23 January 2018
Moscow: 00:30
London: 21:30

Consular queries:  
+44 (0) 203 668 7474  




Interview of the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to “Rossiyskaya Gazeta”, published on 10 October 2013

Question: The discussion about the possibility of using force against Syria raises the issue of international lawagain acutely. Let’s talk about it. Do you agree that this is a strange right – there are obligations, but almost no sanctions for their violation. Am I right?

Sergey Lavrov: International law has, in fact, no enforcement and punishment system, which are characteristic for the national law of countries. However, this principle is organically derived from the principle of the sovereign equality of states. States are equal in their rights, and therefore their consent is required to create any control or enforcement mechanism in respect of actions they carry out.

After humanity had experienced all the horror of the Second World War, the countries involved created such a powerful mechanism for enforcing peace as the UN Security Council, and provided that body with the right to decide when force may be used in international relations for the collective interest.

The history of international communication has developed another effective enforcement mechanism to make countries comply with their obligations – the principle of mutuality. This principle is directly effective in the area of bilateral agreements: if one party allows any significant violation of the contract, the other party has a lawful right to suspend or even stop its fulfilment.

However, if we talk about a universal and fundamental principle of international law like the non-use of force, it is hard not to agree that the situation around Syria has made this topic acutely topical again.

Seventy years ago the use of force in international relations was a common thing: countries simply searched for a good cause to justify their actions. After the Second World War the situation changed – now it is legitimate to use force only for self-defence, or based on a decision of the UN Security Council. And the very fact that countries, as a rule do not use force as one of the means of implementation of their foreign policy interests is a credit to modern international law, the principles of which are reflected in the UN Charter.

Of course, we should admit that from time to time some countries, following their market interests, attempt to find exceptions to the general principle of the prohibition to use force. Just recently we heard statements regarding the admissibility of using military force to promote personal interests in certain regions.

It is evident to us that the more a country disrupts the principle of refusal of any threats of force or its use in words or actions, the less it can count on its implementation by others. This is a dangerous path leading to the destruction of the foundations of this international architecture. You know that no country, even the most powerful, can normally develop in conditions of chaos, which inevitably arise as a result of the unlimited use of force.

Question: If there is law, there must be a judicial system applying it. However, there is no international judicial system. Of course, some tribunals are created for this or that reason, but that is not a system. How would you comment?

Sergey Lavrov:It is hard to agree with you. What about the International Court of Justice and the Permanent Court of Arbitration based in the Peace Palace in The Hague?

The International Court of Justice is the main judicial body of the United Nations, which has been successfully applying international law for many decades. The very fact of the existence within the UN,of such an authoritative body, based on the principles of the independence of judges and “representation of the main forms of civilization and of the principal legal systems of the world”, is a factor making the entire universal system of collective security sustainable and legitimate.

Decisions and consultative opinions of the Court make an important contribution in the establishment of international legal provisions in different areas, such as treaty law, marine law, the responsibility of countries, law on international organisations, and maritime delimitations. For our part, we actively use its case-law to resolve many practical issues in bilateral and multilateral relations.

Welisten carefully to the appeals of UN member states to consider the issue of adopting Court jurisdiction according to its Statute. The USSR, the successor of which is Russia, traditionally preferred to resolve interstate disputes by political and diplomatic means. Accordingly, when acceding to international treaties, which envisagedthe transfer of disputes regarding their interpretation and application to the International Court of Justice, the USSR, as a rule, made reservations regarding non-recognition of the mandatory Court jurisdiction. However, at the end of the 1980’s,in the last century, the USSR revoked its reservations regarding non-recognition of the mandatory Court jurisdiction in respect to several human rights conventions. From that time on, we refrained from any reservations regarding non-recognition of the mandatory Court jurisdiction under international treaties concluded with the UN. In 2007, Russia revoked all the reservations made by the USSR, when concluding several universal conventions to fight different manifestations of terrorism. We consider the removal of these barriers an important contribution to the strengthening of the international legal grounds of antiterrorist interaction.

As to ad hoc tribunals, these are about criminal international cases, which judge persons accused of committing crimes against humanity, and military crimes.

We expect that the practice of activity of these tribunals is still far from the ideals of justice. In many cases they have indulged in political engagements, low quality sentences, long and very costly proceedings. This is primarily about the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.

