Briefing by Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova, Koktebel, October 10, 2018

Good afternoon, colleagues,

We are holding today's regular offsite briefing in wonderful Koktebel.

We have visited exciting, beautiful, evolving and rapidly growing Crimea on a number of occasions and found interesting and unconventional locations for our briefings. Recently, we visited Kerch and drove across the bridge. We visited Artek, where it all began. We visited the area outside Yalta and the amazing hotel Mriya; we toured various sites, including the embankment in Sevastopol, and took part in various media forums; we visited Simferopol and Alushta, where we were received by Alexander Lebedev. But this time is really a dream come true, because, honestly, I have been dreaming of visiting Koktebel since my school days and I have always been into Russian poetry of the Silver Age, I have to admit. After reading biographies and poems of that era, I imagined this would happen someday. And at last there is an occasion, and not just one.

Donating the book Andorra and the Poet to the Voloshin House Museum in Koktebel

Just several hours ago, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and his Andorran counterpart presented a book called Andorra and the Poet at the Reception House of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Moscow. We had announced its publication. It is dedicated to the works and some chapters of the biography of Maximilian Voloshin, a great Russian poet, who was one of the first to help the Russian public discover Andorra in the early 20th century.

The book has been published in two languages, Russian and Catalan. It is symbolic that immediately after its presentation by the two countries’ foreign ministers, we are in Koktebel today. We can say that Koktebel was a special place for Voloshin and Silver Age poets. They all visited this place.

Following the briefing, we will donate copies of the book to the museum, where we can speak on the topic in more detail.     

I would like to thank Dmitry Kiselev, who learned about our desire to visit Koktebel and about our request, responded to it and offered his house as a venue for our briefing today. And here we are, at this amazing site near the sea.

Thank you very much. Mr Kiselev!

I think we can start now.

Crimea’s international and interregional ties 

Given that we are on Crimean soil, I would like to follow tradition and talk about Crimea’s international and interregional ties.

We are pleased to note increasing demand for an unbiased view of Crimea, an interest in interaction with it from foreign business, public and political circles. We see this interest growing. An increasing number of foreign delegations is a reflection of this trend. For instance, there were over 100 of them in 2017. We expect as impressive a number this year. High-profile international events hosted by the peninsula have become further proof of the trend towards cooperation. I am not the one to tell you about them given that there are many local journalists here.

As an example, I would like to remind our colleagues and the audience “on the mainland” that the fourth Yalta International Economic Forum last April was a key venue for discussing interaction with Crimea and promoting investment opportunities here. We expect meaningful results from the representative conference, Crimea in a Modern International Context, to be held October 25-27.

We see a big potential in expanding Crimea’s international ties via non-government organisations. For example, recent visits by unbiased NGOs from Norway, Germany and the United States contributed to drawing a true picture of life in Crimean regions of the Russian Federation. Regional and municipal deputies from some countries in Europe and Asia have shown real interest in establishing contacts with their colleagues on the peninsula.

We invite everyone to visit Crimea and see for themselves the real state of affairs on the peninsula. We have talked about this a number of times at different levels starting with the foreign minister, our ambassadors, and the experts. We invite foreign diplomats, officials from international organisations to come and see with their own eyes the positive trends and the lingering problems there rather than reach political conclusions based on ungrounded media-spun reports that often have no bearing on reality.

We are ready for dialogue, including with relevant inter-state entities, within the procedures applied by the Russian Federation on its territory, and also to receive their missions in Crimea if they are sent within the mandate of a specific organisation in accordance with the procedures applicable to visiting our country.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s participation in a Valdai Club meeting

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will take part in the 15th annual meeting of the Valdai International Discussion Club in Sochi on October 18.

During the years of its existence, the Valdai forum has earned a reputation as one of the most authoritative venues of expert dialogue in Russia. The Foreign Ministry highly regards its contribution to the public discussion of major issues regarding national security and foreign policy. The participation of the President of the Russian Federation, heads of federal executive bodies and many foreign guests and experts impart special significance to the club’s meetings.

Per tradition, during the forthcoming meeting Mr Lavrov will share his assessments of international affairs in real-life communication with the audience and will reply to questions, which are usually numerous.

Maria Butina update

We are watching the situation involving Russian citizen Maria Butina (as you know, she was arrested in the United States on absolutely far-fetched charges).  On October 4, Russian diplomats visited her in prison again. Maria did not complain about any health problems. Owing to the efforts of the Russian Embassy in the US, her confinement conditions were improved.

In the meantime, we are indignant over the campaign to smear Butina in the US media. This is not even propaganda but deliberate distortion of reality and information. We are particularly concerned about the fact that this is done openly, with the prompting of US government bodies, notably, the US Department of Justice that is trying to portray Butina as some kind of “spy.” Our consular visits to Butina are presented as evidence of her “connection” with the Russian Government. As you know from our accounts (many journalists can confirm this) we visit all Russian citizens who get into trouble, who are in prison.

The US Department of State replies to our demarches with clichés about the need to address any arising problems with the judicial bodies. However, this is an obvious arbitrary action because Maria has been in prison since July. She has not committed any crimes. In other words, she is a political prisoner. This is exactly how we qualify it.

We demand that the US authorities stop this outrage against a Russian citizen. We will continue working for Butina’s release from prison and the dismissal of all charges against her.

150 days since Kirill Vyshinsky’s arrest

This Friday it will be 150 days since Director of the RIA Novosti-Ukraine website Kirill Vyshinsky was arrested on the absurd charges of high treason. 

One more professional who was only doing his job as a journalist in full conformity with Ukrainian law and under condition of absolutely open editorial policy (I have talked to many of his colleagues and friends – he sincerely loved Ukraine, and the people with whom he socialised and lived, and did not separate himself from, sincerely believed in his profession, and it is possible to say that he sincerely trusted Ukraine that in turn mistreated him like this) has fallen victim to a campaign of reprisals against the mass media that is unprecedented in modern Europe and that is gaining momentum in Ukraine (I will talk about this separately). Channels are being shut down; journalists are subjected to physical abuse, including murder; foreign journalists are deported from the country. Human destinies are broken under the excuse of “fighting information aggression.” History has seen all of this and it has always ended tragically. The Kiev regime is actually following in the wake of these historical mistakes.

We demand that Kirill be freed immediately.

