23 October 2018
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Briefing by Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova, Vladivostok, June 8, 2017

Welcome everyone. Today, we have an off-site briefing here in Vladivostok on the sidelines of the media summit. Thanks a lot for the invitation. Indeed, I’m pleased to be back after several years. I think all the efforts invested into this land were not in vain and resulted in tremendous blossoming and fruits.

By tradition, I will begin with Minister Lavrov’s schedule.


Working visit to Russia by Foreign Minister of the Lao People's Democratic Republic Saleumxay Kommasith


Foreign Minister of the Lao People's Democratic Republic Saleumxay Kommasith will pay a working visit to Russia on June 14-16. He will have talks with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, and a conversation with Minister of Communications and Mass Media and Chairman of the Russian part of the Russian-Laotian Intergovernmental Commission for Trade, Economic, Scientific and Technical Cooperation Nikolai Nikiforov.

The current state and prospects for expanding bilateral cooperation in the political, economic and cultural spheres will be reviewed in detail, with an emphasis on implementing the agreements reached at the highest level over the past two years. The ministers will also compare notes on current international and regional issues.

Minister Kommasith will give a lecture at MGIMO University as part of his visit, and participate in an open meeting of the Russian-Laotian Friendship Society.


Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to participate in a conference of the Russian Committee for Solidarity and Cooperation with the Peoples of Asia and Africa


On June 15, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will take part in a conference of the Russian Committee for Solidarity and Cooperation with the Peoples of Asia and Africa, and will deliver a welcoming address.

The committee is the legal successor of the Soviet Afro-Asian Solidarity Committee created in 1956, and participates in the work of the International Organisation of Solidarity with the Peoples of Asia and Africa. During the Soviet era, the committee carried out extensive activities in the sphere of public diplomacy, such as providing scholarships to foreign students studying at Soviet universities. Currently, work is underway to reinvigorate the activities of Afro-Asian solidarity entities by way of forming committee branches and affiliates in over 40 Russian regions, to revive and reinforce the elected bodies of the committee, and to form the youth section of this organisation.




Since this is an off-site briefing, we received many questions from Russian and foreign media on regional issues. Today, I will answer some of them. 


Foreign economic activity of the Primorye Territory


The analysis of the Primorye Territory’s trade with its partner countries demonstrates high level of integration of the region with the Asia-Pacific Region, where APEC countries account for 80 percent of the overall foreign trade, the European Union 4.5 percent, and CIS countries 0.6%.

Thanks to investment expectations related to creating the Free Port of Vladivostok and the territories of advanced socioeconomic development, foreign investment in the economy of Primorye Territory is growing steadily. The largest investors are China, including Hong Kong, the Republic of Korea, Cyprus, the Virgin Islands, Japan, and the Netherlands.

Transport and storage, processing industries, finance and insurance, agriculture, forestry and fisheries, as well as construction and real estate are the most lucrative sectors for foreign capital.

China, the Republic of Korea, Japan, France, and Brazil are the main trading partners of the Primorye Territory.

Reportedly, six agreements on cooperation of the Primorye Territory with foreign partners, including China, Japan, Mongolia, Vietnam, and Korea, have been registered with the Russian Ministry of Justice.

Work is underway to create and expand special economic areas in the region to be led by Rosneft and Rusagro. The area of the Free Port of Vladivostok is expanding.


Easing entry procedures at the Free Port of Vladivostok for citizens of a number of states


Federal Law No. 28-FZ, On Introducing Amendments to a Number of Legislative Acts of the Russian Federation, was adopted on March 7 of this year. It specifies rules for the entry of foreign citizens to the Russian Federation via border checkpoints on the territory of the Free Port of Vladivostok.

On May 30, the Government of the Russian Federation issued Resolution No. 667 on online visa processing and entry into the Russian Federation on the basis of online visas via border checkpoints on the territory of the Free Port of Vladivostok.

On April 14, the Government of the Russian Federation issued Directive No. 692 r that approved a list of foreign countries whose citizens can get online regular single business, tourist or humanitarian visas upon arrival in the Russian Federation via border checkpoints on the territory of the Free Port of Vladivostok. The list includes the following countries: Algeria, Bahrain, Brunei, India, Iran, Qatar, PRC, DPRK, Kuwait, Morocco, Mexico, UAE, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Tunisia, Turkey and Japan (18 countries in all).

