Briefing by Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova on the sidelines of the Terra Scientia National Educational Youth Forum, Solnechnogorsk, August 9, 2019
9 August 201917:38
- Moscow Region’s international and foreign economic ties
- Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s talks with Minister for Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration of the Republic of Ghana Shirley Ayorkor Botchway
- Russia’s further steps concerning the termination of the INF Treaty
- Statement by the CIS heads of state ahead of the 80th anniversary of the beginning of World War II
- Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombing anniversary
- Border delimitation between Georgia and South Ossetia
- Report by Bozidar Delic, parliamentarian of the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia, on NATO’s use of depleted uranium ammunition during its 1999 act of aggression against Yugoslavia
- Special Court investigating Kosovo Albanians’ war crimes
- Nagorno-Karabakh settlement
- Developments in Russian-Japanese relations considering Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga’s reaction on Russia’s military exercise near Kunashir Island, Sakhalin Region, on August 5-10, 2019
- South Kuril Islands mapped as part of Japan at the official website of the 2020 Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo
- Political developments in Kyrgyzstan
- Developments in Yemen
- Five Eyes intelligence alliance conference
- Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova’s briefing on the sidelines of Eurasia Global International Youth Forum
- Provocations staged by foreign media and embassies in connection with Moscow protests
- US and German attempts to interfere in the domestic affairs of Russia and China
- Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova’s meeting with the participants of the Terra Scientia National Educational Youth Forum
- Journalist, media manager and political activist Tommy Robinson in UK prison
- Situation around the INF Treaty
- Disappearance of Oleg Melnikov, the leader of the public movement against slavery, “Alternative,” in Syria
We have an on-site briefing today. I think this is great. Summer is the time to travel.
As promised, I invited all of you here. We are meeting in the city of Solnechnogorsk. You know that we conduct on-site briefings in the Russian regions. We go to different regions, including remote ones, but we have never held a briefing in the region that is the closest to Moscow. We decided to fill this gap and go to the Moscow Region, which is near and dear to me, on the invitation of the Terra Scientia National Educational Youth Forum.
We are in the wonderful nature area of Lake Senezh, with its forests and beauty.
The Terra Scientia National Educational Youth Forum is being held here from July 5 to August 20.
Here we will meet with journalists and also with the guests and participants of the forum after the briefing.
The Terra Scientia National Educational Youth Forum has been held every year since 2015 at the initiative of the Federal Agency for Youth Affairs, for young people aged between 18 and 30 years. Earlier, it took place near the Klyazma River in the village of Dvoriki in the Kameshkovky District of the Vladimir Region. Starting this year, we chose a no less beautiful place for the first time – Lake Senezh in the city of Solnechnogorsk in the Moscow Region.
I would like to make a short remark. This place is like home to me. We brought foreign correspondents here and showed them this region. Today’s briefing is particularly important for me.
As for the forum, this is a unique creative workshop, a communication platform that gives young people from all over the country, who really want to change their lives for the better and take part in these changes, to unleash their creative potential and put it into practice, to present their own achievements and see the achievements of others.
The Moscow Region is among Russia’s fastest growing regions which can be attributed not only to its favourable geographical location and proximity to the capital, but also, primarily, to the regional leaders’ consistent efforts to achieve comprehensive modernisation.
The Moscow Region boasts great research potential with eight of Russia’s 13 science towns located here. Many of them have become widely known in Russia and abroad.
International foreign economic ties are expanding with Europe and Asia alike. A large number of major foreign companies have been operating successfully in the region for many years now, with a number of promising joint business projects underway. The Moscow Region government regularly hosts delegations of foreign entrepreneurs with an eye towards localising enterprises in Moscow Region municipalities.
The Moscow Region maintains relations with its partners from more than 30 countries, including Germany, France, Italy, China, Belarus, Japan and the Republic of Korea.
The Moscow Region has signed over 20 international agreements on cooperation in trade, the economy, research, technology and culture with regions in Belarus, Azerbaijan, Armenia, North Macedonia, China and Moldova (Gagauzia).
