19 August 2022
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1629 days have passed since the Salisbury incident - no credible information or response from the British authorities                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     1621 days have passed since the death of Nikolay Glushkov on British soil - no credible information or response from the British authorities



Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks and answers to questions as part of the 100 Questions for the Leader project at the Yevgeny Primakov School, Moscow, May 23, 2022

I am glad to see you. My visits here are not frequent, but they are regular. And each time, I feel energised. Tomorrow, the eleven-formers will have to choose their path in life. It will not be long before the rest of you (the eight- to ten-formers) will also find yourselves at the same threshold.   

It is important to understand the substance of your life, the future substance of our society’s life within the framework of the professional trends that will be a factor in your employment and careers. In addition to my meetings with students at schools, I regularly meet with MGIMO students. They keep those engaging in practical politics on their toes. Policy-making should be approached in such a way as to enable our successors to see prospects and understand that the course mapped by their predecessors meets their interests.     

Question: As far as I know, you write poetry. What prompted you to start doing this? 

Sergey Lavrov: I used to write poetry. Since taking the ministerial job, I limit myself to songs for friends’ birthdays, to ditties. Though occasionally, I dabble in full-length writing, too. I started writing verses, as poetry, when I was about 15. At school, some thoughts came to me… At the institute later, my fellow students and I joined the national movement of student construction brigades and each summer went to work somewhere in Russia.  While out there, songs devoted to some or other part of our vast homeland were conceived in my mind.   

Andrey Voznesensky said: “Verses are not written, they happen like feelings or a sunset. The soul is a blind accomplice. I didn’t write it – it just happened.” 

Question: Your predecessor, Foreign Minister of the Russian Empire Alexander Gorchakov, said that “Great Powers do not need recognition.” Is this saying relevant in our day and age?

Sergey Lavrov: I think it is. Human nature does not change despite the technological progress and novelties in the information and other spheres. Human beings always want to defend their interests. If they are strong, purpose-oriented, and stubborn to a degree, they will find it easier to achieve a status in which they will be accepted as such.  

The same is with countries. But it is more conspicuous when a country is large and rich, and there is a nation which knows, loves and continues the history of its ancestors. Alexander Gorchakov must have had this in mind. The Russian Empire, the Soviet Union, the Russian Federation is the largest nation in the world in terms of its territorial scope.  It is a country that has traditions. They can hardly be encountered in other countries. I am referring to our multiethnic and multi-faith people. Unlike other empires, the Russian Empire did not bend other peoples to its aesthetic and moral requirements as it was spreading its influence. All of them preserved their language, faith, and traditions. Different parts of the Empire had a different status reflecting the specific features characteristic of this or that people which joined the common fold. The United States is different. There they have the “melting pot.” They melted everyone right away and all of them became Americans. As a friend of mine said, “We are all Americans with ‘human rights’ written across our forehead.” Our national composition palette is much richer. It is a national asset on a par with territory and natural resources.

As for the fate of Gorchakov’s prediction after the emergence of the USSR… The USSR was not recognised for a number of years, either. Later it was recognised. It was a reality, a created reality that would not disappear. Everyone came to realise this.  The same is happening now when others are trying to force the Russian Federation to live according to the “rules,” rather than international law.  The West has not pronounced this term for several years. They are calling on everyone to abide by the “rules-based order.” No one has seen these “rules” or participated in devising them. Our logical question as to why they are dissatisfied with the rules known as the UN Charter is not answered. But we know the answer.  And this answer does not suit them because they turn all the rules inside out as they see fit at some or other moment. Wanting to destroy Yugoslavia, they upped and recognised Kosovo. According to them, this was peoples’ right to self-determination.  Moreover, Kosovo did not hold any referendums. They even had the International Court of Justice pass a ruling to the effect that a territory does not necessarily need to have the consent of the central authorities to proclaim its independence.   

The anti-constitutional coup in Ukraine brought to power people who said that the status of the Russian language, which was codified in laws until 2014, had to be abolished and Russians “thrown out” from Crimea. In response, the residents of Crimea held an open and transparent referendum, and the overwhelming majority voted in favour of becoming independent of Ukraine and joining Russia. The West does not recognise this. The rule appears to be the same – self-determination of the people – but the West has adopted a different position this time.

Now the West is raging as Russia defends its absolutely legitimate and fundamental interests. Russia made it clear that its security interests were being affected each time when, contrary to its promises, NATO expanded eastward on five occasions, coming closer to our borders. We also made clear that making Ukraine or other former Soviet republics part of the alliance was a red line for us. We said we knew what the United States and other NATO countries were doing when they deployed weapons in Ukraine, flooded it with modern weapons and created military and naval bases in Ukraine. Following the coup, the new Kiev authorities attempted to suppress by force the will of the people of Donbass, who refused to accept the outcomes of the coup, and they were declared terrorists. In fact, what they did was they didn’t accept the coup and asked to leave them be and let them figure things out themselves. They did not attack anyone. They were attacked instead.

