Briefing by Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova, Moscow, November 1, 2018

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's visit to Spain

On November 6, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will be on a working visit to Madrid at Spain’s invitation. He will meet with Minister of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation of Spain Josep Borrell for substantial talks.

The agenda will include the range of items in bilateral relations, as well as the two countries' interaction on the international arena on the most pressing issues of the world's politics.

Russia and Spain have maintained an active political dialogue both at the top level and as part of the foreign ministries' contacts. To make the dialogue more intensive and to expand the range of issues discussed, the parties plan to sign a Plan for Political Consultations between the foreign ministries of Russia and Spain for 2019-2020. 

During their talks, Mr Lavrov and Mr Borrell will review developments on the European continent and compare notes on bilateral interaction at leading international organisations, including the UN, the OSCE, the Council of Europe, and the OPCW. The sides will discuss the current state of Russia's relations with the EU and NATO in terms of possibly facilitating normalisation. They are also expected to exchange opinions on issues of strategic stability, the Middle East settlement, and developments in Syria, Libya and Ukraine, as well as a number of other issues on the international agenda.

Trade and economic links, which are showing positive dynamics despite the existing external restraints, play an important role in developing Russia-Spain relations. In 2017, trade totaled about $5.3 billion. This year, the growth has continued. The Joint Intergovernmental Commission on Economic and Industrial Cooperation, whose meetings take place on a regular basis in both countries (Madrid, 2015 and Moscow, 2017), has been cooperating on a consistent basis.

Particular attention will be given to humanitarian and cultural cooperation. Our countries have vast experience in implementing major joint projects in this area. In 2011, reciprocal years of cultural exchange in Russia and Spain were held, while in 2015-2916, the Year of Language and Literature took place. The Year of Russian-Spanish Tourism in 2017 boosted tourist traffic between the two countries considerably. Last year alone, a total of 1.12 million Russian tourists visited Spain, and 118,000 Spanish citizens visited Russia.

The ministers will discuss plans for the reciprocal Year of Education and Science in 2019-2020, which includes youth exchanges. This large event will promote the implementation of a number of important projects to strengthen the positions of the Russian language and Russian education and science in Spain's cultural, scientific and educational space, and to improve mutual understanding between our nations in general.  

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s participation in the forthcoming November 7 session of the Coordinating Council of the Trianon Dialogue

On November 7, Moscow will host a meeting of the Russian members of the Coordinating Council of the Russia-France civil societies forum Trianon Dialogue under the chairmanship of Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

This event has been organised on the eve of the second session of the Coordinating Council of the Trianon Dialogue in Versailles (France) on November 27. It will be attended by the Russian Foreign Minister and his French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian.

The first session of the Coordinating Council took place in St Petersburg on May 25 during the official visit of President of the French Republic Emmanuel Macron to Russia.

The Trianon Dialogue forum was established at the initiative of the presidents of Russia and France to promote bilateral cooperation through representatives of the respective civil societies.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s participation in the forthcoming November 8 joint session of the CSTO Foreign Ministers Council, Defence Ministers Council and the Committee of Secretaries of the Security Councils

A joint session of the Foreign Ministers Council, Defence Ministers Council and the Committee of Secretaries of the Security Councils of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) is scheduled to take place in Astana on November 8 ahead of the CSTO Collective Security Council meeting. Russia will be represented by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Defence Minister Sergey Shoigu and Secretary of Russia’s Security Council Nikolai Patrushev.

The participants at the joint session, chaired by Foreign Minister of the Republic of Kazakhstan Kairat Abdrakhmanov, plan to exchange views on the implementation of the decisions adopted by the previous meetings of the CSTO Collective Security Council and compare opinions on the readiness of the documents submitted for consideration by the heads of state of the CSTO countries, in particular, the declaration of the Collective Security Council, statement by the heads of state of the CSTO member countries on coordinated measures against participants in armed conflicts on the side of international terrorist organisations, as well as a number of other documents on CSTO activities, including those on military cooperation, crisis response, the struggle against international terrorism, illegal migration and legal procedures for the granting of CSTO observer and partner statuses.

The CSTO foreign ministers drafted a statement on the pressing issues of countering illegal migration.

Foreign Minister of the Kyrgyz Republic Chingiz Aidarbekov is expected to present the CSTO’s priorities during its Kyrgyz chairmanship (the rotating chairmanship will be transferred from Kazakhstan to Kyrgyzstan during the CSTO Collective Security Council meeting).

The participants also plan to exchange views on urgent issues of international and regional security and practical aspects of consolidating the cooperation of the CSTO member states within the organisation and on the world scene.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s participation in talks with Mohamed El-Amine Souef, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of the Comoro Islands

On November 8-10, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of the Comoro Islands El-Amine Souef will pay a working visit to Moscow. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will hold talks with him on November 9.

The foreign ministers plan to discuss pressing issues of the further development of traditionally friendly relations between Russia and the Comoros in the political, trade, economic, humanitarian and other areas. They will also conduct a detailed exchange of views on international and regional issues of mutual interest with an emphasis on preventing and defusing crises in Africa and the Middle East, struggling against piracy in the northwestern part of the Indian Ocean and countering terrorism and extremism.

Situation with Maria Butina arrested in the United States

Officials from the Russian Embassy in Washington regularly visit Russian citizen Maria Butina, who was arrested in the United States three and a half months ago under far-fetched and politically motivated charges.

Thanks to the Russian diplomats’ efforts to have her detention conditions improved, Maria has been transferred to a more comfortable cell. At least it is a warm cell. Her meals have become more diverse, and she has been allowed to buy products in a local store. The prison administration’s behaviour towards our compatriot has become more civil. We acknowledge this.

However, we have also taken note of a recent item published by Associated Press, which claims that Maria Butina was “operating as a secret agent for the Russian government” and was likely spying for it. This new mud-slinging campaign is designed to create a biased attitude towards Maria in American society and to foster new concerns over the alleged Russian interference ahead of the November 6 congressional elections.

As for Maria’s trial on trumped up charges, the hearing has been moved from November 13 to December 6. Nevertheless, active preparations for the trial are underway. Her lawyers hope that their line of defence will help them expose the groundless accusations against Maria.

Meanwhile, the Foreign Ministry of Russia is doing its best to convince the US authorities to put an end to the lawless actions against Maria Butina. We demand her immediate release.

Situation with Kirill Vyshinsky arrested in Ukraine

Ahead of the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists, we continue to demand the unconditional and immediate release of head of RIA Novosti Ukraine Kirill Vyshinsky by the Ukrainian authorities. He was detained without a court decision on charges of treason in May.

We support the public comment by OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Harlem Desir, who expressed the hope that Vyshinsky would be released on November 4. However, the latest information from Ukraine indicates that Kiev has not heeded his appeal. Kirill Vyshinsky’s detention has been extended for another month. Journalists have the right to freely express their views and opinions. Under no circumstances should they become targets because of their professional activities.

We urge the concerned international organisations and human rights NGOs to be more resolute in their actions and to denounce all forms of Ukrainian authorities’ pressure on media outlets, such as legal prosecution and physical violence.

Developments in Syria

The situation in Syria remains complicated.

Terrorists from al-Nusra and other al-Qaeda affiliated groups remaining in the Idlib de-escalation zone continue their insolent attempts to torpedo the implementation of the Russian-Turkish memorandum that was signed in Sochi on September 17. Radical militants continue to fire upon the positions of Syrian government forces in the south of the Idlib province and also in the northern and western districts of Hama. Their rocket and mortar attacks hit residential areas in western Aleppo almost daily, killing and wounding more and more civilians.

