Six Lessons from a Pandemic. Deputy Chairman of the Security Council of the Russian Federation Dmitry Medvedev speaks about the past, present and future of combating COVID-19.

Deputy Chairman of the Security Council of the Russian Federation Dmitry Medvedev speaks about the past, present and future of combating COVID-19

He who desires but acts not, breeds pestilence
William Blake

The pandemic of the novel coronavirus infection, COVID-19, has come as the biggest shock in the history of the past few decades. It is no accident that it is sometimes been likened to a third world war, given the devastating aftermath of the spread of this deadly disease. The social sphere, economy and culture of many countries on all continents have suffered a major blow. The number of victims of the disease amounts to dozens of millions. It has killed nearly five million people.

The first and most aggressive attack of the virus was restrained. In addition, most people got used to living amid the pandemic. They got used to the problems, restrictions, and, alas, even the disease itself and its tragic consequences. There is a still a long haul ahead before the ultimate victory. The threat is huge, and the enemy is deadly. Experts speak about the delayed cumulative impact of the current problems. The result of this unprecedented battle, as trite as this might sound, depends on the extent of coordinated action by countries worldwide. Will we be able to learn from the tragic events we have experienced? Will we be ready to review our strategic approaches to the serious global issues and our tactics in the difficult, unpredictable conditions that call for prompt and decisive action? These are crucial questions that all sensible people are asking themselves now. But the governments of all countries, members of international unions, associations and various ‘pressure groups’ that are the decision-makers on the global level must be the first to answer these questions.

A year ago, in my article for the Russia in Global Affairs journal (Security Cooperation During the Novel Coronavirus Pandemic, Russia in Global Affairs, No. 3, July/September 2020 / No. 4, July/August 2020 in Russian). I spoke in detail about these issues. It was already clear at that time that the risks created by the coronavirus were exceptionally high and the response to them must be global. This includes constant and comprehensive cooperation between states, governments and companies. Unfortunately, many of these constructive ideas remained vain wishes: those who I addressed either could not use them or (rather) did not want to.

In order to prevent disasters of such a scale, one must be able to value life above all else.

Therefore, it is still important not to miss the opportunities that still exist. To prevent disasters like a global pandemic of a previously unknown virus, the political will, diplomatic efforts and the ability to value the most important things – life, health and the safety of millions of people – above all else are no less important than advanced technologies and vaccines. The lives of people must be valued regardless of their education, wealth, nationality, age, sex and profession. Otherwise it is impossible to achieve a global victory over the virus.

I would like to elaborate on the lessons we have learned from these past two years and what we should do next.  

 

The first lesson given by the pandemic is that threats should be taken seriously, and instead of responding post-factum, we need to take preventive action.  
Many countries viewed the problem in a rather complacent manner during the initial period of the spread of the epidemic, that is, from December 2019 until early March 2020. The first reports of a new disease were treated too lethargically, largely because people believed that the terrible virus was located far away, and that it would not affect developed countries. This can also be explained by the fact that people are used to hearing daily reports about disasters in various parts of the planet. Wire services usually prioritise these reports, but the popular response to them has long been blunted because there are too many of them. However, unlike ordinary people, national leaders should have pressed the alarm button back then.

The delay cost us dearly. By mid-February 2020, the disaster had begun to assume a more and more serious scale. Epidemics know no barriers in the modern world with its transparent borders and global economy. The number of people infected by the new disease and succumbing to it began to increase rapidly. The governments of many countries were faced with the need to quickly overhaul their healthcare systems, ensure extra capacity at hospitals, provide clinics with medical equipment and issue personal protective equipment to people. At that time, Russia started to quickly draft emergency response scenarios in the event of a pandemic. All specialised agencies and services were placed on high alert mode.

From mid- to late March, the pandemic entered its next, acute, phase that lasted until about mid-June 2020. The threat became real, and the disease emanating from China moved to invade other countries. The epidemic was renamed a pandemic.

We remember that period very well. At that time, borders closed, emergency response centres were set up, and restrictions on freedom of movement were introduced. The leaders of every country faced an imaginary dilemma, that is, whether to first save the economy or the people. To be more exact, they faced a dilemma as to whether spend money on social assistance or on supporting businesses. Most countries, including Russia, opted for a mixed scenario. A reasonable balance was found after a tough lockdown period. The state supported the people and the most affected sectors, it responded flexibly to the situation and prevented disastrous scenarios. By the early summer of 2020, Russia came up with effective patient treatment protocols, mastered production of personal protective equipment and their purchase; the same applied to essential medical equipment. Of course, no one was too happy about the quarantine measures that proved fairly effective. It should be openly admitted that the efficiency of the pandemic response efforts was directly proportional to tougher lockdown mandates. China is a case in point.  On the other hand, each country and its population have their own specifics, national habits and behavioural stereotypes.

Obviously, many schemes which are possible in the East do not work in Europe. But the results were the same everywhere, and the wave of the pandemic began to subside.

There can be no independent immunity in any specific country. A collective global immunity alone is possible, and we have to attain this immunity through concerted efforts.

We entered the pandemic’s third phase in the summer and early autumn of 2020.   By that time, most companies and, what is particularly important, the entire education system converted to work from home (WFH) patterns. Russia streamlined administrative tools and set up more effective channels for interaction between citizens and the state. People were able to obtain the most important government services online, and proactive social payments also commenced. It became obvious that the epidemic would strike again with renewed force, and the state allotted considerable resources to prevent it. The trials of anti-COVID-19 vaccines were completed, and the first such vaccines were registered.

Many countries conducted this work simultaneously. At the same time, members of society became more alarmed and discontent. People became tired of protracted lockdowns and constant fears about their health. Human rights violations during lockdowns became the subject of more frequent discussions on various continents.

The fourth stage of the pandemic that commenced in the autumn and winter of 2020-2021 marked a new upsurge in morbidity rates. New virus strains appeared, and the coronavirus spread everywhere, rather than in localised areas as had been the case before. Those who harboured hopes for quickly overcoming the disease and returning to normal life were forced to discard these illusions. Many people viewed the introduction of new restrictive measures and lockdowns in a highly negative manner. We witnessed more active protests in the Netherlands, the United States, Italy, Germany and other countries. This even happened in Russia, although to a much lesser degree.

We entered the pandemic’s fifth phase in the spring of 2021, and this period is still underway. Today, we are witnessing another upsurge in morbidity rates, which, given the greater number of tests, have hit an all-time high. The number of cases fluctuates widely. At the same time, life in the new reality calls for well-thought-out decisions and protracted “trench warfare” against the pandemic.  And all countries should conduct this struggle through joint efforts despite all objective difficulties and, all the more so, despite anyone’s political ambitions.

 

The second lesson of the pandemic is that it can only be stopped with the combined efforts of the international community. By standing alone, we will all be defeated.

What is taking place in the global economy? There is a one-word answer: recession. And this is much more serious than the financial crisis of 2008-2009. International organisations assess the shrinking of the global economy at between 3.3 percent (IMF) and 3.6 percent (World Bank). The situation in some countries is even more dramatic. According to the World Bank, in 2020, the economy shrunk by 9.8 percent in the UK, 8.1 percent in France, 4.9 percent in Germany, 5.4 percent in Canada, 7 percent in South Africa, and 8 percent in India. Overall, the crisis hit industrialised countries with a high level of globalisation especially hard. The International Monetary Fund estimated the decline in the industrialised economies at 4.7 percent in 2020 and developing countries, at 2.2 percent. On the other hand, the industrialised countries are recovering faster. According to OECD forecasts, the majority of industrialised countries will resurge to pre-pandemic levels in terms of per capita GDP by the end of 2022, while some developing countries will do so no sooner than in 2024. A food crisis is developing in the world, with growing food prices everywhere and accelerating food price inflation.

