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    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov commented on the preliminary report on the MH17 crash, implementation of the ceasefire agreement in Ukraine and Russia's relations with Western partners in an interview with Russian TVC channel released on Sunday.

    MOSCOW, September 13 (RIA Novosti) – Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov commented on the preliminary report on the MH17 crash, implementation of the ceasefire agreement in Ukraine and Russia's relations with Western partners in an interview with Russian TVC channel released on Sunday.

    ON RUSSIA'S ECONOMIC RELATIONS WITH THE EUROPEAN UNION

    Although the Unites States are trying to do their best to disrupt the economic relations between the EU and Russia, Russia is not losing the battle for influence in Europe, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Saturday.

    "There is a big battle going on," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in an interview with Russian TVC channel. "The United States want to use the current situation in order to separate Europe from Russia economy-wise and bargain the most favorable conditions for themselves in the context of the ongoing negotiations on the creation of a transatlantic trade and investment partnership."

    The Russian foreign minister said that such talks have been going for several years. "Europe has been persistent enough in defending its interests. According to the Europeans, the United States wanted to gain unfair profit. Now, however, these [US] efforts have intensified, including through the attempt to force Europe to purchase the American liquefied natural gas at prices that cannot be competitive with the price of the Russian gas. This was definitely motivated by economic interest. Still, geopolitical calculations play a huge role, a key one," the minister said.

    Answering the question on whether Russia is losing Europe to the United States, the Russian Foreign Minister said, "I think not."

    "Now we are seeing the EU giving the subject a second thought. The fact that some of the EU countries, which are not the largest and do not have a leading role, begin to argue openly that the policy of sanctions is a deadlock, that it is counterproductive, says a lot," Lavrov said.

    Lavrov said that the EU sanctions "cannot last long, because within the EU there already are sensible voices who drew attention to the absolutely paradoxical situation, when right on the day of the signing of the peace agreement in Minsk [on September 5], the EU has decided to entrust Committee of Permanent Representatives in Brussels with preparing a new set of sanctions."

    "It was exactly on the day when we had a breakthrough in peace talks, primarily due to Russian President Vladimir Putin's initiative," the head of the Russian Foreign Ministry said.

    The Russian foreign minister said that the Western colleagues, including from the EU, are still calling, coming to visit and are inviting Russian representatives for talks. Some planned meetings have been postponed but when such delays in meetings are publicly announced “they [the Western partners] immediately confirm their interest in the continuation of dialogue … only at a later date," Russian Foreign Minister said.

    Lavrov said that Russia is interested in a strategic partnership with the EU to grow in strength and develop.

    "If you add up the potential of Russia and the European Union, then both will benefit from stronger positions in the world markets," the Russian foreign minister said. Russia is still prepared to take practical steps for the implementation of this course, the minister added.

    The idea of creating a free trade zone between the EU and the Customs Union by 2020, and in future the Eurasian Economic Union, is still relevant.

    "This idea is still alive, relevant and is of particular interest [to Russia], especially in the context of the current events in the economic relations between Ukraine and the EU, and Ukraine and the Commonwealth of Independent States. That would be the answer to a lot of questions," Lavrov said.

    ON WESTERN APPROACH TO UKRAINIAN CRISIS

    The West still does not want to recognize that a coup in Ukraine was organized with the support of the United States and the European Union, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said.

    "Speaking about our Western partners, everything has gone if not out of control, then at least by a very confrontational scenario. The reason is simple: they do not want to admit what is obvious to us - that the coup [in Ukraine] was organized with the direct support, if not encouragement, of the United States and Brussels," Lavrov said in an interview with the TVC channel.

    "After these people, who had been actively supported, came to power and formed a new government, everything became possible for them," the Russian foreign minister said. "They are forgiven [everything] and are allowed [to do] whatever they wish. We hear nobody criticizing their unacceptable statements in regards to nationalism, Russia, minorities and neo-Nazi tendencies," Lavrov said.

    The Russian foreign minister said that he had not heard "any judgments that could mean that the positions of the West are unanimous" from his colleagues from Africa, Asia and Latin America.

    Moscow is aware that not only "the US, but also the European envoys travel to every capital around the world, with no exception, to demand from the leaders of states, to strongly request not to support Russia, to join the Western sanctions and to refrain from any steps that will further the ties between a particular country and the Russian Federation," Lavrov said. "For me this is an unprecedented situation. Such campaigns are, in fact, subversive for Russia's relations with its partners."

