingness of the international community to cooperate in the face of common troubles that have taken a heavy toll and caused grievous socio-economic consequences.

We hope that the positive mood and the spirit of cooperation demonstrated by the international community during the 73rds WHA session will be preserved and will allow all countries to pool efforts in countering the coronavirus pandemic.




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4133683






Press release on Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s telephone conversation with Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne



20 May 2020 - 15:43







On May 20 Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov had a telephone conversation with Minister for Foreign Affairs of Australia Marise Payne on the Australian side’s initiative.

The ministers discussed topical aspects of Russian-Australian relations with emphasis on the pragmatic development of their cooperation in the spheres of mutual interest as well as the problems of international interaction in countering the spread of the novel coronavirus in the context of the results of the 73rd session of the World Health Assembly.

They noted the interest in developing political dialogue at foreign office top level, the subsequent increase in mutual trade and provision for its more balanced nature.

They also exchanged views on ways to invigorate interaction using the mechanism of East Asian summits and the councils of ASEAN defense ministers with their dialogue partners (ADMM plus), including the issues of combatting infectious diseases and broader cooperation in the field of military medicine.

The ministers agreed to intensify consultations on security issues in the Asian-Pacific Region.

Marise Payne touched upon the continuing investigation of the МН17 catastrophe above Ukraine in July 2014. Sergey Lavrov said that Russia will disseminate in the UN a comprehensive document with the facts revealing the serious problems in the operation of the Netherlands-established Joint Investigative Team (JIT), whose activities fail to conform to the high standards set by UN Security Council Resolution 2166. He also reaffirmed the readiness of Russian experts to hold consultations with their Australian and Netherlands colleagues to clear up answers to the numerous questions put during their cooperation with the JIT.




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4133693






Press release on YouTube removing the accounts of Krym 24 TV Channel and Anna News and News-Front news agencies



20 May 2020 - 18:54



We learned on May 20 that the US YouTube video hosting site has removed the accounts of Krym 24 Crimean television channel, as well as two Russian-language news agencies, Anna News and News Front.

Krym 24 is one of Crimea’s most popular sources of information. It is part of Crimea’s largest media holding company, Krym Television and Radio Company, operating through five television channels, three radio stations, a news portal and two websites. The Krym 24 team traditionally covers the most important major news in this Russian region.

Now that the Krym 24 account has been removed from YouTube, about 30,000 subscribers have lost access to videos with tens of millions of viewings. This US-owned platform has taken restrictive measures under the clearly far-fetched pretext of a “hosting rules violation.”

The fact that YouTube failed to provide any convincing evidence to clarify its actions, as well as the fact that the channel’s query remains unanswered, is unacceptable.

As you may be aware, on April 17, US-based Google LLC blocked the Federal News Agency’s account and the associated YouTube account, which resulted in removal of tens of thousands of documentaries and news reports posted by the agency. On an earlier occasion, in January 2019, Facebook moderators deleted, over 500 accounts related to Russia, including Sputnik news agency materials, on a far-fetched pretext.

These are just some examples of US online censorship of Russian news portals.

We consider YouTube’s actions as another act of discrimination against Russian-language media resources from US-controlled online platforms that systematically resort to arbitrary censorship of content in the Russian language.

This policy by US authorities represents a gross violation of US international obligations to ensure free and unfettered access to information, freedom of the media and freedom of expression.

We call on the related international agencies and human rights NGOs to respond to these egregious actions.




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4133893






Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s telephone conversation with Foreign Minister of the State of Israel Gabi Ashkenazi



20 May 2020 - 19:55







A telephone conversation initiated by Israel took place between Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Foreign Minister of the State of Israel Gabi Ashkenazi on May 20.

The foreign ministers exchanged views on the situation in the Middle East and North Africa with a special focus on the state of affairs in the Middle East settlement. Sergey Lavrov emphasised Russia’s willingness, in conjunction with other participants of the quartet of international mediators, to continue to facilitate the resumption of the peace process via a direct dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians within a generally recognised international legal framework.

During the exchange of views on the situation in Syria, the participants underscored the need to normalise it through political and diplomatic means, while respecting Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and eliminating the terrorist threat in that country in accordance with UNSCR 2254.

A number of other international and regional issues were touched on, including multilateral cooperation in fighting the coronavirus.

The ministers also discussed some important items on the bilateral agenda and reiterated their interest in building up diverse and mutually beneficial cooperation between Russia and Israel.

They highlighted mutual interest in continuing joint efforts to counter attempts to rewrite the outcome of World War II and to distort the historical truth, including any denial of the Holocaust tragedy.

Sergey Lavrov and Gabi Ashkenazi agreed to maintain close contact.




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4133913






Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s greetings to Defence Minister Sergey Shoigu on his 65th birthday, Moscow, May 21, 2020



21 May 2020 - 00:00



Dear Mr Shoigu,

Please accept my heartfelt greetings on your birthday.

For many years, I have known you as a reliable friend, a true patriot and a man of utmost professionalism. Your life journey has been a remarkable example of selflessness, courage and dedication to duty.

Thanks to your personal and professional qualities, you have been prolific in various, even most complicated, areas and successfully tackled all challenges. It is impossible to overestimate your contribution to building the modern emergency prevention and response system, comprehensive strengthening of our country’s defence potential and preserving our nation’s traditions. Today as well, you remain at the forefront of protecting national interests.

I value our friendship and always look forward to our meetings, whether it is business, playing sports, having a mug of tea by a bonfire or at the Russian Geographical Society.

I wish you to enjoy sound Siberian health and continue to work for the good of our Motherland.




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4133975






Press release on Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s telephone conversation with Foreign Minister of Turkey Mevlut Cavusoglu



21 May 2020 - 11:32







On May 20, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov had a telephone conversation with Foreign Minister of the Republic of Turkey Mevlut Cavusoglu.

As a follow-up to the telephone conversation between President of Russia Vladimir Putin and President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan on May 18, the foreign ministers exchanged views on the current developments in Libya. They pointed out the importance of ending hostilities without delay and relaunching the UN-led political process, with the necessary participation of the Libyan parties in order to settle the crisis on the basis of the decisions made at the Berlin conference and approved by a UN Security Council resolution.

The ministers reaffirmed their countries’ resolve to continue to strengthen interaction aimed at a comprehensive settlement of the Syrian crisis with international support and in accordance with the related UN Security Council resolutions. In this context they reaffirmed the commitment of the leaders of Russia, Turkey and Iran to the agreements as the guarantor countries of the Astana format. The ministers noted the importance of preparing the next Astana summit meeting of the three leaders which is scheduled to take place in Tehran. They also agreed to continue working to implement the protocol on the Idlib de-escalation zone signed by the presidents of Russia and Turkey on March 5, 2020, which includes the neutralisation of the terrorist groups operating there.

The ministers exchanged views on the current OSCE objectives for promoting the settlement of the internal Ukrainian crisis in accordance with the Minsk Package of Measures.

They also discussed the further development of bilateral relations, including mutual support in the battle against the coronavirus infection and in organising the return home of Russian and Turkish citizens.

Sergey Lavrov and Mevlut Cavusoglu expressed satisfaction with the events held by the two countries’ cultural and public organisations on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of victory over Nazism.

They have agreed to maintain close ties on the entire range of international and regional issues.




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4134116






Press release on a special issue of the International Affairs magazine devoted to the Russian BRICS Chairmanship in 2020



21 May 2020 - 16:41



A respected journal – the International Affairs magazine has published a special issue devoted to the Russian BRICS Chairmanship in 2020.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov writes in his address to readers that “BRICS is a striking example of the effectiveness of multipolar diplomacy. Countries with different cultural and civilizational backgrounds have united on the basis of a constructive foreign policy philosophy, so in demand in the tumultuous modern world.”

