Briefing by the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, for representatives of foreign and Russian mass media Moscow, 28 July 2014
Ladies and Gentlemen,
There have been a lot of addresses from representatives of Russian and foreign mass media, which are accredited in Moscow, lately, all of them asking for an interview. We decided that it would be correct to organise a briefing. Thank you for responding to our invitation.
I will not stop in detail on different aspects of the Ukrainian crisis – as far as I understand this topic is the main purpose of our meeting today. You certainly have many facts in your disposal. I will say some words and then you can ask your questions.
We are mainly worried about the problem of settlement, which must be exclusively political, diplomatic and peaceful. Over the last few months the Russian Federation jointly with many partners has undertaken insistent and specific steps in this direction. We are more and more concerned about the negotiability of some of our colleagues, including those, who participated in the achievement of the respective agreements.
We can and should recall primarily the 21 February, when the agreement between the Pre Viktor Yanukovych and at that time the opposition leaders, who are part of the ruling coalition right now (in all honestly, some changes were made to it, and it can cease to exist), was signed. Nevertheless, the agreement of the 21 February was signed by Viktor Yanukovych, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, Vitaly Klichko, Oleh Tyahnybok and certified by German, French and Polish foreign ministers. Almost nothing has been fulfilled from that agreement by since the time in opposition. Let me remind you that one of the key points in this document in overcoming the crisis was to create a national unity government, the main tasks of which would be to prepare for constitutional reform and to hold general elections based on these grounds. This was a real key to national consent and a truce. As you know, no national unity government was formed; they formed something, which was later called the “government of champions” on the “Maidan”. This was the first claim for the methods, which the new authorities were going to use to build their policy, namely – methods to suppress protests in the South-East.
There were other agreements later. The main one was the Geneva Statement of the 17 April, which set priority tasks to stop any use of force and starting the inclusive, open and accountable constitutional process with the participation of all the Ukrainian regions. Nothing has been done. Let me remind you of the statement, which was signed by the Russian, Ukrainian and US foreign ministers and the European Union High Representative. Our attempt to approve this statement in the OSCE and the UNSC was blocked by our western colleagues and Ukrainians.
As you know, then followed the OSCE “roadmap” prepared by the Current OSCE President, Swiss President, Didier Burkhalter. Our colleagues refused to officially approve this document in the OSCE as well. When we asked why the agreed Geneva Statement and the “roadmap” based on it are not fit for official decisions, they said that the “peace plan by the President Petro Poroshenko” had appeared since then, and we need to be guided by it.
We characterised this “peace plan” many times. If the cease fire task is set right, this plan conditioned a truce, which in fact meant the capitulation of the militia, who were told: you get several “days of quietness” – and in this period you either lay down your weapons or be eliminated. The President of Russia Vladimir Putin gave his assessments to such an approach as the main cause of today’s aggravation of the crisis many times. The cause is that the Ukrainian authorities consistently refuse to talk with respect to the South-East, to sit at the negotiation table or to start a dialogue on all the issues of the Ukrainian state, primarily issues of constitutional reform. If there is no such dialogue, no sincere wish to consider and reflect interests of all the nationals of Ukraine and all its regions, including the Donetsk and Lugansk Regions, and the South-East of the country in general, in these agreements, we should not count on a sustainable political settlement.
The development of events, which followed, proved that for the Ukrainian authorities the “peace plan by Petro Poroshenko” is just a tool to mobilise western support for the actions undertaken by the Ukrainian authorities using arms, aviation, artillery, other heavy weapons to achieve a military victory. People are dying, international humanitarian law is being violated – recent assessments by the Human Rights Watch are a particular proof of this.
This is happening against the backdrop of statements by our Western colleagues that the Ukrainian authorities have all the rights to use all means necessary to defend their sovereignty, territorial integrity and so on (you know this), as well as against the backdrop of the February events, when all the Western countries consistently demanded from the President Viktor Yanukovych not to use special units against protesters and demonstrators. Such an encouragement for the current Ukrainian authorities to use violence against their own people is an outrageous demonstration of double standards.
