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Interview by the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, in a special edition of the programme “Voskresny vecher s Vladimirom Solovyovim” on the “Russia 1” TV channel, Moscow, 11 April 2014

16-04-2014, 12:01

Question: Hello, Sergey Viktorovich. I feel that now you are not just a Minister of Foreign Affairs, but a Minister of Military Affairs. Every time I see and hear you, I sense a tremendous concern and think the world has gone mad. My generation does not remember such a level of escalation. What is really happening?

Sergey Lavrov: I think that the entire world system is being reformatted, because after the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact disappeared, those whom we call “the West” lost their historical opportunities, when Russia proposed several initiatives, which would not only allow them to truly unite the European continent, but also the Euro-Atlantic region, including Eurasia. There were propositions to make the OSCE the centre of such work on the basis of equality of all countries. Assumptions were expressed that after the disappearance of the USSR and the Warsaw Pact – the main threats for the NATO countries – the North Atlantic Treaty Organization should cease to exist or, at a minimum, stop extending. They assured us about this, they told us that now everybody was interested in equal cooperation, which would be based on respect of each other’s security interests, that security is undivided and nobody would ensure their own security at the expense of the security of others. First they assured us that the reconnection of Germany would not mean the spread of NATO rules and armed forces over the territory of the former German Democratic Republic. Then this promise was forgotten, of course. Then they promised not to further extend NATO to the East, not to embrace eastern and central European countries, which was fixed in many agreements, which were unfortunately not legally drawn up. These promises were also violated. Then there were political declarations, signed at summit level within the OSCE and the newly created NATO-Russia Council, that NATO countries would not deploy significant battlefield forces in the territory of new member states of NATO. This promise also failed to stand the test of time, like the declaration on indivisibility of security, which I have mentioned.

We started to ask, why NATO’s military infrastructure was approaching our borders, why anti-missile defence is being created, with regard to which we have the most serious reasons to believe that it is a risk for our strategic forces of nuclear deterrence. They answered that there was noneed to worry, because it was not against us. However, our data and facts, which Russian experts proposed to jointly study with our US and other NATO partners many times, say otherwise. There hasn’t been a serious talk on these topics for all these years.

Then there was the Eastern Partnership project initiated by the European Union, which embraced 6 post-Soviet countries – Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Belarus, within the framework of which, priority attention was devoted to Ukraine. As you know, the EU proposed to the Ukrainians to sign the Association and free trade zone agreement. As friends, we raised the issue that we had a large scope of trade, economic, investment and other ties with Ukraine and it would be good to consider together how to develop our relations. They said to us: “Now we will agree with the Ukrainians, and then show you, what we have agreed”. They assured us that the Associations and free trade zone agreement will be a standard agreement – the same, which the European Union concluded with Mexico, South Korea and several other states. Then, when the initialled agreement was posted on websites (we did not see it before that), it turned out that this draft document went far beyond those standard agreements that the EU told us about. It goes so far that it directly affects Russian-Ukrainian trade and economic cooperation, makes the functioning of the CIS free trade zone difficult, which, incidentally, was formed at the insistence and initiative of the former Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko, i.e. at the insistence of the Ukrainians, and created discriminatory conditions for Russian goods, aggravating the agreements reached, when Russia acceded to the WTO. Our attempts at that stage to hold an expert, professional, de-politicised talk with the participation of Ukraine, Russia and the EU were rejected, although the Ukrainians were ready for it. They rejected them by saying: “Do not interfere with the EU-Ukraine interaction”.

Question: Of course, because we are a regional power, which, as it turned out, lost some war, I haven’t seen a foreign soldier marching on Red Square in a victory parade. But it turned out that they can cry to our UN representative: “Don’t forget that you are the loser!” President Barack Obama tells us that we are a regional power and therefore nobody wants to talk to us. Why do they need to inform us what is happening on our borders? Our fate is to observe and, as I understand, continue the breakdown topic, which was started in 1991. Then they will love and respect us. In other words, split into small parts.

Sergey Lavrov: Today’s events are based on the syndrome of winners, which came to the fore in these new conditions, which they kept deeply inside themselves assuring us that there was no winner in the “cold war”, and we have all won from this, and we share values now. Of course, there is wounded pride as well: they believed that they could disregard us and do with Russia’s closest neighbours and partners what they would, without asking for our opinion and ignoring our legal interests. Of course, their offence is showing here as well, that another project of Saakashvili’s time, Georgia, turned out to be unsustainable. All this, of course, is coming out.

