Response of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation Sergey Lavrov to the question of the editorial board of “Foreign Policy and Diplomacy of Turkmenistan” magazine regarding the First Caspian Economic Forum
Question: How do you evaluate the role of the First Caspian Economic Forum in promoting the Caspian Agenda, strengthening the multilateral format of cooperation in the Caspian?
Answer: The solution to the issue of economic development of the Caspian region on regional and mutually beneficial base gains new relevance after the endorsement of the Convention on the Legal Status of the Caspian Sea in August 2018. It is obvious that this document satisfies the interests of all the Caspian littoral states not solely due to the fact that its clauses clearly define the mutual rights and obligations on the use of the given basin, including the measures on strengthening trust and security in this region of the world in general. The value of this international agreement is also based on the fact that it creates the necessary legal conditions for the growth of cooperation in trade-investment and transport spheres.
In present conditions, the necessity of creating specialized platform for direct contacts between the governments, profile economic agencies and business entities interested in the work on the Caspian has objectively matured. In this regard, the idea of holding the First Caspian Economic Forum on regular basis initiated by the President of Turkmenistan G.M. Berdimuhamedov is well-timed. This proposal was embodied in the five-sided Intergovernmental Agreement on Trade-Economic Cooperation signed a year ago, simultaneously with the Convention and adopted upon the outcomes of the Communiqué of the meeting of the Presidents during the Fifth Caspian Summit.
It is pleasing that the Forum’s Agenda includes a wide range of issues on the development of trade-economic ties, improvement of investment climate, broadening of practical cooperation in the area of industry, transport, innovations and science.
I am confident that the First Caspian Economic Forum will give additional impulse to the collaboration in such spheres as trade, investments and tourism that will contribute amongst others to the transformation of the Caspian into one of the world’s largest transport and transit hubs.
Russia attaches great importance to this event. The level of the Russian delegation to be headed by the Head of the Government of the Russian Federation D.A.Medvedev serves as a vivid proof of this.
The Statement of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia on the so-called parliamentary elections in occupied Tskhinvali region/South OssetiaTuesday, 11 June 2019 10:17
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia refers to the ongoing so-called parliamentary elections in occupied Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia, which blatantly violates the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia within its internationally recognized borders. Any so-called elections held in the occupied territories are illegal and cannot have any legal effect, as they are in contradiction with the fundamental norms and principles of international law.
The above so-called elections represent yet another futile attempt by Russia and its occupation regime in Tskhinvali to legitimize the ethnic cleansing of Georgians in Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia, the illegal occupation and forceful change of sovereign borders of Georgia. The so-called parliamentary elections are taking place in the context, when internally displaced persons and refuges, forcibly expelled from the occupied territories, continue to be deprived of the possibility to return to their homes, and while the people on the ground are forced to live under violations of basic human rights and freedoms. At the same time, the Russian Federation continues its military build-up, control and de-facto annexation of the occupied territories, in full disregard of the EU-mediated 12 August 2008 Ceasefire Agreement.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia appeals to the international community to give a due assessment to the ongoing so-called parliamentary elections in the Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia, and calls upon the Russian Federation to fulfill undertaken international obligations and withdraw its military forces from Georgia’s territory.
PACE has called on Russia to “appoint a delegation to the Assembly and to resume obligatory payment of its contribution to the Organisation’s budget” since failure to do could lead to its suspension in both statutory bodies, if applied by the Committee of Ministers.
PACE adopted the regarding resolution on April 10.
As concerns the Russian Federation, PACE called for intensified dialogue to “avoid a situation in which the biggest member State would be asked to, or chooses to leave the Organisation”, with all the geopolitical implications this would have and consequences for Russian citizens.
The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe deprived Russia of voting right in 2014 for illegal annexation of Crimea. Moscow has no right to work at the Assembly’s managing body and to send observers on behalf of the Assembly. In June 2017, the Russian Government’s decision, in reaction to this situation, to suspend payment of its contribution to the budget of the Organisation. Russia’s annual contribution is € 33 million, which is 10% of the total budget of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly.
The Prime Minister of Georgia, Mamuka Bakhtadze, addressing the Assembly in Strasbourg said that, as a sign of gratitude, the Georgian government decided to make voluntary contributions to the Treasury of the Council of Europe.