In line with the updated version of Article 25.17 of the Federal Law On the Procedures for Entry to and Exit from the Russian Federation, citizens of foreign states on the list determined by the Government of the Russian Federation can go online to obtain regular single business, tourist or humanitarian visas (e-visas).

E-visas are processed on the basis of a decision adopted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs following an application filed by a foreign citizen online on the website of the Foreign Ministry no later than four days before the planned arrival. The application should be accompanied by a digital photo as an electronic file. No other documents (invitations, confirmations etc.) are required and e-visas are processed free of charge.

E-visas are granted for a term of 30 calendar days with an allowed stay of no more than eight days on the territory of the arrival region in the Russian Federation.

Under the plan, the e-visa system for visits to the Free Port of Vladivostok will be launched on August 1 of this year.


The 3rd Eastern Economic Forum


On September 6-7, Vladivostok will host the 3rd Eastern Economic Forum (EEF), which was established by President Vladimir Putin in 2015 in order to boost the development of the Russian Far East and expand international cooperation in the Asia-Pacific Region.

The previous EEF events (in September 2015 and 2016) showed that the forum has firmly asserted itself as an important regional tool for building broad and mutually advantageous cooperation and teamwork. Suffice it to say that around 300 contracts worth more than 3 trillion roubles were signed. This is glaring proof that Russia’s proposals on promoting economic cooperation in the Asia-Pacific Region are in demand and that our partners are really willing to cooperate with the Russian Far East.

The forum’s agenda is currently being finalised. Given the scale of the tasks, it will cover a wide range of issues from the search for optimal scenarios for deeper regional economic integration in light of the Russian initiative to build comprehensive Eurasian partnership to the discussion of preferential conditions for business activity, created in the Russian Far East. A traditional APEC Conference on Cooperation in Higher Education, already the sixth one to be hosted by Vladivostok, will be held on the sidelines of the forum, as well as Russia-ASEAN and Russia-India business dialogues, a seminar on trade and investment cooperation in view of the entry into force of the free trade agreement between the Eurasian Economic Community (EurAsEC) and Vietnam, bilateral meetings on interregional cooperation between regions of the Far Eastern Federal District and interested partners, and a set of exhibitions and cultural events.

The invitation of foreign guests of various ranks is currently being discussed. We will inform you about this through Russian government agencies. A total of more than 3,000 high-ranking officials, top managers of leading companies, experts and media representatives are expected to arrive from around 50 Asia-Pacific countries and other regions of the world.


Cooperation between Russia’s Far East regions and China


Russia and China’s interregional relations are growing. The Intergovernmental Russian-Chinese Commission on Cooperation and Development of the Far East and Baikal Region of the Russian Federation and Northeast China has been set up. It is co-chaired by Deputy Prime Minister,  Presidential Plenipotentiary Envoy to the Far Eastern Federal District Yury Trutnev and Vice-Premier Wang Yang of the State Council of China.

On September 2-3, 2016 the second Eastern Economic Forum was held in Vladivostok. China was represented there by Chen Changzhi, vice-chair of the 12th National People's Congress (NPC) Standing Committee, who took part in the Russia-China business dialogue. Preparations are underway for the third forum where ample contacts with our Chinese partners are planned in a number of areas.

As of today, the Russian Government has issued resolutions identifying 14 areas of priority socioeconomic development in the Far East. The heightened interest of Chinese businesses in these areas is noticeable. Work is ongoing to attract investors to the Free Port of Vladivostik. Seven Chinese companied have already been granted the status of free port residents. 

The Programme of Cooperation between the Regions of the Far East and Eastern Siberia of the Russian Federation and Northeast China (2009-2018) continues. In 2016, 16 projects under the programme were at the implementation stage.

The development of railway links between Russia and China proceeds as scheduled, a border crossing bridge Nizhneleninskoye-Tongjiang is being built, as well as an automobile bridge and a cable tramway across the Amur River in the vicinity of the cities of Blagoveshchensk and Heihe.


The peace treaty issue and progress on joint economic activities of Russia and Japan on the Southern Kuril Islands


Russia’s position on the issue of concluding a peace treaty with Japan is well known. The Southern Kurils are an inalienable part of the Russian Federation, and its sovereignty and jurisdiction are beyond doubt.

