20 July 2018
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London: 11:14

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Briefing by Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova, Moscow, August 17, 2017

Talks between Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Egyptian Foreign Minister Samen Shukri

Talks between Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Foreign Minister of the Arab Republic of Egypt, Samen Shukri, who will come to the Russian capital on a working visit, will be held on August 21.

The ministers will continue their exchange of views on a wide range of issues on international and regional agenda as a follow-up to the talks between the defence and foreign ministers of the two countries held in Cairo on May 29 in the “two plus two” format. The ministers will focus on current aspects of further strengthening Russian-Egyptian relations.

Egypt is one of Russia's leading partners in the Middle East and North Africa. Our countries are tied together by long-standing traditions of friendship and mutually beneficial cooperation, close and shared approaches to key international and regional issues. Despite the turmoil in the global economy in recent years, and complex turbulent processes in the Middle East region, Russian-Egyptian multifaceted ties are expanding steadily. The countries maintain an active political dialogue, including at the high and highest levels, and new areas and forms of cooperation in the trade, economic, cultural and humanitarian spheres are being developed.

Minister Lavrov and Minister Shukri will focus on ways to settle crises in the Middle East and North Africa, including Syria, Libya, and Yemen. Considerable attention will be paid to counteracting new challenges and threats facing the countries of this region, with an emphasis on combining efforts in fighting terrorism and extremism. The ministers will focus on ways to reduce the potential for conflict, including the prospects for creating a zone free from weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East. Of course, ways to unblock the Palestinian-Israeli settlement process will be considered in detail as well.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to meet with Vatican Secretary of State Pietro Parolin

State Secretary of the Vatican Pietro Parolin will come to Russia on a working visit on August 20-24. During the visit, he will meet with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

The sides will discuss current international issues, including countering new challenges and threats, and resolving regional conflicts.

Particular attention will be paid to the situation in Syria, Libya and other countries of the Middle East and North Africa, primarily in the context of peacefully resolving crises, overcoming humanitarian catastrophes, protecting Christians in the conflict zones and countering international terrorism.

The Secretary of State will receive an overview of Russia’s position on Ukraine, and destructive actions of the Kiev authorities, their disregard for their commitments to implement the Minsk agreements, as well as the harsh humanitarian situation in southeastern Ukraine.

Cooperation in the sphere of culture, humanitarian ties, science, education and medicine is central to the bilateral agenda. This year, the State Tretyakov Gallery hosted a one-of-a-kind exhibition from the collections of the Vatican Museums “Roma Aeterna. Masterpieces of the Vatican Pinakothek. Bellini, Raphael, Caravaggio.” The historical and documentary exhibition “The Romanovs of Russia and the Vatican, 1613-1917” which will open in Moscow in December is another important event in this sphere.

The Institute of World History of the Russian Academy of Sciences, in conjunction with the Pontifical Committee of Historical Sciences, is carrying out a number of projects devoted to the history of relations between Russia and the Vatican.

Professional ties are expanding between Russian and Vatican medical institutions which treat children with grave illnesses.

Cambodian Foreign Minister Prak Sokhon’s visit to the Russian Federation

On August 22-25, Senior Minister, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of the Kingdom of Cambodia Prak Sokhon will visit Russia, hold talks with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and participate in the tenth session of the Russian-Cambodian Intergovernmental Commission on Trade, Economic, Scientific and Technological Cooperation.

The ministers plan to discuss the current state of and prospects for stepping up bilateral cooperation in various fields, emphasising the implementation of the top-level agreements reached in recent years, as well as to compare their positions on current international and regional issues.

It is hoped that the visit of the Cambodian delegation to Russia will further strengthen Russian-Cambodian cooperation in practical fields, which advances the long-term interests of our countries as well as the security and sustainable development goals of Southeast Asia and the entire Asia-Pacific region.

Foreign Minister of the Republic of Korea Kang Kyung-wha’s visit to the Russian Federation

On August 24-25, Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha will make a working visit to the Russian Federation.