It took the new Kiev regime a year to realise that the massacre was senseless. The Minsk agreements were signed, which spelled things out in a straightforward manner: the territories that are not controlled by Kiev should be granted special status, have the right to use their native (Russian) language, have their own law enforcement bodies and special economic relations with neighbouring Russian regions. For eight long years, in addition to cautioning our NATO colleagues against moving eastward and trying to swallow Ukraine by incorporating it, we tried to get them to send a strong message to Kiev about the need to comply with the Minsk agreements. To no avail. You might as well be talking to a brick wall, as the saying goes. The West was just nodding and pretending it was trying to help achieve the settlement. In fact, it was encouraging the arrogant position of the Kiev regime, which publicly stated through the president and his ministers that they would not comply with the Minsk agreements.

NATO was expanding, Kiev was refusing to comply with the Minsk agreements, and, on top of that, year after year, Ukrainian lawmakers were outlawing the Russian language in education and media. The television channels (Russian and Ukrainian ones in Russian alike) were being shut down as well. The most recent revision of yet another law made it illegal to use the Russian language in everyday life. If you use Russian, not the state language of Ukrainian, when you talk to a store attendant, you could face administrative liability.

Another bloc of legislation encouraged neo-Nazi theory and practice, including the glorification of those who collaborated with Hitler and were recognised as criminals during the Nuremberg Trials, the encouragement of torchlight processions, the use of Nazi symbols (swastika, insignia of the Waffen SS Death’s Head battalions, regiments and divisions, etc.), and the creation of national battalions which hired Western instructors to train and cultivate their fighters in the spirit of neo-Nazi ideology. We saw the entire set of threats created on our borders. For many years, we have been trying to make our Western partners realise this. They didn't care a thing about it.

Since 2009, we have repeatedly proposed concluding a special treaty that would guarantee the security of all countries, including Ukraine, without the expansion of NATO or other military-political alliances. In 2009, they rejected it. In 2021, President Vladimir Putin once again put forward this initiative, and we sent draft treaties to the United States and NATO members. Again, they refused to guarantee security beyond NATO expansion. For us, it was unacceptable. They knew it all too well.

One can list a number of physical and cultural threats to the security of the Russian Federation. Ukrainian legislation forbids a huge share of the country’s population from using their native language and bringing up their children with Russian cultural practices and the Russian language, and so on. Consequently, after warning Ukraine for many years, we moved to defend the security interests of the Russian population in Donbass. We can see how our Western colleagues are responding. They admit that they are unable to live in accordance with the provisions of the UN Charter stating expressly that the Organisation hinges on the sovereign equality of states. For them, this means their own sovereignty alone.

I have described how long we tried to reach out to our Western colleagues, considering the threats they created for Russia. For example, the United States suddenly perceived a threat in Yugoslavia that was located 10,000 kilometres across the ocean, rather than on its own borders. The United States bombed the country, created Kosovo and imposed its perception on this part of Europe. The United States later saw a similar threat in Iraq and said the country possessed weapons of mass destruction. It bombed Iraq, and hundreds of thousands of civilians were killed. The United States and the United Kingdom spearheaded the 2003 campaign. Several years later, it turned out that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Tony Blair, the then UK Prime Minister, called this a mistake and added that mistakes happen from time to time. They destroyed a country which is still unable to restore its statehood. Later, the United States that is located on the other side of the world got the impression that the human rights situation in Libya was not very good. They bombed an affluent country that had no poor people and a thriving economy. Yes, an authoritarian regime ruled Libya. In an effort to overthrow it, the United States killed hundreds of thousands more people than those affected by that authoritarian regime. Today, Libya is no longer a state but a territory where several political and military forces are located. It’s everyone for themselves.

When they get the impression that someone is threatening them, they do not explain anything to anyone; nor do they ask anyone to take action. They simply make a decision, deploy troops and level cities, just like they did in Iraq and Syria. Such are their “rules.”

We are now experiencing a similar period in our history once again. They say that Russia must be defeated, that they must defeat Russia and see to it that Russia loses on the battlefield. I am confident that you know history better than Western politicians who are reciting these “incantations.” They were probably underachievers in their school years. They are drawing incorrect conclusions from their understanding of the past and Russia’s essence.

I am confident that all this will end. The West will recognise reality that is being created on the ground once again, and it will be forced to admit that it is impossible to constantly trample upon vital Russian interests and those of Russian diasporas, no matter where they live, and get away with it. They are now talking a lot about Ireland because a party wishing to reunite with the rest of the Irish island has won the election in Northern Ireland, part of the UK. What would happen if they suddenly ban English there? The Ukrainians banned the Russian language, and what if they ban English in Northern Ireland? What if Belgium bans the French language, and what if Finland bans the Swedish language? It is impossible to imagine. But the West “swallowed” all this, as if it’s just the way things are.