In accordance with an agreement reached during Russian President Vladimir Putin’s official visit to Japan in December 2016, at present the parties are engaged in a dialogue concerning the possibility of joint economic activities (JEA) on the islands. In March, the Japanese side was given a package of potential JEA projects in the Southern Kurils prepared by Russian federal agencies and the Administration of the Sakhalin Region and covering a wide range of areas – aquaculture, fish processing, improving infrastructure, geothermal energy, construction, environmental protection, tourism, and a number of others.

A number of specific initiatives are to be agreed on that basis and also in view of Japanese proposals, made in response, which are to contribute to socioeconomic development of the Southern Kuril Islands. Following that, we will be ready to discuss with the Japanese partners the legal framework for their implementation.

During their meeting in Moscow on April 27, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe agreed to arrange a visit to the Southern Kurils by a Japanese public-private mission to study business JEA opportunities. A Japanese delegation visited Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk on May 30-31 and had meetings with officials of the Sakhalin Region Administration. In late June, a business mission will visit the Southern Kurils proper.


The Russian Seasons international project in Japan


The Russian Seasons, an international project initiated by President of Russia Vladimir Putin, began in Tokyo on June 4. Russian Deputy Prime Minister Olga Golodets and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe took part in the opening ceremony.

The Russian Seasons aims to bring the best achievements of Russian culture to audiences abroad. The project is a long-term undertaking with a broad geographical scope, but Japan was chosen as its starting point. This choice is not mere coincidence but reflects our desire to encourage in every way mutual interest among the Russian and Japanese publics to study and learn more about each other’s rich cultural traditions.

The Russian Seasons will present to the Japanese public a selection of the best ballet and theatrical works, unique exhibition projects, Russian cinematic masterpieces, symphonic and operatic concerts, and circus programmes. More than 200 events will take place over the course of the year in 40 different cities.  

The Russian Seasons programme involves close bilateral cooperation, and this will provide us with an opportunity for gaining unprecedented experience in cultural dialogue and will contribute to deepening the mutual understanding between our countries.


The situation on the Korean Peninsula


We are following closely developments on the Korean Peninsula. We are deeply concerned by North Korea’s missile tests, which have become more frequent of late (I remind you that tests were conducted on April 28, and May 13, 21, and 29). We are sure that such steps fuel tension in the region. Russia supported the adoption of UN Security Council Resolution 2356 on July 2 on imposing new sanctions on a number of North Korean legal entities and individuals. We reaffirm our readiness to take part in joint work on resolving the nuclear and other issues on the Korean Peninsula. 

At the same time, we are preoccupied by the growing US military presence in Northeast Asia. We believe, and we have said on many occasions, that this will not contribute to creating conditions for renewing dialogue and will only increase conflict potential in the region.

In our contacts with all of our partners, we call for restraint, and we stress the need for general military-political détente and a collective search for solutions to the existing problems through exclusively political and diplomatic means. 


Developments in Syria


We are pleased to note the consolidation of the positive dynamics of the military and political situation in the Syrian Arab Republic (SAR).

Implementation of the Memorandum on the Creation of De-escalation Areas, which was signed in Astana on May 4, and the consolidation of the ceasefire regime are allowing the Armed Forces of Syria to concentrate their efforts on the hottest spots and wage a successful fight against militants of ISIS, Jabhat al-Nusra and affiliated terrorist organisations. The main hostilities are taking place in Deir ez-Zor, Homs, Aleppo, Hama, Deraa and a number of suburbs of Damascus. The units of the Syrian Government army continue their offensive in the south and east of Aleppo Province. They have extended their zone of control to include vast territories in the area of the Jabal at-Tuveihina, and freed from terrorists a number of towns including Maskanah, Al-Azizia and, Radda Al-Kabira.

Jihadi fighters are fiercely resisting the Syrian forces along the entire contact line and are trying to destroy as much infrastructure as they can. Fighting against ISIS terrorists has been going on in the southern outskirts of Deir ez-Zor for several days. There are many foreign mercenaries among the neutralised militants, about which we have regularly informed you. We have mentioned more than once that terrorist formations are getting not only moral and financial support from abroad but also manpower replenishment – new militants recruited by international terrorist organisations. Embittered by the failed attempt to launch a counteroffensive, ISIS militants subjected to sniper and mortar fire a number of residential areas in Deir ez-Zor, killing and wounding over 50 civilians. The most horrible thing is that jihadists continue mercilessly killing people during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Disputes between jihad groups are growing against the backdrop of the successes of the Syrian Government army. Bloody clashes involving heavy weapons continue in Eastern Ghouta between Jaysh al-Islam on the one hand and Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham and Faylaq ar-Rahman, on the other. Regrettably, the protracted squabbles are resulting in the death of civilians apart from terrorists, causing growing discontent among local residents.

