Briefing by Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova, Moscow, April 12, 2018

Foreign Minister of the Kingdom of the Netherlands Stef Blok to pay a working visit to the Russian Federation

Talks between Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Foreign Minister of the Kingdom of the Netherlands Stef Blok are scheduled to take place in Moscow on April 13. He will be in the Russian Federation at the Netherlands’ initiative.

The two foreign ministers will focus on the state of bilateral relations. They are also expected to discuss urgent international and regional issues on the agenda of the UN Security Council where the Netherlands has non-permanent member status in 2018.

This will be Mr Blok’s first visit to the Russian Federation since being appointed Foreign Minister.

 

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to take part in the 26th Assembly of the Council on Foreign and Defence Policy

 

A regular annual meeting of the Assembly of the Council on Foreign and Defence Policy (CFDP) will take place on April 14-15. This non-governmental organisation brings together prominent representatives of the academic and expert community, diplomats, military officials, entrepreneurs, journalists and public figures. The forum’s main subject is “Unity and Struggle: How to Continue Developing in Conditions of Confrontation in the 21st Century.” Participants will discuss various aspects of domestic and foreign policy, and pressing issues in international relations.

Per tradition, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will make a speech at a session on April 14. He will focus on the key aspects of the changes that are taking place in the world, Russia’s role and the tasks of Russian diplomacy in these complicated and conflicting processes.

The Foreign Ministry is interested in cooperating with the CFDP. This is one of the oldest NGOs in the country for studying the problems of international relations and security. During its events the Council advances new ideas and proposals and elaborates practical recommendations for the ministries and departments concerned, including the Foreign Ministry.

 

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s participation in opening exhibition of Ilya Glazunov’s works dedicated to Chile

 

On April 16, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will take part in the opening ceremony of an exhibition of Ilya Glazunov’s works of art dedicated to Chile at the Moscow State Picture Gallery of Ilya Glazunov.

I would like to recall that the artist visited Chile in 1973 and met with members of the country’s Government as well as outstanding politicians and public activists, including President Salvador Allende. This trip resulted in a series of works depicting the collective image of the Chilean nation, including the faces of ordinary workers, farmers, young people, cultural workers and Chilean political leaders.

The opening of the exhibition is timed to coincide with the Russian artist’s trip to Chile (May-July 1973).

The heads of the Latin American diplomatic missions accredited in Moscow, representatives of the group of deputies for contacts with the National Congress of Chile, together with state agencies and business circles cooperating with Santiago, have been invited to attend the presentation.

The exhibition will continue constructive practical cooperation between the Foreign Ministry and the Glazunov Gallery that has won a reputation for itself. I would also like to recall that, in December 2017, we organised an exhibition of works from the artist’s “Nicaraguan cycle” jointly with the Embassy of Nicaragua.

We are inviting everyone to cover the event.

 

Republic of Austria Federal Minister for Europe, Integration and Foreign Affairs Karin Kneissl’s working visit to Russia

 

Between April 19 and 20, Federal Minister for Europe, Integration and Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Austria Karin Kneissl will pay a working visit to Moscow.

She will have a meeting with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on April 20, where the officials will discuss topical matters concerning Russian-Austrian affaires, including the timeframe of upcoming bilateral contacts and the state of political, trade, economic, cultural and humanitarian ties. They will focus on the overlapping Year of Music and Cultural Routes, scheduled for 2018.

While reviewing the key issues of the international agenda, the Russian side is to focus on the task of pooling joint efforts for effectively combating international terrorism and resolving the situation in Syria. In this context, the ministers are to exchange opinions on the situation in crisis-ridden areas in the Middle East and North Africa.

They will also touch upon cooperation at European venues. For example, Mr Lavrov and Ms Kneissl are to discuss the current state and prospects of cooperation with the European Union in the context of Austria’s upcoming presidency of the EU in the second half of 2018.

 

Developments in Syria

 

The situation in Syria remained quite tense over the past week. Against the backdrop of successful efforts to promote a settlement in Eastern Ghouta through negotiations, which helped spare the lives of thousands of Syrian civilians, extremists who are apparently not interested in a resolution of this kind scaled up their operations to a maximum extent. Backed by their sponsors, they seem ready to undertake the most radical actions in order to push their agenda in Syria, which has nothing to do with what the Syrian people are actually looking for.

