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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 14, 2020

14 May 202020:02

Table of contents

  1. Coronavirus update and helping Russians return home
  2. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's participation in the ministerial session of the Council of the Baltic Sea States
  3. Compatriots' activities to mark the 75th anniversary of Victory in the Great Patriotic War
  4. UNSC Arria-Formula videoconference
  5. "Syrian chemistry" in New York City
  6. Statements by US Special Presidential Envoy for Arms Control Marshall Billingslea on the New START Treaty
  7. Abduction of Russian sailors off the coast of the Republic of Equatorial Guinea
  8. Desecration of a Soviet tomb in Poland
  9. Situation around labour migrants from Central Asian countries in Russia
  10. Western media's anti-Russia allegations over coronavirus statistics
  11. Republic of Paraguay's independence anniversary

Answers to questions:

1. Prospects for holding consultations with the Foreign Minister of the Czech Republic 

2. US unilateral withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on the Iranian nuclear programme

3. Status of the Russian language in Uzbekistan 

4. Azerbaijan's initiative to swap POWs and hostages

5. New government in Baghdad 

6. Russia's military technical cooperation with Iran


Coronavirus update and helping Russians return home


Last week the overall situation with the COVID-19 pandemic in the world remained tense despite encouraging trends to hold down the spread of the infection in several countries, in particular, the slowing death rate and the growing number of recoveries. The number of cases has continued to increase at a relatively high rate. Unfortunately, this means that the number of those infected all around the world now exceeds four million. The US still is the most hard-hit country.

Some European countries continue to gradually lift public health restrictions given that the spread of this dangerous disease is slowing. We are closely monitoring national approaches to the phased lifting of these restrictions. We proceed from the premise that every country is developing its own strategy based on epidemiological developments and the effectiveness of the measures taken to contain the pandemic. We share the view of the World Health Organisation (WHO) that steps taken to end quarantines must be balanced against existing risks. This is necessary to prevent a second wave of the pandemic above all.

In these conditions, Russia continues to take measures to bring home Russians who want to return from foreign countries. The schedule of flights takes into consideration current public health conditions in Russia as well as its logistical and transport capabilities. Priority is given based on the availability of places for arriving people to self-isolate in their regions of permanent residence, and, of course, on whether a system of observation is in place. According to the Federal Air Transport Agency, over the last week 1,288 Russians returned home from various countries. Let me stress that this is for the last week only. In total, 15,935 people have been brought home since the first half of April.

We continue to schedule return flights, including some long-awaited routes. The approved schedule includes Valletta, Kuala Lumpur, Phnom Penh, Sofia, Bucharest, Vienna, Budapest and Malaga. New flights will be made to Larnaca, Bangkok and Dushanbe.

Briefly on upcoming plans. Yesterday night a Royal Flight plane left Moscow to return Russians from Mauritius and Zanzibar as well as a group from South Africa. Unfortunately, there was insufficient capacity to bring back everyone from South Africa at once, but work is underway to organise an additional flight there.

Moreover, a plane has already left for New York to return Russians. We expect over 300 compatriots, including the minors who were staying in the US as part of exchange programmes that caused such a stir, to return to Russia aboard this plane.

Today people will return from Goa, too. The plane is flying to Moscow with a stop in Rostov-on-Don to drop people off in the Southern Federal District. Right after this, another plane from this popular Indian state will fly to Krasnoyarsk, Yekaterinburg and then Moscow to return people to the Siberian and Ural federal districts.

Today we also expect another flight from Spain: from two large tourist centres in Tenerife and Barcelona.

This work will continue. In fact, it has not stopped even for an hour.

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Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's participation in the ministerial session of the Council of the Baltic Sea States


On May 19, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will attend a regular ministerial session of the Council of the Baltic Sea States (CBSS), which is to be held as a videoconference.

The CBSS was established in 1992. In addition to Russia, it includes Germany, Denmark, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Poland, Finland, Sweden, Estonia and the European Union.

