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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation

Briefing by Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova, Moscow, September 8, 2016

8 September 201615:53

Table of contents

  1. Incident at the opening ceremony of the Rio Paralympic Games
  2. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s talks with Minister of Foreign Affairs of Luxembourg Jean Asselborn
  3. An evening function dedicated to the 90th birthday of Cuban revolutionary leader Fidel Castro
  4. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to take part in the meeting of the CIS Council of Foreign Ministers
  5. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s talks with US Secretary of State John Kerry
  6. The situation in Syria
  7. Outcomes of the 2nd Eastern Economic Forum
  8. Joint Statement by the Foreign Ministry and the Central Election Commission on ensuring the safety and security of Russian voters at the Russian Embassy and consular offices in Ukraine on September 18, 2016
  9. Forthcoming review of the IMF programme for Ukraine
  10. The situation surrounding Inter TV station
  11. Recent remarks by Petr Poroshenko
  12. The expansion of anti-Russian sanctions by the US
  13. Latest developments in Afghanistan
  14. Latest developments in Gabon
  15. Latest developments in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
  16. Meeting of Israeli and Palestinian leaders with Russia’s mediation
  17. Meeting of the Diplomatic Club
  18. Abuse of underage refugees in Europe
  19. The United States’ participation in the Eastern Economic Forum
  20. Remarks by Foreign Minister of the Netherlands Bert Koenders
  21. The influence of the G20 Summit on the global economy
  22. The drafting of a joint document on Syria by Russia and the US
  23. A meeting between Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and US Secretary of State John Kerry on Syria
  24. A statement by Polish Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski
  25. A possible meeting between President Vladimir Putin and the presidents of Syria and Turkey
  26. The situation with Russian Paralympians
  27. Russian-US relations after the US presidential election
  28. Consultations of the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs 

Incident at the opening ceremony of the Rio Paralympic Games

I’d like to begin by saying a few words not as a spokesperson for the Foreign Ministry of Russia but simply as a human being. I speak now not only for myself but also on behalf of my Foreign Ministry colleagues.

Today a hero showed himself. There are different kinds of heroes: some save people, or do some other very important and necessary things for which they are awarded medals. But our hero today is the man who carried the Russian flag at the opening ceremony of the Rio Paralympic Games as a tribute to the Russian Paralympic athletes, to show solidarity with them after they were barred from the Rio Games in a mean-spirited, inhumane, and absolutely unjustified move. We are proud that there are people who stand above politics. We believe that what this man has done goes beyond politics. This human gesture is extremely important to our Paralympic athletes and to all of us. We are grateful to this man. I hope we’ll learn his name. To us, he is a hero. We are grateful to our Belarusian friends and to this man in particular for what he has done. We will never forget it. It was a truly human gesture.  

We often say that the arts, music and culture have no borders. To normal people, misfortunes have no geographic or political boundaries either. It is a basic feature of being human to sympathise with people in times of trouble. And the same goes for how we are supposed to relate to people with disabilities, to the meaning of the Paralympic movement and Paralympic athletes themselves. It’s the same feeling when inhumane measures are taken against people who have risen above their pain and adversity, and yet are not allowed to do what they have spent their lives training for. This is a shared tragedy that goes beyond borders. Some people feel such pain as their own. We know now that people in Belarus feel our pain as their own.

Unfortunately, I can’t leave it at that. I feel compelled to respond to the reaction of the British newspaper the Guardian, which wrote that “the colour, noise and goodwill on show during the opening ceremony of the Paralympic Games was punctured” by the Belarusian team. This newspaper is published in a country that considers itself civilized. These words were written by people who consider themselves journalists. I know that people will be attacked over this, including this particular person. Articles like this and calls for punishment, which have already been made, are just fascism masquerading as something civilised, as a question of law and jurisdiction. What the Guardian has written is terrible.

And now I will return to speaking in my capacity as Foreign Ministry spokesperson and head of the ministry’s Information and Press Department. In this official capacity, I would like to invite representatives from the Guardian to Russia to meet with Russian Paralympic athletes. If you can write this while sitting in your warm and cosy offices, you should have the courage and decency to come and look these people in the eye. And although some of them are blind, we will still arrange a meeting so that you can look them in the eye – that is, if you are capable of it.

I apologise for this digression, but I had to say something.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s talks with Minister of Foreign Affairs of Luxembourg Jean Asselborn

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will hold talks with Minister of Foreign Affairs of Luxembourg Jean Asselborn in Moscow on September 13. Mr Asselborn will be in Russia on a working visit.

The ministers will discuss how to develop the bilateral political dialogue and increase the number of top- and high-level contacts. It is expected that an exchange of views on the key issues of bilateral trade, economic, financial and investment cooperation will take place. Marked later this year, the 125th anniversary of establishing diplomatic relations between Russia and Luxembourg provides a special background for the upcoming meeting.

The international issues to be discussed will include the Syrian conflict and prospects for Middle East peace process. Special attention will be given to developments in Ukraine.