The consequences of this global recession can be overcome with an effective economic recovery policy and the preservation of price stability. The unprecedented sovereign debt and inflation rates in some countries have become a new challenge towards these goals. Much will also depend on the speed of the resumption of foreign trade, especially in the export/import of services.

Nobody can offer precise forecasts. The global economic situation is being influenced by many non-economic factors, such as vaccination rates, the potential emergence of new, more dangerous coronavirus strains and especially, political factors, the biggest of which is the political will to pursue international cooperation against the coronavirus. However, not all countries are ready for this, which is one of the biggest problems today.

Any crisis invariably changes many things in the world, including the balance of forces on the international stage. The “corona-crisis” is no exception. Its unique feature is that all countries, both economically powerful and weak ones, are equal before it and have been affected by it in one way or another. All of them have had to mobilise their resources. The pandemic’s effect on health and social services is especially serious and sometimes crippling. Every country had to choose between more than two evils, and even the most effective countries were not protected against new outbreaks. Globalisation, modern technology and the speed of transport exchanges are turning the planet into an ideal medium for the spread of the virus.  No country can effectively lower an “iron curtain” against a disease. It will have to resume trade sooner or later, issue entry visas for tourists and businesspeople, and let its own citizens travel abroad. This means, and has been clear since the first article was published, that herd immunity in any country will not protect it from the virus. The only solution is global herd immunity which can only be achieved through mass vaccination worldwide.

This simple truth is clear to doctors, scientists and representatives of international humanitarian organisations. But experience shows that far from all national governments are ready to accept it. Calls for universal solidarity and mutual assistance amid the pandemic, for lifting the sanctions that are hampering the work of healthcare systems, and even for ceasefires in the world’s hot spots have not produced the desired effect. National egotism, the “caveman logic” of the cold war period, paranoid phantom fears, and attempts to uphold one’s own, narrow geopolitical interests too often prove to be stronger than universal human values.

Governments have closed national borders without any warning or consultations with their neighbours. At the same time, they were not ready to share information, including data of vital significance for scientists and doctors, or to help others with medications and equipment. Some countries chose to respond to their problems independently, while some did it at others’ expense.

Vaccination nationalism and commercial wars have claimed an unjustified number of lives.

Some countries’ sanctions policy has not changed even during the pandemic. Moreover, the fight against the purely commercial Nord Stream 2 project has gained momentum. New conflicts have flared up, for example in Nagorno-Karabakh, and ongoing conflicts have not abated in Syria, Libya and Afghanistan, several skirmishes took place on the China-India border, and conflicts broke out in Africa. The trade war between the United States and China has been aggravated by ideological confrontation and has deteriorated into a cold war. Open provocations have become more frequent, especially in Europe. Over the past year, it has become routine for NATO warships to approach and sometimes violate Russian maritime space in the Baltic and Black seas.

The pandemic has also delivered a blow to integration, which is especially evident in the EU, which used to be one of the strongest associations. COVID-19 has shown that Europe is not standing united against this common threat. Many European countries did not support each other at the height of the pandemic. When the number of coronavirus cases peaked in Italy, it received assistance from Russia and China, whereas the other EU countries closed their hospitals to Italian patients. Moreover, the customs services of the Czech Republic seized the face masks and respirators sent to Italy. It took Poland, Romania and Germany a very long time to decide to help Italy. Austria, Germany and Luxembourg ultimately agreed to provide hospital services to patients from Belgium, the Netherlands, France and Italy.

After the first peak of the coronavirus, European institutions tried to correct their mistakes, adapt to the new situation and work out preventive measures for the future. In 2020, the EU adopted over a thousand measures designed to minimise the negative consequences of the pandemic and protect not only lives but also incomes. Taken together, the approved budget increases and the NextGenerationEU recovery plan are the largest ever stimulus packages valued at around 1.8 trillion euros (European Commission, Consolidated Annual Accounts of the European Union 2020).

 

The third lesson of the pandemic: Mutual trust between states is more important than commerce, ideology or competition

The COVID-19 outbreak has exposed yet another problem, which is a global crisis of trust. This crisis manifested itself in the general disregard for international organisations, the ‘battle of vaccines,’ endless mutual suspicions and scapegoating. The authority of the World Health Organisation was seriously shaken. Many countries initially avoided cooperating with the WHO and the United States actually cut off its funding. Eventually, cooperation within the WHO was somehow put back on track. However, certain problems persist to this day. The biggest problem is that this organisation lacks leverage that it could use to enforce compliance with a common policy approved at all political levels. National governments are free to ignore WHO recommendations or issue their own decisions which sometimes contradict worldwide decisions. Therefore, we should consider granting the WHO the authority to take significant mobilisation decisions during emergencies (for example, a pandemic) in the interests of the entire global community. For the WHO to receive this kind of authority, UN members may be required to adopt an international convention on cooperation in this area.  

Unfortunately, there is no solid system of guarantees at the moment that would prevent dangerous scenarios in the event of another pandemic. History knows examples of non-ideological international cooperation actually helping doctors and scientists from different countries to develop effective means to combat serious illnesses such as polio, measles and smallpox. Today geopolitical interests seem to clash even when it comes to vaccination. There are about ten COVID-19 vaccines in the world but not a single one of them is certified in all countries.

Why not? The answer is obvious. All countries are committed to supporting their own vaccine producers before others. There is also an ideological side to vaccination. “Our own vaccine is better,” they say even if there is no proof of that. There are also commercial interests as countries want to sell their own vaccine on the international market and get ahead of competitors. They forget one thing, though: each vial is a saved or lost life. “Vaccine nationalism” and commercial wars have already caused significant unnecessary loss of life. The WHO’s weakness and the lack of a supra-national body that can influence epidemiological measures in different countries are literally self-defeating.

It is absolutely obvious that it is not just a duty but an obligation for all countries in the world to forgo their own geopolitical interests for the sake of saving lives. They need to recognise the vaccines developed in other countries. But most importantly, they need to supply a sufficient amount of these vaccines to the UN and the WHO for countries that cannot afford them.

It is not just a duty but an obligation of all countries to forgo their own geopolitical interests for the sake of saving lives. They need to recognise the vaccines developed in other countries.

There is one more aspect of foreign policy that is closely linked to mutual recognition of the vaccines: COVID-19 vaccine passports, or as they are sometimes metaphorically called “passports of opportunities.” They are the simplest and most logical way to restore a fundamental human right, the right to freedom of movement. With these passports, it will be possible to reopen borders while ensuring personal safety. But this system will be effective only if different vaccines are recognised by a large number of countries – and if there is a common data exchange system for COVID-19 cases and vaccinations (under the aegis of the UN or another UN authorised body).

Just like a year ago, it has to be repeated that both of these organisations must provide a platform for developing initiatives that can help combat this dangerous infection across all continents. It is not just a role – it is a mission that must be conferred upon powerful and influential international bodies, for they can stand above prejudice and political interests which are currently hindering cooperation on a global scale.

