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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, May 8, 2019

8 May 201919:49

Table of contents

  1. Condolences on the plane crash at Sheremetyevo Airport
  2. Third round of Russian-Japanese peace treaty talks at the level of foreign ministers
  3. Visit to Russia by Member of the State Council, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China Wang Yi
  4. Preparations for US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo’s visit to Russia
  5. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s participation in the 129th session of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe (CMCE)
  6. Update on Syria
  7. Briefing on the Syrian chemical dossier and White Helmets in the US and UK with Russian civil society activist Maxim Grigoriev
  8. Ceremony to donate painting ‘Aleppo. Help Has Come’ by Spanish artist Augusto Ferrer-Dalmau
  9. Update on Venezuela
  10. Developments in Sri Lanka
  11. The anniversary of Kirill Vyshinsky’s arrest
  12. The Netherlands refusal to declassify internal documents on Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash over Ukraine on July 17, 2014
  13. The incident with a Russian journalist during the May Day riots in Paris
  14. UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt’s statements on the Russian television channel RT
  15. Measles epidemic in Europe and certain countries
  16. Medical screening in Abkhazia
  17. Celebration of the 74th anniversary of the Great Victory
  18. Desecration of the monument at the Soviet War Memorial in Berlin's Treptower Park
  19. Repeated profanation of a memorial at Soviet soldiers' burial site in Poland
  20. 5th International MGIMO University Alumni Forum
  21. 9th International Victors Forum - Great Victory Achieved Through Unity
  22. Possible steps to address humanitarian problems in Nagorno-Karabakh

Answers to media questions:

  1. The release of Syrian prisoners from Israeli prisons
  2. The bombing of the Gaza Strip
  3. The Civic Chamber of the Russian Federation, Alexander Malkevich, was denied entry to Moldova
  4. Security on the Syrian-Turkish border
  5. When will the foreign troops leave Syria?
  6. The statement of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Russia and Iran
  7. The Russian Foreign Ministry’s decision to deport two Swedish diplomats in response to Sweden’s refusal to issue diplomatic visas to several employees of the Russian Embassy
  8. The escalation of tensions around Iran
  9. A monument to a “forest brother,” Adolfas Ramanauskas (“Vanagas”), was unveiled in Chicago

Condolences on the plane crash at Sheremetyevo Airport

I would like to begin today’s briefing by thanking all our foreign partners, and there are many of them, and, of course, the international community for their sincere condolences on the tragedy that happened at Sheremetyevo Airport on May 5.

We have received words of sincere support addressed to the Russian people, including during Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s talks in Finland. Once again, I would like to express our gratitude for these condolences.

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Third round of Russian-Japanese peace treaty talks at the level of foreign ministers

On May 10, the third round of Russian-Japanese peace treaty talks at the level of foreign ministers will take place in Moscow.

During the talks, the parties will continue to discuss ways to implement the agreements reached between the two countries’ leaders on accelerating the dialogue on this issue based on the 1956 Joint Declaration between the USSR and Japan.

In addition, the ministers will discuss current issues on the regional and global agenda, such as addressing new challenges and threats, cooperation on the global stage and developments in the Asia-Pacific Region.

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Visit to Russia by Member of the State Council, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China Wang Yi

On May 12–13, Member of the State Council and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China Wang Yi will pay an official visit to Russia. On May 13, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will hold talks with him in Sochi.

The officials will discuss prospects for the further development of bilateral cooperation. They will focus on issues related to the preparations for President of China Xi Jinping’s visit to Russia and his participation in the St Petersburg International Economic Forum.

The ministers will also discuss a wide range of current international issues, such as the situation around Venezuela, developments on the Korean Peninsula, the Syrian settlement process, the situation in Afghanistan and the preservation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on the Iran nuclear programme.

In the context of Russian-Chinese talks, I would like to add that today accreditation for the press conference will open on the Foreign Ministry’s website (http://www.mid.ru/akkreditacia). Please take advantage of this opportunity.

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Preparations for US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo’s visit to Russia

We have already answered this question: preparations are underway for US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo’s visit to Russia. We intend to make an official announcement a little later, most likely today, with the relevant details.

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Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s participation in the 129th session of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe (CMCE)

On May 16-17, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov intends to take part in the 129th ministerial session of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe in Helsinki, which marks the end of Finland’s chairmanship of this body. The upcoming ministerial session is timed to the 70th anniversary of the organisation. The main issue on the agenda is current challenges to the future of the Council of Europe. It is a vital issue.

We can definitely say that the session will be of great significance for the organisation’s future prospects. Russia is interested in maintaining and strengthening the Council of Europe as an independent universal European institution with a mandate to provide for a single European humanitarian and legal space using its convention mechanisms.

The ministers are to consider solutions for resolving the institutional crisis in the Council of Europe provoked by the unlawful suspension of the Russian delegation’s rights in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

We also intend to bring attention to the need to step up employing relevant mechanisms of the Council of Europe to protect the rights of ethnic minorities, including in Ukraine and the Baltic countries.

