Interview of the Russian Ambassador to Dr. Alexey Pavlovsky with Sydney Morning Herald
Interview of the Russian Ambassador to Australia, Dr. Alexey #Pavlovsky with Sydney Morning Herald, 28 September 2022.
🔹 On the genesis of the situation in Ukraine. Could the tragic conflict have been averted?
🔹 Dealing with existential threats: lessons of the Cuban Missile Crisis
🔹 Who wrecked the peace deal in March?
🔹 How the MSM brainwashes the public with Ukrainian propaganda
🔹 Would the ‘sham’ referenda pass the pub test in multicultural Australia?
🔹 On Russia’s ‘isolation’. Relations with China and India
🔹 Nuclear blackmail? Are you sure it was President Putin’s speech you read?
🔹 ‘Some animals are more equal than others’: A world order the world doesn’t want.
Interview of the Russian Ambassador to Australia
Dr. Alexey #Pavlovsky with Sydney Morning Herald,
28 September 2022
❓: Ambassador, the main reason I got in touch first of all, with you was some comments last week from Australia’s Foreign Minister Penny Wong, who was saying that it was under consideration, you know, in her office whether to expel you from the country over the conflict in Ukraine. What’s your response to that? And what would it mean for Russia-Australia relations if you were to be expelled?
💬: I normally don’t comment on the prospects of the Embassy or the Ambassador being expelled. Well, it’s not the first time it comes up in the media. The reason why I don’t want to comment is very simple – because it’s absolutely up to the Australian side to decide whether or not it needs to maintain communications, through embassies, with this or that state. There is not much for me to comment on.
But maybe just for your understanding, let me explain a bit. It’s obvious that embassies are a tool for interstate communications. Having a Russian Embassy here and an Australian Embassy in Moscow is not a concession to Russia. It’s just an acknowledgment that despite very drastic differences between our countries we still need dialogue and still can communicate.
❓: Is there still important communication going on here? Between you, the Embassy, and the Government?
💬: The communication is there with the DFAT, as it used to be.
❓: Yes. Would you expect – if the Government was to do it – would you expect retaliation, would Russia do the same for the Australian Ambassador in Moscow?
💬: Retaliation is not a proper word. It’s just how it works – diplomacy is about reciprocity. Reciprocity is a basic principle for interstate relations.
❓: Yes, but are you hoping it doesn’t come to that? Are you hoping it doesn’t happen?
💬: My point of view is that it is always better to communicate than not to communicate.
❓: Could I ask about the Embassy’s land and that last month’s capital authority’s decision to terminate the lease of the plot in Yarralumla. Have you vacated that land?
💬: No, we have not, and it’s part of the arrangements we have while there is a process of challenging this decision. As you might know, we have challenged it in court and we are expecting the results of this process. Provided the results are positive we are determined – as we have always been – to complete the construction of the Embassy complex on that plot. And, what is important, we have all the necessary financial means allocated for that and all the necessary approvals.
❓: Why has it taken so long for anything to happen?
💬: It’s a long story, but the point is that the NCA [National Capital Authority] has been well aware of all of these, and we have been working closely together for all these years. At last, in 2020, we received the approvals for the current stage of construction and we started to erect a building and it’s all but completed by now. That’s why we were a little bit perplexed by this decision.
❓: Do you think it is just about the land or do you think this has anything to do with the conflict in Ukraine and relations between Australia and Russia?
💬: As a bureaucrat, I have to deal with official documents, and the official notice we received from the NCA says nothing about the conflict in Ukraine.
❓: The Ukrainian Ambassador has expressed an interest that they would like to take over that land. And there’s some support for that in Parliament. What would be your response to that?
💬: As I said, we’re now in the middle of the court process, so I think it is a little bit premature to determine the results.
❓: Can I ask you, there was a lot of interest and reaction to President Vladimir Putin’s speech last week [21 September]. I was wondering, how do you respond to that? What was your interpretation of what he said? Because the whole world paid attention to it.
💬: Have you read the text?
