Exclusive interview of Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov on Russia 24 TV Channel, Moscow, July 18, 2014
Question: I can’t help but ask you about the most current one - the Malaysian Airlines liner shot down over the territory of Ukraine. How can this affect Russia? Immediately, accusations were sent from Kiev to our country that, they say, it supplies the air defense system militias. How would you answer these charges?
Lavrov: Our position was stated very clearly by President Vladimir Putin of the Russian Federation, who from the very beginning demanded an independent international investigation. We did it first. Yesterday, during a telephone conversation with President of the United States B.Obama, it was V.Putin who informed the American leader of the newly shot down Malaysian liner. We will insist on an extremely objective, open, independent investigation and will be ready to contribute. But we believe that the initiative should be shown by the authorities of the country on whose territory this tragedy occurred.
As for the statements made from Kiev that almost Russia itself has done this, in recent months I have not heard the truthful statements from representatives of the Kiev authorities. They say anything. For example, President Poroshenko declared that the Ukrainian army would never receive orders to do anything that could create a threat to the civilian population, that cities would not be shot at and that, as he pompously expressed, is the meaning "High traditions of the noble Ukrainian army". What is happening with settlements in the South-East of Ukraine, with cities, infrastructure and civilians, you saw with your own eyes. Thanks to you, the whole world saw it.
There are plenty of other examples. From Kiev a stream of lies is simply pouring about what is happening - they blame everyone and everything, except for themselves. To be honest, I assume that this catastrophe still sobered those who obviously relied on the war, abandon all commitments in the political process and European calls to come to their senses and hope for the support of Washington. We call a spade a spade - we talk about it right with our American colleagues. We do not feel the desire of the United States to send signals to Kiev in favor of a negotiated solution.
What happened with the plane, probably should make stop, look and think. The militia offered a truce for a period of international investigation. We are in favor of international experts arriving as soon as possible at the crash site, immediately received “black boxes”, which we, despite the fact that again it sounds from Kiev, are not going to take away and violate the norms existing in the world community for such cases. This is the case of ICAO and those states that are directly related to the tragedy and whose citizens were on board - the Netherlands, Malaysia, as well as Ukraine and others. It is good that President of Ukraine P. Poroshenko announced the immediate establishment of an international commission. This must be done, moreover, so that no one has any doubts about sincerity and readiness to conduct a full-fledged investigation.
Question: About the investigation and the statements of P. Poroshenko. Just a few hours after it became known about the catastrophe, he declared that it was a terrorist act. I will not ask you where he came from, just a few hours after the disaster - without any investigation - this information appeared. It is clear that there is more politics than expert opinion. In your opinion, can such rapidly emerging statements become pressure on the investigation team that will conduct the investigation? Could this be a direct indication of what to find and what not?
Lavrov: This is a political order. That's why I said that I welcome the statement of P. Poroshenko on the immediate establishment of a commission. However, it must be created immediately, immediately.
Of course, attempts to state that this was a terrorist act in order to give a signal to Ukrainian investigators to be guided by this in their work is unacceptable pressure on the commission’s activities.
I can cite many quotes that show an absolute unwillingness to even admit that something is being done wrong or not enough by the Ukrainian authorities. The main thing is that yesterday Putin once again stressed in a conversation with Barack Obama - not to constantly try to repeat that Russia should do something, but look at the essence of the problem, which is the absolute unwillingness of the Ukrainian authorities to sit down to the negotiating table with those who do not accept the military coup that took place in February and attempts to speak with the Russian-speaking South-East from a position of strength, but seek only one thing - that their legal rights be respected, that they should be negotiated with them, which one will be the structure of the Ukrainian state, what rights will be provided for all its citizens. This is not a whim, and, by and large, it is a requirement for the Kiev authorities to fulfill what they signed for February 21, being in opposition.
Let me remind you that the first clause of the Agreement, witnessed by the foreign ministers of Poland, Germany and France, was the creation of a government of national unity. And this is the main point. After that, such a government would engage in constitutional reform, on the basis of which elections would take place. Everything is clear, logical, understandable and constructive. That Agreement was broken, unfortunately, with the connivance of the Europeans or, at least, with their unwillingness to insist that what they signed up for was respected by the former opposition, and now by the present authorities.
