Briefing by Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova

December 21, 2017

Situation in the Middle East settlement process
Tensions persist in the Palestinian territory due to the continued street protests against the US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Developments in and around Gaza have reached a dangerous level. The number of casualties is growing every day.
In this situation, the UN Security Council voted on this issue. I am sure you know the voting results. We believe that, regrettably, this decision can only further aggravate the situation. In our opinion, the best solution to this extremely unfavourable situation in the Palestinian-Israeli track would be the resumption of a direct dialogue between the parties on a firm and lasting peace based on the well-known international decisions. At the same time, efforts must be taken to prevent the further escalation of the situation on the ground and actions that can harm innocent people and prevent the achievement of a lasting peace.
New US anti-Russia sanctions
On December 19, the Foreign Ministry issued multi-format comments on US sanctions against Russian organisations in connection with unjustified accusations regarding Russia’s alleged violation of the INF Treaty. And now, we have to talk about Washington’s new anti-Russia moves that are linked with the so-called Magnitsky Act. Under this act, they have been trying to present us with human-rights claims during the past five years.
Yesterday, the United States extended this act’s sanctions to cover several more Russian citizens, including Head of the Chechen Republic Ramzan Kadyrov. Therefore 195 Russian citizens, as well as 402 Russian companies, are currently covered by various US-imposed restrictions.
Of course, all this already looks grotesque because this is not based on anything real. Unfortunately, we have to reaffirm our position that these moves will be followed by reciprocal measures. We have always acted this way. We have always noted that this is not our choice, while responding in this manner. We strive to cooperate with the United States in the long-term. We are ready for this, and we believe this is the right option.
We regret to note that some political and security groups in the United States still want to continue disrupting bilateral relations, to officially call Russia an adversary, to call it a threat in the US National Security Strategy and to continue their sanctions games. Indeed, all this looks ridiculous against the backdrop of common challenges and threats facing our two countries as well as the entire world.
In our opinion, it is high time that the groups lobbying for precisely these negative developments in bilateral relations realise that this is dangerous for international stability, and that this would benefit no one, including the people of the United States.
Washington’s accusations of Russia allegedly violating the INF Treaty
We are noting that the United States continues to elaborate on this matter. We are talking about permanent planting of false information in the media, comments and statements about Russia’s alleged violation of the INF Treaty. At this stage, they have started accusing Russia that the range of the 9M729 cruise missile, now being adopted by it, does not meet the Treaty’s requirements. As usual, the United States does not provide any evidence because it appears that there is absolutely no such evidence.
The above-mentioned 9M729 ground-launched cruise missile meets the Treaty’s requirements completely. It was not developed and tested, so as to exceed the range banned by the Treaty. The missile is being deployed in strict conformity with Russia’s international obligations.
We are urging the United States to stop speculating on the matter of the so-called Russian “violations” and to become constructively involved in a dialogue to settle well-known Russian claims regarding the observance of the INF Treaty by the United States itself. I would also like to recall that this implies virtual efforts to upgrade intermediate-range and shorter-range missiles during the Pentagon’s use of target missiles in anti-missile tests and an attempt to leave strike drones outside the Treaty that defines them as ground-launched cruise missiles. The United States is also deploying Mk-41 multirole launchers, part of the Aegis Ashore systems, in Eastern Europe. These launchers can be equipped with strike missiles. Moreover, Washington has announced plans to launch a programme for developing missile systems that are banned by the INF Treaty. This is a direct way towards wrecking the Treaty.
While reaffirming our commitment to the Treaty, we are expecting the United States to revise its counter-productive line and to resume depoliticised and professional dialogue for resolving the accumulated problems.
We remain committed to our traditional position, and we are informing the United States, our partners as well as our colleagues about this position via various channels during talks.
US arms supplies to Ukraine
Russia is extremely disappointed by the fact that US authorities licensed an unnamed independent arms manufacturer to supply Barret М107А1 large calibre sniper rifles to Ukraine. This is the first time Washington has officially announced the transfer of weapons to Ukraine, although only recently it became known that AirTronic USA has been supplying hand-held grenade launchers to Ukraine since April.
The fact that from a formal point of view arms supplies are carried out under business contracts without the involvement of official channels does not change anything. This is merely camouflage, and an attempt to distort reality. The green light to these deliveries came from officials in Washington, which means that the US assumes full responsibility for the consequences and for the lives of Ukrainians who may fall victim to US arms.
We know all too well what the Kiev authorities stand for. Today, not only us, but also the vast majority of experts understands this. By arming them the US is actually pushing them to resume large-scale bloodshed in Donbass, which is already on the brink due to constant shelling from the territories controlled by Kiev. In fact, Washington is becoming complicit in the killing of people who opposed the government coup by nationalists in Ukraine, and stood up for their right to speak their native language and preserve their values. I think that over time, history will straighten the record. I hope that this happens now, not in many years. This would prevent a large number of casualties.