Moscow Region municipalities are members of the Twin Cities International Association, of which Moscow Region Governor Andrey Vorobyov is president. More than 150 agreements on sister relations between cities in the Moscow Region and cities in 30 countries, including Abkhazia, Armenia, the Czech Republic, France, Italy and Kazakhstan have been signed.
The region ranks fifth among Russian regions in terms of the number of foreign tourists, with Sergiyev Posad and Kolomna being the most popular destinations. Taking this opportunity, I would like to mention the place we are in now – Solnechnogorsk and its environs – because outstanding people such as Dmitry Mendeleev, Alexander Blok and many others have lived and worked there before. Indeed, Shakhmatovo, Boblovo and many other places are worth a trip, and I think you will do so. By the way, there are also mystical sites here, such as Bezdonnoye (Bottomless) Lake. As for Lake Senezh, it has traditionally attracted artists from our country and beyond. For example, the famous painting by Isaac Levitan with Lake Senezh is on display in the State Russian Museum in St Petersburg.
Major international events are held annually in the Moscow Region. The region’s leaders regularly meet with their partners from foreign countries and foreign ambassadors accredited in Russia, as well as representatives of major businesses. This helps improve our foreign partners’ awareness of the Moscow Region itself as well as its promising regional investment projects and programmes.
In order to cover the possibilities of investment cooperation and investor support measures within business circles, Moscow Region delegations hold so-called road shows to present the Moscow Region’s economic potential. Such a show was held in France last April, and more will be held in Spain, Turkey and Denmark before the end of 2019.
A presentation of agricultural products produced by Moscow Region-based farms was held in China, Guangzhou, Guangdong Province, in August. A cooperation agreement on supplying products from the Moscow Region to the Chinese market was signed. The Moscow Region delegation visited India (New Delhi and Mumbai) with a business mission. The most successful projects of the Moscow Region with the participation of the Indian capital will be presented at the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok in September.
In terms of foreign investment, the region is invariably among the top 10 Russian regions. As of the end of 2018, the Moscow Region, in conjunction with foreign investors, has implemented over 40 projects worth about 45 billion roubles which have created 4,500 new jobs.
Traditionally, the Russian Foreign Ministry has supported the leaders of the Moscow Region in its efforts to expand and diversify its international interregional ties, especially in the economy and investment.
The Foreign Ministry is aware of the close mutually beneficial contacts between the Moscow Region and its foreign partners, large bilateral trade numbers and the region’s investment potential. We encourage our foreign missions, the embassies and consulates general, to assist as best they can the Moscow Region and other regions of the Russian Federation in order to promote relations with their foreign partners.
On August 19-21, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration of the Republic of Ghana Shirley Ayorkor Botchway will come to Moscow on a working visit.
Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will hold talks with his counterpart on August 20. The two foreign ministers will discuss current issues related to further progress in our bilateral relations in the political, trade, economic and humanitarian fields. They will pay considerable attention to promoting mutually beneficial cooperation in the energy industry, developing mineral and hydrocarbon deposits and implementing promising infrastructure projects.
The ministers will have an indepth exchange of opinions on international and regional issues of mutual interest, with an emphasis on combating terrorism, settling crises in Africa, above all in the Sahara – Sahel region, and fighting piracy in the Gulf of Guinea.
We expect the visit by the Foreign Minister of the Republic of Ghana to promote traditionally friendly relations and effective, diverse cooperation between our countries.
The attention of the entire world, especially in Europe, was focused on the final destruction of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty by the United States.
The US withdrawal from the INF Treaty is further graphic evidence of Washington’s policy of destroying the system of international security and strategic stability. Obviously, this policy is aimed at securing its military power and supremacy over any opponent. Thus, the Americans want to eliminate any restrictions that could hypothetically prevent them from reaching this goal.
Incidentally, we have repeatedly emphasised that US National Security Adviser John Bolton told us specifically, as early as his visit to Moscow last October, that Washington is worried about the potential of intermediate and shorter range missiles in Asia, primarily in China, which compels the US to level the balance of forces in the region. Immediately after the termination of the INF Treaty, US Defence Secretary Mark Esper openly expressed the Pentagon’s interest in deploying missiles of these ranges in Asia Pacific. These facts illustrate that the US has purposefully been destroying the treaty for a long time.