💬: I think that with President Putin, unlike many other world leaders, you can take at face value what he says. If you have read the text – it doesn’t call for interpretations. It says everything it has to say, and that’s it. In fact, President Putin has been saying all of this for maybe 15 years, since his Munich speech .
Recently Senator Wong, speaking at the General Assembly, said: “To avoid conflicts, we need to talk to each other and listen to each other”. I think the reason why at all this conflict in Ukraine happened was that the West wouldn’t listen to what we were saying very clearly, very honestly, very openly for many, many years.
Since that Munich speech, President Putin had been saying and reiterating many times that Ukraine in NATO was our red line, was an existential threat to Russia, and we’ve been suggesting that we should start a serious dialogue on security issues, proceeding from the point that security is indivisible, so you cannot reinforce your security at the expense of others. This principle was written in a couple of high-level documents signed by all the OSCE members. But this was not respected and at the end of the day, here is the reason for the crisis: the legitimate concerns of Russia were dismissed and, on the contrary, I would say that everything was being done to aggravate threats to the security and sovereignty of Russia.
Now it’s difficult not to see that the West is eager to block and suppress any independent and sovereign development center in order to continue its domination in the world. That’s our interpretation of the situation. And that’s what is behind the televised address of President Putin.
Speaking of Ukraine, we can say that the Ukrainian rulers who came to power after the West-supported 2014 coup happily embraced the role of the tool against Russia. And their first step was to unleash the war against their own population in Eastern Ukraine.
❓: But does the NATO issue or the prospect of Ukraine joining NATO (which obviously hasn’t joined yet), but does that really justify everything that we’ve seen in terms of loss of life, damage that’s been done in the conflict?
💬: We are talking about an existential threat here. Next month marks 60 years of the Cuban Missile Crisis. At that time, US President Kennedy considered that Soviet missiles in Cuba were an existential threat to the United States. And he was ready to start a nuclear war over that. Happily, it was prevented by coming to a mutually respectful arrangement, taking into consideration the legitimate security concerns of a major power. Unfortunately, it hadn’t happened with our security concerns. That’s how it is.
Of course, what is going on in Ukraine is a tragedy. I can tell you that Russians feel that tragedy much more acutely than anyone else, definitely more acutely than Australians for instance. And it is very sad that it had to come to this point. The question is who is responsible for that?
Let me tell you that all of this could have been avoided had the West engaged in serious dialogue with Russia on the basis of indivisibility of security, had the West insisted on Ukraine implementing the Minsk Agreements, which were, by the way, endorsed by the Security Council. But never ever Western countries told Kiev that Ukraine had to implement these Agreements. They were just blaming Russia. The Kiev rulers even did not conceal – they are on the record saying that the Minsk Agreements were only needed as a pretext for Western sanctions against Russia.
Then, the conflict could have been stopped back in March. I wonder if you are familiar with the chronology, but back in March 2022, there was a negotiation round held in Istanbul, Turkey. The Ukrainians came with peace proposals, which included the neutral status of Ukraine and refusal to join NATO, and the obligation not to host foreign military bases. And these were welcomed by Russia because, in fact, it would have removed our major concerns. It would have largely removed the reasons why we had to undertake this action.
What happened next, do you remember?
❓: It’s a long story.
💬: Indeed, it’s a long story but there are some crucial points. By the way, when telling this story, it’s important not to start on the 24th of February, but first of all, to understand the genesis of the situation. And it is important to see the turning points. I would say that the round of negotiations in Istanbul was a turning point when Ukraine was ready to settle this conflict and Russia was ready to welcome this.
But the next day, the then UK PM Boris Johnson came up publicly and said that Ukraine should not be in a rush to conclude the deal with the Russians. Then weapons flowed to Ukraine. Then that Bucha story happened which was absolutely staged. Next time you interview the Ukrainian ambassador, you should ask him where are the names of those people who were shown on TV as killed and tortured by the Russian troops. Several months passed and it’s a small neighborhood, everybody knows everybody. Where are the lists of all the alleged victims? We cannot succeed in getting this list and seeing this list.
