23 March 2019
Moscow: 14:12
London: 11:12

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384 days have passed since the Salisbury incident - no credible information or response from the British authorities                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     376 days have passed since the death of Nikolay Glushkov on British soil - no credible information or response from the British authorities



Briefing by Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova

The situation in Syria


The situation in Syria remains complicated, but the trend towards improvement continues, generally.

The operation by Syrian government forces to eliminate a hotbed of terrorism in the southwestern provinces of Deraa and Quneitra is nearing completion. Over the past few days, the Syrian army, with the assistance of the "reconciled" Shabab as-Sunnah group, has pushed the ISIS-affiliated Khalid ibn al-Walid Army to the demarcation line with Israel and the border with Jordan. As of July 30, no more than 2 percent of the Deraa province remained controlled by ISIS. About 120 towns were returned to Syrian government control, of which over 50 were taken peacefully. Major supplies of food and weapons, including Western-made supplies, are being discovered in the fortified areas abandoned by the extremists. Losses among the militants are also rising with 230 terrorists killed on the southwestern "front" in the last 10 days of July alone.

Meanwhile, Syrian government forces are growing stronger. In addition to "reconciled" illegal armed forces who have joined the government forces, their ranks are being replenished by volunteers from among the gunmen who decided to “correct” their status. Thus, 150 former members of the Free Syrian Army registered with a volunteer recruiting station in the town of Nava in southwest Deraa province in mid-July on the first day it opened.

In the neighbouring province of Quneitra, the process of disarming "reconciled" militants is nearing completion. At the same time, the "irreconcilables" and their families are being taken from there to northern Syria. Over 9,000 people left Quneitra in the Idlib de-escalation area. In Idlib itself, the leaders of some groups are trying to establish contact with the Centre for the Reconciliation of Opposing Sides as they try to figure out the terms for possible reconciliation with the authorities.

We noted a statement by Ravina Shamdasani, an official representative of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, regarding terrorist attacks committed by ISIS in southwestern Syria, in particular, the suicide attack in Suwayda on July 25, which killed over 250 people, and the taking of women and children from al-Shabika hostage. Certainly, we agree with the strong condemnation of these inhumane attacks by OHCHR. However, the UN gave a very unusual explanation for the outbreak of violence in southern Syria linking it to emergence of new ISIS gunmen in the province of Suwayda allegedly brought from Yarmouk, Hajar al-Aswad and Tadamun as part of a "deal" between Damascus and the militants. Ravina Shamdasani expressed concern about the possibility that the situation in Suwayda would deteriorate and urged Damascus to refrain from taking ISIS militants to densely populated areas.

In this regard, we would like to note that, in its statement, the OHCHR has purposefully and, I would go as far as saying - shamelessly - distorted the facts. There was no such thing as "evacuating" ISIS members from Yarmouk, Hajar al-Aswad or Tadamun to southern Syria, as there are no agreements between the Syrian government and the militants on this account. The only evacuation operation that has ever taken place during this period was relocating women and children from the three towns mentioned above, and not to the south, but to northern Idlib.

Thus, in fact, simply taking advantage of the tragedy in Suwayda, these "human rights activists" actually tried to accuse Damascus not only of "collusion" with the militants, but also of the subsequent raid by terrorist killers in southern Syria. Notably, the actual deals with ISIS, where they left large towns on their own, such as Iraqi Mosul and Syrian Raqqa, went unnoticed by the OHCHR.


Statement by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Ravina Shamdasani on the situation in Syria


Attempts to hold the Syrian government responsible for the acts of terror committed by ISIS in the southeast of the country are unacceptable. They grossly pervert the real situation in Syria.

We consider these insinuations that, to our great regret, are made by UN officials on the tragedies of the people that were affected by these acts of terror as discrediting the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the office she heads. Unfortunately, this is not the first case where considerations of expediency and anti-Syrian objectives have prevailed over common sense and truth, all the more so taking into account the absence of response by this international human rights office on the real agreements with ISIS that I have talked about.