There are other agreements, which are blocked, hindered and distorted. I can mention the Berlin Declaration (of the 2 July), which was adopted by the Russian, German, French and Ukrainian foreign ministers, which took into consideration many requests of our western partners, envisaged the deployment of OSCE observers and representatives of the Ukrainian border services on Russian checkpoints, which are under militia control on the Ukrainian side, for the period of truce. Then, as a good will gesture, at the end of his negotiations with the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, on the 11 July in Rio de Janeiro the Russian President proposed not to wait for a truce, and invited OSCE observers to the two mentioned Donetsk and Gukovo checkpoints in the Rostov Region immediately.
Since the 11 July, when the observers were invited, two weeks have been lost in useless discussions in the OSCE, when US and UK diplomats jointly with their Ukrainian colleagues, attempted to prevent this Russian invitation from being accepted. Nevertheless, the decision was finally made. We are waiting for the deployment of OSCE observers in Donetsk and Gukovo checkpoints in the next few days. Yesterday, during my phone conversation with the US Secretary of State, John Kerry, I asked him to instruct his employees in the OSCE not to prevent the implementation of this agreement.
I hope that this will dispel the suspicion (which we hear from time to time) that these checkpoints, which are controlled by the militia in Ukraine, are allegedly used for a massive transfer of armaments and armed personnel from Russia to Ukraine. I repeat, two weeks were just wasted because of political games, in which our western and Ukrainian colleagues in the OSCE were engaged.
I am glad that the OSCE has demonstrated more responsibility with regard to the terrible tragedy, which had happened with the Malaysian Boeing airplane in the skies over Ukraine. A resolution was adopted, which requested an immediate, impartial and independent investigation be conducted. We believe (the President of Russia, Vladimir Putin, talked about this during his phone conversations with his colleagues from Australia, Holland, Malaysia and other countries) that such an investigation should start in the near future under the aegis of the UN. The Security Council should adopt another decision to do this. We are concerned that some of our partners attempt to transfer the practical work devoted to the organisation of such an investigation to the track of separate bilateral contacts with the Ukrainian authorities. Ukraine, of course, is a sovereign state, it can agree to anybody about the invitation of any experts and specialists. However, taking into consideration the situation in the area of the crash of the Malaysian Boeing airplane(primarily the continued shooting at the adjacent territories by the Ukrainian national guard forces), we are convinced that parameters of such an international mission, which will help in organising an investigation, must be clearly agreed with the UN Security Council, based on its authority and must be supported by security guarantees, which this supreme UN body can and must provide. We expect that reason will prevail, and the task of finding the truth and conducting an absolutely impartial investigation without any attempts to anticipate its results will be brought to the fore.
As you know, Russia has done as much as it could and is ready to make additional steps. We have already transferred objective observation data about the crash area to international organisations, including the UN and the OSCE. The Russian Ministry of Defence organised a special briefing. We expect that our other partners, who keep saying that they have some other conclusive data, will show them to the public openly and will not appeal that they are confidential, secret or refer to any other reasons for not doing so. Only honest and open participation of all those, who can have information related to this disaster, can be called normal. Anything else would be unfair attempts to affect the investigation, to doubt the principle of assumption of innocence. I do not want to throw about any accusations, but I expect that nobody will try to “sweep away their traces”.
In the end of my introductory speech, I will emphasise again that a range of agreements, which were reached during the Ukrainian crisis, were not implemented – some of them were not implemented at all, some were not implemented in full, because some of our partners attempted go back on them and instead of the rule and resolutions, which were agreed multilaterally, attempted to recklessly support the line of the Ukrainian leaders to suppress the protest in the South-East by force.
We continue our contacts with our western colleagues and Ukrainian partners, including within the framework of the Contact Group. We still do hope that apart from the TV conferences within the framework of this group with participation of Russia, the Ukrainian authorities, representatives of the militia and the OSCE, we will be able to agree on direct contacts, which are absolutely necessary to start a dialogue, on which we agreed in Geneva on the 17 April. I expect all the participants of these agreements to follow them closely and not to recede from them.
Question: As it has become known, the Court of Arbitration in The Hague upheld the claims of Yukos shareholders as legal and requested a compensation of 50 billion US dollars to be paid by Russia. In your opinion, to what extent is such a verdict justified? Will Moscow pay this money or will file an appeal?
