Briefing by Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova on the sidelines of the Mashuk North Caucasus Youth Forum, Pyatigorsk, August 22, 2019
22 August 201917:18
Table of contents
- Mashuk North Caucasus Youth Forum
- The Stavropol Territory’s international and interregional ties
- Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s talks with Foreign Minister of Angola Manuel Domingos Augusto
- Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s talks with Foreign Minister of India Subrahmanyam Jaishankar
- Syria update
- Former US ambassador to Syria on the situation around the Rukban camp
- Russia and China’s request for a UN Security Council briefing on US plans to develop and deploy intermediate-range missiles
- Update on Russian seamen from the Marmalaita cargo vessel attacked by pirates off the shores of Cameroon
- International conference to prevent corruption in sports
- Kiev broadcasts propaganda to Russian border areas in violation of international law
- Western double standards in ensuring freedom of the media and equal access to information
- Update on Jammu and Kashmir
- US talks with representatives of the Constitutional Assembly of Venezuela
- Settling the differences between Turkey and Syria
- Israel’s potential mediation in settling the conflict in southeastern Ukraine
- Vladimir Zelensky’s statement on Russia’s possible return to the G8
Mashuk North Caucasus Youth Forum
We are holding today's briefing amid stunning nature – at the foot of Mount Mashuk not far from Pyatigorsk. This is the site of the tenth Mashuk North Caucasus Youth Forum from August 9 to 30, organised by the Office of the Presidential Plenipotentiary Envoy to the North Caucasus Federal District, the Federal Agency for Ethnic Affairs, the Federal Agency for Youth Affairs and the Government of the Stavropol Territory. We are practicing field events, so do not be surprised by our background. We are actually surrounded by this beautiful nature, the relict forests and the stunning atmosphere of this region.
After the briefing we will meet with the representatives and participants of this forum. As a reminder, this youth event has brought together 3,000 people. Applications were submitted from 76 regions in Russia and 19 other countries.
The Mashuk Forum is a practice-oriented educational platform for young people enabling the participants to boost their personal potential in the context of the country's development challenges in a favourable environment for cultural exchange and self-development.
The Stavropol Territory’s international and interregional ties
The Stavropol Territory is among Russia’s most dynamically growing regions. About 300 mineral deposits and oil and gas fields have been discovered here. The mineral and raw material potential of the region’s subsoil is estimated at over $56 billion.
The Stavropol Territory offers favourable conditions for the agro-industrial complex. When you fly into Mineralnye Vody Airport, vast cultivated fields without a single area of untilled land come into view. Everyone who flies into here should see that. The region has strong tourism and resort businesses, the electric power generating, mining and processing sectors, as well as the transit infrastructure.
The Stavropol Territory actively participates in implementing the state programme, “Strategy for the Socioeconomic Development of the North Caucasus Federal District until 2025,” which outlines the main areas, ways and means of achieving the strategic goals of sustainable development and ensuring national security in the North Caucasus Federal District (NCFD). The document takes into account the current state of these regions, Russia’s economy in general and the global economy, their prospects, as well as the results of implementing projects of regional and interregional importance. The main goal is to provide proper conditions for the advanced development of the real sector of the economy and the sustainable socioeconomic development of the regions of the North Caucasus Federal District, including the Stavropol Territory.
Given the impact of the sanctions, which are illegally imposed on Russia, import substitution has become a key issue, especially in the industrial and agro-industrial sectors of the North Caucasian Federal District’s economy. Under the revised version of the Strategy of 2014 for financing the second phase of the programme until 2020, priority is given to projects on import substitution and development and promotion of innovative Russian technologies, domestic products, generating tax revenue and the improvement of labour market conditions.
Plans have been approved in the Stavropol Territory seeking to facilitate import substitution, and lists of “anchor investment projects” in industry and the agro-industrial complex have been drafted. Significant funds have been allocated from the federal budget, including funding to subsidise interest rates on investment loans. The Stavropol Territory is a leader in import substitution programmes among the NCFD regions. In order to achieve the import substitution goals in this region, a subprogramme entitled “Ensuring the import substitution output until 2020” is also being implemented.
The industrial enterprises, mainly represented by mechanical engineering, electric power generating, oil and gas production and refining, and the food and chemical industries, lead the region’s economy.