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Update on Syria

The most explosive situation remains in Idlib and in the northeast of the country in territories the Syrian government does not control.

Over 30 Syrian service personnel died in Idlib last week following a series of heavy attacks by Al-Nusra militants. The terrorists also fired mortars and missiles at towns and villages near the Idlib de-escalation zone, resulting in civilian deaths. According to incoming reports, the terrorist groups there are planning an offensive on Syrian government forces’ positions in the provinces of Hama and Aleppo. For this purpose, they move additional units in and establish battle groups.

Arab residents in the northeast of Syria continued rallying against local Kurdish administrative bodies. Hundreds of residents took to the streets to protest the deteriorating security and a hike in food prices. Three people died and several more were wounded during the crackdown on the rally. Meanwhile, six Kurds were killed in terrorist attacks by Arab militants in the provinces of Raqqa and Hasakah.

In the context of the situation in Syria’s northeastern regions, which are controlled by the US and its allies, we have taken note of the report by the Amnesty International human rights organisation on the events of two years ago connected with the bombing and storming of Raqqa by the “international anti-ISIS coalition.” The US and its allies virtually erased this Syrian city while conducting a military operation against ISIS terrorists in June-October, 2017.

Amnesty International human rights activists together with the Airwars monitoring group of experts made a detailed analysis of the “liberation” of Raqqa by interviewing around 400 eyewitnesses of those horrendous events. They studied about 2 million satellite photos of the city both during the hostilities and after them. This careful and meticulous analysis established that over 1,500 civilians were killed and over 11,000 buildings and infrastructure facilities were destroyed after thousands of indiscriminate air and artillery strikes by the US and its allies. All the data and materials are presented on the site (www.raqqa.amnesty.org) where one can see the names of the victims, read interviews with the wounded and the victims’ relatives, and also see the real ruins and destruction in Raqqa’s residential areas.

Let me remind you that earlier our Western partners called the Raqqa operation all but the highest-precision air force campaign in history while acknowledging their responsibility for the death of 159 civilians, whereas now the point at issue is over 1,500 killed civilians.

Unfortunately, we have not heard any reasonable response from the US or its allies to the results of the human rights activists’ investigation. Washington and other Western capitals have not commented on the mass graves of thousands of Syrians unearthed in Raqqa as the rubble was cleared. A deliberate blackout of the tragic humanitarian aspect of the assault on the city, as well as apparent violations of international humanitarian law, which the West persistently claims to be committed to, is another manifestation of the policy of double-standards pursued by Washington and its allies.

Active efforts are underway to disband the Rukban Camp for internally displaced persons and resettle its occupants. About 4,000 people have left the camp in the past two weeks, with Russia’s assistance. About 11,000 people have left the camp since March. They were all given medical aid, provided with food and basic necessities.

The Russia-assisted liberation of two Syrian inmates – Ahmed Khamis and Zidan Taweel – from Israeli prisons in late April was an important humanitarian gesture. We will continue to provide the appropriate good services and mediation in future.

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Briefing on the Syrian chemical dossier and White Helmets in the US and UK with Russian civil society activist Maxim Grigoriev

A briefing hosted by the Russian Permanent Mission to the UN dedicated to the report by the OPCW Fact-Finding Mission on the chemical incident in Douma was held in New York on April 25. The speaker was Director of the NGO Foundation for the Study of Democracy Maxim Grigoriev who presented a fact-based critique of the report. The Russian expert questioned the objectivity of the mission’s specialists, who used deliberately falsified information, which served as the basis for assigning responsibility for the incident on official Damascus. An investigation by this civil society activist confirms the assessments of the OPCW activities in Syria which are regularly expressed by the Russian Foreign Ministry at various venues.

A body of evidence of the numerous crimes committed by the notorious White Helmets – looting, robbery, black-market organ trade and complicity with terrorists – was also provided. The Foundation for the Study of Democracy prepared a report, “White Helmets: Terrorist Accomplices and a Source of Disinformation,” which was distributed at the event. The Russian version is available at https://cloud.mail.ru/public/2fHo / oHNqTM6eP.

Again, we are forced to mention the United States’ neglect of its obligations as a host country of the UN headquarters. I can back this up. The head of a research institute at the Russian Defence Ministry Dmitry Poklonsky was to take part in this event in New York. The United States failed to issue an entry visa for him within the expected time frame. It was assumed that this Russian specialist, who, by the way, is an expert of the UN Secretary-General’s mechanism for investigating cases of the alleged use of chemical and biological weapons, would provide evidence of the fact that the incident in Douma was fabricated in a provocation by illegal armed groups and their accomplices. Unfortunately, Washington prevented the submission of professional and factual assessments of those events to the UN. It is an outrage. The United States continues to exploit its status as host of the UN headquarters and impede the dissemination of important factual information, which indicates that the missile attack by the US and its allies on Syrian territory in April 2018 was carried out under a far-fetched pretext and in violation of the UN Charter.

We were asked if Russia had any evidence, weren’t we? When this evidence is available and can be presented not only by representatives of political circles, but the expert community and civil society as well, the corresponding mechanisms are immediately activated.