Only those who lack an understanding of the political environment in today’s international relations do not know why the treaty’s termination was again blamed on Moscow. It is convenient to accuse Moscow of anything. This is just one example.
Washington’s withdrawal from the INF Treaty creates the real prospect of the deployment of US nuclear missile systems of these ranges in various regions in the world. Naturally, as Russian leaders said, we will have to take this negative factor into account in our military planning and, if necessary, respond practically to emerging threats.
In line with the instructions given by President of Russia Vladimir Putin on August 5, and in cooperation with other departments, the Foreign Ministry will closely follow US actions on developing, producing and deploying ground-based intermediate and shorter range missiles. If the Americans carry out these actions, Russia will take exhaustive reciprocal measures to ensure its own national security.
The Russian President also announced a unilateral commitment not to deploy missiles that were covered by the treaty in any region until similar US-made weapons appear there.
We again urge Washington and its allies to display responsibility and join this moratorium, which would enhance predictability in military-political affairs. Such a step would show the international community that concern for international security is not an empty shell for them, that it is important not only for Russia.
We remain open to an equitable and constructive dialogue with the United States on INF and other issues of strategic stability based on mutual respect and consideration for each other’s interests.
These days are known for a number of tragic historical events. It is impossible to move forward without knowing history and learning the main lessons of history, and if previous mistakes are repeated. I would like to remind you that these days humankind remembers that 80 years ago World War II broke out.
The heads of state of the Commonwealth of Independent States approved a statement in the run-up to the 80th anniversary of the beginning of World War II. In my view, this document is not merely guided by current considerations, addressing the present political situation, but is based on an in-depth analysis of history and an insight into the future.
By developing and later approving this statement, the CIS heads of state have paid tribute to all those who perished in World War II, fighting against German Nazism. They emphasised that this tragedy resulted from the inability of the international community to create an effective system of collective security. I have just spoken about how this collective security system is being destroyed now, facing a complete demise.
The CIS heads of state have pointed to the universal and inter-governmental character of the United Nations Organisation, which was established at the end of WWII in 1945, and its particularly important responsibility for maintaining peace and preventing new global conflicts.
They have also reaffirmed their invariable commitment to the principles and norms of international law and the objectives and principles of the UN Charter that all of us know well and which are, unfortunately, being threatened by those who see international law as a hindrance to the policy they pursue and the goals that only serve their personal interests.
The CIS heads of state have condemned any attempts to justify and glorify Nazism and its accomplices and have called on all countries to take a responsible approach to delivering on their obligations to maintain war memorials, monuments and commemorative plaques, as well as cemeteries of soldiers who died liberating countries in Europe and Asia. It is all the more important to say this here, in a Moscow suburb where the earth is soaked with the blood of the Soviet Red Army soldiers who repelled the enemy’s attacks in the distant 1941. Lots of monuments to our soldiers were put up in this area, where there are many mass graves that the residents of this suburb are taking good care of, preserving the historical memory.
The statement also says that World War II was the greatest tragedy in the 20th century, in which tens of millions of people lost their lives. This gravest humanitarian catastrophe in the history of humankind was the result of the aggressive aspirations of those who believed in their racial superiority, exclusiveness and the right to decide the fate of other countries and peoples on their own.
The CIS heads of state have also called on other countries to draw lessons from this tragic period in the history of our civilisation and rebuild genuine cooperation and mutual understanding between countries and peoples.
For the full text of the statement visit: http://www.cis.minsk.by/news.php?id=11711
On August 6 and 9, 1945, the United States dropped atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Both cities were wiped off the face of the earth. The nuclear explosions claimed the lives of 150,000 people. Diseases caused by radioactive contamination resulted in hundreds of thousands of more deaths over the years and decades after the bombing. Today, the total number of victims of these atomic strikes exceeds 450,000 people.
Some Western politicians tend to exaggerate the military-strategic effect of the atomic bombing of the Japanese cities at the end of World War II. They claim that it was the US atomic bombings that brought about the surrender of Japan, which was an ally of Nazi Germany during the war.