The Stavropol Territory is an agro-industrial region with highly developed agriculture. The volume of agricultural products in 2018 was valued at 188.6 billion roubles.
The Stavropol Territory’s international relations are based on seven cooperation agreements with foreign countries.
Over the past several years, the region’s foreign trade has been showing positive dynamics. As of late 2018, it was over $1.7 billion.
Industrial and agro-industrial parks with tax benefits and preferences are being created in the Stavropol Territory to attract foreign investment.
The Stavropol company Monocrystal is a world leader in manufacturing materials and components for the solar energy and LED industries. It is the first and so far only enterprise in the North Caucasian Federal District to establish production facilities abroad, in Guangzhou, China in order to improve product competitiveness.
Foreign businesses, in particular, Italian businesses, are noticeably present in the Stavropol Territory. Starting in 2011, Italy began organising visits by its delegations to the North Caucasus Federal District each year as part of the “Caucasus Meets Italy” project.
In 2018, cooperation between the Stavropol Territory and Enel Russia received another boost after an agreement on cooperation in renewable energy sources was signed on the sidelines of the St Petersburg International Economic Forum. A wind farm with a capacity of up to 300 MW will be built in the Stavropol Territory.
As one of Russia’s largest resort areas (I visited a couple of years ago and really enjoyed it), the Stavropol Territory maintains a leading position in the market of health resort services. More than 836,000 vacationers visited the Caucasian Mineral Waters region in January to July 2019, which is 7.6% more than over the same period last year.
Today, I saw the rebuilt Mineralnye Vody Airport. I was impressed, and I’m really happy for its passengers.
Modern resorts and hotels are built every year with 13 sites commissioned since early 2019; 22 resort and tourist facilities are under construction.
In recent years, international festivals, contests and youth forums have been signature events at Caucasian Mineral Waters resort towns. They include the Sail of Fate International Festival of Folk Art based on Mikhail Lermontov’s writings, the Crystal Spring Film Festival of popular genres, the Safonov International Young Pianist Contest and White Acacia International Forum of creative unions. The PyroFivePeaks International Pyrotechnic Art Championship and the Hero and Time International Film Festival, which brought in participants from about 20 countries and hundreds of thousands of spectators, were held for the first time here in 2019.
The Third International Festival “Student Spring of the BRICS and the SCO Countries,” which was held in the region’s capital in June, was an important international event for the Stavropol Territory. It brought together over 2,500 participants from 23 countries and was designed to improve neighbourly relations and cultural and sociopolitical ties between the youth of the participating countries.
Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s talks with Foreign Minister of Angola Manuel Domingos Augusto
On August 26, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will hold talks with Foreign Minister of Angola Manuel Domingos Augusto, who will be in Moscow on a working visit.
The foreign ministers will discuss the state of and prospects for the further development of bilateral ties and focus on practical issues related to the promotion of political, trade, economic, cultural and other forms of cooperation.
They are expected to have a detailed discussion on the key issues on the international and regional agenda with an emphasis on the settlement of crises in African hotbeds.
Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s talks with Foreign Minister of India Subrahmanyam Jaishankar
On August 27, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will hold talks with Foreign Minister of India Subrahmanyam Jaishankar in Moscow.
The two countries’ foreign ministers will discuss ways to further promote bilateral cooperation and also coordinate their schedule of upcoming contacts. They will focus on the preparations for the Indian delegation’s participation in the fifth Eastern Economic Forum (Vladivostok, September 4–6) and the annual summit. Important thematic sections include trade, investment, military, science and technology cooperation, the use of national currencies for mutual payments and prospective projects in space exploration and energy, especially on the Arctic shelf and the Russian Far East.
The ministers will exchange views on pressing international problems with an emphasis on cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region as well as within the UN, SCO and RIC. They will also discuss Russia’s upcoming BRICS presidency as well as a range of regional matters, including efforts to preserve the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on the Iranian nuclear programme, developments in the Persian Gulf area and the situation in Afghanistan.
Tensions persist in and around Idlib despite the generally stable situation in Syria. The reasons are obvious: terrorists’ aggressive raids in the de-escalation zone and beyond. Russia has made many statements on this lately, including at the high and highest levels. I would like to note the detailed comment Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov made in recent days. The transcripts are available on the ministry’s website (www.mid.ru/en) and official social media accounts (https://twitter.com/MID_RF, https://vk.com/mid, https://www.facebook.com/MIDRussia, https://www.instagram.com/mid.rus/, https://telegram.me/MID_Russia).
