Interview given by the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to the programme “Vesti v subbotu s Sergeem Brilyovim”, Moscow, 29 March 2014
Question: After the G7 announced its withdrawal from the G8 a slogan was invented that Russia is in international isolation. The voting at the UN General Assembly was a hundred states “against” Russia. Does this confirm this statement?
Sergey Lavrov: Isolation is a term invented by our western partners, who attempt to act on the basis of neo-imperialist nostalgic ambitions. when things don’t go their way, they immediately reach for the option of a “sanctions club”. Time for that has already passed. We should not think about the isolation of partners, but about the involvement of each and all of them working together.
I am surprised at this obsession, with which they attempt to artificially create confirmation of Russia’s isolation rather than attempting to find a resolution. I have seen a lot in my time, but when serious countries throw all their diplomatic power into “ arm twisting” of the entire world, including their close partners, expecting that they will fall for the argument about inalterability and of territorial integrity, ignoring all the other principles of the UN Charter, – well, such “agility” puzzled me. ?The voting at the UN General Assembly is the same. They do this by using different methods. First of all, they advised our Ukrainian neighbours to ensure this text was as non-confrontational and restrained as possible, having presented “in a positive way” that the territorial integrity of Ukraine must be respected. Who will object to this? This is not the whole truth, it is only a small part of it. You and our audience understand what I am talking about. turning a blind eye, they say: “Look, what a nice resolution, sign and become its co-author”. To others, who are much more experienced and understand what is going on, they say: “If you do not support this resolution, there will be consequences”. And they say what they will be like. We know this. Our colleague explained to us in a trustworthy way why some small countries are forced to hold back. For example, some contracts will not be signed or political dividends will be withdrawn. If we take into account that the western group, in its broader sense, including Australia, New Zealand, Japan and some other countries, make up around forty or so countries, then fifty countries were coerced or convinced in some other way.
We have no negative feelings towards these delegations. This will not affect our relations with them. I can provide another number – about seventy countries have not supported this resolution.
Question: There were 93 countries who did not participate in this voting.
Sergey Lavrov: So, it is fifty-fifty. The western propaganda (I cannot call this machine working in the area of the mass media otherwise) will present this as a tremendous victory. But we know the value of such victories.
Question: A hundred countries “against” Russia. Ninety three countries are those, who “supported” Russia, “abstained” or did not participate. They probably include those bold countries, which acted in this way despite all pressure.
Sergey Lavrov: Of course, this is a sufficiently brave act. This act is not anti-western or anti-Ukrainian.. This is not about territorial integrity or Ukraine.
Question: Three weeks ago, in the programme “Vesti v subbotu” the Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the UN, Vitaly Churkin, told that Russia expects moral support from China in the UN Security Council. After that China abstained during voting. After that there was a meeting between the US President, Barack Obama, and the President of the People’s Republic of China, Xi Jinping, during which, as my western colleagues informed me, the Americans attempted to persuade the Chinese to refuse to agree gas contracts with Russia. Then there was your meeting with Xi Jinping. Who are the Chinese to Russia?
Sergey Lavrov: The Chinese are very close partners for us. All this is written in joint documents. We have strategic interaction and multi-profile partnership relations. They are formulated in this way. All the practical steps taken by China confirm its commitment to these agreed principles. Even if the Americans (according to your words) attempted to force China to reconsider its economic agreements with the Russian Federation, then the degree of naivetй or shamelessness is just going off the scale. I would even say that it is unforgivable for the professionals, who prepare such negotiations, not to understand the nature of Chinese policy, the nature of the Chinese.
From the very beginning, the People’s Republic of China stated that it views this situation as a combination of historical and political factors. China states that it categorically rejects any attempts to solve this problem by non-political methods and the use of sanction pressure. Our contacts with Chinese partners show that they not only understand the legal interests of the Russian Federation in its entire history, but that they have a clear understanding of the initial courses of the current deep crisis in Ukraine. There is no doubt. There was a phone conversation between the President Vladimir Putin and the President Xi Jinping. On the 24 March in The Hague, on the side-lines of the Nuclear Security Summit, I had a meeting with the President of the People’s Republic of China and there were also negotiations between BRICS foreign ministers.
Question: Was the joint statement of BRICS agreed in The Hague?
