Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks at the ambassadorial roundtable discussion of settlement in Ukraine, Moscow, November 8, 2023

Thank you for accepting our invitation to hold a second meeting with the same participants on the developments unfolding in Ukraine and the numerous allegations that we are opposing with facts. I hope you will find it useful to hear our opinion today. I am sure you know it. We would like to talk about the sanctions issue in a general form.

The war that the West has unleashed against us with Ukraine’s hands and bodies is a hybrid war in which unilateral restrictions or sanctions are allotted a special role. The number of anti-Russia sanctions is over an unprecedented 17,000. The goals are not hidden – to undermine the Russian economy, compel our political leadership to give up its independent foreign policy line, and set the people against the authorities. These goals are openly declared. When problems of unilateral restrictions are discussed generally, the West always vows that its policy does not target sanctions against civilians. This is a lie. They are doing exactly the opposite. They want to provoke riots and incite the people against the authorities. The West pursues similar policies in many countries. The ambassadors and other diplomats that are here certainly know such examples in their own countries. 

Seasoned analysts knew from the very start that a policy aimed at undermining the Russian economy and social sphere would lead nowhere. I believe now this is clear to everyone, including the initiators of these illegal sanctions. Our economy has adapted to the sanctions (President of Russia Vladimir Putin has cited numerous statistics to this effect). Our economy is demonstrating high sustainability. GDP growth will approach 3 percent by the end of the year (2.8-2.9 to be exact). The leading European economies are in the negative. This shows who has been hardest hit by the sanctions that are primarily inspired and fuelled by Washington.

The United States is ruining its European vassals while its military-industrial sector makes more money. It has been imposing its expensive LNG on the EU and compelling European companies by its egoistic laws to transfer their plants abroad where business costs are lower. Forcing the EU to renounce everything Russian, Washington still continues buying uranium and other critical materials from Russia. In modest, conservative estimates, in the past year and a half, European businesses have lost up to 250 billion euros due to unilateral Western sanctions. This is a huge loss.

The Western sanctions against Russia have exacerbated the crisis in the global economy. These unlawful restrictions, not Russia’s actions to protect people in Ukraine from the Nazi regime, are what’s exacerbating earlier imbalances stemming from the Western countries’ systemic errors in macroeconomic policy committed during the Covid-19 pandemic and the push for a green transformation without account taken of the specific features and basic indicators of economic growth in most countries around the world.

We understand perfectly well that the sanctions imposed on us will not disappear in the foreseeable or even distant future. Those behind the sanctions acknowledge this as well. Frankly, we don’t need them to. It’s not because we choose isolationism or autarky, not at all. It’s because the West has decided to destroy the global economy in order to teach Russia a lesson and to prevent it from playing a role on the international stage that is commensurate with its history, size, and capabilities.  They want to prevent Russia from standing up for the Russian people who have lived for centuries on the land where the Ukrainian regime, after the 2014 coup, started pursuing policies of extermination (including physical) of the Russian people and of all things Russian, including literature, culture, art, language, and education. So, we have made our choice. President Putin has addressed this repeatedly. From now on, we will rely solely on ourselves in areas that are critical for security and the sustainable development of our society. During the period under sanctions, we have developed the capacity to expand industrial production and create critical technology. A special law on high technology is currently in the works. Internationally, we not only recognise the need to build a mechanism for servicing trade that is not controlled by the West, to build new transport corridors, and to establish new production and supply chains that are immune to harmful and malicious external influence; we are actually building them.

The widespread use of national currencies in international payments and the gradual and steady decrease in the share of the US dollar and the euro have become a symbol of the times.

According to IMF statistics, the largest economies, including China, India, Türkiye, the UAE, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, Argentina, Egypt, Kenya, and several ASEAN countries, are in the process of transitioning to national currencies. At the initiative of the presidents of Argentina and Brazil, work has begun on establishing a currency union between the two countries, with the prospect of expanding it to the entire MERCOSUR bloc. The presidents of Argentina and Brazil spearheaded a project to create a currency union between the two countries, with an option to cover all of MERCOSUR in the future. A similar approach is mentioned even with regard to the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States. The driving force behind de-dollarisation includes the EAEU and the CIS. Within these entities, national currencies now account for 85-90 percent of payments. Trade with China is at about the same level.

In August, at the BRICS summit in Johannesburg, the establishment of a shared reserve currency in addition to national currencies was raised, primarily by our Brazilian colleagues. It was decided to instruct finance ministers and central bank governors to explore this idea and to present proposals on alternative payment platforms at the next BRICS leaders’ meeting in 2024 in Kazan when Russia will chair the organisation.

I would like to highlight the decision made in May by the heads of government and states of ASEAN. They signed a declaration to promote settlements in local currencies and to harmonise regional payment systems. There are many more examples. We are just at the beginning of a long journey. The de-dollarisation processes will gather speed.

Stability in the global energy market is another factor of sustainable global economic development. After the start of the special military operation, the US and its Western satellites tried to blame our actions for provoking a global energy crisis. However, professionals know only too well that this is just another lie. In reality, negative developments were triggered by the irresponsible actions of the collective West. It decided to speed up its own “green transition” and impose it on other countries that were not economically ready for it. During this “green transition,” it sharply limited investment in the oil-and-gas sector and is limiting traditional fuels generally.