The situation on the eastern bank of the Euphrates River also remains unstable. Last weekend, ISIS militants launched a series of sudden and powerful strikes against units of the US-backed Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces, killing over 70 Kurds and wounding over 100 more. As a result, the Kurds were forced to retreat from their positions in Al-Susa and other neighbouring communities, secured by them earlier. The Kurds hastened to blame their US allies for the incident, claiming that they did not receive any air support from them. It should be noted that, despite the counter-terrorist operation of the US-led coalition and Kurdish forces east of the Euphrates River, the civilian population continues to relocate there on a large scale and ISIS militants continue to  abduct and kill people.

A humanitarian disaster is unfolding at Rukban camp for temporarily displaced persons in a 55-kilometre zone near al-Tanf, southern Syria, which was arbitrarily established by the United States and virtually occupied by it. Mortality rates have increased considerably there, due to food and medication shortages. A UN humanitarian convoy, due to have reached the area on October 25, was delayed until October 27.Following this, the UN then decided not to send it at all for security and logistic reasons. In this connection, we could not help but note critical opinions of US actions in Syria, voiced by independent US analysts last week. For example, analysts from the American Conservative magazine have noted that, despite the US administration’s active attempts to blame Damascus for the critical situation at Rukban, the problem is rooted in US presence and a decision which was made forbidding the legitimate Syrian authorities to enter the above-mentioned zone.

Raqqa has also stained the reputation of the United States and the coalition it leads. The United States’ promise made over a year ago to restore the city which they destroyed is barely fulfilled only the water supply system has been restored on the outskirts of the city. Mine disposal operations have not been launched in Raqqa, and they are not removing any of the rubble either. There is no electricity and the local infrastructure does not operate either.

Nevertheless, the situation in Syria also has some positive aspects. Temporarily displaced persons continue to return back to their permanent places of residence, and Syrian refugees are also being repatriated. On October 27, 175 Syrians returned back home from Lebanon via the Talkalakh and Jaydah border checkpoints, while 325 more people returned home from Jordan via a recently opened Naseeb checkpoint. About 800 people have entered territories, controlled by the Syrian Government, from Idlib via the Abu al-Duhur checkpoint.

Homs governor Talal al-Barazi has promised that the damaged infrastructure and important social facilities will be restored in Palmyra over the next two months, and that local residents might start returning back in the next few days or so.

James Mattis’ remarks on Syria

We have to revisit our regular column, US Officials’ Remarks. US Secretary of Defence James Mattis told the US Institute for Peace in Washington on October 30 that “certainly if it wasn’t for the Iranian regime, not the Iranian people, the Iranian regime giving full support to Assad, he would have been long gone.  And when that support was not even sufficient and Mr Putin came in, we see the reason that I think eventually Assad will have to be managed out of power.”

We would like to remind Mr Mattis that if it wasn’t for Russian support, Syria as a member state of the United Nations would have been long gone, with a terrorist caliphate flourishing in its place. Before Russia’s Airspace Forces came in in late September 2015, ISIS controlled 70 per cent of Syria’s territory and had every chance to extend its influence throughout the region, primarily to Iraq, by seizing major oil provinces there. Regrettably, the anti-ISIS “coalition” that the Americans hastily put together in the summer of 2014 could not boast remarkable achievements at that moment.

We are equally perplexed by his comment on the prospects for elections in Syria: “I don’t think any election run under the auspices …of the Syrian regime is going to have any credibility with either the Syrian people or with the international community.” In principle, the Americans are masters at putting into doubt the results of legitimate elections; they are fond of sniffing out “foreign meddling,” even if the elections are held in their own country. But why run so far ahead in one’s visionary revelations?  In UN Security Council Resolution 2254, the international community has clearly formulated what kind of elections should crown the political settlement in Syria – free and fair, supervised by the UN and conforming to the highest international standards of transparency and accountability, with all Syrians, including the diaspora, granted the right to take part in the ballot. Wouldn’t it be better to take effort to help them advance towards the elections, instead of engaging in pre-emptive and ungrounded criticism of Damascus?

And, of course, his claims that Moscow is seeking “to divert it [Syrian settlement] into Astana Process or Sochi” instead of working through the Geneva process are nothing other than sheer resentment. Russia is contributing greatly to the efforts to achieve Syrian crisis settlement based on UN Security Council Resolution 2254, while the Astana negotiating format established by the guarantor countries has worked in close coordination with the UN since inception. Astana has never been positioned as a replacement for the Geneva process. On the contrary, it is a venue designed to incentivise the Geneva talks and increase their efficiency. Hopefully, the groundwork that has already been done and is consistently being improved by the Astana Three will be fully used for a final settlement of the years-long bloody conflict in Syria with Washington’s direct and, what is most important, constructive involvement.

Developments in the Gaza Strip

The situation in the Gaza Strip has seriously deteriorated once again. On October 26, some 30 rockets were fired from Gaza at the Israeli territory, damaging infrastructure in Israeli settlements near Gaza.

On the same day, the Israeli Air Force attacked 80 Hamas and other Palestinian targets. The media have reported significant damage to the city infrastructure and buildings.  Another escalation happened against the backdrop of the tensions that have persevered on the border of Israel and Gaza since May. During protests on October 25, the Israeli military killed five and wounded over 80 Palestinians. On October 28, an Israeli drone strike killed three Palestinian teenagers near the border fence between Gaza and Israel to the east of Khan Yunis. On October 29, one Palestinian was killed when the Israeli police dispersed a protest on the coast near Gaza City.

Moscow is concerned about these developments, when ill-judged and hurried decisions lead to an increased risk of a large-scale armed confrontation in the Gaza Strip, which can result in new casualties among civilians on both sides and a deteriorating humanitarian situation on the Palestinian territory.

Once again, we urge both Israel and Palestine to exercise restraint and take urgent measures to prevent another armed confrontation with unpredictable and tragic consequences.

At the same time, as we have repeatedly said, in order to stop violence, it is necessary to restart a peace process using a two-state formula of the Palestine-Israel settlement based on the decisions of the UN Security Council and the General Assembly, as well as the Arab Peace Initiative. The recently adopted unilateral decisions that bypass the international legal ground of Middle Eastern settlement are not helping to achieve this goal, and in fact are making it less and less attainable.

Developments in the Central African Republic

Recently, there appeared publications in foreign media about the alleged statements by representatives of some Central African armed groups about their withdrawal from the Khartoum Declaration, signed on August 28, 2018 with the assistance of Sudan and Russia. At the same time, as if in opposition to this move, it was said that militants were ready to support the African Initiative for Peace and Reconciliation in the CAR prepared by the African Union, as well as the actions of the European Union to promote the peace process in this country. It was also noted that the CAR government was asked to withdraw the internal security forces and other representatives of the CAR government from the areas controlled by the armed groups. These materials were published not only without taking into account the opinion of the Russian side, but also without any facts or evidence.

As later developments showed, such publications disseminated by some media were nothing but fakes. This fully applies also to the planted stories about the alleged ultimatum delivered by the militants to the Russian experts in the CAR.  Representatives of Central African armed groups, whose signatures allegedly appear on these statements, have denied their complicity and confirmed their adherence to the political obligations they took under the Khartoum Declaration. The thing is that these fake news were on the first pages of all search engines and news aggregators for over a day. This is a shining example of how one fabrication and the further citation of fake news without the use of trusted sources can lead to the spread of misinformation.

It is obvious that the authors of these fabricated publications aimed at creating an impression that the efforts of Russia and Sudan are incompatible with the work of intermediaries as part of the African Initiative for Peace and Reconciliation in the CAR.

