18 October 2018
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Russian Embassy on the Times editorial

To: Letters Editor, The Times


Dear Sir,

Your editorial, which accompanied Ambassador Yakovenko’s interview (26 October) is full of grossly misleading statements on Russia’s foreign policy. May I set the record straight before your readership?

1. International law. Nato violated it in Serbia in 1999 engaging in a futile bombing campaign for 72 days, ending up asking Moscow to help extricate it from that embarrassing fix diplomatically, which we did. Then came the disastrous and illegal campaign in Iraq. Tony Blair has just admitted his part in this adventure that cost the lives of at least 100 000 Iraqi civilians, who I assume hadn’t been warned in advance of the time and venue of bombing. In Libya Britain stretched the UN mandate, as always, “for a good cause”, which turned out to be dangerous in terms of both terrorist threat and migration onslaught on the EU.

2. Do we still have to talk of lies in high places and to international partners? Shall I say that anything done in circumvention of the UN Security Council is illegal and unilateral, irrespective of the number of members in coalitions of the willing. What about $500 mln used by the US Administration in its ‘train and equip’ program that produced 4 or 5 moderate combatants on the ground? And what about the letter of 50 US military intelligence analysts on doctored intelligence reports on effectiveness of the coalition bombing of Isis?

3. As to ‘the annexation of Ukraine’, people in Kiev will be surprised to read that. The people of the Crimea chose freedom from a nationalist rule. We never doubted Ukrainian sovereignty over south-eastern regions of the country. The Minsk-2 agreements are explicit on that. By the way, even the Chatham House experts admit that they meet Russia’s interest. The Minsk-2 is a credible recipe for a political solution as opposed to a military one conducted under the Orwellian newspeak of ‘anti-terrorist operation’. Whatever Russia did, the point has been made that the crisis doesn’t have a military solution. Overall, our critics
in the West cannot come up with evidence to support their allegations, or probably, they don’t know how to manage their perceived truth.

4. As to destabilizing Europe, perhaps, the war in Iraq did precisely that. Not to mention, that Britain helped the US Administration sell it to the Americans. Zb.Brzezinski cannot forgive that British disservice to the ally.

5. As to Nato. Will you ask Nato people to explain how come that Nato membership turns out to be a source of insecurity, rather than the other way around?

6. As to ‘shattering the basic laws of war’, we have already responded to that, although some evidence to support that allegation would help. So far there is none. Like in the case of the ‘public inquiry’ into A.Litvinenko’s death. Why is the Coroner’s inquest not good enough? After all, the death of Boris Berezovski, another Russian national who died strangely in Britain when he was contemplating return to Russia, couldn’t be explained by the inquest which put up with an open verdict. Since you raised the issue, I’d like to state once again that Russia will never accept a decision other than passed in open court with adversary scrutiny of the evidence. Now the British secret services brought the case of the strange death of GCHQ officer a few years ago to credit our account. I wonder how many more there are in their closets to dispose of in the thick fog of the current freeze of our bilateral relationship. This, too, reminds the outcome of the Dutch inquiry on the Malaysian MH-17 disaster. Too little evidence and too much of it pushed aside, lots of indulgence towards Kiev, who refused to provide airtraffic control recordings.

7. Our strategic bombers, according to your military, never violated the British airspace, and their training flights have nothing to do with Britain. It is part of our strategic stability equation with the US.

8. In his interview the Ambassador didn’t bemoan the lack of political dialogue with Britain, nor was offensive in any way. It was just a statement of facts. Naturally, it is unfortunate. We don’t impose ourselves as interlocutors or partners upon anybody. We manage the Ukrainian crisis with our French
and German colleagues. On Syria, neither suspicion nor prejudice prevents us from being in touch with everyone in the region. We would welcome any positive contribution of Britain to this effort. It is not us who has frozen themselves out of the real debate on real issues.

As to our ties, we have a lot to do in areas of culture, people-to-people contacts. That keeps us perfectly busy. It was Sir Winston Churchill, who famously defined fanaticism as inherent inability to change the topic. We have done it and feel happy enough to keep in touch with a broad cross-section of British society. As to our work with media, it falls within modern definition of diplomacy for public opinion matters both back home and in a country a diplomat is accredited to.

9. In Syria we intervened militarily only after a year of the coalition’s campaign, which was ineffective, ambivalent, to borrow from Henry Kissinger’s recent article in WSJ, and looked like a cover for letting Isis put pressure on Damascus, while serving as a recruitment vehicle for Isis. He, by the way, deems our intervention in Syria as ‘a classic balance-of-power maneuver to divert the Sunni Muslim terrorist threat from Russia’s southern border region’. What is wrong about it?