After this, another attempt was made to return the situation to the bed of constructive dialogue. 17 April in Geneva met the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Russia, Ukraine, the United States and the High Representative of the European Union. The statement on the results of the meeting was recorded: the cessation of all violence and the beginning, I quote, of an “inclusive, transparent, open constitutional process involving all regions of Ukraine”.
When we brought this document to the UN Security Council and the OSCE, asking for its approval, since the foreign ministers of the United States, the European Union, Russia, and Ukraine itself signed it, we did not find support. We were told that “let's better approve the PA Poroshenko’s peace plan,” which in fact ignores the Geneva Declaration and the principles of openness of the constitutional process and equal participation of the regions. The plan calls for surrender weaponand whoever does not, will be destroyed. And further - if you surrender, we will decide whether to amnesty you or not. Those who, in our conviction, committed serious crimes will not be amnestied. As for the powers, we ourselves will tell you what, how and when we decentralize you.
The Ukrainian leadership does not conduct constitutional reform. They made a project, the text of which was sent to the Verkhovna Rada. It has not been made public anywhere, the regions are not familiar with it. At the same time, they tried to send him to the Council of Europe, trying to get the opinion of this structure, then to hide behind them and say that they do not need any consultations, as the “enlightened European community” confirmed everything and that everything is fine. This is the essence of the problem. V. Putin does not cease to talk about this with A. Merkel, B. Obama, F. Hollande and his interlocutors. The last time was in Rio de Janeiro, where the President of Russia similarly talked on this topic with the Chancellor of Germany.
We emphasize that it is impossible to demand only from us to force the militia to, in fact, accept the fact that they will either be finished off or they will surrender to the mercy of the winner. I talked about this with US Secretary of State J. Kerry and I will continue to seek an answer.
Elections were held in Iraq, which led to the victory of the party headed by the Prime Minister of the country N. Al-Maliki (he confirmed his authority to become Prime Minister). Why does the United States consider it possible in Iraq to persuade him to share power with those who did not accept the election results? Why does the United States reconcile or try to reconcile everyone and everywhere, regardless of whether elections were or were not held, (as in, say, the Republic of South Sudan, to which creation Washington put a lot of effort and how would be directly the main initiator of this process)? There, they literally forced the president to put up with his main opponent.
There are many such examples - in Africa, in the Middle East. And in Ukraine - no dialogue with the opposition. The official position of the United States, which they spread throughout the world, is that one cannot talk to the separatists, it is impossible to support the Russian initiative in the UN Security Council in favor of a truce and dialogue, because the government and the separatists cannot be put on a par. This is such a double standard that I simply don’t even need to particularly prove the impasse of such an approach. There is no answer to this question. Bias means only one thing - in Washington, they decided to give the go-ahead to the President of Ukraine, Pyotr Poroshenko, for military suppression of those who disagree with them. This is a criminal decision, and I very much hope that it will be revised after all. At the level of the President and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia, we explain to our partners that this will mean that the West has assumed tremendous responsibility for the fate of the Ukrainian state.
Question: The UN Security Council today will hold an emergency meeting dedicated to the downed Malaysian liner. What do you expect from this meeting? Maybe Russia will put forward some proposal for a resolution?
Lavrov: Sometimes it happens that an event has been scheduled for a long time, and then an event occurs, and everyone considers the event in its context. This is a scheduled meeting of the UN Security Council, which was agreed upon last week, when it could not have occurred to anyone that a similar tragedy would occur.
Question: But now the topic will change?
Lavrov: The topic will change, or rather, complement this problem. We are in favor of agreeing a statement in which, of course, deepest condolences should be expressed to all those who lost relatives and friends, to the Malaysian government. I am convinced that this will be done. Perhaps the Security Council is obliged to speak in favor of the immediate commencement of an independent, impartial free and open investigation. We are in favor of the same initiative and decision within the OSCE, where the Permanent Council will also meet today.
Question: Will this catastrophe affect the meeting of the Contact Group, which should have been held a long time ago and set a new truce date? This was agreed at the beginning of July in Berlin. The contact group still does not meet. It seems that the disaster will postpone her meeting again. What prevents?
