Briefing by Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova, Moscow, March 7, 2019

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to take part in the opening ceremony for the exhibition, To the Shores of Latin America

The grand opening for the exhibition of rare books and manuscripts, To the Shores of Latin America, ​​from the collection of the main national library will be held in the Greater Hall of the Pashkov House on March 11. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Director-General of the Russian State Library Vadim Duda are expected to take part in it.

The exhibition features about 60 book artefacts, a series of engravings and manuscripts devoted to expeditions to Latin America by Russian and Soviet researchers, explorers, diplomats, travelers, poets, journalists and artists in the 18th-20th centuries.

The memoirs and diaries of outstanding Russian figures who visited Latin America over the span of 150 years are precious as historical sources and evidence of Russia's many years of cultural and scientific interest in these countries.

Heads of the Latin American diplomatic corps stationed in Moscow and representatives of government, academic and cultural circles will attend the opening ceremony.

Russian and foreign media are welcome to attend.

For accreditation contact Daria Khokhlova, press service of the Russian State Library + 7 916 828 24 07, dr@rsl.ru

Accreditation will last until 10 am, March 11.

Foreign Minister of the Republic of Austria Karin Kneissl’s working visit to Russia

Austrian Federal Minister for Europe, Integration and Foreign Affairs, Karin Kneissl, will come to Moscow on a working visit on March 11-12.

During the talks with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov scheduled for March 12, the officials will have a substantive discussion on a wide range of bilateral issues, analyse the state of and prospects for promoting practical bilateral cooperation, and exchange views on pressing international matters of mutual interest.

The ministers will focus on the schedule of their political dialogue in 2019, the promotion of diverse cooperation projects in the trade, economic and cultural spheres, in particular, the Year of Youth Exchanges-2019, which has just started.

A Joint Ministerial Statement on creating the Sochi Dialogue Russian-Austrian Public Forum will be signed as part of the meeting. It’s a new mechanism for civil society interaction, which is being established in accordance with the agreements reached by Russian President Vladimir Putin and Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen in Vienna in June 2018.

There will be an exchange of views on the most important foreign policy issues, in particular, the Syrian settlement, including humanitarian aspects, conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa, countering international terrorism, and prospects for resolving the domestic Ukraine crisis.

The ministers will touch upon the current state of the Russia-EU dialogue, coordination of interaction within the OSCE and other international platforms. They will also compare notes on disarmament, the formation of new European security arrangements, in particular, in light of the United States withdrawing from the INF Treaty, the preservation of the multilateral agreements on the Iranian nuclear programme, and the situation surrounding Venezuela.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s visit to Turkey

On March 12-13, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will pay a working visit to Turkey (Antalya) to take part in the seventh meeting of the Strategic Planning Joint Group (SPJG) chaired by the foreign ministers of the two countries. The group is acting under the High-Level Cooperation Council (HLCC) headed by the Russian and Turkish presidents. The previous, sixth meeting of the SPJG took part in Moscow on March 14, 2018.

The participants plan to verify their positions on all issues of the bilateral agenda with a view to preparing for another meeting of the leaders of our countries and the forthcoming HLCC session. They will focus on the further expansion of Russia-Turkey trade and economic cooperation in various areas, consular issues and promotion of cultural and humanitarian cooperation in the context of conducting a cross year of culture and tourism in our countries this year.

During forthcoming contacts the sides plan to conduct an extensive exchange of views on a broad range of international and regional issues, including settlement in Syria, cooperation in countering terrorism and organised crime, and the developments in the Middle East and North Africa, the South Caucasus, Central Asia, Ukraine and the Black Sea region. They will also discuss ways of enhancing the efficiency of cooperation at international venues.

The sides plan to sign a plan for foreign ministry consultations in 2019-2020 within the SPJG framework.  

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to take part in the 62nd session of the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs

On March 14, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is expected to take part in the ministerial segment of the upcoming 62nd session of the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs in Vienna. This event represents a landmark because the results will help shape the future of the interstate drug control system. The Russian delegation intends to take a clear line on the need to consistently implement the provisions of the three UN anti-drug conventions and on preventing the legalisation of so-called light drugs. As before, special attention will be paid to the drug situation in Afghanistan that does not seem to improve.

Mr Lavrov intends to urge the international community to pool efforts in countering modern challenges such as drug distribution via the internet, the appearance of new psychoactive substances, and the funding of terrorism by drug trafficking.  Proceeding from the relevant provisions of President Vladimir Putin’s Address to the Federal Assembly, the Foreign Minister will inform the international community about Russia’s efforts to improve the palliative care system, including the access of patients to pain killers.

The consolidation of the status of the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) will require special attention. The board is monitoring compliance of states with their anti-drug commitments under the relevant conventions. In this context, the Russian delegation is going to submit a draft resolution that, we hope, will receive broad support.

The participants plan to hold an event on the sidelines of the commission’s session under the auspices of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in order to further consolidate their efforts in countering narcotic drugs.

Syria update

Overall, the situation in Syria can be described as stable. Tension persists in Idlib and in Syria’s north-eastern and southern regions.

The situation in the Idlib de-escalation zone is especially alarming. I would like to remind you that early this year terrorists from the Nusra-linked group Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) seized control over the de-escalation zone. They have intensified the shelling of the government forces and are building up strike groups in the vicinity of Aleppo, Hama and the mountain regions of Latakia (Khmeimim). Some 370 such incidents, in which 25 people lost their lives and 70 were wounded, have been reported this year.

In this context, representatives from the Russian and Turkish defence ministries continued working to coordinate a package of measures for the implementation of the memorandum on the Idlib de-escalation zone signed in Sochi on September 17, 2018. We hope that the implementation of the arrangements reached by our militaries will help turn the tide and stabilise the situation in Idlib and around it, as well as neutralise the terrorist threat coming from it.

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), supported by the international anti-ISIS coalition, are fighting to liberate the town of Baghuz on the eastern bank of the Euphrates. The situation in northeast Syria is complicated because the local residents, mostly Sunni Arabs, are protesting against the activities of the local Kurdish administrations. This leads to bloody skirmishes between the Arabs and the Kurds. Some 200 people have died and hundreds have been wounded in a hundred terrorist attacks staged in the past two months.

