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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation

Briefing by Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova, Moscow, April 29, 2021

29 April 202119:44

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s upcoming talks with Palestinian Minister of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates Riyad al-Maliki


At the previous briefing, we spoke in detail about Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s upcoming talks with Palestinian Minister of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates Riyad al-Maliki. I would like to add that they will meet on May 5 rather than May 4, as was planned initially.


Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s forthcoming visits to Armenia and Azerbaijan 


In accordance with the agreements, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will pay working visits to Yerevan on May 5-6, and Baku on May 10-11. The agreements provide for his talks with the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan.

During the meetings, Mr Lavrov plans to discuss in detail a broad range of issues of bilateral and regional cooperation and joint efforts in the world arena. The sides will focus on practical aspects of implementing the statements by the leaders of Russia, Azerbaijan and Armenia of November 9, 2020 and January 11, 2021. 


Mr Lavrov’s participation in the UN Security Council meeting on the maintenance of a multilateral and UN-centric system of international relations


On May 7, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will take part in a UN Security Council meeting on the maintenance of a multilateral and UN-centric system of international relations. It will be held via videoconference under the PRC’s chairmanship of the UN Security Council.

The participants will discuss ways of expanding international cooperation for resolving key global challenges. They will focus on increasing the efficiency of the UN as the only venue for searching for collective responses to the challenges of our times.

As a founder of the UN and permanent member of the Security Council, Russia will continue its consistent line towards strengthening the central coordinating role of the UN in international affairs. In cooperation with our associates, we intend to do all we can to build a fair and equitable world order based on the goals and principles of the UN Charter.


Sergey Lavrov’s talks with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres


As part of his working visit to Moscow, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres will have substantive talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on May 12.

The meeting will focus on strengthening multilateral interaction in resolving key global challenges, as well as enhancing the effectiveness of the UN in view of its central coordinating role in international affairs. The talks will also include a discussion of a number of urgent items on the UN agenda, primarily its Security Council.


Ceremony to hand over compatriots’ memorabilia to the Alexander Solzhenitsyn House of Russia Abroad


On May 14, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will attend a ceremony to hand over archival documents and personal belongings of two of our outstanding compatriots to Director of the Solzhenitsyn House of Russia Abroad Viktor Moskvin.   

The Russian Foreign Ministry, following a request from the museum’s management, worked with the Russian embassies in the United States and Latvia to help return to Russia archival documents, photographs and the cavalry sword belonging to General Nikolay Baratov, Knight of the Order of St George, who in 1916-1917 commanded the Russian Expeditionary Force in Persia and later, while in emigration, instituted the Union of Disabled Russians Abroad. Nikolay Baratov is a prominent figure in the history of Russian emigration; he did a lot to preserve the centuries-old traditions of Russian officers abroad.

In addition, the House of Russia Abroad will keep an archive of documents by Andrey Rakityansky, a journalist, local history and lore expert, president of the Baltic branch of the International Pushkin Society and editor-in-chief of the Riga Bibliophile anthology. The archival documents are related to the history of our compatriots in Latvia.

We believe that this event will be positively received by the descendants of the first wave of emigration and will contribute to the further consolidation of the Russian diaspora abroad.


Ahead of the 76th anniversary of Victory in the Great Patriotic War


Seventy-six years ago a great victory was secured in defeating Nazi Germany. In our country the memory of the severe trials during those years has been passed down to the younger generations. Almost every family suffered loss in the Soviet Union, a country which the Nazi war machine attacked with all its might. The memory of the tens of millions of lives lost will be kept alive forever.

Russia played a decisive role in the defeat of the Nazi horde and the liberation of Europe and the world from Nazism. Owing to the courage, heroism and self-sacrifice of Soviet soldiers and all peoples of the former Soviet Union, Europe was able to embark on a path of creative development and partnership.

Our Foreign Ministry also made a significant contribution to the Victory. Back then, as was always the case when our country lived through its crucial moments, diplomats struggled to perform their patriotic and professional duty in full, including with arms in hand. In the early days of the war, the defenders of the country from the People’s Commissariat of Foreign Affairs fought the Nazis near the town of Yelnya. In all, 237 employees of the People’s Commissariat of Foreign Affairs volunteered to join the peoples’ volunteer corps or were drafted into the Army. The names of our comrades who were killed in action have been perpetuated on a memorial plaque installed in the lounge of the Russian Foreign Ministry.

Today, it is extremely important to not forget the lessons of the Great Patriotic War (1941-1945) and World War II. Seventy-six years ago, the members of the anti-Hitler coalition managed to join efforts to defeat their common enemy and annihilate criminal Nazi ideology. This is why we need so much to work together to counter the numerous challenges of today. One country or a narrow circle of countries cannot decide the fate of the world. True security is security that is equal for all and indivisible, and can only be ensured through a collective effort, the way it is expressed in the UN Charter.  

The main duty we owe to our war veterans and present and future generations is keeping a credible historical memory and preserving the truth about the events of the Great Patriotic War and the heroism and courage of the Soviet people.


Upcoming Immortal Regiment events to be held by organisations of Russian compatriots abroad


In 2021, as part of the celebration of the 76th anniversary of Victory in the Great Patriotic War, Immortal Regiment events are planned all over the world. According to preliminary data, they should be held in more than 120 countries. Traditionally, their main organisers are our compatriots, and Russian foreign missions, the Russian Foreign Ministry and all subordinate organisations provide them with the necessary assistance.

Of course, the coronavirus pandemic and the related health restrictions in force in most countries are making adjustments to the format of the event. Where the epidemic situation remains difficult, compatriots will organise online Immortal Regiment events on social media and other information resources in various forms. In some places, for example, in Belarus, Bulgaria, Hungary, Israel, Italy, China, Mexico, Latvia, Pakistan and Uzbekistan, people are preparing for in-person marches. On the eve of the holiday and on May 9, other accompanying events will take place, including St George’s Ribbon, Candle of Memory, wartime song festivals, photo exhibitions, motorcycle rallies and much more.

We hope that locals, war veterans and representatives of anti-Nazi organisations will actively join these events in a number of countries, along with our compatriots, as happened last year. We hope that the authorities of countries where these solemn and memorable ceremonies will be held will not interfere with the events, but, on the contrary, will themselves pay tribute to the memory of the victors over Nazism.

Many events are scheduled, and some of them have already begun. Of course, we will update you on them, including via our social media accounts.