Lavrov: Last night a video conference took place. For obvious reasons, she was devoted exclusively to the situation with the downed aircraft. It is necessary to solve the most complicated issues of access of international experts, identification and transportation of bodies to their countries of origin, issues that cannot be solved logistically without close cooperation between the militia and the Kiev authorities.
Question: Is the dialogue going on?
Lavrov: If logistically you need something from the Russian Federation, we have expressed our readiness to provide all possible assistance. There is reason to expect that another video conference will be held in the very near future, at which the truce will be discussed. Now, this truce is a triple, quadrupled, given the conduct of the investigation, which should cover a fairly extensive territory - as you know, the remains are scattered widely. I very much hope that the tragedy will simply allow you to forget about political ambitions and unite everyone around the task of building dialogue and restoring relations between South-East and Kiev on the principles agreed upon in the Geneva Statement on the need to start an equal constitutional process.
Question: Why has a truce not yet been appointed? 2 July you, your Ukrainian colleague Mr. K.A. Klimkin, the foreign ministers of Germany and France agreed and signed the paper, that the armistice date should be set by July 5. Why was this not done?
Lavrov: Hard to say. The truce was conceived as agreed. For this to happen in practice, four foreign ministers are not enough. It is important that those who really oppose each other, click on the trigger and buttons, agreed on the date of the beginning of the truce and its parameters. Relatively speaking, everyone froze in his place, after 24 hours, someone walked a mile, someone a kilometer away, etc. It is important that people “on the ground” feel the security of the process and that they are not unilaterally disarming. But to my great regret (I again return to the topic of the negotiability of our Ukrainian colleagues), after the Berlin statement was agreed from Kiev, voices began to sound that, in accordance with this document, the militias are obliged to accept the “peace plan of President P. Poroshenko”, which is the road to truce. This is absolutely not true. The statement does not mention the "peace plan of Pyotr Poroshenko." They also say that before the truce takes place, it is necessary to exchange hostages. This is also not the case.
In the Statement adopted in Berlin 2 July this year, there is a phrase that we call for the early release of the hostages, but this is not at all a condition for a truce. I do not think that there should be any conditions in order to save human lives and stop shooting. In a telephone conversation with the Foreign Minister of Ukraine, I asked how these interpretations of the Berlin statement could be understood. PA Klimkin assured me that the Berlin Statement is not subject to interpretation. Constantly have to recheck everything.
After the Berlin statement was adopted, during the meeting in Rio de Janeiro, German Chancellor Angela Merkel appealed to Russian President Vladimir Putin to do something else to push the constructive process in Ukraine on the "ground" . Then we made significant adjustments to our position. The position reflected in the Berlin statement of the four foreign ministers of Russia, Germany, France and Ukraine, states that after the establishment of a truce, OSCE observers could be placed on the Russian side of those border crossings, the Ukrainian part of which was in the hands of the militias. Ukrainian border guards can be invited to the same checkpoints so that they, along with OSCE observers, see how Russian customs officers and border guards carry out the work of checkpoints and that nothing is prohibited through these checkpoints.
After a conversation in Rio de Janeiro with A. Merkel, Russian President Vladimir Putin, as a gesture of goodwill, decided not to wait until a truce was established, but to immediately invite the OSCE monitors to the checkpoints in question. We made such a proposal at the OSCE headquarters in Vienna and thought, frankly, that they would seize upon it and immediately make an appropriate decision - the issue will be settled, the observers will go and see how these points function, and that nothing passes through them banned. To our surprise, we were asked questions, why this applies only to OSCE observers and why there are no Ukrainians there. We explain that this offer takes effect after the conclusion of an armistice, and we are doing so in advance. Some of our partners very miserably “muttered” that “let's add that the invitation extends not only to these two points, but generally across the entire border”. We want everyone to be polite. Our Western partners, of course, have crafted manners that usually distinguish European citizens, and are trying to foolishly push for an exceptionally one-sided approach, to do everything to make it as they see fit. On the Russian side, there were a lot of goodwill gestures, which they are trying to ignore.
At the same time, in all this time, no one has ever publicly told President of Ukraine Pyotr Poroshenko that he should follow the obligations that Ukraine assumed to start a constitutional dialogue, which would not be a parody and imitation, but a real negotiation process aimed at strengthening the Ukrainian state on the principles that are acceptable to all its regions and citizens.
