Russia, US ready to sign fresh arms pact

With the world expecting the possible signing of a new Russia-US arms pact in Prague, Moscow remains a major venue for international political talks, Foreign Ministry spokesman Andrey Nesterenko said.

Concerning the date and place of signing a START II Treaty

Over the past day, many media reported variously about the date and place of signing a START II Treaty. In this regard, I would like to say the following.

As previously reported, the new Treaty on Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms (START Treaty) may be signed in Prague.

The delegations have done the main negotiation work. Geneva talks on the Draft Treaty were especially intensive after the telephone conversation between the Presidents of Russia and the United States held on March 13.

With regard to the timing of signing the document, there is no formal agreement to this effect. The relevant decision can only be taken by the Presidents of Russia and the United States, and they intend to do it as soon as possible.

Outcome of the official visit to Russia by Alvaro Colom, President of the Republic of Guatemala

President Alvaro Colom of the Republic of Guatemala paid an official visit to the Russian Federation from March 21-23. His itinerary included Moscow and St. Petersburg. The first-ever visit by a Guatemalan head of state to our country took place in the year of the sixty-fifth anniversary of the establishment of bilateral diplomatic relations (April 19, 1945).

Talks with President Dmitry Medvedev took center stage during the stay of the Guatemalan leader in Russia.

During the exchange of views, held in a constructive atmosphere, the main focus was on developing bilateral relations along with regional issues.

The Presidents stressed the commitment of both countries to the concept of multilateralism in international affairs and to the creation of a multipolar world order, and noted the common ground on major international issues. The heads of state spoke in favor of bolstering the UN’s leading role as a universal mechanism for maintaining international peace and security.

A feature of the visit of Guatemalan President Colom was not so much summarizing the past in the development of bilateral ties (in fact, the contacts between our two countries comprise just slightly more than a decade of history: during the Cold War, and the 36-year civil war in Guatemala, relations between our states, while not interrupted, were in fact frozen), as defining objectives for their future buildup. In this regard, the leaders devoted special attention to the creation of a system-forming legal framework for bilateral cooperation, designed to promote the comprehensive development of cooperation in various fields, from trade-and-economic to humanitarian.

The talks ended with the signing of a Joint Statement by the Presidents of the two countries, and an Agreement on Cooperation between the Diplomatic Academy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Guatemala.
Alvaro Colom was received by Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia, and met with St. Petersburg Governor Valentina Matviyenko.

Official visit to Russia by Xi Jinping, Vice President of the People's Republic of China

Vice President Xi Jinping of the People’s Republic of China paid an official visit to Russia from March 20-24.

In recent years, Russia-China strategic partnership and cooperation have been developing in an ascending line and reached a very high level. Much credit for this belongs to the mechanism established in Russia-China relations, of an intensive and multi-formatted top and high level political dialogue which includes regular visits and contacts of Heads of State, annual meetings of Heads of Government and sessions of the twenty bilateral commissions and sub-commissions at the level of deputy prime ministers and heads of departments. In this context, the current visit of the Chinese Vice President, who ranks among the top leaders of China, is a logical continuation and development of bilateral top and high level dialogue.

The distinguished Chinese visitor was received by President Dmitry Medvedev. During the visit, Xi Jinping met with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and Chairman of the State Duma of the Russian Federal Assembly Boris Gryzlov.

The present visit of Xi Jinping was by invitation of Vladimir Putin as Russian Prime Minister and Chairman of the United Russia Party and therefore bore an interstate as well as inter-party character. Xi Jinping’s visit constituted a new step forward in developing the ties United Russia maintains with the Communist Party of China, including at the level of top leadership representatives of the two parties.
Timed to Xi Jinping’s visit was the opening of the Year of the Chinese Language in Russia. Prime Minister Putin and Vice President Xi, on the evening of March 23, attended and delivered welcoming remarks at the opening ceremony of the Year of the Chinese Language in Russia, and a gala concert arranged on this occasion, which took place at the State Kremlin Palace.

Within the framework of the inter-party part of the visit, the Second Meeting of the Inter-Party Dialogue between United Russia and the Communist Party of China took place on March 23. Its theme was “The Role of the Ruling Parties of Russia and China in the Post-Crisis Period” and Boris Gryzlov and Xi Jinping attended its opening ceremony. The dialogue between the two parties has great significance for the exchange of their party-building experience, participation in government, and discussion of strategic issues of Russian-Chinese and international relations.

A number of Russian-Chinese interagency agreements and contracts between companies of the two countries were signed during the visit.

