Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's remarks and answers to questions at a meeting with representatives of the Sverdlovsk Region sports community, Yekaterinburg, September 2, 2021
2 September 202120:23
I am very happy to meet with representatives of the sports movement in Yekaterinburg. Personally, I like sports, as the overwhelming majority of Russians do. They are becoming more popular among young people and children. Of course, the current situation on the global stage in high-performance sports is highly politicised, which is part of our Western colleagues' policy to hold Russia back. You know better than many how this is seen in the sports community. Using sports as political leverage clearly undermines the principles of the international sports movement. The main principle is sports are beyond politics.
The well-known events of the past years ultimately resulted in the sport arbitration court deciding in December 2020 that Russian athletes are now stripped of the right to perform under the national flag with the national anthem and national symbols at certain categories of international competitions. The restrictions will be in force for two years, until December 17, 2022. We believe that the performance of our young men and women at international sports venues serves as the best proof that politicising sports is unacceptable. Our Olympic athletes demonstrated this clearly in Tokyo, and now we can see that our Paralympic athletes are also enhancing Russia's prestige in the international sports movement. When excellent results are achieved in such difficult and discriminatory conditions, the victory is worth twice as much. This once again demonstrates the traditional qualities of Russian people: they fight for their country's dignity and bring it glory. Thank you very much for this, everyone.
We are taking all the necessary measures in the international arena to provide diplomatic and legal support to Russian athletes and coaches, as well as those involved in training our national teams. We are seeking to put an end to any arbitrary treatment of our athletes, including attempts to impose decisions across the board â€“ far beyond national jurisdictions.
Being obsessed with deterring Russia by any methods, the United States has already shown its disappointment with the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA)'s actions, saying their approach to Russia is not tough enough. The United States does not say this publicly; however, it has plans like this. The US Congress has passed the Rodchenkov [Anti-Doping] Law, which authorises the US intelligence services to spy upon and persecute, in extra-territorial jurisdictions, athletes charged with doping, particularly those who have been caught and won a victory over US athletes at [international sports] competitions. It would be all right, if this were the content of this law, but the law also provides for, and encourages initiating criminal proceedings against athletes caught doping in compliance with US law. I cannot rule out that precisely the way Americans kidnap people around the world, whom they suspect of doing anything wrong, and illegally take to their country, they will not stop short of punishing athletes who have tested positive and who Americans believe pose a threat to their interests at international competitions. Our American colleagues' willingness to illegally apply their laws to other countries and jurisdictions is being manifested in the sports movement as well.
We are maintaining contact with the Russian Olympic and Paralympic committees â€“ providing all the necessary support to both â€“ as well as with the International Olympic Committee, WADA and the Court of Arbitration for Sport. Russian sports authorities promptly respond, by taking tough measures, to any violations by our athletes that have been recorded clearly, objectively and in an unbiased manner. We do not want our athletes to win thanks to doping. Our main doping is athletes' will, patriotism and the desire to achieve the highest results possible when competing. A good career in sport and the willingness to defend the prestige of one's country is the best combination one can rely on not only in sports but in any other activity.
The West is pursuing a policy of subjugating all international competitions. They are attempting to introduce substantial amendments to the mechanism for implementing the International Convention against Doping in Sport, signed and approved at UNESCO. For over a year now, our Western colleagues have been trying to impose on the parties to the convention a mechanism that allows the secretariat to identify those accused of doping and increases the secretariat's ability to manipulate the convention. Thus, the implementation of the convention, developed by the member states, will be taken out of their control. We see many such manipulations, but what is typical of all our athletes is their will to win and their desire to achieve results that will allow them to overcome any attempts to artificially restrain the development of Russian sports.