The magazine will introduce the readers to the priorities of the Russian BRICS Chairmanship in 2020 in all three pillars of BRICS Strategic Partnership – policy and security, economy and finance, people-to-people exchanges. It emphasizes the readiness to strengthen and deepen cooperation among the five countries, which is becoming even more relevant against the backdrop of global challenges such as the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The online version of the magazine’s special issue is available in Russian and English on the official website of the Russian BRICS Chairmanship in 2020 www.brics-russia2020.ru.




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4134344






Comment by the Information and Press Department on the Statement by the Palestinian leaders on the withdrawal from all agreements with Israel and the US



21 May 2020 - 17:47



On May 19, President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority declared that Palestine is absolved of all agreements signed with Israel and the United States because of the Israeli Government’s intention to annex part of Palestinian lands on the West Bank of the Jordan River.

Russia has repeatedly warned its Israeli partners against implementing unilateral plans that contradict the international legal foundation for a settlement in the Middle East, which relies on UN General Assembly and Security Council resolutions and the Arab Peace Initiative. Russian diplomats noted that this annexation will upset the territorial continuity of the West Bank, which is an indispensable condition for the viability of a future Palestinian state within the 1967 borders.

We are concerned that such expansionist actions by Israel will provoke a dangerous cycle of violence on Palestinian lands and destabilise the general situation in the Middle East.

We reaffirm Russia’s consistent position in support of a comprehensive and sustainable settlement of the Palestine-Israel conflict based on the two-state principle in line with international law. We urge all sides to abstain from any steps that can trigger a new and dangerous escalation of tensions in the region and prevent the creation of conditions for the resumption of direct talks between Palestine and Israel.

For its part, Russia as a member of the Middle East Quartet of international mediators continues to maintain contact with representatives of the UN, the EU and the US with a view to preparing a meeting in this format in the near future with the possible participation of the interested Arab countries and the League of Arab States.




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4134462






Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s opening remarks at the ceremony of signing the Memorandum on the Replenishment of the Russia-UNDP Trust Fund for Development, via videoconference, Moscow, May 21, 2020



21 May 2020 - 19:00





Ms Mirjana Spoljaric Egger,

Mr Achim Steiner,

I am happy to welcome you. Unfortunately, we are limited to holding this landmark meeting via remote participation contrary to our original plans. But I would like to assure you that as soon as the situation stabilises, we will be happy to organise a visit to Russia for Mr Steiner, including as a regular guest of the St Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF).

Five years ago (on June 11, 2015), your predecessor, UNDP Administrator Helen Clark, and I signed an agreement establishing the Russian Federation-UNDP Trust Fund for Development (TFD), which brought our cooperation with the Development Programme – as a key partner within the UN system for international development assistance – to a new strategic level.

The Trust Fund is a unique tool not only from the financial point of view, but it also ensures the effectiveness and sustainability of Russian assistance to international development, as well as the systematisation of our experience in this field. Today, UNDP is the only body in the UN system where we have this high level of structured cooperation.

Our interaction is developing very dynamically. Significant progress is evident both in terms of our projects’ thematic and geographical coverage, and organisationally as well. Until 2015, our portfolio of joint activities consisted of several separate projects. By last year, our partnership turned into a comprehensive institutional mechanism with funding exceeding $90 million.

The UNDP standards of transparency and accountability, as well as the collegial decision-making principle in the TFD have contributed to improving the quality of the Trust Fund’s operation.





During a series of field missions (in Armenia, Kyrgyzstan, Cuba, and Serbia) to monitor the implementation of our projects, the members of the Steering Committee (SC) were able to personally see the positive effects of our assistance for the beneficiaries. It is important that various practices developed as part of the TFD projects are being successfully applied outside the focus regions, are integrated into the subsequent phases of projects, and contribute to our own knowledge base in the field of international development assistance.

The two thematic TFD projects – the Climate Change Window and the Youth Window – have focused our joint activities on addressing the urgent problems of the programme countries even more strongly. The positive results of the Trust Fund’s activities have enabled the Government of the Russian Federation to continue this effort.

Today we are signing a memorandum on the next $30 million replenishment of the Trust Fund’s general budget – more than what was originally stipulated in the agreement on the establishment of the TFD. I am also pleased to inform you that our agencies are currently working on the possibility of expanding the Youth Window and adding a Women’s Window for implementing projects in developing countries to support economic opportunities for women and girls.

We are confident that today’s event is an important step in the evolution of our cooperation. We hope that new TFD initiatives will be multi-faceted, will target the most pressing socioeconomic problems, will embrace an even wider audience of beneficiaries and, most importantly, will continue to strengthen previously achieved results.

In this regard, I would like to note that, together with the Russian Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Economic Development, we intend to channel the first tranche from TFD resources to help the programme countries address the negative effects of the coronavirus pandemic. Although we have yet to assess the scale and impact of this global problem, it is obvious even now that many low income and lower-middle-income countries are going to struggle hard to preserve jobs and livelihoods, and to maintain food security and social stability.

It is also important to not miss the opportunities that are opening up for more vigorous introduction and application of modern digital solutions in various fields. I hope this step will be an important contribution to the implementation of the UNDP global COVID-19 response programme.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the UNDP Regional Bureau for Europe and the CIS and personally Assistant Administrator, Mirjana Spoljaric Egger, for her cooperation and assistance with the TFD, as well as the staff of the UNDP Country Office in Moscow that supports our partnership.


***


Thank you very much. Mr Steiner, as I said, as soon as the situation changes, we will make plans for you to visit Russia.




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4134627
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Briefing by Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova, Moscow, May 21, 2020



21 May 2020 - 20:42






Update on the coronavirus pandemic and assisting Russian citizens in returning home

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



Return of Russian school students on education exchanges from the United States

In the context of this subject I want to tell you about the situation concerning the return of Russian school students. This is a hot topic. We are receiving a lot of questions and requests on this matter, and we will update you regularly.

We are constantly working to bring Russian school age children home who are in the United States under general education programmes and are in a difficult situation in view of the spread of the coronavirus. The difficulty lies in the fact that the host side, who took on the responsibility for these children, has rejected their responsibility on many occasions and only advised the Russian side when they decided to give up this responsibility. Together with other Russian specialised agencies, and in close coordination with the Russian Embassy in Washington, we are working hard to ascertain all the cases of Russian children’s departure for participation in these exchange programmes. Again, these programmes were not coordinated with the Russian Foreign Ministry.

In addition, we only recently found out that some Russian children under US based education exchange programmes went to countries other than the United States. By the way, we learned this from their parents’ petitions to the Russian Foreign Ministry. Some went to other countries. Specifically, at least two students are now in Argentina and one is in Costa Rica. We will, of course, keep this in mind when arranging evacuation flights.

Unfortunately, from the very beginning, US authorities failed to give our representatives the appropriate assistance in this situation. And this despite our formal requests to give us exhaustive information on the number of Russian students, their location and the host organisations. We are doing this because the parents and the children themselves apply to us for help. We need to know exactly how many children need our assistance, considering that no one contacted the Foreign Ministry before going abroad, and the US side cannot provide full information either. We are carrying out a set of measures to collect the relevant information and to provide assistance.

Given the current circumstances and to avoid a recurrence of such circumstances in the future, we are urging Russian schools, supervisory authorities and parents to display vigilance and responsibility. We should not let children be taken abroad under any dubious education programmes or initiatives, especially when the organisers of such trips do not assume responsibility for those whom they bring over.

We have, nevertheless, arranged for the return of a group of children from the United States. There are 28 such children so far. Of this number, the latest Aeroflot evacuation flight carried 10 school students from New York to Moscow on May 15.



Delivery of US lung ventilators to Russia

Today, May 21, an American plane will make a special flight to Moscow to deliver a batch of lung ventilators under an agreement between Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Donald Trump.