The meeting is supposed to sum up the results of the Danish chairmanship of the Council in 2019-2020. The agenda embraces such issues as the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on regional cooperation, countering transborder threats, including organised crime, nature conservation and climate-related challenges, as well as promoting interaction between young people.

The session participants are expected to approve the new version of the CBSS constituent documents, which were prepared as part of its reform in 2018-2020 and will help make the body more effective, flexible and better at coordinating with other multilateral formats of cooperation.

A joint declaration intended to develop multilateral interaction in the Baltic region is expected to be adopted at the close of the coming session.

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Compatriots' activities to mark the 75th anniversary of Victory in the Great Patriotic War


Celebrations of the 75th anniversary of Victory in the Great Patriotic War were held in over 100 countries. The most notable were in Belarus, Bulgaria, Germany, Kazakhstan, Cyprus, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Slovakia, the United States, Turkmenistan and France. Given the public health risks and the ban on large gatherings, our compatriots together with Russian agencies abroad concentrated their efforts on online projects, primarily on the Immortal Regiment event. Thanks to the capabilities of internet resources, many activities enjoyed greater geographical reach and better creative content.

According to preliminary estimates, the holiday events attracted hundreds of thousands of participants, including local residents and officials (Abkhazia, Albania, Belgium, Brazil, Germany, Cuba, Croatia, Switzerland, Ethiopia, etc.). The Immortal Regiment march was also held for the first time in the Republic of Mali and in the Seychelles (in the new "maritime" format together with the Russian Navy research ship Admiral Vladimirsky).

In addition, about 150 other festive activities and events were organised, including "The Ribbon of St George", "Memory Candle", video conferences, online concerts, festivals of wartime songs, photo exhibitions, tree planting, lessons of memory, various contests and flash mobs. Notwithstanding the current restrictions, our compatriots individually took part in laying flowers at war memorials and burial sites. They even managed to carry out some projects in the sky: a plane with a 30-meter long St George ribbon flew for several hours over Chicago and Lake Michigan, and a copy of the Victory Banner was raised in the skies over Berlin by a helicopter.

In some countries they managed to hold limited versions of events on the ground. I will say it again, this format was determined by the current quarantine standards. Our compatriots took portraits of relatives who took part in the Great Patriotic War to the events that occurred in person (in Angola, Georgia, Cambodia, Luxemburg, Slovakia, Tajikistan, Czechia, Sweden, Ukraine, etc.). In some countries local authorities participated in the commemorative actions, including at the presidential level (Serbia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Moldova). The anniversary of the Great Victory was widely celebrated in Belarus and Turkmenia.

In some countries our compatriots held car and motorcycle rallies (Canada, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Israel, etc.). It's worth noting the courage and inventiveness of those who observed the holiday in Ukraine. Despite the current ban on wearing the St George ribbon, they pinned ribbons to their clothes with the colours written out in words.

Meanwhile, as soon as the epidemiological situation permits, our compatriots still intend to hold the Immortal Regiment event in its traditional format, synchronising it with the Victory Parade and marches in Russia. It still has to be worked out and finalised after we get through this terrible disaster, the coronavirus pandemic that befell the entire world.

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UNSC Arria-Formula videoconference


On May 8, the UN headquarters in New York hosted a UNSC Arria-Formula informal videoconference on the 75th anniversary of the end of the Second World War in Europe.

Discussing this subject is a good occasion to recall the goals and objectives of the UN. The organisation was established to save future generations from new wars. To see this happen, it is necessary to follow the UN Charter and the principles that were laid down in it by the founders. Dialogue based on these principles is also important for combating new challenges and threats, such as terrorism, cybercrime and drug trafficking. Against this background, it is easy to see the problems that the world is facing 75 years after the Great Victory: neo-Nazism, attempts to whitewash the activities of criminals and the rewriting of history.

