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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's answers to media questions following a visit to the Sverdlovsk Region, Yekaterinburg, September 2, 2021

2 September 202122:59

Question: The idea of ‚Äč‚Äčrelocating the state corporations' headquarters from Moscow and St Petersburg to other large Russian cities has been discussed for several years now. In a way, this will unburden these two major cities and taxes will go to regional budgets. What do you think about ‚Äč‚Äčmoving them to Yekaterinburg? What prospects does the Ural capital have in this regard?

Sergey Lavrov: This is not my area. These issues should be reviewed by the Government and the state corporations' management. I am supportive of any decisions that will speed up the development of Siberia and the Far East. This is important to me.

The President and the Government are aware of this. If, among other concrete measures aimed at resolving this problem, they consider relocating the state corporations' headquarters there, it can probably be done.

Question: Yekaterinburg is located at the crossroads of Europe and Asia. The city has been hosting international events at the highest level for a long time now. There is a proposal to make Yekaterinburg a venue for the next climate summit or the SCO summit. What is your take on it?

Sergey Lavrov: No doubt, Yekaterinburg can host international forums of any size and level. An annual International Industrial Exhibition INNOPROM was held here in July. For the first time, a European country - Italy - acted as its partner. Our Italian colleagues used superlative terms to describe their impressions of this event, the way it was organised and the city itself which is moving forward and becoming, every single day, a more beautiful and more comfortable place to live and a more attractive destination for Russian and foreign tourists.

Yekaterinburg can host a variety of events. In addition to INNOPROM, it hosted an Exhibition of Building and Finishing Materials and Engineering Equipment and an Exhibition-Forum of Medical Equipment, "Healthcare of the Urals-2021," in April. Preparations are underway to host the SportAccord World Sport & Business Summit in 2022 and 32nd World University Games in 2023.

There is a waiting list to organise these kind of events here. Yekaterinburg may well be considered as a host city for the climate summit and the SCO events. This does not happen all by itself. You need to submit an application, and there is a special procedure to follow. You need to articulate your priority and show your capabilities. I believe it would be a politically interesting thing to do.

Question: Is Russia ready to help reach a peaceful solution to the situation around the Panjshir Valley in Afghanistan? Can Russian representatives act as mediators in talks between the Taliban and the forces that control this area?

Sergey Lavrov: We have long been urging the Taliban and other ethnic and political groups in Afghanistan to reach an agreement on creating an inclusive caretaker government. We do not plan to act as mediators in these talks. Everyone is interested in having the Taliban and other ethnic and political leaders in Afghanistan come to an agreement. These signals are sent by the Western countries, China and Central Asian states. Our allies from Tajikistan have a special role to play given that the Afghan Tajiks are negotiating with the central Taliban authorities in the Panjshir Valley. I hope these talks will lead to a solution, rather than fall through, and then the threat of a resumption of hostilities may not come about.

Question: Yekaterinburg is a major educational centre and is home to many universities and consulates of different countries. Most recently, there has been a discussion about the idea of ‚Äč‚Äčopening a branch of MGIMO University here. What do you think about this project? Do you see any future in it?

Sergey Lavrov: I support all projects promoting the experience of MGIMO University and the training model, which it never stops fine tuning. In many areas, the university is a European and even a world leader. Go ahead and talk to MGIMO University. The region must come up with a business plan about how to do it.

Question: At the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games in Tokyo, our athletes were unable to compete under the Russian flag. In 2022, Yekaterinburg will host the SportAccord World Sport & Business Summit. Do you see it as a platform to discuss lifting sports sanctions on Russia?

Sergey Lavrov: We are deploying legal measures and are striving to ensure that our clean athletes are not discriminated against and that fighting against doping through international channels is transparent and clear and does not involve discriminatory measures against athletes from a particular country.

Unfortunately, this issue is politicised. As President Vladimir Putin, the leadership of the Russian Olympic Committee and Minister of Sports Oleg Matytsin have conveyed on many occasions, we must root out any and all manifestations of doping in Russian sports. At the same time, we will never agree with the portrayal of Russia as a particularly doping-prone country, which leads to discrimination.

At the meeting with the athletes, I already mentioned that the International Association of Athletics Federations suddenly decided that only 10 Russian athletes could be admitted to the Tokyo Olympics even though there are many times more clean athletes and they have every right to participate in the Olympic Games. This approach is discriminatory. We must push for, first, the elimination of the actual problems in the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (we are working on it), and secondly, it is necessary to apply systematic efforts to ensure that all the international agencies that are fighting doping act transparently and measure everyone by the same yardstick without any discrimination.

By the decision of the Court of Arbitration for Sport, SportAccord World Sport & Business Summit is not included on the list of competitions where displaying the Russian anthem and flag is illegal. We need to work systematically, rather than try to approach any one event as a chance to achieve progress in anti-doping matters.

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