While the international coalition is conducting counterterrorist operations east of the Euphrates, we have taken note and are seriously alarmed by the United States and its allies’ disregard for the civilians’ safety in violation of the fundamental principles of the international humanitarian law. Evidence of this is the dramatic plight of the inmates of the al-Hol camp for internally displaced persons in the al-Hasakah Governorate. People continue to arrive in the overcrowded al-Hol camp from the Deir ez-Zor Governorate, where the coalition is not only bombing ISIS positions but is also delivering random airstrikes at the civilian infrastructure. The inflow of people from the towns of Baghuz and Hajin has contributed to the increase of the population at the al-Hol camp from 10,000 to 47,000. The refugees who spent several days travelling across the desert are made to settle in the open and are not offered tents, bedding, warm clothes or any other basic necessities. Over 80 people, most of them children aged below 12 months, have died at the camp this year. Many of them froze to death. There is a dire lack of food, drinking water and medicine at the camp. There are also respiratory diseases and stomach infections, leishmaniosis and even tuberculosis, poliomyelitis and leprosy.

The international community seems to be looking only at the Rukban camp and is completely indifferent to the critical situation and suffering at the al-Hol camp. Ignoring the plight of people at al-Hol and at other refugee camps in Syria appears cynical at best.

As for the Rukban camp, Russia intends to do its best to help settle this problem. We believe that efforts must be taken to close down the camp and resettle its inmates in accordance with their desire, which they have clearly expressed during a UN poll.

On February 28, the Foreign Ministry of Syria expressed readiness to help Rukban inmates return back to their homes in the liberated regions and to provide safe transportation for them. Conditions have been created for the refugees in specially equipped places. In particular, such places in the provinces of Homs and Aleppo, as well as in the suburbs of Damascus have stored food, water, medicine and basic necessities for up to 35,000 people. On March 1, Syrian authorities, acting jointly with Russian military personnel, formed a bus convoy for the evacuation of the internally displaced persons. However, the planned humanitarian operation failed because the Americans refused to guarantee the safety of the convoy inside the illegal 55-mile security zone around the US base in al-Tanf.

However, we are resolved to continue dialogue on Rukban with all the interested parties, including the UN, the United States and Jordan, without any preliminary conditions and without politicising the humanitarian aspects of the problem. We believe that the right of Syrian refugees and internally displaced persons to return back to their places of residence must be guaranteed and realised.

We see positive changes in the political efforts to normalise relations between Damascus and the Arab countries. On March 3 and 4, a Syrian delegation led by Speaker of the People’s Council of Syria Hammouda Sabbagh attended the 29th Conference of the Arab Inter-Parliamentary Union held in Amman. According to media reports, Hammouda Sabbagh has met with Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies (Council of Representatives) of Iraq ‎Mohamed al-Halbousi‎ and Chairman of Foreign and Cooperation Affairs Committee at the Algerian National Popular Council Afif Abul-Hamid. Hammouda Sabbagh also held talks with Secretary General of the Inter-Parliamentary Union Martin Chungong on the sidelines of the conference. Martin Chungong expressed readiness to visit Damascus.

Moscow welcomes and supports this objective process of normalisation around Syria. We believe that the return of Damascus to the lap of the Arab family and its reinstatement as a member of the Arab League will promote stabilisation and help improve the situation in the Middle East.

We have taken note of the UN debates on the OPSCW Fact-Finding Mission’s report on chemical weapons use allegation in Syria and statements made by UK Permanent Representative to the UN Karen Pierce to the effect that the Russians’ dislike for the report is another example of Russia’s “earth is flat” science. I would like to say a few words about Ms Pierce’s poor British education. The trouble is that the idea of a flat earth was most actively upheld in Britain, where the first flat earth society was established in the 19th century and moved over to the United States in the 20th century. I suggest that you learn about history first and then we’ll talk.

Developments in Venezuela

As before, the main destabilising impulses continue to come from outside the country. After recovering from the abortive “humanitarian breakthrough” with a “false bottom” (all of us remember very well what the media wrote about it: The so-called “humanitarian relief aid” included outdated food products and medication, as well as barbed wire and building material for barricades), Washington began to stage another ploy. First, they extensively covered the first foreign tour of the so-called acting president on which he embarked in violation of the Venezuelan Supreme Court’s ban. And this extensive media coverage was worthy of a better cause. After that, they started energetically threatening Venezuela with serious repercussions if something happened to the acting president after his return home. As we can see, the government of Nicolas Maduro did not yield to this provocation, and he went through passport control unhindered, just like anyone else, while entering the country. The show continued in the presence of camera crews. Let’s not try and guess how this staged show will develop, but, of course, it will not last forever.

And now, let’s talk about more serious matters that far transcend the conduct of a certain individual and the entire Venezuelan domestic political standoff. After even the closest Latin American allies rejected Washington’s militarist plans with regard to Venezuela and firmly noted the unacceptability of foreign military involvement, the US political establishment, nevertheless, does not remove a possible military invasion from the agenda. A statement was made about establishing a coalition that would change the regime in Venezuela. US reconnaissance aircraft have been spotted near Venezuelan borders more often of late. The administration has invigorated military contacts with Venezuela’s neighbours. Admiral Craig S. Faller in charge of the US Southern Command has been frequenting the region lately.

Washington is also working on Plan B; some regional countries and those located far away know this plan all too well. This implies efforts to train illegal paramilitary units (we discussed this matter at the previous briefing), to deploy them in Venezuela where they would conduct subversive activity and acts of sabotage and to create hotbeds of resistance. The country might eventually plunge into a large-scale domestic armed conflict. It is impossible to predict the scale of emigration if this scenario is implemented. Countries studying the possibility of accommodating militant training camps and arms depots on their territory ought to think about this. After that, it would be pointless to convene international conferences for dealing with emigration flows in Latin America and to try to answer a rhetorical question: How can we save the Latin American region?