Vaccine nationalism is fueled by the serious suspicions that countries harbour against each other – specifically, the suspicion that this deadly virus was created by humans. These allegations are based on the fact that there are actual laboratories that study deadly viruses in the United States and, what is particularly concerning for Russia, in the CIS countries. There is absolutely no transparency when it comes to these centres’ activity and no international supervision of this kind of research. Another infection that the world will not be able to survive may leak from one of these labs, and this danger is real. There must be an oversight system for these labs based on the principles of mutual transparency. Most importantly, we need to create an international system of mutual guarantees and full accountability for spreading hazardous substances and compounds. At the current level of globalisation, this kind of leak could cause a disaster within hours. Moreover, the global community must agree that, when emergencies occur, countries must immediately notify each other about biological or any other threats.

In my previous article I wrote that it is necessary to fully comply with the Biological Weapons Convention, one of the fundamental international security documents. When the pandemic is over, it will be important to fundamentally review the principles of international cooperation in biological research. Unfortunately, not all of our partners show willingness to cooperate in this area, which is causing tension and mutual mistrust.

The crisis has exacerbated another problem: organised crime, terrorist and extremist groups are increasingly moving online. This is a serious security threat for many countries. I have already mentioned joint efforts against cybercrime, cooperation of law enforcement agencies and developing global security systems for the digital environment. We need new laws and international conventions to counter terrorism and crimes online. Unfortunately, we have to admit that progress in this area is very slow. Nothing significant has been achieved in the past year.

 

The fourth lesson of the pandemic: Vaccine mandates are ineffective, education is needed.

How critical is the threat posed by the novel coronavirus? Is general vaccination crucial as a preventive measure against new outbreaks? While the answer may seem obvious, public opinion in divided. More than that, so-called covid dissident groups are exhorting people to ignore the recommendations of virologists and doctors.

The state faces issues with no obvious moral options. To what extent can people’s personal interests be permitted to conflict with the interests of society and the safety of others? Does the state have the right to mandate vaccination?
Since the beginning of the pandemic, all countries have been doing awareness-raising work. They have been trying to persuade citizens that sometimes personal interests, convenience, or even basic rights such as free movement need to be sacrificed for the common good. Sometimes we have to submit to medical treatment whether we want it or not because we pose a risk of infecting others. All official quarantine orders must be followed. Getting vaccinated is a must if you are in a high-risk group for further spread of the virus. In response, we hear the predictable accusations of “vaccine authoritarianism” and “human rights abuse.”

Are such mandates always justified? The issue is complex and controversial. While human rights are a core value, there are citizens who are directly exposed to the virus, or who come into contact with a huge number of people, working in medicine or education, in the food industry, public institutions, and other crowded venues. An infection in these places endangers other people’s health and lives; it violates other people's rights. Finding the right balance must be the goal.

Of course, the freedom of tens and even thousands of people can be restricted for the sake of saving millions. This has happened more than once during wars, terrorist threats, and epidemics. But can does not mean must. While some countries are actually forcing their citizens to get vaccinated, Russia did not opt for this policy. Vaccination is generally voluntary in our country. However, all regions of Russia had adopted vaccine mandates for certain categories of citizens by the end of October. At the same time, debates on general mandatory vaccination continue at the expert level and, as they say, around the kitchen table.

In certain situations, public safety concerns outweigh individual rights and freedoms. Protecting the majority is the fundamental principle of democracy.

Let’s dig deeper into this question. I have been asked to provide an opinion on this before. When it comes to mandatory vaccination, countries split into three groups: a) adopted mandatory vaccination; b) vaccine mandates for specific categories; c) vaccination is fully voluntary. Russia, as I already noted, is in the b group.

At the same time, we place certain restrictions on unvaccinated persons. They can face a ban on travelling to other countries, denial of services at educational or healthcare facilities, suspension from work or denial of employment. COVID-19 vaccination is not yet included in the general national immunisation schedule. However, Russians face no criminal or administrative sanction for violating vaccination mandates (whereas legal entities are liable for failure to comply with Rospotrebnadzor requirements). In other words, Russian laws regulating this area remain quite liberal at this stage.

In contrast, a number of countries have introduced mandatory vaccination, including Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Indonesia, Fiji, Saudi Arabia, Italy (with some exceptions), and several other states. The United States requires vaccination or mandatory testing at companies with more than 100 employees. Several European countries impose high fines for refusing to vaccinate. Italy uses a mix of fines and other administrative measures, and there are even criminal penalties in France. The European Court of Human Rights, with its April 8, 2021 decision on Vavřička and Others v. Czech Republic, upheld the legality of compulsory vaccination programmes. That decision recognised measures such as administrative fines for failure to vaccinate or sending home an unvaccinated preschool child as legitimate, and vaccination was recognised as mandatory and necessary in a democratic society. Because this is an emergency, the ECHR abandoned its typical rhetoric and actually required specific individuals to get vaccinated. Indeed, when it comes to the lives and health of millions of people, there can be no more political games or abuse of their rights.

It will be recalled that the first vaccination campaign started in Russia based on a 1796 decree on mandatory vaccination (variolation) against smallpox issued by Catherine II. This was a method invented way back in ancient China. The Soviet Union drew up a prevention schedule for inoculation and required vaccination against smallpox, typhus, malaria, TB and poliomyelitis.  Regrettably, this system collapsed along with the USSR and the attitude to vaccination came to be shaped by ignorant anti-vaccine propaganda. This propaganda relies on contradictory and misleading information verging, in a number of cases, on premeditated unlawful actions constituting a clear threat to public safety. It is for this reason that Russia is facing so much difficulty in the course of its current vaccination campaign. If we fail to find ways to persuade people that they are behaving irresponsibly and even, let us be frank about it, against the interests of society, we are in for even harder times.

There are many methods for fighting pessimism, skepticism and fear. People’s main objections are that the medicines against COVID-19 are new and little studied, and that they have been made in haste and pose a number of side effects. But, most importantly, many are concerned that even after inoculation there is a risk of contagion and illness. Experts have repeatedly provided reasoned and detailed answers to these concerns. They explained that all the vaccines went through the full cycle of approval and that certain stages of research were simply conducted in parallel, which is normal during an epidemic.  The side effects of vaccination are well-known and described in specialist literature. Groups of patients were identified, for whom vaccination was not recommended. But the most important thing to remember is that when inoculated people get sick, it is more likely to be a mild or asymptomatic case. Apart from everything else, this reduces the burden on medical institutions and enables doctors to focus on other patients, administering elective treatments and performing scheduled surgeries. This situation came to a head earlier this autumn, when upwards of 1,000 COVID-19 deaths were being recorded every day despite natural immunity in Russia standing at 45 percent of the population. To induce workers to get jabbed, employers use a system of incentives, including compensatory leave, one-time payments, adjusted working hours, etc.  The same methods are being employed on the national scale, with vaccination certificate holders allowed unrestricted admission to public events and spaces. They can travel freely and work or study in person rather than online. Of no small consequence has been the personal example shown by prominent public figures and opinion leaders, up to the heads of state.  

We should not discount the effect of purely marketing moves either, nor propaganda for anti-COVID-19 medicines and the possibility to choose between different types of vaccines.  It is necessary to make them more available so that people can get jabbed quickly, free of charge, at a convenient vaccination site.  And, of course, international cooperation plays an important role here, both in terms of expanding the range of vaccines in use and introducing universal COVID passports.  However, the recent record shows that all of this is not enough to encourage responsible social behaviour in a time of crisis.