We knocked on the doors of the OSCE, the Council of Europe and the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. They “expressed deep regret,” but were unable to stamp their feet and demand that the ultranationalists who came to power as a result of a coup and just went too far stop violating the rights of the Russian-speaking ethnic minority (although the vast majority of Ukrainian citizens speak Russian), as required by the Convention on the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.

These are the Western rules where even thinking about infringing on a European language is unthinkable. Now, since the Ukrainians have “sworn an oath” of allegiance to the West and unquestioningly do what they are told, they can do anything.

They accept reality. There is no way around it. We will push for protecting the rights of Russians (wherever they may live), the Russian-speaking population in accordance with conventions signed by all Western states. We will insist that Russia's security interests are not ignored as was the case for many years after the Soviet Union ceased to exist. They lied to our faces that NATO would not move an inch.

Question: The French politician Charles de Gaulle said that a person can have friends, but a politician cannot. What do you think about this?

Sergey Lavrov: I'm almost sure that when the great Frenchman Charles de Gaulle said this, he had the same person in mind.

Anyone, no matter their profession or what they do in life, must have friends. Not having friends is unnatural. When a politician gets together with his friends, he stops being a politician. For them, he is a friend and a classmate. At least, that’s who I am when I see the guys with whom I went to school, joined student construction teams, or rafted down Siberian rivers. I'm not a minister with them. They wouldn’t understand if I tried to pose as a minister. We are friends and that's all there is to it.

Question: Do you have a dream? If not, did you used to have any? Did it come true for you?

Sergey Lavrov: To that, I can either give you a short answer or talk endlessly. At each stage of their development, people want to achieve something. It's good to finish school, go to college, and get an interesting job. You can call it dreams. Or, we can operate on the premise that it is normal for a person to set goals and strive to achieve them.

Speaking of romantic dreams, people can have pipe dreams. As folk wisdom says, dreaming won’t hurt you. You just need to know your interests, who you want to become and then move towards that goal. The Primakov Gymnasium graduates have many more opportunities than graduates of other educational institutions. I don't want to hurt anyone’s feelings, but your school is a great institution.

Question: Is there a question that you have never been asked, but would like to give an answer to?

Sergey Lavrov: There are no such questions. But that doesn't mean you haven't hit the mark. When I want to give an answer to any particular question, I make it so that I get asked that question. Believe me, it's not difficult. All you need to do is be friends with journalists.

Question: They’ve been talking about limiting Russia's veto power in the UN Security Council since March or April. We have been expelled from the UN Human Rights Council. Will the international relations system change any time soon? Or will it remain unchanged given the ongoing events? Should it be reformed?

Sergey Lavrov: We left the Human Rights Council of our own accord. They were going to expel us from there or to suspend our membership. We decided to do so ourselves. The Council discredited itself long before the current developments in Ukraine began.

As you may be aware, there used to be a UN Commission on Human Rights under the UN Economic and Social Council. The Americans never stopped criticising it since they thought it was not aggressive enough with regard to the “offenders.” To a large extent (if not decisively) the creation of the current Human Rights Council, which is the Organisation’s highest representative body and is elected by the UN General Assembly, was their idea.

This Council’s revised statutes are based on the principle of sovereign equality of states, whereby each country is subject to a regular review of its human rights practices. A commission is created, questions are asked, and the country provides answers. Everyone must regularly report to the others on an equal basis. It appeared to resolve the problem of fair consideration of a particular country’s track record.

The West didn’t think it was enough. Each time, in violation of the equal process, they would come up with a resolution that flat-out condemned a particular country at a UN Council on Human Rights session. This serves nothing from the point of view of achieving results. The language of these resolutions was rude and insulting. If you want people to heed your advice, you need to use a different tone when talking to them. These are the manners adopted by the modern West. They are what they are and can’t be changed.

We have quit the Council of Europe of our own accord. From an organisation concerned with unity of the European legal space, the CE has degenerated into a tool of US interests (even though the United States is just an observer and not a member of the Council of Europe). For five years, the Americans have shown a tendency to privatise the secretariats of international organisations. They place their people in leading positions. To our great regret, they have influence over countries voting on personnel decisions. Americans are rushing around the world. What sovereign equality of states? Russia said why it was doing what it was doing. The Americans and the West expressed their attitude. Why not allow others to determine their position on their own? And they did so. Practically no one has joined the sanctions except the West. But they are rushing around the world – both the Americans, and the EU members, and the British, who are the friskiest lot – and urging countries to join the anti-Russia sanctions. What equality and respect can you expect here? None!