It appears that subversive activities are now underway. The leaders of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela are openly talking about the radical opposition’s plans to conduct acts of sabotage in the country with foreign support. These acts would involve mercenary units consisting of soldiers who have deserted from the Venezuelan armed forces among others. More and more incidents are currently being registered at facilities of the national energy and communications infrastructure. The United States continues to ratchet up sanctions against Venezuela. Everything is being done to stifle the Venezuelan economy and to bleed it white. In effect, this is nothing more than an attempt to impose a complete financial blockade on the country. The United Kingdom has already robbed the people of Venezuela by simply stealing their money. Executive Vice President of Venezuela Delcy Rodríguez noted this at a news conference on the results of her talks with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. Tougher sanctions are also being imposed. In effect, this is nothing more than an attempt to impose a complete financial blockade on the country. Washington openly threatens to impose the so-called secondary sanctions for cooperation between non-American citizens and companies with the government of Nicolas Maduro. The United States hopes that a gradual decline in living standards and the blocking of state mechanisms will eventually lead to anarchy and chaos. Washington’s current job is to prevent the stabilisation of the Venezuelan domestic political situation, no matter what, to prevent the realisation of the Venezuelan nation’s aspirations, as well as the long-term desires of Venezuela’s regional neighbours.

During her talks in Moscow, Executive Vice President of Venezuela Delcy Rodríguez once again reaffirmed President Nicolas Maduro’s readiness to launch a constructive dialogue with the opposition. We wholeheartedly support the wise position of the legitimate government, we hope that the Venezuelan opposition will adequately perceive this goodwill gesture, that it will, at long last, stop trying to obtain foreign support for dubious from the legal point of view steps that are dangerous in essence, and that it will resume active domestic political activities in line with the Venezuelan Constitution and in cooperation with the country’s official authorities. Russia and many other countries would praise exactly such a scenario for resolving the situation.

Building up sanctions pressure on Cuba

We note with concern that the US has decided to act “on all fronts.” Not only does it have a stranglehold on Venezuela, in parallel it is bearing down on Cuba in its characteristic pushy style. They seemed to have become friends two years ago, with the US bringing two aircraft full of business people to Havana and outlining rosy prospects for friendship with America. They promised everything under the sun and enlisted Europe that was allowed to cooperate with Cuba. There was a lot of handshaking, backslapping and photographing… But as usual, something went wrong. It is clear that Washington is building up pressure on the closest allies of Caracas. Havana is listed among the “last dictatorships in the region” and accused of undermining democracy in Venezuela.

A few days ago, they demonstrated yet another notorious example of toughening the embargo against Cuba. The US State Department announced its decision to allow US citizens to sue, as of March 19, about 200 Cuban public companies and businesses on Washington’s sanctions list. This step is motivated by the partial lifting of the moratorium on Section 3 of the Helms-Burton Act providing for exterritorial coercion with regard to foreign legal entities and individuals using nationalised property in Cuba.

The Helms-Burton Act was approved in 1996 at the height of yet another anti-Cuban campaign. It was named after its Republican sponsors known for their radical right-wing conservative views. But for more than 20 years, successive US administrations did not think it necessary to put Section 3 into force, foreseeing an extremely negative response to this step from the business communities in Europe, Latin America and elsewhere.

Now, judging by all appearances, Washington has changed its mind. We are witnessing yet another illegitimate US attempt to “seal off” Cuba economically and create additional barriers to the republic’s socioeconomic development in the context of transformations that are in full swing there.

It is funny to hear and read analytical surveys on how the Cuban or Venezuelan economy is developing and what problems these two countries have to tackle. I have just one question to ask: How would the US economy develop if it had to cope with at least 10 per cent of sanctions, restrictions and embargoes, which are being applied to these nations? There would be no economy left in the United States. We must understand under what conditions these nations are living and trying to survive.

It is old good “double standards” all over again. We hear Washington say again and again that Cuba needs reforms. If so, don’t put obstacles in its way! They will sort it out on their own and implement the kind of reforms they need.

The overwhelming majority of international community members, including our country, have repeatedly expressed solidarity in their opposition to the US blockade of Cuba. This is a Cold War relic and a sign of an imperial mode of doing things being revived in Washington. They are implementing a regime change policy in Latin America by interfering in their internal affairs and using diktat in the spirit of Monroe Doctrine. But in the modern realities, its employment or even a mere reference to it are simply out of place. 

Nicaragua update

We are closely monitoring the developments in Nicaragua.

We welcome the resumption on February 27 of the national dialogue the parties to the process are building under the roadmap for the negotiations aimed at creating a sustainable algorithm for resolving the country’s problems. We positively assess the constructive efforts of the Sandinista government aimed at finding effective ways to stabilise the domestic political situation. One of the practical steps in this direction was the recent release of more than 100 prisoners detained earlier for participating in riots and armed clashes.

We strongly believe that any internal disagreements should be resolved by the Nicaraguans themselves through negotiations, without any external interference. We call upon the responsible members of the international community to help achieve mutual understanding between various political forces in Nicaragua, to avoid threats to Nicaraguan statehood and sovereignty and renounce pseudo-democratiser rhetoric.

Donbass update

The situation in Ukraine continues to deteriorate. The Kiev leadership, struggling to hold on to power, continues to pretend to be the victim of an imaginary “Russian aggression” amid an outright sabotage of the Minsk Package of Measures, which naturally causes great concern on our part. At the same time, Western politicians have recently become a fixture in Donbass, supporting the Kiev regime: 10 foreign delegations visited the region in February, and as many as three in the first ten days of March.

It is impossible to overlook the aggravation of tension in Donbass ahead of each such visit as if on cue. The OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) noted a decrease in the number of ceasefire violations on the disengagement line from February 8 to 12. However, shortly before Norwegian Ambassador Ole Terje Horpestad’s arrival in the so-called Joint Forces Operation zone (February 13) and French Ambassador Isabelle Dumont’s visit (February 14), the situation changed dramatically. On the morning of February 13, international observers recorded a surge in the number of attacks. The number of explosions in the vicinity of Donetsk alone increased from 30 to 430 compared with the previous day.

A similar situation was observed during US Senator Joni Ernst’s ‘fact-finding’ trip to southeastern Ukraine on February 20.

Whereas two days before her arrival in Donbass, on February 18, the mission reported a decrease in the number of attacks, from February 19, the Donetsk region suffered a more than fivefold increase, from 90 to 475 on February 20.

The situation was aggravated by the March 4 visit to Mariupol of by Colonel Thomas Wofford, Defence Attache at the US Embassy in Ukraine. On that day, the 79th brigade of the Ukrainian Armed Forces bombarded the village of Sakhanka, 24 km from Mariupol, killing one civilian. That was not even the only attack Sakhanka was subjected to over the past week. On March 1, a school area was shelled from mortars; it was pure luck that none of the children suffered any injuries.

