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Sunday, June 5, 2016
Lavrov’s interview with Vesti v Subbotu programme -- June 4, 2016
4 June 201612:45
Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s interview with Vesti v Subbotu programme, June 4, 2016
Question: Is it time to rename the Moscow State Institute of Foreign Relations (MGIMO) into a regional university?
Sergey Lavrov: Maybe. It really is a great event [opening of a MGIMO branch in Odintsovo [a city in the Moscow Region], and the atmosphere is great. I think the new branch will attract a huge amount of interest.
Question: It doesn’t matter if it’s a municipal or a regional institute – it is a state institute.
Sergey Lavrov: To begin with, I would like to say that although this is a MGIMO branch, the degrees will be the same. It will also be possible to transfer from the head university to this branch and vice versa.
Question: What is happening with the OSCE armed mission in Ukraine? There are updates coming from Moscow and Kiev every day.
Sergey Lavrov: One can always indulge in wishful thinking, but misrepresenting something discussed at a top level in telephone conversations or personal meetings is somewhat unethical.
Indeed, over the past two to three months, Ukrainian representatives and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko have been literally obsessed with the idea that it is imperative to deploy some security forces all over the Donetsk and Lugansk republics, and only after there is international armed control over these areas it will be possible to conduct reforms, announce elections, change the constitution and so on. As a result, a top-level conversation revolved around increasing the efficiency of the OSCE mission working there. President of Russia Vladimir Putin spoke out, first of all, in favour of boosting the capabilities of this mission along the demarcation line. We supported the creation of several security zones along this line.
Question: This is what President Vladimir Putin talked about during the Q&A session, when he referred to it as a pretty good idea?
Sergey Lavrov: Yes, and creating several security zones in the most conflict-ridden areas, deploying additional OSCE observers there, and doing it in such a way as to thwart the Ukrainian armed forces’ attempts to return to the areas liberated from them (such attempts were made in Shirokino, for example).
The second thing we proposed was to station 24/7 enhanced detachments of OSCE observers in the areas of heavy military equipment storage, where it is often withdrawn pursuant to the Minsk Agreements and where it often disappears – both to the east of the demarcation line and in the area controlled by the Ukrainian armed forces. We also said that if it helps, we will be ready to agree to this additional group of observers carrying personal weapons while they monitor the demarcation line and storage of heavy military equipment under an OSCE decision.
Question: So not only helmets but personal weapons as well?
Sergey Lavrov: Guns for self-defence. This is acceptable practice. We can say that it is an element of police functions, but first of all it would be for safeguarding and monitoring non-violation of the withdrawal line and storage areas. Moreover, we would be ready (it is being discussed with the OSCE) to support one of OSCE’s proposals that emerged from the depth of its secretariat dealing with additional measures to ensure safety during elections. Our proposal was to supplement this OSCE mission and, to be more precise, create a separate observers’ group for the elections, which, jointly with people’s militia of Donetsk and Lugansk would monitor security. This is what we talked about and I would like to reiterate that it is in line with the discussions under way within the OSCE.
Question: So why isn’t it being implemented? Is it because Ukrainians do not want this mission to be stationed on the Russian-Ukrainian border? What is the stumbling block?
Sergey Lavrov: We have never reached agreement on this. Ukrainians keep pushing for it, and they have been told many times that while there is no amnesty or law on the special status guaranteeing additional rights to these areas, while these rights are not stipulated on a permanent basis in the Ukrainian constitution as part of a special status, it is difficult to expect Donetsk and Lugansk to agree to accomplish something that is meant to come at the end of the political process under the Minsk Agreements rather than be its pre-condition, in advance.
Question: May I propose a fantastic theory? There are persistent rumours that corresponding laws are about to be submitted to Ukraine’s Verkhovna Rada and they might be passed. True, they were not coordinated with Donetsk and Lugansk, and for this reason they automatically feel reluctant to accept them. I know that you asked France and Germany as partners in the Normandy Four to discuss this issue. Now let me get back to the fantastic theory. US Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland has just been to Kiev. Maybe the Americans will force Ukraine to approve a law that would be acceptable for the republics?
Sergey Lavrov: I’ve already had an opportunity to comment on this topic. According to our estimates, which are based on information from a wide variety of sources, the United States is indeed stepping up pressure on the Ukrainian side to fulfil the relevant parts of the Minsk Agreements. In this regard, the main part of political agreements fully depends on the way Kiev comes to an agreement with Donetsk and Lugansk.
As for the republics inside Ukraine and their access to the border with the Russian Federation: if the Ukrainians reach an agreement with Donetsk and Lugansk, then we have nothing against it. But this has to be an agreement with them because, of course, they have not forgotten the threats that continue to come from Kiev that “they are terrorists and criminals who must be imprisoned, and heads of the current republics will never be considered by Ukrainians as partners and even less as election participants.”
Everything is in Kiev’s hands. It is clearly written in agreements signed in Kiev in February 2015 that there must be direct talks and agreements. Instead they hold consultations and later do everything their own way. These agreements state that everything regarding amendments to the constitution, special status of Donbass and the modality of elections must be agreed on with Donetsk and Lugansk.
Question: Who will wish to serve in this armed OSCE mission? Should the Dutch, French or Italians serve on the demarcation line in a conflict that is totally imcomprehensible to them?
Sergey Lavrov: Like I said, we would have been ready to provide additional observers with personal weapons but this is something that many OSCE members do not accept.
Question: Apart from the CIS?
Sergey Lavrov: No, it is always possible to find an acceptable national composition of the observers’ mission. The point isn’t if it is the CIS or not; the point is that the OSCE and UN experience of such measures shows that unarmed observers are often better protected than when they have weapons.
I repeat, we are ready for such a compromise. Now it is up to our partners.
Question: Do you think that the German Bundestag’s vote on the genocide of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire was a signal for Turkish President Recep Erdogan that friendship with Europe has come to an end?
Sergey Lavrov: I think it is just the free expression of will of the Bundestag, the German Parliament. That is how we see it.
Some considerations probably played a role in the decision to do this now, but I cannot speculate on this topic. Na, we found out that preparations for this vote were underway but only at the last moment.
Question: Let the Turks sort it out by themselves.
Sergey Lavrov: I believe that ultimately all this stems from Turkey’s reluctance to be a fully-fledged partner on a wide range of issues because of its attempts to spark off scandals from time to time, to offend its partners, including in Europe. I think that their reaction to Bundestag’s decision is absolutely inappropriate.
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