26 october / 2017

Excerpts from the Briefing by Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova

As far as we know, following the seizure of our Consulate General by the American authorities, some of our archives have been inspected, re-packed and moved without any consultation with the Russian party by a private haulage company. I would like you to take note of the extraordinary latter element.

Of course, in response to these US actions we have issued a note of protest to the US Embassy in Moscow and forwarded a copy of the note to the US authorities via the Russian Embassy in Washington. These US actions are in violation of the Consular Convention, which the Soviet Union together with the United States signed on June 1, 1964 (Article 17: “The consular archives shall be inviolable at all times and wherever they may be.”) and the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations of April 24, 1963 (Article 33: “The consular archives and documents shall be inviolable at all times and wherever they may be.” Article 27: “In the event of the severance of consular relations between two States, the receiving State shall (…) respect and protect the consular premises, together with the property of the consular post and the consular archives.”).

The United States has acted contrary to all these obligations. It could be that they have no time for reading international treaties, which the US establishment probably regards as superfluous.

Since the Trade Representation in Washington and its branch in New York are parts of the Russian Embassy, their archives are protected by the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of April 18, 1961 (Article 24: “The archives and documents of the [diplomatic] mission shall be inviolable at any time and wherever they may be.”)

Our American partners’ actions are clearly undermining the legal framework of diplomatic and consular relations.

The situation with Russia Today in the United States

We are paying close attention to the developments surrounding the Russian TV channel Russia Today in the US. We are bewildered at Washington’s desire to distort reality and shift the blame for problems in bilateral relations, in the media sphere in this case – problems which were created by the American side itself.

The US Department of State’s spokesperson Heather Nauert recently stated that Russian legislation on foreign agents is significantly different from the one existing in the US. She asserted that in Russia this law can allegedly be applied even to those organisations that receive minimal funding from foreign sources, thus making it possible to label as political almost any kind of social activity. In the United States, she said, the foreign agent law FARA only requires registration of individuals and legal entities engaged in political activities.

The laws are actually different, it is true. We have explained many times already that the US authorities’ demand that Russia Today register as a foreign agent undeniably imposes restrictions on the freedom of this Russian media source, and increases the risk of jeopardising the personal safety of its employees. The nature of this law is clearly selective and biased, since somehow it does not apply to many other foreign media sources which are financed by foreign public sources and are engaged in journalistic activities on the territory of the United States.

Conversely, a large number of American media outlets operating in Russia (and there are much more of them than Russian media in the US), including the ones that receive public funding, have been working in Russia over the course of many years without falling under the Russian foreign agent law. It is very strange that Washington does not know this. I do not know why such statements are being made public – maybe it is a lack of professionalism. I am not sure that misinformation is being spread of Washington’s accord, it actually is being spread on behalf of a certain person and it will stay in diplomatic archives. But this is such a distortion of reality! All journalists present, most of which are foreigners, know that the activities of foreign journalists and media on the territory of the Russian Federation do not fall under the Russian foreign agent law. Why does the State Department not know this?

Once again, we appeal to the American authorities to stop trying to shift blame, spread misinformation, confuse people, interfere with the activities of both Russian media in the US and American media in Russia (we wish they were objective, of course, but everyone is doing what they have to do). We believe that maintaining a dialogue is the only way to find a compromise. There is no other way.

Question: How far have you progressed in preparing documents for launching legal proceedings regarding US manipulation with Russian diplomatic property? Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in his September interview with the NTV network that you are talking to lawyers and collecting preliminary opinions, but he did not provide any practical information. Can you do this now?

Has the family of Russian journalist Roman Manekin, who allegedly went missing in the Donetsk People’s Republic, requested your assistance?

Maria Zakharova: I can say in response to your second question that I personally have not received any requests. I will have to ask if such requests have been forwarded to the ministry or its press service.

As for your first question, Russia is preparing a lawsuit on the illegal and unacceptable actions towards the [Russian] diplomatic property [in the United States]. Regarding the practical aspects of the statements made to this effect, I can say that practical aspects can be formulated when we choose the legal firms, structures and partners for dealing with this matter. At this point, we are still working on the entire range of these issues.

We will update you when we receive official information, which I do not have at the moment. The issue is being analysed now, though not philosophically but from the practical angle. We are working on the practical aspects of this issue, and we will provide concrete information when we have it.