    Washington is pushing Ukraine towards the precipice for the sake of its own agenda of weakening Russia and the steps it had been taking with regard to the Ukrainian crisis have already proved it is willing to grant "carte blanche" to extremists, rather than work to achieve peace in the country, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Saturday.

    “Almost everything that radicals and extremists in Ukraine do, including those in the government structures, gets ‘carte blanche’ from the United States; none of the arguments are working that point to the necessity of taking an objective look at what is happening and calling for national dialogue, reconciliation and respect for minority rights – all the values that the West promotes in any other conflict,” Lavrov told the Russian TVC channel.

    According to Lavov, “Washington has repeatedly proved that its goal is to escalate this crisis to the maximum in order to use Ukraine as a bargaining chip in yet another attempt to isolate and weaken Russia”.

    ON IMPLEMENTATION OF CEASEFIRE AGREEMENT IN UKRAINE

    Observing the ceasefire is the most important clause of the agreement reached between Kiev and pro-independence forces in Minsk, and the only one obligatory for immediate implementation, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Saturday in an interview to Russia's TVC channel.

    "As for the document's content, it is really of a framework character and, for the most part, is not subject to direct realization, except for the ceasefire paragraph. This is clear, this can be done and it is being done," Russian foreign minister said.

    However, the other clauses of the agreement, particularly, the law on temporary self-government of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, require further specification, Lavrov stressed.

    "We do not know what it would be like – this is a responsibility of Ukraine. But when the self-defense forces were signing this clause, they made it clear that they would form their attitude toward it depending on its content, … acting on the premises of that it is not the end of the way, but a beginning of a very complex political process," the head of Russian foreign ministry said, noting that the "set of values" in Western, Central and Eastern Ukrainian regions considerably varies.

    The previously implemented ceasefire agreement in Ukraine may once again be shattered as certain forces are interested in such outcome, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Saturday.

    "At present, according to our estimations and in the opinion of the OSCE observers, the ceasefire is generally observed, although not without disruptions, which have been minor so far. Both sides occasionally engage in sporadic shooting, but the process of establishing a long-term ceasefire has not yet been disrupted," the minister said in an interview with Russian TVC channel.

    "I deliberately do not intent to speak about it in a too optimistic manner because there are people who want to derail the process and bring the situation back to the military scenario,"Lavrov said.

    "First of all, these are the units formed by the oligarchs which are not subject to Kiev and that consider the armed forces of Ukraine as temporary allies, fellow travelers. It is also a significant part of the National Guard [which is interested in the disruption of ceasefire],” Lavrov said.

    Kiev’s interpretation of the Ukraine ceasefire agreements is controversial, but Moscow hopes that Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko will confirm his commitment to peace, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said.

    “In what concerns Kiev’s interpretations of the [Minsk] agreements, we hear a lot of controversial interpretations, even demands of rejecting peaceful steps and switching back to offense action using the entire arsenal of the Ukrainian Armed Forces,” Lavrov said in an interview with the Russian TVC channel.

    The foreign minister stressed, however, that Poroshenko regularly reaffirms his commitment to the peace agreements.

    “We still expect that, as the embodiment of a certain legitimacy, formed after the May 25 presidential elections, he will perform his functions of the commander-in-chief, take all the measures necessary and use his presidential powers so that the government, which is currently operating in Kiev and is subject to the rule of the president and parliament, does not undermine the sanctioned decision he approved,” Lavrov said.

    Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko is interested in promoting the peace agreements reached in Minsk and the West should support his focus on their implementation, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Saturday.

    "I think [Petro] Poroshenko is interested in promoting the peace agreements and needs support, first of all from the West, which staked on the transition of the situation in Ukraine from the post-Maidan state to a legitimate course. It's with that purpose that the presidential elections were announced," Lavrov told the Russian TVC channel.

    The minister noted that "the West should support Poroshenko's focus on the implementation of peace agreements". "Because all the others, many, at least, are trying to seriously hinder his efforts," Lavrov said.

    Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Ukrainian counterpart Petro Poroshenko are not discussing Crimea as part of their talks on the resolution of the crisis in Ukraine, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Saturday.