Question: But this affects our relations as well. We thought that they considered us allies on Elba, but, it turns out, that they saw a loser in us, believed that it is sufficient to give us McDonalds and show us a decoy. Now, it seems to me that the problem is not in relations between Ukraine and Russia, but in relations between Russia and the United States, who are acting as if Alaska had voted for reconnection with Russia. Why is there such an emotional, I would say, extraordinary, reaction?

Sergey Lavrov: This confirms only one thing: the extension of NATO, hastened the inclusion of new states inthe North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the European Union, including the Baltic countries, which did not meet membership criteria, but were still immediately taken over, the EU policy named the Eastern Partnership – all this was conceived with a significant portion of American ideas to control Europe and ensure formats like NATO and the EU, which would give the United States a significant vote. Washington was certainly worried that Europe could become independent or more independent, less dependent on the Euro-Atlantic link.

We see this. Nobody is talking about it out loud, but it is manifesting in almost all specific steps by the United States with regard to the Ukrainian crisis. We are worried about this, because the problem is not in Russian-Western or Russian-Ukrainian relations, but in Ukraine, where there is a deep crisis of national identity, which should be overcome, and only the Ukrainians can overcome it. We are for making this an awareness, on the basis of the nation-wide dialogue, of those who have come to power in Kiev, that they need to give a hand to each and all the Ukrainians, including all the political forces and regions of the country, to start a constitutional reform, which should be transparent and comprehensive. This is what we need to talk about. The efforts of Russia, the United States and the EU should focus on stimulation of the Ukrainians to such a national dialogue and constitutional process. However, unfortunately, our western partners are attempting to present the case, as if the problem was in the Russian-Ukrainian conflict.

Question: The Pentagon has seen Russian troops on the Ukrainian border. It is interesting that the CNN TV company, came there, filmed their materials and did not find any troops. Representatives of the U.S. Department of State have seen the hand of Moscow in the events in the East and South-East of Ukraine. But when we asked them to present their evidence, they asked us: “What for? Everything is openly accessible in social networks”.

It is some sort of new dawn in international diplomacy, when a country decides by itself: “We see here, we do not see here, we accept this evidence and do not accept that evidence. Everything Russia says is lies, we do not consider this, but everything the official Ukraine says, as they believe, is true. Europe and the United States are truth in the final instance”. What is the use of talking to them, if they do not listen to us at all?

Sergey Lavrov: You always need to talk to everybody. It is always better than staying silent and accumulating misunderstandings.

As to our troops, which are allegedly ready to make an incursion across the Russian-Ukrainian border to the South-East of the country, I can say that there were exercises. We announced them, nobody hid them. Within the framework of the OSCE and the so-called Treaty on Open Skies we have obligations to inform our partners about certain types of exercises starting from certain numbers and forces and means used, and we have done this. Moreover, in response to requests, including Ukrainian, American and European requests, they carried out inspections, representatives of these countries were invited and visited the regions of these exercises and, according to their own words, they made an official statement of not having found any threatening military activities there. After that our representatives in the OSCE asked these inspectors to officially distribute their opinion within this respected organisation. They have still not done this.

Vladimir Solovyov: Do they feel embarrassed?

Sergey Lavrov: Probably they do feel embarrassed. This simply does not fit into the total idea of the situation from the point of view of the West.

Question: The Russian delegation went to the PACE, where they were openly rude towards us and deprived us of all our rights except one – to pay for our membership.

Sergey Lavrov: And sit in their hall.

Question: Neither the West nor the United States wish to see the revival of the spirit of crass Nazism represented by the Right Sector, Banderovites and Shukhevich. The Svoboda party, which the EU recognised as being non-associable, delegated five members into the current Ukrainian government and the EU’s disaffection immediately disappeared. I have a feeling that the countries, which once did not support Hitler’s coalition, are taking their revenge on us for our victory in the Great War.

Sergey Lavrov: I have had many talks with my colleagues regarding the nature of the coalition, which broke the agreement of the 21 February, which was signed by three leaders of its parties and organised a coup d’йtat. Of course, we talked about the Svoboda party. I asked John Kerry and the European foreign minister many times, where can I learn their attitude to Svoboda, their programme documents, which contain a direct reference that they are the successors of the Declaration of June 1941, which proclaimed the task of helping Hitler to make the new order. I was unable to get any references to public statements about this.

Of course, we know about multiple speeches by US, Israeli and world communities with regard to the nature of Svoboda and the Right Sector. In our talks, John Kerry said to me: “We understand that their past was severe, but, according to our observations, they are moving with the political mainstream”. In one of his statements, Laurent Fabius noted that Svoboda “is just slightly more to the right than other parties”. What an amazing statement!