On August 25, Ms Kang plans to have talks with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. The parties will discuss the current state of and prospects for developing bilateral relations, including trade and economic cooperation. The ministers will exchange opinions on current international and regional issues, focusing on the settlement on the Korean Peninsula crisis.

Situation on the Korean Peninsula

The “spiral of confrontation” continues to escalate on the Korean Peninsula.

On August 5, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 2371, which reflects the global community’s concerns over the ongoing ballistic missile tests in the DPRK. Russia will continue to fulfil its international obligations, including the provisions of the new resolution.

All UN member states are obliged to implement the resolution in full. Paragraph 28 emphasises the UNSC’s commitment to a peaceful, diplomatic and political settlement of the situation and the importance of joint work to ease the tensions on the Korean Peninsula. Efforts are needed from all parties concerned on facilitating an all-encompassing dialogue for a comprehensive settlement of the subregion’s problems.

Sadly, in recent years we have often been witnesses to a situation where states become parties concerned only after the hot phase of the conflict occurs, with conferences urgently held and plans developed to rescue the situation and provide aid to refugees, as well as on many other issues. It would be good if today there was a greater number of those interested in a prompt settlement of the situation on the Korean Peninsula, so that everyone who can contribute to solving it in some way or another becomes aware of the insanity of what politicians have repeatedly called for when speaking in favour of a military scenario in this region.

To our great disappointment, recently we have seen just the opposite. A number of capitals openly threaten to use force and are making extremely dangerous statements on being ready for armed conflict. We firmly state that any attempt at a military solution to the Korean Peninsula’s issues will lead to an immense tragedy and massive casualties among the population of all parties to the conflict, as well as a humanitarian, economic and environmental catastrophe.

We call on all countries to exercise restraint and undertake real efforts to prevent the situation from going past the point of no return. We are duly working with the countries that are members of the six-party process. In our interactions with our Chinese partners, we insist that there is no alternative to a peaceful solution of the range of problems on the Korean Peninsula. We urge all responsible members of the global community to support the ideas put forward in the Russian-Chinese “roadmap” for the Korean settlement process, whose main provisions are envisaged in the joint statement of the Russian and Chinese foreign ministries of July 4 posted on the Russian Foreign Ministry’s website.

Situation in Syria

We are pleased to note the positive trends in the way the military and political situation in Syria is developing, the way the ceasefire regime is being strengthened and the de-escalation zones are beginning to function: in the southwest of the country, in Eastern Ghouta and in the north of Homs province. Experts are currently working within the “Astana format” on the establishment of a de-escalation zone in Idlib. The practical steps taken on the basis of the May 4 Memorandum and the agreements reached in Amman and Cairo, including the deployment of Russian military police units in the agreed-upon areas along the line of contact in the de-escalation zones, give hope that there will be significant improvements in the humanitarian situation and the gradual building of bridges of trust in Syrian society. An opportunity has emerged to concentrate far more forces than before to combat ISIS and al-Nusra terrorists.

The Syrian army is pressing ISIS militants in the Syrian Desert, the Euphrates Valley and the southeast of Syria. On August 12, the terrorists were completely driven out of their long-standing stronghold of al-Sukhnah. An offensive is being mounted towards Deir ez-Zor, which has been besieged for three years.

The enemy is putting up resistance, trying to regroup and preparing for new clashes.

From this perspective, we are particularly alarmed by the situation in Idlib, where al-Nusra units have made use of the relative calm to build up their combat potential and have been forcing their rules upon other illegal armed groups and the local residents amid signs of brewing protest among them. Over a short period of time, al-Nusra has managed to set up 14 prisons in Idlib, mostly in devastated poultry plants, where people are thrown for such heavy “offenses” as being relatives of government servicemen, policemen or officials. Bloody clashes are being provoked with fighters of those armed formations that are taking part in the “Astana process.” As a result, a new wave of violence and wild banditry has swept Idlib. Proof of that is the killing of seven local activists of the so-called Syrian Civil Defence, better known as White Helmets, in a bloody assault in the town of Sarmin. In the past, the Russian Foreign Ministry has repeatedly made clear its principled assessments of the White Helmets’ activities. Our opinion has not changed. Even so, we cannot remain indifferent to the cold-blooded mass killing of unarmed people.

