Building a post-West world order of sovereignty, international law, and mutual respect — Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Munich Security Conference, February 18, 2017

Leaders with a sense of responsibility must now make their choice. I hope that this choice will be made in favour of building a democratic and fair world order, a post-West world order, if you will, in which each country develops its own sovereignty within the framework of international law, and will strive to balance their own national interests with those of their partners, with respect for each country’s cultural, historical and civilisational identity.

From the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation:

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s address and answers to questions at the 53rd Munich Security Conference, Munich, February 18, 2017

Ladies and gentlemen,

Ten years ago, President of Russia Vladimir Putin addressed this conference with a speech that many in the West saw as a challenge and even a threat, although what his message emphasised above all was the need to renounce unilateral action in favour of honest cooperation based on mutual respect, international law, joint assessment of global problems and collective decision-making. Unfortunately, the warnings he sounded then about the negative consequences of attempting to obstruct the emergence of a multipolar world have become reality.

Humanity stands at a crossroads today. The historic era that could be called the post-Cold War order has come to an end. Its main result, as we see it, was the complete failure of the Cold War institutions to adapt to new realities. The world has become neither ‘Western-centric’, nor a safer and more stable place. This is evident in the results of ‘democratisation’ in the Middle East and North Africa, and in other places too.

NATO expansion has created a level of tension in Europe unseen in the last thirty years. Yet this year marks the 20th anniversary of the signing of the Russia-NATO Founding Act in Paris, and 15 years since the Rome Declaration on a new quality of Russia-NATO relations was adopted. These documents’ basic premise was that Russia and the West took on a joint commitment to guarantee security on the basis of respect for each other’s interests, to strengthen mutual trust, prevent a Euro-Atlantic split and erase dividing lines. This did not happen, above all because NATO remained a Cold War institution. It is said that wars start in people’s heads, but according to this logic, it is also in people’s heads that they should end. This is not the case yet with the Cold War. Some statements by politicians in Europe and the United States seem to confirm this particularly clearly, including statements made here yesterday and today during this conference.

I mentioned NATO expansion just now. We categorically reject the allegations of those who accuse Russia and the new centres of global influence of attempting to undermine the so-called ‘liberal world order’. This global model was pre-programmed for crisis right from the time when this vision of economic and political globalisation was conceived primarily as an instrument for ensuring the growth of an elite club of countries and its domination over everyone else. It is clear that such a system could not last forever. Leaders with a sense of responsibility must now make their choice. I hope that this choice will be made in favour of building a democratic and fair world order, a post-West world order, if you will, in which each country develops its own sovereignty within the framework of international law, and will strive to balance their own national interests with those of their partners, with respect for each country’s cultural, historical and civilisational identity.

Russia has never hidden its views, and has always been sincere in advocating work based on equal footing in order to create a common space of security, good-neighbourliness and development from Vancouver to Vladivostok. The tensions of recent years between North America, Europe and Russia are unnatural; I would even say they go against nature.

Russia is a Eurasian state with a variety of cultures and ethnicities. Predictability and goodwill in relations with all countries, primarily, its neighbours, have always been inherent to our policies. This line of thinking underlies our close work within the CIS, the Eurasian Economic Union, the CSTO, the SCO, and BRICS.

Good-neighbourliness and mutual benefits underlie our relations with Europe as well. We are part of the same continent, we wrote our history together, and we were successful when we worked hand-in-hand to achieve prosperity for our peoples.

Many millions of Soviet people gave up their lives for the freedom of Europe. We want to see Europe strong, independent in international affairs and taking good care of our common past and future, while staying open to the world around it. We are appalled by the fact that the EU is unable to muster enough strength and give up its Russian policy based on the least denominator principle where fundamental and pragmatic interests of its member states are being sacrificed to Russophobic speculations out of sheer “solidarity.” We look forward to seeing common sense take the upper hand.

What kind of relationship do we want to establish with the United States? We want relations based on pragmatism, mutual respect, and understanding of our special responsibility for global stability. Our two countries have never been in direct confrontation with each other. Our history is steeped in friendliness more than confrontation. Russia did a lot to support the independence of the United States as it proceeded to become a united powerful state. Constructive Russia-US relations are in our common interest. Moreover, America is our close neighbour, just like the European Union. We are divided by just 4 km of the Bering Strait. The potential of our cooperation in politics, the economy, and the humanitarian sphere is enormous. But, of course, it has to be tapped. We are willing to go ahead and do so inasmuch as the United States is prepared to do so on its part.