Some negative methods are possible as well, with significant implications for the rights of the unvaccinated. I am referring to a situation where they are transferred to working online instead of with people, or faced with reduced wages because COVID deniers are a threat to the public.  As I said, many countries are actively using these methods. There is no doubt that this creates a degree of segregation on the basis of inoculation. But these measures are rather effective and most people understand and support them. After all, the unvaccinated are doing harm not only to themselves but also to the people around them, particularly children, who are not yet vaccinated in the majority of countries. Therefore, improving laws in this sphere is a challenge that the Russian government is yet to answer. Let us be frank about it: the answer will depend on the level of threat to public safety posed by the pandemic. In certain situations, public safety and the wellbeing of the entire population outweigh individual rights and freedoms. Protecting the majority is a fundamental principle of democracy, whether we like it or not…

 

The fifth lesson of the pandemic: Every cloud has a silver lining

Much has been said already about the damage caused by the coronavirus. Still, even faced with this devastating challenge, humanity has been able to benefit from it and accomplish the unimaginable. There were positive developments over the past two years that we owe to the pandemic, even if this may sound like a paradox.

Most importantly, we learned to swiftly respond to the hardest and most unpredictable of challenges. In February 2020, no one in Russia could have imagined that so much was possible in so little time. We succeeded in effectively mobilising the healthcare system, reinventing the way our government agencies operate, launching the production of life-saving medicines, vaccines, and PPE, building and opening new hospitals and treatment centres, and creating a reliable system for keeping people informed and up to date using electronic services. This required an immense effort and huge resources, but we delivered on our objectives. This experience will serve us in the future.

COVID-19 has accelerated the fourth industrial revolution. Online services have been experiencing explosive growth since March 2020 in terms of both quantity and quality, including food delivery, access to public services, streaming cultural events, bank payments or remote learning. This is all attributable to the urgent need to avoid face-to-face contact. However, online tools have become an integral part of our lives. We have grown accustomed to them and want to be able to use them every day.

At the same time, a previously overlooked problem has emerged: some people, and even entire regions and countries, suffer from digital inequality. Cash is becoming a thing of the past as people everywhere move to cashless payment methods. However, according to various estimates, 1.7 billion people, or 22 percent of the global population, still lack access to modern bank technology (Vedomosti, July, 30, 2020, Virus-induced changes: How the pandemic brought the inevitable future closer). Without access to digital services and a reliable internet connection, people are deprived of essential opportunities.

Fake news account for almost one fifth of all information on COVID-19. Many countries have had to contend with attempts to manipulate public opinion.

The pandemic transformed the employer-employee relationship in meaningful ways, too. Many routine procedures, including document workflow, are now digital. Remote work used to be viewed as an exception, but has now firmly established itself as a new kind of employment. With a reliable internet connection, an employee does not necessarily have to be present in the employer’s office or even in a specific location, but can be anywhere in the world. This has prompted more people to move to places that suit them best, and regional internet infrastructure has had to keep pace.

At the same time, states had to create a legal framework for remote work and enact legislation. Legal questions of whether remote workers can be paid less, how to protect their labour rights and how to introduce restrictions and preferences have been widely debated. We have yet to outline the legal framework for this kind of employment, which is a challenging task that will take quite some time. Russia was very quick to amend its labour law on remote work, which extended protection to many employees working from home.

We are now accumulating case law on labour contracts. It is obvious that there will still be many conflicts in this sphere moving forward.

The question of remote learning, including secondary education and above, continues to divide society. On the one hand, there is every reason to view it as a step forward, into the digital space of the new millennium. People living in various parts of the world can benefit from equal opportunities and enjoy equal access to educational programmes. On the other hand, in many cases meaningful knowledge can be acquired only in person, directly from a teacher. We need to reach a reasonable balance and address all the organisational, legal, and financial issues.

The pandemic has also influenced information, mass media and big data. On top of fighting the virus, we had to counter destructive informational attacks and news designed to sow panic and chaos. According to various estimates, fake news accounts for almost one fifth of all information on COVID-19. This is a conservative estimate. Many countries have had to contend with attempts to manipulate public opinion and destabilise an already challenging situation. We had to come up with new approaches to collecting and processing reliable wide-ranging  statistics, while also carrying out educational and awareness projects for the public. Russia and other countries adopted laws introducing severe sanctions for spreading information that is inaccurate or intended to provoke. This must not be viewed as an effort to restrict freedom of speech or promote censorship. This is about false information and spreading it intentionally in an environment when any stray word can lead to dangerous consequences, inflame social tensions or even trigger crime.

 

The sixth lesson of the pandemic: The crisis is here to stay

Whether we like it or not, the coronavirus has become a part of life and will remain so for a long time. Even if a mass vaccination effort produces herd immunity to this disease, new local outbreaks are still possible. There is every reason to believe that the overall situation can be brought under control in the coming months. At the same time, it is just as obvious that we need to be ready to counter threats of this kind in future. This requires governments across the world to pay serious attention to all systems that ensure the lives and livelihoods, health and wellbeing of the people. We need to introduce new technology and tools in all spheres of economic activity and in our everyday lives. Maximum effort and resources must go toward addressing key social inequities, supporting the most vulnerable and creating a safety cushion for emergency situations. Every person must enjoy guaranteed access to quality healthcare, including both emergency and elective treatments, as well as medicines, vaccines, and protective equipment. All this enables people not only to survive during hard times, but to live their full lives every day.

There is every reason to believe that the overall situation can be brought under control in the coming months. At the same time, it is just as obvious that we need to be ready to counter threats of this kind in the future.

What happened over the past two years left an indelible mark on our civilisation. Fyodor Dostoyevsky wrote that “'every one of us is responsible to all people for all people.” Today, we must all rethink our personal responsibility for our own health and the safety of other people, for everything that is happening in the world, and in general for the destiny of all humankind.

 


Renewal of issuance of all categories of visas

According to the Decree of the Government of the Russian Federation №3003-R of 23.10.2021 "On Amendments to the Decree of the Government of the Russian Federation №635-R of 16.03.2020", Sweden is added on the list of foreign states whose citizens and persons holding residence permits or other documents confirming their permanent residency right in those states may enter the Russian Federation from those states through air checkpoints of the Russian Federation.

Therefore Swedish citizens, third country nationals (TCN) and stateless persons carrying Swedish residence permit or another document confirming their permanent residency right in Sweden can apply for visas of all categories by appointment at the Consular section of the Embassy, the Consulate General in Gothenburg or the Official visa center of Russia in Sweden.

TCN and stateless persons permanently residing in Sweden will be required to produce their proof of permanent residency in Sweden as a prerequisite for the visa.

TCN permanently residing in Sweden and having a residence permit, provided that the state of their nationality has bilateral visa-free arrangements with the Russian Federation, may enter the country without any visa by direct flights. For those of them who intend to study or reside permanently in the Russian Federation, the relevant visas must be obtained through the normal procedure.

Please note also that TCN who are permanently residing in Sweden and who enter the Russian Federation on a visa or visa-free basis in accordance with bilateral agreements between the Russian Federation and their states of nationality need to present original documents confirming their permanent residency right when checking in and boarding the aircraft, and when crossing the state border of the Russian Federation. In the absence of such documents even with a visa it won’t be possible to enter the Russian Federation.