Russia’s relationship with the EU, NATO and the OSCE and certainly the efforts against international terrorism will also be on the agenda.

An evening function dedicated to the 90th birthday of Cuban revolutionary leader Fidel Castro

On September 13, the Foreign Ministry Mansion will host an evening function dedicated to the 90th birthday of Cuban revolutionary leader Fidel Castro.

The event will include the presentation of an album, The Invincible, with photographs from the Castro family’s private archives and the Foreign Policy Archive of the Russian Federation as well as contemporary news agency reports. A book published in Russia, “Fidel Castro Ruz. Guerrilla of Time. Conversations with the Leader of the Cuban Revolution,” will be presented as well.

The organisers have invited the heads of a number of accredited diplomatic missions, Russian and foreign officials, members of the public, and the top officials of the Russian Foreign Ministry. It is planned that the function will be attended by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to take part in the meeting of the CIS Council of Foreign Ministers

On September 16, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will take part in a regular meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) in Bishkek. The meeting’s agenda covers various aspects related to developing multidimensional cooperation within the CIS, as well as stepping up foreign policy cooperation, and will also include an exchange of views on the key regional and global developments.

One of the main items on the meeting’s agenda will be to approve draft resolutions on adopting statements by the CIS heads of state on the 25th anniversary of the CIS, further efforts to counter international terrorism, the 70th anniversary of the verdicts in the Nuremberg trials and the global issue of drug trafficking. The participants are also expected to review progress in the implementation of decisions adopted in October 2015 to streamline and adapt the CIS to operate in the current environment.

Special attention will be given to humanitarian cooperation and efforts to further strengthen economic ties, as well as step up cooperation between law enforcement and border control agencies. Documents approved at the meeting of the CIS Council of Foreign Ministers will be submitted for approval to the CIS Council of Heads of State (October 16, Bishkek) and the CIS Council of Heads of Government (October 28, Minsk).

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s talks with US Secretary of State John Kerry

I would also like to inform you that Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is expected to hold talks on Syria with US Secretary of State John Kerry. Yesterday the Foreign Ministry informed about the telephone conversation between Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and US Secretary of State John Kerry, during which they agreed to meet on September 8-9 in Geneva. The format of the meeting is still being discussed, but we believe that the agreement to hold the meeting has been reached. We will keep you updated about its logistics and time.

The situation in Syria

The reports coming from Syria are mixed. The ceasefire introduced in February 2016 helped reduce the level of armed confrontation there in general, especially around ​​Damascus, Latakia, western Homs province, and southern Syria. This made it possible to step up efforts to resolve the crisis, primarily in the form of local truces, which we regularly inform you about, and deals that make life easier for ordinary people. Humanitarian access has significantly expanded, but there are occasional disruptions.

To our regret, this can hardly be called a sustainable trend, because terrorists remain focused on disrupting the ceasefire. The way we see it, their goal is to return the country to a state of chaos and total confrontation, and deny all Syrians – regardless of their ethnic or religious identity – the right to a peaceful and decent life.

There is a pattern here – the closer Russia and the United States get to an agreement on close cooperation in a decisive confrontation with ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra in all their incarnations in Syria, including affiliated groups, the more high-profile and brazen the attacks of the terrorists become. They realise that as soon as the ceasefire takes root and Syria embarks on a peaceful political course, they are doomed, and their days are numbered.

By using suicide bombers, shelling residential areas, and attacking checkpoints, the terrorists are provoking the Syrian military to respond. Through fierce propaganda, bribery, and threats, the extremists lure individual fighters and entire units from groups that had previously declared their support of the ceasefire, cobble together armed units, and unleash new offensives outside Aleppo, in northern Hama province, and Eastern Ghouta.

Al-Nusra is particularly good at this, sharing information, weapons and ammunition with other illegal rebel groups. It also does all the planning and coordinates operations. As a result, the already fine line separating illegal armed groups from terrorists vanishes altogether. As we understand it, this is precisely what the opponents of a peaceful settlement are seeking.

The links between a number of illegal armed groups and recognised terrorists are clear not only to us, but the rebels as well. Recently, Ahrar al-Sham accused Jund al-Aqsa of collaborating with ISIS and even had a fierce firefight with al-Aqsa troops outside the town of Ariha.

Recent media reports about the alleged deal between al-Nusra (now known as Jabhat Fateh al-Sham), Ahrar al-Sham and several other armed Syrian opposition groups to create a joint military and political command are troubling. It follows from their statement that al-Nusra will be in charge of exclusively military operations. Reportedly, the joint bodies that are currently being formed will, among other things, replace all existing opposition authorities both inside and outside Syria.

Time and time again, we emphasise the urgent need to divide the terrorists from those who seek to continue to enjoy the protection provided to ceasefire participants. This division is all about separating those who want to live in a peaceful Syria from those who want to carry on the bloody war.