As we have repeatedly said, Moscow highly values the role of the African Union in establishing a comprehensive dialogue between the government of CAR and armed groups, and monitors the activity of the African initiative intermediary group, in which Russia is an observer.

Being sincerely interested in the stabilisation and prosperity of the states and peoples of Africa, Russia will support the decisive steps of the African Union to lead crises on the continent out of the deadlock in accordance with the “African solutions to African problems” principle.

Outcome of the Russia-NATO Council meeting

The Russia-NATO Council meeting was held on October 31 to discuss ways to ease military tension between Russia and NATO and to prevent dangerous incidents. The participants also provided briefings on NATO’s Trident Juncture 2018 exercises and Russia’s Vostok (East) 2018 drills.

The Russian delegates emphasised the importance of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty for European and global stability. They pointed out that Russia was interested in preserving the viability of the treaty and remained firmly committed to it, while strictly complying with all of its provisions. We said we were ready to deal with the circumstances of concern to the United States quickly and in the broadest possible way. We also presented our years-long concerns about US compliance with the treaty.

We also exchanged opinions on the situation in Afghanistan in light of regional terrorist threats, as well as on other matters of international security.

The possibility of US withdrawal from the INF Treaty

We deeply regret and are seriously concerned over the US intention, as announced by President Donald Trump on October 20, to pull out of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty and to start developing weapons prohibited under the treaty. We see this intention as one of the most dangerous mistakes made by Washington, which has pulled out of a number of international agreements and organisations, including the ABM Treaty.

The termination of the INF Treaty would be a most dangerous step that would have an extremely negative effect on international security and strategic stability. This could involve several regions in the world into a new arms race. In other words, the situation with the INF Treaty concerns not only Russia and the United States but also the rest of the international community.

We urge everyone who feels responsibility for global stability and security to send a clear signal to Washington about the danger of its plans. Logic suggests that these plans that Washington has should not meet with understanding in states that are committed to maintaining global security. We infer this from comments made by official representatives of a number of countries and the subsequent response from experts and analysts, which we monitor in the international media.

Russia has submitted a draft resolution to the First Committee of the UN General Assembly condemning the United States for its intention to pull down the INF Treaty. We are grateful to the countries that have supported us in this, demonstrating an independent stand and a responsible attitude. As for the other countries, they have in fact neglected the opportunity to speak up in favour of preserving a crucial element of the arms control system.

As it braces up to destroy the INF Treaty, the United States has launched a massive propaganda campaign claiming that its decision was provoked by Russia’s alleged violations of the treaty. This claim is not true to fact and any attempts to shift the blame to Russia are absolutely unacceptable. The United States has not taken the trouble to provide any coherent evidence in support of its grievances. All of its assertions are unsubstantiated and openly provocative. We would like to say once again that Russia has always strictly complied with the provisions of the INF Treaty.

The United States is making these groundless allegations to cover up its own, direct and obvious violations of the treaty, which we pointed out repeatedly in the past few years. We have not received any intelligible answers to our concerns.

Overall, it looks as if Washington’s intention to pull out of the treaty is dictated by a striving to ensure its own military superiority in all spheres and to get an absolute freedom of action for this purpose. There are other facts pointing in this direction, such as the Pentagon’s increasing military activity in Europe.

A recent example is the delivery of the largest batch of munitions in 20 years to a US military base in Germany. This is the largest amount brought since the NATO bombing attacks on Yugoslavia. We wonder what would happen next, if the INF Treaty is terminated. In all evidence, ground-based Tomahawk missiles, which are currently prohibited under the treaty, will too turn up in Europe…

We have to issue a most serious warning to the US side: If they pull down the INF Treaty, we will have to respond. As President Vladimir Putin has said, the response will be immediate and equivalent.

We said more than once that the INF Treaty, although not ideal, is still valuable. We are ready to work to maintain its viability. But to do this, we need a responsible partner who is willing to keep up the dialogue. A solution to this problem can only be found through an open, equal and constructive dialogue. We hope Washington will at last realise this.

The US record of violating or dissolving key international treaties

It is no secret that the modern globalised world is increasingly dependent on the quality of states implementing international agreements that regulate relations between countries. This is of particular importance in fields such as human rights, the environment, and, of course, disarmament and WMD prohibition.

The United States and the Western political circles, the self-styled architects of the “new world order,” constantly violate or drag their feet on the signing of fundamental international agreements. For example, the US ratified the 1948 Genocide Convention only 40 years after its signing. It has not ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The United States has repeatedly violated principles of the UN Charter. For example, that state launched an armed invasion of Grenada in 1983. UN General Assembly Resolution 37/8 described the US action as a gross violation of international law. In 1986, the US made an assault on Libya and invaded Panama in 1989. Both misdeeds were condemned by the UN General Assembly which qualified them as violations of international law.

The International Court of Justice also denounced US violations of the UN Charter. It passed a well-known verdict on Nicaragua vs. the US in 1986, stating directly that the United States had violated Nicaragua’s sovereignty and the norms on non-interference in other countries’ internal affairs and non-use of force.

The irresponsible attitude to the UN Charter on the part of the United States and its allies, translated into the bombing attacks on Yugoslavia in 1999 and the invasion of Iraq in 2003. In March 2011, the US spearheaded NATO’s intervention in Libya, which led to that country’s complete disintegration. An illegal interference in the form of illegitimate air strikes and arms supplies to nongovernmental armed groups spurred on the growth of radical sentiments in Syria, which eventually helped the emergence of a global community of militants and terrorists. America’s absolutely ill-conceived, short-sighted and illegal actions in Iraq as well as the region as a whole have in some way or other facilitated the emergence of the Islamic State. The consequences of US interference in Libya and Syria are amazing in their scale.

The Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) was signed in 1970 and supported by practically all countries with the exception of Cuba, India, Pakistan and Israel. The treaty outlined a strategic goal, the renunciation of nuclear weapons. Apart from other things, it provided for nuclear states pledging not to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear powers. The US claims that it “performs” its NPT obligations but the worrisome situation linked to Washington’s failure to comply with some key provisions of the treaty is still there. The United States continues to engage NATO’s European non-nuclear countries in so-called joint nuclear missions. These “missions” include elements of nuclear planning and skill enhancement drills in how to use nuclear weapons, drills involving non-nuclear NATO countries’ carrier aircraft, air crews, airfield infrastructure and ground support services. All of this is a direct violation of NPT articles 1 and 2. In 2002, certain high-ranking US military officers went on record as saying that they allowed the use of nuclear munitions against non-nuclear states or terrorists.      

The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) has been discussed over a period of four decades and signed in 1996. It bans all nuclear explosions, for both civilian and military purposes, in all environments – underground, ground, water, air and outer space. The Treaty was signed by 44 countries possessing nuclear infrastructure. The US and China signed but failed to ratify it. For over 20 years, it was not possible to bring this crucial international treaty into effect. Given that the non-treaty countries take their cues from the United States in the matter of joining the CTBT, Washington’s stagnant stance is the main obstacle standing in the way of tuning the Treaty into a valid international legal instrument.

In 1972, the USA and the USSR signed the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABMT) that created a mutual assured destruction system. Neither the USSR, nor the USA could attack each other, for a response was sure to destroy the aggressor. Thus, a missile attack automatically became an act of suicide, with the so-called “strategic balance” being established between the two superpowers. This agreement was signed at Washington’s initiative. In 2001, US President George Bush declared that the Americans were unilaterally withdrawing from the agreement. The formal pretext for this step was that the United States wanted to secure itself against missile attacks from so-called “rogue countries” and terrorist groups. This could be taken for granted, if we didn’t see their strategic planning aimed at avoiding international commitments in the spheres where it was important for them to assure their total domination. This is a strategy. Therefore, their explanations that Russia allegedly is failing to live up to its commitments under some or other treaties are just subterfuges. Today I will familiarise you with the real history of US politicians’ behaviour in the area of international law.

