Saturday, March 29, 2014

What Russia Wants: Churkin and Lavrov

From the invaluable Russia list maintained by David Johnson comes these items setting forth the views on the Ukraine crisis of two important Russian officials--Sergei Lavrov, the foreign minister, and Valery Churkin, Russia's ambassador to the United Nations.

First, Churkin. His views were reported by in a March 28 article entitled “Putin, Obama discuss political chaos in Ukraine.” After a UN Security Council meeting, Churkin spoke to the press: 

"Someone must seriously think through what they are doing and the consequences of certain actions they are advocating," Churkin said. "Our international partners insist that the only way out is to have this presidential election on May 25. In a situation of political chaos in the country? What will be the effect of those elections if some of the regions do not participate or turnout is very low in the course of those elections?"

Russia keeps insisting that Ukraine needs a constitutional reform before any elections could 
take place that would be both legitimate and relieve the chaotic situation in the country.

"There is no political leader in sight who might be able to unite the country. All the politicians one can hear about are extremely divisive for the Ukrainian society," Churkin explained. "The other thing that is going to come up in the next couple of months is most likely dramatic decline of the living standards of people, because of IMF package which now has been proposed to them."

Churkin said that Western partners as well as Ukrainian representatives keep urging Russia to engage in a dialogue - at the same time turning a deaf ear to what Russia is saying.

"If you want dialogue, please respond to what we've been saying. They are responding, sometimes, but the response is that: 'Well, but you know, the Ukrainians.. We understand the importance of constitution, but how can they do it now? Can they do this constitutional assembly? There is no one to organize the constitutional assembly!"

"Well, if there is nobody to organize, maybe this is exactly the role of the international community? This Compact support group we have been proposing to help them organize those things if there is nobody currently in Ukraine who can take this responsibility," Churkin said.

"Our position is very clear," Churkin said, adding it is "disappointing that those things which are obvious to us do not seem to sink in in the minds of our international interlocutors and our Ukrainian colleagues."

The current constitution in Ukraine does not provide for sufficient rights of the regions, Churkin explained. Regardless of whether you consider the 2010 document or the law of 2004 to which Ukraine reverted a day before the coup deposed the government.

"In Ukraine, every time a new president comes in, they change a constitution. They change the constitution to suit a particular politician, a particular set-up play between various political forces at a given moment," Churkin explained.

Local governors appointed by Kiev can hardly be considered public representatives, Churkin said, pointing out that those same corrupt oligarchs whom the people were standing against on Maidan now rule in the Eastern Ukraine.

"This is what they do in Ukraine, they send people from Kiev, sometimes with very bad reputation. You know, notorious corrupt oligarchs have recently been sent from Kiev to eastern part of Ukraine. And of course people don't like it. They want to be able themselves to elect their governors, they want to be assured that somebody in Kiev will not switch off their Russian language TV receivers, that they will be able to speak their mother tongue. So, all those things we believe need to be reflected in a new constitution which could become the result of the constitutional reform and the referendum."


Lavrov's views are set forth at some length in this dispatch from Voice of Russia, dated March 29, 2014, “Only way for Ukraine to reach settlement is to sign federal agreement – Lavrov”

Russia believes that the only way for Ukraine to reach a settlement is to sign a federal agreement, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in an interview with the anchor of the News on Saturday with Sergei Brilev TV programme earlier today. "The current developments in Ukraine have resulted from a deep statehood crisis, triggered, among other things, by the inability (I'd hate to think of reluctance) of every next leader coming to power to reconcile the interests of Ukraine's western region and Ukraine's South-East", the Russian Foreign Minister said. "This cannot continue that way anymore".

"We are certain that Ukraine needs a profound constitutional reform. In all fairness, we can't see any other way to ensure a stable development of Ukraine but signing a federal agreement", Lavrov said.

"Some may know better and are, perhaps, capable of finding some magic spell to ensure living in a unitary state, with people in the West, on the one hand, and the South-East, on the other, celebrating different holidays, honouring different heroes, developing different types of economy, speaking differing languages, thinking differently and gravitating towards different European civilization culture. But I think it's pretty difficult to live in a unitary state like this", Lavrov said.