Today there is no shortage in evaluations of the genesis of global challenges such as terrorism, drug trafficking, or the crises that engulfed territories from Libya to Afghanistan, leaving countries such as Syria, Iraq, Libya and Yemen bleeding. Certainly, the Munich debate will provide an opportunity to review in detail all these issues, as well as the continuing conflicts in Europe. Most importantly, a settlement cannot be achieved by military means.

This fully applies to the internal Ukrainian conflict. There’s no alternative to complying with the Minsk Package of Measures through a direct dialogue between Kiev, Donetsk and Lugansk. This is a firm position adopted by Russia, the West and the UN Security Council. Importantly, the Kiev authorities should embark on that path and honour their obligations.

Today, more than ever, we need a dialogue on all complex issues in order to find mutually acceptable compromises. Actions based on confrontation and the zero-sum-game approach will not cut any ice. Russia is not looking for conflicts with anyone, but it will always be in a position to uphold its interests.

Our absolute priority is to use dialogue to achieve our goals and mutually beneficial consensus. It is appropriate to quote a directive which Chancellor Gorchakov, back in the times of imperial Russia, sent to Russian Envoy in the United States Eduard von Stoeckle in July 1861: “there are no such divergent interests that cannot be reconciled through zealous and hard work … in the spirit of fairness and moderation.”

If everyone could subscribe to such an approach, we’d be able to quickly overcome the post-truth period, to reject hysterical information wars imposed on the international community and to proceed to keep up the honest work without being distracted by lies and falsehoods. Let this be a post-fake era.

Thank you.

Question: I have a concrete question about military exercises. Why are Russian military exercises held without prior announcement, and why are they so non-transparent? This year you will hold the largest Zapad (West) exercises in 20 years, which have alarmed your neighbours. What should be done to build up confidence regarding this issue?

Sergey Lavrov: As you know, Russia-NATO relations and the Russia-NATO Council have been suspended at the bloc’s initiative, although after the 2008 Caucasus crisis our American colleagues, including then US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, admitted that the suspension of the Russia-NATO Council was a mistake and that it should be more active especially in times of trouble. However, they continue to step on the same rake. NATO has decided to suspend all practical contacts with Russia, as NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told me yesterday. He said they would maintain contact at the level of ambassadors at the Russia-NATO Council and between himself and me, but that they had curtailed all practical contacts.

At some stage, Sauli Niinisto, the President of Finland which is not a NATO member, expressed concern that not just Russian aircraft but also the planes of NATO states fly over the Baltic with their transponders switched off. He mentioned his concern at a meeting with President Putin during his visit to Russia. Following that, President Putin instructed the Russian military to prepare proposals to settle the issues of transponders and aviation security over the Baltic. Our military experts brought detailed proposals to Brussels in July 2016, when the Russia-NATO Council held a meeting there. We believed that these concrete proposals would prompt a response, and that experts would get together to coordinate security enhancement methods. This did not happen. We still cannot start working on this issue. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told me yesterday that an expert meeting might hopefully convene in March. It is taking too long, of course, but we are not to blame for the delay.

He also mentioned the issue of military exercises yesterday and expressed satisfaction that the Russian military held a briefing on the exercises held last autumn. He also expressed hope that special briefings would be held on the exercises we plan for this year.

As for the surprise factor, I am not a military man, but I know that military attachés working in Moscow, including from NATO countries, are invited to such military exercises. But the best answer to this question, as I told Mr Stoltenberg yesterday, is that we should resume military cooperation to remove all these concerns and suspicions. The NATO Secretary General, who was accompanied by his deputies, could not say that NATO is ready to do this, which is a pity, because without military cooperation our diplomats’ meetings will be of little importance for security issues.

As for our relations with NATO, we proposed resuming them long ago. Instead of accusing each other and discussing and implementing plans to deploy NATO combat capabilities on the border with Russia for the first time in a decade, we should sit down to discuss the situation. We proposed looking at the maps to see how many weapons and military personnel NATO and Russia have, and where. After we collect this data, we will be able to gauge the real measures of military security in Europe. And then we will be able to use this information to consider arms control agreements and additional security measures.

Once again, it was not Russia who suspended practical cooperation in the framework of the Russia-NATO Council.

Question: Russia has submitted the first three provisions of Minsk-2 for discussion by the UN Security Council: the cease-fire, the withdrawal of heavy weapons and admission of the OSCE observers to all the Ukrainian regions. Why doesn’t Russia find it possible to meet these obligations and thereby send a message about an increased level of confidence and improved overall situation?