The situation I have just described demands the soonest possible end. Russia together with other guarantors of the “Astana process” will continue working to help translate the agreement on the establishment of a de-escalation zone in Idlib into practice as quickly as possible and enable the population of that Syrian province to do away with the lawlessness of terrorists and criminal elements.

Developments in Afghanistan

Unfortunately, the security situation in Afghanistan continues to deteriorate. Despite the fact that, according to the Pentagon, the US Air Force launched over 1,600 air strikes on the armed opposition in the first half of 2017, its militants are besieging more and more districts. In particular, over the past few weeks, Janikhel (Paktia province), Taiwara (Ghor province) and Ghormach (Faryab province), have also been taken under the control of extremists. The level of terrorist activity remains high. Against the background of the worsening military situation, protest sentiments in Afghan society are growing.

We can see attempts to stir up ethnic conflict in the country. In this connection, we are deeply concerned about reports of the massacre of civilians in the Hazara village of Mirza Olang in the province of Sar-e-Pul. According to eyewitnesses, this crime was committed not by the local Taliban fighters, but by foreign militants, who had been transferred there by unknown helicopters.

Cases of unidentified helicopter flights to territory controlled by extremists in other northern provinces of Afghanistan are also recorded. For example, there is evidence that on August 8, four helicopters made flights from the airbase of the Afghan National Army's 209th corps in Mazar-i-Sharif to the area captured by the militants in the Aqcha district of the Jowzjan province. It is noteworthy that witnesses of these flights began to fall off the radar of law enforcement agencies. It seems that the command of the NATO forces controlling the Afghan sky stubbornly refuses to notice these incidents.

We draw the attention of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan to the need for a thorough investigation of each such case.

Developments in Kenya

On August 8, general elections took place in the Republic of Kenya, in which over 77 per cent of voters took part. Current President Uhuru Kenyatta has been re-elected, with over 54 per cent of the votes in his favour.

International observers, including representatives of the African Union, the East African Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), the East African Community and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa positively assessed the organisation of the election, noting the absence of serious violations and incidents.

The situation in the country after the announcement of the voting results remains generally calm.

Moscow was pleased with the successful elections in Kenya and confirms its readiness to further strengthen the traditionally friendly relations and mutually beneficial multifaceted cooperation between our countries.

Political developments in Venezuela

According to different sources, the first signs of a decline in the armed confrontation between the opposition and the Government supporters are being registered in Venezuela. The National Constituent Assembly adopted a number of practical decisions to improve the political situation, including preparing for and holding regional elections in October. Parties that are members of the opposition coalition have already announced their readiness to take part in them. Analysts believe that this is obviously a step towards overcoming contradictions in Venezuelan society and resolving the accumulated socioeconomic problems democratically and in line with constitutional norms.

Against this backdrop, the positions of some global leaders cannot but cause concern. They do not see the new political reality that has emerged in Venezuela. Continued attempts to shatter the situation and exert pressure on the Venezuelan authorities have very destructive potential because they threaten to disrupt the emerging fragile balance. It is becoming increasingly obvious that the goal of such actions is not to achieve peace and prosperity in Venezuela but rather ambitious political aims that have nothing to do with the life of the country’s people.

We consider unacceptable the use of illegal unilateral sanctions that will hit hardest the disadvantaged segments of the population in Venezuela, not to mention the threat of potentially using foreign military force in order to stop the tragedy in Venezuela (President Donald Trump’s statement on August 11). Such statements contradict the principles of international law on non-interference in the internal affairs of sovereign states and renunciation of the unilateral use of force. We consider such statements to be aimed against not only Caracas but the whole of Latin America. It is no surprise that the majority of Latin American nations, including those who have pursued tough anti-Chavez policy, sharply denounced such intentions and supported the exclusively peaceful resolution of the Venezuelan crisis. This is evidenced by public statements of their official representatives, heads of state or foreign ministers and numerous contacts of Russian diplomats and other officials with their Latin American colleagues.

