“No objective obstacles exist for visa abolition [between Russia and EU]”

A series of consultations on visa-free travel between Russia and the EU carried out in 2007-2009 showed there are no objective obstacles to visa abolition, said Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Andrey Nesterenko.

In his weekly media address, Nesterenko commented on visa-free travel, which has recently come into spotlight, as well as some other foreign policy developments.

RT presents the full transcript of Andrey Nesterenko’s briefing, which took place on March 4, 2010.

President Medvedev’s visit to France

The visit to France by Dmitry Medvedev, the President of Russia, ended yesterday. During the talks considerable attention was paid to foreign policy cooperation between Russia and France. The heads of the two states discussed European security issues, including Russia's initiative for concluding a European Security Treaty, the developments surrounding Iran’s nuclear program, the situation in Afghanistan, as well as the state of affairs in the Middle East peace process. The parties exchanged views on preparations for the summits of the Group of Eight and the Group of Twenty, the climate conference held in Copenhagen and so on.

A number of practical issues on the bilateral agenda were discussed, and the opening ceremony for the “Years of Russia in France and France in Russia” took place. Detailed information on the talks is available on the website of the President of the Russian Federation.

Working visit to Russia by Jadranka Kosor, Prime Minister of the Republic of Croatia

At Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s invitation, Jadranka Kosor, Prime Minister of the Republic of Croatia, paid a working visit to Moscow from March 1-2.

The arrival of Jadranka Kosor to our country became the first visit by a head of the Croatian government to Russia in the history of Russian-Croatian interstate relations.

Economic and trade cooperation matters were the main focus at the prime ministers’ talks in Moscow, with emphasis laid on carrying out the agreements aimed at intensifying economic ties and at diversifying and improving the structure of trade. Particular attention was devoted to the deepening of cooperation in the energy sector. An important step on this road was the signing of an intergovernmental agreement on cooperation in the construction and operation of a gas pipeline on the territory of the Republic of Croatia.

In the framework of the visit, intergovernmental agreements on the mutual travel of citizens of our countries and on economic and scientific-technical cooperation were also signed.

The Prime Ministers of Russia and Croatia discussed an array of topical international issues, above all, those on the pan-European agenda, as well as the situation in southeastern Europe.

I also wanted to draw your attention to the fact that detailed information on the signing of the agreement between the governments of both states on the mutual travel of citizens is posted on the website of our Ministry.

Forthcoming visit of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich

An official visit to Russia by Viktor Yanukovich, the President of Ukraine, will take place on March 5, 2010.

It is expected that President Dmitry Medvedev’s meeting with Yanukovich will be an important event in the development of Russian-Ukrainian relations and their transfer into the mainstream of true good neighborliness and partnership.

A packed agenda is drawn up for Russian-Ukrainian talks and the overall stay of Ukraine’s President here. So we will wait for the beginning of the visit.

Putin’s working meeting with Kazakh Prime Minister Karim Masimov

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin received on March 3 the Prime Minister of the Republic of Kazakhstan, Karim Masimov, who was in Moscow on a working visit.

During the talks the sides discussed in detail the most topical issues in bilateral relations between Russia and Kazakhstan. They summed up some of the results and outlined plans for the future in the space, nuclear and transport industries, and with respect to military-technical cooperation, the fuel and energy sector and the rational management of the transboundary rivers. They gave a positive assessment of the implementation of the Russia-Kazakhstan Plan of Joint Action for 2009-2010.

There was a substantive exchange of views on issues in creating the Customs Union of Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia, and the prospects of transition to a more advanced form of integration – the Single Economic Space – were outlined. The sides confirmed their mutual desire to further deepen the integration processes through the other mechanisms operating in the post-Soviet space – EurAsEC, CSTO, SCO and CIS. Particular attention was given to the activities for commemorating the 65th anniversary of the victory in the Great Patriotic War.

The meeting took place in a warm and friendly atmosphere, traditional for Russia-Kazakhstan relations, developing on the principles of good neighborliness and mutual understanding.

Meeting in Moscow between Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov and Prime Minister Milorad Dodik of Republika Srpska, Bosnia and Herzegovina

Prime Minister Milorad Dodik of Republika Srpska, Bosnia and Herzegovina, was on a working visit to Moscow on March 3-4.