Closer to the end of your remarks, you mentioned the post-fake era. Russia’s interference in the US election campaign was mentioned while it was underway. An election campaign is underway in France, and one of the candidates complained of Russia’s interference as well. French President Hollande even convened an extraordinary meeting of the Security Council to discuss this.

Sergey Lavrov: Regarding your first question, I’m pleased that you are familiar with the Minsk agreements, though it’s a pity you didn’t read them to the end, apparently. Indeed, the first item is the withdrawal of heavy weapons, but then it says that on the 30th day after the start of such withdrawal, which began in April 2014, the Kiev authorities will prepare a draft law on elections and begin consultations thereon with Donetsk and Lugansk. You can ask all kinds of questions about the timeframe of a particular item in the Minsk arrangements – they don’t always offer fixed dates. However, this date is specified and it’s 30 days. The withdrawal has begun. The beginning of consultations with Donetsk and Lugansk did not hinge on the completion of this process. As you may be aware, a lot has changed since then: the weapons were first withdrawn and then disappeared from the warehouses. The OSCE Special Monitoring Mission, which worked in very difficult conditions – and whose work we highly appreciate and hope that the mission will represent more OSCE members, not just  NATO and EU member countries – repeatedly noted violations on both sides with regard to the ceasefire, and the presence of heavy weapons in the security zone. However, the Ukrainian armed forces have always been the champion when it came to heavy weapons missing from warehouses. Again, other kinds of violations happen on both sides.

There have been repeated accusations (interviews with several Ukrainian political pundits have been published recently) that President Putin uses women and children in Donbass as human shields and tries to convince the Ukrainians living to the left of the contact line that people in Donbass hate them, while people in Donbass are being told that the Ukrainian government wants to destroy them. These arguments are false and hold no water. They also wrote that Donbass self-defence forces and unnamed Russian troops shell Donetsk in order to blame everything on Ukraine.

Getting back to your question, I have many times mentioned  how to make a ceasefire stick. No matter what you think about the Russian media, we can see our reporters doing their jobs along the  contact line in Donetsk and Lugansk on a daily basis. They run their stories live showing us destroyed residential areas and social infrastructure buildings, including children’s homes, schools, outpatient clinics, and civilian casualties. I became interested in what’s happening to the west of the contact line and started watching CNN, Fox News, Euronews, and BBC. I haven’t seen anything like that done by Western reporters on the western side of the contact line. They don’t run live reports, which our reporters do, risking their lives and getting wounded and even killed in the process. I asked my Western colleagues whether Western reporters are instructed to stay away from the other side of the contact line for security reasons. There’s no answer. Then we asked the OSCE SMM to focus, in their reports, on the destruction of civilian infrastructure to the left and to the right of the contact line. So far, we haven’t received exhaustive information. This may give an idea of why Western reporters, who are so bent on bringing the truth about the events in Ukraine to the world, do not show what’s happening in the areas to the west of the contact line, which are controlled by the armed forces of Ukraine. Are they discouraged from going there for safety reasons or are they doing some self-censorship? I would like to figure that out.

Our stats show that there are many times more destroyed social infrastructure buildings on the side controlled by Donbass as compared with the situation on the left side of the contact line. In most cases, fire is aimed at the positions controlled by the Ukrainian armed forces. Nonetheless, some members of the media make it into the war zone.

Not long ago, I saw a report by the Washington office of the International Institute for Strategic Studies and Washington Post articles by journalists who have been on the line of contact. They wrote that volunteer battalions are the ones provoking violence in Donbass. These forces do not obey anyone, they do not take orders from Ukraine’s Armed Forces and act solely at their own discretion. The journalists wrote that thousands of ultra-nationalists from the Right Sector are fighting there and are not controlled by Kiev in any way whatsoever. The reporters concluded that Kiev may be interested in armed and angry radicals staying on the line of contact in Donbass instead of staging another Maidan uprising in the capital. These articles also mentioned neo-Nazi foreigners who are fighting in Donbass, while others tend to turn a blind eye to their presence there.