Unfortunately, some delegations, including the videoconference organisers, decided to use this platform to impose a distorted vision of the causes and results of World War II, which have little to do with the real history of those years.

Russia will continue to work within the UN and other international platforms to strengthen cooperation and confront new challenges and threats. The whole world has a common goal – to prevent new tragedies. This is the best way to honour the memory of the fallen in the struggle for peace and freedom.

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 "Syrian chemistry" in New York City


In accordance with the approved Programme of Work of the UN Security Council, a video conference was scheduled to be held on the so-called Syrian "chemical dossier" on May 12. The Western nations' representatives suggested the participation of the Director-General of the OPCW Technical Secretariat Fernando Arias. The intent was obvious – to continue feeding the UN Security Council the falsified findings of the first report by the "attributive" Investigation and Identification Team (IIT) which the Western countries set up through political and legal manipulations in violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention. The report states that allegedly "there are reasonable grounds to believe" that chemical weapons were used in Ltamenah on 24, 25 and 30 March 2017 by the Syrian Arab Air Force, and the relevant orders had come directly from Syria's military and political leaders.

Being aware of the urgency of the issue of chemical weapons use in Syria (though not by government forces but by terrorists), we were prepared for a substantive and frank conversation. We demanded that the meeting be open as this would have made it possible to ask Fernando Arias to publicly clear up the key issues regarding the IIT's performance and OPCW fact-finding missions in general.

The Western nations declined the proposal. Despite their own musings on the "need to increase transparency" in the work of the UN Security Council, they just refused to publicly consider issues they didn't want to.

All this is evidence that both the OPCW Technical Secretariat leadership and our Western colleagues, who keep expressing their full and unconditional confidence in the IIT, fear an open, substantive and professional talk about the activities, major goals and tasks of the so-called "attributive" mechanism they created, since the reality is that its investigative findings are predetermined to yield anti-Syrian conclusions.

The Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the UN held a news conference to inform the international community of the real situation and to debunk the Western countries' attempts to conceal the essentially self-defeating nature of the IIT's performance and system-wide flaws in the OPCW fact-finding missions' activities. You can read the transcript of the news conference on the Russian Foreign Ministry's website and on the website of our Permanent Mission in New York. 

Several issues can be highlighted among those raised there.

We would like to get clarifications from the OPCW Technical Secretariat on the fairly controversial circumstances surrounding the taking of samples and their storage before they were passed on to the Fact-Finding Mission in Syria (FFM), since the basis for the IIT's work is the FFM's reports. It is crucial to find out the true, not fabricated, reasons for the refusal of the Technical Secretariat to accept an invitation from the Syrian side to send FFM experts to Ltamenah. It is amazing that the IIT report conceals the very fact of the OPCW Technical Secretariat's refusal to respond to Damascus's request to send inspectors to the Shayrat airbase where, according to the IIT, the chemical attack originated. The report clearly demonstrates that "double standards" are applied to Damascus: it stands accused of refusing to cooperate, while information pointing to the staged character of the chemical incidents is willfully disregarded. The Technical Secretariat, in fact, ignored the information regularly sent by the Syrians to the UNSC and the OPCW on chemical provocations being planned by militants.

Systemic flaws in the FFM's performance must be rectified:

– remote investigations instead of mandatory visits to the scenes of alleged incidents;

– violations of the key principle of chain of custody;

– using data mainly from forces which oppose the Syrian government.

The very composition of the IIT experts (the overwhelming majority are from the Western camp) has been crafted in such a way that any views that are inconvenient to the Western countries are easily suppressed. It all runs contrary to the claims by the OPCW Technical Secretariat of fair geographical representation and "objective and impartial" investigations. The IIT's premise of allegedly unique markers of Syrian sarin has been met with deep scepticism. It is a well-known fact that the precursors of this chemical agent were destroyed by Western specialists outside Syria. It is clear that they recorded its detailed formula back then.  

