26 September 2018
Moscow: 16:13
London: 14:13

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Briefing by Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova, Moscow, August 17, 2017

Talks between Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Egyptian Foreign Minister Samen Shukri

Talks between Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Foreign Minister of the Arab Republic of Egypt, Samen Shukri, who will come to the Russian capital on a working visit, will be held on August 21.

The ministers will continue their exchange of views on a wide range of issues on international and regional agenda as a follow-up to the talks between the defence and foreign ministers of the two countries held in Cairo on May 29 in the “two plus two” format. The ministers will focus on current aspects of further strengthening Russian-Egyptian relations.

Egypt is one of Russia's leading partners in the Middle East and North Africa. Our countries are tied together by long-standing traditions of friendship and mutually beneficial cooperation, close and shared approaches to key international and regional issues. Despite the turmoil in the global economy in recent years, and complex turbulent processes in the Middle East region, Russian-Egyptian multifaceted ties are expanding steadily. The countries maintain an active political dialogue, including at the high and highest levels, and new areas and forms of cooperation in the trade, economic, cultural and humanitarian spheres are being developed.

Minister Lavrov and Minister Shukri will focus on ways to settle crises in the Middle East and North Africa, including Syria, Libya, and Yemen. Considerable attention will be paid to counteracting new challenges and threats facing the countries of this region, with an emphasis on combining efforts in fighting terrorism and extremism. The ministers will focus on ways to reduce the potential for conflict, including the prospects for creating a zone free from weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East. Of course, ways to unblock the Palestinian-Israeli settlement process will be considered in detail as well.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to meet with Vatican Secretary of State Pietro Parolin

State Secretary of the Vatican Pietro Parolin will come to Russia on a working visit on August 20-24. During the visit, he will meet with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

The sides will discuss current international issues, including countering new challenges and threats, and resolving regional conflicts.

Particular attention will be paid to the situation in Syria, Libya and other countries of the Middle East and North Africa, primarily in the context of peacefully resolving crises, overcoming humanitarian catastrophes, protecting Christians in the conflict zones and countering international terrorism.

The Secretary of State will receive an overview of Russia’s position on Ukraine, and destructive actions of the Kiev authorities, their disregard for their commitments to implement the Minsk agreements, as well as the harsh humanitarian situation in southeastern Ukraine.

Cooperation in the sphere of culture, humanitarian ties, science, education and medicine is central to the bilateral agenda. This year, the State Tretyakov Gallery hosted a one-of-a-kind exhibition from the collections of the Vatican Museums “Roma Aeterna. Masterpieces of the Vatican Pinakothek. Bellini, Raphael, Caravaggio.” The historical and documentary exhibition “The Romanovs of Russia and the Vatican, 1613-1917” which will open in Moscow in December is another important event in this sphere.

The Institute of World History of the Russian Academy of Sciences, in conjunction with the Pontifical Committee of Historical Sciences, is carrying out a number of projects devoted to the history of relations between Russia and the Vatican.

Professional ties are expanding between Russian and Vatican medical institutions which treat children with grave illnesses.

Cambodian Foreign Minister Prak Sokhon’s visit to the Russian Federation

On August 22-25, Senior Minister, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of the Kingdom of Cambodia Prak Sokhon will visit Russia, hold talks with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and participate in the tenth session of the Russian-Cambodian Intergovernmental Commission on Trade, Economic, Scientific and Technological Cooperation.

The ministers plan to discuss the current state of and prospects for stepping up bilateral cooperation in various fields, emphasising the implementation of the top-level agreements reached in recent years, as well as to compare their positions on current international and regional issues.

It is hoped that the visit of the Cambodian delegation to Russia will further strengthen Russian-Cambodian cooperation in practical fields, which advances the long-term interests of our countries as well as the security and sustainable development goals of Southeast Asia and the entire Asia-Pacific region.

Foreign Minister of the Republic of Korea Kang Kyung-wha’s visit to the Russian Federation

On August 24-25, Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha will make a working visit to the Russian Federation.