At the Foreign Ministry he had a meeting with Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation Sergey Lavrov, during which they discussed topical issues of the Bosnian settlement process, as well as the state of and prospects for our cooperation with Republika Srpska in the economic, cultural, humanitarian and other fields.

Sergey Lavrov’s meeting with UN World Food Program Executive Director Josette Sheeran

Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov met Josette Sheeran, the Executive Director of the UN World Food Program (WFP), in Moscow yesterday.

The parties discussed the dynamically evolving relations between Russia and the Program, and prospects for further cooperation in the formation of a new architecture of global food security. The question of increasing Russia's donation to the Program Fund on a long-term basis was discussed in detail, along with future joint projects, in particular, programs for school lunches, fortified foods production and capacity building for response to food crises.

The parties underlined the importance of strengthening cooperation by WFP with Russian specialized agencies, in particular, the Emergency Situations and Agriculture Ministries, including the preparation of memoranda of cooperation in relevant fields.

The WFP leadership evaluated highly the fact that in 2009 Russia acted as chairman of WFP’s Executive Board.

For our part, we noted that we had taken and were planning a number of further measures to strengthen our cooperation with WFP. These include an increase in the annual voluntary contribution to the Program Fund, starting with 2010, from $15 million to $20 million, while maintaining the practice of making one-time extraordinary donations that will keep our donor contribution at about $30 million per year, which we de facto reached in 2009 already.

Adoption by 64th UN General Assembly Session of a resolution on "Sixty-fifth anniversary of the end of the Second World War"

On March 2 in New York the plenary meeting of the 64th UN General Assembly session, at Russia’s initiative, adopted by consensus a resolution on the “Sixty-fifth anniversary of the end of the Second World War.” The cosponsors of our draft included an unprecedented number of states – 58, from all regions of the world.

The resolution’s adoption was a logical development of the initiative put forward by the Russian President during the general debate of the 64th UN General Assembly session for holding in May 2010 a special commemorative UNGA meeting for the 65th anniversary of the Great Victory in order to honor the memory of all victims of World War II. This proposal is reflected in the text of the document. For its part, in a statement when presenting the draft resolution, Russia suggested that the meeting be held on May 6.

In addition, the text makes reference to the UN’s 2004 decision to declare May 8 and 9 as a time of remembrance and reconciliation. In this regard, an appeal is made to all UN member states, bodies within its system, nongovernmental organizations and individuals to observe this date as a tribute to all victims of World War II.

In putting forward this initiative, Russia assumed that it was important to remember the lessons of that terrible war, to sacredly revere the memory of the victims and to help preserve the historical memory of peoples. In addition, we are convinced of the necessity of careful regard for the past and respect for historical truth, which must become for the international community a uniting and consolidating factor that contributes to forward movement.

The significance of the victory is particularly great in the present conditions, when states are simply duty bound to join forces to confront the contemporary challenges and threats. Members of the anti-Hitler coalition by their example proved the possibility of abstraction from ideological and political assumptions in order to fight a common evil. We are convinced that their example should guide the UN today.

CIS member states’ International Economic Forum “New Initiatives in the Year of Russia's Chairmanship in the CIS”

To implement the Economic Development Strategy of the Commonwealth of Independent States for the period to 2020, adopted by a decision of the CIS Council of Heads of Government on November 14, 2008, the CIS Executive Committee, Russia’s Ministry of Economic Development and the Business Center for CIS Economic Development are holding on March 5, 2010 in Moscow an International Economic Forum entitled “New Initiatives in the Year of Russia's Chairmanship in the CIS,” in the framework of which a traditional forum of business leaders of the CIS countries will take place.

The forum is the first such major event under the Russian CIS Chairmanship that has already begun. It has a practical focus and is being held on the same day as a meeting of the CIS Economic Council (at the level of vice premiers).

The aim of the forum is assistance in carrying out the CIS Economic Development Strategy; innovative development and economic integration; and the search for and identification of promising projects.

Igor Shuvalov, Russia’s National Coordinator for CIS Affairs and First Deputy Prime Minister, will deliver a detailed report at the plenary meeting of the forum.

An address by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is also envisaged.

Prospects for Russia-EU visa-free dialogue

We note the Russian media’s increased interest in the theme of a visa-free dialogue between Russia and the EU. In this regard, we would like to highlight the following points.

