22 July 2018
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Interview of Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov with the Asharq Al-Awsat Pan-Arab Newspaper, October 2017

Question: Regarding the visit of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques to Russia, how do you assess the Russian-Saudi relations at the bilateral level and in terms of discussion over the region’s crises?

Answer: We share the opinion that there is a need for further progressive development of multidimensional Saudi-Russian relations, including for the purpose of ensuring regional and global stability.

Saudi Arabia and Russia maintain a confidential political dialogue, inter alia, at the highest and high levels. In early September, I paid a working visit to the Kingdom, during which I had an audience with King Salman and held talks with Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir. I am satisfied with the results.

We intensify efforts aimed at fostering business cooperation and humanitarian ties. Our common objective is to increase our trade turnover and expand its commodity composition, which, as we both think, do not correspond to the current significant potential as of now.

I am glad that this joint work starts to bring practical fruits. Several important arrangements have been made, promising areas to be prioritized have been determined. I would like to particularly note in this regard the productive work of the bilateral inter-governmental Commission on Trade, Economic, Scientific and Technology Cooperation, as well as the direct contacts between relevant ministries and business associations of the two countries. We devote great attention to enhancing the legal framework.

Riyadh and Moscow participate in the implementation of the OPEC-plus agreements on reducing the world oil production. We deem it important to continue coordinating our efforts with Saudi partners in this field.

As for the regional crises, our States assume that there is no alternative to their sustainable and lasting solution through exclusively political and diplomatic means via an inclusive national dialogue on a solid basis of international law.

These and other relevant matters on the bilateral and international agendas will be discussed in depth during the upcoming visit of King Salman to Russia at the invitation of President Vladimir Putin. We are convinced that this truly milestone event in our relations will bring our cooperation to a totally new level and make a useful contribution to a stable MENA region.

Question: Russia, as the key player in Syria, let me ask you: Has the Syrian crisis reached the stage of searching for a political solution? What is the solution in Syria?

Answer: The conflict in Syria has already been going on for several years. Since the very beginning of the Syrian crisis, Russia has insisted on resolving the situation by peaceful means through a broad intra-Syrian dialogue. We have urged the international community to help Syrians end violence and bloodshed, prevent the strengthening of criminals and terrorists.

The League of Arab States as well as many regional and international players have for a variety of reasons denied the legitimacy of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. By doing so they practically usurped the right of the Syrian people to decide who will govern Syria and in what form. We strongly disagree with this approach. On various forums we have always supported independence, unity and territorial integrity of the Syrian Arab Republic, and stated that the fate and future of Syria must be determined by the Syrian people themselves in a strictly legal manner through a national dialogue.

In the context of the internal political conflict, extremism in Syria has reached extreme forms. The whole world shuddered from inhumane actions of ISIS and other terrorist entities. Threats emanating from the terrorists entrenched in Syria have spread beyond the country and the whole Middle East and North Africa region.

Russia made the decision to help the Syrian Government upon its request, in order to free the country from terrorists. At the same time we continue to believe that the military campaign against extremists should be accompanied by the search for a political solution. To that end – continuing to fight against terrorist groups – we are enhancing our efforts to stop bloodshed, provide humanitarian assistance to the population, and intensify the political process as provided for in the UNSC Resolution 2254.

We consider the International Meetings on Syria in Astana to be an important step towards settling the Syrian conflict. In the framework of the Astana process with the participation of the delegation of the Government of the Syrian Arab Republic as well as the representatives of armed opposition groups, the parties agreed upon that there is no alternative to political and diplomatic settlement under the UN auspices and expressed their commitment to maintain the ceasefire. Besides, a coordination mechanism ensuring control over the ceasefire implementation was established and became effective; the de‑escalation zones aimed at ensuring the normalization of the situation, solving urgent humanitarian problems, returning refugees, maintaining the unity of Syria as a whole were then created.

Today, all actors must abandon their geopolitical ambitions and fully contribute to reestablishing the stability and security in Syria, the Middle East and Northern Africa as a whole. The main items of the agenda are as follows: reconstruction of the infrastructure destroyed during the conflict and the unilateral economic sanctions imposed by a number of States on Syria, promotion of its social, economic and political development.