The Council of Europe has taken the same path. It has destroyed the consensus culture that was always at the core of this European organisation’s work. It always made it possible to find mutually acceptable solutions that balanced the interests of all those involved. Issues of interest to the West have long been put to the vote. They pushed overwhelming majorities through the Council of Europe. The EU’s behaviour in the Council of Europe is also interesting. When a human rights problem emerged in a EU country, Brussels admitted its existence but said that there was no need for worry because the EU had a procedure of its own, one unrelated to the Council of Europe, to oversee how EU member countries lived up to their human rights commitments. They have fenced themselves off from the Council of Europe, declaring that they will manage their internal matters on their own but where the former Soviet republics, now independent states and CE members, are concerned, they will follow their behaviour closely. Here is haughtiness and a sense of superiority for you. To my mind, they are destroying the Council of Europe, like many other organisations, where they are trying to operate on the basis of diktat, ultimatums and direct blackmail rather than equality.  When they have to obtain a certain voting result at the UN, for example… my colleagues told me what methods they use to make them vote the way the West needs. They would hint to a specific person (a country’s UN ambassador) that they will vote in such and such manner at tomorrow’s voting and call on others to do the same, reminding them that they have an account at a US bank or that their children are enrolled in a [US] college or university. I am not exaggerating. I know many people who told me this. I believe them.   

As for the UN Security Council, no one can change anything unless a decision is adopted that must be ratified by all the permanent members of the UN Security Council, including the Russian Federation. In other words, it is impossible to change the status of any of the five permanent members.

UN Security Council reform is being discussed at present.  There are several options, the main one concerning its numerical composition. Negotiations at the General Assembly have been in progress for twenty years, if not longer. Originally, a resolution was passed, which proclaimed the need to expand the number of UN Security Council members. According to the document, the reform should be based on common consent, not consensus. A one-hundred-percent consensus is hardly possible in things of this kind. There will always be one or two states that will distance themselves from consensus. This is why the resolution, which has launched the process of reform, says “on the basis of common consent.”   

Today, there are two groups of countries. One group is following the Four (India, Brazil, Japan and Germany), which have staked their claim to permanent membership on the UN Security Council and rallied together to this end. On the same basis, they are working on countries in other regions in a bid to gain their support. Their firm belief is that there should be new seats of permanent members. The second group of countries, on the contrary, hold (to quote our Mexican friends) that permanent membership is an “injustice placed in the foundation of the United Nations.” The foundation cannot be changed, but this injustice should not be multiplied. Let us, they say, add a certain number of non-permanent members without creating permanent seats. These are two incompatible approaches. At a certain stage, people have become aware that it is impossible to “marry” two diametrically opposite points of view and suggested looking for a compromise that will consist in that we will create new “semi-permanent” seats instead of additional permanent seats. Today, a country elected to a non-permanent seat holds it for two years and cannot be reelected again immediately after the expiry of its term of office. It has been suggested to create a third category, semi-permanent members (in addition to the existing permanent and non-permanent members), which will be elected from a limited number of countries (30 of these have been identified) for 10 years with the right of immediate reelection. This failed to gain traction. I am illustrating how completely incompatible these points of view are that this is the compromise idea that resulted.

So far, the process is developing. The Four want to put this issue to a vote and decide it by two-thirds. In fact, the UN Charter says that two-thirds of the vote on important matters is OK. But a resolution to launch this process requires common consent rather than two-thirds, which is more than the two-thirds. So, the talks are in progress. 

For us, something else is critically important which we try to make clear to our colleagues from the developing world. We conveyed many times publicly that India and Brazil are more than fitting candidates for UNSC permanent membership, if the decision is made to create more permanent seats. However, for obvious reasons, we cannot say the same about Germany or Japan. First, six out of 15 members of the UN Security Council are Western countries which is not fair. Look at Germany and Japan’s politics. Japan is a Western country in terms of its positions. Neither Germany nor Japan is doing anything that would go against the policy pursued by the United States, Great Britain or France which means that the UN Security Council will not get any added value if these two countries become UNSC members. The fact that the developing countries are underrepresented matters a lot. It will only get worse. So, we make it clear that if we want to reform the UN Security Council, it must be expanded to include developing countries. We can easily agree to have more permanent seats, but we can also agree to have more non-permanent ones provided this is a broad-based decision. Two-thirds of vote is necessary for voting to be legal. However, the remaining one-third is not represented by rogue nations. The group that is against the creation of new permanent places includes Scandinavians, Mexicans, Argentineans, Spaniards, and Italians. These countries, first, have an established reputation within the UN, and second, they are donors that fund multiple programmes. Pitting these countries against each other just for the sake of voting... They will vote and split the UN, and then “this” will need to be ratified. All five permanent members must necessarily ratify such an amendment to the UN Security Council’s Charter.

The Western countries’ attempts to further strengthen their positions within the UN Security Council at the expense of the developing countries are a serious matter. No one can deprive the permanent members of the veto power which is enshrined in the UN Security Council’s Charter. An amendment to change that will not pass. Everyone realises this. This is reality. The very reality that follows from Alexander Gorchakov’s wisdom.

