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PRESS RELEASES AND NEWS

06.07.2018

From the Briefing by Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova, Moscow, July 5, 2018

Media coverage of the World Cup in Russia

 

The 2018 FIFA World Cup continues to delight with its exciting football contests. Experts and fans are unanimous is their opinion that the matches have been spectacular. There’s no need to even mention the entertainment aspect of the tournament, as fans are clearly having the time of their lives when there are no matches to watch. According to our guests’ posts on social media, the atmosphere is fantastic not only in Moscow, but other host cities as well. We can see that the enthusiasm of the fans is rubbing off on the media, which is great. Indeed, we focus on these matters, because there was so much misinformation. This is not surprising, as it is difficult to make up stories now, because everyone can see everything with their own eyes, and the mudslinging directed at our country before the World Cup doesn’t work anymore.

However, the anti-Russian campaign continues unabated led, unfortunately, by the British media. They rank number one in terms of the number of ridiculous and totally outrageous tales, which are being relayed with quotes from British politicians. It's horrible. I'm not even talking about Boris Johnson and his predictions, comparisons and epithets. British Prime Minister Theresa May also made her contribution as she voiced her concerns about the British fans’ safety in Russia. She’d be better off thinking about the safety of the British subjects in her country. For some reason, she is concerned about our fans, whereas we have no problems with them whatsoever. Ms May, don’t worry about them, just come and see for yourself how things are.

We come across lots of things in the British media. Recently, the Guardian wrote that Russia extended another invitation to Prime Minister May to visit the World Cup. To reiterate, according to the comment by the press service of our Embassy in Great Britain, no individual invitations to the World Cup have ever been sent to British politicians and, accordingly, they could not be revoked. No one is trying to lure anyone. It’s an international event that is held regularly in close cooperation with the corresponding international organisation, so no one is coming up with any new formats, and everything is taking place in accordance with existing protocol and traditions. Here’s what I have to say to the Guardian – there’s no need for fabrications. We are always happy to provide an opportunity for everyone to support their team, and heads of state, government and cabinet ministers of various countries who have expressed their desire to support their athletes can already tell you about it. We have been good and friendly hosts and are doing our best to help them fully enjoy this festive atmosphere.

It’s a shame, of course, that the British authorities and media have, in fact, by their own hands, deprived thousands of British fans of the opportunity to enjoy the tournament by intimidating them. Even British athletes were subjected to intimidation. Remember, a couple of weeks ago, an English footballer of Jamaican descent Danny Rose said he wasn’t taking his family to the World Cup because of fear of racism or violence against them. There were reports quoted by the Guardian that after several weeks in Russia, this defender of the English team changed his mind and will bring his family to our country for the final matches of his team. Reportedly, the footballer enjoys the relaxed atmosphere of the tournament. As we said earlier, the myths will be debunked. We regret that as a result of this terrible political campaign unleashed by the British government, thousands of British fans were unable to come to Russia just because they were intimidated by their own politicians.

This is the case not only with the UK. Officials in Brussels and EU media, unfortunately, also engage in inserting anti-Russian clichés into the media narrative. We heard things like “Are you ready for the World Cup of shame?” and so on. I would like to remind you that this headline was posted in March on Politico. The European Parliament even went as far as issuing a Joint Statement on sporting events and human rights in Russia before the 2018 FIFA World Cup. Without delving into this document, I would like to reiterate that the forces fanning Russophobia are trying to politicise everything that comes their way, including sports. They tie human rights into this. It is so disgusting that it is surprising that in 2018 these people do not realise that all this is completely transparent. This political bias cannot be hidden even behind such documents.

There was plenty of disinformation of all sorts. In Sweden, for example, special instructions were issued, recommending, among other things, “not to chat over the phone”. Those instructions were distributed among Swedish fans planning to travel to Russia.  I’d like to respond by saying that one should not judge others based on one’s self.

While the latest Cold War-style attacks are being attempted in Western media, a magnificent celebration of sport is going on in Russia, a celebration that has united the whole world and showed that even irreconcilable fans, who are prepared to defend the honour of their teams, stand with them in triumph and defeat, are perfectly willing and able to be friendly, sharing in this festive atmosphere with rival fans of other teams.

We are certainly glad that Russian hospitality was highly praised by World Cup guests. And this was on a truly national scale, because absolutely everyone, including politicians and the event’s organisers, law enforcement officers and volunteers, restaurateurs and hotel keepers, ordinary Russian fans, ordinary people and citizens, came together to make this celebration really all-encompassing, so that everybody who came to Russia would feel like a valued and welcome guest.

It was pleasant to read in The Independent newspaper that fears of fights between Russian and English football hooligans have proved unfounded. Did anyone doubt it? If this had not been instigated beforehand, if specially commissioned films had not been shown on certain TV channels, then there would have been nothing to talk about. For some reason somebody sought to turn this scenario into reality. I was told this a year and a half ago. Ahead of the England versus Belgium match, Deputy Chief Constable Mark Roberts pointed to the good atmosphere and the absence of any incidents among various groups of fans. According to The Independent, the only instances of violence occurred among the English fans themselves.

