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449 days have passed since the Salisbury incident - no credible information or response from the British authorities                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     441 days have passed since the death of Nikolay Glushkov on British soil - no credible information or response from the British authorities

PRESS RELEASES AND NEWS

22.01.2016

Briefing by Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova, Moscow, January 21, 2016

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s forthcoming visit to Turkmenistan

 

On January 27-28, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will pay a working visit to Turkmenistan.

He plans to conduct talks on topical bilateral issues, including trade, economic and humanitarian aspects.

The sides expect to hold a detailed exchange of opinions on major international issues and bilateral cooperation in the United Nations, Caspian Five and CIS. They will pay primary attention to the situation in Central Asia, taking due account of the events in Afghanistan. They will also discuss the struggle against international terrorism in the Middle East and the crisis in Ukraine.

During Mr Lavrov’s visit to Turkmenistan, the sides plan to sign a regular programme of cooperation between their foreign ministries for the current year. Mr Lavrov will take part in the ceremony marking the opening of new buildings of the Russian Embassy in Turkmenistan.

Russia appreciates cooperation with Ashgabat in various spheres and considers friendly and neutral Turkmenistan its strategic partner. We hope that the visit will further consolidate our strategic partnership.

 

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to take part in Munich Conference

 

Our German colleagues reported that Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will take part in the Munich Security Conference as the head of the Russian delegation.

By tradition the Foreign Minister takes part in this forum every year: delivers a speech, replies to questions and takes part in discussions. This event is on his schedule this year and preparations for it are underway. As for appointing the head of the Russian delegation, this decision will be made by the Russian leadership.

 

Situation in southeastern Ukraine

 

The situation in southeastern Ukraine remains complicated. Shelling from different arms is often registered, including weapons that are supposed to have been withdrawn. This leads to civilian casualties and the destruction of housing.

This is always tragic and does enormous damage to the civilian population, but this is doubly so in winter. Regrettably, the yet another appeal for a ceasefire made by the Contact Group on January 13 has not been carried out in full. All of this contributes to the growth of tensions and complicates progress in other areas of the settlement.

Unconditional ceasefire by all weapons on both sides of the contact line and strict observance of the agreements on arms withdrawal are major tasks of the current period.

Russia and its foreign partners continue their active dialogue on a search for ways to settle the crisis in Ukraine on the basis of the Minsk Package of Measures of February 12, 2015. They are paying special attention to the issues of political settlement.

On January 15, Presidential Aide Vladislav Surkov met with Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland in Kaliningrad. Yesterday Foreign Minister Lavrov met with his US colleague, State Secretary John Kerry in Zurich. They discussed in detail various aspects of Ukraine’s domestic settlement. Mr Lavrov told journalists about the details of these talks at a news conference. Relevant information is published on the Foreign Ministry’s website.

Regular meetings of the Contact Groups and its expert profile sub-groups were held in Minsk on January 20. They continue the search for solutions to practical issues of the settlement in Ukraine.

 

Situation around Syria

 

The focus of the international community is on this region. It has become clear over the past few days, acting ahead of the upcoming intra-Syrian talks in Geneva, that terrorist groups have intensified their actions in order to turn the tide in the war theatre in their own favour. Terrorists from the Jabhat al-Nusra and Ahrar ash-Sham groups, which received major reinforcements from Turkey, launched counterattacks on government forces in the Aleppo Province and in Jabal Al-Turkmen (Turkmen Mountains) in the Latakia Province. Tensions have grown in the Damascus suburbs and in the provinces of Idlib and Homs. The most violent and bloody clashes between the government army and ISIS have been reported in the area of Deir ez-Zor, a city that has been blockaded by terrorists, which receive inadequate coverage by the international media. ISIS terrorists have committed another of their hideous crimes there, killing about 300 supporters of the legitimate Syrian government, most of them civilians, and taking hundreds of people prisoner.

On January 17, the Syrian government sent two identical letters to the UN Secretary-General and the UN Security Council President citing facts of the gross violation of Syria’s sovereignty by Turkey. According to these letters, Turkey deployed its military and armoured vehicles in the Syrian border regions, where they started building concrete walls and other fortifications and digging trenches, as well as performed other actions to support the armed groups under Turkey’s influence. It is possible that these fortifications on the Syrian-Turkish border are designed for use by illegal armed groups.