On August 25, Ms Kang plans to have talks with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. The parties will discuss the current state of and prospects for developing bilateral relations, including trade and economic cooperation. The ministers will exchange opinions on current international and regional issues, focusing on the settlement on the Korean Peninsula crisis.

Situation on the Korean Peninsula

The “spiral of confrontation” continues to escalate on the Korean Peninsula.

On August 5, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 2371, which reflects the global community’s concerns over the ongoing ballistic missile tests in the DPRK. Russia will continue to fulfil its international obligations, including the provisions of the new resolution.

All UN member states are obliged to implement the resolution in full. Paragraph 28 emphasises the UNSC’s commitment to a peaceful, diplomatic and political settlement of the situation and the importance of joint work to ease the tensions on the Korean Peninsula. Efforts are needed from all parties concerned on facilitating an all-encompassing dialogue for a comprehensive settlement of the subregion’s problems.

Sadly, in recent years we have often been witnesses to a situation where states become parties concerned only after the hot phase of the conflict occurs, with conferences urgently held and plans developed to rescue the situation and provide aid to refugees, as well as on many other issues. It would be good if today there was a greater number of those interested in a prompt settlement of the situation on the Korean Peninsula, so that everyone who can contribute to solving it in some way or another becomes aware of the insanity of what politicians have repeatedly called for when speaking in favour of a military scenario in this region.

To our great disappointment, recently we have seen just the opposite. A number of capitals openly threaten to use force and are making extremely dangerous statements on being ready for armed conflict. We firmly state that any attempt at a military solution to the Korean Peninsula’s issues will lead to an immense tragedy and massive casualties among the population of all parties to the conflict, as well as a humanitarian, economic and environmental catastrophe.

We call on all countries to exercise restraint and undertake real efforts to prevent the situation from going past the point of no return. We are duly working with the countries that are members of the six-party process. In our interactions with our Chinese partners, we insist that there is no alternative to a peaceful solution of the range of problems on the Korean Peninsula. We urge all responsible members of the global community to support the ideas put forward in the Russian-Chinese “roadmap” for the Korean settlement process, whose main provisions are envisaged in the joint statement of the Russian and Chinese foreign ministries of July 4 posted on the Russian Foreign Ministry’s website.

Situation in Syria

We are pleased to note the positive trends in the way the military and political situation in Syria is developing, the way the ceasefire regime is being strengthened and the de-escalation zones are beginning to function: in the southwest of the country, in Eastern Ghouta and in the north of Homs province. Experts are currently working within the “Astana format” on the establishment of a de-escalation zone in Idlib. The practical steps taken on the basis of the May 4 Memorandum and the agreements reached in Amman and Cairo, including the deployment of Russian military police units in the agreed-upon areas along the line of contact in the de-escalation zones, give hope that there will be significant improvements in the humanitarian situation and the gradual building of bridges of trust in Syrian society. An opportunity has emerged to concentrate far more forces than before to combat ISIS and al-Nusra terrorists.

The Syrian army is pressing ISIS militants in the Syrian Desert, the Euphrates Valley and the southeast of Syria. On August 12, the terrorists were completely driven out of their long-standing stronghold of al-Sukhnah. An offensive is being mounted towards Deir ez-Zor, which has been besieged for three years.

The enemy is putting up resistance, trying to regroup and preparing for new clashes.

From this perspective, we are particularly alarmed by the situation in Idlib, where al-Nusra units have made use of the relative calm to build up their combat potential and have been forcing their rules upon other illegal armed groups and the local residents amid signs of brewing protest among them. Over a short period of time, al-Nusra has managed to set up 14 prisons in Idlib, mostly in devastated poultry plants, where people are thrown for such heavy “offenses” as being relatives of government servicemen, policemen or officials. Bloody clashes are being provoked with fighters of those armed formations that are taking part in the “Astana process.” As a result, a new wave of violence and wild banditry has swept Idlib. Proof of that is the killing of seven local activists of the so-called Syrian Civil Defence, better known as White Helmets, in a bloody assault in the town of Sarmin. In the past, the Russian Foreign Ministry has repeatedly made clear its principled assessments of the White Helmets’ activities. Our opinion has not changed. Even so, we cannot remain indifferent to the cold-blooded mass killing of unarmed people.