Monument to Hero of the Soviet Union French flying ace Marcel Albert in the United States


On May 7, the Washington County Historical Museum in Chipley, Florida, will unveil a monument to Hero of the Soviet Union, French ace pilot, Marcel Albert.

Like other pilots, Marcel Albert was sent to the USSR by the French Committee of National Liberation to help in the fight against Nazi Germany and its allies. Under a bilateral agreement a French fighter squadron, later changed to the legendary Normandie-Niemen Fighter Regiment, was formed in the Soviet Union.

The Normandie-Niemen Fighter Regiment took part in the Battle of Kursk, liberated Belarussia and Lithuania and defeated the enemy in East Prussia. By the end of 1944, Marcel Albert alone shot down 23 enemy planes. For his valour he was given the highest Soviet award ‚Äď the Hero of the Soviet Union title. We honour our common heroes, those who fought against the Nazi invaders shoulder to shoulder with us, who liberated our Homeland and European countries.

Monuments to Marcel Albert have been erected in a number of Russian cities, including Moscow, Tula, Tambov, Lipetsk and Kozelsk. The bronze bust presented in the United States is an exact copy of those monuments. It was made by Moscow sculptor Yelena Cherapkina and presented by Mikhail Serdyukov, a patron of the arts and the initiator of the Russian Glory Alley project.

The monument was delivered to Chipley (where Marcel Albert is buried) last year through the efforts of the Russian Embassy in the US and compatriots. Its unveiling was scheduled for August 22, 2020, the 10th anniversary of his death, but because of the pandemic restrictions and the ban on public events the ceremony was postponed to 2021.

In view of the remaining health restrictions Embassy diplomats will participate in the ceremony online.


Update on coronavirus


The global spread of the novel coronavirus infection is not cause for optimism. A world record in coronavirus cases was recorded on April 23 of this year, when 886,000 people were officially diagnosed. As of today, the total number of infected people is close to 150 million, and the number of deaths exceeds 3.15 million. According to the WHO, the virus is spreading faster than in the spring and autumn of 2020.

At his regular briefing held recently, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus spoke about the more intensive dynamics of the pandemic in the world. He said the number of infected people last week was the same as during the first five months of the pandemic.

International experts explain the current increase in the epidemic by the rapid spread of new coronavirus strains ‚Äď Indian, British and South African, to name a few, and the unjustified or premature easing of domestic restrictions by some national governments.

Having confirmed the urgent need for universal vaccination, Mr Ghebreyesus noted that the process of immunoprophylaxis has stalled in many countries for different reasons. As before, the distribution of immunomodulating substances is unfair and many countries are deprived of free access to them.

Against the general disappointing background of the global COVID-19 pandemic, we would like to draw your attention to the tremendous deterioration of the epidemiological situation in tourist destinations that are popular in Russia. In this context, we again urge our citizens who plan to travel abroad to thoroughly analyse the potential risk. In fact, today the risk is already higher than mere potential. The authorities at popular tourist destinations are imposing additional emergency measures and tougher lockdowns than even a month ago. Once again we are asking you to weigh the risks associated with such trips and to follow closely the sanitary requirements when crossing borders. These requirements are regularly updated and are becoming tougher.


Kyrgyzstan to receive its first consignment of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine


The first batch of 20,000 doses of the Russian two-component Sputnik V vaccine arrived in Kyrgyzstan on April 22 this year. The transfer ceremony took place at Bishkek Airport with the participation of First Deputy Prime Minister of Kyrgyzstan Artyom Novikov and Russian Ambassador to Kyrgyzstan Nikolai Udovichenko.

The Russian vaccine will primarily be designated for teachers, medical workers, people over 65 and people with chronic diseases.

The Russian Federation will continue its assistance to the friendly nation of Kyrgyzstan to help in controlling the coronavirus pandemic in that country.


Medical aid to India


As per the Russian President’s decision in the spirit of friendship and the special privileged strategic partnership status between Russia and India, and for the sake of fighting a sharp rise in coronavirus cases, a large shipment of medicines and medical equipment was delivered to India yesterday.

Overall, two Russian Emergencies Ministry planes (the first one landed in New Delhi at 11 pm local time on April 28, and the second plane arrived in the Indian capital in the early hours of April 29) sent 22 tonnes of cargo to India including 20 oxygen units, 75 fans, 150 medical monitors and 200,000 packages of medications.

The consignee is the Indian Society of the Red Cross which will distribute the items among medical facilities.


Vladimir Zelensky’s remarks on the need to amend the Minsk agreements


We certainly could not overlook Vladimir Zelensky‚Äôs interview with the Financial Times which called for amending the Minsk agreements and "adjusting‚ÄĚ the current negotiating format by engaging the US, Great Britain and Canada, or changing the format altogether.

In fact, the remarks do not offer anything new. Similar ideas have repeatedly been expressed by different Ukrainian officials. The difference is that these statements, made for the first time at the presidential level, can be taken as nothing but confirmation that a refusal to comply with the Minsk agreements is now becoming Ukraine‚Äôs official position rather than the personal opinions of certain leaders, which have served as a justification, including by our European partners in the Normandy format, for this kind of "brain storming.‚ÄĚ Obviously, it causes concern.

If the Ukraine’s representatives in the Normandy format and the Contact Group follow this approach in the negotiating process, which is stalled anyway by Kiev’s insistent sabotage of the Minsk agreements per se, then we can hardly expect any progress in a Donbass conflict settlement.

Nevertheless, we believe the opportunity remains to exit the current alarming situation. What is important is to not aggravate it, something Kiev seems intent on, but rather start honest and conscientious implementation, on the basis of a direct dialogue with Donetsk and Lugansk, of their obligations under the Minsk Package of Measures, approved by UNSC resolutions, in all their entirety and consistency. Apparently, it requires courage and political will on the part of Ukrainian leadership. They must be presented as available if only because they were declared before the election since these promises underlie the election campaign. 

Only this approach will make it possible to restore peace and calm in Donbass and in all of Ukraine. There is no alternative to this, whatever tricks they might make up in Kiev. We have heard many times from our Western partners that the Minsk agreements have no alternative. We wish they would not forget this approach.  


Ratification of Russian-Estonian border treaties


Political discussions on the ratification of border treaties with Russia are ongoing in Estonia. The two countries’ foreign ministers signed the treaties in 2005, but the Russian Federation later revoked its signature when Estonia added unacceptable references to invalid documents, including the 1920 Treaty of Tartu, to its ratification law. The treaties were signed again in 2014, but Tallinn prevented their enforcement once again.