Question: Not so long ago, Russian settlements became victims of the conflict in the east of Ukraine, came under fire from Ukrainian artillery. How will the Russian Federation react to this, because such attacks may happen again? We understand that a mine can fly again.
Lavrov: First, we have already warned that if this continues, we will take the necessary measures. I am convinced that if it will be understood that this was done deliberately, such a point would have to be suppressed in a one-time manner. So far, according to our estimates, this is still the result of either the not very professional work of employees on these installations, or an accident that also happens in war. We seriously warned our Ukrainian colleagues.
In practical terms, in the very near future, we are trying to ensure that OSCE monitors, whom we invite to checkpoints, do not simply observe the work of Russian border guards and customs officers, but also assess and report to Vienna on what is happening around checkpoints, including terms of threats and security created as a result of hostilities in the Ukrainian territory. This, too, will contribute to a greater degree of disclinability of those who, on the other side of the border, are holding fingers on the trigger.
Question: Have decisions been taken on these OSCE commissions?
Lavrov: Three OSCE representatives were sent to checkpoints in Rostov “Donetsk” and “Gukovo”, who should quickly assess how it all looks in practice, how many observers are needed so that they can be there around the clock (for example, three per shift). I hope that by the end of the week, the OSCE’s relevant decision will be made, and the observers will arrive. We will only be glad of this. Naturally, the Russian side assumes responsibility for their security on our territory, but not in the case of shelling from the Ukrainian side. This will be reflected in the mandate of the observers and in our commitments.
Question: We all understand what caused the ground military operation that the Israeli military unleashed in the Gaza Strip, and because of which the civilians living there are suffering. What is the position of Russia?
Lavrov: Yesterday, this topic was discussed by the presidents of Russia, Vladimir Putin, and the US, B. Obama. It was touched by V. Putin. A few hours before departure to Latin America, the President of Russia talked with Israeli Prime Minister B. Netanyahu. In all these contacts, we confirmed an understanding of Israel’s concern for its security problems as a result of chaotic, unarmed attacks, in fact, home-made rockets. Rockets are falling in residential areas, including in recent days several rockets have fallen a kilometer from our Embassy in Tel Aviv. Realizing how serious it is for the Israelis, we at the same time understand how important it is to prevent the development of a spiral of an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.
The Russian side actively supported the initiative of Egypt, with which he spoke a couple of days ago and which was supported by Israel. We believe that it is not too late for Hamas and other radical groups not submitting to it (and they are present in the Gaza Strip) to respond to this initiative. The commencement of a ground operation causes deep concern about how Hamas will respond and what will happen next.
I stress once again - we very much count on the leading role of Egypt. In principle, we welcome the return of Cairo to the political arena of the region, which this country lacked during the period when it was torn apart by internal contradictions. Regarding calming the situation around the Gaza Strip and the possibility of Egyptian mediation between this territory and Israel, in general, Egypt’s participation in reuniting Palestinian camps based on the Arab Peace Initiative, but not on the basis of opposition to Israel, but based on dialogue with this country, we consider very useful and intend to actively support this.
There was a period when the United States pushed the so-called Quartet of international mediators for a whole year, saying that they themselves would reconcile the Israelis and the Palestinians by starting negotiations on final status. It didn’t work out - it’s difficult to do it alone, although we supported the mission of US Secretary of State J. Kerry.
Now, when many are talking about the need to resume the multilateral format of the Quartet (Russia, USA, UN, EU), it seems to me that the time is right to return to our long-standing idea of replenishing this format with representatives of the League of Arab States - and not just he used to decide something in his circle, and then he invited the Arabs and told them what the Quartet had agreed on, and he began to work together with the Arabs, primarily with Egypt, to work out solutions. Arabs should initially be part of the initiative development process. In my opinion, now the awareness of the demand for such a step is widely recognized.
Question: Sergey Viktorovich, the visit of Russian President Vladimir Putin to a number of Latin American countries just recently ended. In this visit, much was the first time - in particular, this is the first visit of the Russian leader to Nicaragua and Argentina. After the collapse of the USSR, Latin America was, in fact, on the periphery of Russian foreign policy. Judging by the visit and the number of signed agreements, is something drastically changing now?
