by the parents of 13 children rescued by police from their home in california. david and louise turpin have pleaded not guilty to torture, child abuse and false imprisonment. the children were found severely malnourished, some chained to their beds. they were rescued after one escaped through a window. on the eve of the one—year mark for president trump's time in office, the us government could be forced to shut down on friday, as congress tries to come up with a bill to keep federal agencies funded. the house of representatives has passed a temporary measure, but it's looking unlikely the senate will approve it. a huge storm has caused havoc across north—west europe. there are reports of at least eight dead — many, in the netherlands and germany, hit by falling trees and debris. one man died when his van was blown to the other side of the road. now on bbc news...hardtalk welcome to hardtalk, i'm sarah montague.
russia is calling on the eu to stump up billions of dollars to help rebuild syria. i am in brussels to speak to russia's representative to the eu, vladimir chizhov. he said that if the eu doesn't pay, then they will bear the responsibility for that. but russian planes are still destroying parts of syria and rather than support the peace talks at the united nations, russia has set up their own parallel talks. so what responsibility does it have to end the war in syria? vladimir chizhov, welcome to hardtalk. thank you. what do you mean when you say that if the eu don't pay for the reconstruction
of syria or contribute to it, they will bear the responsibility for that? well, the reconstruction of syria, after the extensive damage that has been inflicted on that country during over six years of war, is, in my view, the responsibility of the whole international community, including, of course, the european union. now, the european union has been declaring a number of times its willingness to contribute to resettlement in syria, so that would be one of the ways. since the european union has admitted, rightly so, that it is not part of any military activity, it's not a military alliance. but on the economic side it has so far limited its participation, its contribution to a share
of humanitarian aid. when you say a share, it is by far the largest done —— donor of humanitarian aid. we're talking about more than 10 billion euros, $12 billion. but for reconstruction, a conservative estimate, according to the un special envoy to syria staffan de mistura, is $250 billion. why should they be paying for that now when russian planes are still bombing syria? what the russian planes have been doing, throughout the over two years of russia's involvement in combating terrorism there inside syria, has been destroying the facilities of isil and al—nusra, which are designated by the united nations as terrorist organisations. and been involved in bombing hospitals.
there is no record of any deliberate bombing of hospitals. it is a fact that those terrorist organisations have been using civilian facilities, hospitals, schools even, as shields and also as their own headquarters. but there are 48 hospitals run by medical aid charities, the uossm, they have not been acting as shields, and they have been hit. there's evidence of targeting of hospitals and medical facilities. there is no evidence of deliberate targeting of hospitals working as hospitals. the atlantic council, which is a washington—based research institute, whose chairman is the american ambassador to russia, produced evidence that russia and syria had repeatedly bombed hospitals and they suggested hid the evidence of that. are you saying it's all a mistake? well, in operations like this
mistakes are unavoidable, certainly. but i can assure you that the strategy of the russian air force and all russian military involvement in syria has been to destroy the assets and the headquarters primarily of those terrorist organisations. it has never been a russia's aim to destroy the infrastructure. so when unicef say medical facilities in east goutha were hit in the last couple of days, would you say that was a mistake too? well, east goutha, it has been used by opposition militants linked to al—nusra and however it is called now. as a springboard for attacks against the syrian military. what the syrian military did was against that. if we stay on east goutha,
it is the case they they're an area that is effectively besieged, and for which very little humanitarian aid has gone in, there have been some efforts to evacuate people, will there be more evacuations, not least of children in days ahead? of course there will be. humanitarian aid will be reaching east goutha, as will as many other difficult places inside syria. russia is saying to the eu, you have to help with the reconstruction. we are talking about 250 billion, how much is russia putting up? not exclusively. the eu and all the others. how much is russia putting up? those who have joined the us—led coalition they should also join the international effort to assist in the reconstruction of syria. how will russia join that effort?
how much will it put up? well, i cannot give you a specific figure, because they are estimates. the one you referred to, citing staffan de mistura, that is one estimate, there may be others. i have not heard any estimates coming from the syrian government. certainly it will be a huge sum. does russia recognise its responsibility in needing to repair the damage it's responsible for? russia recognises its responsibility for achieving the result of the military involvement, which is destroying the assets and the bases of terrorist organisations in syria. we are also involved in promoting a political solution in syria. indeed.
you are also involved in ensuring president assad is still in power and in control of much of syria and yet you are asking much of the eu to pay reconstruction money which would effectively prop him up more. well, i would put it differently. any reconstruction money, properly channelled, would lead to reconstructing the housing, the facilities, including hospitals and schools, roads, bridges, some of which have been destroyed, some of them by the us—led coalition, which did not hesitate to bomb infrastructure facilities. the argument that other countries should put money in for reconstruction surely can be made when there is peace. does russia fully support the geneva peace process? it certainly does.