We said that such an attitude to the memory of those who fought and defeated fascism, saved Europe from fascism, is unacceptable to us. The attempts to let the coalition, including such actors, into a European country are unacceptable to us.

Question: These things do not happen by accident, it is a kind of trend. On the one hand, they have not wanted to see absolute Nazis in Svoboda. On the other hand, when the representative of the Russian delegation in the UN Security Council said that the tragedy in the Syrian Kesab, where Armenian people are being subjected to genocide, cannot be disregarded, the United States blocked the decision. Are these not double standards? Do the poor Armenians suffer because Armenia is supporting Russia?

Sergey Lavrov: Fortunately, it is better to be a refugee than to die. The overwhelming majority of the Syrian Kesab managed to escape: some – to other Syrian regions, some to Lebanon. There was not the massive massacre, pictures of which were distributed over the internet – pictures from other parts of Syria were posted, but they were no less terrible because of that. The idea was to organise an ethnic cleansing in Kesab. This attempt is evident and its perpetrators partially succeeded. Therefore, when we proposed to make clear and unambiguous statements about this in the UNSC, they lied to us again: “Then let us also condemn Bashar al-Assad’s regime, because they are also doing bad things”. We evidently see the constant tactics of linking the refusal to condemn specific terrorist attacks in Syria, because they allegedly would not happen, if Bashar al-Assad willingly disappeared, and violation of all the resolutions of the UN Security Council and the UN General Assembly, our bilateral documents, which clearly state that terrorism cannot be justified by anything.

Question: There are many questions concerning the reconnection with Crimea. We view this absolutely differently. On the air of Vesti radio and on TV, when I discussed this topic with our respected guests, everybody noted that 16 thousand Ukrainian corps were in the territory of Crimea. Officially there were also Russian troops there. Over 2.5 million people, and no shots. This was a real expression of will, which Americans and Europeans do not want to see. Don’t they see the principled difference between the Yugoslavian scenario and Crimea? Don’t they see any parallels between the reconnection of people from West and East Germany and Russia and Crimea? Has the level of political blindness and deafness really reached its peak?

Sergey Lavrov: I think, I am almost convinced, that everybody sees and understands everything. However, the ideological charge for a deterrence from our country, the ill-concealed anger that protected its legal interests, which were violated despite all the constitutions and laws regarding its exit from the USSR, tell us (and this is what we started out from) that nobody cancelled the geopolitical project of deterrence from Russia. This is sad. If somebody needed evidence of our suspicions and fears, they are not required any more. For all these years our western partners have been telling lies to us, when they swore that they were committed to a single Europe without dividing lines, swore that they would fully respect our interests, that security is undivided and so on.

As to parallels, which cannot but come to mind (Kosovo and many other things), they constantly sayto us that “Kosovo was a special case, thousands of people died there”. This is outside any civilised framework. It turns out that for the Crimean population, the overwhelming majority of which supported reconnection with Russia, to have their undeniable right recognised, the same amount of blood as in Kosovo had to be spilt in Crimea. Excuse me, these are absolutely misfitting parallels and analogies.

There is a more direct parallel, one that is sufficiently interesting, I mentioned it, and I will tell you more about it. When Africa was decolonised, the Comoro Islands, which belonged to France, were somewhat late with their liberation from the colonial yoke – they became independent at the beginning of the 70’s, later than the majority of other African countries. According to the agreement with the colonial powers, a referendum was organised, during which all the Comoro islands supported independence except one island, Mayotte, whose population voted against independence. However, the rules of the referendum were unambiguous, everybody must vote, and if the majority says that they want to be independent, then there will be independence.

At the time, our French colleagues refused to recognise the results of that referendum, although they were recognised by the UNGA, and said that they would organise one more referendum, in which each island’s voting would be taken into account, and each island would get the status it voted for. The referendum was repeated. Mayotte voted against independence again, the UNGA did not recognise the results of this independent voting again. But France said that it recognised voting by Mayotte’s population. Despite many decisions of the UNGA, which denounced such an approach and which did not recognise the results of this referendum, in 2011 Mayotte became another overseas department of France, i.e. a full member of the French Republic.

Question: It is interesting that no trade, political or economic sanction followed.

Sergey Lavrov: Yes. And I repeat, despite the disagreement of the UNGA, the EU is ignoring the decision of the world community.