There have been other attempts. The French have for a long time been advancing an idea to adopt a decision whereby the UN Security Council permanent members would assume voluntary restrictions and not use the veto power when it comes to gross mass violations of human rights, international and humanitarian law, or crimes against humanity. Sounds nice.

When the French first put forward this initiative, we asked them what it would look like in real life. What does “gross mass violation of human rights or international humanitarian law” look like? The court is supposed to determine this. The UN Security Council follows its own rules of procedure. The way the French and their supporters are framing the issues makes us ask direct and straightforward questions. Okay. So, you are saying we will not use the right of veto in case of “gross mass violations.” When do gross violations become mass violations? Is it 100? 120? How about 99? Would 119 be okay? That is, it is practically unworkable and is used exclusively as propaganda or a public relations ploy.

This issue is being widely discussed. In addition to membership, the intergovernmental group that is considering the UN Security Council reform is concerned about the veto power. We need to look for realistic agreements. Now, it is critical that everyone comes to an agreement that the existing UN Security Council’s major drawback is the lack of proper representation of the developing countries. This is our position.

Question: Are there any people in your life whose example you still follow, although you have accomplished a lot in life and enjoy authority with many people?

Sergey Lavrov: When I was your age and even younger, I wanted to take after some people while in school.

I enrolled at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO) by sheer coincidence. The Institute held entrance exams a month earlier that other higher education institutions. I dreamed of enrolling at the Moscow Engineering Physics Institute (National Research Nuclear University MEPhI) because I idolised Sergey Kuznetsov, our teacher of physics and mathematics, God rest his soul. He was a wonderful educator and friend, and he was not much older than we were. In fact, he was eight or nine years older. We went hiking together, visited different places and were real friends. I tried to take after him. Sergey Kuznetsov told me that he knew that physics was an interesting subject, but that I like the humanities better. I even took offence. He explained, that, in his opinion, I was well-disposed towards him as a teacher, and that was the reason for following in his footsteps. However, it turned out that MEPhI and all other higher education institutions held entrance exams from August 1, while MGIMO was from July 1. My mother told me to give it a try; if not for that, I would not be sitting here with you.

While at MGIMO, we also liked and valued some of our professors. I was assigned the Sinhalese language, and I studied it under the expert guidance of Alexander Belkovich who, unfortunately, is not with us today either. He hadn’t been to Ceylon Island, now Sri Lanka, but he taught an official language of that country. No other country uses Sinhalese. He and I played football together. We had a language course after all other seminars, and then we would go to a hockey rink in a nearby courtyard. We ran about, kicking the football, and he would bring his friends.

Rafik Nishanov who was my first superior when I joined the Soviet Foreign Ministry is still here. He served as Soviet Ambassador to Sri Lanka where I went to practice my Sinhalese. I can still write Sinhalese letters. Well, I could go on and on.

I would like to mention Yevgeny Primakov who was Foreign Minister for a while, and who did a lot to restore the Foreign Ministry’s national dignity during his short tenure. He also started implementing a policy course worthy of the Russian Federation. He had a fantastic personality. We organised comedy shows when Russia and other countries cooperated with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), but we stopped doing this about ten years ago. During our meetings, each delegation put on a show, concert or a sketch. He was only too happy to take part, and he was like a big rock. It is hardly surprising that his headstone in Novodevichye Cemetery looks like a rock, and this is very apt and to the point. The same is true of a question of whether he is a politician or a friend. He never acted like a politician when we gathered for birthday celebrations or friends’ get-togethers. In this country, there are many people whose example should be followed.

Question: Western countries are referred to in the ministry’s press releases and your statements as our colleagues, which has a positive implication. But would you describe Britain as our colleague in a personal conversation when you don’t need to comply with diplomatic protocol? Do you believe the secret world government conspiracy theory?

Sergey Lavrov: I need to consult a dictionary. If memory serves, a colleague is a person of the same profession. In other words, a colleague is not a comrade or partner, although we sometimes say, “our Western partners.” But we usually mentally add “so-called.” Sometimes we say, “our so-called Western partners.”  Of course, their attitude is not partner-like. It is extreme arrogance, an irremediable self-righteousness, a belief that they are doing the right thing always and everywhere, a feeling of superiority, a superiority complex. There are different explanations.

I was amazed at the speed with which the West adopted a Russophobic position after the beginning of the special military operation, encouraging Russophobia in everyday life. This means that they never stopped thinking this about Russia since the 16th, 17th or 18th century. Political analysts are using Russophobia now to draw public attention to the Western description of Russia from that period. At the beginning of the 20th century, American political analysts described Russians as barbarians. The pompous deliberations about universal human values and Europe from the Atlantic to the Urals and on to Vladivostok, which became popular after the Cold War, have vanished overnight.