Sergey Lavrov: It was a statement by the Chair of the BRICS – South Africa, which was made by the minister of this country after our meeting.
Question: Last Saturday we reported on the air that the mandate of the OSCE mission on Ukraine was coordinated. What was the reason given that Russia was not initially ready to support this proposition? What will this mission do now?
Sergey Lavrov: I would say that our western and Ukrainian partners were initially not ready to support this mission.
Question: Although it was presented otherwise – Russia against the rest of Europe (as always).
Sergey Lavrov: We believe. “Orwellian” talents are still alive. Russia was ready to send this mission a week before this decision was finally taken. However, our partners with unexplainable stubbornness (because everything was clear by that time) requested that we must include a visit to Crimea as a part of including Ukraine into this OSCE mission. They can in fact disagree with our understanding of the situation, they can avoid accepting decisions taken by the Russian Federation, which were made in response to the will of Crimeans, which was supported by the overwhelming majority of the population. Such a position is clear to us, this is life. But to have a lack of understanding of the real policy and absolute desperation /misunderstanding of the request they address to us at the very moment, when we announced that we would accept any decision of Crimeans as a result of the expression of their will, to say to us “well, despite the words of your President, let us write that this mission will go to Ukraine, including Crimea” is a diplomatic impudence or complete diplomatic failure.
Question: In its turn, Moscow insisted that this mission goes not only to the east, but also to the west of Ukraine. Have you managed to do this?
Sergey Lavrov: We insisted that in light of capacities of our western colleagues to juggle with words and misinterpret them, which they proved many times, we should arrange not just a “mission to Ukraine”, but to other cities and regions, to which this mission would go. Of course, this list includes western and eastern cities. And, of course, there are no populated areas, which were located in the territory of the Republic of Crimea of the Russian Federation.
Question: Maybe, at last, “the train is beginning to move” not only in relation to the sending of an OSCE mission to Ukraine, but also in view of the fact that new Ukrainian authorities (let us leave the question of their legitimacy out of brackets and use the term powers that be) ?, of which we were witnesses in the last 36-48 hours?
Sergey Lavrov: Too much time was required for that. Better late than never – and it is really so. For more than a month I have been asking our western partners about the Right Sector and the need to edge away from radicals, I asked them a simple question: “If you agree that the situation should be normalised, then why don’t you state in public what the Right Sector really is?” Generally, the party “Svoboda” shares the same concerns, the programming documents of which contain a reference to the declaration of 30 June 1941, which proclaimed the support of the actions of Nazi Germany to establish the new world order. According to its charter documents, it is still the principle, to which this party is committed.
To our requests to, as a minimum, ?, who consider themselves authorities in Kiev, to make them speak about this topic, we heard quite strange answers. At the beginning, our colleagues avoided any reaction, then during one recent meeting probably in London, the US Secretary of State, John Kerry, told me that they have reviewed everything in detail and believe that the ? is attempting to turn into a political movement. The pretext was that it is good that “Svoboda” is moving with the mainstream. This is a quote. There were many people at the meeting, therefore it is no secret. For my part, I provided alternative examples of what was happening with these associations. Starting from public statements with regard to Russians, who they propose to blow out their brains, kill them, swear at them hard and ending with the use of physical force, which has been observed even in the east of Ukraine, where promoted persons from these groups feel “at home”.
If we speak about the events in the last days, then thank God, if all these statements and actions of the government are a result of some ?work conducted by our western partners. I repeat that, better late than never.
Let us see what will happen and whether they manage to cope with those, whom the people who have come to power, were supported by in getting to their current positions. The latest events around the Verkhovna Rada, when the Right Sector sieged this key institution again, requesting the resignation of the minister of the interior, because Sashko Bily was killed and was buried as a national hero, is also evidence of something. Whatever the attitude to this, his death raises certain questions (like any similar case, it should be investigated in detail), however we cannot disregard the rise in the number of men with arm bands of the Right Sector related to his death and the principles, of which we all know well, – this is a worrying signal.
I was truly surprised that on those days, when our TV, including your channel, showed the siege of the Verkhovna Rada and provided detailed comments about the events between the Right Sector and representatives of the Ukrainian parliament and their consequences. At the same time Euronews have said nothing about this, and mentioned Ukraine in its third or fourth story in connection with the IMF’s credit proposed to it.