    “Crimea is not discussed. I can assure you that this issue is not being raised in the course of telephone conversations and direct contacts between our presidents,” Lavrov told the Russian TVC channel.

    Lavrov noted that in the course of their dialogue the leaders of the two countries are discussing the possibility of Russia using its obvious levers to help with the constitutional reform process in Ukraine. The minister reminded that the necessity of conducting constitutional reforms is mentioned in the February 21 agreement signed by ex-President of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovitch, Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, Kiev Mayor Vitali Klitschko and leader of Ukraine’s nationalist Svoboda party Oleh Tyagnibok.

    The document was attested by the foreign ministers of Germany, France and Poland.

    Moscow confirms that the movement of the strike group of the Ukrainian Armed Forces near the eastern city of Debaltseve has been halted, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Saturday.

    Lavrov noted that several days after the Ukraine ceasefire agreement was signed in Minsk Russia "received information, confirmed by the militia, that a strike group consisting of artillery and tanks was being formed near Debaltseve".

    "We have called the attention of the Kiev authorities to this information. We were assured that there were no plans in this respect and that measures would be taken to ensure that no one would have such an impression. According to our data, the movements have been halted, and we have not received any more information of the sort," Lavrov told the Russian TVC channel.

    ON NATO'S INFRASTRUCTURE NEAR RUSSIA'S BORDERS

    Moving NATO infrastructure closer to Russian borders by pulling more countries into the alliance is unacceptable, Sergei Lavrov said.

    “Expecting to pull as many countries as possible into NATO, continuing with the logic of inclusive lines, moving the infrastructure closer to our borders – that’s unacceptable,” Lavrov told the Russian TVC channel.

    “We are interested in the compliance with the agreements on ensuring whole, indivisible and universal security in the Euro-Atlantic area. In this context the assurances we were given that NATO would not be expanding eastward play a decisive role,” the minister said.

    Lavrov noted that Russia’s proposal to turn the commitments given within the framework of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and the NATO-Russia Council (NRC) not to strengthen the security of the alliance “at the expense of the security of others" into a legally binding agreement “was rejected multiple times”.

    The nonaligned status of Ukraine, enshrined in the Constitution, is in the best interest of the Ukrainian people, as well as its neighbors and partners in the Euro-Atlantic area, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Saturday on a primetime political talk show.

    "We are convinced that the choice fixed in Ukrainian legislation is in the interests of the Ukrainian people and the legitimate interests of all the neighbors and partners of Ukraine, and the interests of European security" Lavrov said in the TV program Pravo Znat of the Moscow-based TV Tsentr channel.

    The Russian Foreign Minister also claimed that the non-aligned status of Ukraine is a matter of principle for Russia. He added "there are numerous assurances coming from Western partners that they understand the value of Ukraine's nonaligned status for security of the Euro-Atlantic region," the minister concluded.

    The government of Ukraine has approved a draft law to abolish the nonaligned status of the country, a significant step towards joining NATO. Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatsenyuk said that Kiev's goal was to "obtain a special status between Ukraine and NATO."

    Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk's surprise move to scrap the nation's non-aligned status at the time when Kiev and Moscow are coordinating their Minsk agreements is presumably meant as a direct challenge for President Petro Poroshenko, the Russian foreign minister said Saturday.

    "Prime Minister Yatsenyuk… came up with an initiative to introduce a draft document scrapping [Ukraine's] non-aligned status and taking the course toward NATO [membership] precisely during the coordination of the Minsk accords. I cannot but see these actions as a direct affront to the country's president," Sergei Lavrov said in the Pravo Znat (Right to Know) show on the TVC channel.

    Lavrov said that Yatsenyuk and "some other politicians" who had earlier suggested this step had been acting "not in the interests of their own people but in [the interests] of those seeking to cause a split between the Ukrainian and Russian peoples and drive a huge wedge between Russia and Europe."

    He claimed the initiative came from "first of all Washington." The United States does not even try to conceal its agenda," the Russian top diplomat said.

    Ukraine's Parliament Speaker Oleksandr Turchynov and controversial politician Yulia Tymoshenko earlier came up with a similar move to renounce the turbulent nation's nonaligned status.

    ON PRELIMINARY REPORT OF MH17 CRASH

    A preliminary report on the crash of the MH17 released this week by the Netherlands has answered no questions Russia was interested in, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said.