It seems that the Ukrainian military command deliberately provokes tension in Donbass for propaganda purposes before the arrival of foreign “guests.” Kiev’s attempts to demonstrate the evidence of the alleged “Russian aggression” put at risk the lives of civilians and destroy civilian facilities.

An eloquent example is the village of Kominternovo, which in March alone was shelled 10 times by the mortar units of the 79th brigade. Nine residential and one administrative building were destroyed. This information is confirmed by the OSCE SMM observers who recorded the damage to the civilian infrastructure in Kominternovo on March 3 following the shelling by the Ukrainian artillery. On March 5, the power transmission line in the area of ​​Kominternovo was damaged by another artillery attack, leaving more than 1,500 civilians without any electricity.

Purposeful shelling of the Donetsk filtering station also continues. On March 3, the OSCE SMM recorded 51 artillery hits in the immediate vicinity of the station, which supplies drinking water not only to the population of the DPR, but also to the parts of the Donetsk Region controlled by Kiev.

We urge the OSCE SMM to intensify observational activities in Donbass. What is needed is not fragmentary information, but a comprehensive overview of the Ukrainian Armed Forces’ military preparations; it is necessary to clearly define the party that provokes the aggravation of tension and the shelling, their consequences in terms of civilian casualties and the destruction of civilian infrastructure. We demand from the SMM a detailed thematic report to this effect.

Attempts to falsify history in Ukraine

Kiev officials continue to pursue a deliberate policy of falsifying the country’s history.

We noted a recently published annual report by the Ukrainian Institute of National Memory, the main agency in Ukraine which, while promoting the slogans of restoring Ukrainian spirituality, is in fact engaged in frantic anti-Russian propaganda and the creation of historical fiction. The report reveals that the institute’s main areas of activity in 2018 included the publication and distribution of numerous brochures with nationalist and Russophobic content, the organisation of events to honour the memory of the “Holodomor” victims, and measures to glorify the henchmen of Nazi murderers from the Organisation of Ukrainian Nationalists and the Ukrainian Insurgent Army, as well as the development of legal acts and regulations regarding de-Communisation.

In 2019, the institute plans, among other things, to fight against Russia’s “historical fiction” and to honour the memory of so-called victims of the Russian-Ukrainian war, invented by the current Kiev officials.

In this context, the already familiar state of clinical Russophobia appears to have become the norm for the Ukrainian leadership. Instead of dealing with the country’s accumulated problems, President Petr Poroshenko shouts about phantom Russian aggression and urges people to “read about Stepan Bandera and the Ukrainian Insurgent Army.” Foreign Minister Pavel Klimkin is spreading his made-up tales about the “Ukrainian origin” of Russia and Belarus.

Overall, the historical revisionism adopted as the foundation of Ukraine’s state policy facilitates the rapid dissemination of aggressive nationalism, xenophobia and neo-Nazism in Ukraine. The consequences of these processes are obvious: supporters of fascism are freely marching around Ukrainian cities and glorifying the Ukrainian Insurgent Army; they desecrate military memorials and bully war veterans. Senior officials of the Ukrainian Interior Ministry force their subordinates to publicly sing the praises of Stepan Bandera instead of standing up to the hooligans.

Meanwhile, the attempts to glorify Nazi accomplices and foster followers of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army butchers are still failing to provoke an appropriate reaction among Kiev’s curators. It appears that the line on transforming Ukraine into a multiethnic state with a “purged” memory has won their direct support. However, both the West and Kiev apparently prefer to ignore the danger of these attempts to turn history into a political and ideological weapon, which only aggravates the divide in Ukrainian society and delay the prospects for a peaceful resolution of the intra-Ukrainian conflict in the southeast.

Developments concerning the INF Treaty

On March 4, President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin signed an executive order on suspending the implementation of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty by our country, in response to Washington’s decision to withdraw from this treaty after the US either virtually blocked or openly rejected all Russian efforts to save it.

Instead of conducting a professional and detailed discussion of the treaty’s problem issues, as suggested by the Russian side, the United States launched a completely unjustified and aggressive propaganda campaign against Russia. This campaign is based on unfair interpretations and open lies. Unfortunately, we don’t see any signs that Washington is modifying this unconstructive position.

Against this backdrop, we would like to state that the United States has failed to take any necessary actions to eliminate its violations of the INF Treaty’s obligations. First of all, this refers to the deployment of ground-based Mk-41 systems for launching attack cruise missiles which is expressly banned by the treaty. There is also no headway on the so-called target drones being used by the US; their specifications are similar to medium-range and shorter-range ground-based ballistic missiles. The same concerns the use of strike drones covered by the definition of ground-launched cruise missiles.

In the long run, proceeding from the need to take urgent action in connection with Washington’s violation of the treaty, Russia suspended its implementation in the interests of maintaining its national security, pending the elimination of exposed violations made by the US side or pending the treaty’s expiry. On March 5, the Foreign Ministry sent the relevant official notification to all states, parties to the INF Treaty, namely, the United States, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine.

In the future, as stated by the Russian President on February 2, Russia will respond symmetrically to all US actions linked with medium-range and shorter-range missiles. At the same time, we remain open for a detailed dialogue, if Washington revises its counter-productive line and starts honouring the INF Treaty once again.

US incites public discussion for resuming nuclear tests

We have noted US media publications regarding the need to resume nuclear tests by the United States. For example, the journal Issues in Science and Technology recently carried an article written by former top managers of the Los Alamos National Laboratory John C. Hopkins and David H. Sharp on this matter. Additionally, Robert R. Monroe, the former director of the Defence Nuclear Agency, has published a number of similar articles. All this material notes that it is impossible to guarantee the efficiency and reliability of the US strategic nuclear potential without nuclear tests.

We perceive these publications as efforts to prepare US public opinion for the fact that nuclear tests are allegedly inevitable, and that US national security might be jeopardised without them. This logic meets Washington’s line to purposefully recreate favourable conditions for a possible resumption of nuclear tests. In this context, it is possible to understand US motives to refuse to ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty and to decide to increase the readiness of the Nevada National Security Site.

These actions are making us feel less confident that the United States will continue to honour the 1992 moratorium on nuclear tests. Not only does this US line undermine international efforts to enact the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, but it also opens up an opportunity for unleashing another spiral of the nuclear arms race.