Approaches to combating the new coronavirus infection, including through the combined efforts of the two countries, have been discussed many times during top-level Russian-US telephone conversations. First, Russia rendered assistance by sending a plane with domestic medical items and equipment to New York at a time when the coronavirus situation there was stressful. Now that the US has boosted the production of ventilators, Washington can support Russia’s efforts to fight the coronavirus pandemic, so it offered to help and this move was agreed on and is now being implemented.

Both examples illustrate sincere humanitarian gestures, cooperation in an emergency situation and rendering assistance for free. Russia and the United States each paid their respective costs for the equipment they supplied. More details on this issue are posted on the Russian Direct Investment Fund website https://rdif.ru/fullNews/5184/

The 50 ventilators to be delivered today, along with another consignment of this equipment expected next week, will be taken to the Pirogov National Medical Surgical Centre. Specialists will then decide which Russian hospitals are to get the American ventilators, depending on the coronavirus situation and the real demand in each case.



Signing the Memorandum on the Replenishment of the Russia–UNDP Trust Fund for Development

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


Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s participation in a video conference of the Council of Foreign Ministers of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation

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



Update on Syria

We see the overall situation in Syria as stable.

In Idlib, the Russian and Turkish militaries continue to work on implementing the March 5 Additional Protocol. The key goal is to unblock the M-4 motorway and ensure joint patrols along the entire route. However, this effort is encountering resistance from the militants who instigate provocations to try to thwart Russian-Turkish patrols. We expect that our Turkish partners will continue their efforts to separate the “moderates” from the terrorists while neutralising the latter.

The situation in areas outside government control in the northeast of Syria is deteriorating. ISIS fighters have decided to take advantage of the coronavirus epidemic and have increased their attacks. From May 10 to 15 alone, the terrorists launched over 20 attacks against Kurdish units in the provinces of Deir ez-Zor, Raqqa and Al-Hasakah where at least 20 people were killed and about 40 wounded. We also noted disturbing reports about the escape of seven ISIS terrorists from the prison in the al-Hawl camp for internally displaced persons. This is further evidence that the US and its allies who occupy the territories on the west bank of the Euphrates do not care about the civilians and maintaining security.

For our part, we are doing much to facilitate humanitarian deliveries to the northeast of Syria across the line of contact. Since the beginning of the year, the UN specialised agencies have been able to send at least seven humanitarian convoys to the west bank of the Euphrates by air and by land. In addition, this week, the Russian military delivered 170 metric tonnes of humanitarian aid there. The route was 1,500 kilometres long, the Euphrates River had to be crossed several times in order to reach the most remote villages. After returning to the Khmeimim airbase, the Russian convoy will prepare for another trip to deliver food and humanitarian supplies totalling 850 metric tonnes to the country’s other regions.

The situation in the Rukban camp for IDPs, in the so-called security zone established by the Americans around Al-Tanf, is also a cause for concern. Fifty refugees who fled the camp in early May gave a detailed account of the developments there – it is outrageous. They have neither food nor water nor electricity there, and there are problems with medical aid. Rukban residents have to pay the militants who control the camp for essentials and even for nonpotable water. The US contingent is well aware of all that.

Sending a UN humanitarian convoy there will not change the situation as the aid will not reach those who need it; it will be appropriated by the militants as has happened many times before. We presume that the Rukban problem will be resolved after the US terminates its illegal presence in the south of Syria. Along with the Syrians, we are providing any necessary support for the refugees that have managed to leave the camp, at the exit of the 55-km zone.

We also note that the coronavirus pandemic has not stopped Syrians from returning home. After emergency closures, border crossings on the Syria-Lebanon border have reopened; about 100 people returned to Syria this week.



Media reports on Russia’s “initiative” concerning Middle East settlement

We have noted that another series of false reports and fakes has been planted. Unfortunately, Russian diplomats are constantly dealing with this type of thing. We make sure to comment and issue rebuttals promptly.

On the tip from a media outlet called Axios, a number of Russian and foreign media outlets reported that Russia had allegedly proposed holding a Palestinian-US summit in Geneva to prevent the situation around the Middle East settlement from deteriorating further. It was claimed that this so-called “initiative” was put forward by Mikhail Bogdanov, Deputy Foreign Minister and Special Presidential Representative for the Middle East and Africa, during a telephone conversation on May 19 with Avi Berkowitz, Assistant to the US President and Special Representative for International Negotiations.

Once again, we are dealing with a vicious practice of distorting facts and spreading misinformation. The telephone conversation did take place on May 19 and, as we reported on the Foreign Ministry website, it was requested by our US partners. The conversation focused on the prospects of resuming direct Palestinian-Israeli talks under international guidance. A Palestinian-US meeting at the highest level was never mentioned and nobody asked Russia about it. Russia confirmed its strict adherence to the well-known international legal framework of the Middle East settlement, including the understanding that there is no alternative to a two-state solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Additionally, the Russian representative stressed that Russia, as a member of the Middle East Quartet of international mediators that includes Russia, the United States, the EU and the UN, is ready for a meeting in this format as soon as possible, as encouraged by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, and it is possible that the meeting may involve major Arab countries and the League of Arab States in the interests of establishing direct bilateral talks between the Palestinians and the Israelis under international guidance.

This is the kind of hideous fake news that we are dealing with right now. I am under the impression that Russian diplomats are being bombarded with misinformation as if somebody ordered another information campaign against Russian diplomacy. We will continue to consistently debunk these claims.



Venezuela update

We have invariably focused on Venezuela. We see the authorities in Caracas make substantive efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19 in the country, this against the background of reports to the effect that the Latin American region may emerge as a new hotbed of contagion. This is particularly obvious in the light of alarming information coming from states bordering on Venezuela, where the virus has reached a scale that is causing much concern.

In this context, the US administration’s preservation and even toughening of sanctions against Venezuela is becoming increasingly appalling. The attempts to palm them off as “targeted” restrictions against certain representatives of the national leadership (let me note that they are the legitimate leadership, including President Nicolas Maduro) hold no water.

Figures speak for themselves. Since December 2014, Washington’s anti-Venezuela sanctions have affected 140 individuals and 118 businesses, 65 aircraft (including the national carrier, Conviasa), and 52 ships (mostly oil tankers operated by the publicly owned PDVSA company). An actual ban has been introduced on oil exports and oil product imports, which can provoke a paralysis of agriculture, industry, trade, transportation, and basic life-supporting infrastructure.

The country is being squeezed out of the international financial system by stripping it of its foreign assets and even of the ability to carry out the actions that are needed at this moment, such as to repair its losses by exporting its natural resources or borrowing on external financial markets. As a result of the US unilateral restrictions, the frozen Venezuelan assets total over $116 billion. Thereby the country is being deprived of resources and a capability to purchase the badly needed diagnostic equipment and medicines, vaccines, personal protective gear, and medical equipment and consumables.

Let me make it clear: the economic sanctions against Venezuela are producing the same effect as the coronavirus on the human body. In both cases, the oxygen supply system is affected. I understand that this may be a highly symbolic picture, a metaphor, but be that what it may, a portion of the US political establishment are seeking to stifle Venezuela at all costs.

Yet another example is related to Washington’s actively promoted claims that the Maduro Government is “uncooperative” with regard to humanitarian aid deliveries to Venezuela. Incidentally, foreign NGO’s are ready to distribute this assistance exclusively outside of the official channels. The injustice of these charges is clear to all those familiar with the data provided by the UN and its specialised agencies. Last year, the UN considerably expanded its presence, including locally. Humanitarian organisations are present in all 24 states, their personnel numbers have increased by 150 percent, and cooperation is maintained with 81 humanitarian partners. All of this has made it possible to render assistance to a total of 2.4 million people, including by supplying medicines and equipment to 341 medical centres all over the country.

UN bodies’ good partner ties with the Government have facilitated the development of a plan to respond to the pandemic, including the testing and provision of water and hygiene products. Temporary accommodation facilities have been established for Venezuelans returning home from abroad (there have been about 60,000 of them since mid-March). The returnees are mostly motivated by the deteriorating economic situation in the countries of temporary residence.