We are gravely concerned about the OPCW Technical Secretariat's unwillingness to provide documentary evidence for the conclusions drawn from the investigations by the entities set up within the Secretariat. References to unsubstantiated intelligence data and unknown "outside experts" cannot be accepted as evidence. Saying "take our word for it" is absolutely unacceptable in such a sensitive area.

This list of questions will be expanded upon further study of the report by the illegitimate IIT.

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Statements by US Special Presidential Envoy for Arms Control Marshall Billingslea on the New START Treaty


We took note of US Special Presidential Envoy for Arms Control Marshall Billingslea's interview with the Washington Times, in which he speaks about the Russian-US New START Treaty and the prospects of its extension. The high-ranking American diplomat discourses, or rather fantasises, about certain drawbacks of the treaty's verification mechanism and accuses Russia of deliberately and maliciously exploiting them to the detriment of the Treaty's normal implementation.

The unmistakable impression is that the official nominated recently by Donald Trump as Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Affairs, who mostly dealt with sanctions prior to that appointment, has not been brought up to speed on his new job. For example, he clearly has not found the time to read his department's report on the compliance of foreign states, including Russia, with international treaties and agreements.

We have already had an opportunity to comment on this heavily biased document. But even its authors had to admit that Russia is in full compliance with the provisions of the New START Treaty. Now Mr Billingslea has essentially disavowed the work of his own colleagues and representatives of other US departments that are involved in the implementation of this Treaty.

Against the backdrop of this revision of values, Mr Billingslea pointedly asks the question: Why are the Russians so eager to extend the Treaty and what is in it for the US?

The answer is simple. Apparently, Washington does not want to accept it, but on this issue Moscow is primarily guided by a sense of responsibility for the fate of peace, stability and security, which the US constantly works to undermine. We believe now that the current administration has already upended the steady process of nuclear arms control that took shape over decades and mostly consisted of various treaties with the Americans, it is important to preserve at least some elements of mutual transparency and predictability in this area. The extension of the New START Treaty would buy some time to jointly assess current challenges and threats to international security and to search for the optimal political and diplomatic means of halting the alarming trends in this area.

This is exactly why Russia officially offered to extend the New START Treaty before it is too late, and to do so promptly and without preconditions. We are against any artificial linkages that would call into question whether this increasingly important goal is achievable. This is in reference to the completely far-fetched attempt to involve China in bilateral Russian-US mechanisms, as we have already said more than once.

Our position is well known and remains unchanged. We are ready to support any multilateral initiatives that can enhance international security and stability. However, they must be based on the free will of their potential participants. No country may be coerced into them. And the interests and concerns of all the potential participants must be taken into account. The involvement of the closest US "nuclear allies" – Great Britain and France – in talks on such initiatives remains our priority.

More broadly, we do not think that the bilateral Russian-US agenda for promoting international security and arms control has exhausted itself. On this basis, we are ready to engage in strategic dialogue with Washington, as the leaders of our states have been pushing for.

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Abduction of Russian sailors off the coast of the Republic of Equatorial Guinea


According to the Russian Embassy in Cameroon, which also represents the interests of our country in Equatorial Guinea, on the night of May 9, pirates attacked the Rio Mitong ship flying the flag of the Comoros, which was stationed at the port of Malabo. As a result of this pirate attack, two Russian citizens received moderate injuries and are staying in a Malabo hospital. Another Russian national was kidnapped and taken to an unknown location.

At the same time, pirates attacked the Djibloho vessel, owned by the Government of Equatorial Guinea, at the port of Luba (40 km from Equatorial Guinea's capital). Two Russian crew members were kidnapped.

So far, the pirates have not made contact with anyone and have not put forward any demands.

The Russian Embassy in Cameroon is actively working with the authorities of Equatorial Guinea and the shipowner company in order to help locate the abducted Russian nationals and secure their speedy release. We are paying special attention to this topic.

