Sergei Lavrov, Russian Foreign Minister, spoke to the First Forum of Young Diplomats of the CIS [Commonwealth of Independent States] Countries on April 25, 2014, in Moscow:
The situation in the world is not becoming easier, but, on the contrary, the process of formation of a new polycentric system of international relations is ongoing. This process is contradictory, there is a serious confrontation on the part of those who would not like to change anything in today’s world and would like to return to a unipolar world order model. All of this is causing global turbulence, growth of competition in various areas and in different manifestations.
In these uneasy conditions, the diplomacy of the Russian Federation aspires to act in a balanced way, firmly protecting our legal national interests rather than aspiring to confront anybody.
We aspire to promote a uniting, positive agenda, which envisages the resolution of any regional and global issues exclusively through collective work and actions on the basis of respect for international law, using the central coordinating role of the UN to the maximum. In doing this, we are guided by the new edition of the Concept of the Foreign Policy of the Russian Federation, which was approved by the President Vladimir Putin in 2013.
Russian foreign policy doctrine is widely supported in the Russian community and is based on the key principles which have been forming in the last two decades and have proved their effectiveness in practice. First of all, these are autonomy, independence, pragmatism, openness, a multi-vector nature, which mean our wish to cooperate and agree on mutually beneficial projects with any country, which is ready to have relations with us on the basis of equality and mutual benefit.
Our unconditional priority is still to deepen our interaction in all the points of the compass within the space of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) on the basis of principles of equality, mutual respect and consideration of each other’s interests. We have managed to reach good results lately. The processes of Eurasian integration are gaining momentum, primarily within the framework of the Customs Union and the Common Economic Space of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan. As you know, the formation of a Eurasian Economic Union by the 1 January 2015 is on the agenda. We support the aspiration of Armenia and Kyrgyzstan to participate in these integration processes, which already have specific outlines. Armenia’sroadmap is almost ready. I think that the question of Armenian involvement in the Eurasian Economic Union will be solved in the near future. Then we will be happy to see the same progress with the involvement of Kyrgyzstan. As you are aware, Eurasian structures are open to other partners from the CIS as well.
At the same time, we are not contraposing Eurasian and other integration processes, in particular, the integration work within the European Union. We are ready and interested in harmonising these processes. As the Russian President Vladimir Putin said, our strategic task is to prospectively create a common economic and humanitarian space stretching from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean, where all the countries of the European Union, the future members of the Eurasian integration process and other states, which are located in this space, will co-exist and cooperate in a mutually beneficial way. Then there would be no unnecessary competition or dividing lines, which some of our western partners not only attempt to preserve, but also attempt to move closer to Russian borders. Then there will be no imposed false “with us or against us” choice.
We have said to our western partners many times that such an approach is dangerous. Unfortunately, our warnings came true in the events in Ukraine. They did not listen to us, when we appealed to conduct trilateral consultations with the participation of Russia, the European Union and Ukraine so as “not to tear away” the Ukrainian community and its economics, we appealed to them to stop seeking to make the European (Ukraine’s cooperation with its partners), Eurasian and Russian vectors into opposites, but to harmonise them. I repeat that they did not listen to us. This country is in deep crisis today. Russia will firmly contribute to the de-escalation of the conflict on the basis of the compromise approach, which was agreed in Geneva on the 17 April. I can say that there can be no unilateral requirements, but they are attempting to set them up for us. I mean the United States, which have the stunning ability to turn everything upside down.
We agreed in Geneva that the first step should be to stop any violence, to reject any extremism, to grant amnesty to protesters, to start the disarmament of illegal armed formations and to start a comprehensive inclusive constitutional process, so that all the Ukrainian regions participate in it with equal rights. Such a process would result in a text of the constitution, which would be acceptable for each and all the Ukrainian regions, on the basis of which presidential and parliamentary elections could be organised and authorities could be decentralised.
Instead of making their Kiev wards (the Americans have decisive influence on them – many people have obtained assurance about this many times) start implementing these agreements, primarily to unblock illegally occupied buildings (they have not been fully freed in Kiev, the Maidan is still there, they are starting to reinforce it, now they are piling concrete blocks up instead of car tyres, and nobody is going to break it up), to disarm the Right Sector and other radicals, the Americans say: everything done by the Ukrainian authorities is legitimate. The Maidan has received a “licence” from the government to stay where it is. Buildings, including administrative buildings, where city authorities and trade unions should work, are not being freed. Instead they tell us that Russia is obliged to free administrative buildings in Donetsk, Lugansk, Slavyansk and other cities of South-East of Ukraine. Moreover, representatives of the U.S. Department of State, in particular Victoria Nuland, state that on the 17 April in Geneva we agreed that separatists must free buildings in South-Eastern regions. These are lies. This could not have been written, because we promoted an approach, which ensures synchronism of processes and equal obligations of parties to free illegally occupied buildings and disarm all the illegal formations.