The stay of the PRC Vice President in Russia included a trip around the country: on March 20-22, Xi Jinping visited Vladivostok and St. Petersburg. The travel to these regions provided the distinguished Chinese visitor with an opportunity to take a closer look at the eastern and western territories of our country, inter alia from the standpoint of prospects for the further development of Russia-China interregional cooperation.

Meeting of Vladimir Putin and Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen

On March 22, a meeting between Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and his Danish counterpart Lars Lokke Rasmussen took place in St. Petersburg in conjunction with the opening by the Danish concern A. P. Moller Maersk of a direct transatlantic freight line with Ecuador.

The opening of the intercontinental line constituted an important event, creating new opportunities for Russian business and making transportation cheaper. It demonstrates a new quality of mutually beneficial business cooperation between Russia and Denmark.

The Heads of Government substantively discussed practical cooperation in the economic, commercial and investment fields, including increasing partnerships in the area of ship building and container transportation, and examined specific aspects of the operation of Danish companies in the Russian market.

Also discussed were a number of important trends in the formation of a partnership with Denmark in the matter of transferring the Russian economy on to an innovative path of development. Among them: energy, including energy efficiency and energy conservation, medical and pharmaceutical industries, and modernization of the agro-industrial complex.

Middle East Quartet’s Moscow meeting

The meeting took place in Moscow on March 19. It was attended by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, US Special Envoy for Middle East Peace George Mitchell and High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton. They were joined by Quartet Special Representative Tony Blair. A joint statement was adopted at the conclusion of the meeting. Its text is posted on the Ministry website.
On March 18 Sergey Lavrov met with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the details of which are available on the Foreign Ministry website.

Meeting between Sergey Lavrov and Qatari Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Hamad Bin Jassim Al Thani

Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation Sergey Lavrov on March 24 met with Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the State of Qatar Hamad Bin Jassim Al Thani, who is on a working visit to Russia.

During the conversation, the parties discussed in detail the situation in the Middle East from the perspective of the need to intensify international efforts for a political settlement to the region's conflicts.
After discussing the current state of affairs in the Middle East peace process, the parties stressed the need for complete cessation of Israeli settlement activity in Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem, and called for the resumption of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations on a generally recognized international legal basis – the road map, the relevant UN Security Council resolutions, the Madrid principles and the Arab peace initiative.

Considerable attention was devoted to the Iranian nuclear program, which by consensus should be resolved by political and diplomatic means with Iran’s compliance with the demands of the resolutions of the UN Security Council and IAEA Board of Governors, and full and transparent cooperation with the Agency.

During the conversation, key issues of strengthening trade, economic and investment ties between Russia and Qatar were examined, as well as increasing coordination in the gas sector, including within the framework of the Gas Exporting Countries Forum.

In connection with the construction in East Jerusalem

Regarding the situation in the Middle East, several news agencies asked us to comment on yesterday's media reports about the intention of the municipal authorities of Jerusalem to build 20 new housing units on East Jerusalem’s Shepherd Hotel site.

In this regard, I can say the following. Indeed, a number of media did carry such reports. Furthermore, it is argued that the talk is about continuing bureaucratic approvals of the old plans which were announced a year ago.

We would like to recall that the Quartet’s Moscow Statement of March 19 contains an explicit condemnation by Russia and the other Quartet members of Israel's actions to undertake new construction in East Jerusalem. This also fully applies to those intentions.

All settlement activity, including in East Jerusalem, should be halted because it represents unilateral actions that risk prejudging the outcome of negotiations and preventing their launch.

Sergey Lavrov’s meeting with Director-General-Designate of the Technical Secretariat of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons Ahmet Uzumcu

Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation Sergey Lavrov received, on March 24, the Director-General-Designate of the Technical Secretariat of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), Ahmet Uzumcu.

The Minister stressed that the Russian Federation attaches great importance to the implementation of the provisions of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on Their Destruction (CWC) and gave an assurance that as before, Russia is committed to the cause of ridding the world of this type of weapons of mass destruction. He also pointed out that the OPCW is one of the most effective mechanisms in the disarmament sphere, which over the years of its functioning has earned a deserved international reputation.

A number of issues relating to the functioning of the OPCW were discussed, including progress in destroying the world’s stocks of chemical weapons, the achievement of the universal character of CWC, its nonproliferation component, and future prospects for the Organization.

The sides exchanged views on themes relating to disarmament and the nonproliferation of weapons of mass destruction and on certain other topical foreign policy issues.