It should be noted that now that all concerned parties link their hopes with the launch of a substantive inclusive dialogue between the Syrian government and the opposition, some external forces continue to supply weapons and munitions to fighters in Syria, including terrorist groups. This lays bare public statements on alleged commitments to the peaceful settlement of the Syrian crisis and runs counter to the efforts to facilitate the peace process based on UN Security Council Resolution 2254.

We’ve noticed new instances of mounting pressure on Damascus aimed at placing the blame for the deteriorating humanitarian situation on the government. As you know, Russia has always protested against the politicisation of these important, priority issues. The solution calls for an objective and comprehensive approach, one which will contribute to the intra-Syrian dialogue and the settlement of the internal crisis, as well as serve to consolidate efforts in the interests of the complete and unconditional routing of the terrorists.

 

Russian humanitarian assistance to Syria

 

I consider it necessary to say a few words about Russia’s humanitarian assistance to Syria in light of the recent statements by a representative of the Press Office of the US Department of State, who said they don’t see Russia’s efforts to provide humanitarian aid to Syria.

This is all the more strange since the US State Department clearly sees many other things, such as Russian tanks that were allegedly moved or airlifted into other countries. But they don’t see our humanitarian assistance. Our experts have prepared a brief survey on the humanitarian assistance that has been delivered to Syria by official Russian agencies and NGOs over the past few years.

We are operating in this regard jointly with Syrians and other concerned regional parties, as well as through donations to the International Committee of the Red Cross, the UN Refugee Agency, the UN Development Programme and other authorised international agencies. Acting under instructions from President Vladimir Putin, the Russian Emergencies Ministry has made over 30 flights to Syria and neighbouring Libya and Jordan since January 2013, delivering over 600 tonnes of humanitarian cargo for the Syrian victims of the ongoing conflict and confrontation in light of the fight against international terrorism.

Of course, the Emergencies Ministry, acting at its discretion, regularly informs the public and media on humanitarian deliveries.

I’m speaking about this today in addition to the information published by our colleagues, in order to attract the attention of the US Department of State, which doesn’t know about our humanitarian assistance to Syria. We will continue this practice.

In response to requests from the Syrian government, we completed the delivery of 100,000 tonnes of milling wheat in September 2015.

Humanitarian assistance is also sent to Syria by Russian NGOs. I will speak about this specifically.

I’d like to remind you that Russia is not just concerned with delivering humanitarian assistance (foodstuffs, humanitarian cargo and the like), but also has evacuated people from the regions considered too dangerous. This concerns not only Russians but also the citizens of other countries. We’d like our colleagues to remember this.

 

Russian NGOs provide humanitarian relief aid to Syria

 

Since 2012, Russian non-government organisations, including the Imperial Orthodox Palestine Society, the All-Russian Organisation of Veterans ‘Combat Fraternity,’ the Russian Committee of Solidarity with the Peoples of Libya and Syria and  St. Andrew’s Foundation, have all been providing humanitarian relief aid to the people of Syria, at a time when tragedy has been unfolding for all Syrians for several years.

His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia has supported the initiative of the Imperial Orthodox Palestine Society and the Russian Committee of Solidarity with the Peoples of Libya and Syria. This initiative has also enjoyed wide acclaim among Russian citizens.

In March 2013, the Imperial Orthodox Palestine Society, assisted by the Committee of Solidarity with the Peoples of Libya and Syria, announced a nationwide campaign to collect humanitarian relief aid and raise funds for the people of war-torn Syria. In 2013-2014, over 100 tonnes of humanitarian relief aid, including medications, hemostatic drugs and disinfectants, food, blankets, essentials, textbooks and stationery were delivered to Damascus and Latakia. During the same period, relief funds raised by Russian citizens were spent on procuring modern medical equipment, which was delivered to a central children’s hospital in Damascus in August 2013.