We believe it would be appropriate to reaffirm Russia’s position of principle on this issue, which we have put forth openly and in our contacts with our Estonian colleagues. The ratification of the border treaties will only be possible if the Estonian Government abandons any and all territorial claims to the Russian Federation and political appendices.

In addition, we expect Tallinn to take practical steps towards normalising the atmosphere of bilateral relations, in particular, settle the problem of numerous non-citizens, stop pushing the Russian language out of the educational and information space, stop the persecution of Russian-language media outlets, journalists and human rights activists, and abandon anti-Russia rhetoric, including at international venues.


Biden’s address to a joint session of Congress


US President Joe Biden‚Äôs State of the Union address to Congress leaves a dual impression. Of course, we welcome once again the declared intention not to seek escalation but to cooperate with Russia "when it‚Äôs in our mutual interest.‚ÄĚ

Regrettably, the current US administration‚Äôs rhetoric doesn‚Äôt match its deeds. And the US President‚Äôs traditional address to lawmakers, although it was delivered for effect, confirms that Washington is not ready to abandon its futile efforts to use pressure and unsubstantiated allegations of Russia‚Äôs "malicious activity.‚ÄĚ

If the United States really wants to talk, it’s time to abandon confrontational rhetoric and to take practical measures to improve the abnormal situation in bilateral relations, for which the United States is to blame. Otherwise, they will continue to slide down.

We would like to hope for a more positive scenario suited to the logic of the modern-day multipolar world.


Signing of Norway-US revised defence cooperation agreement


We have taken note that the Supplementary Defence Cooperation Agreement signed by the United States and Norway on April 16 will allow the Americans to use the "agreed facilities and areas‚ÄĚ in Norway for the deployment of US troops and military equipment, military drills and exercises, and the maintenance of equipment. Norway described the agreement as a vital contribution to the strengthening of ties with its main NATO ally.

Oslo‚Äôs enthusiasm over any US steps to strengthen its military presence in the Kingdom is old news. Every time this happens, just as in the case of this agreement, the Norwegian authorities do their best to assure the public that this is normal and to reaffirm their commitment to the "no foreign bases‚ÄĚ policy that precludes the deployment of foreign bases in Norway in peacetime. At the same time, they say that these activities should not provoke Russia‚Äôs negative reaction because they are open and predictable. This is not so.

This is yet another proof that Oslo is gradually abandoning the policy of "self-imposed restraints.‚ÄĚ This is fully in line with the policy of military build-up and an active involvement of NATO in the Arctic. Since 2013, when Erna Solberg became Prime Minister, Norway‚Äôs defence spending went up by 30 percent.

We regard such activities, especially in direct proximity to the Russian border, as Oslo’s deliberate and destructive line towards aggravating tensions in the Euro-Arctic region, and destroying Russian-Norwegian relations. This is not our choice. Russia remains open to an equal and constructive dialogue on building confidence and security in the region, as we pointed out to the Norwegian authorities on numerous occasions.


East Jerusalem update


High tension persists in East Jerusalem and its holy sites since the beginning of the holy month of Ramadan on April 13, 2021. According to media reports, the Israeli side has limited the access of the Palestinians to the Al-Aqsa Mosque complex. Under the pretext of preventing overcrowding, as part of the efforts to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, the Israeli authorities have put up metal fences near the Damascus Gate. On April 26, 2021, these fences were removed following protests by Jerusalem’s Arab population.

Against this backdrop, Israeli ultra-radicals have started more actively calling for killing Arabs and expelling them from the city. Moreover, Israeli extremists are more frequently visiting the Al-Aqsa Mosque complex under the protection of Israeli police officers and without prior coordination with the Jerusalem Islamic Waqf religious trust that manages the holy sites. These visits are downright provocative.

We denounce any manifestations of racial, national, ethnic or religious intolerance. We are urging the concerned parties to honour the status quo regarding Jerusalem’s holy sites, formalised in the Israeli-Palestinian peace treaty of 1994. 

We believe that compliance with all historical understandings and the renunciation, by all parties, of all actions that further aggravate what is happening around Jerusalem and cause a new spiral of tension between the Palestinians and the Israelis are the most important thing today.


Federal Republic of Somalia update


We continue to closely follow the situation in Somalia that has become aggravated following a decision to put off the February 2021 general elections. On April 12, the lower house of parliament passed a decision to extend the tenure of President of Somalia Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed by two years, and this has triggered a wave of critical remarks from the country’s socio-political circles as well as the international community.

More frequent calls are being made for a civil disobedience campaign directed against the federal government. Against this backdrop, armed militant units, linked with the opposition, have seized several districts in northern Mogadishu, the country’s capital, where many government agencies are located, and continue to hold them. According to the incoming reports, the situation in Mogadishu has now somewhat stabilised, though.

We are noting the April 27, 2021 statement made by President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed on his readiness to address the national Parliament on May 1, 2021 and to voice a number of conciliatory proposals to further advance the nationwide electoral process.

We believe that it is necessary to resolve all current disagreements on the basis of earlier compromise agreements. We consider it essential to continue the search for mutually acceptable solutions in order to establish a stable federal system in Somalia.

As a permanent member of the UN Security Council, Russia is determined to continue taking part in the agreed-upon international efforts to provide all-round support to Mogadishu. 


60 years of Sierra Leone’s independence


On April 27, 2021, the Republic of Sierra Leone marked the 60th anniversary of gaining independence from its former metropolis, Great Britain. Even the name of its capital city, Freetown, says it all. Sierra Leone was built by the hands of former African slaves who chose their path towards freedom and the right to independently determine their own future.

Europeans’ penetration into the Sierra Leonean territory began in the 17th century. The colonialists captured indigenous people in huge numbers and sold them as slaves in the West Indies as well as in North and South America. Having established dominion over Sierra Leone, the British actually turned the land into a raw material appendage and the outflow of human commodity never stopped. The local population strongly resisted the invaders. A major uprising occurred two years after the establishment of a British protectorate over Sierra Leone in 1896. The national liberation struggle of the Sierra Leonean people against the British became more organised and persistent over time, and eventually led to the proclamation of independence in 1961.

At present, Sierra Leone is purposefully moving along the path of building a modern democratic state, consistently working to achieve the goals of sustainable socioeconomic development.

Russia and Sierra Leone have traditionally friendly ties that rely on the principles of equality, mutual respect and consideration for each other's interests. An active political dialogue is maintained between Moscow and Freetown. Mutually beneficial joint economic projects are being implemented, including in the mining industry.