Jabhat al-Nusra has already established a so-called “Islamic emirate” in Idlib Province. Having subordinated many illegal armed formations, al-Nusra fighters concentrated their efforts on forming government bodies. They set up special departments that monitor different spheres of economic activities and public life.

The units of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) that are drawing a noose around ISIS’s informal capital of Raqqa have started receiving weapons and munitions from the United States. Recently SDF fighters blocked the city from the west, north and east and now they are expanding their bridgehead on the southern bank of the Euphrates River, trying to complete the encirclement of the “caliphate’s capital.” Persistent fighting continues near the Al-Baath hydropower station and the towns of Ganid and Mansur where large groups of terrorists are blocked. Thousands of people continue fleeing Raqqa, moving up the Euphrates towards Al-Tabqa.

The humanitarian situation is substantially improving in the “pacified” regions of Syria. We welcome this trend and can’t help but mention it. The country’s authorities are restoring the water supply system, electric generation facilities and the social infrastructure in these regions. Local residents are returning home. The Syrian leaders intend to continue its policy toward local truces. The southern districts of Damascus – Tadamonm, Al Hajar and Al Aswad, and the Palestine refugee camp Yarmouk – are next in line.

We are again calling on the leaders of the US-led “anti-ISIS” coalition to be more responsible in planning air strikes on position of jihadists in Syria. As we have emphasised repeatedly, ill-conceived actions are increasing the suffering of Syrian civilians and the number of victims among them is growing every day. Everyone is alarmed primarily by this situation. The effectiveness of such actions is dubious. Thus, as a result of the coalition’s air attack on Raqqa on June 3, 43 civilians were killed, mostly women and children and dozens were wounded. On June 5, the coalition’s air force launched missile attacks on a group of refugees who were trying to get to the southern bank of the Euphrates on boats. Over 30 people were killed as a result. In all, about 200 civilians lost their lives due to the coalition’s actions in Raqqa and its suburbs in one month. I would like to emphasise that these are preliminary and tentative data for one month alone. Such irresponsible military tactics should be unacceptable to the “anti-terrorist” alliance, all the more so since it is acting in circumvention of the UN Security Council resolution and without the consent of the legitimate Syrian Government.

As part of our diplomatic efforts, we are holding active contacts with our partners for the implementation of the Memorandum on the Creation of De-escalation Areas in Syria, which was signed in Astana. The main burden to carry out this memorandum is shouldered by guarantors – Russia, Iran and Turkey. At the same time, Moscow is open to a sincere exchange of views with all players that could make a constructive contribution to the ceasefire regime, reducing violence, alleviating the suffering of Syrians, and creating conditions that would foster a political process. 


Latest debunking of Western propaganda about Syria


In the context of the situation in Syria, I’d like touch on an issue that is directly related to the journalistic profession. Time and again we have exposed fake stories that players in and outside the region use in a desperate attempt to translate into reality their obsessive idea about regime change in Syria. This idea has nothing to do with the efforts that at this moment should be the focus of everyone’s concern. This refers to the fight against terrorism. By playing on public sentiments and emotions, they condition the international community in a bid to formulate not a genuine but a misleading agenda, completely forgetting the principles of morality, objectivity and impartiality. And of course, the Syria conflict has become a good case in point. Loads of lies and dirt – from minor fantasies to the global manipulation of public opinion – have been thrown at the Syrian regime, which is definitely not a model of state governance (there are many questions about it, but I’d like to stress that it’s a legitimate government that is recognised by and represented at the UN), and when the Russian Aerospace Forces joined the antiterrorism campaign in Syria, also at Russia (actually, even before the Aerospace Forces became involved). We will be working on these revelations for a long time yet, exposing lies. Today I’d like to tell you about one fake story of this kind.

