Press-Conference by First Deputy Permanent Representative Dmitry Polyanskiy on the situation in Venezuela
A.: I decided to take this initiative to clarify our approaches to the situations around Venezuela. You know our position – I will not make any special introduction because everything is clear about us. But I assume, there might be some issues that you wanted to clarify. We are very much worried about what’s happening. It is not only about Venezuela, but about the international law, international legality, the way we tackle these issues. And that is why what is happening is of paramount importance for us. We have our view, we know, that this view is very often not shared by a lot of countries, but that doesn’t stop us from expressing our opinion. And actually that is why I’m here.
I have a folder of materials here, but will not open it, because I don’t know what is of particular interest to you. I encourage you to limit questions to Venezuela only, but if you have something very urgent to ask me, I’ll try to be helpful.
So, the floor is yours.
Q.: Can you please elaborate on the Russian position of what the Vise-President, Mr. Pence was asking: to remove the credentials from the Ambassador of Venezuela and to give them to a Guaido representative.
A.: It is very difficult to comment concretely on this move, because there is a diplomatic practice not to give direct comments about actions of this or that personality. I assume, that Mr.Pence doesn’t have a lot of diplomatic experience. Maybe here in the UN he wanted to make his view clear. This is not a revelation for us. We know that this administration as a host country is trying to do everything to convince the world that the current authorities of Venezuela are not legal; and that another guy who proclaimed himself president and was acknowledged by Mr.Pence in 3 minutes is the illegal one. So, as you know international community is very much divided there. It will be a false approach to present the situation as if everybody except for Russia and China - that were yesterday in the Security Council - was having a different position on this. We said yesterday, that Mr.Monkada is a legal representative of Venezuela, he has all the credentials, he was appointed according to the practice that is common to the United Nations. We have absolutely no reason to behave with him in this way, claiming that he is not a legal representative of his country and his government.
Q.: One of the main concerns and questions that is being brought up is the presence of Russian military in Venezuela. Your mission and the government of Russia have said that it is humanitarian aid that has been brought up. What is the extent of cooperation between Russia and Venezuela? President Hugo Chavez has had exchanges of military who went to study in Russia to do different programs. That is a long relationship you have had with Venezuela. What is the specific work you guys are doing there? We just want to make sure it is clear in terms of that, because there have been questions about intervention and about Russian military intending to support the military of Venezuela. That obviously is a big question for the region.
A.: Yes, there was a lot of fuss about us sending technical specialists to Venezuela. But we reiterated that this was all done in the framework of existing bilateral agreements on technical cooperation and on other matters. We don’t see any reasons to curb our relations with Venezuela at this stage especially when this country needs all kind of assistance. A lot of countries are shouting at every corner that Venezuela needs assistance. But we are actually the ones who are rendering this assistance.
Venezuela needs a lot of things. It needs expertise. We send a lot of technical specialists that really can handle the current unprecedented problems that they face. You know our position about the reason for these problems and why these problems are very much acute right now. It is not about military, as it was presented. I saw the first reports like “Russia is sending troops to Venezuela”. Of course this is a very sexy picture for the news, I understand. But it is very far from reality. We have bilateral arrangements, we honor these bilateral arrangements and we will do it upon request and in total cooperation with the legal authorities of Venezuela. I don’t see any reason to present this as some extraordinary situation. This is normal, this was done before, this will be done. So, normal life.
Q.: Are your military supplies being used as a weapon of war? Cannot the US give its goods to the Red Cross? And whatever Russia ships, it does not seem to be enough, there seems to be a great need. And another question: is it time for the former Sudanese President to be delivered to the ICC?
A.: As far as I understand this former president or the current president is not in Venezuela, so I will not touch upon this matter. Let’s wait a little bit for the situation in Sudan to somehow settle down and to see the clear picture of what’s happening. I wouldn’t rush with any conclusions or comments on this.
