Excerpts from the Briefing by Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova

August 18, 2016

Anti-Russian statements by former CIA deputy director Michael Morell on CBS News

We noted the statements by Michael Morell, former deputy director of the CIA, made on the CBS News TV channel on August 8 when he said that it is necessary to make Moscow “pay a price” for its actions in the Middle East. To the host’s question whether that means “killing Russians and Iranians” in Syria, Mr Morell responded positively and stressed that it must be done “covertly.” We are talking about August 2016 here, not the Middle Ages or ancient times, and this was actually broadcast on Western television.

Calling these statements inhumane would be stating the obvious. I would even go as far as to say that it is not so much inhumane as it is a very ISIS-style statement. This is the language ISIS speaks. It was shocking not only to Russia but, finally, this time it was shocking to the US Department of State, who repudiated any connection to the former CIA deputy director’s words. We assume that these statements were a personal twisted opinion of the former CIA official. Unfortunately, considering the speaker’s status, such statements may still have certain weight in the establishment and devalue the progress in the US and Russia’s efforts of the past six months to develop a joint approach to the Syrian conflict resolution. As you know, the work is ongoing and is now entering a life-changing stage. We see statements like these as absolutely unacceptable regardless of whether they are made by current or former officials of any country. But that’s the kind of guys who work for the CIA.

Answers to media questions:

Question: Despite what you said about Washington and Moscow entering a life-changing stage of cooperation on Syria, there have been media reports on a possible failure of the agreements on Syria between the two countries, considering, particularly, that Moscow is increasingly accusing Washington of an inability to separate the opposition from the terrorists. What would your comment on these reports be?

Maria Zakharova: As concerns Russia-US interaction on Syria and some media reports on a possible failure of the agreements, I’ll say that only something that is complete can end in a failure. Russia and the US are in the middle of a very complicated discussion and coordination, through diplomatic and military channels, of a framework that must be established, according to Russian officials. If somebody wants these efforts to be a failure, it’s their slant, unfortunately.

This is not only our wish. We are doing everything we can for these talks and these everyday efforts to succeed. We do not see this stage as anything but life-changing.

Those media outlet that are predicting a failure of the agreements and constantly raise questions about the fate of the civilians being killed in Syria by the militants, moderate and not so moderate opposition, the coalition’s air strikes – they all must understand that this conflict has been ongoing for years. If the countries that actually have power to influence the situation do not take any specific steps, the conflict could go on forever. Only God knows how many more people will die, including civilians. Those following the fate of individual civilians so closely should think about the entire nation. The life of every person in Syria is important because every human life is invaluable, but looking too closely at individual lives leaves the fate of the whole suffering nation outside the equation. We just can’t succumb to this manipulation now. This is a very critical moment and we are doing our best to work out the necessary agreements.

As far as Moscow’s criticism of Washington is concerned, there have been none. We are being objective in our evaluation.

Speaking of the inability of the United States to distinguish between the terrorists and the opposition, or to single out the moderate opposition, why is this so important and why are the Foreign Minister and our analysts constantly talking about it? For several reasons. First, this is a cornerstone of the current situation. If the moderate opposition separated itself or was separated from extremists there would be no problem with how to deal a blow at the terrorists. And the media lamenting the fate of civilian population would have no more questions. It would be fairly easy and we would just strike those targets. But the problem persists. The fact is, it was Washington that assumed commitment to do this job and US officials announced this publicly after international meetings. They promised it would be done. Moreover, they assured us at the expert level and claimed that it would only take a couple of weeks to mark off the moderate opposition from the terrorists. But this couple of weeks has lasted for many months now. Unfortunately, we are only heading for a dead-end.

We keep talking about this not to dig at the US, not to feel good about ourselves by making somebody else feel bad. We keep talking about it to show where the core of the problem is and what has to be at the centre of our work.