Taking into account the not very successful experience of ad hoc tribunals, an attempt was made to create a universal International Criminal Court – ICC, based on an agreement, i.e. the free will of countries. The ICC’s competence includes the most serious international crimes – genocide, crimes against humanity, military crimes, and aggression. Currently, 122 countries acknowledge the jurisdiction of the ICC.

The Russian Federation follows the activity of this judicial body closely and cooperates with it on a range of cases. However, we still cannot call the results of its work impressive: in 11 years we have had one condemnatory sentence and one of acquittal. At the same time, the rather modest geographical coverage of the cases examined by the ICC makes us cautious in evaluating its universality. However, such a body, will evidently continue operations, and its effect will be more and more noticeable.

Question: According to our Constitution, in the Russian legal system international treaties are “stronger” than internal laws. This is probably not right. However, I have a question: how many international treaties were we party to 30 years ago, and how many today?

Sergey Lavrov: According to the Constitution of the Russian Federation (Article 15(4)) “the universally-recognized norms of international law and international treaties and agreements of the Russian Federation shall be a component part of its legal system”. I will expand on this: this norm is one of the foundations of the constitutional order of the Russian Federation stipulated in Chapter 1 of the Constitution. Here, according to the Constitution (again Article 15(4)), “if an international treaty or agreement of the Russian Federation fixes other rules than those envisaged by law, the rules of the international agreement shall be applied”.

In practice, it means that in the hierarchy of legal norms forming the Russian legal system, international law is above federal law or a law of a constituent entity of the Russian Federation. As the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation has confirmed, a norm of an international treaty has a direct effect in our country unless an adoption of an internal legal act is required to use it.

It is of principled importance that the Constitution of the Russian Federation forms effective legal grounds for the resolution of issues, within the internal competence of our country, and for its active participation in international life. As the globalization process develops, the “field” for collective law-making of countries is steadily expanding, but the border between “domestic” and “international” gets erased.

Now to the essence of your question. Yes, the number of international treaties – in general in the world and with Russia’s participation – compared to the Soviet period has increased many times over and continues to steadily grow. Every year the Russian Federation concludes more than 200 bilateral international agreements. The Archive of foreign policy of the Russian Federation stores official texts of about 20 thousand international treaties including those also concluded in the period of existence of the USSR.

In our opinion, this is a steady trend conditioned by the objective reality of international life. The role of international relations as a global regulating factor is noticeably increasing, their structure becomes more and more complex, embracing the bilateral, sub-regional, regional and global levels. It is not a secret that activity in some areas is international by definition and may be regulated at a national level only to a limited extent. This includes, for example, the use of modern information and communication technologies and outer space, disarmament and fighting international terrorism; human rights and environmental protection.

As you know, Russia makes respect and the observation of international law by all countries the cornerstone of its relations, it aspires to perform its international obligations in good faith – we cannot imagine international communication and development of international cooperation in different areas without it – thus making a contribution to the resolution of global problems and the improvement of controllability of the international system. Provisions of the Constitution of the Russian Federation enforcing the supremacy of international law over domestic law certainly contribute to this.

We know that we need to give credit to our domestic professionals, who developed the Constitution of the Russian Federation. This year we celebrate its 20 year anniversary. From the point of view of international relations it is certainly future-oriented.

Question: Each international treaty is a loss of a part of state sovereignty (there is such a point of view). Do you have any objections?

Sergey Lavrov: A sovereign state develops and adopts national laws and at the same time on equal grounds participates in international life, resolving for itself the question, in which areas and with which objects of international law it is interested or needs to interact.

When a country concludes an international treaty – it is a sovereign act aimed at the achievement of legal determination, establishment of mutual rights and liabilities with other countries. Of course, I mean the cases when this process is voluntary, without external interference.

International law allows for the possibility of terminating an international treaty, of withdrawing from it. These issues are regulated by the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties of 1969 and provisions of the international treaty itself.

Finally, sovereign states themselves determine the internal procedure, within the framework of which they make the decision to provide binding authority to international treaties. In our country, this procedure is established, in particular, by the Federal Law “On International Treaties of the Russian Federation”. At the same time, the procedure of making such decisions is not an exclusive prerogative of the executive power. If a treaty contains rules differing from those established by federal laws, the decision about Russia’s consent to the binding authority of that treaty is adopted in the form of a federal law, the draft of which, according to the Constitution (Articles 104, 105 and 106) is reviewed by both houses of the Federal Assembly, and only if it is approved by them, the President of the Russian Federation signs it.