The Argentine newspaper La Nacion stressed that the organisers have managed to achieve unity among fans as part of this global celebration of football. It was indeed a difficult goal, considering the experience of previous World Cups and other major football tournaments. But it has indeed been possible to achieve so far. The Financial Times noted that interactions between Russian and foreign fans take place in an atmosphere “euphoria” and “enthusiasm”. So, as long as there are no efforts to instigate and set people against each other, there will be no pretext whatsoever. The newspaper says that similar people-to-people contacts show that relations between Russia and the rest of the world may considerably differ from the distrust and antipathy inherent in geopolitics.

I am turning to all those who were deceived by those same Western geopoliticians and media through anti-Russian stories. We invite all of you who have not yet come to seize the opportunity to participate in this wonderful and colourful event – the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia.   

 

Chemical incidents in Salisbury and Amesbury

 

We have received dozens, if not hundreds, of requests for comment on the chemical incidents in Salisbury and Amesbury. Media reported two UK residents had been taken to a Salisbury hospital in critical condition from the nearby town of Amesbury after being poisoned with an unidentified substance. These were initial reports. The incident is notable because it occurred near Salisbury, where, according to British media, an assassination attempt on two Russian citizens occurred four months ago. Let me remind you that the Porton Down Laboratory is also located there.

Statements by the UK police and doctors carried by the media claim possible poisoning with a “toxin” and note the “similarity” of the symptoms with those experienced by the Skripals. Samples of the substance are reported to have been delivered for analysis to the secret laboratory in Porton Down. As early as last night of July 4, Neil Basu, Assistant Commissioner of the Counter Terrorism Command within London's Metropolitan Police Service, declared citing the Porton Down Laboratory that “both the victims were poisoned with the Novichok nerve agent.”

What can be said in this regard? After the hell visited upon Russia by official London, after the international hate campaign launched by the UK Government against our country and our people in the past months, there is much which could be said today. 

We could say that hardly four months elapsed before the British detective thriller “The Mystery of Salisbury” had a sequel. The second installment features the same main character, Novichok. But I am not going to get into that.  

We could remind you that hardly had the fanfares of the military parade died down on Armed Forces Day, where Prime Minister Theresa May announced the next parade would be held in Salisbury, stressing that the professionalism and bravery demonstrated in the face of the attack are among the main reasons why it will be held in Salisbury, where another poisoning occurred a few months later, but I am not going to get into that.  

We could ask the British side to update us on the timing of Theresa May and her team’s next performance in parliament, but I am not going to do that either.   

We could wonder if Porton Down backtracks on its evidence in the new case. Do you remember that a couple of months ago Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson citing Porton Down claimed that the Novichok used to poison the Skripals had been made in the Russian Federation? Meanwhile, the laboratory later disavowed the statements by the UK Foreign Secretary. The Foreign Office had to delete its official statements from social media. The unfolding situation is similar. As we understand it, Porton Down has not made a statement, yet it is being officially and actively cited (their official site has as its main  a more down-to-earth topic – the study of pant washing technique). We could ask whether Porton Down would again disclaim the statements attributed to it. But I am not going to do that either.    

We could point to Neil Basu stressing the “complete lack of evidence” that either of the victims visited the site of the Skripals’ poisoning. He thus indicated that the British citizens were not poisoned while on an occasional stroll in Salisbury, that the two incidents are not related. And at the same time, on July 5, Minister of State for Security at the Home Office Ben Wallace claimed that Russia’s help was crucial to investigate the new incident, that we can “fill in some of the significant gaps” in London’s official investigation of the new incident and to keep the people safe. But I will not do that.

We could pick at the Minister’s words about the “gaps” which indeed abound. From the very start of the Skripal case Russia offered a number of times to conduct a joint investigation of the incident with the British authorities. However, it is Theresa May’s Government, of which Ben Wallace is a member, that has persistently refused any help, incessantly repeating the mantra alleging “Russia’s involvement.” But I will not do that today either.

We could hypothesise that the British authorities have lost control of chemical agents or recall how London demanded that Russia admit to losing control of them. But I will not do that today either.

We could list dozens of versions that were immediately reported by the British press even though Scotland Yard had cautioned against early guesswork and speculation on the topic. We could recall how the British Government accused the Russian Federation of propaganda by quoting Russian media. But I will not do that today.

We could ask Theresa May’s Government a question which interests everyone in the world now – will the OPCW handle the investigation of the new incident?  And I will not do that today either.

We could wish a pleasant holiday to Britain’s Defence Secretary who makes such forceful statements. Do you remember how he recommended that Russia “go away and shut up?” We could ask him now similarly to come and say why this is still happening. But I will not do that either.

We could quote hundreds of mocking comments on British social media claiming that four months later it appears anyone in the UK can come by Novichok nowadays. I also won’t do that.