We again urge the relevant UN agencies, the OSCE, UNESCO, the International Federation of Journalists, Reporters without Borders, the Committee to Protect Journalists, Ukraine’s National Union of Journalists, the European Union, Western governments and simply Kirill’s colleagues, journalists from all countries to denounce the actions of the Kiev government, to demand his release and come to certain conclusions about the character of the Kiev’s media policy. In this case, silence equals complicity in the creation of a totalitarian information space in the very heart of Europe.

Syria update

The overall situation in Syria remains tense. Meanwhile, the implementation of the Memorandum of Understanding on the Stabilisation of the Situation in the Idlib De-escalation Zone is ongoing (as you may recall, this was signed following Russian President Vladimir Putin’s talks with Turkish President Recep Erdogan in Sochi on September 17).

In compliance with the document, all tanks, multiple rocket launchers, artillery systems and mortars of the conflicting sides were to be withdrawn as of today, while the withdrawal of all radical terrorist groups was to be completed by October 15.

A few hours ago Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov gave a detailed comment on the situation after his talks with his Andorra counterpart. You can see the video and text on the Foreign Ministry site.

We have already noted that some armed Syrian opposition groups in Idlib have stated their support for the Sochi agreements. As of now over a thousand militants have vacated the demilitarised zone and over a hundred units of military equipment were withdrawn. Yesterday, on October 9, Turkish media reported that the withdrawal of heavy equipment had been completed. We are in the process of checking this information with our experts.

Radicals, primarily those from Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, aka Jabhat al-Nusra, continue to try to break up the implementation of the September 17 memorandum. Shelling of residential areas to the west of Aleppo continues. Ceasefire violations by the terrorists in the north of Latakia and Hama provinces are being recorded.

Concurrently, the infighting continues in the Idlib zone between the various radical groups. At least 12 al-Nusra militants and 8 leaders of other illegal armed groups have been killed there in the past 30 days. Again, that’s about two dozen extremist organisation members!

Unfortunately, developments on the eastern bank of the Euphrates are cause for increasing concern. In reality, the Americans are in charge of this area, relying on their allies from among Kurds. The efforts they are making to set up a sort of special administration that is unrelated to the current Constitution of Syria are yielding results that are far from positive, judging by the developments we see “on the ground.” Such quasi statehood activities cause irritation among the non-Kurdish population – the Arabs, Assyrians and Turkomans. The local people are expressing special concerns about the lawlessness of the Asayish security service managed by the Americans. The media gets an increasing number of reports on armed attacks or terrorist assaults on these territories including the area of Raqqa which had been liberated form ISIS some time ago. According to media reports, the terrorists who survived and are rising again in the absence of legitimate power, and also those who for various reasons came into conflict with the administration established by the US across the Euphrates, are taking part in “guerilla” attacks.

For example, on October 3, three Kurdish security personnel were killed and two civilians were wounded in an explosion outside the Asayish checkpoint in Manbij. On the same day, in the vicinity of Raqqa, Islamists from the Popular Resistance of the Eastern Areas movement attacked a stronghold of the Syrian Democratic Forces killing four Kurdish militiamen. In this connection, we note the deployment of additional Kurdish self-defence units to the above areas.

An “odd war” of Kurdish units supported by the US with ISIS has been going on for several months in the south of the Trans-Euphrates area in Hajin and Sousa in the Euphrates valley. The media release daily reports of this, symbolically speaking, “epic battle,” as it is presented, but an end is nowhere to be seen. The purpose behind this petty propagandistic fiddling, not even a campaign, is apparent − to drive home to the public the theme of a continued ISIS presence on Syrian soil. Consequently, the conclusion is drawn that the US military presence in Syria, which is, I repeat, illegal, needs to continue to keep fighting terrorism, as it is presented.

Russia’s assessment of the armed foreign presence in Syria remains the same. You are aware of this, but let me repeat: those service personnel who were invited and accepted by the Syrian government, including the Astana process, are legally present on the territory of the country, as are the UN peacekeeping force on the Golan Heights, which is acting under UN mandate. All other foreign armed forces are there in violation of Syria’s sovereignty. As the above developments in the Trans-Euphrates area indicate, such actions do not entail long-tern normalisation of the situation, on the contrary – they hinder reaching this key goal.

Syrian President’s decree on amnesty for military deserters

I would like to note that on October 9, the official Syrian news agency SANA published a report that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad had issued Legislative Decree No. 18 granting general amnesty for those who hid from military conscription. The document exempts from criminal liability for crimes included in the Military Penalties Law issued by Legislative Decree No. 61 of 1950 and its amendments.

The decree automatically covers the respective category of Syrian residents inside and outside the country. An exception is made for individuals hiding from justice and those who are on the wanted list. In order to be granted amnesty, those remaining inside the country must turn themselves in within four months after the issuance of the decree, and those outside the country – within six months.

Moscow welcomes the decree and views it as another very important step of the Syrian government towards overcoming the aftermath of the armed conflict in the country and the long-term stabilisation of the situation. This measure is to play a special role in creating favourable conditions for the return of refugees and internally displaced persons to their homes.

Russia, on its part, will continue close coordination and interaction with Syrian authorities as well as all other parties concerned within the initiative to ensure a prompt return of Syrian refugees and internally displaced persons.

Violations of UNSC counter-terrorism resolutions by US and British humanitarian agencies shipping humanitarian aid to northern Syria without consent of the Syrian authorities

Last week a number of Western media outlets reported that a ‘toll” is levied on all cargoes from abroad for the terrorists’ treasury in the regions outside government control in the north of the country, including at the Bab al-Hawa border crossing, where the situation is controlled by terrorists, in particular, those of the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham terrorist organisation (let me remind you that it is the former Jabhat al-Nusra). In particular, London’s The Telegraph reported that 5,000 to 7,000 lorries a month are levied with such a tax at this checkpoint alone. According to the newspaper, such illegal “taxing” gives terrorists around £3 million every month.

The UK’s Department for International Development and the US Agency for International Development are reported to have stopped humanitarian aid deliveries through the above border checkpoint following the scandalous developments.

Let me reiterate that we use the data published in the media. We would also like to hear official statements in this regard.

Jabhat al-Nusra is on the UNSC terrorist sanctions list, and remittance of any financial funds in any form is a direct violation of the Security Council resolutions, of which Moscow reminded its international partners more than once. Those who fund terrorists should themselves be included on the sanctions list. We expect that these actions will, for a start, be thoroughly investigated by UN experts.