Everyone remembers the well-known photo of Omran Daqneesh, the boy from eastern Aleppo whom “rescuers” from the pseudo-humanitarian organisation the White Helmets pulled from the rubble, coated with dust and encrusted blood, after an alleged Syrian government airstrike. They liked the story also because before rendering the boy medical aid they began taking photos of him without permission from his parents, who at that time were busy rescuing other family members from the rubble. You remember these sentimental photos. The boy is sitting in the back of an ambulance. In August 2016, that image went viral online, among all media outlets and the social media of human right groups, becoming a symbol of the fight against the “bloody regime,” of Russia being always “in the wrong” and of “Aleppo’s suffering.” We previously talked about this, but I’d like to remind you that the photos were taken by Mahmoud Raslan, a member of the Nour al-Din al-Zenki Movement that became “famous” for the video footage of a Palestinian boy’s beheading execution.

We said at the time that by using Omran’s photos, Western media outlets were in effect starting a game that was imposed by militants, to put it mildly, but in reality, by extremists and terrorists. Our voice was ignored as the photos spread rapidly. We drew attention to the fact that the story was not as simple as might have seemed at first glance and that it was important to wait before exploiting the child’s image for political purposes. We were ignored again. Remember how Christiane Amanpour, a leading journalist (she is not simply a correspondent but also an analyst and political expert) brought that photo to an interview with Sergey Lavrov, which was recorded just before the US [presidential] election. It was supposed to have become an important argument for the forces that at the time were vying for the top spot in the country and engaged in a bitter dispute with Russia over approaches toward a settlement in Syria and the situation in Aleppo, blaming everything on Moscow. She pulled out the photo and asked the minister what he would say to the boy’s family. All of that was captured on video and is now available on the Foreign Ministry’s website.

Over six months have passed since the interview and almost a year since the boy’s photo was published. During this time, despite fierce resistance from terrorists on the ground, as a result of enormous efforts by both Syrian and Russian militaries, life has been gradually returning to normal in the streets of eastern Aleppo. Now we were able to find out the whole truth about that story. Reporters, including from the Russia Today television network, found the boy’s family. We were able to see that boy. Omran’s father, Mohammed Daqneesh, has a lot to say to Christiane Amanpour and other pseudo advocates, those who allegedly defended the boy’s rights but in reality gleefully built their political concepts with his blood.

As it turned out, Omran is alive and well. Indeed, he was injured but his entire case was completely distorted by pseudo rights advocates and “journalists,” including Christiane Amanpour. She simply manipulated public opinion. His father, a former serviceman, says that the boy happily plays with his brothers. In fact, the family is not in opposition to the regime, as Western reporters made out. They live in Aleppo, which, contrary to the Western wishes, has been freed and peace is returning there. Step by step, amid great difficulties, the process is moving forward.

In several interviews, the boy’s father said he had heard no aircraft noise at the time of the incident. Remember what the White Helmets’ allegations were based on. They claimed that those were Syrian government or Russian airstrikes. He also said that the building had most likely collapsed as a result of an explosion. After Omran’s photo went viral, his family had to take measures to protect the boy and finally defend his rights in some way or other. After all, those who exploited his image did not care about his fate or his future. He is in a country that has for years been torn asunder by the fight against terrorists, who, in their ideological fervour, will stop at nothing. Did anybody think about the boy’s future as they exploited his image? Did Christiane Amanpour think about that? She was only concerned about helping the Democratic Party and their candidate become the US president. Anything could be used to that end, even the boy’s photo.

The family had to work on the boy’s appearance, alter his hair style and give him a different name in order to hide him from militants: After all, this was happening at a time when the situation in Aleppo was at its worst. Despite the repeated proposals, promises and offers of money (and the opposition actually offered serious money to the boy’s family), they refused to level false charges against the Syrian authorities or give false interviews. Today, the family constantly receives threats of execution. That is obvious not only to those who are now in Aleppo and are in contact with them. Look at social media: Advocates of the radical opposition who, by the way, are not blocked, in contrast to the accounts of Russian embassies, call the Daqneesh family “infidels” that deserve death. Where is Christiane Amanpour?