John X of Antioch, the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, and the Supreme Mufti of Syria Ahmad Badreddin Hassoun also received aid for the  further distribution to all those in need, regardless of their religious affiliation.

The Russian Orthodox Church also provided substantial aid to the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East. Monasteries and churches of the Russian Orthodox Church across Russia joined this effort and started collecting humanitarian relief aid for Syria. Moscow’s stauropegic New Monastery of the Saviour and the Church of the Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ in Uspensky Vrazhek have made a particularly impressive contribution toward collecting humanitarian relief aid in 2015.

The All-Russian Organisation of Veterans ‘Combat Fraternity’ has been providing humanitarian relief aid to Syria since January 2014. In all, the fraternity delivered five batches of aid, including baby food, warm clothing for refugees, food and medications, and wheelchairs for wounded persons, to Syria. Families who lost their breadwinners, Orthodox Christian orphanages of the Antioch Orthodox Church and boarding schools for the children of Syrian soldiers, killed in action, received material assistance.

In July 2015, a group of students from boarding schools for children of Syrian soldiers killed in action, and children from orphanages of the Patriarchate of Antioch were invited to Russia. The school students visited Moscow, toured the capital and spent two weeks at the ‘Combat Fraternity’ youth camp in Crimea.

In 2014-2015, Russia’s RUSSAR Charity Foundation delivered humanitarian relief aid to refugees in Syria, including warm clothing and blankets. Families in Damascus, Homs and Safit received direct material assistance.

In 2014, St. Andrew’s Foundation arranged vacation holidays for 86 Syrian children who lost their parents due to the hostilities in Syria. We kindly list the contact information of humanitarian project coordinators from the Imperial Orthodox Palestine Society and the Russian Committee of Solidarity with the Peoples of Libya and Syria. You can reach them on the issue of delivering humanitarian relief aid to Syria and on other informational matters. I’m urging you to do this, so that the US Department of State would be able to learn about Russian efforts involving government organisations, NGOs and ordinary citizens who are concerned about helping to improve the humanitarian situation in Syria to at least some extent.

Feel free to call Yelena Agapova, Humanitarian Projects Coordinator with the Imperial Orthodox Palestine Society, at: + 7 (915) 236 6299,  or Nelli Kuskova, Humanitarian Projects Coordinator with the Committee of Solidarity with the Peoples of Libya and Syria, at: + 7 (903) 790 1162.

 

Main stages of practical implementation of the JCPOA on Iran

 

After January 16, implementation day of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) for the settlement of the Iranian nuclear crisis, work in this area went into a routine mode. Further development of Tehran's nuclear programme and international cooperation with Iran in the nuclear field should be carried out strictly within the framework of the JCPOA and UN Security Council Resolution 2231. Obviously, it will take some time to build the required mechanisms, given their complex and unique nature, to coordinate the efforts and begin to work smoothly and at full strength. The Russian side will actively contribute to this in the interest of sustaining the JCPOA throughout its implementation, meaning at least for the next decade. We hope that all the other participants in the process will strictly comply with their obligations to ensure that the work does not stop but continues most effectively.

The main focus of attention has now switched to the IAEA. That agency should confirm somewhere down the line that Iran does not keep any undeclared nuclear material or engage in such activity, a call that should abolish the remaining restrictions on cooperation with Iran in certain areas, including military-technical and nuclear cooperation, before the deadline stipulated by UN Security Council Resolution 2231. This work by the IAEA has already begun as part of Tehran’s implementation of the Additional Protocol to the Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement. We hope that it will not be politicised, and that all parties will make every effort towards its early completion.

 

Russian-Iranian trade and economic cooperation prospects

 

Lifting sanctions against Iran in connection with the beginning of the JCPOA implementation creates additional conditions for the expansion and diversification of trade and economic cooperation between Russia and Iran.

In this context, we’d like to note that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to Iran on November 23, 2015, followed by contacts between representatives of the two government’s economic officials (in December last year, Iran was visited by First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov,  Industry and Trade Minister Denis Manturov, and Transport Minister Maxim Sokolov) has led to a substantial package of new bilateral agreements in this field, and that constant, dedicated work is underway to ensure practical implementation of those agreements.