Georgia’s Prime Minister Mamuka Bakhtadze talked about problems with respect to human rights across Georgia’s occupied regions during the address to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE).
Bakhtadze said that 20% of Georgia’s territory still remained occupied by Russia and about 300 thousand IDPs were unable to return to their homes. According to PM, the militarization of occupied regions was ongoing and the de-population index was constantly increasing.
PM touched upon the frequent cases of abductions of locals and deaths of Georgian citizens Archil Tatunashvili, Giga Otkhozoria, Davit Basharuli and Irakli Kvaratskhelia.
PM thanked the PACE for supporting “Otkhozoria-Tatunashvili” list and said that Russia tried to block all peace initiatives of the Georgian government. “With means of ethnic discrimination, Russia is trying to fully erase the Georgian identity, but this will never happen,” Bakhtadze said.
Avtandil Otinashvili, Strasbourg
A new bill to the U.S. Senate envisaging stronger sanctions against Russia again includes provision in support for GeorgiaFriday, 15 February 2019 16:45
The co-chair of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), U.S. Senators Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) introduced to the U.S. Senate, on 13 February, the Defending American Security from Kremlin Aggression Act (DASKA) of 2019. The comprehensive legislation seeks to increase economic, political, and diplomatic pressure on the Russian Federation in response to Russia’s aggressive actions.
It needs to be emphasized that this Act, like previous legislations of the U.S. Congress, includes provisions expressing strong support for Georgia.
According to the Act, “the President should publicly call for the Government of the Russian Federation to return Crimea to the control of the Government of Ukraine, end its support for Russian-led forces violence in eastern Ukraine, end its occupation of and support for Russian-led forces on the territory of Georgia and Moldova, and cease enabling the brutal regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria to commit war crimes”.
“Amounts in the Countering Russian Influence Fund shall be used in countries of Europe and Eurasia the Secretary of State has determined are vulnerable to malign influence by the Russian Federation to effectively implement, subject to the availability of funds”. One of the goals of the Fund, according to the Act, is “to respond to the humanitarian crises and instability caused or aggravated by the invasions and occupations of Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine by 7 the Russian Federation”.
The legislation establishes a comprehensive policy response to better position the U.S. government to address Kremlin aggression by creating new policy offices on cyber defenses and sanctions coordination. The bill stands up for NATO and prevents the President from pulling the U.S. out of the Alliance without a Senate vote.
“Putin’s actions cannot be tolerated, and the consequences of inaction are quickly compounding – further humanitarian disaster in Syria, regional instability, kidnapping of Ukrainian sailors and seizure of ships, and the steady erosion of international norms. One thing is increasingly clear: Moscow will continue to push until it meets genuine resistance. That is why we are introducing a proposal to actually address the realities of the Kremlin threat in a holistic way, all while sending a crystal clear message to our adversaries that the U.S Congress will protect our institutions, allies and values even if the President chooses not to do so.” – reads the statement by the co-chair of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.)
“Our goal is to change the status quo and impose meaningful sanctions and measures against Putin’s Russia. The sanctions and other measures contained in this bill are the most hard-hitting ever imposed – and a direct result of Putin’s continued desire to undermine American democracy. The sanctions and measures we propose are designed to respond in the strongest possible fashion.” – reads the statement by Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), one of the co-sponsors of the Act.
“Congress continues to take the lead in defending U.S. national security against continuing Russian aggression against democratic institutions at home and abroad,” reads the statement by Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), one of the co-sponsors of the Act.
According to Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), “Putin’s Russia is an outlaw regime that is hell-bent on undermining international law and destroying the U.S.-led liberal global order …With this bill, Congress is demonstrating firm bipartisan resolve against Kremlin’s mendacity and I hope it will move quickly to be signed into law.”
“This legislation builds on previous efforts in Congress to hold Russia accountable for its bellicose behavior against the United States and its determination to destabilize our global world order.”
said Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), one of the co-sponsors of the Act.
