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Speech by the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and his answers to questions from the mass media during the press conference on the side-lines of the Nuclear Security Summit, The Hague, 24 March 2014

29-03-2014, 00:24

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As far as I understand, you know about the progress of discussions at the Nuclear Security Summit (NNS). Final documents have been prepared, which will be published.

I would like to inform you about bilateral contacts. Today I had another meeting with the US Secretary of State John Kerry. We mainly talked about Ukraine. We highlighted again the need to fully respect the results of the referendum in Crimea. We talked about the need to take decisive measures to prevent atrocities by radicals and to include them in the political life of Ukraine. An agreement on this was reached on the 21 February, when President Viktor Yanukovych and the Opposition in the presence of three EU foreign ministers signed an agreement. This should not be dependent on any other conditions: there is no place for radicals in modern society. We also discussed the need to appeal to the Ukrainian authorities, formed by the Verkhovna Rada, to devote the most serious attention to the constitutional reform, which takes into account the interests of every Ukrainian region and fully reflects these interests in the state order. It seems to me that we have an understanding regarding the direction of our movement. We agreed to send the necessary signals to Kiev. We hope that respective measures will be undertaken. Kiev announced that a working group to prepare constitutional amendments is being put together. We are convinced that large-scale constitutional reform should take place with the participation of all regions.. This is our assessment of the situation, although we cannot impose anything on Ukrainian leaders, It will be very difficult to overcome the deep internal crisis in Ukraine.

I also talked about this with the Acting Foreign Minister of Ukraine Andrii Deshchytsia, who asked for such a meeting. We outlined to him our vision of the steps to be undertaken by the heads appointed by the Verkhovna Rada in order to start a mutually respectful dialogue nation-wide taking into account peculiarities of different parts of the country and the interests its inhabitants.

With the US Secretary of State, John Kerry, we also talked about the current tasks to continue the work related to chemical demilitarisation of Syria. This work is going on. It is in the interests of everybody to complete these activities as soon as possible.

We also talked about this with the Director General of the Technical Secretariat of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, Ahmet Üzümcü. We highly appreciate the professionalism with which his employees deal with this important task.

Question: You had meetings with the US Secretary of State, John Kerry, and the Acting Ukrainan Foreign Minister, Andrii Deshchytsia. Does the meeting with Mr. Andrii Deshchytsia mean that you recognise him as legitimate Acting Foreign Minister? Which of these meetings was more productive? Weren’t both of them just an exchange of opinions? Does the fact that the President of Russia, Vladimir Putin, has not come to the summit, where 56 Heads of State and governments are present, because he is not happy that the majority of them do not understand and do not accept his position on the Ukrainian problem?

Sergey Lavrov:Several weeks ago President Vladimir Putin ordered members of the Government of the Russian Federation to maintain work-related contacts with ministers of the Ukrainian state, who were appointed by the Verkhovna Rada. We continue to have such contacts, today I met one of them. This is the first time I met Mr. Andrii Deshchytsia in his current position.. We discussed current affairs and, also the tasks, which in our opinion, should be taken overcome the internal political crisis in Ukraine. This should be done primarily by Ukrainians.

I cannot judge, how fruitful one or another meeting was. It seems to me that the US Secretary of State, John Kerry, shows traces of understanding that a push is required to implement the provisions included in the agreement of the 21 February.. It will be right, if this actually takes place, that those who are current leaders of the Verkhovna Rada and formed a cabinet, attach the most serious attention to this, because many of the things agreed upon have not been done: illegal armed formations have not been disarmed, not all the occupied buildings have been freed, squares have not been unblocked, etc.

As to the composition of the NSS in The Hague, about one third of the 56 participants, whom you have mentioned, were not presented at the summit. Everybody has different reasons for not being present. In our case, it is not related to the events in Ukraine. The decision that the Minister of Foreign Affairs will represent the Russian Federation was taken about half a year ago and was dictated exclusively by pragmatic considerations.

The processes taking place after the first NSS in Washington in 2010 have generally been achieved. A joint political platform of the member states, which is aimed at the interpretation and implementation of practical measures to ensure physical protection and security of nuclear materials in the way, which was approved by everybody, has been formed.

These summits have played a major role in this very important area, including the task of preventing nuclear terrorist attacks. The majority of participants agree with this assessment.