Question: Sanctions against Russia are unusual, very tough. The officially announced sanctions seem to be personified by offence, but non-official, economic sanctions are unique. They have forgotten about everything: the right of businessmen to gain profit, the freedom of businesses, sanctions are being introduced even against journalists, because they dare to express their opinion. At the same time, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs published a warning to Russians that 111 countries had signed an agreement with the United States, according to which Russian nationals can be turned over to the United States…

Sergey Lavrov: Or kidnapped

Question: Or kidnapped based on invented accusations. So, is it better for Russians not to go abroad?

Sergey Lavrov: Of course, it is better for them not to go. We do everything to expand these opportunities: we conclude additional agreements on visa-free regimes, simplified regimes of travels with many countries every year. We have such an agreement with almost all the Latin American countries, many Asian countries, have been ready to do this with the EU for a long time. All the agreements were ready long before the Ukrainian crisis, however, their approval was postponed under the influence of the known minority in the European Union, which wanted (exclusively based on their ideological preferences) to break down our convergence with the EU.

Question: Based on considerations of historical vengeance…

Sergey Lavrov: Historical vengeance as well. Probably these phobias are still domineering in the minds of many people.

Travelling should of course be safe, and we devote increased attention to this. For example, when the situation in Egypt or Thailand worsened, when there were disturbances and mass disorders, we were obliged to warn our nationals that it was not safe to go there, therefore it was better to stay in resort areas and so on. Yet, what you are talking about is a different problem, related to the fact that the United States extraterritorially extend their jurisdiction to the territories not belonging to them, where Americans take it for granted that they can capture the nationals of other countries, if Washington has questions for them. This happened to Konstantin Yaroshenko and Viktor Bout, who were captured, not for something they had done, but they were provoked into a conversation, during which they made some statements, which were interpreted by agents under cover as sufficient reason for their arrest. They were removed to the United States in violation of the legal and procedural norms of Liberia and Thailand. These are not the only two examples. There were such cases in European countries and Canada. Russian nationals were recently removed from Costa Rica at the request of the United States, despite our protests and requests to observe legal norms. Therefore, we must warn Russians that, if they have ever had any relations with some US partners, if they have reason to believe that there might be some, even simple, questions to be put to them, then it is better…

Question: To go to Sochi!

Sergey Lavrov: Why? To Crimea!

Question: This is a choice: you can go to Sochi or Crimea.

Sergey Lavrov: That is true.

Question: It was not in vain that I said that you are the most popular minister, and not only in Russia. Many recent articles by you or about you in the foreign press have created an image of a very strong politician. They hate and adore you, respect you and say that you allow yourself to use hard statements. And that you are doing this right. However, at the same time, you emphasise that you have had good personal relations, in particular with the US Secretary of State, John Kerry, for many years. Probably now you see him more frequently than your own family, you have many hours of “marathons” with him.

Sergey Lavrov: Questions are different.

Question: I hope that we are still a traditional country. When you contact John Kerry, don’t you feel that you are talking to a robot, who does not listen to you, and does not want to recognise evident things. Based on this, there is a question: where is that instance, which in cases of a dispute between two great powers can say “break” and decide who is right and who is wrong, if each party keeps saying that only it is true and its opinion is the only true opinion?

Sergey Lavrov: I cannot characterise any of my partners as a robot or, in other words, say that there is no understanding. Nothing of the kind. The Secretary of State, John Kerry, is a highly intellectual person, with extensive experience of work in the US Parliament. He was a senator, the head of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, a presidential candidate at the elections, when George Bush was elected. He is a very polymath and experienced politician and diplomat.

The majority of my partners show understanding and behave adequately in our talks, which are not intended for the public. I can talk to them, discuss, exchange arguments, and even agree to something. To be noted in brackets, we never say that our line is the only correct one and that we will not step back an inch, centimetre or millimetre. Nothing of the kind. Convince us, because we never reject reasonable arguments and compromises, because politics is the art of achieving the possible. It is not our tradition to dictate to the rest of the world. This is a style of some other powers. I would like the “syndrome of a unipolar world” to disappear as soon as possible, because the world can only be multipolar. The stronger the other poles (apart from America) are, the in-between is for Washington.

Question:However, the United States cannot see this.

Sergey Lavrov: They will be forced to see this, and I think that they already do. In the same way as in the case with talks about Ukraine or something else, they will have to admit this. They understand this, feel it internally. Even when the United States decided to bomb Iraq or enter Afghanistan, they started to create a coalition, attempting to include even small island states in it, which were ready to send any communication unit or a couple of staff officers. Finally, they added everything up and stated that dozens (40+) made up the coalition, the events had become legitimate and so on. They have already understood that they do not feel comfortable doing everything alone, and they still understand this.