DASKA includes the following new elements: imposes sanctions in response to Kremlin interference in democratic institutions abroad; Other key provisions of the legislation include: the creation of a National Fusion Center to Respond to Hybrid Threats; the establishment of an Office of Cyberspace and the Digital Economy within the Department of State; pressure the Russian government to halt its obstruction of international efforts; A requirement for the Secretary of State to submit a determination of whether the Russian Federation meets the criteria for designation as a state sponsor of terrorism; A reauthorization of the Countering Russia Influence Fund, which would provide assistance to European countries vulnerable to Kremlin interference.
The bill needs to be approved by the US Senate, the House of Representatives and then signed by President Donald Trump for it to come into force.
For the press release of the U.S. Senators, please visit the link at:
Successful performance of the Georgian Government is the most effective way to counter Russian propaganda – David ZalkalianiMonday, 10 September 2018 13:47
According to Georgian Foreign Minister David Zalkaliani, Russian propaganda is the challenge facing not only Georgia but also western states and the most effective way to counteract it is by means of concrete actions and to tangible results.
“We are faced with hybrid threats everywhere. It is a serious challenge not only for Georgia but also for Europe and other countries. However, counterpropaganda should not be a way to contradict propaganda because we believe that one of the most effective ways to fight against propaganda is by achieving concrete results on the European and Euro-Atlantic path. And indeed, Georgia has achieved tangible results in this regard” – David Zalkaliani told journalists following the government session.
According to David Zalkaliani, the Government of Georgia will closely co-operate with European and American partners in order to benefit from their experience and best practices.
7 August 2018 marks the 10th year since Russia’s large-scale military invasion in Georgia and the following illegal occupation of Georgia’s indivisible regions of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia.
Through its military aggression against the sovereign state and further illegal steps, Russia blatantly violated the fundamental norms and principles of international law and created a dangerous precedence of attacking the rules-based international order. Russia’s actions in 2008 served the ambition to redraw the borders in Europe by force and undermine the entire European security architecture.
A decade later Russia still continues the aggression against Georgia. The 1-15 August large-scale military drills in the occupied territories with involvement of thousands of Russian troops and hundreds of military equipment, represent an unprecedented attempt by Russia to demonstrate its military power, that at the same time qualifies as a use of force and threat by use of force against Georgia.
10 years since the Russia-Georgia war the Russian Federation has not implemented the EU mediated 12 August 2008 Ceasefire Agreement and continues violating its international obligations, despite constant calls from the international community. In full disregard for the Ceasefire Agreement that obliged Russia to withdraw its forces from the territory of Georgia, Moscow has further reinforced its illegal military presence on the ground and continues to hinder the establishment of international security arrangements in Abkhazia and Tskhinvali regions of Georgia.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia expresses its great concern that the security and human rights situation in the occupied territories has been further deteriorated. Continuous fortification of the occupation line through installation of barbed wire fences and other artificial barriers as well as constant kidnappings and illegal detentions by Russian FSB personnel further destabilize the security environment on the ground. As a result of this illegal process many families were left divided, many lost access to their agricultural lands, religious site and cemeteries. The grave human rights infringements in both in Abkhazia and Tskhinvali regions include but are not limited to gross violations of rights to freedom of movement, residence and property, as well as prohibition of education in native Georgian language, that have made lives of the local population unbearable.
While hundreds of thousands of IDPs and refugees, expelled from their homes as a result of several waves of ethnic cleansing, are still deprived of right to the safe and dignified return, those Georgians who remained in the occupied territories continue to be a subject of intensified ethnic discrimination. The recent cases of illegal deprivation of life of three Georgian IDPs – Davit Basharuli, Giga Otkhozoria, and Archil Tatunashvili vividly demonstrate the impunity and ethnically driven violence in both occupied territories.
In response to the constant provocative steps, Georgia stays committed to its peaceful conflict resolution agenda. Georgia has spared no effort to fully utilize the peace negotiations in the frames of the Geneva International Discussions as well as Incident Prevention and Response Mechanisms to dully address security and humanitarian problems of conflict-affected population stemming from the unresolved conflict between Georgia and Russia. Remaining in full compliance with the EU mediated 12 August 2008 Ceasefire Agreement, Georgia has many times unilaterally reaffirmed and implemented the non-use of force commitment, still awaiting the reciprocity from Russian side.
