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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, October 4, 2018

4 October 201815:37

Table of Contents 

  1. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s talks with Enzo Moavero Milanesi, Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation
  2. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s talks with Miroslav Lajcak, Minister of Foreign and European Affairs of the Slovak Republic
  3. Andorran Foreign Minister Maria Ubach’s working visit to Russia
  4. Update on Maria Butina
  5. Update on Konstantin Vyshinsky
  6. Update on Mikhail Bochkaryov
  7. Possibility of a detainee swap
  8. Syria update
  9. Afghanistan update
  10. IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano’s statement on verification activities in Iran
  11. Developments in Macedonia
  12. The Indonesia earthquake
  13. Developments around the Skripal case
  14. Doping row in the US athlete community
  15. Great Britain’s response to Russia being reinstated to WADA
  16. 6th CyberCrimeCon international cybersecurity conference
  17. UK creates cyber troops and a new internet regulator
  18. US double standards on personal data protection
  19. Statements by UK Prime Minister Theresa May
  20. Statements by US Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke
  21. Statements by Hillary Clinton likening Russia’s “interference” in US elections to September 11 attacks
  22. Statements by representative of the US Embassy in Moscow
  23. Plans to immortalise the memory of Forest Brothers leader Adolfas Ramanauskas-Vanagas
  24. Events in southern Italy with participation of St Andrew the Apostle Foundation in connection with 110 years since Messina earthquake
  25. Statement by Assistant Secretary of State Christopher A. Ford on Russia’s supposedly destructive role as regards the IAEA Incident and Trafficking Database (ITDB)

Answers to media questions:

  1. Nagorno-Karabakh settlement
  2. Libya update
  3. US-Russian differences on Afghanistan
  4. President Vladimir Putin’s visit to India
  5. Ukraine declares Hungarian consul in the city of Beregovo “persona non grata” 
  6. US decision to withdraw from the UN’s International Court of Justice 
  7. Skripal case update
  8. Syria update
  9. US accusations of Russia’s election interference 
  10. Russian-Polish agricultural relations 
  11. Resuming energy cooperation between Bulgaria and Russia

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s talks with Enzo Moavero Milanesi, Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation

On October 8, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will hold talks with Enzo Moavero Milanesi, Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.

During the talks, the foreign ministers are expected to discuss the current state of Russian-Italian cooperation and prospects for its future across the political, economic, financial, cultural and humanitarian spheres.

The ministers will also review key international issues, including the developments in Syria and Libya, Ukraine’s domestic conflict and cooperation in the OSCE, taking into consideration Italy’s OSCE Chairmanship this year.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s talks with Miroslav Lajcak, Minister of Foreign and European Affairs of the Slovak Republic

On October 9, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will hold talks with Miroslav Lajcak, Minister of Foreign and European Affairs of the Slovak Republic who will be on a working visit to Moscow.

The ministers plan to discuss a broad range of Russian-Slovakian relations and major international issues with an emphasis on the OSCE priorities, within the context of Slovakia’s OSCE Chairmanship in 2019.

Mr Lajcak will also deliver a lecture at the Foreign Ministry’s MGIMO University.

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Andorran Foreign Minister Maria Ubach’s working visit to Russia

On October 9-10, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Principality of Andorra Maria Ubach will pay a working visit to the Russian Federation and hold a meeting with Mr Lavrov on October 10. This is Ms Ubach’s first visit to Russia. The last time the Andorran foreign minister paid a visit to Russia was in 2007, by Foreign Minister Juli Minoves-Triquell.

Russia and Andorra established diplomatic relations in 1995. The Andorran leaders are striving to develop equal, mutually respectful and trust-based relations with all world players, including Russia. In 2014, Andorra did not join other countries in imposing anti-Russian sanctions. The foreign ministries of the two countries stay in contact. Mutual support of nominees during elections to international organisations has become common practice.

Russia-Andorra relations show that it is possible to build mutually beneficial relations in modern Europe despite political turbulence and different approaches to major and minor issues and also regardless of the level of their economic development and forms of government.

The upcoming talks between the foreign ministers are designed to promote bilateral ties, and facilitate our countries’ interaction in the international arena and the expansion of cooperation in the economy, culture and tourism.

During the visit, the ministers will present the Russian-Andorran publication, “Andorra and the Poet,” devoted to outstanding Russian artist, poet and literary critic Maximilian Voloshin’s brief stay in Andorra in 1901. This is a joint cultural project carried out with financial support from the Russian Federal Agency for Press and Mass Media and the Government of Andorra.

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Update on Maria Butina

We are closely monitoring the situation around Russian citizen Maria Butina arrested in the United States on fabricated charges. She has been groundlessly deprived of her freedom for two and a half months now and is in fact a political prisoner.

The consular officers of the Russian Embassy in Washington regularly visit Maria Butina in the prison of the city of Alexandria, Virginia, where she is currently being held. Thanks to the efforts of our diplomats, Maria’s conditions of detention have significantly improved. In late September, after a long isolation, she was finally transferred to ordinary confinement. She can now leave the cell, communicate with other inmates and make phone calls. With the assistance of the Embassy, an Orthodox priest visited her in prison.
In conjunction with the lawyers, Maria Butina is working on her defence for the next court session. She intends to strongly assert her innocence.
For our part, we will continue to fight for Maria Butina’s legal rights to be upheld, and demand that the US authorities end this arbitrariness and immediately release her from prison.

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Update on Konstantin Vyshinsky

On October 2, it was learned that consideration of the defence complaint about extending the arrest of head of the RIA Novosti - Ukraine website Konstantin Vyshinsky in the appellate court of the Kherson region was postponed indefinitely because of the closure of all the appellate courts of Ukraine. To date, there has been no information about the date of a new court session, which will consider appeals. This state of affairs may lead to a situation where the appeal of the journalist’s arrest may be reviewed after the expiration of Vyshinsky's custody, that is, after November 4. It looks really chaotic in Ukraine in this regard. So, we will follow the developments. We would like to emphasise that if everything unfolds exactly in line with this scenario, the rights to appeal will be violated accordingly.

Once again, we emphasise that the arrest of a journalist on a fabricated charge of high treason is a flagrant violation of Ukraine’s international obligations in the sphere of media freedom. We demand the immediate release of Konstantin Vyshinsky without preconditions. We believe the response to this situation on behalf of relevant international entities and non-governmental organisations has been inadequate. We urge them to increase pressure on the Ukrainian authorities on this matter. This is a truly egregious case in the history of the intersection of journalism and government.

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Update on Mikhail Bochkaryov

We continue to closely follow the situation around Mikhail Bochkaryov, an employee of the Executive Office of the Russian Federal Assembly’s Federation Council, who was detained in Norway on September 21. He remains in an Oslo prison. The term of preliminary detention expires on October 6.