On April 6, the centre of Damascus suddenly came under artillery fire once again, leaving 8 civilians dead and about 40 wounded. The Syrian army had no choice other than to launch an attack on Douma, the last community in Eastern Ghouta that was still controlled by the rebel fighters. Airstrikes targeted the headquarters and strongpoints of the illegal armed groups. The Syrian government forces succeeded in dislodging these fighters from the city’s southern and eastern suburbs.

The next day, on April 7, activists affiliated with the infamous (as we now know) White Helmets started reporting on the internet that the government forces conducted a chemical attack against Douma. Initial reports claimed that “thousands” of civilians were killed. The numbers declined however with later reports. There were many inconsistencies in terms of the time and the location of the would-be chemical attack in the material coming from the opposition sources, let alone the identification of the toxic agent that was allegedly used.

All this however did not confuse the political elites or biased media outlets in the West who were preparing for this provocation for a long time (and maybe even plotted it). Since late February or early March they made numerous statements to issue some kind of warnings (we mentioned them in previous briefings). There were no requests to immediately investigate this incident coming from these circles, and no attempts to question the absurd video sequence shot by the same White Helmets in which children and adults are seen spraying water on each other. They presented it as evidence that chemical weapons were used. News agencies that pretend to be respectable also took on face value another astoundingly fake report showing a half-tonne bomb lying on a neatly made-up bed against the background of a shattered window with intact glass. All the opponents of Syria’s legitimate government called on the international community and primarily the US to interfere and punish the Damascus “regime.” What a classical scenario.

There were threats of a harsh response and use of force against Syria made at the highest level, including by the presidents of the United States and France. I would like to note that the threat to use force against a UN member state is in itself a blatant violation of the UN Charter. I would like to point out that it is within the UN that the Permanent Representative of the United States to the UN Nikki Haley is so active making her statements, thereby enhancing the UN’s legitimacy. Against the backdrop of her statements, we would like to know whether threats to use force against a sovereign state are legitimate. We are not even speaking about how far Syria has come in fighting international terrorism and for its sovereignty.

The West persists in its refusal to heed Russia’s appeals to study the fake news with a critical mind, or to hear reports that Russian military personnel, including doctors and experts in protection against chemical weapons visited Douma where the chemical weapons attack allegedly happened, but did not find neither any signs that chemical weapons were used, nor any victims of the mythical attack.

No one so far has been able to explain to us or the international community why the Syrian government would use chemical weapons when the remaining fighters were completely blocked in Douma and negotiations on their evacuation were even underway?

At the same time, major international media outlets and official representatives of foreign capitals remain silent on the discovery of large stockpiles of chemical weapons in warehouses of the terrorists in liberated parts of Eastern Ghouta. They have been trying to sweep under the carpet the fact that there were four incidents since the beginning of 2018 involving the use of toxic chemicals by rebel fighters against the government forces near Sroudj and al Mshairfa. More than 100 Syrian army personnel suffered in these attacks and were admitted to hospitals for treatment.

Russia calls for having the OPCW investigate without delay the groundless accusations professed by the anti-Syrian forces. Russia vigorously supports this position in the UN Security Council. The Russian military in coordination with the Syrian government are ready to ensure that experts can safely operate on the ground.

The airstrike conducted by Israel on the night of April 8 against Syria’s T4 airbase 70 kilometres to the west of Palmyra did nothing to improve the situation in Syria. It is worth noting that Syria’s frontline aviation involved in combat operations against ISIS in the east of the country is based at the T4 airbase, and the attack against it coincided with the terrorists in these territories stepping up their operations.

Warmongering statements are still coming in from Washington, threatening an escalation that would be extremely dangerous. These accusations are made not only against Damascus. They also target the Russian Federation who allegedly “protects the Assad regime” and “ultimately shares responsibility” for its crimes. Moreover, these statements are coming from no other than President Donald Trump himself, while one of his very first steps was to declare a crusade against fake news and disinformation. It is not clear how an understanding of what fake reports are worth can coexist with fateful decisions to use force against a sovereign state, while also threatening to use force on the international stage without having a true image of what had happened.