The Americans and the British, who by the way never miss a chance to criticise the Russian side for alleged non-compliance with certain UNSC sanction regimes, made a long overdue decision to stop state-funded humanitarian deliveries to the Idlib area. The dues charged by the terrorists had always been there, and we spoke about it and cited facts, and we continue to do it. In particular, we spread that information in the UN Security Council. Regrettably, some non-governmental organisations keep working in that area, carrying their humanitarian aid directly to the regions out of the government control in the north of Syria, thus continuing to nourish terrorists. Who delivers what via border checkpoints managed by the militants is something yet to be determined since the international community does not have the exact data. However, the developments are becoming clearer. But we need solid facts to come to conclusions. This is exactly what we would like to see.

We have been and continue urging the UN Secretariat and Security Council members to cancel the 2014 mandate on the so-called trans-border deliveries of humanitarian aid through a number of checkpoints including Bab al-Hawa. Let me explain why: the point is that the Syrian government only has to be informed but it is not necessary to wait for any authorisation, which also runs contrary to the UN principles of rendering urgent humanitarian aid. This measure was introduced during the acute stage in the Syrian crisis, when there was no other way to deliver help to those in need. Whereas today, when the situation has largely normalised in the greater part of the country’s territory, there is no need for these trans-border deliveries.

We believe relevant conclusions should be made from the facts of financial backing of the terrorists via trans-border humanitarian aid deliveries, when the issue of extending the trans-border mechanism comes up at the UN Security Council at the end of the year.

Ukraine’s Verkhovna Rada adopts bill to make Ukrainian the country’s national language

As you know, on October 4, the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine upheld a bill, in its first reading, to ensure the Ukrainian language’s role as the official national language. The approved bill is the most radical of the four optional solutions to the language issue.

This “legal initiative” as it was described, although, of course, it is in essence something completely different, continues Kiev’s policy of total Ukrainisation of society and will affect education, culture, healthcare, the judicial system, the mass media, and even consumer services.

A special Commission on national language standards will monitor implementation of the law. Additionally, a new post will be created, a commissioner for the protection of the Ukrainian language, to whom government bodies and public associations will be obligated to send any required information. In fact, Ukrainian politicians speak more than anybody else about their mentality being close to European values. They could have simply opened a reference book and they would have seen that commissioners for language issues are usually appointed when minorities are deprived of the opportunity to speak their native languages, which is, in fact, what is happening in Ukraine right now. But, it is completely absurd to do everything possible to curb any opportunities for minorities (although this term does not accurately describe such ethnicities as Russians, Hungarians, etc. who are also indigenous to Ukraine and contributed to the shaping of the country’s wellbeing, culture, traditions, history – its wealth in all senses). It is totally absurd to, on the one hand, do everything possible to restrict their rights, which are not being fully honoured anyway, and, on the other hand, to propose appointing a commissioner in order to grant the country’s main language a completely strange status which nobody ever even encroached on. This proposal has already been passed in the first reading. The commissioner will also be able to take legal action against those who break the law. Therefore, this is not a person who will ensure that rights are observed but a person or, perhaps, an entire institution that will monitor and probably even report to authorities how much one language is being used and another language is not being used. Once again, this has nothing to do with observing the rights of ethnic minorities, it is about the Ukrainian language. This is a paradox for the modern world.

The bill introduces a mandatory national Ukrainian language test for all citizens involved in areas specified by law, who must use the national language in their professional activity.

According to the authors of the bill, “public disrespect or humiliation of the Ukrainian language” will be qualified as unlawful and punishable by a large fine, a six-month detention or a prison sentence of up to three years.  Attempts to “introduce the official use of multiple languages” will be regarded as “a language division in the country, aimed at changing power by force or undermining the constitutional system.” Who is saying this? People who took power by force in a coup and have been undermining Ukraine’s constitutional system repeatedly for many years. What a peculiar world.

This type of innovation disagrees primarily (we don’t have to look far) with the Ukrainian Constitution that guarantees “the free development, use and protection of Russian, and other languages of national minorities of Ukraine” (Article 10).

Provisions of the bill contradict Article 6 of the Law On Ethnic Minorities in Ukraine, according to which the state guarantees all ethnic minorities free communication and use of their native language in culture, media, education and other areas of public life.

It is obvious that there is a grave violation of this by Kiev (and now Europe has started to point this out). Kiev’s contravention of its international legal obligations regarding human rights comes despite the recommendations of international bodies, including the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe, which Kiev often refers to.

We see this as an attempt by the governing regime to play the ‘language card’ for the sake of preserving power. It appears that Kiev is not bothered by the growing tension and discord in Ukrainian society as a consequence of the violation of the rights and interests of millions of citizens.    

Kiev authorities set to restrict the work of Ukrainian television channels 112 Ukraine and NewsOne 

Recently the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine passed a resolution calling to impose severe restrictions on a number of television channels including 112 Ukraine and NewsOne by among other things freezing their assets and banning their licences and use of frequencies. The developments are presented as countering “foreign propaganda and spreading terrorism ideology.” Such cleansing acts have already been applied against their media outlets. In case the proposed restrictions are supported by the Ukrainian Security Council, it would in reality amount to the above television channels discontinuing their work. This is a real war in the domestic information space, a fight against dissident thinking, an assault on the independent media. Kiev politicians keep publicly pointing out their commitment to the principles of Western democracy and freedom of speech whereas in reality they are engaged in information banditry as they proceed to shut down unwanted media outlets under false pretexts, filing criminal cases against journalists on fake charges.

We regard the above initiative – I want to stress – of the pro-President parliamentary coalition as yet another outrageous fact of Kiev’s violations of its obligations to protect human rights as well as freedom of speech. We call on international organisations and human rights activists to properly assess these actions.

A day hardly goes by without us hearing statements from Kiev demanding the release of Oleg Sentsov and rallies are held to this effect. I would like to address the Kiev authorities: have mercy on Oleg Sentsov. When he is released from prison, he will not recognise the country he wants to go back to. What are you doing? You are maiming your civic society!

Afghanistan update

October 7 marked 17 years of the US troops presence in Afghanistan. Throughout these years they failed to cope with the threats of terrorism, extremism and drug trafficking from the Afghan territory. It is painful for us to point this out. On the contrary, the threats became greater and turned into a “headache” practically for the whole world. The death of 35 army and police personnel and at least 19 civilians on this day alone is clear evidence of that. These numbers depict the situation in the country better than any assessments.