❓: I have seen some names from experts. They’ve identified people who were shot by a soldier walking in the street, they have witnesses. But I don’t know if there is one full list.
💬: Some names, right? But where are the official lists and the official results of the forensic investigation? There are none. Recently, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, at last, asked the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to somehow assist in these lists being officially published. Doesn’t it ring a bell for anyone who has some critical thinking left?
❓: Can I take you back to President Putin’s speech when he was talking about Russia as a nuclear power? And saying, “we are not bluffing”, in the sense of it? How serious is it do you think? Do you take the prospect that nuclear weapons could be used by Russia in this conflict?
💬: If you read the text, why are you asking this question?
❓: Well, because it is not clear to everyone what it means.
💬: If you read the text, you will certainly remember that the reason why at all the President talked about nuclear weapons was that he was reacting to the threats that we hear from the West. And whatever he’s said in this regard, was meant obviously – it is clear in the text – as a reaction to the threats from the West. And you could start with UK PM Liz Truss, who said she will not be reluctant to press the [nuclear] button, and several other Western politicians who also mentioned this in connection with Russia and Russia’s actions. So please ask the Western politicians how serious it is, because they started this.
We should also mention what Zelensky said just before the special military operation began, that it was a mistake for Ukraine to renounce nuclear weapons, and that Ukraine should think about regaining it again. I believe it was one of the triggers, and President Putin mentioned this.
❓: On the issue of territorial integrity, I mean when President Putin was talking about Russia’s territorial integrity, many observers were interpreting this in the context of the four regions and the referendums that were happening. An essential thing is that if Ukraine tried to take back one of these regions or fighting happened there, Russia might use nuclear weapons there. Is that a correct interpretation?
💬: Our military doctrine sets the conditions and situations when nuclear weapons could be used by the Russian Federation, it has been there for many years, and nothing has changed.
❓: Are you alarmed by the prospect of nuclear war as a consequence of the Ukraine conflict?
💬: Everyone should be alarmed by the prospect of nuclear war. That’s why the five nuclear powers just before the crisis in Ukraine signed a declaration reiterating that there could not be winners in such a war and it should never be unleashed. We sincerely hope that our partners adhere to this principle.
❓: It seemed to be significant comments in the past week, in terms of countries like China and India, in regard to this. President Putin said publicly that Chinese President Xi Jinping had raised concerns with him about the conflict. And then Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that this wasn’t an era for war. These comments from India and China, are they showing that Russia is becoming more isolated in terms of this crisis?
💬: Do you presume that Russia is already isolated and can become even more isolated? Let me tell you that Russia is not isolated at all. At least two-thirds of the world community representing the absolute majority of the world population have very good relations with Russia. They are friends and partners. Despite all the efforts the Western countries are making to prompt others to join anti-Russian sanctions, as I said, two-thirds of the members of the world community ignore it. Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov is just back from the High-Level Week of the 77th Session of the UN General Assembly in New York, where he had more than 40 bilateral meetings. So I don’t see any signs of isolation if we’re talking about Russia.
As to remarks by Chinese or Indian statesmen, I think the leaders of India and China can speak for themselves. And they many times made clear their position on the crisis in Ukraine. It is well known, it is official. What is important here is to understand that China and India, like Russia, and unlike many other countries in the world, are sovereign and independent in their foreign policy, so they can tackle international issues proceeding (again, unlike many other countries) from their own national interests. That’s what makes Russia close to India and China.
❓: Are you not worried about any weakening of relationships?
💬: I don’t see any signs.
❓: Speaking about the partial mobilization that President Putin announced for army reservists, is that an acknowledgment that the conflict has not been going well for Russia on the battlefield?
💬: It’s an acknowledgment of the very obvious fact that we have not yet reached the goals which have been set right from the beginning. These goals are to protect the people of Donbass and to remove security threats for Russia. These goals are not yet attained. And it also shows the determination to reach these goals.
❓: How would the security issue for Russia be resolved, what would be something that would be satisfactory?
