Lavrov: remarks and answers to media questions following the G20 Summit
During the first day of the G20 Summit, the discussion focused on three subjects – energy, food security, and the global health situation.
We outlined our widely-distributed and principled approaches to the causes of the ongoing energy and food security crises, pointing out the unseemly role played by the Western states in creating this situation. Russian President Vladimir Putin has spoken about this more than once when describing what happened at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. The Western countries at the time printed trillions in fiat money to buy food and medicines; if anything, that step exacerbated the crisis. This was also done to the detriment of the developing countries.
A week ago, Bloomberg published a detailed study that concluded that the steps the European countries are taking to strengthen their own energy security are driving energy poverty in the developing world. We spoke out at the summit in favour of keeping this sphere away from politics. Countries need to stop weaponising energy to settle their political scores, as we have seen the European Union doing for many years, including with the Nord Stream pipelines. We called on the G20 to address the specific tasks to remove any discriminatory and artificial barriers from world energy markets and proposed opening a free and honest dialogue between energy suppliers and consumers. We’ll watch for their reaction.
With food security, as President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly said, we once again indicated that the Russian Federation has sufficient capability to ensure stability on the world markets for grain (primarily wheat) and fertiliser. We highlighted the obstacles still preventing us from doing so despite the agreement reached under United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’s “package” initiative that the UN would deal with any obstacles to Russian fertiliser and grain exports. Despite all these difficulties, the sanctions and restrictions, we have already exported 10.5 million tonnes of grain, including about 8 million tonnes of wheat: about 60 percent of it went to Asia and about 40 percent, to African countries.
We spoke in favour of stepping up international cooperation to increase readiness for infectious diseases, such as the coronavirus pandemic. We supported the efforts of the World Health Organisation (WHO) as the main international agency to coordinate the international community’s response to healthcare challenges and other threats to humanity. We welcomed the idea of creating a WHO and World Bank fund to address the needs of developing countries in this sphere.
We spoke about the need to implement the decisions taken. Vaccination must be in the public domain. We provided examples of the gap between the real state of affairs and the declared goals. In particular, due to different approaches, vaccination rates were as high as 60 percent in industrialised countries and barely 5 percent in the poorest countries.
We also proposed abandoning the monopolisation of pharmaceutical markets. We noted that Russia’s Sputnik V was the world’s first Covid-19 vaccine. Although the WHO and the European Commission deliberately hampered its registration, the vaccine has been proved effective (over 95 percent) and delivered to 70 countries.
We discussed the issue of biological security in the context of military biological activities, which the United States conducted under Pentagon programmes in dozens of countries around the world, especially in Eurasia along the perimeter of the borders of the Russian Federation and the People’s Republic of China. We pointed out that our attempts to determine what those military biologists were doing there came up against resistance within the framework of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on their Destruction and at the UN Security Council, where we recently raised this issue. We will continue working towards creating an effective and transparent verification mechanism for such programmes.
Several short meetings with event participants from many countries have been held on the sidelines of the summit. I can tell you about them later, if you wish.
Question: Is Russia willing to sign the G20 final declaration and agree to all its provisions? How will Ukraine be portrayed in it? Is the wording used in this document acceptable to Russia?
Sergey Lavrov: The work on the declaration is almost over. As planned, this document will be approved following the outcome of tomorrow’s meeting on digitalisation, in which Finance Minister Anton Siluanov will participate.
The declaration covers all areas under discussion such as food, energy, public health, and digitalisation. Our Western colleagues made every effort to politicise this document and to push wording through that condemns the Russian Federation’s actions on behalf of the G20, that is, including us.
We made it clear that, if they really wanted to touch on the issue which is in no way part of the G20 agenda or competence, then we should be honest about it and put our differences on this matter on record. Indeed, there’s a war going on in Ukraine, a hybrid war that the West unleashed and had been planning for many years now from the time it supported the power grab in the wake of the coup by openly racist neo-Nazi forces. Since then, NATO has been intensively developing Ukrainian territory, conducting military exercises and supplying weapons. You are aware of what happened next: the sabotage of the Minsk agreements and early phases of preparations for a military operation against Donbass. So, the draft declaration refers to the exchange of views on these issues. The parties reaffirmed their positions, which have been repeatedly made known in the United Nations, the UN Security Council and the General Assembly, in particular, when adopting the latest UN General Assembly resolution, which was put to a vote and was not unanimously approved. We made it clear that all sides had their own assessments, and these assessments were included in the resolution. The West added a phrase to the effect that many delegations condemned Russia. We put in a line that alternative points of view were included as well. We think this is enough. The G20 is not supposed to drill deep into these matters. What we need to do instead is discuss specific approaches to bringing the Kiev regime back to normal, in order for it to stop promoting racist Russophobic policies.