Unfortunately, such presentation of material is also significant. ???
Question: Devious paths are a separate topic, because of the ban on Ukrainian network operators distributing the TV signal of Russian TV channels. The OSCE condemned this first. As far as I understand, this topic was also discussed during your negotiations with western partners. And then this topic started to creep in the direction of some other priorities. Others started to say that there are state interests and according to these sources that TV air may be censored. I quote a representative of the OSCE.
Sergey Lavrov: Yes, her name is Dunja Mijatoviж. Frankly speaking, one should be slightly freer in one’s judgements (without going deeper into this topic), when you are in the position of the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media. It is sad that others can justify the full closure of several Russian channels. It turns out that one may stop TV channels, if it is about protection of fundamental values. At the same time, our multiple requests for information to Dunja Mijatoviж in the past regarding inadmissibility of marches under fascist and neo-Nazi slogans in several OSCE countries remained without any reaction under the pretext of the freedom of speech. It turns out that about four channels in the eyes of Dunja, I mean Mijatoviж, are more dangerous than neo-Nazi demonstrations in the Baltic States and several other countries, including Germany.
Question: Is a compromise with the western community possible? If we draw a perpendicular line, Russia is at one side of it, but the United States and the West on the other side, where could you shake hands with your colleagues?
Sergey Lavrov: I do not think that our current conversation with them is absolutelystraightforward. We are still committed to discussions. My last contacts with the US Secretary of State, John Kerry, and my contacts with Germany, France and several other countries show that a feeling for a potential joint initiative, which could be proposed to our Ukrainian colleagues, is being outlined and /considered. This is a very important update, because until recently our partners proposed to create a contact group, under the supervision of which Russian and those who have now seized power in Kiev, would work on an agreement. This is an absolutely unacceptable format, and it is not about this. The fact that the current events in Ukraine are the result of a deep crisis of a national identity, caused, in particular, by the inability (I do not wish to accuse anybody of the lack of desire) of the next leader to come to power, to reconcile interests of western and south-eastern regions. Things cannot keep going on in this way. We are convinced that a deep constitutional reform is required. Frankly speaking, we do not see any other ways for sustainable development of the Ukrainian state other than a federal state. Maybe, some people know better and some magic formula can be found within a unitarian state. However, when the west, the east and the south celebrate different holidays, honour different heroes, have different economies, speak different languages, think differently and are attracted by the culture of different European civilisations, it is very hard to live in a unitary state in such conditions.
Therefore, on the 10 March we distributed unofficial documents, which was before those transferred to our US, west European, Chinese partners, several other partners, in particular, BRICS countries, and said that it was our vision.
Question: Then it is a constitutional reform, elections…
Sergey Lavrov: No. First of all, it is stated that there is an urgent need to stop the atrocities by armed gangs, to disarm illegal formations, to free illegally occupied buildings (this has not been done in full) and all squares, streets, cities and villages; I mean primarily the Maidan. It is a dishonour for a European country, for the most beautiful European city toallow this to happen over the last half year– to do this right in front of the eyes of western visitors. They reply that the Maidan will be here until the result of the presidential elections, supported by the Maidan. This is a dishonour for all those, who tolerate this.
Our proposition was to immediately start bringing all these affairs to order. All the more important as that this was the obligationss signed by Vitaly Klichko, Arseniy Yatsenyuk and Oleh Tyahnybok and German French and Polish foreign ministers, with a view to start constitutional reform, which would be comprehensive and includ each and every political power and regions with an equal voting right. They should start agreeing on a federation, within the framework of which each region has broad authority in the area of economics, finance, culture, language, education, foreign economy and cultural ties with neighbouring countries or regions and where rights of all minorities are ensured.
Taking into account the share of the indigenous Russian population, we propose and are convinced that there is no other way, all the more so that candidates to the president of Ukraine stated this many times, to make Russian the second official language, but inside each constituent entity of the federation to ensure rights of minority languages according to the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages.
Question: There are Hungarians and Romanians.