Implementation of the Russian initiative on the return of refugees to Syria


For obvious reasons, the press is paying much attention to the implementation of the Russian initiative on the return of refugees to Syria. There are some details on this issue.

During our daily cooperation with the Russian Defence Ministry, the Foreign Ministry is actively working on mobilising international efforts to facilitate the return of Syrian refugees and internally displaced persons to the places of their residence.

Implementing this initiative, the interdepartmental coordination headquarters supervising the return of refugees to Syria conducts meetings and joint briefings.

In the process we are maintaining close contact with the authorities of the foreign states that accepted Syrian refugees on their territory with a view to receiving precise information on the number of people.  In the aggregate, over 6.8 million refugees have been recorded in 45 countries, including 2 million women and 3.5 million children. According to the UN Refugee Agency, the highest number of Syrian refugees is in Turkey (over 3.5 million), Lebanon (about 1.975 million) and Jordan (over half a million or 660,000 to be more accurate). In a tentative estimate, a desire to return home was expressed by more than 1.5 – 1.7 million Syrians from eight countries (Brazil, Germany, Denmark, Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon and Turkey).

The homecoming of refugees is most active from Lebanon and Jordan. The Foreign Ministry and the Russian Defence Ministry, as well as our Embassy in Damascus and the Center for the Reconciliation of the Warring Parties all cooperate directly with the Syrian government on the return of refugees. The number of internally displaced persons who are returning to their permanent residences is increasing.

We believe the efforts to resolve the problems of refugees and internally displaced persons should be primarily aimed at increasing humanitarian relief to those who need it, rendering medical aid to the sick and wounded and restoring Syria’s socio-economic infrastructure. These activities should be conducted on a collective and, certainly, depoliticised basis, in accordance with UN rules, in the interests of Syrians and on Syria’s entire territory.

We believe that Syria’s socio-economic recovery and the homecoming of refugees and internally displaced persons is an urgent priority international task. Accomplishing this will largely promote success in expediting the beginning of a truly peaceful life and eradicating terrorism and the factors that generate it on Syrian soil.

The unilateral financial and economic actions that have been introduced against Syria by some countries and regional associations are a serious obstacle on this road. We insist on the suspension of these artificial restrictions that are impeding the normalisation of life in Syria and a long-term settlement on the firm foundation of international law, including the universally adopted UN Security Council Resolution 2254.


Canada’s plans to accept White Helmets activists


We regularly comment on anything related to the pseudo-humanitarian organisation the White Helmets. Actually, frankly speaking, they should have changed their name from White Helmets to White Masks a long time ago. Because these people who had for many years pretended to be humanitarians, in reality turned out to be, and this fact has been proved by now, mere foreign agents who worked on the territory of Syria for vast sums of money, advancing anti-Syrian interests and the interests of other nations. Currently they are being rushed out and stashed away in different countries.

And so we took note of Canada’s recent decision to harbour the White Helmets. Let me remind you that they just pretended to be humanitarian workers, it was all pantomime. No, it goes beyond that – they had close ties to extremists. The fact that they will be hidden away in Canada now, to be honest, did not surprise us for a number of reasons.

Firstly, it is well known that Ottawa alongside with some other western capitals has long been providing this group, let us be specific, both moral and  direct financial support. Major sums, millions of dollars. Meanwhile I will remind you that those supposed humanitarian workers, who are in fact pseudo-humanitarian workers, became notorious for their staged scenes on orders from anti-government groups, they tried to keep the war in Syria going as long as possible, to fuel more and more conflicts, to pit Syrians against each other, and to bring Syria and the Syrian people down rather than render real assistance to the victims.

Apparently, there are other factors which prompted Canada to accept these new so-called “refugees.” The White Helmets and the Canadian authorities are one in the same with respect to groundless accusations against the Syrian authorities as well as blaming Russia. By the way, it is a big question what ordinary Canadians are going to feel about such “refugees” after the terrorist groups are destroyed and after realising what is going on now on the ground, and we hope such a realisation will come.