The situation I have just described demands the soonest possible end. Russia together with other guarantors of the “Astana process” will continue working to help translate the agreement on the establishment of a de-escalation zone in Idlib into practice as quickly as possible and enable the population of that Syrian province to do away with the lawlessness of terrorists and criminal elements.

Developments in Afghanistan

Unfortunately, the security situation in Afghanistan continues to deteriorate. Despite the fact that, according to the Pentagon, the US Air Force launched over 1,600 air strikes on the armed opposition in the first half of 2017, its militants are besieging more and more districts. In particular, over the past few weeks, Janikhel (Paktia province), Taiwara (Ghor province) and Ghormach (Faryab province), have also been taken under the control of extremists. The level of terrorist activity remains high. Against the background of the worsening military situation, protest sentiments in Afghan society are growing.

We can see attempts to stir up ethnic conflict in the country. In this connection, we are deeply concerned about reports of the massacre of civilians in the Hazara village of Mirza Olang in the province of Sar-e-Pul. According to eyewitnesses, this crime was committed not by the local Taliban fighters, but by foreign militants, who had been transferred there by unknown helicopters.

Cases of unidentified helicopter flights to territory controlled by extremists in other northern provinces of Afghanistan are also recorded. For example, there is evidence that on August 8, four helicopters made flights from the airbase of the Afghan National Army's 209th corps in Mazar-i-Sharif to the area captured by the militants in the Aqcha district of the Jowzjan province. It is noteworthy that witnesses of these flights began to fall off the radar of law enforcement agencies. It seems that the command of the NATO forces controlling the Afghan sky stubbornly refuses to notice these incidents.

We draw the attention of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan to the need for a thorough investigation of each such case.

Developments in Kenya

On August 8, general elections took place in the Republic of Kenya, in which over 77 per cent of voters took part. Current President Uhuru Kenyatta has been re-elected, with over 54 per cent of the votes in his favour.

International observers, including representatives of the African Union, the East African Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), the East African Community and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa positively assessed the organisation of the election, noting the absence of serious violations and incidents.

The situation in the country after the announcement of the voting results remains generally calm.

Moscow was pleased with the successful elections in Kenya and confirms its readiness to further strengthen the traditionally friendly relations and mutually beneficial multifaceted cooperation between our countries.

Political developments in Venezuela

According to different sources, the first signs of a decline in the armed confrontation between the opposition and the Government supporters are being registered in Venezuela. The National Constituent Assembly adopted a number of practical decisions to improve the political situation, including preparing for and holding regional elections in October. Parties that are members of the opposition coalition have already announced their readiness to take part in them. Analysts believe that this is obviously a step towards overcoming contradictions in Venezuelan society and resolving the accumulated socioeconomic problems democratically and in line with constitutional norms.

Against this backdrop, the positions of some global leaders cannot but cause concern. They do not see the new political reality that has emerged in Venezuela. Continued attempts to shatter the situation and exert pressure on the Venezuelan authorities have very destructive potential because they threaten to disrupt the emerging fragile balance. It is becoming increasingly obvious that the goal of such actions is not to achieve peace and prosperity in Venezuela but rather ambitious political aims that have nothing to do with the life of the country’s people.

We consider unacceptable the use of illegal unilateral sanctions that will hit hardest the disadvantaged segments of the population in Venezuela, not to mention the threat of potentially using foreign military force in order to stop the tragedy in Venezuela (President Donald Trump’s statement on August 11). Such statements contradict the principles of international law on non-interference in the internal affairs of sovereign states and renunciation of the unilateral use of force. We consider such statements to be aimed against not only Caracas but the whole of Latin America. It is no surprise that the majority of Latin American nations, including those who have pursued tough anti-Chavez policy, sharply denounced such intentions and supported the exclusively peaceful resolution of the Venezuelan crisis. This is evidenced by public statements of their official representatives, heads of state or foreign ministers and numerous contacts of Russian diplomats and other officials with their Latin American colleagues.