Since then, the US efforts to put in place an antimissile system have most adversely affected the international security system, aggravating relations not only in the Euro-Atlantic but also in the Asia Pacific region, emerging as one of the most serious obstacles to the further stage-by-stage nuclear disarmament and creating dangerous prerequisites for a resumption of the nuclear armed race.

The next point is the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) which prohibits the development, production, transportation, diffusion and use of chemical weapons, as all of us well know. Apart from this, it provides for the creation of a complex and total international surveillance system. The US played a key role in drafting and signing this agreement. But it was and is doing its best to avoid international inspections as likely to threaten their national security interests. We have been hearing this explanation from Washington for many years. Some other countries have followed in the footsteps of the US.      

The next agreement, Biological Weapons Convention, was signed in 1972 and came into force in 1975. It banned the development, production, stockpiling and acquisition of biological agents that could be used as weapons and of biological weapons proper. The Convention included a special protocol that banned the use of even tiny quantities of deadly microorganisms or toxins for research purposes. The US was rather a reluctant participant in efforts to reach an agreement on the Convention, while some senior US officials were in principle against the signing of the protocol as it would likely damage the interests of US microbiological research companies. In July 2001, Washington declared that it would not abide by the protocol until it was amended.

The next document is the Kyoto Protocol, an international treaty which extends the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The aim of the Convention was to reduce industrial atmospheric emissions causing the so-called “greenhouse effect.” The “greenhouse effect,” in turn is believed to be one of the main causes of the global climate change. The US signed the Kyoto Protocol in 1992, but in 2001, the then US administration refused to comply with its provisions, saying that there was no unambiguous proof of the relationship between global warming processes and the amount of gaseous emissions. The Bush administration believed that implementing the Convention put the US industry in a quandary while not helping to fight the “greenhouse effect.” 

I think it makes no sense to reiterate the information concerning the Paris Agreement. All of you know what has happened to it. 

In assessing compliance with the obligations under Vienna Document 2011 (VD11) on confidence and security-building measures, the United States keeps reiterating the same accusations against Russia, citing “selective implementation” and “insufficient transparency.” However, this US dissatisfaction with Russia boils down to some vague concerns from 2014 in connection with “Russia's implementation of the document, including in relation to Ukraine.”

By groundlessly accusing Russia of “arming and training separatists in Eastern Ukraine and conducting joint military operations,” the United States and NATO countries have seriously discredited the role of this document as an instrument of objective control of the military activities of the OSCE member states.

The United States and its allies have repeatedly circumvented the restrictive provisions of the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) through the NATO expansion everybody knows about. At the same time, they in every possible way avoided the renewal of the regime of conventional arms control (CAC) in Europe proposed by Russia in accordance with the new military and political realities on the continent. The most vivid confirmation of this, for example, is their refusal to ratify the Agreement on Adaptation of the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (adapted CFE).

In August 2018, the United States froze cooperation with Russia under the Treaty on Open Skies. Practically from the very moment of the signing of this document, Washington has been ignoring its requirements to work out special procedures for the aerial observation of its islands and territorial waters. Thus, for a long time a significant part of US territory was simply inaccessible for observation, which was a gross violation of the foundations of the Treaty. Only at the end of 2015 did Washington meet Russia’s requirements. However, the procedures for the Aleutian Islands still provide no possibility for the flight crews to rest there, which may adversely affect flight safety and significantly limit Russia’s ability to observe this part of US territory.

On August 31, the US authorities demanded the suspension of the work of the Russian Consulate General in San Francisco, the trade mission in Washington and its branch office in New York until September 2. After this, the buildings belonging to Russia were seized. According to many legal experts, these actions of the United States with respect to Russian diplomatic property are illegal because they violate the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.

At the October 3 briefing, Assistant to the President of the United States for National Security Affairs John Bolton said the US was withdrawing from the Optional Protocol Concerning the Compulsory Settlement of Disputes under the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, which allowed Convention violation disputes to be settled by the UN International Court of Justice in the Hague.

US President Donald Trump said Washington is withdrawing from the Treaty on the Elimination of Intermediate-Range and Shorter-Range Missiles, which we have already talked about today.

This is a far-from-complete list of examples of how the US treats international law, international agreements. They are actually manipulating these documents depending on the current political situation and predominant interests in Washington.

Therefore, when we are told that the US is withdrawing from some agreement because we are not complying with something there – this is not true. Such excuses will not work.

This is just a small list of how they joined and withdrew from international agreements; signed but not ratified them; signed, ratified, but not complied with them; or modified agreements in their own way and taste. It can be expanded.

Statements by National Security Advisor to the US President John Bolton on Russia-China military and technical cooperation

We have noted the statements made by National Security Advisor to the US President John Bolton at the Alexander Hamilton Society in Washington about the use of Russian military intellectual property by our Chinese partners.

In this relation, we would like to say the following: Russia-China military and military-technical cooperation has been developing very successfully and shows the special trust-based nature of our bilateral strategic partnership. It seems to be haunting some, and these statements prove it. It is not the first and probably not the last clumsy attack aimed at driving a wedge between Russia and China. They will not succeed.

United Kingdom’s WTO obligations after Brexit

We noted publications by some British media alleging that Russia is “blocking” the mutual approval of Great Britain’s future individual tariff obligations in the World Trade Organisation, which will be the foundation of London’s participation in the multilateral trade system after Britain leaves the European Union.

We note that the agreement with all interested members of the WTO on the parameters of a candidate joining the organisation or a review of a permanent member’s obligations is a practice explicitly provided by the organisation. It is a long process during which the conditions for entering the market are outlined.

It is quite natural that our country has begun bilateral consultations with Great Britain about the possibilities and conditions for the Russian economic operators’ access to the British market following Brexit.

By the way, many other WTO members have begun or will soon begin similar consultations, including the largest WTO economies.

Thus, the reports about Russia’s alleged hindering the discussion on the conditions of London’s future participation in the WTO are absolutely incorrect. We are ready to review the list of tariff obligations provided by Great Britain if it complies with WTO rules and respects our business interests. Russia is only trying to make its British partners aware of its position in relation to the future multilateral and bilateral trade obligations of Great Britain in the WTO.

We again urge the British media to deliver measured, objective and correct information when they report on our country or any other state.

French Government spokesperson’s statement to Russian media and the situation with Le Figaro

The other day, French Government spokesperson Benjamin Griveaux said that there were two media outlets that he refused to see in the Elysee Palace press room, RT and Sputnik, because he did not consider them to be media but propaganda tools. To say we were surprised to hear this would be an understatement. 

Mr Griveaux, as polite people we will refrain from excessively dramatising the situation; we will try and be constructive even when we see a real problem, specifically a problem with censorship in France, attacks on the freedom of speech, attempts to influence the media, and the incessant circulation of unreliable information in the local media. We have always been rather careful. We either sent letters to news desks explaining why the information they had published was unreliable, or we took the initiative to promptly provide the correct data. We have always been very considerate in our relationship with France but after your statement, Mr press secretary of the French Government, I will respond today with some of our own considerations.   

Neither the Foreign Ministry through diplomatic channels nor RT or Sputnik journalists have received any specific and fact-based accusations with supporting evidence (for example, articles by RT or Sputnik with a highlighted phrase, a word or a date). France and specifically Benjamin Griveaux have never come up with any specific complaints against Russian media or substantiated arguments in favour of their views. If they have these facts we would really like to see them.