We started discussion with the European Union on the possibility of abolishing the visa regime way back at the Russia-EU summit in St. Petersburg in 2003. In 2007-2009 our Ministry held a series of extensive consultations within the framework of the visa-free dialogue, during which we discussed all EU concerns. Based on their results, we can safely say that no objective obstacles exist for visa abolition. Reasons of a political rather than a technical nature stand in the way of a visa-free regime.

Russia has repeatedly stated, including at the highest level, its preparedness to shift to visa-free travel, figuratively speaking, “even tomorrow,” and confirmed it with concrete examples: on May 21, 2008 fans from a number of European Union member countries were able to enter Russia for the final UEFA Champions League match without visas, and tourist groups arriving in Russia by ferry can stay on the territory of Russia without a visa for 72 hours.

However, our EU colleagues have shied away from specific agreements in this regard. It is regrettable that, having coped 20 years ago with the Berlin Wall, Europe – not our fault – still cannot part with such a rudiment of the past as the visa regime. Incidentally, this is an obvious non-fulfillment by our EU partners of their commitments under the Helsinki Final Act of the CSCE (OSCE) on freedom of movement, as well as the CSCE (OSCE) Vienna Document of 1989, which speaks of “the reciprocal abolition of entry visas” by participating states of the CSCE (OSCE).

Separately, I would like to draw your attention to a recently published remark of a “diplomatic source in Brussels” that without 27 readmission agreements between Russia and the EU member states, “visas can’t be abolished.” We emphasize that the May 25, 2006, EU-Russia Agreement on Readmission is being successfully carried out in respect to nationals of the states of the high contracting parties, and from June 1, 2010, will also be applied to third-country citizens. Thus, this question can be no obstacle.

We welcome the disposition of the current Spanish EU Presidency to move, finally, from words to deeds. In particular, we are talking about ensuring that the upcoming EU-Russia summit in Rostov-on-Don (May 31–June 1 of this year) agrees on a possible timetable for the abolition of the visa regime. Of course, it is unlikely that this will happen tomorrow or the day after tomorrow, but fixing such a period will be a driving factor for both us and Brussels to gradually move toward the ultimate goal.

40 years since the day of entry into force of NPT Treaty

I was asked the following question: March 5 marks 40 years since the date of entry into force of the Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). In May, we will have an NPT Review Conference. How are the prospects for sustaining the NPT seen today, and what do you think of the widely discussed idea of “Global Zero”?

Indeed, for the past 40 years, the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons has been a true cornerstone of international security. Throughout this period, the NPT contained the threat of the spread of nuclear weapons, ensured progress toward nuclear disarmament, and guaranteed an expanding broad international cooperation in using nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.

All this suggests that the Treaty has stood the test of time and has not lost its relevance today. The past years have convincingly demonstrated the effectiveness of the balanced structure of obligations it contains. It is a necessity for all countries, large and small, nuclear and nonnuclear. This is evidenced by the indefinite extension of the Treaty in 1995, and by the fact that its range of parties now includes 190 countries.

We believe that the main aim of the upcoming NPT Review Conference, to be held in New York from May 3 to 28, is to prepare a set of concrete and practicable measures that can ensure a continued full and effective functioning and the strengthening of the Treaty on the basis of a well-checked balance of its three major components: nonproliferation, disarmament and peaceful uses of atomic energy. As a state party to the NPT and as one of its depositaries, the Russian Federation has consistently fulfilled its NPT obligations and reaffirms its strong and unwavering support for the Treaty.

We stand for making the NPT universal and call upon all countries that have not yet done so to accede to the Treaty.

As for the idea of “Global Zero,” we are sympathetic to initiatives aiming to achieve general and complete nuclear disarmament. Such undertakings (“Global Zero,” the Hoover Initiative, the Evans–Kawaguchi Commission, and others) contain many elements in line with Russia's position (strengthening of the NPT, solving the problems of global security on a multilateral basis). We interact with the authors of these initiatives, and maintain a constructive dialogue with them.

However, we consider the liquidation of all nuclear weapons as the ultimate objective of a phased process of general and complete disarmament. It can be reached only by taking a comprehensive approach in a favorable international environment, with strategic stability preserved and the observance of the principle of equal security for all states without exception.