As is known, on the eve of the recent voting in the UNGA on the resolution to support Ukrainian sovereignty, including Crimea, which is a clear anti-Russian step, there was no capital where US ambassadors were not going around and somewhat brazenly appealing to vote for this resolution, stating that it was others’ obligation. They blackmailed and threatened those who did not agree. We know this. Due to known reasons I cannot name the countries and names, but it was happening.

Question: Nevertheless, they failed.

Sergey Lavrov: They failed, because only half of the UN members supported this resolution.

Question: Israel was the wisest: there was a strike there and they could not vote.

Sergey Lavrov: You asked about visible and invisible sanctions, which are almost absurd, when journalists are banned from carrying on their professional activities and so on. Apart from the things which are laying on the surface, we know that a lot of messengers were sent all over the world, orders were given to US and European ambassadors to achieve a freezing of normal everyday working contacts with our representatives from many countries. The EU and US ambassadors in Moscow also seem to be agreeing to have less contacts with us on issues which (according to them) are of interest to us. However, they will certainly contact us on the issues they are interested in.

You need to understand a simple thing here: international relations are based on reciprocity – “what goes around comes around”. We will not take revenge or act to spite them, but we will approach specific situations in a balanced way.

When they make arrogant statements about some new sanctions against Russia, it is sometimes funny to listen to what will follow. For example, NATO announced that it is freezing the majority of practical projects, including the “helicopter” project for Afghanistan. Through joint efforts it ensured maintenance of Soviet and Russian helicopters, supply of spare parts, primarily from Russian companies, training of pilots and maintenance personnel,And several other projects, including the preparation of staff for combating drug trafficking in Afghanistan and Central Asia. These were projects of the NATO-Russia Council. Having announced these sanctions, one of deputies of the NATO Secretary General, said when answering a question from journalists: “We understand that these are areas, which must have results, but we will search for a continuation of our cooperation in these areas in other formats”. In other words, the NATO-Russia Council will not deal with this, but NATO members will search for ways to continue these projects under some other “umbrella”. This is evidence of the contrived and artificial nature of the ideas according to the “cutting off the nose to spite the face” logic

Question: Do those, who “cut off the nose to spite the face”, leave us alone or are there those who are for us? Are we alone? Unfortunately, we always have those who vote like us – North Korea, which is not the best example. In spite of the United States, they are ready to “cut off” anything “to spite the face”. Does Russia have any supporters, which are “wise people”?

Sergey Lavrov: We have serious support. If smaller countries cannot allow themselves to talk honestly about this, because they are too dependent on the West economically and financially, then the countries, which feel themselves to be independent and approach international relations seriously, understand what is going on right now. The fact is not that we must help the Ukrainians to overcome their crisis, although that is important, but, as I have already said, to reformat the world system, form an objective polycentric world order. At the end of March in The Hague, within the framework of the Nuclear Security Summit, I had meetings with the BRICS foreign ministers. A statement was adopted, in which it is emphasised that we need to avoid interfering in the internal affairs of other countries, any policy of unilateral sanctions is condemned and this statement also expresses commitment to all the principles of the UN Charter as a whole.

Question: Does BRICS support us?

Sergey Lavrov: I think that BRICS not only supports us, it understands that very important things are at stake, and not from the point of view of “winners or losers”, but from the point of view of protection of our legal interests in the changing world.

Question: Will this last long? Have we ended the “love, peace and harmony” epoch and entered a new spiral of the “cold war”? Changes in relations, sanctions, heave rhetoric – is this all for a dozen years?

Sergey Lavrov: I do not think this will last for a dozen of years. There are many signs now that our western partners “are riven” with discord. On the one hand, they see a sufficiently peaceful reaction from Russia: they failed to drive us mad with their sanctions, which largely are beyond the framework of elementary human decency. Therefore, our partners want to keep irritating us, hoping to drive us mad…

Question: They want to drive us mad to get what? Do they want us to write our names on the Brandenburg Gate again? What’s the point?

Sergey Lavrov: In simple terms, they want to see that we feel punished.

Question: To summon parents, to bring a grade book. Is it some kind of a school?

Sergey Lavrov: Something like that. This has nothing to do with the real problems of international life, Europe, Euro-Atlantic or Eurasia. In parallel, they understand that without us it will be hard to solve many issues, without even mentioning Syria and Iran. We are not going to state: “If you treat us in this way, then let the bloodshed in Syria continue, we will not deal with a political settlement, provide humanitarian aid, let Iran create its nuclear bomb”. Russia will not do this, because we are responsible people, unlike many others who attempt to push us into this path. Without us they will hardly be able to deal with the most serious problem of the Korean Peninsula – we do not want to have a nuclear bomb near our borders.