Sanitary and epidemiological requirements, previously adopted for foreign nationals when entering the Russian Federation, remain: fill a questionnaire and a produce a negative Covid-19 test no more than 72 hours old when entering the Russian Federation.


On the opening of registration in the information system "EDUCATION IN RUSSIA"

From January 20 to February 20, 2021, for citizens of Sweden and stateless persons, including compatriots living abroad, registration opens in the information system ("EDUCATION IN RUSSIA" - https://edu.rs.gov.ru) to participate in the selection for study in the Russian Federation in the 2021/2022 academic year according to the quota of the Government of the Russian Federation.

IMPORTANT MESSAGE TO VISITORS OF THE CONSULAR SECTION

IN COMPLIANCE WITH THE ORDER OF THE GOVERNMENT OF THE RUSSIAN FEDERATION DATED 29 APRIL 2020 NO. 1170-R DUE TO COVID-19 ENTRY INTO THE RUSSIAN FEDERATION IS TEMPORARILY PROHIBITED FOR FOREIGN CITIZENS AND STATELESS PERSONS UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE

ENTRY INTO THE RUSSIAN FEDERATION IS TEMPORARILY PROHIBITED FOR FOREIGN CITIZENS AND STATELESS PERSONS FROM 18 MARCH 2020 TO 1 MAY 2020

In order to prevent the spread of coronavirus infection (COVID 19) in the Russian Federation and in compliance with the Government Order № 635, from 18 March 2020 to 1 May 2020, entry into the Russian Federation is temporarily prohibited for foreign citizens and stateless persons.

Consular section of the Embassy as well as the Consulate General in Gothenburg  from 18 March 2020 temporarily suspend the acceptance of documents, registration and issuance to foreign citizens and stateless persons of all categories of visas, except for diplomatic and official ones. Private visas in emergency cases of a death of a close relative will still be issued.

Drivers and crew members can apply for visa as usual.

From 18 March 2020 visa processing in the form of an electronic document for foreign citizens is temporarily suspended.


IMPORTANT MESSAGE TO VISITORS OF THE CONSULAR SECTION

Starting from March 17, 2020 the Consular Section of the Embassy of the Russian Federation in Sweden is temporarily closed for visitors (except for urgent and humanitarian cases) due to worsening sanitary-epidemic situation with the coronavirus COVID-19.
Visa applicants are advised to apply for visas at the Russian Visa Center in Stockholm.
Representatives of Swedish authorities can apply for visas at the Consular Section of the Embassy as usual.
Individual applicants with online appointments made before March 17, 2020 at the web-site of the Consular Section are requested to reschedule their appointment to a later date.


St. Petersburg International Economic Forum in 2020

Dates of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum of 2020 have been announced. SPIEF-2020 will welcome its guests on 3-6 June next year.
The St. Petersburg International Economic Forum is a unique event in the world of business and economics. SPIEF has been held since 1997, and since 2006, it has been held under the auspices of the President of the Russian Federation, who has also attended each event.
Over the last 21 years, the Forum has become a leading global platform for members of the business community to meet and discuss the key economic issues facing Russia, emerging markets, and the world as a whole.
The main events of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum will take place at the ExpoForum Convention and Exhibition Centre.

Article by Andrei Krutskikh, Ambassador at Large of the Russian Federation, Special Presidential Representative for international cooperation in information security, published in the Kommersant business daily on March 27, 2019

Against the backdrop of the habitual – even ritual – anti-Russia propaganda, some voices of reason have been heard lately among American experts. Of particular interest in this regard is the recent article by the Daily Beast titled "This Hotline Could Keep the U.S. and Russia from Cyberwar". No doubt, for the professionals who have closely followed the development of the situation this publication will hardly be an eye-opener. What is important is that the article openly admits that the absence of a depoliticized expert dialogue between Russia and the U.S. on international information security is not only a road to nowhere but also a dangerous course fraught with further misunderstanding and a risk of a large-scale conflict.

Those are not emotional conclusions, but rather plain facts cited by American security officials who have formerly worked or still work at the administration, overseeing the issues of cyber security, i.e. by those who know the situation on the ground and, by virtue of their occupation, are bound to be utterly pragmatic.

If security officials and the expert community in the U.S. actually share this opinion, this is the case when it is hard to argue with the colleagues, even though they are "on the other side of the fence".

Six years ago, in 2013, we managed to reach agreement on establishing a direct line of communication between Russia and the U.S. in the event of cyber incidents. Basically, the system was modelled on a similar mechanism that had been in place during the Cold War for dealing with traditional military incidents and enables a prompt information exchange at all levels from institutional to political.

Since its establishment, the communication channel has been used, and more than once. In fact, during the Obama administration, we maintained a vibrant dialogue on cyber issues both at the routine technical level and in the format of full-fledged consultations. Physical meetings of experts enabling them to engage in direct discussions on emerging issues were held. Even a special high-level bilateral working group was established under the Russian-American Presidential Commission.

As for the operation of the “hotlines”, the most vivid example is the address of the American side during the U.S. presidential campaign in autumn 2016, in which the U.S. expressed concerns over the intrusion into its electronic infrastructure. Our response was prompt as usual, and an exchange of the relevant technical information took place. Our National coordination center for computer incidents, which is in charge of the line, as early as last December, announced its readiness to reveal the content of the correspondence to general public, subject to consent of the American side. We sent the relevant proposal to Washington through diplomatic channels early this year. The response was in the negative.

The Russian Foreign Ministry's spokesperson offered an exhaustive explanation on the issue at her briefing last week. For my part, I can only add to this that our proposal to publish the above-mentioned correspondence was an unprecedented step, an example of true transparency, which our partners tend to invoke so often. Russia has nothing to fear – nor do we have anything to conceal. We are ready to open the correspondence for examination by the general public both in Russia and the U.S., the mass media, and experts, so that they could draw their own conclusions on what really happened. But at the moment, we cannot publish this data because of the refusal of the American side. The pretext for the refusal was the so-called "sensitivity" of the data. It is highly unlikely, however, that any information that is more "sensitive" for the U.S. than for Russia could be found there. Frankly speaking, this approach rather shows that they unsure of their position, since it would be much harder to disseminate information accusing Russia of "having a hand" in cyber intrusions if true facts were made public.

However this is not the end of this absurd story. We decided to directly address the US audience about the Moscow view on the situation around the “hotlines” and proposed a number of the leading US mass media to publish this article. We told them: we just give you “direct speech” and you comment on it in any way you like. If you don’t like our proposals, if you don’t believe us - put it on paper and let the readers judge.

First, these media showed the interest in the matter, asked us for the details, claimed that they were ready to publish the article. However, then they apparently got a stop light and refused, giving no explanation. They got cold feet maybe.

This is a matter of emotion while we want to be pragmatic. I once again agree with our U.S. colleagues (Michael Daniel, Chris Painter and Luke Dembosky), whose opinions were referred to in the article, that it is not enough just to set up emergency hotlines. For them to work effectively there should be a dialogue between those who maintain their day-to-day operation as well as a broader conversation on issues related to international information security.

Officials in Washington often say that, allegedly, there is "not enough trust" for this. The question is why would there be any trust if you keep avoiding any discussion on the matter? We have repeatedly proposed to hold bilateral consultations, but all our proposals have been rejected. At times things get absurd, as a year ago in Geneva, when the U.S. canceled a bilateral meeting two hours before it was supposed to begin, even though the delegations were already there. One might think that talking face to face seems so appalling to our partners that they would rather transmit their grievances through the media.

