Interview by Permanent Representative Vassily Nebenzia to TASS News Agency, 31 March 2023
Q: What are the main events planned during the Russian Presidency of the UN Security Council in April? Do you expect the representatives of the central apparatus of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs?
A: We are planning three central events, all in the format of open debates. The first ones are to be held on April 10 on the topic of risks stemming from violations of agreements regulating the export of arms and military products. This topic is extremely relevant. We have long been talking about the need to restore order in this area. Russia has strict legislation governing the supply and export of conventional weapons, and we strictly comply with all our obligations. This also applies to end-user certificates that prevent the uncontrolled "spread" of weapons. Unfortunately, many other defense exporters are far from being so conscientious, openly disregarding their own national legislation, as well as international agreements designed to prevent weapons from falling into the wrong hands. As a result, international black markets have been flooded with weapons that are untraceable and pose a serious threat. This is a pressing issue, and we intend to discuss it with a wide range of UN member states.
We expect Minister Lavrov to arrive in New York in the second half of April. He will chair an open debate on April 24 on the topic of effective multilateralism in defense of the principles of the UN Charter. Our idea is to hold a comprehensive, forward-looking strategic discussion about the contours of a new world order that is coming to replace the unipolar one. We call on UN members to look beyond the horizon of the current moment and present their vision of how we could build a truly multipolar world through joint efforts, in which the interests of all states would be guaranteed. To do this, it is important to discuss the topic of protecting the purposes and principles of the UN Charter, including sovereign equality of states. This conversation is long overdue.
The Minister will also chair an open debate on the Middle East settlement on April 25. We believe that this will be a good opportunity to discuss the complex dynamics of the situation in the Middle East, especially the stagnation of the Palestinian-Israeli settlement process and the growth of tensions.
The rest of the meetings will be held in accordance with the mandate-reporting cycle. Among other things, the Council will discuss the situation in Mali, Colombia and Haiti. A meeting on Kosovo is scheduled. The traditionally rich Middle East bloc will include discussions on the Yemeni issue, Libya and Syria.
Q: Do you think the UN heard Russia's demands to remove the obstacles to the export of Russian food and fertilizers in order to ensure the extension of the grain deal after mid-May?
A: As you know, the “grain deal” is a package, in other words, they are interconnected agreements signed on July 22, 2022 in Istanbul. The first is the "Initiative for the safe transportation of grain and foodstuffs from Ukrainian ports", the so-called "Black Sea Initiative", which is being implemented very actively, including thanks to the efforts of Russian inspectors. The second one is “Memorandum of Understanding between the Russian Federation and the UN Secretariat on Facilitating the Promotion of Russian Food Products and Fertilizers to the World Markets”. Within the framework of the UN, the Secretariat of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) is responsible for the implementation of the second - Russian - part of the "Istanbul agreements". In addition to high-level political exchanges between the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres on the implementation of the mentioned Memorandum and the leadership of Western countries that have imposed unilateral sanctions against our country, a team of UNCTAD experts headed by the Secretary General of UNCTAD Rebeca Grinspan has been involved in negotiations with representatives from these states from the very beginning.
These negotiations are not abstract or debatable, but are designed to solve specific financial and logistical problems that our economic operators face. We share all relevant information with UNCTAD on a regular basis. This is also done in order for the UN Secretary General to have an understanding of how the so-called “package” agreement, which A. Guterres proposed to us, is being implemented in practice.
As you yourself may have repeatedly heard thie year on the eve of of the March 18th expiration of the second term of the "Black Sea Initiative", the UN Secretariat was clearly unable to ignore the lack of any progress on the implementation of the Russia-UN Memorandum against the background of indicators of the Ukrainian part of the "grain deal." Therefore, the UN was forced to publicly acknowledge not only the problems of Russian food and fertilizer exporters, but also the lack of any leverage for the UN to solve them.
Thus, taking into account the facts we provide, the world organization from the very beginning heard and knew our demands to unblock the activities of Russian companies exporting relevant goods. These requirements for the implementation of the package deal remain in place for the next 60 days of the Istanbul agreements. We expect concrete results from the UN by May 18th of this year. Otherwise, the Secretariat will have to acknowledge that all the theses of the Western states about the allegedly “targeted” effect of their unilateral sanctions (not aimed at food) and about the “effectiveness” of humanitarian exemptions are another “dummy.”
So far, the UN does not dare to state this, including due to pressure from Western countries, which in the current situation, instead of real assistance to needy states, use the moment to earn extra money and make long-term food supplies themselves, and lay the blame for all crises on Russia. An analysis of the first and second stages of the implementation of the "Black Sea Initiative" reveals the West is playing with a "stacked deck." Judge for: the increase in the total volume of cargo amounted to 23%. Shipments to developed economies increased from 78% to 85%. At the same time, supplies to the least developed countries fell from 4.2% to 1.34%, including a drop in supplies from the UN World Food Program from 2.89% to 1.16%.