Speaker of the Federation Council Valentina Matviyenko sent a message to the President of the Storting Tone Wilhelmsen Troen demanding the immediate release of Mikhail Bochkaryov.

Russian diplomats in Oslo are in constant contact with Mikhail Bochkaryov and, in conjunction with his lawyer, assist him in the defence of his rights and interests. On October 1, representatives of the consular section of the Embassy had another meeting with him.

We are pushing for the Norwegian authorities to drop all the made-up charges against Bochkaryov and release him as soon as possible.

Everything points to the fact that the show made of Mikhail Bochkaryov’s arrest and the espionage charges brought against him were organised by the Norwegian authorities as an act of blackmail to rescue the Norwegian citizen Frode Berg, who was caught in Russia red-handed. The detainee is under investigation.

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Possibility of a detainee swap

A number of media outlets alleged that Oleg Sentsov, convicted in Russia for preparing a terrorist attack, was to be swapped for our Russian compatriots who remain in custody in the United States.

Let me emphasise that we were perplexed by these articles. There is no agreement of this kind. This information is misleading.

At the same time, as we have said on numerous occasions, Russia insists that Washington grant the immediate and unconditional release of Maria Butina, who was arrested on fabricated charges. Make no mistake, we view her detention and the situation surrounding here as bullying and an act of political pressure and blackmail. There is no doubt that she is a political prisoner.

We have long sought and remain committed to securing Viktor But’s and Konstantin Yaroshenko’s return. They were captured by US secret services while abroad, forcibly transferred to the United States and slapped with lengthy prison terms of 25 and 20 years, respectively. These verdicts were based on fabricated charges against them. We will never stop our efforts to secure the release of Russian nationals who are victims of arbitrary actions by the US.

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Syria update

Steps towards implementing the Memorandum of Understanding on Stabilising the Situation in Idlib's De-escalation Zone, signed by Russia and Turkey on September 17 in Sochi, have a special bearing on the situation in Syria.

According to incoming reports, a number of armed Syrian opposition groups located in Idlib supported the agreement to setup a demilitarised zone there. The Russian and Syrian military worked together to open the Abu-al-Duhur humanitarian corridor to the east of Idlib in order to enable civilians to reach territories controlled by the Syrian government. People leaving the enclave controlled by terrorists get all the assistance they need.

At the same time, radical fighters, primarily from Nusra and other international terrorist groups affiliated with Al-Qaeda, are carrying out various provocations, fearing that the implementation of the Russian-Turkish agreements could isolate them. These include escalating tension along the perimeter of the Idlib de-escalation zone and making calls to continue the “resistance” to government troops. Consequently, the terrorists are trying to prevent oppositions groups who expressed their desire to lay down arms and join the political process, from doing so.

We continue to receive reports on preparations to stage large-scale chemical attacks in Idlib by terrorists and present them as an act of the government forces. To this end, toxic agents and professional video equipment were brought into the region, and “rehearsals” have already taken place, and some footage even filtered into the media. Another matter of serious concern is that civilians kidnapped by extremists, including women and children, could be used as the victims of these staged attacks.

Russia is committed to keeping up its uncompromising fight against terrorism until its full elimination from the Syrian land.

The Syrian government is restoring social and economic infrastructure within the liberated territories, and provides comprehensive humanitarian assistance to the people.

Syrian refugees and internally displaced persons continue to return to the places of their permanent residence in Syria. According to Syria, about 50,000 people returned to the country since the beginning of the year.

We have also taken note of reports of a missile strike carried out by Iran against the Syria-based masterminds of the terrorist attack that took place in late September in Ahvaz, Iran. In this connection, the Foreign Ministry notes that the Iranian military have the right to assist Syria in combatting international terrorism since they have an invitation to this effect from the Syrian government.

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Afghanistan update

The situation in Afghanistan remains very tense. The Taliban movement is stepping up its military operations in almost all parts of the country. This year, casualties among the Afghan national security forces have reached an all-time high. In particular, in September, the ANSF suffered 513 deaths, 718 wounded and 43 personnel taken prisoner.

There is no slowdown in the terrorist activities of the Afghan branch of ISIS. On October 2, a suicide bomber blew himself up at a local deputy’s meeting with voters in the Kama district of Nangarhar province, killing at least 13 people, and injuring several dozen. According to incoming information, the attacker most likely belonged to ISIS.

For their part, the United States and other members of the coalition of forces in Afghanistan continue to rely on a military solution to the Afghan problem. A direct consequence of this is the continued increase in civilian casualties. In particular, there is evidence that in the past month alone, 262 civilians were killed and 524 injured, half of them during air attacks by the Western coalition. Another example of the indiscriminate use of the United States Air Force is an erroneous bombing of the Afghan police in the Nad Ali District of Helmand Province on October 1, where one police officer was killed and 29 people injured.

The recent developments in Afghanistan once again prove that the conflict in this country has no military solution. The only possible way to resolve it is to reach a general Afghan accord by political and diplomatic means.

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IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano’s statement on verification activities in Iran

We have received requests to comment on the recent statements by the IAEA Director General, Yukiya Amano, regarding the agency’s verification activities in Iran. I would like to say the following:

The Director General of the IAEA has every right to make statements on matters relating to the statutory activities of the Agency. We fully share Mr Amano’s approach to verification work in Iran reflected in his official statement on October 2. We believe it is in line with the Agency’s mandate under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on the Iranian nuclear programme, the UN Security Council resolution 2231 (2015), the relevant resolution of the IAEA Board of Governors of December 15, 2015, as well as the practice of applying the Additional Protocol to the safeguards agreement.

We trust the Agency, which for years has been performing verification activities on Tehran’s fulfilment of its obligations under the JCPOA and the Additional Protocol, professionally and objectively. Iran is the most vigorously IAEA-verified country today. The entire range of the Agency’s tools, as well as the high level of cooperation that Iran displays, gives the IAEA all the necessary scope to handle any emerging issues, including the alleged “secret nuclear storage facilities”.

We also share Mr Amano’s position that information on countries’ compliance with their obligations to the IAEA, including information received from third parties, should not be taken at face value, but should undergo a thorough, critical examination. We expect that the Agency will stick to this approach in the future.

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Developments in Macedonia

We have already given our assessments that have been published on the Foreign Ministry's official website. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has also addressed this issue. There are still many questions in connection with the response to the referendum that took place in Macedonia.

In this connection, I would like to say once again that on September 30, the Republic of Macedonia held a referendum on the Prespa agreement that would change the republic's name to North Macedonia. The referendum results were rendered invalid due to insufficient voter turnout (36.9 per cent against the required 50 per cent plus one vote). Despite this, leading politicians in EU countries and NATO openly campaigned for an affirmative vote. In our opinion, this practice is unacceptable, given these countries' concern about interference in all election and internal processes. What could be more important and representative than a national referendum? But despite this campaigning, the totally unscrupulous interference in internal affairs of the state and the attempt to influence citizens' expression of will, their efforts failed. Yet they unabashedly welcomed the results of the national referendum, describing them as “massive support” for the Prespa agreement. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg even promised to accept Skopje into the alliance in early 2019, leaving no room for doubt that Macedonia’s and Greece's parliaments would take the required decisions. I would like to say once more that everything got mixed up in the heads of Western politicians, and not only political figures who act for their own ratings but those politicians who are directly involved in forming the pan-European or North Atlantic agendas.