We have the experience of the Sochi Olympics, the FIFA World Cup, the Summer Universiade in Kazan, and the Winter Universiade in Krasnoyarsk. The European Championship recently came to a close in St Petersburg and the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup has just ended in Moscow. Each event has confirmed once again that Russia is capable of organising international competitions at the highest level, something that is recognised by our foreign guests who were resolute enough to visit Russia and see for themselves how it was all organised and to appreciate the reception they received here. All this gives additional impetus to the development of Russia's regions. We have an impressive legacy now in Sochi, Kazan and Krasnoyarsk.
Yekaterinburg is currently preparing for the 2023 Universiade. I spoke to Governor Yevgeny Kuyvashev today. He told me that here, too, you would inherit the wonderful facilities for the development of university education and sports for all residents of Yekaterinburg and the Sverdlovsk Region. I want to say that Mr Kuyvashev completely approved the construction of an indoor whitewater slalom canal. He said they planned to look for co-financing opportunities. I think we will try to help find investors, considering that the region will certainly make its own contribution.
Question: We are holding the Sports-Accord World Sport and Business Summit in six month and the 2023 Universiade. Do you think we can join efforts (international federations and the State Duma) to make absolutely sure the restrictions are lifted?
Sergey Lavrov: As far as I know, the Sport-Accord summit does not fall under restrictions. The Court of Arbitration for Sport listed the events that fall under the ruling. These kinds of competitions and forums are not included.
Question: What can we do to have our national anthem and flag at the Olympics and at the 2023 Universiade?
Sergey Lavrov: We will have them at Universiade 2023 automatically because those restrictions expire in mid-December 2022. We will have everything. I believe we should not wait for the expiration date of the restrictions on our flag, anthem and national insignia when, mercifully, they will be granted back to us. But we must continue our legal work to show that we are absolutely not interested in seeing any doping violations by our athletes. We will keep eradicating this practice whenever we see actual evidence. The main thing here is the level of skill and willpower we saw in our athletes in the ROC uniform, which prove that that any restrictions make no sense. We are ready to play by the rules if the rules are the same for everyone and are applied across the board. If you are a male weightlifter, so be it. If you are a female weightlifter, that's what you are.
Question: In the context of your introductory remarks, how do see the future of the Russian Olympic Committee's status? What can we hope for or expect?
Sergey Lavrov: I am sure that the Russian Olympic Committee will retain its status and will be fully operational. All the sanctions introduced are expiring. We keep advocating the need for an equal approach to athletes from all countries. Asthma-suffering athletes who are actively using therapeutic drugs exceptions from the doping rules have become the talk of the town, and their actions are never contested. We should take a closer look at the entire system of fighting doping in sport, but so far this has been privatised by the West. In fact. WADA's managing body of 15 has 12 representatives from NATO countries, plus Australia and Japan. Such a slant towards countries that represent only a minority of the world's population is wrong, especially since sports is on the upswing in countries like China and Russia. When the current restrictions expire, the wish to discriminate against our athletes and privatise international sports mechanisms to the end will not go away. We have to fight it, bring everyone who is trying to do this to an open and transparent discussion with sports representatives from all nations, and to engage the athletes themselves in it. I believe that the overwhelming majority of Western athletes are not particularly happy about how their competitiveness is being artificially raised through these questionable tactics.
Question: Officials and athletes dare to express sharp and sometimes inaccurate statements against our athletes in the international media. Is this a sign of jealousy of Russian athletes' success, or their weakness which finds expression in aggression, or maybe something else?
Sergey Lavrov: All the above. It is all a part of what I was saying. A whole generation has already grown in the US and a number of other Western countries who have been indoctrinated like that. The perception of superiority is their natural condition, rooted in their minds. They are being persuaded that they are the best and that others can only compete with doping. There are many examples of athletes in the US who do not look, to put it mildly, completely free of doping throughout their lives.
The sports community with support from the state must raise the issue of the need to bring order, or at least (to start with) transparency in fighting doping. Why do 90 percent of activists and decision-makers represent just one group of nations? This must be sorted out. There must be transparent and clear methods for identifying the guilty, and ways to penalise them. And the key is that these methods must be the same for everyone. There is a joke we are all sick of â€“ what's the difference between meldonium and meldronate? None whatsoever. The former is produced in our country, the latter â€“ in the West. Ours is forbidden, theirs is not.