We would like to wish all the best to the leaders and people of the friendly Republic of Sierra Leone on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of their independence. Wishing them new achievements, peace, prosperity and happiness.


The conference Russia - Africa: Building the future together


On May 18, the Russian Foreign Ministry's Diplomatic Academy will be the venue of a conference, Russia-Africa: Building the Future Together.

The purpose of this event is to prepare proposals for the further development of relations between Russia and African countries in the context of the preparations for the Russia - Africa Summit in 2022.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will deliver a welcoming address.

Invitations to participate and speak have been sent to the ambassadors of African countries accredited in Russia, the leaders of the Federation Council and the State Duma, ministries and departments, state and private companies, as well as public organisations.

The conference programme will be published on the Diplomatic Academy’s website.


Fourth Leaders of Russia competition


On March 26, 2021, President Vladimir Putin launched the 4th Leaders of Russia national management competition. It is the biggest management competition in the country and the only competition of this kind in the world. Participants benefit from the mentorship by the Prime Minister and his deputies, federal ministers, top managers of major state-run corporations and large businesses, and so on. More than 660,000 people have taken part in the competition over the three years.

This year, an international section was established for Russian-speaking nationals of other countries. Non-Russian citizens aged 55 years and younger with managerial experience of at least two years and whose command of Russian is sufficient for performing tasks are welcome to register for the competition.

Citizens of 80 states have signed up to participate in the international section of Leaders of Russia. The majority of these participants represent Kazakhstan, Belarus, Ukraine, the Kyrgyz Republic, Latvia, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Armenia, Germany and Tajikistan.

A remote stage of the competition will run from May 20 to July 1, 2021. Contestants in the international section will demonstrate their intelligence and management potential; they will also compete in their knowledge of Russian history, culture, geography, economy and law. The leaders will compete in the offline finals, which will be held in Moscow in late August and early September.

In addition to the main prizes such as study grants, mentorship and participation in the super finals in March 2022, winners in the international section will be given the opportunity to fast-track their Russian citizenship and all finalists will be granted permanent residence.

Applications are open on the Leaders of Russia official website through May 17, 2021.


Answers to media questions:

Question: Recently, you have had to frequently comment on events related to Poland. This week, our countries marked the 100th anniversary of diplomatic relations. How do you see the development of these relations up until now? Could it be said that Moscow and Warsaw are reaching an impasse or is there hope for normalising relations?

Maria Zakharova: First of all, I would like to draw your attention to a full-fledged and in-depth interview by Russian Ambassador to Poland Sergey Andreyev that was published in the context of this anniversary. On my part, I would like to add that the history of Russia-Poland relations is, obviously, much longer and the establishment of the diplomatic relations between the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic and Poland in 1921 was just one more chapter for our bilateral links. Last century was quite intense for our relationship, from early difficulties to coordinated action by the Soviet Union and Poland against Nazi Germany, the liberation of Poland by the Red Army and alliance during the post-war period.

The Russia-Poland relations have seen both positive and negative developments in the past 30 years. There have been attempts to build a constructive dialogue. However, at Poland‚Äôs initiative, our bilateral relationship has been essentially frozen since 2014. The country‚Äôs leaders in Warsaw continue the course for winding down our bilateral contacts even further. More recently, Poland has launched a campaign against Soviet memorials, which we are forced to talk about constantly. Poland is pursuing an aggressive historical policy, making attempts to sabotage Russia‚Äôs infrastructure projects and insisting on expanding NATO‚Äôs presence in Eastern Europe under the pretext of a bogus "Russian threat.‚ÄĚ Russophobic sentiments have been perpetuated at the official level and in Polish media.

That being said, if we put aside our disagreements on a number of historical issues and refer to professional historians for answers, there will be no major problems left at the bottom that cannot be resolved if both sides have the political will to resolve them. Unfortunately, right now we do not see any such intention on behalf of Polish officials.

Question: What comments could you make on the leaked tape of Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif’s confidential conversation?

Maria Zakharova: It should be noted that the Islamic Republic of Iran, a country friendly to Russia, is apparently living through hard times nowadays. Unlawful US sanctions are exerting all-out pressure on the country’s economy, and the COVID-19 pandemic is impairing the health of ordinary people and their well-being. The new presidential elections, a crucial political event, are looming on the horizon. Consequently, it is our opinion that any media upsurges should be analysed through the context of these circumstances. We personally know those who would like to manipulate them to the detriment of Russia’s interests and long-time ties with Iran.

On the whole, we are always guided by Tehran’s official position that has been repeatedly voiced. For example, on January 26, 2021, Mohammad Javad Zarif expressed sincere gratitude to the Russian Federation for its principled and constructive views and stances on the JCPOA, stressing the need to continue close cooperation between the two countries over the nuclear deal and to maintain our consensus in order to save this extremely important agreement in connection with specific risks and apprehensions that have arisen following the US withdrawal from this plan.

On April 13, 2021, President of Iran Hassan Rouhani noted that Iran praised Moscow’s support of the negotiating process on the nuclear deal and a striving to preserve and reinstate the JCPOA.

Moreover, on February 7, 2021, Speaker of the Parliament of Iran Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf said the country’s Supreme Leader (Ayatollah Ali Khamenei) always underscored the strategic nature of bilateral relations and prioritised Russia as the venue for his first foreign visit.   

Speaking of the facts, it would have been impossible to completely eliminate all IAEA questions with regard to Iran and to guarantee the transparent and completely peaceful nature of its nuclear programme without the Russian Federation’s decisive assistance. This would have prevented the approval of the JCPOA in 2015, and the plan would have certainly gone under in 2018, following the then US president Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the deal.

I don’t even want to repeat the interpretations just mentioned in your question to which you refer. By the way, these interpretations were made at the height of the Vienna talks between countries, parties to the JCPOA, and the United States on preserving the nuclear deal. This only served to hamper the process. We will continue our efforts to revive the JCPOA, so that the nuclear non-proliferation regime would be consolidated, and the economy of the Islamic Republic of Iran would reap the required benefits. 

We need a powerful and independent Iran conducting a responsible regional line on the basis of international law. Russia has always emphatically opposed US interference in the sovereign affairs of our southern neighbour, US pressure on Iran and arrogant threats about all options still on the table, as they like to say.