We are convinced that Venezuelans are capable of resolving their problems themselves, with the constructive support of the responsible world community and without ultimatums imposed on them from the outside.

Nagorno-Karabakh settlement process

We have received requests to comment on the situation around the Nagorno-Karabakh settlement process.

Russia has always supported measures to reduce tension in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict area. The co-chairs have repeatedly talked about the need for specific steps in this regard and this was also stated at the Vienna (May 2016) and St Petersburg (June 2016) summits. At the same time, the implementation of measures proposed by mediators hinges on the good will of the parties to the conflict. For our part, we are doing all we can to stabilise the situation and create conditions for continuing the negotiating process to bring about a [political] settlement. This approach prevailed at a meeting of the Azerbaijani and Armenian foreign ministers in Moscow in April.

At present, the co-chairs are making preparations for the next summit on Nagorno-Karabakh. To this end, they held talks with the Azerbaijani and Armenian foreign ministers in Brussels in July. Consultations will continue on the sidelines of the upcoming session of the UN General Assembly in New York in the second half of September. A corresponding statement will be made as a result.

I would like to reiterate what we constantly say at all levels: Russia devotes special attention to the Nagorno-Karabakh issue. It is among our foreign policy priorities and is mentioned in Russia’s Foreign Policy Concept.

Epidemiological situation in Turkey

In view of the growing number of tourists infected with Coxsackievirus (an enterovirus infection) in Turkey’s southern resorts, the Federal Agency for Tourism and the Federal Service for the Oversight of Consumer Protection and Welfare have warned Russian citizens about the unfavourable epidemiological situation in that country. The most disturbing situation is reported in Serik, Kemer, Manavgat, Alanya, Antalya and Side.

As of August 14, 14 infections were registered among Russian citizens, all of them children under 10. Another 361 Russian tourists (including 337 children under 10) were diagnosed for viral gastroenteritis.

At the moment there is no need for emergency evacuation of Russian citizens.

The Russian Embassy in Ankara is in constant contact with Turkish health authorities to get complete information regarding the evolution of the epidemiological situation.

Turkey has announced its readiness to accept Russian experts to assess the situation and determine the level of threat to Russian citizens’ health in resort areas.

I would also like to remind you that in connection with the situation that has evolved, in keeping with Article 14 of Federal Law No 132-FZ, “Basic Principles of Tourism Activity in the Russian Federation” (November 24, 1996), a tourist has a right to require a change in a tour package to Turkey (including with regard to destination or timing of the tour) or cancellation thereof, while the expenses sustained by a tour operator may not be withheld.

We are closely watching the situation in Turkey. I would like to reiterate that Russian missions in Turkey are in constant contact not only with the Turkish authorities but also with Russian citizens who need help. Hotline numbers are available on the websites of the Foreign Ministry and the Russian Embassy in Turkey. If necessary, they can be put to active use.

Russian citizen Renat Bakiev detained in Turkey

Following reports of a Russian citizen being detained in Turkey, the Russian Embassy in Ankara immediately sent corresponding queries to the host country’s competent agencies. As a result, the Turkish authorities issued official notice that Russian citizen Renat Bakiev was detained on July 29 on suspicion of “involvement in the ISIS armed terrorist organisation.” In keeping with a Turkish court ruling of August 10, he was taken into custody and is currently being held at a closed correctional facility.

The Russian Embassy in Turkey is closely watching the situation to make certain that Mr Bakiev’s rights to a fair trial are ensured, as well as monitoring the case at the consular level, and will provide the detainee whatever assistance may be necessary.

The Foreign Ministry has put this case on its watch list.

Post-registration clinical trials of Russian Ebola vaccine Gam Evac Combi in the Republic of Guinea

On August 9, post-registration clinical trials of Russian Ebola vaccine Gam Evac Combi began in the Republic of Guinea.