"We suggested that things be put right in all areas at once, the more so since an obligation to that end was signed by Vitaly Klitshcko, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, Oleg Tyagnibok, and the Foreign Ministers of Germany, France and Poland. We further suggested that a constitutional reform be launched at once, one that would prove comprehensive and would involve every single political force and region, with equal voting rights. We suggested that they start negotiating a federation that would grant each region sweeping powers in the fields of the economy, finances, culture, language, and education, as well as external economic and cultural ties with neighbouring countries or regions, where all minorities' rights would be ensured", Foreign Minister Lavrov said.

"Given the share of the indigenous Russian population, we are certain that there is no other way to reach a settlement, the more so since some presidential candidates in Ukraine have repeatedly suggested that Russian should be made a second official language and that each of the federation's territorial entities should guarantee the rights of minorities' languages in keeping with the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages", Lavrov said.

Russia's topmost diplomat pointed out that a constitutional reform should be approved by a referendum and should reflect the interests of all regions, the interests that should be mutually agreed on, so that once the constitutional reform is approved by a plebiscite, presidential and parliamentary elections could be held, as well as the elections of regional legislatures, the executive authorities and governors, so that these are elected, rather than appointed".

The West is no longer dismissing Russia's arguments that Ukraine should become a federation through a constitutional reform, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said.

"I can say that 'federation' is no longer a taboo word in our negotiations. I am sure we should insist on this not just because we want this but because this is a demand by the southern and eastern regions [of Ukraine]," Lavrov said.

The West has taken heed of Moscow's arguments in favor of Ukraine's federalization and the second official language, and Russia expects that Kyiv will be informed of these ideas through Western partners, Lavrov said.

"This is actually the only thing I hope for, because the current Ukrainian government can hardly be suspected of independence," Lavrov said sarcastically.

* * *

While covering the events in Ukraine, Western media conceal some facts about the Right Sector, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sergey Lavrov, has stated. Lavrov noted that he had for more than a month posed a question of the Right Sector and the need to distance from the radicals to the Western partners.

"I was very surprised that in those days, when our television, including your channel, showed the siege of the Verkhovna Rada and explicitly commented, what was going on between the Right Sector and representatives of the Ukrainian Parliament, what all this may lead to, at that same moment the Euronews did not say a word about it, and Ukraine appeared only in the third or fourth piece in the context of an IMF loan offered to it," the Minister said in an interview with the Vesti on Saturday program of the Russia 1TV-channel.

Touching upon the information that lately, the authorities in Kiev have "set about" the Right Sector, the Minister stressed: "It took them too much time. Better late than never - and this is certainly so."

Lavrov noted that he had for more than a month posed a question of the Right Sector and the need to distance from the radicals to the Western partners.

"I was asking a very simple question: If you agree that it is necessary to normalize the situation, why can't you publicly say, what the Right Sector really represents? In general, it also concerns the Svoboda (Freedom) party, which policy document contains a reference to the Declaration of June 30, 1941, proclaiming support of the actions of the Nazi Germany aimed at establishing a new world order. According to its organizational documents, it is still a principle, which this party is committed to," the head of the Foreign Ministry noted.

According to him, Russian request, at least, to "publicly state their attitudes to these characters and induce those, who proclaimed themselves the authorities in Kiev, to speak on this subject, brought about rather strange answers."

"At first, our colleagues were avoiding reaction, then, during one of the recent meetings, I think, in London, US Secretary of State John Kerry told me that they had examined the whole background, and believed that the Right Sector was trying to turn into a political movement. The subtext was that it was good: the Svoboda was moving towards the mainstream. This is a quotation. The meeting was attended by many people, so I do not betray anyone's secrets," the Minister said. Lavrov drew attention to the fact that he had given examples of what was happening to these associations. "Beginning with public statements against Russians, whom it is proposed to shoot in the head, to kill, whom they beknave, and ending with the application of physical force that occurs even in the East of Ukraine, where members of these groups feel at home. If we are to speak about what happened lately, let's hope, all these statements and actions of the government are a result of some educational work, which our Western partners conducted among them. I repeat, better late than never."

The Minister urged to see "what happens, and whether it is possible to cope with those, on whom the new authorities relied in order to occupy their current posts," the head of the Russian Foreign Ministry stressed.