Informal meeting of the CSTO CFM

On March 25, 2010 Moscow will host an informal meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers (CFM) of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO).

A press opportunity with the CFM Chairman and CSTO Secretary General is planned at the end of the meeting.

Meeting of the CIS CFM

The CIS Council of Foreign Ministers will meet in Moscow tomorrow, March 26, of which we informed you in detail at the previous briefing. Materials of the meeting’s agenda are posted on the MFA website.

Meeting of the foreign ministers of the Group of Eight (Gatineau, March 29-30, 2010)

The Group of Eight is in a transitional period. The bulk of its economic dossier moves to the G20 as the main platform for dialogue on issues in international economic and financial relations. However, the G8 retains its role as an important collective search tool for solutions to the most pressing political issues, particularly in consolidating peace and security. In view of the G8 countries’ significant contribution to international development assistance efforts this theme, apparently, will also remain within its area of competence.

A G8 foreign ministers meeting is traditionally a key link in the chain of events to prepare the political agenda of the group’s summit. This time, unlike previous years, the meeting of the foreign ministers will be noticeably separated in time with the summit, which must emphasize the importance of the decisions to be taken in its format.

Central to the agenda will be issues of nonproliferation of weapons of mass destruction. This topic is particularly relevant in light of the upcoming Summit on Nuclear Security in Washington and the Review Conference of the Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) this spring. There is the prepared draft of a separate ministerial statement on WMD nonproliferation, which must send a signal to the international community about the G8 countries developing common approaches and priorities towards the Conference and about their willingness to work together to ensure its success.

An amount of time is reserved for discussing the situation around the nuclear programs of Iran and North Korea.

Regarding the Iranian subject, Russia has consistently advocated for continuing dialogue with Tehran with a view to finding mutually acceptable solutions to existing problems. However, in the absence in this area of visible progress, we do not exclude the possibility of exerting additional pressure on the Iranians with the aid of sanctions. At the same time we believe that such sanctions must be aimed solely at addressing nonproliferation objectives, not at a financial and economic strangulation of the country.
In respect of the Korean peninsula nuclear problem, we expect the G8 debate to result in agreement on the inevitability of a quest for political and diplomatic measures of pressure against the DPRK leadership, designed to facilitate the resumption of six-party talks.

The Group of Eight, with its great political clout and expertise, continues to be one of the key international frameworks to develop measures to counter the global challenges of our time, including international terrorism, transnational organized crime, drug trafficking and piracy. This year, the given subject will be considered by the Group of Eight in the context of the close relationship between development and security.

Global threats have a specific regional dimension, so the meeting of foreign ministers will discuss the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan, Yemen, the Sahelian zone and the Horn of Africa.
It is expected that on Afghanistan the ministers will adopt a separate statement in which our suggestions will also find reflection – concerning, in particular, the need for the mention there of anti-drug issues, as well as conditions for the participation of former combatants in the Kabul-launched program of national reconciliation and reintegration (disarmament, recognition of the Constitution, breaking ties with Al-Qaida and other extremist groups).

During the meeting there will be announced the initiative pushed by Canada for assistance to the socioeconomic development of the Afghan-Pakistani border area. Convinced that the development of regional cooperation is an important factor in stabilizing the situation in Afghanistan and the region as a whole, we think this project is definitely helpful. Its success will undoubtedly depend on solving such tasks as ensuring security in the border areas, and effective control over the use of the appropriate financial resources in order to prevent them from falling into the hands of extremists.

At the Canadian side’s suggestion, the ministers will also discuss issues of coordination of international assistance in strengthening the institutional capacity of the so-called vulnerable states, the weakness of whose state institutions does not allow them to effectively perform their functions in the realm of security.

We share the need to consider this perspective, including a substantive debate on the management and prevention of regional conflicts, post-conflict reconstruction, and combating terrorism, national and cross-border crime, and drug trafficking.

For our part, we are coming up with an initiative to develop international peacemaking and peace building efforts, through the standardization of training programs in various aspects of peacekeeping and peace building in particular; strengthening the network of regional peacekeeping training centers; and drawing up national and international rosters of peacekeepers and civilian experts in the peace building sphere.

One of the manifestations of vulnerability in our view is the inability to cope with natural disasters. A striking example of this is Haiti. In this regard, Russia calls for international capacity building to respond to natural and man-made disasters. We see the main thrust areas as follows: develop common principles and approaches to emergency response; collaborate in disaster monitoring and early warning; and exchange know-how in search, rescue, first aid and victim evacuation, public awareness, training and equipment of rescue teams.

