15 July 2020
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864 days have passed since the Salisbury incident - no credible information or response from the British authorities                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     856 days have passed since the death of Nikolay Glushkov on British soil - no credible information or response from the British authorities

SPEECHES, INTERVIEWS, ARTICLES

23.10.2019

Deputy Foreign Minister Andrey Rudenko’s interview with Rossiya Segodnya International Information Agency, October 22, 2019

Question: Ukraine is not implementing the Steinmeier formula despite having signed it. Will a Normandy format summit be held if this does not happen, if there is no disengagement of forces? Is it realistic to conduct this summit in November? Will the sides manage to draft all the terms in time?

Andrey Rudenko: Russia said more than once that the full implementation of the agreements of the previous summits which were held in Paris and Berlin in 2015−2016 should be a prerequisite of the Normandy format meeting. This primarily applies to the documentation of the Steinmeier formula and the disengagement of forces and hardware in three regions (Zolotoye, Petrovskoye and Stanitsa Luganskaya) on the contact line. In addition to this, a new summit should clearly formulate further steps on the implementation of the Minsk Agreements.

The Steinmeier formula maps out the procedure so that the special status of Donbass can be permanently entered into legislation. On October 1 of this year Ukraine, within the Contact Group, signed the text on the implementation of this formula into its legislation. Now the ball is in the court of the Kiev authorities. Obviously, they are supposed to submit relevant proposals for consideration by the Verkhovna Rada. We understand this is a lengthy process. However, there is one “but.” Ukraine’s law on special procedures of local self-government in some districts of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions (the law on the special status of Donbass) expires on December 31 of this year. Politicians in Kiev began talking about the drafting of a new law on this issue. So, the future destiny of the special status of Donbass is yet unclear.

The disengagement of forces has also become a problem for the Ukrainians. Quite suddenly, on the day when this process started they demanded the observation of a seven-day truce although nothing was said about this when the plan was agreed upon. We hope Ukraine will be able to fulfil its commitments on disengagement in full.

As for possible convocation of the Normandy summit, its dates may be fixed after the disengagement of forces and hardware in Zolotoye and Petrovskoye and the coordination of the final agreements of the Normandy Four at top level. Time will show when this will happen. Everything is realistic if there is a political will.

Question:  There appeared some signs of warming in relations between Moscow and Kiev after Vladimir Zelensky’s election. Is this so in practical terms? Is Russia ready to take further steps? What could it do next? Return ambassadors? When?

Andrey Rudenko: The return of the ambassadors is not yet discussed in practical terms. Russia is closely watching the events taking place in Ukraine. Signals coming from Ukraine are contradictory. On the one hand, the mutual release of Russian and Ukrainian citizens held in both countries on September 7 of this year created a positive background for the consolidation of all rational forces in Ukraine around the idea of normalising neighbourly relations with Russia. On the other hand, we see that the rights and the freedoms of Russian speakers continue to be suppressed. We hear anti-Russian rhetoric and calls to continue “the war against Russia till the victorious end.”

In general, it is not the continuation of the confrontation but the development of pragmatic cooperation on an equitable basis that meets our common interests. We are ready for it. Now the ball is in Ukraine’s court.

Question: Is Russia conducting talks on resuming flights to Ukraine? When could this happen?

Last summer, there appeared to be a petition on the website of the Ukrainian President with a request to resume flights to Russia. Talking to one of Ukraine’s journalists recently, Zelensky himself said he was perplexed by the absence of direct flights between the two countries. Regrettably, nothing else was done. There were no signals from Ukraine on its intention of starting a dialogue on this matter.

Question: Ukraine has proposed initiating “compulsory” talks with Moscow on the maritime border and establishing a delimitation commission. Is Russia ready to negotiate delimitation in the Azov-Kerch area and the Black Sea? Why propose delimitation talks at this point in time?

Andrey Rudenko: We can assume that the “compulsory negotiations” proposed by Ukraine imply a conciliation procedure set out in Article 298 of the 1982 Convention [on the Law of the Sea]. However, this procedure can be applied only in the absence of unsettled disputes over the sovereignty or other rights over continental or insular land territory.

If the invocation of this procedure indicates the Ukrainian authorities’ readiness to recognise Russia’s sovereignty over the Crimean Peninsula, this could certainly be a good basis for resolving the problem of the maritime border between our countries.

The legal status of and the navigation regime in the Sea of Azov is set out in the 2003 Agreement on Cooperation in the Use of the Sea of Azov and the Kerch Strait.

Under Article 1 of this agreement, “the Sea of Azov and the Kerch Strait are historically internal waters of the Russian Federation and Ukraine.” It also says that “the Sea of Azov must be delimited by the state border in accordance with the Agreement signed by the Parties.” In other words, this effective bilateral agreement stipulates that delimitation is only possible upon agreement by both sides, which means that the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea is inapplicable in this particular case.

Question: Moscow and Kiev have not come to an agreement despite several rounds of talks on gas supplies. Do you think that another gas war is possible early next year? What will Russia do if this happens?