Since Christiane Amanpour started the story in the public domain, came to Moscow, made colour prints of that image and showed it to Sergey Lavrov, maybe she will have enough courage, professional ethics as a journalist and simply human conscience to finish it? Maybe she will go to Syria, to Aleppo, find the boy’s family and do a really honest interview. Not a fake one, something that CNN is famous for, but a really honest interview. Maybe before the interview, she should ask herself some difficult questions and do a real report on the boy and the way US media outlets have manipulated his image and his fate, as well as the fate of his family and his country.

We have repeatedly invited our Western colleagues to go to Syria and we are ready to do all we can to put them in touch with the Syrian authorities. We often hear from Western reporters that they cannot accept Russian offers for some ethical considerations. However, for some reason, they do not go there on their own, either. They can show Mr Lavrov the boy’s photo and make up the entire story but they cannot go to Syria, for example, to Aleppo. This is hard to understand, but we try to and we respect Western journalists’ position. Therefore, I’m extending an invitation, in particular to Christiane Amanpour, to take advantage of Russia Today’s capabilities. They have contacts and they can provide assistance as journalists to a journalist – as long as Christiane Amanpour calls herself a journalist – in organising a trip. I don’t think the network would object to that, and I believe that they should be able to agree and organise this kind of a trip and interview. I understand the reluctance and that it’s so easy to play up this fake story on CNN. But folks, you’ve been caught and you have to answer for this. Of course you will not answer for everything but you have to answer for this. Christiane Amanpour, we are waiting for you in Aleppo.


The situation in Mosul


There is documentary evidence that Iraqi servicemen, who are conducting an assault on Mosul, commit acts of cruelty against locals residents in the areas liberated from ISIS and use torture on mere suspicion of assisting terrorists. Reporters got hold of photos and video footage showing the maltreatment and killing of civilians. Those who saw these materials can tell that Abu Ghraib was a walk in the park. The footage was provided by a renowned Iraqi photographer, Ali Arkady, who has spent many months side-by-side with an elite division of the Iraqi army and was present during the torture. The Iraqi army began checking the facts presented in these materials.

A number of human rights organisations sharply criticised the Iraqi military, and some of them demanded to convene a special UN session to discuss torture in Iraq based on materials made available, in particular, by Russia Today TV channel.

Saad Al-Muttalibi, a member of the Iraqi commission which oversees the investigation of war crimes, said, in particular, that the Iraqi command has in no way sanctioned such actions, and that everyone involved in this crime was identified and taken into custody. He also confirmed that the facts of gross violation of human rights occurred in the Iraqi army before, but the troops who were caught red-handed were most often under the supervision of the US command, which is beyond the jurisdiction of the Iraqi authorities. Again, look at this in the context of the reporters’ focus on the potential threat emanating from Russia and the allegedly unlawful actions of the Russian Aerospace Forces in Syria which violate human rights. Here's a concrete story for you. Deal with it. Go ahead and get to the bottom of it. I have strong doubts that this will ever be done.

I really want to hope for an appropriate response on behalf of international human rights organisations, specialised UN institutions and, of course, the United States, which enjoys meddling in other nations’ affairs. Go take care of your own issues.


The referendum on self-determination of the Kurdish Autonomous Region of Iraq


We noted the statements made by the leaders of the Kurdish Autonomous Region of Iraq about holding a referendum on the self-determination of Iraqi Kurdistan in September. I would like to remind everyone that this issue did not arise yesterday, but has been discussed for quite a while now.

In this regard, we would like to note once again that Russia supports the unity and territorial integrity of the Iraqi state with unconditional respect for and observance of the legitimate rights of all its ethnic and religious groups, of which the Kurds are the largest.

In any case, we operate on the premise that all the known issues in relations between the Kurdish authorities and the federal centre in Baghdad, including the format of their co-existence, should be resolved through constructive talks and with account taken of their common priorities, primarily, fighting international terrorism represented by ISIS and other extremist groups.


Nagorno-Karabakh settlement


In accordance with an earlier agreement, the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs will be in Armenia on June 10 to meet with the country’s president, foreign minister and defence minister. They intend to find out details about the situation in the conflict zone. Current issues related to the Nagorno-Karabakh settlement are to be discussed, including in view of the late April meeting in Moscow of foreign ministers of Russia, Azerbaijan and Armenia. A trip to Nagorno-Karabakh is also planned. Russia will be represented by Ambassador-at-Large and OSCE Minsk Group co-chair Igor Popov. 

A week later representatives of the three countries will fly to Baku.