The ministers also will consider the situation in Middle East conflict settlement. Sergey Lavrov will open the discussion on this topic. The main attention obviously will be paid to the outcome of the Quartet meeting held on March 19 in Moscow. We expect that all G8 countries will join the support expressed by the Quartet for the launch of indirect Palestinian-Israeli talks, which subsequently must be transformed into a direct substantive dialogue.

The outcome of the G8 debate will be reflected in the statement of the chairman.

Participation of Sergey Lavrov in the second ministerial meeting of the five Arctic Ocean coastal states (Chelsea, Canada, March 29, 2010)

While in Canada, Sergey Lavrov will attend the second ministerial meeting of the five Arctic Ocean coastal states.

The meeting of foreign ministers from the five states (Russia, the United States, Canada, Denmark and Norway) will be held on March 29 in Chelsea (a suburb of Ottawa). Because of their geographic location, the five states bear special responsibility for the state of affairs in the Arctic. There is to be discussion on issues like the continental shelf, climate change, the preservation of fragile Arctic ecosystems, the development of Arctic resources, and the promotion of scientific cooperation.

The meeting will review progress in the implementation of the Ilulissat Declaration adopted at the first meeting of the five states in May 2008 in Greenland. The five Arctic Ocean coastal states are unanimous in the view that any issues in the Arctic should be resolved through negotiations on the basis of the available and adequate international legal framework relating to the Arctic region, especially the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. It is expected that the outcome of the meeting will be summarized in its Canadian chairman’s summary.

We expect the meeting to continue consideration of the initiatives to expand cooperation in the Arctic Ocean that Russia came up with, in particular on developing multilateral search and rescue cooperation in the Arctic and creating a regional system for the prevention and elimination of man-made disasters.
The format of the Five does not mean a weakening or “erosion” of the role of the Arctic Council, which remains the leading international entity for regional cooperation in environmental protection and sustainable development.

Concerning the Draft Federal Law on Amending the Federal Law on Russian State Policy toward Overseas Compatriots

Before the briefing we received a request to comment on the situation with the Bill on Amending the Federal Law on Russian State Policy toward Overseas Compatriots.

As already reported by some media, the draft federal law was developed on behalf of the Government Commission on the Affairs of Compatriots and on March 20 introduced by the Government of Russia to the State Duma.

The existing law, passed in 1999, has proved its effectiveness on the whole. Over the past years the foundation was laid for the systemic work of federal executive bodies in matters of defense of rights and lawful interests of the compatriots and the preservation of their ethnic and cultural identity and ties with Russia.

However, as Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov noted at the recent March 17 meeting of the Russian Government Presidium, “this law, of course, does not reflect the changes that have occurred over the past 10 years, nor does it take into consideration the more modern and more proactive policy of the Russian state toward overseas compatriots. And some of its provisions are simply outdated and need to be adjusted.”

“The essence of the changes is to, while in no way abandoning the humanitarian assistance in cases where it is required, to orient compatriots toward strengthening their interaction with the historical homeland, toward cooperation on the principles of partnership. The Bill aims at consolidating our Russian overseas communities and at protecting the rights of compatriots in full accordance with international law.”


The Minister also highlighted another aspect – “facilitating the preservation of the Russian ethnocultural space and the native language, and doing so with the use of the possibilities not just of the federal center, but also of the constituent entities of the Russian Federation, as well as of nongovernmental organizations.”

The bill gives a more precise definition of the notion “overseas compatriots,” ruling out the possibility of automatically counting among compatriots, all persons residing in the states which were part of the former USSR. In the new edition, the category of compatriots embraces citizens of the Russian Federation permanently residing abroad, as well as those living outside of Russia who have made a free choice in favor of spiritual and cultural links with Russia and belong, as a rule, to the peoples historically living on the territory of the Russian Federation.

The bill also includes a number of other new provisions that will make for more effective pursuit of government policy toward compatriots.

The Burgas-Alexandroupolis Project

We were asked to comment on progress in carrying out the Trans-Balkan Burgas-Alexandroupolis Oil Pipeline Project.


The construction of the Burgas-Alexandroupolis oil pipeline continues to be one of Russia’s priorities in the energy sector in South Eastern Europe. Since the signing in 2007 by Russia, Bulgaria and Greece of the tripartite intergovernmental agreement on cooperation to build and operate the oil pipeline, the Russian side has repeatedly, at various levels, officially confirmed our interest in an early start of practical work on the project.