On April 29, Maxim Grigoriev presented his report on White Helmets in Washington, D.C. at an event hosted by the Russian Embassy in the United States. It was clear that the United States had done its homework. NGOs unanimously refused to provide him with a venue. As we understand, it was not a coincidence. Civil society, media representatives and human rights activists constantly asked us about Syria, the settlement process, etc. Now, it turns out that experts who want to share their work with US specialists come to them, but are unable to get a venue. Even worse, as we understand, the activities of US NGOs are directly coordinated by people from the executive branch, which is unacceptable. Most importantly, what could a representative of Russian civil society tell US human rights activists and representatives of NGOs that they shouldn’t be hearing or that could be dangerous for them to hear? We do not rule out the possibility that it’s not just the executive of the United States that is behind this, but perhaps – and we have reason to believe so – the State Department itself.

However, despite these efforts to thwart the event, it did take place and was quite successful. There were guests and journalists. The attempts to disrupt the event failed.

The results of the investigation regarding White Helmets were also presented in London as part of an event on the humanitarian situation in Syria held in London on May 1, which generated interest among Russian and local experts on Syria, the diplomatic community, and a number of British and foreign media. Overall there was a positive atmosphere and an adequate understanding of the Russian expert’s point of view regarding the criminal nature of the White Helmets activities, the staged chemical attack in Douma and the biased nature of the corresponding OPCW report.

The events have clearly shown the criminal nature of the White Helmets’ activities in Syria, namely, their strong ties with terrorist groups, participation in staged chemical attacks, artillery and air strikes, and the killing of civilians, including children, for the purpose of illegal organ trafficking, among others, the deliberate destruction of infrastructure, as well as the double standards of a number of countries which provide financial and other support to White Helmets. This is not an axiom, but food for thought. You can disagree or challenge the report’s findings, but it contains a significant amount of objective evidence.

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Ceremony to donate painting ‘Aleppo. Help Has Come’ by Spanish artist Augusto Ferrer-Dalmau    

Today, the Central Museum of the Armed Forces of Russia hosted a ceremony for the donation of a painting by outstanding Spanish battle artist Augusto Ferrer-Dalmau dedicated to Russian peacekeeping activities in Syria. The artist was introduced at the ceremony by renowned Spanish writer Arturo Perez-Reverte.

In October 2018, with assistance from the Russian Defence Ministry and the Russian Embassy in Madrid, the Spanish artist visited the Russian Khmeimim Air Base in Syria to make sketches for the future painting. In April of this year, this large work was completed.  Ferrer-Dalmau decided to donate it to Russia in recognition of the leading role Russia played in the fight against international terrorism.

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Update on Venezuela

Today, developments in Venezuela are characterised by increased foreign policy activity due to meetings that have been held in the past few days on this issue. This issue was discussed by telephone between the presidents of Russia and the United States, the heads of the foreign policy departments of the two countries, and during a personal meeting between Sergey Lavrov and Michael Pompeo on the sidelines of the Arctic Council meeting. As Foreign Minister Lavrov noted, Russia does not concentrate on related public statements because we understand the political environment. Contrary to the artificial escalation of tensions, Russia is working for a constructive agenda in Venezuela. We urge all parties to observe the UN Charter and strictly comply with the principles and standards of international law, including respect for state sovereignty and territorial integrity, and the non-use of force or the threat of force. We emphasise that we never interfere in the internal affairs of other states and call on others to do likewise.

On Sunday, substantive talks between the foreign ministers of Russia and Venezuela took place, which they describe in detail themselves (http://www.mid.ru/ru/foreign_policy/news/-/asset_publisher/cKNonkJE02Bw/content/id/3633216).

We are satisfied that bilateral relations continue making steady headway despite the complicated situation in Venezuela. We express principled, consistent and firm support for the legitimate government headed by President Nicolas Maduro.

The need to search for peaceful, civilised ways of settling internal differences by the Venezuelan citizens themselves was clearly revealed again after the failure of yet another attempt of power change in Caracas by force on April 30, when the radical opposition tried to involve the army in another coup. This confirmed the hypocrisy of these attempts and those who stood behind them. I am referring to pseudo-freedom fighters. The supposedly peaceful demonstrators tried to draw the armed forces to their side and after this failed they went for armed clashes, that is, stones and Molotov cocktails thrown at law enforcement personnel. Apparently, they wanted to provoke armed government representatives into a response by force. The rebels failed to seize power. They underestimated the support for the constitutional system by the people and the willingness of Venezuelan law enforcement to defend it. I would like to once again appeal to all political forces to refrain from fanning the flames of conflict. This is a position of principle for the Russian Federation.

The Venezuelan political system and the people defeated yet another attempt to destabilise the situation. This gives much food for thought to those who recklessly supported the self-proclaimed president and deprived themselves of potential diplomatic credibility in the future.

Our Western partners regularly address Russia with a request “to exert influence” on the lawful government of Venezuela so that it can take the first step, send the opposition some kind of signal, to “create favourable conditions for a dialogue” and to search for ways to achieve a political settlement. Today we are urging all members of the international community, including Venezuela’s neighbours to help convince the anti-government forces in that country to listen to the voice of reason and give up trying to use provocative methods of struggle and involving the armed forces in a civilian conflict.