I don’t want to think the worst of people, but one of the explanations is that it is a deep-seated feeling, and that the masks have finally come down. Sober voices can be heard now, too, when people criticise bans of Fyodor Dostoyevsky and Leo Tolstoy at schools in the West and the renaming of streets. We have taken note of the attempts by Western governments, at least many of them, to play up to Russophobia in everyday life and even to gain advantage from such negative and shameful sentiments. This is alarming.

Just listen to what Latvia says. They say that they would confiscate Russians’ money which has been frozen [in their banks] and use it to benefit Ukraine, and that they should keep part of these funds for themselves, as compensation for the Soviet “occupation.” Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki has told Norway that it should share its oil profit windfall now that oil prices are so high. Likewise, the Ukrainian authorities are saying that everyone owes them, that Germany is reacting too slowly and that their prime minister is a “sulky liver sausage.” This was impossible to imagine only yesterday.

These people think that they are the king of the hill. They have been told that they can do anything as long as they denounce Russia and everything Russian. Take the Ukrainian ambassador to Germany, Andrey Melnik. The internet is full of his obnoxious demands on the government of the host country. He has personally insulted German politicians. This has become fashionable, and there are no rules for those who are “for the Americans.” The Americans have said openly that they would not permit a bipolar world, which must remain unipolar. US Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen, former head of the Federal Reserve System, has called for major reforms at the Bretton Woods institutions (the IMF and the World Bank), as well as at the WTO, because China has surged too far ahead and is stepping on US toes. In other words, she has admitted that China has attained its economic might and continues to gather momentum by relying on the rules which the West used to create the Bretton Woods institutions and the WTO. China has won at the Western game. And the West immediately called for changing the rules. This is all that needs to be said about Western rules. Moreover, they claim that the rules for the IMF, the World Bank and the WTO must be written in the United States and Europe, and they will explain the new rules to the other countries after they are adopted.

We should be aware of the fact that this situation reflects a deep-seated view existing in the world. The West has “called the tune” for more than 500 years. It gained colonies, “civilised” them, handed down the rules, and used a ruler to divide countries. Look at the borders in Africa. They used a ruler and a pencil to draw a border down the middle of an ethnic group, with one part of it ending up in one country and the other in a different (and often hostile) country. The West wants to perpetuate this state of affairs, but it will fail. It is evident how China and India are developing. It is no accident that they have been trying to draw India into anti-China formats. Japan recently hosted a QUAD meeting. The QUAD (the United States, Japan, Australia, and India) was created a couple of years ago. Our Indian friends are well aware that these are fairly indecorous games. They are insisting that they are ready to engage in the QUAD’s economic projects but will never support the effort to give it a military dimension.    

Then they got down to forming a military alliance, AUKUS, that includes Australia,  the United States, and the United Kingdom (which has a finger in every pie, as you understand). Today, they are trying to drag Japan and South Korea into it, split ASEAN, and draw other countries closer to this military bloc. In doing so, they are destroying the universal organisations which have existed in the Asia Pacific Region for forty years and ensured the participation in a single format of the ASEAN countries and their partners, including all major countries (China, India, the US, Russia, Japan, [South] Korea, and Australia). All of them kept together.

And now they are out to divide these formats in order to create new ones that would be accountable to them alone, formats where there is no need to seek consensus or invent compromises and where strong-arm tactics will be encouraged, including with the intent to contain China as well as Russia, for Russia is also a Pacific power.   

We should arm ourselves with patience, while evolving our own international communion mechanisms. There are the SCO, BRICS, EAEU, CSTO, and CIS.

The centre of international development has shifted to Eurasia. At this moment, we have the most extensive network of partnerships in the Eurasian region. We should rely on them for the country’s future growth, including its transport, transit and logistics sectors.

I am confident that this is the right path to follow. Hoping for the return of McDonald’s (to simplify the matter) means marking time and doing nothing in the expectation that someone will come and again start supplying spares, components or semiconductors. No, our Western partners have proved for the umpteenth time that they are impossible to negotiate with.   

They told us time and again that we were seeking to turn away from Europe and withdraw to the East. But we were not turning away from anyone. Europe was humiliated by those who staged a coup in Ukraine in February 2014, a day after Germany, France and Poland had guaranteed the agreements reached between the then President of Ukraine and the opposition, which spat on the signatures on those agreements and staged a coup d’etat the next day. The West ate their dust and later took to representing the opposition as “part of the democratic process,” rather than putschists.

“Just swear fealty and you will be forgiven for everything” – this is their logic. The EU has broken off all relations with Russia. As of 2014, we used to hold two summits with the EU every year. There were meetings between the Government of Russia in a body and the European Commission in a body. We were creating four common spaces and twenty sectoral dialogues in areas ranging from energy and transport to human rights.  There were plans for a modernisation partnership to implement hi-tech plans. A huge number of ramified structures were sustaining the fabric of our relations with the EU. But they renounced it all overnight.