Russia is committed to its obligations under Article VI of the NPT, and consistently pursues a line on the further reduction and limitation of strategic offensive arms. We have fully implemented the START Treaty of 1991. We are in the final stages of talks with the United States for a full-fledged new legally binding agreement on further reduction and limitation of strategic offensive arms.

Problems in the OSCE Corfu Process

We have received many questions as to how we assess the status of discussions within the framework of the Corfu Process.

As you know this process of informal dialogue on the full spectrum of issues relating to OSCE activities was initiated in 2009 by the then-Greek chairmanship and received its name from the island of Corfu, the venue of the first informal ministerial meeting held in June.

In December 2009, at a formal OSCE Ministerial Council meeting in Athens, we backed the decision to continue Corfu discussions. We presume that such discussions will serve to strengthen confidence among states, will revive the function of the OSCE as a forum for political dialogue, and will help to correct imbalances in its work and make it a full-fledged international organization.

Unfortunately, it has to be noted that several countries are trying to use the Corfu Process for other purposes.

First and foremost, we are talking about the proposals put forth at Corfu meetings by certain partners (the delegations of the US and a number of Western European countries), to establish new mechanisms for crisis response that would erode the fundamental rule of consensus in the OSCE. These proposals imply that questions about where a crisis/conflict exists, and where it doesn’t, where to send field missions and what measures to take in general would be decided by the OSCE Chairmanship-in-Office, bypassing the OSCE Permanent Council.

The Permanent Council is a collective governing body of the OSCE. All participating States of the Organization are represented there, and it takes decisions unanimously. And only the Permanent Council, under the Charter for European Security (adopted at the OSCE summit in Istanbul in 1999), has the prerogative to establish an OSCE field activity, and to determine its mandate and funding. The proposals I mentioned would have OSCE missions sent to crisis zones on extra-budgetary funds, the control of which the OSCE has serious problems.

The authors of these proposals do not hide that they seek to make the OSCE even more “flexible.” We think “flexibility” in the OSCE already abounds in excess, in which it strikingly differs from full-fledged interstate organizations, and which has an increasingly noticeable effect upon its capacity to act, including in crisis situations. As to the proposals to embark on dismantling the fundamental rule of consensus for OSCE activities that embodies the sovereign equality of all member states, it is essentially a call to change the nature of the OSCE. We see no grounds for such a “revolution,” which may prove fatal to the OSCE.

It needs only one thing – work according to intelligible rules. It is no accident that the Eminent Persons Group, set up to look for ways to increase the effectiveness of the OSCE, recommended in 2005 that the Organization adopt a Charter. Russia, together with its CSTO partners, presented a draft of the Charter in 2007. It is also necessary to supplement the Rules of Procedure of the OSCE with provisions relating to the work of its executive structures (institutions and field missions); to adopt the rules for the organization of international observation of national elections; to regularize NGOs participation in OSCE activities, the formation of the scale for OSCE budget contributions and the appointment of heads of field missions, and to assess the effectiveness of the work of these missions based on an analysis of their fulfillment of the provisions of paragraph 41 of the Charter for European Security for the gradual transfer of their functions to host states.

On all these issues in recent years, Russia, in conjunction with several partners, put forward very concrete proposals.

We reaffirm the validity of these initiatives and urge other OSCE participating states to do everything possible to ensure that the Corfu Process is productive and promotes confidence and cooperation between them, increasing the efficiency of the OSCE through the establishment of an adequate regulatory framework of its activities.

Russia advocates for strengthening the anti-crisis capabilities of OSCE and enhancing its role in conflict resolution. On the negotiating table within the OSCE Forum for Security Cooperation are Russia's proposals aimed at developing explicit and clear principles for conflict resolution that would prevent the manifestation of “double standards” in this key area for European security. We are also ready to discuss other ideas that would help improve the relevance of OSCE and its tools in crisis situations at the request of participating countries and on the basis of the strict observance of the basic principles of the Organization.

Russian-Korean ministerial consultations

Deputy Foreign Minister Alexei Borodavkin held consultations in Moscow with Kung Sok Ung, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, on March 3.

On March 4 the Korean guest was received by First Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Andrey Denisov.