A little earlier, on October 4, according to the data which was available, a US drone launched one more wrong missile attack on the Maruf district of the Kandahar province in the south of the country killing four civilians – three women and a child – and wounding eight people. The victims’ families demanded an official investigation from the Afghan authorities. We hope it will be conducted and those found guilty be brought to justice.

We believe that 17 years should suffice to realise the impossibility and futility of solving the Afghan problem militarily. The only way to stop the country’s conflict which has been going on for years is by reaching a general agreement in Afghanistan via political and diplomatic means.

Washington’s current stake on military force only breed more enemies of the Afghan authorities and provokes the growth of extremist sentiments in the country. We categorically reject such an approach and call on the US side to focus their efforts on launching a peace process.

Developments in Nicaragua

We note the continuing instability in the domestic affairs of this friendly country.

The events of the past six months in this not long ago stable and safe country with a successfully developing economy are another case of political application and an attempt to stage a colour revolution, this time in Latin America.

One does not need to be an analyst or clairvoyant to understand why within one day in April 2018 peaceful protesters demanding economic changes received radical political mottoes and weapons. Or how the government was provoked to use force to counteract the instigators, or how this development of events was immediately internationalised to put massive pressure on the government under the pretence of protecting human rights to achieve its quick resignation.

Of course, we mourn the people killed in street clashes, especially the innocent people. It makes the responsibility of those who used them for their selfish political purposes much more serious.

When the legitimate government of Nicaragua showed calm and self-possession and was able to neutralise the radicals, the entire arsenal of open political pressure was used against it, and the urges for dialogue were replaced with sanctions. Instead of promoting national dialogue involving influential Catholic and business associations, Washington began threatening to isolate the Sandinistas (its favourite move), taking steps to create a political opposition, dictating policy and interfering in the affairs of a sovereign state. By the way, nobody even tries to camouflage their intentions and put on a good face.

At the US instructions, Secretary General of the Organisation of American States (OAS) Luis Almagro has joined the campaign, and even the long-term critics of the Nicaraguan government are repelled by his statements about readiness for any kind of aggressive interference. There was an attempt to raise the issue at the UN Security Council, but on September 6 it was rejected by those who prefer to preserve the legal ground of the current world order.

We are confident that the policy of controlled chaos which the US politicians are trying to institute in the US and Latin America is disastrous. Its consequences, as past experience shows, will lead to a dangerous scenario, which does not have anything in common with solving social and economic problems that the Nicaraguan government and people are facing. Nicaragua needs peace and a constructive dialogue based on mutual respect, as well as interaction of various political forces within the current law and in accordance with the Constitution.

Russia's assessment of elections in Bosnia and Herzegovina 

We are satisfied that the voting was held in a peaceful environment. We praise the work of the country’s Central Election Commission, which held the elections in accordance with democratic standards. We hope the new representative and executive branches of government will be formed soon in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Republika Srpska and the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and its cantons in the interests of the positive development of stabilisation processes and social and economic stability in the region.

We confirm the Russian Federation’s principal intention to assist the scrupulous implementation of the General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina of 1995 (Dayton Agreement), as well as the respect for the powers of the two entities established by the agreement and the equal rights of the three state-forming peoples: Bosniaks, Serbs and Croats. We note that the high level of the organisation of the elections again showed the need to revoke the Office of the High Representative (OHR) in Bosnia and Herzegovina, which Russia has repeatedly spoken about, and to give the responsibility to the people of Bosnia.

We are open to a mutually beneficial dialogue with our Bosnia and Herzegovina partners in the political, investment, economic  and cultural areas. We believe that the further development of Russia’s relations with Bosnia and Herzegovina and its entities will facilitate the improvement of the living standards in the two countries and their mutual cultural and religions enrichment, as well as improve peace and security in the Balkans.

140th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Russia and Romania

October 15, 2018 will mark the 140th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Russia and Romania. The Diplomatic Academy of the Russian Foreign Ministry, which is organising the International Diplomatic Forum humanitarian project in public diplomacy, will mark the event in Bucharest with the support of the Russian Centre of Science and Culture in Bucharest and the Russian Embassy in Romania, as well as the Russian Peace Foundation international public fund.

The forum programme features an international symposium which will bring together famous Russian and Romanian researchers, as well as meetings in the Romanian Parliament, the European Institute, the Nicolae Titulescu European Foundation, the Craiova City Hall, and the Craiova University.

There are plans to sign a memorandum on cooperation between the Diplomatic Academy of the Russian Foreign Ministry and the Craiova University. It implies the establishment of a Russia-Romania Expert Commission on Public Diplomacy and Research and Cultural Dialogue, thus creating a dialogue platform between the Russian and Romanian academic communities to hold discussions on both the issues of our shared history and the current aspects of Russia-Romania relations. This public initiative of Russian and Romanian researchers confirms their intention to lead an open, independent and honest dialogue, free from political bias and external influence. Despite the current active anti-Russia propaganda in some European countries, the academic community has its own opinion and will continue to defend it.

Statements in a number of countries on alleged cyber attacks by Russia

This is a meme of modern times and especially of the last few years. Recently, it no longer surprises anyone, it is just amusing, unfortunately, although the problem is a serious one indeed. Why is this happening? Because we hear groundless accusations stemming entirely from the desire to engage in propaganda, using the commonest pretexts and the simplest messages of explanation (mainly aimed at young people). Specifically, it is a matter of an anti-Russian campaign. This time, they spoke in unison, as though on a signal, on the same day about new cyber attacks that allegedly took place in the United States, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and a whole number of European countries. This is not a campaign now but rushed effort.

Without going into detail, the synchronicity was surprising, despite the fact that it was easy to see through it all, but there is a serious reason for concern: not long ago, the foreign minister of the Russian Federation announced that this year our country, together with like-minded states, would submit resolutions to the UN General Assembly on the responsible conduct of countries in cyber space and the fight against the use of information and communication technology (ICT) for criminal purposes. Our country has long been working to combat ICT-related crime (let me remind you that our Foreign Ministry has a separate division that participates in international forums, develops relevant initiatives and promotes them in international organisations). The above-mentioned resolutions are aimed at ensuring the agreement of the international community to rules of responsible conduct by states in the information space. This involves the use of ICT for peaceful purposes only, the non-use of force or threats of force, the non-interference in the internal affairs of other states, and respect for state sovereignty. In addition, the resolutions are designed to protect the digital environment from provocations. But who needs rules, if the trend in the Western community is to drop rules, walk out of them and promote one’s own exclusion from them?