The unending criminal activity of terrorists in Syria and throughout the Middle East calls for clear and principled assessments and responsible decision-making on the part of all those who are interested in bringing peace to Syria, stabilising the region and eliminating the global terrorist threat originating there.

Outcomes of the 2nd Eastern Economic Forum

The annual Eastern Economic Forum was held in Vladivostok on September 2-3.

The forum confirmed, once again, the relevance of the initiatives advanced by Russia and other countries to address together the challenges presented by the current phase of development of the Asia-Pacific region and implement major mutually beneficial projects.

I would like to give you a few final figures from the forum, the main guests of which were the president of the Republic of Korea and the prime minister of Japan. In all, there were about 3,500 participants representing government, expert and business communities from 56 leading countries of the Asia-Pacific region and other regions, such as China, India, Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, the United States, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Finland, Sweden, and so on. About 400 foreign correspondents were accredited for the forum. Over 200 agreements worth of 1.85 trillion roubles have been signed.

These numbers are significantly above what we had last year and clearly show our partners’ serious interest in expanding cooperation with the Russian Far East.

We plan to continue working consistently so that this region of our country could gain a firm foothold in Asia Pacific as an important point of economic growth.

Joint Statement by the Foreign Ministry and the Central Election Commission on ensuring the safety and security of Russian voters at the Russian Embassy and consular offices in Ukraine on September 18, 2016

I would like to announce a joint statement by the Foreign Ministry and the Central Election Commission (CEC) on ensuring the safety and security of the Russian voters at the Russian Embassy and consular offices in Ukraine on September 18, 2016. It will be posted on the Ministry’s website.

In accordance with the executive order issued by President Putin on June 17, 2016, elections to the State Duma of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation will take place on September 18. According to generally accepted international electoral practices and applicable Russian laws, Russian diplomatic missions and consular offices will have voting stations. This serves to ensure the democratic rights of Russian citizens who permanently reside or are temporarily staying outside Russia on election day to freely express their will.

In Ukraine, there will be voting stations in place in the Russian Embassy in Kiev, and Consulate General offices in Odessa, Lvov and Kharkov.

In light of this, the Foreign Ministry and the CEC of Russia urge the Ukrainian authorities to ensure the security of Russian institutions in Ukraine during voting on September 18. In accordance with the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961, the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations of 1963 and Consular Convention between the Russian Federation and Ukraine of 1993, the Ukrainian authorities must take all appropriate measures to protect the premises of the Russian Embassy and consular offices from any possible provocations, including trespassing and causing damage, and to prevent any disturbance of peace or insults to dignity.

We note that Russia has always carried out in full its obligations to ensure the safety and security of Ukrainian voters voting on Russian territory, including in the early presidential election of May 25, 2014, and the parliamentary election of October 26, 2014. 

The Russian Foreign Ministry and the Russian Central Election Commission call on the relevant international organisations, non-governmental organisations and media outlets to carry out objective and unbiased monitoring at the voting stations at the Russian embassy and consular offices in Ukraine and monitor too the Ukrainian authorities’ fulfilment of their obligation to ensure the peace and security of voting. 

Russia calls on the OSCE leadership and its Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine, which has a mandate to help to reduce tension and monitor the situation with security and basic human rights and freedoms, to monitor the situation at Russian diplomatic missions on Ukrainian soil, where voting will take place.

Forthcoming review of the IMF programme for Ukraine

On September 14, the IMF Executive Board plans to review the Extended Fund Facility (EFF) for Ukraine, including the possibility of allocating the next (third) tranche to Ukraine in the amount of $1 billion.

This issue was included in the agenda of the IMF Executive Board for the first time in the past 12 months since the previous tranche under the EFF was approved in late July 2015.

Also, the board members will discuss the implementation by Ukraine of its obligations to settle the debt owed to official and commercial creditors.

Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov will give an official briefing on this matter early next week in the run-up to the EFF review by the IMF Executive Board.

You can consider this an announcement and an invitation to the briefing.

The situation surrounding Inter TV station

There literally was a flurry of phone calls, letters and requests asking us to comment on the situation surrounding the Ukrainian TV channel Inter. We have already done so by posting a comment on our official website, as well as during interviews and statements to the media. I would like to go over this issue once again and say that the incident with Inter in Kiev generated a wide response among politicians, international reporters and experts. One gets an impression that it was probably a tipping point that was impossible to ignore. If crimes against reporters in Ukraine could be overlooked somehow previously, this time the nature and the intensity of the persecution and pressure has, indeed, gone beyond the point of no return. The footage of burning editorial office gave many a sense of déjà vu, reminding them of the burning House of Trade Unions in Odessa.

It was comforting to see, following the principled response to the incident by the Russian Foreign Ministry, relevant international organisations and even political “partners” of Kiev condemn this blatant violation of the rights of journalists and media, and in particular how the local authorities neglected their obligation to uphold human rights.