During the consultations a wide spectrum of issues in bilateral cooperation in the political, economic, trade, cultural and humanitarian fields was discussed substantively. Both parties accentuated their focus on the further expansion of ties and exchanges in practical areas and on deepening engagement at the regional level.

Special attention was devoted to the situation on the Korean Peninsula, and to prospects for resumption of Six-Party Talks (Russia, DPRK, PRC, US, ROK and Japan) to resolve the Korean Peninsula nuclear problem.

An exchange of views took place on a number of pressing international issues of mutual concern.

Concerning the Arab Peace Initiative Committee’s decision to support resumption of indirect Israeli-Palestinian negotiations

On March 3, 2010, at a meeting in Cairo, the Arab League’s Follow-Up Committee on the Arab peace initiative decided to support the resumption of indirect Israeli-Palestinian talks. But they emphasized that such US-brokered contacts be limited to four months and not turn into direct Israeli-Palestinian talks without a complete halt to Israeli settlement activity in Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem.

Moscow has received the Arab League decision to give the green light to proximity talks with understanding and approval. We believe that, despite the complexity of the situation and differences in the positions of the parties, they should use this chance for the ultimate resumption of the peace process based on relevant UN resolutions, the Madrid principles, the road map, and the Arab peace initiative.

We think it’s essential for the parties to refrain from unilateral actions and steps that would prejudge the resolution of the core final status issues – first and foremost, Jerusalem, borders and settlements.

Russia, working bilaterally and multilaterally, particularly in the Quartet, a ministerial meeting of which, on our initiative, will be held in Moscow on March 19, will continue to vigorously seek an end to the prolonged pause in the Middle East peace process.

Russian-American consultations on US poultry exports

The Russian-American consultations on US poultry exports that began on March 1 in Rospotrebnadzor focus mainly on the need for the American side to take into account Russian law requirements prohibiting the use of chlorine-containing solutions in the treatment of export products.

The US delegation is headed by Under Secretary of Agriculture Jim Miller and Assistant Trade Representative Jim Murphy. Chief Sanitary Inspector Gennady Onishchenko has conducted the talks for the Russian side.

The discussion has proceeded in a businesslike manner, focusing on the measures to be taken in the near future. Appropriate instructions have been given to the experts.

Reopening of the Upper Lars crossing point on the Russian-Georgian border

Movement through the Upper Lars checkpoint (Russia) was resumed on March 1, 2010, in accordance with the agreement reached during a meeting of experts from the Russian Federation and Georgia in Yerevan on October 28, 2009 and a Russian and Georgian experts meeting held in the presence of the representative of the Embassy of the Swiss Confederation in Georgia at the Kazbegi checkpoint (Georgia) on December 23, 2009.

Admission of persons, vehicles, cargoes, goods and animals through the checkpoint is in accordance with the applicable laws and regulations of Russia.

The Russian side presumes that the representatives of the competent agencies of the sides at the Upper Lars and Kazbegi checkpoints will interact operationally to solve any practical issues that may arise in the course of their functioning.

The resumption of traffic through Upper Lars is a Russian gesture of goodwill toward restoring ties between the peoples of Russia and Georgia.

Meeting between Russian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs/State Secretary Grigory Karasin and Head of the EU Monitoring Mission in Georgia Hansjoerg Haber

Russian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs/State Secretary Grigory Karasin met Hansjoerg Haber, Head of the European Union’s Monitoring Mission in Georgia, on March 4.

They discussed the situation in the Georgia-South Ossetia border area and questions of cooperation by the Russian side with the EU Observer Mission.

About the US State Department’s International Narcotics Control Strategy Report

We have received questions about the US State Department’s International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, which touches on the drug situation in Russia.

In this regard, I can say the following:

In our view, sections of the report on the drug situation in Russia describe the situation with illicit drug trafficking in our country in too dark tones, which is not entirely consistent with existing realities. In addition, it contains a number of factual errors.

We would like to note that so far no foreign state has reported any significant seizures on its territory of drugs of Afghan origin, brought into that state in transit through the territory of Russia.

The report offers virtually no positive view: it says nothing about existing programs in Russia aimed at strengthening the anti-drug capacity on Russia’s borders, including the border with Kazakhstan. It ignores the fact that whereas in the early-mid 1990s the annual growth of heroin addiction in Russia exceeded 100%, now it is about 1,5-2% – i.e., it has actually stabilized.