Question: During this summit, there was a serious discussion about the exclusion of Russia from the G8. Will Russia perceive this as a serious punishment? You said that you are not going into interfere into the affairs of the south east Ukraine. Why should the West believe your words, taking into account that on the 4 March the President of Russia, Vladimir Putin, announced that he did not intend to annex Crimea?

Sergey Lavrov: We do not push anybody to trust us. We have trusted our western partners for a long time, starting from the breakdown of the USSR, when they gave any promises –verbally and in writing as well as political obligations at summit level. Therefore, we only imagine the value of the promises of our western partners.

The events in Crimea are not related to some malicious intent of ours; it is out of a need to protect Russians, who have been living there for some time. Our partners have said: “we compare Crimea with Kosovo, but a lot of blood was spilt in Kosovo before its independence was recognised”. We have a question: is it really necessary that a lot of blood is spilt in Crimea in order to obtain the consent of the Crimean people to have the right to self-defence? This is an anti-humanitarian statement of the problem.

As to the G8, this is an informal club, which does not issue membership cards. Nobody can expel anybody from there by definition. Many people believe that the G8 has played its role, because after the creation of the G20 all the economic and financial issues are being discussed there, while the G8 existsprimarily as a forum for talks between the leading western countries and Russia. Issues of INP, the nuclear programme of the Korean Peninsula, the Syrian situation, the Balkans and some other things are being discussed there. However, there are other formats for discussion of these issues: UNSC, quartet of mediators on the Middle East, P5+1, etc. Therefore, if western partners believe that this format is outdated, let it be so. At least, we do not cling to this format and nothing bad will come of it if it does not gather together. As an experiment we should see if we can do without it for a year or more.

Question: You had a meeting with representatives from BRICS member states this morning. What is their positions regarding Russia’s actions with regard to Ukraine? Are they ready to recognise that Crimea is part of Russia?

Sergey Lavrov: Nobody has asked to recognise this. We have made our decision according to the Russian law, our Constitution and international law, including the UN Charter, and this decision is already in force for us and the people of Crimea. As to today’s meeting of foreign ministers of BRICS countries in The Hague, we have heard understanding of the situation, its historical aspects, and we are grateful to our partners for this.

The Communique, issued by the South African Foreign Minister, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, who is chairing BRICS, states our approaches to the situation in the world. It also mentions the situation related to the forthcoming summit of the G20, because some mass media from Australia reported that Canberra may “leave Russia uninvited”. Our position regarding this is stated in the Communique. It was not Australia, who created the G20, but it was created by all of us, and we will work in this mechanism, as we have decided to do.

Question: Does Russia view the signing of the agreement between the EU and Ukraine last week as a provocation? Can these events affect the participation of Russia in the negations on Syria or INP?

Sergey Lavrov: It is hard for me to consider in any way the signature of the paper between Ukraine and the EU. As far as I understand it, only one twentieth of the document intended to be signed was signed. I still cannot fully understand the meaning of this procedure. This is a question for lawyers, it is the affairs of Ukraine and the European Union. If they have made such a decision, let it be so. I am only surprised that it was signed in the period, when new authorities in Ukraine have not been formed yet. Presidential elections were announced (not in December, as it was agreed in the agreement of the 21 February, but at the end of May), there should be a constitutional reform before then. It would be more correct and ethical from all points of view with regards to one's own people to wait for a more legitimate situation in the authorities of Ukraine before signing some agreements on behalf of the entire state. I repeat, that is the choice of those, who signed this document (or under some headings of a larger document).

Syria, Iran and many other issues are on the agenda of our relations with western partners – these are problems, which should be resolved in any case. INP should be cleaned from any suspicions with regard to some military dimension in it, it is necessary to resolve the nuclear problem of the Korean Peninsula, the Syrian crisis requires additional efforts. We hope that the third round of the Geneva Conference will be convened.

Each of these and other problems can be resolved in different ways; approaches do not always match, there are always peculiarities. The more frequently we coordinate our actions, the more effective our joint work will be. JOINT work rather than use of somebody by somebody, when it is necessary to ignore, wishing to make a gesture to the public for political considerations – for example, to show, as on the eve of elections, how toughly politicians in Europe or elsewhere react. We should proceed in this way: partnership can only be reciprocal. This is a normal position of any state, which respects itself.


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