Excerpts from Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova's briefing

Submitted on Wed, 03/31/2021 - 10:17

Update on EU sanctions decisions

There are destructive elements or factors on the international agenda as well. In contrast to humanitarian, and not just humanitarian, but normal cooperation in international affairs, the West has come up with a policy of unilateral sanctions.

We are not surprised by the EU Council’s decision of March 22 to impose more restrictive measures on two Russian citizens and representatives of a number of other states under the EU Global Human Rights Sanctions Regime. The European Union continues its illegal policy of imposing unilateral sanctions which runs contrary to international law. This policy leads to destructive trends and chaos in international affairs. It is fraught with increased confrontation and degradation of relations between the involved countries. This kind of policy is outdated. This must be understood. It is unacceptable and illegal.

We are strongly against the politicisation of human rights. The EU must abandon its claims to leadership and exceptionalism when it comes to protecting human rights, and not turn a blind eye to the human rights problems in its member states. It is important to develop common approaches to human rights, which are free of double standards, in all countries, and show respect for their cultural and civilisational specifics, traditions, diversity and the path of their choice. It is impossible to endlessly try to teach others things that you unable to achieve yourself. This directly applies to the EU and Brussels. We are witnessing a crisis unfolding in human rights right before our eyes. This is not only about the severe suppression of dissent in the form of protest sentiment, in particular, regarding pandemic-related restrictive measures, not only severe suppression of dissent through blocking or selective policies with regard to the media, but also a completely unacceptable situation in connection with the mass migration from African countries, the Middle East and North Africa, and a huge number of human rights-related problems, including the ones stemming from racism, nationalism, neo-Nazism. This is a tangle of concerns that the EU is not in a position to resolve. However, it is pretending that these problems simply do not exist. At the same time, the EU tries to teach these things to other countries, regions and continents. It just doesn't work that way. This is a strange, dead-end, absolutely hopeless and very dangerous policy. We have provided our assessment of these steps.

To reiterate, as is always the case, the unfriendly steps by the EU against Russia will not be left without a proportionate response.

EU officials’ statements about Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine

We have noted the public statements by a number of European Commission officials, including European Commissioner for Internal Market Thierry Breton, that there is no need for the European Union to make centralised purchases of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine.

In this connection, we regret to say that the European Commission continues its initially faulty policy of cooperating only with Western companies. The EU has signed centralized vaccine supply contracts with EU, US and UK manufacturers only.

We would like to point out that the Russian Ministry of Health registered the Sputnik V vaccine in August 2020. The Russian authorities then suggested that interested foreign partners can take part in joint vaccine research projects, coordinate delivery parameters and even consider the possibility of production localisation. Nevertheless, although no one doubts the efficiency and safety of the Sputnik V vaccine anymore and global demand for COVID-19 vaccines is soaring, including in the EU countries, Mr Breton flatly denies any EU demand for the Russian vaccine. Isn’t this a politically motivated approach?

We hope that the European Commission’s attitude towards Sputnik V and, actually, towards its own citizens will not affect the pace of reviewing Russia’s application for registering its vaccine by the European Medicines Agency, especially considering the fact that many EU member countries are interested in the Russian vaccine and in view of the statements by Dr Hans Henri Kluge, WHO Regional Director for Europe, about the real European demand for the Russian vaccine.

Question: EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell has said: “We have to look for communication channels with Russia. Russia is a neighbour, a dangerous neighbour, but we have to share with it some issues in which we have common interests, like the nuclear agreement with Iran or climate change. But, above all that, we have to contain Russia, to push back Russia.”

What is the Ministry’s attitude to this statement? Is it possible that the anti-Russia rhetoric is given special emphasis for a reason? How does Russia see its future interaction with Europe in these circumstances?

Maria Zakharova: We regularly comment on these topics.

It is not wise at all to say that Russia is a dangerous neighbour. Looking at the situation in a historical context, the EU foreign policy chief is bound to know that it is the EU countries that have themselves to blame for their problems and never Russia. Historically speaking, Russia has suffered aggression from these states all the time.  

Josep Borrell should look at the situation realistically to determine who is indeed a dangerous neighbour within the EU, instead of inventing what never actually happened.

Our European colleagues say (the British said this when they were in the EU, and since then many others have taken up the idea) that Russia has always been aggressive and will likely act in the same manner in future as well. But there is no proof of this. Russia has never launched world wars. During such conflicts, Russia waged liberation operations, helping people to liberate from the aggressors not only its own national territory but also other countries, while at the same time suffering from aggression towards it. This is our historical experience, our national character and our mission.

Who has given Mr Borrell the right to speak with the people of Russia like that? He describes Russia as a “dangerous neighbour,” but he surely must be acquainted with history. The witnesses of 20th century history are still alive. Historical proof has not disappeared even though some European countries have tried to tear these pages from the historical context. I have already spoken about this today: they are destroying monuments, renaming streets and erecting monuments to so-called “heroes” who are definitely not heroes.

He used unacceptable comparisons, expressions and tone. We have commented on this at the level of the national leadership on numerous occasions. We urged the EU to change its accusing tone, to act realistically, to admit their own problems and to stop trying to minimise them by promoting myths of Russia’s alleged aggressive role. We called on them many times to start talking with facts in hand.  We are ready for this. We told them so during negotiations and publicly. There are many topics for discussion. Confrontation rhetoric must be laid to rest, become a thing of the past. The matter concerns not only relations between Brussels and Moscow. Confrontation rhetoric is delivering a much more destructive blow than they suppose at the reputation of a Western leader who claims to be the “generator of essence.” All experts on international affairs know very well that historically Russia has never been an aggressive neighbour. Such statements are not just insulting but also untrue and misinforming.