The precise, verified information speaks for itself. On August 16–19, terrorists carried out six attacks in the south of the demilitarised zone, using tanks, armored vehicles, multiple launch rocket systems, mortars, antitank missile systems, “jihadmobiles” and pickup trucks with machine guns. In total, this August illegal militant groups have carried out 19 such attacks against Syrian troops, which killed 124 and injured over 220 Syrian soldiers. In addition, five civilians were killed and 17 were injured by terrorist fire. The Syrian army has to respond to constant provocations by counterattacking, which has resulted in the liberation of 10 villages from radicals.
We believe it vital to fully comply with all the agreements on Idlib aimed at continuing the fight against terrorists and protecting civilians. In this context, we will continue to cooperate with Turkey under the Sochi memorandum of September 17, 2018.
Former US ambassador to Syria on the situation around the Rukban camp
We have repeatedly noted the crisis of analytical thought in the Western community, which, in my opinion, has not even tried to analyse the deeper causes of the situation in the Middle East and North Africa, the Western countries’ involvement in this process and their responsibility for the consequences.
But there are publications that I would like to highlight for a wider audience. In particular, the statements by resident scholar at the Middle East Institute think tank Robert Ford, who in 2011-2014 served as US Ambassador to Syria, strike a discordant note with the official position of Washington on Syria. This person definitely knows the situation from the inside, from the time before the events that have affected the entire world. He really knows what he is talking about.
The former senior US official notes the dire humanitarian situation in the Rukban camp for internally displaced persons (IDPs), stressing that “Washington is trying to duck responsibility, blaming everyone but its own callous policy.” Disputing American officials, in particular US Special Representative for Syria Engagement James Jeffrey, Robert Ford cites international law to back up his claim that “the US has legal and moral responsibility to protect civilians at Rukban in Syria.” You know what I mean – we almost never hear anything like that from officials in the United States.
According to the former ambassador, the United States is by all indications an “occupying power” in Syria. As far as we understand, this is news for the United States, which does not consider itself an occupying power, and not only in Syria. Moreover, the United States is “in de facto military control” of a 55-kilometre security zone around At-Tanf and harshly suppresses any attempts by other states to penetrate this territory (and, as Ford writes, this is not an empty threat of using force – in May 2017, the United States bombed Syrian and Iranian convoys on the outskirts of At-Tanf, sending Moscow, Damascus and Tehran a symbolic signal “to keep clear of At-Tanf”). And finally, the United States is a party to the international armed conflict in Syria; it exercises de facto control over the area around At-Tanf and uses its influence to recruit Syrians living there to serve in its local illegal Syrian militia. We talk about this regularly, unlike American experts, let alone US media – they would never rise to the caliber of such assessments.
Robert Ford also writes that the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 requires the United States, as an occupying power, to ensure “to the fullest extent of the means available to it” adequate “food and medical supplies of the population” in the occupied territory. He also reminds of the need to be guided by basic human morality and the legacy of someone who has long been revered by the political establishment in the United States, Abraham Lincoln, who laid the basis for modern international humanitarian law by issuing the first instruction to the US Army to protect civilians in a war zone.
Robert Ford suggests the US government consider the following options of delivering humanitarian aid to Rukban: press Jordan to allow immediate cross-border aid; if the Jordanians still refuse, Washington could give the UN access to its air strip in the At-Tanf zone.
I would like to note that while the Americans are considering options (it’s good that this view has appeared in the public space anyway), Russia is acting. Since the beginning of the settlement process, the Russian Centre for Reconciliation of opposing sides in Syria implemented 2,186 humanitarian actions, and the total weight of humanitarian aid delivered to Syrian citizens amounted to 3,543 tonnes.
Robert Ford’s views are noteworthy, which is why I am focusing on them now; perhaps even this briefing may prompt American diplomats to heed the opinion of their compatriot, who is also an expert on the issue. Even experts without any pro-Kremlin record doubt the legitimacy of the US presence in Syria, bluntly calling the Americans occupiers and demanding that they shoulder responsibility for the people living in the occupied territory.
