Comment by the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, and his answers to questions from the mass media summarising his negotiations with the US Secretary of State, John Kerry, Moscow, 30 March 2014
Sergey Lavrov: We have conducted very intensive negotiations with the US Secretary of State, John Kerry, on the issue related to the Ukrainian crisis. We expressed different points of view about its causes. Nevertheless, we agreed that we need to search for areas of common interest to develop a joint position with regard to the ways for a diplomatic settlement in the interests of the Ukrainian people. Both parties made their propositions regarding the de-escalation of the political situation, the situation in the area of security in Ukraine and around it. We agreed to work with the Ukrainian government – and more broadly – with the Ukrainian people to achieve the implementation of such priority tasks like ensuring the rights of national minorities, language rights, tasks in the area of disarmament of non-regular forces and provokers and the implementation of an inclusive process of constitutional reform, organisation of free and honest elections under international observation. We agreed to continue our talk on all these issues and to meet rather frequently to implement these tasks.
We think this meeting was quite constructive. We expect to continue such discussions in the near future.
Question: Did you discuss the Transnistrian problems? The United States declare that they are not related to ablockade.
Sergey Lavrov: We discussed the Transnistrian problems. We expressed concern about the steps currently undertaken by the current Ukrainian government in terms of freedom of movement, implementation of the legal rights formalised in the agreements reached earlier on foreign economic activities and transit by Transnistrians. We felt that our US colleagues understand these concerns. In 10-12 days, another 5+2 consultation will be held, where Russia and Ukraine are guarantors, the OSCE is a mediator, Kishinev and Tiraspol are parties to the conflict, but the United States and the EU are observers. We appealed to the US partners to use all their efforts to make the 5+2 format effective and, at this important stage, to ensure a comprehensive approach to all the aspects of the current situation to find a political settlement through specific constructive steps. The goal is to achieve the objective we all share – ensuring a special status of Transnistria in a united sovereign and neutral Moldova.
Question: Did you discuss the federal form of Ukraine with John Kerry? Can you tell us that these negotiations resulted in a specific plan?
Sergey Lavrov: I have read the provisions, which were coordinated with John Kerry today. We conducted our discussion in the context of a constitutional reform, which we support jointly with the Americans and which the Ukrainian authorities currently ruling in Kiev are obliged to implement.
We are convinced that federalisation is a vital component, because the main thing is to ensure the unity of Ukraine through consideration of the interests of each and all regions of this country. The West, the East and the South advocate fairly contradictory values. For this country to function as a single state, a compromise between each and all the regions, which are now part of Ukraine, should be found. We agree that the Ukrainians should decide everything themselves. No outsider can impose any scheme. However, the Ukrainians must ensure an all-inclusive and comprehensive nature of this dialogue, within the framework of which each and all the regions and political forces of Ukraine have equal votes and could agree on specific political, economic, financial, social and religious traditions, which will be respected in different regions of the country to keep it united and represent all the Ukrainian people.
Question: Is there any specific plan of action?
Sergey Lavrov: Neither Russia nor the United States can impose any specific plans on the Ukrainians. We know that about a month ago the Ukrainian Verkhovna Rada created a special commission on the constitutional reform. Unfortunately, we are receiving little information about the work of this structure. Probably those, who are now ruling in Kiev, do not devote sufficient attention to this. However, we agree with John Kerry that the Ukrainians must ensure an inclusive nature of this process. For these purposes (we are deeply convinced of this), the current Kiev authorities should propose that all the regions participate in the process of the constitutional reform with equal rights. They should decide themselves how to do this. The Ukrainian state is interested in this. For our part, we and the Americans will stimulate them to organise such an inclusive dialogue.
Question: There were messages in the US mass media (with references to sources) that the United States can refuse the ban to supply man-portable air-defence systems to Syria. Did you discuss this issue, moreover because this information was leaked immediately after Barack Obama’s visit to Saudi Arabia?
Sergey Lavrov: We asked a question about messages in the mass media, that the US President discussed the topic of supplies of man-portable air-defence systems to Syria, for the opposition, during his visit to Saudi Arabia. John Kerry clearly confirmed that the Americans are against this. This fully corresponds to the existing Russian-US agreements that man-portable air-defence systems should not be delivered to trouble spots, as well as agreements between Moscow and Washington to avoid proliferation of this type of weapon.
Question: Your Ukrainian colleague stated that a federation model is unacceptable for his country.
Sergey Lavrov: Who?
Question:The Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine.
Sergey Lavrov: I met Andrii Deshchytsia in The Hague on the side-lines of the Nuclear Security Summit. We heard not only the statements of Andrii Deshchytsia, but also the statements of other leaders, who have now formed powers in Kiev, that Russia’s propositions regarding federalisation and the need to make Russian the second official language are unacceptable. It was stated, they are contrary to the Ukrainian national identity. I believe that this is an exaggeration.
Ukrainian national identity still has to be strengthened. I do not think that this process can be sustainable, if the fact that Russian is the second main language in Ukraine is ignored. I do not think it can be possible to avoid some agreements, which will mean federalisation of Ukraine in some way. I repeat, we are not imposing any schemes. The Ukrainians should agree amongst themselves, how they will respect the rights of their western, eastern and southern regions, how different values of people living in different parts of the country will interface. However, the fact is that it is impossible to avoid a scheme, which allows each region to elect its own government – its executive and legislative powers (to prevent Kiev from appointing its own people everywhere).
The history of modern Ukraine is before your eyes, when each presidential and parliamentary election is accompanied by a change of the constitution. This is another confirmation that the model of a unitary state is not working there. We want to show clearly that federalisation does not mean (as Kiev and other places fear) an attempt to split Ukraine. On the contrary, we are convinced that only federalisation, which in fact corresponds to the interests of each Ukrainian region (different forms are possible – they must determine these themselves), only an agreement about respect for each region with its traditions, customs, culture and language, will ensure the unity and sustainability of the Ukrainian state.