The oil-producing companies exporting oil via the Caspian pipeline system consider the Trans-Balkan Pipeline as a significant energy supply route to international markets. At present, the further development of a specific scheme for realizing this major energy project is continuing.

Adoption by 13th UN Human Rights Council session of resolution on human rights and arbitrary deprivation of nationality

On March 24, a resolution on human rights and arbitrary deprivation of nationality was adopted by consensus during the 13th session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, at the Russian Federation’s initiative.

Citing the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other basic international human rights instruments, the resolution emphasizes that everyone has the right to a nationality and no one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality. It expresses deep concern at the arbitrary deprivation of persons or groups of persons of their nationality, especially on discriminatory grounds, and recognizes that such deprivation is a violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms.

At the same time, all states are urged to refrain from taking discriminatory measures and from enacting or maintaining legislation that would arbitrarily deprive persons of their nationality on the grounds of race, color, gender, language, religion, political or other opinion or national or social origin, especially if such measures and legislation render a person stateless. The resolution also calls upon states to observe minimum procedural standards in order to ensure that decisions concerning the acquisition, deprivation or change of nationality do not contain any element of arbitrariness and are subject to review, in conformity with their international human rights obligations.

These last provisions have special significance in terms of the situation in Latvia and Estonia, where hundreds of thousands of members of the non-titular population are still deprived of nationality and, as a result, do not have the opportunity to fully enjoy all civil, political, economic, social and cultural human rights.

We hope that the authorities of these countries will listen to the unanimous opinion of the member states of the UN Human Rights Council who have clearly and explicitly affirmed that persons arbitrarily deprived of nationality are protected by international human rights laws, and that the right to a nationality of every human person is a fundamental human right.

About the article ‘US Turns a Blind Eye to Opium in Afghan Town,’ published in The New York Times on March 20, 2010

We have noted the article published in the prestigious American newspaper The New York Times on March 20 on the fight against illicit drug production and trafficking in Afghanistan.

Against the backdrop of the officially proclaimed stand by a number of countries participating in the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan in favor of the fight against drug crops, we are puzzled by reports of an alleged intention of the foreign military presences to abandon the fulfillment of the task of destroying opium poppy fields, including on the territories liberated from Taliban fighters during military operations. It should be clear to all that in this case, given the ever-stronger link between terrorists active in Afghanistan and drug dealers, there can be no talk whatsoever of undermining the potential of the Taliban, who continue to get the lion's share of their funding precisely from illicit drug trafficking. Hence, the attempts to “appease” the Taliban in such a very dubious manner are an unforgivable mistake, and they are doomed to failure.

We are absolutely convinced that the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan and the coalition forces should be more actively involved in the struggle against the drug menace emanating from Afghanistan, by fully cooperating for this purpose with the Afghan government, regional countries and organizations including, especially, the CSTO and SCO.

Today, no one should have any doubts left that Afghan drug trafficking poses a direct and clear threat to international peace and security and therefore requires the mobilization of international efforts to effectively counter it.

About the Schengen Agreement

The following question from TV channel Russia 24 was addressed to me: “One of these days will mark 15 years since the Schengen Agreement entered into force. Will there be a time when Russians will travel to Europe without a visa, and what today prevents the adoption of such a decision?”
The entry into force of the Schengen Agreement almost coincided in time with the fall of the Berlin Wall. Nevertheless, its impact on our relations with the united Europe was not so unequivocally positive. After the accession to the EU of our neighbors from the Baltic countries and Eastern Europe and their subsequent Schengen accession, the regime for trips of our citizens to these countries became greatly complicated, because prior to the entry of these countries into the EU we had had a visa-free regime with them. But when joining the EU, they had to commit themselves to introduce visas for us.
With regard to the introduction of a Russia-EU visa-free regime, Russia's position on this subject has long been known and repeatedly stated by us at the highest level: we are ready for the abolition of visas even tomorrow. Now it is up to the European Union. The consultations held on this subject have shown that no objective obstacles exist to abolishing visas between Russia and the EU. It is obvious that the EU still does not have enough political will for that.

About a Meeting of the High-Level Advisory Group on Climate Change Financing

This week, several media outlets reported about an “international conference on climate change financing” to be held.

I would like to draw attention to the fact that these reports contain an inaccuracy: it is just about a meeting of the Advisory Group. And in this regard, I can say the following.