Czech authorities’ unfriendly actions towards Russian Foreign Ministry official

On March 4, a high-ranking official of the Russian Foreign Ministry who arrived in Prague for bilateral expert consultations on issues of real estate was told at the airport that he was prohibited from entering the Czech Republic without giving reasons and hence would not be allowed to cross the border. The Russian diplomat had to fly back to Moscow.

We regard this as a glaring example of the Czech authorities’ unfriendliness and disregard for the elementary rules of diplomatic convenience. Worse still, this looks like a pre-planned action by the Czech Foreign Ministry against a Russian colleague responsible for bilateral relations. Moreover, it happened ahead of the Prague meeting of the Russian-Czech Intergovernmental Commission on Economic, Industrial, Scientific and Technical Cooperation with a positive agenda.

It is regrettable that the Czech authorities, anxious to please the anti-Russia forces in the republic and beyond, have started to increasingly often use “visa wars” instruments against Russian diplomats.

Of course, we will provide an adequate response to such confrontational actions.  Responsibility for the possible negative consequences of this policy towards Russia rests squarely with the initiators of such actions.

Fake media reports on Russian property in the Czech Republic

All kinds of allegations about Russian property in the Czech Republic have been published over the past few days. These reports cite “local sources” which have twisted the facts and distorted the information.

Here are the real facts. There are four buildings in Prague the status of which is being discussed by Czech and Russian experts. Our Czech partners have not notified us of any complaints regarding our use of these buildings. The experts are looking for a balanced solution based on the principle of reciprocity with regard to comparable Czech property in Moscow.

Czech journalists have written many things about Russian property in the Czech Republic. We invite them to investigate the matter of Czech property in Russia. They will find this subject very interesting.

On March 4 and 5, Prague hosted the latest round of talks on property during which the sides have brought their positions closer together on the topic of the legal status and legal framework for the operation and use of these buildings.

Why a constructive agenda and a diplomatic discussion on disputable matters held in the traditionally legal framework were presented by journalists in a distorted manner remains a puzzle. We do not understand the reason for distorting constructive results and misinforming the public.

Latest French attacks on Russian media

We have taken note of an interview with French government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux for Le Parisien, in which he again attacked RT and Sputnik. In addition to traditional allegations of Russian media interference in other countries’ elections and other domestic political events and accusations of publishing fake news, we have noticed some absolutely unacceptable things. First, if you are fighting fake news – and we know that France is in the first ranks of this campaign – you should provide at least one solid fact proving that RT, Sputnik or any other Russian media outlet provided distorted coverage or published unreliable information, or that they neglected to publish a refutation when the information they had published was proved incorrect. Do you have such facts? Or will we continue to listen to the twice-told tales by French officials?

When asked if they should fear foreign interference in European elections, the representative of the French Government as good as compared RT and Sputnik to fasciosphere and patriosphere movements. He said: “Everything depends on what you describe as interference. What we saw during the 2017 presidential campaign was [attempted] influence of social media from the patriosphere and fasciosphere. Both movements have very close ties to Sputnik and RT, which are financed by the Kremlin and emerged largely thanks to fasciosphere.”

I would like to remind you that we have been waiting for over a month for a French response to our diplomatic note in which we asked our French colleagues to confirm or refute what President Emmanuel Macron has said in an interview with Le Point, in which he described RT and Sputnik as pro-Kremlin media outlets and compared them to radical political movements, including far right ones. Similar statements made by a government official may show that the French President hardly misspoke during the interview with Le Point. This looks like an institutional campaign against Russian media outlets in France. It is impossible to fight fakes and misinformation with one hand and harass media outlets with the other hand. This just doesn’t happen.

Worse still, French officials do not limit themselves to allegations. We have learned that the French media regulator CSA has requested that cooperation between the Paris-based radio station Aligre FM and Sputnik France be terminated. The CSA has called for accelerating the process, which was planned to be concluded in late 2019. It is an example of hands-on control of the media implemented by an allegedly independent organisation on orders from the French establishment. If not for these interviews and statements, or reports on meetings held behind closed doors, we could think that independent media outlets really want to cut short their cooperation with their Russian partners. We do not think so now. It is a political put-up job.

We see yet again that the French authorities are doing their utmost to restrict the operations of the Russian media outlets by putting direct pressure on their French partners and by creating a situation in which Russian media are viewed as toxic and not to be trusted.

We would like to see comments on these developments by the concerned international organisations and human rights NGOs. We will forward the material at our disposal to the OSCE. We want to see a conclusion on the acceptability of direct pressure put on an independent Paris-based radio station to accelerate the termination of its partner ties with a Russian media outlet and whether these actions comply with the principles of freedom of the media and respect for independent media outlets.

I would like to say again that we take note of such discriminating acts and forward information about them to the concerned international organisations. As we said before, we would not like to take response measures against the French media outlets which continue to conduct their professional activities in Russia without the slightest restrictions, even though they sometimes publish absurd material that contains fake data or misinformation. We have always tried to avoid using administrative leverage or bans; instead, we preferred giving public answers, publishing refutations, sending notes and publishing articles and interviews. We wonder why they don’t act likewise in France. Are they afraid of something?

I liked an item on Euronews according to which the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on Wednesday urged the French government to conduct a “full investigation of all reported cases of excessive use of force” by French police during the Yellow Vest protests. Commissioner Michelle Bachelet added that the Yellow Vests “have been protesting what they see as exclusion from economic rights and participation in public affairs.”

French government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux said in response that any conclusion on possible [police] abuses and any decision on changing the mechanism can only be taken when the investigation is over.

I wonder why a full investigation is necessary before a decision is made in one case, and why no investigation is conducted and no results or any other material is required in cases such as those of RT and Sputnik?

Experiments with legalising non-medical cannabis use in the Netherlands

The Parliament of the Netherlands recently launched a procedure to approve the legalisation of the production and distribution of non-medical cannabis on an “experimental” basis over a four-year period.

We believe that such action will have a number of serious consequences. It will weaken state control over the sale of narcotic drugs. Following irresponsible action by Uruguay, Canada and Georgia, the Netherlands’ drug enforcement policy could become another challenge for the international community advocating an ideal of a drug-free world. The practical implementation of these ideas will erode international law in this sphere, also putting in doubt the pacta sunt servanda principle, a key concept of international relations. International counter-narcotics cooperation will become less effective. There will be increased illegal drug traffic to other countries, including those which unfailingly honour the provisions of the three fundamental drug control conventions.