I would like to point out that Canada’s history already has stains, in particular, when it became a shelter for Nazis who hadn’t been finished off, we remember that perfectly well, including the punitive Ukrainian battalions of the SS. We can remind those in Canada who might have forgotten. I would also like to point out that many of them never faced justice for their atrocities. Meanwhile, now Ottawa is embracing a new wave – this time terrorist accomplices. The Canadian public do have things to ponder.


UNESCO’s position on restoring Palmyra


We were asked a question on the UNESCO position and steps that this international organisation is taking to restore Palmyra. I would like to say that the UNESCO position on restoring Palmyra is based on the need to strictly follow the 1972 Convention Concerning the Protection of the World’s Cultural and Natural Heritage and its Operational Guidelines, I mean the Operational Guidelines for the Implementation of the World Heritage Convention. In this context, the authorities of the Organisation in protecting world heritage are exercised under the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, the 1970 Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property, and UN Security Council Resolutions 2199 and 2253 (they focus on protecting cultural property in case of an armed conflict) and also UN Security Council Resolution 2347 aimed at protecting  cultural property under the threat of destruction.

The 42nd session of the World Heritage Committee in Manama (Bahrain, June 24 – July 4) reaffirmed that it would be advisable to refrain from restoring objects in Syria before a UNESCO expert mission arrives in the country. In addition, the possibility of sending such a mission in the near future is not being considered and is made dependent on “security conditions.” The UN security service takes decisions on whether conditions are adequate. 

In addition, UNESCO has spread the word that from March 2015 until April 2018, in the framework of the Emergency Safeguarding of the Syrian Cultural Heritage three-year project financed by the European Union, in which special centres and institutions were involved, over 50 actions were carried out that were aimed at preserving the Syrian heritage, and a list of almost 700 exhibits from all over the world was compiled, some cultural objects in Palmyra were restored, damage to 170 historical buildings in Aleppo  was assessed, and photographs and papers that were under the threat of destruction were digitalised.


To be continued...



21.03.2019 - Introductory remarks by Lord West at the reception dedicated to Soviet War Memorial Trust, 20 March 2019

In 2005, as First Sea Lord, I had the great honour of being present in the ‘Hero City’ Murmansk on Victory Day, together with a party of over 300 British veterans, His Royal Highness the Duke of York, and the frigate HMS Sutherland. After a moving ceremony and parade in the city’s main square, I was invited to walk alongside the governor of the Murmansk Oblast and the Commander of the Northern Fleet at the head of a procession of veterans and citizens up to the huge statue of the soldier ‘Alyosha’ – the Monument to the Defenders of the Soviet Arctic – that stands on a high bluff overlooking the Kola Inlet, gazing across to the distant border with Norway that was protected with such determination and courage. There we laid wreaths to the fallen and remembered those who had died or been permanently affected by the terrible events of those years.

21.03.2019 - Embassy Press Officer’s reply to a media question regarding the reports of the incident with the Russian sailors in UK waters

Question: Does the Embassy have a statement to make regarding the Russian sailors who were found on an island in the Bristol Channel?

21.03.2019 - Ambassador Alexander Yakovenko's introductory remarks at the reception dedicated to Soviet War Memorial Trust, 20 March 2019

It’s a great pleasure for me to host this reception today! We dedicate the today’s event to our friends from the Soviet War Memorial Trust. Their enthusiasm and dedication made it possible, that a unique monument, commemorated to the sacrifice of 27 million lives by the citizens and armed forces of the former Soviet Union in its joint struggle with the Western Allies to defeat Nazism during World War II, became a focus of Victory Day events in London. Memorial work nowadays takes a special place in activities of Russian MFA, and WWII memory is, of course, a top priority here. Collecting the information about military memorials, arranging repairs where needed and monitoring their condition – all this is a significant part of the work of many Embassies around the world. Our Ministry has signed multiple agreements on cooperation with various organizations and charities working in this area, such as the Russian Heritage committee here in the UK.