Russia and China’s request for a UN Security Council briefing on US plans to develop and deploy intermediate-range missiles
At the request of Russia and China, a session of the UN Security Council will be held today, August 22, in connection with US plans to develop and deploy ground-based intermediate-range missiles. In this context, I would like to explain the following.
Russia, backed by China, requested a briefing on this issue at the UN Security Council. This is a public event. Any member of the UN Security Council has the right to make such a request. This time we asked for the UN Secretary-General’s High Representative for Disarmament Affairs Izumi Nakamitsu to give a report. The session is due to take place at 3 pm, New York time.
Russia’s request is based on the US’ stated intentions to deploy intermediate-range missiles in the Asia-Pacific Region. Obviously, this is just the first step, and in the future, these US weapons may appear in other regions as well, including Europe. Such moves lead to the escalation of international tensions, which we have talked about more than once, particularly in recent times and with our Chinese partners.
These US actions create a threat to international security. This is why we deemed it necessary to request a briefing at the UN Security Council in order to draw the attention of the international community to this issue. We look forward to having a sincere exchange of views with our colleagues and the UN Secretary-General’s High Representative for Disarmament Affairs.
Update on Russian seamen from the Marmalaita cargo vessel attacked by pirates off the shores of Cameroon
The Foreign Ministry continues to closely monitor the situation with the Marmalaita cargo vessel that was subjected to an armed attack, presumably by Nigerian pirates on August 15 some 40 km away from the Cameroon port of Douala. As a result of the attack, eight people were abducted, including three citizens of the Russian Federation: Captain Vladimir Slepchenko, chief mate Nikolai Ruzhitsky and mechanic Oleg Druzhinin.
According to our information, the prisoners were brought to Nigerian territory. The pirates also seized the pay box and personal belongings of the seamen and damaged communication and navigation devices. According to an update, the vessel belongs to the German company MarConsult Schiffahrt.
The recruitment agency Marlow Navigation Russia reported that the pirates contacted representatives of the vessel owner and expressed their willingness to provide the hostages with food and medication.
The Russian Embassy in Yaounde is in close contact with the competent agencies of Cameroon and the Interregional Coordination Centre for Maritime Security in the Gulf of Guinea, as well as with the vessel owner’s company, which established a special group seeking the release of the Russian citizens as soon as possible.
International conference to prevent corruption in sports
On September 3-4, Russia will hold a second conference on preventing corruption in sports in Vienna in cooperation with Italy and the UN Office on Drug and Crime (UNODC).
The initiative is designed to develop the ideas of the previous forum held last year on the eve of the FIFA World Cup and facilitate cooperation between the state and private sectors and international sports organisations in exposing corruption crimes in sport and punishing those guilty.
The opening ceremony on September 3 will be attended by UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of the UNODC Yury Fedotov and Deputy Foreign Minister Oleg Syromolotov.
Over 200 participants from about 70 countries and international intergovernmental, non-profit and sports organisations registered to attend the forum. Speeches will be made by Italy’s Public Prosecutor Federico Cafiero De Raho, State Secretary and Deputy Sports Minister Nadezhda Yerastova and other leading domestic and foreign experts.
Kiev broadcasts propaganda to Russian border areas in violation of international law
The situation regarding the freedom of the media and the safety of journalists in Ukraine remains critical. The silence of the international community in this regard only encourages Kiev’s confidence in its lack of responsibility for the crackdown on journalists and a comprehensive cleanup of the information space. We have heard democratic-sounding statements by the new Ukrainian authorities about respect for the principles and freedoms that are shared by the international community, including in Europe. Regrettably, little has changed for the better. At any rate, the changes are not obvious.
The Kiev regime suppresses alternative views not only at home but also abroad, including in Russia. This is taking place with the understanding of its Western curators and some external players are directly assisting the regime. I would like to quote a few facts.
We have received information on Ukraine’s Western-supported efforts to upgrade the transmitters that broadcast its television and radio programmes that contain social and political news. Indicatively, they are broadcast both in Ukrainian and in Russian. In this case, nothing prevents the state and the ruling politicians in Ukraine from promoting Russian-language programmes in Russia’s border regions, including Crimea. The entire spectrum of propaganda clichés and fakes is used to portray Russia in black and bloody colours in so-called analytical programmes and replicate the image in news releases about Russia’s armed, information and “hybrid” aggression. This is pure propaganda in two languages.