This time, the international community has shown unanimity in declaring as unacceptable the violence against the media in the country, which thinks of itself as a democracy, and demanding that law enforcement in Ukraine conduct a prompt and impartial investigation into this lawless act.

What else does the government in Kiev need before it takes effective measures to stop propaganda that says that anyone who does not like what a particular reporter says can exert direct pressure on the media in theory and in practice? This work should begin with creating an atmosphere of zero tolerance for violence against reporters. Of course, everything else is critical too, but the most important thing is to begin preventative work to make sure that such an attitude towards the reporters and all those who have a different opinion is no longer accepted. It’s important not to encourage persecution or to call, at the government level, for retaliation in response to dissent, including in the media, but to create a genuinely democratic atmosphere.

We hope that international institutions will not limit themselves to verbal condemnation of another flagrant violation of reporters’ rights and freedom of speech in Ukraine, but will keep tabs on this event and the findings of the investigation to prevent such incidents from happening in the future.

Recent remarks by Petr Poroshenko

President Poroshenko’s remarks caught my eye. He recently accused Russia of an “aggressive closing of its market to Ukrainian goods,” and provided many facts and figures about the sorry state of Ukraine and its economy due to the fact that the Russian market is closing doors to it.

One can go on talking and making statements, but I will provide just one quote. By the way, quotes from interviews, publications, and articles by the Russian Foreign Ministry employees were posted in our ministry’s social media long before the events of 2013-2014 in Kiev, the Maidan protests, and the delayed signing of the European Integration Agreement. We have published an analysis drafted by Russian experts, in particular, from the Foreign Ministry, regarding the developments in the “either-or” scenario: either European integration or preservation of our relations, which we have been built over 20 years of Ukraine's sovereignty. We saw it coming.

Here is the quote. “Given the turn that the developments in Ukraine have taken, and in the event of mindless following the European integration goals, Ukraine simply does not need it (the Association Agreement). They are imposing something on us, from which we will suffer. They are talking about the European Association Agreement. Okay, it will be signed, but you will see that a major crisis will follow, you will suffer severe losses from association with the European Union, you will see your rent and gas bills go through the roof. This is what the EU association will be like for you. Just get a grasp of the causal links: what you see already happening now, such as rising commuter train fares, is related to nothing else but this “European drive.” You are unlikely to be able to get visas quickly. It is a lengthy and tiresome process. We will lose some of our industries for good. The association spells crisis for us. I’m convinced of this.” This is what Ukrainian journalist Oles Buzina said in October 2013.

The expansion of anti-Russian sanctions by the US

We have already commented on the issue. Yet, I would like to speak about it one more time at greater length. You have probably already familiarised yourself with the numerous comments by Russian officials regarding the sanctions the United States imposed on Russia on September 1 and 6, unprecedented in their scale: 11 of our citizens and 107 legal entities fell under them. With obstinacy certainly worthy of a better cause at this historical time, the outgoing US administration keeps ruining our bilateral relations, citing the developments around Crimea and Donbass as an excuse.

It becomes ridiculous: last year, the United States slapped restrictions on a long-closed liquor and spirits plant in Crimea. We pointed that out. But now their line of thought has stretched farther. It is now the question of, I am not joking, a popular Moscow swimming pool, Chaika. I have been racking my brain, trying to figure out why Chaika, of all things. Maybe, it has something to do with Anton Chekhov (probably someone in the US administration dislikes him and will ban and levy sanctions against anything related to his ‘The Seagull,’ which in Russian is “Chaika”). I don’t know. But there must be at least some reason, I thought. Could it be because the swimming pool is not far from the Diplomatic Academy of the Russian Foreign Ministry and is frequented by Russian diplomats? Is that the reason? I don’t know. But I just can’t think of any other possibilities.

What effect will such sanctions have? None. Even the White House, it seems, is aware of that and acknowledges that. They failed to rip our economy to tatters – the task proved too hard even for the White House. The policy of isolating Russia in the international arena has failed too. First to look forward to new meetings, call Moscow daily and ask for support in dealing with international crises, and then to talk about isolation – it’s just absurd. I’d like to stress that it’s not us who turn to the Americans for support, it’s them who appeal to us all the time to help and join in efforts to resolve some regional or international conflict or another. The most curious and most ridiculous thing of all is that they ask us to get involved in resolving precisely those conflicts that they themselves instigated. That’s as far as the outgoing administration is concerned. Evidently, it is now either politically inexpedient or not possible to admit that the failure of the course that they themselves worked out is their own fault. Therefore, some new steps are needed to emphasise its topicality, the “depth of thought and the height of flight.” We realise that behind all that is an attempt to save face before their own public and cheer up their allies who are groaning under the losses they incurred from such a policy.

Unfortunately, despite the fact that we are aware of the foolishness of what the White House is doing, the principle of reciprocity in foreign policy has not been abandoned, with regard to blacklists as well. No one, including the Obama administration and, of course, those who will move into the White House, should have any illusions that the Russian Federation can be put under pressure. I do hope that they will prove to be wiser.