Our Air Force operation is small, effective and quite affordable (see FT of 26 October for that). It is fully to the point. Our military is doing their job. There is nothing phoney about it. Certainly, we are worried that our Western partners cannot provide intelligence on Isis infrastructure and contact numbers of FSA, especially in view of the previous talk of substantial polarization of forces on the ground.

Hope, you’ll read Jimmy Carter’s piece in ‘New York Times’, where he calls for an agreement between the US, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Turkey on a political settlement of the Syrian crisis. He believes that Russia’s intervention ‘has helped to clarify the choice between the political process in which the Assad regime assumes a role and more war in which the ‘Islamic State’ becomes an even greater threat to world peace’.

May I also refer you to Frank Neale, who in his letter to the FT
(26 October) suggested that ‘Nato should welcome the Russians attempts to have a go, given the West’s singularly unsuccessful attempts to achieve peace in the region over the past 60 years’. Russia did have a go against Hitler, why not Isis, which is, as all of us agree, absolute evil.

It looks like a Munich moment to us. It is still possible to stop Isis, if everybody gets serious about it. Appeasement of Nazi Germany passed that point in the fall of 1938, with its military potential hugely boosted and the trust further eroded between the governments who would become allies in the final event. Have we learnt this lesson of European history?

Your analysts overlook the fact that the single most important factor of the current mess in Syria were naïve expectations on the part of opponents of the Syrian Government that the West would intervene militarily, like it had done in Libya, and on the part of the Western capitals, that the regime would fall apart just because they wished so. The West deluded itself and misled others. What does Russia have to do with that?

10. On ‘inverting the facts’, please, be more specific. If you don’t like what the Embassy does media-wise, that is another matter. But we are quite successful in that. We just enjoy the debate, which is very British. I don’t know how British it is to give your own Government the benefit of the doubt. Hope, you remember the widely quoted phrase by Samuel Johnson on patriotism.

And finally, in my humble opinion, Britain’s problems, domestic and Foreign Policy ones, are all home-grown. They cannot be blamed on Russia.

Sorry for a long letter. But your editorial was long on allegations and short on facts. We want our correspondence to be about winning the argument.


Yours truly,

              Konstantin Shlykov,

Press Office of the Russian Embassy



27.09.2018 - Remarks by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov at the UN Security Council meeting, September 26, 2018

Mr President, Colleagues, In the modern world, an efficient fight against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction is becoming increasingly important for global and regional stability and the reliable security of all states without exception. Constructive cooperation in this area is an important component of the efforts to shape a positive international agenda. I think everybody agrees that the UN Security Council resolutions that outline specific measures against violations of non-proliferation must be strictly observed. Resolution 1540 remains the basis for this and contains obligations for the member states to take specific measures to prevent non-government agents from accessing weapons of mass destruction and their components. The UNSC decisions taken in pursuance of this resolution are particularly important as they include sanctions for handing over any types of weapons to terrorists. There have been incidents of such handovers and they must be thoroughly investigated.

07.09.2018 - Remarks by Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia, Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the United Nations, following the UNSC meeting on the incident in Salisbury

Q: Do you expect British sanctions on Russia soon? A: We are not expecting or afraid of anything. Taking to the account how things have been developing during the recent years we do not exclude anything. This discussion and yesterday’s speech by the British Prime-Minister in the British Parliament are not coincidental. I think that’s looks like a prelude to a new political season. Q: So, Ambassador it’s really coming from the highest level in the UK. A: It always comes from the highest level. Last time when the incident took place it also came from the highest level. Q: But it seems that you are not taking it seriously. A: We are taking it very seriously. We were saying it all the time. Why we’ve been asking for cooperation with the UK from day one. Only few minutes ago Ambassador Pierce was referring to an ultimatum that Boris Johnson made in his letter to the Russian Ambassador in London when the incident took place presented as a request by the British site to cooperate while in fact it was a demand to to accept the gilt. At the same time our requests which we sent to British authorities constantly through OPCW and bilaterally were ignored.

06.09.2018 - Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks at Bolshaya Igra (Great Game) talk show on Channel One, Moscow, September 4, 2018

Question: Today we have a special guest in our studio, one of the main participants in the “great game”, someone the future of the world really depends on in many ways: Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. We are happy to welcome you in the Great Game studio. Sergey Lavrov: Thanks for inviting me.

22.08.2018 - Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's comment on UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt's anti-Russian claims

At a joint news conference following talks with Foreign Minister of Serbia Ivica Dacic Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov commented on UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt's urges to European partners to slap their own sanctions on Russia in connection with the Salisbury incident.