In so doing, Ukraine is not embarrassed in the least by the direct violation of its international commitments assumed at the Regional Radiocommunication Conference (RRC). Given that the government bodies in Ukraine are in a stage of transition and that terms, especially those bearing on international law, are not clear to everyone, I would like to explain that the RRC is not just a venue where people meet and talk. I am referring to the agreement drafted by the RRC in 2006. I would like to remind the Ukrainian authorities that in circumvention of this agreement, Kiev has been broadcasting anti-Russia propaganda to Russian border areas in radio frequencies that were popular with Russian radio stations before the conversion to digital broadcasting. Moreover, in violation of the above agreement, Kiev is upgrading the power of its transmitters, thereby jamming Russian television channels.
We again see how the Ukrainian authorities are openly ignoring international law, something they ostensibly aspire to when declaring their European priorities. We are also seeing the unacceptable behaviour of Ukraine’s Western curators as they tolerate violations of the standards which they themselves drafted. Such violations throw democratic values into disarray and are an example of the disinformation and fabricated reports that are being actively countered by Brussels these days. Obviously, our Western partners are willing to act only when they become a target of Ukraine’s totalitarian “struggle for the truth,” as it happened when personal data of former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder was placed into the database of Ukraine’s website Myrotvorets. This fact evoked a strong response from the German Foreign Ministry. We see no response as long as their national interests are not impinged upon, although I believe that when you sign an international agreement, it becomes your national interest.
The question prompts itself: Will the Western community notice the above Kiev’s illegal actions this time? If additional information is required we are ready to provide it to the public and to our partners. It goes without saying that we will forward information about these actions to international organisations. We look forward to an appropriate response from the relevant international agencies and human rights organisations. But unfortunately, double standards are now the norm in information coverage and in the media community.
Western double standards in ensuring freedom of the media and equal access to information
We see an avalanche of accusations against Russia coming in from the West about Russia allegedly suppressing freedom of speech and persecuting journalists. Once again, our foreign partners have shown that they are unable to get rid of their mentoring approach and their attempts to teach everyone democratic values oblivious to what is happening back home, although Russia is a sovereign state and an active member of the international community, which conscientiously is fulfilling its international legal obligations. These unsupported and unsubstantiated accusations against a sovereign state are untenable.
By the way, I would like to bring to your attention an article that was posted online yesterday which states that foreign correspondents asked President Putin carbon-copy questions during recently held news conferences, in particular, with regard to democracy in Russia, freedom of the media, etc. Since the Western community is so interested in this topic, let's conduct an express analysis of the current developments.
The FARA continues to be in effect in the United States. It imposes the “foreign agent” status, primarily, on our media and their US partners who interact with Russian journalists, which directly affects their professional activities. That is, after a Russian media outlet receives this status in the United States, its journalistic activities are obstructed to the point where they almost come to a halt. This includes a financial burden and a number of requirements which simply block the journalistic activities if complied with. In addition to this, under the pretext of fighting the “Kremlin propaganda” and ensuring a proper environment for the election, online censorship is ratcheted up a notch as well. Here’s an example: in January, the Facebook administration deleted hundreds of Russia-related accounts, including seven accounts operated by Sputnik news agency. We have more than once commented on instances of blocking other Russian media on social media. They were unlocked later, but, one way or another, their work was seriously disrupted.
An atmosphere of toxicity and animosity continues to escalate around Russian media in the UK, and the political establishment, officials and experts are strongly discouraged from talking with Russian journalists. Recently, the British “liberal” political system has shown itself in all its glory: Ofcom national media regulator imposed a fine of £200,000 on the RT television Channel without a court order for allegedly biased reporting aired from March 17 to April 26, 2018. As you may be aware, this entity has become a punitive tool for the Russian media.
France, of all countries, claims to be a leader in terms of violating media rights. For more than a year now, that country has been withholding press cards to Sputnik and RT journalists, and they are systematically denied accreditation for official events and are regularly subjected to special control measures when crossing the French border, even when travelling within the EU. French officials do not consider it necessary to keep their temper in check or to act within the legal framework when they are accusing the Russian media of propaganda or misinformation. The officials are even placing the Russian media on a par with far-right movements in France, which defies common sense.