On March 31, London will host the first meeting of the High-Level Advisory Group on Climate Change Financing, headed by the Prime Ministers of Great Britain and Ethiopia. The group was launched in February this year by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, and includes 19 high-ranking representatives from politics and finance. There are no representatives of Russia in this advisory group. It is expected that this first meeting will more specifically outline the terms of reference of the group and it will become more clear as to how its activities will dovetail with the analogous body of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, the creation of which is envisaged in the Copenhagen Agreement, developed by the Conference of the Parties to the Convention in December 2009.

An intensive Russian language study project in Azerbaijan

Media attention has been attracted by the realization of an intensive Russian language study project in Azerbaijan. In this connection I wish to elaborate on this topic.

The project in 50 pilot secondary schools in the Southern Zone of the Republic of Azerbaijan (35 in Baku, and 15 in the regions of the country) provides for moving the Russian language from the category of electives to a mandatory subject in schools with the Azerbaijani sector of education (in recent years the Russian language was studied optionally in such schools).

Currently, the Russian language is beginning to be taught in the pilot schools from the 1st to 5th class and from next year it is proposed to be adopted as a compulsory subject in the middle and upper classes of these schools.

The Azerbaijani Ministry of Education supports the project. Funding has been allocated by Azerbaijan to equip the Russian study rooms in which Russian textbooks can be used.

If the project is successful, then the number of pilot schools will presumably be increased in the future.
The Embassy of Russia and the Representation of Rossotrudnichestvo in Azerbaijan, for their part, also assisted in the implementation of this project. In particular, courses where teachers will refresh their Russian language skills are being organized in Baku and other cities and regions of the country, including with the involvement of teachers from pilot schools; a variety of scientific methodological activities are being conducted.

Rossotrudnichestvo has included Azerbaijani wishes in the proposals for a list of international projects to be launched under the ‘Russian Language’ Targeted Federal Program for 2010. It is about conducting scientific methodological activities in Azerbaijan along with organizing the supply of literature and other educational materials.

The project-related efforts of Rossotrudnichestvo are conducted in close cooperation with the Azerbaijani Ministry of Education and the Baku Office of Education.

Under the approved plan, over 40 scientific methodical, educational, and cultural-enlightenment activities will be organized.

Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs/State Secretary Grigory Karasin’s meeting with UK Foreign Office Political Director Geoffrey Adams

A meeting took place in Moscow on March 23 between Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and State Secretary of the Russian Federation Grigory Karasin and UK Foreign Office Political Director Geoffrey Adams.

During the conversation a number of topical issues of the international agenda were discussed, among them CIS problems, including Russian and British relations with the Commonwealth countries. Special attention was devoted to the developments in Ukraine and to the situation in the South Caucasus.

Meeting of Russian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs/State Secretary Grigory Karasin and Moldovan Deputy Prime Minister Victor Osipov

Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and State Secretary of the Russian Federation, Grigory Karasin, received on March 24 Moldova’s political representative in the Transnistrian conflict settlement process, Deputy Prime Minister Victor Osipov. They discussed the present situation in the Republic of Moldova and in the region as a whole, the course of the work of the Moldovan and Transnistrian expert groups on socioeconomic confidence-building measures across the Dniester and the possibilities for restarting the negotiation process for the political settlement of the Transnistrian conflict through the mediation of Russia, Ukraine and the OSCE with the participation of observers from the EU and US.

Presentation of Commemorative Medals for the 65th Anniversary of Victory in the Great Patriotic War, 1941-1945 to British veterans of the Arctic Convoys

A solemn ceremony of the presentation of Commemorative Medals for the 65th Anniversary of Victory in the Great Patriotic War, 1941-1945 to a group of British Arctic Convoys veterans took place on board the Belfast Museum Ship in London on March 24. Vladimir Osipov, Presidential State decorations chief, read out the executive order of Russian Federation President Dmitry Medvedev bestowing a Certificate of Honor of the Supreme Commander of the Russian Armed Forces upon this ship of the British Navy “for the courage and heroism shown by the cruiser’s crew when protecting transport convoys which delivered military aid to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics during the Second World War.” The Certificate was handed over to the Director of the Imperial War Museum.

Thirteen survivors from the Arctic Convoys were presented with commemorative medals. These awards are a sign of deep respect and recognition of their services, and evidence of the fact that we remember and revere the combat cooperation of the peoples of our countries in the joint struggle against fascism. This acquires a special significance ahead of Victory Day, including in the light of the well-known attempts to falsify the history of the Second World War.

Answers to questions from a Polish Television correspondent

As you remind you, at the last briefing I was asked several questions by a correspondent for Polish television, which I took for study.