I think you have almost answered your first question as you echoed very much our approach. There were a lot of people who spoke yesterday in the Security Council, who also voiced concerns and wishes that humanitarian assistance should not be politicized and used as a weapon. We saw it very clearly on the 23rd of February when there was a clear attempt of provocation at the Colombian border with the delivery of so-called humanitarian assistance. We compared it to the force feeding of prisoners who don’t want to eat and don’t ask for food.
Yesterday a lot of people cited the humanitarian resolution of the General Assembly which is the basis for any efforts for the delivery of humanitarian aid. They quoted it almost perfectly but they all omitted one message which is of paramount importance – it is the agreement of the states for which the humanitarian aid is designed. For us it is really a key principle. We think that the current and the legal authorities of Venezuela should be asked if they need any humanitarian assistance. There should always be a clear approval from their side. They do not deny that there are problems in this country – yesterday you saw it and you heard it. They are absolutely ready to cooperate with the UN and various agencies. They try to cooperate. We also channel our assistance through international organizations, we send a lot of medicines, which are very badly needed.
Our approach is: those who want to help – they really help Venezuela, they have all the possibilities to do so. It is not that Venezuela is creating obstacles in this regard. The United States does not want to help this country in this way. It wants to make a problem out of this, it wants to show that the current government is absolutely incapable of dealing with this aid, that this government would allegedly steal this aid and would not give it to the people – it is the picture they want to create in public opinion, which is a totally false picture. So again, those who want to help, they can help. We are helping, Chinese are helping, we will continue to help.
There are a lot of problems created now by the United States because of this kind of collateral sanctions to third countries that cooperate with Venezuela. It is sometimes very difficult to proceed with financial transactions with this country. This is a very big problem. We try to solve these issues and we will not leave Venezuela alone in this situation. We will help with the things that they really badly need.
Q.: Thank you, Ambassador. I have two questions. The first one is, if there was a draft resolution right now at the General Assembly, a US draft resolution to change the representative of Venezuela, do you think it would pass? What is your prediction? Do you think there is enough support at the GA to change the representative of Venezuela? And my second question is, it’s a pressing issue about Sudan and I need your explanation, because your Foreign Ministry issued a statement that was not so clear. Then a high-level Member of Parliament said about ‘unconstitutional coup’ in Sudan. Could you explain your country’s position? Are you supporting the people’s demand in Sudan to change the current regime, the status-quo there? Because the Foreign Ministry statement about that was not clear. It was mostly about Sudanese-Russian relations.
A.: The statement was not clear because the situation was not clear. We cannot speak about hypothetical situation. We don’t really see at this moment what is happening there and what are the demands of Sudanese people, because Sudanese people are very different. Some want this, the others want that. Of course it will be, at the end, the Sudanese people that will decide what to do with this country. Same as the Syrian people will decide in the end, what is happening in their country. But it is too premature, I wouldn’t rush to make any comments. I understand your desire to get some clear information, maybe a sensation, but I will not be very helpful in this regard. It’s happening live, it’s happening now. There are a lot of things that are not clear.
Sudan is an extremely important country for the region, for a lot of African problems that are being resolved with the help of the Sudanese government. So we would be very courteous at this stage and we would abstain from really taking sides or giving clear definitions. We need to wait and understand what is happening. Russia has always been a friend of Sudan, and will continue to be a friend of Sudan – in this regard I can reassure you.
As for the resolution, as you might see, I do not have a crystal ball. My impression is that the United Nations countries are not very much inclined to resolve this issue, because this is something outrageous to make a decision and to deprive a legal representative of a country off his credentials. I don’t have very big experience with the United Nations, but I don’t remember a situation like this. I guess something was similar with Libya, but it was a bit different, and the context different. With Venezuela it really resembles an attempt of coup d’etat here at the UN. They try to present the situation as if the majority of Members are clearly anti-Maduro and pro-Guaido.
