MOSCOW, December 14, 11:22 /ITAR-TASS/. Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov does not deny the guilt of some Russian diplomats in the US, he considers their offense disciplinary, and believes the Americans should consider the ethics and rights’ aspects. He voiced the statement on the air of the Rossiya-24 television channel while commenting on the scandal, where representatives of the diplomatic representation had been accused of illegal medical insurances under the Medicaid programme.
“We have cleared the situation. First of all, the statement they all did not have rights for the insurances as they are foreign citizens is not correct,” the foreign minister said. “The US has laws, which are adopted in various states and which allow use of Medicaid funds by foreign citizens. Secondly, not quite correct is the claim that with the incomes of the Russian diplomats they did not comply with the requirements for those liable for the Medicaid assistance.”
“We have studied personal files of the colleagues on the list, and, at least some of them at the times they applied for the assistance, has the wages which allowed them to apply for assistance from the American fund,” Lavrov said. “We are not speaking about every person, but about a very small part. It happened about ten years ago - the Americans began watching the topic from 2004. This, by the way, is another aspect of the situation, which characterises them.”
“Since then, the wages grew,” the foreign minister said. “However, in 2004 the majority of the diplomats on the list received more than they quoted in the applications for assistance.”
“This is a disciplinary offence, and the disciplinary response has followed,” he continued. “Most of the 49 persons left the US quite a time ago. Eleven persons still stayed there on the moment the news was published. They all are in Russia already, or are coming here soon.”
“By having cheated with the applications, quoting false numbers to receive certain benefits, they did violate the norms and rules of the country, where they stayed, which is unacceptable for a diplomat.” “I would like to stress once again - we have been using disciplinary measures against them and will continue doing so.”
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said he is curious why it took the United States ten years to charge some current and former Russian diplomats and their spouses of cheating in order to get health care services, including childbirth assistance under the Medicaid program.
“If there is evidence some diplomat has abused the laws of the host country, what is the reason for waiting ten years?” Lavrov said in an interview on the Rossiya-24 round-the-clock TV news channel. “The issue has been cooking since 2004. Possibly, they just wished to have on record as many cases as possible to make the figure look more impressive. Had they told us back in 2004 that some of our staff wish to get something they are not entitled to, possibly, we should have had things sorted out with such people on our own. But they preferred to compile a list of half a hundred names first. Possibly to make the charges sound louder. They waited for ten years.”
Lavrov said, foreign diplomats, including the American ones, “rather regularly violate the Russian legislation.”
“We are not making an information bomb of it, however, but immediately inform an embassy and try to settle the issue without any published information or any blowing. I believe that was the way the Americans should have reacted in a similar situation. But they preferred another way.”
The foreign minister highlighted another aspect of the problem:
“Perhaps the FBI and the intelligence services involved are not quite aware of the Vienna convention on diplomatic immunity, the immunity of diplomatic property and of diplomatic agents - this is how the convention addresses diplomats, enjoying the immunity, including the right for protection of private life, written communication, property and so on. In this case, bank accounts were inspected fully, they were revealed for access from the intelligence services.” “We do not know, whether there were court decisions, which could allow the intelligence services act that way. Even if they were, I do not know whether the US administration informed the courts the diplomats had rights, immunity and diplomatic inviolability. The US Department of State is sure to have been aware about the rights and obligations coming from the Vienna conventions. We have been discussing the issue with our counterparts.”
The foreign minister stressed he referred to the ethic and legal aspects of the American counterparts “not to justify our staff.” “Those who cheated deliberately, violated the norms of behaving abroad, which nobody had annulled. It is necessary to observe laws of the country, where one is staying. Knowingly false information is unacceptable.”
“While considering the topic in a complex, I cannot leave alone the human aspect - it is expensive to deliver children abroad,” Lavrov said, adding “in Russia there are private clinics, where the prices are not lower.”
“Every Russian person, including diplomats, is guaranteed a free service for childbirth. For that, a person is to come to Russia and to bear in Moscow or in any other city where the person comes from,” the foreign minister said. “If a person is working far away, there emerge additional complications, as the person is facing a challenge: either to drop the family while the pregnancy is several months only, and the family remains working abroad /to go to mom’s if parents are alive, or to settle somehow at home and to give birth there/, or to be waiting to the last moment, to remain with the family, and to take a most delayed flight, but here comes the risk of bearing a child.” At the same time, “this is not a good reason for what they /the diplomats/ have done - this only explains the thoughts of the families which made the choice.”
“We see clearly the problem. The Russian leadership has understood us and considers the issue supportively,” Lavrov said. “At the initiative of Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, the Duma adopted a law of July 9, 2010 on the federal state civil service at the system of the Russian Foreign Ministry, where the Russian state undertakes expenses of childbirth abroad for Russian specialists.”
“I hope the ‘skeletons’, our American counterparts have been gathering since 2004, will be of no further use, and we shall do everything to make sure our people working abroad did not think about any cheating of the local legislation but relied on their own country,” the foreign minister said.
An attorney’s office in New York early this month brought charges against a group of current and former Russian diplomats, as well as their spouses, to accuse them of cheating in order to get medical insurance on beneficial terms.
According to the investigators, Russian diplomats understated their incomes and used the US citizenship of their children as a reason to apply for and get pregnancy and childbirth benefits, thus defrauding the US health care program for the poor, Medicaid, of 1.5 million dollars. According to the findings of the probe the Federal Bureau of Investigation carried out over the past eighteen months, the violations in question occurred in 2004 through August 2013.