The first question concerned the article in the Polish press saying that “Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin at an upcoming meeting with Donald Tusk at Katyn on April 7 intends to hand over a list of 4000 Polish citizens who were shot in 1940 by the NKVD in Kurapaty Forest (such documents are supposedly kept in Moscow).”

It is needless to say that the source which the Polish media use in disseminating such information is unknown to us. On the substance of this question I can report the following.

On February 23 this year the Polish Council for Safeguarding Memory of Struggle and Martyrdom sent to the Russian Embassy in Warsaw a memorandum regarding the so-called Belarusian Katyn List, which, according to Polish researchers, should contain the names of 3870 citizens of prewar Poland who were in camps and prisons on the territory of Belarus.

As is known, various documents have now been sought in Russia for years that could shed further light on what happened in Katyn. So far, however, nothing like the Belarusian Katyn list has been discovered in the Russian archives.

I was also asked whether Russia had received an official notification from Polish President Lech Kaczynski of his intention to visit Katyn on April 10.

In this regard, I can say the following. On March 16 the Russian Foreign Ministry received a note from the Polish Embassy in Moscow stating just this: "As part of the commemorations to mark the 70th anniversary of the Katyn crime, events will be held on April 10, 2010, in the Polish military cemetery in Katyn that are organized annually by the Council for Safeguarding Memory of Struggle and Martyrdom. The President of the Republic of Poland, Mr. Lech Kaczynski, will head the Polish delegation. The list of members of the delegation will be handed over to the Embassy of the Russian Federation in Warsaw.”
We made a note of this information. The Russian side will provide the necessary assistance to holding the event.

Let me remind you also that at Prime Minister Putin’s invitation, the Prime Minister of the Republic of Poland, Donald Tusk, will visit Katyn in early April at the head of an official delegation.

Accreditation of journalists to cover the events dedicated to the 65th anniversary of Victory

I would like to recall that members of foreign media who would like to cover the festivities in Moscow on May 8-9 have to fill out a questionnaire on the official website dealing with media coverage of the 65th Anniversary Celebration of Victory Day www.may9.ru.

From responses to media questions:

Question: What could you say regarding the visit of Sergey Bagapsh to Russia? Please comment on the provision of social and economic aid to Abkhazia.

Answer: I can confirm that Sergey Bagapsh is in Moscow, where he has arrived for a series of meetings. Yesterday he met with Head of the Account Chamber Sergey Stepashin, and today he is to meet with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

With regard to the socioeconomic assistance to Abkhazia, I can explain the following. In August 2009, Russia and Abkhazia signed an intergovernmental agreement on assistance to the Republic of Abkhazia in socioeconomic development. Under the agreement, the Russian Ministry of Regional Development prepared a Comprehensive Plan of Assistance to the Socioeconomic Development of Abkhazia for the years 2010-2012 and set up an Intergovernmental Commission for Socioeconomic Cooperation with Abkhazia. On March 25-27, Moscow will host the first meeting of the Commission, one of the issues on the agenda of which will be approval the Comprehensive Plan, totaling over 10 billion rubles. The Comprehensive Plan envisages the following measures:

 – Setting up a transportation and logistics center in Abkhazia to expedite goods transportation procedures, including for the construction of Olympic facilities in Sochi;

- Creating a tourism and recreation zone in Abkhazia;

 – Reconstructing social and cultural facilities, housing and communal services, administrative buildings and other infrastructure facilities.

In general, the implementation of the Comprehensive Plan is aimed at bringing the economy of Abkhazia to a self-sufficient level.

Question: How can you comment on the internal political situation in Kyrgyzstan?


Answer: Moscow has taken note of a certain increase in the degree of political activity in Kyrgyzstan. I mean the Kurultai of Harmony held in Bishkek on March 23, organized under the patronage of the presidential structures, and the preceding Kurultai of Disagreement on March 17, which brought together opposition members. I would like to emphasize that what is happening there is an internal affair of the state. We understand that the political leadership of Kyrgyzstan is in control of the situation in the country, and there is no reason to talk about any spontaneous mass protests today.

Affirming our continued interest in the stable development of the Kyrgyz Republic along the path of democracy and socioeconomic progress, we continue to monitor the situation in the country, an ally and strategic partner of ours.

Question: On Wednesday the Iran Six political directors held telephone talks on the possibility of strengthening the UN Security Council sanctions against Iran. What are the results of these negotiations?