I think the majority of UN Member States are very shameful of this situation. Because what’s happening is not good for the global community. This is an outrageous attempt to impose someone’s will on an independent country, and to mobilize regional and other support for these actions. It’s very difficult to cite any example in history of such a blunt attempt of a coup d’etat that is happening right now. Of course, the majority of UN Members would like to avoid being involved in this situation, because it’s very awkward, very awkward for them. We are very vocal in this regard. A lot of our colleagues are not very vocal, but I can assure you that support for the international law and legality in Venezuela and with regard to Venezuela is very strong.
If I were in the shoes of the Americans I would think twice, maybe even three times before proceeding with such a move. Of course, it was announced yesterday by Vice-President, but it was not clear – he mentioned just a resolution. Maybe he meant a Security Council resolution – who knows? You can expect everything from Americans. Maybe it will be a President Trump resolution sent to the Security Council for approval – I don’t know either. They are thinking out of the box, so we will wait and see what they really implement.
I assure you that the picture in the Security Council and in the General Assembly as a whole is not completely black and white – there is a lot of black , a lot of white – and there is also a lot of gray. What’s happening is not supported by a lot of countries, because this is a bad process and it’s very difficult to predict where it will lead us – I mean the whole of international community and these countries as well. This might play a very serious role.
Q.: You said we could ask about anything. You wrote today on Twitter about Julian Assange's arrest. You said it was a shameful act. Could you tell us what your view of it is in terms of press freedom or how you see it? Just one quick follow-up to be clear, would you say that a General Assembly resolution would fail on Venezuela? Thank you.
A.: Do you see a crystal box here in front of me? I can’t decide on behalf of other Members. I will tell you definitely that Russia will not support such a move. That’s what I can say for sure. I know that a lot of others are voicing their opposition. As you might know there is a group of countries that were mobilized by Venezuela friends. They are still very weary of all these attempts to question credentials and so on.
It is very difficult to predict but it would be an extremely difficult attempt from the American colleagues. As you say it in English - ‘a very long shot’. We will see. They claim to be good shooters, so I don't know.
On Assange, I can only give you my personal opinion. I really sympathize with him. He is a whistleblower, it would be very wrong to portray him as a pro-Russian guy. He did a lot to criticize Russia. He is for the freedom of speech, he believes in it like in an absolute value, much more than many people in the world do. He can be respected for this.
As I wrote on Twitter, you can think of him whatever you, but he is a man of conviction and his convictions should be respected. As for the way he is treated right now and the way we saw he was extradited from the embassy, there are a lot of questions about it. We hope that he will not be prosecuted for his views which seems to be the picture. I don't know all the details but I heard that there was a demand from the United States for his extradition which really raises a lot of doubts about what would happen to him and whether it could be somehow analyzed through the notion of free speech and freedom of speech. I personally was very sad and very worried, because for me Assange was kind of a symbol. We have Snowden in Russia, you also cannot portray him as 100% pro-Russian. He is a whistleblower. Whistleblowers exists, America has a lot of whistleblowers that it supports, but when they blow the wrong side America sometimes says “well, you know, he is a bad guy”.
If we respect freedom of speech, then there should be overall respect for the freedom of speech and there shouldn’t be double standards. I am absolutely sure that my government will make certain remarks in this regard. I hope that he will be treated with due respect to his personal rights and with respect to his convictions.
Q.: Mr.Vice-President said yesterday Venezuela was a failed State that constituted a threat to international peace and security. Also he mentioned that many terrorists from Hezbollah, from Iran’s Revolutionary Guard were coming to Venezuela. What is your response to that? Also, when you mentioned a package for Venezuela you said you would not let Venezuela alone. Are you considering a financial package for Venezuela to rescue the depreciation of the value of their currency or something like that?
A.: I start from the second question, I don’t have in mind anything specific and concrete. We have exchanges with them. We have bilateral channels to discuss such issues - they are in a very bad situation right now. They are a kind of a fortress that is being attacked by a lot of very powerful actors. First and foremost they need support from the people who really share the understanding that the international law should prevail. That is what we rendering right now. We sent them specialists that could help them in very practical issues to reestablish normal life.