However, this issue is beyond routine politics, mutual poking or any subjective factors. Today, just as 50 years ago, we talk about preventing a cyberincident from escalating into a full-scale military conflict between Russia and the United States. If the established emergency “hotlines” bolstered with dialogue between experts stall for political reasons, we will face the risk of another Cuban Missile Crisis, only this time it will be triggered by information and communication technologies, not warheads, and events will unfold in a matter of minutes, leaving little time for both sides to make their decisions. It sounds like a science-fiction film, but actually it has long been our reality.

I want to believe that the U.S. recognizes this as well as Russia does. At least, the opinions expressed by the U.S. experts provide us with reasons for hope.

We also seek the same openness, democracy and constructive dialogue as we cooperate with the U.S. on cyber issues at multilateral fora. This year, two dedicated negotiating mechanisms are expected to be established to deal with international information security: the Open-ended Working Group (OEWG), which all the UN Member States can join, and the Group of Governmental Experts (GGE). It is interesting to note that even though the first one is being established on Russia's initiative, and the other, de jure, on America's; in fact, both groups were first proposed and sponsored by Russia, while Western countries were sceptical about the UN track and took every opportunity to criticise it. Nonetheless, the reality is that the UN will now have two groups working in parallel, and it is essential that we define today the principles of their interaction.

We do not believe that getting into "gladiator fights" on international information security is the right option to pursue at the UN. Russia, just like any other state, is interested in ensuring that these groups work in a complementary, non-adversarial, constructive and cooperative manner.

Out of common sense we suggest that it would be best to “share the burden”. According to this plan the OEWG is to focus on major political tasks concerning the majority of the international community: the rules of responsible behavior of states in the information space, confidence-building measures in this field, assistance to developing states and the future format for the negotiations on this matter (a standing committee of the UN General Assembly or Security Council, or some other option).

As for the GGE, it could in its turn address, as a matter of priority, an equally important, yet more specialized issue of applicability of the existing norms of international law to the information space.

Harmonization of efforts is the second pivotal principle of coexistence of the two groups. Their discussions should be non-politicized and pragmatic, and there should be complementarity rather than competition between their outcomes. The mandate of both the OEWG and the GGE demonstrate that the groups are to address an enormous set of issues, which can only be achieved with constructive engagement of all participants.

I would like to stress that back in November 2018, we offered such plan - a kind of programme of joint actions - to the United States. We suggested, as we had done many times before, that we should meet and discuss these matters. As before, we have not received any reply. There is not much time left before both groups set to work. We can only hope that our partners' common sense prevails and they will take advantage of this window of opportunity before it closes. We stand ready to engage in the dialogue.


Statement by H.E. Mr. Sergey Lavrov, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation at the Plenary Session of the Conference on Disarmament, Geneva, March 20, 2019

Distinguished Mr. President,

Distinguished Mr. Secretary-General

Colleagues,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

A year has passed since I last addressed this audience. By historical standards, this is a miniscule amount of time. Yet the events that have taken place over the year have brought us to the edge of a new era in arms control.

A year ago, you and us still hoped that, by means of constructive dialogue, we altogether could overcome differences, find compromise solutions and give new impetus to the joint effort aimed at strengthening peace and maintaining global stability.

But today we face aggressive foreign-policy egocentrism fueled by claims for an exclusive right to determine the "rules" of world order and the destinies of nations, countries and entire regions. We are witnessing more and more attempts to destroy fundamental agreements and reshape the whole multilateral arms control architecture according to own narrow opportunistic interests. In pursuit of dominance the instruments that for decades have been preserving the stability and predictability of international relations are being carelessly taken down.

Most recent example is a deliberate destruction of the INF Treaty by the US coupled with their categorical rejection of our persistent proposals to jointly and professionally analyze real problems accumulated in the context of this Treaty. Washington never made secret of the reason for its withdrawal from the INF Treaty: the US prefer to have their hands free in order to build up unrestricted missile capabilities in the regions where the US intend to push through their own interests.

This pushes us 30 years back in nuclear and missile disarmament but that is not the most pressing issue.

The US withdrawal from the ABM Treaty first, and then from the INF Treaty paves a way to a large-scale arms race with unpredictable consequences. Unlike the 1950s-1970s of the past century, when strategic arsenals of the two superpowers were involved, the new arms race would be provoked by perceptions of many other States that are left with no other choice but to have nuclear and missile capability as the only effective means to guarantee their national security. Dozens of countries have science, technology and industry advanced enough to do so.

We have been particularly concerned about the pattern of behavior by almost all Western States under the current circumstances and the extent of the indifference and irresponsibility they demonstrated to the Treaty's future including collective vote at the UN against Russian-sponsored resolution in support of the INF Treaty. NATO members openly supported its dismantling, thus giving "green light*' to the US nuclear missile ambitions. Groundless far­fetched claims by the US on alleged violation of the INF Treaty prohibitions by Russia's 9M729 missile were readily accepted. However, after we had demonstrated the system, independent exerts began to point out to obvious inconsistencies in the US position. Notably, the US representatives in Moscow did not only ignore our invitation to attend the 9M729 missile presentation themselves but forced most of their allies to follow suit. Thus, Washington showed its unwillingness to pursue a constructive dialogue. This once again proved the lack of any argument in support of the US allegations.

The fact that we have already announced a moratorium on deployment of land-based intermediate-range and shorter-range missiles in those regions where no similar American systems will be placed is being deliberately ignored. As President Vladimir Putin stated, we will be forced to respond with "mirror actions" and only as reaction to the US steps. We will act in a way that would exclude our engagement in a costly arms race.

We are disappointed with the position of the European countries which in the INF context have de-facto given up their independent role in ensuring their own and European security.

We do not want the New START Treaty with its ten-year term set to expire on February 5, 2021, to repeat the fate of the INF Treaty. Russia stands for the Treaty's extension for five years. This would allow us to prevent further degradation of strategic stability and buy us some extra time to consider possible approaches towards new weapons emerging now throughout the world and possible ways to subjugate them to arms control measures, since not all such armaments fall under the START Treaty. Contrary to what has been recently articulated in this Chamber Russia is ready for such a dialogue.

But first we have to solve the problem related to US unilateral removal from accountability under the New START Treaty of their strategic offensive arms that have allegedly been converted though we cannot certify it as provided for by the Treaty. This complicated issue can be resolved if appropriate Treaty provisions are applied. We have discussed possible solutions with the US. It is a question of political will in Washington.

Russia has been a responsible party to the existing agreements. As we fully comply with our obligations, we share the responsibility for preserving peace and strengthening global security with other States. Yet our efforts go beyond. Russia has put forward and promoted a number of new important initiatives. Regrettably, our Western counterparts do not come up with any meaningful initiatives of their own, they either remain deaf to our proposals or deliberately seek to discredit them.

We are not trying to impose anything on anyone. However, we believe that our proposals could serve as a basis for negotiations. We have repeatedly urged all the States concerned about the future of humankind to work together to build common ground, address problems at hand and seek compromises.

As President Vladimir Putin pointed out all our proposals are well-known to counterparts, all our proposals remain on the table, and when the West is ready we are open for responsible and professional interaction. Meanwhile, instead of constructive response we hear speculations about resumption of nuclear testing, placement of strike combat systems in outer space, and even about feasibility of a limited nuclear conflict. Such developments would be unacceptable for Russia, and, I hope, for most States represented here. But it may become a reality if we fail to find together a reasonable alternative to the trend leading to further destabilization of international environment, exacerbation of contradictions between States, undermining of the established system of international arms control agreements.

