18 October 2018
Moscow: 08:19
London: 06:19

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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.


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.

03.10.2018 - Embassy Press Officer’s reply to a media question on INF Treaty

Question: How would you comment on the latest statements by US officials on Russia’s alleged non-compliance with INF Treaty? Answer: Russia has repeatedly reaffirmed its commitment to the Treaty on the Elimination of Intermediate-Range and Shorter-Range Missiles (INF Treaty). The US allegations of Russian non-compliance relate to one particular missile type. While we have assured Washington on multiple occasions that the mentioned missile does not violate INF, the US has never explained the exact reasons of their preoccupation. These allegations divert attention from the American actions that are breaching a number of INF provisions.

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