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Desecration of a Soviet tomb in Poland


I would like to talk about the alarming trend of rewriting history. Unfortunately, we have been talking a lot about this in recent time. It is especially sad that this is happening in this milestone anniversary year. This rewriting is connected precisely with the Second World War and the Great Patriotic War. Again we are forced to draw attention to the topic of the war against Soviet memorials in Poland. The developments we are witnessing cannot be separated from rewriting history – these are parts of one chain. On the eve of Victory Day, we learned that a gravestone on the tomb of 79 Red Army soldiers had been overturned at the Milostowo cemetery in Poznan. Considering that the act of desecration was committed on the eve of our sacred day, when the whole world celebrates the anniversary of Victory over fascism, the actions of the vandals look especially cynical.

Despite all the demagogy about Warsaw's commitment to the relevant traditions and obligations of properly preserving the memory of those killed on the territory of the Republic of Poland, the country's authorities create an atmosphere of permissiveness and connivance with their efforts to rewrite history. This is the motivation behind these disgusting acts against Soviet memorial sites. Under these conditions, the vandals, who were confident in their impunity, fearlessly acted at the largest city cemetery of one of the largest Polish cities.

We call on the Polish authorities to give up memory wars against the fallen Soviet heroes and finally take real steps to fight the vandals.

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Situation around labour migrants from Central Asian countries in Russia


According to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, the world is going not only through the coronavirus pandemic but has also had to confront an infodemic, with a vast amount of fake news, disinformation and false reports on the coronavirus and related issues.

Lately, a number of US and US-funded media outlets, such as Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, have been actively spreading biased material on Russia's allegedly discriminating policy towards labour migrants from Central Asian countries and the Russian authorities' unwillingness to support them during this difficult period of time amid the coronavirus pandemic.

These reports are simply not true.

In accordance with Russian President Vladimir Putin's Executive Order No. 274 of April 18, 2020 regulating the legal status of foreign nationals and stateless persons in the Russian Federation in connection with the threat of an increase in the incidence of COVID-19, the period from March 15 to June 15 shall not be included in the period of temporary stay or temporary or permanent residence in Russia for foreign nationals if it expires in the specified 90-day period. The provision also applies to the time limit set for permits for recruiting and using foreign workers as well as work permits and licenses.

The Russian Interior Ministry's territorial divisions have received instructions ordering them to refrain from taking decisions concerning foreign nationals as regards administrative expulsion from Russia, deportation or readmission for violating migration laws, as well as raise awareness among foreign nationals regarding the need to obtain legal status in the Russian Federation.

Our country utilises a careful and flexible approach to these matters, with due account of all circumstances and based on the regulatory framework. A number of social protection measures is stipulated for labour migrants from the CIS and EAEU member states, including assistance in providing them with free urgent and emergency medical care.

We should note that during the lockdown large numbers of labour migrants were involved in working in critical infrastructure facilities, including the housing and utility companies which have continued operating during the restrictive measures introduced across Russia.

On May 12, Moscow and the Moscow Region resumed activities at construction sites, where the largest number of labour migrants from Central Asian countries are employed. In this connection, we expect prompt normalisation of Russia's labour market, which is equally important for us as well as our Central Asian partners.

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Western media's anti-Russia allegations over coronavirus statistics


Unfortunately, we believe that there will be increasingly more such fake news. As UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has said, this is a real infodemic.

We have taken note of some Western media publications, in particular, The New York Times and Financial Times, about Russia undercounting and underreporting coronavirus deaths.

The concerned Russian establishments and the Emergency Response Centre have published refutations of these allegations. We would like to say in addition to this that these publications are incorrect, biased and provide an unacceptably lop-sided picture. I would like to say once again that comments regarding these publications have been promptly issued by a great number of authorised Russian experts and officials.

