Press-releases of the Embassy

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrovs address and answers to questions from Russian media following the Normandy format talks between the foreign ministers of Russia, Germany, France and Ukraine, Berlin, 21 January 2015


The latest round of the Normandy format talks between the foreign ministers of Russia, Germany, France and Ukraine has been held. We discussed actions to be taken within this format to promote movement towards a settlement of the Ukrainian crisis.

The main decision we have taken today, which has been incorporated in a joint statementadopted after the meeting, is to provide all possible assistance to bring about the immediate withdrawal of heavy weaponry from the line of contact as stipulated in the Minsk agreements, specifically the Minsk Memorandum of 19 September 2014. This is exactly what President Vladimir Putin proposed in his message to President of Ukraine Petr Poroshenko on 15 January this year. We hope that the Normandy format foreign ministers support for this will help implement it.

Id like to remind you that the self-defence forces of the Donetsk and Lugansk peoples republics have approved a schedule for the withdrawal of heavy weaponry in accordance with the Russian Presidents initiative. As we have heard today, we hope that the Ukrainian leadership will act in the same spirit, considering that the foreign ministers of France and Germany have supported this approach.

Today we have also adopted a recommendation that the Contact Group of representatives of the Kiev government, the self-defence forces, Russia and the OSCE increase its efforts and create the necessary number of working subgroups to ensure the full implementation of the Minsk agreements. I consider this to be a very important decision, because it will institutionalise the format of the Contact Group in which the representatives of the self-defence forces can talk directly with the Kiev authorities. We emphasised repeatedly that stronger direct dialogue between Kiev and representatives of the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Lugansk peoples republics is key to settling the serious Ukrainian crisis.

I believe it was a very useful meeting. We also discussed the possibility of holding a Normandy format summit. As you know, our Kazakh colleagues have proposed holding this summit in Astana. The general opinion is that we should meet in Astana if there is real progress in putting an end to the armed clashes, exchange of fire and shelling of populated areas, from which peaceful civilians are suffering, primarily in Donetsk and other cities and towns in the region, and progress in the withdrawal of heavy weaponry. However, recommendations on this issue will be formulated later. We have agreed that representatives of the foreign ministries of Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany will maintain contact and will monitor the fulfilment of the tasks we agreed on today.

The main thing is for the Contact Group to resume operation without delay, so that the agreement of principle on the withdrawal of heavy weaponry from the line of contact, which was sealed on 19 September 2014, is implemented and becomes reality. In this case we will be able to speak about the de-escalation of the conflict.

Question: During the annual news conference on Russias diplomatic performance today, you proposed that appendices to the Minsk agreement be made public. Did you reiterate this proposal at the meeting today? If so, what was the reaction of your colleagues?

Sergey Lavrov: There was no need for this, because the participants in the talks held today know very well the essence of these closed appendices, and the decisions taken today are based on the recognition of these agreements.

Question: Did you agree on a date for the next ministerial meeting in the Normandy format?

Sergey Lavrov:As I said, we have agreed to continue our contacts at the expert level. They will adjust their operation to what is really happening on the ground. Not everything depends on the Normandy format. We have simply expressed political support for the issues I mentioned. Its most important that these issues are tackled on the ground, directly between representatives of the Kiev authorities and the self-defence forces. The key priority is to start the withdrawal of heavy weaponry. I will say again that President Putin has proposed that the line of contact as agreed on 19 September last year be used as the basis and the point of departure in this work. This proposal has been supported, and now everything depends on those who command the combat units and heavy weaponry.

Question: Will you comment on the statement by Polish Foreign Minister Grzegorz Schetyna, who has actually distorted history?

Sergey Lavrov: You have answered your own question. I will not comment on his statement that the Auschwitz concentration camp was liberated by the Ukrainians. Auschwitz was liberated by the Red Army, in which Russians, Ukrainians, Chechens, Georgians, Tatars and people of many other ethnicities fought. Attempting to escalate nationalist feelings in this situation is blasphemy and cynicism.

Question:Did you discuss sanctions?

Sergey Lavrov: No, we dont discuss sanctions. Its not our problem but the problem of those who imposed them and now dont know how to break this vicious circle. I think that our partners will eventually find a solution. They understand that sanctions are a dead-end which they entered of their own free will. We believe that relations can only be built on equal dialogue and respect for each others interests.