Sergey Lavrov: This morning I have heard that such a decision is expected to be taken. We still have to wait for this decision to be taken, and will then make comments. You have already mentioned that these judicial proceedings are not over and an appeal is expected. The agencies representing Russia in these proceedings will certainly use all the legal opportunities available to them to defend our position.
Question: The United States have accused Russia of supplying weapons over the border and that we are shooting at Ukraine from the Russian territory and there is an exercise camp for insurgents in the area of Rostov. In your opinion, how substantial are these accusations?
Sergey Lavrov: As to the messages about continuing supplies of armaments, I already said that we have been asked to agree to the deployment of OSCE observers and representatives of the Ukrainian border service on the checkpoints, which have been controlled by the militia on the Ukrainian side for a long time. We were ready to do this a month ago; however, the promised truce did not happen. After this the President of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin, made a decision (as a goodwill gesture) not to wait for the truce, and to invite OSCE observers to dispel all suspicions, and independent experts could see themselves what is going on in these checkpoints.
They “tormented” us for two weeks in the OSCE using reasons, which have nothing to do with this idea and even without any causes. Those, who are sincerely interested in having no illegal border crosses, could have responded to the Russian proposition long ago. It is good that this has finally happened, and the OSCE has made such a decision. The observers can come, and we are ready to create all the necessary conditions for their work.
As to the monitoring of the events on both sides of the border, there are serious possibilities for that, which must be used – in particular, the OSCE special monitoring mission in Ukraine, which has a sufficiently wide mandate envisaging the use of different technical means. They asked us whether they can use unmanned aircrafts. Please, do, according to the mission's mandate, they can be equipped with any technical means of observation and objective control.
As to the Russian side of the border, I would probably advise the mass media to devote more attention to the events there. I will provide the following example. When growing streams of refugees started to come from the South-East of Ukraine to Russia, we asked our western colleagues and mass media representatives, how these refugees were to be accommodated in the Russian territory and why they were being forced to leave their homes. It turned out that many of you did not show any interest (I don’t want to offend anybody, but these are facts) to the events in the refugees camps in the Rostov Region. That time we showed our initiative and invited all the interested persons from the Moscow pool of mass media representatives to visit the Rostov Region. This was done and many of you participated in that trip. I urge you to visit this region, as well as other regions adjacent to Ukraine to see with your own eyes what is happening there. We will help you with this.
We also organised a visit of army attachés accredited at diplomatic representations in Moscow to the Rostov Region for them to see the results of shooting at the Russian territory by Ukraine. To be true, BBC representatives first called our invitation to military attachés to visit this region as a “part of an information war”. I leave this to the conscience of those who made such an assessment. We were guided solely by the goal to make the world know more about the events on our side of the border. We are also interested that everyone knows what is happening in the South-East of Ukraine, the means being used to implement the “peace plan by Petro Poroshenko”. We will help you to establish facts on your own and hope that they will not be censored, as happened just recently to a BBC journalist, whose report was removed from the website.
We hope that our western colleagues, including the mass media regulators, will be guided by principles of freedom of information and access to it. I do not hide that we were seriously concerned about the attempts of Ofcom, the British Regulator, to restrict broadcasting of Russia Today (RT) in the UK. This is not a singular case. Ofcom periodically accused RT as being guilty of so-called “prejudiced reporting” and threatened to take away its licence in the UK. I believe that this is an absolutely uncovered manifestation of censorship. We commented on reports of the BBC many times, noting that the point of view of this channel is frequently contrary to what we wanted to show based on the facts we have. However, we never wanted to use any punitive measures against the BBC or other broadcasters in the Russian territory. I expect that the UK or any other authorities will not involve the mass media in their political games, forcing them to adapt to the environment promoted by the government.
Question (translation from English): The relations between Russia and the West are getting worse week after week, and Europe keeps talking about sanctions. What is your assessment of such a worsening of relations? In your opinion, what consequences can there be? What does Russia plan to do in this situation?