The declared boycott of Russian energy sources, the unilateral sanctions and anti-market measures, such as the notorious price cap, dealt a heavy blow to global energy security. These steps led to the breakup of historically established value chains, the redistribution of global energy flows, and increases in transaction and logistics costs.

These crude macro-economic failures were aggravated by acts of terrorism against Nord Stream pipelines in the Baltic Sea. As a result, Europe lost all hope for the return of cheap gas that used to stimulate its economy. Instead, it is getting American gas that is expensive and has a negative carbon footprint. This is the choice of the Europeans. They have bowed to the hegemon and must draw their own conclusions from this (if they are still able to do this at all).

We still fail to get a clear answer as to who is investigating this act of terrorism against Nord Stream and how. More than a year has passed since then but neither Germany, nor Norway, nor Sweden that are investigating this at the national level, can tell us anything clear and sensible. This has become the West’s brand – if something is dirty, they do anything to conceal the information on it.

 I will put the economy aside for the moment. Let us recall what the world was presented with when the Russian military left Kiev’s suburb of Bucha. We had not been there for over two days; the local authorities were there, proudly declaring on television that “they are back and Bucha is free.” Almost three days later, neatly dressed corpses appeared on the central street – they were carefully laid along the street. This was blamed on the Russian military and a new package of sanctions was adopted.

A year and a half has passed since then but nobody has said a word about any investigation there or who might be leading it. We officially asked UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres at the UN Security Council why this universal organisation could not investigate this crime that was blamed on Russia in front of the entire world.

We have already lost hope of receiving any information on the course of the investigation (if it is being conducted at all). We still cannot get an answer to a very simple question – is it possible to name those whose bodies were shown to the whole world on TV and the internet? We cannot win even this small victory. They produced the required spillover effect, received an excuse for more sanctions but stashed their lie well enough to prevent anyone from discovering it.

Our appeal or demand to the UN Secretary-General is to use his authority to clear up at least this issue – identify a list of people whose bodies were presented to the world. This demand remains valid. I believe the UN has no right to shun its responsibility on such issues. This is especially true now that the developments in the Middle East have exacerbated the problems of international humanitarian law to the limit.

We are implementing reforms across our fuel and energy complex. We are strengthening the technological, personnel, and financial sovereignty of this sector. New export destinations are now available, and the results are good. Within a short span, we managed to redirect oil, gas, and coal supplies to fast-growing and promising markets, primarily India, China and other Asia-Pacific countries, as well as Latin America. We are aware that Russian supplies help our partners keep a lid on energy prices and thus strengthen their economic stability.

There is much talk about global food security. Once again, we are being accused of causing a “future global hunger,” turning everything “upside down” for the umpteenth time and trying to “sweep under the rug” the fact that, at the onset of the pandemic, the United States, Japan, and Europe printed trillions in unsecured money, bought up food wherever they could find it thinking that Covid-19 would force everyone to “shut down,” and have thereby created a severe crisis on the global food market.

I recommend that our Western colleagues who still engage in accusing us of things familiarise themselves with the UN data, which show that there is currently no food shortage on the markets. According to FAO, global food prices have decreased by almost 25 percent since March 2022 to an all-time low. Currently, they are at approximately the same level as in 2021. Experts from the Secretariat of the International Grains Council confirm these data. According to them, there is currently no crisis in the production of cereals or trade in cereals.

With regard to food, you are aware of what happened to Mr Guterres’ Black Sea Initiative which consisted of package agreements. The first package was Ukrainian, and the second was Russian. The Ukrainian part was implemented as planned. But only 3 percent of the food supplied to global markets went to the countries on the World Food Programme list. The bulk of it went to Europe and other prosperous countries. The reason for the West starting throwing tantrums when we withdrew from the Black Sea initiative, where the Russian part of the package didn’t budge, is simple: more than a third of fertile Ukrainian land has been bought by US food companies that were making money from it. They are worried that it has become more difficult to deliver food from Ukraine to global markets, which, in turn, cuts in their profits.

Our part of the package is absolutely down at zero level. We see the efforts deployed by Mr Guterres and Secretary-General of UNCTAD Rebeca Grynspan. But these efforts are fruitless. Looking the UN Secretariat staff in the eyes, the West continues to claim that no sanctions have been imposed on food and fertiliser from Russia. This is yet another case of Western lies.

Here’s a glaring example: more than a year has passed since we announced that Russia-owned fertiliser stocked at European ports (a total of 200,000 tonnes) will be transferred free of charge to the countries in need. Since then, it took almost half a year to send the first batch of this fertiliser to Malawi and Kenya. For more than a year now, we are unable to ship corresponding batches to Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Sri Lanka, or other countries. This issue is obvious and shows the West’s unwillingness to do anything for the developing countries whenever Russia is involved. But at the same time, it also shows (I would prefer not to use this term) the helplessness of the United Nations which we have repeatedly asked to resolve this issue and compel European countries to release our fertiliser in their ports.

In addition to our efforts, I would like to remind you that President Putin has decided to supply 200,000 tonnes of wheat free of charge to six African countries (Somalia, Central African Republic, Burkina Faso, Zimbabwe, Mali, and Eritrea). We are ready to answer any questions whenever someone accuses us of the negative consequences of our actions for the global economy. But let’s have a candid conversation.

Now, they have come up with data and assessments. We stand by our every word and figure since they rely on data provided by unbiased and professional experts.

By Nadeem Faisal Baiga

Source MOFA Russia