Question: After the 2014 Olympics in Sochi many athletes had their medals recalled. Court hearings have been ongoing for a long time. Unfortunately, the Court of Arbitration for Sport still cannot make a decision: it postpones hearings either due to the pandemic or for some other reason. How unbiased will the court's ruling be? We were right to say that sport is highly politicised. We, the honest athletes who were not part of it, have fears that the politicised situation being ratcheted up by international organisations might somehow affect the ruling which will be passed god knows when.
Sergey Lavrov: The answer is fairly obvious. As long as the current system exists and the Court of Arbitration for Sport, upon general agreement, performs the functions entrusted to it by the participating countries, we will insist on a fair court ruling. The attorneys are dealing with this as you know. The final decision is being put off under different pretexts but we are set to firmly support fair court deliberations through our lawyers' support. States cannot participate in such deliberations directly.
The issue of reform is high on the agenda. When medals are taken away and especially a year or a year-and-a-half after the competitions, it raises big questions. Reviewing the tests probably does not take that long.
And by the way, there is one more trend. The International Association of Athletic Federations allowed us to submit only ten athletes for all athletic events even though there are many more "clean" athletes. It appears that collective punishment is being introduced, which is unacceptable either in sport or in any other human activity. It is totally absurd. This entire system needs a deep analysis and reform.
Question: Life in sports is short, and sooner or later every athlete has to choose a profession. Diplomatic service is interesting and demanding. What would you recommend for future diplomats? People in sports know better than anyone else what situations might occur during sporting events. I believe they have a strong desire to defend the interests of their compatriots and the country.
Sergey Lavrov: Given the current situation in international affairs, I would rather take on boxers to work as diplomats. Seriously, you are welcome. If you feel you have a taste for diplomatic service, than give it a try, but first you must master languages and receive the relevant education.
Remark: I speak English and French.
Sergey Lavrov: Do you have a university degree?
Remark: I have two diplomas.
Sergey Lavrov: We have the Diplomatic Academy at the Foreign Ministry. It offers two-year courses.
Question: I planned a post-graduate course at the Academy of National Economy and Public Administration (ANEPA), but when I was preparing for the meeting with you and evaluated what you were doing I realised that I could try to put my knowledge and experience to practical use at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. I would like to recommend that other athletes think about this.
Sergey Lavrov: To be employed at the Foreign Ministry, one does not necessarily have to graduate from the Diplomatic Academy or MGIMO at the Foreign Ministry. We employ graduates of St Petersburg and Vladivostok universities. The most important thing is the level and quality of knowledge. So, you can complete your post-graduate course at the ANEPA, while honing your language skills, and then you can apply with us.
Question: Thank you very much for your answer. I believe I will contact you after my post-graduate course, and I still have my thesis.
Sergey Lavrov: Good.
Question: In the slalom rowing event, extreme kayaking has been included in the 2024 Summer Olympic programme in Paris. I know that you like rafting, mostly on the rivers in Altai. How about turbulent water rafting here in the Urals? I invite you to attend the ceremony for laying the cornerstone of our rowing canal.
Sergey Lavrov: I have never rafted [on rivers in the Urals], unfortunately. Altai has captivated me completely. Before that there were rivers in Krasnoyarsk and Bashkiria. The nature there is stunningly beautiful, with all those caves, of course. They have found a new cave in Bashkiria. I must see it. I will remember your invitation.
Question: Watching high-level talks, one can see instances where the opponent you are talking to not only fails to hear what you are saying, but sometimes taunts you in order to get an emotional response from you. What psychological resources or skills do you rely on? What is the secret behind your cold-mannered professionalism and mental toughness? How do you manage to act with so much dignity?