I am mentioning this because Spain and other EU countries are convening an international videoconference in Madrid next week in order to help Venezuelan migrants stuck in neighbouring countries. We are not sure that this is a well-timed measure; against the background of the threat of the pandemic in the region, it is fraught with a strong anti-Venezuelan bias. We hope that the forum will focus on lifting the sanctions as the most logical way of helping Caracas to overcome its socioeconomic problems. This must indeed become the centerpiece of international efforts.

Regrettably, Washington’s “sanctions steamroller,” which I have just mentioned, went over the information sphere as well. DirecTV, an American direct broadcast satellite service provider, has announced that it is withdrawing from Venezuela on account of the restrictions on its operations with Venezuelan publicly owned companies, imposed by the US Department of the Treasury. These are, of course, anything but “targeted” sanctions. Rather, this is a direct encroachment on media freedom and the right to access information. I would like to add that DirecTV is a well known company and the biggest cable services provider in Venezuela with an audience of over 6 million. Its package included numerous channels diffusing the widest possible spectrum of opinion, which was often far from being pro-government. But the US authorities are clearly unconcerned. This is a fact. The views, shows and broadcasts presented by the provider were really versatile and representative of a wide gamut of points of view.

I would like to ask this: Why has this attack on the media been launched at this point? The Pentagon reports that the US Navy has formed a naval task force in the Caribbean, which includes three destroyers, a littoral combat ship and antisubmarine aircraft. They say their goal is to ensure ocean space safety ahead of a US-led allied operation pursuing quite noble objectives.

There has been no force projection on this scale in the region for a long time. Published by the US Southern Command, a report on the task force personnel drills is evidence of the preparations for boarding large watercraft rather than intercepting small speedboats, an ostensible aim of the practice.

The naval exercise has coincided in time with the reports to the effect that Iran is sending oil tankers to deliver fuel to Venezuela. In this context, the US efforts look like an attempt to impose a naval blockade of the Bolivarian Republic.

Our question to the US colleagues is whether they are ready to confirm that the naval and air forces concentrated in the Caribbean have no objectives other than those declared as part of the operation to interdict illegal activity? Our next question is: how can such actions influence safety of shipping in the region, including in the light of the corresponding US international obligations?

We continue to maintain diplomatic contacts with our partners in Europe, Latin America and Asia, with whom we discuss the situation in Venezuela and in the neighbouring countries. We note that the overwhelming majority of them have a concordant understanding of ways to achieve a settlement. It should be a peaceful and political one and result from talks between Venezuelans themselves. This is also the Russian position of principle. We will continue to work pro-actively in this vein. We think that the idea of a broad-based “humanitarian truce” involving all constructive forces in Venezuela – the Government and the opposition –and intended to coordinate measures against the spread of the coronavirus in the country will create a positive basis for this kind of national dialogue.

We are confident that it is highly important to prevent the situation in Venezuela and beyond from degenerating to the point where force might be used.



Fake news disseminated by US and Canada on the work of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine

We have noted another example of misinformation and blatant propaganda by representatives of the United States and Canada in the OSCE.

On May 14 and 15, during a meeting of OSCE Permanent Council in Vienna and a briefing by Chief Monitor of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine Yasar Halit Cevik for OSCE member states, the United States and Canada made an attempt to accuse Donetsk representatives of aggressive actions towards OSCE observers. This allegedly took place during the mission patrol's monitoring of the territory. US and Canadian representatives claimed that on May 8 the mission representatives, who were launching a drone over Gorlovka, were attacked by members of self-defence forces, who "seized the observers, threw them face down in the mud, twisted their arms and pulled guns on them."

This false information was refuted by Yasar Halit Cevik, who said that Mission members overall feel comfortable in Donbass, with local residents showing no aggression, while the self-defence forces' members did not pose any threat. In fact, according to Mr Cevik, the incident on May 8 was solely a misunderstanding between the self-defence forces and the mission observers, which led to a three-hour patrol delay. After these facts were made public, our US colleagues started accusing everyone of conducting 'disinformation campaigns.'

The fact of such appalling lies by officials who represent two large powers in the major European organisation is simply outrageous. Their attacks are particularly reprehensible as Donetsk representatives had no opportunity to respond to them. We urge our partners to refrain from resorting to rumours, unconfirmed facts, fake and false information and innuendos as this all turns into absolutely outrageous and blatant propaganda. We call for focusing on constructive efforts to facilitate settlement of the internal Ukrainian conflict in Donbass.



Latvia's violations of ethnic minorities' language and education rights

Due to Latvian educational institutions shifting to online teaching starting March 23, an urgent issue has arisen again as regards organising the educational process for Russian-speaking students.

Despite their international obligations as well as appeals by civil society members, Latvian authorities have made no effort to create conditions for remote learning in the Russian language. For instance, the television channel Tvoy Class (Your Classroom), which is used for remote teaching, shows programmes only in Latvian.

Just a reminder: in his recommendations issued on April 17, OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities Lamberto Zannier urged OSCE member states to continue balancing opportunities for teaching in a state language and learning state and official languages with proper opportunities provided for students to learn their minority's language or receive education in this language, as well as to adapt home learning to the needs of various communities.

The policy pursued by the Latvian authorities towards the Russian language has affected pre-schools as well. On May 14, the Latvian parliament approved in the final reading the amendments to the law on education, which stipulate that all Russian-language kindergartens will be required to organise groups that teach kids in Latvian. Regrettably, the implementation of these measures will further force out the Russian language from the pre-school education system and will have a negative effect on the education process, which will subsequently lead to inequality in the labour market and lower living standards for ethnic minorities.

We continue to follow this outrageous situation in close cooperation with the office of the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities as well as the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), whose aim is to monitor observance of human rights and promote democratic norms in Latvia.

We urge Riga to strictly observe its international obligations in protecting ethnic minorities' rights and to promptly provide favourable conditions for Russian-speaking school students.



Response to statement by Peter Stano, Lead Spokesperson for European External Action Service

We have to note that the coronavirus response topic continues to be employed by some of our Western partners to escalate anti-Russian rhetoric in the media. There are lots of examples. One of the recent ones is the interview by Peter Stano, Lead Spokesperson for European External Action Service, to Germany’s Bild on May 17. According to him, Kremlin-friendly sources and Russian state-owned media are spreading false information. He also noted that conspiracy theories and misinformation can have a significant impact on public health. The European Commission representative cited no examples or specified what he was referring to. I have only one question: does he even follow the US media or hear American officials expound on conspiracy theories and accusing other states, speculating about the origin of the virus, and such things as this? How would the agency he represents assess the approaches of the US and Anglo-Saxon media, for example?

We have repeatedly commented on such allegations by EU officials. We consider them baseless as well as unacceptable. We regard them as unscrupulous attempts to distract the EU public from their own problems in containing the pandemic. Such attacks against us look especially cynical considering Russia’s proven commitment to rallying in the fight against the pandemic with every interested party, including some of the EU member states. This is more than just determination and interest. This is about specific practical experience already in place.

Russia, like many other countries, is struggling with an “infodemic” plaguing the media landscape, something the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres spoke about. This pandemic of misinformation surrounding the epidemiological situation in Russia includes biased publications, unverified information, as well as frankly fake news. Notably, most of this is published by Western media, some of them based in EU countries. Yet, we refrain from any attacks of this kind that representatives of EEAS take the liberty to carry out.

We hope that a sensible and balanced attitude will prevail and that the EU will discontinue spreading unproven anti-Russia myths that complicate the already difficult condition of our relations. The current crisis dictates an urgent need for combining efforts to establish de-politicised international cooperation in countering real, not far-fetched, challenges and threats.