the problem with the geneva peace process, from the outset, and the reason why it has barely moved forward for quite some time was that the initial idea, as described in the relevant un security council resolution, was to bring together the syrian government and a combined delegation, representative delegation of the syrian government. the syrian government came there but those people who claimed to represent the syrian opposition came from all sorts of places, london, istanbul... but not syria proper. my question to you was how it fits into the sochi talks, do they take into account what has been agreed in the geneva peace process, that there will be a transitional government and president assad does not
represent the future of syria. actually, that was not agreed in geneva. there is an understanding described in the geneva conclusions of 2012, that there will be a political transition, yes, but not in the current... you accept that president assad will not remain as president of syria once this peace process is over? once there are elections and somebody else is elected. but that could take years. no, not necessarily. part of this political process would be to draft a new constitution. and hold elections on that basis. there's a un diplomat who says of the secretary general, antonio guterres, that so far sochi doesn't pass the smell test. you are not seen as an honest broker. it is unfair, to say the least.
do you seriously think that russia, via this process, can bring peace to syria? well, ultimately, it is only the syrians who can bring peace to their country. our goal and i hope the goal of all others, including the european union, is to contribute to that happening, under the auspices of the united nations, definitely. whatever happens at sochi will feed into the geneva... precisely. so you are fully bought up to the un overseeing this. yes. both sochi and astana will feed into the geneva process. it seems almost as though russia has had enough of it now. president putin says mission accomplished. but given his aims at the outset of stabilising the legitimate power in syria and creating the conditions of political compromise, there is no political compromise. well, i believe that
now that the hostilities are mostly over, of course there will be pockets and flareups of military clashes, that is inevitable in any conflict of that dimension, but we can now think and actually proceed more actively along the path of a political solution. and the intensified campaign we are seeing in places like eastern goutha, is that a sort of final, effectively permission for president assad, the syrian regime, to do what they can, and there are suggestions that chlorine gas, chemical weapons have again been used, which, at the very least, russia must be complicit in. well, until i see evidence, hard evidence, of anything like that
happening, iam not prepared to discuss it. you've seen the pictures. you've seen the reports of the effects of the bombing. well, you know, throughout the conflict in syria, i have seen hundreds of pictures and videos staged of ostensibly chemical attacks. could the syrian regime use chemical weapons without russian knowledge? i think that, to begin with, the syrian government, which you prefer to call regime, i call it government, has no reason to use chemical weapons... it is a different question. if i accept what you are saying that there is no evidence, let us accept that, what i am curious about is the process, the way things work in syria. i am wondering if it is possible that syrian planes could use chemical weapons without russian knowledge, if not authority?
to begin with, the syrian arab republic, the government, has got rid of all its chemical weapons and that has been recognised by international institutions. you referred to chlorine, chlorine is not a chemical weapon, technically. so chlorine would be fine to use? no. of course not. but it is known that some opposition groups have been using chlorine. you have said that there is a probability that the eu will lift sanctions on russia this year. they've onlyjust extended them, unanimously, what makes you say that? well, of course, i'm not going to speculate when the eu will take any decision on that or any other issue, it is up to them, but what i sense is that there is growing understanding within the european union of the need to reconsider its position on those
so—called sanctions. now they were put in place until there was full implementation of the minsk agreement... no. they will put in place originally in order to convince all parties concerned, including russia, to start negotiations. and that happened in february 2015. so those sanctions that had been imposed the year before in 2014 should have been lifted there and then. you have had words from the german foreign minister suggesting that russia should be rewarded if the ceasefire holds, which it patently has not done in years. is that your position? that if russia can ensure that separatists in the east and those on the ukrainian side can hold a ceasefire then the sanctions should be lifted ?
we are not negotiating this issue of sanctions with the eu, the us or anybody else. it is not up for negotiation. the eu has drawn itself into a corner with those decisions. the moment the eu manages to collect enough political will to reconsider its position and pull itself back from that corner, they will know where to find us. you believe that even without a ceasefire, the sanctions should be lifted? there is a ceasefire, technically speaking. in name only. there are numerous violations. u nfortu nately.