16.08.2018 - Ambassador Alexander Yakovenko's interview for "Salisbury Journal"

The Russian Ambassador said he stands together with the people of Salisbury in a meeting with the Journal last week, as the United States announced new sanctions against the country. Speaking at his official residence in Kensington Palace Gardens on Thursday, Alexander Yakovenko said: “We are together with the people of Salisbury.”

24.06.2018 - Greeting by Ambassador Alexander Yakovenko for the Znaniye school Family Day (Ealing, 24 June 2018)

Dear friends and guests, I am delighted to welcome you at a Family Day celebrating Russia and the World Cup. Today, Russia is the place to be for the whole world. It is a great pleasure to hear fans from all continents appreciating Russia’s hospitality, friendliness and openness to everyone. Right now, people from virtually every country see the 11 host cities, from the Baltic Sea to the Urals on the border of Europe and Asia, and realize how diverse and beautiful our country is. We’d like to bring a bit of Russia and the excitement of the World Cup to Ealing, for those who couldn’t make it to the tournament. By the way, so far both our teams are doing very well, and let us hope they keep up this good work. We cheer for both Russia and England but I’m afraid this can change if both teams meet at the semi-finals.

20.06.2018 - Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks and answers to questions at the Primakov Readings international forum, Moscow, May 30, 2018

Mr Dynkin, Colleagues and friends, Ladies and gentlemen, I am grateful for a new opportunity to speak at the international forum named after Academician Evgeny Primakov, an outstanding Russian statesman, academic and public figure. It is indeed a great honour for me. I consider Mr Primakov, with whom I worked at the Foreign Ministry in the latter half of the 1990s, my senior comrade and teacher, as probably do the majority of those who crossed paths with him at one point. Holding this representative conference under the aegis of one of Russia’s leading academic institutes – National Research Institute of World Economy and International Relations (IMEMO) that also bears Primakov’s name – has become a good tradition. The Primakov Readings have earned a reputation as a venue for serious dialogue of authoritative specialists on the most pressing issues of international politics and the global economy. Today, there is no lack of buzzwords used by politicians, experts and scientists to capture the current moment in international relations. They talk about the crisis of the “liberal world order” and the advent of the post-Western era, “hot peace” and the “new cold war”. The abundance of terms itself shows that there is probably no common understanding of what is happening. It also points to the fairly dynamic and contradictory state of the system of international relations that is hard to characterise, at least at the present stage, with one resounding phrase. The authors of the overarching theme of the current Primakov Readings probably handled the challenge better than others. In its title “Risks of an unstable world order’ they provocatively, and unacademically, combine the words “unstable” and “order”.

21.04.2018 - Ambassador Alexander Yakovenko's talking points at the Press Conference, 20 April 2018

Since we met last time a lot of events took place: - Military strikes of the United States, UK and France against Syria in violation of the international law - Mission by OPCW inspectors to Douma - Speech of Prime Minister May in Parliament in support of the British aggression against Syria - Special meeting of the OPCW Executive Council (18 April 2018) - New developments in the classified case of Salisbury poisoning of Skripal family - No meaningful developments on the Glushkov case - and Cyber security threats I plan to comment all these issues. And I will be happy to answer all our questions, if you have any.

17.03.2018 - Ambassador Alexander Yakovenko's interview for "Mail on Sunday" (full text)

Q: Bearing in mind that the US, France and Germany have said they agree with Britain that all the evidence suggests the attacks in Salisbury were the responsibility of the Russian state, what credibility can be placed on the denials issued by the Russian Government? A:We don't know if UK presented any evidence to US, France and Germany - highly likely none - but if they did, why not present it through the channels outlined in the Chemical Weapons Convention? Universal legal principle is presumption of innocence, and the burden of proof lies with the British Government. Its record includes the Iraq WMD dossier - you will remember that at some point doubting US and UK claims was considered a wild conspiracy theory. It is not any more.

26.01.2018 - Main foreign policy outcomes of 2017

In 2017, Russian diplomacy addressed multidimensional tasks to ensure national security and create a favourable external environment for our country's progressive development. Russia maintained an independent foreign policy, promoted a unifying agenda, and proposed constructive solutions to international problems and conflicts. It developed mutually beneficial relations with all interested states, and played an active role in the work of the UN, multilateral organisations and forums, including the G20, BRICS, the SCO, the OSCE, and the CSTO. Among other things, Russian policy has sought to prevent the destabilisation of international relations, and this responsible policy has met with broad understanding in the international community.

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