As for the Rogue State, well I don't know this criterion, frankly speaking. Is there such a notion in the International law - rogue state or failed state? I don't know what a failed state is.
I saw a lot of images from Venezuela, a lot of coverage that is not shown or printed in mainstream media. They are very contradictory to what the Americans try to present about the situation in Venezuela and about the lack of support to current authorities. The picture is far from being the one that Americans want to present. Yes, they want to create an impression with everybody that Venezuela is a failed state, that it can’t take care of its citizens. If you act against this country as Americans are acting right now, of course it will be more and more difficult for it to take care of its citizens, because there is a blockade, there are very strict sanctions. As my Ambassador yesterday formulated in the Security Council “America with one hand is holding Venezuela by the throat, strangling it, with the other hand it is pickpocketing Venezuela, and at the same time its crying that Venezuela can’t take care of its citizens”. It's a very difficult situation for any country.
Can you imagine a country that would easily cope with a financial loss of such a big sum of money that Venezuela has lost only recently? We know about, if I am not mistaken, $31.2 bn that were directly stolen by Americans and by British regardless of what my British colleague tried to present yesterday in the Security Council. The bank of England played a very important role in this regard. They stole this money and the total losses amount to hundreds of millions of dollars. I could imagine that if the US had been deprived of this sum of money would have sensed the consequences for its economy and for its people. Of course Venezuela is not an exception. That's why we need to help this country. First of all, we need to mobilize our support. I mean those who are respectful of international law. I don't know such a criterion as a failed State. I believe you cannot label it from your position, from your perspective.
We can have different opinions, but we need to observe certain principles, certain norms of behavior and we should not forget about respect for legal authorities of the country, for its people and for decision-making process within this country.
Q.: You said that if the US was preparing any resolution, ‘we would wait and see’, but we remember last time they prepared a resolution Russia also prepared one. My question is if Russia now is working on some document on Venezuela?
A.: No, we are not. We do not want to prepare documents just for the sake of documents. We understand that Americans are totally obsessed with overthrowing the current authorities of Venezuela. If there is a proposal of some balanced text by a Security Council member that would respect international law, the people of Venezuela and its rights, we will be ready to consider it. Or if there is a text stating the necessity of helping this country through humanitarian channels but with participation of legal authorities of Venezuela, I don’t see any problems for us supporting this text.
The task of Americans now is to show that Venezuela is a failed state, that there is a dictator who does not want to take care of his people and that there should be international measures against this country. This is the approach we do not share. At the moment I do not see any prospects.
General Assembly is a different story. It has different procedures, but so far we have not heard of any initiatives. Let’s understand what Americans are planning to do, if anything at all. For example, they announced a peace plan for the Middle East quite long ago and we are still waiting for this. I think they have a different sense of time.
Q.: Can we move to another part of the world, namely Europe and talk on the issue of Brexit? The UK has delayed Brexit until Halloween. Could you clarify what is Russia’s position on a country like the UK leaving the European Union? Do you have any advise or comment to make?
A.: We do not have any position on Brexit and we are not supposed to. We respect the United Kingdom and we are ready to maintain good relations with this country as part of the EU or not. It is up to the UK to decide. We hope that the current difficulties in negotiations and all these discussions will not push our British colleagues to come up with some provocations or moves like Skripal case that we had one year ago. Many believe that this case was designed in order to divert the attention of British voters from at-the-moment situation in the country. Let the UK decide its problems by its own. We do not meddle and hope the UK will not meddle in our affairs either. We are neutral in this regard. Whether Brexit happens or not - the people of Britain should decide.
Q.: Ambassador Polyanskiy, I wanted to ask you about Libya. Your government has relations with Haftar and the Security Council is discussing what to do with the situation in Tripoli. Is Russia speaking to General Haftar in these days about what is going on near Tripoli. Given what the Secretary General said yesterday about avoiding a bloody battle in Tripoli, do you think General Haftar should face sanctions or some measures if indeed there is a full-scaled war in the capital?