Responsible consistent collective efforts are essential in order to ensure international security and stability. The crisis around the INF Treaty clearly shows that progress in the nuclear arms reductions can no longer be sustained in the bilateral Russia-US format. It is time that we seriously reflect on how to launch a multilateral process on nuclear arms control based on the principle of common and indivisible security. There is no point in approaching nuclear disarmament in isolation from a combination of factors that negatively impact strategic stability.

We consider it of utmost importance to take all necessary measures to both maintain the viability and ensure the effectiveness of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Regrettably, here as well, we face mounting difficulties. Disagreements between nuclear and non-nuclear weapon States are growing. Another destabilizing factor is the US decision not to ratify the CTBT and to start preparing its national test site for resuming nuclear tests. The situation with the implementation of the 1995 resolution on establishing a WMD-free zone (WMDFZ) in the Middle East remains uncertain. Being one of the three со-sponsors of the resolution and fully aware of its responsibility for the NPT future, Russia supported the UNGA decision to convene a conference on the WMDFZ this November. We intend to contribute to its success taking into account the interests of all the States in the region.

A few remarks with regard to the UN disarmament machinery and its three components. Clearly, it is impossible to make the work of the Conference on Disarmament, the UNGA First Committee and the UNDC completely immune from politicization. However, certain States have persisted in using these fora to raise issues that help them settle scores with States they dislike. Over-politicization is becoming one of the major factors that obstruct the activities of the UN disarmament triad. Reasonable and meaningful proposals aimed at ensuring equal and indivisible security for all by launching substantive, constructive and professional dialogue are rejected.

As a result, the work of the Conference on Disarmament is being blocked, the decisions of the UNGA First Committee are being devalued, and the UN Disarmament Commission is losing its credibility. The ongoing difficulties, however, do not mean that the mechanism set up by our predecessors back in 1978 is intrinsically flawed and, therefore, should be dismantled as proposed by a number of radically minded delegations. Russia stands against it.

The state of the UN disarmament machinery is indicative of the overall deterioration of international environment, refusal by the collective West to engage in a dialogue on improving the current and elaborating new arms control instruments acceptable to all. The examples are plentiful. Let us take the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention negotiated here at the CD. Instead of a legally binding efficient verification mechanism of this Convention that is blocked by Washington, Western countries now propose so-called "peer review missions". By doing so, they intend to allegedly "prove" that activities and research carried out at the biological facilities are in compliance with the provisions of the Convention.

Another example is refusal to negotiate the prevention of placement of weapons in outer space. There is a relevant Russian-Chinese draft treaty with no other document on the table in this regard. However, the CD Member States are still unable to reach consensus to at least launch negotiations. For the second decade already, we have been hearing just excuses that the elaboration of an agreement would be a "time-consuming exercise", and that it is premature to begin talks before a real threat of space weaponization emerges. So it allegedly makes no sense at all to introduce a comprehensive ban in this respect.

In the meantime, the US has allocated funds for developing a missile defense (MD) space segment and deployment of strike capabilities in the Earth orbit. This MD segment would be capable of striking among others space-based objects. Thus, an operational combat structure would be built which would be ready to "cleanse" outer space from orbital property of the countries Washington dislikes. It opens the "Pandora box" for many States intensively participate in outer space activities and not so few of them are either already developing combat systems to be placed in outer space, or have the necessary capabilities to do that. So, the issue is becoming increasingly relevant. We expect that the UN GGE on PAROS established by the UNGA resolution which is at the moment in its final session could give additional impetus to the work of the CD.

Once again, I would like to draw your attention to the Russian initiative to elaborate an international convention for the suppression of acts of chemical and biological terrorism (ICCBT) that I had the honour to present here in March 2016. One of the key provisions of this draft convention is the criminalization of the use of chemical substances and biological agents for terrorist purposes. This issue is extremely topical. After all, according to various estimates, in Syria alone, there has been between 300 and 400 terrorist attacks in which chemical agents were used.

We believe that the restraint towards our ICCBT initiative and the willingness to ignore multiple cases of chemical terrorism in Syria go hand in hand. Despite their stated concerns about the increasing threat of WMD terrorism, our opponents make the case against strengthening international legal framework to counter this evil.

Instead of working collectively, the Western countries have exerted all their efforts to establish and use an attribution mechanism within the OPCW, also by manipulating the Organization's Technical Secretariat as a tool for political pressure on the States they dislike. Such a brazen intrusion into the UNSC competence has already deeply divided the OPCW and will undoubtedly affect the CWC future.

Dear colleagues, I have to disagree with those who highlighting the continued stalemate at the Geneva Conference on Disarmament call for its eventual dissolution. Given that certain countries and groups of countries refuse to substantially discuss the matters that are critical, including to their own security, and make propagandists noise around them, it is extremely important to preserve the Conference as a single forum for negotiations on a wide range of the most pressing issues of arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation. There is no other format that indeed offers prospects for launching real multilateral negotiations. And it would be impossible to set up a truly inclusive one under the current circumstances.

We consider the discussions held in 2018 within the subsidiary bodies of the CD quite useful. We were ready to join the consensus on the UK's draft decision on their re-establishment based on all the agenda items. We regret that the draft did not enjoy necessary support. We are particularly frustrated with the unwillingness of the US delegation discuss this proposal in a substantive manner.

I am confident that we all have enough wisdom and strength to overcome this crisis, to preserve and consolidate the existing system of international instruments of arms control and non-proliferation, and to complement it with new arrangements. Regrettably, the statement made by the US representative yesterday so far proved the opposite. I do believe that our Western colleagues will be in a position to adequately assess the situation, set their priorities in a responsible way and rejoin our collective efforts to maintain peace and security including arms control architecture.

Thank you for your attention. I wish you to succeed.


Summary on the "East-2018" exercise

SUMMARY ON THE "EAST-2018" EXERCISE

The active phase of military maneuvers "EAST-2018" under the leadership of the Minister of Defense of the Russian Federation takes place in the period from 11 to 17 September, 2018.

The maneuvers will be conducted in accordance with the principle of recurrence of large-scale exercises of the troops of the military districts in the Russian Armed Forces completing the complex of mobilization, operational and combat training arrangements in 2018.

The theme of maneuvers: the use of troops battle groups (forces) to ensure Russia's military security in the Eastern theater of military operations.

The objectives of these maneuvers are:

  •  to improve the skills of commanders and headquarters to command and control combined troops battle groups (forces) during the military operations in the Eastern theater of military operations;
  •  to check the level of preparedness of military command and control bodies in planning and carrying out long distance lifting groups of troops (forces) and in organization of interaction between Army's and Navy's forces;
  •  to train commanders and headquarters in command and control of groups of troops (forces) in the course of preparation and conduct of military operation.

To work out the training issues during the maneuvers in the Eastern strategic direction it has been set up the situation, based on the escalation of confrontation between two coalitions of virtual states.

Reconnaissance of the military fields for practical actions took place in June, command-staff training in the Eastern military district, Central military district and at the Northern fleet were held in July. It followed in August by a sudden alert by the President of Russia - the Supreme Commander-in-Chief and 16 exercises with different types of combat support training.