Russia calls on all the responsible members of the international community to ponder over the possible consequences of these accusations, threats and even more over the planned actions. Western leaders have no authority to assume the role of global policemen, while also acting as investigators, prosecutors, judges and executioners.

Our position is extremely straightforward and specific. We are not seeking an escalation, but at the same time we will not back any false accusations. We hope that our partners have enough common sense to come back to legal mechanisms and work together on resolving the challenges that may arise, as stipulated in the UN Charter.

 

Tony Blair’s remarks on Britain’s actions in Syria

 

We took note of remarks by the former British prime minister and now a “consultant” with ambitions to get back into big-time politics, Tony Blair, who urged the British Government to show solidarity with the US and start a new military campaign in the Middle East. According to him, the prime minister does not need parliamentary approval to attack Syria.

We are well aware of the “success and effectiveness” of a similar Blair scheme in the region. Representatives of the international political circles, economists, heads of humanitarian organisations and ordinary citizens have repeatedly exposed the consequences brought about by opening this Pandora’s box. The British themselves had to admit this as well: in July 2016, following a seven-year inquiry into the British involvement in the Iraq War, an independent committee chaired by Sir John Chilcot published a report which described the invasion of Iraq as a “terrible mistake” and the Blair government’s decision to become involved as “hasty” and “based on inadequate evidence.” Even Blair himself admitted that the invasion of Iraq had been carried out on the basis of false intelligence and that the actions by the Western coalition, in effect, facilitated the rise of ISIS.

We are reaping the fruits of the Iraq War, one of the bloodiest and debilitating conflicts both for the region itself and the invading countries that decided to “put things in order” over there, to this day. I say “we” deliberately. Russia was not involved in the intervention and was openly calling on the world to oppose the invasion with facts in hand. Regrettably, the situation progressed the way it did. I would like to reiterate that the word “we” in the context that we, including we in Russia, are reaping the fruits of the Iraq War, was not used by chance. The selfsame ISIS, which the Western world has been fighting so valiantly, is what they created with their own hands as well as a consequence of incompetent, foolish and illegal power politics practiced with regard to Iraq and neighbouring countries.

It is in Iraq that hundreds of thousands of innocent people were killed, it is from there that people had to flee en masse in search of a better life, it is in Iraq that terrorists of every stripe honed their barbaric intimidation and extermination techniques, it is in Iraq that they looked for – and never found – chemical weapons while destroying the country’s entire infrastructure and great monuments of world cultural heritage. Since 2003, the situation in Iraq has been so disastrous that any comments are just superfluous.

To be honest, any other politician in Blair’s place would be too ashamed to show his face after what was perpetrated. But no, he is offering his judgements on new reckless schemes and the need to support the use of force against yet another country in the same region. Does he want to push his rivals into a scheme doomed to suffer a fiasco and thus make a political comeback?  A strong case for a political future!

 

The World Health Organisation’s statement on a “chemical attack” in Douma

 

On April 11, the World Health Organisation (WHO) circulated a statement concerning the “suspected use of toxic chemicals in Douma.”  As it transpired later, most of its evidence came from the notorious White Helmets and the Syrian American Medical Society.

Who among you hasn’t asked yourself in the course of the past 24 hours: Is this war? Everything was being done for precisely this decision to be taken. But after less than 24 hours details have emerged on how all of this was engineered.

By a strange coincidence, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom and his deputy Peter Salama, who was quoted in the statement, were not available for comment and allegedly were even absent from Geneva when we attempted to contact the WHO leadership.

All we have managed to obtain from WHO staff were references to certain “information sources” that underpinned the statement. But they were unable to name the notorious “health sector partners” in Douma with a direct access to the specific territories and buildings where the chemical attacks had allegedly occurred. Nor could they indicate the medical establishments to which the said 500 victims had applied, or say who counted the alleged dead, determined the diagnoses and identified the causes of death.

Although the WHO representatives assured us that their “information sources are highly trustworthy” (we know the worth of these information sources), we regard the WHO statement as an act of irresponsible dissemination of unfounded and unsupported information inciting those willing to add fuel to the Syrian conflict to new aggressive actions.