As is known, the Ebola epidemic in Western Africa has mainly affected three countries: Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. According to the WHO, the Ebola virus infected 28,600 people and killed over 11,300 of them.

Russian scientists were among the first in the world to respond to Guinea’s call for help in fighting the Ebola outbreak. In response to an official appeal from the Guinea government, in August 2014, a group of specialists and two lab modules of a mobile complex of specialised anti-epidemic brigades were sent to Guinea aboard a special plane of the Russian Emergencies Ministry.

UC RUSAL (Russian aluminium company) ensured the deployment of a 200-bed military field infections hospital donated by Russia and organised and financed the training of qualified military medical personnel.

On January 14, 2016, Russia announced the creation of the vaccine Gam Evac Combi, a combined vector Ebola vaccine developed by researchers at the Gamaleya Federal Research Centre for Epidemiology and Microbiology.

On February 15, 2016, the Russian vaccine was presented to the WHO in Geneva. It is notable for the fact that it develops long-term immunity and has no serious side effects.

This past July, Russian equipment and vaccine were delivered to Guinea. The Gamaleya Research Centre prepared and sent over 1,000 vaccine doses for initial vaccination. Preparations were made to mobilise Guinean volunteers. To this end, the Guinean health minister issued an order to create a national committee to promote the Gam Evac Combi vaccination that included Russian and Guinean scientists and specialists conducting research and enlisting volunteers on the ground.

The vaccination of 2,000 Guinean volunteers and post-registration clinical trials of the Russian vaccine in the Republic of Guinea are expected to continue through 2018.

More detailed materials on this topic will be posted on the Foreign Ministry’s official website.


19.07.2018 - Embassy Press Officer’s reply to a media question concerning alleged identification by the Metropolitan police of suspects in the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal

Q.: How would you comment on today’s media reports claiming that the Met Police have allegedly identified two suspected perpetrators of the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal in Salisbury? A.: We have seen the report by the Press Association saying that investigators believe to have identified the persons who poisoned Sergei and Yulia Skripal by cross-checking CCTV recordings with lists of people who entered and left the United Kingdom around that time. The Security Minister Ben Wallace has already given assessment to this report by writing in Twitter that it “belongs in the ill informed and wild speculation folder”. In this regard, we would also like to mention the statement of the Met Police on the Salisbury poisoning published by “Daily Mail” on 17 July, according to which “the investigation into the Salisbury attack remains ongoing and we’re not prepared to discuss any lines of enquiry at this stage”.

19.07.2018 - Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova’s answers to questions by the Rossiya Segodnya International Information Agency about the investigation into the Salisbury and Amesbury incidents and the murder of Nikolai Glushkov

Question: What could you say about the investigation into the incidents in Salisbury and Amesbury? Maria Zakharova: We have noticed that Britain has lately modified the tactics of covering the investigation into the Salisbury and Amesbury incidents. While earlier the London police limited themselves to general phrases accompanied by a lot of media leaks and high-level politicised statements, then now they make regular public statements, with politicians referring to the need to wait for police conclusions. Despite insufficient informative value, this creates an illusion of transparency.

18.07.2018 - Embassy Press Officer’s reply to a media question concerning Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt’s statement of on the 4th anniversary of the MH17 plane crash in Eastern Ukraine

Q: Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt insists on Russian state responsibility for downing MH17 flight in Eastern Ukraine. How would you comment on this? A: Indeed, four years have passed since Malaysia Airlines MH17 flight crashed in Donbass, claiming the lives of 298 innocent passengers from many countries. Our thoughts are with the families and friends of all those who lost their lives. From the very first day Russia has advocated a thorough and impartial international investigation into this crash. Our country immediately offered all necessary technical and expert assistance. Instead, the Netherlands did not allow Russia to participate in the Joint Investigative Team (JIT) and opted to pursue a preselected line of investigation, almost entirely ignoring essential information that Russia was providing.