We will expand the entire range of cooperation with Tehran, and we will act to help the people of Iran fight the pandemic. It is common knowledge that we do not sell off our interests and partners, that we act in strict compliance with international law, and that we always remain loyal to our word and obligations, including the JCPOA and UN Security Council Resolution 2231. We are expecting the same sincere and responsible attitude from those with whom we cooperate on an equitable basis, and we would prefer to judge them by their deeds, rather than by certain ill-conceived or impermissible statements.

Question: Certain political forces in Ukraine have recently been active in discussing the country's NATO membership. But there is another point of view. As an alternative to membership in the alliance, Ukraine could obtain nuclear weapons to defend itself against the alleged Russian threat. To follow-up on this topic, the German newspaper Die Welt in its article Nuclear power Ukraine? Not so absurd at all analysed the hypothetical possibility of ‚Äėrestoring‚Äô Ukraine‚Äôs nuclear status. The Ukrainian Ambassador to Germany does not rule out this possibility either. Can you comment on whether such a scenario is likely? Do you think it is a possibility?

Maria Zakharova: If we judge Ukrainian officials by their statements, the Ukrainian ambassador to the FRG sounds nothing less than an odious character. You might want to reread his statements. I do not think that Ukrainian Ambassador to Germany Andrey Melnik’s statement about the possibility of Kiev creating nuclear weapons should be taken seriously, especially since it has already been disavowed by the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry. But I will say it again: this is what their diplomatic service is like, and their public diplomacy and rhetoric.

At the same time, given the scale of the response and the seriousness of the issues raised, we believe appropriate assessments should be given to such irresponsible behaviour in the information landscape. After all, it is nuclear weapons we are talking about. There must be at least some kind of legal framework in which such statements are made.

We regard the Ambassador's statement as an unwise attempt to blackmail the Western countries with Kiev’s mythical nuclear potential to once again try to extort some preferences in relations with NATO.

The reason for this blackmail is highly unfortunate. Firstly, even in the current difficult time, when the arms control and non-proliferation agreements that seemed unshakable are falling apart, some fundamental elements of the existing world order still remain, something that no one would destroy for the sake of the Kiev regime. One such element is the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), an agreement Ukraine joined voluntarily forever renouncing the possibility of possessing nuclear weapons. Secondly, Kiev's illusive potential to create nuclear weapons should not be exaggerated. Its possession of uranium mines or nuclear reactors, either inherited from the Soviet Union or built by Russia after its collapse, does not equal the ability to develop nuclear weapons.

It should also be noted that even the statements about the prospect of ‚Äėrestoring‚Äô Ukraine's nuclear status are incorrect. I know the Ukrainian side has trouble with this, but one should at least try to stick to facts. Ukraine has never had the status of a nuclear power. It so happened that after the Soviet Union collapsed, a significant number of nuclear warheads remained on the territory of the former Ukrainian SSR. Kiev, I would like to emphasise this again, has never exercised any actual operational control over those weapons, either before 1991 or after. Control has always remained with Moscow. Returning them to Russia was a necessary condition and the only possible step that could enable Ukraine to continue as a sovereign state. So it is absolutely wrong to talk about any prospects, as they put it, for ‚Äėrestoring Ukraine's nuclear status‚Äô or claiming it previously had nuclear weapons ‚Äėof its own.‚Äô

We constantly hear similar statements from Ukrainian leaders. The absurdity of their statements is no longer a secret, I would say. Consider the ‚ÄėUkrainian Russian language,‚Äô or the alleged absence of neo-Nazi trends in Ukraine, or freedom to speak any language in Ukraine. Yet, they continue to make such absurd statements in abundance. This is just one of them.

I would also like to point out that Russian Ambassador to Germany Sergey Nechayev regularly comments on such statements made by Ukrainian diplomats in Germany. And he does it brilliantly.

Question: Russian Ambassador Eleonora Mitrofanova has been summoned to the Bulgarian Foreign Ministry today. It turned out that Sofia has decided to expel one more Russian diplomat, an assistant military attaché. This is obviously connected to yesterday’s statement by the Prosecutor-General’s Office spokeswoman, who said Bulgaria suspected that six Russians had been involved in a series of four explosions at four arms depots in Bulgaria between 2011 and 2020. Is Russia willing to provide help to the Bulgarian authorities to investigate these blasts, which Bulgarian Acting Foreign Minister Ekaterina Zakharieva has requested at the meeting with Ambassador Mitrofanova? What will be Russia’s response to the expulsion of the diplomat? Will Bulgaria be put on the list of unfriendly countries, which will be made public soon, as Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said yesterday?

Maria Zakharova: Let’s start at the beginning. Your first question concerns possible assistance to the Bulgarian government agencies. If the relevant Russian agencies receive such a request, they will consider it in accordance with the established procedure based on bilateral agreements.

Your second question concerned the expulsion of a diplomat. The Russian Foreign Ministry has issued a comment on this matter. I can only repeat that such actions do not remain unanswered.

The third question was about a list of unfriendly countries. There is nothing I can say in addition to the numerous statements made by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. The list is under consideration. Please, be patient and wait until its approval.

Question: Is it true that the Russian Embassy is Skopje is trying to set Macedonians against Bulgaria? On April 26, the Russian Embassy in North Macedonia posted a tweet accusing Bulgaria of attacking Macedonia in April 1941. The tweet ended with the phrase "Eternal glory to the Russian, Macedonian and other soldiers‚ÄĚ who had fought against the Nazi plague. Public attention to that tweet was attracted by Bulgarian MEP Andrey Kovatchev.

Maria Zakharova: That tweet posted by our Embassy in Skopje provided the bare facts. It hardly deserves such an emotional assessment. As I have said, it only provided bare facts.

I would like to point out that our embassies also post many tweets about Bulgaria’s activities on the side of the Red Army in the final period of WWII. Unlike the current Bulgarian authorities, we also often write in the social media about the participation of Bulgarian General Vladimir Stoychev in the 1945 Victory Parade in Red Square.

Question: Do you think that Russian-Bulgarian relations have reached a deadlock and need a new symbol of friendship? What could it be?

Maria Zakharova: I wouldn’t like to speak about deadlocks now. I would rather focus on the second part of your question, that is, our vision for a way out of the current deadlock. We have not led our relations there. We had no such intention. We proceeded from the priority and primacy of interaction, cooperation and the development of relations in various spheres, which are based on the principles, of course, that constitute the foundation of international law, with the leading role played by the UN and its Charter, and which are regulated by bilateral arrangements and agreements. This is what we proceeded from. This has always been our principled stance. It is another matter that we also respond to actions that are either unfriendly, or hostile, or evidence of an illegal, unequal or unacceptable attitude to bilateral contacts and ties. Our principled stance in relations with other states has always been clearly outlined. I have set it out once again right now.