According to the International Narcotics Control Board, the legalisation of the non-medical and recreational use of cannabis seriously threatens people’s health, mostly that of the younger generation. It also undermines the international legal framework for drug control and creates another dangerous precedent, in the context of maintaining global law and order, by inviting other countries to follow this example.

We believe that The Hague’s arguments that the draft document, now being discussed, fits into the framework of drug control conventions on combatting crime and efforts to strengthen the relevant research framework are groundless. In our opinion, these experiments with the health and safety of the population could result in the country’s authorities losing control over the commercial drug market. We have reason to believe that such measures are aimed primarily at launching the commercial manufacture of cannabis and turning the drug industry into an important source of state revenue.

In this connection, we would like to urge the authorities of the Netherlands to examine all arguments against this policy and to renounce this liberal drug-promotion experiment that runs counter to the norms of international law. A constructive decision by The Hague is particularly topical on the threshold of the upcoming March 14-15 High-Level Ministerial Segment of the 62nd Session of the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs that is called on to reaffirm the commitment of all states to the principle of common and joint responsibility in addressing the global drug issue.

 

Answers to media questions:

Question: Will Russia take any practical action to protect its investments in Venezuela?

Maria Zakharova: Thank you for your concern for Russian investments. It should be said that it is something you have in common with American journalists. One of the most popular questions from the American media concerns Russian investments in Venezuela. We are grateful to all of you for this concern. We are taking the necessary steps to protect our investments.

I would like to say that we are mostly acting to protect the state of Venezuela and trying to prevent a full-scale civil war in that country, as well as to preserve the institutes of state power in keeping with the Venezuelan Constitution. We are taking political steps towards this end, including through negotiations. We are working together with our colleagues and partners.

We are also providing humanitarian aid, as Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has recently told his Western colleagues at news conferences. Russia has said that humanitarian aid is needed to reduce tension and to prevent a negative scenario in Venezuela. But it must be real humanitarian aid, such as food, medicine and everything else the people need to overcome the crisis and to resume development, not barbed wire or other equipment intended for barricades. We have issued statements at international organisations on the unacceptability of implementing or even planning a military scenario in that country.

Question: Russian-Japanese talks have been recently held at the level of deputy foreign ministers. I would like to ask in this connection if Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov plans to visit Japan in March.

Maria Zakharova: Such a visit is not on Sergey Lavrov’s agenda at this point. We will duly notify you if there is a change of plans.

Question: This week we marked 10 years of the so-called Russian-US reset policy, which was actually overload. What event can really reset bilateral relations?

Maria Zakharova:  Despite the temptation to use such publicity stunts, which sometimes only look attractive but are actually no good for anything, we must look at the essence of the matter. The development of media and PR technologies has shown that attempts to deal with global problems and crises, or even relatively simple matters, hastily and without giving them a second thought, by posting an attractive picture and adding a nice caption, usually fail. There are very many examples of this. The last few weeks have also shown that a simple reshuffling of flags and a large-scale information campaign are not enough to settle  global problems. Therefore, the goal is not to conduct yet another PR campaign with buttons and words written on them, but rather to encourage the United States to return to the legal framework. Acting within the legal framework and in strict compliance with international law and the UN Charter, no matter how boring or unfashionable this may be, is the only correct prescription for Washington. If this is done, not only the full-scale Russian-US dialogue will regain momentum, but many other global issues that have been stalled will get off the ground.

Question: Can the UN act more resolutely to help settle the problem of the Rukban refugee camp?

Maria Zakharova: The UN can certainly do this. We believe that not only the UN but also all its agencies charged with humanitarian issues, refugees and internally displaced persons can actively contribute to the settlement of this problem. We have no doubt about this. We maintain contact and we use this mechanism not only to make our position known but also to accomplish what we are talking about.

Question: You have partially touched upon the issue of a refugee camp in Al-Hasakah Governorate. Although this zone falls into the remit of the international coalition, Russia is also a legitimate country there. In this connection, I would like to ask whether Russia is taking any specific steps in this direction.

Maria Zakharova:  What do you mean by “specific steps?” We are talking about an entire programme we offer to our partners and which is being implemented. We manage to accomplish a lot, and we also fail to achieve many goals because, as you have noted correctly, all this remains under the control of the so-called US-led coalition on the ground. We have much to offer, both in terms of theory, and in the context of ground operations involving UN agencies.

Question: Chief of the Russian Armed Forces General Staff Valery Gerasimov met with Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph F. Dunford, and they agreed to coordinate operations in Syria. For example, they discussed the situation after the withdrawal of US troops from the eastern bank of the Euphrates River. Is there any danger that a third party, such as Turkey or government forces, might establish control over this area after the US pullout?

Maria Zakharova:  First, we believe that all armed contingents and forces remaining on the ground in Syria will be deployed there with the consent of the Syrian government alone. This is our traditional position. If Damascus wants this to happen, then so be it. Therefore, it is necessary to directly address these issues to Damascus. Regarding the wording of your question, I believe that if there is any reason for apprehension, it would be linked with the prospect of Washington changing its mind again. Unfortunately, all the promises, assurances and explanations made are often modified very quickly. Therefore we assume that, if Washington provides any guarantees or explanations for its manoeuvres on the ground, then these guarantees will remain relevant in the medium term, to say the least, and that some new official in Washington will not change the concept. Quite possibly, this is one of the main concerns. 

Question: On March 3, Bulgaria is celebrating the anniversary of its liberation from Turkish slavery. What is Russia’s current opinion of the contribution made by people who died for the sake of Bulgaria’s freedom? 

Maria Zakharova:  Russia has never voiced any opportunistic assessments of the heroic feats by Russian soldiers during the Russo-Turkish war of 1877-1878 that liberated the people of Bulgaria from the Ottoman yoke and gave hope that they would establish their own state.

There has always been a consensus on this matter in Russian society. This is proved graphically by annual official ceremonies commemorating Russian soldiers who were killed in Bulgaria near the Chapel of the Sign of the Icon of Our Lady and the Most Orthodox Prince Alexander Nevsky in Moscow. These events take place every March 3 and every December 10, that is, on National Liberation Day and on the day when Pleven was taken, and they bring together representatives of the public at large, political circles, military agencies, the clergy and the diplomatic corps. Those involved pay tribute to Russian heroes,  an estimated 200,000 ordinary officers and soldiers who sacrificed their lives for the sake of victory.