💬: I would not go into details and I’m not in a position to speculate on what could be the specific arrangements. For sure, the arrangements should ensure that the threats are removed and the goals set at the beginning of the operation are reached. The problem is that nobody talks about arrangements, the Ukrainian side and its patrons in the West are talking about victory. Some time ago, the chief of EU diplomacy Mr. Borrell said that this conflict should be resolved on the battlefield. Really nice exercise in diplomacy!
As I said we had a chance to come to arrangements. That chance was deliberately wrecked by the West. I don’t think they thought about the destiny of Ukraine, about people, loss of life, and destruction. It all could have been stopped hadn’t they intervened and given the command to the Kyiv government to continue fighting. My impression is that Ukraine is just considered expendable in terms of the grand strategy of the West. And their idea is to fight Russia to the last Ukrainian. It’s very sad to see how Ukrainian representatives and officials are enthusiastically working for the destruction of their own country.
❓: Most Australians, I think if you ask them, would say it, quite simply in terms of a very large, powerful nation, invading a smaller, more vulnerable one, which would explain support from Australians and sending military assistance to Ukraine.
💬: According to my experience not all Australians are of this opinion. But you’re right, it’s probably the predominant mood. I would say that the mainstream media like SMH for instance contributed a lot to create this mood.
In which way? Merely a couple of years ago, we could find in Australian media some items showing the real situation in the East of Ukraine. I can remember two ABC items of 2015 (https://www.abc.net.au/…/inside-the-mariupol-base-o…/6306242) and 2019 (https://www.abc.net.au/…/christchurch-shooting-far…/10983542). One of them started with a correspondent saying: “The first thing you notice as you walk through the corridors of the AZOV battalion’s base in Mariupol are the swastikas”. And it was in the Australian media, it was published. But it is unthinkable to find something objective like this right now. It is unthinkable to find in SMH or ABC, or SkyNews information on how the Ukrainian army shells the cities, for instance. Meanwhile this has been going on in Donbass for years and now just in three days of the referendum in Donetsk they fired 151 missiles on the city, and more than 60 on Lugansk – just on civilians, there are no military targets there. It is never covered in the Australian media.
So I am not surprised with the mood here. As you say Australians see the situation as “the bullying by the great power”, etc. It’s because people here are not informed on the genesis of the situation. Frankly, I would even use the word “brainwashed”.
SMH was among those who published sick fantasies of former Ukrainian ombudswoman Lyudmyla Denisova (https://smh.com.au/…/russian-soldiers-kept-women-in-a-basem…) like “Russians raping a baby for seven hours in front of parents”. When it became scandalous and the Ukrainian authorities understood that it was discrediting them, she was fired, and later she admitted that she invented all of this. But I haven’t seen any rebuttal in the Australian press. Thus an average Australian is still staying with the understanding that all of these were indeed true. So no surprise about the feelings of the Australians.
Let me tell you one thing about the referendums.
❓: Which the Government calls “sham”.
💬: I am sure that they will be called “sham” and all kinds of words. But this is a very simple story, which I think will pass the pub test if told to the Australians.
Back in August last year, Zelensky said in an interview (it’s on the record, on video) that if you live in Ukraine and feel yourself Russian, then you should leave for the sake of your children, because you don’t have any future here. ‘Go to your beloved Russia’.
So talking about referendums, if somebody tells me that the results we see today – 90%, 87% for re-joining Russia are sham, I will not believe it. My experience and everything I know tell me that such is the true mood in these regions.
Look, many politicians in the West have criticized the referendum in Crimea alleging it was not valid because of no proper international observers, OSCE didn’t give its blessing, etc. But it seems no one ever doubted that the overwhelming majority of the Crimeans really wanted to join Russia. And it is the same story now. As Minister Lavrov said at the General Assembly, people in these regions simply follow the cynical advice of Zelensky and go to Russia with the land where they and their ancestors have lived for hundreds of years. I think that an average Australian could understand this.