If we are talking about non-interference in internal affairs, one cannot campaign for or against when it comes to referendums.  If we are talking about non-interference in internal affairs and respect for law, including international law, then no one – let alone the chief of a military alliance – can speak for countries' parliaments about decisions to be taken. This cannot be done. Or one just has to admit that this can be done, and then there will probably be some new world order. Then one has to speak on this issue in an honest and open way.

Direct outside interference in internal Macedonian affairs is obviously ongoing, aiming to pull Skopje into the alliance at any cost. Following the logic of those who are pursuing this policy, one can neglect the opinion of 63.1 per cent of the local population, including President Gjorge Ivanov, who refused to support the agreement. Western approaches to democracy are in fact cynical and hypocritical, and this is especially obvious in the Balkans.

We are surprised by the biased conclusion of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights following the observance of the referendum, with the West's aggressive propaganda campaign viewed in a positive way. But if Moscow urged Macedonians to vote in a certain way, this would definitely have been labelled as interference in internal affairs. This is not simply double standards but the abuse of generally accepted rules and norms.

Russia's stance is principled and unchanged: a long-term solution can be found only by the sides themselves, without any pressure and formulas imposed from the outside that do not work. I think that Western politicians have realised this. The solution must be found solely within the law and based on wide public support.  

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The Indonesia earthquake

On September 28, a 7.4-magnitude earthquake hit Indonesia’s Central Sulawesi province, causing a three metre tsunami. The greatest devastation occurred in the areas around Donggala and Palu.

As of October 3, the calamity left 1,300 dead and 17,000 homeless.

" rel="111">Following the tragedy, President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev sent messages of condolences to President Joko Widodo of the Republic of Indonesia.

There are no Russian nationals among the dead or wounded. The Russian Embassy in Jakarta has posted contact details for round-the-clock inquiries on its online resources.

Currently, opportunities are being considered for delivering Russian humanitarian aid (mobile electric power stations, tents, blankets and food) to the quake-hit areas of Indonesia.

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Developments around the Skripal case

Recently we commented on the UK Interior Ministry’s decision to turn down a legal assistance request by the Russian Prosecutor General’s Office in investigating a criminal case opened by Russia’s Investigative Committee in connection with an attempt on the life of Russian citizen Yulia Skripal. Let me remind you that the pretext for the refusal was that complying with the Russian request could prejudice the sovereignty, security, public order and other significant interests of the United Kingdom. What else can we say, if the British authorities themselves admit that an objective joint investigation into the Skripal case is threatening their interests? But what are these interests?

Generally, we continue to be haunted by the sensation that we are witnessing an elaborate theatrical production.

To keep the story simple and captivating, London relies on its favorite tactic of planting stories, only to debunk them later, which happens often. A case in point is a tweet by the UK Defence Secretary, which vanished virtually a few minutes after it was posted without any explanation (such as a technical error, the “hand of Moscow” writing for the British Defence Secretary, etc.) whatsoever. The tweet just vanished. It said, “The true identity of one of the Salisbury suspects has been revealed to be a Russian Colonel. I want to thank all the people who are working so tirelessly on this case.” The most interesting thing is that this was in sync with a planted Bellingcat story echoed, regrettably, by many established media. It is amazing to behold how closely the UK authorities work with pseudo media and real respectable media. This is what we are observing. 

Given how quickly headlines with statements by British politicians and anti-Russian plants by pseudo media outlets follow on one another in the media, and furthermore given the systematic effort to downplay or distort Russia’s reasoning and to emphasise London’s groundless accusations, we have to state that in its infatuation with geopolitical games and domestic political squabbling the UK has forgotten about freedom of speech and the unacceptability of censorship.

Incidentally, speaking of squabbles at home in the UK, what happened yesterday leaves no doubt of this. The Salisbury, Amesbury and Skripal cases are being used in the domestic political contest to advance various interests – to boost approval ratings, or in an attempt to damage political opponents. It seems like the accusers (British officials) are fanatically assured of their righteousness and believe they don’t need to present any proof. For them, “highly likely”, that notorious phrase, is quite enough – a phrase that, I am sure, British historians and certainly lawyers will later recall with shame.

You can use such methods to foment tensions as long as you like, but you cannot evade the truth. It will surface sooner or later. With this day approaching, the British officials would do well just to answer the basic questions related to this case instead of relying on their usual tricks. These questions are as follows. Where and in what condition are the victims, the Russian citizens Sergey and Yulia Skripal? Why has there been no access to them for more than six months?

There are many other serious questions related to the Skripal case, which we have repeatedly articulated and passed along to the British. We have also raised them with our foreign partners. But the main question still remains open: What happened in Salisbury?  If there are alleged suspects, the British must have a detailed, minute-by-minute description of what happened there. We would like to see it.

We again urge the British authorities to start an open and honest dialogue instead of the unproductive, boorish and peremptory manner they continue to exhibit.     

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Doping row in the US athlete community

As is known, the United States is one of the masterminds behind the constant attacks on our country, which is accused of allegedly maintaining “a state-sponsored doping system”. Moreover, American sports officials are, in fact, refusing to accept the WADA Executive Committee’s decision on reinstating the Russian Anti-Doping Agency’s status.   

Head of the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) Travis Tygart is among those who spearhead the campaign. However, recently he has found himself involved in a high-profile scandal after Tygart’s agency was accused of relaxing restrictions for US mixed martial arts athlete Jonathan Jones, who was repeatedly caught doping in 2017. However, his four-year disqualification was first reduced to 30 months as a result of his cooperation with the USADA and provision of information on the use of banned drugs by other athletes. Later, after a certain “expert conclusion” made by the author of the reports on “the use of doping in Russia”, Canadian Richard McLaren, the disqualification was further reduced to 15 months. What the US, Canadian and other sports officials are engaged in here is pure cardsharping. The reason given for the decision was that Jones had allegedly used anabolic steroids unintentionally and they had not affected his results. So, it begs the question: should athletes only be punished for taking drugs if the doping affects their results? And if, say, an athlete has used doping but failed to win a medal, this should be seen as the normal course of things and there might even be no need to punish him or her. This is precisely what follows from the decisions taken in the United States jointly with other international sports officials.

Despite the attempts to hush up the scandal, the decision regarding the above athlete has reverberated throughout the US sports community, while other mixed martial arts athletes said, neither more nor less, that they refused to cooperate with the USADA.