Political settlement on the basis of the UN Security Council resolution 2254 through a comprehensive intra-Syrian dialogue remains the most important area of work to overcome the Syrian crisis. Such settlement is aimed at consolidating the trends on the ground, terminating the armed confrontation. In this regard, I would like to stress the relevance of the Saudi Arabian efforts to create an opposition delegation which could become a fair merit partner of the delegation of the Government of the Syrian Arab Republic at the talks under the UN auspices in Geneva.

Question:  Russia has good relations with Turkey and Iran, how does Moscow see the role of those two countries in Syria and Iraq?

Answer: Russia attaches great importance to cooperation with Turkey and Iran in the framework of the settlement of the Syrian crisis and assistance to Bagdad in countering the terrorist threat from the “Islamic State”.

We believe that the joint efforts of Russia, Turkey and Iran reversed the situation in Syria, destructed the centers of resistance of ISIS, Jabhat al‑Nusra and other terrorist groups, and ensured necessary conditions for a substantial and motivated intra-Syrian dialogue about a future political order.

The latest example of the fruitful and close interaction of the three countries is the agreements of the sixth International Meeting on Syrian Settlement held in Astana, last September 14‑15, including about the modalities of the Idlib de-escalation zone functioning. In fact, necessary conditions enabling the end of the fratricidal war in Syria, complete elimination of terrorists and return of Syrians to a peaceful life were created. Steps taken in coordination with Ankara and Tehran aim to maintain and strengthen the cessation of hostilities in Syria, help the political settlement of the conflict, decrease the level of violence and improve the humanitarian situation dramatically.

Our practical cooperation at all levels and inter-agency daily contacts illustrate that Turkey and Iran play, in the full sense of the word, the key role in terms of stabilizing the situation in Syria and Iraq. Given the complex and multidimensional challenges the Middle East faces, we think that the increased foreign political interaction between Moscow, Ankara and Tehran meets the interests of all States of the region.

We intend to continue a deepened exchange of views and active and vigorous work with Turkish and Iranian partners, first of all, to counter terrorist structures in Syria and Iraq, and to steadily normalize the situation in the Middle East at large.

This, inter alia, was discussed during the negotiations between President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart last September 28. In particular, they reiterated the commitment to abide by the Astana agreements, continue close interaction between foreign ministries, as well as military and special services with a view to deepening the coordination of joint actions to settle the crisis in Syria and resolve other regional problems.

Question: Despite the deliberations between the US and Russia, bilateral relations between Washington and Moscow are in decline. Do you expect relations to be back to normal? Why did bilateral relations decline?

Answer: It is not Russia’s fault that Russian-American relations are presently in decline. This is a direct consequence of the policy pursued by the Obama administration that was destroying the foundation of our cooperation and, before leaving, planted time bombs underneath it to make things difficult for its successors.

Russia is willing, together with a new US administration, to search for ways of improving relations on the basis of the principles of mutual trust and consideration for each other’s interests. Unfortunately, our bilateral ties still remain hostage to the bickering in the American establishment.

It is obvious that the artificially intensified anti-Russian campaign in the US, including speculations concerning the purported interference of our country in last year’s presidential elections, seriously hinders normalization of the dialogue. You get the impression that some people in Washington are unwilling to accept the American people’s expression of will trying to blame us for their own setbacks and brazenly playing the Russian card in their political struggle.

We do not succumb to emotions and show self-restraint. We take into account complex realities of the domestic policy that the new administration has to work in. But we can not leave without a response such aggressive steps as, for instance, the adoption of the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act.

We hope that common sense would nonetheless prevail in Washington and it would be possible to stop further confrontation. We do really seek it. We understand that the US and Russia as major nuclear-weapon states bear special responsibility for the general situation in the world, for maintaining global stability and security. It can be viewed as a positive sign that our countries resumed their dialogue on strategic issues in September which had been frozen since the beginning of 2014.

The potential of the Russian-American cooperation in international affairs is great although in many respects it remains underdeveloped. We have long been urging our colleagues to establish real coordination in the area of counter-terrorism and in dealing with other dangerous challenges, i.e. the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, drug trafficking and cyber crime. Let alone the goal of resolving regional crises the number of which in the world, unfortunately, does not diminish.