Without a doubt, another batch of unfounded accusations against Russian journalists are not so much disconcerting as shocking. We are confident that this is the  result of French authorities’ reluctance to hear alternative information sources. In which case, please be so kind as to tell us about this directly. The problem is not RT or Sputnik allegedly being propaganda media outlets. Unlike Mr Griveaux, we, on the contrary, seek to provide the French media with firsthand information in order to avoid misunderstanding and diffusion of misinformation. Paradoxically, some French media outlets are proactive in shirking this opportunity. I repeat, there are many things that we try not to make public and to resolve in a confidential manner, demonstrating a respectful attitude to the profession and an understanding that all kind of things may happen. This was been the case until today, when the French Government spokesman made his statement.

As you well know, not so very long ago we organised Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s joint interview by some French media, including RT France (Russia), the Paris Match magazine and Le Figaro. The Russian minister found time for a detailed talk with the journalists (images from that meeting are available on the Foreign Ministry website; the interview was widely quoted by other media). The purpose of the interview was to convey our vision of the situation in bilateral relations and international affairs to the French audience. Despite numerous requests from other media outlets and a very busy schedule, Sergey Lavrov assigned much time precisely for this meeting with the French journalists.

But something really amasing happened later. The interview was published by RT France and Paris Match on October 18 (as was originally intended by arrangement with all the three media outlets). However, it has not yet appeared in Le Figaro! What I mean is that the French newspaper was given an exclusive opportunity to ask the foreign minister any questions (and the edition even sent its deputy editor-in-chief as the interviewer) but eventually decided against publishing the answers to their own questions. Both the questions and answers are available on the Foreign Ministry website.

We decided to publicise this matter not only because of Press Secretary Benjamin Griveaux’s statement. There is another reason. The fact is that the Internet users started discussing the situation and it was not Russian but French users.

Even the popular French economist and blogger Olivier Berruyer drew the attention of his Twitter readers to the fact that Sergey Lavrov’s interview was missing in Le Figaro. So, even the French public is perplexed.

For our part, we sent an official request to Le Figaro asking for explanations but have not received an answer yet. As we understand from some incoming unofficial comments, the publication was cancelled due to [the violation of] certain “ethical norms,” namely, Moscow’s “failure” to let the paper’s local correspondent, Pierre Avril, to attend the interview.

Can you, the journalists present here, who attend  Sergey Lavrov’s news conferences and ask him any questions you like, believe that the Russian Foreign Ministry denied a French own correspondent access to an interview?

Originally, the matter of whether this respected journalist or any other person representing Le Figaro apart from Deputy Editor-in-Chief Yves Threard was not raised or discussed with the Foreign Ministry although we had held several meetings with RT France, Paris Match and Le Figaro.

Pierre Avril himself did not signal his intention to be present at the interview either. Neither did we receive any requests to put this journalist on the list of interviewers.

The French correspondent arrived at the Foreign Ministry without prior notice at the last minute and insisted on entering the building which, like the foreign ministries of other countries, is a high-security facility. Moreover, the French journalist behaved disparagingly vis-à-vis the Russian National Guard officers who were guarding the entrance and respectfully reminded him about the need to obtain in good time a permit for entering the ministry in keeping with the established procedure known to any foreign correspondent.

I repeat, the format of the interview was agreed upon in advance with all the three participants and originally implied personal attendance of only one representative from each of the three media outlets, that is, without Pierre Avril.

The interview itself followed a   previously coordinated scenario, and Le Figaro’s Yves Threard freely asked Sergey Lavrov his questions in front of the cameras.

Considering these facts, we believe that if Pierre Avril thinks he has the right to call the situation I’ve described a “denial of access,” then it is a blatant lie.

Or are we witnessing an act of censorship or self-censorship? Is this a sign of some internal squabbles at Le Figaro? Perhaps, the French officials themselves, who do their best  to avoid meeting with the Russian press, should find this out  before accusing Russia of propaganda,  censorship and what not? Mr press secretary, here is a concrete example of what is going on in your own country. I wanted to tell you about this without the cameras and the public, but you’ve forced me to.

Lately, RT alone got over 70 (!) interview denials from French officials. I mean, Russian officials give interviews to French media and freely communicate with them. But it is Russia that is accused of practicing censorship and pressurising the media!  Our media outlets are declared propaganda mongers. Russian media in France file a request in order to provide a platform for French officials to state their point of view on air. And these offers get rejected. And this is not qualified as censorship or pressure on the media. The form and methodology of denials are very varied, from glib excuses (for example, busy schedule) to a flat “no” without any explanation. There is no doubt that in France we are facing political put-up job approved from on-high and designed to create a certain toxic atmosphere around RT and Sputnik. Occasionally even arranged interviews were cancelled and so we do not rule out that pressure was brought to bear on members of the French political elite with regard to their contacts with the Russian media.

I would also like to dwell on the personality of Le Figaro’s Pierre Avril. In all the almost ten years (which is not a short term at all) that he’s been working in Moscow, the French journalist has very rarely attended Foreign Ministry events and did not express any interest in interviewing the ministry’s senior officials. The question is: what does this man write about?

Here is just one example. In July 2016, the Foreign Ministry Press Centre organised a press tour for foreign correspondents to the Republic of Crimea. The main aim was to let them attend a briefing given by the Foreign Ministry spokesperson at the Artek children’s camp. We really wanted to show the media how the infrastructure of this major facility had been restored within a very short amount of time. We wanted to give foreign journalists an opportunity to visit Crimea, talk to Artek managers and, since they were there, attend the briefing.

After we announced the trip, requests started coming in from those who wanted to participate as well as requests for arranging additional meetings and visits to sites and facilities in Crimea. Specifically, we were asked to show the Crimean Bridge (everybody said at the time that the bridge would never be built) and the Russian Navy’s Black Sea Fleet facilities. Unlike Artek, these sites were included in the trip upon journalists’ requests.

Pierre Avril, who refused to participate in the majority of the press tour events, said at the last minute (it must be his stock in trade to do everything at the last minute) that he wanted to attend a meeting with the Sevastopol Governor and visit the Black Sea Fleet facilities. Naturally, we responded to his request and made the necessary arrangements.

So, what did Pierre Avril do next? He published an article titled “Moscow Exhibits its Fleet on the Roadstead of Sevastopol” (“Moscou exhibe sa flotte dans la rade de Sébastopol”). Its key message was that, with the NATO summit approaching, Russia allegedly is flexing its muscles and sending other states a signal illustrative of its militaristic sentiment. Moreover it used foreign correspondents to do the job. Pierre Avril literally begged us to put him on the list of visitors but later claimed that he had been practically dragged to Crimea by force and made to look at Russian warships against his will.

 It is incredible how the reality can be readjusted so much. This is simply mean! Yet, we dealt with that matter in a composed manner, without presenting any ultimatums to the French side or accusing them at official levels of using the media for propaganda.

Unfortunately, this is not the only article that shows Pierre Avril’s approach to covering events.

Going back to the theme of ungrounded accusations from the French Government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux against the Russian media, we would like to note the following.

Le Figaro’s refusal to publish the interview with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is direct proof that the French authorities and society do not accept a different point of view on Russia, among other things, and do their best to minimise the French audience’s exposure to the Russian point of view on a number of bilateral and international topics. In so doing, they are trying to accuse foreign media, including Russian outlets, of engaging in propaganda. This is very unfortunate. It is a case of manipulation.

Regrettably, this unprofessional and unacceptable policy deprives French people themselves of an access to truthful information. Undoubtedly, this discredits the notion of journalistic ethics and tarnishes the reputation of France’s oldest and most influential newspaper, Le Figaro.