Interview with former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Sweden Carl Bildt and former parliament speaker Bjorn von Sydow who mentioned military guarantees Sweden needs to secure in case of a conflict with Russia

We noticed an interview by former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Sweden Carl Bildt and Bjorn von Sydow, former speaker of the Riksdag, the Swedish parliament, with Dagens Nyheter on May 13, where they discussed military guarantees that Sweden should secure in case of a conflict with Russia.

The speculations of veterans of Swedish politics are not news, but just more confirmation of their loyalty to the longstanding tradition of fostering the mythical Russian military threat. Suffice it to recall the imaginary fight with the so-called “presence” of Russian submarines in Swedish waters often used by Stockholm to boost political capital.

We have repeatedly assured our Swedish partners, including Bjorn von Sydow who visited Moscow in March 2019 leading a delegation of the Swedish Defence Commission, that Russia was ready for a dialogue on ensuring stability, strengthening security and confidence-building measures in the Baltic Sea region with all interested states in any format so as to address both imaginary and real threats, for example, illegal migration and drug trafficking, marine pollution and climate change, and the spread of infectious diseases. We invited our colleagues to think about reviving the 5 + 3 + 1 dialogue (Russia, North European and Baltic countries) to exchange views on regional issues, including in the security sphere, but we have received no answer.



Attack on the Cuban Embassy in the United States

We have already drawn your attention (comment by the Foreign Ministry Information and Press Department, dated May 6) to the outrageous attack involving firearms against the Embassy of the Republic of Cuba in Washington on April 30.

To date, three weeks after that flagrant criminal attack – a terrorist attack in fact – we still have no official reaction regarding the relevant investigation by US authorities, which based on their international commitments should provide for the security of foreign diplomatic missions on its territory.

On the contrary, Washington has decided to include Cuba again in the list of “state sponsors of terrorism“ kept by the United States as part of its further buildup of pressure on Havana, cynically continuing even amid the common threat of pandemic.

This absurd and far-fetched initiative runs counter to the spirit of solidarity with and support of Cuba by an overwhelming majority of countries in the region and other members of the international community, primarily with regard to overcoming the US embargo.



Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro

On May 12, in Niksic, during the holiday of St Basil of Ostrog, who is held in special reverence in Montenegro, members of the Montenegrin eparchies of the Serbian Orthodox Church held their traditional prayer service. Under the pretext that they were in violation of lockdown restrictions, the police used tear gas against the believers to disperse the gathering. Bishop Joanikije Micovic of the Budimlja and Niksic Eparchy and accompanying priests were detained and held in custody until May 15.

On May 19, the US Department of State noted the importance of observing human rights in religious affairs and expressed support of the Montenegrin authorities’ harsh actions. This kind of statement indicates that Washington considers the church strictly from the perspective of geopolitics. It is an obviously blatant attempt to sow discord within the Orthodox world and destroy the integrity of the Balkan spiritual community.

This yet another surge in tensions in Montenegro ignited by the violence of the local authorities against the Serbian Orthodox Church and its parishioners in the country causes serious concern. We believe that any problems that arise must be resolved through a constructive dialogue and in line with the standards, rules and regulations fixed by international documents, and with due respect for the statutory rights of a canonical church and its members. Ignoring their opinion, artificially dividing believers and especially imposing unscrupulous external interference may be fraught with serious problems and even upheavals that could easily sweep over the region.



New bells cast in Russia donated to the Zhyrovichy Monastery

We have more news, this time positive, related to world religions and relations between states. Twelve bells have been delivered to the stauropegic Zhyrovichy Monastery (Grodno Region, Belarus). The largest bell weighs 4,200 kg. The bells were cast by the Anisimov Bell Foundry in April.

The set of 12 bells, a temporary bell gable and a future bell tower is a gift from Russia for the 500th anniversary of the monastery and the 550th anniversary of the Icon of the Zhyrovichy Mother of God. The large bell has the following words moulded on it: “In care of President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin and President of the Republic of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko.”

The bells were created with the financial support of VTB Bank (Belarus) and the governments of the Novgorod and Voronezh regions. They were transported to Belarus by Gefest. The Sverdlovsk Region will fund the construction of the monastery’s bell tower.

The Russian Embassy responded to an appeal from Zhyrovichy Monastery’s father superior, Archbishop Gury of Navahrudak and Slonim, and made sure that the project is carried out to celebrate the monastery’s 500th anniversary.

The celebration was planned for May 20 but had to be postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic. The upcoming festivities are particularly important for the Russian Orthodox Church, the Belarusian exarchate and Orthodox Christians all over the world. We hope that in this moment of true cooperation, mutual support and united intentions between the two nations, the scheduled events will take place. We will keep you updated.







Answers to media questions:



Question:

The Presidents of Russia and Azerbaijan, Vladimir Putin and Ilham Aliyev, have recently had a telephone conversation about the situation on the Russian-Azerbaijani border against the backdrop of the coronavirus pandemic. The developments were then discussed by the Foreign Ministers Sergey Lavrov and Elmar Mammadyarov. What measures are being taken to settle the situation? How is the work to return Russian nationals from Azerbaijan and Azerbaijani nationals from Russia progressing?



Maria Zakharova:

It is true, a difficult situation developed on the Russia-Azerbaijan border near the Yarag-Kazmalyar – Samur checkpoint with some 700 Azerbaijani citizens who wanted to return to their homeland. It was discussed in detail by President of Russia Vladimir Putin and President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev during a telephone conversation on May 18. This was preceded by a series of contacts between the two countries’ prime ministers, deputy prime ministers and foreign ministers.

Despite the complex sanitary and epidemiological situation in Dagestan and Azerbaijan, the parties were able to revive the process of returning Azerbaijani citizens back home. In accordance with the presidents’ instructions, on May 19, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov discussed practical steps in this area, focusing on the importance of coordinating joint efforts. On the same day, a group of 120 Azerbaijani nationals returned to their homeland. We hope that this process will be continued in stages.

Both Russian and Azerbaijani sides, while acting in the spirit of strategic partnership, are doing everything possible to settle the issue with returning their compatriots home. Close interaction has been established between our governments, relevant ministries and agencies, as well as regional authorities and embassies.

During the pandemic, Azerbaijan Airlines carried 1,500 Azerbaijani nationals home from Russia. In addition, in April two groups of Azerbaijani nationals (1,006 and 548 people) crossed the border through the Yarag-Kazmalyar – Samur checkpoint.

Five groups of Russian citizens totalling 672 people crossed the border at the same checkpoint. On May 18, Aeroflot flight from Baku brought over 140 Russian citizens home.

The Russian Foreign Ministry is carrying out this work together with our Azerbaijani colleagues.



Question:

What is the situation with the Russian-Czech consultations on current issues of bilateral relations that were announced with regard to the dismantled monument to Marshal Ivan Konev in Prague?



Maria Zakharova:

Yes, the Russian party suggested holding consultations on current issues of bilateral relations as per Article 5 of the 1993 Russian-Czech treaty on the friendly relations and cooperation, as we said during our briefing on May 14. At the time the Russian side confirmed its readiness by a note sent by the Russian Embassy in Prague to the Foreign Ministry of the Czech Republic, and a letter to the Czech Ambassador to Russia.

We know that our partners at the Czech Foreign Ministry have heard this signal. However, we have not received an official response from the Czech side on the date of the consultations, although we have repeatedly commented on this matter.

We believe that one of the thorny issues to be discussed is the situation with the monument to Marshal Ivan Konev, which was dismantled and hidden (there is no other word for that) by the Prague authorities. We have repeatedly reminded them about Article 21 of the abovementioned treaty, according to which the Czech party is responsible for the preservation, maintenance and providing access to military monuments such as the one to Marshal Ivan Konev. We consider this situation to be a violation of this article, which we have also mentioned many times.