So, a coalition of the above-enumerated countries decided to develop cyber weapons and use them to threaten disagreeable countries with cyber offensives. This was officially announced by a whole number of countries and in some, it was reported in the mass media.

Seeing that our initiatives aimed at preventing cyber space from being turned into a battlefield are winning increasing support in the world (given the fact that a whole number of countries have experienced cyber attacks, interference in their internal affairs and interference in their electoral processes, the need for such rules to be elaborated is really a pressing need both for individual countries and whole regions), attempts are being made via this platform to discredit our country through groundless allegations.

We hope that the international community will be guided by common sense and facts and will not let itself be fooled by a group of countries attempting to seize control of the international information space and dictate its will from a position of strength to the whole world.           

Developments around the Richard Lugar Centre for Public Health Research in Georgia

A while ago, we voiced concerns over what we suspected were unusual and dangerous activities by the Richard Lugar Centre for Public Health Research in Georgia. Our assumptions, which were to the large extent political despite being based on the data that we had, were later confirmed directly by representatives of this state, Georgian nationals who lived there and knew what they were talking about. Then, Russian experts gave us the relevant information, providing a detailed line of argument and facts.

After this, we heard a whole range of statements from Washington, claiming that it was lies and slander; that it was impossible and that Russia was engaged in propaganda.

Nevertheless, new facts are now emerging about the dark side of US military biological activities and the Pentagon’s use of the so-called Richard Lugar Centre for Public Health Research in Georgia.

Major General Igor Kirillov, Head of the Russian Defence Ministry’s Radiological, Chemical and Biological Defence Forces, spoke about this at the ministry briefing on October 4. In particular, the international community was shocked by the examples of American research on the use of mosquitoes (I hope the ones flying around here have nothing to do with this!) as means of infecting people with highly dangerous infectious agents. All of this reminds me of the futuristic films from a few decades ago – back then, it seemed impossible, but now, unfortunately, it is becoming a reality, and an extremely dangerous one.

Just recently, new details surfaced about the US military’s sinister interest in using insects – this time, for infecting agricultural plants with various viruses. I understand that it is not the same as infecting people – still, this is our food that we are talking about. An article written by a group of foreign experts, which was published in the respected Science magazine, dwells on the US Defence Department’s Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) programme called Insect Allies (this article is available online, you can read it). This programme’s budget totals at $45 million. Its stated goal is to use the latest genetic engineering and gene therapy techniques to improve the resistance of crops to adverse environmental factors. Such explanations might be sufficient for the average person who does not know much about the biological weapons issue. But the authors of the Science magazine article make a very legitimate point: what does the Pentagon have to do with agriculture? There are plenty of official governmental structures addressing agricultural issues in the United States. Why the Pentagon?

Experts explained that compared to the traditional method of spraying crops with pesticides, this method for delivering viral DNA is economically unviable and ineffective. At the same time, releasing large numbers of insects with virus infections has distinct offensive aspects and can be used to destroy the opponent’s agricultural potential. And it would be hard to prove malice, since one can always attribute such an incident to “natural causes”. It is no coincidence that the authors of the Science magazine article question how such DARPA programmes can be consistent with the US complying with its obligations under the  Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC).

These are not single, isolated examples, nor predictions from movies, they are links in an already-existing policy chain that is currently being implemented.

Back in 1997, Cuba officially accused the US of spreading a crop-eating insect Thrips palmi (with the help of a carrier aircraft) to destroy the country’s crop yields. Unfortunately, the truth was never established, since the BTWC still has no verification mechanism, and to date the US continues to prevent it from creating one.

Russian concerns about the American military medical and biological activities “under the roof” of the laboratory in Georgia are based on facts that cannot be denied. Talk all you like about “Russian propaganda,” but these are facts. As it was mentioned before, we will continue to demand that Washington answer the questions raised and comply with the its obligations on the prohibition of biological weapons.

Statements by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on the possibility of Russia’s joining the alliance

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has stated that Mikhail Gorbachev was given no guarantees that NATO would not expand to the east. Don’t play cunning, Mr Stoltenberg. Naturally, such guarantees were not put on paper and signed but there was a gentlemen's agreement (and that is a proven fact). It’s another matter that it was forgotten and nobody wants to remember it. Yet the fact remains. For instance, it is reflected in the selection of archive materials recently declassified and published in the United States. At his meeting with Stoltenberg this past February Sergey Lavrov quoted some facts from those documents. I think Stoltenberg has had enough time to read them all since February.

It is advantageous for some Western countries to pretend that such promises were never made but this is eroding trust in them even more. It shows the real value of their other promises that have been and are being made to us or anybody else.

As for the options of Russia joining NATO, we are not considering them either theoretically or (least of all) practically. In 1954, the Soviet Government expressed its readiness to contemplate Soviet Union’s participation in NATO with a view to making it a Europe-wide organisation. NATO leaders responded that such an option was unfeasible. I think Mr Stoltenberg also knows it.

NATO’s purpose was well formulated by its first Secretary General Lord Ismay. According to him, NATO’s mission in Europe was “to keep the Russians out, the Americans in, and the Germans down.” Actually, little has changed since then, although we have repeatedly made relevant proposals. It is possible to interact in a number of areas without joining the alliance. We did it well enough: we have cooperation on Afghanistan that I mentioned today, we have the fight against terrorism and cybercrime – an immense amount of problems which can be addressed either  within own bloc or in interaction with many regional powers. In our view, differences should not be an obstacle to a close interaction. Russia has always declared this position.

We have been prepared for a genuinely equal and mutually respectful cooperation with NATO as well as for joint work on the creation of a common space of indivisible security without dividing lines and spheres of influence. Even now we remain open to dialogue and cooperation, and Mr Stoltenberg cannot but be aware of this. However, so far it is NATO that prefers a different way – the way of deterring Russia, which does nothing to enhance and is only weakening our common security.