If we are talking about de-escalation, we should remember, who started the escalation. It was started by the current Kiev authorities, who carried out an armed coup d’état as opposition members, violated the agreement which they signed in the presence of the foreign ministers of Poland, Germany and France, which obliged them to disarm, to start a constitutional reform and then organise elections. Instead of that, they overthrew the legally elected president, announced themselves as the authorities and have not done a thing to disarm the Right Sector and to free illegally occupied buildings. Now they are setting claims against Russia, that we allegedly signed something in Geneva, which legitimises the actions of the current regime (which are lies) and requires some de-escalation steps from the South-East of Ukraine.
Russia will insist on respect for the Geneva agreements. We categorically deny any attempts to distort them and impose an impression on public opinion that we allegedly agreed about what the United States are taking about right now in Geneva. This is not so. The propagandistic power of the United States is aimed at distortion of the picture of events in Ukraine, to belie the Russian Federation and kill those who protest against illegal actions by the authorities, who attempt to ban the Russian language, to call Russians and all Russian-speaking people enemies. The United States are demonstrating their ability to “unfairly shift the blame”, using all their powers to distort the events in Ukraine and accuse Russia (as the US Secretary of State, John Kerry, said in his statement in an unacceptable prosecutor’s tone) that we have “switched on Putin’s propaganda bullhorn – Russia Today TV channel”. Firstly, it is not civilised to talk about mass media in such a way. Secondly, I cannot understand John Kerry, because the RT is a serious competitor for CNN, BBC and many other western mass media, which were sure some time ago that they were monopolists and no competition was a threat to them. Russia Today conquered a large audience in the United States, Great Britain and Western Europe, without mentioning Latin America, the Arab world and other regions. Russia will actively support this independent point of view, which is an alternative to what we are told by Western propaganda. I underline that demand for the RT is growing in the world, including in the western community. . . .
Question: In these days political analysts are saying a lot that some kind of an “ice age” has started in Russia’s contacts with western states, which followed the Ukrainian events. How has this affected Russia’s cooperation on the international stage?
Sergey Lavrov: Of course, the reaction of the West to the Ukrainian events makes nobody happier. I mean primarily the people, who want to do business, cooperate in the humanitarian and cultural areas, and just to communicate with each other. This reaction means that our western partners have become absorbed in playing to a large extent. It was not us who created the crisis in Ukraine. How did it start? It started, when the legitimately elected president took the decision to postpone (not to cancel) the signature of the agreement with the European Union regarding the creation of a free trade zone to understand the economic consequences of this step, taking into consideration Ukraine’s obligations within the framework of the CIS free trade zone agreement, which was concluded in Vladimir Yuschenko’s time, primarily thanks to the insistence of Ukraine. In response to an absolutely normal decision taken by an absolutely legitimate president to think about it more and to weight everything up again, the maidan and protests were organised, which have immediately “saddled up” militants from the Right Sector and radicals. Atrocities were committed, when Molotov cocktails were thrown at unarmed police, people were burned to death, militants broke into buildings, including the headquarters of the Party of Regions, where they shot two non-political employees – an engineer and a care-taker. One was shot, whilst the other was taken to a cave and burned alive. Then there was a story with snipers-instigators, who killed policemen and protesters to raise a big wave of popular indignation. This crime has not been investigated yet, although there are many indications pointing to those responsible – there are facts, testimonies of witnesses, as well as the well-known record of the phone conversation between the Estonian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Urmas Paet, and the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Catherine Ashton.
After that on the 21 February, in the presence of the foreign ministers of Poland, Germany and France, an agreement was concluded, in which the opposition undertook certain obligations and which was terminated on the 22 February, because the opposition stated that Viktor Yanukovych had “fled”. Firstly, he went to Kharkov, a city in his own country. He had not fled anywhere. Secondly, an assassination attempt was being organised, his life was under threat. In these conditions, the opposition stated that the Agreement was not valid any more, that Ukraine had no president, it would appoint the acting head of the government itself and elect the government consisting of members of the coalition, and all this took place despite the first point of agreement of the 21 February saying that a national unity government should be created, a constitution should be prepared and only then elections should follow.