Latest developments in Afghanistan

The security situation in this country remains complicated with the opposition stepping up its military and terrorist activities. Armed assaults by major detachments of the Taliban Movement against local government facilities and security posts have been reported lately in Badakhshan, Ghazni, Helmand, Kunduz, Logar, Nangarhar, Sar-e Pol and Uruzgan provinces, with numerous casualties among the Afghan military and civilians.

On September 5, Taliban fighters carried out a terrorist attack in downtown Kabul, striking in the immediate vicinity of the Afghan Defence Ministry complex. On the same day, the premises of CARE International, an international non-governmental humanitarian organisation, came under attack in the Afghan capital. According to preliminary estimates, the three terrorist attacks have left some 40 people dead and more than 100 people wounded.

Russia resolutely condemns these atrocious terrorist attacks and hopes that their organisers and executors will face severe punishment, while the Afghan authorities will take the necessary measures to ensure security across the country, as well as in the capital. We express our deepest condolences to the families and friends of the deceased and wish the wounded speedy recovery.

Latest developments in Gabon

The situation in Gabon has sharply deteriorated following the announcement of the presidential election results on August 31, but is now gradually stabilising. The key government institutions have resumed work, alongside many state and private companies.

Law enforcement forces continue mop-up operations in the problem neighbourhoods of Libreville, the Gabonese capital. Criminal investigations have been launched against those behind the riots. According to the country’s Interior Ministry, three people died and 105 were injured during clashes between the opposition and law enforcement forces.

Russia reaffirms its principled opposition to any attempts of outside interference into the domestic affairs of this African country. We assume that only the citizens of this country should have a say in resolving this post-electoral crisis. We call on all parties involved to bring about a full cessation of violence as quickly as possible, and unconditionally and strictly abide by the applicable Gabonese laws.

Latest developments in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

The situation in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) remains complicated. Clashes between the DRC military and numerous illegal armed groups continue alongside skirmishes between those groups. Unfortunately, challenges remain in terms of disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration of ex-combatants into the Congolese society. One of the main reasons behind this turbulence is illegal development and uncontrolled exports of the country’s mineral resources.

Russia strongly believes that it would be impossible to bring about lasting stability in the country only by military means. It is important to ensure strict compliance with the Addis Ababa Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework Agreement for eastern regions of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Great Lakes Region by all the parties that signed it. We view the Agreement as a foundation for settlement in the Great Lakes Region.

The countries of the region should help strengthen government institutions and restore social institutions in DRC territories that have been liberated from the rebels, as well as ensure a lasting solution for ex-combatants as part of the disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration (DDR) programme, including adequate funding for the relevant national programmes.

Meeting of Israeli and Palestinian leaders with Russia’s mediation

The persisting impasse in the Israeli-Palestinian settlement is a matter of grave concern for Russia. This state of affairs invariably exacerbates the situation on the ground. We believe that this could lead to outbreaks of violence and relapsing confrontation. Russia has been regularly warning against such developments.

Unfortunately, after the failure of US mediation efforts in 2013-2014, there was virtually no direct dialogue between the two parties to the conflict and it did not resume for a long time. Russia strongly believes in the need to resume the negotiation process with a view of bringing the situation back to normal in the area of Israeli-Palestinian conflict and reaching compromises based on international law.

In this respect, responding to the appeals by both Palestinians and the Israelis, Russia confirmed its readiness to organise a meeting in Moscow between President of Palestine Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu. We are satisfied with the fact that Russia is being called upon to contribute to the Middle East peace process, as well as the fact that the leaders of Palestine and Israel have agreed in principle, including publicly, to meet each other in Russia. The main issue right now is to choose the right moment for this meeting. Intensive contacts to this effect continue.

Meeting of the Diplomatic Club

The Diplomatic Club will meet on September 12. We told you about this new venue, and many of you attended its opening ceremony. The September 12 meeting will focus on diplomacy, the arts, and the art of diplomacy. It was organised by the Foreign Ministry’s Diplomatic Academy and will be held at the Art Centre Moscow exhibition venue of the Christ the Saviour Cathedral at 15 Volkhonka Street.

We invite Russian and foreign media to the Diplomatic Club’s meeting.

Accreditation will be open until 1 pm on September 12 by telephone +7 (499) 246-4756 or email press-protocol@dipacademy.ru.

Abuse of underage refugees in Europe

We regularly speak on this issue. Unfortunately, the situation is deteriorating.

Alan Kurdi, a three-year-old Syrian boy of Kurdish ethnic background, died tragically a year ago this month. You probably remember that he drowned alongside his elder brother and mother while attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea. You probably remember the photo of his head body and the outcry it raised, as if children never died before or after that. Unfortunately, our political colleagues often resort to this kind of politicised publicity. It was one of those cases. Everyone used the photo for their own purposes. Actually, it was not the photo they used but the child, whose death many people used to attain their political goals.