75th anniversary of the uprising in the Sobibor Nazi extermination camp

In a few days, on October 14, we will mark the 75th anniversary of prisoners’ uprising in the Sobibor Nazi extermination camp in southeastern Poland. The uprising was led by Soviet officer Alexander Pechersky. It was a graphic example of the heroic fight against Nazism. The uprising leader was a citizen of the USSR, the country that made a decisive contribution to the victory over Nazism and here in Crimea there is no need to remind anyone about this.

It is important to remember such dates. We honour them to commemorate the millions of people who gave their lives and fought heroically and rejected that evil, as well as to remind those living now about what danger of man-hating ideologies and neo-Nazi throwbacks either in the form of torchlight processions and parades or in glorifying Nazi accomplices.

As we recall the events that happened 75 years ago and the Nazi death camps, it is hard to believe that neo-Nazis still have a place in today’s world (and it is not a place of shame but a place in the sun) and the European countries and the United States, civilised on the surface, turn their blind eye to the manifestations of neo-Nazism in Ukraine and the Baltic states. Once, guided by selfish geopolitical considerations, the West went as far as the Munich Conspiracy (we talked about it at our previous briefing). Could you really fail to learn anything from those mistakes?

The film Sobibor is being screened in the West throughout 2018 in order to preserve the memory of those tragic events. The film has already come out in New York, Washington, Geneva, Brussels, Berlin, Vienna, Bratislava, Tel Aviv and other cities. It has been submitted by Russia for an international award.  

Our embassies and cultural centres are also holding events (photo exhibitions, displays, conferences, workshops and meetings) devoted to Sobibor.

The act of vandalism against the monument to the Soviet Army in Sofia

On the night of October 4, yet another act of vandalism was carried out on the monument to the Soviet Army in Sofia.

We are urging the leadership of Bulgaria to put an end to the incidents of vandalism against the monument that have recently become increasingly more frequent and to ensure the safety of the monument, in keeping with the relevant agreements between Russia and Bulgaria. We have to note that the Bulgarian party has never taken a single effective measure to prevent the mockery of the memory of Soviet soldiers who lost their lives as they fought to save humanity from Nazism.   

The expulsion of Russian journalist Andrey Vypolzov from Latvia

In the morning of October 5, Editor-in-Chief of the Newsbalt website Andrey Vypolzov was detained after his plane from Kaliningrad landed at Riga’s International Airport. Unfortunately, this is yet another example of Russian journalists being persecuted in Latvia and the European Union, for that matter.

According to Vypolzov, the Latvian border guards jointly with Latvian security police officers spent two hours checking his documents and identity. In addition, they asked the journalist to provide a written explanation for his visit, giving details not only of his job as a journalist and the purpose of his trip, but also the names of people he planned to meet in Latvia. 

The journalist was given a copy of the decision by Latvian Interior Minister Rihards Kozlovskis “On Including a Foreign National on the List of Foreign Nationals Who Are Barred from Entering the Latvian Republic” dated June 12, 2014. Latvian officials explained to the journalist that he was on Latvia’s blacklist as a person “posing a threat to Latvia‘s national security”.

We consider these actions by official Riga as another provocation against a representative of the Russian media, as well as an attempt to restrict freedom of speech and we urge the international community to respond. We are surprised that OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Harlem Desir has not yet stated his position in connection with the expulsion of Andrey Vypolzov from Latvia.  

Arctic Media Congress

On December 9-11, 2018, Salekhard will host the International Arctic Media Congress – Arctic Media World – the first ever international event to be held in this format.

Over 200 members of the media community from Russia and abroad, primarily, Arctic nations, are expected to take part in the forum.  

The event’s key objectives are to highlight today’s Arctic, including the ambitious projects developed for the Russian Arctic, and to give additional impetus to a broad dialogue on the issues that are at the forefront of the region’s concerns.

The diversified business part of the programme will include a plenary meeting and three section meetings themed around economic cooperation in the Arctic, the environment in the Arctic, and efforts to preserve the traditions of the small indigenous peoples in the North. The programme also provides for cultural events and an exhibition focusing on the Arctic’s media. I believe that the cultural programme will be interesting – we are good at organising this sort of thing.

The event is sponsored by the Government of the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Area with support from the Foreign Ministry.

Accreditation for the media congress is open on the forum’s website (https://www.arcticmediaworld.com/congress/about/) until November 1. If you have practical questions, including about accommodation, transport and the financial   terms, please, contact representatives of the Government of the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Area when getting accreditation.  

Sergey Lavrov to attend the book launch of Vladimir Shevchenko’s The Presidential Protocol

On October 15, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will attend the book launch of The Presidential Protocol by Vladimir Shevchenko, who holds the diplomatic rank of Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Russian Federation, and was Head of the Russian Presidential Protocol for many years. More details about the event will be posted on the Foreign Ministry’s website within the next few days.   

The book launch will be held at the Foreign Ministry’s Reception House. Members of the Russian and foreign media are invited to attend.

 

Answers to media questions:

Question: It has become common in the West to search for bizarre facts about Russia: they make films about us, make up fake stories and facts, including stories about some wild football fans before the World Cup. When Russia hosted the World Cup, it proved that it is a civilised and friendly country. In this context, our two football players, not the worst ones, I mean Pavel Mamayev and Alexander Kokorin, were involved in an ugly incident on Moscow streets. Western media have picked up on this (especially the British media have been enjoying it). The Russian Football Union promised to ban the players. They will have no choice but to go to the West and take part in world championships. Do you think it would harm Russia’s image? What is your opinion about this story and the behaviour of our western colleagues who found something good in Russia?

Maria Zakharova: I think it is not me who should comment on such issues, especially not in my official capacity as the Foreign Ministry spokesperson. On the other hand, you are absolutely right in saying that since we have been talking so much about football recently and informed the public about the achievements of our country honestly and sincerely, it would be more than appropriate and honest to speak about problems in this area. Right now, the law enforcement agencies should investigate what really happened. It is not just good form, but what must be done in a rule-of-law state. This is exactly what is happening now.

Secondly, it is the reaction of the public and its intolerance to violence. The reaction we are witnessing now (I would like to abstain from commenting) is not just a sign of good or bad manners, but it shows the maturity and responsibility of the civil society that understands that such incidents require a public response.