If we talk about the obligation “to act within the framework of law”, it is an irreversible condition to restrict any abuse of power, dictatorship and thus a guarantee of sovereign rights rather than their limitation. To that end, Russia consistently speaks out in favour of strengthening the legal foundations of world order. The new revision of the Concept of the Foreign Policy of the Russian Federation approved by President Vladimir Putin in February highlights that maintaining and strengthening international lawfulness is one of the priority issues of the activity of our country in the international arena. We assume that the rule of law should ensure peaceful and fruitful cooperation of countries observing the balance of their interests, which frequently do not match, and guarantee stability of the global community in general.

Question: Is globalisation a common economy and general law?

Sergey Lavrov: Globalisation primarily is an objective reality. This term reflects large scale changes affecting all the areas of human life – policy, economics, culture, international relations. The modern world is becoming more and more interdependent and less predictable, events are developing faster and faster. International relations are becoming more complex and multidimensional.

Before our very eyes, processes of regional integration, formation of regional associations, within which national authorities are raised to supranational level, become faster. The European Union is the most evident example of this.

Integration processes are actively developingin the Eurasian space, primarily within the framework of Customs Union and the Common Economic Space of the “troika” of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan, with prospects of forming a Eurasian Economic Union by the 1 January 2015, which is a new step of integration. Our partners Kyrgyzstan and Armenia have expressed their intent to accede to this association, and other CIS countries have also shownan interest in these processes. Incidentally, we are ready for the approximation of the created Eurasian structures and the European Union,within the context of implementation of a common economic and humanitarian space stretching from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean – on the basis of equality and mutual respect, of course. There are the foundations for that – primarily, these are WTO standards.

However, this does not diminish the role of the country as the main object of international law. Incidentally, the foreign policies of the European Union are initially a prerogative of national states, although its members aspire to strengthen their unity in the international arena. The global financial and economic crisis confirmed that countries keep their main bargaining tools in their own hands so as to have power over the situation and to prevent it from getting out of control. The activity of the G20 is a confirmation of this: at the peak of the crisis its member states agreed on coordinated measures to support the global economy, ensure stability, balanced and inclusive economic growth and sustainable development. The role of the G20 as an important mechanism in general efforts to strengthen the system of global control was confirmed by the results of the St Petersburg summit of this association.

It is also evident that at the stage of formation of a polycentric international system, the role of diplomacy as a mechanism of coordination of the interests of different countries (both large and small), significantly increases when determining the outline of the new world order, which must be fair, democratic, and reflect all the cultural and civilisational diversity of the modern world.

Therefore, I would not hurry to reach any conclusions about the replacement of countries by some unified scheme. There are no grounds for that yet.

Question: A specific question: what can be done against Syria, if itdoes not observe the conditions of the Chemical Weapons Convention?

Sergey Lavrov:On the 14 September, Syria submitted a document regarding the accession of the country to the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on their Destruction of 1993 (CWC), to the depositary of the Convention – the UN Secretary-General. At the same time, Damascus announced that it will temporarily apply the Convention immediately – before its formal entry into force for Syria on the 14 October. This means that all the provisions of the CWC are already applicable to Syria.

Taking into account the severity of the situation the Executive Committee of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) made a prompt decision defining the parameters and time frame for the process of elimination by Syria of its chemical arsenal under the control of OPCW inspectors.

The decision of the OPCW contains a paragraph about possible actions in case of its non-observance – such cases are brought by the Director General of the Technical Secretariat (TS) of the OPCW to discussion by the Executive Council of the Organisation, which, in turn, decides, whether there are sufficient grounds to transfer the dossier in question to the UN Security Council. This procedure is fully and completely based on CWC rules, namely Article VIII, Paragraph 36, and is not a novelty.

Thus, the central role of the 1993 Convention of the Organisation guarding its observation is emphasised. The role of the UN in this process is to support the OPCW in the implementation of its mandate. This is the purpose of resolution 2118 of the UN Security Council. Of course, if specific and verified information is brought to the Security Council that the requirements on the elimination of chemical weapons are not observed or poisonous weapons have been used by anybody, it will act and make decisions in accordance with its rules and procedures, including potential coercive measures under Chapter VII of the UN Charter. Here it is important that the above mentioned requirements are applicable not only to the regime in Damascus, but also to the opposition. I will also note that resolution 2118 prohibits the transfer of chemical weapons or their components to non-governmental parties and imposes special responsibility for the observation of this prohibition on the neighbours of Syria.