This year, the mutual willingness to deepen cooperation in many practical areas has been confirmed by specific agreements to expand the range of mutual supplies of agricultural products and foodstuffs, signed during Minister of Agriculture Alexander Tkachev’s visit to Iran on January 19.

The potential exists, and this trend will be actively promoted.

 

Iran’s SCO entry prospects

 

Since 2005, Iran has been deeply involved in SCO activities as an observer nation; in 2008, the country officially applied for full membership in the organisation. However, the sanctions imposed on Iran by the UN Security Council were an obstacle for that, as it was contrary to the SCO Charter.

The beginning of the JCPOA implementation aimed at resolving the Iranian nuclear programme, which serves as the basis for the cancellation of the international sanctions against the Tehran regime, opens the way for practical consideration of the country’s SCO membership application. Russia, which consistently supports Iran’s full-scale engagement in cooperation with the SCO members, directly with the organisation and with the SCO "family," is ready to assist in getting the process going. We support Iran’s full-scale participation in SCO activities.

 

The UK publishes Public Inquiry Chairman’s report into the “Litvinenko case”

 

Now let us cross to another continent and visit the UK. As you may know, a report by the chairman of the so-called “public inquiry” into the death of Alexander Litvinenko was published this morning. We have been repeatedly urged to comment on this issue. The Russian Foreign Ministry issued its comments immediately. After a primary perusal of the report, we have some additional considerations on this score.

We have to state that the result of a year and a half of behind-the-scenes games (and it’s hard to give a different name to this process), chaired by someone who seems to be a professional judge, comes as no surprise to us. We have seen no “novelty” in the results. This is a logical consequence of a pseudo- or quasi-judicial act put on by the British judiciary and the executive authorities, an act that in itself is controversial and, one may say, criminal. Their aim was to besmirch Russia, its official representatives and leaders, and that was clear right from the start.

I must remind you in this connection that, despite its name, this, mildly speaking, highly “original” form of inquiry is neither transparent nor public – both for the Russian side and British society. The proceedings were rife with private meetings that reviewed the intelligence services’ “secret” material and listened to evidence from “top-secret” witnesses. Earlier we said in connection with a number of similar stories that our Western colleagues had become actors in the theatre of the absurd. All matters surrounding the so-called “public” inquiry into the “Litvinenko case” no longer amount to an absurdity. It’s a shadow pantomime! The proceedings took place behind the scenes; everything was obscure and secret. The “public inquiry” was secret through and through. The only conclusion that suggests itself is that we have every reason to doubt the objectivity and impartiality of the verdict.

Let me remind you that Russia has repeatedly declared its interest in an objective and unbiased investigation into the death of both Alexander Litvinenko and numerous other Russian nationals, who regularly died and continue to die in the UK under different circumstances, including very odd ones.  The fact that the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation took an active part as a concerned party in the open coroner investigation that was held in keeping with British law in the UK is evidence of this.

It is common knowledge that the “public inquiry” was launched following the suspension of the coroner investigation, which, judging by all appearances, failed to yield what the British authorities wanted it to. Russia’s Investigative Committee had to withdraw from the “public inquiry” solely for the reason of there being no transparency and the inevitable politicisation of the proceedings. Eventually our misgivings were proved true. The proceedings were absolutely not transparent, private, top secret and politicised.

It will be recalled that by mid-2014, when the Home Office decided to begin this “public inquiry,” which strangely (or perhaps logically) coincided with an upsurge of tensions in eastern Ukraine, two key witnesses – Boris Berezovsky and David West, owner of a London night club patronised by Berezovsky and Litvinenko, where traces of polonium were found two days before the assumed poisoning of the latter – had died under obscure circumstances. Agatha Christie pales in comparison to this.

It is also symptomatic that the current preliminary hearings into the death of another Russian national, Alexander Perepilichny, have revealed that the UK police have withheld from the coroner inquiry evidence of his involvement with the UK secret services. Obviously, this is an “unimportant” point for the British judiciary. Well, so much for unbiased UK justice.

After that the inquiry ran into increasingly more parallels with the “Litvinenko case.” Among other things, the police said they would urge the classification of a number of documents as potentially hazardous for national security or the UK’s international relations.