There are opportunities for implementing mutually beneficial initiatives in trade and investment. It is indicative that the American business values its presence on our market and wants to develop mutually beneficial projects with Russian partners. The US business delegation consisting of representatives of 140 companies became the most numerous at the SPIEF in June. Profit margins of American businesses in Russia are higher that on many other markets and working conditions are very favorable.

Thus, there is a hope that we could overcome this artificially created deadlock in our cooperation, although the future of our relations depends not only upon us, but upon the American side as well.

Question: How do you assess the performance of the international coalition against ISIS as led by the United States? What are the limits of the Russian role in the war on ISIS?

Answer: I would not go into detail, but one should start by saying that from the point of view of Syrians and the international law, this coalition is a gatecrasher in Syria. The government of Syria demonstrates tolerance as long as the coalition’s activities are aimed at countering terrorists in the territory of this country. We are concerned over – and we have spoken openly of this concern of ours – the tactic of half-measures pursued by the United States and their allies. When double standards are applied, when terrorists are divided into the “bad” and the “not so bad” ones, when the coalition recruits its members on political grounds disregarding the need for the UNSC approval of its activities, one can hardly expect effective fight against terrorism. It was the strikes by the Russian Aerospace Forces and the Syrian Army to which the Islamic State started to yield.

The US-led forces’ activities in Syria cause many questions. In some cases these forces mounts allegedly accidental strikes against the Syrian Armed Forces, after which the Islamic State counterattacks, in other cases they inspire other terrorists to attack strategic locations over which official Damascus has restored its legitimate authority, or stage fatal provocations against our military personnel. I would also mention numerous “accidental” strikes against civilian infrastructure that have taken hundreds of civilian lives.

Our participation in the fight against ISIS is aimed at both ensuring the national security of Russia and strengthening global and regional security. The use of force alone is not enough to eradicate terrorism in the Middle East and North Africa. We are convinced of that. Our policy has an advantage, as it is not intended to serve vested interests and has no hidden agenda. In this context, we will further expand our efforts to settle numerous crises and conflicts in the region through peaceful political and diplomatic means. We would also welcome everyone who is willing to engage in this joint honest work. 



19.07.2018 - Embassy Press Officer’s reply to a media question concerning alleged identification by the Metropolitan police of suspects in the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal

Q.: How would you comment on today’s media reports claiming that the Met Police have allegedly identified two suspected perpetrators of the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal in Salisbury? A.: We have seen the report by the Press Association saying that investigators believe to have identified the persons who poisoned Sergei and Yulia Skripal by cross-checking CCTV recordings with lists of people who entered and left the United Kingdom around that time. The Security Minister Ben Wallace has already given assessment to this report by writing in Twitter that it “belongs in the ill informed and wild speculation folder”. In this regard, we would also like to mention the statement of the Met Police on the Salisbury poisoning published by “Daily Mail” on 17 July, according to which “the investigation into the Salisbury attack remains ongoing and we’re not prepared to discuss any lines of enquiry at this stage”.

19.07.2018 - Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova’s answers to questions by the Rossiya Segodnya International Information Agency about the investigation into the Salisbury and Amesbury incidents and the murder of Nikolai Glushkov

Question: What could you say about the investigation into the incidents in Salisbury and Amesbury? Maria Zakharova: We have noticed that Britain has lately modified the tactics of covering the investigation into the Salisbury and Amesbury incidents. While earlier the London police limited themselves to general phrases accompanied by a lot of media leaks and high-level politicised statements, then now they make regular public statements, with politicians referring to the need to wait for police conclusions. Despite insufficient informative value, this creates an illusion of transparency.

18.07.2018 - Embassy Press Officer’s reply to a media question concerning Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt’s statement of on the 4th anniversary of the MH17 plane crash in Eastern Ukraine

Q: Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt insists on Russian state responsibility for downing MH17 flight in Eastern Ukraine. How would you comment on this? A: Indeed, four years have passed since Malaysia Airlines MH17 flight crashed in Donbass, claiming the lives of 298 innocent passengers from many countries. Our thoughts are with the families and friends of all those who lost their lives. From the very first day Russia has advocated a thorough and impartial international investigation into this crash. Our country immediately offered all necessary technical and expert assistance. Instead, the Netherlands did not allow Russia to participate in the Joint Investigative Team (JIT) and opted to pursue a preselected line of investigation, almost entirely ignoring essential information that Russia was providing.

