13 December 2017
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Syria: Sorting the Mess Out (by Ambassador Yakovenko, for Evening Standard)

The recent meeting of the IGSS in Munich came up with the plan to try to find ways to reach a cessation of hostilities between Syrian patriotic opposition groups and the Government, while not compromising the cause of fighting Isis, Jebhat an-Nusra and other terrorists. The urgency of this plan was brought about by the successes of the Syrian army offensive, which, in view of the experts, has gradually built up a critical mass for a potential endgame in the civil war.
To have an idea of the sheer challenge facing the international community, one has to look back at how the Syrian situation evolved over the past four years. We witnessed the process of radicalization on the side of the opposition. Many Syrian groups bet on foreign terrorist organizations which were well supplied and financed by various regional players, who projected their domestic political agendas onto the Syrian battleground. It came to the point when the Americans gave up on finding among the opposition the people they could trust. According to J.Clapper, there are 1500 groups fighting the Syrian Government. We were told by our British interlocutors a few months ago that the situation in Syria was a complete mess. The situation was further complicated by emergence of Isis, an explosive mix of religious fanatics and the rump of the Iraqi Baathist regime, including Saddam Hussein officer corps.
In the meantime the US assembled their anti-Isis coalition of about 70 members, which delivered ineffective airstrikes at Isis targets for more than a year before Russia had to intervene with its Air Force. Since midsummer 2015 we were told by our Western partners that in October Damascus would fall to the Isis. What they were planning to do next we don’t know. Probably, to wash the extremists white and present them as a Sunni state in Iraq and Syria.
In these circumstances Russa’s interference was a critical game-changer, allowing the patriotic Syrian opposition to re-appropriate their cause of a democratic and secular Syria, which was hijacked by foreign terrorists and mutated towards a caliphate. It was only then, that the main international and regional actors could come together within IGSS to engage in a comprehensive effort to find a political solution in Syria and to eradicate terrorists. The scale of this ambitious dual task has never been underestimated, given the situation on the ground. That’s why the Group agreed to compile the lists of bona fide opposition and terrorist groups. This proved to be difficult because of the regional scheming. For example, the Syrian Kurds haven’t been invited to Geneva talks because of Ankara’s opposition.
Now it was agreed to set up a working group under US and Russian co-chairs to map out the opposition and in this way to try to separate the wheat from the chaff. That would allow patriotic opposition to sever their alliances with terrorists which, in fact, mortgaged the future of their country to alien ideological and domestic agendas. It would also unshackle the Syrian army on all fronts as the main force to fight the terrorists on the ground. Thus a common anti-terrorist front would come into being, while a political solution to the Syrian crisis is discussed between the Government and the opposition in Geneva. Neither Russian Air Force, nor US-led coalition will cease their airstrikes against terrorists and their infrastructure.
This is the real chance to resolve the Syrian problem which festered for too long poisoning the regional context.

An edited version of this article has been published at http://www.standard.co.uk/comment/alexander-yakovenko-russia-and-the-us-are-partners-in-trying-to-end-the-war-in-syria-a3180571.html.


29.11.2017 - Afghan opium production jumps to record level (by Ambassador Alexander Yakovenko for RT)

According to the latest Afghanistan Opium Survey released by the Afghan Ministry of Counter Narcotics and United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), in 2017 opium production in Afghanistan increased by 87 per cent to a record level of 9,000 metric tons. The area under opium poppy cultivation also grew by 63 per cent to its highest level of 328,000 hectares. Afghanistan is the world's top cultivator of the poppy from which opium and heroin are produced. The 2017 record levels of opium production and poppy cultivation create multiple challenges for the country, its neighbours and many other countries that serve as a transit for or a destination of Afghan opiates. The significant levels of opium poppy cultivation and illicit trafficking of opiates fuel instability, insurgency and increase funding to terrorist groups in Afghanistan.