Meanwhile, Prague keeps saying that the monument belongs to the municipality. And again we claim that the responsibility to adhere to international treaties lies with the state, and the authorities cannot dodge it. In addition, for many decades, the monument to Ivan Konev has been listed on the national register of military monuments kept by the Czech Ministry of Defence. The Czech party denies this despite the existing facts. We will continue to insist that the Czech authorities issue an explanation on what grounds the monument was removed from the register. We are ready to provide the necessary information once again.

We urge our partners to sit down at the negotiating table to discuss the entire range of problems that have accumulated if Prague is still ready to mend the unhealthy situation in bilateral relations, caused by the Czech party.



Question:

How can you comment on the references to the “Japanese sovereignty” over the southern Kuril Islands and the islands’ “ownership issue” in the Japanese Foreign Ministry’s new Diplomatic Bluebook?



Maria Zakharova:

We have noticed that the “Japanese sovereignty” over the southern Kuril Islands phrase and the islands’ “ownership issue” in the context of the Russian-Japanese peace treaty dialogue are back to the 2020 Diplomatic Bluebook.

Our position is that this step directly contradicts the goal set at the highest level to create a favourable atmosphere in bilateral relations. We are compelled to pull our colleagues from the Japanese Foreign Ministry back to reality, and the reality is as follows – the legal sovereignty over all the Kuril Islands belongs to the Russian Federation following WWII outcome in accordance with international legal documents, including the UN Charter, and is uncontestable.

As we have repeatedly noted, at this stage, the priority for our concentrated efforts is to ensure tangible advancement across the entire range of bilateral relations, including the development of practical cooperation, confidence building in the security sphere, and the consolidation of cooperation on the international arena.



Question:

In an interview with Interfax, Russian Ambassador to North Korea Alexander Matsegora said that the evacuation of North Korean workers from Russia cannot be completed because the borders were closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Could you confirm that they continue to work in Russia? Last year, Russia issued six times more student and tourist visas to North Koreans than the year earlier. How could you explain the reason for this growth?

Our television company working in Vladivostok found out that after December 22, 2019, North Korean workers began to travel to Russia with three-month student visas and continued to work in the Russian Federation. Do you have any information on this?



Maria Zakharova:

First of all, I would like to emphasise that the Russian Federation strictly and fully complies with its obligations under paragraph 8 of UNSC Resolution 2397 that required the repatriation of all North Korean citizens earning income in the relevant jurisdiction before December 22, 2019. Most workers from North Korea have left Russia, although, due to objective difficulties associated with an insufficient number of flights and limited capacity of rail transport, it was not possible to repatriate everyone. It seems to me that the whole world is in the same boat now – most types of transport have been grounded due to the lockdown. The few workers who could not leave have not been working since December 22, 2019.

As of the start of February all transport services between the Russian Federation and North Korea have been discontinued over the COVID-19 concerns, by a decision of the Korean side, and the repatriation of workers had to be suspended. Their return to their homeland will be resumed as a matter of priority as soon as Pyongyang decides to open its borders.

As for the entry of North Korean citizens arriving here on other arrangements, they could have done so before the transport service was terminated and anti-epidemic restrictions introduced, if they had legal grounds and visas issued in the established manner in accordance with the Russian laws and the bilateral intergovernmental agreement on mutual travel signed on January 24, 1997.

Indeed, there has been some increase in the number of visas issued by the Russian Embassy in Pyongyang and the Consulate General in Chongjin, but not six-fold of course.

And of course, citizens of North Korea, and of any other state for that matter, who entered the territory of our country with student visas or on tourism programmes, are forbidden to do any paid work. We are not aware of any violations of this rule by North Koreans.




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4134720
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Deputy Foreign Minister Oleg Syromolotov’s interview with Interfax News Agency, May 21, 2020



22 May 2020 - 09:55







Question:

Many countries have suspended consumer services and public catering to fight the spread of the coronavirus and the crisis caused by the pandemic is resulting in people being laid off and losing their jobs. In Russia and Europe, migrant workers are being left without work and means of living. Is there a threat that terrorist organisations could take advantage of the situation and try to recruit new supporters? How are countries cooperating at the international level to prevent this? Have you been able to prevent any attempted attacks?



Oleg Syromolotov:

We usually consider any deterioration of the socioeconomic situation a serious factor in terms of radicalisation threats that could lead to terrorist activity. However, this is hardly the only factor. Obviously, in any critical conditions security services and law enforcement agencies must be particularly vigilant. Several countries, including Russia, have taken unprecedented measures to secure their state borders and protect public order, which objectively makes organising terrorist attacks more difficult. As you know, since the beginning of the year, a number of underground terrorist cells have been exposed and neutralised in Russia. We continue counter-terrorism activity abroad, particularly, in Syria. The Foreign Ministry perseveres in its efforts to expand international cooperation against terrorism. While it is not possible to have a direct face-to-face dialogue, we are resorting to other forms of maintaining contact, including via videoconference. Important bilateral and multilateral events are being planned. Whether they are held in-person or online will depend on further COVID-19 developments.



Question:

There are many theories circulating about the origin of the coronavirus, which has paralysed the world, and even conspiracy theories claiming that it was specifically developed as a weapon. Does Russia have any information regarding these allegations that the infection started spreading after a leak from a virology laboratory or was created artificially? Can it be considered a biological weapon or a terrorist attack? Did Russia receive any information regarding this from its foreign partners?



Oleg Syromolotov:

We do not have any data that could let us entertain the idea that the virus was created artificially or is being used as a biological weapon.



Question:

Considering the sensitive nature of the information that is communicated as part of the counter-terrorism efforts, is it possible to exchange it online without in-person meetings? In general, because of using online communication, which is vulnerable, is there a higher risk of confidential information being intercepted by cybercriminals who could use this information to carry out their terrorist plans?



Oleg Syromolotov:

Yes, you are right. We are taking all the necessary precautions to protect the sensitive information that we share with our partners. Classified data is transferred via secure diplomatic channels and verified cooperation mechanisms of the security services. If we need to discuss any highly classified information concerning counter-terrorism measures with our foreign colleagues and disclosure of such information could compromise the efficiency of these measures, we will prefer to do it in person.



Question:

Can we say that the coronavirus pandemic has had some positive effect? Does the fact that most counties closed their borders and enhanced control at entry points due to the pandemic facilitate counter-terrorism activity and does it allow for fragmenting the map of terrorism distribution so that counter-terrorism activity can be more targeted?



Oleg Syromolotov:

Of course, travel between countries is restricted amid the pandemic. Control at the borders is enhanced, while many types of transport, including air transport, do not operate at all. But this does not mean that we can relax and forget about the terrorist threat. Terrorists are criminals who use the most devious methods to get around the restrictions. We are witnessing a surge in their activity online, where they illegally disseminate the extremist ideology and recruit new members. At the same time, the risks of terrorist attacks are not getting any lower, be it in Europe or the areas of armed conflicts in the Middle East, Africa, or Afghanistan, as we are now unfortunately witnessing.



Question:

Counter-terrorism cooperation has been one of the last areas of active interaction between Russia and the United States in the past years. Last year, the United States provided Russia with information that helped prevent a terrorist attack in St Petersburg. You had a series of talks with your American colleagues in Vienna. Has the absence of personal meetings affected the intensity of contacts? Do the two countries maintain the same level of interaction?



Oleg Syromolotov:

In a recent interview, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has cited Russian-American counter-terrorism cooperation as an example of the most successful format of interaction between the two countries in the past years. I agree with his assessment and hope that the coronavirus cannot have a serious impact on this work. Once the COVID-19 pandemic is over, I expect to meet with my new counterpart in a high-level bilateral counter-terrorism dialogue, US Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun, who at the end of 2019 replaced in this capacity John Sullivan, the current US Ambassador to Russia.



Question:

Recently, we have seen a growing number of reports about terrorists becoming active in Afghanistan, in particular ISIS. Is Russia discussing with the United States the possibility of joint actions to combat terrorists in that country, or the exchange of information on this subject?