A cursory glance at these relatively recent historical events makes it appear that such claims are true. However, more detailed historical studies directly show something very different.
The destructive power of the atomic bombs dropped by the US on Hiroshima and Nagasaki was comparable to the results of conventional US air attacks on Japanese cities. For example, after the bombing of Tokyo in the early hours of March 10, 1945, almost the entire city burned down, with 84,000 people killed and 40,000 people injured. The atomic bombs did not have that psychological impact on Japan’s militaristic government as the US expected. Even after the atomic strikes, the Japanese government was determined to continue its resistance.
Historical documents clearly indicate that the decisive factor that prompted Tokyo to decide on surrender was the Soviet Union’s fulfillment of its allied obligations and its active entry into the war against Japan on August 8, 1945.
Despite the enormous losses on the western front, the USSR fulfilled its obligation at the cost of many lives of Soviet soldiers and officers. Let me remind you that the participation of the USSR in the war against Japan was agreed upon at the Tehran Conference in 1943. These decisions, important for our common victory, were consolidated during the talks in Yalta and Potsdam.
The lightning advance of the Red Army in the east led to the defeat of the millionth group of the Japanese Kwantung Army; the Soviet troops liberated the northeastern part of China and the north of the Korean Peninsula from the Japanese aggressors. It was the successful actions of the Red Army that deprived Japan of its last hope for any possibility to continue the hostilities.
I would like to emphasise that the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was the first and, fortunately, the only actual test of nuclear weapons on a civilian population. It is especially cynical that the Target Committee specially created by the US in the spring of 1945 intentionally refused to target attacks on Japanese military facilities – thus, Washington deliberately chose the mass destruction of the civilian population, albeit an enemy at that time.
Even many decades after these tragic events, it is clear that the atomic strikes on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were not only a test, but also a demonstration by the United States of its new weapons of mass destruction.
This demonstration was addressed primarily to the Soviet Union, which Washington never ceased to qualify as its potential adversary. And the signal sent by the US, as we know, was received by Moscow – the goal to develop a similar WMD was successfully achieved.
Today, both the US and Japan (primarily due to US propaganda) regard the atomic tragedy of the Japanese cities not through the prism of historical truth but rather fleeting political interests. Historical truth is sacrificed to the military-political alliance of these two countries. To this day, not a single US president has really apologised for the atomic strikes in the way it should have. Japanese society strictly observes the taboo on the public mention of simple facts concerning those events – information on which country dropped atomic bombs on the Japanese civilian population and which state is responsible for the terrible and senseless death of hundreds of thousands of fellow citizens is carefully hushed up.
We have noted that on the eve of the 11th anniversary of the events of August 2008, Georgian and Western media and politicians are again trying to play the “borderisation” card. Artificial frenzy over the alleged violations on the South Ossetian-Georgian border is once again being created. A myth is being spread on the shifting of the border by Russians and South Ossetians and their movement inside Georgian territory. Russia is being accused of continuing its “long-term military-diplomatic campaign to systematically partition and seize the Georgian state.”
I will not react to every verbal attack. I will make a general statement on the assertions.
Russian border guards are stationed in the Republic of South Ossetia under a bilateral agreement on joint efforts to protect the state border, signed on April 30, 2009. They are not engaged in any activities on the border between the two countries. Border arrangements are carried out as planned by South Ossetia and are designed to create conditions for the safe and conflict-free life of the population of the two neighbouring countries. Such measures are primarily aimed at eliminating the many incidents linked with the unintentional violations of the border. We believe that the people who found themselves on the wrong sides of the border after the August 2008 events are not guilty of anything and have the right to live in understandable and predictable conditions. This is the goal of marking the border on the ground.
There is another important point. South Ossetia is ready for an open dialogue with Georgia on any current issues.