And now, I would like to address the French Government’s spokesman, Benjamin Griveaux. Do you think that after such boorish behaviour towards the Russian side and Russian journalists, the French journalists will be allowed to attend media events at Russian government agencies ad infinitum? Our patience is not endless.

We are ready to discuss and solve problems based on mutual respect and without ungrounded accusations. We understand that the French leadership apparently holds some personal grudge against Russian journalists. However, this is not a pretext for engaging in manipulation, as I have just said.

Russian fishing boat Nord detained in Ukraine

On October 30, Russia was finally able to exchange seven crew members of the Russian fishing boat Nord for seven Ukrainian fishermen from the YaMK-0041 seine boat detained off the coast of Crimea for poaching. The Russian citizens are now back in Crimea.

Captain of the Nord Vladimir Gorbenko remains in Ukraine on charges of “violating the procedure for entering the temporarily occupied territory of Ukraine” and “illegal fishing.” The case is awaiting trial. The efforts to have the captain released from custody will continue.

According to the Russian Embassy in Kiev, the Ukrainian agency for the identification, search and management of ill-gotten assets obtained through corruption or other crimes put up the seine boat for sale on an online auction, which will take place on November 7, with the starting price set at over 1.6 million hryvnia. Let's wait and see who has the nerve to buy the illegally seized property of a Russian shipowner.

Remarks by Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavel Klimkin

We reviewed Mr Klimkin’s remarks regarding dual citizenship. He recognised the need to discuss this issue in Ukraine. However, he explicitly stated that Ukrainians holding Ukrainian and Russian passports will not be part of the discussion, further suggesting that they should be ready to comply with the requirement to renounce Russian citizenship.

It is surprising to hear the Foreign Minister of a country that declares its adherence to certain standards in the sphere of human rights and democratic freedoms make such discriminatory statements. This is a blatant infringement on the rights of Ukrainians based on citizenship and ethnic background. This is yet another proof of the low level of legal awareness of the incumbent Ukrainian authorities.

The alleged spotting of an unidentified submarine in the Swedish territorial waters

We have taken note of publications in the Swedish media about a foreign submarine spotted in the territorial waters of that country near Stockholm this summer, which were eagerly circulated by certain politicians and experts alluding to the “Russian trace.”

Let’s leave this media hype that has been artificially stoked for several decades now on the conscience of those who are trying to keep this story afloat.

Myths about Russian submarines in Swedish territorial waters are nothing other than a propaganda ploy used to stir up the fear of Russia among the public and to keep the story about the “Russian threat” afloat.

This approach does not serve the interests of improving stability and security in the region, nor does it contribute to normalising Russia-Sweden relations, which have already deteriorated in recent years. Clearly, the forces behind such bogus stories fear the restoration of a mutually respectful dialogue between Moscow and Stockholm.

The absurdity of the submarine speculations was acknowledged, albeit with a time lag, by the Swedish military, who chose to distance themselves from the fantasies of the reporters and would-be experts who specialise in creating scandals out of the blue and see Russian submarines everywhere they look. There are ancient Greek myths, and now there are Swedish myths about Russian submarines. Many generations have now been raised on both.

The first Youth Forum of Russian Compatriots in Kazakhstan

The first Youth Forum of Russian Compatriots in the Republic of Kazakhstan dedicated to the 90th birth anniversary of Chingiz Aitmatov and the 20th anniversary of Astana was held in Astana on October 20.

The forum was attended by about 100 young delegates from all regions of Kazakhstan, including school and college teachers of the Russian language and literature, journalists, historians and columnists, as well as representatives of the academic and cultural circles, the Cossacks and the Russian Orthodox Church.

Prior to the forum opening, the participants observed a minute of silence to commemorate those who died in the Kerch tragedy.

The forum had four plenary sessions, namely, Chingiz Aitmatov: Writer and diplomat; Celebration of the 20th anniversary of Astana; Preserving historical memory: Victory Volunteers public movement; and Media in the new information space.

The participants elected the Youth Council of the Russian Compatriots in the Republic of Kazakhstan and adopted Regulations on the Youth Council and the Forum Resolution.

The second Global Forum of Young Diplomats

The Foreign Ministry’s Council of Young Diplomats will host the second Global Forum of Young Diplomats, Together into the Future, in Sochi on November 12-14. The agenda includes approving the Charter of the International Association of Young Diplomats, developing new formats of youth expert cooperation, drafting the horizontal diplomacy concept, and discussing important international matters and economic diplomacy. High-ranking guests are expected at the forum.

The Global Forum of Young Diplomats is the result of five-year efforts by the Foreign Ministry’s Council of Young Diplomats seeking to organise and hold similar events that are traditionally attended by proactive young foreign ministry employees. The discussions held behind closed doors allow to focus on the current agenda and exchange views on the most important international matters in an open and impartial manner.

This year, 120 delegates from over 60 countries are expected to attend.

For accreditation, please call the Information Service of the Council of Young Diplomats at 7 (916) 487-4354.

Unveiling memorial plaque to Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna in Darmstadt

On November 1, Darmstadt in Germany’s Land of Hesse hosted an official ceremony of unveiling a memorial plaque to Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna, nee German Princess of Hesse-Darmstadt and by Rhine, in her birthplace. This initiative was jointly implemented by the Imperial Orthodox Palestine Society International Public Organisation and the Darmstadt City Hall, with the active support of the Russian Embassy in Berlin and the Russian Consulate General in Frankfurt-am-Main.  

Chair of the Imperial Orthodox Palestine Society Sergey Stepashin, Russian Ambassador to Germany Sergey Nechayev, Darmstadt Mayor Jochen Partsch, representatives of the Orthodox Christian clergy, and Russian and European representatives of cultural and academic communities attended the ceremony.

The memorial plaque is the first joint international project in the history of Russian-German cultural relations that aims to perpetuate the memory of a member of the House of the Romanovs. As you know, the history of Russian and German imperial houses is closely intertwined, and both of them are linked by genuine blood bonds.  

Russian Film week to open in the Czech Republic

On November 5-11, the Czech Republic will host the New Russian Film festival. Sponsored by the Russian Embassy and Rosatom State Nuclear Energy Corporation, its main partner, the event will be held under the patronage of President of the Czech Republic Milos Zeman and will become the largest recent Russian film festival in that country.    

During the festival, over 20 films, including documentaries and animated films, will be presented in Prague, Jihlava, Olomouc and Zlin. The festival’s full programme will help local audiences gain an insight into various aspects of Russian culture and traditions. Many prominent Russian cultural figures will visit the Czech Republic. Cosmonaut and two-time Hero of the Soviet Union Viktor Savinykh, who served as a prototype for the main protagonist of the feature film Salyut 7, will take part in the festival’s opening ceremony.

 

Answers to media questions:

Question: Public attention is currently focused on the South Caucasus because of the elections in Georgia and Armenia. What are Russia’s expectations in connection with the outcome of these elections and future relations with these South Caucasus states? How might the results of the elections influence security in the region?

Maria Zakharova: Armenia will not hold elections proper. It will be a completely different procedure.

As for the elections in Georgia, they are an internal political process, which is not over yet. Observers have provided their assessments. It is an internal affair of Georgia.

What I can say on the matter is we regret that anti-Russian statements have been made during the election campaign, which is ongoing. This is regrettable and cannot help normalise bilateral relations. The people of Georgia must be able to make an objective choice freely and without any external pressure. They must be able to make a choice of crucial importance for them and their country’s future in a normal atmosphere. We will provide answers to all questions after they have voted.

Question: How important is mutual understanding among Caucasus nations for Russia?