An interesting – and horrific – point to note is that the “national security,” with which the UK is so obsessed, is increasingly associated with the death of people, including Russian nationals, on its territory.

What is the next conclusion to make? The UK is creating a dangerous precedent: They use their internal legal mechanisms to promote a politically motivated and nontransparent inquiry with a predetermined outcome, all of which is a travesty for a so-called objective judicial investigation and a made-to-order politicised farce.

 

European migration crisis

 

We are closely monitoring and regularly comment on the situation created by the inflow of refugees from the Middle East and North Africa into Europe. This is in fact a humanitarian crisis that has been caused by an irresponsible and very short-sighted interference in the affairs of sovereign states to destabilise them and to overthrow undesirable governments in the region.

According to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, over one million refugees and migrants (1,014,836 people) entered Europe in 2015 and another 29,461 in early 2016.

As we said before, the international refugee protection regime is stipulated in the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol. We urge a responsible approach to the asylum institution. We believe that its erosion must be prevented even in conditions of the mass inflow of refugees. A clear distinction must be made between refugees as defined in the above Convention and its Protocol and illegal economic migrants.

Furthermore, we consider it necessary to create additional channels for legal migration, to control migration flows, to prevent crime and to provide for readmission. At the same time, we must do our utmost to prevent terrorists from entering Europe together with real refugees, who need our help and protection.

Europe’s irresponsible attitude to the crisis and to the growing humanitarian disaster is endangering the continent.

We note the ineffectiveness of the EU efforts to settle the migration crisis. In our opinion, the reason behind this ineffectiveness is not just the massive scale of migration but also a lack of coordination among European countries regarding practical measures to resolve this difficult and ever growing problem.

All of this has a serous negative effect on the refugees, who come across major problems on their way into Europe. We are witnessing chaos on the European borders, including inside the Schengen zone, which is fraught with the loss of the authorities’ control over the situation.

We urge our European colleagues to more responsibly implement their international commitments to guarantee and protect refugees’ rights.

Russia believes that the international community should redouble and coordinate efforts to find political solutions to conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa and to fight against terrorism, above all ISIS, based on international law and with the UN’s key role.

The key priority is to remove the causes of the migration crisis and to restore peace through a settlement in Syria and Libya. We’ve noticed that European governments are coming to realise the truth of this, but we’d like them to act quicker and to translate their awareness into concrete steps more effectively.

Another equally important task is to facilitate socioeconomic development and state-building in the refugees’ home countries. Since you found it possible to destroy their lives, now you must find the courage and capability to help restore them.

I believe that the countries that are responsible for launching these conflicts must also bear the brunt of responsibility for humanitarian aid to their victims.

 

Human rights situation in Turkey in light of targeted actions against Kurds

 

We have been asked to comment on the human rights situation in Turkey in light of targeted actions against Kurds. We addressed this issue at our previous briefings, and we’ll continue to cover it.

We are alarmed by mounting violence in southeastern Turkey due to the ongoing Turkish military operations in the Kurdish-inhabited provinces.

According to the non-governmental Human Rights Foundation of Turkey, 162 civilians perished from December 11, 2015 to January 8, 2016 in the course of the so-called counterterrorist operations that involved the use of heavy weaponry. Curfew is still effective in some towns in the country. As a result, people have been denied prompt access to foodstuffs and basic necessities.

On January 11, 2016, over a thousand scholars from 89 Turkish universities and hundreds of foreign scholars signed a petition titled We Won’t Be a Party to This Crime. We wholeheartedly support the scholars’ appeal to the Turkish government to stop its deliberate massacre and deportation of people in the region, to lift the curfew, to find and punish those guilty of infringing on civilians’ rights and freedoms, and to ensure that local and international observers have access to the region.

It is indicative that the academics who signed that petition have been promptly accused of aiding terrorism and terrorists, and some of them have been arrested. Turkey has launched the fight against dissent, which has led to the slandering of these people by pro-government media outlets.

It is a fact that the persecution of dissenting opinions is not the best way to resolve problems.