Sergey Lavrov: Nobody can be happy about the worsening of relations between partners, which have a lot of opportunities to develop their mutually beneficial cooperation based on the balance of their interests. When unilateral momentary considerations of a geopolitical nature are forced into partnership promotions processes, I guess there is no winner. I am convinced that even those countries, at least European, which are now forced to take decisions about one or another sanctions, are not delighted about this and would certainly prefer to work by other, primarily political, methods. We need to understand the goals others want to achieve.
Our position is absolutely open. I have listed the landmarks of the development of the Ukrainian crisis, which ended up with the achievement of specific agreements. The agreement of the 21 February – others convincingly asked us to support it, although Moscow had serious doubts about it. This document means capitulation of the Ukrainian President, Viktor Yanukovych, his refusal to use his constitutional authority in what concerns the use of military forces, introduction of the state of emergency and the use of Special Forces. He refused all this, he did everything. Be as it may, but nothing the West feared so much (the use of force by Viktor Yanukovych) happened. At the same time, the opposition supported by German, French and Polish foreign ministers did not do anything it promised to do, no item was implemented. The “Maidan” is still untouched, although unblocking of squares and public places was one of the items of that agreement, without mentioning the national unity government. This is an outrageous fact.
They agreed based on national unity as a starting point, but next morning they announced that there will be no unity, there is a “government of champions” and it “will do as it wants”.
There was the Geneva Statement of the 17 April, on which Russia worked actively together with the United States and the European Union with the participation of Ukraine in April; there were Berlin agreements. Now we have agreements proposed by the OSCE. I would like to ask our western colleagues about their contribution to the development of political decisions. In the many cases which I have mentioned, they coordinated those documents. But as soon as these documents were coordinated, they stepped back from them and refused to approve them in the UN Security Council and the OSCE. It was Russia, who proposed to approve these documents, make them official from the point of view of international law in the UNSC and the OSCE.
I have not seen or heard of any political initiatives of our western colleagues. They keep saying only one thing: Russia must change its policy, and there will be sanctions until it does. I do not know what they mean by 'changing policy'. I repeat again, we supported the Agreement of the 21 February, because our western colleagues insisted. Russia was the initiator and a participant of the development of the Geneva Statement of the 17 April. We supported the OSCE “roadmap”, which the West refused to support. We proposed different forms of presence of observers at border crossings. The time spent on resolving such a simple thing explains that for some reason the West attempted to hinder that process. Is it possible that when our western partners insist on transparency, they really do not want it? I have no answer. I would be very pleased, if the lack of negotiability which I mentioned at the beginning of my speech today would be subject to analysis and thinking. I would like to know why this is happening.
The President of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin, said many times that sanctions rarely hit their target. In the case of our country, they cannot hit it by definition. I repeat we are not happy about this, and the European countries which introduce them, are not happy either. We know this. I assure you, we will overcome the difficulties, which we will have in certain economic areas. May be, we will become more independent and sure of ourselves. It is also valuable. I expect that the wish to punish Russia will not prevail – for now we only observe this in our western partners, as if they had a wish to adopt as many sanctions as possible before the August period of vacations, so that they can have a rest then. This all looks artificial.
I repeat, our western partners cannot explain to us what they want. To ask that Russia must change its policy is not serious. When it is about supplies of weapons, some suspicions in this regard, why did they solve the question regarding a positive response to the invitation of the OSCE observers to the respective checkpoints for such a long time? If you want other sections of the Russian-Ukrainian border, you are welcome. I have already mentioned the OSCE observer mission, which has been working there for half a year and its activities were extended for another six months. It can be equipped with any observation means. Finally, there is observation data from satellites, which can be shared by any country from the OSCE.
This is not a Stone Age; this is the age of ultramodern technologies. Therefore, it is not serious to say that Russia is hiding or can hide something. Our President, other Russian leaders asked many times: if you have some specific date, show them. They show nothing also in the case with the Malaysian Boeing. It seems that now, ten days later, some pictures are published. What did they do to them during all this time – did they cut them into pieces or not – we do not know. We would prefer honest work rather than the aspiration to search of a reason to punish Russia or even return to the deterrence policy. This is also a factor of a big geopolitical picture.