Neither does it cite data on the role Operation Channel plays in curbing the Afghan drug expansion. (In the two phases of this operation conducted in September and November 2009, our agents seized 116 tons of drugs from illicit trade, including 55 tons of opium, 25 tons of marijuana, 19 tons of hashish, 2 tons of cocaine, nearly 4 tons of synthetic drugs, 4.5 tons of morphine, and 4 tons of heroin, along with 638 tons of precursors. In addition, they seized nearly $16 million related to the financing of drug-related crimes.)

The successes of this operation could have been even more tangible if NATO had cooperated with the CSTO, which is behind Operation Channel, in a closer manner on the antinarcotics track that is not limited to only projects of training personnel for law enforcement agencies of Afghanistan and the Central Asian states.

We would also like to focus attention on the increasing role of the SCO in combating the global threat of drugs. In particular, the body is currently drafting an anti-drug strategy for the period 2010-2015. An important role in counteracting the legalization of proceeds from the drug business is being played by the Eurasian Group on Combating Money Laundering and Financing of Terrorism (EAG).

Totally wrong is the thesis that 80% of the synthetic drugs reported in Russia come from China. The main source of these types of substances for Russia's black market continues to be the states of the European Union, and their supply routes mainly go through the Baltic countries. In this regard, we would like to note that this issue is always the focus of attention in our contacts with the European partners.

I would like to take this opportunity to once again reiterate Russia’s official stand that it is inadmissible to treat addicts with heroin and methadone on its territory.

However, we fully share the report’s views on Russian-US cooperation in combating drugs. Since the Presidents of our countries met in July 2009, progress in this area is obvious. We work closely together in combating the global threat of drugs, including and especially in relation to Afghanistan.

Situation around the Estonian Consul General in St. Petersburg

I have received the following question: “How would you comment on media reports that the Russian Foreign Ministry has asked the Consul General of Estonia in St. Petersburg to leave the country?”

Indeed, the Ambassador of the Republic of Estonia to the Russian Federation was summoned on March 1 to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia to be told that following the unfriendly action of the Estonian authorities, who did not give consent to the appointment of a new Russian Consul General in Narva, we are compelled to take retaliatory steps against Estonia’s Consul General in St. Petersburg.

The bewilderment of official Tallinn over this retaliatory action causes surprise. We had earlier suggested that the Estonian authorities reconsider their decision on the Russian candidate without leading matters to the origination of a conflict situation. We regret that the authorities of Estonia have again chosen an unconstructive line, whipping up tension in our bilateral relations. It is clear that the responsibility for what happened lies on the Estonian side.

In relation to the earthquake in Chile

I was asked whether Russia is planning to provide humanitarian aid to quake-hit Chile?

Immediately upon receiving news of the earthquake in Chile, President Dmitry Medvedev expressed condolences to Chilean President Michelle Bachelet over the numerous human victims and considerable destruction.

On the President’s behalf, the Russian Emergency Situations Ministry dispatched, on March 3, two IL-76 flights carrying relief cargo to Santiago that included mobile power plants, tents, blankets, pumps and other vital supplies weighing up to 60 tons.

Also, I was asked about the latest information on whether there are Russian citizens among the disaster victims because the building of a Russian overseas agency was badly damaged.

According to the Embassy of Russia in Santiago, there are no Russian citizens among the disaster victims.

The Embassy building suffered minor physical damage. Its water and electricity supply is functioning normally. Telephone, mobile and Internet connection at the Embassy and our other agencies are all working.

Humanitarian assistance to Mongolia

Extreme winter weather, marked by anomalous frosts and snow and dust storms, has killed more than two million livestock animals in Mongolia.

On February 26, Prime Minister Putin said, in a telephone conversation with Mongolian Prime Minister Sukhbaatar Batbold, that Russia would provide Mongolia humanitarian aid from the intervention fund reserves located in the Siberian Federal District, with about 57000 tons of feed grain: 5400 tons of wheat Class 5 and 51,435 tons of barley.

Earlier, Russian Railways had sent to Ulan Bator 34 carloads of food, medicine, warm clothes, feed, fuel and lubricants worth about 15 million rubles.