21.03.2019 - Statement by H.E. Mr. Sergey Lavrov, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation at the Plenary Session of the Conference on Disarmament, Geneva, March 20, 2019

Distinguished Mr. President, Distinguished Mr. Secretary-General Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen, A year has passed since I last addressed this audience. By historical standards, this is a miniscule amount of time. Yet the events that have taken place over the year have brought us to the edge of a new era in arms control. A year ago, you and us still hoped that, by means of constructive dialogue, we altogether could overcome differences, find compromise solutions and give new impetus to the joint effort aimed at strengthening peace and maintaining global stability.

19.03.2019 - Ambassador Yakovenko met IGC Executive Director

On 19 March 2019 Russian Ambassador Alexander Yakovenko met Executive Director of the International Grain Council (IGC)

19.03.2019 - Agricultural Attache V.Derbenskiy visits the International Food and Drink Event 2019

On 19 March the Agricultural Attaché of the Russian Embassy Vladimir Derbenskiy visited the International Food and Drink Event 2019, one of the most important food industry shows hosted in the UK.

18.03.2019 - Embassy Press Officer replies to a media question regarding the statement by Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt on the 5th anniversary of Crimea’s reunification with Russia

Question: How would you react to today’s statement by Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt who has again condemned the “illegal annexation” of the Crimean Peninsula that was a result of a “blatant land grab” and a “sham referendum”? Answer: This position is not new. It is based on a total disregard for the rights and interests of Crimeans, but also those of Ukrainians, whose president was removed in 2014 in an unconstitutional way and with the West’s direct support. Faced with a coup in Kiev, accompanied by a neo-Nazi frenzy and direct threats of violence in Crimea, the Crimean people decided that it could no longer exercise its right to self-determination within the Ukrainian state, declared independence and re-joined Russia.

16.03.2019 - Statement by First Deputy Permanent Representative Dmitry Polyanskiy at the Security Council Arria-Formula meeting on Crimea

Statement by First Deputy Permanent Representative Dmitry Polyanskiy at the Security Council Arria-Formula meeting on Crimea regarding “Fifth anniversary of the beginning of Russia’s occupation of Crimea: A blatant violation of international law” Distinguished Mr. President, At the outset let me express condolences to the friendly people of New Zealand regarding the disastrous events in Christchurch. We condemn this heinous crime. It should be investigated and any possible recurrences should be prevented. We hope that all the wounded will feel better and recover soon. There was a good storyteller Lewis Carrol. His most famous tale “Alice in Wonderland” tells us about a little girl who dreamt and thought it was real. I am having an impression that todays event is held by such “Alices” who tell us about their dreams. Their dreams are mainly scary and appalling.

14.03.2019 - Embassy Press Officer’s reply to a media question on the UK position regarding humanitarian aid deliveries to Syria

Question: How would you comment on the UK position regarding humanitarian aid deliveries to Syria in the light of today’s International Donor Conference on Syria in Brussels? Answer: We have taken note of the FCO press release on the UK participation in this conference, stating that “humanitarian access to millions in need within Syria continues to be obstructed by the Syrian regime who routinely refuse requests from the UN and aid organisations to deliver aid”. These allegations are simply not true. In fact, the Syrian government makes every effort for delivering humanitarian aid to various parts of the country.

12.03.2019 - Welcome note by Ambassador Yakovenko at the reception to mark Russia’s participation in the London Book Fair 2019

I am delighted to welcome you today at the reception to mark Russia’s participation in this year’s London Book Fair. It has already become a tradition and the “Read Russia” stand is one of the “trademark features” of the Fair which opens tomorrow. The main goal of literature, as well as of culture in general, is to build bridges between different countries and bring our ties to a new level of connectivity, engaging new dimensions and areas of contacts. This role has grown only more important during the chaotic and unpredictable times we live in today.

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