I would like to address the Georgian media, Georgian journalists. I know they are almost forbidden to quote everything we say, to use direct quotes, but I would like to repeat this: South Ossetia is ready for any dialogue with Georgia on any current issues. You know that Georgian journalists do not visit South Ossetia, and not because it’s banned, and there is even a myth that Russia does not allow entry. No, that is not true. They do not do this because they don’t want to. They are not ready to ask for a permit to visit South Ossetia, make reports, take interviews, or talk with its people and leaders. They realise that they will be simply unable to show on television or publish in their newspapers what they will be told. So I’m addressing them: please make an effort and quote at least this phrase without distorting it. Do this for your own country.
Tskhinval has repeatedly invited Georgians to sit at the negotiating table and directly discuss the issues of border demarcation and delimitation despite the myth of Russia’s efforts to block this work, which is widespread in Georgia. And this is not the only issue on which South Ossetia is ready for direct dialogue with Georgia. If need be, we are ready to facilitate this in every way. Regrettably, Tbilisi has ignored all similar gestures up to this day.
I receive many messages from Georgian citizens, which are written in a peculiar manner. They write, for instance, that they want to visit Abkhazia and South Ossetia but we do not allow them to do this. Who told you that Russia does not allow this? This is a myth, a false assertion. Address Abkhazia and South Ossetia directly and resolve the issues on a bilateral basis.
And one more point. While continuously accusing Russia and South Ossetia, Georgia and its Western partners are taking steps that can only be described as an open escalation of tensions on the border. Thus, political tourism involving border area trips for foreign diplomats, “exercise” inroads into South Ossetian territory that are coordinated with the local Georgian authorities and secret services, scandalous raids of notorious Georgian NGOs and regular large-scale maneuvers that are held under NATO aegis with the mandatory “border component” have already become traditional.
We have not forgotten about the events in Yugoslavia in 1999. I hope you remember that at that time NATO did not only bomb a sovereign state, its capital and its civilians but also used ammunition with depleted uranium.
We welcome the steps taken by Serbian parliamentarians to establish the truth about the tragic events in Yugoslavia in connection with NATO’s aggression against that country under a vain pretext in the spring of 1999. The author of the report, parliamentarian of the National Assembly of Serbia Bozidar Delic, a retired general and a direct witness to those events, studied, evaluated and compared the data, revealing that NATO seriously understated the volumes of the dropped depleted uranium, at least by 20 times.
Time has proved that the NATO bombings were not only an illegal act of violence but a kind of “delayed-action mine” which still poses a health threat for millions of ordinary people including children.
Let me remind you that about 2,000 civilians, among them at least 89 children, died during that barbarous special operation, which is cynically referred to as “humanitarian intervention.” The victims included a large number of Kosovo Albanians, whom NATO was supposed to rescue. The use of depleted uranium ammunition contaminated the soil and water in many regions, which caused a considerable increase in cancer cases. No one was held responsible for that.
In the context of a troubled internal political situation in the Kosovo “faux state,” we would like to call your attention to the failure, up to the present moment, of the Special Court investigating war crimes of the Kosovo Liberation Army. The court was established in The Hague in 2017 under the auspices of the EU. Not a single charge has been brought against persons involved, among other things, in kidnappings and murders of people for the sake of harvesting their internal organs for sale on the black market. How can this be possible, taking into consideration the extent of Western power involved?
We would like to note that everyone involved in committing those atrocities revealed by PACE rapporteur Dick Marty back in 2010 must face a court trial and get the punishment they deserve, no matter what positions they currently hold.
We are satisfied to note that the contact line between Azerbaijan and Armenia is relatively calm. At the same time, we are concerned over the accusations that both sides continue to express under various pretexts. Such rhetoric is not in keeping with the interests of establishing favourable conditions for talks and a subsequent compromise to settle the conflict.
Russia’s position is based on the premise that the final status of Nagorno-Karabakh must be decided via talks between Azerbaijan and Armenia. You know our position on this; it has not changed. Considering the close relations between Moscow, Baku and Yerevan, Russia, as a co-chair of the OSCE Minsk Group, remains focused on assisting in the promotion of the settlement process.
Russian-Japanese relations are developing in the areas laid out at bilateral top level meetings. This is the course we are working for.