Lavrov: I think that changes seriously, but not in one sitting. This is still a process that began in the last 10-12 years, when we began to overestimate what happened after the collapse of the Soviet Union. By and large, then we did not have, by and large, neither the money nor the time to keep in touch with friends around the world - we were busy with our internal problems. Remember how serious it was.
In the last 10 years, we are actively returning to Latin America, Africa, and Asia - to regions where we have old friends who remember solidarity with our country during the struggle of these states for independence. I think that capital, which is measured in human relations among others, is now in great demand, on both sides.
I will note an interesting point. Many Western media (and in some neighboring countries, in particular - in Ukraine) began to regard President Vladimir Putin’s visit to Latin America as an attempt to prove that Russia was not completely isolated. There was such an implication that, they say, we began to frantically search for where to go. I think everyone understands that the BRICS summit is not an impromptu, but a long time ago (a year ago at the previous summit) an agreed annual event that was seriously being prepared.
We have extensive mechanisms that ensure the work of this structure - about two dozen formats, including sectoral ministers and representatives of other departments, foreign policy interaction.
As Russian President Vladimir Putin said at the final press conference, the main content of the BRICS summit was the agreement on the creation of a new Development Bank with a capital of up to 100 billion dollars (the charter capital is slightly less, but as a result countries have pledged to bring it to 100 billion.). A pool of reserve currencies was created for the same amount.
The President assessed these agreements as the implementation of the previously planned. The fact that this took place confirms the interest of all BRICS countries in greater independence, the creation of tools that will allow to depend on objective processes, their own needs and interests of mutual cooperation, and not on the rules established in an era when these countries did not have sufficient economic and financial weight.
Question: Sergey Viktorovich, we will definitely return to the topic of BRICS, but I would like to dwell in greater detail on Latin America, which in North America, namely in the USA, is called its “backyard”. The term is controversial and even probably offensive. Nevertheless, it is obvious that the United States has a very strong influence here. Tell me, are you meeting with the US opposition to such development of Russian-Latin American relations? For example, when I was in Nicaragua, L. Ortega (son of the President of this country, D. Ortega) told me that it was the United States that was extremely dissatisfied with Russia's desire to deploy its military refueling base in Nicaragua. Maybe there are some more examples?
Lavrov: The BRICS summit was accompanied by visits on a bilateral basis by President Vladimir Putin of Russia to Cuba, Nicaragua and Argentina, as well as the so-called outreach events, to which, along with the heads of state of this association, the Brazilians invited all South American countries that are members of the UNASUR organization ( Union of South American Nations). There were talks, protocol events, during which I, at least, talked to all my colleagues - the foreign ministers of these countries who accompanied their presidents. Practically everyone told me confidentially that on the eve of these meetings the Americans were sending signals through various channels, they say, why and why should you go there. They took it philosophically and responded with Latin American dignity that it was their business and they would develop relationships with those with whom they consider it necessary.
Russia is a very promising partner that offers mutually beneficial projects. Latin American states have a lot of offers for our country. So why push yourself on your feet and restrain your natural interests?
Question: In general, not the "backyard".
Lavrov: Say, from New York to Brasilia to fly almost as much as from New York to Moscow. From Moscow to Brasilia - one and a half times longer. Even from the point of view of arithmetic and geography, everything is relative. This region is not a “backyard” at all, but a whole world, a whole continent with a culture that was decisively formed by the Spaniards, the Portuguese, but also a culture that in most countries preserves the traditions of the people who lived there before the appearance of Europeans.
Question: Yes, there are a lot of Russians, for example, in Argentina.
Lavrov: Not only in Argentina. In Uruguay, there is a place, a small town in which the vast majority of people are our compatriots. This is the only such point in Latin America. When I was in Paraguay, Uruguay, Argentina, I met with these people. They are distinguished by the fact that this is a fairly prosperous diaspora, they have a normal socio-economic situation, and life is established. But they keep Russian culture, teach children. We are now helping to establish a more effective and widespread teaching of the Russian language there, supplying literature.
So, Latin America is a whole continent and it was probably fashionable to call it the “backyard” of the United States in an era when there were no such wide opportunities for communication. But the most important thing is that their attitude does not at all fall within the definition of “inhabitants of the backyard”.
