State Secretary and Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin’s interview with RIA Novosti, October 10, 2017

Wednesday, 11 October 2017 10:05

Question: Can you comment on Ukrainian President Petr Poroshenko’s statements that Russia cannot take part in the peacekeeping operation in Ukraine?

Grigory Karasin: On September 5, 2017, in the UN Security Council, Russia disseminated a draft resolution on establishing a UN mission to facilitate the protection of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) in southeast Ukraine (the text is published on the UN website under 3/2017/754). In so doing we tried to promote the ceasefire and ensure security in southeast Ukraine and create favourable conditions for stepping up the political efforts to fulfil the Minsk agreements.
However, even before an extensive discussion of this draft, Ukraine refused pointblank to study our proposals. Without submitting any counter proposals to the UN Security Council, Kiev began to turn everything upside down. It claims that Russia wants to freeze the current status quo in Donbass and limit OSCE activities in Ukraine. Kiev also demands that peacekeepers be deployed in the entire territory of Donbass, and primarily along its border with Russia.
One gets the impression that Kiev sees a completely different role for the blue helmets. In effect, it wants them to almost play the role of “occupational forces” to “establish order” in southeast Ukraine and set up an international protectorate there. These attempts amount to a revision of the Minsk Package of Measures of February 12, 2015. Needless to say, we cannot accept this.
As for the composition of a potential “protective” UN mission, if an agreement on it is reached, it will be a subject for separate consultations in New York. It is necessary to issue a valid and clear mandate that will be accepted by Donbass among others.

Question: US Special Representative for Ukraine Kurt Volker said that the appearance of UN peacekeepers on the line of disengagement in Donbass would have the effect of dividing the country even further. Considering that Moscow and Kiev, as well as the EU and the US have different views on this idea, how can it be carried out?

Grigory Karasin: I believe that the Russian suggestion to use UN forces to facilitate the peace process in Ukraine (we have not seen any other proposals on this) primarily requires a depoliticised and constructive dialogue by all parties to the conflict. President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov have explained in public more than once our view on the concept of UN participation in Donbass. Our proposal is clear. UN forces will protect the SMM only when the OSCE observers fulfil the functions stemming from their mandate on carrying out the Minsk agreements. We also proceed from the premise that a UN operation, which we view as subsidiary, should not break down the Minsk structure or change the negotiating formats – the Contact Group and the Normandy Four.
Incidentally, Presidential Aide Vladislav Surkov and Kurt Volker discussed UN involvement in detail during recent consultations in Belgrade. Mr Surkov once again explained our approach to the potential UN role in Donbass and our assessment of the current status of reaching a settlement. He pointed out Kiev’s unconstructive policy of blocking the political process carried out by the Minsk Contact Group and the Normandy Four. Mr Surkov called on the United States to exert influence on the Ukrainian authorities with a view to compelling them to fulfil the commitments they assumed in Minsk, primarily to adopt a permanent law on the special status of Donbass. The bill on extending this status for a year, as endorsed by the Verkhovna Rada the other day, is a palliative step that does not resolve the major problems. As in the case of the previous law, this bill was not agreed upon with representatives of Donetsk and Lugansk despite the relevant requirements of the Minsk Package of Measures. We will continue this dialogue with our American colleagues.

Question: Is Astana hosting the Fifth Caspian Summit this year as planned? What is the progress on the Caspian Sea Legal Status Convention? Is it realistic to finish it before the end of this year?

Grigory Karasin: From our point of view, the text of the Convention agreed to date balances the needs of the five littoral states and neither has its core interests violated. What we still need to do is find the best wordings for several clauses to put the finishing touches on it after years of painstaking work and produce a document to be signed by the heads of state. We hope that this will happen at the next foreign ministers’ meeting of the five Caspian states before the end of this year. The specific dates are being negotiated through diplomatic channels.

Question: How do you assess antiterrorist cooperation with Central Asian countries? How big is the risk of ISIS militants infiltrating the region? Is introducing visa requirements with those countries still not necessary?

Grigory Karasin: Stability and security in Central Asia is important for us. For a number of objective reasons, primarily the situation in Afghanistan, the region is not devoid of risks. The growing number of terrorist groups, including ISIS, in the north of Afghanistan does raise concerns. There is a danger of their activities moving to neighbouring countries in Central Asia.
To prevent this threat, we are actively cooperating with our Central Asian partners, both bilaterally through security councils, law enforcement agencies, special services, defence and foreign policy departments, and also through regional and international organisations such as the CSTO, CIS, SCO, OSCE and UN. We share information, conduct joint exercises, and adopt measures to fight extremist ideology more effectively. We have initiated the modernisation of the SCO's Regional Antiterrorist Structure with the aim of transforming it into a universal centre to deal with a whole range of new challenges and threats in the Organisation’s space. The Convention on Countering Extremism adopted at the SCO Summit in Astana on June 9 with our active support was an important milestone. A programme to strengthen the Tajik-Afghan section of the border is being implemented following the CSTO Collective Security Council decision of 2013.
It is also difficult to overestimate the importance of the Russian military presence in Central Asia and the role the CSTO barrier plays in thwarting threats to security and maintaining stability in the region.
As for people’s concerns about the regulation of migration flows, including for security reasons, as I understand it, we should bear in mind that Russia and Central Asian states need each other. True, Russia is one of the world leaders in terms of the number of migrant workers we use. At the end of 2016, Russia had about 3.8 million migrants from Central Asia alone, and most of these people came here to work. However, these migrants not only support their families by sending significant funds back to their homelands; they also contribute to the Russian economy. This zone of free movement of goods and services is now emerging because there are objective prerequisites for cooperation and a need to work out the best mechanisms and methods for jointly resolving pressing problems.
In this situation, introducing visas would damage the current integration model aimed at sustainable development of the entire continent, including Central Asia.