It is time for the opposition leaders to agree to the negotiating process that has been long suggested by the government and to discuss steps on Venezuela’s return to the road of stable and steady development in a responsible and constructive manner in strict accordance with international law and the Constitution.

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Developments in Sri Lanka

The state of emergency declared on April 22 after a series of terrorist attacks that, according to the latest estimates, killed 257 people, is still in force in Sri Lanka. The earlier information about more than 300 victims has not been officially confirmed.

The government is managing the situation. The most important infrastructure and administrative facilities have been placed under maximum protection. Strict limitations on holding any event with crowds of people are still in effect.

Law enforcement agencies have arrested dozens of members of the National Tawhid Jamaat local extremist group (Jamaat al-Tawhid al-Watania). According to the investigation, this group is responsible for the terrorist attacks on April 21. Some terrorists and their partners in crime may still be free.

Considering this, we advise Russians staying in Sri Lanka to be vigilant. If you are planning to visit the island, we recommend you postpone your trip until the situation returns to normal.

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The anniversary of Kirill Vyshinsky’s arrest

It is with regret that we note that May 15, only a few days after the international community celebrated World Press Freedom Day, marks the anniversary of RIA Novosti-Ukraine website director Kirill Vyshinsky’s arrest in Ukraine. Let me remind you that he was arrested on the absurd charges of high treason. Yesterday, the Podolsky Court in Kiev once again extended his detention until July 22. The motion of Vyshinsky’s lawyer to change measure of restraint was denied.

As you can see, the ideals of freedom constantly proclaimed by Kiev have nothing to do with a repression campaign against Russian media and its own journalists, unprecedented for modern Europe. The Ukrainian regime has successfully mastered various methods of pressuring the media, shutting down channels, arresting, physically coercing or deporting journalists. All of this is done under the pretext of “countering information aggression.” As for Kirill Vyshinsky, he was put under arrest for doing his work professionally, in full compliance with the Ukrainian law and within the transparent editorial policy.

We demand the immediate and unconditional release of Vyshinsky. We will not let the international community lose sight of this matter. We will continue our work with specialised international organisations, above all OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Harlem Desir, and will actively remind the Ukrainian authorities about their commitments within the OSCE.

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The Netherlands refusal to declassify internal documents on Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash over Ukraine on July 17, 2014

In January this year, we mentioned the Dutch authorities' refusal to release the internal documents on the investigation of the MH17 crash.  

Recently, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands once again confirmed the government's stance in a note to Dutch deputies explaining the reasons behind the refusal to release the documents and the internal negotiations that addressed the circumstances surrounding the crash of Malaysia Airlines flight 17 over Ukraine – particularly, as is believed, the issue of Ukraine not closing its airspace for civilian flights.

The Dutch Foreign Minister cited a resolution by the Netherlands' Council of State of October 25, 2017 saying that the parliamentarians' demands to release the interdepartmental correspondence were recognised as unfounded. I am speaking of the Dutch Foreign Ministry and Dutch intelligence services materials. The minister emphasised that the government's actions were not in violation of the Dutch act on the openness of administration.

But according to parliament deputies, these documents could contain information on Ukraine's actual reasons for refusing to close its airspace over a combat zone, which resulted in the tragedy.

The Netherlands’ strong reluctance to release the internal correspondence suggests that the country wants to conceal crucial information that could shed a different light on the plane crash and makes every effort to take the heat off Ukraine and lay the blame entirely on Russia.

However, even the Dutch deputies have reasonable doubts that Kiev authorities could have been unaware of the danger of non-closure of its airspace for civilian aircraft over the area of hostilities.

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" rel="111">The incident with a Russian journalist during the May Day riots in Paris

On May 1, RIA Novosti correspondent Viktoria Ivanova was hurt while covering the May Day demonstration in Paris. She arrived at the Montparnasse District at 12:20 pm and along with other journalists filmed on her smartphone clashes with police that broke out during the march. Despite the special marking on her clothes identifying her as a media professional, she was subjected to physical violence by law-enforcement officers. After a medical check-up, she was diagnosed with a cerebral concussion and injuries to her left shoulder and forearm, and a bandage was put on her arm.

We consider the use force unacceptable and especially violence against journalists performing their professional duties. We assume that the French authorities will thoroughly investigate this incident. At the same time, we have to state with regret that Harlem Desir, the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, as well as the majority of relevant human rights groups and non-governmental organisations, still have not given an appropriate assessment of this incident. If the injured party were not Russian but a citizen of another
European country, the response from the international community would not have been long in coming.

We are getting the impression that France, under the current government, is not meeting in full its commitments to provide freedom and security to journalists.

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UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunts statements on the Russian television channel RT

We took note of UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt’s statement regarding the Russia Today channel. I am referring to the May 2 comment in Addis Ababa at the UNESCO World Press Freedom Day event.