Answer: I can confirm that yesterday, March 24, the six nations’ political directors held a teleconference on Iran. Taking part in it from the Russian side was Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Ryabkov. Russia's position on this issue has more than once been set forth by Sergey Lavrov, and in expanded form it is reflected in Ryabkov’s interview to ITAR-TASS on March 19, the text of which is available on the Ministry website.

As far as I know, based on our principled stand, Ryabkov made appropriate explanations to his colleagues in the Six. We believe that there is no alternative to a diplomatic solution to this question.
Question: How could you comment on reports in foreign media, in particular The Wall Street Journal, of the US concerns regarding Russia-Iran cooperation in the construction of the Bushehr NPP that were voiced by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during the press conference in Moscow on March 18?
Answer: Of course, we noted the publication that appeared in The Wall Street Journal in this connection. Frankly, it is surprising that this question, despite our numerous, including public explanations, should still attract attention and, unfortunately, be presented in a distorted light in no way reflecting the real state of things, in such a respected publication.

I would like to try to put a seal of finality on this question once and for all if possible. No concerns on the part of the US administration regarding cooperation between Russia and Iran in building the Bushehr NPP were expressed to us during the talks of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Moscow. And then, too, it would have been very strange. Judge for yourself.

Our construction of the Bushehr NPP, the contract for which was signed back in 1995, is fully in accordance with our obligations and the IAEA requirements. It is totally legitimate and transparent. We delivered the first consignment of fuel for the NPP back in 2008 on the terms of its subsequent return. This is clearly spelled out in the relevant contracts. Everything is done under IAEA supervision. The fuel supplied and sent back to Russia is sealed with IAEA seals. The return of spent fuel will be done by us in line with all existing technological requirements in this area. In such circumstances, no manipulations with fresh or spent fuel are possible that would conflict with the international obligations of Iran.
Thus, it would be strange to hear any concerns from the United States in regard to our cooperation with Iran in the construction of the Bushehr NPP now, given that even the previous US administration clearly separated the issues of progress in resolving the situation around the Iranian nuclear program and our completion of the construction of Bushehr NPP.

To link the construction and commissioning of the plant to the growing need for new measures against Tehran would be wrong if only because the Bushehr project has been in existence for more than ten years, and this did not prevent three UN Security Council sanctions resolutions on Iran from being adopted during this time.

By the way, our cooperation with Tehran in this area is outside the scope of sanctions provided by these resolutions, and by many estimates including the IAEA, offers a good example of how Iran could benefit from cooperation with the international community if it took concrete steps to create confidence in the exclusively peaceful nature of its nuclear program. In addition, this project plays a special role in the continued presence of the IAEA in Iran.

The plant is scheduled to go on stream this year after the initial run has been completed and the operational safety of the reactor ensured. Thus, the project will be brought to fruition; the Bushehr NPP will be launched and will begin production of electricity.

Question: The new bill says that now people will be counted as compatriots who have made a free choice in favor of spiritual links with Russia. I would like to clarify what the criteria for this choice are and who would make such a determination?

How could you comment on the fact that the reaction of the expert community to this initiative was overwhelmingly negative?


Answer: Regarding the first question, I am not party to the process of formulating these proposals, therefore, I find it difficult to add anything to what has already been said.

Regarding the second question, we have in the state an already long-established tradition to express opinions on specific legislative drafts or initiatives which are discussed in the State Duma. This indicates that in democratic development our society has moved far ahead. This is a normal process. People express their point of view. Of course, those who are responsible for the development of this draft take them into account. In argument, as they say, truth is born. I think that deputies, representing large population groups of our country and reflecting their views, will express their opinion accordingly as the discussion of the bill proceeds.

Question: There have appeared a lot of speculative reports in the western media recently about the deterioration, exacerbation or even the emergence of a crisis in relations between Russia and Iran. How is the case in reality?


The US is trying to push through the UN Security Council punitive sanctions against Iran. What is the position of Russia?

Answer: Regarding the first question, I cannot ascertain any crisis. We maintain active contacts at various levels with our Iranian partners; we are discussing both the questions of our bilateral cooperation and raising questions related to Iran's nuclear program.

Regarding the second question, indeed there is evidence that our American partners are raising the question of adopting in the Security Council a new sanctions resolution. We are in constant contact with all partners in the Six. Once again I refer to yesterday's teleconference of the political directors of the six nations in which Deputy Foreign Minister Ryabkov participated. We are discussing this problem, we are exchanging views, but as of today, there are no formal drafts of a resolution in the Security Council on this score.