Sanctions began affecting trade even as early as that period. As is only natural, if our neighbours in the West are unwilling to continue a pro-active search for opportunities to deepen the partnership, while those in the East are willing to do so, the result is self-evident.  It so happens that Eurasia is emerging as the most promising region of the world. We should focus on its development based on tools other than the dollar or SWIFT. We ought to create our own wherewithal. This is not so difficult either. We have considerably increased the share of trade in national currencies of partner countries (Russia-China, Russia-India, Russia-Iran) and within the framework of the Eurasian Economic Union. It is necessary to look forward. Yes, we are faced with a challenge. We should be much more pro-active in developing our own country. But this is also a huge advantage and source of potential.

Question: What are the objectives of your policy towards China?

Sergey Lavrov: To strengthen friendly ties with our closest neighbour. We have doctrinal documents that describe our relations as strategic partnership and multifaceted interaction. We have a long border with the People's Republic of China, as well as shared interests in upholding the principles of justice and multipolarity in international affairs. We are guided by mutual economic benefit. Now that the West has taken a dictatorial position, our economic ties with China will grow even faster. Apart from revenues flowing into the state budget, this gives us the opportunity to implement plans to develop the Far East and Eastern Siberia. Most of our projects with China are being implemented there. This is an opportunity for us to tap our potential in the high-tech area, including nuclear energy, as well as in other fields. China owns well-developed IT projects that aren’t inferior to Western solutions. Many of them can provide mutual benefit.

In the international arena, both Russia and China are interested in seeing the West stop hindering the natural processes that would democratise international relations and establish a true multipolar order, which would reflect the real weight of states in the changed world. When we say we support more democratic international relations, we are not trying to invent any new rules – something the West is doing – but we emphasise that democracy can be ensured at the international level by returning to the origins of the United Nations. Everything is written down in the UN Charter, including the sovereign equality of states. As soon as we ensure this in practice, there will be broad democracy, not within countries, which is what the West is doing, but in the international arena.

When we were negotiating with the West, they proposed writing down that we support democracy in every country. We said all right, only each country should determine its own democracy. Let's also write that there must be democracy in the international arena, as is written in the UN Charter. But they avoided such statements. They no longer need sovereign equality. They want a rules-based international order, as they publicly say.

Question: Where did you spend your childhood, and what was it like? What fond memories do you have?

Sergey Lavrov: I have glowing memories. I spent my childhood in Noginsk, Moscow Region, where my grandparents lived. My mum went on a long business trip, and I lived with my grandparents. The city used to be called Bogorodsk (such a beautiful name). Now I am lobbying the leadership of the Moscow Region for this city to be named Bogorodsk again. We lived in very ordinary wooden houses. I lived there through the second grade. Then we moved to Moscow, but every weekend, I went out there to see friends, to play football, and hockey in winter. I lived close to the Spartak stadium, and that “doomed” me to be a football fan. Unfortunately, I have not seen my childhood friends for a long time. One of them has moved to Belarus, the other, to the Far East. We have scattered.

My memories include little childish pranks, verging on disruptive acts, just like everyone else while playing outdoors. It was a good time. But I can assure you, any period in a person's life is good. You will realise this, I am sure.

Question: How often does a politician have to make tough decisions that go against personal convictions in a situation where those decisions must be made? How hard is it to make them?

Sergey Lavrov: If the decisions that need to be made are at odds with personal convictions, it is better not to make them. If making them is unavoidable, but they are in conflict with personal convictions, then one needs to choose between remaining in office or stepping down. There is no way around it. At least for me.

Question: What book has had the greatest influence on you and helped you in life?

Sergey Lavrov: The Master and Margarita.

Question: You said that you graduated from MGIMO University. I'm planning to apply there. I would like to know what you as a person, not as a politician think about the prospects for a girl to build a successful career in diplomacy? Or, is it the prerogative of men?

Sergey Lavrov: In Soviet times, a woman in diplomacy was a rare occurrence. The situation changed significantly when I took office. Now, we recruit about 120 new employees to the Foreign Ministry yearly and almost half of them are women. This has been happening for many years now. The number of female employees in the Ministry is growing constantly and proportionately. There are now many women in the positions of deputy directors of departments which means there will be more female ambassadors soon. Deputy Permanent Representative of Russia to the UN in New York is a woman, just like in a number of other positions. So far, it’s not enough. But soon quantity will lead to quality.

Each person is special. It would be wrong to say that men, not women should work at the Foreign Ministry. Everything depends on you. There is no such thing as catch-all advice.

Question: In 2015, in an interview with Radio Rossiya, you famously said, “The international situation in the era of globalisation and interdependence is such that if someone decides to bring down the Iron Curtain, they might inadvertently get something caught in it while they are doing so.” I believe that in the situation at hand, the Western countries not only got some part caught in it, but got it cut off already. Do you think Western countries will re-establish diplomatic relations with us and when can this happen?