 

Kyrgyzstan’s withdrawal from agreements to build and operate the Kambarata-1 plant and the Upper Naryn hydropower cascade

 

On January 20, the Kyrgyz authorities decided to withdraw from the agreements to build and operate the Kambarata-1 hydroelectric power plant and the Upper Naryn hydropower cascade. Despite the importance of the planned construction and subsequent joint operation of the above facilities stipulated under the Russian-Kyrgyz intergovernmental agreements of September 20, 2012, these are above all economic projects that were designed to benefit both sides. The commercial feasibility of these projects was assessed based on the situation at the moment of their signing.

Since then, Russia and Kyrgyzstan have accomplished a great deal to implement these projects. In particular, they have established joint ventures, coordinated the technical parameters of the projects, are discussing the allocation of land plots for them, and have started building infrastructure for the preliminary stage of the Upper Naryn cascade project.

While implementing these agreements, the sides have come across a number of objective legal, fiscal and economic problems and have created a negotiating mechanism to deal with them. They have been working to find mutually acceptable solutions to all issues, including the terms and sources of funding.

These problems arose above all due to the global economic crisis, which has increased borrowing costs and had a dramatic effect on economic growth rates. The situation was further complicated by the absence of confirmed demand for the future power stations’ electricity.

Ultimately, the implementation of these two projects based on the provisions under the agreements signed is no longer possible and commercial borrowing would render them economically unviable.

As I said, on January 20, the plenary meeting of the Kyrgyz Parliament adopted a decision to terminate the agreements on the construction and operation of the Kambarata-1 plant and the Upper Naryn hydropower cascade.

Russia will accept Kyrgyzstan’s decision to withdraw from above agreements provided it complies with international law and respects the sides’ property interests.

 

Poland’s official position on the anniversary of the liberation of Warsaw from Nazi occupation

 

There is another issue that, unfortunately, has become popular. It has to do with Poland’s official position on everything related to the results of World War II, as well as to historical memory.

On January 17, 2016, traditional memorial events took place in Warsaw, dedicated to the 71st anniversary of the liberation of the Polish capital from the Nazi invaders. For the first time, only NGOs and veteran organisations participated in preparations for these events. What’s more, following the decision of Polish Defence Minister Antoni Macierewicz, a guard of honour and a military band were not provided for the events.

It looks like this is how the Polish authorities confirm in practice some new historical realities and policies. We are greatly disappointed by this approach.

Unfortunately, our hopes for at least an elementary human tribute to memory and respect for the historical truth where it is incontestable were dashed. I would like to remind you what every Pole should know: Over 600,000 Russian soldiers and officers fell liberating Poland from Nazism, and there is no getting away from this fact. It is impossible to disprove or distort it from a common sense position. We would like to hope that this will also be the case in Poland and that our Polish colleagues and citizens will remember this figure.

 

Entry ban for Russian journalists

 

In conclusion, I would like to note one regrettable and disturbing trend. We are regularly forced to take issue with the ongoing campaign against Russian journalists in the EU countries and elsewhere. This applies to Western countries in general. Today, I would like to tell you about such cases on the European continent. Now, our European colleagues have started to move from theory to practice.

Today, VGTRK journalist Alexander Balitsky, LifeNews correspondent Kirill Olkov and Channel One journalists Ilya Kostin and Dmitry Bedarev were banned from entering Moldova. We regard this incident as further evidence of the gross violation by Chisinau of the norms of international law with regard to human rights, freedom of expression and the fundamental principles of democratic society. Unfortunately, Moldova is not an exception here. Such actions by the authorities in certain Eastern European countries are becoming disturbingly regular. We often come across this kind of approach.