According to established practice, a corresponding statement will be posted on the OSCE website afterwards.


Allegations against the Russian Federation by the Polish Prosecutor’s Office


The Prosecutor’s Office of Poland has alleged that in the process of transporting the remains of the victims of the Polish President’s aircraft crash near Smolensk, the remains were mixed in the coffins.

I would like to reiterate that such allegations are absolutely groundless.

It is common knowledge that the remains of the Smolensk crash victims stayed in Russia from April 10 to April 12 only, and the idea of a complete investigation by Russian experts was not even raised. Let me stress that the Polish side itself insisted that the remains be handed over as soon as possible and rushed the Russian side on that issue. In fact, forensic experts in Moscow did a quick examination of the remains on April 11 and 12 only.

Besides, and this is crucial and I’d like to draw your attention to it, the identification of the bodies was done by Polish representatives and the victims’ relatives. Where identification was impossible, the remains were transferred to the Polish side marked by numbers.

It is equally important that the bodies were placed in coffins in the presence of Polish officials. They were not even washed before they were placed in coffins as the Polish side insisted, as they were planning to conduct further forensic studies, and it was essential for them to preserve as much material as possible for potential examinations.

To emphasise, the Russian authorities and experts did whatever was possible in that situation. And everything they did was done in closest coordination with the Polish side.

Russia may not be held accountable for what happened to the remains in Poland, that is a matter for the Polish side. 

I would like to add that we want to offer documentary evidence of the facts I mentioned today. The Russian Foreign Ministry’s official accounts on social media will post a screenshot of the Protocol “Issues Related to Identifying the Bodies of the Victims of the TU-154 Flight 101 Air Crash of April 10, 2010.” The document was signed by Russian and Polish representatives.  In particular, the Protocol states that “in the course of investigatory actions to identify the bodies, the Polish side did not voice complaints or statements to the Russian side regarding the actions taken and their results.” The Protocol was signed from the Polish side by Piotr Stachańczyk for the Ministry of the Interior and the Administration, and Jacek Najder for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. From the Russian side it was signed by Tatyana Golikova for the Ministry of Healthcare and Social Development, and Vladimir Titov for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.


22.10.2018 - Embassy Press Officer’s reply to a media question concerning comparisons in Britain between Russian and Saudi Arabia’s reactions to high-profile incidents

Question: After the reports concerning the death of the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, the British media have been drawing parallels between the actions of Saudi Arabia and Russia. Are there any good reasons for such comparisons? Answer: We have already stated that we would not be commenting idle talks. It is for journalists, not diplomats, to speculate on this kind of issues. However, we have taken note of yet another article by Boris Johnson in “The Daily Telegraph”, where he compares the death of Jamal Khashoggi to the so-called poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal in Salisbury. In particular, he insists that Saudi Arabia and Turkey should – and rightly so – provide the public with as much information as possible concerning the exact causes of the journalist’s death.

15.10.2018 - Embassy Press Officer’s reply to a media question concerning the ties between “Bellingcat” and secret services

Question: Russian officials claim that “Bellingcat” is connected to intelligence agencies of the Western countries, but do not present any evidence of such ties. Doesn’t such approach contradict Russia’s position on the Salisbury incident, the MH-17 catastrophe and other notable cases, where the Russian government is continuously demanding to publish proofs of accusations? Answer: There is no contradiction. The fact that “Bellingcat” is affiliated to the intelligence services is obvious considering the whole range of relevant circumstances: date of its foundation (several days prior to the MH-17 catastrophe), nature of published information (which combines signs of intelligence data and highly professional fakes), its orientation (always anti-Russian), timeline of publications (each time at the best moment from the point of view of interests of NATO countries), biography of its leader (Elliot Higgins suddenly turned from a PC gamer into an “icon of independent journalism), non-transparency of its internal structure and financing. If “Bellingcat” can provide any other plausible explanation for such combination of facts, it should be presented to the public.

15.10.2018 - Embassy Press Officer’s reply to a media question concerning the British government calls to step up anti-Russian sanctions

Question: How would you comment on the news that the British government has been lobbying a new EU sanctions regime against Russian nationals allegedly involved in use of chemical weapons and cyber-attacks in Europe? Answer: We have taken note of the respective statement by Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt of 14 October and the relevant media reports. These suggest that, faced with an imminent Brexit, the British government makes every effort to step up the sanctions pressure on Russia and to complicate as much as possible Russia-EU relations after Brexit.