Maria Zakharova: There can be no two opinions on that axiomatic matter.  It is very important for Russia to develop full-scale relations with these countries in all spheres. We have said so time and again. 

Question: President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan has announced the launch of a military operation against the Kurds in northern Syria. The Turkish artillery is shelling the Kurds’ positions. At the same time, ISIS units have launched an offensive and have pushed the Kurds from their positions on the eastern bank of the Euphrates. It appears that Ankara is coordinating its operations, at least against the Kurds, with international terrorists, although Turkey is part of the peace process in Syria, in particular, in Idlib and inother regions. How will Russia react to such situations?

Maria Zakharova: The assessment of military operations and the situation on the ground should be provided by the defence agencies’ military experts based on concrete data.

As for the situation with the Kurds and their political movements, parties and organisations in Syria, you know that we have always called for involving them in the political process. We sent out warnings about the danger of supplying weapons in circumvention of Damascus or encouraging any activities, including military actions, without coordinating them with the legitimate Syrian government, considering that the goal is a political settlement.

Speaking about the fight against terrorists, these efforts must be coordinated with the government army. You know about our position on this matter. We have been very active in this sphere, advocating the involvement of the Kurds, rather than their separation or isolation, or the formulation of any unrealistic goals or promises. First of all, we have always relied on the practical results of our analysis of the situation, and second, we have always called for the political involvement and coordination of counterterrorism operations, including between the Kurds and Damascus.

Question: The Russian Government has imposed counter sanctions on a number of Ukrainian individuals and legal entities. How, in your view, will the West respond to this move? What is the objective of these counter sanctions, in terms of foreign policy?

Maria Zakharova: The Government has provided an explicit explanation. Some 90 minutes ago, we heard additional comments from the Presidential Executive Office. Dmitry Peskov answered all questions to this effect. I have nothing to add. He said that these were, regretfully, symmetrical measures. Call it as you like. This is a move in response to Kiev’s actions.

As for the West’s reaction, I believe that people preaching an essentially global sanction-based ideology, should understand this, the more so as this is not our initiative to impose sanctions but rather a retaliatory measure. Russia seems to have long been holding back from taking such measures but the existing regime in Kiev has just gone too far for us not to respond to the unfriendly moves we have witnessed of late.   

Question: Are preparations being currently made for the Moscow format on Afghanistan that involves Taliban representatives?

Maria Zakharova: Yes, they are. Practical work is currently in progress on this matter. I cannot tell you when exactly this is going to happen but I believe I will be able to provide you with concrete information in the not too distant future. I myself have been looking forward to this for a long time now. I would like to repeat it again that the date of the meeting, its format, participants, and the venue for it have to be one hundred percent approved by all parties involved before they are announced. As soon as this is done, we will certainly inform you. I strongly hope that we will do this within the next few days or so.  

Question: This week, Moscow hosted the International Conference on Combatting Anti-Semitism, Racism and Xenophobia entitled Protecting the Future. At the same time, a steady rise in manifestations of racism and Russophobia in some European countries and former Soviet republics cannot but raise concerns. What steps need to be taken to counter this?  

Maria Zakharova: Various steps can serve this end. Here we are talking about the moves that a state is expected to take, otherwise we are likely to slip into theorising. Of course, these steps include cooperation between public authorities, on the one hand, and civil society, NGOs and public figures, on the other, as well as developing a new methodology or improving the old tools that help check the spread of xenophobia, racism and other forms of intolerance.  Of course, they include the improvement of the legal framework for actions both within the country and on the international arena, which is precisely what Russia is doing. As you know quite well, many years ago Moscow initiated the adoption of a resolution on the topic you just mentioned by the UN General Assembly. We see that the number of contributors to this resolution is steadily growing from year to year, along with the number of countries supporting it, although it was not plain sailing for us at the beginning. Even those countries which showed concern, in particular, over anti-Semitism-related matters, were not in any hurry to support this document. The situation changed a few years ago.   

Here is another example, which demonstrates how to make the approach global. This involves initiating and holding more public events organised around this theme, such as conferences and exhibitions, increasing public awareness, through the media, of the relevant measures that are being taken in a country, as well as of international cooperation on this matter. Of course, I believe that tolerance to similar phenomena should be zero at all levels of executive and legislative authorities. Public statements should send an explicit and unambiguous message – and that not only in theory but also in practice. Unfortunately, manifestations of racism, anti-Semitism, xenophobia, Russophobia and related intolerance happen rather frequently around the world and this is why it is important to make clear and unambiguous statements that such phenomena are unacceptable. This answer is brief, although this theme is vast.  

Question: US President Donald Trump decided to send up to 15,000 soldiers to the Mexican border. How do you think this will affect regional security?

Maria ZakharovaWill they build a wall? Make a human shield? These questions just lie on the surface. I saw a short report, but I don’t know what exactly they will be doing there. We need to ask the American side to clarify what exactly these people will do there – build a wall, become a human shield, or something else. I do want to hope it will not lead to more violence and bloodshed.

Question: Britain has followed Canada in legalising marijuana. What do you think this will lead to?

Maria Zakharova: I felt no emotion except for concern caused by this trend we are witnessing. We talked about this, in particular, citing the example of Canada. I will again ask the experts for materials specifically on the UK decision. However, our position, which you know well, has remained unchanged.

Question: Shortly before the elections in the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics, a number of Western countries and international organisations began saying that these elections do not correspond to the Minsk Agreements. Can you comment on this? How does Moscow generally feel about the elections in the DPR and LPR?

Maria Zakharova: We have seen many statements by our Western colleagues regarding this matter, both in the media, and even during UN Security Council meetings. I would like to repeat that the decision on holding elections of the heads of the self-proclaimed republics and their People’s Councils lies with the people of Donbass themselves. As you know, the elections at this level were announced after the assassination of DPR head Alexander Zakharchenko, killed in Donetsk as a result of the terrorist attack no doubt aimed at destabilising the region. It is important to keep in mind that his signature stands under the Minsk Agreements.

It is obvious that in the current circumstances, the elections scheduled for November 11 are prompted by the need to fill the “power vacuum” after Zakharchenko’s death and to prevent an exacerbation of the situation, which could adversely affect not only the life of the region, but also the entire Ukrainian crisis resolution, also amid the Kiev-imposed blockade of the region and the threats of using force voiced by the Ukrainian leadership.

As for the legitimacy of the elections, something we have also read and heard a lot about, we assume that they are not related to the Minsk Package of Measures of February 12, 2015, which regulates local, i.e., municipal elections. People just need to live, to improve and regulate their own lives and maintain order in the region under conditions of the blockade and the constant threat of the use of force by the Ukrainian authorities.

On October 30, this issue was raised during a meeting of the UN Security Council devoted to Ukraine, initiated by Great Britain, Poland, the United States, Sweden, the Netherlands and France. At the insistence of Russia, the event was held in an open format so that everyone could hear the truth, and not a distorted and one-sided interpretation of the situation in Donbass.

We also proposed inviting the chairs of the central election commissions of the DPR and the LPR because there were so many statements regarding the elections. What could be better than getting information directly from the source, asking them questions, or possibly accusing them of something, but hearing some reaction in response? However, our Western colleagues blocked this initiative by refusing to give them an opportunity to explain their motives for holding the elections. So there is an accusation, but the accused do not have a chance to present the facts or at least to explain their motives. We believe that these countries’ refusal to give the floor directly to the representatives of Donbass leaves no doubt as to the bias of the Western approach. What were they afraid to hear? What could these people from Donbass say that would be so terrible to hear within the walls of the UN headquarters? Please note that during procedural voting, half of the council members did not support this line.