Berlin is also trying hard to turn the Russian media into a threat in the eyes of the local audience. Some time ago, three RT-operated companies were rejected by a number of German banks. We had to use high-level diplomatic channels to deal with this act of discrimination, as the situation has taken on a dramatic turn. Every day - and yesterday’s news conference in Moscow showed it - we hear from our German partners and the German media about their concern with regard to important matters in the modern world such as freedom, equal access to information, a ban on censorship, etc. As a result, there are a number of Russian media outlets that have come under a whole gamut of punitive measures ranging from unsubstantiated and aggressive public rhetoric and persecution of specific journalists to financial and legal restrictions.
Clearly, the Baltic states are on that list as well. Russian-language information sources have long been persecuted on a systematic basis in Latvia and Lithuania. More recently, in July, the Lithuanian regulator decided to block the Sputnik Lithuania agency’s website, and the Latvian authorities blocked the Baltnews.lv website operated by Rossiya Segodnya.
The list goes on and on. What I like particularly about this situation is that whenever our Western partners come to Moscow or meet with Russian delegations abroad, they want to know what is wrong and want us to cite specific examples. We provide these examples on a weekly basis. We have sent dozens of letters to the OSCE. Our Permanent Representative to the OSCE Alexander Lukashevich – someone who is very familiar with media-related issues - regularly brings up these matters for discussion there.
The above facts alone make it possible to draw an unambiguous conclusion that rhetoric about the Western countries being concerned about observing democratic principles and freedom of speech is either demagogy, hypocrisy, or a tool to suppress dissent.
I want to emphasise that we are talking here about direct violations of political commitments by our Western partners. Today, I will provide a list of fundamental documents which are violated by Western governments when they carry out similar activities with regard to the Russian media.
This is the 1975 Helsinki Final Act of the CSCE, the documents of the Vienna Meeting of the CSCE of 1986, the 1990 Copenhagen and the 1991 Moscow meetings, and the Conference on the Human Dimension of the CSCE. These documents state in black and white that the participating states have committed to “facilitate the freer dissemination of information of all kinds, to encourage cooperation in the field of information and the exchange of information with other countries, and to improve the conditions under which journalists from one participating State execute their profession in another participating State."
This may beg a valid question: this dates back to the 1970s and 1980s, and the organisation now has a different name and operates based on different principles, perhaps, there is something more recent? Yes, there is, and it is the first key point of the decision of the OSCE Ministerial Council Meeting No. 3/18 which was approved in Milan in December 2018. It calls on the OSCE member states to: “fully implement all OSCE commitments and their international obligations related to freedom of expression and media freedom, including by respecting, promoting and protecting the freedom to seek, receive and impart information regardless of frontiers.”
We urge our partners to fulfill their international obligations and to do so in accordance with international law and national legislations.
I would like to remind you about yesterday’s news conference following talks between the Russian and German foreign ministers. They were asked what they thought about the domestic situation and protests in Moscow.
On more than one occasion, we have cited concrete examples, and said that any foreign interference in the domestic processes in our country, including through the media, was unacceptable. The media must not be used as a tool to interfere in the domestic affairs of a country they do not belong to, all the more so if these media outlets are funded by the governments of other countries.
Even though we cited specific examples and expressed our objections, the Deutsche Welle media company, funded by the German government, prefers to simply ignore them. We are living in the post-truth era. This means that when they ask us for evidence, we reply: “Here is the most graphic and clearest illustration; it requires neither expert analysis nor proof – openly calling on people to participate in events in our country.” They reply: “No, it only seems to you that your claims are true.” How can it be that it only seems to us? Look, there are two words and a comma between them – is there anything ambiguous about this? But we are told that we are mistaken. This is the world of post-truth as it is, when you cannot prove the obvious and when facts that are clear and do not require additional proof are not accepted.
We are fully aware of our responsibility when we say that we share German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas’ position regarding the importance of observing journalists’ rights, which he spoke about yesterday. We would like to hear exactly the same words with respect of journalists from other countries. At the same time we would still like to hear the German authorities’ official opinion on the specific example of Deutsche Welle’s interference in Russia’s domestic affairs – an assessment without lyrical digression and generalities, short and to the point.
I am talking to our German partners. Just imagine the same information about Germany’s domestic affairs, similar in length and form, being posted on Russian media websites and other resources as regularly as they do it in Germany. How would you react?