I guess you read analytical materials regarding current preparations for the September summit of NATO – to arrange members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in a new way, to strike through the foundations of the Rome Declaration, the Founding Act, based on which the West and Russia agreed to cooperate. It is just that there are those, who want the Ukrainian crisis to continue, and they want to use it as a pretext to radically change all those positive things, which have been reached in the relations between Russia and the West in the last decade.
Question: How would you comment on the fact the Ukrainian army continues military actions in the area of crash of the Malaysian plane? Doesn’t it seem to you that Kiev wants to “sweep away its traces” in this way?
Sergey Lavrov: Of course, the announcement by the President of Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko, immediately after the crash that he had announced a moratorium for military actions in the radius of 40 km from the Boeing crash was a step in the right direction. However, this statement, like many others, which he heard from Kiev and generally welcomed, was not confirmed by practical actions. There are fights, there is shooting, including using Grad and other non-elective armaments. As I have already said, Human Rights Watch has already expressed its concerns with regard to this.
The International Committee of the Red Cross has finally recognised an evident thing – the conflict in Ukraine is an internal armed conflict of non-international nature, which automatically imposes on all the parties the obligations under international humanitarian law, primarily in what concerns the methods of war and inadmissibility of attacks on civil sites. According to international humanitarian law, the militia are combatants, who have their rights and who are protected by this right like any other party to this conflict.
The decisive role in ceasing military action in the area of the plane crash must belong to the Kiev authorities. We will insist on the implementation of the promises made, as well as respect for the UNSC resolution, which contains a request to all the parties not to undertake any actions, which can complicate this investigation.
We heard that international experts, some of whom are in Donetsk, attempted to visit the crash area yesterday, but were not able to do this, because Ukrainian tanks came. The situation is quite troubling. All those, who can influence Kiev, of course, if they are interested, as they say, to establish the truth, should take respective measures and stop any attempts under any pretext to “sweep away the traces” or just to use the situation to change the military situation in their own favour.
Question: During the visit of the President of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin, to China this May, the parties decided to hold joint events to celebrate 70 years since the Victory over German fascism and the Japanese militarism. What specific events are being planned? How do you assess the decision by the Japanese Government to refuse self-limitation in the defence area on the eve of the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second World War?
Sergey Lavrov: The leaders of our countries – the President of Russia, Vladimir Putin, and the President of the People’s Republic of China, Xi Jinping, – reached an agreement on the joint celebration of memorable dates in 2015, which are devoted to the end of the Second World War – 70th anniversary of the Victory in Europe, which is the 70th anniversary of the Victory in the Great Patriotic War for Russia and 70th anniversary of the end of the Second World War in the Pacific Ocean. The leaders of both countries instructed their foreign and defence ministries, and other agencies to prepare events, which will help to decently celebrate these important anniversaries in Russia and China.
As to Japan, this country is our good old friend. We want to develop cooperation will this country, we want it take independent positions in international affairs, make its specific contribution to the search of resolution of security problems, primarily, in the Asia-Pacific region (APR) and on a larger scale. I repeat, Russia is interested in Japan’s active participation in the processes of formation of security architecture in the APR, including taking into consideration the Russian-Chinese initiative, which was formulated several years ago and the topicality of which was confirmed by Russian and Chinese leaders in their recent statements. The initiative was aimed at the creation of a non-aligned, open security and cooperation system in the APR. We would be interested that all the countries of the region, including Japan, actively participate in the development of this initiative.
There was an expert meeting in Brunei Darussalam in 2013, the same meeting was held in Moscow this year. We believe that we can receive some developments in this direction from experts by the East Asia Summit in November 2014 in Myanmar. Based on the spirit and content of this initiative, its commitment to the promotion of non-aligned architecture, Russia and China think that this alignment and the stake at military force in the Asia and Pacific region will be side-lined. Unfortunately, in the last few years in Europe and in the Middle East, and the last few months in Ukraine we are certain that the state of military forces still prevails in many minds. You can see well, what it can lead to. I hope that all the countries in the APR will be able to avoid this temptation.
Question: A draft statement by the UNSC President related to the military actions in the Gaza Strip was discussed in the UNSC. The draft was about an unconditional cease fire, however, despite statements by both parties, Israel requests that HAMAS lays down weapons, but HAMAS requests the removal of the blockade. Do you believe that such a statement can be effective?
