14 December 2018
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285 days have passed since the Salisbury incident - no credible information or response from the British authorities                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     277 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...



13.12.2018 - Statement of the Russian Federation on the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, Marrakesh, December 11, 2018

The Russian Federation supports the adoption of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration. This compromise document covers many dimensions of international migration, including humanitarian aspect, development issues, human rights and fight against crime.

12.12.2018 - Embassy comment on the state of the investigation into the death of Nikolay Glushkov

Nine months have passed since former Deputy General Director of Aeroflot Nikolay Glushkov, a national of the Russian Federation, mysteriously died in London.

11.12.2018 - Joint statement by Angola, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bolivia (plurinational state of), Burundi, China, Comoros, Congo, Cuba, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Eritrea, Iran (Islamic Republic of), Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Mozambique, Myanmar, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Russian Federation, State of Palestine, Syrian Arab Republic, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of), Viet Nam, Zimbabwe at the Fourth review conference of the chemical weapons convention, the Hague, November 30, 2018

We, the States Parties to the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on their Destruction (CWC), committed to achieving the goal of freeing the world of chemical weapons, strongly condemn the use of chemical weapons by anyone, anywhere and under any circumstances.

09.12.2018 - Embassy Press Officer’s reply to a media question concerning the accusations of “Russian involvement” in the cases of Scott Young and Alexander Perepilichny

Question: The Sunday Times articles today speculate on the possibility that, despite earlier claims, Mr Scott Young and Mr Alexander Perepilichny were killed, while also hinting at the alleged “Russian link”. How could the Embassy comment on that? Answer: These and similar “sensations” follow the same traditional pattern. As always, no official information is provided, only leaks in the media from unknown sources. Upon this rickety foundation, fancy theories are built, with a remarkably rich collection of modal verbs used. And as always, publications appear on the eve of an important political event, such as Brexit deal vote. It is really hard to avoid the impression that we witness a pre-meditated political game to draw the public attention from the less glamorous sides of UK foreign and internal affairs.

09.12.2018 - Embassy Press Officer’s reply to a media question concerning the UK position on chemical weapons attack in Aleppo, Syria

Question: How would you comment on the statement by the UK FCO spokesperson on chemical weapons use in Aleppo? Answer: The statement reflects the worst traditions of the modern UK diplomacy in both form and substance: no attempts are made to present any evidence supporting its allegations, instead phrases of little value, such as “likely”, “highly likely” or “highly unlikely”, are being used excessively.

07.12.2018 - Embassy Comment on the situation with Russian nationals Sergei and Yulia Skripal

More than nine months have passed since the incident with the Russian citizens Sergei and Yulia Skripal. The British authorities have been in breach of their obligations under five basic international conventions as they persistently refuse to work together with the Russian side, fail to use official channels for bilateral exchange of information and make every effort to cover up the circumstances of the incident. The Skripals have not been seen alive for a long time. Their whereabouts and health status are unknown.

06.12.2018 - Embassy Press Officer’s reply to a media question concerning recent publications in the British media concerning alleged increase of Russian intelligence activity

Question: How would you comment on British media reports claiming that British security services are currently witnessing intensive activity of Russian intelligence officers allegedly working under diplomatic cover? Answer: Unfortunately, the spy hysteria in the British society is aggravating. The content of such publications, which regularly appear in the British media with the connivance of the authorities, shows that the current Conservative government is increasing its efforts to create a “toxic” image of the Russian Embassy in order to complicate our interaction with the British public as much as possible. Embassy staff travelling across the country is an absolutely normal, lawful and indispensable part of their work and daily life. Yet it is displayed as some kind of intelligence missions. This amounts to an attempt to limit the Embassy’s routine operations to a minimum.

05.12.2018 - Embassy Press Officer’s reply to a media question concerning the UK Government’s assessment of Ukraine’s actions

Question: The UK Government openly distorts the circumstances of the incident in the Kerch Strait on 25 November. What do you think is the reason for that? Answer: Unfortunately, the Ukrainian provocation in the Black Sea, as well as the general situation in the region, continues to be used by a number of Western countries, including the UK, to stir anti-Russian rhetoric. The details of the incident, most notably the blatant and deliberate violation of the territorial waters of the Russian Federation by the Ukrainian ships, are ignored by the UK Government. A number of British media outlets have also given a biased assessment of Russian actions in the Kerch Strait.

05.12.2018 - Embassy Press Officer’s reply to a media question concerning recent appeals of the British officials to impose new sanctions against Russia

Question: Recently British government officials have been actively urging to step up pressure on Russia by imposing new sanctions. How would you comment on this matter? Answer: We have taken note of such calls. Those statements have clearly shown the anti-Russian essence of the current Conservative government’s policies. The British officials are doing their utmost to avoid conducting a normal intergovernmental dialogue with Russia, while using only the language of ultimatums and sanctions, and are actively urging their partners, first and foremost in Europe, to act in a similar manner.

04.12.2018 - Embassy Press Officer’s reply to a media question concerning accusations of “spying” made against Channel One Russia journalists

Question: How would you comment on the publications in British media claiming that “Channel One Russia” journalists were involved in some sort of “spying activity”? Answer: We have taken note of the numerous publications with accusations against “Channel One Russia” journalists of “spying”, as well as of the instruction by the British Ministry of Defence that soldiers should not talk to Russian journalists and report them to the police if they ever see them near military installations. Such ungrounded accusations raise much concern. “Channel One Russia” works in the UK officially and openly, with all the necessary paperwork, in accordance with British law. In fact, this cannot always be said about certain UK journalists working in Russia.

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