Russian-Mongolian company Enterprise Erdenet employees have donated US$500,000 to the affected aimaks. Those of the Russian-Mongolian joint ventures, Mongolrostsvetmet and Ulan Bator Railway, have transferred one-day earnings to the aid fund. The Kemerovo Regional Administration has decided to grant the Mongolian arats 500000 rubles.

Rosneft, Atomredmetzoloto and other state corporations and commercial entities intend to give aid to Mongolia.

On the death of Yuli Kvitsinsky

State Duma Deputy, former USSR First Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, Yuli Kvitsinsky died on March 3 at the age of 74 after a long and severe illness. Most of his career was dedicated to serving the country in key areas of national foreign policy, where he devoted all his energies and knowledge to protect the public interest.

The Foreign Ministry staff pay tribute and respect to Yuli Kvitsinsky. We express our sincere condolences to his family and friends over this irreparable loss.

From responses to media questions:

Question: How can you comment on the situation regarding the charge brought in Pennsylvania against the Craver couple for killing an adopted child from Russia? What steps are being taken in this regard by the Russian side?

Answer: The tragedy with the Russian boy adopted by the US citizens – this is absolutely outrageous. Unfortunately, the US authorities once again failed to inform our consular agencies of the death of Vanya Skorobogatov in a timely fashion, who after adoption remained a citizen of Russia.

Serious questions arise concerning the US child protective service agency which knew two years ago that the child was regularly being beaten by his adoptive parents, but after an unsuccessful attempt to deprive them of their parental rights simply forgot about him. With due control from the social services this tragedy, of course, could have been avoided.

We also can’t understand the sluggishness of the local police, who arrested the Cravers only six months after what happened. Although the findings of the medical examination were unambiguous: the child had been starved and subjected to regular beatings.

We expect that a just judgment will be rendered in this case. It's no secret that American courts had previously exercised an almost inexplicable leniency toward their citizens who committed similar crimes.

The relevant units of the Central Office of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Embassy of Russia in the United States will keep the situation under tight control. In contacts with the US State Department and US Embassy in Moscow we demand to take effective measures to prevent recurrence of such tragedies.

We will persevere in efforts to conclude a bilateral adoption agreement. That’s the kind of international legal instrument that will provide effective control over the fate of Russian children in American adoptive families. Whatever counterarguments the American side may cite, there is no alternative to this.

We intend to accentuate the issue within the framework of the ongoing Russian-US dialogue, including at the political level.

Question: How is the situation evolving in the case of Russian citizen Inga Rantala?

Answer: Our Consulate General in Turku has been informed that the city social service on March 2 hosted a meeting between child protection officers and the parents of the underage Robert Rantala, who has dual Russian and Finnish nationality, and on February 4, 2010 was placed in an orphanage. A decision on whether to extend the boy's stay in the orphanage or return him to the family is expected before March 5.Under Finnish law, social care authorities may make a decision within their purview to remove a child from a family for 60 days. A decision on Robert’s longer stay in the orphanage can only be taken in court.

Russian citizen Inga Rantala, mother of Robert, is being given necessary consular assistance, including the provision of aid from a highly qualified lawyer because the issue must be legally resolved.

We continue to closely monitor the situation and are in contact with the Finnish side on this issue.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has sent a message to the Finnish Foreign Minister, Alexander Stubb, drawing the attention of the Finnish side to this situation. The Russian side hopes that the Finnish government will help resolve the problem favorably.

This theme, of course, will also be touched on during the upcoming visit to Russia by the head of the Finnish foreign affairs agency on March 9.

Question: How does Moscow feel about the fact that Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych did not make his first visit to the Russian capital but to Brussels? What is the agenda of his talks in Moscow? What caused confusion with the status of the visit, first said to be a working and then an official one?

Answer: I do not agree with the word “confusion.” There was no confusion. It is announced that the visit will be an official visit. We are actively preparing for it.

As to the second question about the agenda, I am not authorized to give explanations in this regard. Let's wait for talks, at the end of which the appropriate explanations will be made. I am confident that both Presidents will address the press and state their assessments. I can say that the agenda is packed. We have a lot of questions that we discussed and are discussing at the working level and which require deliberation at the highest political level. Again, the Presidents themselves will determine what questions they will touch upon.

Regarding the visit of Mr. Yanukovych to Brussels, it is the President's right to determine where he makes his first visit.