Apart from the political context and problems, which are on the agenda of the world community (I cannot use this term without irony, because the West believes that this community are them and those who undividedly support them), there are economic and business interests. You can read the press or participate in some events held by the business circles of Germany, Italy, Spain, France and the United States. Several US companies made profound investments in the Russian economy: for PepsiCo, for example, Russia is its second market, Coca-Cola planned to invest 5 billion US dollars by 2016, ExxonMobil has just invested 10 billion US dollars, Boeing, Caterpillar and many others are working here. Their reaction shows that the signals coming from western governments such as “guys, do not develop your interaction with Russia right now” are not being perceived. Businessmen are convinced that they need to maintain and build up our economic interaction not only because business always wants profit, but because business is not convinced that these sanctions are legitimate.

Question: Business is not convinced that the sanctions are legitimate, and the results of public surveys are surprising – there is a gap between the attitude to Russia and the President of Russia, Vladimir Putin, between the elite and the people. For example, a survey in Germany showed that 4/5 do not want a disruption in relations with Russia. At the same time, political elites are under the violent pressure of these new states and do not behave in the interests of their own people and elites. Newspapers organise surveys regularly, from which it turns out that Vladimir Putin is the most popular politician. His rating in Russia has skyrocketed. The rating of the US President Barack Obama is dropping. I start to feel that this is some level of personal dislike and offence. As a result of this crisis Putin has become the leader of conservative thinking, protecting Christian values, traditional family values, which causes an inadequate reaction.

Sergey Lavrov: I would even say that he has not become, but reinforced, his leader’s position, because Vladimir Putin has been promoting approaches to the organisation of community life and, respectively, the organisation of international communication for a long time. The demand for it is growing, because people are tired of the attempts of neo-liberals to impose values, which have nothing to do with traditional values. They cannot even be called values. They are simply some mannerisms, which occurred in the situation of the current stage of development of western communities and are alien to the Orthodox religions, Islam, Buddhism and Judaism – all main world religions, which share the nature of their concepts.

At the stage of crisis in Ukraine, we were inter alia rebuked that the Parliament of the Russian Federation, according to Russian law, approved the request of the Russian President to allow him, if this crisis becomes unbearable, to use armed forces to protect civilians, primarily Russians and the Russian-speaking population in Ukraine. During my trips (there were many of them) I talked not to ministers and officials of western-European countries, but to my acquaintances – political analysts, deputies of the European Parliament and national parliaments. They asked me other question: “Why did nobody ask us? Why did nobody ask our parliaments, when they bombed Iraq, Libya or Yugoslavia?”

Double standards and tiredness of them are manifesting themselves.

Question:Relations between Russia and Ukraine have not been like this in the last several ages. Ukraine is hysterical: the closing of Russian channels, mad propaganda when everybody is waiting, when our troops occupy them, extra-terrestrial invasion, the bombing of Kiev, a Russian soldier consuming a small Ukrainian child. People are starting to feel that this is happening here and now. At the same time, when we are talking about the events in the East and South-East of Ukraine, we seem to disregard the fact that 5-10 thousand people, some of them with weapons, are occupying buildings, i.e. doing the same actions which we condemned during the times of the Maidan. They are attempting to drive us into some emotional trap, when they cry: “We are Russians! Russia, help us!”. Therefore, we are in a severe emotional and moral situation, because we are living according to the basic principles, which we do not violate, we do not say that white is black, but black is white.

On the other hand, today Arseniy Yatsenyuk turned to the Verkhovna Rada appealing to them to allow local referendums so that people can determine themselves, but local authorities must be provided with other authorisations in power. It means that such requests were heard. How dowe not lose Ukraine? How do we stop them from going schizophrenic, so that we do not need to cure them all?

Sergey Lavrov: This is our main task in this situation. Of course, I see parallels with the Maidan and the events in the South-East. The double standards of the West and those who have come to power in Kiev with regard to their actions on the Maidan, and the current events in Donetsk, Lugansk, Kharkov and other South-Eastern cities are amazing.

I recall that the agreement of the 21 February contained a point about the amnesty of all those, who organised outrages on the Maidan, but there still was the opportunity to investigate actions of law enforcement agencies. Only those, who confronted them received amnesty, which was announced immediately after the overthrow of the legal authorities. Therefore, those who freaked on the Maidan, are not guilty.