We discuss these issues in the Normandy format. Today, a meeting of French, German, Ukrainian and Russian foreign ministers will take place. The question remains: why is there so little information about what is going on to the west of the line of contact? It is key to answering your question about why so little progress has been achieved in terms of security. However, making progress on security issues is not a goal in itself. Our common aim is to ensure full implementation of the Minsk agreements that provide for security on the line of contact (and I mentioned why it has not been achieved so far), constitutional reform to introduce a constitutional provision on the special status, amnesty for all who took part in hostilities in Donbass (just as all those who took part in what happened during Maidan uprisings benefited from amnesty), and the holding of elections. Under the Minsk agreements, the Ukrainian government can restore full control of the border with the Russian Federation only when these provisions are implemented. As I have already said, we are not there yet.

As for what our European partners are saying regarding sanctions, I have already commented on the illogical and artificial nature of the formula whereby the EU lifts sanctions once Russia implements the Minsk agreements. Russia also wants the Minsk agreements to be implemented, and will not lift its sanctions against the European Union until the Minsk agreements are implemented. There has to be clarity on this issue. Paris, Berlin and hopefully Washington and other capitals, including NATO headquarters, know all too well what is really happening in Ukraine and why the Minsk agreements are not working properly. But they are unable to recognise it in public due to a distorted sense of solidarity with those who decided to bring freedom and European values to Ukraine. When our good friend, the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Federica Mogherini says that sanctions are a tool for ensuring implementation of the second Minsk agreements, I see this as a way to use sanctions for regulating the crisis in Ukraine, since sanctions unambiguously shift the blame on Russia. As Federica Mogherini said, maybe it was a Freudian slip, ‘We will wait until Russia concedes and departs from Minsk-2 by undertaking something unilaterally and forcing Donbass fighters to take unilateral action.’ The hidden message behind this position is that there is no need to work with Kiev, Kiev is doing everything right. That said, I strongly believe that the key capitals know the truth. I do hope that they send signals to this effect to the Ukrainian government during their contacts, if not publicly. Not only do I hope but I know that this is the case. It is hard to tell whether these signals come across.

Regarding the second question, on Russia’s alleged interference in election campaigns and other events in countries abroad, if you recall, when Donald Trump said that the election was not very honest and that the Democrats got votes from ‘dead souls’, the Democratic Party demanded to see the facts, but for some reason, when it comes to us, no one demands to see the facts. I have not seen any evidence regarding our alleged hacking of Democratic Party sites, or of whatever we are alleged to have done in France, Germany or Italy. We know that there were facts several years ago in Germany, when the eavesdropping on the entire German senior leadership was revealed. Leaks emerged a few days ago, suggesting that the CIA engaged in cyber-espionage throughout the entirety of France’s 2012 presidential race.  A CIA representative told a journalist today that he had no comment on this subject. No comment. But my good friend, French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, speaking in  parliament after the information came out about suspicions that the CIA had meddled in the 2012 election (though, as I understand it, there are not just suspicions but also concrete facts), said that they oppose all cyber-espionage, no matter whether it comes from Russia or any other country. Modesty is always a fine thing, of course, but in this case, once again, I ask to see the evidence.

Let me remind you that Russia was the first country to initiate work in the UN many years ago on coordinating our positions on international information and cyber-security. Our Western partners evaded tackling these issues for a very long time. Finally, a couple of years ago, we adopted a resolution by consensus and a group of government experts was established, which produced a good report, which formed the foundation for a new resolution. Another expert group has been set up and will continue working on this matter now. We proposed long ago that our colleagues work more actively on the professional, technical and technology aspects of cyber-security issues. When the USA, during Barack Obama’s presidency, started hunting down our citizens in violation of the agreement our countries have, and did not inform us that they were catching these people on suspicion that they were involved in cybercrime, we proposed that both sides sit down together and settle all these issues. We have absolutely no desire to see our citizens involved in these illegal cyber activities. In November 2015, we proposed to the Obama administration that we meet and begin bilateral work on cyber-espionage, cyber-security and other cyber-related areas. A year went by without a response, even though I mentioned the matter to John Kerry every time we met. In the end, they proposed meeting in December 2016, but then said that everything would have to be postponed because of the new administration coming in.

Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel, when she spoke about cyber-security today, put forward the interesting idea that the Russia-NATO Council should address this issue. Let me return to my answer to the first question. We always wanted to see the Russia-NATO Council work on real substantive issues. We were not the ones who broke off practical cooperation. If the Federal Chancellor of Germany, one of the main NATO member countries, wants the Russia-NATO Council to work on cyber-security, we see this as a signal that Berlin, at least, wants the Russia-NATO Council to resume real work and not just limit itself to discussions.

http://www.mid.ru/en/vistupleniya_ministra/-/asset_publisher/MCZ7HQuMdqBY/content/id/2648249

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Ukraine opens fire across entire Donbass front, targets Donetsk water system

From Fort Russ

February 23, 2017

Novorossiya – translated by J. Arnoldski –
Since the early morning of February 23rd, the Ukrainian Armed Forces have been particularly active across the entire Donbass front. Grassroots sources such as “Updates from the Novorossiya Militia,” “Burning Hearts of Donbass”, and the “GO Alert Group of Novorossiya” have been reporting the situation on social media. 
War correspondents have reported: “Since 06:35, the Dzerzhinsky front has been active, and the enemy has been unusually active on the Svetlodarsk front.”
According to the Donbass militia and local residents, UAF shells have hit the village of Zaytsevo north of Gorlovka. “Gorlovka is loud in the north and northeast. There are reports of incoming shells hitting the Zaytsevo area,” a report reads.
The Donetsk front is also restless. In the Petrovka district firefights broke out this morning and the UAF fired off small arms, mortars, and artillery.
Local residents have confirmed incoming reports.
It has also been reported that this morning Ukrainian troops shelled the Donetsk filtration station. As a result, the Donbass Water Company has confirmed, the water filters have been damaged.
In addition, the UAF has opened fire on the Mayorsk checkpoint near Gorlovka. Fortunately, no shells hit the checkpoint directly.
War correspondents have urged civilians not to lose vigilance. 
At 10:00 this morning, the Ukrainian troop activity was also recorded by the Lugansk People’s Republic. Citizen reports have warned people to be careful and stay away from the Bakhmutka highway. 

Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova briefing, February 15 — Obama, U.S. use of depleted uranium in Syria, ‘Russian hackers’, Ukraine’s information campaign

From Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs
February 15, 2017

Excerpts:

The situation in Syria

 

The ceasefire regime in Syria introduced December 30, 2016, is being observed. Its zone continues to expand with units of the Southern Front armed opposition joining the ceasefire. The ceasefire is guaranteed by Russia, Turkey and Iran, with Jordan making a substantial contribution to it.

The fight continues against ISIS and Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, formerly Jabhat al-Nusra, terrorists. The Syrian Army and militia units, supported by the Russian Aerospace Forces, are methodically pushing terrorist elements out of the country. About 1,400 square kilometres of territory have been liberated since January 1, 2017. It became possible to force ISIS terrorists out of a fortified outpost in the village of Tadef near the city of al-Bab, to establish a bridgehead near the city and to gain control of the Raqqa−al-Bab motorway. Over 650 terrorists were eliminated in Tadef, and a route for supplying ISIS with reinforcements, equipment and financial assistance was cut off.

Government forces continue to advance on Palmyra. The Russian Defence Ministry has published drone footage showing the barbaric destruction of UNESCO World Heritage Sites by ISIS militants in this city. Unfortunately, it is already clear that little remains of these ancient architectural and cultural landmarks. The terrorists have razed the façade of an ancient Roman amphitheatre, as well as Tetrapylon columns, to the ground. They are also highly likely to blow up the remnants of the historical architectural complex and nearby residential areas. The jihadists have shelled the Homs refinery with mortars, and they also set fire to natural gas fields while retreating.

As you know, Astana will host the second international meeting on Syria over the next few days. The Russian delegation that has already arrived in the capital of Kazakhstan will hold working consultations today. We hope that the upcoming meeting in the capital of Kazakhstan will provide an additional boost to the inclusive intra-Syrian dialogue under UN auspices in Geneva. Hopefully, it will become possible to resume this dialogue on February 20.

Against this backdrop, we note the attempts to aggravate the intra-Syrian conflict still further and to exacerbate contradictions between the warring parties. This is the only way to interpret the media leaks by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the Atlantic Council of the United States, via CNN, about the alleged use of chemical weapons by Syrian forces in Aleppo, mass executions at Sednaya military prison near Damascus, and the methodical destruction of Syrian socioeconomic infrastructure by the Russian Aerospace Forces. The evidence backing up these so-called “sensations” leaves a lot to be desired, but, as we can see, their authors don’t seem to care. Their purpose is to torpedo any chance for launching a political peace settlement that has appeared largely through Russian efforts and to thwart emerging prospects for broad, equitable and mutually respectful international cooperation in the interests of eradicating a terrorist hotbed in the Middle East and stabilising the region.