The first action of the new government was the announcement that the law about the status of regional languages, including Russian, would be cancelled. Members of the Svoboda faction in the Verkhovna Rada started to say that Russian and Russian-speaking people are Ukraine’s enemies, that they should be shot and killed, that they are not people, but “beings”. In response to this, as well as the attempts by militants from the Right Sector to break into Crimea, and then into the South-East of Ukraine, some regions became outraged: the Crimeans started to defend their interests and organised a referendum, which was acknowledged by the Russian Federation, the South-East requested federalisation and decentralisation of authorisations. The current authorities announced that this is terrorism and immediately after the visit of the CIA’s Director, John O. Brennan, to Kiev they announced a counter-terrorism operation having ordered the army to fight their own people. Then the US Vice President, Joseph Biden, visited Ukraine. The so-called Easter peace, which was announced last weekend, was interrupted, and the counter-terrorism operation – a punitive action, which has already led to many victims – was renewed. About 160 tanks, 250 infantry combat vehicles, other heavy machinery and aviation are fighting their own people. This is a bloody crime, and I am convinced that those who pushed the army to do this, will answer for it and will be judged.
When our western partners observe this, knowing well what is happening, despite their mass media reports, without batting an eyelid day after day they request the Russian Federation to stop interfering in Ukraine’s affairs, pull out its troops, remove some agents, who were allegedly caught in the South-East of Ukraine, where they commanded this process. Two weeks ago I already told the US Secretary of State, John Kerry, that if the Ukrainian agencies had captured Russian agents, they should be shown to people, shown on TV. They replied that they do not want to put the lives of the people who captured them, under threat. I was shown some photos, which were prepared using Photoshop or some other graphic software, which show a building and some camouflaged people. At the same time, they say that only Russian special units can have such uniforms and arms. Why? Where was this photographed? How was it put together? This is not serious talk.
If we speak seriously, they address slogans at us. If you think that when John Kerry, William Hague or Laurent Fabius call me, they use other words and say something that you do not know from their public speeches, you are wrong. They use the same slogans when they talk to me: “Sergey, you must pull out your troops, remove your agents, nobody in the world believes that there are no Russians in the South-East and this is not your doing”. It is hard for me to respond to this. I am attempting to switch the talk in a constructive direction.
We are attempting to convince our partners, if the Kiev authorities really start the implementation of the Geneva agreement, remove the shameful maidan, unblock illegally occupied buildings, disarm the Right Sector and other radicals, then, as it has been announced on Russian TV, which is broadcasting in the South-East, many times, the leaders of this region will also be ready to take the same steps according to the Geneva agreement: they will free administrative buildings and disarm, if militants who terrorise them do the same. According to this document, the first step should be to stop violence. In today’s conditions this means putting an immediate stop to the use of the army against its own people. I think that this is outrageous. And there is no need to prove anything to anybody.
If we return to specific topics, which I attempt to raise in my contacts with John Kerry, I will mention one example. Pavel Gubarev is a man who was chosen as a “popular governor” in the square in Donetsk by the demonstrators, who were outraged that the new authorities sent them another unacceptable oligarch. He did not participate in the occupation of administrative buildings, he has never carried weapons, he has just made a speech at the meeting and said that according to the will of the people he was ready to work in favour of reforms and would speak in favour of the referendum on federalisation of Ukraine. This is all. He was arrested, and his wife was put on the wanted list. He is a political detainee. I mentioned this particular example at the negotiations in Geneva, because the adopted statement contained a phrase that all the participants of protests should be granted amnesty. The US Secretary of State, John Kerry, under the influence of a Ukrainian delegate, proposed to grant amnesty to everybody when they leave buildings and lay down weapons. I updated my statement by saying that Pavel Gubarev has never broken into any buildings, he has never carried any weapons, and he was a purely political detainee. Finally, the US Secretary of State, John Kerry, agreed with me, and said that they “should take care of this guy”. We have had several phone conversations since then, today we will have another one. Each time I ask him whether he “has taken care of this guy”. He cannot answer anything intelligible. Yesterday we received information that Pavel Gubarev is seriously ill, he was beaten and tortured. We requested the OSCE mission working there to get immediate access to him, and we addressed the same request to the International Committee of the Red Cross in Geneva. The OSCE and the ICRC told us that this request would be immediately put into action. We are waiting for news today. If these organisations do not get access to him today, it means that the Ukrainian authorities are really hiding him and they have something to hide.
Probably I answered your question in a more emotional and far reaching way than you put it. It seems to me that it is time for our western partners to recognise a simple truth that they do not have a monopoly on the truth. It is impossible to hide the truth today. The attempts to do this never result in anything good. It is very hard to create a picture of the events as the West wishes to present them. But the West wishes to capture Ukraine guided exclusively by their geopolitical ambitions rather than the interests of the Ukrainian people. When you push yourself into such a situation, of course, you get irritated that nothing comes of it or results are different to what you wanted. Then you need to do something not to lose your face before your voters. All of this turns into efforts at sanctions. When leaders of the parliament are announced as having been banned, I believe that these are “democratic atrocities”, which we do not need.
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Russian Foreign Ministry, April 25, 2014