Sergey Lavrov: Hungarians, Czechs, Germans complain to their governments that they feel uncomfortable in Ukraine. The Czechs even asked to go home, but the Government of the Czech Republic replied: “We have seen, how you live there, you are OK”. You know, this is an approach, which states that geopolitical and political appropriateness comes first rather than respect for human rights. The constitutional reform must be confirmed by a referendum and reflect interests of all regions in agreement, and then after the adoption of this constitution by a referendum, to organise presidential and parliamentary elections, elect new, as it is usually said, legislatures (legislative assemblies in regions) and executive power (governors) to make them elected rather than appointed. This is what the eastern and southern regions request. We are convinced that this is absolutely correct way to achieve this.. Representatives of the Ukrainian foreign ministry reply to us that Russian propositions are a provocation and interference into domestic affairs because they propose ideas which are incompatible with the foundations of the Ukrainian national identity. What ideas? Firstly, federalisation, and secondly, official language. I do not know why they are incompatible with foundations of Ukrainian national identity.
Question: Do western partners hear these propositions.
Sergey Lavrov: They do. I can say that the word 'federation' is not a prohibited word in our talks. I am convinced that we must insist, not because we want this, but because it is a request of the southern and eastern regions.
Question: And then you have to wait until this thought is brought to Kiev through western capitals?
Sergey Lavrov: I expect for this to happen, because it is hard to suspect the current Ukrainian government of being independent.
Question: Is the out-of-bloc status of Ukraine a subject-matter of negotiations between Moscow and, let’s say, Washington?
Sergey Lavrov: This highlight is reflected in our propositions. We are convinced that the new constitution should undoubtedly formalise the out-of-bloc status of Ukraine.
Question: Do Americans hear this?
Sergey Lavrov: Americans hear this, but their public statements are an evidence of their understanding. Last week in Brussels, President Barack Obama said in his speech that neither Ukraine nor NATO are ready for that, and there is no use talking about this right now.
Question: By the way, Arseniy Yatsenyuk said that he did not put this question in this way.
Sergey Lavrov: He does not put it in this way yet. We are convinced that there should be no ambiguity here. There are too many of these “yet” and “lack of intentions.” Intentions change, but facts “on the ground” are being created.
Question: Especially in the last two months.
Sergey Lavrov: Why in the last two months? In the last 25 years. They say to us that Russia always chooses a “game with zero result” for itself to the hand offered by the West. A few days ago, a British newspaper published an article by my colleague, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the United Kingdom, William Hague, said that where Russia is in isolation from everybody again, because when we offer their hand, it turns its back and takes its own path on the basis of “games with zero result”. We call it “unfairly shifting the blame” in Russian. It is hard to rebuke us of the aspiration to have fair joint partner work. This is included into our propositions about indivisibility of security, which should be equal for everybody, rather than all NATO members have legal protection from the principle of indivisibility of security, but all the other are second class people, and therefore NATO should be used as a magnet to continue moving the dividing line further to the East.
They promised that it will not be so, they deceived us. They promised that NATO’s military infrastructure will not move to our border, they deceived us. They promised that there will be no NATO military sites in the territory of its new members, they deceived us. At the beginning, we somehow perceived these promises with our ears. Then we started to put them on paper as political obligations, under which serious people – western leaders – signed. But when we started to ask, why these political obligations are not implemented and whether it was possible to make them legally binding, theyreplyed: “It is impossible, political obligations are sufficient, and you should not be distressed, all we do is not against you”.
If we speak about “games with zero result”, of which others accuse us, then the EU project Eastern Partnership from the very beginning was planned according to the “or-or” logic – with us or against us. By the way, western partners spoke about this from the elections in Ukraine in 2004, when there was no Customs Union or Eastern Partnership, but there was an artificially third tour of presidential elections was created, which was not envisaged by the Ukrainian constitution. That time the Belgian foreign minister, and current EU’s Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht requested from Ukrainian, in public, to make a free choice: either they are with Europe or Russia. This is the origin of this mentality. The Eastern Partnership just turned into the instrument of feverish exploration of the geopolitical space (like the extension of NATO as well), when this project was pushed through by any means,completely ignoring the legal economic interests not only of Ukrainian neighbours such as Russia and other countries, but also of the countries involved in it. There are many studies on this topic right now. It was not in vain that Arseniy Yatsenyuk said that they need to see the economic side of this agreement.