I’ve been here as Ambassador for three plus years, and one of the aspects of my activity is talking to our compatriots, Russian-speaking people. Some of them are citizens of Russia, some are dual citizens, and some don’t even have Russian citizenship. I know from them, and I’ve been witnessing it myself many times, how successful Australian multiculturalism is. How beneficial it is for the Russians here. There are about 50,000 or maybe 80,000 Russian speakers in Australia and you have 40 Russian schools. In Ukraine with around maybe 15 million Russian speakers, roughly, they had little more than 200 Russian schools; and they were prohibited to use Russian as the language of instruction after the fourth grade. There was also a prohibition on publishing Russian newspapers without a parallel translation to Ukrainian.
How is it conceivable that Australia supports this kind of policy? And this policy had been there since the 2014 coup. The coup ousted the then President and instead of elections and a Government of national reconciliation as was supposed and guaranteed by Poland, France, and Germany they formed the ‘Government of victors”. The first act of that government was to ban the use of Russian as a regional language, on the regional level. So what would you expect from the Russian-speaking population there? How should they respond to that?
Talking about bullying – that’s where bullying is. But it’s probably too soft a word for the Ukrainian bombardments of Donetsk that started at that time. And now they have in Donetsk the cemetery for the children who fell victims of the Ukrainian strikes throughout these eight years. The Alley of Angels, they call it. I wonder if you can use the term “bullying” for that?
Or do you use the term “bullying” for what happened in Odessa where people were burnt alive in the Trade Union Palace, just because they were considered as pro-Russian? And when they were jumping out of the windows, they were killed by the crowd of nationalists who gathered around. It is on the videos, the perpetrators are known, their faces are there – nobody has been punished. And they say Nazism in Ukraine is but a fake of the Russian propaganda.
I understand this doesn’t fit into the editorial policy of the SMH or any other Western mainstream media. But frankly, I would expect at least an attempt at a less biased approach.
We had an interesting experience here with, I will not name him, a journalist who returned from Ukraine where he has been for some time covering the conflict. He wrote to the Embassy saying that he intended to cover “war crimes and violations from both sides”. Frankly, I had no illusions, but I thought maybe it will be an exception. We sent him a bunch of documented cases with addresses and coordinates, of the Ukrainian nationalistic battalions and armed forces placing missile launchers and mortars and tanks just and in the residential blocks. And these facts were exactly what later the Amnesty International recorded. We thought that maybe somehow it would be reflected in the publication but he produced the four-parts article on Russian atrocities without any sign of a less biased approach.
❓: Just the last thing – the Australian Government has said they do expect the conflict dragged on for quite a while yet. Do you believe the same thing that we’re in for a very, very long?
💬: I think that it depends on whether the Ukrainian government will be allowed by the West to finish this war. We have seen already an occasion when the West gave the command to Kiev to continue fighting despite their eagerness to come to a peaceful settlement. So whatever they say, I don’t think it matters much. What matters is what Washington says.
Not just for Ukraine, it matters for Europeans who I think are obedient to what the US says, to the extent of damaging their interests. Unfortunately, that’s what contemporary geopolitics is.
Here we come to the crux of the matter. What Russia is for, is a different world. We want a multipolar world. We want a world where the basics of the UN Charter would be respected. And the first principle mentioned in the UN Charter, even before the principles of territorial integrity or self-determination or non-use of force, is sovereign equality of states and it is the basis of everything.
Have you read “Animal Farm” by George Orwell?
💬: Do you remember that commandment: “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others”? We don’t want to live in a world where some countries are ‘more equal’ than others. Frankly, I think, the majority of the world community would agree with us. We want a democratic multipolar world, where the interests and concerns of countries are harmonized.
They say, oh, Russia is taking away Ukraine’s freedom of choice, freedom of joining NATO. But in the international community, there is no other way, except to find solutions that respect the concerns of every member. Would it be bad for Ukraine if it was a democratic state respecting the rights of national minorities, at peace with its neighbors, and not lending its territory to the enemies of Russia? If it was neutral and benefited from economic cooperation both with Europe and Russia? And no destruction, no war, no loss of life? All of this was possible, but obviously didn’t fit into the grand strategy of the West.
Russian Foreign Ministry
The Sydney Morning Herald