Unfortunately, at the same time, Tokyo tends to forget the reality: the undeniable sovereignty of the Russian Federation over the south Kurile Islands following World War II. Protests against our legitimate activities in this part of the Sakhalin Region are unacceptable and contradict the Japanese leaders’ regular assurances of their intention to create a calm and friendly atmosphere around this Russian-Japanese dialogue.
Tokyo should understand that the gradual implementation of the federal targeted programme, Socioeconomic Development of the Kurile Islands (Sakhalin Region) for 2016-2025, and visits by Russian officials to this Russian region, including those by senior government officials, as well as the planned events to improve Russia’s defence capability, considering the military and political situation in the northwest Pacific, among other things, will continue.
We have received a request to comment on Japan’s latest move: the mapping of the south Kurile Islands as part of Japan.
We believe such actions to be illegitimate. In addition to the legal implications, there is also the atmosphere the two countries are trying to create to address the remaining complicated issues, including at the request and on the agreement of Tokyo. Actions like this will not serve to promote an atmosphere of cooperation; they can only poison it.
Anyone who carries out such actions, perhaps unknowingly or while misunderstanding historical events, should be asked: who will benefit from such an action? I can say that it is definitely not Tokyo and definitely not our bilateral relations.
We continue to monitor the developments in Kyrgyzstan, which is our ally and strategic partner. We are concerned about the situation in the country, which has experienced serious political turmoil in the past.
Kyrgyzstan’s internal stability is in keeping with the interests of its people and friends. We believe that acute political differences will be overcome through peaceful means under the constitution of Kyrgyzstan and current law.
According to our information, on August 7–8 clashes between the supporters of the Yemeni government and the Southern Transitional Council took place in the main southern city of Aden, which is controlled by the legitimate authorities. The Southern Transitional Council is calling for wider autonomy in the southern Yemeni provinces with the potential to create a separate state there in the future.
Moscow is concerned over a situation that threatens turning into a new serious armed confrontation in Yemen. Only terrorists would benefit from the continuation of this feud that can only be settled by all Yemenis working together. We call on all sides of the military confrontation in Aden to renounce the escalation of violence and resolve the existing disputes through peaceful talks.
We believe that issues related to the future state and territorial arrangement of Yemen can only be addressed after the military and political conflict, started in 2014, is put to an end. These issues can only be resolved through a dialogue involving all the leading Yemeni political forces based on a balance of their lawful interests and concerns.
Russia will continue to assist this process by supporting active constructive contacts with all the various groups of Yemeni society without exception, representatives of other regional states and the UN Special Envoy for Yemen.
We have noted the July meeting of the interior, security and migration ministers of the Five Eyes intelligence alliance comprising Australia, Great Britain, Canada, New Zealand, and the United States. According to the final statement, the theme of the discussion was quite acute: fighting challenges created by new technology. The special focus was on threats in information space.
Perhaps there is nothing wrong with a meeting between close partners to discuss ways to protect their people in this area. But references to an intelligence alliance bring up several logical questions: who are they united against? Who would a joint strike be aimed at? What are the five eyes looking at?
Meetings like this cannot but alarm the states that don’t take part in them, especially if we recall Edward Snowden’s notorious exposures of the Five Eyes special services’ widespread and covert surveillance of people from other countries, including the European Union countries. Considering this, we cannot help but question the impartiality and sincerity of the conclusions presented to the public following the meeting in July.
There is an impression that the alliance’s activity in issues related to international information security is an attempt to “close the ranks” ahead of a new stage of talks on this subject at the UN to begin in September. We believe that, at this point, the participants in these talks should take a constructive approach and avoid using regional alliances to oppose multilateral processes under the auspices of the UN.
Our next briefing is scheduled for August 15 (Thursday) in Orenburg, the host city of the Eurasia Global International Youth Forum that will be held there from August 12 to 18 involving about 1,000 young participants from 100 countries. More information about the event will be posted on our website. Accreditation will open on the website as well.
Question: In one of your recent remarks, you promised a “mirror” response to foreign media and embassies’ reaction to the Moscow protest rallies. Does the Foreign Ministry expect similar provocations during tomorrow's rallies in Moscow? What will the response be like?
