Written speech and disputes with journalists comprised Sergey Lavrov’s tactics in the press conference; Photo: Meta.mk
Russia turned today’s press conference of Sergei Lavrov into a propagandist theater play in the heart of Skopje, wishing to overshadow the last day and the conclusions of the OSCE Ministerial Council’s meeting. Even before the press conference of Russia’s Foreign Affairs Minister ended, the Russian Embassy in Skopje shared a post on Facebook saying Lavrov was not isolated at the OSCE Ministerial Council.
“The press conference of Minister Sergey Lavrov on the results of the OSCE Ministerial Council amidst “isolation”. The isolation, as such, is full”, claims the Russian Embassy ironically in its post.
Before the start of the press conference, Russian journalists were recording the packed hall where the Russian Foreign Minister was supposed to deliver his speech. Russian national TV broadcaster “Russia” was covering the press conference live, and from the very beginning of the press conference it was clear that the presence of the journalists, the photographers and the camera persons would be abused for Russian propaganda aims.
Although the Russian Foreign Ministry (MFA) before Lavrov’s arrival to the OSCE summit reported that many ministers were highly interested to meet with him, the website of the Russian MFA yesterday and today offers only scarce information about Lavrov’s meeting with his counterparts. He had such meetings only with the Hungarian, Armenian and Kazakhstani foreign ministers, as well as the current and upcoming chairpersons of OSCE, Bujar Osmani and Ian Borg respectively. Most of the foreign ministers boycotted Lavrov and he was not received by neither the Macedonian Prime Minister, nor the President of North Macedonia Stevo Pendarovski in Skopje.
The general impression from Lavrov’s press conference is that priority was given to the media outlets from Russia, as well as those that have a pro-Russia editorial policy. Journalists from Russian television channel “Russia”, Russian News Agency TASS, Russian newspapers Izvestia and Komsomolska Pravda, Russia Today, Serbian newspaper Politika, Turkish News Agency Anadolu and Bulgarian Agency BG News managed to put forward their questions.
Even before the press conference, it was made clear that the spokesperson of the Russian Foreign Ministry, Maria Zakharova, would be the one deciding who of the journalists will get the chance ask Sergey Lavrov a question. Coordination took place in the hall in front of the eyes of all media teams, partially with photographs taken from the journalists present in the hall by the representatives of the Russian delegation.
In the cases when Zakharova allowed critical questions to be posed to Sergey Lavrov by some of the journalists, Russia’s Foreign Minister started responding sharply, teaching journalists lessons, criticizing that they did not know history and he was using propaganda techniques like Whataboutism.
“You have a gap in your knowledge of history”, responded Sergey Lavrov to the question posed by the Macedonian journalist Bobi Hristov from Telma TV about who was a greater hypocrite – Russia or the West, when it comes to current issues for OSCE and Ukraine.
To the question put by the journalist Alexandra von Nahmen from Deutsche Welle about whether Russia was planning to leave OSCE since it did not believe in the organization, the Russian Minister started an argument with the journalist instead of giving a direct answer to her question.
Following this, Alexandra von Nahmen wrote on Twitter the following:
Lavrov‘s presser in Skopje – a total waste of time. Endless platitudinous complains against the West, false accusations against Ukraine. Because I challenged @_MariaZakharova to call not only on propaganda media, she gave me a question – only for Lavrov to accuse me of not being… pic.twitter.com/Y0JkTW2yDn
— Alexandra von Nahmen (@AlexandravonNah) December 1, 2023
Sergey Lavrov did not give a specific answer to the question put forward by the reporter from Frontline.mk regarding the events related to the killing of the Kosovo police officer in the north of Kosovo last September and the possibility of Serbia being instigated by Russia to incite a conflict on the Balkans through Kosovo. Lavrov explained to the reporter that if he was a media outlet representative, he should present the statements as they are given.
The Russian Foreign Minister reiterated that he was indifferent towards the plenary sessions taking place at OSCE Ministerial Council in Skopje. As a matter of fact, Sergey Lavrov preferred to set up a propaganda theater for the journalists in Skopje.
As part of the series of accusations addressed to the Ukrainian government, Lavrov in the press conference called the leadership of Ukraine “The Kyiv regime”, while the country, as he claimed, was run by “Neo Nazis”. Lavrov called the EU Head of External Policy, Josep Borrell and the American State Secretary, Antony Blinken, cowards who ran away to avoid meeting him.
Referring to North Macedonia, Lavrov said that the country was on the list of hostile countries due to the decisions made by the Macedonian government, but that it does not apply to the Macedonian people.
An incident occurred at the moment when some of the journalists tried to avoid Maria Zakharova and her choice of journalists who could ask questions. The microphone was taken away from a Bulgarian reporter who wanted to put forward a question because he was not chosen by the spokeswoman of the Russian MFA.
The act of taking away the microphone from the Bulgarian journalist because he was not approved by Maria Zakharova to pose a question; Video source: Portalb.mk
The spokeswoman of the Russian MFA, Maria Zakharova did not miss to accuse on Telegram the newspaper ”Sloboden Pechat” that it did not have the courage to talk about the American “manipulations”. The journalist from “Sloboden Pechat” was not given the opportunity to respond to such a comment made by Zakharova before the beginning of Sergey Lavrov’s press conference. Nevertheless, the newspaper “Sloboden Pechat” published an official statement regarding the accusation made by Zakharova.
Once the press conference of the Russian FM was over, the journalists from the Russian Federation who came with him to the Ministerial Council in Skopje left the Sports Center “Boris Trajkovski” together with Lavrov on a flight to Moscow.
Since the journalists from Meta.mk and Portalb.mk were not given the opportunity by the spokeswoman of the Russian MFA to put forward a question to the Russian Foreign Minister during the press conference, the unanswered questions are published here:
- Don’t you think that the behavior of your diplomatic representatives in Skopje and in Sofia on the social networks is additionally burdening the Macedonian-Bulgarian dispute? Every time the dispute escalates, your diplomatic representatives on official social networks publish one-sided contents that enrages the other side of the dispute with rhetoric using words such as ”fascist occupiers”, “liberalization from fascist occupation”, followed by congratulations for the mutual holidays to one country only, although both countries celebrate that specific holiday etc. Is this done deliberately and intentionally?
- You are keen to quote Volodymyr Zelenskyy in your address, Mr. Lavrov. In fact, several days ago, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy stated that Ukraine has evidence on Russia’s intentions to initiate conflict between Balkan countries which will serve as the second distraction of the world attention from the war in Ukraine after the crisis in the Middle East was initiated. Would you like to comment on this statement given by Zelenskyy?