We can cite another example of similar double standards – the refusal to bring charges against athlete Will Claye, who tested positive for clenbuterol last August. Interestingly, according to the USADA, the substance had most likely got into the athlete’s system as a result of him eating meat from Mexico. 

The impression is that the United States’ claims to leadership in the struggle for pure sport amounts to nothing more than unfair competition and the above examples only serve as a graphic illustration of this.

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Great Britain’s response to Russia being reinstated to WADA

Not only our American partners “welcomed” Russia back at the WADA. We are witnessing the beginning of another anti-Russia campaign in the wake of this decision. As soon as Russia was reinstated to this international sporting organisation, Great Britain, a loyal companion-in-arms of the United States, a country that spared no effort to curb Russia’s success, has rushed to support its ally with a flurry of fabricated news, accusations and statements at all levels. 

For example, the other day the British Foreign Office, which now turns out to be also specialising in information and communications security issues, released a whole bunch of mind-boggling “highly likely” statements about the alleged GRU’s complicity in cyber-attacks around the world, including attacks on the WADA’s servers. For several weeks, there was a huge hullabaloo over the GRU in connection with the Skripals, Salisbury and Amesbury and now this hyped-up story can be easily linked to the situation at the WADA.     

Everything has been mixed up in one Nina Ricci bottle without any attempt at analysis whatsoever: the GRU, cyber spies, Kremlin hackers and the WADA. It is some kind of infernal blend of fragrances.

Indeed, the rich imagination of our British colleagues is without boundaries. I would like to see the people who are concocting all this. Probably, they are simply basing everything on themselves, and describing what they themselves are engaged in. It is unworthy of a state that claims one of the leading roles in the world. 

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6th CyberCrimeCon international cybersecurity conference

It has almost become propriety for several Western countries to systematically accuse Russia of every imaginable sin, especially in cybersecurity.

However, the reality is – and it is drastically different from the ideas of Western spin doctors – that our country is one of the most proactive members of international cooperation, specifically, in the information and communication technology field, and it is Russia that is trying to bring back a bilateral working group on cybersecurity, for example, with the United States. Unfortunately, for reasons only known to themselves, the Americans are constantly avoiding these mutually beneficial contacts. We have said this many times.

An example of Russia’s ambition to develop cooperation in cybersecurity is the 2018 CyberCrimeCon annual international conference taking place in Moscow on October 9-10. It is expected to bring together over 1,000 experts from Europe, the Middle East and Asia to discuss trends in international cybercrime, analyse the new tools and tactics of the most dangerous hacking groups, and to share strategic data on cyber intelligence.

As if our Western partners do not see or notice this. Come to Moscow, participate and speak to your Russian colleagues. If you don’t want to discuss this at the official level you can always do it with an expert community.

One of the main topics to be addressed by the upcoming conference is fighting cyberterrorism and protecting critical infrastructure. The conference will also present the results of investigations into the most notorious cybercrimes of the year. Among expected participants are representatives of Interpol, Europol, cyberpolice of different countries, telecommunication companies, banks and organisations specialising in cybersecurity technology.

You can find the programme, the list of participants and the media accreditation procedure on the 2018 CyberCrimeCon website at

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UK creates cyber troops and a new internet regulator

We have noted that the UK Ministry of Defence and the Government Communications Headquarters are creating offensive cyber troops which, in addition to fighting terrorist content and criminal groups, will be combatting threats coming from “hostile countries” online. “Hostile countries,” as you can guess, means Russia, China (which also got clobbered by the United States today. Apparently, China interfered with the US election incomparably more than Russia. This is something new), Iran and North Korea, which, according to the British secret service, have allegedly conducted the largest number of attacks on Britain’s infrastructure. Nobody has provided actual evidence. 

Moreover, along with this initiative, the British Government plans to establish an internet regulator similar to the Ofcom media watchdog, to monitor social media and demand prompt removal of prohibited content from online platforms. Prohibited content includes not only extremist statements and calls for violence but also misinformation.

Therefore, the London authorities are mobilising all forces to toughen up control over the online segment of their information space, which will also involve the military. Obviously, the declared objective of the action against unlawful content and threats of alleged interference serves only as a pretext for creating additional leverage for removing alternative opinions from the internet, which will most likely and without question be classified as misinformation. Evidently, the internet audience, which in itself does not tolerate censorship and, unlike the British liberal press, refuses to take on faith the “highly likely” official versions from Downing Street, is becoming a problem for the British authorities in their attempt to establish a monopoly on truth.

The Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill is very indicative in this regard. OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Harlem Desir said he believes it may potentially undermine the freedom of the media and criminalise various activities related to using and disseminating information as part of media operations and investigative journalism.

We would like to hear from the expert community with evaluation of all these initiatives by official London. Since we are giving a political assessment after all, we are interested in an opinion and response from journalists because we regard these comprehensive measures as an intensification of censorship in the information space.

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US double standards on personal data protection

Once again, we would like to draw attention to the facts that vividly illustrate the double standards of the United States with regard to personal data protection.

A few days ago, the home addresses, telephone numbers and e-mail coordinates of US senators Lindsey Graham, Michael Lee and Orrin Hatch were published on their pages in the Wikipedia online encyclopaedia by unknown users. When the scandal broke out, Wikipedia promptly deleted the data. A White House official called the leak of personal data “outrageous”. The Washington establishment actively demonstrated how “shocked” it was by the incident because the families of politicians  were exposed to danger.

At the same time, the US Administration continues to ignore and declines any comment on the criminal activity of the US-hosted Ukrainian Myrotvotets (Peacemaker) extremist web portal, which publishes the personal data of those who, from the point of view of the Kiev regime, are undesirable. These include both citizens of Ukraine and foreign nationals. Let me repeat that this web portal publishes personal data. So who made it onto the Myrotvorets website? For example, Oles Buzina and Oleg Kalashnikov – both were killed by radicals. The publication of the personal data of journalists, among them Western reporters who visited the Donetsk and Lugansk people’s republics, entailed no consequences for the website’s owners.

Recent additions to the Myrotvorets database include information about Metropolitan Onufry of Kiev and All Ukraine, Patriarch Irinej of Serbia, composer Alexandra Pakhumotova, the Oscar-nominated film Sobibor’s director Konstantin Khabensky, ex-leader of the Pink Floyd rock band Roger Waters, a number of Ukrainian anti-fascists, residents of the Trans-Carpathian region, who obtained Hungarian passports, and even Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto. The US Cloudflare service willingly provides technical support to Myrotvorets. Washington is turning a blind eye to all that. We would like to know whether these are double standards and how Washington can justify such actions, considering that the posting of personal data of American politicians triggered such an outcry and widespread indignation in the US.

Moreover, in the case of the banking data of Russian diplomats in the US leaked to the Buzzfeed web resource, and we have repeatedly spoken about that, the US secret services deliberately resorted to provocation. Up to now, we have not received any comprehensible explanations from the US Department of State as to how it could have happened and whether anyone has been brought to account.