We call on the WHO to display greater impartiality in its reports and statements and rely on the opinions of experts who can only draw their conclusions after a detailed and serious probe, rather than on biased and discredited sources.

 

Attack on a bus carrying Russian journalists in Syria

 

A bus carrying Russian journalists in Syria was attacked at 6 pm on April 11. Three journalists were wounded, including an NTV journalist as well as cameramen from Rossiya 1 and Zvezda.

The journalists were returning to Damascus from Eastern Ghouta, where they filmed a report about the Syrian government forces regaining control over Douma and the operations of the Russian military police.

According to the Russian Defence Ministry, medical assistance was promptly provided to the wounded journalists. There is no immediate threat to their lives. They reportedly feel well.

We wish them a speedy recovery so that they can resume their work in Syria to provide us with first-hand information.

 

The so-called Skripal case

 

Everyone knows about the information campaign, or rather warfare of the UK authorities against Russia over the so-called Skripal case. They are using all the propaganda means and methods they can get their hands on. It is a long time since we last saw an ill-disguised and unscrupulous anti-Russia campaign of this dimension. The UK authorities are disregarding the standards of international law, diplomatic rules and principles, and elementary human ethics.

New versions and more discrepancies are coming to light amid the silence kept by the concerned UK agencies and the numerous political statements, which were anti-Russia from the very beginning. We do not see any intention on the part of the UK authorities to disprove false information planted in the media and blatant lies. On the contrary, this massive propaganda campaign involving all types of media is fully in keeping with London’s anti-Russia strategy. The UK authorities are actually encouraging the deliberate distortion of facts. It is clear why they are doing this. If government agencies and media outlets, for example, in the UK, really decided to get to the bottom of this case, if they started questioning some of the reported “facts” and analysing the increasing number of discrepancies, this would have rocked the European public’s belief in Russia’s alleged involvement. And the people would have asked the question that should have been addressed to London earlier on in the case: What has really happened at Salisbury?

Judge for yourself: On March 4, a former GRU officer and an agent of the British secret services, who was brought to the UK in a spy swap in 2010 after serving part of his prison term in Russia, and his daughter Yulia, a Russian citizen living permanently in Russia, were poisoned, as we have been told, with one of the most potent nerve gases known as Novichok according to the Western classification. Moreover, this happened in broad daylight in a quiet UK town that is not a tourist or pilgrimage site but a place where neighbours know each other and notice the smallest details. More than that, judging from London’s claims, Moscow apparently did not find a better time to poison Sergey Skripal than a week before the presidential election and three months before the FIFA World Cup, although it could have had lots of opportunities to do this since 2004, first while Skripal was serving a prison term for treason in Russia and later after he moved to the UK in a spy swap.

Nobody wanted to take any notice of these facts. The crime was immediately blamed on Russia. The very first official statements started appearing even before the more or less serious investigation began. Of course, Moscow was kept away from the investigation, probably because London has drawn its lessons from the Litvinenko case, when Russia’s initial involvement complicated the investigation. BBC brought up the Litvinenko case as soon as March 6.

On that day, BBC security correspondent Gordon Corera drew parallels with the poisoning of ex-FSB officer Alexander Litvinenko in the UK in 2006. However, there is one very important difference between the two cases: back in 2006, the public was at least shown the photographs of Litvinenko. As for the Skripals, during the whole month since the tragedy nobody has seen them. The media and Russian officials have been unable to contact the Skripals, although we have sent numerous notes to the UK side asking for such an opportunity.

But Russia has not kept away from these developments either. London has turned a blind eye to Russia’s appeals over the Skripal case and has refused to involve our officials in the investigation. In this situation, we simply must draw public attention to inconsistencies in the official UK statements and assessments, and to the numerous absurd leaks. A simple comparison of facts and conclusions clearly shows that this case is a poorly prepared and implemented (in terms of logic and logistics) provocation against Russia.

To be continued…

 

The Essential Saker II: Civilizational Choices and Geopolitics / The Russian challenge to the hegemony of the AngloZionist Empire
The Essential Saker: from the trenches of the emerging multipolar world