I will repeat that Russia invariably observes the obligations it has undertaken regarding media freedom. For example, the activities of Deutsche Welle, given its pretentiousness and extremely critical coverage of all things Russian, are not restricted by anything. If there is evidence in support of the opposite, please, produce it. But I can say, there is none. I take responsibility for my words. We are constantly in contact with German journalists. We offer every possible assistance to them – from logistics to everyday personal matters. Unless they commit unlawful actions, their everyday activities are not restricted in any way. We only provide them with assistance.
At the same time we regularly see the distorted coverage of international affairs with an anti-Russia slant on the website of this media outlet. Among other things, we responded to the glaring facts of demonstrating the Nazi salute, which is banned in Germany itself, through our diplomatic missions in this country. We wrote and spoke about this and sent relevant materials. Nonetheless, I will repeat that we have never refused to engage in a dialogue with journalists; we are always open to it.
I would like to say that our country is open to dialogue with foreign journalists. Why are the materials published by Deutsche Welle so skewed? Why are even official statements on international affairs, which are made, for example, by Russia’s Foreign Ministry, Government or Presidential Executive Office, not covered by this media outlet as regularly as the opinions of civil rights activists? It is strange but this is our unbiased assessment.
Hopefully, our German partners, who are so concerned about freedom of speech in Russia, will analyse how Russian media are treated in Germany, the European Union and a number of Western countries from among Berlin’s strategic partners and how foreign journalists feel in Russia. I believe this comparison would shed some light on these questions. They may even come away ashamed.
On August 24, the Zavidovo Recreation Complex – a branch of the GlavUpDK (the Main Administration for Service to the Diplomatic Corps) at the Foreign Ministry – will host 21st Summer Diplomatic Games. This traditional sports holiday has been timed to the 98th anniversary of the GlavUpDK.
The heads and staff of diplomatic missions accredited in Russia, Foreign Ministry and GlavUpDK executives, plus Russian athletes and cultural figures will take part in the event.
The opening ceremony will be attended by, among others, First Deputy Chair of the State Duma Committee on Foreign Affairs, Olympic champion Svetlana Zhurova, and President of the Russian Union of Athletes, legendary Olympic fencing champion Galina Gorokhova.
About 40 teams from diplomatic missions and international organisations are expected to compete in eight sports (football, volleyball, basketball, billiards, tennis, shooting, fishing and running), and the Inter-Starty sports team game for the GlavUpDK cup.
By tradition, Zavidovo guests will be offered an interesting cultural and entertainment programme.
We invite journalists to take part in the coverage of this event. For more details, go to the official GlavUpDK website (https://updk.ru/).
Question: Can you discuss the situation related to Jammu and Kashmir at the forthcoming talks of the Indian and Russian foreign ministers? Is Moscow ready to offer mediation for settling the Indo-Pakistani conflict?
Maria Zakharova: As I have already said, a very broad agenda will be discussed during the talks at this meeting. I believe regional issues will be reviewed as well. Considering that a UN Security Council meeting was focused on this issue, I have no doubt that an exchange of views will take place. But usually we submit materials on the details of talks directly before them, as a rule, one or two days before, after the agenda is approved. I am pretty sure that this issue will be of interest to everyone at the news conference after the talks, considering that it is on the regional agenda.
Question: There are reports that the US is holding talks with representatives of the Constitutional Assembly of Venezuela on certain guarantees for Nicolas Maduro and his entourage in the event that he steps down as president. Did Mr Lavrov and Ms Delcy Rodriguez discuss this during their recent talks?
Maria Zakharova: It was not discussed in this context, but the Venezuelan Foreign Minister told us about their international contacts. Contacts that can contribute to the settlement of the domestic crisis in Venezuela were emphasised (some contacts may not have worked whereas others still have a chance and have potential). So, this issue was certainly discussed. I am referring to various meetings conducted by Caracas, including meetings with the opposition and its various representatives, in the context of international efforts to facilitate a settlement.
Question: What political and diplomatic steps can Russia take to settle differences between its Turkish and Syrian partners and ensure compliance with the Sochi agreements in Idlib?
Maria Zakharova: As you said correctly, Russia can use political and military-political opportunities, which it is doing. We have the relevant agreements with Turkey that I talked about today. We are committed to their implementation. Not everything is going according to plan, but we are in contact with our Turkish colleagues so we can make adjustments to the agreements we have reached. Our tools are in the areas you mentioned: political, diplomatic and military-political. Apparently, it is impossible to resolve this issue without traditional tools.