Question: Director of US National Intelligence Avril Haines earlier mentioned a serious threat posed by Russia in cyberspace in the wake of the December hacker attacks, of which Washington accused Russia. The Politico reported that the US will now create a Centre to protect against malicious cyber activities by Russia and China and that the Centre will collect intelligence about malicious activities by Russia, China, North Korea and Iran. On April 24, President Vladimir Putin signed an executive order on actions against states taking unfriendly moves against Russia. Given the latest steps by the United States, including its belligerent rhetoric and continual accusations, will Russia take action against the US authorities in accordance with President Putin’s executive order? If so, are there any specific actions in the works that are designed to prevent further unfriendly moves by the United States?

Maria Zakharova: I think you have answered your own question. President Putin’s executive order is binding on our country’s authorities. If you are talking about this particular executive order, then, as you are aware and as we mentioned, a government resolution will shortly be adopted to ensure its implementation. It is being worked on. As soon as it is released, the authorities will know what to do in order to implement this executive order.

Question: Alongside The Insider and with the involvement of the German Der Spiegel and Czech Respekt, the pseudo-investigators from Bellingcat have released another portion of their "probe‚ÄĚ into the situation in the Czech Republic and Emilian Gebrev's assertion that "the explosions at the Bulgarian ammunition depots in 2015 are interconnected and were part of the Russian Main Intelligence Directorate‚Äôs operation to make it hard for Ukraine to obtain the necessary weapons to use in the Donbass conflict against Russia-backed separatists or the Russian military.‚ÄĚ The second part of this quote is quite notable. Is this some kind of involuntary admission by our Western partners that they illegally armed the Ukrainian Armed Forces during hostilities? Will Russia demand an international investigation into the supply of weapons to Ukraine for use against the civilians in Donbass and the identification of the countries and persons involved in illegal arms supplies? Can it do so?

Maria Zakharova: We have taken note (Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stated this in his interviews and Q&A sessions with media outlets) that we are witnessing yet another round of the anti-Russia campaign in progress. Just look at the surprising sequence of actions by NATO members right after the United States imposed another round of sanctions on Russia and expelled Russian diplomats. Shortly after that, the media and political space were overcome with reports about our country’s involvement in an alleged explosion in the Czech Republic in 2014. After this story ran its course, they moved on to explosions in Bulgaria.

All of that is clearly interconnected and represents a single chain of events in the information space that no one is even trying to conceal. This is yet another information campaign centered on accusing Russia of something. All of this is unfolding without the provision of any evidence (there is no evidence) and without establishing any interaction with the Russian authorities through available channels. This is why we can say that we are witnessing a multi-vector information and political campaign that is being conducted as part of a common global policy aimed at containing our country. It is a mechanism for implementing this collective West’s approach. There are easily understandable and clearly articulated procedures and provisions on how countries should interact in the event of alarming information, developments, etc. coming to the surface. There are communication channels that have been in existence for years. Everyone is well aware of them. However, they are not being used. Everything goes to the political dimension immediately. No one is asking for the provision of facts or evidence. Everything is based solely on statements, information leaks or references to one another’s words.

With regard to the Czech Republic, I believe the campaign has failed. The officials from various branches of government, bodies and the establishment made contradictory statements. This campaign may have been aimed against our country, but turned against the Czechs, because they do not deserve such insulting treatment with the authorities lying to them on questions that need to be answered. The investigation lasted seven years. Coming up with a concept in a matter of three to four days and imposing it on society is nothing short of offending your own people.

The second part of your question was whether the countries involved in this staged "racket‚ÄĚ should answer the legitimate questions, including regarding uncontrolled arms depots, trade and cross-border movement of weapons that is not overseen by the state, possible smuggling and unchecked supplies of weapons to the scenes of hostilities. The Russian government officials spoke about this. The countries and their associations must answer the questions that have arisen or been raised in these states. They need an international response. We must clearly understand how arms control works in these countries and how these countries‚Äô authorities comply with their international commitments (since they are parties to a large number of relevant restrictive agreements), what happened to the weapons and warehouses, who conducted the investigation and how did they go about it, and why this investigation has been grossly politicised. It led to nothing but political conclusions. By the way, there must be a separate answer as to why the politicians are clearly influencing and putting pressure on the course of the investigation. They have no right to do so. They (political institutions) are not just expressing their version of the developments, which can have an influence in one way or another, but they directly articulate accusatory verdicts and completely replace the legal institutions that should engage in investigative activities. I'm not even talking about the courts. So, it appears that, by and large, politicians in the Czech Republic and other countries you mentioned have come up with a ready-to-go guilty verdict. Moreover, they have made a decision and started acting upon it. Where are their law enforcement agencies that have been investigating this case for many years now? Where are the courts? This is direct violation of the democratic principles underlying these states that are built on principles of democracy and separation of powers, which they love to teach us to treat with respect. Where has this division gone now when politicians, whose scope of duties lies far from that of the investigating authorities, feel free to pass guilty verdicts?

Many questions have been brought up. Since they are members of numerous international treaties, conventions and agreements on restrictions in this area, they must provide answers to their own people and the international community.

Question: Our compatriots are proud of the Foreign Ministry, the Minister and you personally. Well done! Thank you for taking care of journalists from different countries. Thanks to everyone who makes our work more productive, and to your entire team. This is the smartest, most honest, and kindest team ever. Happy holidays!

Maria Zakharova: Thank you for the holiday greetings. I cannot fully accept this panegyric here though. We must maintain a critical attitude, primarily towards ourselves. But I will take this as an encouragement to further improve our work.

Question: Slovakia was the first country in the EU to receive a large batch of the Russian vaccine. It was also the first to support the Czech anti-Russia campaign. The Slovak Republic expelled three Russian diplomats, although it was not a concerned party in the Czech ammunition depot explosions. The Slovak government sited solidarity as justification for this step. Russian President Vladimir Putin said Russia‚Äôs response would be asymmetrical, swift and tough. Russia also expelled three Slovak diplomats and banned the import of chickens, eggs, and other foods from Slovakia. Will there be any more steps from Russia? Will the Russian Federation continue to cooperate with the Slovak Republic? We do remember the President‚Äôs legendary warning that one country would not get away with just "a ban on tomato imports‚ÄĚ as well as his brilliant answer about his plans to hang another country‚Äôs president by "a certain body part‚ÄĚ ‚Äď "Why just one?‚ÄĚ Is Slovakia going to get away with just chickens and eggs now?