While discussing African nations’ achievements in ensuring press freedom, the politician suddenly brought up RT, saying: “Channels like RT – better known as Russia Today – want their viewers to believe that truth is relative and the facts will always fit the Kremlin’s official narrative. Even when that narrative keeps changing.”  

As an illustration, Jeremy Hunt repeated the traditional fake news that Russia “came up with over 40 separate narratives to explain” the incident in Salisbury which the channel allegedly spreads, acting as a “weapon of disinformation.”

I would like to note that we sent a note to the British Foreign Office expressing our bafflement over the latest disgraceful statement by a member of Theresa May’s Cabinet, including the “40 narratives” I mentioned. The fact that Jeremy Hunt dared to utter such absolutely outrageous statements during World Press Freedom Day illustrates British politicians’ lack of integrity and complete disregard for the values of the freedom of expression, as considerations of political expediency are much more important to those politicians than real facts and the truth.

We would like to remind the British side again that such discriminatory statements about our press are unacceptable, and that London has international obligations to ensure proper conditions for the unhindered and normal operation of the media.

Mr Hunt could have used the UNESCO event as an opportunity to review British media outlets, tabloids and the yellow press, how they spread leaks and rumours, including fake news. They do it on a regular basis and have attained fantastic heights. If he has problems and the Foreign Office does not have a person to do the job, we can send him the materials (we have them available), and then Jeremy Hunt will have something to bring to a UNESCO forum.

By the way, Jeremy Hunt and the Foreign Office special envoy on media freedom Amal Clooney announced that a new task force of legal experts will be created to draft recommendations for governments on improving freedom of the press. We now see where they can start – they can begin with the UK government, with themselves.

Corresponding international agencies and the human rights community should take note of this episode at the UNESCO World Press Freedom Day event in Addis Ababa. We would like to hear UNESCO leaders’ assessment of Mr Hunt’s provocative rhetoric and how such statements correspond to the organisation’s efforts to ensure freedom of speech in the world.

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Measles epidemic in Europe and certain countries

The global situation with measles morbidity, including in European countries, has remained unfavourable for the third year. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) information, 2018 saw the current decade's record number of infected people, a threefold increase from 2017 and 15-fold from 2016. As of today, 27 people have died of measles in Europe. According to European countries' monthly reports, as of February 1, 2019, over 80,000 people contracted measles in 47 out of 53 European countries. The highest numbers are registered in Ukraine, Serbia, Israel, France, Italy, Greece, Georgia, Albania, Romania, Montenegro, and North Macedonia.

According to WHO statistics, in the first three months of 2019 over 110,000 cases were recorded in the world. The virus was found even in those countries that had previously managed to completely defeat it. Between January 1 and April 26, 2019 alone, 704 measles cases were recorded in 22 states on the USA, which exceeds annual indicators of the previous 19 years; on April 10, New York declared a public health emergency over a measles outbreak. A disturbing situation is also being observed in Madagascar, where some 135,000 cases were recorded between September 2018 and April 2019, with over 800 people dying from the disease, as well as in the Philippines, where the number of infected people has exceeded 15,500 since the beginning of 2019. Individual cases are registered in Finland, Austria, Poland, Belarus and Algeria, as well as in the island country of Saint Lucia.

The main reason for the spread of the infection is the reduction in routine immunisation programmes and a growing number of people refusing to get vaccinated.

We are mentioning this for a reason. In this connection, Russia's Foreign Ministry asks Russian citizens traveling abroad to consider this information while planning their trips. It is recommended that those who have never had measles and are not vaccinated should undergo vaccination at least two weeks before the trip.  

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Medical screening in Abkhazia

Currently, specialists of Russia's Federal Medical-Biological Agency (FMBA) are conducting a general medical screening of the population on the territory of the Republic of Abkhazia with the aim of preventing various diseases, with over 50 doctors of the top expert category involved in the effort. 

The planned events, which are taking place in tow stages - between April 5 and April 26 and between May 14 and mid-June - will cover all districts of the republic. The screening has already been competed in the Gali, Tkuarchal, Ochamchira and Gulripsh districts, and is planned in the Sukhum district, the city of Sukhum, and the Gudauta and Gagra districts.

A huge advantage of the screening campaign is the opportunity to receive treatment in the Russian Federation. Following the screening in the Ochamchira district, 63 patients will undergo medical examinations at Russian clinics.

For further improvement of medical assistance for residents of Abkhazia and Russian tourists, a medical centre for urgent and emergency treatment involving Russian specialists is expected to be built in the republic within the next few years.

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Celebration of the 74th anniversary of the Great Victory

Tomorrow, our country will celebrate a great holiday, the 74th anniversary of the Great Victory. I would like to speak briefly about the events taking place outside Russia with the participation and assistance of Russian foreign missions. The events celebrating the 74th anniversary of the Victory on the Great Patriotic War have already been held in 42 countries (Argentina, Australia, Canada, China, Italy, Kuwait, Morocco, Portugal, Spain, Syria, the United States, Venezuela and others), as well as over 100 cities across the globe. Over 50,000 people joined these events. This year, the Immortal Regiment event has been held for the first time held in Hong Kong and Qatar.   