We are grateful for the fact that Bulgarian society still honours the memory of Russian soldiers, that it does not forget about their heroic feat and the combat fraternity of that period, and that it does not falsify it, in line with the current trendy speculations.

Question: People in Russia say the Bulgarians are ungrateful. But Bulgarian priests pray for the souls of the deceased every day. In all, 3,400 Russian soldiers who fought for freedom are buried in Pleven.

Maria Zakharova: As I see it, the matter of gratitude or ingratitude amounts not only to remembering the deceased but also to efforts to establish relations with the living. This is always important on the basis of both nations’ historical experience. Instead of answering your question, I took the liberty of launching into a brief philosophical discourse.

Question: What is the outcome of Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev’s visit to Bulgaria? 

Maria Zakharova: One can safely say that this third encounter between both countries’ heads of government in the past 12 months shows that Russian-Bulgarian cooperation remains in high demand and continues to expand despite the complicated international context. Apart from important symbolic aspects (the visit took place during celebrations of the 141st anniversary of Bulgaria’s liberation), the sides conducted a detailed and focused exchange of opinion on the entire range of topical matters and problems. We hope that the discussion and implementation of joint projects, primarily in fuel and energy, will help expand bilateral relations and further strengthen European energy security.

Regarding certain items on the bilateral agenda, as well as developments in Southeastern Europe, I suggest that you read materials posted on the Russian Government’s website, as well as Dmitry Medvedev’s statements.

Question: President of the Chamber of Deputies of the Italian Parliament Roberto Fico visited Moscow two days ago. In his speech at the plenary session of the State Duma of the Russian Federation, he said that Russia’s participation in the work the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) is essential for resolving problems facing European countries.  He said that otherwise the principle of inter-parliamentary dialogue will be rejected as such. Do you think Italy can help Russia under the circumstances?

Maria Zakharova: It is great that he spoke about this in Russia, but it is necessary to talk about this in the European countries, directly with the deputies of those states whose MPs objected to Russia’s participation the work of PACE. This is obvious to us and not because we support the Russian delegation exclusively from patriotic considerations. The main word is “essential.” This is essential for PACE’s work to be productive. If it is necessary to assess the processes taking place in the common European space, how is it possible to do so without Russia and its delegation?

Blocking the work and the opportunity to make statements and reply to remarks by colleagues in parliament is absurd, and all the more so when it comes to a pan-European parliament in which at least the modern concept of parliamentarism was outlined. This is even more ridiculous when we talk about the early 21st century, when everyone is fighting for the freedom of speech and against fake information. Yet, the delegation of a whole country is being denied an opportunity to take part in the discussion of its conduct. There is no need to convince Russia of this. It is necessary to convince those countries that objected to Russia’s participation in PACE.

Question: After the recent election, President of Moldova Igor Dodon spoke about the possibility of a rapid solution to the Transnistrian issue. What do experts of the Russian Foreign Ministry think about the post-election situation? How close is the 5+2 format to a constructive compromise?

Maria Zakharova: When upon coming to power some political forces announce that conflicts and problems that have been lingering on for decades should be resolved quickly, that raises the following question – do they really believe their predecessors failed to realise this? Obviously, the need to resolve this problem was clear to all. Nobody objected to a fair and respectful solution for all residents, a solution that must be legal and, naturally, achieved by political and diplomatic methods. In effect, all mechanisms that were created for resolving this issue proceeded from exactly this premise. So, on the one hand, there is nothing bad in the intentions of politicians to resolve issues quickly. The main point is that they should reflect reality rather than be a theoretical thesis. They should be linked with background history and real possibilities. As Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said more than once, diplomats should have the same approach as doctors. It is very important for them “to do no harm,” and this should always be remembered.

Question: What are the details of the meeting between Fayez al-Sarraj and Khalifa Haftar in Abu Dhabi?

Maria Zakharova: Owing to the UN and UAE efforts, representatives of the two opposing camps – Chairman of the Presidential Council of Libya and Prime Minister of the Government of National Accord (GNA) of Libya Fayez al-Sarraj and Commander of the Libyan National Army Khalifa Haftar met in Abu Dhabi. Their meeting was attended by Special Representative of the Secretary-General to Libya Ghassan Salame. According to incoming reports, they discussed key issues of a peace settlement in Libya, including completing the transition period by holding a general election and forming common state institutions.

Moscow is positive about these contacts in Abu Dhabi. We consider it important for Libyan leaders to continue a UN-supported search for ways of reaching mutually acceptable agreements in the interests of national reconciliation and stabilisation.

Question: Currently, the Lebanese public is discussing the Russian initiative to bring Syrian refugees back home. The problem of the Rukban camp for internally displaced persons (IDP) is also on the agenda of the Russian-Jordanian talks. Refugees are also being discussed with Turkey. Could these problems be resolved in a comprehensive way, at one go?

Maria Zakharova: A one-go solution that you have mentioned will not work because these problems have many components related to both refugees, who are now outside of Syria, and the IDP - there are many split families. These matters are also related to Syria’s territorial problems that are yet to be solved and to foreign military presence on its territory. All these matters cannot be dealt with at one go. Neither will the migration issue be resolved at one go. We hope that at best this can be done in stages, in a pinpoint manner, with the use of different methods and in different areas.

Question: The US is planning to publish the Mueller report on “Russian interference.” Will Russia respond in any way? What is to be expected from this report?

Maria Zakharova: What does Russia have to do with all this? This is a strictly domestic political story in the US. We have repeatedly said as much. Each time, scandals like this one help, in some way or other, to decide the outcome of domestic political battles between the political parties. The case in point now is more likely to be some inter-clan squabbles. The 2016 presidential campaign was based on an “external threat” factor, or even a “foreign enemy,” as they said. Properly speaking, the “Russian theme” is the pivot of the entire domestic political stand-off in the US. This is a very hot topic, for understandable reasons. One of the candidates, a Democrat, focused on the international agenda and specifically Russia for years. In fact, this became the campaign’s “trump card.” Therefore, the subsequent internal political confrontation in the US was also permeated with the “external influence” logic. These domestic political games certainly relate to our country, including the sanctions, the monstrous statements we hear, and the groundless accusations that “cover” our country and bilateral relations, leaving nothing but cinders. This story can in no way drop from the integrated picture of US domestic political confrontation either.