Sergey Lavrov: Many thanks for your high appraisal. Perhaps, I do not always deserve it. No one is perfect in everything, and everyone makes mistakes. That said, I have been a public official for quite a while. For ten years, I headed the Russian mission to the United Nations in New York. This entails almost daily contacts with journalists to explain our position. Informal UN Security Council meetings happen quite often, and you can speak your mind freely at such events. But if someone starts making false accusations against our country during public, official meetings, we never fail to respond and have the facts ready to back up what we say.
After what happened in Afghanistan, it is like everyone has all of a sudden recovered their sight. Even US President Joe Biden said that this signals the end of the campaigns to spread democracy by military means. I have no doubt that there will be non-military initiatives, but they said that the era of military campaigns of this kind is gone. President of France Emmanuel Macron also said during his trip to Iraq that they needed to stop imposing democracy on societies with a different history, traditions and culture. You cannot ignore the historical roots of a society, and you cannot ignore how they have been living for so many years, centuries and evens thousands of years and used their land. And now, their eyes finally opened to this truth. But before it happened, during the years when I was working in New York, we were constantly getting one report after another on yet another reckless Western undertaking. You know, they say that wise people learn from their mistakes. If this time our Western colleagues have learned their lesson, this would probably make the world a calmer place. However, they will continue imposing their values on the world. The effort to spread what they refer to as democracy will be carried out not by military means, but by using all kinds of other methods that are already becoming apparent: acting via NGOs and asserting their approaches through educational programmes. This is what they are doing in Ukraine and Belarus.
We have things to say about what the West presents as an impeccable policy and a guide to action. Most importantly, we are responding not just by words, but by actions. They left Iraq and Libya in ruins and tried to destroy Syria, which would have led to the emergence of more units within the Terrorist International, which would be a threat to many countries, including the Russian Federation. At the request of the Syrian Government, we did not let this happen, and prevented the country from turning into a terrorist state, as was the case in Libya, to give you an example, where terrorists held sway for quite a while. A large group of ISIS fighters settled in Iraq, and the list goes on.
We are now marking 800 years since the birth of great Alexander Nevsky, a saint and a righteous prince. It was he who said "God is not in strength but in truth." Russia has the strength but when articulating our approaches to international matters we always focus on the truth. No one can persuade us that what we are seeing is an annexation and occupation by the Russian Federation of Crimea and the east of Donbass, rather than the results of a government coup that is still ongoing, since people who openly encourage neo-Nazis are now in power. President of Ukraine Vladimir Zelensky has said that if you live in Ukraine and consider yourself a Russian, then you have to go to "your Russia." This is what he said in a formal interview. By remaining silent, the West betrayed its true self. This means that they want to keep Ukraine under their control the way it is, so that it continues to bark at the Russian Federation.
Our position is abundantly clear and straightforward: Ukraine violates the Minsk Agreements as approved by the UN Security Council. All the far-fetched ideas that Vladimir Zelensky has been making up just recently in Washington for his US interlocutors, when he alleged that Russia is blocking the implementation of the Minsk Agreements, have nothing to do with reality. Anyone can see that he insults the intelligence of those he is speaking with. The Minsk Agreements stipulate that Donbass must have the Russian language, while Vladimir Zelensky enacts laws saying that only the Ukrainian language must be spoken in Ukraine. The Minsk Agreements say that these territories must benefit from a special status, while he adopts laws making devolution of any kind in Ukraine impossible. It is also written into the Minsk Agreements that local elections should be held in these territories following special rules as agreed by Kiev, Donetsk and Lugansk, but he adopts laws saying that all elections in Ukraine should be kept to the same standard. In fact, Vladimir Zelensky has been using legislation to prevent himself and his Government from carrying out what the UN Security Council told them to do. But everyone is just blinking and nodding, as if this is how it should be. The West has been turning a blind eye to anti-Russia initiatives, seeking to direct its client states against Russia and constantly irritating Russia, trying to throw it off-balance. This is so obvious that there is no need to prove anything. But we have things to say in this regard, and unlike some, we will not lower our eyes and stay silent when we see something that is clearly unfair.
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