Along with the Immortal Regiment, a large number of side events were organised, such as St George’s Ribbon and the Candle of Memory, wreath-laying ceremonies at Soviet soldiers’ burial sites, concerts, military song festivals, photo exhibition, and others.

The Immortal Regiment events are taking place in coordination with the corresponding countries' governments. In a number of countries, official representatives plan to join these commemorative events. On May 5, deputies of the Slovak National Council, members of political parties and public organisations took part in the event to commemorate Soviet soldiers who liberated Bratislava.

Ministry and foreign mission accounts, as well as on the website.

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Desecration of the monument at the Soviet War Memorial in Berlin's Treptower Park

On May 4, unidentified persons desecrated the Mother Russia sculpture at the Soviet War Memorial in Treptower Park in Berlin.

We are outraged by the fact that this targeted act of vandalism was committed ahead of the celebration of the Victory in the Great Patriotic War and the 70th anniversary of unveiling the memorial in Treptow, where over 7,000 Soviet soldiers are buried.

The Russian Embassy sent a note of protest to the German Federal Foreign Office. Measures are being taken through the Senate of Berlin to repair the damage done to the monument. German police have joined the investigation.

We expect that the German authorities to give a proper assessment of such a barbaric act and take measures to prevent such outrage in the future.

We hope that what happened will not mar the programme for commemorative events to be held in Berlin to mark Victory Day and Germany's liberation from Nazism.    

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Repeated profanation of a memorial at Soviet soldiers' burial site in Poland

Another outrageous act is the second case of profanation of the Soviet soldiers’ burial site in the Polish town of Jawor in Lower Silesian Voivodeship. Just recently, the central obelisk at the local cemetery, where over 500 Red Army soldiers and officers are buried, was restored by the local authorities following an attack by vandals. Now it is yet again covered with offensive words.

They are trying to desecrate the memory of the solders but they desecrate themselves instead. This is the face of the EU that we see, this is the level of civilisation that these countries are showing to us. We will speak of every such case and give an assessment to every incident. We will take every effort to prevent them in the future and make sure that the criminals and vandals are identified. But the question is whether the EU is ready to look at itself in the mirror. Is it ready to see its reflection? Are they aware of how they look when every week in this room we mention new acts of vandalism in the EU against monuments to those who liberated them? This is what they should think about. Is anyone thinking about it in the EU? All the talk about human rights, high values and freedoms mean nothing if civilised countries cannot put an end to such behaviour of their citizens.

Sadly, Poland's law enforcement authorities have failed to protect the memorial from the vandals, who seem to feel free to do what they will amidst Warsaw's policy of refusing to acknowledge the crucial role of our country and the Red Army in liberating Poland from the Nazis.

On the eve of Victory Day, I would like to remind all the fans of rewriting history: had it not been for the Soviet people’s feat and great sacrifice, the modern map of Europe would have looked very different. We honour the brotherhood of arms and are entitled to mutual respect.

We demand that the monument in Jawor be put in order, the crime investigated, and the offenders punished.

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5th International MGIMO University Alumni Forum

On May 18-19, the 5th International MGIMO University Alumni Forum will be held in Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan.  

Among the honorary guests at the opening ceremony will be President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev, Uzbek Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Kamilov and possibly Russian Minster of Culture Vladimir Medinsky.

The forum will be attended by over 400 MGIMO University graduates from Russia, Uzbekistan and other European and Asian countries, who are currently the heads of international and government organisations, representatives of the business community, education and culture organisations.

The first day will include various events to acquaint the forum participants with the host country. The programme also features a Russian-Uzbek expert discussion on regional security.

There will be a presentation of new MGIMO training programmes in commodity markets, artificial intelligence, agricultural markets and sports diplomacy. Training programmes of the MGIMO branch in Tashkent, which is to open in the autumn of this year, will be presented for the first time.

The forum’s business programme will open on May 19. Discussions will take place within three plenary sessions: An Investment Map of the World. The Case for Uzbekistan; Strategic Empathy versus Security; and International Image Policy. These sessions will provide broad coverage of economic and cultural issues and the world’s best practices in these fields.

Media professionals are welcome to cover this event. Accreditation is available on the forum website and will remain open until 5 pm, May 13.


For more information contact MGIMO University press-secretary Viktoria Kalashnikova, at +7-915-301-91-88. Email:  kalashnikova.v.v@my.mgimo.ru

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9th International Victors Forum - Great Victory Achieved Through Unity

The importance of this forum is obvious. It has earned a reputation as a prestigious dialogue venue designed to keep the memory of the Great Patriotic War alive as a major historical event uniting the nations of the former USSR, promote their contribution to the Great Victory, and develop common approaches to countering the falsification of history among the expert community and representatives of the public (including youth elites) of the CIS states.

Participants in the forum were the first to announce initiatives that developed into such important projects as “The Immortal Regiment as community,” the Memory Watch “There are millions of us, Panfilov guardsmen,” to name a few.

