Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's answers to questions from Rossiya 1 TV channel, Moscow, February 22, 2022
22 February 2022 15:22
Question: Could you please comment on the international reaction to President Vladimir Putin's decision to recognise Donetsk and Lugansk people's republics, including the reaction of UN officials, who have cited UN documents on respect for the sovereignty of states?
Sergey Lavrov: Everyone knows about that reaction. It is being broadcast by the media, the internet and social networks. We anticipated this reaction from our Western colleagues. They have formed a habit over the past decades of blaming everything on the Russian Federation, of throwing the book at us. We have taken note of this, of course. You mentioned the reaction of the UN Secretary-General, whose representative has said that Antonio Guterres considers our decision to recognise the Donetsk and Lugansk people's republics to be a violation of the principle of sovereignty and territorial integrity. Our colleagues at the UN Secretariat should act in accordance with UN decisions that are fundamental for the implementation of the principles and goals of the UN Charter. They have been adopted unanimously by consensus, that is, by all the UN member states without exception.
As for the principle of sovereign and territorial integrity, one of the main documents which all lawyers consider to be fundamental for the interpretation of the UN Charter is the Declaration on Principles of International Law concerning Friendly Relations and Cooperation among States. It was adopted in 1970 and remains relevant to this day. It has never been put in question anywhere. The Declaration says on the matter of the principle of sovereign and territorial integrity that it must strictly apply to "states conducting themselves in compliance with the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples (...) and thus possessed of a government representing the whole people belonging to the territory without distinction as to race, creed or colour."
I believe nobody can say that the Ukrainian regime has represented the whole people living on the territory of the country after the 2014 coup. Many regions of Ukraine rejected that anti-constitutional event, which opened a tragic page in the history of Ukraine. What happened in Crimea and in Ukraine's eastern regions is proof that millions of people in Ukraine rejected that government and the regime at the time.
I would like the leadership of the UN Secretariat to review the fundamental principles underlying the UN in accordance with the decisions of the member states before making any statements.
Question: What is the future of the Minsk agreements?
Sergey Lavrov: The Ukrainian regime trampled down the Minsk agreements. Immediately after signing them, President Petr Poroshenko went to the Verkhovna Rada and started making excuses instead of standing up for this critical document, which helped stop the war and opened the path to preserving Ukraine's territorial integrity through a peaceful settlement. Pavel Klimkin, who served as Ukraine's foreign minister at the time, began to say that these agreements were not worth a penny and were just a piece of paper, while Ukraine did not assume any obligations. They were afraid to defend their point of view and the consensus that was reached in Minsk with the participation of the Ukrainian, Russian, French, and German leaders. We also understand that our colleagues are now trying to pin the blame for the breakdown of the Minsk agreements on Russia.
Our European, American, and British colleagues will not stop and will not sit still until they have exhausted all the opportunities for "punishing" Russia, as they say. They are already threatening to impose all kinds of "crippling" sanctions or as they say today the "mother of all sanctions." We have grown used to that. President Vladimir Putin has already outlined our position. We know that they will impose sanctions in any case, with or without pretext.
It is with a lot of regret that I must note the negative and provocative role of the European Union, which has already demonstrated many times that it cannot answer for its words or deeds. Let me remind you that on the eve of the February 2014 government coup, it was the European Union, represented by the German, Polish and French foreign ministers, that acted as the guarantor of the agreement between the opposition and Yanukovych. The next morning, the opposition tore up the agreement as if the EU representatives did not matter, and the EU had to bite thedust, as the saying goes. Soon, the European Union started saying that this was part of the democratic process rather than a government coup. What a shame.
Those whom the European Union forgave and even started to support immediately turned to churning out one Russophobic initiative after another, but the EU remained silent, calling on these people to be "proportionate" in the use of force. After that, when the people of Crimea opposed the attempts to take their region by force, armed voluntary battalions headed there to storm the parliament of the Republic of Crimea. Then, with a sense of relief, the European Union blamed Russia for everything.
It took a lot of effort to stop the bloodshed in Donbass in February 2015. Once again, the European representatives, specifically, the leaders of France and Germany, were involved. Many hours of talks in Minsk paved the way to the adoption at the highest level of the famous Minsk agreements. It is now that they have suddenly started to care about them. All these seven years we pointed out to our European colleagues almost daily that Kiev could not care less about these agreements. The Ukrainian authorities did nothing, while publicly refusing to fulfil the Minsk agreements.On our website, we published a list of quotes to this effect by Vladimir Zelensky and his entire team, and we are circulating this list in the UN Security Council. How else can we make sure that those who form the international community get to know what the Ukrainian regime is doing or thinking? Once again, the European Union took no action to compel Kiev to implement the agreement that was reached with the direct involvement of Paris. In the past twelve to eighteen months, they started saying out loud that Russia was actually a party to the conflict, while Kiev had no obligation to speak directly to Donetsk and Lugansk, who did not decide anything, but would rather engage with Russia.