Sergey Lavrov: The statement by the President of the UN Security Council was adopted by consensus, therefore it reflects unity of the opinions in the Security Council. We support the Egyptian’s initiative. An immediate and unconditional cease fire is required to save human lives. When our US partners jointly with other UNSC members speak in favour of an immediate and unconditional cease fire in the Gaza Strip, we also would like them to request cease fire in Ukraine with the same thrust and using the same statements – immediately and unconditionally rather than when the South-East capitulates. This is a double standard, which should be dropped.
As to the conditions set by HAMAS and Israel representatives, I think that it is quite real to stop shooting immediately. Then we need to start mediated contacts with regard to the agreement in long-term truce parameters. I am convinced that such a package agreement can satisfy wishes of both parties. The main thing is to stop shooting immediately and unconditionally and to sit at the negotiation table either through mediators, or to agree directly, how they can satisfy the requirements, which are supported by the global community and are clear to everybody, so that the Gaza Strip ha peace and conditions for development and that Israel feels safe. I think that this will happen. I will highlight again – we support the efforts undertaken by Egypt in this direction. I think that they have a chance for the future.
Question: For now, Russia managed to avoid sectorial sanctions from the European Union. According to the statements by Berlin and Brussels, such measures can be undertaken. Did Russia expect to avoid sanctions? How can Moscow react?
Sergey Lavrov: I would not support your wording that Russia “managed to avoid” – we did not manage to avoid anything. We have aspired to do one thing only – to find a way to affect the situation in Ukraine to transfer it from the military confrontation to political negotiations in full compliance with the obligations, which were undertaken by Ukraine, the United States, the European Union and Russia in the Geneva Statement.
I have already mentioned the “roadmap” today. No matter what Russia did to launch the negotiation process, it always counteracts the new Ukrainian leaders, who felt and still feels almost an unconditional support from our US and European colleagues. That is the snag.
Maybe we should look at the problem of sanctions from the other side. Some geopolitical project was formed, which started to develop at the end of last year on the “maidan” under an absolutely invested pretext, when the president of the country was refused the right to take additional time to study consequences of the association agreement with the European Union. Is there something unusual? The United Kingdom is currently thinking to hold a referendum regarding leaving the EU. Many analysts say that the reason for this is to change its membership conditions in the EU to achieve more beneficial ones – we are not going away for all times, we just threaten them that we will, and then trade some more beneficial membership conditions in the European Union for ourselves. London has too many exclusions, but they want more. So what? This is life, this is economics – everyone is fighting for his own interests. Why then was Viktor Yanukovych refused to think a little bit more?
The “Maidan” was gathered. Looking at its development, it has become clear that it is truly is a geopolitical project, the goal of which is tocapture the Ukrainian geopolitical space, and to do this to the detriment of Russia’s interests, interests of Russians and the Russian-speaking population of Ukraine. They did not manage to do this at once and they won’t – such things cannot be imposed to one party. And the party there has formulated its interests and approaches quite distinctly. Let me remind, that there were promises to negotiate with it, an open, transparent and inclusive constitutional process with participation of all the regions was promised. What was done instead? They created some kind of private commission in the Verkhovna Rada, which wrote a sort draft of constitution, which was not shown to anyone, there was no nationwide discussion, as Kiev promised, has ever started, and then that draft was taken to the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe. The Venice Commission should provide its conclusion in the near future. We have no doubts what the Venice Commission will finally say: any draft, before we make our final statement about its content, should be subject to a nation-wide dialogue.
This dialogue was included in the Geneva Statement of the 17 April as one of the most important conditions – new Ukrainian authorities and President Petro Poroshenko personally spoke to us many times about this dialogue. Nothing has been done. No western partners, who certified the signature of the Agreement of the 21 February, who wrote the Geneva Statement on the 17 April, attempt to encourage the Ukrainian leaders to start fulfilling their promises – primarily, to launch a national dialogue about the state, in which all the people and regions can live in peace and stability.