It was pointed out that this is not an honest mistake by the journalists who failed to see the whole picture but apparent unwillingness to do so, as can be concluded from the fact that they did not cite Russia's official position regarding these allegations. If these journalists really did want to present the truth correctly and objectively, they would have checked their "discoveries" twice, requested additional information and included it in their publications. This approach is in line with the Western media traditions. But they have not done this, even though everyone knows how important it is during the pandemic to act ethically, to double-check information and to compare it to other sources, as well as to do everything else to prevent publications from doing harm and from becoming a piece of misinformation.

It is alarming that the above-mentioned items were published simultaneously and were also very similar in essence. We have no doubt about these items' real objective. We can see – and evidence is growing – that some forces in the West have attempted to use the global crisis to discredit and destabilise the situation and some governments. We are shocked by the double standards of our Western partners and the media outlets they patronise, who call for combating fake news, including about the pandemic, while waging a real misinformation campaign against other countries and presenting claims that cannot be described as factual information, analysis or opinion. There are certain standards journalists must comply with during crises, and we believe that Russia is providing more than enough information which can be used and updated. All our information is freely available and open to the public, and our press services, where journalists can request more information, are working. At the very least, even if journalists believe that they are absolutely right they should give the other side an opportunity to present its position.

In this connection, we have prepared letters to the editorial boards of the above-mentioned newspapers, in which we have put forth our explanations and ask them to publish the refutations provided by the Russian authorities and the Emergency Response Centre. They should be included in the publications of these media outlets. The letters will be forwarded via the Russian embassies in the United States and Great Britain. As I already mentioned, they contain comments refuting the information published in these newspapers.

We will also call on the concerned international agencies, primarily OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Harlem Desir and UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay, to provide their opinions about this incident. Of course, we will notify the UN Secretariat about this, considering the urgency of the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres' appeal to the world to combat not only the coronavirus infection but also the infodemic of misinformation.

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Republic of Paraguay's independence anniversary


Today 209 years ago, the Republic of Paraguay declared its independence from Spain.

It is important to remember the history of this most certainly unique Latin American country in the context of how different parts of the world keep the memory of the Russian military's valour, courage and selflessness.

As concerns Paraguay, I am speaking about the 1932-1935 Chaco War. Seventy-five former White Army officers who immigrated to Paraguay after October 1917, volunteered to participate in the Chaco War, including General Ivan Belyayev, a military officer and ethnographer also known for his study of indigenous tribes and their culture.

Another town in Paraguay, Fortin Capitan O. Serebriakoff, is named after a Russian general, and 14 streets in the country's capital have Russian names, which is another indication of the fact that Paraguay remembers Russian officers.

The Fleisher family has made a significant contribution to strengthening the ties between Russia and Paraguay. Igor Fleisher-Shevelev has been Russia's honorary consul in Asuncion for many years now. His uncle, Alexey Fleisher, who found himself in Rome during WWII, was a prominent Russian member of the Italian Resistance.

To this day, the people of Paraguay are deeply grateful to our compatriots and through them to Russia for offering a helping hand in times of trouble. The current President of the Republic of Paraguay Mario Abdo Benitez spoke about this during his visit to Russia in June 2018. We sincerely value the fact that the republic treasures the memory of our shared history.

I would like to join Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in his greetings to his Paraguayan colleague and wish this wonderful country peace and prosperity on behalf of the Foreign Ministry.

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Answers to questions:

Question: Czech Foreign Minister Tomas Petricek stated that Prague expects to hold consultations with Russia at the level of foreign ministers based on the treaty governing relations between our countries. The statement came after a disagreement caused by the demolition of a monument to Soviet Marshal Ivan Konev in Prague as well as Czech media reports claiming that an employee of the Russian diplomatic mission allegedly brought ricin to Prague. Does the Foreign Ministry plan on holding consultations with its Czech counterparts? What issues will be discussed?