Maria Zakharova: As you may be aware, we are talking not only about the media of a number of Western countries, but also about their alliance, the link existing between the media, the journalists and the government bodies of these countries. They act together and constitute a genuine conglomerate. This is what propaganda is all about, when the media and allegedly independent journalism are used for certain purposes by a state machine, which, in this case, includes several countries.
As you may also be aware, embassy representatives from the Federal Republic of Germany and the United States were summoned to the Foreign Ministry during the past two days and were made a diplomatic representation regarding the use of information resources citing specific examples. I would like to emphasise that we brought only isolated cases to their attention. In fact, we have a large set of cases which we are willing to provide in due course. They testify that these states, using the information tools and the media in their countries, are directly intervening in Russia’s domestic affairs and politics. This is unacceptable from the point of view of international law, or specific documents regulating embassy activity, in particular, the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961 and, most importantly, from the point of view of these countries’ approaches to a ban on interference in domestic affairs in general and election processes in particular. Of course, we are in contact with the media representatives and their editorial boards, who stooped to direct such a campaign. This is, in particular, about Deutsche Welle. This is untenable behaviour. Of course, we will do what we can to make sure they focus on doing their job, which is reporting, and do not let themselves be involved by the state bodies of their countries in our country’s domestic affairs.
With regard to our reaction, we will respond and have already begun to do so. In particular, we have moved on to a phase which has long been used by our Western colleagues, specifically, we are publicly accusing the media and individual reporters and providing specific examples. Unlike them, who always talk about Russian propaganda, or the threat represented by the Russian media, or that they are not the media, but propagandists, we are providing facts. This is being done almost on a daily basis and everything that I’m talking about is brought to the attention of international organisations, in particular, the OSCE.
Question: Now Russia is calling for an investigation into attempts by the United States and Germany to interfere in its domestic affairs, in particular, during the coverage of the unauthorised protests in Moscow on August 3. As you know, protests in Hong Kong were also staged with US interference. CIA operatives function almost openly in Hong Kong. What can you say about the influence of the West, especially the US, on the political stability and security of Russia and China?
Maria Zakharova: We have indeed heard a statement from the Chinese directly accusing several Western secret services, including representatives of US intelligence agencies, not simply of some kind of abstract interference but of direct participation and organisation of unrest in China’s Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. We took this information seriously. I think it would be correct and useful to let the relevant services exchange information.
As for matters related to the information space, consultations with our Chinese colleagues have been planned. I believe we will talk with them soon and discuss this issue among other things. As for your question, this influence is destructive. Importantly, this destructive influence is not a side effect but the goal. I think it is obvious and easy to see why and for what purpose the technology developed by the secret services for meddling in Chinese and Russian affairs is being used. You mentioned it – to destabilise the situation. What for? Everyone can see how well and in what areas our countries are developing. It’s both economic progress and the development of a non-offensive and non-aggressive defence potential. Moreover, our two countries are responsible participants in international relations and build them on international law rather than new technology and solutions, not to mention the use of force.
We believe our countries are excellent examples of how big powers and permanent members of the UN Security Council with their own national interests can build relations with other global players based on mutual respect. We are seeing that many countries don’t like this, including, regrettably the United States, as you mentioned. It is one of the first in this respect. They do not bother to show any respect for others in international relations. They want to pursue their own interests and goals with little interest for others in international relations. This is why the examples shown both by Moscow and Beijing are a strong irritant to them. I believe this is part of it.
In addition, from a global perspective this can be described as deterrence as far as political science is concerned. This is a sign of hegemonic policy about which the Chinese have spoken more than once. We see Washington’s a trade war, trade aggression and bellicose attitude towards China in the economy and in finance. We understand that in this situation “any approach is good.” Such a policy is unacceptable for us.
Question: I understand that after the briefing, you will meet the participants of the Terra Scientia National Educational Youth Forum. Vladimir Putin became Russia’s Prime Minister exactly on this date but 20 years ago. What will you say to these young people if they ask you about Putin’s influence on Russia’s foreign policy, about changes and successes over the past 20 years? How will you reply to them?