Such things clearly demonstrate that when Washington talks about personal data protection for users, it has only Americans in mind, and what’s more, only those who are part of the “political elite”. While trying to protect these people’s personal data, Washington is ready to put others at risk and even does it deliberately.

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Statements by UK Prime Minister Theresa May

I cannot fail to mention the statement made yesterday by Prime Minister of Great Britain Theresa May, who said that military action can be justified without the approval of the UN Security Council, where Russia has veto power. She made these remarks at the Conservative Party conference. I think that all of us saw footage from this “party.”

Let me tell you that there was nothing new in these statements by Theresa May. Official London believes that military action without approval of the UN Security Council may be justified. This is not where the actual problem lies. In the past, there were quite a few instances when May’s predecessors felt ashamed, had to justify themselves and ask the international community to forgive them for undertaking military action without a UN Security Council mandate, which they had thought to be possible and justified.

Let me remind you how former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair had to apologise and find excuses for Britain’s involvement in the illegal campaign against Iraq. I would also like to remind Ms May and the entire British political establishment who share this perspective that their former EU colleagues (with Brexit looming), the Italians, struggle with the consequences of the illegal operation carried out in Libya. There was a UN Security Council mandate, but it was violated. This is what President of Russia Vladimir Putin said yesterday when he mentioned that the Libyan state was destroyed, while Europe suffered direct damage from this. With this in mind, it did not come as a surprise that many in the West find this action to be justified. The question is that afterwards they apologise, try to justify themselves, while the entire world is seeking to counter their destructive actions. There are many examples of this kind.

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Statements by US Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke

US Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke made statements this past weekend that generated some interest. This official is in charge of managing the US natural resources, but all of a sudden he decided to get into international affairs. Speaking at an energy conference, he argued that the US Navy can blockade Russia’s tankers delivering oil to foreign markets, and for some reason he mentioned deliveries to the Middle East, where there is no shortage of oil to begin with. He said that the same applies to Iranian oil exports.

Just imagine someone from the Russian political establishment, say a politician, a member of parliament or a senator, not even a government official, making a statement of this kind. It would be inscribed in the annals of Russian meddling, and presented as an act of pressure and blackmail in the energy sector. This is my first point.

Second, US Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke may have forgotten that he is no longer a US Navy SEAL, a role in which he served for more than 20 years. He holds a prominent political office and must mind his words. The fact that he came to work on his first day as Interior Secretary dressed as a cowboy and riding a horse, just to show how much he cares about nature, explains quite a bit.

The statements by Ryan Zinke are symptomatic. They clearly reflect the thinking of a part of the US political establishment, resulting from a superficial knowledge of global developments, as well as excessive self-regard. This is always a very dangerous mix, including for the US itself. When officials are so confident that they and their country are exceptional, and go as far as to threaten a naval blockade against Russia, not only does it make them look absurd, but can also cause a lot of real damage to their country.

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Statements by Hillary Clinton likening Russia’s “interference” in US elections to September 11 attacks

Speaking at a conference in Washington, Hillary Clinton compared Russia’s alleged interference in the American elections in 2016 with the series of terrorist attacks carried out in the United States on September 11, 2001.

It was especially ridiculous to hear this, given that it was President Vladimir Putin who was the first head of state to call US President Bush after the September 11 attacks to express solidarity with the American people. Furthermore, Russia supported the operations of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan by allowing the US and NATO land and combined (rail, road and air) transit of their weapons, military equipment and hardware through Russia’s territory. Russia provided all political and logistical support to the United States in its opposition to terrorism, which engaged in aggression against that country. In a Joint Statement of June 24, 2010, the Presidents of Russia and the United States underlined the successful implementation of these agreements.

What makes Hillary Clinton say what she says? Is it really so difficult to accept one’s own failures and blunders that one has to make such bizarre, absurd and wild statements? This is just sad.

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Statements by representative of the US Embassy in Moscow

Senior Counselor of the US Embassy in Moscow Michael Yoder proposed holding a “friendly competition” in the number of visas issued in both countries and projected twice as many visas issued by the American side.

We accept this challenge. A respective statement was made yesterday. We propose starting with a competition of waiting time for visa interviews and promptness of consideration of the applications. Competitions should be fair. As we have repeatedly said, since April this year, the waiting time for the interviews, which most Russians are required to undergo, has been extended to 300 days. Signing up for an interview is almost impossible; therefore it becomes pointless to apply for visas.

As a reminder, the Russian side increased the period for processing visa applications to 15 days for short-term and 30 days for long-term visas this May, only in response to this action by the US.

We believe that the United States is intentionally building this kind of visa blockade. We have already noted cases where Russian athletes invited to competitions in the United States and cultural figures could not obtain American visas on time. This situation, artificially created by the US authorities, leads to difficulties in maintaining business, cultural, sports and even family ties. Anyway, the challenge is accepted. Now it's up to the unification of the rules. We are ready. We are open to proposals.

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Plans to immortalise the memory of Forest Brothers leader Adolfas Ramanauskas-Vanagas

Official Vilnius continues its policy of revising recent history. Attempts have been made to portray members of the Forest Brothers armed groups operating in Lithuania during post-war years, who are steeped in blood, as national heroic martyrs.

In this regard, we cannot but feel indignant at the decision by the Lithuanian authorities to declare the current year as the year of Adolfas Ramanauskas-Vanagas, one of the Forest Brothers leaders. On October 6, the country's leadership will attend a ceremony as his remains are reburied at Antakalnis Cemetery in Vilnius. Particularly cynical is the fact that the grave of Ramanauskas, who is to blame for the deaths of many civilians, will be located close to the gravesite of over 5,000 Soviet soldiers who died while liberating Vilnius from the Nazis.

I would like to recall that no one has overturned the court verdict over the war crimes he committed towards unarmed civilians. And this verdict has no period of limitation.  

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Events in southern Italy with participation of St Andrew the Apostle Foundation in connection with 110 years since Messina earthquake

On September 24-25, a delegation of St Andrew the Apostle Foundation led by the chairman of its guardian council, Vladimir Yakunin, staged a number of events in southern Italy to commemorates the deeds of Russian mariners who provided assistance to the victims of the Messina earthquake in Sicily in 1908.

A reception, attended by local dignitaries, was held on board the frigate Admiral Essen of Russia's Black Sea Fleet that arrived in Sicily for this occasion. Memorial ceremonies were organised in Messina, Reggio Calabria and Taormina. The roundtable discussion, Russia and Italy in Dialogue of Cultures: Marking 110 Years since the Messina Tragedy, became the central event, with the programme also including a themed photo exhibition and a news conference, as well as performances by Russian music groups.

The visit by the delegation of St Andrew the Apostle Foundation to Italy demonstrated the important role of public organisations in expanding Russia's bilateral contacts with foreign countries. 