At the same time, Georgia has intensified the efforts towards engagement and reconciliation between the communities divided by war and occupation lines. For that purpose the Government of Georgia has introduced the new peace initiative “A Step to a Better Future” directed to improve humanitarian and socio-economic conditions of people in Abkhazia and Tskhinvali regions and foster people-to-people contacts and confidence building between the divided societies.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia highly values the unwavering support of the international society to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia, as well as the peaceful conflict resolution process. The Georgian side appeals to the calls upon the international community to further consolidate the efforts in responding the consequences of the August 2008 war and the peaceful resolution of the conflict in Georgia in compliance with the international law.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia once again calls on the Russian Federation to cease its illegal actions on the territory of Georgia and comply with its international obligations, in particular to reverse the decision on recognition of so-called independence of Georgia’s occupied regions and fully implement the EU mediated 12 August 2008 Ceasefire Agreement.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia would like to use this opportunity and express its deepest sympathy to the families and relatives of the soldiers and civil population who fell victim to the August 2008 war.
On 14 March, 2018, Russian President Vladimir Putin visited his last destination in the pre-election tour—occupied Crimea. The first thing he inspected there was the Crimea bridge, a project set to link continental Russia with the newly-annexed territory.
Currently, Russians have to deliver goods and people to the peninsula only via planes, ships or ferries, as there is no connection by land. In order to change this, the Kremlin decided to build a 19-kilometer-long bridge across the Kerch Strait which separates Crimea from Russia’s Krasnodar Krai. The project was agreed in January 2015. The contract for the construction worth $3 billion was signed with SGM Group, which belongs to Russian oligarch Arkady Rotenberg, a close friend of Putin.
In May 2015, construction of the bridge commenced; the road bridge is planned to open on 18 December, 2018, while completion of the rail link has been delayed until the end of 2019. Delays have increased the cost of the project significantly. As of 1 March, 2018, the project’s costs had exceeded $4 billion.
Meanwhile, even at the construction stage, the bridge causes irreversible harm to the ecology of the Black Sea and Azov Sea. Additionally, it also damages Ukraine’s economy and puts political pressure on Kyiv. Here are the major reasons why the Crimea bridge is dangerous for Ukraine and for the entire Black Sea region.
The bridge damages Ukraine’s economy
As the Azov Sea is the place where Ukrainian and Russian economic interests intersect, this Russian project will inevitably damage the economy of the region and Ukraine as a whole.
First and foremost, the project of Crimea bridge set limits on the number of ships which head to Azov Sea ports through the Kerch Strait. Konstantin Batozsky, the director of Azov Development Agency, explains to UkraineWorld that all ships longer than 160m, wider than 31m, whose draft is bigger than 8 meters, or are higher than 33 meters, will not physically be able to pass under the bridge. Panamax ships, a popular type of cargo vessels, do not fit in these limits. “This will limit the amount and range of cargo which could be shipped to and from Mariupol and Berdyansk — Ukrainian Azov Sea ports — significantly,” says Batozsky. For instance, metallurgy products and containers will now have to be shipped through Black Sea ports. This fact means that more money will be spent on the transportation of goods by land, while the infrastructure of the ports in Mariupol and Berdyansk will degenerate. Such a scenario could lead to enormous non-receipt of profits, which would add up to those sums caused by the annexation of Crimea.
Additionally, these limits potentially do not allow Ukraine to potentially launch gas and oil field exploration in the shelf of the Azov Sea. Offshore equipment necessary for the exploration is larger than the limits set by the Crimea bridge, Batozsky points out. As a result, this option for Ukraine to strengthen its energy security is closed.
It is an instrument of Russian aggression against Ukraine
The Crimea bridge is first and foremost a political project, which is aimed to achieve several goals with one shot.
First, it is set to secure the annexation of Crimea. “For Putin, the Crimea Bridge is comparable to the Baikal–Amur Mainline [a major railroad built in the Soviet Union to connect Eastern Siberia and the Russian Far East],” says Alim Aliyev, the manager of The Crimea House, in a conversation with UkraineWorld. According to him, Putin intends to use the bridge to show people in Crimea that Russia cares about them. Meanwhile, the bridge would allow Russia to move all kinds of cargo quickly to the peninsula, including military equipment, thus securing the annexation.