    "International experts have spent three weeks in Kiev, [they] talked with Ukrainian authorities. No answers to the questions formulated shortly after the crash by the Russian Defense Ministry and the Federal Air Transport Agency have been given," Lavrov said in the Pravo Znat (Right to Know) show on the TVC channel.

    The minister said that the Russian experts are preparing another set of questions together with the Russian aviation authorities in order to "identify the issues, which are necessary for urgent consideration."

    Lavrov also added that the Malaysian Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein had visited Russia this week to study Russian experts’ analyses based on the preliminary findings which were made by the Russian Defense Ministry at a briefing in July.

    "We welcome this interest [of Malaysian authorities] because there is no reason to reject the clear answers, or at least the discussion of the questions that we have asked, the questions that have not yet received any response," Lavrov said.

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Saturday that he had been surprised by the calm tone of the Dutch authorities’ preliminary report on MH17 crash.

    "First of all, it [the report] surprised me because despite all the clamor about this tragedy, the tone is somewhat calm, the work is being done slowly and leisurely. There are no demands to ensure the resumption of expert work at the crash site. There were no attempts to go there to collect, as they say, the debris and see what the entire plane looked like, and nobody spoke about it out loud," Lavrov said in the Pravo Znat [Right to Know] show on the TVC channel.

    The minister noted that he hopes "we will know the truth, but it does not depend on me."

    Russia’s political leadership would ensure that the community is “constantly reminded that this [investigation] should be done," Lavrov said. "But the rest is in the hands of those who are assigned to carry out this investigation."

    There is neither transparency, nor accountability in attempts to set up a multilateral discussion of the MH17 flight crash investigation, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said.

    "We are probably the only ones who are constantly reminding [global community] of the fact that there is a UN Security Council resolution, which demands that the investigation should be thorough, international, transparent, and accountable. As for the international response, it seems like we have a group of experts under the auspices of the International Civil Aviation Organization, and the organization is taking some steps to set up multilateral discussions, but it lacks transparency and accountability,” Lavrov said.

    The Russian foreign minister stressed that while the UN Security Council does not carry out an investigation into the crash, it nevertheless "outlined the political demands that meet the severity of the tragedy and its perception in those countries whose nationals were on board and in the whole world community, as it was a civilian aircraft that was shot down."

    Lavrov also reminded of the "hysterical accusations against independence supporters [in eastern Ukraine] and Russia" that had immediately followed the tragedy. "Now that the ‘propaganda cream’ has been skimmed off, it is possible that one does not really want to investigate the true cause of the accident. [But] that's not our approach," Lavrov said.

    ON TRANSNISTRIAN SETTLEMENT

    Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Saturday fended off accusations of Moscow's plans to disrupt the Transnistrian peace settlement.

    "I heard that we were supposedly interested in creating a second Transnistria, some sort of buffer zone, which is nonsense. This [charge] is such an unscrupulous stab that I don't even want talk about it, though it is necessary since the facts are ignored and distorted," Lavrov said on the Pravo Znat (Right to Know) primetime political talk show of the Moscow-based TV Tsentr channel.

    The Minister noted that "now, no one remembers that in 2003, it was Russia that produced the 'Kozak Memorandum,' which was initialed by Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin and Transnistrian leaders. It was supposed to be signed in the morning, but during the night or late in the evening before, Javier Solana, on behalf of the European Union personally called Voronin and dissuaded him from signing the document, saying that it would not serve the interests of Moldova's cooperation with the European Union ," said Lavrov.

    "Only a sick mind looking for a way to fool the public would have come up with an idea that we had torpedoed the Transnistrian conflict settlement and are now working to repeat this scenario in Ukraine," Lavrov concluded.

    Transnistria is a breakaway state with limited recognition located east of the Dniester River and the eastern Moldovan border with Ukraine. The creation of an independent Transnistria uncontrolled by Moldovan authorities was a response to the wave of nationalism in Moldova at the end of the 1980s.

    Back then, Moldovan authorities tried to invade the breakaway republic to restore "constitutional order," later launching an armed conflict which lasted several months. The 1992 War of Transnistria killed 809 people on the Transnistrian side, 271 of which were civilians.

    Tags:
    NATO, military operation, ceasefire, investigation, plane crash, MH17, EU, Petro Poroshenko, Sergei Lavrov, Transnistria
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