17.07.2018 - Embassy Press Officer’s reply to a media question concerning the statement of Minister of State Alan Duncan on the “Ukrainian political prisoners”

Question: Foreign Office Minister for Europe Sir Alan Duncan has urged Russia to release the “Ukrainian political prisoners” Oleg Sentsov, Volodymyr Balukh and Emir-Huseyn Kuku. How would you comment on this? Answer: The Embassy has taken note of Sir Alan’s statement, which fails to reflect the real state of affairs. It should be reminded that Oleg Sentsov has been sentenced to 20 years in prison on grave charges of creating a terrorist group and preparing two terrorist acts.

17.07.2018 - Embassy Press Officer’s reply to a media question concerning The New York Times article on the Skripals case

Question: According to the New York Times, British investigators suspect “current or former agents of the GRU” of the attempted poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal. How would you comment on that? Answer: We are not surprised by the new wave of anti-Russian publications in the run-up to and on the day of the meeting between the Russian and U.S. Presidents in Helsinki. However, we are concerned by the fact that, while the British authorities keep concealing all information concerning the investigation into the Salisbury incident, the newspaper has quoted “one former US official familiar with the inquiry”. It appears that the British authorities have shared confidential and extremely sensitive information with private individuals who have no authority or grounds for access thereto. Meanwhile, the Russian side has been trying to get access to the investigation and ensure cooperation between the British authorities and Russian experts for over four months, to no avail.

16.07.2018 - Russia-US summit

President of Russia Vladimir Putin and President of the United States of America Donald Trump have met in Helsinki for their first full-scale summit meeting. Before this, Mr Putin and Mr Trump had met on the sidelines of various international events.

16.07.2018 - News conference following talks between the presidents of Russia and the United States

President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, The talks with President of the United States Donald Trump were held in a candid and business-like atmosphere. I think they were quite successful and beneficial. We reviewed the current state and prospects of Russia-US relations and key international issues. It is obvious to everyone that our bilateral relations are undergoing a complicated period but there is no objective reason for these difficulties and the current tense atmosphere.

14.07.2018 - Embassy Press Officer’s reply to a media question concerning the new invitation of the OPCW experts to the UK

Question: How would you comment on the recent statement of the FCO concerning the new invitation to the OPCW experts to visit the United Kingdom in the framework of the Amesbury incident investigation? Answer: Following the new invitation extended by the UK to the OPCW technical experts “to independently confirm the identity of the nerve agent”, which Charles Rowley and Dawn Sturgess have been exposed to, we would like remind of the fact that after the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal in Salisbury in March Russia proposed to the UK to use the mechanisms under Article IX, paragraph 2 of the CWC and carry out a joint investigation.

14.07.2018 - Embassy Press Officer’s reply to a media question concerning course of investigation of the Amesbury incident

Question: How would you comment on the recent statements that a small bottle containing nerve agent has been found in Amesbury? Answer: Unfortunately, Russia has no access to any official information concerning both the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal and other suspicious incidents in the UK, because the British side refuses to cooperate with us in any way possible. We cannot check or verify any British statements. As for this incident, we have to rely only on public statements, and we are almost sure that the British side will not be informing us directly.

11.07.2018 - Embassy Press Officer’s reply to a media question concerning the activity of the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory at Porton Down

Question: As early as in April the Russian Embassy requested assistance of the British side in arranging a meeting with Chief Executive of the Porton Down Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) Gary Aitkenhead and his colleagues. Have you managed to ascertain whether this secret lab had produced A-234 type agents that were allegedly used against the Skripals? Answer: Sadly, the FCO has ignored our query, which brings us to the conclusion that the British authorities wish to prevent us from communicating with experts who might have some information that is inconvenient for the Conservative government. In his interview to Sky News in April, Mr Aitkenhead himself did not deny the fact that his laboratory had produced and stockpiled nerve agents, including the so-called “novichok”. He added that they “would not be allowed to operate if we had lack of control that could result in anything leaving the four walls of our facility”.

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