A.: For me it is very difficult to see what is in General Haftar’s head. Russia as other Members of the United Nations and the Security Council speaks to all the parties in Libya. We have the approaches of the international community, we respect them. You cannot mention anything very specific about Russia that would be different from other international stakeholders who act in this area. We maintain relations with General Haftar - so do a lot of other countries. We stand for a peaceful solution of the existing problems and for an inclusive dialogue. We hope stability in Libya will prevail. We have been interested in this since the situation in the country was aggravated and stability was destroyed through a Western intervention.
The whole North Africa and a lot of countries suffer from this. We really feel - and we voiced this several times in the Security Council - that until the Libyan crisis is resolved and until stability is back to this country, we cannot really expect resolution of a lot of African issues. That is why we are very hopeful that at some point the situation in Libya will become normal. We also hope the world will learn its lessons from interference in Libyan affairs in 2011 and understand that the consequences can be very dire and last for many years not for one country, but for the entire region.
Q.: Talking about Libyan stability, do you think General Haftar is part of the solution or part of the problem?
A.: We think all the parties in Libya are supposed to be part of the solution. As you see, I do not have a crystal ball and it is difficult to make predictions. Let’s see what happens. The Security Council discusses this issue and Russia follows it very closely.
Q.: Ambassador, coming back to Venezuela, you mentioned the agreements that you have with the government of N.Maduro. What are the areas of specialists and technical assistants that you are providing? Do you know the number of them? Are they gathered in a specific location or spread throughout the country? You also mentioned Venezuela’s problems with money and financial transactions. It is being said that N.Maduro’s government is finding another operational system that will help them mobilize their funds. Will that be Russia? I mean the banking system that they might be working in to get their assets moving as they need to purchase elements to keep producing oil. And then, finally, how far your friendship and your cooperation will take you? Further assistance, exchanges, what next? And when is the next meeting of the group of friends of Venezuela?
A.: I will start from the end. I will try not to forget any of your questions, which were rather numerous. Thank you for sticking to the topic of Venezuela. It is not up to us to initiate or hold meetings of friends to Venezuela, because it is Venezuela who should ask to meet again if it wants us to. I think some day it will happen. There are a lot of friends of Venezuela.
As the proverb goes, a friend in need is a friend indeed. We really understand the problems that this country is facing. We are ready to help them cope with economic problems. That is why we sent those specialists. I do not know all of the details, but as far as my information goes it is about engineers, technical specialists - the guys who will help keep up power supply systems. I also read the news and I heard about - I think - three planes, but I cannot confirm this information, because we never received any detailed official data about this. Probably our embassy in Caracas has more details. We do not see it as something extraordinary. It used to be done before. It was put into focus now only because the Americans view any step in this area as something extraordinary. Once again, this had been scheduled in advance. It is a routine procedure - to exchange experts with Venezuela.
What worries us the most is the situation around Venezuela. We are absolutely sure that Venezuelans can solve all their problems themselves.They are capable of doing this. They are very talented. Nobody should meddle into it. Venezuela should have same opportunities for development as any other country in the region. It is not polite, not just and not fair to shout about Venezuela’s problems while strangling this country at the same time. We try to highlight it, to be useful and to show that this is a clear breach of the international law and interference in the internal affairs. This is what Venezuelans really want from the international community right now. They are very thankful to us and to other countries that voice their position.
We understand that solution to situation in Venezuela is an inclusive dialogue. Venezuelan authorities are ready for such dialogue. We note that Mr.Guaido is not ready for it. Maybe he does not have the necessary instructions from Washington. Id he gets such instruction, then it will be up to him and to Venezuelan government to decide. It should be an inclusive dialogue. You cannot ignore the situation, the fact that there are a lot of supporters of the current government. There are some opposing views, which is normal for a democracy. The task of the international community is to help these parties hold negotiations and come to a solution. We do not pose any preconditions for this as Americans do.