Maria Zakharova: Are you serious? This is a kind of new barbarity in communications. In other words, you are asking me what I’ll be asked at a meeting that you won’t attend? Let’s do it this way – if you have a question, ask me. I will reply to your question; I will reply to a question by those who ask it. We know you and the German ZDF Channel. You are professionals, after all, so be serious.
Let’s allow Russia’s young people articulate their own questions without the ZDF. I believe in Russian youth. I know they have questions and I am ready to answer them. They can ask questions without your prompting. This is what we told the German Embassy’s charge d'affaires ad interim when we summoned her to the Foreign Ministry. There is no need to prompt Russian young people. They are fluent in Russian and many other languages. They are open to learning about the world and have a good education. Russian young people can ask questions without you. We are open to cooperation with you and discussions of various issues, including unpleasant, issues. But let’s remember the main thing: our domestic policy is our domestic policy and this country can live its own life without Western journalists prompting the questions that we should discuss. We will somehow deal with this on our own. But I will answer your question if you have one, with pleasure.
Question: Journalist, media manager and political activist, Tommy Robinson, remains in prison the UK. His supporters believe that his imprisonment was politically motivated. Moreover, the British police brutally dispersed the peaceful demonstrations staged by his supporters in London and other cities. This could happen once again this Saturday. What would be your comment?
Maria Zakharova: You as a journalist, and your media outlet, have been showing interest in this question for quite a while, so I decided to look into this issue. I saw the ruling by Britain’s Themis and her “sister” in the case of Tommy Robinson, a local journalist and civil society activist. Let me remind you that he was sentenced to several months in prison for contempt of court. We saw the protest rallies in London. It is our belief that just like in any other democracy, considering that the Kingdom invariably places itself among democracies, only courts can determine to what extent a person is liable for violations they are accused of. Guided by the principle of non-interference in court proceedings or domestic affairs of other countries, we find it inappropriate for us to comment on this court case or the protests staged by Tommy Robinson’s supporters.
Of course, we monitor the media environment and all the developments related to the freedom of journalists and civil society activists. We will keep this situation on our radar, primarily in terms of the absolute priority of ensuring compliance with the highest human rights standards, since UK officials have always stressed their adherence to these standards.
We are not the ones who should be asked this question, but since you did ask, I could not fail to share my comment. We will keep track of these developments as part of our overall communication efforts related to analysing the international information space. Promoting political pluralism has been an iron rule for the United Kingdom. Pursuing people for their beliefs is clearly unacceptable. This applies to all countries, including Great Britain.
Question: Let me go back to the INF Treaty. You have referred to a quote by the Defence Secretary, who said that the United States intends to deploy its missiles to Asia. Has Russia taken note of this scenario? To what extent is it dangerous?
Maria Zakharova: I mentioned the instructions issued by President of Russia Vladimir Putin to the Foreign Ministry and a number of other government agencies to monitor these developments. Monitoring, analysing various scenarios and devising response plans is what these instructions are all about. I would like to mention once again Russia’s proposal to keep the corresponding moratorium in place. As far as we are concerned, we made statements to this effect at the highest level and called on the United States and all others to follow our lead.
Question: What could Russia and China do together?
Maria Zakharova: The United States has been deliberately trying to link the INF Treaty with China and its policy. However, this is absurd, since two countries drafted and signed the Treaty. What does China have to do with this? Even China fails to grasp this link, as it said in multiple comments and statements. In this case, this is an agreement that has to be treated as a bilateral instrument. This is the approach that we have been following. Let me reiterate that China is a responsible international subject, including on matters of international stability and security.
Question: There were reports on the disappearance in Syria of Oleg Melnikov, leader of anti-slavery movement the Alternative, who headed to Idlib with a group of volunteers, and could no longer be contacted after that. Has the Foreign Ministry undertaken anything to find him?
Maria Zakharova: Consular staff of the Russian Embassy in Syria started investigating the circumstances as soon as the first reports on the disappearance of the Russian national emerged. We enquired with the Syrian authorities about his fate. We are working on this issue. As soon as our efforts yield results that can be communicated to the press, we will definitely do so.
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