Speech by the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, and his answers to questions from the mass media during the press conference summarising the results of the negotiations with the Luxembourg Foreign Minister, Jean Asselborn, Moscow 25 February 2014

лавр и ассель

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We have conducted negotiations with my colleague Jean Asselborn, and reviewed issues of our bilateral agenda and international problems.

The relations between Russia and Luxembourg are developing dynamically. Political contacts have been activated, the contractual legal framework has been reinforced, trade, economic and cultural ties are being extended.We value our dialogue with Luxembourg, which was at the source of Europe-wide integration processes and continues to play an active role on the continent.

Last year, the turnover between our countries grew by almost 20%. Luxembourg is ranked third in accumulated investments in the Russian Federation, which total approximately 50 billion US dollars. Our indicators are much more modest – Russia made investments for about 7 billion dollars in Luxembourg. I think that much still lies ahead of us.

Our interaction is developing in the area of modernisation (our joint statement on partnership for modernisation was signed in 2011), it has the form of contacts between business communities. Issues of reinforcement of the ties between our people are being worked on, and the renewal of regular air traffic would contribute to this. This topic is also under discussion.

We traditionally interact with Luxembourg on the international agenda. Now this interaction will have an extra arena – Luxembourg has become a non-permanent member of the UNSC. Today we discussed topical subjects on the agenda of this central UN body in March, when Luxembourg will take the Presidency of the Security Council.

We reviewed the state and prospects of the relations between Russia and the EU. We have traditional priorities here – energy dialogue, visa liberalisation, preparation of a new fundamental agreement. We discussed the initiative proposed by the President of Russia, Vladimir Putin, to mark the goal of advancement to a common economic and humanitarian space stretching from Lisbon to Vladivostok. At the EU-Russia summit in Brussels, President Vladimir Putin proposed agreeing on the start of works for the creation of a free trade zone between the EU and the Eurasian Economic Union (which will start functioning in a year’s time) by 2020, as a first step. Our European partners are already working on this idea. We believe that the use of the tremendous potential of Russia-EU cooperation in such a way would be in favour of all the countries and people of the European continent. Of course, this would help to involve non-EU members and those countries which are not members of the Eurasian Economic Union inthis cooperation and dialogue. Ukraine is such country as well.

We talked about the events in this country today. We are both deeply concerned that these processes continue to develop, and not always in a constructive way. We confirmed Russia’s principled position of non-interference in the domestic affairs of Ukraine. We expect everybody to stick to the same logic and use contacts with different Ukrainian political forces to affect them, in order to pacify the situation, and avoid reaching volatile, unilateral advantages at this stage, when we need national dialogue and a return of the situation to lawful order.

We agree with our partners from Luxembourg that it is dangerous and counterproductive to impose the choice “with us or against us” on Ukraine. We are interested in making Ukraine a part of the common European family, in all senses of the word.

We discussed the situation in the Middle East. Luxembourg was one of the co-authors of the recently adopted UNSC resolution devoted to the tasks of easing the humanitarian situation in Syria. We value the work done by the co-authors of this document, who have taken into account our principled amendments and allowed the adoption of this resolution by consensus.

We exchanged opinions about other aspects of the situation in the region: we discussed Iran’s Nuclear Programme, the issues of Afghanistan, which will be reviewed by the UNSC in March, the situation in the Central African Republic, and other conflicts in the African continent, which will also be on the UNSC agenda this March.

I am satisfied with the results of our negotiations, which confirmed our mutual disposition to further build-up our mutually beneficial cooperation.

Question: Ukraine proposes holdinga “conference of donors” for the purposes of stabilisation of the situation. Some world mass media report that the EU is not against this idea. Is Russia ready to participate in this conference?

Sergey Lavrov: The Government of the Russian Federation represented by its Chairman of the Government, Dmitry Medvedev, and its Minister of Finance, Anton Siluanov,has already made statements in favour of a “conference of donors” and our attitude to the implementation of the financial package agreed between Russia and Ukraine. We wish to understand who will be part of the new Ukrainian government, which is being formed, and what its programme, including its economic stabilisation programme, will be. At the current stage, it is very important to ensure conditions for normal economic restoration and development, which requires an immediate stop to any violence, and restoration of the order of law and national peace. We would like to understand the attitude of the government, which will be formed, to these key tasks faced by our Ukrainian neighbours at the current stage.

Against all the odds, it is important to stick to the principles fixed in the Ukrainian crisis settlement agreement, which was signed on the 21 February. It says that the police should leave the streets, and this has been done. Nothing else from this agreement has been implemented. Militants are not freeing buildings, but, on the contrary, have overtaken order of law functions in Kiev. The agreement says that in order to normalise the situation, it is necessary to return to the constitution of 2004 (this has already been done – the Verkhovna Rada has already adopted such law, although I put aside whether it was done according to legal procedures), and then immediately start a constitutional reform, which should help avoid the situation of the Constitution changing after each election in Ukraine.

A framework of sustainable legal development of Ukraine may be achieved, if this constitutional reform ensures the participation of each and all the political forces and regions of the country in taking into account the interests of all the Ukrainians. The agreement of the 21 February envisages having such a reform by September, and only then may presidential elections take place by the end of this year.

For now, we have only heard of the decision of those who are now adopting laws in the Verkhovna Rada, that presidential elections will be held on the 25 May. This is a departure from the existing agreements. We would like to understand, how the constitutional reform and the process which should harmonise Ukrainians are proceeding, so that no region and no national of the country should feel deprived. We would like to receive an answer to this question, even more so now that radicals are threatening to organise a “campaign” to attack those regions of the country which do not agree with the methods used by the opposition.

Our main task is to help the fraternal Ukrainian people. We are waiting for the new government and its programme to be formed. The political component is not the only one; there is also a purely financial component. We hope these funds will help in actual reforms in Ukraine.

Question: The situation with persecution by some mass media representatives (both Ukrainian and foreign), which is undesired by the current Ukrainian authorities, has been aggravated against the backdrop of the general worsening of the situation in Ukraine recently. Isn’t this contrary to European standards of democracy, human rights, freedom of the press?

Sergey Lavrov: We are very worried about many things which have been done by the Verkhovna Rada. One of its first decisions was to withdraw the Law on languages, which was adopted in Ukraine after long suffering of distress according to the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, which provided national minorities with the right to live and work using their national language. It was not only about Russians, but also Poles and other nationalities living in Ukraine. This law has been cancelled. Russia expressed its concern about this. I am convinced that the EU also has such concerns.

We are worried about the events around the mass media. We know what happenedon the Inter TV channel a few days ago. We know about the proposition to ban broadcasting by companies from countries which are not parties to the European Convention on Transfrontier Television, in the Ukrainian territory. Russia is not a party to this convention, but we are still broadcasting all over Europe. No country of the European Union poses any problems for us. The adoption of such a law will be a serious violation of the freedom of speech. Therefore, the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Dunja Mijatović, is going to visit Ukraine to clarify this situation.

In general, we are interested in avoiding the influence of radicals and nationalists, who are evidently attempting to play a leading part and, on the wave of this revolution, take decisions, which will be detrimental to a large part of the Ukrainian state.

See the entire press conference