A year later, many more children have died. And I sometimes wonder which is worse, when children die or when they become slaves, including sex slaves. There have been many cases of sexual abuse. Thousands of lives of underage refuges in the EU have been thrown away. They fled from the war, knowing that there would be no survival, let alone normal life for them in their home countries or the region as a whole. Many children were too small to understand what was happening; they left their countries just because their parents took them along. As I said, many of them have died. And many have become slaves in this enlightened 21st century.

I’d like to remind you that everyone, including David Cameron, used Alan Kurdi’s photograph. The UK Prime Minister promised to revise the refugee policy. A year has passed since then, but unfortunately, the issue has not got off the ground.

The other day the British newspaper The Independent wrote, citing information it received from the Home Office, that hundreds of unaccompanied child refugees are missing in the UK. Not one child or even a dozen children, but hundreds are missing in the UK. And the number of missing refugee children in the EU countries runs into thousands. According to Europol, over 10,000 unaccompanied child refugees have gone missing across Europe since registering with state authorities.

We have more than once pointed to the inadmissibility of abusing underage refugees, which has been happening along the entire refugee route. I am referring to forced labour and exploitation, including sexual exploitation, organ trafficking, and lack of elementary access to education and meals, which is a matter of secondary importance compared to sexual abuse and organ trafficking, even though it is outrageous. 

I would like to draw the attention of our Western partners to the fact that these “annoying” and “unwanted southern guests,” as they are often referred to, have come to Europe in search of protection and a better life. The refugees have entered Europe to flee the conflicts that were largely provoked by the European countries’ misguided, foolish and even criminal policies.

It is especially cynical that London is criticising the UN for its humanitarian agencies’ cooperation with the “Assad regime”, in particular, based on journalistic investigations by UK media such as the Guardian and Times. The main idea is that humanitarian cooperation with the “Assad regime” is taboo. Hundreds of refugee children have gone missing, and the Guardian and Times have not noticed this. I understand that these media outlets are out for news. Maybe they will investigate then the problem of refugee children and tell the world what happens to the children who come to the UK in search of safety and means of survival?

I would also like to say that the “Assad regime”, which is allegedly to blame for everything, as the UK claims, is the only legitimate authority representing Syrians’ interests at this stage. Nobody has abolished Syria as a state and the Syrian government as a legitimate executive authority. Syrians alone can say that their government is not legitimate.

This is a huge problem. We hope that it will be addressed not only at these briefings, but also by somebody else, for example, the UK media.

The photograph [of the drowned Syrian boy], which many people used as their profile pictures, was also used by politicians, who kept it in their offices and used as a backdrop for addressing the public. Maybe we should make this photograph a logo for journalistic investigations of the fate of refugee children, including in the UK, so that we will be reminded about the children who die every day and the black market organ transplant surgeons who use them for operations, which is illegal by any standards. I shudder to think what could be happening there.

Owners of the @fake_midrf  account

I would like to draw your attention to the fact that the Russian media recently reported the results of an online investigation into who is behind widely promoted fake accounts, in particular, that of the Russian Foreign Ministry and a number of Russian politicians.

As it turned out, the fake account of Russia's Foreign Ministry is run by an employee of the German Heinrich Böll Foundation, the one who heads its Kiev branch. Given the fact that these accounts are an integral part of a broader media campaign “to counter Kremlin propaganda,” we can confirm the direct involvement of Germany – in particular the Green Party – in the personal attacks on the leadership of the Russian Federation and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It is particularly noteworthy that all this is happening amid a massive Western media campaign to prove that Russia is in some way influencing Western electoral processes, domestic politics or individual political groups and trends, ostensibly in pursuit of nothing less than regime change in Western countries.

We would certainly not like to believe that a foundation of one of Germany’s leading political parties is being used unscrupulously for flagrantly anti-Russian purposes, funded by the German taxpayer money that finances the party. I would like to note that the budget of Heinrich Böll Foundation, as well as those of other German party foundations, is mostly financed with contributions from the federal ministries, including, by the way, the German Foreign Ministry, if we are not mistaken. These foundations act as very convenient “non-state” sub-contractors in the implementation of German “soft power” projects.

Firstly, we would be very interested to hear the official position of the Böll Foundation representative in Moscow (and we hope to hear it someday). Secondly, it seems to me like a very good reason for our German colleagues to think about their accusations of Russian propaganda, and see how ridiculous these accusations are after the recent revelations and investigations.

I repeat, we are not talking about someone’s private initiative, but about funds from German federal ministries being used for such purposes, for creating fake accounts.

International Day of Journalists' Solidarity

I would like to congratulate everyone on the International Day of Journalists' Solidarity, the holiday of freedom of speech, of fair, professional and responsible journalism.

Unfortunately, the problem of journalists’ safety today is as acute as it was during the times of Julius Fucik, whose tragic death inspired the Day of Journalists' Solidarity.