 

Media response to the United States using depleted uranium in Syria
Given how many sensationalistic stories are planted in the media, as I mentioned earlier, it’s fun to watch world media juggernauts and institutions dealing with freedom of speech get busy with creating websites to oppose the spread of “fake news,” which has become a widespread practice. On the one hand, they say it’s imperative to not just counter it, but to do all it takes to prevent the spread of “fake news,” while they themselves engage in spreading precisely such news.

Against the background of this data, the information provided by the United States Central Command, whose operational responsibility includes, primarily, the Middle East, to the effect that the US Air Force used munitions with depleted uranium in air strikes on ISIS positions in Syria, came as a shock to many who did not believe us when we said so. As you may be aware, such a statement was made by an official representative on Tuesday when he spoke about the US air operations with the use of toxic substances which cause cancer and birth defects.

As you may recall, Russia has stated this more than once. Back in October 2016, citing independent experts, we presented such information and called on the public to pay attention to it. At that time, our American partners denied all the accusations against them. A couple of months later, these accusations were not merely confirmed, but confirmed by the United States itself. The only difference is that we provided this information a few months ago, when the previous team led by the Nobel Peace Prize laureate was at the helm. Clearly, he was the one to give the go-ahead to using these weapons − any other scenario is unlikely, since such things must be approved at the highest level. I would like to say that the goal pursued by US officials was noble, that is to fight terrorists. But the point is that the traces of these weapons will remain in Syria forever. You can find out more about it if you read some professional literature. The number of missiles that were used is simply devastating. I would like to quote the same US official, who said that out of 1,790 missiles fired on November 16, 2016, 1,490 contained toxic materials, and 3,775 missiles of 4,530 fired on November 22, 2016 contained toxic materials. Thus, there were five rounds with depleted uranium for every conventional missile. Each operation involved four A-10 jet aircraft. You can look up these numbers.

I would like to remind you that earlier the United States, particularly the Pentagon, claimed that the United States has never used ammo with depleted uranium during the international anti-terrorist operation in Syria and Iraq. Meanwhile, in 2003, these munitions were used during the US invasion of Iraq. I reiterate, it is better to read up on this subject in specialised literature, make inquiries, perhaps, even with independent expert institutes, and ask the experts specialising in this area to provide their opinion. They will tell you what the use of weapons with depleted uranium is all about, and what its implications are for the lives and livelihoods of the local people.

I mentioned this with regard to fake news and the role of the Nobel Peace Prize laureate’s team in resolving international conflicts. Incidentally, people live in Syria. The scary thing is that the focus was on isolated cases which were clearly propaganda shams where individual Syrian citizens, unfortunately, were propelled to the status of international stars, and the information campaign regarding these people was used as a front to cover up what was really happening in that country.

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February 18, Putin signs Executive Order recognizing DPR/LPR documents, visa-free travel to Russia

From the Kremlin
February 18, 2017

Vladimir Putin signed Executive Order On Recognition in the Russian Federation of Documents and Vehicle Registration Plates Issued to Ukrainian Citizens and Stateless Persons Permanently Residing in Certain Districts of Ukraine’s Donetsk and Lugansk Regions.

Being guided by universally recognised principles and standards of the international humanitarian law and in order to protect the rights and freedoms of individuals, the President has resolved that temporarily, during the political settlement period of the crisis in certain districts of Ukraine’s Donetsk and Lugansk regions pursuant to the Minsk Agreements, personal identification documents, education and (or) qualification certificates, birth certificates, marriage, divorce, name change and death certificates, vehicle registration certificates, and vehicle registration plates issued by the corresponding authorities (organisations), valid in the specified district, will be recognised in the Russian Federation as valid for Ukrainian citizens and stateless persons permanently residing in those areas.

Pursuant to the Executive Order, Ukrainian citizens and stateless persons permanently residing in certain districts of Ukraine’s Donetsk and Lugansk regions can enter and leave the Russian Federation without applying for visas upon showing identification documents (birth certificates for children under the age of 16), issued by the corresponding authorities which are valid in the said districts.

The Government of the Russian Federation has been instructed to take the necessary measures to implement this Executive Order.

The Executive Order will come into effect upon its signing.

http://en.kremlin.ru/events/president/news/53895

Damascus demands UN action against illegal Turkish incursions, reveals location of main Turkish base inside Syria

From Fort Russ

February 18th, 2017 – Fort Russ News
– Al Binaa – translated by Samer Hussein –

Syrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has renewed calls to the UN Security Council for an immediate end of the violations of The Syrian sovereignty by the Turkish Armed Forces.