When speaking to the audience I asked what our Western colleagues would do if Belgium were to outlaw the French language, just like Ukraine imposed a ban on Russian in all areas without exception, or what Great Britain would do if Ireland were to make the English language illegal. Nobody had anything to say to that.
If the West was so obsessed with its “idea” and tried to use this card to disrupt the G20 summit and the adoption of its final declaration and then blame us for it, then it failed.
Question: Has the United States succeeded in turning the G20 into an exclusively anti-Russia platform by changing the global agenda, or did the countries that came to Indonesia to discuss the issues that really matter expressed their views and opinions behind closed doors?
Sergey Lavrov: The majority of issues on the G20 agenda were discussed at the level of experts and ministers over the past few days. The results of these discussions have been expressed in the substantive part of the declaration.
As for Ukraine, the United States and all its allies spoke quite aggressively during the discussions held today, accusing Russia of “unprovoked aggression against Ukraine.” The more often they speak about “unprovoked aggression,” the more clearly everybody can see that it has been provoked by them, and that it is not an aggression, but an operation to protect the legitimate interests of our country given the military threats against Russia created on its borders. It is an operation to protect the Russian people of Donbass.
A relevant comparison comes to mind in this context. Party conferences were held in the Soviet Union, not at the Foreign Ministry but at production facilities to discuss the implementation of five-year plans. It looked like a purely industrial agenda, but it was considered appropriate to begin the discussion by denouncing American imperialism. Our Western colleagues are using a similar approach to the G20 agenda.
Question: We always say that the countries whose combined population amounts to three quarters of the global population support us, including the aspects of the multipolar world which President Putin spoke about at the Valdai forum. It is difficult to rival transnational corporations in the economy. Joint exercises are held in the military sphere. What about diplomacy? What have you achieved at the G20 summit? Who have you talked with? Whose information and diplomatic support have you secured? What form could this take in the future?
Sergey Lavrov: The answer is very simple: only the West and its closest satellites have joined the anti-Russia sanctions. All the developing countries, whenever they speak on this issue, which cannot be avoided because the West has prioritised the use of the Ukrainian issue during every and all discussions, invariably call for a peaceful settlement and an early signing of agreements. They know very well that the process is being hampered by Ukraine, where any talks with the Russian Federation have been prohibited, including in a recent executive order signed by Vladimir Zelensky. Therefore, this is not a question for us, as I pointed out today during my short conversations with President of France Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.
Question: Did you discuss the future of the grain deal at your meeting with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres? The deal expires in a few days. Under what conditions is Russia ready to renew the grain export agreement?
Sergey Lavrov: The conditions are simple. They are all spelled out in the initial agreement, which included two parts approved as a package deal.
The first part concerns the export of Ukrainian grain. It is being exported. However, after the Ukrainian armed forces used the humanitarian corridor to export grain for military purposes, we suspended this operation. Later, the Ukrainians reaffirmed that they would not do this again. Our Turkish and Western colleagues know that they must deter Ukraine from such unacceptable actions.
The second part of the deal was to remove any obstacles to the export of Russian grain. Here we must give credit to the UN Secretariat and personally to the Secretary-General of the United Nations for trying as hard as they can. It has been five months, but no practical result has been achieved so far. Antonio Guterres spoke at today’s meeting about the promises that he was given by the US and the EU, including by sending them on paper. They constitute certain “good intentions.” If the promises are fulfilled, the obstacles to the export of our fertilisers and grain will be removed. However, what matters is not what they promise on paper, but how these promises will be translated into practice.
