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Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s interview with TASS news agency, Moscow, April 29, 2020

Question: This is our first online interview. How familiar are you with this format by now? I know you are holding online meetings, and even met with your BRICS colleagues via this format. How much more time, do you think, will we have to work online?

Sergey Lavrov: It’s anyone’s guess. It’s unusual, but fun. As we have repeatedly pointed out, online meetings will never replace face-to-face meetings, especially confidential meetings, but nevertheless, using modern technology in these circumstances is a convenient approach because people must continue to talk to each other. Indeed, in addition to telephone conversations, which have always been part of our diplomatic activity, we are now increasingly using video conferencing. A video conference with the BRICS foreign ministers took place yesterday. Russia chairs this association this year. Tomorrow, we will hold a Normandy format videoconference with foreign ministers, where we will discuss who is acting, or not acting, on the recommendations approved at the Normandy Four summit in Paris in December 2019, and how they are proceeding.

Next week, after the holidays, we will continue to use this format. I’m not sure how long this will last. The health authorities will decide on this based on the actual epidemiological situation. These evaluations are used to compile reports for international leaders. As you may be aware, governments around the world are thinking about the time when they will be able to start putting together measures to exit the crisis. Related instructions were issued yesterday by President Putin at a meeting with the governors. So we are now in the hands of Mother Nature and the efforts that people are making so nature does not cause too much harm.

Question: Unfortunately, the pandemic is leaving its mark on our lives and, in some ways, has greatly darkened the upcoming Victory Day on May 9. We are ten days away from it. However, President Putin said an aerial parade would take place. Of course, there will be fireworks as well. Frankly, the holiday will look a little different. We were expecting many foreign guests to come here. Given the circumstances, how can Victory Day - a great holiday that no one will ever take away from us - be celebrated internationally?

Sergey Lavrov: I completely agree with you. First, none of the foreign guests has yet said they will not come to Moscow for the parade when the new date is set. All foreign guests, including the heads of state and governments, as well as a large group of WWII foreign veterans, have shown understanding for President Putin’s decision, announced in mid-April, on the need to reschedule the parade, which will be held in full, as he emphasised, this year. We are proceeding from the premise that the guests who confirmed their participation for May 9 will, of course, consider the possibility of coming to Moscow on a new date.

Of course, one cannot ignore the international celebrations for the 75th anniversary of Victory in World War II, the Great Patriotic War. As you may be aware, the UN adopts a corresponding resolution every five years. Five years ago, to commemorate the 70th anniversary of Victory, the General Assembly adopted a resolution by consensus, which emphasised the enduring nature of this feat, and pointed out that the UN was created thanks to Victory. Its Charter says that saving future generations from the disasters of war is its main goal.

Just a few days ago, President Putin and President Trump marked another milestone in the march of the victors - a meeting on the Elbe River. I believe this was a very important and emotionally charged message telling us that we must put security interests and the interests of saving lives, rather than some geopolitical considerations, above all.

In addition to the functions and statements I mentioned, a draft resolution by the UN General Assembly is being prepared, this time on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of Victory in World War II. The CIS states, China and a number of other UN member countries co-authored it. We hoped to be able to time the adoption of this resolution to Victory Day. Like five years ago during the 70th anniversary, the plan was to have a special discussion at the plenary meeting of the UN General Assembly. Like other UN agencies, the General Assembly is now working remotely and isn’t holding large meetings, or small ones, for that matter.

We have reached an agreement with our partners who co-sponsored this resolution that we will be aiming for the time when the General Assembly resumes its normal work and then convene such a meeting. Exhibits and film screenings were planned, not only at the New York-based UN headquarters, but our foreign missions elsewhere as well. Of course, one way or another, there will be commemorative functions on Victory Day dedicated to those who fought against Nazism. We instructed our foreign missions, Ambassadors and Consul Generals to organise, with consideration for the requirements of the local epidemiological authorities and the epidemiological situation, visits to the memorial sites in commemoration of the Soviet soldiers who fell on WWII battlefields. The burial sites will, as always, be maintained in proper condition. A series of events with exhibits and media events will, of course, take place, but given the circumstances, most of them will most likely be held online. Rest assured that one way or another this date will be properly marked by all of our foreign missions.

Question: More and more people are saying that this current global situation will change the world order, and that the world will be different. So as the head of the Russian Foreign Ministry, as a major diplomat, what do you think the new world order will be like? What specifically will be different?

Sergey Lavrov: I do not think anyone can give a definite answer at this stage. There are at least two trends, but there may be more. The first trend is many countries, leaders, political scientists, politicians, and public figures advocating the need to combine efforts and in every way promote multilateral approaches to global problems because isolationism, attempts to maintain distance from global problems, hiding behind national ‘fences’, have failed. And the second trend suggests exactly the opposite: where it is impossible to rely on a government in a particular region, where the healthcare system is not well-developed, where agencies that must ensure order and monitor people’s movement are not doing too well, one had better fend for themselves. If my country is wealthier than many, I can just take care of my problems and let the rest struggle as they can. Of course, I am a supporter of the first approach, as is the Russian Federation. Russia has always advocated the need to combine efforts and use collective methods for solving any problems.

