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Medvedev on Syria, Ukraine and Russian ethnic harmony

Medvedev on Syria, Ukraine and Russian ethnic harmony
By Euronews
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The Russian president Dmitry Medvedev has told euronews he believes the Syrian government is using disproportionate force against pro-democracy protesters there.

He also spoke of relations with Ukraine over gas and the need for ethnic calm in Russia.

Alexander Shashkov, euronews:

Another winter is coming, and once more there is another conflict between Russia and Ukraine about gas.

Dmitry Medvedev, Russian President:

Well, so far there’s no conflict, rather there are differences that might lead to various developments.


Could that lead to problems with the gas supply to Europe, for example?

Dmitry Medvedev:

You know, I hope that after all the recent experiences our close partners and friends must learn that you can’t torpedo existing contracts – even if you don’t like them, like when our colleagues and partners, the president of Ukraine or the Ukrainian Prime Minister say that a contract is unfair and bad and they won’t honour it.

It is completely unacceptable. All agreements, as long as they are not refuted in court or abandoned by the parties, must be carried out.

And I hope that our partners, our Ukrainian friends will likewise stick strictly to the framework agreement concluded in 2009. As for the future, I have repeatedly said that we are willing to discuss various cooperation schemes with our Ukrainian colleagues. Including advanced plans, based on the integration of Ukraine in the Customs Union.

But they, for some reason, say that the WTO prevents them from being in the Customs Union – but it’s a little strange, as the Customs Union doesn’t prevent us from joining the WTO. But that’s their own view.

Or we could discuss integration based on some other approaches, including our investment in Ukraine’s economy or gas transport system.

If we can agree on this, we will probably be ready to consider change in the scheme of cooperation. But at the same time the immutable principle remains that gas cooperation is always based on a formula. The formula is universal, and it applies to Ukraine and other countries. Talk like “we’re paying more than other countries” isn’t based on anything. This is pure propaganda.

Ukraine pays by the same formula, and pays commensurate with the price paid by other European consumers. Current prices are high, that’s true. But they can also be extremely low sometimes. And then it’s a problem for the energy supplier. So, in summary, I hope Ukrainian consumers will keep following the contract properly, and we’ll come to an agreement about our future business.


French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe during his visit to Moscow, if I understand correctly, appealed to Russia asking Moscow to support EU sanctions against Syria. What is Russia’s policy on that?

Dmitry Medvedev:

You know, I actually discussed this issue with Mr Juppe, and with another minister, who visited – the French Defence Minister and his colleagues.

Here’s the thing. We are not completely satisfied with how resolution 1973 was implemented. Now it’s in the past, because, apparently, the situation in Libya has changed.

Even so, we believe that the mandate from the Libya resolution 1973, was exceeded.

And we definitely wouldn’t want the same thing happening regarding Syria.

Yes, we see the problems in Syria.

We see the disproportionate use of force, and a large number of victims, and we do not like it either.

I have repeatedly talked about this personally to President Bashar Assad. I recently sent a deputy foreign minister to underline our position again, but I believe that the resolutions we make to give a stern message to, as they say, the leadership of Syria, should be addressed to both sides, because the situation there isn’t sterile.

Those who shout the anti-government slogans are not solely supporters of a refined European democracy. These are very diverse people.

Some of them are, frankly, extremists. Some of them may even be called terrorists. So the situation shouldn’t be idealized, instead we must proceed based on the balance of forces and interests.

We are ready to support a variety of approaches, but they should not be based on a unilateral condemnation of acts of the government and President Assad.

They must send a strong message to all sides of the conflict: they need to sit down and negotiate an end to the bloodshed.

Russia is also interested because, as a great friend of Syria, it’s a country with which we have numerous economic and political contacts. So the search for ways out of this will continue.


Mr President, we are in Yaroslavl, where for the third time the Global Policy Forum is taking place under your patronage. The main theme this year is a problem of multiculturalism. Why do you think this topic is so relevant today?

Dmitry Medvedev:

Russia is an extremely complex and ethnically diverse country with many peoples and faiths. And for us the question of different nations coexisting is not a question of immigrants, who exist in any states, including Russia.

It is a matter of internal harmony, which was built over the centuries, and which we were able to bring to a new level, as it seemed to us for a certain period.

In Soviet times, I remind you, we used that term “the solid community of the Soviet people.”

In many ways, it turned out to be just theoretical. But that doesn’t mean we should move away from this problem and this idea.

We really need to create a society of internal harmony, where people are tolerant of each other, and at the same time respectful of the traditions that make up the core of any ethnic group – regardless of the region, be it the centre of Russia, the Caucasus, or the Far East – anywhere where Russian citizens live, who have the same rights and responsibilities, and who should behave equally properly in public.

So, this topic is important to us. But in Europe there are also lots of problems. And I think that the exchange of theoretical approaches to the problem and practical recipes for today is important.

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