The Ministry also published a list of all violations that occurred since last December.

The letter, which was addressed to the UN Secretary General and the President of the UN Security Council, mentions illegal incursions into Syrian territory, building a wall within the so-called Turkish buffer zones (which exist on the sovereign Syrian territory), destruction of the property belonging to the Syrian citizens such as uprooting of hundreds of olive trees in order to build roads for the tanks of the Turkish army (as recently seen in the village of Qljabreen in the Azaz area of Aleppo province) and illegal backing of the terrorist groups which are loyal to the regime in Ankara.
The letter further states that the Turkish authorities recently established a military base inside Syrian territory, more precisely in the village of Jtrar, North of the town of Tal Rifaat, located in the province of Aleppo. The base includes the headquarters for the Turkish army personnel and their allies who are stationed on the Syrian soil and are allegedly involved in the so-called “Operation Euphrates Shield”. Ammunition depots are also being mentioned.

The letter reads: “The Syrian Government renews calls to the UN Security Council to hold to its responsibilities and act in accordance with the International Law and to pressure Turkey in order to stop the violations of the Syrian Arab Republic’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. ”

Syria: ISIS attempts to flood eastern Aleppo; Russian bombers strike ISIS with cruise missiles in Raqqa, Syria

From Fort Russ

February 18th, 2017 – Fort Russ News
– Al Mayadeen – translated by Samer Hussein –

In a statement published on Saturday, Russian Defense Ministry announced that the bombers “Tu-95 MS” delivered directed blows against ISIS positions in Raqqa province, after taking off from the Russian territory and flying over Iran and Iraq. The bombers destroyed the training grounds and camps belonging to the terrorist group ISIS. According to the statement, all targets were successfully destroyed.

The mission was supported by Su-30 SM” and “Su-35 S”, the two Russian fighter jets stationed at Humaimam base. The jets provided the aerial coverage.
After their mission was successfully accomplished in Syria, the bombers returned to their bases.

In the meantime, the Syrian Army was able to successfully expand its operations in the Eastern side of the Homs province. According to the military source provided to SANA, the army also restored the security to the village of Al Kilabiyah.

The Syrian Army and its allies also made advancements towards Palmyra as they have moved closer for about 2km.

Earlier on Saturday, ISIS began to pump large quantities of water from Euphrates river through Al Babira station located in the eastern part of Aleppo province in order to cause flooding in the villages and destroy utility stations and agricultural areas in the countryside of the Aleppo province’s eastern regions. The Aleppian municipal authorities have already sent out a team of experts who will work on redirecting the flooding waters.

In Aleppo province the Turkish armed forces are continuing their incursions. The latest Turkish shelling in the eastern parts of Aleppo city resulted in 4 civilian deaths, bringing the death toll to about 50 in the past 4 days of the Turkish operations.

Since September 2015, the Russian armed forces are successfully destroying ISIS targets in Syria. The Russian counter-terrorist activities are coordinated with the government of Syria.

Vladimir Putin’s speech to the Federal Security Service, February 16, 2017

From the Kremlin
February 16, 2017

Vladimir Putin took part in an annual expanded meeting of the Federal Security Service (FSB) Board to discuss the FSB’s results for 2016 and the priority tasks for ensuring Russia’s national security.

President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon.

These annual FSB Board meetings give us a chance to meet and not only thoroughly analyse and review the results of the agency’s work over the period, but also to discuss at length all important national security issues in general and outline the priorities for the immediate future and the longer-term.

The FSB plays a key part in protecting our constitutional order and our country’s sovereignty, and in protecting our people from threats at home and abroad.

Let me say from the start that last year’s results were positive and show good development. This concerns your work to counter terrorism and extremism, a series of successful counterintelligence operations, your efforts to combat economic crime, and other areas.

You ensured a high standard of security for major public events, including the State Duma election and regional and local elections.

I would like to thank both the executives and staff for their conscientious attitude towards their work and their timely and efficient performance of their duties.

At the same time, demands on the quality and results of your work grow constantly. The global situation has not become any more stable or better over the past year. On the contrary, many existing threats and challenges have only become more acute.

Military-political and economic rivalry between global and regional policy makers and between individual countries has increased. We see bloody conflicts continue in a number of countries in the Middle East, Asia, and Africa. International terrorist groups, essentially terrorist armies, receiving tacit and sometimes even open support from some countries, take active part in these conflicts.