The biggest danger would probably be, when we emerge from this pandemic, still not having any agreement at all on how to act in case of a new global threat. In this sense, what is happening now is so important, including on platforms such as the UN, the WHO, and the G20. All of these organisations, represented by their leaders — UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and the leaders of G20 currently chaired by Saudi Arabia — have called for pooling efforts and launching a large multilateral programme. Firstly, the programme focuses on developing an antidote to such infections and threats. Secondly, on providing assistance to those who need it (substantial assistance, for that matter). And, thirdly, on organisational measures to quickly mobilise the international community, when, God forbid, something like this happens again. This programme has been launched. It was supported by the EU and Saudi Arabia as chair of the G20 and it is designed to run for years. The announced amount of investment is 7.5 billion dollars. The specifics are open to additional consideration and study in order to understand how such multilateral interaction could be arranged in the most convenient way for each country. But the fact that we need such a programme is not questioned by anyone.

As long as we are talking about multilateralism, I would like to emphasise something I spoke about quite recently. It must be understood that only combining efforts universally is the right answer, a system that takes into account the interests of all parties. Over the past couple of years, we have been observing attempts to present multilateralism in a slightly different way: as the right of a certain group of countries to formulate a policy on a particular global issue and then make everyone else join something that was not developed in a universal format.

Germany and France launched an initiative last year to create an alliance for multilateralism. And they did it outside the UN, outside its organisational structure. Subsequent developments showed that their initiative was in fact a proposal for everyone to look to the EU as an ideal of multilateralism in its foreign policy. Now we have a question: how can anything be established on Earth that would be more multilateral than the UN? Those attempts to promote the approaches I mentioned, to present the matter in a way that suggests multilateralism is determined by more advanced democracies (this is what they obviously say between the lines), mean only one thing. When these states come with their initiatives to the UN, they find out that they need to take into account other opinions, to modify their approaches and seek compromise and consensus, but this, apparently, is not what they want to invest effort in. All they want is to push for their unilateral approaches that do not take into account the position of others. Well, this is how these ideas emerge about creating some special interest alliances outside universal bodies such as the UN, and then present these alliances’ decisions as the ultimate truth. This is the approach that we take issue with. We tell our Western, including European, colleagues that any problems must be resolved fairly and opposition should not be feared. Like it or not, there are 193 UN members in the world. If we all annually reaffirm our loyalty to the ideals of the UN Charter, then let our work be based on its principles, the main one being the sovereign equality of states.

Question: Do you think that behind these attempts to create such alliances and attacks on existing UN institutions, and the WHO (US President Donald Trump said it must be reformed in a conversation with President of France Emmanuel Macron), with statements about the inefficiency of the UN as a whole during the pandemic, “the new world order” (about which I spoke) that these are attempts to establish new international agencies under the pretext of reform? To what extent is the Russian Foreign Ministry and Russia as a whole committed to maintaining the existing institutions, of course with due consideration for new realities?

Sergey Lavrov: We have always advocated a careful attitude towards the UN-centric world arrangement that was created after World War II. We have not invented anything more stable or reliable.

The UN system has unique legitimacy. It is also unique in embracing the problems that the UN itself, its specialised agencies, funds and programs are tackling. It would certainly be unforgivable to lose the wealth of its multilateral mechanisms that reflect the interests of all the member countries in this global organisation.

There is no doubt that nothing lasts forever under the Moon and nobody is perfect, as we all know. So, questions about reform and improving UN activity and its agencies are always on the agenda during the meetings of the inter-government and interstate bodies that run these structures and determine the work of their secretariats. This applies to the WHO that is continuously accumulating new experience. After each new epidemic and infectious disease it receives specialists and knowledge that are immediately put to use. New organisational units are established. This applies to any other international organisation, including the UN Security Council where the issues of reform are considered in a geopolitical context with a view to making it more representative. To achieve this, it is necessary to focus primarily on representation from the developing nations from all regions – Asia, Africa and Latin America.

The agenda of multilateral organisations is always aimed at improving their work. Any reform is not a one-time action. It is a continuous process because life goes on. New scientific and technological achievements, new technology and new cross-border phenomena are rapidly growing. It would be unwise and misguided to grow rigid and refuse to improve the opportunity for response from the international community to current challenges.