Sergey Lavrov: It is entirely up to the Western countries. I believe it will happen when they get over their “rage” and realise that Russia is here, it did not go anywhere and, I’m convinced, is getting stronger year in and year out. If they decide to come up with something in order to resume relations, we will give it some thought as to whether we need it or not. What we are now creating is not just some import substitution process. We must stop being in any way dependent on Western supplies of whatever it may be to ensure the development of critically important industries to ensure security, the economy and social sphere of our Motherland.

We will rely only on ourselves and the countries that have proven their reliability and do not dance to someone else's tune. If Western countries come to their senses and come up with ideas for some forms of cooperation, we will then look into that.



17.08.2022 - Letter to the Editor of “Financial Times” on the article “Russia rebuffs calls to allow access to Ukraine nuclear power plant” (12/08/2022), 15 August, 2022

Assuming the worst about Russia’s motives seems to have become instinctive to some Western media. However one wonders whether twisting facts to fit the prearranged narrative may pose risks not just for editorial standards but indeed the safety and well-being of all Europeans.

16.08.2022 - Embassy comment on hostile actions by YouTube, 16 August, 2022

On 15 August, YouTube deleted without warning 29 videos from the Embassy channel. Most of the videos were Russian Ambassador to the UK Andrei Kelin’s interviews dated from 3 March to 15 August 2022.

08.08.2022 - Embassy comment on the current situation around the Zaporozhye nuclear power plant, 8 August, 2022

The Zaporozhye NPP was secured by Russian military servicemen at an early stage of the ongoing Special Military Operation with a clear objective – to prevent Ukrainian nationalist formations and foreign mercenaries from carrying out deliberately staged provocations and “false flag” attacks with predictably catastrophic consequences. The plant is run by the Ukrainian energy operator, but Russian military servicemen ensure the safety and security of the power plant.

08.08.2022 - Comment by Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova on anniversary of the August events of 2008 in the South Caucasus, 8 August 2022

Today, on the 14th anniversary of the beginning of Georgia’s military aggression against the people of South Ossetia and the Russian peacekeepers of the Joint Peacekeeping Forces in the zone of the Georgian-South Ossetian conflict, we yet again pay the tribute to the memory of the victims of that treacherous attack and to the courage of those who sacrificed their lives to save the South Ossetian people from extirpation.

06.08.2022 - Statement by Mr. Igor Vishnevetskii, Deputy Head of the Russian Delegation, at the 8th Plenary Meeting of the 10th NPT Review Conference, 6 August 2022

Right during our meeting, alarming information is coming about the situation at the Zaporozhye NPP. Just two hours ago, the Ukrainian armed forces shelled the Zaporozhye NPP with large-caliber artillery. The shells hit the facility distributing electricity to the plant, which is fraught with the risk of its blackout.There is a fire in the area of the shelling as pipelines were damaged.

05.08.2022 - Statement by Mr. Andrey Belousov, Deputy Head of the Delegation of the Russian Federation at the Tenth Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (Cluster I, Nuclear Disarmament) 5, August 2022

Nuclear disarmament is at the forefront of the international agenda. Despite visible progress in strategic arms reduction, the nuclear powers are accused of almost sabotaging their disarmament obligations. We cannot agree with this interpretation, at least with regard to the Russian Federation.

05.08.2022 - Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s statement and answers to media questions following ASEAN ministerial meetings, Phnom Penh, August 5, 2022

We held a Russia-ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ meeting. This is an annual event. We reviewed the implementation of the agreements reached at the Russia-ASEAN summit in the autumn of 2021 held via videoconference. The summit adopted an important document – the Comprehensive Plan of Action (CPA) to implement the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and the Russian Federation strategic partnership (2021–2025).

03.08.2022 - Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks and answers to media questions following talks with Foreign Minister of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar Wunna Maung Lwin, Nay Pyi Taw, August 3, 2022

We held good talks with our colleagues from Myanmar. This year, we have intensively developed contacts in all areas. Our mechanisms for cooperation include the trade, economic, military, military-technical, humanitarian and education fields.

02.08.2022 - Statement by Mr. Igor Vishnevetskii, Deputy Head of the Delegation of the Russian Federation at the 10th NPT Review Conference (General Debate), New York , August 2, 2022

In over half a century of its existence, the Treaty has become a key element of the international system of security and strategic stability. The obligations stipulated by the Treaty in the areas of non-proliferation, disarmament, and the peaceful use of nuclear energy fully serve the interests of nuclear and non-nuclear-weapon states alike.

02.08.2022 - Foreign Ministry’s statement on personal sanctions on British politicians, journalists, and businesspeople, 1 August, 2022

In response to the British government’s expanding list of personal sanctions on the leading representatives of Russia’s social and political circles, business and the media, Russia has included the British politicians, journalists, and businesspeople, who promote London’s hostile policy aimed at demonising Russia and isolating it internationally, on the Russian “stop list.”

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