Oleg Syromolotov:

The situation in Afghanistan has been one of the key items on our agenda with Washington since we launched the Russia-US dialogue on counter-terrorism in December 2018. One good example of effective cooperation with our American partners in this area was the fact that last year the Afghan wing of ISIS, Wilayat Khorasan, was added to the sanctions list of the UN Security Council ISIL (Da’esh) and Al-Qaida Sanctions Committee pursuant to resolutions 1267/1989/2253. We stick to our agreement to continue a regular exchange of views on the Afghan agenda, which remains highly relevant.



Question:

Does Russia have an understanding of the total number of terrorists who continue to operate in Idlib? Are we ready to decide what happens to them next – will they be repatriated and put on trial, or destroyed on the spot? What is our position? How does Russia currently assess the terrorist threat in Idlib? Is it decreasing?



Oleg Syromolotov:

We continue to work in the Idlib de-escalation zone on the implementation of the Russian-Turkish Additional Protocol of March 5. According to reports, the situation in these territories remains tense. Jihadists are building up their fighting potential. Provocations from various illegal armed groups are regularly recorded. Militants from Hayat Tahrir al-Sham and affiliated groups are strongly resisting our efforts to unblock the M-4 motorway and trying to disrupt joint Russian-Turkish patrols. The socioeconomic situation is also deteriorating. The militants include fighters from Russia and the CIS countries. The tactics for dealing with them should be chosen by our military and security agencies. In any case we assume that every terrorist must be punished for their crimes. If members of terrorist groups in Idlib continue to put up illegal armed resistance, it cannot be ruled out that many of them simply will not live to be put to trial.



Question:

The United States announced its intention to repatriate the terrorists captured in Syria and Iraq to their homeland. Is Russia discussing this with the American side?



Oleg Syromolotov:

The positions of Moscow and Washington on repatriating foreign terrorist fighters from Syria and Iraq practically coincide. Both sides believe those states should take their citizens out of the zones of armed conflict and prosecute those involved in terrorist activities. Moreover, both Russia and the United States believe the inevitability of punishment for terrorists is a priority. The similarity of approaches on this issue and on a number of others creates a sound basis for the continuation of our counter-terrorism cooperation. This is a very important matter. The security of our citizens, our states, and their peaceful and stable development depend on it. There is a great deal we can work on together.




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4134830






Foreign Ministry statement on the US decision to withdraw from the Open Skies Treaty



22 May 2020 - 16:57



US senior government officials – President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Michael Pompeo – have announced a decision to withdraw from the Open Skies Treaty. This decision is a deplorable development for European security. This US-initiated treaty is a major component of European security. That said, Moscow was not surprised by Washington’s decision, which characterises its approach to discarding the entire package of arms control agreements and trust-building measures in the military sphere. Little attention is paid to the interests of allies, the demands of several US congressmen or the authoritative opinions of US and European experts, some of whom have been involved in the treaty’s implementation for decades.

The US administration is following the pattern it used during its withdrawal from the INF Treaty. The strategy is to cover up its own destructive actions by accusing Russia. We have replied to US complaints dozens of times both publicly and via diplomatic channels, including the Open Skies Consultative Commission (OSCC), and during bilateral meetings. And now, yet another accusation has been leveled at Russia. The accusation is that while implementing the treaty, Russia has been collecting information on critical US and European infrastructure with a view to targeting its precision weapons. This charge is being made by the party that insisted from the beginning on opening the entire territory of the participating states (above all, naturally, the USSR and later Russia) to observation flights.

We suggest that Washington make public the full list of Russian facilities that it has filmed in the past few years. Using its rights under the treaty, Russia has acted strictly in line with its provisions, and our American colleagues have made no claims against us in the past in this regard. Apparently, lacking any real argument in justifying its actions, the treaty’s opponents have resorted to this far-fetched allegation.

The United States is trying to feign the impression that Washington and its allies and associates have flawlessly abided by the treaty. This is simply not the case. We have many questions for them and some of these questions are fairly serious. However, Washington has dodged any discussion on these questions or has delayed the fulfilment of its commitments, sometimes for many years. Despite this, the US always demands the prompt fulfillment of other’s commitments. This is the main stumbling block in the failure of the attempts of the parties to the treaty to reach a comprehensive solution to its problems.

The current statements by US officials are based on the same approach. The United States may revise its decision to withdraw from the Open Skies Treaty if Russia unconditionally fulfils all of its demands in the next few months. This is an ultimatum rather than a foundation for discussion.

We are open to dialogue but it must be equitable and be aimed at considering each other’s interests and concerns. However, Washington is not motivated by this approach; it would rather just withdraw from the treaty. This is cause for deep regret because it will result in considerable damage to European security. US security concerns will not improve either and its international prestige is bound to be hurt. The policy to discard the Open Skies Treaty calls into question Washington’s negotiability and consistency. This is a source of serious concern even for US allies.

Russia’s policy on the treaty will be based on its national security interests and in close cooperation with its allies and partners.




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4135187






Remarks by Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the OSCE Alexander Lukashevich at the online meeting of the OSCE Permanent Council on the situation in Ukraine and the need to implement the Minsk agreements, Vienna, May 21, 2020



22 May 2020 - 20:22







Mr Chairperson,

Vladimir Zelensky became the president of Ukraine exactly a year ago. The plan for progress towards a settlement, which was outlined in 2019, has not been used as points of progress in reaching peace. Many impetuses that the participants in the Normandy format tried to impart to the settlement process have not been developed either. These include most of the instructions following the summit of the four leaders on December 9, 2019 in Paris. Negotiations between Kiev, Donetsk and Lugansk have gradually fallen into a deadlock due to Kiev’s destructive proclivity to ignore the Minsk agreements and change Ukraine’s commitments to them.

Kiev has not suspended its inhuman military operation against the civilians in Donbass. These people continue fighting for their right to live despite the daily shelling and the socio-economic and transport blockade imposed by Kiev. The number of shelling victims confirmed by the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) in the first half of May has approached the most for two years. All of the victims, including five children, were recorded in different districts of Donbass. In all, the SMM has received over 20 reports on victims since the start of May. This violence is often cynically explained by allegations that Donbass fighters are deploying combat hardware near residential buildings. These allegations appear to be unfounded.

Look at the circumstances of a recent incident in the village of Sakhanka in the south of the Donetsk Region, where two children were injured. On May 7 a group of civilians was maintaining a monument to Red Army soldiers killed in the struggle against Nazism during the Great Patriotic War. In addition, repairs were being made to the local community centre building near the monument as part of preparations for Victory Day events. There was no combat hardware, no Donbass fighter unit position, or any fighters as such, near this place. Nevertheless, unarmed civilians were shelled from Ukrainian Armed Forces positions. The precision shots were planned and deliberate. Civilians, including children, were seriously wounded. It will take a long time for these traumas to heal; it is more than physical injury. And in general, it appears as though monuments to the fighters against Nazism and those who care for them are now being attacked not only by neo-Nazis but by the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

All this is a result of Kiev’s reluctance to end the violence. Kiev representatives in the Contact Group are stubbornly avoiding the signing of ceasefire commitments with Donetsk and Lugansk and the coordination of measures to support it. These measures must include the issue of ceasefire orders and disciplinary punishment for their violation, as well as direct telephone contact between the confronting parties with a view to avoiding incidents. Donetsk and Lugansk representatives have long expressed a willingness to do this, but Kiev lacks the political will to follow suit.

There is no progress on the political track of settlement; Kiev has not fulfilled a single commitment in the Minsk Package of Measures. Moreover, the Ukrainian official media are demanding a change in the Contact Group format. They want the current representatives of Donbass to be removed; they want Kiev to end any direct dialogue with them, something that is part of the Minsk agreements.