Today we could have said many things. We could have pointed out that, as if ordered to, several British media outlets have started spreading news that one of the poisoning victims had allegedly found a syringe with what remained of the Novichok, which I would like to remind you, is highly volatile according to experts. But I won’t.

We could have asked why NATO is silent. What does Mr Stoltenberg have to say on all this? But we won’t.

We could have pointed out that another poisoning has taken place in an area under tight police control, where every inch has been examined, where millions of pounds, as we have been told officially, have been spent on decontamination and special security measures. It is the same place where Prince Charles and his wife came just a few days before the poisoning to promote tourism that has suffered after the Skripal incident. But I will not be talking about this either in my official capacity today.

I will not cover any of these points. Today, nonetheless, there will be official statements on the subject.

1. After four months, the so-called Skripal case remains thoroughly murky. The refusal of the UK to cooperate with the Russian Federation to hold a joint investigation, keeping Russian diplomats from having access to our citizens in violation of all diplomatic and consular conventions, and the endless attempts to manipulate the OPCW undermine trust in official London.

2. The victims have our sincere sympathy, and we wish a speedy recovery to all four of them, two being Russian nationals.

3. We call on British law enforcement to avoid being manipulated by dirty political games that certain quarters in London seem intent on playing and to finally cooperate with their Russian colleagues in a joint investigation, not least because Russian nationals have been affected as well.

I am authorised to state that Russian law enforcement stand ready to work together. I would like to say that we have been informing the British of this several times a month through diplomatic channels.

Today we were shocked to see British officials say they were awaiting Russia’s response. Maybe in the UK, ordinary people and the media have not been apprised of the fact that Russia has used its diplomatic channels to make dozens of proposals to London to start joint work.

In the name of security on our continent, we call on the May Cabinet to stop the intrigues and games with chemical agents, stop blocking efforts to conduct a joint investigation into what has happened in the UK to Russian nationals.

I am certain that the representatives of the May Cabinet have ahead of them a long period of apologies to Russia and the international community for all that that Government has done. But, as is British custom, it will happen later. Now it is important to launch a comprehensive investigation.

 

Allegations by The Times on Iranian aid to the Taliban

 

We noted an article in the British newspaper The Times about the alleged training of the Afghan Taliban in the Islamic Republic of Iran. Replying to numerous inquiries, we would like to say right away that we do not have any such information. The Iranian Embassy in Kabul has denied the assertions.

We would like to emphasise once again that the Western media, including British media, have repeatedly made groundless allegations about support for the Taliban not only by Iran but also by Russia and other countries without any supporting facts. The article’s references to mythical officers in Afghanistan’s secret services are questionable, while references to sources within tthe Taliban appear to be simply ridiculous.

One gets the impression that with such fake news London is trying to distract the attention of the world public from NATO’s failure after 16 years in Afghanistan, this time artificially linking it with the US withdrawal from the Iranian nuclear agreement.

We believe publications like this do nothing to create an atmosphere of trust and understanding between the states and political forces interested in settling the Afghanistan issue. We advise the authors of this article to give up their stereotypes and objectively assess the developments in Afghanistan. It would be useful if at some point they would start quoting our official statements because in so many briefings we comment on the accusations of allegedly supporting the Taliban and supplying them with arms.

Question: Can you please comment on the United States’ demands for the United Kingdom to increase its defence spending?

Maria Zakharova: We have seen these reports. I can say that this is not the first such move by the United States. This is a policy that is directed not only at the United Kingdom but many other areas, with respect to both individual countries and, for example, NATO. This is a policy of forcing NATO allies to increase the alliance’s military spending.

The reports in the media that you are talking about should be viewed in the same context. These reports include references to a bold letter by US Secretary of Defence to his British counterpart. The letter contains an ultimatum, requesting a significant increase in Britain’s military budget to avoid losing its status as “number one partner in Europe.” Once again, I am referring to the media.

Speaking about trends, there obviously is a trend and it is disturbing. In particular, we cannot help but be disturbed by the growth in NATO’s military budget. This is accompanied by the strengthening of the “Eastern front” despite the fact that the alliance has other obvious problems. There are problems and they are indeed much more serious.

Also, this coincides with a growing concentration of respective forces and facilities by NATO members at the borders of our country. The alliance is protecting itself against some factitious threats, creating and building structures from the times of bloc confrontation. NATO and the United States continue to build their missile defences in Europe. The allies have increased the scale and intensity of their command and combat training which is aimed at exploring a European scene of operation. Obviously, this military activity by the alliance is aimed at creating a springboard for putting forceful pressure on our country. The increasing potential for conflict on the European continent is a direct consequence of military preparations which are unprecedented since the end of the Cold War.

Without any ultimatums, the United Kingdom is already exceeding its target for military spending of 2 per cent. However, as we understand it and as our analysis confirms, Britain was not selected by Washington at random but because the country has repeatedly claimed to have a special relationship with the United States and it must remain at the so-called forefront of the NATO bloc. This is an example of obvious pressure by the United States on its allies in relation to increases in military spending. Of course, this does not contribute to the strengthening of military and political stability in Europe.




LATEST EVENTS

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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