like in syria, you can never have a watertight ceasefire in a conflict like this. you may be having various eu countries coming around and the opposite in the us where there is a new threat of sanctions and a threat that if the sanctions — that have been signed but yet to be implemented by president trump — in the words of a chief executive, they say if those sanctions were imposed the cold war would look like child's play. he is in a better position than myself to count the figures. he did not think they would be imposed. but the point he was making is that they are a very sizeable threat that would have a huge impact on russia. so far the impact of any of those restrictive measures on the russian economy has been palpable
but not extensive. in some sectors of the russian economy, particularly in agriculture, the producers are happy and asking the government to make sure that the sanctions stay. so they are a good thing? bring them on! let's have more sanctions! seriously? what is your view? that is what the producers think but i think that as a result of these decisions, our relation with the eu is in an abnormal state today. not only the restrictive measures but the lack of proper dialogue and cooperation. you have been a top diplomat here for many years. are things as bad now
as they have ever been? i have seen a number of ups and downs. i will not say that the crisis in the ukraine was the starting point of the current difficulties. some of them predate the beginning of the crisis. i would say that the ukrainian crisis could be more accurately described as a catalyst of those tendencies. certainly there will be common effort needed to overcome the current state of affairs. they have gotten worse, not least because of what russia has been charged with doing in the democracies of other countries. the accusations have increased over the years in the latest from the british prime minister, theresa may, saying that russia has
deployed its state—run media to deploy fake stories and photoshopped images to undermine our institutions, her message is simple. we know what you are doing and you will not succeed. i need to say at this point that evidently the virus of anti— russian hysteria that was cultivated on the other side of the atlantic due to domestic political complications has managed to somehow cross the atlantic and has infiltrated the minds of certain elements of political elites in european countries. so the fact that the suggestion that there are over 19 european countries where there have been accusations that russia has interfered in the democracy is just paranoia on their part? germany, france, norway,
italy, greece, spain? not a shred of evidence has appeared so far. neither in the united states nor in any european nation. i would say it is more an issue of psychiatry rather than diplomacy. it's a different answer. you may accept that there is not a shred of evidence that it may be happening. can you categorically it is not happening? categorically, i can say it is not happening. that there is no russian orchestrated attempts to influence the outcome of campaigns to the benefit of russia? certainly not. the effect of all of this, if, as you say, relations with countries are not as they should be. unfortunately, that is correct. what effect does that have?
you might say that i should feel frustrated but i am not. i feel the need to concentrate my effort and those of my colleagues here to work... i will tell you that in the last three orfour years, the volume of work has increased although... 0k, we used to have two summits a year and numerous ministerial meetings. not since 2014. however we need to continue to represent russian policy and interest and defend russian interests. when do you have meetings with your counterparts here in brussels? are they frostier than they used to be? some of them are, but i would say that as a minority.
mostly... particularly when you discuss something one to one it is a normal discussion like we used to have. the exception is when they get together. the arrival of president trump in the white house, he has been there for a year, has that affected the way that different eu nations treat russia? as i told you, this virus of anti—russian hysteria that was born in the united states, cultivated perhaps, i am not an expert in us domestic policies, but cultivated by those who lost the election, it has somehow managed to cross the atlantic and found some fertile ground in some part of european countries. what i was wondering about was whether with president trump
in the white house now, eu countries are turning more to russia because he is perhaps less removed from the international scene than his predecessors. i would say that we are open for cooperation, both with european union countries and with the united states and others. but in the case of the united states it takes two to tango and in the case of the european union it takes 29, so far. thank you for coming on hardtalk. following hot on the heels of the stormy weather yesterday that
brought wind gusts of 83 miles an hour to eastern england, the focus today is on the snow. the satellite picture shows snow showers to the north—west and here is a little trough, a cold front that enhances the amount of snow, the frequency and heaviness of snow showers. where it is going? western scotland, arriving in time for the morning rush—hour. you could see further disruption here with significant accumulations of snow. it could be one of those mornings. certainly worth checking the condition of the roads before heading out on a journey in this part of the world. even northern ireland will see snow showers, causing problems out and about and if it is not snow then there is the risk of ice. further south, a number of showers across southern wales and south—west england, many will have rain and wintriness perhaps over the hills. for many across england, it should be a sunny start to the day but it will feel cold. temperatures hovering about freezing
and a brisk wind to factor in. so the risk of disruption as we go into friday morning, the focus across the western side of scotland. check before travelling and allow extra time for your journey. for the rest of the day, the majority of snow showers will be across the north and west of country. fewer showers elsewhere with the best of the sunshine across southern and central england. there could be an occasional wintry shower blowing in on those brisk winds. the wind will make you feel chilly. temperatures not reaching much above freezing in the north of the uk, but even in the south when you factor in the wind, it will be a cold—feeling day. there will be changes in the weather coming up through friday night. the weather front will try to move in and bring a spell of rain to the south of the uk. a bit of uncertainty about how far north the band will get but it could start to bump into the cold air and possibly bring a spell of snow to high parts of wales, the brecon beacons and perhaps some hills in southern england. that is uncertain. further north, there is a sure—fire certainty of snow showers and risk of ice into saturday morning
because here it will be cold through saturday morning the risk of rain and hill snow fades away from southern england and a decent day will be left. cold, sunshine, fewer showers for northern ireland and scotland and more sunshine. for the second half of the weekend, a band of heavy rain will spread in and there could be a spell of heavy snow on the leading edge for a time before the milder air returns. this weekend is not looking too bad on saturday but heavy rain and a chance, for some of us, of snow on sunday. this is the briefing. i'm david eades. our top story: the californian parents accused of imprisoning and torturing their 13 children plead not guilty. eight people have died as a storm causes widespread chaos across north—west europe. the prime minister of new zealand makes a major declaration: the world's youngest female leader announces she's