Maria Zakharova: There have been many statements from the Czech Foreign Minister but, unfortunately, few indicate an actual intention to build a constructive environment for our relations.

As concerns arranging a meeting between the two foreign ministers, discussion of unresolved problems usually begins with preparations at an appropriate level, in order to provide a strong foundation for a subsequent conversation between the heads of the foreign ministries. It is vital to make quite sure that our Czech colleagues are indeed willing to improve the unhealthy developments regarding our bilateral affairs that they created.

The Russian Embassy in Prague recently sent a note concerning this matter to the Czech Foreign Ministry. The Russian Ambassador received instructions to hold consultations with the senior officials of the Czech Foreign Ministry as per Article 5 of the 1993 treaty on the friendly relations and cooperation between our countries that allows for such consultations regarding our bilateral agenda. As of the time of this briefing, there has been no response from our Czech counterparts. Foreign Minister Tomas Petricek also mentioned lately that he plans to meet with our ambassador to discuss the situation.

We will share further steps with you once there are results.

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Question: Foreign Minister of Iran Mohammad Javad Zarif recently sent a letter to the UN Secretary General to remind him of the second anniversary of the unilateral withdrawal by the United States from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on the Iranian nuclear programme, and also called on the United Nations to speak out against the unilateral sanctions imposed by the US. What would be your comment on this matter?

Maria Zakharova: May 8 marks the second anniversary of the signing by the President of the United States of the memorandum Ceasing U.S. Participation in the JCPOA and Taking Additional Action to Counter Iran's Malign Influence and Deny Iran All Paths to a Nuclear Weapon.

This rather catchy name created an environment in which the US administration could create confusion within the international community regarding its decision to renounce its obligations under UN Security Council Resolution 2231 whereby the JCPOA became an integral part of international law. For the first time in history, a founding member of the United Nations openly challenged the Security Council by refusing to abide by its resolutions. There is no question about it. They should not get away with this, or with the legislative and executive action by the United States, undertaken as a follow-up to the memorandum I just mentioned and in violation of the JCPOA and UNSC Resolution 2231. We strongly believe that UN member states will come up with a reasonable response to this outrageous handling of the law by Washington. We cannot allow these actions to corrode the foundations of the United Nations.

What did the United States achieve with its ill-conceived decisions to withdraw from the JCPOA and re-impose sanctions against Iran, as well as by constantly threatening other countries and international organisations and subjecting them to all kinds of retribution for complying with UNCS Resolution 2231? In all objectivity, the Americans have nothing to write home about. The US leadership did not achieve a single one of its goals, but at the same time Washington completely undermined its reputation of a responsible contributor to global processes able to make deals on equitable and mutually beneficial terms and answer for its words.

It may be ironic that two years after Washington slammed the door on the deal, the Department of State recalled UNSC Resolution 2231 in what can be regarded as an attempt to use its provisions for its own destructive ends, as we can see. It is astonishing that the same people can refuse to abide by the JCPOA while asserting their rights as parties to the "nuclear deal" under UNSC Resolution 2231. American lawyers are famous for their extraordinary sophistication and prowess, but in this case we have to understand that the JCPOA and UNSC Resolution 2231 are inseparably linked and form a single whole.

Washington's unilateral withdrawal from the JCPOA and its other actions that followed constitute a grave violation of the comprehensive agreements, as well as UNSC Resolution 2231. A country that fails to comply with the requirements set forth in a resolution cannot enjoy the rights arising from it. This is quite obvious. It has to be noted that the United States decided to go down the road of violation, thus removing itself from the list of parties to the JCPOA and depriving itself of the right to weigh in on matters related to fulfilling these agreements. It has no one to blame for the fact that its current aspirations to make use of the mechanisms set forth in UNSC Resolution 2231 are met with firm opposition around the world.