I return to where I started from – the problem of negotiating with our partners at all the stages of the Ukrainian crisis. Maybe, feeling that they are unable to force the Ukrainian leaders to do as agreed, some politicians find a discharge for their energy in sanctions, so that their population does not ask them: “why have you brought the situation in Ukraine to such a desperate and dark crisis?”
You know, you should spin the pedals faster for your bike togo. I have a feeling that this is the cause of the inertia, which we observe in Europe on the issue of sanctions. Of course, the United States wants Europe to continue this course. Just recently, I have read an interview by a sufficiently sincere analyst George Friedman, who is the head of Strategic Forecasting Inc, who said that it is not China and not al-Qaeda, which can be the main long-term threat for the leading positions of the United States, it is the possibility that Russia and the European Union unite their efforts. It is sufficiently open and sincere. There are no emotions here – it is politics and consideration. I guess we should take such considerations into account as well.
As to our response to sanctions, we are not going to act according to the “eye for eye, tooth for tooth” principle. We have politicians, who appeal for this. However, we still want to handle this situation with a sober head. The President of Russia already said that we cannot disregard this, but it is not good for a dignified large country to become so hysterical and to retaliate. We have self-esteem, and we will be based on this.
Question: When representatives of the US intelligence agencies announced that these were most probably the militia, who shot down the Malaysian Boeing airplane, they have not provided journalists any documentary evidence of this version. Maybe they did show something to Moscow via closed channels. Some pictures were published by the United States. I mean the pictures, which allegedly prove that Russia shot at Ukrainian territories. In particular, such pictures were published by the US ambassador to Ukraine. How would you comment on this?
Sergey Lavrov: I have already commented on this picture. Why did they need over ten days to present this? Let specialists deal with this. As soon as data from Russia’s objective observation means were deciphered, we published them on the same day, distributed these materials as official documents in the UN and the OSCE. In total, our militaries and Rosaviation asked about 40 absolutely specific questions. We do not understand, why the United State, who say that they have some conclusive evidence of their version, do not show them. Should we take their word for it? We’ve been through this. For any investigation to be objective, it should be fair and fact-based. Try to go to a US court and say: “my client has a cast-iron alibi, but it is a state secret, so take my word for it”. They will simply laugh at you! Probably they can provide recordings of the conversations between the Ukrainian air traffic control service with the Boeing and other planes, which were flying in the same place that time. According to some data, these air traffic control officers are prohibited to talk to anyone. Are they being prepared for their meeting with international experts to properly state their versions? This raises a lot of questions and even more suspicions than we have answers.
Did the US show us anything in private? I can just say that in private they are saying even less than in public. This is true.
Question (translation from English): Sergey Viktorovich, you said that you appeal to the Ukrainian government to start peaceful negotiations with the Eastern Ukraine. Doesn’t it seem to you that there can be problems with this, because the main persons controlling parts of Donbass – Alexander Borodai and Igor Girkin – both of them are Russian nationals and live in Moscow? As one of the most well-informed persons in the world, what do you think they have to agree with? Should Crimea become part of these negotiations?
Sergey Lavrov: I think that you understand yourself that the answer to your second question is absolutely clear and was given long ago. Crimea is a part of the Russian Federation. There was, is and can be no negotiations on Crimea. This answer is based on the absolutely unambiguous expression of will by the Crimean population on the 17 March. All the decisions in this regard have been made.
As to the participants of the negotiations on behalf of the militia, I have already said that there were several video conferences with participation of representatives of Donetsk and Lugansk, which are perceived as such by those, who represent Kiev – ex-President of Ukraine, Leonid Kuchma, and several experts. There are no problems in finding conversation partners in South-Eastern regions of Ukraine, who would represent the militia. I am convinced that direct negotiations (I hope that they will start soon) will not face any representation-related problems.
You know that nationals of other countries are fighting in one or other of the Ukrainian units – there are many reports of this, for example, about Swedish neo-Nazis, Polish representatives of different movements and representatives of other countries. Do not simplify the situation. I asked the Secretary of State, John Kerry, many times, whether the messages (there were such messages not so long ago) are true that about a hundred US military experts and specialists in the security area are working in the building of the Ukrainian Security Council and have actual serious influence on the situation. He promised to check this, and I have not learned anything yet. This was long ago, three months ago. I think that “where there is smoke, there is fire”. Therefore, it does not matter who represents whom or which nationality the people are. The point is, to what extent the person will be responsible for the agreements, which can be reached. As I have already said, the negotiability of the current Ukrainian authorities raises serious doubts.