Maria Zakharova: This is a creative question you just asked. I will try to stick to diplomatic vocabulary.

We have responded to the expulsion of Russian diplomats, as you just said.

As for the agricultural products, to be honest, I cannot agree with you. That ban was unrelated to the recent events. You might need to contact our regulators responsible for agricultural products. This is a totally separate story. I wouldn’t link them together.

What I think is important is that you noted in your question our constructive and fruitful interaction with Slovakia in the interests of the Slovak people. Amid the complete chaos with vaccines, vaccination programmes and other areas reigning across the so-called collective West, we can see how much the population of these countries needs help. Strange as it might seem, the countries that declared themselves advanced and proved that with a number of indicators, have not coped with the pandemic as they should.

What do I mean by coping as they should? First, I mean developing an appropriate policy, and taking measures that would be adequate to the situation. But the most important thing is to preserve solidarity, which they like to talk about, but which does not seem to be really working. There is no solidarity. It has been replaced by a kind of "vassal ideology.‚ÄĚ In reality, in situations where they really should have shown solidarity, mutual assistance and support, should have lent a helping hand to others, they have sadly failed. We, on the other hand, for all the differences with the EU (which we did not initiate), with NATO or in relations with specific countries, have risen to the urgency of the challenge, offering constructive cooperation and true solidarity. We never kept our vaccine projects a secret. Quite the contrary, we made various offers and tried our best to involve countries in a dialogue between scientists, businesses, and entrepreneurs in this area, always keeping in mind the interests of the people in our countries.

Whatever happens, no matter how life (or malicious intentions, which is unfortunately more often the case) tries to diminish the importance of such interaction and cooperation and to reduce it to nothing, it should be put first anyway, as you did today in your question. This is the most important thing, and a reference point for us. This should also be a reference point for the real and genuine perception of our country on the international stage. That is why, I think, so many of our Western colleagues and partners are desperate to invent something to divert attention from the constructive experience Russia now has, in particular in this area. Myths are being invented about Russia’s alleged involvement in some events in these countries many years ago, that Russian representatives were somehow involved in such actions.

As you can see, this machine generates myths on a massive scale. But we should be guided by what you outlined in your question and what I said ‚Äď the experience of productive cooperation that yields tremendous results in the most difficult situations, be it an infection outbreak or a political crisis. Despite this, we can and know how to lend a helping hand because our underlying attitude towards the world, towards building ties with other countries and associations is invariable ‚Äď equal interaction, mutually respectful dialogue in the interests of the people in our countries, based on international law, bilateral agreements, arrangements, and mutual benefit.

Question: I would like to highlight legal aspects of the actions taken by the European Union, the Czech Republic and Slovakia related to the Vrbetica incident in 2014. There is a ban on selling or moving weapons that may end up in Syria or notorious formations in Ukraine. How can this be accounted for? Is this being done against Nord Stream 2 and the Sputnik V vaccine?

Maria Zakharova: In order to be able to provide comments on legal aspects, we must have an understanding of what was stored in these warehouses. We must find out who oversaw them. By "oversaw‚ÄĚ I mean who owned the grounds and the ammunition and what agreements and contracts were used to move them.

Do you have any idea of what transporting ammunition is? It is carried out, as we now know from available materials, by private companies across the country. Do you know how many permits you need in order to get at least one lorry loaded with ammunition on the road across the country and then over the border to another country? Do you know how many permits, certificates and documents need to be obtained? Among other authorities, the state is involved in this as well. All these certificates and documents must be verified by the state, its government agencies. Accordingly, these documents must now be made available to the general public, because the current craziness in the public space, in particular, in the Czech Republic, leaves no room for hiding any data. Loud statements, comments and accusations were made which give rise to the need for answers to a number of specific questions that I have listed.

After that, we will need to talk about compliance with domestic legislation by individual countries (Czech Republic, Bulgaria, etc.) and with the EU legislation (there are a number of provisions which the states must comply with), and then with international law ‚Äď outside the EU borders ‚Äď the agreements and arrangements to which the countries you mentioned in your question are parties.

Lately, government officials, in particular from the Czech Republic, have denied allegations that anything has been violated. If the violations are to be proven not to have taken place, we need to find out what was actually there and in what quantities. Saying that it was just a warehouse that was run "properly‚ÄĚ will not work. Questions must be answered.

The investigation lasted seven years. Can you believe that no documents were provided in seven years showing what exactly was stored in these warehouses, in what quantities and where? If there are no answers or materials, then what were the investigative authorities doing all that time? Perhaps, the investigation was politicised from the word go? Perhaps, it was conducted by politicians rather than investigators and competent authorities? Perhaps, these were not Czech politicians, but people from other countries who were involved in the investigation-related events? What I mean is they were putting pressure on the investigation and were in charge of it to begin with.

All these questions must be posed one-by-one and thoroughly not only by us, but by life itself. We need to get concrete answers. There must be established facts.

In addition to the investigation, we are dealing with the democratic states (at least, this is how they present themselves). These states respect freedom of speech and have signed a large number of international acts regarding respect for freedom of speech, and interaction with the media, and they have adopted domestic legislation in the sphere of relations with the media. They must answer the questions at hand. They can’t hide these data.

This concerns not only the investigation, but the democratic foundations of this state as well, when the time comes to answer these questions. Only after we get the answers, will we be in a position to discuss conformity or lack of it.

Based on the currently available materials, it is clearly possible to conclude that there is no compliance with the agreements whatsoever. To reiterate, these materials were published in the media. Refuting them just like that, especially given that the Czech politicians started this, as Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said, "schizophrenic‚ÄĚ debate, not answering them or simply responding with one or two political statements is not enough. There must be specific information.

Question: Is the fact that they have dragged this topic into the spotlight related to Nord Stream 2 and Sputnik V?

Maria Zakharova: I cannot say that they have dragged it into the spotlight. If the investigation had been completed and they had a court decision, they could have said that the story was over; instead, they suddenly reanimated it. But it was not over. Was there a court hearing? We don’t know. As I understand, there was no trial. The story is not over. They have tried to finish it in this manner, and that is a fact.

I have a feeling that they have decided to use media campaign to close the investigation that should have identified those who were really responsible.

I have already answered what this is related to.

Question: Have you heard the latest news about the clash on the border between Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan? Would you comment on this incident?