On the 19 September, Syria transferred to the OPCW initial information about its chemical weapons. Experts evaluated it as quite adequate at this stage.

Therefore, there are no grounds to suspect Damascus of misconduct. More detailed information according to Article III of the CWC is expected from Syria at the end of October.

Question: International agreements work well in the area of marine law, intellectual property law, partially in the implementation of arbitration decisions. Why can’t we achieve the same in criminal law? There are constituent elements of a crime, which are common in the criminal codes of all countries. Murder, rape, tax default, terrorism. Then the problem of extradition of criminals would disappear. Every country would be obliged to judge such criminals.

Sergey Lavrov:We cannot say that there is absolutely no international legal regulation in this area. There are many multilateral and bilateral agreements in this area. For example, the Russian Federation is a party to the European Convention on Extradition of 1957, which has 50 participants. There are bilateral agreements on extradition.

However, the issue of extradition for general criminal crimes is not as simple as it may seem. Firstly, many countries, including Russia, do not extradite their nationals to foreign countries. Secondly, there are complications in the area of financial crimes – tax default in one country is not a crime for another country. Thus, the European Convention on Extradition lays down that extradition for financial crimes is enforced, if the parties to the agreement made a special decision about it. Thirdly, there are crimes with political undertones. For example, all countries announce that they are committed to combating terrorism in all its forms and manifestations. However, quite frequently a terrorist acting in the territory of one country is considered a freedom fighter or a victim of a political crime in the other country. The adoption of a universal convention to fight terrorism has been hindered by these contradictions for many years. Fourthly, even if a particular case does not constitute the above mentioned “complicated situations”, the country may refuse to extradite, if it thinks that the extradited person will be subjected to brutal treatment, tortures or other violations of human rights in the country which requested the extradition. Non-extradition on these grounds is an international obligation of any country in the area of human rights.

Having regard to all these, as well as other factors, countries prefer to resolve the issue of extradition in each particular case, without being bound by strict international obligations.

Currently, the UN International Law Commission – an auxiliary body of the United Nations General Assembly dealing with codification and progressive development of international law and which has prepared a draft of many universal conventions – studies the aut dedere aut judicare obligation. However, its consideration is quite complex, and we do not see any possibility of developing a universal convention on this.

Question: You have your brilliant MGIMO, but where else do you take your staff from?

Sergey Lavrov: Thank you for your high evaluation of the MGIMO. We share it absolutely. Along with the Diplomatic Academy of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which we also value a lot, the MGIMO plays a key role in the preparation of young professionals for the Russian diplomatic service.

Once the MGIMO was practically monopolistic as a forge and trainer of staff for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Times have changed, and we employ many graduates from other higher education establishments. The majority of them are large higher education establishments in the capital city and the regions, which ensure high quality of preparation for students according to the specialisation we require – international relations, international law, international economic relations, and international journalism.

This year, for example, 35 graduates of MGLU, MGU, ISAA, RUDN, RGGU, SPbGU, MGUA were employed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In previous years, we employed graduates from large universities of Nizny Novgorod, Kazan, Novosibirsk, Voronezh, and Kuban.

When recruiting young specialists, we primarily pay attention to the results of the studies of the applicant, the profile of his or her preparation, as well as taking into account results of additional tests in two foreign languages at Higher Language Training Courses of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. If all other indicators are equal, we prefer graduates with a knowledge of rare languages and a successful internship in one of the departments of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.


17.01.2018 - Ambassador Alexander Yakovenko's remarks at the unveiling of memorial plaque in Sayes Court Park

Dear Mayor, Dear Councillors, Lady Joan, Ladies and gentlemen, It is now 320 years ago that a truly remarkable man set foot in Deptford. As you know, the Russian Tsar Peter, later named the Great, visited Western Europe in 1697—1698 under the nickname of Peter Mikhailov, with his Grand Embassy. He was eager to find out about the latest achievements in science and technology and create new diplomatic alliances. Of course, England couldn’t escape his attention. He mostly studied shipbuilding at the famous Deptford Dockyard, but he also met King William III, and, reportedly, Isaac Newton. Peter’s landlord, the famous John Evelyn, was also a respected scientist – a founder member of the Royal Society.