17.07.2018 - Embassy Press Officer’s reply to a media question concerning the statement of Minister of State Alan Duncan on the “Ukrainian political prisoners”

Question: Foreign Office Minister for Europe Sir Alan Duncan has urged Russia to release the “Ukrainian political prisoners” Oleg Sentsov, Volodymyr Balukh and Emir-Huseyn Kuku. How would you comment on this? Answer: The Embassy has taken note of Sir Alan’s statement, which fails to reflect the real state of affairs. It should be reminded that Oleg Sentsov has been sentenced to 20 years in prison on grave charges of creating a terrorist group and preparing two terrorist acts.

17.07.2018 - Embassy Press Officer’s reply to a media question concerning The New York Times article on the Skripals case

Question: According to the New York Times, British investigators suspect “current or former agents of the GRU” of the attempted poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal. How would you comment on that? Answer: We are not surprised by the new wave of anti-Russian publications in the run-up to and on the day of the meeting between the Russian and U.S. Presidents in Helsinki. However, we are concerned by the fact that, while the British authorities keep concealing all information concerning the investigation into the Salisbury incident, the newspaper has quoted “one former US official familiar with the inquiry”. It appears that the British authorities have shared confidential and extremely sensitive information with private individuals who have no authority or grounds for access thereto. Meanwhile, the Russian side has been trying to get access to the investigation and ensure cooperation between the British authorities and Russian experts for over four months, to no avail.

16.07.2018 - Russia-US summit

President of Russia Vladimir Putin and President of the United States of America Donald Trump have met in Helsinki for their first full-scale summit meeting. Before this, Mr Putin and Mr Trump had met on the sidelines of various international events.

16.07.2018 - News conference following talks between the presidents of Russia and the United States

President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, The talks with President of the United States Donald Trump were held in a candid and business-like atmosphere. I think they were quite successful and beneficial. We reviewed the current state and prospects of Russia-US relations and key international issues. It is obvious to everyone that our bilateral relations are undergoing a complicated period but there is no objective reason for these difficulties and the current tense atmosphere.

14.07.2018 - Embassy Press Officer’s reply to a media question concerning the new invitation of the OPCW experts to the UK

Question: How would you comment on the recent statement of the FCO concerning the new invitation to the OPCW experts to visit the United Kingdom in the framework of the Amesbury incident investigation? Answer: Following the new invitation extended by the UK to the OPCW technical experts “to independently confirm the identity of the nerve agent”, which Charles Rowley and Dawn Sturgess have been exposed to, we would like remind of the fact that after the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal in Salisbury in March Russia proposed to the UK to use the mechanisms under Article IX, paragraph 2 of the CWC and carry out a joint investigation.

14.07.2018 - Embassy Press Officer’s reply to a media question concerning course of investigation of the Amesbury incident

Question: How would you comment on the recent statements that a small bottle containing nerve agent has been found in Amesbury? Answer: Unfortunately, Russia has no access to any official information concerning both the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal and other suspicious incidents in the UK, because the British side refuses to cooperate with us in any way possible. We cannot check or verify any British statements. As for this incident, we have to rely only on public statements, and we are almost sure that the British side will not be informing us directly.

11.07.2018 - Embassy Press Officer’s reply to a media question concerning the activity of the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory at Porton Down

Question: As early as in April the Russian Embassy requested assistance of the British side in arranging a meeting with Chief Executive of the Porton Down Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) Gary Aitkenhead and his colleagues. Have you managed to ascertain whether this secret lab had produced A-234 type agents that were allegedly used against the Skripals? Answer: Sadly, the FCO has ignored our query, which brings us to the conclusion that the British authorities wish to prevent us from communicating with experts who might have some information that is inconvenient for the Conservative government. In his interview to Sky News in April, Mr Aitkenhead himself did not deny the fact that his laboratory had produced and stockpiled nerve agents, including the so-called “novichok”. He added that they “would not be allowed to operate if we had lack of control that could result in anything leaving the four walls of our facility”.

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