19.10.2017 - Why to fight with memorials (by Ambassador Yakovenko for RT)

The campaign in Poland against World War II memorials to Soviet officers and soldiers, who had liberated the country from the Nazi occupation, is gaining momentum. Warsaw has created a legal framework allowing the disposal of Soviet/Russian memorial objects or taking them out of public sight, including the most widespread monuments of gratitude to the Red Army. Why?

18.10.2017 - Syria: collective humanitarian efforts, not sanctions, are needed more than ever (by Ambassador Yakovenko for RT)

The situation in Syria is undergoing serious transformation. Due to the de-escalation process, it has now become possible to drastically reduce the level of violence, to improve the humanitarian situation as well as to fight terrorists more efficiently. The ISIS-controlled territory is shrinking. On 14-15 September, at the international meeting in Astana all four de-escalation zones were finalized.

05.10.2017 - What You Have to Know about Status of Crimea (by Ambassador Yakovenko for RT)

The coup d’état in Kiev in February 2014 backed by the West tore up the constitutional space in Ukraine. The legitimate President of the country was overthrown. It was marked by a severe lack of democracy and violence that posed a direct threat to the well-being of Russian-speaking population of Crimea. Citizens of Crimea faced the choice of becoming an oppressed minority or severing their ties with the hostile regime to secure a future for themselves and their children. The decision to hold a referendum was made by legitimate local authorities. The independence of Crimea was proclaimed and an appeal to enter the Russian Federation was made based on the indisputable results of the popular vote. Standards of international law were fully observed as the right of nations to self-determination enshrined in the UN Charter was exercised freely by the Crimeans. Crimea was recognized as an independent and sovereign state by Russia and on 18 March 2014 in Moscow the two countries signed a Treaty of Unification, under which the Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol became two new regions - subjects of the Russian Federation.

05.10.2017 - NATO increased military presence in Europe: road to nowhere (by Ambassador Yakovenko for RT)

As part of the implementation of the conclusions of the NATO Summit in Warsaw, four multinational battlegroups have been deployed in Poland, Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia with the total number of troops exceeding 4500. The idea of creating similar rotating units in Bulgaria and Romania in 2018 is being widely discussed by NATO members. If put together, these battlegroups amount to a motorized infantry brigade with heavy weapons.

30.09.2017 - Russia’s initiative on protecting SMM OSCE in South-East of Ukraine (by Ambassador Yakovenko for RT)

On 5th September, at the 9th BRICS Summit in Xiamen President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin has announced an initiative to establish the United Nations Mission on Support in Protecting the Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) OSCE in the South-East of Ukraine.

25.09.2017 - Eurasian Economic Union today (by Ambassador Yakovenko for RT)

Though hardly noticeable in the Western media, the Eurasian economic cooperation is booming, with the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) becoming an increasingly effective integration project. The unique format of enhanced economic coordination along with the EAEU member states’ retained political sovereignty and cultural identity is proving itself.

25.09.2017 - On Russia's assistance to Central Asia (by Ambassador Yakovenko for RT)

Russia attaches great importance to the issue of sustainable development as it is underlined by the UN. Among our priorities in this area is the development of Central Asia. We contribute to the development of this region on a regular basis, regardless of the global economic crisis and its negative effect on Russia’s economy. In today’s world, international aid is often politically motivated and aimed at exerting one’s influence. Russia has a different approach.

25.09.2017 - IX BRICS Summit – turning into a global organisation (by Ambassador Yakovenko for RT)

The 9th BRICS summit in Xiamen, China, has emphasized the proximity of positions of the member states on the current global problems. It demonstrated that over the last 10 years BRICS has grown into a full-fledged international mechanism for global cooperation.

08.09.2017 - SCO sets standards for countering extremism (by Ambassador Yakovenko for RT)

In June 2017, the leaders of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) signed the SCO Convention on Countering Extremism, which will help strengthen the international legal framework to address new challenges and threats as well as increase the effectiveness of cooperation between relevant authorities of the member states and to improve legislation in this area.

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