Here is another example. Unfortunately, the case of Russian journalist Leonid Sviridov from Rossiya Segodnya has not been resolved yet. Warsaw and the Polish authorities have done all they could to prevent Sviridov from entering any Schengen country. Sviridov said in an interview there has been no court ruling with regard to his deportation and the court has yet to examine it. He said he is resolved to fight to the end and uphold his professional reputation. Maybe this is a reaction to the journalists’ determination to ensure that justice prevails. This is precisely what our Western colleagues groundlessly accuse Russia of, without giving any examples, alleging that we persecute dissenters, make it impossible for Western journalists to work here and so on. Here are just a few examples of how European countries squeeze out this dissent, putting up all possible obstacles to them and to Russian journalists in general. Why is this being done? Obviously, to prevent any alternative opinion from making its way through information unipolarity. After all is said and done, it seems to me that these cases are designed to teach a lesson, just to intimidate, to put it simply. If journalists talk independently, not the way Europe wants them to, and disseminate alternative views, this is what is in store for them. All hell will break loose in their lives, journalists will lose their residence permits, etc.

Regarding Sviridov, I will stress that based not only on the information from our Embassy in Poland but also on his statements, no official charges have been brought against him. What is going on is the squeezing out of Russian journalists from the information space and now also, physically, from countries where their presence is considered to be undesirable.

In this connection, we expect an appropriate reaction from the international media community, as well as from the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, which is especially important for us as a foreign policy agency. If we are told once again that they have not seen or heard about such cases, then we will remind them by sending letters to this effect, making comments, and so on.

 

Excerpts from answers to media questions:

 

Question: Please comment on the recent statement by US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter condemning Russia’s air strikes in Syria and accusing it of bombing the opposition? The participants of the opposition meeting in Riyadh said they will not go to the forthcoming round of Geneva talks if the opposition forces proposed by Moscow go there, too.

Maria Zakharova: Yesterday, Minister Lavrov gave an exhaustive comment on what you just asked. I would like to reiterate that the lists of participants of the meeting, which is scheduled for late January, are drawn up not by Russia, the United States, Saudi Arabia or any other country. The UN and, in particular, the UN Special Envoy to Syria, Staffan de Mistura, are in charge of this. He is the one who will extend invitations to prospective participants of this meeting. As you may be aware, all the countries that are, one way or another, involved in the peaceful Syrian settlement, are making their contributions to this work. However, it’s the UN represented by Mr de Mistura that extends invitations to this meeting. Therefore, all invitations should be extended based on the decisions taken as part of the Vienna format, and, of course, the UN Security Council resolutions. I can recommend that those who are making such statements grab the UN Security Council resolution that was recently adopted in New York and read it. They will find out that it says exactly what I just mentioned.

With regard to accusations against Russia to the effect that it bombs the opposition forces, I can reiterate that our Defence Ministry holds regular briefings not only for reporters, but also for the diplomatic corps, military attaches and foreign embassies on all issues that they may have an interest in. One may claim that Russia is bombing civilian targets, turn a blind eye to the humanitarian aid that Russia is sending to Syria, or say all sorts of things, but you need to understand that living out of touch with reality is beginning to look ridiculous.

Again, we hold briefings to provide information and also conduct bilateral meetings. Here’s a tip for those who never stop making accusatory statements, or fail to see or understand things – stop looking ridiculous and start using the facts that Russia provides on an almost daily basis. Furthermore, when providing these facts, the Russian side makes sure each time that everything is clear and encourages everyone to ask more questions to make sure they have all the information they may want on facilities, points or coordinates. All those endless and groundless accusations are nothing but short-lived bubbles with a lifespan of a couple of seconds.

Question: Today, several media outlets reported that Minister Lavrov and Secretary Kerry reached an agreement yesterday regarding the opposition delegation members. There seem to be disagreements, since the delegation formed by Riyadh is reluctant to include any more representatives of the Syrian opposition in it. Allegedly, there’s an arrangement between Mr Lavrov and Mr Kerry to the effect that the latter will fly to Riyadh to persuade the Saudis to include the opposition members with which Moscow is willing to talk in the delegation. Is that true?

Maria Zakharova: There’s an obvious contradiction in what you said. If someone out there believes that the talks are held between the United States and Russia, then Secretary Kerry going places to talk someone into doing something makes no sense. Can the position of the United States depend on the opinion of a third party? Given its exceptionality and power, it’s an unlikely proposition.

My suggestion is that we leave all these fun stories to fiction writers. Again, invitations are extended not by a particular country or a group of countries, but by the UN, which Minister Lavrov clearly stated yesterday following his meeting with Secretary Kerry. He did so to head off any speculations on this issue.