We are convinced that Venezuelans are capable of resolving their problems themselves, with the constructive support of the responsible world community and without ultimatums imposed on them from the outside.

Nagorno-Karabakh settlement process

We have received requests to comment on the situation around the Nagorno-Karabakh settlement process.

Russia has always supported measures to reduce tension in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict area. The co-chairs have repeatedly talked about the need for specific steps in this regard and this was also stated at the Vienna (May 2016) and St Petersburg (June 2016) summits. At the same time, the implementation of measures proposed by mediators hinges on the good will of the parties to the conflict. For our part, we are doing all we can to stabilise the situation and create conditions for continuing the negotiating process to bring about a [political] settlement. This approach prevailed at a meeting of the Azerbaijani and Armenian foreign ministers in Moscow in April.

At present, the co-chairs are making preparations for the next summit on Nagorno-Karabakh. To this end, they held talks with the Azerbaijani and Armenian foreign ministers in Brussels in July. Consultations will continue on the sidelines of the upcoming session of the UN General Assembly in New York in the second half of September. A corresponding statement will be made as a result.

I would like to reiterate what we constantly say at all levels: Russia devotes special attention to the Nagorno-Karabakh issue. It is among our foreign policy priorities and is mentioned in Russia’s Foreign Policy Concept.

Epidemiological situation in Turkey

In view of the growing number of tourists infected with Coxsackievirus (an enterovirus infection) in Turkey’s southern resorts, the Federal Agency for Tourism and the Federal Service for the Oversight of Consumer Protection and Welfare have warned Russian citizens about the unfavourable epidemiological situation in that country. The most disturbing situation is reported in Serik, Kemer, Manavgat, Alanya, Antalya and Side.

As of August 14, 14 infections were registered among Russian citizens, all of them children under 10. Another 361 Russian tourists (including 337 children under 10) were diagnosed for viral gastroenteritis.

At the moment there is no need for emergency evacuation of Russian citizens.

The Russian Embassy in Ankara is in constant contact with Turkish health authorities to get complete information regarding the evolution of the epidemiological situation.

Turkey has announced its readiness to accept Russian experts to assess the situation and determine the level of threat to Russian citizens’ health in resort areas.

I would also like to remind you that in connection with the situation that has evolved, in keeping with Article 14 of Federal Law No 132-FZ, “Basic Principles of Tourism Activity in the Russian Federation” (November 24, 1996), a tourist has a right to require a change in a tour package to Turkey (including with regard to destination or timing of the tour) or cancellation thereof, while the expenses sustained by a tour operator may not be withheld.

We are closely watching the situation in Turkey. I would like to reiterate that Russian missions in Turkey are in constant contact not only with the Turkish authorities but also with Russian citizens who need help. Hotline numbers are available on the websites of the Foreign Ministry and the Russian Embassy in Turkey. If necessary, they can be put to active use.

Russian citizen Renat Bakiev detained in Turkey

Following reports of a Russian citizen being detained in Turkey, the Russian Embassy in Ankara immediately sent corresponding queries to the host country’s competent agencies. As a result, the Turkish authorities issued official notice that Russian citizen Renat Bakiev was detained on July 29 on suspicion of “involvement in the ISIS armed terrorist organisation.” In keeping with a Turkish court ruling of August 10, he was taken into custody and is currently being held at a closed correctional facility.

The Russian Embassy in Turkey is closely watching the situation to make certain that Mr Bakiev’s rights to a fair trial are ensured, as well as monitoring the case at the consular level, and will provide the detainee whatever assistance may be necessary.

The Foreign Ministry has put this case on its watch list.

Post-registration clinical trials of Russian Ebola vaccine Gam Evac Combi in the Republic of Guinea

On August 9, post-registration clinical trials of Russian Ebola vaccine Gam Evac Combi began in the Republic of Guinea.

As is known, the Ebola epidemic in Western Africa has mainly affected three countries: Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. According to the WHO, the Ebola virus infected 28,600 people and killed over 11,300 of them.