The same is happening with Moldova, with which they attempt to force the agreement, similar to the one planned to be signed with Ukraine this summer before another elections there. Transnistria does not exist according to the draft agreement with Moldova. The agreement between Kishinev and Tiraspol of 1997, according to which Transnistria has the right to foreign economic activities, also does not exist. It also ignores the events around Transnistria – Kishinev and new Ukrainian leaders have actually organised a blockade there. And our European partners are silent about this. Moreover, the European Union and, as far as I understand, the United States, promote such actions. We wish to have a serious talk about this with them, because they escalate tensions around Transnistria, which is likely to be next according to them. This is outrageous provocative rhetoric. In fact, they attempt to create an unbearable situation for Tiraspol by their practical actions in violation of (I repeat) the obligations, providing the population of Transnistria certain liberties in terms of movement, transit, foreign economic activities. This is outrageous. History teaches them nothing. And again they attempt to create some kind of chasm in our relations.
Question: Almost all the statements, including official political bodies of EU countries and the United States, regarding sanctions include a reservation – “in the event of further escalation”. By escalation my western colleagues mean crossing of the border of coastal Ukraine, for example, in the direction of Kharkov, by Russian armed forces. Will this happen?
Sergey Lavrov: The President of Russia, Vladimir Putin, in his speech of the 18 March in the George’s Hall of Kremlin states clearly that we are very worried about the position of Russians, Russian-speaking nationals in eastern and southern regions of Ukraine, especially, when different units of the Right Sector and someone named Beletsky, the Eastern Front, have headed there. People are absolutely odious. you do not need to be physiognomist to understand their intentions, and they state them openly. Many leaks from phone conversations point to the planned attitude to Russians by representatives of the Right Sector, and not only them.
The President of Russia requested from those in power in Ukraine and their western sponsors to take urgent measures to stop these atrocities. He said that we will defend the rights of Russians and the Russian-speaking population in Ukraine using the entire arsenal of political, diplomatic and legal methods. I have nothing to add here. It must be fair work. We should not say, like in many other cases be that Syria, Iran or something else that a crisis has happened, and let us accept the given facts as reality. Russia must settle the Syrian crisis, resolve the Iranian problem, pacify the situation in Ukraine through direct negotiations with the Ukrainian authorities. The West consistently attempts to get rid of responsibility for the work with whose, whom they have raised and support for the achievement of their geopolitical goals.
We have absolutely no intention or interest to cross the border of Ukraine. We only want to work collectively and to stop the atrocities, which western countries attempt to sweep under the carpet and present the situation in favourable tones and colours, to make them become aware of their responsibility.
As the Acting Ukrainian Minister of the Interior, Arsen Avakov, stated recent actions of Ukrainian leaders are aimed at disarmament of all those, who illegally hold weapons, i.e. criminals. If these are results of work of our western partners, then (I repeat) we are satisfied with these events. Together with them we will be ready to search for joint recommendations for Ukrainians, which will be aimed at stopping any illegal activities and the start of a deep constitutional process to reform the state.
Question: A topic has appeared that Russia will open its bases at the Seychelles, in Vietnam, Nicaragua and Cuba in response to all these events. Even Argentina has got onto this list.
Sergey Lavrov: It is absolutely wrong. We have no plans to create military or marine bases abroad in the meaning, as you understand this term. The Navy has significantly strengthened in Russia. I think that after the accession of Crimea to Russia, it will receive much more opportunities for development. In addition to the Black Sea Fleet, we also have the Far East, the North and other fleets. It is very important for a state to have its fleet prepared at the highest level, all the more so that now we have not just to use the oceans for training purposes, but to resolve specific tasks: fighting piracy in the Gulf of Aden, pirates appear in other parts of the world ocean as well. Our fleet makes long-distance voyages. We agree with some countries, that our ships and ships of our Navy use the existing infrastructure for calling into port, maintenance, small repairs, supplementing food and water reserves, recreation of crews. We are not talking about any construction of bases like Americans do. We do not intend to have any agreements like those concluded by Americans, ensuring their military personnel immunity from any crimes in the territory of their stay.
By the way, I have seen a very interesting picture over the Internet: the Russian Federation, and location of American military bases around it shown with points. It is impressive – there are many of them. And there was an inscription of a US military person: “How did Russia dare to be located so close to our military bases?”
Question: Are the countries, which I have listed, among those, with which you conduct negotiations about the right of calls of ships?
Sergey Lavrov: There are several such countries. However, these are issues, which request consideration within the ambit of military agencies.