At the summit, which was held with the participation of all South American countries - participants of UNASUR - the situation in the world economy and finance was actively discussed. The President of Argentina, Mrs. K. Kirschner, promoted the development of generally acceptable universal rules of behavior in financial markets, including those relating to default. You know that this country faced a very unusual situation, when, having agreed to restructure its debts, with all but a very small percentage of creditors, it faced a minority attack that went to an American court, which ruled that Argentina owes these creditors pay “in full”, i.e. much more than the pennies for which they bought Argentine securities. I will not go into details.
Question: And the court’s decision was issued on these days.
Lavrov: Yes, on the eve of the BRICS summit. This topic was relevant at the “outreach” event with the participation of the BRICS and UNASUR countries. Argentina, with the absolutely solidarity of other states, spoke in favor of establishing order in this area, as well as that such decisions as the restructuring of sovereign countries ’debts did not become hostages of someone’s national judicial system and would not be given to it at the mercy of on the basis of generally agreed rules.
Question: Or at least within the framework of international organizations.
Lavrov: This will be a very hot topic at the G20 summit, which is scheduled to be held in Australia in November of this year. All members of UNASUR and the participants of the BRICS supported this initiative, aimed at harmonizing generally accepted approaches.
One more thing. UNASUR participants at a meeting with the presidents of the BRICS countries welcomed the Declaration adopted in Fortolosa, which, in addition to the financial and economic sections, formulated in the spirit that I have just mentioned, contains extensive material on international affairs. In fact, there is not a single serious conflict that is not mentioned in this document. This is not just a listing - the text is formulated in the context of a search for solutions and settlement in Africa, in the Middle East and North Africa, in Afghanistan and other regions.
The BRICS Presidents instructed foreign ministers and foreign ministries as a whole, in the framework of cooperation in the UN and other international structures, to organize on a regular basis the coordination of actions and share assessments, and also, if possible, to develop joint initiatives. This is also a step forward. We also agreed that ambassadors of the BRICS countries abroad will meet regularly and exchange views on the situation in the countries where they are accredited. It will also be a serious and qualitative advancement in the sphere of our foreign policy interaction.
Question: Does this mean that BRICS, which began, in fact, not as an official structure, but as an informal club of states, first became a financial and economic association, and now it is also becoming political?
Lavrov: To a certain extent, yes. Moreover, high-quality “maturation”, “maturation” and “maturity” of BRICS occur in all directions. In the financial and economic fields, this is manifested in the activities of the G20.
It is no secret that after our G8 partners decided not to meet in this format, they revived their G7, which, by and large, at one time decided the “destinies of the world” in finance and economics, and now , with the creation of the G-20, lost its decisive role, which passed to the G-20 and the framework for which our Western partners have to negotiate with us, other BRICS members and the rest of the countries included in this union and make up the aggregate of the leading centers of economic growth and inansovoy power. The G-7 countries in the G-20 format are actively trying to “drag this blanket over themselves,” in particular, in preparation for the Australia summit in Brisbane. However, the BRICS participants in the G20 have many allies. For example, such countries as Argentina, Mexico, Indonesia in the issues of reform of the international market and financial system are absolutely in solidarity with the participants of the BRICS. By the way, one of the central points on the agenda of the next summit in Australia this November will be the requirement that the agreement on the reform of the quota system in the International Monetary Fund (they were reached in the autumn of 2010, and now being rolled up by our Western partners) . In this situation, BRICS, together with like-minded people, whom I have already listed (there are still other countries that are speaking from the same positions), will work to ensure that our partners can be negotiable.
Question: Do I understand correctly that the G-20 was divided into two camps, two cores - the G-7 and BRICS?
Lavrov: From the very beginning of its activities, the G20, on the one hand, represented the traditional economies of the West, which have decisive positions in the international financial system, the IMF and the World Bank. On the other hand, there are growing young economies, countries that have accumulated financial strength, along with which comes political influence. This is a natural situation when you have to look for a compromise. The reform agreed on by 4 a year ago is aimed at gradually increasing the role of new young emerging markets in the management of the IMF and the World Bank. Those who still have the majority are trying to resist this, although they have no economic grounds and no arguments for that. I repeat, the decisions were made, and they must be implemented.