Russian scientists were among the first in the world to respond to Guinea’s call for help in fighting the Ebola outbreak. In response to an official appeal from the Guinea government, in August 2014, a group of specialists and two lab modules of a mobile complex of specialised anti-epidemic brigades were sent to Guinea aboard a special plane of the Russian Emergencies Ministry.

UC RUSAL (Russian aluminium company) ensured the deployment of a 200-bed military field infections hospital donated by Russia and organised and financed the training of qualified military medical personnel.

On January 14, 2016, Russia announced the creation of the vaccine Gam Evac Combi, a combined vector Ebola vaccine developed by researchers at the Gamaleya Federal Research Centre for Epidemiology and Microbiology.

On February 15, 2016, the Russian vaccine was presented to the WHO in Geneva. It is notable for the fact that it develops long-term immunity and has no serious side effects.

This past July, Russian equipment and vaccine were delivered to Guinea. The Gamaleya Research Centre prepared and sent over 1,000 vaccine doses for initial vaccination. Preparations were made to mobilise Guinean volunteers. To this end, the Guinean health minister issued an order to create a national committee to promote the Gam Evac Combi vaccination that included Russian and Guinean scientists and specialists conducting research and enlisting volunteers on the ground.

The vaccination of 2,000 Guinean volunteers and post-registration clinical trials of the Russian vaccine in the Republic of Guinea are expected to continue through 2018.

More detailed materials on this topic will be posted on the Foreign Ministry’s official website.


24.09.2018 - Russia’s position at the 73rd session of the UN General Assembly

1. The objective of the 73rd session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) is to reaffirm and strengthen the central and coordinating role of the Organization in international affairs. The UN is a unique platform for equitable dialogue aimed at seeking solutions with due regard for different opinions and based on the purposes and principles of its Charter. Any attempts to challenge the UN authority are dangerous and may lead to a dismantled system of international relations. We have consistently advocated a polycentric world order, equal and indivisible security based on unconditional respect for sovereignty and peoples' right to independently choose their development path.

21.09.2018 - Reply by the Embassy’s spokesperson to a media question regarding the Guardian piece on Julian Assange

Question: How would you comment on today’s Guardian article claiming that “Russian diplomats held secret talks to assess whether they could help Julian Assange flee the UK”? Answer: This publication has nothing to do with the reality. The Embassy has never engaged either with Ecuadorian colleagues, or with anyone else, in discussions on any kind of Russia’s participation in ending Mr Assange’s stay within the diplomatic mission of Ecuador.

21.09.2018 - Russian Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova on the incident in Salisbury

Why should we trust or distrust Petrov and Boshirov when there’s zero evidence on the table that would in any way link their very existence to the Salisbury incident? Just because these people were there? Then, can Britain provide a list of all the foreigners who were in Salisbury on those days? On top of that, no one has seen Sergey Skripal since the incident. No one has even talked with Julia Skripal. The whole thing is absurd, because these two individuals came in, talked with Simonyan, provided answers to the counts that the UK publicly accused them of, and, for some reason, everyone is now saying, “We do not believe them.” However, when Yulia Skripal spoke before a camera, which was operated by no one knows who, and didn’t answer any question, but instead read a text apparently written for her by someone, and before that published a text similarly written for her by someone, everyone said, “Yes, of course, we trust her.”

20.09.2018 - Embassy Press Officer’s reply to a media question concerning the meeting of the Minister for the Middle East Mr Alistair Burt with the White Helmets group

Question: During his visit to Turkey the Minister for the Middle East Mr Alistair Burt met with the infamous White Helmets group, whom the Russian Federation considers terrorist supporters. How would you comment on that? Answer: It is up to HMG of course to decide which contacts are to develop and whom the senior diplomats are to meet. Nevertheless, this choice is a truly remarkable one.

