Question: In the last few days, Ukraine has seen several attacks on Russian diplomatic missions including the Russian Embassy in Kiev and the general consulates in Lvov and Odessa. What’s happening to the employees there? Is their life and health threatened? How do they live under conditions of what is practically a siege?
Sergey Lavrov: We’ve been following the situation closely and are in regular contact with the Russian Ambassador to Ukraine and his staff. They are carrying themselves well and properly as befits people with the backing of their Motherland that will not allow anyone to push them around. These actions by thugs who attacked the Russian Embassy and our general consulates, invading the premises and tearing down the Russian flag (this was done, if I’m not mistaken, by a Verkhovna Rada deputy with an eloquent last name, Parasyuk), are an outrage. And honestly, we haven’t seen any reaction from the so-called international community.
When some Iranian citizens invaded a Saudi general consulate’s premises, there was a pretty loud uproar. We joined the process aimed at ensuring the unconditional protection of diplomatic missions, as required by the conventions signed by all states in the world. In this case, we don’t see any reaction from our Western colleagues. For now they are more busy demanding an end to the trial and the release of Nadezhda Savchenko. This is a separate issue. But hypocrisy and duplicity are there for all to see.
Our staff have the means to prevent illegal actions and they have a means of protection, but the most important thing is certainly to have the “handlers” of the Ukrainian authorities cut short these activities. These “handlers” wield the decisive influence on the current leaders in Kiev. Later today, I’ll have yet another talk on this subject with Secretary of State John Kerry. We’ve sent the relevant notices to the European capitals as well.
Question: Do the Russian diplomats have what they need? Won’t there be problems with food and water? As I understand it, they can’t go out because it can be dangerous.
Sergey Lavrov: There are opportunities to bring in supplies, there are stocks of food. We’ve restricted their freedom of travel dramatically, particularly if there are no exigencies of business. I don’t think we need to worry about our diplomats and their families. We are supporting them and will not allow any illegal actions in this respect.
Question: Will you present Ukraine with a bill for damages and the continuing outrages?
Sergey Lavrov: We’ll certainly sue for damages.
Question: You just mentioned the Savchenko case. Is it true that you had a conversation with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavel Klimkin and discussed this issue with him?
Sergey Lavrov: There were several conversations. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Klimkin called me a few days ago with a pressing request to allow yet another visit by Ukrainian doctors. Let me remind you that there was a visit like this a while ago. Ukrainian doctors examined Savchenko in the presence of her sister. Now that news of yet another hunger strike, announced by Savchenko, has spread, Mr Klimkin asked us to make yet another exception and let the doctors see her, although, as he said, he understood that this was not common practice, not only under the Russian rules but also in “world penitentiary practice.” We’ve considered this request and forwarded it to the court that’s examining her case, because she is currently under the court’s authority.
After the March 9 session, the judges expressed a willingness to allow the doctors to visit Savchenko. But since Savchenko has insisted on insulting the court throughout the hearings (everyone can watch this on television; the Russian channels censored her obscenities on the air, but Euronews decided not to do that), the court decided that it had no inclination to do Savchenko any favours – I repeat, in connection with behaviour that was clearly offensive to the court. Yesterday, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Klimkin called me again and expressed regret over this (incidentally, he was calling from Turkey, where Ukrainian President Poroshenko was on visit). It was not as if Klimkin was apologising for Savchenko’s behaviour, but he clearly understood that in this situation the defendant had unfavourably influenced this issue, assuming, of course, that she really needed medical assistance. According to our information (Russian doctors regularly examine her, and I’m in contact with the heads of the Federal Penitentiary Service of Russia), there is no indication that Savchenko is incurably ill. On the whole, she feels well and works out regularly. I explained to Mr Klimkin that out of humanitarian considerations we had granted all their requests and made exceptions to the applicable rules. But Savchenko’s arrogant and distasteful behaviour made a doctors’ visit, which we had arranged, impossible.
Question: A campaign to support Nadezhda Savchenko is underway, which oddly coincided with a campaign against illegal substances allegedly used by Russian athletes. Don’t you think that these campaigns are specifically designed to tarnish Russia’s image?
Sergey Lavrov: ... As you said, doping is a very popular issue now. Given what’s going on in the public space of our Western partners, I wouldn’t be surprised if someone soon announces that Russia’s Aerospace Forces or the Russian Armed Forces in general, as well as Russian diplomats are “doped.” They would then use this as a reason to bar us from all global processes.
Seriously, though, there has been a flurry of bans and accusations with regard to our top athletes in recent years soon after meldonium – after several decades of being a conventional drug used both by athletes and ordinary patients with heart problems – has been declared a doping.
Over the past few days, several comments have been given by experts, including the creators of this drug. They have provided open and professional explanations that this is not doping, but a medicine used in physiological recovery as it relates to the presence of oxygen and magnesium in the body.
Perhaps, meldonium has run into bad luck, because it was created in Soviet Latvia? Had this happened after Latvia became part of the so-called civilised world, meldonium would have had a brighter future, maybe? I’m not sure, and I don’t want to be facetious. I just want to emphasise in all seriousness: professional opinions regarding justifiability of this decision by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), which we hear and read today, have not been properly addressed by the WADA leadership.
I believe that professional questions must receive professional answers. Perhaps, WADA had good reasons to do this, but neither we, nor the research and expert community know anything about them. If so, these reasons must be provided. So far, the only thing we’ve heard from WADA were statements by the head of the WADA independent commission, Dick Pound. He has not provided any professional motives behind this very strange – according to the experts – decision, but said instead that Russia is now unlikely to ever be able to participate in the Olympic games, because it has now proved that it is corrupt to the core, including in sports. This is idle talk, not a professional opinion cast by serious people. We respect the WADA and we want to cooperate with it in a professional and honest manner, without any war cries or attempts to usurp the scientific truth and medical knowledge. We also have experts in Russia; there are experts in other countries, as well.
Of course, there are coincidences that make one wonder, but I hope that this line will soon subside, because the absolute futility of unwarranted attacks against us is becoming clear to all sensible people in Europe and America.
March 10, 2016