The forum hosted by St Petersburg on April 25 was the ninth.  Its importance and uniqueness are confirmed by the fact that it was attended by 250 people, including delegations from all former Soviet republics (representatives of government bodies, veteran and youth organisations, the academic and expert communities, representatives of the arts, and journalists). Acting Governor of St Petersburg Alexander Belov read out a message of greetings from President of Russia Vladimir Putin to the participants in the forum.

Devoted this year to the 75th anniversary of the complete liberation of Leningrad from the Nazi siege, the ninth forum to preserve historical memory was symbolically opened with a wreath-laying ceremony at the Eternal Flame by the Mother Russia monument at Piskaryovskoye Memorial Cemetery. The history of the siege as an example of the unprecedented courage, tenacity and cohesion of the Soviet peoples during the Great Patriotic War was a key theme of the forum that consisted of a plenary session and four thematic sessions (of historians, scouts, youth leaders and journalists).

An important focus was developing formats for expanding the effective cooperation of youth leaders of the CIS countries, the Baltic states and Georgia with an emphasis on promoting the historical knowledge about the Great Patriotic War and preserving the continuity of the unwavering values of the victors. As such, one of the sessions of the forum was devoted to addressing this task. It was titled “Let the living remember what the generations know.”

The forum is held every year by Russian public organisations (the Institute of Eurasian Studies Development Fund and the North-South Centre for Political Science) with the support of the Interstate Fund for the People-to-People Cooperation of the CIS Member Countries in the framework of the comprehensive multilateral project of the same name.

The event has been held since 2010 in Russian hero cities and cities of military glory. In 2015, the anniversary forum coinciding with the 70th anniversary of the Great Victory took place in the museum of the Great Patriotic War on Poklonnaya Hill in Moscow. In 2016, the forum was held abroad in the Minsk Hero City (in 2017 in Astana and in 2018 in the Bryansk City of Military Glory).

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Possible steps to address humanitarian problems in Nagorno-Karabakh

We received a question about whether Sergey Lavrov and OSCE Secretary General Thomas Greminger discussed steps to solve humanitarian problems facing the residents of Nagorno-Karabakh at a meeting on April 24 in Moscow.

At Mr Greminger’s request, Sergey Lavrov informed him about the results of the meeting of the foreign ministers of Russia, Azerbaijan and Armenia with the participation of the co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group on the Nagorno-Karabakh settlement process and the joint statement adopted by them in Moscow on April 15. As noted, according to the results of the Moscow meeting, Azerbaijan and Armenia expressed interest in the prospects of establishing humanitarian cooperation. We are talking about steps to further stabilise the situation in the conflict zone, in particular, during agricultural work, the admission of relatives to visit persons imprisoned on the territory of the other party, and readiness to begin practical work on establishing people-to-people contacts, including mutual visits of media representatives.

For his part, Mr Greminger confirmed the OSCE’s intention to continue to support the Nagorno-Karabakh settlement process.

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Answers to media questions:

Question: Could you tell us more about the release of Syrian prisoners from Israeli prisons?

Maria Zakharova: This concerns Ahmed Khamis and Zidan Taweel. These are the names of the two Syrian prisoners who were released from Israeli prisons with the assistance of Russia in late April.

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Question: On May 4, during the bombing of the Gaza Strip, the office of the Anadolu news agency was struck and almost destroyed. Would you care to comment?

Maria Zakharova: As you know, countries have obligations to ensure the safety of journalists. All countries should make every effort to meet them.

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Question: On May 8, a member of the Civic Chamber of the Russian Federation, Alexander Malkevich, was denied entry to Moldova as persona non-grata. His passport was confiscated, and he was deported without any clarifications. What can you say about such a move by the Moldovan authorities?

Maria Zakharova: First, we need to find out their motives. If he was not given any explanation, it would be interesting to find out why this happened. I think we will raise this issue through our foreign missions in that country. Such actions have no added value when it comes to developing good, neighbourly and friendly relations with a state with which we have a rich common history. To put it in extremely diplomatic terms, I don’t think this step can be qualified as positive.

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Question: What measures can Russia propose to ensure security on the Syrian-Turkish border: the deployment of the Syrian army or creation of security zones that Turkey wants to set up on its Syrian border?

Maria Zakharova: You should ask our military experts. I have nothing to add to the comments that Sergey Lavrov gave today following talks with Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif.

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Question: Syria is deeply concerned about the presence of the Turkish army on its territory. When will the foreign troops leave Syria? Recently, Sergey Lavrov said that they must pull out, but when?

Maria Zakharova: They shouldn’t have come there in the first place. This may sound like an indirect answer to your question, but, in fact, it is a direct answer. They shouldn’t have come there without the invitation of the legitimate Syrian government. I’m talking about the armed forces that are deployed in Syria without Syria’s permission, which has no legitimate foundation whatsoever.

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Question: Today, the foreign ministers of Russia and Iran said they are on the same page with regard to a number of aspects in international politics, including the situation in Afghanistan. What do you think about the role of Iran in achieving peace in Afghanistan? Have any decisions been made in this regard?