So this is clearly an attempt to use the discussion in the UN Security Council as a veil for the total and shameless sabotage of the Minsk Agreements by Kiev. We regret that Washington and the European capitals, which stood behind the coup in Ukraine in 2014, have never stopped giving Kiev new encouraging signs and indulgences for the current Ukrainian leadership's anti-Russia domestic and foreign policies. Moreover, the Ukrainian people are suffering the most from these actions, which have already led to economic decline, social degradation and fratricidal war.

Nevertheless, we will continue our consistent diplomatic efforts to improve this unacceptable situation.

Question: Social media and the Arabic segment of the internet are filled with reports that Russian security services allegedly knew about the incident in the Saudi Consulate in Turkey and handed over the information to the Turkish security services. What comments would you make concerning such allegations and this stovepiping?

Maria Zakharova: It is horrible that a tragedy – and from the official statements that were made we already know it was a tragedy – is accruing so many political conspiracies and insinuations as we are witnessing right now. From the very first days, our country stated that in this case only one thing is required – an impartial and comprehensive investigation of this tragedy. We proceed from the premise that there must be an investigation, after which political evaluations can be made. There can be differing opinions of the person, his activity or personality but we must understand that what happened is a tragedy. Instead of providing conditions for an impartial and objective investigation, a massive and equally tragic campaign is unfolding around the circumstances of this case, although there is no official information regarding the circumstances.  

There have been a huge number of allegations. We have read all kinds of theories. But we believe there must be an investigation. When the investigation is over, respective conclusions and evaluations will follow. Please do not take these allegations into account. I think there will be more of them. Therefore, the importance of a thorough and prompt investigation increases.

Question: A couple of days ago now, the United States called for the Arab coalition to stop air strikes on Yemen. What is your opinion of this request? Is Russia ready to provide a platform for direct contacts when it comes to Yemen?

Maria Zakharova: Not only are we ready but we have repeatedly said that the situation in Yemen is a horrible modern humanitarian catastrophe unfolding before our very eyes. We offer regular assessment of this crisis. Consistently, without changing our stance, we have been saying that it is extremely important to move to a political settlement of the situation as soon as possible in order to end this crisis. It is necessary to help the people to survive and restore their country.

Certainly, as a member of the UN Security Council largely involved in foreign policy on the international arena, Russia is addressing this problem too and providing all possible assistance for implementing the approach that I described. If there is a need for Russia to intensify its efforts, I think we will consider this and act accordingly.

Here in this very room, we often call for the international community to pay close attention to the real problems rather than make up imaginary challenges and threats that do not exist. Yemen is a real problem. We can see how much effort and energy the Western society spends on inventing non-existent problems, from Salisbury to Amesbury, constantly playing different cards in the context of the Syrian crisis settlement, drawing attention to what does not exist. At the same time, they seem to ignore what is happening in Yemen. The scale of response is incommensurate. We have been bringing up this subject on a regular basis and will continue to do so.

Question: My question is about a statement made by British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt on Wednesday evening as he spoke at the Policy Exchange think tank. His statements sounded a tad undiplomatic and contained accusations against Russia.

In this regard, is it safe to assume that the UK is moving away from the international language of diplomacy? What does Russia think about the prospects for establishing a dialogue with London? The British Foreign Secretary said they would very much like to find a way to bring Russia back to the negotiating table. Is Russia willing to take the first step and have a meeting?

Maria Zakharova: At this point, British officials and diplomacy are, unfortunately, mutually exclusive notions in most cases. What they are doing is, for lack of a better word, nothing short of sophisticated rhetoric. It is completely unclear what London means when it states its desire to bring Russia back at the negotiating table. With regard to the Salisbury incident alone, Russia has sent dozens of documents with proposals to London to begin a discussion, or at least to provide some information. That’s a specific example of a proposal to start the negotiating process. We got nothing in response. So, again, this is twisted rhetoric in the sense that it is already beyond the limits of cynicism. Although, unfortunately, we are accustomed to this in the context of the statements that we keep hearing from London.

I have repeatedly pointed out that, despite the ongoing over-the-top Russophobic attacks and the show of disrespect towards Moscow by a number of British politicians and officials, we have stated on every occasion that the value of bilateral relations in the context of promoting ties between our nations is so high that despite the unfriendly rhetoric coming from the current British authorities with regard to Russia, we keep the door open and use every opportunity to remind them of the need to build normal relations. Everything that has ever been blocked in bilateral relations has been blocked by the UK. They need to show some courage and admit this.

Question: A meeting between President of Ukraine Petr Poroshenko and German Chancellor Angela Merkel is underway. What do you think Chancellor Merkel will come up with in her talks with President Poroshenko? In light of the fact that she is gradually withdrawing from the political scene, there is much speculation about whether Germany will stick to its politics.

Maria Zakharova: First, I’m not sure she would agree with what you just said. Second, I think that it is not correct to comment on the talks while they are still underway.

In the context of the European states and Germany’s participation in the dialogue with Ukraine, Moscow believes that it is important, first, to have Ukraine fully implement, or at least revisit, the issue of Ukraine’s compliance with the Minsk agreements. Second, it is important to unblock the humanitarian situation and resolve security issues in Donbass. As we have stated here today, it was indeed blocked by the Kiev regime. Third, there are issues that must be dealt with right here and now, such as the spread of nationalism in Ukraine, manifestations of xenophobia and intolerance, and be dealt with on a national scale. After all, on earlier occasions we have witnessed developments that even Kiev described as the actions of “isolated” groups. Today, however, we see these “disparate” and “isolated” groups actually controlling the situation on the ground. The authorities are unable to counter this with any ideology that would curb the growth of the nationalist sentiment.

This is literally about just a few points that lie on the surface. From our perspective, the Western handlers, who have supported everything that has been unfolding in Ukraine’s political arena for so many years, would do the right thing if they pose these questions to Kiev now.

I believe that in this particular instance and in the future, the Western leaders should use the format and the possibilities offered by direct dialogue with the Ukrainian leadership to raise the issue of Kirill Vyshinsky. These people talk so much and so often about freedom of speech, respect for journalist rights and human rights in general. Here’s a specific case where they can put all their knowledge and skills into practice. For six months now, this journalist has been under arrest solely and exclusively for his professional activities. What could be a more egregious act of human rights violation? That’s the shortlist.

Question: What can you tell us about the appointment of a new Special Envoy of the UN Secretary General for Syria?

Maria Zakharova: Along with other UN Security Council members, Russia has supported the decision made by UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres to appoint a Norwegian diplomat, Geir Pedersen, as Special Envoy for Syria.

We are counting on an impartial and constructive approach for the benefit of the Syrian settlement. I would like very much to hope that he will be primarily guided in his actions by the interests of the long-suffering Syrian people.

Of course, it is too early to talk about the steps that are being taken, since he was appointed just a few short days ago. We know Mr Pedersen as an experienced diplomat. However, he will need to accomplish quite a lot in this position.

Question: The OSCE Minsk Group has been engaged in mediation for a Nagorno-Karabakh settlement for over 20 years now. Russia is doing much in this regard as well. Since, unfortunately, the conflict hasn’t yet been resolved, what steps, do you think, should be taken to bolster the Minsk Group’s mediation efforts?

Maria Zakharova: Its effectiveness must be improved. How do we go about that? I think it’s up to the special representatives who deal with these matters to do all the thinking and take the practical steps.

The steps are known and include the negotiating process, contacts with the parties and progress based on existing agreements. This is all part of the diplomatic routine.

However, if you are talking about the specific steps planned by Russia for the near future, I have no such information. However, I will go ahead and clarify this for you.