Judging by all this, talks based on the Minsk agreements have lost momentum partly because Kiev is not going to abandon a military solution to the conflict. Actions by the Ukrainian military demonstrate this. As we can see from SMM reports, Kiev has not stopped using railway hubs for the further militarisation of the region. SMM patrols are recording the delivery of heavy artillery and air defence rocket systems. Here is a recent example: on May 16, an SMM patrol discovered six Buk anti-aircraft missile systems at the Konstantinovka station in the Donetsk Region. This begs the question: Against what targets in Donbass is the Ukrainian Army planning to use these powerful weapons, which are designed to counter an air threat? We believe the SMM needs to build up its monitoring of railway hubs near the contact line in Donbass. This primarily applies to those hubs that were repeatedly mentioned in the SMM’s reports on the discovery of dozens of Ukrainian tanks and large caliber artillery: Konstantinovka, Khlebodarovka, Bakhmut, Druzhkovka and Rubezhnoye, to name a few.

Not surprisingly, armed clashes are occurring and military tensions are escalating against this background. The shelling of suburbs near the Lugansk village of Beryozovskoye by the Ukrainian Army on May 16 damaged a high transmission line which nearly led to a humanitarian disaster. Many households and a number of critical infrastructure and industrial facilities had serious problems with electricity and water supplies afterwards. Despite the SMM’s efforts to create “a window of silence” to repair the damaged high transmission line, the Ukrainian military failed to provide a reliable ceasefire guarantee. At first, they provided a guarantee but then they suddenly cancelled it, thereby threatening the security of SMM observers that were in the region as well.

We are very concerned about other incidents where the security of the observers is jeopardised. A recent example is the shelling of Yasinovataya near Donetsk on May 18, when a shell exploded only 500 metres from an SMM patrol. The observers felt the impact of the shock wave even at this distance. This may testify to the use of large caliber heavy weapons near the patrol’s location, which clearly points to the involvement of the Ukrainian military. Incidentally, this is not the first case in Yasinovataya in recent weeks where the consequences of shelling were recorded in the direct vicinity of SMM observers. They also came under fire near the railway station on May 13. The SMM established that the direction of fire pointed to the Ukrainian military. Recent incidents in Yelenovka, Molodyozhnoye and Beryozovskoye are also raising serious alarm.

Incidentally, at the online meeting of the Permanent Council last week, the esteemed representatives of Canada and the US tried to accuse the Donbass self-defence fighters of aggressive actions towards OSCE observers. They alleged that on May 8, SMM staff that were launching a drone near Gorlovka, were caught, thrown to the ground with their faces in dirt, their arms twisted behind their backs and weapons pointed at them. SMM Chief Monitor Yasar Halit Cevik personally refuted these allegations at a briefing on May 15. He explained that in general his staff feel safe in Donbass – the local people are not aggressive towards them and the behaviour of the Donbass fighters near Gorlovka on May 8 cannot be described as threatening. There was a misunderstanding between them and the observers, which delayed the patrol for approximately three hours. Having heard about this, our North American colleagues began accusing everyone but themselves of starting a disinformation campaign. We urge them to abstain from rumours and other information that is not substantiated by facts, which are quickly turning into fake propaganda stories. It is necessary to focus on constructive work to facilitate a settlement of the Ukrainian domestic conflict in Donbass.

Mr Chairperson,

During discussions at OSCE Permanent Council meetings, our overseas colleagues invariably speak out in support of Ukraine’s sovereignty and independence. Their views on independence became clear the day before yesterday, when a member of the Ukrainian Parliament made public some conversations between Petr Poroshenko during his presidential term and his American curators, in particular, former US Vice-President Joe Biden. These tapes provide numerous additional evidence of direct US interference in the internal affairs of Ukraine, targeted control of Ukraine’s internal political processes and key authorities, including law enforcement agencies, direct personnel instructions issued to the country’s supreme authorities, as well as the Ukrainian authorities’ reports to Washington on the implementation of their secret obligations. This makes one wonder about the independence of Kiev’s policy on settling the conflict in the eastern regions.

It is puzzling that some countries continue to encourage the Armed Forces of Ukraine to take aggressive actions against civilians in Donbass. The United States, Canada, Britain and several EU countries continue to train Ukrainian military personnel and supply them with weapons and munitions. It is also alarming that radical nationalism and neo-Nazism are being encouraged at government level in Ukraine, which is having a negative effect on the national security in general.

We have to state once again that the ongoing crisis in Ukraine is the result of the foreign-inspired, orchestrated, financed and organised coup, which took place in February 2014 and led to the armed confrontation in Donbass and the suffering of millions of civilians in Ukraine. The Ukrainian people must be free to decide their future without the external management that is being forced on them by the United States.

The only internationally recognised basis for the settlement of the internal Ukrainian crisis is the implementation of the Minsk Package of Measures, which was adopted on February 12, 2015 and approved by the UN Security Council. We call on the OSCE to provide the fullest possible support to this process and to put pressure on Kiev to implement the Minsk roadmap for peace as soon as possible.

Thank you.




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4135292






Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova’s answer to a media question about a statement made by President of Georgia Salome Zourabichvili



25 May 2020 - 11:13



Question:

When speaking with the Rustavi-2 television channel on May 19, President of Georgia Salome Zourabichvili mentioned the idea of a joint antiterrorism centre with Russia, which was widely discussed in 2005 ̶ 2006. She said it was not supposed to be a bilateral agency, but a trilateral body together with NATO.



Maria Zakharova:

The idea of a Georgian-Russian antiterrorism centre was discussed in 2005 ̶ 2006 as part of a package agreement on the withdrawal of Russian military bases from Georgia. And it was to be a strictly bilateral rather than a multilateral counterterrorism agency.

I would like to cite two documents to prove my point. A joint statement signed by Foreign Minister of Russia Sergey Lavrov and then Foreign Minister of Georgia Salome Zourabichvili, on May 30, 2005 says that “an agreed part of personnel and the supply of materiel and infrastructure of the RMB at Batumi will be used in the interests of the to-be-established Georgian-Russian Antiterrorist Centre (GRATC), which will be formalised in a separate document.” The March 31, 2006 Agreement on the Duration, Temporary Functioning Rules and Withdrawal of the Russian Military Bases and Other Military Facilities of the Group of Russian Forces in Transcaucasia Stationed on the Territory of Georgia reads that the sides were to finish the drafting in the near future and prepare for signing an agreement on the establishment and functioning of the Georgian-Russian Antiterrorist Centre, according to which an agreed part of personnel and the supply of materiel and infrastructure of the RMB at Batumi will be used in the interests of the centre.

As for President Zourabichvili’s words regarding the alleged discussion of NATO’s possible involvement in the GRATC with Russia, we will leave it on her conscience.




The source of information - https://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy...ent/id/4135714






Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s greetings to participants in the 23rd Forum of the Potsdam Meetings, The Pandemic and Its Influence on Foreign and Security Policies



25 May 2020 - 12:27



Participants in the Russian-German Potsdam Meetings, friends,

I am delighted to welcome you to the regular, 23rd forum, which is taking place, just as the majority of Russian-German dialogues, in a complicated epidemiological situation and by videoconference. I am sure that meeting remotely will not prevent the forum participants from holding an open and professional discussion on the current global priorities.

The Potsdam Meetings traditionally hit a nerve, focusing on the most important topics that worry the public. Your meeting today will be no exception. The coronavirus pandemic is becoming a key factor that can promote unity in foreign policy and the global economy and bring countries and international institutions together in the battle against very real rather than imaginary threats facing humanity. It is extremely important to get to know about expert opinions and views on this subject.

As for Russian-German ties, the point at issue is the importance of our countries’ leadership in a rapidly changing world. It is in our common power to transform a pessimistic but currently popular motto – “The world will never be the same again” – into a more ambitious and forward-looking slogan – “The world must become a better place.”

I wish all participants good health, every success in dealing with this complicated task, a good meeting and all the very best.

SERGEY LAVROV

May 25, 2020

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