Excerpts from the Briefing by Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova

January 27, 2017

Answers to media questions:

Question: Russia has announced that it cooperated with the US-led coalition, receiving coordinates of terrorists in Syria and delivering airstrikes on their positions. But the United States has denied any involvement. Do you have any additional information about this? What is happening?

Maria Zakharova: Any questions about the specific aspects of hostilities in Syria and counterterrorism operations should be addressed to our Defence Ministry.

Question: What does the Russian Foreign Ministry think about the possibility of cooperating with the Trump administration to settle the Syrian crisis?

Maria Zakharova: We are waiting for the new US administration to take final shape, the appointment of the key ministers and representatives. We are ready to launch comprehensive dialogue with the new US administration, because this is what we need in the current international situation and bilateral relations in light of the shared responsibility of Russia and the United States on many issues. We are waiting for Trump’s team to take shape, to formulate its foreign policy priorities, concepts and ideas, and to start operating. We understand that Washington is living through difficult days. More than that, it is living through difficult months. But we believe that the key appointments will be made soon, the administration will start working, and we will better understand the US strategy on the international stage.

Question: Can you confirm the rumour that Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will lead the Russian delegation at the Munich Security Conference? Will he meet with the US delegation and members of the new US administration in Munich?

Maria Zakharova: As I have said, Sergey Lavrov’s attendance at the Munich Security Conference is being discussed and coordinated. We will issue an official statement on the Russian delegation and its format later.

As for meetings with the US delegation, this concerns the same issue we spoke about before. We are waiting for the US administration to take final shape and for the appointment of key figures, following which the US administration is to take a decision regarding attendance and the level of attendance at the Munich conference. Only then will we be able to consider any contacts. So far, we have no grounds for doing any forward planning. We are waiting for concrete decisions from the United States. As you know, although the key officials have not yet assumed office, we have sent an invitation to the new administration to attend the meeting in Astana. Our American colleagues replied that they would be represented by the US Ambassador to Kazakhstan. In light of this, we can assume that the new administration could become involved in international processes even though the creation of the team is not complete yet. When the team takes full shape and Washington decides whom to send to Munich, we will be able to make our plans. We will provide our comments as soon as we know more.

Question: What’s your take on President Trump’s idea of creating “safe zones” in Syria? Is this consistent with Russia’s vision of fighting terrorism and the principles of international law and Syria’s sovereignty?

Maria Zakharova: As we have repeatedly stated, according to the statements made by new US President Donald Trump regarding the need to fight terrorism, particularly, in the MENA countries, this is an issue which ranks high on the new US administration’s list of priorities. This is encouraging. We, including Foreign Minister Lavrov, have said so repeatedly. With regard to details in the fight against terrorism and approaches to the Syrian settlement, I will once again (perhaps, for the third time today) say that we are waiting for the team to take shape and specify its approaches to these issues. Clearly, without talking things over or clarifying policy approaches and their elements, it is difficult to make assessments based solely on public statements. We are waiting for the team to be formed and then we will proceed from the assumption that it’s time to begin concrete work.

Question: What do you say about the detention of a reporter from Russia Today America covering the unrest on Donald Trump’s inauguration day? He was there doing his job and had a proper ID, but now he faces up to 10 years in prison on rioting charges.

Maria Zakharova: The situation with the correspondent of Russia Today America TV channel ​​Alexander Rubinstein is cause for great concern. The reporter was arrested on Friday, January 20, by Washington D.C. police as he was covering a protest rally against US President Donald Trump on the day of his inauguration.

I would like to emphasise that the correspondent was performing his professional duties. Importantly, he had his press badge on him. Nonetheless, Mr Rubinstein was detained by police for almost 24 hours. Five journalists from other media outlets found themselves in the same situation.

According to our information, Mr Rubinstein has been released. The court date for his preliminary hearing is set for February 16. He is charged with felony rioting. As you may be aware, under US law, he may be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison.

We noted that the representatives of the media community and relevant international institutions and organisations spoke out in defence of the reporters. Russia Today’s senior executives, the Committee to Protect Journalists, Reporters Without Borders, the National Union of Journalists of Great Britain, and the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Dunja Mijatovic condemned the violation of the rights of journalists. I think this is a blatant infringement of the reporters’ rights.

We expect and believe that the incident will be thoroughly investigated, that the charges against Rubinstein and other journalists will be dropped, and that Washington will realise that this is an absolutely unacceptable and outrageous incident.

Question: Yevgeny Nikulin, a Russian citizen, was detained on suspicion of committing a cybercrime in Prague in October 2016. Moscow and Washington sent extradition requests to Prague at the same time. What do you think about this situation? If the Czech government decides to extradite Yevgeny Nikulin to the United States, could this impact relations between Moscow and Prague?

Maria Zakharova: We are constantly monitoring the situation surrounding Russian citizen Yevgeny Nikulin who was detained in the Czech Republic. We expect the Czech government to grant the request filed by the Russian Prosecutor General's Office with the Ministry of Justice of the Czech Republic regarding his extradition to Russia, especially since given that the campaign against alleged “ubiquitous” Russian hackers in US media makes it hard to trust the objectivity and impartiality of US justice with regard to a Russian citizen.

The Russian Embassy in Prague is providing Mr Nikulin with necessary consular and legal assistance, and making sure that he is detained under normal conditions. According to the latest information, no complaints on that score have been reported by Yevgeny Nikulin.