Question: There were expectations that the problem of Syria returning to the League of Arab States would be resolved within weeks at the Tunisia summit in March. But this is unlikely to happen. What are the obstacles?

Maria Zakharova: Can’t you guess why, being as you are a Bloomberg representative? I think there is just one obstacle. I am referring to an attempt by our Western partners, who represent and head the relevant coalition, to thwart by any means possible what will be yet another manifestation of their failed policy in the region. Damascus’ return to the LAS will be proof of this. In general, the normalisation of relations, which is in full swing, demonstrates the entire untenable nature of the concept that only a regime change enables a country to develop within and outside its borders. And this is the obstacle for you. Honestly speaking, no one sees any other obstacles.

There is an intention to hamper, if not frustrate, Syria’s return to the LAS. Any journalist representing regional media can tell you why Syria needs to return to the LAS and why the LAS needs to reinstate Syria’s rights in the organisation. The region as a whole, as well as Syria and its neighbours, need this process. 

Question: Is Syria’s return to the LAS inevitable?

Maria Zakharova: In the historical context, yes, no doubt about it. That country is part of that region. How can an organisation be fully functional if a vast country representing an entire gamut of challenges and prospects is not among its members? After all, this is not just a club but rather an entity that governs the life of the region. It is clearly so.

International organisations are created not only among like-minded members. Do not hold everything to the NATO matrix. Not all organisations are living or should live according to this arrangement. In principle, international entities and organisations are created not according to a model where one party controls the others, or any other model where all member countries think in exactly the same way about all matters. International organisations exist based on points of contact and in order to be able to address issues that are on the agenda of these countries and the region in general. This does not mean that all countries should have the same approach. As a matter of fact, the forms of the political structure of the states that belong to the Arab League are so different that it is simply impossible to talk about completely overlapping the approaches of all states. So, the organisation was created not as a club of people sharing the same interests or as a club of like-minded people, but as a framework for discussing pressing problems of the region. In this context, it is simply impossible to address the regional issues without Syria, especially in today's context which is chockablock with issues related precisely to Syria. This is clearly so, at least, from the political point of view.

Question: As reported by TASS, a Russian Deputy Foreign Minister will meet with his North Korean colleague on March 14. Can you confirm this?

Maria Zakharova: I’m pleased to confirm the information provided by TASS, especially so as it cited the Foreign Ministry. Scheduled consultations will indeed be held between Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov and Deputy Foreign Minister of the DPRK Im Chon Il on March 14.

Question: What issues will be discussed at this meeting? Will they touch upon the visit by Chairman of the State Council of the DPRK Kim Jong-un?

Maria Zakharova: I will not anticipate the events or announce the agenda. We will disclose this information closer to the meeting. Of course, the main issues related to bilateral relations, political contacts and, of course, the situation in the region in the context of a settlement will be part of the discussion.

Question: Relatively recently, information appeared in the Albanian-language Kosovo press citing the German media about an alleged behind-the-scenes agreement between Moscow, Paris and Washington on the actual surrender of Kosovo by Belgrade. It is already being discussed by the experts. Is this true?

Maria Zakharova: Your question contains the answer, “Albanian-language Kosovo press citing the German media.” This cannot be seriously discussed. Everything related to Serbia’s position on the Kosovo settlement is commented on by President of Serbia Aleksandar Vucic almost daily. The issue is about a full-fledged assessment of the negotiations process and the difficulties that the Serbian leadership faces during these talks. In this context, everything that you said does not leave the slightest hope for the accuracy of this information.

I gave you an expert assessment. However, this question should be addressed primarily to Serbia.

Question: Prime Minister of Luxembourg Xavier Bettel said disarmament is the only way of maintaining peace, while security in Europe cannot be ensured without Russia. To what extent is this understanding shared by Europe’s top echelons? Is Europe taking steps to create a joint security system with Russia?

Maria Zakharova: Disarmament is very controversial and extensive issue. It is better to address it to the Council on Foreign and Defence Policy, our leading agencies that elaborate foreign policy concepts. This is an interesting subject.

It is obviously impossible to ensure security without Russia. Some experts speak about this in a negative vein, saying that Russia is a source of some threat, whereas others consider Russia one of the guarantors of stability. But both groups admit that it is impossible to ensure security in Europe without Russia.

This country has repeatedly reaffirmed its role in history as a state that is a guarantor of stability and security and that it brings peace rather than aggression to others. World War II and the Soviet Union’s role in it is a global example. Subsequently this point was supported in peaceful life by our initiatives put forward during negotiations at international venues.

Does everyone share this position? Everyone understands it, but not everyone can speak about it in a constructive vein. (I’m referring to European politicians.)

Question: What would you wish mothers and simply women of the confronting sides in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict on the eve of March 8?

Maria Zakharova: I would wish them only one thing: a settlement and peace as soon as possible.

Question: The elections for the heads of republic were held in the DPR and the LPR on November 11. They were attended by observers from Russia and Western countries. Observers made no critical remarks about them. Ukraine will soon hold presidential elections to which observers from Russia will not be admitted. Could the heads of the republics become the only recognised Ukrainian leaders in Russia? After all, legally, their territory is part of Ukraine. 

Maria Zakharova: This is a complicated, dialectical issue. Literally today I read Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev’s remarks on the election campaign in Ukraine. I recommend you to read them too. He says this is a dirty campaign. The methods of preparing for the elections without discussing the campaigns of nominees is unprecedented for the European country that welcomed and signed the majority of fundamental documents regulating political life in various associations or countries in Europe.

The decision not to admit observers, who would be sent there officially through relevant international agencies, is also unprecedented.

If there were no discrepancies between what is happening and how people would like to live in the DPR, the LPR and the rest of Ukraine, there would be no problem. The point is that people have different views on basic issues. It is the Kiev regime that does not abide by the Minsk Agreements that legally embody the attempts to bring closer the sides’ positions.

Question: Could you mention the names of the US citizens detained in Novorossiysk?

Maria Zakharova: I can confirm that US citizens were detained for violating migration legislation. Four Americans were detained, including two that were deported by court decision. Law enforcement bodies are dealing with this issue and have all the details.

As for the first question, in particular concerning UNICEF, we will check this information and comment on it.