I have allowed myself to comment on it now because we should be honest. We spoke so much about achievements in sports and in football in particular, we were so proud of our players, fans and organisers of large international events, so we need to speak openly about problems as well. I am not sure that this is a problem of sports or of football; it is rather a related problem. The main role should be played by the law enforcement agencies that have launched investigation (I also am monitoring the situation). At least, they have made statements to this effect.

As for the future of these individuals, it is their business and not my competence. Returning to your first question, I would like to say again that the public response and the reaction of the police speak for themselves. Violence is unacceptable for our society both from the point of view of law and civil response. I realise that such incidents cannot but damage the image of the country, but it is not that important in this case. What’s important is an unbiased investigation and the maturity of our society.

Question: Oleg Sentsov, who was convicted on terrorism charges that were proven in courtis whollysupported by the West, where people are calling for his release. However, neither the West, nor certain circles are showing any interest whatsoever in our colleague Kirill Vyshinsky, who is being kept in terrible conditions in a Ukrainian prison and who is accused of performing his professional duty. Why is that so? Is there any hope that Kirill Vyshinsky will eventually be swapped and return to his homeland?

Maria Zakharova: We are not dealing with maters of hope. We are doing concrete work to make it happen.

As for your first question, I believe that you asked it, being aware of and knowing a very simple answer – no one in the West is concerned about the destiny of Oleg Sentsov as a person or even as a “filmmaker” as they call him. The overwhelming majority of people do not have the slightest idea of what they are talking about. Oleg Sentsov’s fate interests everyone only as a tool in the anti-Russian campaign that is currently being waged. I have irrefutable and 100-percent reliable evidence – that is Nadezhda Savchenko’s case. When she was detained, charged and stood trial, Nadezhda Savchenko interested everyone – people wore T-shirts with her portraits, wrote posters, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) and other public organisations and entities held rallies, pickets and protest marches, news conferences, symposiums and seminars, using every form of soft force in order to attract public attention to her case. As soon as Nadezhda Savchenko found herself behind bars in Ukraine, they lost interest in her. In the case of Oleg Sentsov and all the rest, it is exactly the same thing. This is proof that it is just a small coin for the West, a tool and an opportunity to once again make things painful and unpleasant for Russia, without getting to the bottom of the matter.

It is a tragedy when a person (and this is a proven case) chooses a forcible way of solving the matters that he regards as crucial for himself. It is a real tragedy and it happened to Oleg Sentsov. But the way the so-called “international public” is using him is indicative. Nadezhda Savchenko’s case confirms that no one in the West really cares about Oleg Sentsov’s fate. For them, Sentsov exists not as a person, but as an image, a symbol and a political tool used against Russia. It is frightening to even imagine what so-called “feats” our Western partners might be ready to perform in the future.

Question: Is there a possibility to swap our colleague Kirill Vyshynsky?

Maria Zakharova: As a political department, we do not comment on such matters. We do not have the authority, nor do we have the legal base at the current stage.

Question: We paid attention to the publications in the press, which say that the British secret services are allowed to commit crimes in order to protect national interests. Could you comment on these publications in the context of the Skripal case?

Could you comment on the Bellingcat website's publication on the investigation that allegedly reveals the personal identity of a suspect in that crime who went by the name of Alexander Petrov and proving his involvement with the Russian secret services?

Maria Zakharova: There is no need to confirm that Bellingcat you just mentioned and its partners are pseudo media. They are not media in the traditional interpretation of the goals and tasks they should be facing and actions expected from them by civil society. This is a method of leaking information by the secret services or representatives of law-enforcement agencies abroad that use this online resource to disseminate the information designed to discredit someone or conduct information subversion or a particular campaign. No traditional media, even the so-called new media can afford to do this because it will instantly lose the trust of its audience. However, there are ways of obviating the methods and laws of traditional honest journalism in disseminating information. Bellingcat is the case in point.

You asked about the admissions made by the British side that they approve of the right of their agents to commit crimes. Yes, we have seen this material. In the context of the global anti-Russian spy mania, the British public would like new questions answered about the activities of their own secret services. The voice of reason cannot be shut down despite all the absurdity that is taking place in London. Thus, the media paid attention to the trial initiated by a number of human rights organisations in the so-called Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT), a body in Britain that is authorised to review complaints about actions carried out by the British secret services, notably MI5, MI6 and the Government Communications Headquarters. At this trial, representatives of the plaintiff insisted on having documents published on MI5 policy regarding acceptability of crimes carried out by its agents.  

The published documents were in the form of a secret letter dating back to the year 2012, which is quite up-to-date and was signed by the then Prime Minister David Cameron and a service instruction that has been seriously censored. They made it clear that agents are allowed to commit crimes, up to murder and rape, if this is in the interest of the nation. Have you ever heard anything like this? This is not Russian propaganda or the Russian information machine as all of us are called there. These are declassified documents that give British secret agents the right to rape if it serves to protect national interests.  

Indicatively, according to this instruction (imagine a whole instruction on rape for promoting national interests!), MI5 informers are not formally guaranteed against persecution for crimes committed in their line of work. A decision to turn a blind eye to their crimes is made by a supervising employee. If this is really so, this is “the empire of evil” pure and simple.

In other words, the British secret services establish themselves what is acceptable and even within the service a decision is made by the interested party. Many experts recall in this context that British legislation allows intelligence operatives to commit crimes abroad as well (with the approval of a supervising minister). Enough to recall the James Bond film “License to Kill.” We saw this and talked about this half a year ago. Our British colleagues told us about some artistic character of the image. Now it appears to be the truth.

The very fact that British secret service agents are allowed to commit crimes for the sake of “national interests” established by some anonym is considered revolting by a considerable part of society in the United Kingdom. Moreover, if British agents are allowed to kill, numerous provocations we have seen recently fully correspond to the style of their work.

Question: We still hear that Russia is being accused of allegedly receiving labour migrants from North Korea in violation of the relevant UN Security Council resolution. Are these accusations justified?

Maria Zakharova: As I said during my opening remarks today, they are constantly levelling accusations at us while they themselves are not delivering on their obligations. Indeed, of late official representatives of some countries have accused Russia of its alleged disregard for UN Security Council resolutions 2375 of September 11, 2017 and 2397 of December 22, 2017, which provide for sanctions targeting North Korean nationals earning money abroad.   

These accusations are absolutely groundless. All North Koreans, without exception, are working in Russia under employment agreements signed before September 11, 2017, in compliance with paragraph 17 of UN Security Council Resolution 2375, and can continue working until December 22, 2019, in compliance with paragraph 8 of UN Security Council Resolution 2397.