We are being assured, through the UN Secretary-General (who refers to his Western counterparts), that all the economic operators involved in the supply chain for Russian fertilisers and grain have been receiving “reassuring signals,” meaning they will not be sanctioned for involvement in the trade deals with our grain, including Russian ships calling at European ports or foreign vessels, at Russian ports, as well as unhindered operation of Russian Agricultural Bank and reasonable insurance rates.
All the promises have been put on paper. I hope that they will be implemented. The UN Secretary-General today vowed that this is a priority issue for him.
Question: Recently, our Western partners have been changing their rhetoric regarding relations with Russia – we increasingly hear the words “peace” and “negotiations” from them. The EU has difficulties with adopting a new package of sanctions. What is the reason for this and what can we expect?
Sergey Lavrov: It is difficult for me to judge. Another mind is a closed book. Especially, the EU’s mind – that book is shut tight, and rarely opens by a fraction, if at all.
Today, I had a brief conversation with President of France Emmanuel Macron who reaffirmed his intention to continue contacts with President of Russia Vladimir Putin to reach agreements that would help “resolve this whole situation.” I reminded him that all problems were on the Ukrainian side, which categorically refuses to negotiate, putting forward unrealistic and disproportionate preconditions.
Question: Yesterday, the EU officially launched the Military Assistance Mission to train 15,000 Ukrainian troops in Europe. How might this affect the Ukrainian conflict? Has this decision made the EU a direct participant in the conflict?
Sergey Lavrov: I believe that the EU and NATO have long since become hybrid participants in this conflict, this hybrid war in Ukraine. This implies arms supplies, exercises, training missions, the provision of a vast amount of intelligence data, the choice of targets (which the Americans are doing), the use of instructors on the ground, as well as thousands of mercenaries.
As for the EU decision to launch the Military Assistance Mission, they are taking contradictory actions, because President of France Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and other European leaders have simultaneously spoken up about transition to a peaceful settlement. It is a political case of a split personality, or, as President Putin said, the use of specific “unconventional forms of international relations.” We are getting used to that. Things happen.
Question: Do you personally see the West sending any signals to Kiev on resuming the peace talks? What do you think needs to happen for them to take place?
Sergey Lavrov: I cannot go round in circles. Russia has reaffirmed many times through President Putin that we do not refuse to talk. It is Ukraine who has refused. The longer it persists, the more difficult it will eventually be to come to terms.
As for Western signals to Vladimir Zelensky, we have seen various Western reports citing anonymous sources. It is rumoured that the US administration has recommended him to be more compliant. They add that he does not need to genuinely act constructively, but that this is necessary to counter the arguments of those Western countries which are questioning the necessity of sending more weapons to him.
Vladimir Zelensky’s address to the summit today was extremely “interesting.” The country holding the G20 Presidency has decided to give him an opportunity to make his address. It was a pre-recorded statement that lasted 20 minutes, even though all other speakers were given approximately three minutes to give their views. Vladimir Zelensky spoke for 20 minutes. It was impossible to interrupt because it was a pre-recorded statement, which, apparently nobody wanted to switch off. I have drawn only one conclusion from his address: the Ukrainian president is not listening to Western advice. I will not quote everything he said, but his rhetoric was belligerent, Russophobic and aggressive. The best example of the essence of that statement and the mental state of that person is his misplaced phrase about the Allies’ landing in Normandy in 1944, which became the turning point of WWII. Draw your own conclusions.
Question: The newspaper Politico reported today that the US Department of State was laying the groundwork for peace talks between Ukraine and Russia as winter approaches. Are you considering any practical contacts with Washington in this context?
Yesterday you had a telephone conversation with Foreign Minister of Turkiye Mevlut Cavusoglu. However, neither side has provided any details of the conversation. Can you tell us what you talked about? Are you planning a personal meeting?
Sergey Lavrov: Regarding reports about the Americans preparing for talks, these rumours come and go. We have stopped reacting to them. We would like to see practical proof of a Western desire to “discipline” Zelensky and to explain to him that it cannot go on this way, because this runs contrary to the interests of the Ukrainian people and himself.
As for my conversation with Foreign Minister of Turkiye Mevlut Cavusoglu, we talked about the drafting of the final declaration of the G20 summit, including the part that has to do with the grain deal. There are no plans for a face-to-face meeting because we have already met today.