Maria Zakharova: Today’s discussion was of global nature. No specific decisions were made, other than to continue close interaction between the foreign ministries and our experts. Regarding Iran’s role in resolving the situation in Afghanistan, we consider it significant. So, special attention was paid to discussing this issue with our partners.

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Question: The media reported about the Russian Foreign Ministry’s decision to deport two Swedish diplomats in response to Sweden’s refusal to issue diplomatic visas to several employees of the Russian Embassy. What can you say about this?

Maria Zakharova: Such matters do not need comments on our part. Without going into the depth of the matter, I can say that your question contains the answer. I mean the phrase "in response." Traditionally, we try not to comment on such matters.

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Question: CNN is now steadily associated with fake news. More recently, Sergey Lavrov coined an expression “fake question.” I hereby claim the authorship of the expression "fake information." The escalation of tensions around Iran and the dispatch of an aircraft carrier to the Persian Gulf are based on the information that Israel had provided to the United States and other countries. For some reason, these countries are quite serious about the data that the Israeli intelligence services provide to them, although such data was later found fake on many occasions.

You just mentioned that Russia has certain influence on Israel. Isn’t it time for the high-level Russian authorities to talk with the Israeli leaders and have them stop supplying the United States with these provocative and unsubstantiated data and provoking a new round of tensions in the region, since the Americans are heavily dependent on the Israeli lobby domestically and internationally?

Maria Zakharova: I think you just tried to shift the part of the work that should be done by the media to the executive branch. The media should engage in finding and exposing fake news and actions based on fake messages.

Today, I focused quite extensively on how Russian executive authorities, security agencies and civil society are working to expose fake stories of global level. White Helmets is one of the most vivid examples of the global industry of fakes. For our part, we are doing this kind of work as well. On our website, we have a section devoted to publications containing unreliable information which we highlight in contacts with our partners. And we do so regularly. We criticise fake statements made by our foreign opponents and colleagues. You are aware of that as well.

I think it would be wrong to take away the responsibility for exposing fakes from the media and journalists. A lot depends on you as a representative of the media that is popular in your region. In addition to everything else, it can and should be done by way of asking questions. You should put your question to the countries which you accused of actions based on fake materials. Their foreign ministries have press services, and they have embassies in Moscow as well.

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Question: Neighbouring Lithuania is acting strangely in the run-up to Victory Day. A monument to a “forest brother,” Adolfas Ramanauskas (“Vanagas”), was unveiled in Chicago on Saturday. This Nazi henchman killed tens of thousands of civilians and almost wiped out the Lithuanian Jewish community. The unveiling ceremony was attended by Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius. The Russian Embassy in the United States denounced this event. Yesterday, the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry summoned Russian diplomats to protest and to advise them to carefully study history and the biography of this person. The Lithuanian Foreign Ministry spokesperson made a statement the other day that the Lithuanian Embassy will not participate in the events dedicated to May 9. Why would they make a separate statement? Why is it being done right before May 9? Is it to spoil the holiday? How should we respond to this?

Maria Zakharova: We have already published our comments in connection with these stories. One of them was posted on the ministry’s website on November 26, 2018. We have been working on it for quite a while now.

Indeed, a monument to the figure you mentioned, who is accused of being involved in the Holocaust and crimes related to the extermination of Jews during World War II, was unveiled in a Chicago suburb on May 4 in the presence of the Lithuanian foreign minister. The Simon Wiesenthal Centre was the only organisation in the United States to protest. But its voice was not heard by the US authorities or human rights activists, including numerous funds focusing on Eastern European studies. This action was particular cynical as it almost coincided with Holocaust Remembrance Day and took place on the eve of Victory Day of the Allied Forces in Europe.

Last year, the city of New Britain, Connecticut, rejected the idea to install this monument within its city limits. However, Vilnius did not give up on the idea to implement this project. Lithuania has been consistently, and more recently with the open support of NATO and the EU, glorifying Nazi collaborators and participants of the Holocaust, portraying executioners as victims. The Centre for the Study of Genocide and the Resistance of Residents of Lithuania engages in these activities. The falsification of the history of World War II has a very practical goal which is to whitewash the pro-fascist Front of Lithuanian Activists, which started executing and looting Jews and Poles even before the German troops entered Lithuania in 1941.

During the war, these "activists" formed the backbone of the punitive and guard battalions. The destruction of the entire Jewish population of occupied Soviet Lithuania is on their conscience. After the Red Army (the 16th Lithuanian Division, one-third of which were Jews, and the Normandie-Nieman Soviet-French air regiment distinguished themselves during these battles) drove the German Nazi invaders from the republic, the “activists” carried on as “forest brothers,” mostly engaging in killing “collaborators” - their fellow countrymen, who sought a peaceful life.

You asked why they are doing what they are doing, and I gave you the answer. Don’t they understand how bad it looks? I think they do, but the goals were set and the wheels were set in motion, so the “locomotive” cannot be stopped now. Of course, we call on official Washington, if it is not too late, to talk sense into its Baltic satellites who are trying to impose on American society the values ​​upheld by those who are directly responsible for ethnic cleansing.

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