* * *

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov sees the West's demand that Moscow change its position regarding Crimea's reintegration with Russia as absolutely hopeless.

"You may substantially disagree with the way we see the situation, and you may not accept the Russian Federation's decisions that were made in response to the Crimeans' will and were supported by an astounding majority of the population. We understand this position, life is life," Lavrov said in an interview shown in an analytical program hosted by Sergei Brilyov on Rossiya-1 TV channel on Saturday.

"But not understanding real politics and absolute hopelessness of demands addressed to us at the moment when we said that we would accept any decision by the Crimeans after they express their will and telling us: 'Okay, despite what the president said, let's put it down that a mission will go to Ukraine including Crimea' - this is diplomatic impudence or absolute diplomatic inadequacy," he said.

* * *

Russia is holding negotiations with several countries so that Russian ships could call at their ports for servicing and minor maintenance, but Russia is not considering the establishment of new naval bases abroad, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said.

"We are holding negotiations with some countries that our ships and naval vessels could use their infrastructure for calling at their ports, servicing, minor maintenance, replenishing food and water stocks, and the crews' rest. There is absolutely no talk about building bases similar to the American ones," Lavrov said in an interview shown in an analytical program hosted by Sergei Brilyov on Rossiya-1 TV channel on Saturday.

* * *

Interaction between Moscow, Western countries and Kiev to settle the crisis in Ukraine is becoming more tangible, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said.

"Anyway, we are bringing our approaches closer together. My last meeting with US Secretary of State John Kerry in The Hague and my contacts with Germany, France and some other countries show that a possible joint initiative that could be offered to our Ukrainian partners is taking shape," Lavrov said in an interview shown in an analytical program hosted by Sergei Brilyov on Rossiya-1 TV channel on Saturday.

"This is a very important detail, because our partners have so far proposed setting up some contact group in which Russia and those who have seized power in Kiev would negotiate under their supervision. This would be an absolutely unacceptable format, and we are not talking about this," he said.

* * *

Russia has no plans to create naval and military bases abroad like American facilities, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in an interview on Saturday News with Sergei Brilyov on Russian television.

Commenting on reports that Russia allegedly planned to open bases on the Seashells, in Vietnam, Nicaragua, Cuba and Argentina, Lavrov said "It is not true at all. We have no plans to create naval and military bases abroad in the meaning you understand the term."

"The Navy has strengthened significantly in Russia, and I think, after the joining of Crimea to Russia, it will have much more potentialities for development," he noted. Aside from the Black Sea Fleet, we have the Far Eastern, Northern and other fleets," he said. "It is very important for the state to have the navy on the highest level of training, especially when the fleet has not only to cross oceans for training, but carry out specific tasks to fight piracy in the Gulf of Aden. Pirates appear in other parts of the world ocean. The fleet makes long trips."

"We have agreed with some countries for our vessels and naval ships to use their existing infrastructure for calls, service, minor repair, replenishment of food and water reserves and rest of crews," Lavrov explained. "Construction of bases like American ones is out of the question. Any agreements like those concluded by Americans to ensure immunity for their servicemen from crimes in the country of their presence are also out of the question," he noted.

"By the way, I saw an interesting picture in the Internet the Russian Federation and red dots indicating locations of American military bases around it," he said. "It is impressive. They number more than a hundred. And an American serviceman phrase there 'How does Russia dare to settle so close to our bases?'."

In reply to the question whether the mentioned countries were among those to negotiate with about calls of ships, Lavrov said "There are several such countries, but these are issues to be considered by military departments.

* * *

Russia has no plans to cross Ukraine's borders, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said.

"We have absolutely no intention of and interest in crossing Ukraine's borders. The only thing we really want is that the work should be collective and the lawlessness that some Western countries are trying to sweep under the rug and paint the situation in bright colors should be stopped, so that they realize their responsibility," Lavrov said in an interview shown in an analytical program hosted by Sergei Brilyov on Rossiya-1 TV channel on Saturday.

 * * *

Source:  Johnson's Russia List, March 29, 2014. See also Churkin's interview with Charlie Rose on March 21, 2014.


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