Now, the leaders of the Ukrainian Ministry of the Interior state that amnesty may be applied in the South-East only with regard to those who did not participate in mass disorders and did not initiate them. So, it turns out that they ensured full amnesty for themselves, but those, who attempted to cautiously reproduce the events on the Maidan (no blood was spilt in the South-East, as happened in the centre of Kiev, we still have to deal with that dubious sniper story), who became tired of being unheard for two and a half months, being ignored, being asked to forget their language affirming that Russians have no ethnic or genetic grounds to say that they originate from Ukraine, decided to draw attention to themselves in this way…

Question: The main problems are Bandera and Shukhevich.

Sergey Lavrov: Of course. However, for the two and a half months after the coup the Kiev authorities did not even think to go to the South-East and talk to the people. They appointed their governors, some of them are very odious people. It is good that Arseniy Yatsenyuk has now gone to Donetsk and Dnepropertrovsk. He should have done this a long time ago. We appealed to our European and US partners to do this, when they appealed to us to organise some process for international assistance with the settlement of the crisis.

Question: What about their statements that these are our agents? Is this our money? Is this our military staff?

Sergey Lavrov: There are none of our military persons or agents. There are Russian nationals, some of them were shown in some TV programmes, one guy came from Volgograd. There are no surprises here: There were plenty of other nationals on the Maidan, including Swedish extremists and so on. Nothing of the kind is happening there. They accuse us that there are some Russian intelligence agencies, but they are not there. There are also none of our troops. The fact that people have been driven to despair, when they hung out Russian flags, and called out “Putin, help us, save us from fascists” – is primarily the fault of those, who proclaimed themselves in power in Kiev. It is inadmissible to avoid talking to people.

I hope that the promises of Arseniy Yatsenyuk are only the first step and they will be implemented. I hope that the law on referendums, which still has to be developed and adopted, will provide sufficient rights to the regions. There is always a possibility of writing things differently, what can and cannot be discussed at referendums. Secondly, I hope that other steps will follow this first step, primarily, a constitutional reform. Some group has been created in the Verkhovna Rada, which is working in private, and we know little about it. Our requests to share information, which we address to the United States, who are fully aware of the events there, remain unanswered.

Question: Then their work is not that private.

Sergey Lavrov: They have their own private room, there is no place for Russia in it. But the main thing is that the Ukrainian regions are also not allowed to enter this room. Russia does not need to be there. The main thing is that representatives of the South-East are there. Ideally, the constitutional process must be open, embrace all the leading political forces and each and all the regions, which should make their contribution to the writing of a new constitution on equal grounds. Otherwise, the events of the previous years will continue: presidential elections = change of constitution. This has happened several times. When the current actors returnthe constitution of 2014, the judges of the Constitutional Court, who voted for and adopted the constitution of 2010, will be brought to justice. This is hard to take in for a normal person. Judicial power is an independent branch of power. They intended to hold a council of judges to express their protest against ideas and actions undertaken by the new authorities.

Question: But ran into the Right Sector…

Sergey Lavrov: The Right Sector, which allegedly has nothing to do with current Kiev authorities, as our US and West European partners assure us, did not allow them to hold the conference of judges. This force is still threatening the South-East and Russians. You know what I am talking about.

We are convinced that a constitutional reform with the participation of each and all the regions and the organisation of free, fair, general presidential, parliamentary and local elections (so that the regions elect their legislative assembly and their governor themselves) – these are the main things to be done in Ukraine. We want Ukraine to be integral within its current borders with full respect for regions. We can solve the problems of our very close neighbours, brothers and friends by what we conventionally call “federation”. We are not sticking to this term. The Ukrainian people should decide.

Question: Aren’t we going to take away the East and the South-East, as others accuse us?

Sergey Lavrov: We cannot have such wishes. This is contrary to the primary interests of the Russian Federation.

Question: I liked a lot the speed with which the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Council of the Federation reacted that our peace keepers may get to Ukraine only based on the UNSC’s decision. It seems that we are the last to understand that there is such a structure, and its decisions mean something.

Sergey Lavrov: I do not think that we need to talk about peacekeepers and the decision of the UN Security Council. The current authorities must be aware of their responsibility for their country and give a hand to each and all the regions, inviting them to a dialogue.