As to the militia, we just need to give a chance to these negotiations. I repeat again, video conferences and contact groups have confirmed that Kiev and the OSCE have no problems with the choice of representatives of the South-East.
Question: Today you have mentioned Japan as a figure in the APR. The President of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin, scheduled a visit to Japan this autumn. Do you think that such a complicated geopolitical situation can affect these plans? Are preparations for this trip being made? Representatives of the Japanese opposition say that it might be complicated to make this visit this year. What is the position of Russia on this issue?
Sergey Lavrov: I will provide a short answer. It is a habit to be polite according to our political and cultural traditions. When we get an invitation, we consider and accept it. We believe that the invitation was accepted and the inviting party confirmed the agreement concerned. The rest does not depend on us.
Question: Kiev asked Washington to supply lethal weapons. According to the Deputy National Security Advisor to the US President, Benjamin J. Rhodes, Washington is considering such a possibility. How do you assess the possibility of such supplies – can they be made or, probably, they have already been made?
There have been several headline stories, when Russian nationals were detained abroad – I mean Roman Seleznyov in the Maldives and Vadim Polyakov in Spain. They are threatened with extradition to the United States. Do you correlate the increased interest of Washington to Russian nationals with the situation around Ukraine?
Sergey Lavrov: I will answer the last question immediately – I do not correlate this situation with Ukraine, because US practised such kidnappings of Russian nationals even in more cloudless years of our relations. This is an outrageous practice, which is contrary to the documents between our countries. We insist that they stop it. However, for now the countries, where such kidnappings take place, either cannot or do not want to confront such shameless pressure. They acted just like bandits in the Maldives – they took the man, huddled him into a place and took him away to an unknown location. The Maldivian authorities did not know anything about this. We have already sent a protest note.
I see no link to the events in Ukraine here. This is their arrogant manner – laws are mine and no matter where they are violated, I will so I can, disregarding anybody and anything.
To be noted, there is an interesting point regarding the interpretation and application of the US law. In the cases, when there is no benefit for the Americans from it, everything is just the opposite. For instance, there is the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the United States is party to it. When the United States ratified this international document, they made a reservation that they will respect the obligations under it only in their territory. It includes obligations not to torture and many other things related to the methods of protection of persons who are accused of committing crimes. Having made a reservation that the obligations of the United States not to torture and not to use other ruthless methods of treating nationals are applicable to the territory of the United States only, the United States can justify what they do in the Guantanamo Bay, what they did in Abu Ghraib, CIA rendition flights and so on. Our partners act as it benefits them. We have respective discussions with them regarding human rights, we attempt to show that this is another application of double standards – but we still fail.
As we are observing how the Ukrainian authorities attempt to resolve the problem of the South-East, I think that the decision by the United States to supply lethal armaments directly would only add fuel to the flames and forces the military and uncompromising instincts of the Ukrainian authorities. We are receiving more and more evidence that these lethal armaments, which the Ukrainian army already has, are used absolutely non-selectively, and civilians are those who suffer – I think that at least hundreds of persons have died, thousands have been injured, dozens and hundreds have escaped abroad or to other Ukrainian regions. You can see picture on TV showing destroyed residential buildings and other civil infrastructure sites. They shoot at hospitals. Our western colleagues pretend to leave this unnoticed, and the statements by the European Union and the United States constantly appeal to the Ukrainian authorities to continue to remain proportionate in their “counter-terrorism operation”.
I have always the statement by Petro Poroshenko, which he made on the 2 July, with me, and today I want to quote it: “Hard-working and peaceful people, which the majority of the population of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions are, have felt our like, love and respect. The Ukrainian armed forces, the National Guard, other units never allow themselves to use force against peaceful people and they will never hit residential neighbourhoods. Ukrainian soldiers and the guard will risk their own lives not to put women, children and elderly people under threat. This is the eternal knightly nature of Ukrainian warriors”. End of quote.
Are there any other questions? Good bye.