Question: Following your previous meeting with the Special Representative of the Georgian Prime Minister for Relations with Russia, Zurab Abashidze, it was announced that the agreement on transit from Russia to Georgia via Abkhazia and South Ossetia was close to practical implementation. When can the relevant agreements be signed? And when will this transit be launched?

Grigory Karasin: I would refer these questions to the Georgian side. My conversation with Zurab Abashidze in Prague in July was indeed quite optimistic. It appeared that in Georgia they had finally re-read the 2011 agreement with Russia on customs monitoring of trade and realised the obvious fact that it imposed obligations on both sides.
To remind you, the document in question requires that Russia and Georgia to administer (in their respective territories) a special customs control procedure for the flow of goods, with the participation of a Swiss monitoring company. However, it soon became clear that Tbilisi's position had not changed a bit. They still want Russia to unilaterally fulfill the agreement and do not want to hear anything about their own obligations. Naturally, this is not going to work.
In general, in the context of the current difficult situation in the South Caucasus, the 2011 agreement provides an adequate legal basis for regional transit trade. We urge Tbilisi to stop resorting to excuses and declare its readiness to fulfill its international obligations in good faith. This will help move the issue of regional transit to practical implementation.

Question: Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev stated earlier that Russia could set up a second military base in Kyrgyzstan on the border with Tajikistan. Are there any talks with Kyrgyzstan on this issue? Is Russia interested in another military base in this region?

Grigory Karasin: Indeed, on June 20, during the top-level talks as part of his state visit to Russia, Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev offered to consider the possibility of setting up another Russian military base in Kyrgyzstan, in addition to the already existing one.
Russia, unlike some other countries, well known to all of you, is not pursuing the goal of stationing its military in every corner of the world. We are not chasing numbers. For us the key point in determining the need for such facilities abroad is whether they help achieve the specific tasks related to ensuring the security of the Russian Federation and its closest allies.
The capabilities of the existing Russian military bases in Central Asia (in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan) are quite sufficient to deal with existing and potential threats in the region. The Russian side is planning to focus its efforts on strengthening the combat capabilities of these bases, improving the infrastructure, and increasing combat skills and personnel interoperability, including in cooperation with the armed forces of our partners.

Question: The removal of munitions from Transnistria, which began in 2001, was suspended in 2004 by the Transnistrian authorities. Moldova insists that the munitions be removed. What is preventing their removal now? Are there talks with Moldova on the issue?

Grigory Karasin: It is true that Russia, fulfilling the obligations it had freely undertaken, started removing munitions left after the Soviet Union’s disintegration from Transnistria in 2001. Over 40 trainloads of munitions were moved, half of which were in storage at that time. About 21,000 tonnes remain there. It is no secret that during the withdrawal we worked actively on the Kozak Memorandum, which envisaged a full-scale political settlement of the Transnistrian issue. However, the authorities in Chisinau impeded the signing of this document at the behest of their Western “advisors.”
Against this backdrop, the Transnistrian leadership suspended the removal of munitions. Russia is still ready to withdraw them, but let’s be realistic: it can be done only if a real settlement in Transnistria is achieved. Unfortunately, we are far from it. The necessary conditions are not in place yet.

Question: Kiev’s termination of the Agreement on Military Cooperation has made supplying the operational group of Russian forces in the Transnistrian region as well as the Russian peacekeepers more difficult. Have you found any kind of solution to this dilemma?

Grigory Karasin: For sure, Kiev’s decision has made supplying the Russian peacekeepers in the region more difficult. However, it has not affected the actions of our troops, who continue to perform their duties in full compliance with the Russian-Moldovan agreements.
I would like to assure you that everything necessary will be done to supply the operational group of Russian forces in Transnistria.

Popular articles

20 October 2018

President Putin offers condolences to India over numerous...

Russian President Vladimir Putin has offered condolences to India’s President Ram Nath Kovind and Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the accident on rail...
03 October 2018

On October 4–5, Vladimir Putin will visit India

On October 4–5, the President of Russia will make an official visit to the Republic of India. During talks with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi the...
20 September 2018

Second Eurasian Women’s Forum

Vladimir Putin attended the Second Eurasian Women’s Forum and addressed its plenary session. The Second Eurasian Women’s Forum is taking place between...
Emergency phone number only for the citizens of Russia in emergency in India +91-81-3030-0551
Shantipath, Chanakyapuri,
New Delhi - 110021
(91-11) 2611-0640/41/42;
(91-11) 2687 38 02;
(91-11) 2687 37 99
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.