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Statement by Assistant Secretary of State Christopher A. Ford on Russia’s supposedly destructive role as regards the IAEA Incident and Trafficking Database (ITDB)

Speaking at a seminar in the Wye River Conference Center, Queenstown, MD, on September 29, Assistant Secretary of State Christopher A. Ford said that the IAEA’s Incident and Trafficking Database (ITDB) programme is “even today at risk of being undermined by Russia as a result of embarrassment over the ITDB’s inclusion of information about the Kremlin’s use of radioactive polonium to assassinate Alexander Litvinenko in 2006…”

We would like to express regret that Mr Ford made public information from the ITDB that, strictly speaking, is confidential and accessible only for internal use by the IAEA members.

The Russian Federation is cooperating with this database. At the same time, we fully understand the limited potential of this instrument. The problem is that the IAEA Secretariat does not bear any responsibility for the information published in it at the initiative of the IAEA member states. In this context, the ITDB is regrettably a convenient tool for planting fake information for political point-scoring. This is graphically illustrated by the case when the Brits introduced disinformation on the Litvinenko case to the ITDB.

We believe that the IAEA member states can transfer information to the ITDB on a strictly voluntary basis (neither the agency’s charter documents, nor   international legal standards provide for a commitment to submit such information). This information cannot be used for making any analytical conclusions because the database is not complete and is not protected against political bias in any way. Its information cannot be transferred to third parties.

As we have already established, rules are not for everyone. Indicative is the US’ behaviour towards this database. The Americans very rarely submit information on their accidents and do so only to their advantage. Yet they insist that all other member states should present such domestic information. This is one more case of “being exceptional.”

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Answers to media questions:

Question: There has been some recent progress in the talks on the Nagorno-Karabakh settlement: Foreign Minister of Azerbaijan Elmar Mammadyarov met with Foreign Minister of Armenia Zohrab Mnatsakanyan while President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev had a short talk with Prime Minister of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan. Many experts express cautious optimism in this regard. They believe that it was Moscow that prepared fertile soil for such talks. Could you comment on this? Do you think progress has been made and it is possible to move on to a new negotiating track?

Maria Zakharova: We welcome all positive trends that have taken shape. Now it is important to develop them and not to traumatise them with careless rhetoric that regrettably is also manifest in recent time. For our part, we will do everything for these positive trends to prevail.

Question: Will the Nagorno-Karabakh issue be raised at Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s meeting with Enzo Moavero Milanesi, Italian Foreign Minister and OSCE Chairperson-in-Office?

Maria Zakharova: I will check. It is not ruled out that this issue may be raised. I will find out. I invite you to attend the news conference on the results of the talks.

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Question: Could you comment in more detail on what will be discussed on the Libyan issue during the Moscow visit of Enzo Moavero Milanesi, Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation? As you know, Libya is a very sensitive issue for us.

Maria Zakharova: Russia and Italy regularly exchange views on the Libyan issue at different levels. As you rightly noted, this delicate issue is certainly discussed at every meeting. This is an important issue in the opinion of our Italian colleagues. It is crucial for Italy. We have repeatedly made far-reaching proposals to our Italian colleagues, representatives of other states and international organisations that deal with it.

Yesterday, President of Russia Vladimir Putin spoke about it, in particular about the work with the flows of migrants and refugees. There is a unique opportunity for their return now, in part, to Syria. We have always said that normalisation in that region should play an exceptional, albeit not the only, role in this very complicated issue.

Stabilisation is required to enable the return of refugees and their active integration in normal life in their countries in order to prevent this situation in the future and promote its global settlement. It is practically impossible to try and resolve this issue without normalisation in the region. The number of refugees is growing and their problems are becoming bigger. People do not just come to Europe but are naturally followed by more and more flows, which creates additional difficulties. Therefore, it is impossible to settle this problem locally. It is necessary to return to the region and put things in order there. At any rate, it is essential to do everything to prevent the situation from deteriorating.

I think that the international community sees that this is possible on the example of Syria. A couple of years ago it would have been hard to believe that Syrian refugees, displaced persons and migrants would wish to come home. Today this is reality. Active actions on suppressing militants and terrorists, political efforts to unite rather than separate opponents, assistance to the launching of their dialogue and the start of the discussion of the constitutional reform and the political future of Syria, humanitarian relief and regular multilateral dialogue of key players have created the conditions for normalisation in Syria. As a result, these people want and are able to return there.  This is the key to normalisation in Syria, the region and Europe.

Similar but not identical approaches should be also used in other countries, in particular, Libya. The countries that have been involved in the settlement of the Libyan issue should not tear down the country or separate opposition forces and place their bets on one group or another. They should facilitate unification, national consensus and the formation of a new Libyan statehood, naturally, with due respect for international law. It is essential to help Libyans because the international community has plunged their country into the abyss of misfortunes and suffering in which it is now.

The same basic approaches and principles (multilateral dialogue of players, a striving for political consensus, and an ability of great powers and regional players to see the main goals behind their private interests that nobody has cancelled) that were used in Syria may be applied to other countries in the region where regrettably problems are not subsiding. All these issues are regularly discussed and will be discussed. It will be possible to find out what specific issues will be reviewed only after the talks but I assure you that our foreign ministers will certainly share them with you.

Question: Will the matter of the conference in Palermo in mid-November be raised? Will Russia participate?

Maria Zakharova: Russia is expected to participate in the November high-level conference on the Libyan settlement. The level, the degree of participation and other parameters will be agreed upon. We will definitely inform you. This is an important event, not only for Italy but for Europe, so it is being developed.

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Question: Deputy Foreign Minister of Afghanistan Hamid Karzai said that differences between Russia and the US in global politics could affect the situation in Afghanistan. Would you comment on this?

Maria Zakharova: We believe we are taking effective steps to normalise the situation in Afghanistan. It is true that we cannot agree with the full range of US actions regarding Afghanistan, because, unfortunately, they are not improving the situation on the ground but making it worse, and there is evidence from over the years. But we are open to dialogue with the US in this sphere, although we do not see that Washington has any real appetite for it.

We believe that if there are differences (and they definitely exist, as I have said today) they must be solved at the negotiating table; we are open to this and have called on the US to do this many times. At certain stages, even recently, it showed readiness, but when it comes to the practical side, such as exchanges of representatives and the beginning of talks, they withdraw into the shadow for no apparent reason. Dialogue and discussion are simply impeded.

We agree that it would serve Afghanistan well if the countries that have something to say about the situation in Afghanistan were to join forces. We are ready to work on this.

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Question: Today President of Russia Vladimir Putin began his visit to India. How do you assess the importance of this trip in the broader international context? What are the prospects for Russian-Indian bilateral relations?

Maria Zakharova: We have a rule: We do not comment on the President’s agenda. You have the presidential press service for this.