This is credible and legally correct information.

Question: What is your assessment of Leonid Kuchma’s work as member of the Minsk Contact Group and your vision of future cooperation with his successor to the post?

Maria Zakharova: We have noted Leonid Kuchma’s decision to step down as a representative of Ukraine in the Minsk Contact Group, which is seeking to achieve a settlement in Donbass.

We would like to officially express our gratitude to Leonid Kuchma for his input. He was directly involved in developing and signing the Minsk Agreements, as well as the follow-up agreements that were approved by the Contact Group. Despite political obstacles and side effects that are well known to everyone, Kuchma has always demonstrated his commitment to the Minsk Agreements, firmly stood up for their implementation in full and as soon as possible and took part in negotiations that were attended by Donetsk and Lugansk officials, taking a responsible approach to what he was doing, something that Ukraine’s political regime demonstrates only too rarely today.

His resignation from the Contact Group gives rise to questions, primarily, regarding prospects for the negotiating process and Kiev’s position. Unfortunately, as can be seen from recent events – you know what I am referring to – today the Minsk Agreements are not seen as an end – rather they are serving as a tool in the hands of the politicians in Kiev in the context of the election campaign that has, in fact, got underway there, manifesting itself in the most outrageous ways. Some are saying that Ukraine must withdraw from the Minsk process, including even high-level statements that “there is no such thing as the Minsk process.” This largely explains why the negotiations with representatives of Donbass in Minsk are being derailed hitting a deadlock. Deadlocks can only be broken if there is political will and a real desire to put an end to the conflict in Donbass.      

Russian officials are prepared for constructive businesslike cooperation with the representative of Ukraine who will succeed Kuchma in this post. We hope that this new official will strictly abide by the letter and spirit of the Minsk Agreements in his work based on the understanding that they have no alternative – this is what many Western politicians who are, let’s be honest, supervising Kiev, talked about – as a basis for a peaceful political and diplomatic settlement of the crisis in Ukraine.  

Question: Earlier you mentioned a Ukrainian draft law that is essentially aimed against the Russian language.

Maria Zakharova: Let me correct you. We are not saying that it is aimed against the Russian language, although Russian and the languages of other ethnic groups are obviously suppressed. However, we must take a broader look at this. No matter how much I would like to support your idea in defence of the Russian language (as a person who represents our people and is fond of the Russian language, culture and traditions, I would like to talk about this alone), but the law that is being adopted is primarily doing enormous harm to Ukraine as such.

After the disintegration of the Soviet Union, Ukraine probably found itself in one of the most favourable, privileged positions. The generation that witnessed perestroika and the collapse of the USSR can confirm this. It was a great multi-ethnic country where each ethnic and social group worked for the benefit of a single state. For all the difficulties, Ukraine was one of the few that emerged from the collapse with minimal problems. Just remember what difficulties confronted the other former republics that became sovereign states – wars, ethnic conflicts, slaughter. They had to spend many years overcoming all this and learning lessons.

Regrettably, Ukraine followed a different path. It prospered the most from the disintegration of the USSR and was practically problem-free due to support from Russia and other fraternal nations. However, due to the shortsighted and stupid course of the people, who call themselves politicians but are in fact traitors of Ukraine, the country contrived its way into confrontation and breakdown. So, this law is not a problem of Russian or any other language but a problem of Ukraine’s future.

Question: Don’t foreign diplomats want to come to Crimea and see how Ukrainian has remained the third official language there?

Maria Zakharova: What are you talking about? You are undermining the foundations of this state’s security. It’s not that they don’t want to or cannot come here themselves. First, they are doing everything they can to not let any of their foreign partners come here and, second, not to allow Crimeans to visit EU countries, international venues where Crimeans could tell others what you are telling me now.

I assure you that after this briefing the Ukrainian media will write that you are “the Kremlin’s stool pigeon,” that all you are saying now was apparently written by Dmitry Kiselev who is sitting next to you, that there is a girl holding a pistol to your back, and that later you will be thrown behind bars. Such mythmaking is normal for them. Of course, they don’t want to go and cannot go.

Many bloggers, journalists, public figures and ordinary people who have families here and still continue living in Ukraine, urge everyone to open their eyes and see what has been done for the residents of Crimea as regards infrastructure and intercultural communication, what rights have been given to people (nobody even dreamt about them, to say nothing of upholding them) just because the situation in Crimea changed in 2014, because the Russian Federation did this once and for all.

However, these people are deprived of the opportunities to express and spread this opinion. In part, I described what happens with the channels against which yet another portion of restrictions is in the pipeline.

Question: Another question related to the Crimean and Ukrainian agenda. September 25 marked six months since the capture of Crimea’s Nord fishing vessel in the Sea of Azov. Just a very short time ago, the case of Captain Vladimir Gorbenko was transferred to the Ukrainian court. What is the current situation with the sailors who still cannot return home?

Maria Zakharova: Unfortunately, they are not the only ones who cannot return. We spoke today about Kirill Vyshinsky and other people jailed by Ukrainian law-enforcers. We are doing our best to resolve this situation as well.

Question: It is known that US National Security Advisor John Bolton will visit Moscow in the second half of October. Are there contacts planned?

Maria Zakharova: It will be his Russian counterpart – the Secretary of the Russian Security Council who will meet with him, so I think that it would be better if representatives of the Security Council comment on your question. If such a visit takes place, the Foreign Ministry is open to contacts, too. The possibility of holding a meeting with John Bolton is being discussed, and it will be announced officially.

Question: It became known today that Ukraine is preparing another resolution of the UN General Assembly regarding the alleged militarisation of Crimea. Obviously, our neighbour got very scared after our recent military exercise in the Southern Military District. Could you comment on the preparation of another such resolution?

Maria Zakharova: Another presidential campaign and electoral cycle has begun, so they will do everything to tell us about the “aggressor,” “the hand of the Kremlin,” and so on. Did they write that Crimea is going to attack Ukraine yet? Well, they can take this idea.

Question: Do you plan to visit places in Crimea other than the Voloshin House Museum?

Maria Zakharova: I have a full schedule in Sevastopol tomorrow. I will speak with students from the journalism and other departments, meet with representatives of the Administration and the Black Sea Fleet, visit various facilities and give an interview.