Question: Can Israel interfere in the conflict in southeastern Ukraine or mediate efforts to resolve it?
Maria Zakharova: You are talking about Israel’s interference in the domestic Ukrainian conflict. To be honest with you, this wording is not part of our vocabulary. The word “interference” has an absolutely clear negative connotation, and it contains a non-positive and unconstructive meaning. Therefore the word “interference” is mostly used when we are talking about an aggression, some unconstructive actions or, on the contrary, about urgent operations when they are needed and there are no other options.
I believe that all of us realise what has to be done today. Kiev should muster up willpower, patience, strength, perseverance and, most importantly, courage and resolve to accomplish what the entire international community has been expecting Ukraine to do over the past few years, that is, fulfil its obligations under the Minsk agreements. Any mediatory efforts involving various countries, groups of people and politicians can take place in the context of any situation; but, of course, this does not imply interference. They are subject for discussion, and any side can accept this assistance.
We are not talking here about the need for any mediation in this case. This implies that Kiev needs to do its part of the homework and fulfil the Minsk Agreements. It is unclear why third countries should mediate relations between Kiev and Moscow for the sake of implementing the Minsk agreements. I would like to draw your attention to the fact that Russia’s Permanent Representative to the UN Vasily Nebenzya did not merely discuss this matter. He even printed out UN Security Council Resolution 2202 of February 17, 2015 supporting the Minsk agreements. He printed out the Minsk agreements, asked members of the UN Security Council to reread them and drew their attention to the fact that they don’t mention Russia. Therefore Kiev does not require assistance from any third parties for launching dialogue with Moscow in order to fulfil the Minsk package of measures. There is no need for this, and this matter is absurd in itself. Those covered by the Minsk agreements have to fulfil them. This is a domestic Ukrainian crisis, and the parties to this conflict should therefore fulfil these agreements all by themselves.
I believe that everyone already realises this: The incumbent Ukrainian leaders have to display political will, so that Ukraine would fulfil its share of the Minsk agreements which were signed by Ukraine. There is no doubt about this, and this will have to be accomplished someday. They should sort things out: Either they do this, or they should admit that they are helpless and say that they don’t have the guts to do this and simply announce that it is impossible to fulfil the Minsk agreements. Looks like, everyone hopes that Kiev will never voice this option. Nevertheless, one wants to know the truth: Either they do it or they don’t.
Question: What part of Vladimir Zelensky’s statement about Russia’s possible return to G8 disappointed or upset you?
Maria Zakharova: I was even surprised to learn how the President of Ukraine became boldly involved in discussing matters that call for comprehending the essence of developments. The entire structure of international relations is a very complicated thing, and it is impossible to comprehend it in just one evening. It takes people years to study the activities of the UN which is just one, although global, organisation. We realise quite well that the incumbent President of Ukraine worked in a sphere that, of course, has an international, although somewhat different, aspect. Therefore when such statements are made, it would be better to ask the advice of experts or delegate such comments to experts who clearly understand the gist of these developments.
We had every right to comment on this statement that was addressed to Russia. In fact, there is only one claim: Professionals should work in their respective fields for which they were trained. A person who is not competent in some issues should better delegate them to someone else.
We have heard a lot about the matter which is now actively discussed, namely, Russia’s possible return to G8. A lot has already been said, the President of Russia has spoken his mind, and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov also commented on this subject yesterday. Assessments have been made at various levels. To my mind, everything is obvious: G8 does not really exist, but this has nothing to do with Russia. This decision was made by the very same countries that reverted to the G7 format once again. Therefore it is pointless to discuss anything in this context. If G7 countries want to use their capabilities for dialogue with Russia in this format, and if they have this desire, then it should be formalised, the way professionals do (anyway, professionals used to act this way in the past) and submitted to the Russian side for subsequent study. Of course, this presupposes a consolidated position. We can hear separate statements nowadays. They are not contradictory but located in different “universes”. Yet, at the same time, they are voiced by representatives of one and the same forum. This is rather strange because, as we see it, when the future of this dialogue format or its direct action programme are discussed, the participants first coordinate their respective positions inside the group, and then the relevant proposal is made public. This has always been the case before. One would like this to be this way today, as well. In any event, members of serious forums behave exactly in this manner.
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