That said, there is no doubt that the United States must immediately stop its policy of undermining the JCPOA and ensure strict compliance with all requirements as per UNSC Resolution 2231 by reviewing all illegal legislative and executive action it had taken. Persistent efforts to erode the JCPOA with new anti-Iranian ideas, including the proposal to impose a permanent arms embargo against Iran, do no credit to the United States. It is quite clear that this policy has no future.

Parties to the JCPOA that have maintained their genuine commitment to all aspects of the nuclear deal and continue to fight for its preservation and steady implementation will persist in their efforts. There should be no doubt in Washington about this, just as about the fact that together with other parties to the JCPOA we will counter any attempts to substitute the objectives set forth in the UNSC resolution with the false impulses that the United States is trying to push through.

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Question: During Russian representatives' visits to Uzbekistan in 2019 and 2020, there was information about the intent of Uzbekistan to expand the possibilities of teaching the Russian language and using it, including in order to improve the competitiveness of the national economy and to create a regional educational hub in the country. However, there has also been information about a draft law developed by Uzbekistan's Ministry of Justice that includes fines for officials who do not use the state language, Uzbek, in their jobs. So it seems that in case this law is adopted, officials will be fined for using Russian when it comes to state matters?

Maria Zakharova: In accordance with the existing requests made by the Uzbek side, active joint work is underway to create a full-scale programme regarding the teaching of Russian in Uzbekistan. We are talking about increasing the deliveries of textbooks, methodological and fiction literature, the opening of additional Russian language centres, sending Russian language experts to training centres, raising the budget quotas in Russian universities for Uzbek students in the Russian Philology specialty, and so on.

We noted the debates in the media caused by the draft law. It seems so far that its supporters are outnumbered. Most comments show that the preservation of the Russian language in formal matters fully corresponds to the spirit of the history and current quality of our relations, and most importantly, to the interests of the Uzbek nationals who often choose to study and work in Russia.

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Question: Just the other day, Azerbaijan urged Armenia to exchange prisoners of war and hostages in the all for all format. What does Russia think of this initiative?

Maria Zakharova: The issues of prisoner exchanges and improving the conditions of people who were detained in the parties' countries are always on the agenda of Nagorno-Karabakh settlement negotiations. Last year, in Moscow it was decided to allow relatives of prisoners to visit them. Then Azerbaijan and Armenia swapped one prisoner each. With assistance of co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group, consultations are being held regarding the fate of other prisoners. We will be monitoring the situation.

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Question: How did Moscow regard the formation of a new government in Bagdad? Have you had any contact with them?

Maria Zakharova: We welcome the approval of the country's new government by the Iraqi Council of Representatives (Parliament) on May 7. After the complex consultations that lasted over five months, Iraq's leading political forces managed to achieve the much needed consensus agreements. On this occasion congratulation messages were forwarded to Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi on behalf of President of Russia Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin.

We expect the new Iraqi government to live up to the confidence bestowed on it and to be able to ensure effective solutions to the key problems on the national agenda for the sake of stabilising the situation, strengthening the sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity of Iraq during this difficult period of time for the country.

We intend to continue our considerable effort to promote the progressive development of friendly Russian-Iraqi relations and to expand our mutually beneficial and multifaceted cooperation.

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Question: Will Russia resume its military-technical cooperation with Iran after the embargo expires this October and will it exercise its right of veto against the US resolution providing for the embargo extension?

Maria Zakharova: First of all, I want to remind you that UN Security Council Resolution 2231 did not impose any arms embargo on Iraq. It was a temporary ban for Iraq on exporting or importing certain types of weapons. The ban expires on October 18, 2020.

The second thing is that Iran is our neighbour and traditional partner in the military-technical sphere. Why should we abstain from working with Iran? We do have such a right and Teheran has the legitimate right to provide for its security and defence needs.

As for some US ideas in the context of UN Security Council Resolution 2231, the Americans missed this opportunity when they made their bombastic formal withdrawal from the JCPOA in May 2018.

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