13.10.2018 - Embassy Press Officer’s reply to a media question concerning the investigation of the death of Nikolay Glushkov

Q.: 12 October marks seven months since the death of Nikolay Glushkov. Does the Embassy have any new information on this case? A.: Unfortunately, once again we have to state that the British side continues to evade any sort of cooperation with Russia with regard to the investigation of the death of former Deputy Director General of “Aeroflot” Mr Glushkov that occurred on British soil on 12 March. The British authorities continue to ignore numerous Russian requests, including the official request of the Prosecutor General’s Office of the Russian Federation for legal assistance in the criminal case opened in Russia into the Nikolay Glushkov’s death. There are no answers to the Embassy’s proposals to arrange a meeting or consultations between the Investigative Committee, Prosecutor General’s Office of the Russian Federation experts and the Metropolitan Police representatives.

12.10.2018 - Ambassador Yakovenko’s introductory remarks at the press-conference on 12 October 2018

Ladies and gentlemen, In recent weeks we have received a number of media requests concerning the current state of bilateral affairs between Russia and the United Kingdom. I am also often asked how numerous anti-Russian statements by the British officials influence our approach towards the UK. Considering this, I have decided to invite you today to make respective short comments on these issues and answer your additional questions. Currently the relations between Russia and the UK are at a very low level. The reason for that lies in an aggressive anti-Ru ssian campaign launched by the current Tory government and supported by the British media.

09.10.2018 - Embassy Press Officer’s reply to a media question concerning the new Bellingcat’s investigation

Question: How would you comment on Bellingcat’s claims that it has “tracked down Alexander Petrov’s real identity”? Answer: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has recently advised us to consider such publications and statements as a display of freedom of public debate into which the UK Government does not interfere. There have already been reports that the Home Office and Metropolitan Police would not comment on these “speculations”. This is exactly the case when we should follow the example of our British colleagues.

08.10.2018 - Embassy Press Officer’s reply to a media question concerning the UK authorities’ reaction to Russia’s official requests following recent flagrant media publications

Question: The Embassy declared its intent to request clarifications from the British side following the recent accusations of cyberattacks, and the media reports on preparations for retaliatory cyberstrikes against targets in Russia. Has there been any response? Answer: Today we have received a reply from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office which implies that, as before, the British side is not going to provide us with any details that may serve as the basis of the accusations. In this case, we are not in a position to make comments on the essence of those accusations.

05.10.2018 - Embassy comment on another groundless British accusation against Russia

On 4 October, UK Permanent Representative to OPCW Peter Wilson speaking on behalf of Minister for Europe Sir Alan Duncan claimed that the “GRU” allegedly “attempted to compromise UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office computer systems via a spear phishing attack” and “targeted computers of the UK Defence and Science Technology Laboratory”. The same day the UK National Cyber Security Centre stated that “multiple email accounts belonging to a small UK-based TV station were accessed and content stolen” and “the GRU was almost certainly responsible”.Today, the Embassy has forwarded a Note Verbale to the FCO demanding that the UK Government produces and immediately shares with the Russian side hard evidence and proofs supporting those claims, and informs about sources used to draw such conclusions. We have reminded, in particular, that Russia had repeatedly proposed expert consultations on cybersecurity in order to address UK’s concerns, if any.

04.10.2018 - Embassy Press Officer’s reply to a media question concerning the BBC journalist Mark Urban’s book on Sergei Skripal

Q.: How would you comment on the Mark Urban’s book on Sergei Skripal published on 4 October? A.: We intend yet to study this book. At the same time, it is a well known fact that Mark Urban has close links with British secret services. This gives us grounds for considering this book as an attempt to compensate for Sergei Skripal’s public non-appearance as the key witness to the Salisbury incident. Instead of facts, the public is again offered speculation and guesses.

04.10.2018 - Embassy Press Officer’s reply to a media question concerning the recent anti-Russian statement by the Foreign Office

Question: How would you comment on today’s statement by the Foreign Office accusing Russia of worldwide cyber-attacks on massive scale? Answer: This statement is reckless. It has become a tradition for such claims to lack any evidence. It is yet another element of the anti-Russian campaign by the UK Government.

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