As for new organisations, there are no counter indications to any initiatives in this respect. But if an organisation is established based on its regional location or political affiliation as is the case with the alliances you mentioned, where Europeans and other Westerners create them outside the UN, this is a different story. Of course, we cannot accept their attempts to create a structure with a limited number of members (only those whom they consider democracies) but claim to resolve problems for the rest of humanity. With respect to your profession, there are quite a few examples of “an alliance being established for securing democracy” with the obvious message that there are “media and there are propaganda agencies.” Russia Today and Sputnik are obviously in the latter category. If the alliance that was declared assumes responsibility for resolving issues and assessing the activity of others, it will not be acceptable. UNESCO and different OSCE agencies deal with these issues. So, new organisations are okay if they are created without encroaching on the prerogatives of the existing universal structures that rely on the UN Charter that is approved by everyone.

Question: In September, the United Nations will be 75 years old. I talked with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres about this. Large celebrations for this anniversary were planned for the traditional high level week of the UN General Assembly. Guests of honour were expected to attend. As you said, it is difficult to predict anything now. What if the situation does not allow the participants to meet face to face in the UN building? Are there any consultations on how this anniversary, which is important for the world, will be celebrated if it’s not possible to hold a full session in the UN Headquarters in New York?

Sergey Lavrov: We still believe it is too early to make these forecasts. For the time being, we hope that our plans will be carried out (I am referring to a festive session during the high and top level week in New York in the last ten days of September). A declaration devoted to the 75th UN anniversary is being drafted; concerts, exhibitions and film shows are being planned. We are planning similar events in Moscow with the participation of the UN Information Centre and the UN Association of Russia.

Returning to planned UN events, I would like to emphasise again that for now we are all hoping that it will soon be clear whether it will be possible to hold UN General Assembly sessions, including the high-level week, in the usual format.


To be continued...


16.05.2020 - Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s interview with the RBC media holding on current international issues, Moscow, May 15, 2020

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s interview on current international issues

14.05.2020 - Minister Sergey Lavrov’s statement and answers to media questions at a news conference following a video conference of foreign ministers of the SCO Member States, May 13, 2020

We have just completed the SCO Member States foreign ministers’ video conference where we discussed the general state of affairs in the region and the world and the SCO priority goals in connection with the spread and consequences of the novel coronavirus infection. We thanked our colleagues for supporting the Russian chairmanship’s proposal to hold this SCO foreign minister extraordinary meeting on this sensitive and important topic.

14.05.2020 - Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s opening remarks and answers to questions at a news conference following the meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers of the Commonwealth of Independent States via video conference, Moscow, May 12, 2020

We have just concluded a meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). It took place via video conference for the first time because of the coronavirus pandemic.

09.05.2020 - Online concert dedicated to the 75th anniversary of Victory

Ensemble Productions Company with the support of the Russian Embassy in London and Rossotrudnichestvo in the UK organises an online concert dedicated to the 75th anniversary of Victory in the Great Patriotic War.

09.05.2020 - Vladimir Putin congratulated veterans and all Russians on Victory Day

On the 75th anniversary of Victory in the Great Patriotic War, the President laid flowers at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in the Alexander Garden.

09.05.2020 - Message from Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal on the occasion of Victory Day

Today marks 75 years since the surrender of Germany brought an end to the Second World War in Europe. On this historic day, I would like to pay tribute to the men and women of that heroic generation, from many nations, who kept on fighting to achieve victory.

08.05.2020 - President Putin's congratulatory letter to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson

Dear Prime Minister, Let me send you and the British people my sincere congratulations on the occasion of the 75th Anniversary of Victory over Nazism.

08.05.2020 - Congratulations to leaders and citizens of foreign states on the 75th anniversary of Victory in the Great Patriotic War

Vladimir Putin sent congratulatory messages to the leaders and citizens of Azerbaijan, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldavia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Abkhazia, South Ossetia as well as the peoples of Georgia and Ukraine, on the 75th anniversary of Victory in the Great Patriotic War... The President of Russia also sent greetings to the leaders and people of Great Britain, the United States of America and France.

28.04.2020 - Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks and answers during a video lecture at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO University), Moscow, April 27, 2020

Mr Torkunov, MGIMO University is rapidly making the switch to new technologies in the face of the real restrictions the coronavirus has placed on in-person interactions. I was told that you had managed to organise the switch very quickly without somehow losing the materials you have to impart, in addition to the knowledge. I am confident that MGIMO University will do a good job of holding its exam period, the defence of graduation theses and the state final certification. I hope that you will find a creative way to enroll new students. I don’t know how the campaign will be organised, but please ask if we can do anything to help you. We will try to be useful.

22.04.2020 - Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov’s interview with the International Life magazine, April 17, 2020

Question: Mr Ryabkov, let’s start with the most urgent issue – the coronavirus. Today, the United States is the anti-rating leader in the number of confirmed cases and deaths. Meanwhile, US President Donald Trump has been complaining about the actions of the World Health Organisation (WHO) and decided to suspend its funding. What would you say about this?

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