Speaking about bilateral relations, a lot of official information has been released on this. We enjoy comprehensive cooperation with India in all areas. I believe that many things will be said about this during the visit.

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Question: Today Ukraine declared the Hungarian consul in the city of Beregovo persona non grata. What is Russia’s comment on this?

Maria Zakharova: State Secretary for Foreign Affairs of Hungary Peter Szijjarto made himself very clear on this following his talks with his Russian counterpart.

If we are taking about violations of the rights of minorities, human rights in Ukraine more broadly, then we do this regularly, today included. What is happening in Ukraine is unprecedented for modern Europe.

As for persecuting people for thinking differently, for their wish to advance or just to preserve (as advancement might be difficult at the moment) their cultural identity: All of this is met with persecution in Ukraine. Unfortunately, they are not isolated outbursts of destructive forces but the agenda of the state. On the other hand, it would take a lot of time to analyse whether it is deliberate or due to the fact that they are unable to take on the aggressive young nationalists who in fact control the country. This is a question for experts.

Of course, the voice of European and international organisations in general should be clearer or perhaps even hysterical, because the situation is seriously deteriorating.

Question: Prime Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe was recently reelected. Will Russia continue to try to sign a peace treaty with no preconditions?

Maria Zakharova: Our position on the issue remains the same, as the Russian leadership affirmed just recently.

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Question: Yesterday, National Security Adviser John Bolton said that the United States has withdrawn from the jurisdiction of the UN International Court of Justice (ICJ). Does it mean that the UN decisions and resolutions will only be of an advisory nature for Washington? How will this, in the opinion of the Russian Foreign Ministry, affect the UN mandate and authority? I would like to remind everyone about the International Criminal Court (ICC). The United States is consistently withdrawing from the jurisdiction of international judicial organisations. What can you say about this?

Maria Zakharova: I will need to clarify the information regarding Mr Bolton’s statements.

With regard to the ICC, the situation is much more complicated. The US did not just withdraw from its jurisdiction, but launched a campaign to prosecute the judges. This represents a “new step” in their interpretation of international law and their own exceptionality.

Here, we are talking about (it was discussed at length during the political discussion at the 73rd UNGA session) a paradigm we are living in, the paradigm of international law as a shared environment that was developed at the end of World War II and launched with the creation of the UN after the world had witnessed the horrors of what the concept of someone’s exceptionality can lead to, or the paradigm of the “rule-based order” that a number of Western states are pushing for, which those exceptional countries are creating at their discretion depending on the situation meaning that everyone should follow their rules. These two paradigms are competing. Which one will prevail? I would like the first one to have the upper hand, because with all its flaws it worked well and produced results. The other one also worked in the historical perspective, but produced negative results. The US approach fits into the second, very dangerous, paradigm.

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Question: The Russian President Vladimir Putin yesterday referred to Sergei Skripal as a traitor and a scumbag. I’d like to know if Sergei Skripal has already been stripped of his Russian citizenship?  Do such statements hinder the Russian consul from gaining access to the Skripals?

Maria Zakharova: First, I see no connection between such statements and the work of our consuls because the statement you have quoted was made yesterday while our consuls have been trying to get access to the Skripals for six months already. What’s the connection? There is no connection.

Second, it was the court that qualified Skripal as a traitor. President Putin merely quoted it, going back to the court’s decision. Moreover, the court decision was carried out: Sergei Skripal was duly sentenced and served his sentence in jail.

What is the news here? He was a traitor, his activities had been exposed, an investigation and a trial took place, he was put in prison and spent several years there before being exchanged. Nobody has requalified him into any other capacity than a traitor. This was how the court referred to him and this is how he will go down (already has gone down) in history. Nothing doing, bad luck.

We are all entitled to make personal judgements. The concept of “traitor” has been fixed by the court. How to interpret this and in what emotional tone is up to anyone.

As for the citizenship status of Sergei Skripal and Yulia Skripal, we proceed on the basis that they are Russian citizens. It is in this capacity that we request access to them. I would like to remind you that our request has been turned down. As a matter of fact, they have not been presented to anybody.

How cleverly you put it: President Putin’s statement of October 3 is preventing the Russian consuls from gaining access to the Skripals. You are past masters at such tricks.

For half a year now our Embassy has been offering the British side various options based on bilateral agreements, and in the end our President’s statement may make access to the Skripals more difficult. Do you really believe that such statements, be it by the President or by experts, can influence Britain’s decision concerning access? This is their principled political stance. It is not based on law. If it were based on law, the Brits would have been obliged to grant access. In this case, they chose to ignore the law. Political charges were rolled out at once. Access was blocked precisely for political reasons.

No statements, emotional or backed by quotations, will change London’s attitude because they have totally cast aside any legal procedures. Proof of this is the fact that they have been denying access to Russian citizens for six months and have refused to interact with the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation as well as other law-enforcement bodies, they have rejected the offer of a joint investigation. So, it is a weird suggestion that anything could influence them. Their fundamental position is total renunciation of the use of legal mechanisms in favour of political statements and political provocations. They have been at it for the last six months.

If we saw some judicial procedures or the course of investigation, a transparent and open one, then it could be said that any statements made by the Russian side could be seen as attempts at pressure and interference and could be harmful.

But it all commenced with a strictly political statement made by the British Prime Minister Theresa May, with an aggression against Russia. It all started as a political show, as we pointed out from the beginning. Incidentally, these words triggered off a lot of flak against Russia for calling it a political show. Six months have passed. Do you have any other definition of the process that is taking place? One thing is clear: It has definitely nothing to do with law. It is a real political show that is being played out. Accordingly, no statements, no political or legal arguments will influence London because it proceeds in a strange, politically crude biased manner which tarnishes London’s own image.

Let me give you an example. When the Russian delegation led by Foreign Minister Lavrov was recently working at the UN, Britain raised the Salisbury topic during the political debate (you remember the statements made from the rostrum, in conference rooms and at meetings with the press). This was the dominant topic for the British side during the work in New York. On Friday, at the end of nearly five-daysat the UN, Foreign Minister Lavrov gave a press conference. It was attended by representatives of all the media: television, agencies, newspapers and web sites from all the countries of the world. The conference lasted more than an hour with at least sixteen questions being asked. We did not moderate or structure it, allowing any journalists to ask any questions. Do you think anyone asked about the situation connected with the Skripals, Salisbury and Amesbury? Not a single journalist asked about it. And yet it would have seemed to be an excellent chance: The British delegation mentioned Salisbury all the time during official events.

Here sits the head of the Russian delegation to whom you can put any question you like, but for some reason the journalistic body – and the UN has very experienced journalists many of whom have spent 20-30 years there – has not asked a single question. The reason is that they understand that it is a political show and that there is no substance to it. There is, of course, substance, but it has not yet been presented. From London’s side we see only leaks and fake stories, and so international journalists, who know the worth of international tragedies and crimes,  are very well aware of it.  Not a single question!