True, all countries contribute to launching this political process (I’m referring to the dialogue between Damascus and the opposition). No one is trying to hide this fact, and this issue was widely discussed within the Vienna format and during bilateral and multilateral meetings. Of course, everyone is trying to help, express their points of view, etc. However, in this particular case, a binding decision was made to have the UN, namely Staffan de Mistura, extend invitations to this meeting.

 

To be continued...




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20.05.2019 - Statement by Permanent Representative Vassily Nebenzia at the UN Security Council Meeting on Syria

Frankly speaking, we again have a feeling of deja vu. We heard same calls and laments many times already, when reconciliation of Eastern Aleppo and Ghouta was in progress. However, let me ask why the “humanitarian troika” did not hurry to convene a Security Council meeting, when the so-called coalition was razing Baghouz and Hajin to the ground? Back then civilians died, air strikes destroyed civil infrastructure, including schools and hospitals. What about Raqqa? Almost no one bothered about the fate of this city that in fact was destroyed.


17.05.2019 - Embassy Press Officer’s reply to a media questionon an anti-Russian article in the “Financial Times”

Q: How would you comment on the FT article of 17 May stating that “a US-Iran conflict would provide cover for Russia to further their ambitions”, in particular “to annex eastern Ukraine or take a chunk of one of the Baltic states”? A: Such kind of “analysis” in the FT, well-known by its professionalism and strive for objectivity, is quite surprising.


17.05.2019 - Embassy Press Officer's letter to the Editor of the Financial Times

Embassy Press Officer's letter to the Editor of the Financial Times regarding the newspaper's piece dated 17 May 2019 on the Crimea Bridge - “Russian bridge throttles Ukraine ports”.


17.05.2019 - Embassy press officer’s reply to a media question concerning the BBC’s announcement of a new film about the incident in Salisbury

Question: How would you comment on the BBC’s plans to make a drama about the incident in Salisbury which took place in March last year? Answer: Undoubtedly, we will study this film carefully when it is released. At the same time we would like to recommend the filmmakers to rely upon real facts as well as official and credible information of the investigation. So far, no meaningful results of the inquiry have been presented either to the Russian side or to the public. In these circumstances, the film risks becoming another propaganda tool imposing on the audience the political version of the incident supported by no evidence.


16.05.2019 - Embassy Press Officer’s reply to a media question regarding biased approach of the British authorities towards holders of Russian diplomatic passports.

Question: Has there been any improvement in the working environment for the Russian diplomats in the UK? What’s the situation with the issuance of visas to the Embassy staff? Answer: Despite isolated statements of the British authorities, we are not observing any qualitative improvements of the situation. Moreover, in certain aspects it is only getting worse. Recently, there has been an increase in the number of cases of biased approach of the UK Border Force officials towards Russian diplomats arriving to the UK on short-term assignments, as well as guests of the Embassy staff members.


15.05.2019 - Embassy Press Officer’s reply to a media question regarding calls from British MPs to impose sanctions against Russia

Question: How would you comment on media publications that British MPs are calling to impose additional sanctions against Russia? Answer: We have taken note of the publications in local media that the chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Russia, Chris Bryant, has urged Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt to impose sanctions against Russia using the so-called “Magnitsky clause” to the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Act.


15.05.2019 - Embassy Press Officer’s reply to a media question concerning the state of the investigation into the death of Nikolay Glushkov

Q: Does the Embassy have any further information in relation to the investigation into the death of the Russian national Nikolay Glushkov in London? A.: More than a year has passed since Nikolay Glushkov’s death. Through all this time, the British authorities have been performing a strange political play, refusing to provide information on the investigation or to cooperate with the competent Russian authorities. The British side continues to ignore our numerous enquiries, including the official request of the Prosecutor General’s Office of the Russian Federation for legal assistance over Russia’s own criminal case into the death of Nikolay Glushkov and the Embassy’s proposal to arrange a meeting between the Russian Ambassador Alexander Yakovenko and the Met Police Commissioner Cressida Dick.



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