13.12.2017 - Ambassador Alexander Yakovenko's remarks at the Presentation of the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia by Russia 2018 Local Organising Committee.

Ladies and gentlemen, dear friends, I am pleased to welcome you to the Russian Embassy at the Presentation of the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia by Russia 2018 Local Organising Committee. It’s a common knowledge, that football is the most popular game in the world. It is an honour for us to host the 2018 FIFA World Cup for the first time in the history of our country. I believe that those who come to Russia to support their national teams will leave with unforgettable memories.

08.12.2017 - Ambassador Alexander Yakovenko's remarks at the Roscosmos "Sputnik" exhibition launch at Rossotrudnichestvo

Ambassador Alexander Yakovenko's remarks at the Roscosmos "Sputnik" exhibition launch at Rossotrudnichestvo (7 December 2017)

25.11.2017 - Ambassador Alexander Yakovenko's remarks at the reception at the Embassy dedicated to Russian Film Week (24 November 2017)

Ladies and gentlemen, Dear friends First of all, I would like to pay tribute to the outstanding Russian opera singer Dmitri Hvorostovsky who passed away this week. In 2015 he gave a concert in this very hall. I am delighted to welcome you at our reception dedicated to the Russian Film Week and the environmental causes it champions. This year their charity partner is World Wide Fund for Nature, which runs many projects in Russia in coordination and with support of the Russian Government. Russia has a unique, fascinating wildlife. A number of this week’s films show the natural beauty of our land and are sure to raise awareness of how fragile this beauty is. We appreciate the WWF effort in Russia and worldwide and call on everybody to become a supporter, especially this year, marked as Year of Ecology in Russia.

20.11.2017 - Ambassador Alexander Yakovenko's remarks at the launch of the Russian Film Week (19 November 2017)

Ladies and gentlemen, It is a pleasure for me to be at the opening of the second edition of the Russian Film Week here in London – which this year also spans to Cambridge and Edinburgh.

16.10.2017 - Unpublished letter to the Editor of The Times (sent 12 October)

Sir, If British MPs are free to speak out, wherever they wish, on any issue, why try to block their freedom of speech (“Helping Putin”, 11 October)? If a TV channel wants (and is legally bound) to present different points of view, why slam those who express these views? If the mere act of giving an interview to foreign media amounts to high treason, why does The Times interview Russian politicians without fear? And finally - while MPs critical of Russia are welcome guests on the Russian TV channel RT, does your paper give the same treatment to those critical of the paper’s owner? Konstantin Shlykov Press Secretary of the Embassy of the Russian Federation

25.09.2017 - PRESENTATION by Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk at the Christian Future of Europe Conference 22 September 2017, London

Your Eminences and Your Excellencies, dear Mr. Ambassador, conference organizers and participants, I cordially greet all of those gathered today at the Russian Embassy in London to partake in this conference dedicated to the question of the future of Christianity in Europe. This topic is not only not losing any of its relevance, but is resounding ever anew. Experts believe that today Christianity remains not only the most persecuted religious community on the planet, but is also encountering fresh challenges which touch upon the moral foundations of peoples' lives, their faith and their values. Recent decades have seen a transformation in the religious and ethnic landscape of Europe.

23.09.2017 - Ambassador Alexander Yakovenko's remarks at presentation of the book "The Mystery of Repentance" held at the Russian Embassy

I’m glad to welcome you here to a discussion of two prominent hierarchs of the Russian Orthodox Church and the Church of England, on Christian future of Europe.

12.09.2017 - Ambassador Alexander Yakovenko's remarks at the exhibition opening (“Scythians: Warriors of ancient Siberia” 12 September, British Museum)

Today the British Museum and the State Hermitage of Saint-Petersburg are once again proving their unique world class by bringing a whole new civilization to London. Ancient, and almost mythical, but creative, powerful and very different from what we have all known about antiquity – the Scythians.

14.07.2017 - Letter of Consul General Mr Andrey Pritsepov to the Herald newspaper, published 13.07.2017

I NOTE a rather questionable article by Mark McLaughlin (“Russians lurking near Faslane to eavesdrop on nuclear submarines", The Herald, July 11). Do you really believe that 145 million Russians would elect a leader who would command his nuclear submarines to chase someone's sole and lonely operative U-boat which is firing missiles in the opposite direction or Type 45 destroyers with faulty engines or an aircraft carrier without aircraft on it, all of them being located in Scottish waters?

all messages