At the NATO summit last July in Warsaw, Russia was declared the main threat to the alliance for the first time since 1989, and NATO officially proclaimed containing Russia its new mission. It is with this aim that NATO continues its expansion. This expansion was already underway earlier, but now they believe they have more serious reasons for doing so. They have stepped up the deployment of strategic and conventional arms beyond the national borders of the principal NATO member states.

They are provoking us constantly and are trying to draw us into confrontation. We see continued attempts to interfere in our internal affairs in a bid to destabilise the social and political situation in Russia itself.

We also see the recent serious flare-up in southeast Ukraine. This escalation pursues the clear aim of preventing the Minsk Agreements from going ahead. The current Ukrainian authorities are obviously not seeking a peaceful solution to this very complex problem and have decided to opt for the use of force instead. What is more, they speak openly about organising sabotage and terrorism, particularly in Russia. Obviously, this is a matter of great concern.

The events and circumstances I have mentioned require our security and intelligence services, especially the Federal Security Service, to concentrate their utmost attention and effort on the paramount task of fighting terrorism.

We have already seen that our intelligence services dealt some serious blows to terrorists and their accomplices. Last year’s results confirm this: the number of terrorism related crimes has decreased.

Preventive work has also brought results. The FSB and other security agencies, with the National Antiterrorist Committee acting as coordinator, prevented 45 terrorism related crimes, including 16 planned terrorist attacks. You deserve special gratitude for this.

You need to continue your active efforts to identify and block terrorist groups’ activity, eliminate their financial base, prevent the activities of their emissaries from abroad and their dangerous activity on the internet, and take into account in this work Russian and international experience in this area.

The murder of our ambassador to Turkey was a terrible crime that particularly highlighted the need to protect our citizens and missions abroad. I ask you to work together with the Foreign Ministry and the Foreign Intelligence Service to take additional measures to ensure their safety.

You must also work to take our counterterrorism cooperation with partners abroad to a new level, despite the difficulties that we see in various areas of international life. It is a priority, of course, to intensify work with our partners in organisations such as the UN, the CSTO, and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation.

It is in our common interests to restore dialogue with the US intelligence services and with other NATO member countries. It is not our fault that these ties were broken off and are not developing. It is very clear that all responsible countries and international groups should work together on counterterrorism, because even simply exchanging information on terrorists’ financing channels and sources and on people involved in or suspected of links with terrorism can substantially improve the results of our common efforts.

Our priorities include firmly suppressing extremism. Security methods must go hand-in-hand with constant prevention work. It is essential to prevent extremism from drawing young people into its criminal networks, and to form an overall firm rejection of nationalism, xenophobia, and aggressive radicalism. In this context, of great importance is open dialogue with civil society institutions and representatives of Russia’s traditional religions.

Counterintelligence services also face greater demands today. Operational data show that foreign intelligence services’ activity in Russia has not decreased. Last year, our counterintelligence services put a stop to the work of 53 foreign intelligence officers and 386 agents.

It is important to neutralise foreign intelligence services’ efforts to gain access to confidential information, particularly information concerning our military-technical capabilities.

This makes it a priority to improve our system for protecting classified information comprising state secrets, particularly with agencies going over to an electronic document circulation system.

I would like to note that the number of cyberattacks on official information resources tripled in 2016 compared to 2015. In this context, each agency must develop its segment of the state system for detecting and preventing cyberattacks on information resources and eliminating their consequences.

The public expects greater results in such key areas as economic security and the fight against corruption. I ask you to be particularly thorough in monitoring the funds allocated for state defence procurement (a subject I have spoken about before), major infrastructure projects, preparation of big international events, and implementing federal targeted and socially important programmes. Regrettably, we still see many cases of state funds being embezzled or misappropriated.

Reliable protection of our state borders plays a big part in ensuring our country’s comprehensive security. The priority here is to close off channels through which members of international terrorist and extremist groups enter Russia, and put a firm stop to all forms of smuggling, from weapons to drugs and various bio-resources.

Of course, we must continue the work to develop border infrastructure where it is not yet sufficiently developed, particularly in the Far East and in the Arctic.

Colleagues, let me stress that we will continue to bolster the FSB’s central and regional branches and ensure you have the most advanced arms and equipment. We will also continue to give attention to social provisions for FSB personnel and their family members.

I wish you success in protecting our national interests and the security of our country and our people. I am confident that you will continue working towards your targets with dignity.

Thank you for your attention.

http://en.kremlin.ru/events/president/news/53883