Question:And on to the question about the forthcoming meeting, which you constantly discuss. You say the voice of the East and South-East of Ukraine should be listened to there, at least by the presidential candidates from the largest parties. In parallel, we have a surprising situation: their authorities hate us, while we are the only ones, who help them economically. This is large-scale aid, with large amounts of money. They say that they will not let gas through. Vladimir Putin is forced to write in his letter to European consumers: “Excuse me, but it seems that we should do something. A country is dying here, and it will soon start to die from hunger. And nobody sees anything.

Sergey Lavrov: Vladimir Putin wrote personal letters to almost two dozenheads of state, which receive our gas through Ukraine, it is their direct interest for known reasons. We proposed to start consultations with the participation of the ministers of energy, finance, economic development to agree on the complex resolution of the gas problems, to have debts paid, transit ensured, so that Ukraine would receivegas, and pay for it, of course. I assure you that within the framework of this process we are ready to constructively and mutually beneficially work with the recipients of our gas and the transit party, i.e. Ukraine. These letters were delivered to their addressees yesterday. And we have had the first reaction today. This letter, of course, should be studied. The United States were the first to respond. No letters were sent to the United States and, as you understand, our gas is not delivered there through Ukraine. This is a constructive proposition about urgent consultations and the search for a mutually acceptable, I emphasise, outcome, was commented on by the spokesperson for the U.S. Department of State as another case of blackmail by Russia. The United States requested non-market pricing mechanisms, while the price, which Ukraine had to pay, if all the discounts were removed is the price, which was agreed and signed within the framework of the contract in January 2009 by Yulia Timoshenko, leader of the “Batkivshchyna”party, which is now reigning in Kiev, with the participation of the minister of energy from her government, Yuriy Prodan, who is now heading this agency and states that this price is unacceptable and unfair. It is a theatre of absurdity.

Question: I want to wish you tremendous patience and irony, because after my talk to you today, it started to seem to me that it is frequently not possible to talk to our western partners without irony. The hardest round of negotiations is awaiting you soon.

Sergey Lavrov: I have not answered one of your questions: how to consider the interests of the South-East in the process, the beginning of which we are discussing right now? I mean to continue the meeting between the Russian and US Foreign Ministers, the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Ukrainian representatives.

We are ready for such a meeting, if it is understood that this meeting will not mean that the West would observe our talk with Ukraine, and thus have the opportunity to state that we have legitimised this power. This variant is not even discussed (or, to be more precise, it is discussed by our western partners only). We replied to them that this will not happen. At this meeting, if it does happen, we will send our clear explanations (during the session) that it is not so. We will discuss a simple thing there. All the external players, including Washington and Brussels, must convince the current Kiev authorities that they should be aware of their responsibility and invite all of Ukraine to a national dialogue, all the regions should be represented. We already announced that it would be optimal to invite not only the representatives of the current Kiev authorities, but also representatives of other regions, in particular the South-East, for this process. Taking into account the uncertainty there and the fact that governors in many south-eastern regions were appointed by the current authorities and that their population has many questions for them, the optimum criteria at this stage would be participation in the presidential race. Of course, there are over twenty participants, but several leading candidates by ratings and geographical reference could probably be determined.

Yesterday we read the decision made by the leading body of the Party of Regions, in which they supported participation in such a process, expressed their intent to delegate their candidate Mykhailo Dobkin there and formulated their propositions, including the Russian language as the second official language, budget politics (they want to be more independent in handling taxes, which they collect in their territory), decentralisation in the form of direct legislative assemblies and governors. There is no word “federalisation” there, nobody is sticking to it. As they said earlier “not chequers, but the ability to drive is the main thing”. The nature of these requests is more authorisations for the regions.

I will talk to my colleagues John Kerry and Catherine Ashton about the format of the event under discussion. In all circumstances, irrespective of whether we manage to agree that the leading representatives of the South-Eastern and other regions participate in this meeting, if necessary, decisions of the Party of Regions, which can also be adopted by other structures reflecting interests of the South-East of Ukraine, will be the basis of our position at the potential negotiations.

Question: Won’t the “iron curtain” fall from the European and US side, which will cut the gas pipeline, other economic ties, diplomatic relations and the flow of tourists?

Sergey Lavrov: I am convinced that this will not happen. If it falls, it would crush alot in too many people.

I have waited for a good time to end with a quote by the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, who made a speech in the Bundestag a few days ago. I do not want to misquote, therefore I copied it out. We said with regard to the Ukrainian crisis: “Nobody can make personal problems the cornerstone. Those, who do this, only complicate their own future. The model of the future is a model where the interests of different parties are clearly balanced”. I can sign under each of these words and appeal to our western partners to listen to Chancellor Angela Merkel.



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