Journalism remains one of the most dangerous professions. This year alone, according to the international non-governmental organisation Reporters without Borders, the world lost 37 members of the press. That includes Russian journalists. As you know, Russian journalist Pavel Sheremet was recently killed in Ukraine, the fifth death of a Russian journalist in that country over the past two years. These horrific crimes remain unpunished. It is our duty to ensure that there is an investigation and to honour the memory of the journalists who gave their lives for their professions.

On this symbolic day, as the official spokesperson of the Russian Foreign Ministry, I would like to assure all of you of my solidarity and the commitment of the Foreign Ministry and our diplomatic missions to continue by all means to fight for your rights, freedom and safety.

Answers to media questions:

Question: Could you comment on the United States participating in the Eastern Economic Forum? There was conflicting information about it.

Maria Zakharova: This is an interesting topic. The United States took part in the forum. The irony is that while it discourages everyone from cooperating with Russia, imposes sanctions on legal entities and economic operators, the United States was a formal participant in the forum. According to my information, Political and Economic Officer of the US Consulate General in Vladivostok Nathan Halat was officially accredited at the forum. They tell others not to go, but they go themselves. This is the hallmark of this administration, its outside-the-box approach.

Question: On August 25, President Putin met with Prime Minister of Slovakia Robert Fico, who expressed doubts about the effectiveness of the EU sanctions on Russia. The next day, in an interview, the foreign minister of the Netherlands said Robert Fico’s remarks were inappropriate and he should speak on behalf of the EU in general. What do you think about this?

Maria Zakharova: This is in the same vein. There may be a principled position, such as that of the United States, which could be rationalised – not accepted, perhaps, and not even considered reasonable – but at least you know that it is a principled position. If Washington says that cooperating with Russia is a no-no and discourages other countries and businesses from cooperating with our country, and refrains from such cooperation as well – that’s one thing. However, it’s very ironic that they say no to everyone else, but take part in the forum themselves. This is similar.

I read those statements, and we took note of what Foreign Minister of the Netherlands Bert Koenders had to say. I will not comment on the fact that in his remarks he dared to publicly chastise the head of government of another state – this sounds strange and undiplomatic (especially so for a diplomat). I would like to point out that his criticism contained, in particular, the idea that it is unacceptable for Slovakia to have a position of its own. Mr Koenders noted that he, in any case, does not share this opinion.

I was stunned by the claim that it’s unacceptable for Slovakia to have a position of its own. All issues matter. To say – and I want to emphasise this – that a sovereign state is not entitled to a position of its own runs contrary, primarily, to fundamental international legal instruments, in particular, the UN Charter. That is, if we are going to invoke lofty standards. As you are aware, the Netherlands can afford itself an individual position when it comes to drug use. On the one hand, I believe that having a position of one’s own is a good thing; on the other hand, after hearing such statements I realised that not everything is so straightforward with this issue.

We believe that when a country tells another country that it cannot have an opinion of its own regarding current international events, it tramples on the foundations underlying modern world, in particular, international law.

Question: What’s your take on the impact that the G20 summit in Hangzhou had on global economy? What outcomes of this summit are of greatest interest to Russia? In what ways does Russian-Chinese cooperation meet the goals set at the G20 summit?

Maria Zakharova: As you may be aware, President Putin discussed all the results of Russia's participation in the summit and the Russian point of view about the summit itself, and the unqualified success that China achieved as host. I suggest that you once again read the text of his speech. President Putin headed the delegation, represented the Russian Federation at this international forum and, of course, shared Russia’s assessments of this event.

I would like to add that we don’t just praise the level of organisation and the results achieved by China, but also believe it’s important to talk about it publicly, because it is an important achievement for the economy, global stability and the development of the modern world.

Again, all assessments are contained in President Putin’s remarks.

Question: Today, The Washington Post published a piece claiming that the United States provided Russia with a “final proposal” regarding a ceasefire in Syria. Have you received it? If so, what is it about?

Maria Zakharova: Clearly, you are referring to the leaks that made their way to various media in regard to the document which Russia and the United States are now working on.

I can confirm that there are many such leaks, I cannot comment on all of them. Judging by what I saw, these materials do not show a deep understanding or provide a real assessment and analysis of what the Russian and American experts are doing, precisely because these materials are based on leaks.

Perhaps, the leaks were orchestrated specifically to encourage certain processes or to achieve some political goals. I can say that the talks are taking place behind closed doors, and the document is being drafted behind the scenes. We have repeatedly said that, from our perspective, separating the moderate opposition from terrorists is the main stumbling block.

I cannot give you more details. Again, please approach leaks with an abundance of caution, because there is a purpose behind them, and not a good one.

Question: I would like to ask a question about the meeting on Syria between Foreign Minister Lavrov and US State Secretary Kerry, which is scheduled for September 8-9. They already met on September 4-5 in China, but no agreement was reached. What makes the negotiation process so difficult?