The maneuvers will be held in two stages.

  • At the first stage (2 days) the Joined strategic commands of the Eastern and the Central military districts and the Northern fleet will work out the final phase of troops (forces) deployment in the Eastern theater of military operations, training troops for military actions, boost forces of the Navy in the North, Far Eastern sea zones and in the North-West ocean zone as well as the issues of organization of interaction and comprehensive support of military operations in the interest of resolving tasks. The issues of conducting military operations to isolate conflict areas (first operations) in certain directions in the zone of responsibility of the Eastern military district will be practically exercised.
  • At the second stage (5 days) military command and control bodies will work through command and control of joint groups of troops (forces) in the course of escalation conflicts and military actions in the whole theater of military operations.

At the training grounds of the Eastern military districts major tactical formations and military units will improve skills of field (naval, air) training with practical fulfilling of defensive and counteroffensive actions in the Zabaikalsky (Trans-Baikal) direction as well as in the naval operations in the sea zones of the Pacific ocean.

Practical actions of the military command and control bodies and troops will be conducted at six Army's military fields: "Tsugol", "Bamburovo", "Radygino", "Uspenovsky", "Lagunnoe", "Bikinsky", four military fields of the Air Force and Air Defense Forces: "Litovco", "Novoselscoe", "Telemba" and "Buchta Anna", at the Sea of Japan, the Sea of Okhotsk and the Bering Sea, the Avacha and the Kronotsky Gulfs.

The military command and control bodies, troops (forces) of the Eastern military district, some military command and control bodies, troops (forces) of the Central military district, Northern fleet's forces, all divisions of Airborne troops, divisions of strategic and transport aviation will participate in the maneuvers. Part of units of these forces is to simulate the enemy's actions.

In addition, a military contingent of the People's Liberation Army of China as well as Mongolian Armed Forces units will be involved for training of joint actions of units and subunits during the maneuvers.

The actions of troops (forces) in the course of maneuvers are conducted in accordance with the Agreement between the Russian Federation, the Republic of Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, the Republic of Tajikistan and the People's Republic of China on strengthening confidence in the military area in the border's regions, dated April 26, 1996.

In total, 297000 military personal, more than 1000 aircraft, helicopters and UAV, up to 36000 military vehicles, including about 1100 tanks, 1200 cannons, multiple launcher rocket systems, mortars, and up to 80 ships and logistics vessels are enlisted to maneuvers.

From the Chinese side, more than 3200 people, up to 900 combat vehicles and other military equipment, 6 aircraft and 24 helicopters take part in the maneuvers on the territory of the Russian Federation from the middle of August.

Russian-Chinese joint actions will be held at the "Tsugol" military field (the area is 431500 sq. km) in the Zabaikalsky kraj (Trans-Baikal Region). During the maneuvers a joint headquarters will be established and the command and control will be carried out by the representatives of the Eastern Military District of Russia and the Northern Combat Command Zone of China.

According to the Ministry of Defense of the PRC the main purpose of Chinese troops' participation is the development of Russian-Chinese comprehensive strategic partnership and cooperation.

The Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation in good faith invited representatives of the NATO Military Mission in Russia, the EU Delegation to Russia and military attaches of all countries to attend one stage of the maneuvers on September, 13, 2018.


Press conference on the results of briefing to the OPCW with participation of Douma's residents

Press conference on the results of briefing to the OPCW with participation of Douma's residents

Press release on Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s telephone conversation with Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallström

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Russian Ambassador Victor Tatarintsev's interview to Dagens Industri

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Comment by the Russian Foreign Ministry on illegal acts against Russian diplomatic missions in Sweden

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Article by Russian Ambassador in Sweden Victor Tatarinsev in the newspaper Dagens Industri

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Press release on First Deputy Foreign Minister Vladimir Titov’s consultations with Swedish First Deputy Foreign Minister Annika Söder

On September 8, First Deputy Foreign Minister Vladimir Titov held consultations with Swedish First Deputy Foreign Minister Annika Söder in Stockholm.
The officials had a detailed discussion of topical issues in Russian-Swedish relations, including the schedule of political and interdepartmental meetings.
They reaffirmed their mutual interest in developing cooperation in regional structures in Northern Europe and the Arctic, and their determination to start up many new projects in this respect. Promoting security and stability in the Baltic Sea region was a special topic of discussion.  
There was a comprehensive exchange of views on a wide range of international issues, including Yemen, Libya, Syria, Ukraine and the Korean Peninsula, including in the context of Moscow’s and Stockholm’s cooperation in the UN, taking into account Sweden’s membership in the UN Security Council in 2017-2018.


Russian Ambassador to Sweden Victor Tatarinsev’s interview to Svenska Dagbladet

Russian Ambassador to Sweden Victor Tatarinsev’s interview to Svenska Dagbladet

Russian Ambassador to Sweden Victor Tatarintsev’s speech at a reception for Russia Day

Your Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, dear friends,

Today we celebrate together one of the major Russian state holidays - the Day of Russia!

Today we honor our motherland, which we love and which we are very proud of. We cherish our great history, our rich cultural and scientific heritage. We are proud of our people, who, even in the extremely difficult times, facing the most serious external challenges are able to evolve, to make breakthroughs to the new political, economic, scientific and creative achievements.

The Russian economy entered the recovery phase. The volume of Russia's gross national product is growing for the third consecutive quarter; inflation targets have been met. Our country demonstrates not so bad dynamics in improving the business climate. High quality of the Russian macroeconomic policy is noted by international investors and business leaders, for whom it is a valid argument in favor of working in the Russian market. Corresponding positive dynamics can be seen regarding inflow of foreign investments into the domestic economy.

The Russian Federation cares not only about the prosperity of their own people, but also makes a significant contribution to the progress of the entire world’s civilization, to the maintenance of international peace and security on the principles of independent development, taking into account the interests of all states, including Sweden.

Russia and Sweden are as we all know neighboring countries with quite a rich history of ups and downs in form of wars, conflicts and peaces. And now our relations are going through not the best period of their development. We have to admit to our pleasure that lately we could witness some signs and steps showing that awareness of no use of freezing ties with such a global actor like Russia - slowly but surely becomes stronger and gets more support here.

As far as the Russian Federation is concerned we are always open and ready to re-establish the level and scope of our bilateral interaction to at least what was the case 3-4 years ago.

The strength and the key to the successful development of Russia lie with civil and national consent in our vast multinational country with a complex federal structure - 85 subjects of the federation, 22 of which are republics. And today we would like to offer you a closer look at one of such Russian regions - the Chuvash Republic, which is situated in Central Russia and where the legendary Volga river is flowing by.

We with the support of the Plenipotentiary representative of Chuvashia to the President of Russia and the Russian fund of cultural and educational programs "Open Sea" have prepared a photo exhibition with a video presentation about Chuvashia and a short performance of a Chuvash folk music group.

I am sure that this presentation will help you to discover a new comer of Russia which you will want to visit, learn more about it, establish business and cultural contacts with it.

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Comment by the Information and Press Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation on the Syrian "chemical dossier"

Comment by the Information and Press Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation on the Syrian "chemical dossier"


Reception on the occasion of the Victory Day

On May 8, the Embassy hosted a reception on the occasion of the 72nd anniversary of the Victory in the Great Patriotic War.

Among the guests of the event were war veterans, representatives of Swedish authorities, local socio-political, business, scientific and cultural circles, the diplomatic corps, countrymen.