Andrey Rudenko: The trilateral talks held between Russia, the EU and Ukraine in Brussels in September on the transit of Russian gas via Ukraine after the gas transit agreement expires on January 1, 2020 are a cause for cautious optimism. The next round of talks is scheduled to take place in Brussels in late October. We should wait for their outcome to understand if gas cooperation between Russia and Ukraine has a future.

Question: Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has recently spoken out in favour of resuming flights to Georgia because Georgians have seen that anti-Russia provocations are counterproductive. Can these flights be resumed already this year? Is Moscow ready to go back to the question of visa-free travel conditions for Georgians?  When can this happen and under what conditions?

Andrey Rudenko: Detailed comments on the possibility of resuming flights to Georgia have been provided by both Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Presidential Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov. I would like to remind you that these restrictions were adopted in response to a gross anti-Russia provocation staged in Tbilisi in June of this year. Our goal was to protect the safety of Russians visiting Georgia. This is a temporary measure. The conditions for cancelling it have been clearly set out by the Russian side: stabilisation in Georgia, absence of any threats to the safety of our citizens and an end to the anti-Russia campaign.

On September 26, the foreign ministers of Russia and Georgia met, for the first time in 12 years, on the sidelines of the 74th session of the UN General Assembly in New York. Sergey Lavrov updated his Georgian colleague, David Zalkaliani, on this subject. We hope that Tbilisi will draw the necessary conclusions. Russia remains interested in normalising relations with Georgia because this meets the basic interests of our nations.

As for cancelling Russian visas for Georgian citizens, this possibility was discussed before the June events. Doing this now would be premature. We need to return to the pre-crisis situation at the very least.

Question: What is the fate of the plans to open a transit route to Georgia via South Ossetia? Why has this arrangement failed? Is it true that the sticking point is Tskhinval’s position? Are there any prospects for an alternative solution, such as a railway route to Georgia and Armenia via Abkhazia?

Andrey Rudenko: Establishing trade between Russia and Georgia via the Republic of Abkhazia and the Republic of South Ossetia pertains to the implementation of the Agreement between the Government of the Russian Federation and the Government of Georgia on the Basic Principles of Customs Administration and Commodity Trade Monitoring of 2011. Given that neither the Republic of Abkhazia, nor the Republic of South Ossetia is party to this Agreement, it is essential that Sukhum and Tskhinval have some interest in transit trade passing through their territory.

It will be recalled that the 2011 Agreement provides for the creation of a customs administration and trade monitoring mechanism within preset corridors, this with the involvement of SGS, a neutral Swiss company. Currently, talks continue under the auspices of the Russian-Georgian-Swiss Committee supervising the implementation of the said agreement and its Working Group for Unresolved Issues. We hope that the parties will manage to find compromises on a number of controversial points.

We proceed from the assumption that the implementation of the 2011 Agreement will facilitate regional trade and create an atmosphere of trust in the Transcaucasia.

Question: Russia and Belarus are planning to sign an ambitious integration programme by December 2019. But what about such long-debated matters as reciprocal recognition of visas? When will this happen? Are Moscow and Minsk ready to start discussing a single currency in practical terms? Is there at least a tentative timeframe for its introduction?

Andrey Rudenko: Signing an intergovernmental agreement on reciprocal recognition of visas is still on the agenda of our dialogue. Experts have done their part of the job on the text of this document. Russia finalised all the domestic procedures required to submit the agreement for signature back in December 2018. We expect the identical steps to be taken by the Belarusian side. After the agreement comes into force, conditions will be created for the unhindered crossing of the Russian-Belarusian border by citizens of third countries, something that will give an additional impetus to tourism and transport communications.

And now let us look at the second part of your question. On September 6, 2019, the prime ministers of Russia and Belarus initialed a draft programme of action to implement the Treaty on the Establishment of the Union State and approved a list of industry-specific roadmaps that would help to put into practice this programme. Currently, comprehensive efforts are under way to fill the roadmaps with substance and set the timeframes for their implementation. The job is coordinated by the Russian Ministry of Economic Development and the Belarusian Economic Ministry and involves practically all the agencies of both countries. We hope that this will give an impetus to our integration at all levels.

Question: What is Russia’s attitude to the Kazakhstani idea to introduce a Schengen-like single CIS entry visa? Could this be realised at all and within what timeframe?

Andrey Rudenko: There is no doubt that the possible introduction of a single CIS visa might have a positive effect on business and tourist contacts between CIS countries and other nations. But we must not disregard the fact that each of the CIS member states pursues a visa and migration policy of its own and that the relevant national laws in this sphere are far from identical. We share the position of President of Kazakhstan Kassym-Jomart Tokayev that this issue should be, first of all, studied in detail at the expert level with the participation of all relevant agencies. The first step will be to identify the CIS countries with a vested interest in this single visa arrangement and gauge the extent of their readiness to compromise on migration law approximation. It is also important to estimate the amount of work that will have to be done to introduce these common visas. This is a long and, unfortunately, far from speedy thing. Therefore, it is still too early to speak about any specific dates for the launching of this mechanism.        




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