Maria Zakharova: You need to understand what’s going on. The Russian and the American experts – diplomatic and military – are working on an appropriate mechanism, a specific deal on joint anti-terrorist activities in Syria. This is not just an exchange of opinions. The sides are working on proper wording, seeking ways to break through impasses, searching for compromises, and ironing out contradictions. Whenever they reach certain issues that cannot be resolved at the expert level, the discussion goes one level higher for them to be able to make progress. To do so, foreign ministers speak over the phone or meet in person in order to find solutions given the wider scope of their authority.

Such meetings always come with major expectations. News conference are being held. Again, there are leaks to the press to the effect that some particular meeting is “crucial,” or will be the “final one,” or “if not now, then never.” Please don’t rely on these leaks. They may come with malign intent. Painstaking work is being done. Please rely on official information provided by the parties.

We’ve come a long way. As you are aware, this issue was discussed at the presidential level, and was thoroughly discussed during the meetings between President Putin and Secretary Kerry. We are committed to achieving results. We can’t always achieve it by the deadline that we set ourselves, but we realise that the sooner it happens, the quicker Syria will get a chance for a peaceful settlement and fighting terrorism.

Question: Yesterday, Polish Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski called Russia once again a threat to the Carpathian countries. Here is what he said at an international economic forum in the Polish city of Krynica-Zdroj: “The issue that binds us all is unfortunately a negative one and a source of threats in today’s world – Russian revisionism.”

Maria Zakharova: He has made so many attacks that you could make a book out of them. I prefer one of his recent statements in which he said that the Second World War would not have happened without the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact. I would like to elaborate on this “deep” thought. Maybe there would have been no Mr Waszczykowski either in this case. Maybe things would have worked out differently for Poland in this case.

These statements are simply foolish, if you’ll forgive my lack of diplomatic tact. They are also dangerous, since foolishness is a dangerous thing, especially when coming from a person in a position of such great authority, who deals with security issues and is an authoritative voice. I think that at a certain stage we will have to take a decision to stop commenting on this utter nonsense. We understand that this is part of a media campaign. A statement is made about some kind of threat emanating from Russia, for example, President Poroshenko of Ukraine says that Russia is about to attack Ukraine. NATO immediately comes out with a statement saying that they will not let Russia attack. So they are having a nice conversation between themselves. At the same time, Polish representatives say that their country will serve as Ukraine’s “ambassador” in Europe to help the country resolve all its issues. This is like bad theatre. When they have nothing else to do, they start making statements of this kind about imaginary threats. Countries like Poland face a number of real threats, such as international terrorism, drug trafficking and organised crime. What people like Polish Defence Minister Antoni Macierewicz are doing is trying to divert public attention from the urgent issues in which people should have a say. These are deliberate actions, since there are issues that require specific solutions. The minister should report on their implementation. When you are inventing mythical problems, by the same token you can also invent your victory in an imaginary war in which you credit yourself with made-up feats.

Question: Arab media are reporting that Moscow will host a meeting between President of Russia Vladimir Putin, President of the Syrian Arab Republic Bashar al-Assad and President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan on September 18-25. The head of Syria’s National Security Bureau Ali Mamlouk is allegedly in Moscow for this reason. Can you confirm these reports?

Maria Zakharova: The President’s Press Secretary, Dmitry Peskov, has already issued a statement and disavowed the reports you have mentioned. I have nothing to add in this respect.

Question: My question has to do with the issue that you mentioned in the beginning of the briefing. I am referring to the unfair treatment of Russian Paralympians. Yesterday the Ministry of Youth and Sports of the Republic of Azerbaijan made public its official refusal to use the slots it received following the suspension of Russian Paralympians. Can you comment on this move? Did anyone else support Baku’s initiative to refuse to use these slots?

Maria Zakharova: I am not aware of any other similar cases. We are grateful to Baku, our colleagues in Azerbaijan and the citizens of that country for their response to the unfair treatment of Russian Paralympians. This kind of support is very important for us at this time. Let me reiterate that this ban is meant to hurt people who have been struggling with hardship for their whole lives. They wanted to show and prove by their example that you can overcome hardship. I would like to thank all those who supported us, including our colleagues from Azerbaijan.

Question: My question is about Russian-US relations in the aftermath of the presidential election in the United States. During his latest appearance, presidential candidate Donald Trump made a comment on President Vladimir Putin’s leadership attributes. He said that the Russian President is a very strong leader, and called for improving relations with Russia. What is your reaction to these statements? Can we expect Russian-US relations to improve? Relations are currently frozen, as President Vladimir Putin said recently.

Maria Zakharova: As I follow the US presidential race, I can’t help thinking that it takes two, not three, to tango. And I’ll just leave it at that. This is a dance for two. We respect the process, but we’re not interested in a tango for three.

Question: Do you have any details on the consultations regarding Nagorno-Karabakh between Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and the OSCE Minsk Group?

Maria Zakharova: Consultations of the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs (Ambassador-at-Large Igor Popov represents Russia) are advancing as planned. We will brief you on their results.

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