We believe dialogue should be held in Venezuela and by Venezuelans, with some probable assistance from the international community. Anyway, this dialogue should be Venezuela-driven and Venezuela-made. This is our position.
We think the political situation now requires a lot of attention. We should remain clear and should not leave anything that can be interpreted in an ambiguous way.
What would help Venezuela now is to show that it is not alone, that there many countries that understand what is happening and that take it by its face value, that are not afraid to call things by their proper names.
As for the financial system, it is rather difficult to answer this question. I read a lot of analytical data about how difficult it is to trade with Venezuela now. Still I am sure the solution can be found for this country as well. It is not a problem created by Venezuela. It is a problem, created by external unlawful pressure. So first and foremost we should deal with this external pressure. In the meantime we should help Venezuelans survive while our American friends remain obsessed with an idea of a regime change. We hope that things will go back to normal and then we will be able to speak about financial instruments in more detail.
UN agencies can be very helpful in this regard. Yesterday we heard them say at a briefing that they were ready to step in. We think this is the way that should be exploited, given full respect and dignity of Venezuelan people and government.
Q.: I have a quick question. I was going to ask a serious question about technical specialists, but you answered that. We understand that Russia is on the Credentials Committee. Have you received any indications from the US about any procedures that would take away the credentials, although it was just announced yesterday? And then I have a second question on the issue of North Korea and the negotiations on the renewal of the mandate. Where is Russia going with requests on easing of humanitarian needs in terms of sanctions?
A.: These two questions are very difficult for me. First one because, yes, Russia is on the Credentials Committee, but there are other colleagues in my Mission who are dealing with this. As far as I know, when I was leaving the Mission in the morning, there was no such information. Maybe the situation has changed while we have been talking, though. However I am not the person who is entitled to know the details – the final details about this.
As for North Korea, I don’t really want to eat the bread of my colleagues, and it would be not very much polite. The situation is complex, and there are a lot of aspects there that you need to take into consideration. So, I would encourage you to pose questions to our experts, ok?
Q.: You mentioned an inclusive dialogue. I was wondering how you will try to assist in the facilitation of this dialogue. And what else would you do to assist to solve this crisis peacefully? And lastly, what do you think of Vice-President Pence saying that “all options are on the table”?
A.: I don’t think it’s a new idea from United States. It is for them to explain what is on their table. I have a red file on my table, of that I’m sure, inside there are a lot of documents about different aspects. What is on the American table then?, I don’t know. You can interpret this situation in hundreds of ways. I think it’s a signal from them that they have all the possibilities in their head. Some people say it is also about military options, but they never said it directly. So you should better ask the US administration what they meant by this. We hope that they will not come to a military solution, and I know that countries of the region, even those who are not very much supportive of the current authorities of Venezuela, are absolutely afraid of any military option, because they understand what consequences it would have for the whole region.
How can we assist? Well, we try to assist, we know that there are a lot of intermediate mechanisms, we have Montevideo Mechanism, which we support very much. We think that we have all the chances to succeed. We know that there is also a contact group. We know that there are initiatives by the European Union. We are ready to participate in any efforts, to work with whoever to solve this issue. We think that there should be no pre-conditions, because if you kind of burn bridges, recognizing one part and saying that the other is a murderer, it would be very difficult for you to act as a mediator in such negotiations.
As you might have noticed, Russia has said nothing assaulting to Mr.Guaido. He is from the National Assembly, and the National Assembly is part of Venezuelan society. We were very much worried by the way he proclaimed himself President. Of course, it doesn’t give him a lot of credit, but we never excluded him. We say that it is up to Venezuelans to decide who will be part of the solution for the situation in this country. And we need to create – we as the international community – we need to create all the conditions for them to do so, while not meddling and not interfering in the internal affairs of this country. That’s the starting point of our approach to the settlement of this crisis. All the countries that share this approach can play a very important role; all those who try to intimidate Venezuelan people and who threaten it with some action – I don’t know how efficient as mediators they really can be.
Thank you very much.