Second, Russia, will be able to close the Kerch Strait for all ships. Such a move would effectively turn the Azov Sea into a lake and enable a trade blockade of Ukrainian ports. Russia could use this in number of ways. For instance, the blockade could be leverage to make Kyiv resume energy and water supplies to the peninsula.
It should be noted that Russia’s actions violate the previous agreement between Ukraine and Russia on common use of the Kerch Strait. Russia also goes against the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which says that states bordering straits shall not hinder transit passage and shall inform accordingly about any known threats to navigation in the strait. This potentially gives Ukraine an opportunity to sue Russia, but this has not happened so far. The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry did not respond to UkraineWorld comment request regarding this.
It is potentially dangerous for the ecosystem of the Black and Azov Seas
Construction works have already had an effect on the ecosystem of the Black and Azov Seas, says Alim Aliev, the manager of The Crimea House, in a conversation with UkraineWorld. When the bridge is finished, the danger will be even more real.
Due to mud volcanoes, seismic activity and a sludgy bottom, the Kerch Strait is hardly suitable for a bridge. Heorhiy Rosnovsky, a Ukrainian architect who has previously drafted two projects of a Kerch Strait bridge, tells Focus magazine in an interview that Russia has chosen the least viable option to implement the project. He says that the current project does not take all the above-mentioned problematic factors into account, so the chance of collapse is rather high. The collapse of a massive bridge with wide piers would inevitably slow down water flows between the seas through the Kerch Strait. While construction already results in a change of the living environment for all the organisms in both seas, the bridge’s collapse would be a catastrophe. However, the full scale of the bridge’s influence on the Azov and Black Seas cannot be forecast at the present time.
Ukrainian Prosecutor-General Yuriy Lutsenko announced on 12 December, 2017 that Ukraine will submit an appeal to the countries of the Black Sea Cooperation for an investigation to be carried out of the potential damage of the bridge to the ecosystem. However, as of March 2018 no conclusions had been published.
Few considerations, no regards
There is no doubt that the Crimea Bridge will be completed. Pavlo Kazarin, journalist and observer at Krym.Realii, pointed out in a commentary for UkraineWorld that for Putin this project is one of those cases which prove his imperial ambitions. “It does not matter how much money it will cost, as he [Putin] is the one who allocates the funds. The construction could encounter major delays, but it will be completed eventually,” he emphasized.
Putin’s imperial ambitions and vanity have pushed him to rush the Crimea bridge project. Hopefully, haste and corruption during the construction works will not cause its destruction. However, the damage to the region of the Black and Azov Seas, as well as to the Ukrainian economy, has already been done.
This article has been first published on ukraineworld.org
The resolution, which was submitted to the Senate on May 24, reiterates the US support to Georgia and condemns the occupation of historic Georgian lands by Russia.
The authors of the resolution are Senators David Perdue, Ben Cardin and Johnny Isakson.
The resolution supports the partnership between Georgia and the US for defence and security and initiates even higher level of cooperation in the fields. The resolution also encourages more intensive trade and commercial ties between the two countries, based on mutual interests.
The resolution reaffirms US strong support to Georgia’s NATO membership and praises Georgia’s role for international peace and security".
The resolution condemns the occupation of Georgian territories by Russia and calls upon the country to withdraw its forces from the Georgian regions of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali (South Ossetia).
The resolution speaks about the severe violation of human rights in and near the occupied territories of Georgia.
Comment of the Press and Information Department regarding the so-called visit of the occupation regime’s representatives to SyriaFriday, 25 August 2017 12:06
he so-called visit of the occupation regime’s representatives to Syria – a war-torn country where Russia tries to reinforce its influence at all costs - represents a follow-up to Russia’s and its occupation regimes’ provocative policy with respect to Georgia.
By resorting to such actions, Russia makes futile efforts to legitimize the occupation regimes and the violent redrawing of the borders of the sovereign state.
Diplomatic representatives of Syria, as well as international partners have been contacted and duly informed about the matter.
Due to our government’s intensive work with the international community, the territorial integrity of Georgia within its internationally recognized borders has not been called into question.
We call on all sovereign states to respect the territorial integrity of Georgia and its sovereign rights and to avoid any involvement in planned provocative activities.