Friday, April 20, 2018

EXCLUSIVE: Russian FM Lavrov Speaks Syria, Skripal Case, DPRK-US Peace

© Sputnik / Grigoriy Sisoev
09:11 20.04.2018(updated 10:08 20.04.2018)Get short URL

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov gave his thoughts on the recent alleged chemical weapons attack in Syria, the US strikes against this Arab country, the Skripal case, the upcoming Trump-Kim Jong-un talks and Russia-US ties in an interview Director General of Rossiya Segodnya International Information Agency Dmitry Kiselev.
MOSCOW (Sputnik) — Russian President Vladimir Putin and his US counterpart Donald Trump will never allow tensions between their nations to turn into an armed conflict, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said.
"Speaking about the risk of a military confrontation, I feel absolutely confident to assume that the militaries will not allow this, and of course neither will President Putin or President Trump. They are leaders, after all, elected by their people and responsible for their peace," he said.
Russian Foreign Minister also noted during the interview that Russia had cautioned the US-led coalition that crossing certain "red lines" on the ground in Syria would prompt retaliation.
Russia’s General Staff chief Valery Gerasimov said ahead of US, UK and French missile strikes on Syria last week that Russian military would target the missiles and their launch sites if its personnel came under attack.
"This was said very clearly and unambiguously," Lavrov said. "Afterwards there were contacts at the level of military leaderships and generals, between our representatives and the US coalition command. They were notified of our ‘red lines,’ including geographical ‘red lines’ on the ground. And, as a result, these ‘red lines’ were not crossed."
Sergey Lavrov also said that Russian military will soon provide evidence that Syrian anti-missile systems intercepted missiles launched by the United States, the United Kingdom and France.
"Our General Staff has a very clear picture, we have been monitoring [the attacks] live, and statistics, which our military provided. We are ready to take responsibility for that. If someone argues that all 105 missiles reached their targets, then show your statistics. Our evidence, our claims, calculations are at least not groundless and will be soon provided by our military," Lavrov said.

Sergey Lavrov also noted that Russia is no longer bound by a moral duty not to supply Damascus with S-300 air defense missile systems after the last week’s strikes.
"We no longer have any moral obligations [in this regard]," Lavrov said. "We promised not to do it around a decade ago at the request of our partners, and we took into consideration their argument that this would destabilize the situation, despite this [S-300] being a purely defensive system. We heeded their call. But now we have no such moral obligation."
On April 14, the United States, France and the United Kingdom carried out a missile attack on a number of targets in Syria in response to an alleged chemical attack in Douma that reportedly took place on April 7. According to the Russian Defense Ministry, a total of 103 cruise missiles were launched by the United States and its allies, 71 of which were intercepted by Syria’s air defenses.
During the interview, Lavrov noted that Russia will respond "with dignity" to the anti-Moscow actions taken by Washington."
I am convinced that we need to respond with dignity. We cannot but respond to the seizure of our property, expulsion of diplomats – otherwise we will show the lack of self-respect. But we are not going to resort to some sort of insults, squabbles or rudeness – it is not the style of our president at all," Lavrov said.
Speaking about the recent incident in Syrian city of Douma, Lavrov said that Russia has strong evidence proving the UK involvement in staging a chemical attack in the city.
On Wednesday, Hasan Diab, the Syrian boy who was documented in a video by non-governmental organization White Helmets about the alleged chemical weapons attack in Douma, told the Russian Rossiya 24 TV channel about the details of the footage. The boy said that he was in a basement in Douma with his mother when someone shouted to go to the hospital. When they came, somebody grabbed him, poured water on him and put him on a bed with other people in order to shoot a video. Diab's father told the news channel that his son received sweets and rice for his participation in the filming process. The man added that there was no chemical attack in the city.
Asked whether Russia has evidence that London was linked to the incident in Douma, Lavrov said that there were a number of facts proving that.
"In fact, there is enough evidence. First of all, this footage… was a main pretext for the feverish attack carried out by the United States, the United Kingdom and France, which stroke alleged plants producing chemical weapons and depots [with such weapons]," Lavrov said.
The minister pointed out that the footage was provided by the White Helmets, which is operating only at the territories controlled by militants including the Jabhat Fatah al Sham terror group, outlawed in Russia.
"They were linked to plotting the same provocation in Khan Sheikhoun a year ago and it is not a secret that they are financed by the United Kingdom and also the United States as well as a number of other Western states," Lavrov added.
Moscow is working to ensure that the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) fact-finding mission, established to probe the alleged chemical attack in Syria’s city of Douma, takes place, Russian Foreign Minister also said.
"We are working to ensure that this mission takes place," Lavrov said.
"I really hope that professionalism will prevail. We were ready to have a professional conversation with the OPCW and all our Western colleagues from the very beginning. I mentioned that at the early stage of the current confrontation on chemical grounds, both the French and the US side wondered whether they could send their experts together with ours to see, along with the OPCW experts, what happened there. Well, when we said that we were ready, and the Syrian government would be ready to support [the initiative], instead of implementing this agreement, strikes were conducted," he added.
"So we will see. We expect honesty, of course, from experts — both in the case of Syria and in the case of Salisbury, where the investigation also continues," Lavrov said.
Russian foreign Minister also spoke on the case on the alleged poisoning of former Russian intelligence officer Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia. He said that the A234 nerve agent, referred by the Western countries as "Novichok," was in the US arsenal, it is easy to manufacture this toxic substance.
The minister recalled that one of the nerve agent's developers, Vil Mirzayanov, had immigrated to the United States where he had published the substance’s formula.
"This substance was patented, was in the US arsenal and was used by various institutions of biological and chemical troops of the United States. And it is easy to produce it," Lavrov said.
In early March, the United Kingdom accused Russia of being involved in the attack on former Russian double agent Skripal and his daughter Yulia with the A234 nerve agent in the UK city of Salisbury. Over 25 countries, including Belgium, expelled Russian diplomats in solidarity with the United Kingdom. Russia has denied having any role in the poisoning, pointing to the lack of evidence provided by London to substantiate its accusations.
Russia would have not swapped Sergei Skripal in a spy exchange in 2010 if the authorities wanted to get a revenge on him for his misdeeds, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told Sputnik.
"If someone in Russia… wanted to have a revenge on him and to get rid of him, then why would we have exchanged him for our spies [in 2010]," Lavrov said.
"He was sentenced to prison and had been serving his sentence for four years already, if I'm not mistaken. And then the exchange took place for what we call 'Chapman group'… after that he was released and moved to his new homeland, where he was enjoying his life," Lavrov noted.

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