I would like to draw your attention to outrageous statements of this kind by our European colleagues. In any other conflict that the United Nations has dealt with, in one way or another (the Minsk agreements were approved by the UN Security Council and the relevant resolution clearly states that Kiev, Donetsk, and Lugansk are the parties to the conflict), the West does not reject the principle of countries engaging in direct dialogue. Look at Cyprus. The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus has been unilaterally proclaimed in the north. It refuses to abide by UN Security Council resolutions, but no one is denying the representatives of Northern Cyprus the right to be part of the dialogue. Look at the developments in Ethiopia, in the Central African Republic, or in any other country where there is an internal conflict. Nowhere does the West question the need for direct dialogue. However, in this case they denied Donbass this right for the simple reason that the Kiev government has been forcing its Western patrons to share or silently swallow the fact that their actions were driven by Russophobia.
I am using the past tense. The Minsk agreements have been dead for several years now because Kiev sought to sabotage its obligations, and also because of the West's conniving and permissive attitude towards the Kiev regime. Everyone understands that we were not the ones who buried these agreements. The failure by the European Union to enforce its own decisions is quite telling. This applies not only to Ukraine's internal crisis, where the EU failed with its guarantees, but also to other foreign policy areas for this organisation.
Consider the crisis in Kosovo. A unilateral declaration of independence with the overwhelming majority of democratic states applauding. Moreover, that declaration of independence was not made at the height of hostilities, but during a direct dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina. It was 2008. Special Representative of the UN Secretary General, former President of Finland Martti Ahtisaari supervised that track. As the talks were progressing, all of a sudden, he said, "We have to come to an agreement within a certain time" - and he set a deadline. Belgrade asked why. He never explained. The Kosovo Albanians realised time was now working for them and blocked any progress in the negotiations with Belgrade. When his ultimatum expired, the former President of Finland declared Kosovo's independence. This is what direct dialogue leads to.
Subsequently, in 2013, at the call of the UN General Assembly, the European Union began to establish a dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina, and in 2013 a consensus was reached to establish the Community of Serb Municipalities in Kosovo. Just as the Minsk agreements provided for a special status and rights for Donbass, the agreement on the Community of Serb Municipalities in 2013 provided for similar linguistic and cultural rights for northern Kosovo and its Serb population. However, Pristina has been refusing to fulfil its obligations under that consensus ever since, and the EU is absolutely helpless to do anything. So we have more and more doubts about the EU's ability to act as a mediator (a role they claim) and achieve at least some significant result.
We continue to insist that all problems be resolved peacefully. In this regard, we are justifiably concerned about the Kiev regime's militant rhetoric, the efforts to pump Ukraine with weapons, and the ongoing skirmishes initiated by the Kiev regime on the borders of the LPR and the DPR. However, now that Russia has signed treaties of friendship, cooperation and mutual assistance with those new states, we thereby guarantee their security. I think everyone understands this.
Question: Is the Kiev regime ready to exacerbate relations under these circumstances? In his speech made late at night, Vladimir Zelensky said it was time to act.
Sergey Lavrov: Yes, I have read what he said. You can expect anything from him. He is an unbalanced and dependent person who is under the direct control of his American curators. Regarding the US influence on Ukraine, I was really astonished by the statement made by US Representative at the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield. She said that Russia is intimidating the world by claiming that Ukraine is seeking nuclear weapons. This is not true, she said, adding that Ukraine doesn't want them. This could be taken to mean that it will be able to obtain nuclear weapons if it decides that it wants them.
The rhetorical stunts of our Western colleagues are designed to aggravate the confrontation. Instead of looking for a way to ease the tensions they themselves have created, they are doing their utmost to knock the Russian Federation off balance and restrain our development, as President Vladimir Putin said yesterday in his address to the Russian people. This is sad.
We are still open to dialogue. But we would like to know the subject matter of this dialogue. If the goal is to humiliate Russia, to accuse it, there will be no dialogue. But if our partners accept Russia's legitimate concerns regarding legally binding security guarantees in Europe, which we put forth in December 2021, we are ready to have an honest dialogue based on equality, respect and a balance of each other's interests. This dialogue must be based on the implementation of all the obligations adopted in the past with regard to ensuring equal and indivisible security for all in our common region.
|Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list|