18.09.2018 - Embassy Press Officer’s reply to a media question concerning the classification of the materials on A.Perepilichny by the UK government

Question: How would you comment on yet another decision of the British side to classify additional information on Mr A.Perepilichny within the inquest into his death? Answer: This procedural decision concerns classification of information on Mr A.Perepilichny’s connections to the British secret services, to wit, whether he has been their agent or made contact with them. It has been made public just before the next hearing of the inquest into the death of Mr A.Perepilichnny, which is scheduled for 21 September in the Old Bailey.

17.09.2018 - Embassy press officer’s reply to a media question concerning the statements of FCO Minister of State Sir Alan Duncan

Question: How would you comment on the statement of Minister of State Sir Alan Duncan to the effect that the UK will “push for new sanctions […] as well as robustly enforcing the existing EU regime against Russia”? Answer: This and other similar statements fall in line with the Conservative government’s current policy aimed at destroying the fabric of Russian-British relations, further isolating Russia and presenting it as a major threat to the “rules-based international system”. Faced with the realities of Brexit, the British government is desperate to convince its partners of the need for a tougher sanctions regime against Russia. As usual, it resorts to insinuations, unverified facts and media leaks. Despite our numerous requests, no evidence of Russia’s responsibility has been provided. Russia’s proposals of cooperation in dealing with common challenges and threats, including in the sphere of cybersecurity and chemical disarmament, are being rejected without explanation.

13.09.2018 - Embassy Press Officer’s reply to a media question concerning upcoming annual conferences of the UK’s major political parties

Question: What does the Embassy expect from the party conference season in the United Kingdom starting this week? Answer: Annual conferences of UK’s major political parties are important events in the country’s life. At the conferences parties set out their priorities on a wide range of issues and arrange open and frank discussions on pressing domestic and international matters. Among other things, they offer a platform for a dialogue between party leaders and activists and the diplomatic corps.

12.09.2018 - Embassy press officer’s reply to a media question concerning the inquiry into the death of Mr Nikolay Glushkov

Question: 12 September marks 6 months since the mysterious murder of the Russian national Nikolay Glushkov in London. Does the Embassy have any new information regarding the circumstances of his death? Answer: Unfortunately, the British side continues to pay no attention to our numerous requests, including the official request of the Prosecutor General’s Office of the Russian Federation for legal assistance in the criminal case opened in Russia into the death of Mr Nikolay Glushkov, which was delivered to the Home Office as early as in April. The Embassy’s proposals to arrange a meeting between the Russian Ambassador and the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, or between experts from law enforcement authorities of the two countries, made as far back as in April, have also been met with silence.

11.09.2018 - Embassy Press Officer’s reply to a media question concerning the statements by the British officials on retaliatory measures against Russia

Question: How would you comment on the recent statements of the British officials who said that the UK was prepared to “retaliate” against Russia, including by deploying its cyber warfare capabilities? Answer: Yet again, we have seen a series of official statements to the effect that the UK should use its “massive retaliatory capabilities” to counter Russia’s “aggression”. Home Secretary Sajid Javid said on Sunday that the UK had “considerable powers, and we’ll bring all these powers, both covert and overt to bear on Russia”. Last week GCHQ head Jeremy Fleming spoke in a similar vein saying that the British authorities and their allies were prepared to “counter the threat” allegedly posed by Russia. In this context he mentioned a plan to “deploy the full range of tools”, including Britain’s “offensive cyber capability” against Russia. Such statements are reckless, provocative and unfounded.

09.09.2018 - Embassy response to Home Secretary Sajid Javid’s remarks at the Andrew Marr Show, 9 September 2018

Sajid Javid: This [the Salisbury incident] was the act, we now know unequivocally, crystal clear, this was the act of the Russian state. Comment: If Mr Javid has evidence that allows him to make this kind of direct accusations, why wouldn’t he share it with the public? So far, what the public has seen is nothing but photos of two Eastern-European-looking men walking around Salisbury on two different days. Everything else, including exact dates and names, let alone these gentlemen’s involvement in the Skripals poisoning and their links to the Russian state, is only assertions based on unverifiable “intelligence” and on the “lack of alternative explanations”. If the “crystal clear”-level evidence exists, it is in everyone’s interest for it to be published.

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