However, in the context of the growing threats to global food security, which no one can ensure without Russian fertilizers and grains, as well as the consequences of illegitimate unilateral sanctions that place a heavy burden on developing countries, it is becoming increasingly difficult for Washington, London and Brussels to “lead by the nose” the states dependent both on food imports and on donor assistance. And the vulnerable countries themselves are beginning to worry more and more about this, sending appropriate signals to the UN Secretary General and UNCTAD.
Q: Recently the American media has increasingly expressed the opinion that Russia should not be given the right to chair the Security Council because of the events in Ukraine. Are such restrictions possible in practice?
A: It’s hard to call such attacks something new – we hear it regularly, especially actively – starting from February 24, 2022, as well as calls to deprive us of permanent membership in the UN Security Council. Those who use this cheap demagogy to deprive Russia of its legitimate legal status are well aware of the legal side of the issue. Russia is the continuator of the USSR, subject of international law who inherited not only the rights and obligations of its predecessor, but also its very legal character. The status of the Russian Federation as the continuator state of the USSR is officially recognized by the international community. Russia's exclusion from the UN Security Council is impossible without changes to the UN Charter, just as it is impossible to deprive Russia of the right to chair the Council. This is simply absurd. Our colleagues in the Security Council understand this very well, just as they understand that without Russia not only would the work of the Security Council lose its meaning, but also the work of the UN as a whole. And that would mean the destruction of the entire established system of international relations.
Q: Will the informal meeting of the UN Security Council on the “Arria formula” on children evacuated from the Ukrainian conflict zone touch upon the issue of their return, as you mentioned at the press conference?
A: The “Arria formula” meeting is designed to bring to the international community first-hand information about evacuated children from the war zone in Donbass and Ukraine and dispel the false narrative spread by the Western media about the alleged “abductions” of children from Ukraine and attempts to "destroy their identity." I would like to emphasize once again that we are talking about evacuation from the war zone in full compliance with the obligations under International Humanitarian Law, as well as the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Apparently, the collective West’s thinking is that children, in particular, orphans, are better left in the war zone.
From the beginning of the special military operation to the present, millions of people have been evacuated in this way, including children, who in the overwhelming majority of cases arrived on the territory of Russia with their parents, guardians and trustees.
Only a small number of evacuated children were in institutions for orphans and children left without parental care. Children who were pupils at institutions located within the administrative boundaries of the DPR and LPR at the time of recognition of their independence by the Russian Federation were transferred under guardianship. Great attention was paid to the placement of minors in the families of blood relatives living in Russia.
The Westerners' use of the term "adoption" in this context is deliberately misleading. In reality, we are talking about temporary preliminary guardianship or temporary guardianship. The main goal is for children to be in families, not orphanages. This form was chosen specifically taking into account the potential reunification of minors with their blood relatives, if any are found.
The Russian side does not prevent children from maintaining contact and communication with their relatives and friends, regardless of their place of residence. To simplify the reunification process, parents can seek help finding their child directly from the office of the Russian Commissioner for Children's Rights. To this day, with the participation of the Commissioner for Children's Rights, 15 children from 8 families have already been reunited with their relatives.
We have held a number of meetings with representatives of the Regional Delegation of the International Committee of the Red Cross in the Russian Federation and the Republic of Belarus, who also decided to facilitate the reunification of children with parents outside the Russian Federation and Ukraine (in Poland, Portugal and Norway), within the framework of the organization's mandate .
Q: How does Russia intend to continue to work in the UN to establish the true causes of sabotage at the Nord Stream, given, at best, the silent position of Western countries?
A: As you know, Russia proposed to the members of the Security Council to adopt a draft resolution on the establishment of an international commission of inquiry under the auspices of the UN Secretary General, which would help to shed light on the true causes of what happened and bring those involved in this sabotage to justice. During the discussion of this initiative, we showed the most flexible and responsible approach, and a balanced text was put to a vote, taking into account the concerns expressed by states. Its adoption was supported by such major players as China and Brazil. However, the United States and its allies, of course, did not come out in favor. They preferred to hide behind the “cover” of convenient national investigations in Germany, Denmark and Sweden, whose objectivity is questionable, given that the authorities of these countries, without any clear reason, refused to cooperate with our competent authorities. The tactics of our Western colleagues do not surprise us - after all, as we once again became convinced from the recent investigation of the authoritative American journalist Seymour Hersh, all the evidence points to who is behind the explosions on the Nord Stream. And the behavior of the United States and Western countries during the discussion of this topic at the Council platform, including the eloquent silence of the American delegates in response to the reminder of the threats against the gas pipeline from the American leadership, only reinforces these suspicions. But unfortunately for their Western colleagues they will not be able to "sweep" this topic "under the rug." We will continue to strive to ensure that the true circumstances of what happened are established, and all those responsible are punished.