Maria Zakharova: Considering that the situation continues to develop at that very moment, I have only seen news in the media. I can say that we are examining it.

Question: The settlement process in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone was discussed in President Vladimir Putin’s recent telephone conversation with President of France Emmanuel Macron. Later the President of France made a statement that a joint proposal was being developed to settle this conflict. Perhaps you are not yet ready to disclose it, but what is this proposal’s format? Will it be within the OSCE Minsk Group, between the two presidents, or between the foreign ministries? Experts are speculating that the possibility of expanding the peacekeeping troops is certainly being considered in order to prevent an escalation and strengthen the ceasefire. There are also many assumptions that the mechanisms for establishing the status of Nagorno-Karabakh have already been set, considering that France is consistent in this matter. The French Senate has adopted a resolution on recognising Nagorno-Karabakh as an independent country. Would you comment on this, please?

Maria Zakharova: A detailed press release on the two leaders’ telephone conversation is published on the Kremlin website.

Speaking about your entire complex of questions, I can say that work continues between the co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group.

Question: So this is a proposal within the OSCE Minsk Group?

Maria Zakharova: I have no more to say about this. I will share with you if there are any updates, but right now this is all I can say about this issue.

Question: In his address to the Federal Assembly, President Putin noted that certain countries that engage in diplomatic attacks on Russia are not acting of their own accord. We understand that this is about the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Poland. Maybe it’s time to make this lack of independence felt in the diplomatic sphere? Historically, these Visegrad Four countries are from the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Russia can lower the diplomatic status of these republics and close their embassies in Moscow. The Embassy of Austria (we have excellent relations with Austria) or Hungary could then act as their representatives in Russia. We could then ask the Czech Republic and Slovakia to vacate the vast grounds allocated for their embassies in Moscow. The same goes for Poland with its large embassy grounds. What are your thoughts on this?

Maria Zakharova: Your question sounds more like a political statement. I think this would be the correct way to approach it.

I would like to note that an embassies’ main purpose is not to punish each other, but to advance relations in the economy, culture, defence, healthcare, security, etc. Of course, working with the public is a separate area, which includes consular and visa services or legalising documents, in a word, a long list of what citizens of one country may need when in another country. This is the purpose of embassies, consulates general and consular departments at embassies. We believe embassies should focus on these matters. This is what the Vienna Conventions clearly say about diplomatic and consular missions’ status and activities.

The true purpose of a given state’s embassy in another country is to promote relations and to provide assistance to citizens of their country who are in a state of the embassy’s accreditation.

Of course, there may be situations where the staff at embassies, consulates or consulates general have to leave the country on charges of activities that run counter to their status. This is a decades-long practice. These cases are also regulated. It is another matter when this is used in a political game and transcends the level of a routine approach to doing business to become a genuine natural disaster. In this case, the very relations that the embassies and consulates should develop are dealt a blow. We focus precisely on this mission in our work.

During the pandemic, the diplomatic services of all countries were confronted with new challenges. As you may recall, during the lockdown in 2020, they provided assistance in bringing home citizens who were unable to do so themselves. The bulk of this work was done by the diplomatic missions of all countries. They tackled a vast number of logistic and humanitarian issues. Many embassies and diplomats not only from our country, but other countries as well, were forced to not only refresh their memories on how to go about this, but to create, from the ground up, response procedures for the new challenges that the world had not seen in a long time. Remember how many countries imposed border crossing restrictions with families scattered all over the world, unable to reunite.

It is all the more important to keep in mind the embassies and consulates’ true mission. We have a very clear understanding of this. This is how we arrange the activities of our foreign missions. We make it clear that manipulations in the form of expulsion of diplomats under the pretext of them allegedly carrying out activities that are incompatible with their status, when, in fact, the issue is about political pressure and show of attitude to particular matters or pressure methods, rip the fabric of international relations and are certainly at odds with the interests of the peoples of the states involved. These are dirty political games that have nothing to do with the objectives set for diplomats and foreign missions.

I would nevertheless draw a line between your political statement and the true goal of diplomats in all countries, which they are striving to fulfill. Of course, we see that expelling diplomats has become one of the few tools used by a number of countries. They have mastered the use of illegal unilateral sanctions, the expulsion of diplomats, the closure of diplomatic missions and hostile takeovers of diplomatic and consular property. Instead of expanding the diplomatic and consular service and using innovation technology in their work, they have mastered this primitive, not even archaic (because there was no such thing before), out-of-place toolset.

Question: Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in an interview with the Rossiya Segodnya information agency that if no changes occur in US-Russian relations, both countries will lapse into another Cold War or even worse. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken also made an interesting statement that negotiations between Moscow and Washington on a number of issues would be possible only if there is no escalation from Moscow.

US President Joe Biden said if Russia "acts recklessly, or aggressively,‚ÄĚ there will be "consequences.‚ÄĚ He also said the US would prefer a more stable and predictable relationship, but ultimately it depends on Mr Putin.

How does Russia assess this statement? In what conditions is a Russian-American dialogue possible?

Maria Zakharova: I do not want to comment on separate statements. I would rather make a general comment about their demands for predictability. Such demands could be addressed to anyone but definitely not to the Russian side. I cannot cite a single major international action, move or event that would show Russia‚Äôs unpredictability in international affairs. We have the Concept of Foreign Policy of the Russian Federation, and our foreign policy practice. Look how systemic and interconnected everything is in this policy. The same cannot be said about the United States. I am not referring to empty rhetoric or attempts to shift responsibility. Not at all. This is solely about facts. If we take the key, fundamental issues ‚Äď not circumstantial aspects dependent on the changing international situation, but matters of principle ‚Äď the United States has drastically changed its approach over the past decade. It had nothing to do with any major changes in, say, the internal arrangement of the United States. Those were its international obligations, something that country had made a commitment to fulfill. But the United States reversed its approach even to those obligations as well.

Climate change, the Iran nuclear programme, humanitarian cooperation and the attitude towards international organisations on this track, in particular UNESCO, and even the United Nations ‚Äď Washington‚Äôs attitude to the UN is controversial, too ‚Äď the Middle East, Afghanistan ‚Äď their attitude has been changing so much there is no chance of finding any predictability in US actions.

So no, we are not accepting this argument whoever uses it ‚Äď our partners in America or elsewhere. If you have any specific facts confirming Russia‚Äôs unpredictability, please, present them. Only, they do not exist. This is how I would answer globally, without going into particulars.

As for further contact, a lot has been said about this. We have listed the principles on which we will build our relations with the United States from now on.

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