I would like to stress that we gave the floor to all the journalists who wanted to speak. Many shouted their questions from their seats, passed their questions on, made signs. Not a single question about the Skripals!   

Question: The Foreign Ministry declared through you recently that it would request information from the United States as to Richard Lugar Centre for Public Health Research where experiments on human beings with a possible lethal outcome may have been carried out. After a recent meeting in Prague between Special Representative of the Georgian Prime Minister Zurab Abashidze and State Secretary, Deputy Foreign Minister of Russia Grigory Karasin, Georgia invited Russian experts to visit this laboratory and take part in an international conference. Will the Russian experts accept the invitation and how soon will they visit the lab?

Maria Zakharova: As regards the visit and information concerning the answer from the Americans, we will check out the details.

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Question: The process of drafting a new Syrian constitution has been discussed at the UN. The Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov referred to it more than once. The Americans have warned that unless Syrian President Bashar Assad starts the process soon he would be punished. I would like to hear from you at what stage the constitutional process is at the moment. There were negotiations between Damascus and the Kurds. But it was recently announced that they have been suspended. What is Russia doing to stimulate Damascus and the Kurds to negotiate?

Reports are coming in that Jabhat al-Nusra has announced its self-dissolution in Idlib, but in the past this organisation changed its name many times and has continued to operate. Is there any concrete information available on this matter? If the establishment of a demilitarised zone in Idlib is not announced by October 15, how will the situation develop? Will a military operation remain on the agenda?

Maria Zakharova: The question of a military operation should be directed to the Russian Ministry of Defence. I think they will comment on this shortly. As for the Constitutional Committee, it is heavy going. Unfortunately, not all members are in a constructive mood, but we are trying to change the situation and steer the work in a constructive direction.

Regarding the talks between Damascus and the Kurds. You know that Russia has always welcomed them and, moreover, has done everything possible to lend them many formats because consolidation, which is needed for Syria to survive and be reborn as a new, renovated state, is impossible without the Kurds participating. We put it not only to the Syrians, but also to our foreign partners as well.

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Question: I would like to revisit the topic of China. US Vice President Michael Pence said that alleged Russian interference in the 2016 US Presidential election pales by comparison with China’s actions. He claims that the PRC is actively interfering in the mid-term Congress elections. Why does a country which calls itself “the cradle of democracy” constantly look for someone to accuse of interfering in its elections?

Maria Zakharova: This is precisely the point. You have answered your own question. They constantly need someone to blame. While previously they were content with their internal space and found culprits inside the country (we have witnessed all sorts of twists and turns in election races and all sorts of accusations being hurled), but now apparently, for greater scope or simply feeling that the internal market has been exhausted or does not live up to the requirements, they decided to turn to the international community. There is a constant need for culprits to be blamed for their own failures or who could be used as bogeys. Supporters can be consolidated by bringing in some foreign foes. This is a very convenient instrument which requires no proof because I am sure that the US, as you put it, “the cradle of democracy” (I for one feel that the “cradle“ is in another place), but still it is a country which has accomplished a lot in this sphere and such statements for internal consumption always need proof. If somebody in the United States presents such claims to Americans – an American company, American politicians, high-profile Americans – a lawsuit would be filed the very next day and that would be followed by a serious as well as costly court battle. On the other hand, when a country is accused, this is a totally impersonal charge and it is difficult, practically impossible, to build a case. But the effect is grandiose. That is all there is to it. What is happening in the relations, or rather what Washington is doing with respect to China, is depressing. Honestly, such behaviour does not befit a great power the United States claims to be. This applies to the trade war which the United States decided to start against China, and the latest statements about cyber-attacks, etc. Not a worthy way to behave.  

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Question: Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development of Poland Jan Krzysztof Ardanowski said that Warsaw will send a diplomat who is in charge of agricultural exports to Moscow, adding that specialist advisers will be looking for foreign markets to sell agricultural produce.

Maria Zakharova: Perhaps, they will be selling our produce?

Question: Do you know anything about this? Perhaps, Warsaw is readying itself for the sanctions and, accordingly, the food embargo to be lifted. Maybe the Poles are already thinking about ways to promote Polish apples?

Maria Zakharova: I don’t know much about this. I believe such a statement is lacking logic for one simple reason: the sanctions are being renewed, including with the participation of Poland. If Poland does not agree with the sanctions and considers them harmful, we welcome any and all diplomats who come to us in peace, and even more so with plans for cooperation and interaction. They are always welcome.

Question: Maybe it’s about the lifting of the sanctions?

Maria Zakharova: To do so, Poland needs to stay away from supporting them just once – that's all it needs to do. You see, when experts, diplomats and, by the way, journalists from the EU countries come here and ask what they should do with the sanctions, this question should go to them. Your countries, your politicians, your heads of state support the sanctions every time they are asked to do so. The solution lies in the position of just one state, as even one state can make a difference.

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Question: If Russian gas supplies to Europe remain relevant, is there any hope for resuming energy cooperation between Bulgaria and Russia, keeping in mind the European Parliament’s resolution of April 17, 2014?

Maria Zakharova: This sounds like the question that I took before. It's not about Russia. We are open to interaction. The matter is about the EU member states which need to understand what they really want – to interact with us (we are always open to this), to participate, alas, in political intrigues or to allow these intrigues to affect the national interests of countries. This question is for them to answer.

With regard to interaction in this area, President Vladimir Putin described everything exhaustively yesterday.


I want to end this briefing with an announcement. Our next briefing will be held in the town of Koktebel at 3 p.m. on Wednesday, October 10.

Today, we mentioned Maximilian Voloshin, and I always wanted to visit that town. Now, the opportunity presented itself. The briefing will be held in the house of journalist Dmitry Kiselyov at 19A Aivazovskogo Street. As you may be aware, the media focused a lot on his house at some point, and it was named a secret facility. Investigations were open, although it turned out that the house was mentioned in many magazines, and there are video reports available dating seven or eight years back. The accreditation for journalists will open soon.

I would like to ask the journalists who wrote the most on this topic whether they would like to take this opportunity to combine pleasure with even greater pleasure and see for themselves what they wrote about in their materials and attend our briefing? I would be particularly pleased to see the representatives of certain foreign media who wrote particularly extensively on the house of the Russian journalist, namely, US media correspondents, such as head of the Moscow bureau of Radio Liberty Yevgeniya Nazarets, chief correspondent of National Public Radio Lucian Kim as well as Latvia-based Meduza, which also published corresponding material. I think it’s a great opportunity for them to see with their very own eyes what they wrote about so colourfully. We will be expecting everyone, but especially foreign media members, who spent so much effort and energy discussing this vital topic.

Koktebel is an amazing place. I only read about it and never went there. It was depicted and made a special place by our Silver Age poets, artists and writers. We are thankful to Dmitry Kiselyov for the venue.

See you in Koktebel.

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